Today’s Shopping List

Mark+Shapiro+Ross+Atkins+OzPd-IBfzi-mA disappointing end to what looked like would be a sweep of the Orioles going into the 7th inning in yesterday’s game  But the Jays took two of three against the team they’re chasing and left little doubt about the fact that they’re among the elite team in the American League this season and are serious contenders heading into today and the non waiver trade deadline.  So now the question is what will they do?

 

Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have already made a couple of moves acquiring outfielder Melvin Upton and right handed reliever Joaquin Benoit.  But I firmly believe more is coming today.  I have no doubt we won’t see anything major, they don’t have the need, nor the farm system to pull something like that off.  The Tulowitzki injury, even if a stint on the DL is required, shouldn’t impact anything.  Barney is capable of stepping in for him, and Ryan Goins will be back from Buffalo soon.  What we could see is three or even four minor-middle of the road moves that they need to put them over the top.

 

So with that being said, let’s take a look at what could be done today.

 

Jose Bautista to 1B/DH

This seems to be something the organization is very interesting in getting done by 2PM MST today.  An upgrade defensively in right field is needed as Bautista is among the worst fielding RF’s in the game.  And while the lineup is as good as any in baseball there is still room for improvement.  Another solid, left handed bat would give this lineup great balance and make life miserable for any starter who faces them.

Possibilities:

Josh Reddick – News broke yesterday, FINALLY, that the Jays have talked to the A’s about Reddick.  Former gold glove winner, lefty bat (.296 BA, .368 OBP), he would be a great fit.

Jay Bruce – I still think they’re in on Bruce, but they clearly have competition on him.  He is going to be more expensive than Reddick.  Better bat and a reasonable option for next season.

 

Left handed reliever

To me this is the number one need for this ball club.  It is unbelievable to me that after witnessing the great need for another quality lefty in the pen in last year’s playoffs that Shapiro didn’t make it a major priority in the offseason.  I still believe Cecil can help lock things down, but if they’re able to use him in a similar role to how they used Loup last season and upgrade on Cecil, that pen would be in damn good shape.

Possibilities:

Will Smith – I think he’s the guy, assuming they are hard after a high end LH reliever and that they can reach a deal with the Brewers.

Sean Dolittle – He comes with big risk as he is injured, expected back in mid August.  But, he’s a top end LH reliever who could come relatively cheap.

 

Starting pitcher

Now this is what most believe they’re hard after in an attempt to replace Aaron Sanchez.  Jayson Stark of ESPN had a great piece on the Sanchez situation on Friday that I retweeted which had a lot of interesting tidbits including the average velocity for Sanchez this season that barely changed month to month.  Every month, 95 MPH.  And I really don’t get why you put him back in the pen.  To me, you shut him down in late August or early September and bring him back for the playoffs…should they make it there without their best pitcher and Cy Young candidate…anyway, at the moment, the bigger concern has to be Marco Estrada’s durability.  It’s a legit concern now whether or not his back will hold up for the remainder of the season.  So they definitely need to get a guy, but it won’t be anyone high profile.

Possibilities:

Jeremy Hellickson – He’s had a real solid season for the Phillies and having played in Tampa previously he’s very familiar with the division.

Rich Hill – The A’s lefty was appearing to be the top pitcher available at the deadline.  Ironically prior to facing the Jays a few weeks back he was scratched and hasn’t pitched since.  The price for him will have dropped dramatically because of the risk involved.  I do wonder if there is potential for a very large deal with the A’s because Reddick, Doolittle and Hill would shore up the Jays if Doolittle and Hill can comeback and could be affordable for Shapiro and Atkins.

C.C. Sabathia – He is a shot fighter…but he has a connection to Shapiro and he would cost nothing.  He hasn’t been that bad this season, but the durability is a concern.  If he’s healthy though, he’s worth adding.

 

Right handed reliever

I’m not so sure this is a need anymore, but I still would be interested in some insurance.  It’s an extremely small sample size, however thus far Joaquin Benoit has looked real good.  If he can return to form, they have a real good arm in the pen.  And Jason Grilli as emerged as a pretty good setup man.  Still, as the Royals showed last season, you just can’t have enough good arms in the pen.  And this really is the only weak area of the ball club.

Possibilities:

Brandon Kintzler – The Twins reliever has been lights out this season with a 2.14 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 33 2/3 innings.

Joe Smith – He’s not having a good season for the Angels, but he has a pretty good track record as a reliable setup man.  The cost on him as an impending free agent would likely be easy to swallow.

 

 

Backup catcher

I’m perhaps more certain of this move being done than any other, but it may not be done until August 31st.  The reason for that it will be a move that no team will care to block, and in September the team can then carry three catchers once it shifts to a 40 man roster.  That way R.A. Dickey can still have Josh Thole catch his games, and come October I highly doubt Dickey will be on the playoff roster with the way he’s pitched this season.

Possibilities:

Dioneer Navarro – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Navarro makes the most sense to me.  The White Sox aren’t starting him, he’s a free agent, he knows the team, he’s worked with most of the pitching staff (and had a great chemistry last season with Marco Estrada), and Gibson seemed to be a big fan of him.  I know Shapiro and Atkins weren’t the guys who had him, but it wouldn’t be a big deal so I could simply see it being a case of Gibson asking them to bring him back.  The cost would be miniscule at best.

 

This hasn’t been and won’t be like last year’s trade deadline for Jays fans.  There was no way it could be, but there was no need for that kind of action this time around.  Look for the team to plug some of these small holes and be ecstatic should they do it.  And even if they don’t, they can still maneuver.  They’re in a tremendous spot.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Thinking You’re Good vs Knowing You’re Good

tulobluejayslaydownRemember the offseason?  Remember when we were all in panic mode because David Price was gone?  Remember how gross we all thought the J.A. Happ contract was?  Remember how most of us were so pumped that the Jays nearly acquired Jay Bruce and all they were going to have to give up was Michael Saunders who was useless?  Damn, we are smart.

 

Around this time of year I tend to write my first Jays piece of the season.  I don’t THINK it’s because the NHL and NBA have essentially shut it down (though Dwayne Wade leaving Miami definitely doesn’t keep things quiet in the NBA!) but I tend to always write my first piece this time of year.  In 2013 it was about how I wasn’t a believer in the team despite an 11 game win streak (this club loves their 11 game win streaks don’t they).  In 2014 it was about how this time around I actually was a believer as they rattled off 9 in a row (at the time), 13 of 15, and 18 of 23.  Of course, that was really wrong as they pretty much died a slow death from that point on in the season.  Then finally last year I didn’t write about their 11 game winning streak.  I didn’t want to jinx it like I figured I had the two previous seasons.

 

This time around, I’m nowhere near worried about being a jinx, this team is a serious contender.

 

Obviously last fall is a big contributor to this line of thinking, but you still didn’t know for sure entering the season whether or not the Jays swagger would carry over to this season.  Perhaps without that legit ace on the pitching staff they would have their doubts?  But they haven’t skipped a beat.  And yes, they’ve had their up’s and down’s this season, but the body language has never changed.  This team knows they’re among the best and baseball, and if things aren’t going well, they snap out of it.

 

The most encouraging sign to me relates to what they just did.  They swept the Royals.  Over the weekend, they split with the Indians although Friday’s game was pretty literally won just as much by umpire Vic Carapazza as it was by the Tribe.  Point is, they’ve really risen to the occasion against the top teams this season.  Since the start of May, they’re 20-13 vs the Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, Indians and Royals.  Pretty solid.  In the past, that’s where this team folded.  They’d always beat up on the weak and shrink against the top teams.

 

Another great sign is that they’re getting by more so with pitching than hitting, at least for the majority of the first half.  Aaron Sanchez, lights out (more on him coming up).  Marco Estrada, an ace and frankly I’m shocked that last season has carried over.  J.A. Happ, a tremendous signing by Mark Shapiro (I believe he was signed prior to Ross Atkins being named GM in case you’re wondering).  R.A. Dickey, having his typical season where he starts awful and by June is giving you far more good outings than bad.  Finally, Marcus Stroman.  Is the slump now over?  Last night he was sensational.  It’s only one start, but he definitely looks to be back on track.  There were signs in his previous outing that he was coming out of it, and those good signs carried over.  I wouldn’t declare him to be out of the woods just yet, but chances are good that the worst of his 2016 is over.

 

As for the Aaron Sanchez situation, I think this club would be insane to sit him down.  This is in win now mode for the next 2-3 seasons.  If he is showing signs of tiring down the stretch, then I do understand sitting him down.  But right now he has a shot at the AL Cy Young.  Are you seriously going to sit down a potential Cy Young winner in September?!  I’m really stunned we haven’t seen more of Drew Hutchinson spot starting for Sanchez.  But then again, maybe the organization is asking what I’ve been asking, and that is what proof is there that innings limits help a pitchers long term health?  And regardless of that, why is it innings limits that we’re looking at and not number of pitches thrown?  These two things really baffle me.  It’s as though someone in baseball just decided one day that 160 innings was the limit for a young arm and everyone just rolled with it.  How did that help Brandon Morrow?  Remember, the Jays shut him down in 2011 during his best season, and it did absolutely nothing to help further his career.

 

This club isn’t perfect, but going into the All-Star break and subsequently the trade deadline, they are VERY well positioned.  Could Shapiro and Atkins add another starter?  Yes I could definitely see that, but I doubt it’s anything more than a number 3 or 4 guy.  Someone who is more so insurance down the stretch and perhaps plays the role I suspected Hutchinson would play more this season and spot start a guy like Sanchez.

 

Another add I could see would be Dioner Navarro returning should the White Sox fall a little further out of things.  He was a perfect backup catcher for the team last season and had great chemistry specifically with Marco Estrada.  The White Sox are a cusp team at the moment, so it’s tough to say at this point if they’ll want to be sellers or not.  Whether it’s Navarro or not, the team could definitely use another catcher to help Russell Martin down the stretch.  Josh Thole simply can’t do the job.

 

Finally, the pen.  This will be the main focus of management from now until July 31st.  I’m of the opinion that two arms are needed, and one of those has to be a left hander.  The big name that I’m really hoping they’re hard after is Andrew Miller.  If the Yankees are in fact willing to move him, the Jays have to be pushing hard to get him.  I’ve heard some suggest the Yanks won’t move him in division, but I believe that’s BS.  The Yankees could care less about the Jays push for this season and next.  They’re about to be in a full on rebuild.  When the positions were flipped in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, the Jays and Yankees did a lot of deals together.

 

Miller would just set the Jays pen up perfectly.  They’d still need a right handed middle reliever too as I mentioned (along the same lines as Mark Lowe was last season), but Miller would move into that 8th inning role that Storen was expected to shine in, and it would allow them to use Brett Cecil in more of a specialist role where he would shine, it just sets the whole pen up a heck of a lot better than it currently is.  Of course he wouldn’t be cheap, but the Jays system is still ok even after Alex Anthopoulos took the bazooka to it last year near this time.  And again, this team’s window is open and you must take advantage of that.

 

Will this happen?  I don’t know, because I don’t have any feel for Shapiro and Atkins and what they’ll do at the trade deadline running a contending team that has money.  Very different situation than what was presented at most deadlines for the Cleveland Indians.

 

But they’re in a tremendous situation when you consider the only hole on this ball club is the bullpen, and the closer role is solidified so it won’t take a lot to shore things up.  In 2013, 14 or 15 being only half a game up in the wildcard race and 2.5 back of 1st in the AL East would be an insane uphill climb.  This season, as long as they shore up the bullpen and stay healthy, I have very few doubts this team is winning the AL East again, and is a serious threat to win the World Series.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups 

 

Lose the Battle to Win the War

larssonIt is the type of deal that I’ve been trying to tell Oiler fans for a few years now that they would have to make, and most refused to believe it.  When the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche needed to take a similar step, they moved Mats Sundin for Wendel Clark (who a season later became Claude Lemieux).  The Nords/Avs lost that trade, but they desperately needed a veteran leader.  They desperately needed a power forward.  And they had an insane amount of top end talent, and with Sakic and Forsberg down the middle they could afford to do it.  They lost a deal to make their team better, and that organization never looked back after doing that deal.  Fast forward 22 years, and that is pretty similar to the Oilers situation.

 

This sucks right now, make no mistake about it.  The Oilers lost a trade.  And not just lost, but they got hammered.  I had come to peace with the idea of a 3 for 1 deal.  Get Hamonic or Larsson and add in a 1st round pick and a prospect, it frees you up to do something else for a Tyson Barrie or Matt Dumba, something along those lines without killing your system.  But I won’t lie, I was a little sick when word came down that they were only getting Larsson for Hall.  How do you not at least get a 2nd round pick that you can give to Boston as compensation for Chiarelli?  And the Devils have an extra 2nd in next year’s draft (ironically, it’s the Bruins).

 

So initially it doesn’t make sense.  But when you start breaking this all down, while the deal doesn’t become even, it does get a whole lot closer than most realize.  I got six points that need to be stressed.  And again, don’t get me wrong here.  This isn’t to say that this will prove the Oilers win the deal, or even made out ok.  But this should help you understand why the Oilers would do such a lopsided deal.

 

  1. You WANT wingers, you NEED defencemen.

The analytics community can point out his 5 on 5 points per 60 all they want, and even though I’m too dumb to understand some analytics, I’m not at all an anti-analytics type.  But this is where I find there is a bit of a disconnect for some of the analytics community.  Yes, Taylor Hall is one of the best 5 on 5 players in hockey.  I loved Taylor Hall.  I knew he was likely getting dealt for a defenceman, but I have loved the guy from day 1.  Hell, I went to watch him get drafted!  But this team is about to sign Milan Lucic.  McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi, Eberle and for the time being still Nugent-Hopkins (I won’t be shocked if he’s moved next for a guy like Barrie).  You don’t NEED Taylor Hall.  It’s awesome to have him obviously, but you don’t need him.  This team really badly NEEDS a guy like Larsson.  You win building around defencemen, and the next time a team wins building around a winger will be the first time.  The Columbus Blue Jackets never did anything with Rick Nash.  Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t get the Atlanta Thrashers anywhere.  Even Ovechkin hasn’t made it past the 2nd round with the Caps building around him.  You may argue Patrick Kane has won, but he wouldn’t of without Keith, Toews or Seabrook.

 

2. The piece fit.

23 years old.  Already a top pairing guy.  Potential to be a true number 1 guy.  Great contract (which I’ll get to).  Mobile.  Great puck mover.  And finally can log big minutes, tough minutes.  This is exactly the guy they need to pair with fellow Swede Oscar Klefbom to give the Oilers a very legitimate top pair on the blueline.

 

3. Sweetheart contract.

4.167 for another 5 seasons.  The Oilers save nearly 2 million against the cap.  Of course I’m expecting that to change once they sign Lucic, but would you rather Larsson on this deal, or Jason Demers for 5 x 5?  Or more?  No thank you.

 

4. Fit in the room.

Where there is smoke, there’s fire.  I remember hearing about Hall being a bit of an issue in the room as far back as the 2010 World Junior’s in Saskatoon.  I can’t recall the story word for word now, but it was something to do with a function at the Schenn household and people on the team not being a fan of Taylor.  Since then, if you live in the Edmonton/Northern Alberta area, you’ve certainly heard rumours about this.  Hell, I’ve heard national media personalities make mention of it lots.  Although I can counterpoint this by pointing out that the media in Edmonton love the kid.  So who knows.  If I had to guess, it’s somewhere in the middle.  Hall probably isn’t a bad kid at all, he just isn’t beloved by his teammates, maybe rubs some of them the wrong way.  Meanwhile, at least initially, I’m hearing people rave about the kind of kid Adam Larsson is.  Chemistry in the room might not seem like a big deal, but it is.

 

5. One team now has a hole, and it isn’t the Oilers.

Peter Chiarelli now has some work to do on Friday.  Let’s say he signs Lucic and let’s say Tomas Vanek.  Obviously it’s tough to say what the cap numbers will be on those guys, but let’s just say that for a minute.  If not Lucic, maybe David Backes and Vanek (who prefers to play the left side).  If not Backes, what about Eric Staal?  Loui Eriksson?  Andrew Ladd?  And please don’t get this wrong, in NO FREAKING WAY am I saying any of these guys replace Hall’s production.  But they are top 6 wingers.  And of course this kind of circles back to the first point I made about want vs need.  It’s relatively easy for the Oilers to address the hole left in their top 6.  What about the Devils?  Who do the Devils get to replace Larsson?  Damon Severson?  Severson isn’t ready for that role.  Severson struggled last season playing on their 2nd pairing and some in the media at least are saying the Devils have soured on Severson.  But that’s ok, they’ll go get a guy in free agency.  Except they can’t and won’t.  So while the Devils just improved their offence, they just really hurt their blueline.

 

6. Desperation

Were you REALLY willing to wait another year?  Were you REALLY willing to watch this team miss the playoffs AGAIN?  Actually, scratch that.  Were you really willing to watch this team be out of it by January AGAIN?  You can’t keep waiting forever on guys.  The Oilers did that with Sam Gagner, failed.  Did that with Justin Schultz, failed.  Are currently doing that with Nail Yakupov, is failing horribly.  For some reason this organization and this fan base has been much more concerned with winning trades than winning games over the last 10 years.  And again, I don’t know how in the hell the Oilers couldn’t have got another one or two good pieces in this deal, even make it like the Kane/Myers swap where the Jets made out great on the back end yet in the moment it looked as though the Sabres won the top end (at the time, not now, remember that Oiler fans).    But they were desperate, and every GM knew it.  Ray Shero was the benefactor of that.

 

So I know all that doesn’t make it a win, or a tie, or even a slight loss of a trade today.  But I hope it at least paints a much more clear picture for you.

 

Personally, I think the Oilers are now a much better team, and Larsson has the upside to make this deal a win down the line.  Only time will tell.  Perhaps Larsson continues improving and becomes that elite number 1 most have expected him to become since he was 16.  Or…perhaps he’ll never be more than a number 3/4 guy and it’ll go down as one of the worst deals in NHL history.  But if it improves the team, what do you care?  The GM’s job is to improve the team, not to win every deal to our approval.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2016 NHL Draft: Likes and Dislikes

062416-fso-nhl-blue-jackets-pierre-luc-dubois-draft-2016.vadapt.664.high.40Another NHL entry draft has come and gone.  I’m without a doubt been going through with drawl this weekend after Friday night and Saturday morning.  It’s the geek in me, I’m a total draft geek.  And the league does a pretty good job with it having all the teams in the same building, on the same floor.  The other three leagues have war rooms in their own arenas/offices/stadiums.  But you can see what’s going on with every NHL team.  No need for the hidden “war room” camera’s for the NHL, they have camera’s on all 30 “war rooms”.

 

So I do some kind of review piece every year.  This will mark the 5th time I’ve done it, which would make this a good time to look back at the first two I did and laugh at how wrong I was.

 

Actually, I do get a few right.  Like this one, raving about the draft the Jets had in 2012.

 

“I won’t pretend to know anything about 5th round pick Connor Hellebuyck, but I’m a big believer in taking a goaltender late in every draft because you don’t know how goaltenders will pan out”

 

Apparently that year I loved kids I didn’t know anything about.

 

“Don’t know anything about Esa Lindell in the 3rd round but again addressing their lack of depth on the blueline with a 6’3 Fin that has yet to fill out.”

 

But oh don’t you worry, I’ve made an ass of myself a lot.

 

St.Louis – I don’t know what their strategy was for this draft but it seemed to be “let’s take as many projects and off the board picks as possible”.  What were they trying to accomplish?  It’s just my opinion but Schmaltz was pretty off the board at 25, then something called a Samuel Kurker was taken with their 2nd round pick, MacKenzie MaCeachern and Colten Parayko in the 3rd.  Kurker and MaCheachern both played on high school teams this season, Parayko is out of the AJHL.”

 

I still don’t know what a Samuel Kurker is, and Schmaltz hasn’t set the world on fire even though he’s knocking at the door for the Blues.  But I’d say they made up for it all taking that nobody out of the AJ….

 

The next year I was a little critical of the Jets pick.

 

“Then we have the Jets and while I don’t know if I personally would have picked Josh Morrissey over Zadorov”

 

It got worse.

 

“Toronto had a great day simply by getting a big center at 21 that I felt they have really needed.  I’m a bigger fan of Gauthier than most, but I think a lot of people felt they filled a pretty big need with that pick.  And then using some of their picks to bring in Dave Bolland was great.  I’m a HUGE Dave Bolland guy and believe he is a perfect fit in Toronto.”

 

So before I completely shatter my confidence, I’ll quit that and start on the likes and dislikes from this 2016 draft.  But know that I do these pieces for fun.  To do what I just did, look back on them and laugh.  Because I believe we need 7-10 years to know what came out of a draft, and even then it’s not clear.  But let’s get this thing started with my likes.

 

Arizona – So far, so good for boy wonder John Chayka.  Maybe they reached on Clayton Keller in my eyes, I had him 14th, but I get it.  Like I said in my last write up about him, if he can play the middle in the pro’s, I’ll look like a moron.  But that’s not why I really liked what they did.  I liked what they did because they pounced on the Wings at 16 to move up and grab my guy Jakob Chychrun (how about me calling his fall?  Most figured he would, but I said 17 which was lower than most, my arm hurts from patting my back).  I think he’s going to prove a lot of people VERY wrong.  Then, they still needed to load up on D-men and they did that when they took Cam Dineen at 68.  Great value there, and for a kid who needs to learn to play in his own zone he couldn’t be going to a much better organization.  Would Jost, Chychrun and Dineen look a lot better than this?  In my opinion yes.  But Keller, Chychrun and Dineen is pretty damn good.

 

Calgary – I’m not trying to be a homer for Alberta.  But the Flames are crushing it with Brad Treliving running the show.  I used to love destroying Jay Feaster, but I have nothing but praise thus far for Treliving.  Tkachuk falling to them scares me as an Oiler fan.  He just couldn’t be anymore of a perfect fit for this club.  Needed size and bite up front, and you never want to sacrifice skill to add that and you don’t with Tkachuk.  Then I personally liked the Tyler Parsons pick even though some felt 54 was early for him, and Dillon Dube at 56 is similar to Tkachuk in what he brings (though a lot smaller).  I just told you how I preferred Adam Fox to Niemelainen for the Oilers, and the Flames snagged him at 66.  Mitch Mattson is a project centre who a lot of people liked at 126, and I’ve seen a lot of people loving the value Matt Phillips in the 6th round.  He’s a tiny kid (5’6, 137 lbs…yep…137) but he’s a PPG player in the WHL, and while I consider myself a “sizest”, I’m envious as an Oilers fan the Flames were able to snatch this kid where they did.  Also, you have to at least mention the Brian Elliott deal.  I do question goaltenders who thrive in a Ken Hitchcock system, but for the price (the 35th pick, Blues took Jordan Kyrou) he is well worth that risk.

 

Columbus – No, this isn’t because them taking Pierre-Luc Dubois allowed the Oilers to get their filthy little mitts on Puljujarvi.  This is simply because Jarmo Kekelainen had the balls to acknowledge that he needed to take the centre and he did.  Dubois was 3rd on the list for me, nobody else and I’ll stand by that.  He needs another season in Cape Breton, but he has all the tools to be a Ryan Getzlaf type.  Jesse Puljujarvi might put up better stats, but Dubois will be the better player.  And the Jackets needed to do this.  They left a gaping hole when they traded away Ryan Johansen.  You can’t go far in the NHL without a legit 1st line centre, and the way Dubois played in the second half while playing the middle, I believe he’ll become that.  I didn’t love the rest of their draft, other than Vitali Abramov at 65 was a steal in my mind.  But this is based off the Dubois pick.  Most think it was insane, I think it was correct.

 

Detroit – Ken Holland, welcome back!!!  I crushed the Wings last year for what they did in the draft.  I hated the Svechnikov pick for them last year, wasn’t a fan of Vili Saarijarvi though he did have a good season this year, and just felt like they completely dropped the ball.  In the previous four drafts, the Wings took a total of one defenceman….ONE…in the top 100.  Ken Holland has completely ignored his blueline as his blueline deteriorated both in the system and on the big club.  But this year, Holland did great in my mind.  Four of their top five picks were defencemen.  While I would have been high on them taking Chychrun or Fabbro at 16, moving back only four spots to both ditch the Datsyuk contract and add the 53rd pick was tremendous.  Dennis Cholowski’s only knock was the league he played in this season.  Givani Smith was a personal favourite of mine as I believe he has a chance to emerge the same way that Milan Lucic did in 2006 (who went 50th, Smith went 46th).  Filip Hronek was a kid I didn’t know about until about a month to go in the process and I liked what I read, and really like that he’s a RH shot.  RH shot guy in Jordan Sambrook was snagged with the 137th pick and Erie coach Kris Knoblauch told Oilers colour analyst Bob Stauffer that his numbers were a product of limited ice time this season.  Knoblauch thinks Sambrook is going to be a steal.  Finally, the Wings did what I love…took a goaltender late.  I know nothing about Filip Larsson, but the Wings thrive with Swedish kids, and it’s never a bad move to take a swing on a netminder in rounds 3-7.

 

Edmonton – Again, not to be a homer here.  But the Oilers got a lot of it right.  Puljujarvi was a gift from the hockey gods at 4.  Not one that shocked me, I personally had that same order in my 3rd mock draft and maintained throughout that Columbus should walk out with a centre in the draft.  But then at 32, Tyler Benson is well worth the gamble.  And yes he had an injury plagued season, but we aren’t talking about reoccurring injuries like having constant knee or back problems.  Big thing is that he cleans up his skating.  If he improve his first step and/or add another gear, it’ll be massive for him.  Then Markus Niemelainen at 63 was amazing value.  I’m not a big fan, I would have taken Will Bitten (BPA in my eyes) or Adam Fox if you’re going positional need, but it was still great value.  They also did my favourite draft move when they took a goaltender Dylan Wells in the 5th.  I only knew Wells was a goaltender in this draft, nothing else.  But the OHL scouts I follow on Twitter were RAVING about this kid.  Has the talent to play, just needs to clean things up technically.  And to cap it off, sounded like a great kid in his interview on CHED following the pick.  Finally, I knew nothing of George McPhee’s kid Graham, but Corey Pronman from ESPN raved about the pick.  Says he’s inconsistent, but has the skill to play in the league someday.  I really wanted them to take undersized D-man David Quennville with their final pick.  RH shot who looked great at the U18’s, and this organization lacks RH shot D and puckmoving D, so that’s disappointing.  But still, great draft for the Oil, just like 2015 appears to have been.  It’s almost as if Peter Chiarelli knows what he’s doing…

 

Montreal – I really liked the Sergachev pick at 9.  I personally would have gone with Tyson Jost, I think Jost is going to be a star, but Sergachev will likely be a star too, and it’s pretty tough to find D-men these days if you haven’t noticed.  But I maybe didn’t like any pick better than Will Bitten at 70.  I just don’t get it.  I had Bitten as a top 30 guy (26 I believe without looking).  I knew Bitten wasn’t going to go in the 1st round, but to fall to 70?!  I wasn’t the only one who raved about that kid, enough people did for him to be a sure fire 2nd rounder, especially with him being the exact type of player the Penguins won the Cup with.  Victor Mete from the London Knights at 100 was another great value pick.  Has great wheels and got a lot better as the season wore on (real good playoffs).  And you have to mention the Andrew Shaw trade.  Again, while trades aren’t really a part of what we’re talking about, to move Lars Eller out and Andrew Shaw in for essentially just deferring picks for a few years, I love it.  Marc Bergevin is a real good GM, which is why Habs fans shouldn’t kill him if he is going to move P.K. Subban.  Without a doubt he has his reasons and they’ll be very well thought out.

 

A couple other things I liked…oddly enough I thought the Leafs and Jets each had good first selections.  Was their anyone who didn’t think the Jets were taking Logan Stanley?!  Every mock draft had that!  I think that pick stayed in my mock from the second one on.   While I have harped on the Avs for years to take some defencemen high, I do not blame them at all for taking Tyson Jost.  I had him 6th on my top 50, so you know how I feel about him.  Carolina didn’t need yet another defenceman in the 1st (now three drafts in a row, and they’re now overloaded with D, but you can trade D-men).  Max Jones falling to 24 where of course a team like the Ducks were waiting.  A total steal.  And the Blackhawks really did well with what they had to work with.  DeBrincat at 39 was good.  That was right around where I had him ranked, but for the style the Hawks play he is PERFECT, though they should watch they don’t go too heavy on skill because we’ve seen how that can backfire too.

 

As for my dislikes, those were a bit tougher to find.  But I managed to find some teams to criticize, don’t you worry!

 

Boston – This organization is falling apart.  Charlie McAvoy feels like a “let’s pick the kid the fans would like” pick.  Not that he was a reach, not that he wasn’t a need.  Over Chychrun?  Over Fabbro?  Not that I didn’t expect it, but I just don’t like it.  Then you have the Trent Frederic pick at 29.  Ok….number 54 on Bob McKenzie’s list.  I had him in my top 50 midseason, but didn’t keep him there.  Zach Senyshyn thinks this pick was a reach.  Ryan Lindgren was an ok selection at 49, but in my opinion it was too late.  The league is better when the Bruins are good, so this sucks to watch.  I hope I’m really wrong about them, but I think they’re a sinking ship.

 

Florida – I guess we’ll see, won’t we analytic fans?  I really like analytics, I just don’t understand them sometimes.  But especially when it comes to the draft, I don’t know if it’s a good idea to go SO heavy on them as they appeared to do in the draft.  Henrik Borgstrom is 19, and he’s rail thin.  This feels a lot like when the Flames took Mark Jankowski in 2012.  Also, if you’re going so heavy analytically, how is Riley Tufte not that pick?  So I wasn’t a fan of that, and I didn’t like some of the other kids they took like Adam Mascherin (a pick before Alex DeBrincat) and Linus Nassen with who else was still on the board.  I just wasn’t a fan, maybe they’ll prove me wrong down the line.

 

Minnesota – If you are a middle of the pack team with a depleted system, you should probably trade down.  Oh no, not Chuck Fletcher, you is starting to feel like he’s on his last legs as the GM in Minny.  Add to that, they reached a bit on Luke Kunin.  I don’t mind the pick at all, but they probably could have moved back and snagged him.  The rest of the draft they had a total of three picks, one before the 7th round.  Yep, you read that right.  Two picks in the first 4 rounds, two in the 7th.  Gross.  They are just the quintessential middle of the pack team that goes nowhere.  I’d start blowing it up, but that is easy for me to sit here and say.  It isn’t anywhere near that simple for an owner.

 

Vancouver – I didn’t HATE what they did at 5.  I harped on how they needed to start building that blueline there, and so they took who they deemed to be the top defenceman.  Fair enough, I would have moved back.  Would that have cost them Juolevi, yeah probably.  And I don’t know if there were options to move down, but I would guess they could have done SOMETHING.  They didn’t have a 2nd or a 4th.  This team needed picks.  Move back, take hometown kid Dante Fabbro who I really think can be as good as Juolevi in time (and he’s a RH shot), and re-coup some of those picks.  William Lockwood at 64, meh.  Will Bitten, Cam Dineen, Vitali Abramov, Adam Fox all still there, I would have taken one of them.  I don’t see how you like Lockwood over Bitten.  65 points in 67 games in the OHL who is an explosive skater and plays with an edge, or 6 points in 20 games in the USHL?  Similar size.  I just don’t get it.

 

So all in all, there were six teams whose draft I really liked, and only four who I felt dropped the ball a bit.  But again, who the hell knows?!  None of us do.  There are 30 GM’s who don’t have a clue how this will go.  No scout, no analyst, nobody.  But 10 years from now, it’ll be fun to go back and take a look….should this fledgling website still be around.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2016 NHL Mock Draft 5.0

0118-draft16The final addition.  I really wish I could hold off on posting this until about half an hour before the draft, but circumstances are that now is the time and not a chance I would miss what I have going on this afternoon to get a freaking mock draft a little more accurate.

 

This is starting to remind me so much of 2014.  At that draft, everything was happening on the trade front.  Panthers were moving the top pick to the Canucks, the Islanders were without a doubt moving the 5th pick, a billion trades were going to go down and then….crickets.  I have a feeling this will be what happens today.  P.K. Subban will be dealt, Jets are taking Puljujarvi over Laine, Columbus will move the 3rd, Oilers will move the 4th, on and on and on.  We’ll see.

 

As always, a little insight to how I look at things.  I’m looking at what teams have 25-27 and under in their organization.  I look at need and not just the BPA (best player available) these days as do most teams because it is getting more and more difficult to make trades in the NHL.  Also I try and look for patterns with teams and their past 4 or 5 drafts.  Do they go CHL heavy?  Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids?  Maybe they’re head over heals for Europeans?

 

Remember, just because McKenzie or Redline report or ISS or CSS have one guy ranked higher than another doesn’t mean that he is the BPA for that particular team.  This is why they have their own scouting staffs people.  Also, I put where I personally rank these kids off to the right side of their name and team in brackets, in case you are wondering what that means.  Where I have the player ranked in my top 50 rankings is in brackets next to the players name.  Here we go…

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs1. Auston Matthews (1)  Zurich  Suisse A

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 216  Shot: L

Comparison: Anze Kopitar

Nothing will change here obviously.  The Leafs get the elite number 1 centre they need to build around, and I really believe Matthews and Marner are the next Toews and Kane.  Marner will get a ton of love, but he’ll be able to do his thing because of Matthews.  And as you can see, Matthews measured in at the combine much bigger than he was listed at all season.  Now they just have to work on the blueline and maybe get a few heavier wingers, but they’re on the right path now.  Hope you can stomach the Toronto media hyping them the next 2 or 3 years, and I hope Leaf fans can look past the Toronto media trying to crush them now that they’ve built them up.

Other Options: None

 

 

Winnipeg Jets2. Patrik Laine (2)  Tappara  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.75  Wt: 201  Shot: R

Comparison: Ilya Kovalchuk

Well didn’t this pick get a whole hell of a lot more interesting in the last 36 hours or so!  Are they just trying to swerve everyone?  Why though?  I have a hunch that Bob McKenzie isn’t putting it out there that they might take Puljujarvi unless it’s AT LEAST a 50/50 chance.  Why?  I don’t know, but if Cheveldayoff likes Puljujarvi better he can’t move back, because the belief is that the Jackets want to move back and take a centre.  Having said all this, as I said off the top, this draft is shaping up just like the 2014 draft.  Buzz is going on that the draft will basically be off the wall…and then nothing happened.  I’ll keep this pick as Laine because it makes more sense, but just remember that Cheveldayoff went off the board in 2011 (Scheifele) and 2013 (Morrissey), and both were tremendous picks.

Other Options: Jesse Puljujarvi

 

 

Columbus Blue Jackets3. Jesse Puljujarvi (4)  Karpat  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 208  Shot: R

Comparison: Jakub Voracek

I’m not going to change this one either, but I will say that if Laine falls to 3 that if I’m Peter Chiarelli I’m picking up the phone and seeing what Kekelainen wants.  If I’m Chiarelli, I’ll gladly eat Scott Hartnell’s contract to move up and take Laine.  But back to this pick…I 100% believe the right move for the Jackets is to stay here and take Dubois.  I believe Dubois is going to be the 1st line centre this organization needs moving forward.  I believe they realize they have to walk out of this draft with the best centre they can snag, but it is sounding like they think Brown is that guy, not Dubois.  I completely disagree, but it’s their team.  So what I THINK will happen is a trade down to 6 with the Flames.  This has been floated by a few people and I believe it makes the most sense.  The Jackets move back to 6 to take Brown, which I don’t like but I believe it’s better than taking Puljujarvi for them, and the Flames move up and get a big finesse winger who would fit perfectly with Sam Bennett giving them two lines nearly impossible to deal with.  As for the trade, I think it could be the 6th, 35th and 126th pick, along with a roster player (who, I can see a number of possibilities) for this pick and Scott Hartnell which would help the Jackets out for next year’s expansion draft by getting a player with an NTC off the books.   The Jackets owe the Canucks a 2nd for hiring Torts, and they only have five picks in this draft so they need to recoup a few picks.

Other Options: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Logan Brown

 

 

Edmonton Oilers4. Matthew Tkachuk (5)  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Corey Perry

My phone basically didn’t get put down after 2PM yesterday.  Oilers are closing in on Subban, no they aren’t, yes they are, is it the 4th, is it Draisaitl, it can’t be Draisaitl, is it Hall, is it Nuge, ENOUGH!!!  We’ll see.  If Subban gets moved, I can’t imagine it not being to the Oilers because the Oilers are desperate for a number 1 RH shot D-man.  But again, all the rumours fly this time of year and normally nothing happens.  So back to status quo, and the national media still can’t figure out that Sergachev or Juolevi isn’t the answer for the Oilers.  This team is loaded with quality and high end LH shot D under 25.  Tkachuk is the pick, though my head still says Dubois.  But Tkachuk couldn’t fit the Chiarelli mold anymore perfectly than he does.  A perfect fit for Chiarelli, a perfect fit for McDavid.

Other Options: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mikhail Sergachev

 

 

Vancouver Canucks5. Pierre-Luc Dubois (3)  Cape Breton  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 205  Shot: L

                                                        Comparison: Shane Doan

The Canucks get their man.  The word is that they’ve been looking at Dubois hard all year and my belief is that this is why they were willing to pay the price they did for Erik Gudbranson.  They gave up the 2nd knowing the Blue Jackets owe them one down the road, and they gave up the centre (McCann) knowing they are going after Dubois at the draft.  Some question if he’s a centre, but his game got better once he made the move to the middle.  I really believe if they give him another year in Cape Breton where he can play centre all season, he’ll get more comfortable and he’ll be ready.  Likely that he starts his career back on the wing, but I really believe they’re drafting him to be their franchise centre and I think it’ll be a home run pick for Jim Benning.  If they were to go elsewhere or trade down, as I’ve said in the past, the blueline still needs a lot of work moving forward.

Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Olli Juolevi

 

 

Calgary Flames6. Logan Brown (10)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6.25  Wt: 220  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Kozlov

As I said at the 3rd pick, I believe this is going to be a deal between the Flames and the Jackets.  But let’s assume they don’t find common ground on a deal, Brown would still make a ton of sense for the Flames.  They don’t have much size in the top 6, they don’t have much size on the way, and as has been proved you need size down the middle to win in the West.  Brown would give them that, and he has the speed to skate with this team, one of the fastest in the league.  But should they go in another direction, remember that while this team has an impressive group of defencemen on the big club, they don’t have much coming.  And while Brad Treliving is the GM, Brian Burke has maintained with all of his clubs that the blueline be stocked and remain stocked.  Another kid I’ve given a ton of late thought to going in this spot is Tyson Jost.  He fits the makeup of this team perfectly.

Other Options: Olli Juolevi, Tyson Jost

 

 

Arizona Coyotes7. Olli Juolevi (9)  London  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Jonas Brodin

This is the type of guy that Dave Tippett has really liked.  He likes his hockey teams to be great positionally, non physical, and essentially play in a train track.  Juolevi fits this mold.  The offensive ability is there, and I expect he’ll put up better numbers than Brodin (career high of 19 points), but I don’t honestly think they’ll take him expecting this.  If he does tap into it, then it’s a bonus for the Coyotes.  No doubt in my mind though that the Coyotes need to address their lack of depth on D in the system in this draft.

Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Jake Bean

 

 

Buffalo Sabres8. Mikhail Sergachev (8)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Dougie Hamilton

I don’t think it’s close between Juolevi and either Sergachev or Chychrun.  I have Chychrun as the top D-man, but absolutely get the love for Sergachev.  I have heard the Sabres really love Sergachev, and in this scenario they land him.  The Sabres really need a lot of help on the blueline.  They likely have a number 1 guy in Ristolainen, but after him there are a lot of question marks moving forward.  Sergachev would fit perfectly with Ristolainen as a top pairing in a few years, and he really has the ability to be a stud number 1 D-man.

Other Options: Jake Bean, Alex Nylander

 

 

Montreal Canadiens9. Tyson Jost (6)  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Richards

The more I find out about Jost, the more I love him.  IF the Oilers and Habs were to flip picks in a possible Subban deal (or maybe just a trade up by the Habs), Jost would be the guy I’d want the Oilers to take.  Not because he’s what they need, but I believe the kid is going to be a key contributor on some Cup winners down the line.  Should the Habs not make a move, this would be a tremendous pick for them.  Some question whether or not he’ll be a centre, I don’t.  Even if he is on the wing, I don’t hear anyone complain about the type of player Zach Parise is.  Jost just has all the intangibles every team craves.  If not Jost, there are a lot of different routes they could take.  The system is far from loaded either up front or on the back end.

Other Options: Jakob Chychrun, Michael McLeod

 

 

Colorado Avalanche10. Jake Bean (12)  Calgary  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.75  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

I’m back to Bean with this pick.  I have little doubt this is going to be a D-man because it’s an organizational need, and there are also a lot of good ones in this range.  Some may like Nylander or Keller here because maybe they feel they’ve dropped, but I would go D.  I wouldn’t go with this D myself, but I’m much higher on Chychrun than most.  Bean fits today’s game though.  Not big, but moves the puck great, good skater (not amazing), and he can QB a PP.  While it wouldn’t be the guy I’d pick, this would be a great selection for the Avs nonetheless.

Other Options: Jakob Chychrun, Dante Fabbro

 

 

NJ Devils11. Alexander Nylander (15)  Mississuaga  OHL 

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 178  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Ales Hemsky

I’ve had this pick now for a while and don’t see a need to move off it, unless Nylander goes earlier of course.  What I love about this idea is that neither Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac or incoming Pavel Zacha are guys who need the puck on their stick all the time.  Nylander does, which is one reason I’m not as high on him as most are, but he would likely fit perfectly with this squad.  Also, go on hockey’s future and look at the Devils depth chart on the right side.  1 guy, in the whole system.  And that one guy is someone I’ve never heard of, nor are any of the centre’s who might move to the wing.

Other Options: Clayton Keller

 

 

Ottawa Senators12. Clayton Keller (14)  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 164  Shot: L

Comparison: Johnny Gaudreau

This team under Bryan Murray invested a lot of recent 1st round picks in centres.  Mika Zibanejad, Curtis Lazar, Colin White, not to mention Kyle Turris is still only 27, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau is still only 23 (24 early into next season).  So this club is set down the middle, and they look pretty good on D.  If they were to go D, I could see Dante Fabbro or Charlie McAvoy being higher on their list than Chychrun due to being RH shot guys.  But this team could really use someone dynamic on the wing.  I’ve said lots in the past that Keller probably won’t play centre in the pro’s like he has coming up.  This is no issue for the Sens.  They have a lot of bigger, heavier wingers and nobody with the speed and playmaking ability Keller has.

Other Options: Dante Fabbro, Charlie McAvoy

 

 

Carolina Hurricanes13. Michael McLeod (11)  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Ryan Kesler

I’ve had one of the dynamic wingers going in this spot for a long time.  But something I should remember is who their GM is.  Ron Francis is a guy who understands how valuable strength down the middle is.  This is the guy who has done a great job at re-stocking their blueline, and understanding what will win in this league.  Add to this, with a kid like McLeod, kids like Sebastian Aho and Aleksi Saarela to the wings when or if they make the Hurricanes.  This is a kid who can do a ton of the heavy lifting for a hockey club.  As for the offensive ability, scouts need to get over that.  He plays a pro style game, where nobody is going to “out dangle” anyone anyway.  Scouts made this same mistake with Boone Jenner, and when Kesler was drafted Bob McKenzie even said on TSN’s broadcast that day that Kesler wasn’t going to be anything more than a 3rd line centre.  A player like McLeod isn’t flashy, but he’s going to be a very valuable piece moving forward, which is why I’ve liked him so much.

Other Options: Max Jones, Kieffer Bellows

 

 

Boston Bruins14. Dante Fabbro (13)  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Pietrangelo

I’ve dismissed the notion of them taking a D-man here like everyone else seems to think they need to do.  They took three in the top 52 last season.  And I love the belief that this pick is going to be Charlie McAvoy because he went to BU so they would want to take him.  What a great way to run an organization.  That’s why the Blue Jackets “have to take Puljujarvi” is because Jarmo Kekelainen is a Fin, and why Kieffer Bellows is going to Minny because he’s from there, right?  Maybe those things all happen, but I would want to run my organization properly rather than pick the fan favourite.  Anyway, a lot of the Boston guys I follow on Twitter seem to think they love Fabbro.  I love Fabbro, he’s a RH shot kid who is only outside the top D in this draft due to not being as great of a skater.  But he’s so damn poised and intelligent that he easily could be a top pairing guy down the road.  But then again, maybe they do simply pick the kid playing at BU.  I hope it’d be for better reasons than only that.

Other Options: Jakob Chychrun, Charlie McAvoy

 

 

Minnesota Wild15. Max Jones (17)  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 206  Shot: L

Comparison: Boone Jenner

This team is in no man’s land.  Hiring Bruce Boudreau was great, but he isn’t working with Ovechkin and Backstrom here.  He isn’t working with Getzlaf and Perry here.  Koivu and Parise aren’t those guys.  I do think he’ll improve the team, but the combination of moving a ton of assets at trade deadline’s and other prospects not panning out likely means this organization is in the midst of their peak.  Anyway as they currently stand they could use some more help up front in the organization so they take Jones, who is a local kid but I could care less about that.  He’s a raw talent, who could be better than his teammate Matt Tkachuk down the line.  Better skater, better shot, has more of a mean streak, but the hockey sense is the question mark.  He’ll play, just a matter of whether he’ll be a top 9 guy or top 6.  But this team really needs some bite and Jones can give that to them down the line.

Other Options: Kieffer Bellows

 

 

Detroit Red Wings16. Charlie McAvoy (16)  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 199  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Keith Yandle

I’ve said it all along, the Wings need to finally address the defence in this draft and I believe they will here.  It blows my mind how little they’ve invested in their blueline the last 4 or 5 years.  This HAS to be the draft where they turn that around.  I’d without a doubt take Fabbro or McAvoy here, and then I’d go with another D-man with the 46th pick.  They need D, and they pretty badly need RH shot D and they’re at a premium in this draft, so take one while you can.

Other Options: Jakob Chychrun

 

 

Nashville Predators17. Jakob Chychrun (7)  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Rob Blake

FINALLY my guy goes!  This is what I see happening, is I think Chychrun is going to go into free fall tonight.  Risers tend to go higher than expected, and fallers tend to go lower than expected.  I don’t think anyone has Chychrun falling this far, and I of all people don’t think he should.  But I think teams are just going to have fatigue on him.  The Preds capitalize on this just like they did Seth Jones falling to 4 in 2013.

Other Options: Luke Kunin

 

 

Philadelphia Flyers18. Kieffer Bellows (21)  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Brian Bellows

Monday I had Gauthier going here.  Read yesterday on Twitter that the Flyers didn’t interview Gauthier, which surprises me a lot.  They’ve loved QMJHL kids in the past, and while the GM has changed, the scouting staff hasn’t.  But I’ll take that as the gospel and suggest they take Bellows here instead.  Most like Bellows going to Minny at 15, which is possible.  But I feel like that’s a little high for him.  He is quite the sniper, and all it takes is one.  I like him a little more for the Flyers because they have a lot of what a player like Bellows needs around to insulate him and get the most out of his abilities.  Most would prefer Bellows go to Minny and Max Jones go here, but I don’t know how the Wild pass on Jones.

Other Options: Luke Kunin

 

 

NY Islanders19. Luke Kunin (20)  Wisconsin  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 193  Shot: R

Comparison: Derek Stepan

If you look at the Islanders organizational depth chart, they are thin on the right side.  Now, some of this depends on the situation with Ryan Strome who had an awful season and currently looks like a disappointment.  Even so, they could use something on the right side.  I believe Kunin will end up playing the middle in the pro’s, but if they did draft him then obviously one of him or Barzal could move to the right side.  You can never have too many centre’s.

Other Options: Julien Gauthier, Logan Stanley

 

 

Arizona Coyotes20. Dennis Cholowski (28)  Chilliwack  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 177  Shot: L

                                                         Comparison: Josh Gorges

This pick was acquired from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle trade.  I think this is a prime spot where a team in the bottom third of this round could move up.  The Coyotes I expect will take another D here, and could easily move back as far as the end of the 1st round to get one whether it be Cholowski, Stanley, Clague, Johansen, Hijaek, etc.  They could more so use a RH shot D-man, so perhaps moving up to 16 or 17 should Fabbro and/or McAvoy still be available could be done?  If they walk out of this draft with two D-men in the first round I believe Tippett and new GM John Chayka would be thrilled.  Cholowski is a big riser, and I just have a hunch the Coyotes, despite picking a similar kid at 7, would take Cholowski over Stanley, Clague, and Johansen.  He’s ranked 25th on McKenzie’s list so it’s not a real reach.

Other Options: Logan Stanley, Lucas Johansen

 

 

Carolina Hurricanes21. Julien Gauthier (18)  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 231  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

This pick was acquired from the Kings in the Andrej Sekera trade.  They need a lot of help on the wings moving forward, and while they kind of addressed that with the 13th pick in taking McLeod (who allows them to move some smaller centres in the system to the wing), they still will need more.  Add to this, they’ve got a stacked defence moving forward.  So Gauthier falls a little bit to them, and some question if he has the skill and the wheels to produce in the show the way he has in the Q.  He’s in amazing condition.  Is that a positive or a negative though?

Other Options: Riley Tufte, Pascal Laberge

 

 

Winnipeg Jets22. Logan Stanley (23)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’7  Wt: 224  Shot: L

Comparison: Brooks Orpik

This pick was acquired from the Blackhawks in the Andrew Ladd trade.  It is insane how loaded this organization currently is.  Everyone mocked Kevin Cheveldayoff for never making trades.  This is the result.  This organization has everything, and they’re the next big thing in the Central division, if not the league.  The one thing I thought they could use is available in this spot and that is a big LH shot D-man, so Logan Stanley goes to them.  Stanley can slot right behind Morrissey on the left side, Trouba, or perhaps what they trade Trouba for, and they’re simply loaded for years to come.  Stanley is the type of player the Jets love.  Big and tough.

Other Options: Kale Clague, Lucas Johansen

 

 

Florida Panthers23. Riley Tufte (22)  Blaine  USHSW

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Chris Kreider

The lack of skill on this team got exposed in the playoffs.  They’re built exactly how I would build a team, but you still need at least a couple of high end skill players to finish plays.  Tufte kind of fills their love for size, and brings the skill they need.  But he is a boom or bust kid make no mistake about that.  All the talent imaginable, but he’s done it facing very weak competition.  It is tough to get a read on what this team will do here though.  Dale Talon is still running the show, but they do seem to be much more analytics driven now.  Scott Luce had a big influence on their drafts in the past, and he’s now gone.

Other Options: Pascal Laberge, Brett Howden

 

 

Anaheim Ducks24. Brett Howden (26)  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 193  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

The closer we get to the draft, the more I love this prediction.  But then again pick at 30, so perhaps they wait until then to take a centre and in this spot they just go BPA?  Still the point here is that they really need centres and while German Rubtsov has fallen to them, Bob Murray doesn’t take Russians.  Howden makes the most sense to me.  Then again, they LOVE stockpiling D-men.

Other Options: Kale Clague, Lucas Johansen

 

 

Dallas Stars25. Lucas Johansen (29)  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 175  Shot: L

Comparison: Anton Stralman

I felt an urge to move off the Gustavsson prediction.  I still think it’s possible, if not probable that they take a goaltender pretty high in this draft, it doesn’t have to be at 25.  It is tough to find many holes in their system.  They don’t pick D-men high very often, but I feel like that’s where they’ll go here and ensure their system remains stocked with Esa Lindell likely to join the big club next season.  And historically the Stars have loved the WHL, so this pick just seems to make a ton of sense to me, but so does Kale Clague and Libor Hajek.

Other Options: Kale Clague, Libor Hajek

 

 

Washington Capitals26. German Rubtsov (19)  Russia U-18  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 178  Shot: L

                                                        Comparison: Tomas Plekanec

They don’t have much down the middle on the team or in the system.  Rubtsov falls into their lap in my opinion because of the scandal he was involved in with the Russian U18 team.  Some teams take Russians off the board because of the scare they won’t come to North America for a long time, some take them off the board because historically their kids are complete crapshoots, well put on top of that a drug scandal and I can’t see how Rubtsov doesn’t fall.  But we all know the Caps with Ovechkin have an ability to draw them like they did with Kuznetsov and Orlov.  Rubtsov would be a steal for them.  If he’s not around, I think they’ll go defence.

Other Options: Kale Clague, Libor Hajek

 

 

Tampa Bay Lightning27. Pascal Laberge (24)  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 174  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Ryan Strome

In a perfect world, they land Rubtsov.  They have never hesitated to grab a Russian during the Yzerman era, and even if they are to re-sign Stamkos (which for them makes no sense), the one weaker area in the organization is down the middle.  But Rubtsov just went to the Caps so I basically have them taking the best talent left on the board.  Laberge has played a lot of centre in the Q, but I think he’s a winger in the show.  He’s not a big need for the Lightning, but this just feels like a pick they’d make.  They love speed, they love skill, they love the Q, so they’ll likely love Laberge but I admit there are a ton of directions they could go here.

Other Options: Rasmus Asplund, Carl Grundstrom

 

 

St. Louis Blues28. Tage Thompson (41)  Connecticut  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 195  Shot: R

                                                         Comparison: Nik Antropov

I think they need to grab a centre with this pick.  If you look at what is in the organization, they don’t have much down the middle.  Hockey’s Future has Ivan Barbashev as their top centre in organization, and I’m not even sure he’ll end up as a centre on the big club.  But even if he does, that’s it.  The rest of what they have are real long shots.  And if David Backes leaves, I BELIEVE that leaves them with no RH shot centre’s throughout the organization.  So Cliff Pu made sense to me in the past, but the more I give it thought the more I feel like perhaps Tage Thompson is the pick for them.  More upside, size, pretty good 2 way guy as well.

Other Options: Cliff Pu, Boris Katchouk

 

 

Boston Bruins29. Rasmus Asplund (32)  Farjestad  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.25  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikkael Granlund

This pick was acquired from the Sharks in the Martin Jones trade.  I’ve had them taking Will Bitten here for a long time, even when I thought Bitten would be a massive reach, I just felt like he’s the type of kid they’ll love.  They probably do.  But I changed this one to Asplund last time around and I’ll keep it this way for the last mock.  I don’t see a big difference in Asplund and Sam Steel, but I’ll say they like Asplund a little more, just because most do.  They also don’t have much down the middle in the organization, so this pick is a bit about need, but it isn’t as though Asplund is a reach here.  There is also a good chance that one of Howden or Pu is still around, and those are two guys I believe most teams will like better than a kid like Asplund (obviously because of the size).  Bottom line though is should they go D with their top pick, I’d watch for this pick to be a centre.

Other Options: Will Bitten, Dillon Dube

 

 

Anaheim Ducks30. Carl Grundstrom (39)  Modo  SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Patric Hornqvist

This pick was acquired from the Penguins in the Phil Kessel trade, and then has been acquired from the Leafs in the Frederik Andersen trade.  The Ducks have done such a great job at keeping the system stacked, especially on D.  But while they continue to churn out quality D-men, up front they are getting a little thin.  I had them taking Howden at 24, for 30 I have them going to Sweden where they’ve had a lot of recent success and taking Grundstrom.  He plays that in your face style that Bob Murray has always loved in his players, so I think he’s a perfect fit.  But let’s be honest, at this point in the draft there are about 5-10 possibilities.

Other Options: Sam Steel, Nathan Bastian

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2016 NHL Draft Top 50 Prospects: June 23

0118-draft16Final addition this season of my top 50.  I didn’t have time this week to do a top 60 like I had hoped, but I’m sure a top 50 list is fine as there is no shortage of draft stuff to check out this time of year.

 

I cut down the tier’s this time around.  The closer we get to the draft (now just a little over 30 hours away), the more I find the group at 30-45 or so just being a massive cluster, and that is how most have it.

 

I compile information, I don’t get to watch a lot of these kids play so I look around, ask around, do whatever I can to find out how these kids play, and TRY to find out their weaknesses because one thing about when talking about draft prospects is that unless they have attitude issues, nobody will ever point out a flaw.  “His skating isn’t great but it is good enough”.  No, just say the kid doesn’t skate good.  “He’s not the most physical player…”  So he’s soft?  Just say it!  It is likely better for the kid anyway.  If you hear something negative about you and DON’T get pissed off and try to prove that person wrong, who would then still want that kid on their team?

 

So if a kid is considered somewhat soft, I’m not a fan.  If a kid is considered an average skater I’m going to knock him down.  I’m a bit of a “sizest”, and much to a lot of fans and media’s dismay, a team full of small players rarely wins anything.  You can afford to have 3 or 4 real small guys on the roster, but that’s about it.  If you want rankings that don’t take size and how a game will translate in the NHL into consideration, check out Corey Pronman of ESPN.  That’s not a knock on his work, but I just see things vastly different from him.

 

This is where someone will point out the exception to the rule.  I love how sports is the only walk of life where people will point out the exception to the rule as if that wins an argument.  Anyway, the exception to that rule is the 08 Detroit Red Wings and of course now, this seasons Pittsburgh Penguins.  Two of the smallest teams all time to win the Cup.  Some people want this to be the norm, and I understand that.

 

That is the exception.  The rule is that you win with speed, grit and size.  I would definitely say that above being a “sizest” is that I’m a “positionalist”.  You win with high end centres and high end defencemen.  I take position more importantly than most seem to.  I believe that wingers need to have pretty special traits to be picked above centres of a similar skillset or defencemen.  Goaltenders are an enormous crap shoot, but I’m not anti goaltenders being taken high (last year for example I was very high on Ilya Samsonov).

 

Last year when doing this list I talked a lot about tiering the players and that to me it was more important to have tiers than what number the players were ranked.  After a few picks, there won’t be much separating players and that’s when it should boil down to need over BPA…because there will likely be hot debates over who is the BPA past pick 3…maybe even pick 2.

 

Tier 1

635873478224268717-AP-Finland-Ice-Hockey1. Auston Matthews  Zurich  Suisse A

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 216  Shot: L

Comparison: Anze Kopitar

Matthews will come in as one of the most polished all around 1st overall picks.  His talent isn’t up there with McDavid, but he’s, very polished and should step right into the 2nd line centre spot on the Leafs, and likely be the 1st line centre by the 17-18 season.

 

Tier 2

etupate3112SP_nu2. Patrik Laine  Tappara  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.75  Wt: 201  Shot: R

Comparison: Ilya Kovalchuk

CHILL with the Ovechkin comparisons!  He’s damn good, but other players have played this style not just Ovechkin.  Everyone is in love with him and Puljujarvi, but it is a must you keep in mind that teams simply do not win with these wingers.  Everyone always falls in love with them.  Rick Nash, Kovalchuk, Thomas Vanek, 3 years ago some were clamouring for Valeri Nichushkin to go as high as 2nd overall.  The myth is that these players can do it all and will be unstoppable.  The fact is that they are so physically gifted that they’ve never had to think the game.  And if they could think the game at a high level, they would be centre’s, not wingers.  It doesn’t mean they can’t learn to think it, but that is a talent too.  I hope they both have a 2 way game like Marian Hossa, but most wingers of this ilk never become more defensively then they have to be.  Having said all this, there are a limited amount of players in the league who have a shot like his, and even less who have a one timer like his.  Ovechkin, Stamkos, Subban, Burns, maybe a few others but those are the ones that come to mind and the point is there are VERY few.

 

Tier 3

0f8f40bd-3c2e-4760-8b55-3856be63946e_JDX-NO-RATIO_WEB3. Pierre-Luc Dubois  Cape Breton  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Shane Doan

I’m not going to move off of this point.  He’s a 6’2, 205 pound, highly skilled centre who plays a pro style.  I am going to take that guy all day over a winger unless the winger is like a Laine where there is 50 goal potential.  Puljujarvi might put up more points, but Dubois is going to be the guy who plays in every situation and can lead a team deep into the playoffs.  He will need one more year in Cape Breton though, where Puljujarvi will likely step into a lineup next fall.

 

Jesse%20Puljujärvi4. Jesse Puljujarvi  Karpat  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Jakub Voracek

I’m sure some people will think I’m doing this for shock value, whatever.  I’ll tell this story again, a few weeks ago I watched The Big Short and for those who haven’t seen it yet it is a true story about Wall Street investors who after doing their research they bet big on the housing market to tank in 2006 and were laughed at for doing so.  Of course in 2008, it did, and they made billions.  I won’t make billions, or even hundreds on this, but I do really believe Dubois will be a more valuable player than Puljujarvi.  Not that I don’t like Puljujarvi, he’s an elite winger.  Likely a guy who is going to put up bigger point totals.  But there is so much more to it than that.

 

635811302260340869-GTY-4900609205. Matthew Tkachuk  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Corey Perry

Normally when you find a kid who has this kind of competitiveness it is in rounds 3-7 because part of what sparks that game is survival and being overlooked.  Tkachuk has had every advantage imaginable growing up!  And as I said, he is highly skilled.  He can score a finesse goal, a power goal, a greasy goal, and he’s a damn good playmaker too.  His skating isn’t great, but he seems to overcome it.  What I love most about him though is what he is apparently like in the dressing room.  Hearing that he was the glue guy for the Knights this season.  Intangibles man, I value them more than most as you’ll see next.

 

Tier 4

Jost3-CM6. Tyson Jost  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Richards

I am essentially calling my shot here.  Much like I feel strongly about having Dubois at 3rd when nobody else does, I’m putting Jost at 6, higher than most…if not all.  And the biggest reason is his combine interview.  He CRUSHED it in the interview process, and I think this kid is going to will himself to be a 1st line NHL centre.  He answered the doubts I had about him at the U18’s.  Jost is a kid that can play in any situation.  Leader, intelligence, compete level, he has all the intangibles.  Loved what I saw in Grand Forks though, love even more after what I’ve heard after the combine.

 

jakob_chychrun_sarnia_sting_37. Jakob Chychrun  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Rob Blake

So he has fallen to 13th on Bob McKenzie’s list, and I’m really starting to wonder if he won’t be one of those free fall guys we see every once in a while.  I still refuse to move off him though.  Now, obviously I’m not talking to these kids, and I admit I compile information so I don’t even watch that much of these kids.  But I just refuse to believe the book that this kid can’t process the game.  You hear him interviewed, and he comes off as an intelligent kid.  This is kind of the book on Darnell Nurse too, yet Nurse is an extremely intelligent kid.  I don’t care if a guy is a bit erratic or tries to do too much at times when they’re under 25.  If they’re smart, they’ll figure it out.  So I still got Chychrun 7th, live with it.  As for the draft, I’m thinking in my final mock draft coming out tomorrow, I’ll have him lower than I ever thought imaginable.

 

Mikhail+Sergachev+CeCK7oxNcXdm8. Mikhail Sergachev  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Dougie Hamilton

As much as I love Chychrun, the only thing that separates him and Sergachev for me is that historically it is a higher bust rate with Russians.  There really isn’t anything too different with the way either guy plays the game.  Both great size, both LH shots, both play physical, both are terrific skaters, both have cannon’s and love to shoot, both can move it well, they’re just very similar in skill sets.  Sergachev does impress you in an interview though with how great his English already is.  I really wonder if this isn’t why his stock has seemingly gone through the roof to the point that he’s in the discussion for most at 4, 5, and 6.

 

Olli+Juolevi+NAPsrAuj9rcm9. Olli Juolevi  London  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Jonas Brodin

I’ve said it all year and I won’t back off it.  For me, I still like the all world guy better, and the offensive numbers are a little lower for Juolevi compared to the other two.  Still, this is one heck of a prospect.  Smooth skater, great breakout pass, great stick defensively and takes great angles.  Offensively he’s just very smooth.  Walks the line as good as any 18 year old you’ll see, and can distribute the puck extremely well.  Kyle Woodlief from the Redline Repot finds him to be soft and that he gets beat in most one on one battles, big time red flag for me.  I honestly haven’t noticed this when I watched him this season, but playing for London he didn’t see many of those situations, and on the big ice at the WJC you don’t find yourself in near as many battles.  New comparison, this time to Brodin, but I do think he’ll put up bigger numbers than Brodin.

 

Logan Brown10. Logan Brown  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6.25  Wt: 220  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Kozlov

Some might scratch their heads at this new comparison I’m using, but Kozlov was the 6th pick in the 93 draft, and had very similar size and game to what Brown has.  Well, I’m proud that I had Brown higher than most back when I did the first list, and he proved me right at the U18’s.  He and Jost really separated from Kunin at that tournament (in my eyes, though Kunin obviously wasn’t at the U18’s) and Rubtsov but that could be a messy situation for the Russian.  Anyway, no chance NHL teams won’t love the package that is Logan Brown.  This kid can SKATE despite his massive size!  That is tough to pass up if you need a centre.  Obviously with this size, Brown gives a team literally a lot to work with.  Needs to not only work on his shot, but learn to use his shot a lot more.  Right now he’s purely a playmaker.

 

Tier 5

Apr18_OHLplayer11. Michael McLeod  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Kesler

I keep dropping him!  I don’t like this!  I still like McLeod better than most, because I just fully believe you win in the NHL with a kid like McLeod.  Can play in any situation, size, RH shot, this is the type of centre every team craves.  Unlikely he becomes a number 1 guy, but a great number 2 guy, and even if he doesn’t meet expectations he’s still going to be a valuable guy to have.  I realize he had a poor U18’s, but I believe people are overrating things like skill level (as dumb as that may sound), underrating things like all around game, and I still like him 5-10 years from now to be one of the most valuable players to be picked in this 1st round.  When Kesler was drafted, Bob McKenzie said during the broadcast that he would be a 3rd line centre, and we all know he’s exceeded that expectation.

 

bean_jake212. Jake Bean  Calgary  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.75  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

One of the biggest risers in this years draft.  He put up great numbers, but there is just a lot of work to be done.  And I watched a guy in Edmonton for 4 seasons who was highly touted, awesome offensively and supposed to figure out the defensive end of the ice.  It never happened, and while D play can be learned, the player has to be willing to learn it.  Still, there is a spot for the type of player he currently is in today’s NHL.

 

orig-mediaitemid19992-526913. Dante Fabbro  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Pietrangelo

Same deal as Jost, the teammates answered a lot of my concerns at the U18’s.  Fabbro was outstanding, and even though he isn’t THAT big he plays a very complete game.  What was I thinking with my Zach Bogosian comparison?!  I can be a moron a lot, as you’ve likely noticed, and he is the opposite of Bogosian.  Bogosian has all the tools without the tool box (like they believe is the case with Chychrun), where Fabbro is extremely cerebral.  He can play in any situation.  Not as good of a skater as some of the other potential 1st round D-men, but it’s highly likely he can improve it to another level, it isn’t as though it is a weakness.  But he’s tough, intelligent, moves the puck extremely well, great stick and great positionally.  Also he’s one of a very few highly ranked D-men in this draft who is a right handed shot.

 

Keller NTDP314. Clayton Keller  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 164  Shot: L

Comparison: Johnny Gaudreau

Corey Pronman has Keller 4th on his list.  Man we just see things different.  Not to speak for him, but he seems to base everything completely on point projections on the next level.  I prefer players who’ll have the biggest impact on the team and that doesn’t always show up on the stat box.  If it’s a perfect situation, then it makes sense to draft him.  But rarely does a team ever have a need for a 5’10, sub 170 pound centre.  Also, while other area’s of the game can be taught, I think some scouts get caught up in that and simply assume the player will learn, but he has to be willing to do it.  I’ve softened my stance on him a bit as you can see by my ranking this time around, but I still just look at players like Keller as final pieces to the puzzle, and teams drafting in the top 10 normally need to finish building the house before they buy the 60 inch 4K TV.  I’ll say this though for Keller.  If he does end up playing the middle in the pro’s, it’ll be because he’s that damn good and I’m going to look REAL stupid here!

 

Barrie+Colts+v+Mississauga+Steelheads+_3jDcRCjYQRl15. Alexander Nylander  Mississuaga  OHL 

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

Nylander is the same deal as Keller.  We aren’t talking about him having Patrick Kane type talent.  And again, I don’t HATE Nyalnder at all, an extremely talented kid who can put up a lot of points in the NHL.  I have him MUCH lower than most, but I wouldn’t take him top 10 in this draft unless you have a situation similar to the Jets in 2014 when they took a similar guy in Nik Ehlers.  They were pretty loaded everywhere and had grit and size, so that’s where it made sense.  There are teams who can really use a guy like Nylander, like Keller, I just would want to make damn sure I had the more important holes filled first.

 

Tier 6

McAvoy U1716. Charlie McAvoy  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Keith Yandle

Full disclosure, I get sick of doing write up’s on a lot of the D-men who come out of the USHL/NCAA.  They are all SO similar.  Smooth skating, puck movers who have big questions about playing in traffic and playing with the type of toughness it takes to play in the NHL.  Now don’t get me wrong, we see a LOT of Canadian D-men like this, European D-men like this, but the States produce a ton of the same type of D-man.  McAvoy is one of these guys.  Does a great job quarterbacking the PP, does a nice job of jumping in the play when the time is right, and while he’s not physical he takes good angles and has a good stick.  Kyle Woodlief and the guys at Redline Report sure aren’t high on McAvoy at all and I have a lot of respect for their insight.

 

Hamilton+Bulldogs+v+London+Knights+Lhmt7IUo1Bhl17. Max Jones  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Boone Jenner

Much like with the other power forwards, I love how Jones game SHOULD translate.  Also, it has to be tough for him in London playing behind so many guys like Marner, Tkachuk, Dvorak, etc.  He plays an old school power forward game, he has a nasty streak.  Combine that with the way he can skate and shoot, I have to think he’ll be capable down the line of being a complimentary top 6 player.  Not a driver of a line, but a perfect guy to pair with your skilled players.

 

julien-gauthier-600x33818. Julien Gauthier  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 231  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

Upside is great, but the motor is the big question with this kid and a lot of kids seemingly keep passing him on the rankings.  I still can’t help but think how valuable he’s going to be if he puts it together.  For this comparison I completely admit I’m echoing what Craig Button said.  The comparison to Neal is just spot on.  He won’t put guys on their ass very often, but he is great down low and on the wall, has real good wheels and an awesome shot.

 

Rubtsov19. German Rubtsov  Russia U-18  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Tomas Plekanec

Ok so I have no idea what to make of him, as he was in the middle of the drug scandal with the Russian U18 team.  So does this hurt his draft ranking?  I don’t see how it won’t.  But I still love the way he plays the game, and still think he’s a top 20 or so prospect.  A true 2 way centre who can be a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th line centre on a team so whoever picks him at worse is likely getting an NHL player.  But he definitely is expected to be a 2nd line centre who a team will be able to use in any situation.  Good size, speed, vision, shot, IQ, he just does everything very well.  If he can take his offensive game to another level, this kid could develop into a 1st line centre someday.  I’ll have him higher in my rankings than I will in my mock drafts, unless we get an answer one way or another whether or not the scandal will hurt him.

 

Kunin20. Luke Kunin  Wisconsin  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 193  Shot: R

Comparison: Derek Stepan

Plays a very smart game.   I don’t know if I like a comparison better than Kunin to Stepan and while I did come up with that, I’m sure I can’t be the only one making this comparison.  Great speed, great shot, and a great motor (I’m using motor now instead of compete level, easier to type).  He’ll be one of the safer picks in this draft.

 

Tier 7

Bellows21. Kieffer Bellows  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Brian Bellows

I’m sorry if you want a different comparison, but he does, he plays like his old man.  Bellows is the type of guy I’m not as high on.  He’s a one dimensional winger.  I know a lot of people like him and have him ranked around 15, but to me, I just don’t see him as more than a one dimensional guy much like a Brett Connolly, or Anthony Mantha in past year’s.  No, you don’t get a complete player, but he is a kid who will fill the net if he has the right centre feeding him the puck.

 

rtufte22. Riley Tufte  Blaine  USHSW

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Chris Kreider

I want to know why Tufte didn’t want to play in the USHL.  Left Fargo after 12 games, and that’s a red flag.  The competition he is now playing against is also a big red flag.  He’s a boom or bust guy.  Is he Hugh Jessiman, or is he Blake Wheeler?  But there is no denying his domination of the Minnesota high school ranks.  If a team has a stocked cupboard, they might be willing to take a shot on him.  The Kreider comparison is basically spot on if you look at Kreider in his draft year.  Scouts were intrigued about the skill set, but worried about the competition he had played against.  Great skater for a kid this size, great shot, has a little bit of a mean streak, good vision too.

 

Tier 8

Stanley23. Logan Stanley  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’7  Wt: 224  Shot: L

Comparison: Brooks Orpik

He’s a classic stay at home D-man, a dying breed.  But any coach will take a guy who can put out against the other teams top line and eat 25 minutes a night.  But is Stanley going to be that guy, Orpik was that kind of guy for a lot of years. Or, will he just be an Eric Gryba type?  He’s more mobile than Gryba, but we’ll see.  He does show some flashes offensively, but chances are he’s just a stay at home guy.  But I’m a guy who still believes you need 1 or 2 D-men like this and being so unique, worst case scenario is he’ll get a lot of chances to make it.  You hear about complimentary wingers, well I see Stanley as perhaps a complimentary defenceman.  The type of guy you want your top puck mover to have on the opposite side.

 

2015-02-24-01-15-32-Tremblay2_détourée24. Pascal Laberge  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Strome

I’m a big fan of Dubois (I got him 3rd so I think you know this), Laberge was the MVP of the prospects game.  He showed off how skilled he is in that game, and while it’s just 1 game it’s a big game.  Your going against the best prospects in the CHL, it’s a big stage, and he showed up.  Was the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL draft, and had a tough start to his Q career last season and was dealt to Victoriaville.  But this season he’s starting to show why he was that pick.  He’s really slick, the question will be whether or not he’s willing to get his nose dirty and can do it in traffic.

 

Bitten25. Will Bitten  Flint  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 167  Shot: R

Comparison: Dave Bolland

He’s limited, but I love the way this kid plays and it’s gone from most liking him a lot more than me, to me liking him a lot more than most.  He’s really going to have to fill out to play the feisty game in the pro’s.  Still, a lot of talent and an extremely high motor.  A kid like this I believe will be helped out a lot by a team like the Pens winning the Cup.

 

Howden-Preseason-Sep826. Brett Howden  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

This is the type of kid any team would love.  And his scouting report really reminds me of Ryan O’Reilly (even though Horcoff is the comparison).  Honest player, gritty as can be, will do anything to win.  He reaches his potential and he’s wearing a “C” some day in the show.  It was tough for me to have him behind some of the kids I have him behind, but the fact is the heart and soul guys are no sure thing either.  Perfect example right now is Anton Lander in Edmonton.  He’s a heart and soul guy, wore a “C” at every level, he’s simply not good enough.  Howden is a better skater than both of those guys though and he’s a pretty safe bet to be at least a bottom 6 centre, and a kid all Cup contenders need.

 

Kale Clague27. Kale Clague  Brandon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11.75  Wt: 184  Shot: L

Comparison: Matt Niskanen

Another dip in my rankings again, I honestly find him to be a tough kid to slot, especially knowing I have a bit of a bias.  Clague has just gotten better and better as the season has gone on, which is a very different route from most who start the season as projected top 10 picks.  His game elevated after the prospects game, elevated even more when the playoffs began.  He was maybe been the Wheat Kings best player in the playoffs.  Remember, they have Ivan Provorov.  Again I’ll say, he has a ways to go with his defensive game, but he is back on track after a rough start to the season that saw his draft ranking plummet.

 

635967499001659552-Hockey-Card-27-Dennis-Cholowski28. Dennis Cholowski  Chilliwack  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Gorges

2 red flags are the competition he played against and the fact that he’s currently only 170 (though we’ll see if that’s improved once they measure him at the combine).  Those aren’t bad red flags though, just makes teams hold off on drafting him until the proper time.  He is great offensively though and will likely have teams intrigued.

 

Lucas+Johansen+PdSm_9goczsm29. Lucas Johansen  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 175  Shot: L

Comparison: Anton Stralman

The Rockets have a BIT of a history of developing D-men, and Ryan’s little brother could be the next in that line.  Some like him as much as Clague and it’s tough to argue.  Similar size and attributes.  But Clague’s playoff performance as pushed him up the board a little more in my eyes.  Still, if a team needs a D-man late in the 1st, Johansen would be a safe bet.  Real solid at both ends of the ice.  Not very physical, but he has a great stick defensively.

 

Tier 9

Gustavsson30. Filip Gustavsson  Lulea  SWE-J20

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 190  Glove: L

Comparison: Tuukka Rask

This kid really boosted his stock at the U18’s, he was fabulous.  He had a very inconsistent season, but for me I’m more forgiving of D-men and goaltenders who have inconsistent seasons as 18 year olds than wingers or centres.  Pretty tough to find a U20 team like Gustavsson played for that has total buy in from their forwards to a 200 foot game, which will obviously hurt the D and tendy’s.  He is technically sound and depends on his positioning a little too much.  When he improvises is when he becomes elite so he just needs to learn to do so more often.

 

Cliff+Pu+Oshawa+Generals+v+London+Knights+mhSMY6zcVQPl31. Cliff Pu  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

He’s risen a ton for a lot of people as scouts have looked closer at him.  Obviously in London he’s hidden behind a lot of high end talent.  But the more people watch them, the more they are noticing this extremely well rounded centre who is giving a big effort every night.  Pu is a bit of a project, but a safe project.  Once he fills out, and gets more ice time, we’ll see if he’s a bottom 6 guy or a top 6 guy.

 

Asplund32. Rasmus Asplund  Farjestad  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.25  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikkael Granlund

Will he play the middle should he make the show?  I don’t know, he’s right on that line of centre or winger.  I would project him as a winger, but when he fills out he should play around 190 so it isn’t as though he is too small.  He is a limited player offensively, but he plays with some edge and works his ass off.  The worry with a kid like Asplund and next up Steel is if they are “tweeners” much like Sam Gagner and Cody Hodgson are.  Good enough to play in the league, but no real role for them.

 

Sam Steel33. Sam Steel  Regina  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Riberio

I thought about it, and asked myself “why should Asplund be an early 2nd rounder and Steel be so much lower”.  You won’t get 2 players more similar in this draft.  One of the best playmakers in the draft, putting up a point per game, yet some scouts have soured on him.  For me it’s more of an issue of his skating being good enough to overcome his size which he obviously isn’t tiny, but not at all big.

 

Libor Hajek34. Libor Hajek  Saskatoon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Dan Hamhuis

Has good wheels and is very gritty.  Point totals have really dropped off.  Had 13 points in the first 18 games, just 13 points in his final 51.  But when you see him play you can see the talent is there to do it at both ends of the ice.  Still, even if he never develops offensive consistency, he’ll be a miserable guy to play against.

 

Niemelainen35. Markus Niemelainen  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mattias Ekholm

Plays an extremely safe game.  I would say there is more offensive upside with Niemelainen then there is with Hajek, but Hajek has a lot more bite in his game.  Obviously he has a lot of filling out to do, but normally lanky guys like this are awkward skaters.  Niemelainen though is a very smooth and effective skater.

 

Boris+Katchouk+SYxA2bJoemxm36. Boris Katchouk  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Justin Abdelkader

Katchouk is the first of 3 guys who have good size (he is the smallest of the 3), play a tough game, but have skating issues.  I believe Katchouk is the best skater of the 3, and he’s got the better 200 foot game of the 3.  He also put up pretty good numbers (51 points in 63 games) while playing with lesser talent.  Bastian had McLeod and Nylander on his line, Raddysh played with Strome and DeBrincat.  That’s going to help anyone.

 

Dube37. Dillon Dube  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10.5  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Brendan Gallagher

He’s small but this kid has bite in his game.  He’s been able to shine this season for the top ranked team and defending WHL champs, going at over a point per game pace.  Dube really shows no fear out on the ice and is willing to play a very greasy game.  You hate to play against him, but you love him on your team.  Didn’t have a great playoff showing, just 2 goals and 5 assists in 18 games, but teams were able to key in on him.

 

Tyler-Benson38. Tyler Benson  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Stone

I had a real tough time slotting Benson this time around.  I knew his skating wasn’t great, but when I see more and more scouts being concerned about it then it really concerns me.  I think he really has to change the way he plays to succeed in the NHL, but he has the ability to do just that.  He is one of those kids who might be a smart enough player to overcome the lack of wheels, and it isn’t as though he can’t improve his skating.

 

Carl-Grundstrom39. Carl Grundstrom  Modo  SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Patric Hornqvist

He’ll play in the show, it’ll just be a matter of whether he will be a top 6 winger or top 9 winger.  Out of all the comparisons I have (50 in case you’re keeping count), I don’t know if any is more spot on than Hornqvist to Grundstrom.  High motor, isn’t that big but miserable to play against and wreaks havoc down low and in front of the net.

 

iWqa04pm40. Jordan Kyrou  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 169  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Rieder

Has some filling out to do, but he’s one of the safest picks you can find if he’ll still be around in the 30-40 range because he’s really intelligent, a good skater, and has a real good compete level.  Can he play in a team’s top 6?  Don’t know.  But he’ll play in your top 9 and be one of your coaches favourites.

 

Tage Thompson41. Tage Thompson  Connecticut  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 195  Shot: R

Comparison: Nik Antropov

I’ve soured on him after doing some more research.  Credit Redline Report with this, and that of his 14 goals this season, only 1 was 5 on 5.  I’d be interested in taking him for any team because as you can read he has assets you can’t teach, but he is a big time project.  His defensive play is pretty good for an 18 year old kid, so that does intrigue me a bit, the RH shot helps, but it’s still not enough for me to have him higher.  So he goes from a top 30 guy for me to outside the top 40.  Mid 2nd round he sounds a lot more appealing than with a 1st round selection.

 

Abramov42. Vitali Abramov  Gatineau  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 175  Shot: L

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

I’ve shot him up a bit this time around.  Only a few spots, but more importantly I have him up in this 9th tier.  Apparently was one of the top interviews at the combine, which for me is a bigger deal than it probably is to most.  I still have him pretty low for a kid who had 93 points in just 63 games this season.  Obviously size is a large part of that, but I don’t doubt this kid can be a 2nd line winger in the pro’s.  It’s just that outside of being a scorer I have my doubts he can contribute elsewhere.

 

Top_5_players_to_watch_-_Alex_DeBrincat___Gallery43. Alex DeBrincat  Erie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Mats Zuccarello

A lot of analytic people won’t like this ranking, but the size is just too concerning.  I realize he put up terrific numbers this season, but not only is he short, he’s slight.  Obviously the comparison comes from the size, but also because both players play with some bite.  The question for me is whether or not DeBrincat has, not the speed, but the kind of speed he’ll need to overcome his lack of size.  He put up monster numbers with Dylan Strome this season though (101 points).

 

Bastian44. Nathan Bastian  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4.5  Wt: 206  Shot: R

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

Is it because of playing with McLeod and Nylander that he’s improved so much, or is it just coincidence?  Tough not to love his game.  Very physical, does all the little things you want a player to do.

 

Raddysh45. Taylor Raddysh  Erie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Troy Brouwer

Having a great year, has nice size, has a well rounded game, but his skating is a question mark and will likely keep him out of the 1st round.  Also much like Nathan Bastian, are his numbers (73 points) strictly a result of playing with Strome and to a lesser extent DeBrincat?

 

Tier 10

giavani smith46. Givani Smith  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Schenn

You have to think of what Schenn has developed into, not what he was projected to be, and you have Smith.  I LOVE this kid.  Of course, if I got him ranked I obviously like him, but the guy is a bull out on the ice.  High motor, has a bit of skill too, not to say he will be one of these guys but if you’re looking for a Jamie Benn or Milan Lucic in this draft I would put my money on Smith.  On a bad Storm team he managed 23 goals and 42 points in 65 games.

 

Kitchener+Rangers+v+London+Knights+oCJQSYS4Lvil47. Tyler Parsons  London  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 184  Glove: L

Comparison: Corey Crawford

A lot of people have other goaltenders ahead of Parsons.  He’s not that big, and he’s playing behind a great team.  But he was great in the OHL playoffs, particularly in the series against Kitchener, and then proved it further with a great Memorial Cup.

 

Wade Allison48. Wade Allison  Tri-City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 205  Shot: R

Comparison: Jamie McGinn

A new addition to my top 50 this time around.  Allison was a guy who I JUST left off last time around, but won’t this time.  He’s just a real solid all around winger who can be moved up and down the lineup and play in any situation.  No glaring weakness.

 

TR-6-Adam-Fox49. Adam Fox  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Torrey Krug

I’ve found more and more on Fox as the week’s have gone on, and I keep liking what I read.  I’d be flat out lying to you if I said I’ve seen him play.  But he is bigger than I thought (as you can read, measured at nearly 5’11 at the combine), plays with a lot of poise, as you would expect from a smaller puck moving D he is a smooth skater, and in a draft that really lacks right handed shot D-men, he is one of the few.

 

Carter Hart50. Carter Hart  Everett  WHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Glove: L

Comparison: Jarolsav Halak

I think Hart is right there with Parsons and not far behind Gustavsson in this draft, so look for him to go anywhere from the early 2nd to the early 3rd round.  Size is the only thing that may prevent him from making it to the show some day.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

The Milbury Meltdown

draft-rick-dipietroYou’ve all likely seen the 30 for 30 “Big Shot” about the NY Islanders mess of an ownership situation in the late 1990’s (97 to be more specific).  The team was in a complete downward spiral.  From 96-2000 the team was the laughing stock of the league, much how the Edmonton Oilers have been.  Milbury had overseen that entire era for the Islanders and he was desperate to change.  Now I must warn, viewer discretion is advised.

 

Going into the 2000 draft in Calgary, the Islanders had won the draft lottery and were selecting 1st.  There was a bit of debate heading into the draft of whether to pick Calgary product Dany Heatley, or Slovakian winger Marian Gaborik.  Most assumed Heatley, but Gaborik was in the picture.

 

But Milbury was having no part of either who would each go on to have outstanding careers being two of the best snipers of their time.  What transpired is maybe the most bizarre set of moves in NHL history.

 

To Islanders: Roman Hamrlik

To Oilers: Eric Brewer, Josh Green, and the 31st pick (Brad Winchester)

Result: Solid.  Not much separated Hamrlik and Brewer the remainder of their careers, but the Islanders needed a solid veteran who could play in any situation and play 25 minutes a night.  Brewer wasn’t ready for that.

 

To Islanders: Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha

To Panthers: Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen

Result: Humiliating.  I recall people saying Milbury saw Kvasha as a potential superstar and made it his mission to acquire him, apparently at any cost.  Kvasha was never anything more than an average 2nd line winger at his peak, 3rd liner most of his career, and Mark Parrish had a few solid seasons with the Islanders while playing alongside Alexei Yashin, but nothing outstanding.

 

Meanwhile as we all know, Jokinen became a very solid point producer.  Nine times he had 50 or more points, five times he had 60 or more, and from 06-08 he had 89, 91, and 71 point seasons.  As for Luongo, you’ll be able to check his numbers out in the hall of fame in a few years.

 

Not included in that trade was also the fact that this cleared the way for Milbury to take Rick DiPietro with the top pick in the draft, over Heatley and Gaborik.  After trading for the 5th pick, Milbury proceeded to select Raffi Torres over Scott Hartnell.

 

All this maneuvering got the Islanders nowhere for the 2001 season.  In fact, they fell a spot in the standings from 27th to 30th (behind 2nd year Atlanta and expansion teams Minnesota and Columbus).  So at the 2001 draft, Milbury took two more massive swings.

 

To Islanders: Mike Peca

To Sabres: Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt

Result: Win.  Though they didn’t really get a return on their investment of Peca as far as assets go (Mike York), they did get a culture change.  Peca was immediately named captain of the team, and put together his best season ever in 2002.  However, a hit from Darcy Tucker in the 2002 playoffs destroyed Peca’s knee and even though he was still a useful player, it really appeared to ruin the prime of his career.  On the other hand, Connolly wasn’t a nothing player, but his stats don’t reflect the impact he had on a team.  Known as a soft, one dimensional centre, Connolly was also plagued with concussion problems most of his career.  Pyatt was a journeyman who managed to play in over 850 games in his NHL career, but never produced more than 37 points in a season.

 

To Islanders: Alexei Yashin

To Senators: 2nd overall pick (Jason Spezza), Zdeno Chara, and Bill Muckalt

Result: Better than the Panthers deal from the year before.  Spezza will get consideration for the Hall of Fame some day with a few more good seasons, Chara is in on the first ballot.  In fairness, Yashin was very good for the Islanders not just during the 2002 season, but also in the 2002 playoffs.  But this was a guy who had close to Mario Lemieux type talent, and he gave the Islanders zero series wins, one season of over 70 points.  One of the worst trades in NHL history.

 

When the dust settled in all this, Milbury had achieved his goal.  He made the Islanders a playoff team.  From 2002-2007 the Islanders made the playoffs in four out of five seasons.  They lost in the first round each time, and other than in 02 against the Leafs, the other three they weren’t even competitive.

 

Now as I’m certain Islanders fans have done for a long time now, you can look at just about all of Milbury’s deals for the Islanders and see that he lost them.  But let’s just focus on the 2000 and 2001 drafts.  He won two of the four deals, but the two he lost he didn’t just lose, he executed the franchise.  Had he just done those two good deals, taken Hartnell over Torres like he should have in 2000, those Islander teams may have become a powerhouse in the East.  A core of Kenny Jonsson, Spezza, Chara, Jokinen, Luongo, Heatley, Hartnell, Peca and Hamrlik, that team would have been a beast.

 

But instead, they became not much of anything before going through another lengthy rebuild.

 

So maybe you’re a fan of the Oilers or Leafs or Avs and you’re getting sick of the seemingly constant rebuild and want your team to take a big step and become that elite team and you think a couple of big moves on Friday and Saturday will do just that.  But you’re running a massive risk in doing those types of deals for little return.  It’s painful (especially for the Oilers), but you have to stick with it.  Mike Milbury tried the shortcut route, and he drove off a cliff.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

 

2016 NHL Mock Draft 4.0

0118-draft1616 of the picks stay the same.  16.  I shouldn’t tell you this stuff right off the top, but I just REALLY don’t see a reason to change a lot of them.  And actually, I have the large majority of the changes in my top 15.  It’s the bottom 15 where I feel real comfortable with what I have.

 

HOWEVER…Bob McKenzie’s rankings come out tonight.  And as I’ve said for years, I would be a complete moron to not take what Bob has to say as the gospel.  So while not much has changed, his list will have an impact and so the one I do on Friday could be and likely will be a whole lot different.

 

As always, a little insight to how I look at things.  I’m looking at what teams have 25-27 and under in their organization.  I look at need and not just the BPA (best player available) these days as do most teams because it is getting more and more difficult to make trades in the NHL.  Also I try and look for patterns with teams and their past 4 or 5 drafts.  Do they go CHL heavy?  Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids?  Maybe they’re head over heals for Europeans?

 

Remember, just because McKenzie or Redline report or ISS or CSS have one guy ranked higher than another doesn’t mean that he is the BPA for that particular team.  This is why they have their own scouting staffs people.  Also, I put where I personally rank these kids off to the right side of their name and team in brackets, in case you are wondering what that means.  Where I have the player ranked in my top 50 rankings is in brackets next to the players name.  Here we go…

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs1. Auston Matthews (1)  Zurich  Suisse A

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 216  Shot: L

Comparison: Anze Kopitar

Nothing will change here obviously.  The Leafs get the elite number 1 centre they need to build around, and I really believe Matthews and Marner are the next Toews and Kane.  Marner will get a ton of love, but he’ll be able to do his thing because of Matthews.  And as you can see, Matthews measured in at the combine much bigger than he was listed at all season.  Now they just have to work on the blueline and maybe get a few heavier wingers, but they’re on the right path now.  Hope you can stomach the Toronto media hyping them the next 2 or 3 years, and I hope Leaf fans can look past the Toronto media trying to crush them now that they’ve built them up.

Other Options: None

 

 

Winnipeg Jets2. Patrik Laine (2)  Tappara  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.75  Wt: 201  Shot: R

Comparison: Ilya Kovalchuk

Nothing will change here either.  Laine is a sniper, but as my Kovalchuk comparsion suggests he’s more of a power forward, bomb of a one timer type sniper.  Fits this team PERFECTLY, especially for a prospect like Kyle Connor.  Everyone is excited about Laine and Scheifele, but Connor and Laine could be the Jets version of Backstrom and Ovechkin.  Please, I’m not saying Laine is Ovy like other knobs are going overboard saying, but just that Connor is an elite playmaker and Laine will be an elite finisher.

Other Options: None

 

 

Columbus Blue Jackets3. Jesse Puljujarvi (4)  Karpat  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Jakub Voracek

Back to Puljujarvi here, but with a catch.  I 100% believe the right move for the Jackets is to stay here and take Dubois.  I believe Dubois is going to be the 1st line centre this organization needs moving forward.  I believe they realize they have to walk out of this draft with the best centre they can snag, but it is sounding like they think Brown is that guy, not Dubois.  I completely disagree, but it’s their team.  So what I THINK will happen is a trade down to 6 with the Flames.  This has been floated by a few people and I believe it makes the most sense.  The Jackets move back to 6 to take Brown, which I don’t like but I believe it’s better than taking Puljujarvi for them, and the Flames move up and get a big finesse winger who would fit perfectly with Sam Bennett giving them two lines nearly impossible to deal with.  As for the trade, I think it could be the 6th, 35th and 126th pick, along with a roster player (who, I can see a number of possibilities) for this pick and Scott Hartnell which would help the Jackets out for next year’s expansion draft by getting a player with an NTC off the books.   The Jackets owe the Canucks a 2nd for hiring Torts, and they only have five picks in this draft so they need to recoup a few picks.

Other Options: Logan Brown

 

 

Edmonton Oilers4. Matthew Tkachuk (5)  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Corey Perry

I don’t think it’s very likely at this point that they move back.  Mind you, by the week of last year’s draft I didn’t see 16 being moved for anyone and it ended up going.  But I’m going to say they stay here, and while the head says Dubois, the heart says Tkachuk.  Dubois is better.  I really believe that.  But you hear about all the intangibles with Tkachuk, the IQ, the passion, the level of grit, he brings so much of what this hockey club has lacked since 2006.  The skating isn’t great, but Connor McDavid gels better with slower players anyway.  He feels like the perfect fit to play with McDavid.  Of course they need defencemen, we all know that.  But look at the LH shot D-men in the organization under 25.  This team needs RH shot guys who are established top four defencemen, not an 18 year old LH shot D-man who won’t make a major impact for 3-4 years.  As I wrote a week ago, don’t confuse immediate and future needs.  Tkachuk is the pick, leaving the Canucks ecstatic.

Other Options: Pierre-Luc Dubois

 

 

Vancouver Canucks5. Pierre-Luc Dubois (3)  Cape Breton  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 205  Shot: L

                                                        Comparison: Shane Doan

The Canucks get their man.  The word is that they’ve been looking at Dubois hard all year and my belief is that this is why they were willing to pay the price they did for Erik Gudbranson.  They gave up the 2nd knowing the Blue Jackets owe them one down the road, and they gave up the centre (McCann) knowing they are going after Dubois at the draft.  Some question if he’s a centre, but his game got better once he made the move to the middle.  I really believe if they give him another year in Cape Breton where he can play centre all season, he’ll get more comfortable and he’ll be ready.  Likely that he starts his career back on the wing, but I really believe they’re drafting him to be their franchise centre and I think it’ll be a home run pick for Jim Benning.  If they were to go elsewhere or trade down, as I’ve said in the past, the blueline still needs a lot of work moving forward.

Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun

 

 

Calgary Flames6. Logan Brown (10)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6.25  Wt: 220  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Kozlov

As I said at the 3rd pick, I believe this is going to be a deal between the Flames and the Jackets.  But let’s assume they don’t find common ground on a deal, Brown would still make a ton of sense for the Flames.  They don’t have much size in the top 6, they don’t have much size on the way, and as has been proved you need size down the middle to win in the West.  Brown would give them that, and he has the speed to skate with this team, one of the fastest in the league.  But should they go in another direction, remember that while this team has an impressive group of defencemen on the big club, they don’t have much coming.  And while Brad Treliving is the GM, Brian Burke has maintained with all of his clubs that the blueline be stocked and remain stocked.

Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun

 

 

Arizona Coyotes7. Olli Juolevi (8)  London  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Jonas Brodin

You know, I’ve had Juolevi compared to Ekman-Larsson all season, but that’s really wrong.  Skating ability, size, and physicality (or lack there of) yes.  But offensively they aren’t the same.  Juolevi, while a great passer, I feel like he’ll be more like Jonas Brodin at the next level, at least at this time.  Brodin is a difficult guy for fans to “get with” so to speak.  Talk about bringing nothing flashy to the table, he is definitely that guy!  But this is the type of guy that Dave Tippett has really liked.  He likes his hockey teams to be great positionally, non physical, and essentially play in a train track.  Juolevi fits this mold.  The offensive ability is there, and I expect he’ll put up better numbers than Brodin (career high of 19 points), but I don’t honestly think they’ll take him expecting this.  If he does tap into it, then it’s a bonus for the Coyotes.

Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun

 

 

Buffalo Sabres8. Mikhail Sergachev (7)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Dougie Hamilton

I don’t think it’s close between Juolevi and either Sergachev or Chychrun.  I have Chychrun as the top D-man, but absolutely get the love for Sergachev.  I have heard the Sabres really love Sergachev, and in this scenario they land him.  The Sabres really need a lot of help on the blueline.  They likely have a number 1 guy in Ristolainen, but after him there are a lot of question marks moving forward.  Sergachev would fit perfectly with Ristolainen as a top pairing in a few years, and he really has the ability to be a stud number 1 D-man.

Other Options: Jakob Chychrun

 

 

Montreal Canadiens9. Tyson Jost (9)  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Claude Giroux

It’s amazing how this time around, things seem to be falling more into place the way I have it on my rankings this time around, because I’m really not looking to do that.  At this point and time, I kind of feel like this is where the draft will open up, because I can make an argument for the Habs needing several different things.  But the Habs really can use a centre.  What worries me about Jost is that some don’t think he’ll play the middle in the pro’s.  I do, because I believe he’s a kid who thrives off playing in all situations, but outside of the U18’s I haven’t seen Jost play.  Those who have seem to like him on the wing.  Well, the Habs don’t need ANOTHER undersized winger.  The organization is loaded with them.  So it’ll be up to them, and if they decide he’s a centre then I believe they’ll take him and if they decide he isn’t then I don’t think this pick will happen.  Defence is very possible here, because the organization isn’t by any means stocked on D.  Also Michael McLeod is probably who I would go with here, being a pure centre, having the size, and having the speed.  I do believe a trade up with the Canucks here would make a whole lot of sense for both teams.  Canadiens could get Dubois, Canucks could slide back and take Chychrun.  But it doesn’t seem at this point like the Canucks are interested in doing that.

Other Options: Jakob Chychrun, Michael McLeod

 

 

Colorado Avalanche10. Jakob Chychrun (6)  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Rob Blake

Finally, my guy Chychrun goes, and to an organization that REALLY needs him.  I’ve harped on it for years now, the Avs need to build up their blueline.  Jeff Marek was adamant before last year’s draft that he was told the Avs were taking a D-man with the 10th pick no matter what (had the 10th pick last year as well).  Then they didn’t, and Nikita Zadorov is a project.  I did like taking Nicolas Meloche in the 2nd round, but it’s not enough.  Chychrun might not be enough, but I’ll feel a lot better about the situation if they snag Chychrun with this pick.  I believe he’s going to be the best defencemen out of the big three and make a lot of people who jumped off his bandwagon this season look pretty ridiculous.

Other Options: Jake Bean

 

 

NJ Devils11. Alexander Nylander (15)  Mississuaga  OHL 

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 178  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Ales Hemsky

This is another team that might want to snag a D-man.  And for a few years now I’ve heard and read about how people love the talent they had on the back end and I always scratched my head.  Well, Eric Gelinas was ditched, people soured on Damon Severson this season, and Adam Larsson looks as though he’ll just be ok.  But the problem with the 11th pick is that the three best D-men are gone now.  So I went with the winger and what I love about this idea is that neither Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac or incoming Pavel Zacha are guys who need the puck on their stick all the time.  Nylander does, which is one reason I’m not as high on him as most are, but he would likely fit perfectly with this squad.  Also, go on hockey’s future and look at the Devils depth chart on the right side.  1 guy, in the whole system.  And that one guy is someone I’ve never heard of, nor are any of the centre’s who might move to the wing.

Other Options: Jake Bean, Clayton Keller

 

 

Ottawa Senators12. Clayton Keller (14)  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 164  Shot: L

Comparison: Johnny Gaudreau

This team under Bryan Murray invested a lot of recent 1st round picks in centres.  Mika Zibanejad, Curtis Lazar, Colin White, not to mention Kyle Turris is still only 27, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau is still only 23 (24 early into next season).  So this club is set down the middle, and they look pretty good on D.  If they were to go D, I could see Dante Fabbro or Charlie McAvoy being higher on their list than Jake Bean due to being RH shot guys.  But this team could really use someone dynamic on the wing.  I’ve said lots in the past that Keller probably won’t play centre in the pro’s like he has coming up.  This is no issue for the Sens.  They have a lot of bigger, heavier wingers and nobody with the speed and playmaking ability Keller has.

Other Options: Jake Bean, Dante Fabbro

 

 

Carolina Hurricanes13. Michael McLeod (11)  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Ryan Kesler

I’ve had one of the dynamic wingers going in this spot for a long time.  But something I should remember is who their GM is.  Ron Francis is a guy who understands how valuable strength down the middle is.  This is the guy who has done a great job at re-stocking their blueline, and understanding what will win in this league.  Add to this, with a kid like McLeod, kids like Sebastian Aho and Aleksi Saarela to the wings when or if they make the Hurricanes.  This is a kid who can do a ton of the heavy lifting for a hockey club.  As for the offensive ability, scouts need to get over that.  He plays a pro style game, where nobody is going to “out dangle” anyone anyway.  Scouts made this same mistake with Boone Jenner, and when Kesler was drafted Bob McKenzie even said on TSN’s broadcast that day that Kesler wasn’t going to be anything more than a 3rd line centre.  A player like McLeod isn’t flashy, but he’s going to be a very valuable piece moving forward, which is why I’ve liked him so much.

Other Options: Max Jones, Kieffer Bellows

 

 

Boston Bruins14. Jake Bean (12)  Calgary  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.75  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

I’ve dismissed the notion of them taking a D-man here like everyone else seems to think they need to do.  They took three in the top 52 last season.  And I love the belief that this pick is going to be Charlie McAvoy because he went to BU so they would want to take him.  What a great way to run an organization.  That’s why the Blue Jackets “have to take Puljujarvi” is because Jarmo Kekelainen is a Fin, and why Kieffer Bellows is going to Minny because he’s from there, right?  Maybe those things all happen, but I would want to run my organization properly rather than pick the fan favourite.  Anyway, this is kind of a BPA situation.  Bruins aren’t so stocked on D that they can’t take a kid like Bean should he fall to them.  As I’ve stressed in the past, this draft lacks RH shot D-men, so perhaps Fabbro or McAvoy do in fact make sense should they go the D route.  But most believe Bean is in another class above those two, and last year they went with three WHL kids after only taking two WHL kids in the previous seven drafts under Peter Chiarelli.

Other Options: Dante Fabbro, Charlie McAvoy

 

 

Minnesota Wild15. Max Jones (17)  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Boone Jenner

This team is in no man’s land.  Hiring Bruce Boudreau was great, but he isn’t working with Ovechkin and Backstrom here.  He isn’t working with Getzlaf and Perry here.  Koivu and Parise aren’t those guys.  I do think he’ll improve the team, but the combination of moving a ton of assets at trade deadline’s and other prospects not panning out likely means this organization is in the midst of their peak.  Anyway as they currently stand they could use some more help up front in the organization so they take Jones, who is a local kid but I could care less about that.  He’s a raw talent, who could be better than his teammate Matt Tkachuk down the line.  Better skater, better shot, has more of a mean streak, but the hockey sense is the question mark.  He’ll play, just a matter of whether he’ll be a top 9 guy or top 6.

Other Options: Julien Gauthier

 

 

Detroit Red Wings16. Dante Fabbro (13)  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Zach Bogosian

I prefer Fabbro to McAvoy, but there isn’t much separating those 2 prospects right now.  The Wings need one of them and look at this time to be a perfect spot to snag one of them.  It blows my mind how little they’ve invested in their blueline the last 4 or 5 years.  This HAS to be the draft where they turn that around.  I’d without a doubt take Fabbro or McAvoy here, and then I’d go with another D-man with the 46th pick.

Other Options: Charlie McAvoy

 

 

Nashville Predators17. Charlie McAvoy (16)  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 199  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Keith Yandle

McAvoy won’t jump into the NHL right away.  By the time he does, the Preds can ease him in.  Let’s say that’s in 2019.  McAvoy is a 3rd pairing guy who gets a bit of pp time.  By 2020 Shea Weber will be 35, and this team doesn’t have much coming on the blueline.  I’d do the Seth Jones deal again and again, but it still left a bit of a hole for the Preds down the line on D.  McAvoy can fill that hole.

Other Options: Kale Clague

 

 

Philadelphia Flyers18. Julien Gauthier (18)  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 231  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

As you can see, I’ve switched Jones and Gauthier.  But I’m not sure the Flyers would mind.  Gauthier is a Q kid, and this organization in the past has loved kids out of the Q.  Nine of their top two picks over 10 drafts were used on kids in the Q.  So their scouts are big on the Q, and this team can use some help on the wing and some size up front.  Gauthier brings both those elements.  Added to that, Gauthier has a terrific shot, hence the James Neal comparison.  The skating needs a bit of work, but he can still get around good enough.

Other Options: Luke Kunin

 

 

NY Islanders19. Luke Kunin (20)  Wisconsin  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 193  Shot: R

Comparison: Derek Stepan

If you look at the Islanders organizational depth chart, they are thin on the right side.  Now, some of this depends on the situation with Ryan Strome who had an awful season and currently looks like a disappointment.  Even so, they could use something on the right side.  I believe Kunin will end up playing the middle in the pro’s, but if they did draft him then obviously one of him or Barzal could move to the right side.  You can never have too many centre’s.

Other Options: Kieffer Bellows

 

 

Arizona Coyotes20. Kale Clague (21)  Brandon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11.75  Wt: 184  Shot: L

Comparison: Matt Niskanen

This pick was acquired from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle trade.  I think this is a prime spot where a team in the bottom third of this round could move up.  The Coyotes I expect will take another D here, and could easily move back as far as the end of the 1st round to get one whether it be Clague, Stanley, Johansen, Hijaek, Niemelainen, etc.  They could more so use a RH shot D-man, so perhaps moving up to 16 or 17 should Fabbro and/or McAvoy still be available could be done?  If they walk out of this draft with two D-men in the first round I believe Tippett and new GM John Chayka would be thrilled.  Clague has shot up my rankings, and add to that there isn’t the depth of puck moving defencemen in this draft that last year’s draft had.  So teams may reach a bit on them when they can, though with the playoff run Clague had I sure don’t see it as a reach, he was awesome.

Other Options: Logan Stanley, Lucas Johansen

 

 

Carolina Hurricanes21. Kieffer Bellows (22)  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Brian Bellows

This pick was acquired from the Kings in the Andrej Sekera trade.  I don’t like Bellows as much as a lot of people seem to.  I see this kid as a soft, one dimensional player.  His dad had a bit of that same reputation, yet he still played a lot of years in the league putting up a lot of big numbers.  I could see a very similar career for Kieffer, but that is why I have him going in the 20’s, where a lot of people seem to think he’s more in the 13-17 range.  If the Canes land him though, to go with McLeod and go with what they have on D, this team is looking damn good moving forward.

Other Options: Pascal Laberge, Riley Tufte

 

 

Winnipeg Jets22. Logan Stanley (24)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’7  Wt: 224  Shot: L

Comparison: Brooks Orpik

This pick was acquired from the Blackhawks in the Andrew Ladd trade.  It is insane how loaded this organization currently is.  Everyone mocked Kevin Cheveldayoff for never making trades.  This is the result.  This organization has everything, and they’re the next big thing in the Central division, if not the league.  The one thing I thought they could use is available in this spot and that is a big LH shot D-man, so Logan Stanley goes to them.  Stanley can slot right behind Morrissey on the left side, Trouba, or perhaps what they trade Trouba for, and they’re simply loaded for years to come.  Stanley is the type of player the Jets love.  Big and tough.

Other Options: Lucas Johansen, Libor Hajek

 

 

Florida Panthers23. Pascal Laberge (25)  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 174  Shot: R

                                                        Comparison: Ryan Strome

The lack of skill on this team got exposed in the playoffs.  They’re built exactly how I would build a team, but you still need at least a couple of high end skill players to finish plays.  Jonathan Huberdeau isn’t enough, so I like them taking  Laberge in this spot.  He isn’t their type of guy, but again they need to mix in some more skill to get to that next level.  This organization though is very much so on the right path.  It is tough to get a read on what this team will do here though.  Dale Talon is still running the show, but they do seem to be much more analytics driven now.  Scott Luce had a big influence on their drafts in the past, and he’s now gone.

Other Options: Riley Tufte

 

 

Anaheim Ducks24. Brett Howden (31)  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

This is a reach, so perhaps they move back.  But then again they are likely going to go after more draft picks.  In a Facebook chat with fans over the weekend, shortly after the Vatanen deal was done, Bob Murray said that he would like to add more draft picks to ensure the system is stocked.  Still the point here is that they really need centres and while German Rubtsov has fallen to them, Bob Murray doesn’t take Russians.  Howden or Pu makes the most sense to me.

Other Options: Cliff Pu

 

 

Dallas Stars25. Filip Gustavsson (28)  Lulea  SWE-J20

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 190  Glove: L

Comparison: Tuukka Rask

I really don’t feel an urge to move off this prediction.  It is tough to find many holes in their system.  They don’t pick D-men high very often, yet all of a sudden thanks to Klingberg and Johns emerging and Esa Lindell developing nicely, they don’t have a need on the blueline.  So I went with the organizational weakness which is in net.  No, this has nothing to do with the Stars awful goaltending currently on the big club, it is horrible throughout the system.  Jack Campbell is a bust, he’s done.  Played this season in the ECHL.  And they have nothing else, so this is something which I’m sure will be addressed at some point in this draft, so why not snag the best tendy in the draft?

Other Options: German Rubtsov

 

 

Washington Capitals26. German Rubtsov (19)  Russia U-18  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 190  Shot: L

                                                        Comparison: Tomas Plekanec

They don’t have much down the middle on the team or in the system.  Rubtsov falls into their lap in my opinion because of the scandal he was involved in with the Russian U18 team.  Some teams take Russians off the board because of the scare they won’t come to North America for a long time, some take them off the board because historically their kids are complete crapshoots, well put on top of that a drug scandal and I can’t see how Rubtsov doesn’t fall.  But we all know the Caps with Ovechkin have an ability to draw them like they did with Kuznetsov and Orlov.  Rubtsov would be a steal for them.

Other Options: Lucas Johansen, Libor Hajek

 

 

Tampa Bay Lightning27. Riley Tufte (23)  Blaine  USHSW

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Chris Kreider

In a perfect world, they land Rubtsov.  They have never hesitated to grab a Russian during the Yzerman era, and even if they are to re-sign Stamkos (which for them makes no sense), the one weaker area in the organization is down the middle.  But Rubtsov just went to the Caps so I basically have them taking the best talent left on the board.  If Tufte goes to a team like Tampa, who can develop kids with the best of them, and play in the East which is better suited for a kid like Tufte, this project might turn out to be a freaking steal.

Other Options: Rasmus Asplund, Carl Grundstrom

 

 

St. Louis Blues28. Cliff Pu (30)  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

I think they need to grab a centre with this pick.  If you look at what is in the organization, they don’t have much down the middle.  Hockey’s Future has Ivan Barbashev as their top centre in organization, and I’m not even sure he’ll end up as a centre on the big club.  But even if he does, that’s it.  The rest of what they have are real long shots.  And if David Backes leaves, I BELIEVE that leaves them with no RH shot centre’s throughout the organization.  So Pu in this spot makes a lot of sense to me.

Other Options: Carl Grundstrom, Boris Katchouk

 

 

Boston Bruins29. Rasmus Asplund (32)  Farjestad  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.25  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikkael Granlund

This pick was acquired from the Sharks in the Martin Jones trade.  So here is a change I’ll go with in the last half of this mock.  I’ve had them taking Will Bitten here for a long time, even when I thought Bitten would be a massive reach, I just felt like he’s the type of kid they’ll love.  They probably do.  But I’ll change this one to Asplund.  I don’t see a big difference in Asplund and Sam Steel, but I’ll say they like Asplund a little more, just because most do.  They also don’t have much down the middle in the organization, so this pick is a bit about need, but it isn’t as though Asplund is a reach here.  There is also a good chance that one of Howden or Pu is still around, and those are two guys I believe most teams will like better than a kid like Asplund (obviously because of the size).  Bottom line though is should they go D with their top pick, I’d watch for this pick to be a centre.

Other Options: Will Bitten, Dillon Dube

 

 

Anaheim Ducks30. Carl Grundstrom (37)  Modo  SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Patric Hornqvist

This pick was acquired from the Penguins in the Phil Kessel trade, and then has been acquired from the Leafs in the Frederik Andersen trade.  The Ducks have done such a great job at keeping the system stacked, especially on D.  But while they continue to churn out quality D-men, up front they are getting a little thin.  I had them taking Howden at 24, for 30 I have them going to Sweden where they’ve had a lot of recent success and taking Grundstrom.  He plays that in your face style that Bob Murray has always loved in his players, so I think he’s a perfect fit.  But let’s be honest, at this point in the draft there are about 5-10 possibilities.

Other Options: Sam Steel, Nathan Bastian

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

The King’s Crowning Moment

BN-OO049_NBAFIN_P_20160619230720I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again, that was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in sports.  Right up there with the 2004 Red Sox.  Whether you love or hate basketball, that was one of the greatest games ever in any sport.  This write up likely will be awful, but I feel like I have to write something about it.

 

I won’t lie, I had a dog in this hunt.

 

I’ve been so freaking sick of the media’s love affair with Steph Curry and the Warriors.  I get it, but it’s just like anything else in the media, they have to take it to extreme level’s in which it becomes nauseating at times.  It’s a team that has found a glitch in the rules of the NBA’s game today and expose it.  Good on them I guess, but it has a cheap feel to it.  In the 70’s this team would be just another team because for the first 33 years of the league, there was no 3 point shot.  Fun to watch, no doubt.  But a flawed team.  A 73 win team shouldn’t be nearly this flawed.

 

Meanwhile, we have one of the top 5 NBA players of all time in his prime, and people just look to constantly pile on.  Add to that, the Cleveland drought of over 50 years without a championship in any sport.  So, hell yeah I was pulling for Cleveland to win it all.

 

Have you ever seen a championship ever mean more to a guy?  That moment Lebron got the Larry O’Brien trophy was awesome.  He went back to Cleveland to do that, and yes they were able to build a powerhouse instantly, but it was still a struggle.  And it looked as though it might not happened after the Warriors came out of nowhere and became of the top teams in NBA history.  67 wins and a championship last year.  73 wins and up 3-1 in the finals this year.  The talk through the first 4 games of the series was how were the Cavs going to fix it and compete with the Warriors?  Maybe James made a big mistake going back to Cleveland?  Maybe the organization just doesn’t know how to surround him with the talent he needs.

 

Yet they figured it out.  James took over this series.  First time ever a player ever produced back to back 40+ point games in finals history.  Miken didn’t do that, Wilt didn’t do that, Kareem didn’t do that, Magic didn’t do that, Bird didn’t do that, Jordan didn’t do that, Shaq didn’t do that, Duncan didn’t do that, Kobe didn’t do that.  Game 7 felt like an off night for Lebron.  He had a triple double.  27, 11 and 11.  And seriously, that felt like an off night!  He led every single player in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.  EVERY SINGLE PLAYER.  That may never be done again.

 

For a sports culture that craves signature moments, had Lebron been able to finish that dunk with 11 seconds left, that would have been the ultimate cap to it all.  But, he still had one.  That block on Andre Iguodala with 1:51 remaining was as clutch of a play as you’ll ever see.  Warriors get that bucket, they’re up 2 and that crowd would be going nuts.  The Warriors maybe more than any other team feed off their crowd.  And James saved the day.  That’ll go down as perhaps his signature moment, but it won’t be the signature moment of the series.

Lebron block
James blocks Iguodala’s layup with under 2:00 to play.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that when Lebron started to take over the series, Steph folded.  I have no idea if this was the case, but it felt like Steph’s focus was on Lebron and topping Lebron instead of the Warriors beating the Cavs.  The block late in game 6 will be the signature moment of the series, but why was Curry in Lebron’s face after the block last night?  It was pretty clear, Steph was getting rattled.  And even after a pretty good start, as the game got tighter, he got worse.  Late in the 4th quarter he was the worst player on the floor.

 

I wonder how much different the media will now look at the Warriors.  Because they’re still going to be among the NBA’s elite, they easily could win again next season, but I wonder how much of the accolades will now go to Klay Thompson and Draymond Green?  Because they’re the best players on this team.  Curry is the top scorer and best shooter, but Thompson and Green are great at both ends of the floor.  It’s an amazing big 3, along with one of the best benches in NBA history.  It’s not all about Steph as so many have made it out to be, not even close.

 

And I can’t get over how similar was this to what the Red Sox did in 04?  The drought, the longest of odds after going down in the series (3-0 for Boston, 3-1 in the finals for Cleveland, neither had ever been done), facing powerhouse teams and having to win two games on the road to win it.  Two of the greatest comebacks I’ve ever seen and I’m sure anyone has ever seen.

 

But as amazing as that story is, and as amazing as it is for Cleveland to FINALLY win a championship, this is about Lebron.  Because without Lebron, this Cavs team wouldn’t have got out of the 1st round.  I know people still have a big issue with “the decision”.  They have an issue with anointing himself “the King”.  They think he cries too much, they think he’s soft, on and on and on.  Is he Jordan?  No, and he never will be.  He’s Lebron, and Lebron is one of the greatest NBA players of all time.  He began writing this story back in July of 2014 is now complete.  He went home, and he brought a broken city their first championship in 52 years.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Slow Down on the Speed

110315-11-NHL-Flyers-Oilers-OB-PI.vadapt.664.high.83As of writing this piece, I’m watching game 5 of the NBA Finals.  Why in the freaking hell is the NBA making the Cavs wear these uni’s?!  The players have gone on record as saying they hate them, yet in game 5 of the Finals, the Cavs are wearing these awful uniforms.  This is more of a crime than the NBA suspending Draymond Green for this game BASICALLY to help get this series back to Cleveland for game 6.

 

But that’s the NBA, and this is a piece on the NHL, specifically the Oilers.

 

So all the rage in the hockey world yesterday was how speed is now king in the NHL.  “Look at how fast the Penguins were.  That’s why the Pens won was because of their speed.  They’re so fast, this is the new way to build in the NHL” on and on and on.  Ummmm, they don’t win without Crosby.  They don’t win without Letang.  They don’t win without Malkin.  They probably don’t win without Kessel.  If speed is all it’s about, then why didn’t Tampa take it all last year?  They were as fast, maybe a faster team then the Pens.  It was much more than speed.

 

Maybe the biggest reason they won was how Mike Sullivan managed this lineup.  When the Pens won the Cup in 09, it was the big 3 down the middle that were all the rage.  It was extremely tough for a team to matchup with Crosby, Malkin and Staal.  Sullivan didn’t have that luxury, but he did have an elite winger who could drive a line named Phillip Kessel Jr.  Jim Rutherford acquired Kessel to augment one of Crosby or Malkin.  But Kessel while Kessel is one of the top snipers in the game, he is a driver and needs the puck on his stick.  When you play with Crosby or Malkin, you don’t get to pack the puck.  So good on Mike Sullivan to notice this and quit trying to fit that round peg into a square hole (cue the Kessel is the round peg jokes).

 

The reason the HBK line became anything of importance was because they got all the soft matchups 5 on 5.  Toughest matchups are going to Sid, second toughest matchups are going to Malkin, teams can’t matchup with a 3rd line that also tilts the ice.

 

As fans, we have a tendency to worry far too much about what the lines are, and making sure your “top 6” is your top 6 players.  I’ve thought for a while now, who cares?  Play your top players on the PP, but 5 on 5 I want my lines balanced and the ability to roll all four lines which is what Sullivan did.  To me, THIS is the lesson to be learned in how to build a team.  Amazing speed?  Well sure that’s nice.  But had the Pens surrounded Crosby, Malkin and Kessel with more coke machines I’m sure they would have done just as good because those three are going to tip the ice for any line they play on.

 

So all this leads me to the Oilers, as the debate has become “should the Oilers now look to build more so with speed than size?”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all saying forget about speed and build with coke machines.  But I’m not anymore more interested in a speedy team than I was two months ago when the playoffs began.  Ideally you want to find that perfect balance of size and speed.

 

The good news for the Oilers is that they currently have four players who either tilt the ice, or are expected to become a player who tilts the ice.  Lowetide for example has been adamant about keeping all three of McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins because of this.  People say you can’t have a 3rd line centre with a 6 million dollar cap hit.  Yet if that player got put on the 2nd line it would somehow be acceptable?

 

Of course as the Pens showed it doesn’t need to be three centres.  The one thing that Hall would still need is a two way centre who could play with him, but that’s a piece that can be found.

 

So if you only need three guys to help tilt the ice, that means someone can be made available.  Whether it be Nugent-Hopkins or Hall, Peter Chiarelli can dangle that piece for a defenceman.  Add to all of this, it doesn’t mean you have to be terrified of a Milan Lucic signing.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t have any worries about a possible 6×6 deal for a 28 year old forward with average speed, but as Darcy McLeod has pointed out he is actually a pretty safe bet to continue producing at a relatively high level.

 

Speed is a vital piece to this puzzle.  A slow team has never won a Cup.  Even in the dead puck era, perhaps the team closest to being “slow” were the 99 Dallas Stars, who had Mike Modano.  So you can’t be slow.  But all over the hockey world all of a sudden people are saying this will be the new way to build is simply with speed.  The best way to build is to have all the pieces in place and then form an identity.  That’s what happened with the Pens, that’s what happened with the Blackhawks, that’s what happened with the Kings, and that’s what needs to happen with the Oilers whether that means getting bigger or faster.

 

Follow me on Twitter @Tj_soups

 

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