BETTER?! Why Make it BETTER?! That’s Insane…

HAHAHA he was behind a plant!!!  Do these guys EVER stop with the laughs?!?!  So the GM meetings came and went last week with very little news to come from it.  Oh, there was what Darren Dreger reported on Twitter which was that the GM’s were rattled that the weather was poor in Boca Raton.  I hope everyone was feeling for them in such trying times.

 

There was lots of talk about possible changes to a few things.  Of course, nothing really came out of it.  Right.  The way these guys see things, it ain’t broke so why fix it.  Fact is, it’s very broke.  But because they focus on how much money they’re making and not on how much money they’re missing out on, they won’t change much.  There are no pressure points to do so.  The only time this league has ever gotten serious about not just increasing scoring but making the game as exciting as they can was coming off the 2005 lockout when they were legitimately worried about how many fans they turned off during that year off.  With no pressure point, this league likely won’t ever get off it’s ass and make the changes they needed to make their game as exciting and entertaining as it can be.

 

People can say what they want about the NFL, but the NFL is far and away the most progressive of the four major North American sports leagues.  And what pressure point do they ever have to change things?!  The league brought in over 9 BILLION dollars last year, and yet they’re always looking to make changes to better their league.  The NHL?  Nope.  Status quo.  We’re good.  The dinosaurs are happy so everyone should be good.

I would really kick ass in those meetings.  And I’m far more of a traditionalist than most, but it’s clear to me that some major changes need to be made to the pro game to get it to the level which it should be at.  The problem I see with these meetings is that the NHL, when it comes to the on ice product, just has far too many dinosaurs (as I alluded to earlier) and/or guys with only their own interests in mind, trying to figure out how to make the league as a whole better.

 

Case in point, Lou Lamoriello wants to move to the points system back to 2 points for any kind of win, no loser point.  I know what you’re going to say, the Leafs are horrific in shootouts.  Yep, but I would consider that a fluke and/or an easy fix moving forward.  What isn’t an easy fix is how good a team is at 3 on 3, and the Leafs are really well built to play 3 on 3.  So he wants to reward teams for winning gimmicks, and punish teams who aren’t good at gimmicks.

 

The whole “loser point” is necessary because teams should be rewarded for getting the tie after 60 minutes of actual hockey.  They shouldn’t be punished for losing at a gimmick which is designed to eliminate ties and allow teams to make their flights that night.  That would be absolute horse shit if the league went that route.

 

The 3 point system makes MUCH more sense.  Rewards teams who go for the win in regulation (don’t kid yourself, most of this league look to just simply get games to OT), you still get something for getting it to OT, but you don’t fully reward teams who live off winning in 3 on 3 or a shootout.  Yes, the standings won’t look near as sexy as they have the last 10 seasons, but they’ll be a lot more honest so to speak.

 

But that likely wouldn’t have much of an impact on the game, so I’m going to look at what would.  Some of these are things that I fully believe they should do, and some are just idea’s that they could at least take a look at.  Don’t get livid with me, I’m just tossing suggestions in some cases.

 

Do away with ROW, just RW

This isn’t a big change, but it’s something I noticed yesterday and should have been fixed last year, if not in the 2015 offseason.  If the Flames lose to the Stars tonight, and then the Oilers happened to lose to Vancouver in regulation tomorrow night, the Oilers and Flames would be tied in the standings.  The Oilers would have one more win in regulation time than the Flames, and they swept the Flames in the season series.  Yet the Flames own the tiebreaker, because the NHL apparently hasn’t figured out that their three on three gimmick is worth much more than it should be.  You cannot seriously put the same value on a three on three win as a regulation win, yet the NHL…as only the NHL would do…does.  Fix it, because it’ll be well beyond ridiculous if that scenario plays out.

 

Ear pieces and microphones for each official

Another simple change that I could see being added if the officials prefer in the next few seasons.  I just think if you had all the officials on one frequency with the ability to talk to each other throughout the game that it could really help with what is being seen on the ice and help them be even more of a team out there.  Too many times over the years you’ll see situations like both referees with their hands up, and they’ll be calling different penalties on the same team, yet only one call is made.  No, this is horse shit for lack of a better term.  Call what you see, and I’ll hit on that a lot as this goes on.  But as is the case with so many of these I’ll start with, does the league or their officials even want to be better at their job?  Because I sincerely mean this, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

 

Eye in the sky official

You could go so many ways with this.  I think everyone would agree that having an official off ice, up top to help out the ones on the ice (again, ear pieces and microphones to communicate) would only be beneficial.  But what’s wrong with calling a penalty after the fact for example?  Let’s say a referee misses something, what’s wrong with having an eye in the sky tell the referee that he reviewed a situation and a penalty was missed?  You don’t have to interrupt the play, just simply have an official upstairs at all games, with video of the game (no play by play audio so you don’t have a play by play team influencing the call), and if he sees something he thinks was missed he can go back and look.

 

He would have until the drop of the puck after the next whistle to call a penalty.  No game delay to give him time to review something, but if something is missed in the moment you can give the eye in the sky the ability to call it after the fact (once the play is dead).  The eye in the sky could also have a quick look in slow motion at any puck over glass or high sticking penalties.  Added bonuses, if the eye in the sky were to see a player embellish a phantom high stick call the refs on the ice perhaps could change their call and get that player for delay of game or unsportsmanlike conduct which would then REALLY cut down on the diving.  Another is that it would at least in theory get rid of those horse shit make up calls that have been one of the most garbage yet accepted parts of hockey for as long as I or I’m sure anyone else can remember.

 

If the refs on the ice get the call wrong, it’s simply the same as the refs picking up a flag in a football game and you don’t call it.  And again, this isn’t for every single little thing, which is why no review time would be allowed, but it could really help.  Again though I’ll state, I’m not sure how much the league or the officials would want something like this because I’m not sure they want or care to be better at their gigs.

 

Recognize the stick as part of the player

The one thing that goes on in today’s game above all else that exposes how absolutely embarrassing and moronic the game is officiated today is when a players stick gets slashed.  It’s perfectly fine apparently, unless the players stick breaks, then it’s two minutes.  WHAT!!!!!?  How in the FUCK does this make any sense?!?!?!?  When I get really pissed off it is rare that a non curse word comes out of my mouth, and I’m having a lot of trouble not typing a bunch of them right now or any time I think about that.  I really want to punch somebody when I think about it.  Just fix this already.  Those hacks are out of desperation and really don’t do anything anyway, so call them.  I don’t care if it’s two for a slash or two for stupidity, just call the damn penalty.  A quick lift of the stick, no problem.  To me that’s a good defensive play that you can’t do without good positioning and effort.  However, lifting it and continuing to keep the player tied up, you could call that a hold.  Again, this is an easy fix, and more power plays means more chances.

 

Of course this could also fall under one umbrella which Gord Miller hit on last week:

PREACH GORDY!  Just simply call the damn game.  Tampa Bay leads the league in power plays per game with just under 3.5.  4 pp’s a game is low, and no team is even averaging that.  WHAT?!

 

Quit trying to keep things even, and officiate to the score like they so freaking blatantly did in Edmonton last night, like how they won’t call 5 on 3’s anymore.  The only time they’ll do it is if a team is trailing, or if they have to call one because of a puck over glass penalty or something along those lines.  Again, we seen it in Edmonton last night.  Chara with a trip on Draisaitl, couldn’t have been more obvious, but the Bruins were short handed already and the game was scoreless.  At 7-3 Edmonton though they had zero issue calling Russell for a trip to make it a 5 on 3.

 

There was another blatant example of this in the Pens and Jets game last week.  Jets were on the pp, Carl Hagelin clearly hooked someone (can’t recall who), and no call.  I couldn’t help but notice the Jets were up 3-2 at the time against the defending champs….Then, the Pens got a pp, and while the Pens were on their pp, someone got hooked, arm goes up, and the Pens get a 5 on 3, because they’re the defending champs and they’re trailing in the game.  Not coincidentally, that is where that game turned.  “We don’t want to decide the game”, yet you had no problem deciding the game there.  “We don’t want to decide the game” is code for “we have zero balls to do our job when the pressure is on”.

 

The officiating has gotten WAY out of hand.  Zdeno Chara stood out to me last night as he should have had three minors called against him by my count in the first period alone, but had none.  It’s not just “veteran calls”, it’s a strategy.  Teams will challenge the refs to call everything, because they know the refs won’t, which is really beneficial to a team like the Bruins who have such a strong penalty kill.  Again I go back to Tampa leading the league with only 3.5 PP’s a game.  They no longer officiate the game, they try to manage the game.  That’s not your job.  As Bill Belichick would say “just do your job”.

 

You FIX the review process, don’t get rid of it

Something isn’t working right in hockey “get rid of it!!!”.  Do you not remember that we put this in for a good reason?  I believe two things need to be done.

 

1) it’s a delay of game penalty if you lose a challenge.  In the days since the meetings, others have suggested this, but I have the text messages to prove I have been preaching this for a long time now just in case anyone believes I’m stealing ideas here!  This couldn’t be more obvious.  No coach has a fear of losing his time out.  It’s helpful to have, but it’s not a penalty of any kind to lose it and a review…even a short review…is longer than a time out.  So now you have coaches asking for reviews on just about anything just because worse case scenario they can settle things down if need be.  But if there is a risk of putting your team down a man, NOW it’s risky and you better be damn sure you can win the review.  You still keep the rule that you need to have your time out in order to ask for a review, and you lose it as well if you lose the review, but there has to be more of a penalty for this.

 

2) put a limit on the review.  This one they actually have proposed, and I’ve again been saying this forever so it’s nice to know they may at least do this.  One of two things here: either the refs get 60-90 seconds to look at the play, or else they get a max of three looks at it.  If it’s not an obvious call, then it’s inconclusive.  Some fans I’ve seen bitch about “so they aren’t supposed to get it right?!”  Look…moron…you put a limit on it so you aren’t going through it with a fine tooth comb literally digging for anything you can find to overturn the call.  Limit the looks because the spirit of the rule was to have the ability to get the obvious calls overturned, not the ticky tack ones.

 

3) no extra time for coaches to take a look.  This is garbage as well.  Refs will delay, and delay, and delay some more for coaches looking to see if they believe they should challenge a goal.  No.  If it’s obvious, they’ll see that it’s obvious.

 

This shit is real simple to fix, but if you ask me you have the wrong people in the room looking to change this, because they’re likely looking at it from their teams POV and worried about hurting themselves in certain situations.  Again, the spirit of this rule was so we could eliminate the blatant misses that happen from time to time, like the Matt Duchene goal in 2013.  It’s not to nail the guy who had his foot 3 mm off the ice as the team entered the zone which had absolutely zero impact on how the goal was scored.  So if they implement these three rules, it would likely clean up most of the problems with the process.

 

Making offensive zone pick plays legal

Now I’m going to get into the ones which are a little more controversial and in no way am I saying these should or shouldn’t happen, just tossing it out there.  If a teammate of a puck carrier in the offensive zone simply skated into the path of a defender chasing the puck carrier, otherwise known as a pick play, it would be two minutes for interference.  Why?  In the NBA this is perfectly legal, and I know this isn’t basketball, but if we are looking to create more offence then why not allow this?  In so many other area’s of the game we would call this “a good veteran move” which is code for “a player who plays dumb but knows exactly what he’s doing and the refs look the other way”.  I’m not saying that in the offensive zone we should allow the offensive players to maul the defensive players, but I believe pick plays, barring laying guys out while setting the pick, could be something they look at.  It would change the look of the game, but perhaps for the better.

 

Power Plays

This is the area I’ve given the most amount of thought to over the years.  Why are teams allowed to ice it killing off a penalty?  And the team killing the penalty can ice it legally, yet the team with the power play can’t?  What about offsides?  What if the team with the power play didn’t have to worry about offsides, or only an offside pass would be called but not if the puck is carried in with a teammate already in the zone?   Or perhaps make the redline the entry point to the zone instead of the blueline?  And why does the power play end after a goal?  There really are a lot of different things they could look at to make a man advantage a lot more of an advantage.  I’m not saying I would do any of these things, but I do believe they’re worth looking at.  You don’t want to go too far the other way though.  Top power plays being up near 25-28%, that would be great.  Power plays being up over 50%, that goes too far the other way and you don’t want to get it to a point where you discourage physicality and intensity on the ice.

 

Bigger nets

YEP!  Most of you won’t like this, but I’m 100% with Mike Babcock on this one.  And it’s simple for me.  The size of today’s nets are for goaltenders who were 5’9, 170 pounds.  Today’s tendy’s are AT LEAST 6’3, 220.  I know the concern from people is this would basically eliminate any chance of a goaltender 6’0 or under playing in the NHL again, but it’s heading that way regardless.  No goaltender while on his knees should be taking up the whole net, yet most of these guys do.  And even if they finally get the goaltending equipment under control, these guys are still taking up most of the net.

 

When most hear bigger nets, at least with the people I’ve talked to about this, they think noticeably bigger.  I’m not saying that.  What I would do is take the size of the average goaltender at a certain time (for example, the 1980’s), and the average size of the goaltenders today and adjust the nets accordingly.  All of a sudden, players can score from the outside, which then forces teams out of any kind of trap.  Because that’s the root of this scoring problem is that teams started forcing players to score from the outside and goaltenders got bigger and bigger, as did the equipment, and players no longer could score stepping over the blueline and ripping it.  And ask Wayne Gretzky, records are great for the game, offensive records in particular.  So many people are worried about what will happen to the records if you increase the size of the nets, yet nobody had a problem with goaltending records getting smashed as the Michelin men started ruling the crease.

 

You’ll hear dip shits who’ll tell you that “I’ve seen a lot of good 1-0 games”.  You do realize that you’re arguing for the exception rather than the rule don’t you?  Think about the future of the game too.  Popularity with kids is going to be much greater with a higher scoring game, because higher scoring games keep their attention more.  Hell, they keep my attention more!

 

I don’t want it to go too far where NHL games are ending in 18-14 scores, which is what would happen if every suggestion I just put down happened.  But the NHL should want to get to a 5-4 league rather than the 3-2 league it currently is.  Smaller goal equipment would help that if they ever get serious even about that, but we need more whether it be things that I proposed or other ideas.  They’ve talked about increasing scoring for 20 years now, and outside of one season it’s never happened.

 

It’s baffling that the league and the PA can’t figure out how much money they’re leaving on the table here.  More goals is more excitement, which is massive for getting kids into your game specifically.  Offensive records being set would also draw more casual fans in and give the league more media attention.  More goals also makes the game more bettor friendly, and don’t underestimate that.  One thing that hurts the NHL a lot is that it’s a difficult league to bet.  Every game is an over/under of either 5, 5.5, or 6 and the spread is always -1.5.  If you could have games where the spread is -2.5 or even 3.5 with an over/under of 7-10 the betting then becomes a lot more interesting.

 

But at the end of the day, all of this is likely a pipe dream.  Until the dinosaurs start to get out of the way and the league starts to look at a bigger picture, it’ll be all talk, little action.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

I Thought We Established That D-men Should Cost a Ton?

I may as well just be honest.  I’m bitter about this, so let’s just get right to it.

 

Last night the Habs got Steve Ott for a 6th round pick.  Ott is essentially done in his career, but he does have a ton of experience, gritty as hell, from every account a terrific guy in the room, he’s a 4th liner but he’s a total glue guy.  Analytics guys probably hate him, but analytics guys will argue up is down if they can find any numbers to back that argument.  Had the Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger on something like Ott for a 6th round pick, I would have been ok with it.  I would probably prefer a guy like that heading into the playoffs then a guy like…say….David Desharnais.

 

Add to this, you have the NY Rangers who added Brendan Smith from the Red Wings.  They paid a pretty good price for a guy who has been ok, but disappointing in his NHL career.  I’d say Smith is a solid number five guy.  Brandon Davidson I would also consider a number five guy.  I don’t like Davidson AS much, but just last season in my opinion Davidson was better than Smith.  I would say a 2nd round pick for a guy who has a nice contract for next season (1.425 cap hit) and can anchor a bottom pairing is fair in what is expected to be a shitty draft.  Smith got a 2nd and a 2019 3rd.

 

So a 2nd round pick for a 6th round pick is essentially the value going out and coming in here for Peter Chiarelli.

 

I do not get this at all, and I’ve had a pretty good grasp on players trade values for the most part over the years.  I have a very good memory, I’m a hockey geek, so it’s not difficult for me to think back to past trades and past situations where certain players were dealt and what the return was.  I’ve been thinking about this one for hours, and I just can’t for the life of me figure out what Chiarelli was thinking.  How do you not get a better offer than THAT?!  And if you don’t, how do you not just say “fine, I’d rather have him for the stretch run and either try to address it in June or lose him”.

 

Sure, the Oilers have a lot of depth on the blueline (especially on the left side) throughout the organization and they were likely going to lose him in the expansion draft.  I get all of that.  But having depth on defence is vital to an organization heading into the playoffs.  And what the hell does Desharnais add to this club?  No size, he’s not all that fast for only being 5’7, he’s a lefty shot, he’s subpar in the dot, he’s nothing great in his own zone, and his offensive numbers have done nothing but decline since getting 60 points in his first full season in the league all the way down to just 10 points this season in 31 games.  I.  DO.  NOT.  GET.  THIS.  F******.  TRADE.  Anton Lander fills needs for the Oilers better than Desharnais does, and the Oilers got him in Bakersfield.

 

This is now the 3rd deal Chiarelli has done where I’m just completely dumbfounded.  I 100% back the Larsson/Hall deal, and pretty much have since day one.  But it isn’t as if I didn’t believe they were ridiculous to not get more.  The Devils seriously wouldn’t have gave them Boston’s 2nd round pick in the 2017 draft for a 2017 4th?  They seriously wouldn’t have added THAT?  Come on.  And the Reinhart trade…I’ve lost my skull about that one from the moment it went down and I’m still hot about it.  I really believe that you can blame that deal for Taylor Hall being dealt.  And I love Adam Larsson, please don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather still have Taylor Hall and have used a Joel Eriksson Ek package to land the D-man they needed.

 

Three deals where the man seemingly got completely fleeced.  It’s bizarre, because I do trust Chiarelli.  The man turned the Bruins into contenders with one top five pick (5th), and he’s done some great moves in his time with the Oilers (the Talbot trade, the Maroon trade, the Benning signing), and a lot of really solid moves.  I’ve never seen a GM seemingly THIS bipolar for lack of a better word.  It’s as though once he zero’s in on a guy he likes (I wouldn’t put Reinhart in that group, I believe that was massively influenced by the clowns who remained from the old regime) he’s willing to simply cave to a price that’s asked.

 

I can’t speak for all Oilers fans, but the ones I’ve talked with since the deal all shared the same opinion…we’d rather lose Brandon Davidson just like a UFA after the season then get Desharnais…and still lose possibly Reinhart (who as much as I’ve dogged him in this piece, is playing great in the AHL right now) in the expansion draft.

 

But let’s talk about how the man can salvage this deadline before I end this blog this morning, put a bit more of a happy face on all this.

 

I really believe Jarome Iginla is a possibility.  There are so many connections to the organization, and he is a right handed shot who can still rip it on the PP.  He also wouldn’t have to play in a top six role with this club, they could shelter him a little bit.  I’m not saying I love the idea, and now I’m getting gun shy to the idea of Chiarelli trading for any player he may like because the return here could be Puljujarvi at the rate he’s going….but I don’t think bringing in Iginla would hurt anything.

 

Sticking with the Avs, not that I have any inside knowledge of this stuff but a guy I maybe would keep an eye on is Carl Soderberg.  He’s a big cap hit at 4.75 million for another three seasons.  But he doesn’t HAVE to be that big of a cap hit.  Could Chiarelli do Soderberg with the Avs eating 750,000 for Pouliot, maybe a guy like Lander and a prospect?  Pouliot only has two years left on his deal…but I’m just thinking out loud, don’t read anything into this, it’s just a thought.

 

I do think Pouliot could play a role in a move today.  He maybe has slightly negative value at the moment, but I think he’s very moveable, especially to an analytics heavy team like Arizona or Florida.  The Panthers have a guy like Nick Bjugstad who word is they’ve soured on quite a bit, and he’s virtually the same cap hit as Pouliot.  No idea if those rumours of the Panthers souring on Bjugstad are legitimate, but if they were I’d definitely have time for the kid.  And again, I believe Pouliot could be part of the deal simply because he’s big, can skate, and has always had very good analytic numbers…not to mention good numbers period.  He was well worth the 5 year/20 million dollar contract the Oilers gave him up until this season.  A guy like Bjugstad who is still young, huge, can really skate for a guy so big, and a right handed shot on top of all that will still bring in a lot in a trade even if he isn’t living up to his contract this season.

 

Another guy that you don’t hear a word about is Bryan Little.  And hey, probably because Kevin Cheveldayoff has zero interest in moving the guy.  But he’s a UFA after next season, and this team is loaded up front.  Are they wanting to pay him 5 mil per to be on their 3rd line moving forward?  Right handed shot, great in the dot, and can produce five on five (23 ES points in 41 games this season).  He obviously wouldn’t be cheap, but I wonder if he could be had?  And if so do the Oilers have the right pieces to make it happen?  Again, just spit thinking out loud, though I’m sure someone is going to look to fight me for even bringing it up in the comments section….there’s always one knob who takes these things far too seriously.

 

Then you have the backups.  I won’t go in depth on any of them, but it sure would be nice to land someone Todd McLellan has some confidence in so he can give Cam Talbot a little more rest down the stretch.  Halak even with the Islanders eating 50% of his deal is still 2.25 million next season.  Do you really want to pay your backup goaltender that much?  Even though he’s having a tough season I’ve always like Neuvirth, but I wouldn’t give up much for him.  Maybe a 5th round pick.  Depending on his health I would be interested in Ondrej Pavelec if the Jets retained 50% of what’s left on his deal (UFA after the season).  Reto Berra is another guy who has been mentioned as a possibility.  Not sure he’s an upgrade on Brossoit, but it’s not as much about that as it is Todd McLellan having confidence in the guy.  I don’t understand why Brossoit hasn’t been given a couple more games to prove his worth, I think he’s looked solid when given the chance this season, but if they can upgrade I still think they should pull the trigger.

 

But I’m not getting over this Desharnais/Davidson swap by the end of the day.  Clearly Chiarelli, who seen Desharnais a ton while in Boston, loves the kid.  He better be right on him, because if he’s not this fan base could turn on him in a hurry and we don’t need that kind of drama back in town.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Trade Deadline: Matt Duchene

I’ve spent the last three weeks or so mainly working on my top prospects list and then my mock draft.  So I did the Mike Smith blog about where he could be dealt and what for, and I stated in that the names were going to get bigger.  Well…Duchene is bigger for sure, but he’s not too surprising.  Still, the trade speculation surrounding him and Landeskog is really heating up so I better get this piece in before they’re dealt!

 

Let’s be honest though, this is the NHL.  And in today’s NHL, GM’s claim they can’t do deals in season anymore and look for a billion excuses as to why that is.  Mainly it’s because of that damn cap, it ruins everything!!  Of course, every team has a capologist who has that gig in large part of making the cap work at all times for your team…soooooo….you’re all REALLY full of shit.  The truth here is that these guys want to do anything they can to keep their jobs, and the less bad deals you make the better you’ll look.  So why make trades?  Anyway, that’s a rant I make a lot, probably will make again.  Onto Duchene.

 

Like the Smith piece before I begin, not saying these deals will happen (which is why I add in “potential for deal” at the end), but rather I’m just looking at who I think should be in on him or what teams are rumoured to be in on him, and what the best offer for both sides could be.  I could likely make an argument for 15 teams going after Duchene, but I’ll stick to the eight…yes eight teams that I believe either should be or will be the most desperate to land the centre.  Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Montreal, NY Islanders, Ottawa and Washington.  That’s a long list, but then again he’s close to a 1st line centre in his prime with a year left on his deal.  The value of Duchene won’t match his point totals for this season.  But make no mistake, this guy is a stud centre who is a game changer for whichever team may add him.

 

Why Calgary: It’s not something that gets touched on much with the Flames, mostly because the major need is a top end goaltender, but it would be tough to deny they aren’t strong enough down the middle long term.  I love Sean Monahan, but I see him as an elite 2nd line centre on a Cup contender.  Sam Bennett is scuffling and more so looks like he’s going to be a VERY streaky player.  If I’m Brad Treliving or Brian Burke, I’m not waiting to see if Bennett can become the guy they need him to be when a guy like Duchene could be had.

Potential offer: Sam Bennett, Brett Kulak, Rasmus Andersson, and a 2017 1st (unprotected).

I’m sure the Flames wouldn’t want to give up Bennett in a deal, but you have to give something valuable and if you give up Bennett he’s not creating a hole in the lineup.  Brodie or Hamilton going would really weaken the strength of this team, and they know how valuable D-men are.  With that being said, Kulak has been in and out of the Flames lineup all year and does show signs of being a number four guy someday.  Andersson isn’t the flashiest prospect, but he isn’t far away from playing in the show.  From the Avs point of view here they aren’t getting a D-man who can play now so the rest of the package better be pretty sweet.

Potential for deal: 3/10.  As much as I think the Flames need Duchene, much like with Mike Smith, I just don’t know if the pieces will fit.  Bennett is obviously still going to have real good trade value, but the Avs currently don’t need a replacement for Duchene as bad as they need immediate help on the blueline.  That could change in a possible Gabriel Landeskog deal, but for now that’s the landscape.

 

Why Carolina: This team is right on the cusp of being a playoff regular.  That blueline is going to be rock solid, and in fact I believe they have the best defence organization wide in the NHL.  Not the best current group, but throughout the organization this club is second to none on the blueline.  Now they need to add a stud up front who can do a lot of the heavy lifting.

Potential offer: Jake Bean, Teuvo Teravainen, 2017 1st round pick (unprotected).

This is pretty much spot on what the Avs are reportedly looking for, and it’s a price the Canes can afford to pay.  The only problem for Carolina is if they can re-sign Duchene.  They’d need some sort of word that he is interested in signing there long term, which I can’t see why he wouldn’t be.  With Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jacob Slavin in the mix as LH shooting D, the Canes really don’t have a lot of need for Bean moving forward.  Teravainen is solid, but I’m starting to wonder if he’s ever going to take another step.  He seems content just being a solid top nine forward.  Of course that 2017 1st is unprotected and at this point it looks to be in the lottery.  In this draft, the Avs are likely only getting good value with a 1st if it’s a top 15 pick.  I’m also well aware that Adrian Dater has said on twitter that Justin Faulk is in play for the Canes, but he gets that from his Avs sources, not the Canes.  I can’t see it as the Canes would then lack a RH shooting D, they need to make sure they have some experience back there, and he’s just entering his prime.

Potential for deal: 6/10.  This would be higher if the Canes knew they could lock down Duchene long term.  I also believe the Canes would like to land Landeskog if they couldn’t get Duchene, and will end up getting one of them mainly because the fit between the two teams is too good.  This is what happens when you stock pile D in the draft these days kids.  You pretty much have your pick of the best offensive talent available.

 

Why Columbus: Curse you Elliotte Friedman!  I had this written a week before he brought it up on Oilers Now a few weeks back.  But if you’re doing more than admiring the Blue Jackets win streak then you aren’t looking close enough.  I said it the day (pretty much exactly a year ago) they did the Johansen/Jones swap that they had a big hole to fill.  Johansen wasn’t a 1st line centre, but he definitely had the ability to become that guy, and they no longer have that guy on the roster.  So the chance to get a kid like Duchene is massive.

Potential offer: David Clarkson (limited NTC), Ryan Murray, Sonny Milano, 2017 1st round pick, 2018 1st round pick.  Avs also send Columbus a conditional 2018 2nd round pick.

Stay with me on this one.  This is the Blue Jackets attempting to kill two birds with one stone here.  Shed the Clarkson contract, and land a 1st line centre.  They have to know that with a 1st line centre this club is locked and loaded moving forward, and to get that without upsetting the main roster too badly who have been incredible to this point of the season they’ll need to pay out their ass, so they do.  I more so added the Avs 2nd round pick to this so the Jackets would have a bit of ammo to go after a LH shot D-man who could replace Murray short term, like a Dimitry Kulikov.  But essentially it’s four 1st round picks for Duchene.  The Avs seem hell bent on landing a defenceman in both a Duchene deal and Landeskog deal, so Murray even though he’s playing great is the most expendable piece on that blueline.  Milano I find to be expendable because the Blue Jackets are already so deep up front, especially with left handed shooting guys.  Plus, two 1st rounders.  But the kicker is the Avs have to eat that contract, which has one more season left at 7 million of real dollars.  After that it goes down to 4.75 for 2019, 3.25 for 2020.  I don’t know if Avs ownership would be willing to eat that 7 million for next season with the building likely half empty every night, but that’s why you toss the biggest offer at them.  You might even consider taking out one of the 1st’s or Milano and adding Dubois to sweeten the pot for the Avs even more if need be.

Potential for deal: 6/10.  Would the Blue Jackets have the balls to take this big of a swing?  It feels like they could today, but you never know what’ll happen moving forward and how many of those assets they’d need down the line.  Plus, it’s a hell of a deal for the Avs, as long as they are willing to swallow the Clarkson contract.

 

Why Florida: This is purely a hunch, but remember that the Panthers are all in on analytics.  Matt Duchene is a darling in the analytics world as his possession numbers are elite.  Add to that, while the Panthers are pretty good already up front, they could stand to be upgraded down the middle.

Potential offer: Nick Bjugstad, Alex Petrovic, Denis Malgin, and a 2017 1st round pick (unprotected).

Bjugstad has fallen out of favour with the Panthers after a brutal season, so he could be had.  Petrovic is damn good, but I’m looking at the Panthers blueline and he appears to be expendable as they have five RH shot D-men on the big club.  I’m a big fan of Malgin, but I don’t think the Panthers would balk at adding him to the deal.  His speed is tremendous, but he’s really small and likely won’t have the type of skill that will make him a big time offensive star.  Isn’t a big need to protect their 2017 1st as they already have dealt their 2018 2nd, and they have two extra 3rd rounders this season so they would still have three picks in the top 90 of this draft.  And again, it’s not a good draft.

Potential for deal: 6/10.  This is actually a little more of a need than you may think for the Panthers.  Obviously the injuries to Barkov and Huberdeau had really hurt their season more than the off ice drama.  But it still doesn’t go above a 6/10 for me simply because you’re not hearing that the Panthers are looking for a centre.  Keep an eye on them though because as I pointed out off the top Duchene is an analytics darling and they’re perhaps the most analytics heavy team in the league.

 

Why Montreal: The window for this team is now open.  You can debate all day whether or not this team is a true contender even if they were to land Matt Duchene, but they way they’re constructed Marc Bergevin has to make a big move now.  Shea Weber may only have a few years left as an elite defenceman.  Carey Price only has a year left on his contract and even though it’s unlikely he would leave Montreal at this point, you never know what might happen in the next 16 months.  And this club is desperate for a horse down the middle which Duchene would be.

Potential offer: Tomas Plekanec (limited NTC), Mikhail Sergachev, Daniel Carr, 2017 1st round pick.

The trick here for the Habs is of course getting Plekanec to waive that NTC.  Not an easy task.  But if they could, it really opens things up for Marc Bergevin to get things done.  Sergachev would be a GREAT get for the Avs, fits perfectly for them and I’m sure they were hoping he was getting to them last season (though I can’t see them being upset with Jost).  Carr has struggled getting his game going this season with the Habs and was recently demoted, but he does show some promise, especially did last season prior to his injury.  I don’t think much of this really needs too much explaining honestly.  Three good pieces for Duchene, and Plekanec would be salary but I don’t see him as having a lot of negative value.  Plus, you always need some solid vets around for a rebuild and Plekanec is a solid vet.

Potential for deal: 7/10.  I believe both teams would do this.  The problem is that NTC attached to Plekanec.  If Plekanec won’t go then it would have to be Desharnais in the deal, and that would only free up 3.5 million.  They have 2.3 million in cap space right now, and Duchene is a 6 million cap hit.  Those numbers don’t add up.

 

Why NY Islanders: A lot of people will scratch their heads at this one, which is very fair.  But the Islanders haven’t done a good job at surrounding John Tavares with much.  They’re ok up front, they’re ok on the blueline, they’re ok in net.  They really remind me (ironically) of the 1997 Oilers who were led by now Isles bench boss Doug Weight.  A ton of fight on this team, but just not enough talent to get anywhere.  Anyway, with Tavares a little over a year away from being a UFA himself, now might be the time for Garth Snow to step up to the plate and make the Islanders a more desirable organization to stay with, and Duchene would help that out.  Tavares wouldn’t have to do near as much heavy lifting, and should the Islanders end up playing the Atlantic division in the playoffs they would likely be the best team down the middle should the three teams be Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

Potential offer: Mikhael Grabovski, Ryan Pulock, Matthew Barzal, and Michael Dal Colle.

No 1st rounder here, instead going with the inconsistent Dal Colle as the fourth piece.  Grabovski is likely done, so his cap hit would likely be of interest to an Avs team which could be looking to be around the floor next season.  Pulock is knocking at the door to get in the league and has a bomb from the point something the Avs have lacked since maybe Rob Blake’s days with the club.  Barzal is the biggest piece in this deal and while he’s a great prospect he isn’t helping the Islanders today.  And finally Dal Colle will still have some value, but it is really puzzling how this kid fell off.  Seemed like a can’t miss prospect when the Isles took him at 5 in 2014.

Potential for deal: 5/10.  I really believe Garth Snow has the balls to do something like this.  He is one GM who hasn’t been afraid to step up to the plate.  Thomas Vanek, all the picks he’s dealt to get UFA’s in there before July 1st in an attempt to sign them, he offered all his 2012 draft to Scott Howson just to move up two spots to take Ryan Murray, the guy has balls.  But I see better offers on the table for the Avs here which is why above anything else this likely doesn’t happen.

 

Why Ottawa: Don’t think I need to explain why, as even Pierre Dorian hasn’t really denied his interest level in Duchene.  The Sens are solid down the middle, but no doubt Duchene would be an upgrade for them.  The problem is what the Sens have, or rather don’t have to give up in a deal.

Potential offer: Cody Ceci, Curtis Lazar, and a 2017 1st round pick.

I debated putting Clarke McArthur in this deal as it looks like his career could be over (not cool to type that seeing how I’ve known and been real good with Clarke since we were kids) for cap purposes but it doesn’t look like the Sens would have to do that.  Option is there though.  I don’t like the idea of the Sens giving up Ceci in this deal at all, but they kind of have to if they want to meet the Avs price.  Lazar is a favourite of mine, but the kids career has stalled.  Can’t imagine he won’t get it back on track, but for now that’s where he’s at.  And then of course, again, the 1st, which isn’t near as attractive as some of the other teams chasing Duchene would be.

Potential for deal: 3/10.  Without Chabot in this deal, I just don’t see a way the Sens can this done.  And while I have him in this, I don’t think they can afford to give up Ceci.  You give up Ceci and you go into the playoffs with a pretty big hole in your defence.  So are you really gaining much strengthening your team at centre by depleting your team on the blueline?  From all reports the Sens really want Duchene, but they just aren’t a good fit for the Avs unless everyone else refuses to give them the D-men they crave.

 

Why Washington:  I’ve maintained since the end of last season that the Caps need a massive upgrade down the middle and Duchene would give them that.  Put him in Washington and he could thrive, and give the Caps a tremendous trio down the middle if they prefer, or put a guy like Kuznetsov on the wing.  But this team has to go for it this season in my opinion.  You can sit back and not do a move like this yet again, but you’re likely not getting past the Penguins with what you got.  Ovechkin is going to be out of his prime soon, if he isn’t already.  Don’t you think that now is the time to push for a Cup?

Potential offer: Marcus Johansson, 2017 1st round pick, Madison Bowey, and Lucas Johansen.

This hurts the Caps long term, especially if they’re about to lose Karl Alzner.  But again, I really believe they must take a home run swing this season.  It’s not as if this would be the last season of this deal benefitting the Caps with Duchene locked down for another year.  But

Potential of deal: 6/10.  I believe they SHOULD do this, but it’s been the history of the Caps franchise to play it safe and not take a home run swing like this would be.

 

It’s questionable whether or not Duchene will get moved prior to the trade deadline, but I believe the Avs should do it now.  I can’t imagine many more teams would be in on him in the summer with only a year left on his deal.  You got a sellers market, and teams looking at him as an option for two years as opposed to one.  Now is the time.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Mock Draft 1.0

My good friend Shane Tomayer is going to hate me, but it’s back again, my NHL mock draft.  Lets be real here as Shane would appreciate, these are basically a waste of time to do.  Most do these are an exercise in guessing who is going to go where.  The angle I try to take is that I like to look at what teams need going into the drat.  Sure, I put a player down for a team and explain why he would fit or why that team would like him, but in no way am I expecting things to play out like this on June 23rd.  Also, doing it prior to the trade deadline like this, it gives you an idea of who the 1st round pick could be.  A lot of 1st round picks are going to be dealt this year with it being such a weak draft year, so by seeing who could be your 1st round pick it’ll give you a better idea of what the value of the pick is going to be.  It’s easy to deal a pick, it’s a little more difficult when the pick has a name…

 

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 four or five drafts.  Do they go CHL heavy?  Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids?  Maybe they’re big on Europeans?

 

Standings as of 2/9/17 based off points percentage.  Division leaders own the final four picks.  Player rankings from my top 32 prospect list are given on the right side of the players names.  Also, just to liven things up a little I went with some teams retro symbols.

 

 

1. Nolan Patrick (1) Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

Currently they don’t have a need for another centre, I know.  But they’re likely moving both Duchene and Landeskog and allegedly are asking for young D-men in return.  Plus, Patrick is the top pick.  He’s a guy you kind of have to take.  So while I’m not a fan of BPA drafting these days, I feel like should they bring in the right GM he can make this work.

 

 

2. Nico Hischier (2)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Saku Koivu

Prior to the 2015 draft I suggested that Dylan Strome had serious bust potential.  Two years later that possibility is alive and well because you don’t send a 3rd overall pick back to junior for his final year of junior.  So while this team had drafted nothing but forwards in the top 60 from 2012-2015, they still aren’t very set up front.  They actually are decently situated on the blueline moving forward.  Plus, like with Patrick, Hischier is just simply the pick.  Liljegren isn’t close to him right now, so if things fall this way then the Yotes have to take the centre.

 

 

3. Timothy Liljegren (3)  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 191  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

It’ll be very interesting to see where George McPhee goes here.  If it’s me, this is the perfect scenario.  You get a potential top pairing right handed shooting D-man who’ll be able to QB your PP…a pretty valuable building block.  Having seen the struggles for the Oilers all these years it has made me an even bigger believer in how valuable D-men are.  So George McPhee better make sure his blueline is as good as it can possibly be.

 

 

4. Gabe Vilardi (4)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

They’re looking pretty damn good down the middle.  Spezza just turned 34, so his best days are behind him, but they still have Seguin, Eakin, Shore, and Faksa so even though they don’t have much coming in the system at centre, they have a lot of young kids on the big club.  Still, they would take Vilardi.  You get a kid who is that size, RH shot, you simply move a centre to the wing whether it’s Vilardi or one of the other kids.  This team is really loaded on D, and this high in the draft you aren’t taking a goaltender, and they have too many forwards who play on the perimeter, so Vilardi would be a great pick.  Plus he’s the BPA.

 

 

5. Cale Makar (7)  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 175  Shot: R

Comparison: Dan Boyle

It’s not a current need on the big club.  In fact, they’re overloaded with RH shooting D.  But Myers injury problems are troubling, and I still believe Jacob Trouba is going to be moved out sooner or later because I believe his issue is being in Canada, not that he’s lower on the depth chart.  Makar would be a reach here, at least today he would be, but a highly skilled RH shooting D-man is one of the most valuable pieces to have in the league right now so watch for a kid like Makar to go much earlier than where the scouts have him ranked.

 

 

6. Casey Mittelstadt (5) Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Bryan Little

This would be a great fit.  The Canucks only real need moving forward would be depth at centre.  You could say they don’t have enough quality on defence, but with so many good young D-men they have the trade chips to upgrade that.  Plus there isn’t a D-man close to this spot with Makar going already.  So take the centre who would be a great with Horvat down the middle some day.

 

 

7. Michael Rasmussen (6) Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 215  Shot: L

Comparison: Jeff Carter

This is a bad spot for the Lightning should things shake down this way, and there for a trade could happen.  They like so many other teams in this draft really need D-men.  For as good of a job they’ve done developing forwards, they haven’t really developed anyone on the blueline.  I guess you could say Hedman, but when you’re talking about developing kids, at least for me, I more so mean guys who have come up through the system.  Not kids drafted 2nd overall who had superstar potential.  Anyway, without the right guy around, I’ll suggest they take Rasmussen who could add some size up front while having the skill and wheels to play the style the Bolts are built to play.

 


8. Eeli Tolvanen (11) Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

If this is a bad position for the Lightning, this is a VERY SHITTY position for the Sabres!  I’m looking around, and I’m seeing NOTHING!  Centre, they’re good.  RW, they’re good.  D, that’s the need and you’d be reaching horribly here.  Have to trade back.  The good news for Sabres fans is this is just a fun routine to look at the draft and what needs the team has.  But if this somehow shook down this way they would be getting nothing of either a need or a valuable asset.  Tolvanen is a safe pick, plays hard, and can snipe.

 

 

9. Martin Necas (10)  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 167  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

This team still needs D.  From my count, I’d say there are five of the top nine teams here that “need” defencemen, and I’m not including Vegas who need everything but should likely start with a D-man.  I already had a team reach on Makar.  They are looking better now than they were though after they took four D with four of their top five picks (two RH shot, two LH shot).  They also have a nice prospect in 2015 3rd rounder Vili Saarijarvi.  But I think centre is the bigger need here.  Necas isn’t a reach as a D-man would be, he would compliment Dylan Larkin well being a RH shot, and he has that type of player who the Wings have done best with over the years.  Elite skill, they can develop his overall game, and someday he perhaps becomes that number one centre they need.  Sounds crazy now, but I see this as a tremendous fit.

 

 

10. Owen Tippett (8) Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 202  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

Tell me if you’ve heard this one already…this team needs D.  And this team needs D pretty desperately.  The Larsson/Hall swap was flat out stupid by the Devils.  They got so hot and bothered by the value in the deal, they completely forgot that they were in no position to do it.  If you’ve only got 100 bucks to feed your family, you aren’t going to go buy a new 4K TV just because it’s on sale.  So the rebuild of the Devils blueline needs to start now, but there isn’t a D-man in sight.  MAYBE they reach a bit on someone like Heiskanen, MAYBE Makar will somehow still be around should they pick around this spot, but chances are it’s a bad spot.  Not the end of the world, they can stock pile in the rest of the draft, just not ideal.  Tippett would be a great fit on the right side with perhaps Hall and/or Henrique in a year or two.

 

 

11. Cody Glass (9) Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

This would be a great fit.  Maybe you would prefer Tippett if you’re a Flames fan, maybe you would prefer Necas if you’re a Flames fan.  But with Glass they can put him on the wing or at centre where they have needs for RH shooting forwards.  He has nice size, a nice all around game, and as I said in my prospects write up I’m not understanding why Glass is ranked so much lower by most.  To me, he should be in the discussion for the top ten for sure, perhaps as high as six.  But most have him going around here which I’m sure suits the Flames just fine.

 

 

12. Elias Pettersson (15)  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 156  Shot: L

Comparison: Ondrej Palat

As big of a shit show as the Bruins are, I have a tough time placing someone here.  As a draft junkie, I could cry with how badly they messed up the 2015 1st round.  Zbroil hasn’t gone right to this point but I don’t fault them for that one, he was the right pick.  Debrusk and Senyshyn though over Barzal and either White or Connor was so horrendous though.  Last year they took Trent Frederic over Sam Steel (and many other better options).  Yet their system is loaded because they’ve had so many picks the last two drafts.  Pettersson would be a solid pick here, nothing really of a need though.  If they did go need, I would suggest centre and perhaps Lias Andersson, Ryan Poehling or Shane Bowers.

 

 

13. Ryan Poehling (18)  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Paul Stastny

They need some size up front.  Ron Francis started to address it at last years draft after he selected Jake Bean at 13.  The next four picks were all used on forwards, all 6’1 or bigger.  So he understands it’s the issue in the organization right now, which is where Poehling comes in.  Centre, has good size, is learning a 200 foot game in his freshman season, his numbers aren’t flashy but he’s a 1999 born kid playing in the NCAA with limited talent surrounding him.  A bit of a reach according to my rankings, but most have him in the 12-20 range.

 

 

14. Miro Heiskanen (12)  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Leddy

In the last three drafts, the Kings have used 10 of their 20 picks on D-men.  So it’s not as though they’ve been ignoring their blueline.  And they’ve done an incredible job developing defencemen.  Muzzin, Martinez, Voynov before he literally got deported, all top four defencemen and none of them taken in the 1st round of the draft.  So you understand if they don’t go this route in the 1st round, but I like the idea of Heiskanen here because he feels like a kid who would give them the biggest value at this point.  Biggest need in the organization is centre, but if you have depth on D in the organization you can pretty much trade for whatever you want in today’s NHL.

 

 

15. Juuso Valimaki (17)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 204  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Murray

I could see the analytics guys running the Panthers loving Valimaki.  He really drives the play in Tri-City, and he’s over a PPG player in the WHL right now.  So I could see them getting wowed by that more so than how they seeing him projecting, though that isn’t an issue.  Not a major need, but I see them viewing Valimaki as great value here.

 

 

16. Lias Andersson (16)  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

Andersson feels like a Blues type kid to me.  Doug Armstrong understands the value of having versatile guys and guys who are coachable and willing to play a 200 foot game.  This is Andersson.  Not flashy, but he is so well rounded for an 18 year old kid.  Maybe this philosophy was more about the coach Armstrong had then the way he wanted to build, but I’ll believe that when or if I see it.

 

 

17. Kristian Vesalainen (22) Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

Ron Hextall has done such a great job to this point, with the draft in particular.  It’s such a breathe of fresh air from the way Paul Holmgren was running things which was with zero plan and changing the look of the team every season.  Hextall is patient and realized the Flyers needed to really start investing in defencemen (the Flyers, even when they won back to back Cups have never had a great blueline).  Even though that plan isn’t going as well at the moment as it looked this time a year ago, I still think they’re pretty solid.  Vesalainen potentially gives them size up front in their top six which they lack.  Hextall helped build the LA Kings, and the Kings were built with a ton of size, plus the Flyers have always had a lot of size as you know, so I can’t imagine Hextall would be satisfied with the lack of size currently in the organization.

 

 

18. Callan Foote (13) Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 200  Shot: R

Comparison: Adam Foote

Ryan Pulock is right on the cusp of breaking into the league.  He’s put up good numbers in the AHL, but has yet to get recalled to the show after his injury in late October.  But it’s now to the point for the Isles where he’s done as a prospect.  They have a few other young guys on the blueline in Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech, but they’re in the same boat.  So it’s really a good time for this team to address their blueline and Cal Foote would be a terrific fit.

 

 

19. Shane Bowers (19) Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Love the idea this pick for the Preds.  Bowers is an in your face player which is the type of guy David Poile has built this Preds team with.  And they have a bit of a need moving forward down the middle.  Blueline, they’re extremely set (not just the top four on the big club, top two picks last year were home runs and five of their eight picks were used on D).  In goal they’re set (and this is around the point where you’ll see goaltenders possibly going in this particular draft).  And they’re looking solid on the wings.  Bowers might only ever be a 3rd line centre, but don’t underestimate the value of that type of player.

 

 

20. Nicolas Hague (14)  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 208  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

Preference for myself and I would guess the Leafs here would be that Cal Foote falls to them.  He doesn’t, so they take Hague who likely has the bigger upside of the two, but is a lefty shot as opposed to a righty, and is a few years away.  Should the Leafs end up drafting Hague I would hope the media would be patient there because he is a bit of a project.  No doubt though that the need for the Leafs is on the blueline moving forward.  Got their franchise centre, got some highly skilled wingers, just have to stockpile on the blueline now.

 

 

21. Jake Oettinger (24) Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 203  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

This organization is in pretty damn good shape moving forward.  So looking at things, the only area of true need in the system I could find was between the pipes, and there for we have our first tendy off the board in Oettinger.  I agree with the theory of not taking a goaltender in the first round, but in the 20’s, it fills a need, and Oettinger is the total package as a goaltender.  Size, quickness, agility, technically sound, of course the risk with goaltenders is you never know what their mental makeup is.  But again, with a pick in the 20’s, I think he’s worth the risk.

 

 

22. Kailer Yamamoto (23)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 153  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

Some Oilers fans probably think I’m nuts to suggest Chiarelli would take a kid this small.  But to me this makes sense for a lot of different reasons for the Oilers.  Jordan Eberle is highly unlikely to be with this team past next season.  McDavid’s extension will kick in, Draisaitl is about to get a big extension this summer, Puljujarvi will be ready for big minutes, and there for Eberle is going to be a luxury the Oilers just can’t keep.  It could be as early as this summer, but definitely after next season.  They’ll need someone in the organization who possibly could step into that spot, and Yamamoto could be that player.  And this team that used to try to build with undersized skill is now in a position where they can afford to add a kid of Yamamoto’s stature to the lineup and it won’t hurt them.  Also, no way that the organization doesn’t recognize how fast the league is getting and the troubles this team has with speedy teams.  Some will argue the bigger need will be at centre with Draisaitl currently playing the wing, I personally don’t believe Draisaitl is going to stay on the wing long term, though you can never have too many centres.  Just for the record, if I was making this pick…I’m a big fan of Nick Suzuki in this spot.  Bigger, more physical, can play the middle if need be.

 

 

23. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (NR)

HPK U-20  SM Jr. Liiga

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198   Glove: L

Comparison: Cam Talbot

This team is pretty much out of needs in the organization!  Sam Steel has been living up to his last name this season, averaging over 2 ppg.  It’s unbelievable the job that Bob Murray and that scouting staff has done keeping the system rich with talent.  It’s a good draft for goaltenders, or it’s a weak draft and because of that it’s elevating goaltenders, probably a little of both.  So this could be the best time to add a stud young goaltender who will take four years or possibly more to develop.  Not to mention, they don’t have a sure thing in John Gibson.  He’s ok to this point, but he has yet to establish himself as a top goaltender in the league as many expected him to be.  Definitely not betting against that happening, but you can’t assume he will become that guy either.

 

 

24. Conor Timmins (28)  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I fully admit, I don’t feel great about this prediction.  Timmins would fill a need for the Hawks, no doubt.  But at this point it feels as if Stan Bowman has a theory of just continually stockpiling offensive talent in the draft.  So Klim Kostin could make a lot of sense for them, Nick Suzuki could make sense, Nikita Popugaev could make sense.  But then again, at SOME point, they have to start taking defencemen high in the draft.  Timmins is a late 98 birthdate and plays a very mature two way game, so he might not be too far away.  The question on him is whether or not the ceiling is very high.

 

 

25. Klim Kostin (29)  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

I’m having a tough time slotting Kostin.  I know he’s going to drop in everyone’s rankings between now and June, and I’m certain he’s already lower on most teams boards than he is ranked by independent services because of the alarming rate that Russian’s bust at, and then of course you have the KHL factor.  The more I give it thought, the more I wonder if he won’t completely fall out of the 1st round.  But if he is going to be a 1st round pick it’ll have to be a team needing to take a home run swing and that could be the Rangers.  New York’s system is bare as bare can be, so adding a talent like Kostin would be huge…if he pans out.

 

 

26. Nick Suzuki (21)  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Suzuki is far from a need for the Pens, but if they still own their first rounder then I think they’ll just simply continue to do what they do best which is add wingers with speed.  I wouldn’t say Suzuki has great speed, but he’s a good enough skater to fit in with what the Pens are doing.  He’s always moving his feet and is really active on the forecheck.  I would definitely say that D is the need for the Pens (as it seems to be with most teams), but Jim Rutherford isn’t a big believer in drafting D-men.

 

 

27. Urho Vaakanainen (25)  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

No, I’m not picking a Finnish player for them because they have a Finnish GM.  That’s the mistake most made prior to last year’s draft.  I believe a D-man will be the pick though based on the success this team has had this season built from having such a great blueline.  They also don’t have much depth on D in the system, so it might be smart to address it now before it becomes a problem.

 

 

28. Nikita Popugaev (NR)  Prince George  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 204  Shot: R

Comparison: Nik Antropov

I don’t have Popugaev in my rankings for two reasons.  1) would be the Russian factor.  2) he’s not a very good skater.  So while I love that size, and he is skilled, he has some pretty big red flags.  The Habs however have been on a mission under Marc Bergevin to get bigger and they haven’t been afraid of the Russian factor at all.  In fact, two of their last three 1st round picks have been Russians playing in the CHL.

 

 

29. Robert Thomas (20)  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Derick Brassard

Doug Wilson likes his centres.  This club has constantly had depth down the middle spill over to the wings.  Tomas Hertl is a natural centre, Joe Pavelski is a natural centre, Patrick Marleau is a natural centre, yet all of them have primarily played the wing for the Sharks the last few seasons (Marleau since 09).  Joe Thornton could be in his final season with the club too.  So I like Thomas with this pick.  Speedy, skilled, he is the type of kid the Sharks have had great success in developing.

 

 

30. Erik Brannstrom (NR)  HV71  SHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

I was originally going to give them a goaltender.  But this organization, while they’ve had a great season with prospect development and obviously the big club has played great under regular season coaching god Bruce Boudreau…but the fact of the matter is that they still have some big needs in the organization beyond finding a future goaltender.  So perhaps the time to address that is later in the draft, though it depends on what picks they’ll have left, it’s definitely something they need to address in this draft.  I’ll say Brannstrom is the pick here, a great skating, high risk kid who only recently got called up to the SHL.  Also, Brannstrom is one of the youngest players in the draft which is the latest trend you’ll see scouts go overboard on.  The Wild aren’t deep anywhere, but they’re especially thin on D.  With how weak the draft is and how many teams need defence this year I would guess that a lot of D-men go much earlier than they should in this draft.

 

 

31. Henri Jokiharju (27) Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

What to get the team that has it all?  Much like the Ducks, the Caps have done a great job of maintaining a great system while being near the top of the standings just about every season since 2009.  They have D-men coming in Madison Bowey and Lucas Johansen, but I would guess Bowey is on the team next season, and Johansen hasn’t had a great season.  So perhaps investing in another D-man would be the way to go here, although while I have Jokiharju still on the board I wouldn’t be shocked if any D-man worth taking is gone by about the 25th pick with the need so many teams have on the blueline.

 

 

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Last Night We Saw the Greatest…Everything

Ummmmm…WOW!!  For three quarters I was thinking “not like this”.  I don’t have a rooting interest, and especially in the Super Bowl all I’m pulling for is a great game, and whatever I bet.  So I had the Falcons +3 as some of you may know, and I had the over of 57.5.  Oh, and then I also wrote this yesterday:

“this is likely going to be a classic.  I’m going to be disappointed if this game is anything less than high scoring and down to the wire.  Two great QB’s, historic ramifications, it would be just a little short of shocking if these two didn’t produce a great game.”

So needless to say, I was extremely disappointed with how the game was going.  But by the time it was done I was giddy, and couldn’t believe how amazing the game was that I just seen.  It exceeded my expectations, which as you just read, were extremely high!

 

Just a heads up here, you’re going to read the word greatest and great A LOT in this piece!

 

I’m saying it right now, and I’m sure all the “hot take” have said it since about last Monday, but this was the greatest Super Bowl of all time.  A lot of the time it’s the 4th quarter that’s great and people want to make the game out to be better than it was.  That was Super Bowl XLIII.  The 4th quarter in that game was amazing, but the game as a whole really wasn’t too good.  The year before with Super Bowl XLII, you had the amazing upset by the Giants, the Tyree catch, 19-0 on the line, but the reality was that the first three quarters were really boring.

 

You could say that here, but it was different.  Because for three quarters last night, it wasn’t BORING, it was massively shocking!  As I said off the top, you just couldn’t believe that the Pats would go out like THAT.  So the shocker of how the game was going, how much of a struggle it was to get back in the game, the flurry in the last 6 minutes or so of the game, needing two 2 point conversions, the Julio Jones catch, but then the Julien Edelman catch, the OT, high scoring, and of course the drama of Tom Brady going for his record tying 5th Super Bowl title.  Hell, even the half time show is being talked about as the greatest ever!  It was one of those games where you just know it when you see it, and that was the greatest Super Bowl of all time.

 

And it was such a great example of how to approach life.  Sometimes life just starts booting you in the balls for seemingly no reason.  Frankly, that’s been going on with me lately, been a rough go the last week or so.  Happens to everyone, but in the moment you can’t help but wonder “why me?”  Brady wasn’t getting any blocking, which was really hurting his accuracy as he had pressure most of the night, and when he would make a throw he wasn’t getting a lot of help from the Pats receiving core.  Even Julien Edelman dropped one or two.  They were getting their asses handed to them.  And yet he just kept coming.

 

What essentially happened in this football game is that Tom Brady broke the Falcons will.  Even when the Pats were coming back, the Falcons pass rush was still giving the Pats O-line headaches, still getting a ton of pressure and making life miserable for Brady.  The strip-sack was obviously the turning point of the game, but the Falcons were still playing hard, still getting pressure.  But Brady kept coming and you could see the Falcons D start to tire late in the 4th and simply had their will break.  The moment that coin toss came up heads, the game was over.  There was zero need to play the OT.

 

Brady is the greatest ever.  And I know everyone is saying that now, it’s not breaking news.  He was already for me, and for most, but it’s now cemented and I’m still in awe of the accomplishment.  He’s the Michael Jordan of the NFL right now really in that there is no debate.  Seven Super Bowl appearances, five Super Bowl wins, four Super Bowl MVP’s, he is responsible for the two biggest comebacks in Super Bowl history, one of those against one of the greatest defenses of all time, he’ll likely surpass a lot of Peyton Manning’s regular season records in the next few seasons if he stays true to his word that he isn’t retiring anytime soon.  He won when he was young and he’s winning in what should be the twilight of his career.

 

And a lot of this is Bill Belichick without a doubt.  Nobody should forget that factor either, and in a coaches league that is vital.  He is probably the greatest coach now in league history.  Peyton Manning never had Bill Belichick.  John Elway never had Bill Walsh.  Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, none of those guys had the type of coaching Brady and Montana had.  But it’s as much a quarterbacks league as it is a coaches league, and we’ll never know how those guys would have done with elite level coaching.  But it’s pointless, because Brady got Belichick, and it’s been maybe the best run of success in the history of sports.

 

Think about this, and I may have said it two years ago but I’m saying it again, this franchise is two of the most clutch and greatest catches of all time away from having won seven Super Bowls.  Seven in the last 16 seasons.  They’ve gone to 10 AFC title games in 16 seasons.  This is incredible.  I know so many average fans just despise them because they hear that Brady is a cheater, Belichick is a cheater, they win all the time, Belichick never smiles, Brady seemingly is the perfect human with the perfect life, so they want to see them lose so badly.  But man, this is legendary stuff we are seeing.  I just don’t get how people can’t appreciate that more than they do.

 

Julio Jones out of all people must really hate this, and he must REALLY hate Julien Edelman in particular!  That catch was awesome considering the situation.  It’s not a rare catch in the league any longer, we see it every week.  But considering the time remaining in what was the biggest game of his life, it was incredible.  The only mistake the Falcons made was the play calling following that catch.  I fully understand and commend Kyle Shanahan and Dan Quinn for going for the kill there, but a field goal was essentially a kill shot there.  Run the ball twice, and perhaps a slant route or screen on third down.  Worst case scenario there is you kick the field goal and the Pats are back down 11.

 

I can’t leave this without looking at next season and the fact of the matter is that now the Pats have a chance to go three in four years for the second time.  This whole thing is a dynasty.  It’s a cap era/new-age dynasty, whatever you wish to call it, but it’s a dynasty.  But they’ll call it another dynasty all itself if the Pats win again next season.  They have seven picks in the draft (not all their’s, but two in the 4th round, no 6th rounder but honestly who cares about a 6th), they currently have the 5th most available cap space this offseason, there is really zero reason they shouldn’t, and if I’m Bill Belichick I’m now in the business of going hard after it.  He’s 65 next season, so he doesn’t have a lot of years left, and Brady may only have one season left, because once that arm goes it goes in a hurry!  So load up now, get that third ring in four years for the second time.  Make some of these benchmarks even more difficult to get to for others.  Hell, chase another perfect season!  It’s literally the only thing left for them to do is go 19-0.

 

I sound like a Patriots fan boy here I know.  Trust me, I’m not.  I’m just a sucker for greatness.  We saw maybe the greatest game of all time.  We saw maybe the greatest coach in league history win his record 5th Super Bowl.  And we saw the greatest QB and likely greatest player period in NFL history have his crowning moment last night with what some may call his masterpiece.

 

Greatest game, greatest coach, greatest player, great night!

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Super Bowl LI Picks ATS & Over/Under

A whole blog on just one freaking pick?!?  Well, two picks, but only one ATS.  Ok, so first things first, this is likely going to be a classic.  I’m going to be disappointed if this game is anything less than high scoring and down to the wire.  Two great QB’s, historic ramifications, it would be just a little short of shocking if these two didn’t produce a great game.

 

So with that being said, here is what I’m thinking for today.

 

The Falcons are likely the better team here.  But it’s tough to get past the fact that they’re going against Belichick and Brady.  All that experience, all those rings, two weeks for Belichick to prepare, it’s tough to ignore those things as not only the advantages, but the types of advantages that historically, at least in sports, that turn an underdog into a decided favorite (reading me for the first time?  I try to spell “American” when talking NFL).

 

But I believe that is getting very overrated.  The fact is that the Falcons blew out a good Seahawks team, and a Packers team which was the hottest in the league.  The questions about the Falcons being able to handle the pressure have been answered.  Under Mike Smith, this team had a tough time with the pressure.  But this is Dan Quinn’s team, and they have shown no signs all season of not being able to handle the pressure.  Also, they’re playing the Pats.  Maybe against a team playing in their first Super Bowl as a group like themselves the Falcons would have a tendency to buy their press clippings and not know how to deal with everything.  But against the Pats, they know they’ll need everyone going at their best to win so I believe at least from an effort standpoint that the Falcons will be peaking.

 

As for the Pats…

 

Did you know that Bill Belichick against the spread isn’t that great coming off of bye weeks?  I found this interesting, R.J. Bell of pregame.com pulled out this stat on Colin Cowherd’s Blazing 5 podcast yesterday that Belichick in week one, coming off bye weeks in the regular season and coming off bye weeks in the postseason all combined has a .500 record.  That’s it.  .500.  So for all this mystique about how the amazing Bill Belichick is a monster to deal with coming off bye weeks, that’s all his record is ATS.  So the betting public is drastically overrating that edge.

 

This isn’t to say the Pats can’t win.  Absolutely they can win!  But three points is too many.  I really wish it was 3.5 or 2.5, hence why Vegas is so good at this.  But it’s 3, and I think in the NFL these days with the extra point so difficult we are seeing many more one and two point games.  So betting a game with a spread of three is a lot less risky right now than it was two seasons ago when the EP was a gimme.

 

Then you have the over, and I frankly hate this.  I never win betting the under.  I had the under as my pick and as of writing this part I literally JUST changed my pick, because I literally NEVER win betting the under!  But it worries me.  On one hand, Vegas keeps trying to scare bettors off with these Falcons over/under’s by putting the number sky high.  So that’s my reasoning for the over pick.  But this game hurts offense a lot of the time.  Not every time, but a lot of the time because of the long stoppages, long half time, offense is all about rhythm and it gets hurt badly in this game.  I assume the Falcons know this, and I know the Pats know this, but it’s still scary for me.  But again, I can’t win betting the under!  And let’s be honest, it’s the Super Bowl.  Do you SERIOUSLY want to sit there and pull for points not to be scored?!  Let’s get real.  Sometimes it’s just fun to bet the side you’re pulling for.

 

So I’m guessing if you have read this whole thing already, you know where I’m going with these picks, but I’ll make it official:

Falcons +3

Over 58.5

At the end of the day, these two picks are betting on a classic.  Falcons keep it really tight, I believe this game is a total toss up, I’ll pick the Pats to win 31-29 in what’ll be a top five Super Bowl of all time.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Draft: Top 32 Prospects

Lets start all of this off by saying, this is not shaping up to be a good draft.  The way I see it is there is a top 2 in this draft, I think one guy is a clear cut 3 who could still make it a top 3, but that isn’t very flattering.  No Matthews, no Laine, sure as hell no McDavid (and no Adrian Dater, Laine will never be the player McDavid is or will be).  And from what I understand at this point (and I make no bones about it, I learn as I go about these draft classes) this draft doesn’t have a ton of depth either.  Probably a better draft than 2012 (which is probably the worst draft in the last 17 years), better than 2007’s top 10 (no 1st line centre’s or number 1 D-men were in that one), but it’s not looking pretty.

 

For this piece, it is only a top 32 (31 sounds dumb to me, and it likely won’t be long until there are 32 teams in the NHL).  Like I said, I’m still learning about a lot of these kids, so it would be ridiculous to do a top 40 or 50 at this point when I really have trouble finding reliable information about 32 of these kids.  Especially in this draft.  Bob McKenzie said it back around Christmas and it’s still holding true, there is just zero draft buzz this year.  We really need some kids to start emerging.

 

As for what I look for?  I really look at trends and try to project where these kids may end up, so I put risers higher than most, and guys falling lower than most.  I also like rare, so I might value things like elite speed, elite size or right handed shooting centres and D more than most.  I’m really into building a team not just compiling talent, so I really put a premium on centres and D over wingers.

 

There, no you know.  You can tell me what a dip shit I am in the comments section below.

 

 

dw_nolan_patrick_brandon1. Nolan Patrick  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

The only question about Patrick is whether he’ll be that elite 1st line centre.  He could be.  I love the Scheifele comparison because nobody saw Scheifele becoming a PPG player that he’s been in the last 100 games he’s played.  Scouts, for some insane reason, think that if a guy’s skill level isn’t off the charts that he can’t produce big numbers.  He does all the little things that’ll help him produce big numbers.  He’s a kid who’ll be a coaches dream.  Don’t expect him to be a fixture on Sportsnets “Plays of the Month” or see much of a TSN’s “highlight of the night”.  Just expect him to be a cornerstone piece for whichever franchise gets him.  Even if that’s only as a real solid 2nd line centre, he will still be a vital piece to anyone’s puzzle.

 

hischier2. Nico Hischier  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Joe Pavelski

One thing I’ve noticed watching him first at the World Junior’s and then in the top prospects game, he’s bigger than I thought.  He’s a very legit 6’1 already and wouldn’t be surprised if at the combine he measures close to 6’2.  Of course he’s slender right now, but being 6’1.5 or 6’2 he could stand to get up to 200 pounds without it hurting his wheels.  Great vision, and where the Pavelski comparison comes from is he’s got a tremendous shot and is terrific on the PP.  Neither of this top two are locks to be first line centres in the league, but as I said with Patrick which will be true here with Hischier, both are going to be vital pieces to any teams puzzle.

 

timothy-liljegren-rogle3. Timothy Liljegren  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 191  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

Everyone will have their own comparisons, and they will seldom differ.  But I don’t know if I like a comparison I make in the rest of this piece more than Liljegren to Letang.  He plays really smooth, really mobile, terrific in the offensive zone especially running a pp, and ok in his own zone, but not necessarily going to be used in a shutdown role, of course that can change as his game develops.  Add in, size is similar, as is the hand he shoots.  As an Oiler fan, I’d kill to land the 3rd pick in this draft, as Liljegren is EXACTLY what the Oilers lack.  He’s exactly what a lot of teams lack.  With how difficult it is to find a high end RH shot D-man, I STILL believe Liljegren has a outside shot at being the top pick come June.

 

vilardi4. Gabe Vilardi  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

I know the calling card on Vilardi is his playmaking, and everyone loves Johansen’s shot, so why the comparison?  Well, obviously the size, the right handed shot, to me the skating ability is very similar, but also Johansen has been much more of a playmaker since that 33 goal 2014 campaign.  And it isn’t as if Vilardi has a muffin of a shot.  So I believe this is a very fair comparison.  I think Vilardi has a chance to move past Liljegren into the 3rd spot, but being a centre like the top two are I don’t believe he can get himself into that top spot mix.  I just don’t think he has the ceiling Patrick or Hischier have.  But a RH shooting centre with real good size and isn’t afraid to mix it up physically…he’s going to be a great add for someone.

 

 

mittelstadt5. Casey Mittelstadt  Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Bryan Little

He started the season in Green Bay of the USHL, but he left the Gamblers around December I believe it was and gone back to his high school team in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  Unlike Riley Tufte last season, Mittelstadt tore up the USHL while with Green Bay, and from my understanding this was more about wanting to finish high school at home rather than not being able to hack it in the USHL (he was more than “hacking” it in that league!)  Anyway, some people may look negatively upon the Bryan Little comparison, but Little has been one of the most underrated centres in the league the last five seasons.  And he’s a safe player who can be used in just about any situation and I see that as being what Mittelstadt can be.  Maybe he pans out to be better than Little, but that type of guy.  Doesn’t really have a flaw in his game and I wonder if he was playing in the NCAA or CHL if he wouldn’t be in the discussion for the top two in this draft.

 

 

rasmussen6. Michael Rasmussen  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 215  Shot: L

Comparison: Jeff Carter

Just to tame the comparison a bit, Jeff Carter in that he skates real well (not as well as Carter) and he’s a shoot first centre.  Believe it or not, when I was first doing a list up back in November (that I never put out, but I did a top 20), I had Rassmussen 6th when everyone else had him out of the top 10.  Now Bob McKenzie comes along with his brilliance and great looks (what?) and has him at 7.  For me it’s mainly because I’m seeing him as another Ryan Johansen or Logan Brown.  That’s not a comparison in playing style, but rather a comparison in draft rankings.  Both those players were considered back end of the 1st round type talents at the start of their draft years, and slowly worked their way up the boards.  Anyway, Rassmussen has 55 points in 50 games as of writing this.  I’m guessing, should he keep it up, this is more of the ranking range you’ll see him in come June, maybe even higher.

 

7. Cale Makar  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 175  Shot: R

Comparison: Dan Boyle

This is the wild card of the first round…at this point anyway.  It’s clear he’s rocketing up everyone’s board which is the main reason I made it a point to putting him higher than most, because that’s where this is headed, it almost always does.  But he plays in the AJ.  Remember people going nuts over Joe Colborne and Dylan Olsen?  It isn’t exactly the toughest competition.  Makar is as flashy of a defenceman as there is.  He needs to prove he can play without the puck though.  That’s a vital trait for centre’s and wingers let alone D-men!  But a right handed shooting D who can fly and has the confidence with the puck that this kid has is very intriguing.  It’s one of the toughest pieces to find in the NHL, which is the big reason I have him ranked this high without seeing Makar play against top competition (though I have personally seen him play quite a bit).

 

tippett8. Owen Tippett  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 202  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

He’s very one dimensional.  He’s a lot like Keiffer Bellows in last year’s draft, who lots of scouts seemingly loved more than NHL teams did.  I never too high on these types of players early in the draft, but frankly it just goes to show you how thin this draft is.  Speed, shot, and decent size.  I fear he’ll be a one dimensional player, but he has the tools to be more of a complete player than he shows right now.

 

9. Cody Glass  Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

There are always a few guys like Glass in the draft where I really want to know if they’re a legit centre or not.  I see centre a lot, but TSN has him as a C/RW.  It’s so rare that if a guy is playing both in junior that he’s a centre in the pro’s.  Yet last year, Pierre-Luc Dubois was one of those rare guys.  Glass is a tremendous skater, has real nice size, as always with me I would want to know how intelligent of a kid he is (not saying he’s not, I just have no idea).  If those two things check out, I’d probably have Glass higher than this.  Size, speed, big numbers (65 points in 47 games), so I’m asking myself what the big flaw is?  Hell, he’s even a right handed shot which is a tougher find around the league.  So he’s definitely someone I’m going to dig deeper and keep an eye on from here on out.

 

necas10. Martin Necas  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 167  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

Another guy who is listed as a centre, but I’m not sure he’ll be a centre at the next level.  I compare him to Hemsky simply because no matter where he plays, he has that same level of confidence with the puck and is much more of a playmaker than a shooter (which if you’re an Oilers fan would drive you nuts at times).  He’ll need a year or two to pack on the pounds if he wants to play centre in the pros, but this kid could be an elite point producer in the show someday.

 

tolvanen11. Eeli Tolvanen  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

This is lower than most have him, but if you read my draft stuff then you know I am harder on size and position than most seem to be.  So a 5’10 winger, I am by no means suggesting he can’t play or produce in the NHL, but I just see it as an easy piece to acquire which for me hurts a players draft stock.  Also, I see Tolvanen as a one dimensional guy, much like the guy who I compare him to.  But that one dimension is vital to an NHL teams success.  A pure sniper with a tremendous shot.

 

12. Miro Heiskanen  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Leddy

He was maybe the best player for Finland at the WJC this year, which means a lot less in 2017 than it did in 2016.  Last year they won it all, this year they humiliated themselves.  Still, it’s something, and far from the only impressive thing he’s done this season.  The kid is seeing pretty big minutes for HIFK which is pretty rare for a kid in his draft year.  He might have the best stick defensively out of any kid in this draft, and engages physically though at his size he tends to lose a lot more of those battles than he wins.  He provides everything you would expect a D-man ranked this high and at this size to have.  Speed, escapability, great passer, great vision, the only flaw other than his size for me is he doesn’t have a big shot.  He likes using a wrist or snap shot on the point, which can work just fine as it has for the Flames Mark Giordano.  Get the shot through and let your forwards to the rest.

 

foote13. Callan Foote  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 200  Shot: R

Comparison: Adam Foote

Old school type defenceman.  He defends first, which the analytics community does not like.  The fact of the matter is that there is going to be a hell of a lot more time when a player is on the ice that he doesn’t have the puck, so you better know how to play without the puck.  Having a good stick, good positioning, shot suppression, puck retrieval, zone exits, zone entries, all area’s that should be examined in a D-man’s game, not just simply looking at his offensive numbers.  And this isn’t at all to suggest Foote is hapless offensively.  40 points in 50 games as of writing this.  Only 5 goals though, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that number.  Much like Matt Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows a year ago, Foote plays a VERY similar game to his dad (hence the comparison).  And while Adam was never an offensive force, he was an elite shutdown D-man.  No reason to believe Cal can’t be that same guy.  That type of defenceman really gets undervalued these days, so I doubt Foote goes as high as I believe he should.

 

hague14. Nicolas Hague  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 208  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

You see a kid who is 6’5, 208 and you think defensive D-man who is basically a coke machine.  Hague is actually very active offensively, and it’s his defensive game which needs the work.  A lot of the Parayko comparison (other than his similar size) comes from his bomb of a point shot and how much he utilizes it.  I still have him relatively high even though McKenzie’s rankings had him dropped to the 20’s.  I wonder if that’s scouts once again believing that a guy isn’t intelligent because of his defensive zone play, but he was the OHL academic player of the year which at least tells me at worst he isn’t a dumb kid.  If he cleans up the play in his own zone this kid is going to be a heck of a pick.

 

15. Elias Pettersson  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 156  Shot: L

Comparison: Ondrej Palat

Right now he’s rail thin obviously, but a lot of scouts are in love with this kids upside because of that.  And he already is impressive, as his numbers are equal to what Alexander Wennberg’s were at the same age and only a point of where Filip Forsberg was.  Highly skilled, and plays a complete 200 foot game.  I’ve seen some question his toughness.  Tough to say when he’s this slight if he’ll get more brave so to speak once he’s up to 180-195 pounds.

 

lias-andersson16. Lias Andersson  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

Versatility is what this kid is all about.  I list him as a centre, but he plays all three forward positions.  And while that isn’t a very sexy attribute for fans or media to discuss, coaches adore these guys.  On that alone Andersson is a pretty safe bet to play in the league someday soon.  I do question his upside though.  Not that being a 3rd line centre isn’t a need, I probably value it more than most!  But if that’s all he becomes, those aren’t the most difficult guys to find.

 

juusovlimkitricityamericansvkelownabtjfhmygp2_l17. Juuso Valimaki  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 204  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Murray

Bob McKenzie’s list has him ahead of both Cal Foote and Nic Hague, but I just don’t see it that way.  Valimaki is at a PPG pace which is great (42 points, 42 games), but neither of the former two are that far off that.  I totally get that the game has changed and smaller puck moving D-men are all the rage right now, but I’ll still take the guys who can be all world than guys who will be challenged to play a shutdown role.  Valimaki will get his nose dirty with the physical stuff and unlike his countryman Miro Heiskanen he already has the thick frame to hold up to the punishment.

 

poehling18. Ryan Poehling  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Paul Stastny

Had a great Ivan Hlinka this summer, one of the best players in the tournament, but then has struggled making the jump to the NCAA this season.  Still, real good size, seems to be committed to learning a 200 foot game, has good wheels, good hands, good vision, there is no real reason to believe this kid can’t be at least a 3rd line centre in the NHL and definitely has the upside to be a solid 2nd line centre.

 

19. Shane Bowers  Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Love this comparison.  I should point out, Bowers is a Canadian kid despite playing in the USHL, so don’t think I just compared a 6’1 American centre to another 6’1 American centre.  But if you think of the way Dubinsky plays it is extremely similar to the way Bowers plays.  He’ll be in a guys face all night, and as we’ve seen this season with Nazem Kadri, that is the type of centre all teams would love to have on their team.

 

20. Robert Thomas  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Derick Brassard

Shocking, another London Knights prospect.  This kid is a major riser this season.  I have him higher than likely anyone, but his trending arrow is pointing straight North and it’s pretty rare that draft risers don’t continue to rise.  But also just look at the assets he has.  Awesome wheels, obviously not big but his size is fine, has that right handed shot which I never shut up about, and he’s a tremendous playmaker who can change his pace of play.  The more ice he’s seen this season, the better he’s been.

 

21. Nick Suzuki  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Size is fine, putting up good numbers, but this kid is going to play in the show because he’s always engaged.  Has a tremendous motor.  I can see him being a guy who’ll do whatever it takes to play in the league someday.  Won’t be concerned with being a top six guy, which can end up hurting a lot of players.  Wheels are good, can play in any situation (four short handed goals this season), decent size, and a good shot.  So to me Suzuki is a very safe pick.

 

kristian_vesalainen122. Kristian Vesalainen  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

He’s slipped this season, so he slips even further in my mind.  It’s just a fact with these rankings that when a players stock is on the rise he’ll likely go higher than expected and when a players stock is in free fall then he’ll likely go lower than expected.  Still, the kid has that great size, and he’s great around the net (where the JVR comparison comes from).  The concern’s are his wheels and his motor, which obviously isn’t an original story for a player with size and skill.

 

23. Kailer Yamamoto  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 153  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

He’s tiny, and I likely wouldn’t have him this high most seasons.  But this season, he’s worth using a 1st round pick on.  63 points in 43 games for the Chiefs this season, he’s got a high motor, obviously a ton of speed and skill, and despite his stature is pretty willing to go anywhere on the ice.  Obviously he’s not going to dish out the punishment, but he doesn’t shy away from the corners or front of the net.  Again though, my concern with a lot of these guys isn’t so much if they’re willing or not, it’s are they going to get overmatched in those area’s in the show?

 

oettinger_horizontal24. Jake Oettinger  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 203  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

As unpretty as this draft is shaping up to be, the one that looks stronger than most years is goaltending.  Oettinger, Mike DiPietro, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Ian Scott, Cayden Primeau, Keith Petruzzelli, Maxim Zuhkov, there are a LOT of goaltenders in everyone’s top 50.  Now, perhaps that’s great goaltending, or that’s a product of a weak draft so the attention tends to go more in that direction (it did in 2012).  Oettinger is worthy of this ranking though.  The kid has the size, has the athleticism, very technically sound and smooth, has phenomenal numbers, he’s everything you look for a goaltender to be.  Now, that’s physically.  Mental toughness is the most important component for a tendy which is why they are the biggest wild card’s to draft.  He was the 3rd goaltender for the States at the World Junior’s this year, though he never got a chance to play with Tyler Parsons and Joseph Woll both playing so well.

 

25. Urho Vaakanainen  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

It gets a little redundant after a while, but Vaakanainen is much like most other smallish puck moving D-men.  Great skater, moves the puck well (obviously), decision making is suspect at times, keeps a good gap defensively, good stick.  He’s a safe pick, I’d say the big question mark with him right now is how much can his offensive game grow because at his size you expect a guy who can put up at least 30-40 points from the back end.

 

comtois26. Maxime Comtois  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Milan Michalek

Let’s just be honest about Comtois.  This kid is going to be at best a 2nd round pick because scouts have soured on him and so his stock is in free fall right now.  This happened to Kale Clague last season, he fell from the preseason rankings and despite having a good 2nd half of the season and a fantastic playoffs, he ended up going 51st in the draft, and nobody had him as a potential 1st round pick by June (except me).  I’m not ready to completely bail on him because of the things I had heard about him last year.  Perhaps he’s playing through injuries, who knows what’s going on off the ice, perhaps he’s just put far too much pressure on himself this season, could be that he over trained in the summer which has hurt his game.  We don’t know.  Look at Nicolas Roy.  You all found out how great he was at this years WJC, but he was expected to be a top 20 pick heading into the 2015 season, and completely fell on his face.  Could be the same case here, just don’t expect him to be in my mock drafts.

 

27. Henri Jokiharju  Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

Another Finnish D-man.  He’s just a pure puck mover.  Great skater, passes the puck very well whether it be with zone exits or on the PP, and maybe his best attribute is how good of a stick he has defensively.  He isn’t real flashy, but he is very effective.

 

28. Conor Timmins  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I love that he isn’t your standard puck moving, won’t get his nose dirty type D-man.  He plays with aggression in the D zone, in addition to putting up good numbers, being a right handed shot (there it is again), and being a kid who can play in any situation.  Late birthday has him just slightly behind Jokiharju for me, but both are nice prospects.

 

kostin29. Klim Kostin  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

Well, if you follow other draft rankings you are saying “FINALLY” with a lot of rage in your heart.  Look, Russian forwards are extremely unpredictable.  The big, and/or skilled, “unstoppable” Russian winger seem to bust more than any other type of player, and they’ve burnt their bridge with me.  Filatov, Burmistrov, Yakupov, Grigorenko, Nichushkin, Gurianov has had a rough year and a half since being picked, I’m just done with these guys.  You will likely point out Tarasenko and Kuznetsov, but they weren’t picked in the top 15, all those guys I mentioned were.  Added to the bust factor, this kid is now out for the rest of the season.  So I’m not touching him anywhere in the top 20.  At 29th though, for the right team, he would be well worth the shot.  He’s kind of the opposite of Comtois in that I won’t have him as high as others, but he’ll likely go in the top 20 of my mock draft.

 

30. Kole Lind  WHL  Kelowna

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Killorn

Good speed, good shot, and plays gritty.  Probably not shocking that these are the qualities a Saskatchewan kid possesses, I know.  But there is always a spot for a kid like this in the show.  Something that helps separate Lind from other kids around this range is also nothing of a shocker.  Kelowna simply pumps out more quality prospects than anyone else in the WHL.

 

31. Michael DiPietro  Windsor  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 196  Glove: L

Comparison: Marty Turco

I have railed against people who basically champion for the undersized kids in the draft.  It’s clear to me that they’re A) pulling for who they view as the underdogs, B) they don’t pay close enough attention to how GM’s need to build a team as opposed to just simply compiling talent, and C) pulling for all GM’s to move in this direction because it’s much more fun to watch.  It isn’t as if I disagree with the latter, but I also try to keep in mind what has been much more successful over the last 100 years in the NHL, which is size.  But in THIS scenario, I just believe DiPietro is getting drastically undervalued and it’s obviously because of his size.  Something that he has working for him this season though is Juuse Saros has been exceptional, and he was a kid who the Preds debated drafting in the 4th round because of his size.  DiPietro has ridiculous numbers to this point.  2.15 G.A.A. and a .925 Sv%.  He won’t go in the 1st round, might not go in the 2nd round, but this is my top 32, not my mock draft.  Sometimes you just have to say “f*** the size, this kid is just damn good”.  If I’m a scout, the big thing I would look for with an undersized goaltender is whether or not teams are beating him up top while in the butterfly.  If they aren’t, I don’t see what the concern would be.

 

32. Isaac Ratcliffe  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Dustin Penner

As is the case with a lot of big players, Ratcliffe needs to work on his first step.  But at 6’5 and only 196 pounds, you could likely chalk that up to being a lanky kid who doesn’t have the strength to match his frame.  At top speed his skating is great for a player his size.  Hasn’t shown a nasty streak to this point, so doubtful that’ll ever come.  Leading goal scorer and point producer on a weak Storm team this season.

 

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Where Does Your Team Stand?

The All-Star game was yesterday.  I hope you all did something else while that was on.  What a complete waste of time that game is.  The NHL hypes how great the 3 on 3 worked last season…it didn’t.  The John Scott story made it great.  It really goes to show you how incompetent the league is when they have all those top 100 players in town and they don’t have the foresight to do a draft and game with all of them.  It was important to do a game involving Justin Bieber, but not do alumni game featuring the top 100 players of all time?  You could have even added guys like McDavid and Matthews to the game, maybe had a line of Gretzky, Crosby and McDavid, but hey I’m sure the great minds in the NHL offices could figure out why that wouldn’t make money…

 

Anyway, the league is pretty poorly run, this is not news.  But while we hate the league, we still love the game and we have our favourite teams.  So with that being said, let’s take a look at where those teams are at going into their final 36-30 games.

 

Standings based off teams points percentage, which is the way everyone should be viewing the standings.

 

Anaheim

27-15-9 (.618)

3rd in the Pacific

They’ve been under the radar this season.  In the mix with the Sharks and Oilers fighting for 1st in the Pacific, but they really haven’t made much noise.  Not a bad thing at all.  But they really aren’t giving anyone much to talk about to this point.

 

Arizona

16-26-6 (.396)

7th in the Pacific

I’m starting to worry about the mix in the desert.  Dave Tippett can coach veteran players who are willing to play a 200 foot game.  The last two seasons though the Coyotes have gone really young, and they have been a tire fire.  Sure, they started good last season, but it was a pretty massive fluke.  They’re awful.  They have a ton of talent on the ice, yet they’re being coached to play 2-1 hockey.  That just doesn’t work.  The one great thing that’s happened for them this season is Mike Smith has been excellent.  This is great for the Coyotes in the sense that they now may have a chance to get that salary off their books should he agree to waive his NTC.  Calgary?  Dallas?  NY Islanders?  St. Louis?  Winnipeg?  They’ll have options.

 

Boston

25-21-6 (.538)

4th in the Atlantic

Nothing new here that you haven’t heard me say a lot since they fired Peter Chiarelli.  It’s a big mess in the front office there, it’s trickling down to the ice, it’s pretty clear that Claude Julien now isn’t getting along with people in the front office, they blame Chiarelli for everything that has gone wrong, they’re on their way to becoming a joke.

 

Buffalo

20-19-9 (.510)

6th in the Atlantic

The Eichel injury really set them back this season, but they still shouldn’t have been as bad as they were to start the season.  I have not been quiet about being a Tim Murray detractor, and I think the media is about to catch up.  In the past it’s been “man I love Tim Murray, I got a story about him doing something funny…”  Great, and how is he as a GM?  Gave up what turned into Colin White for Robin Lehner.  Made a terrible deal for Evander Kane.  I can’t honestly think of the move he’s made where I’ve gone “that really helped the Sabres out”.  Best thing for this team in my opinion would be to finish near the bottom of the East and let Terry Pegula clean house.  However seeing Pegula operate the NFL’s Bills, who knows if he can stir this ship in the right direction.

 

Calgary

25-24-3 (.510)

6th in the Pacific

I’m shocked at what’s gone down of late in Calgary.  I knew this team had a lot of question marks going into the season, but they’ve proven that when they simply get good goaltending, doesn’t have to be great, they’re a good hockey club.  But they have simply lost all their confidence.  They were fine until nine days ago, and that seemed to open the flood gates.  Chad Johnson got the start and was awful, and it was the Oilers, at home, which set them nine points back of the Oil, and they now have just a one point lead on both the Kings and Canucks who both have three games in hand.  The one red flag that I’m noticing which nobody else seems to be talking about is that Johnny Gaudreau has started to take a BEATING this season.  He took at least one big hit in every game against the Oilers this season, obviously the Komarov hit last week was brutal, and I’ve seen him take a lot of others.  This slump might be more physical than mental.  On top of all that as I wrote about last week, there are concerns over Brad Treliving perhaps being on his way out, which would likely trigger another coaching change, and literally in a matter of a week things have gone from looking great moving forward to being a mess.  The train hasn’t gone off the tracks just yet, but the concern is that it’s about to.  Hopefully the win in Ottawa get things pointed in the right direction for them again.

 

Carolina

21-20-7 (.510)

7th in the Metropolitan

They were VERY quietly moving up the standings after a bad start.  But then they ran into a buzz saw the last five games which saw them go pointless against Columbus (x2), Pittsburgh, Washington, and L.A.  I had them making the playoffs this season but it looks like that’ll be wrong.  They’re really well coached, and have a lot of young talent.  The biggest challenge they face is being in the toughest division in hockey.  No coincidence that four of those last five loses came against the top three teams in the Met.  But if they want to take this rebuild to the next level, they’re going to need guys like Elias Lindholm and Teuvo Teravainen to raise the level of their games offensively.

 

Chicago

30-16-5 (.637)

2nd in the Central

Meh.  It wouldn’t be “meh” for anyone else, but it is for the Hawks.  This team is on cruise control.  They’re going to the playoffs, I would guess they’ll end up playing the Preds in the 1st round, and just like two years ago I would expect a hell of a series once again.  But really, they don’t give you much to talk about during the regular season because they’re that damn good.

 

Colorado

13-31-2 (.304)

7th in the Central

Well, I’ve written about them already, so there really isn’t much more to be said.  It’s a shit show, as Edmonton Oilers fans are sympathetic to.  It’s going to be a fire sale from the sounds of it, though I would guess that much of the heavy lifting won’t happen until the offseason.  But this team needs more than just a fire sale.  Joe Sakic needs to step down, bring in a new GM, new coach (not a fair shake at all for Jared Bednar but you have to clean house), and you have make sure the blueline is overhauled.  This team is what the Oilers would be had they not won McDavid, don’t forget that Oilers fans.

 

Columbus

32-12-4 (.708)

2nd in the Metropolitan

They became the talk of the league on their 16 game streak.  But I really think this team is going to come crashing back to earth, if they aren’t already in the process of doing that.  Watch for them to have a rough end to the season.  Not saying they’ll miss the playoffs, but their schedule gets brutal in the last seven weeks of the season where they’ll play three games in four days once a week.  Seven sets of three games in four days, that’s tough.  They also have to start to get injuries at some point, Bobrovsky has started to cool off, guys like Atkinson, Gagner, Wennberg, and Foligno won’t all shoot above 15% for the rest of the season either.  They’ve just simply had everything go their way.  About damn time for the fans of this franchise, they’ve won two playoff games in 15 seasons!  I think they’re a playoff team, but truthfully I think by the time the playoffs roll around they’ll be a bit of an afterthought.

 

Dallas

20-20-10 (.500)

5th in the Central

It’s funny, nobody is really surprised at their drop off this season.  I know I picked them to get the 2nd wild card spot, and I GUESS they’re in the race for it.  But I don’t think they’re getting it.  Goaltending is too shaky, and I feel they went too young with their blueline this season.  It wasn’t great last year, but they were much more experienced.  Heading into last season everyone was raving about the offseason they had in 2015, yet I wasn’t a fan.  And then they had a great season finishing 1st in the Central, yet I still wasn’t a fan.  It was and still is a talented yet poorly constructed team.  Seguin and Spezza are two great offensive centres, but they’re perimeter guys who aren’t good away from the puck.  I think in time Seguin can become that player because of his speed but he isn’t there yet.  Also, Jamie Benn is the only physical/gritty forward they have in their top six.  Combine those things with a very young blueline and bad goaltending and you see why they are where they are.

 

Detroit

20-20-9 (.500)

7th in the Atlantic

Pretty sure that my call of them missing the playoffs is going to happen and if they want to get back to being a contender soon then they should start missing the playoffs.  This organization is weak on the blueline moving forward, weak down the middle moving forward, and they need to reboot.  I’ve said before, I don’t think it would take them very long because they have drafted well and do have some good assets, but as I’ve heard and seen some of their fan base and media contingency suggest, what difference does it make whether you miss the playoffs or get bounced in an extra five games?

 

Edmonton

28-15-8 (.627)

2nd in the Pacific

Tied for the most points in the Pacific at the All-Star break.  I knew this was possible and wrote about it in my season preview, but we’ve thought the Oilers were about to turn a corner a lot in the last seven years or so and they always fell flat on their face.  Going into the break we’ve seen their most impressive hockey of the season, and I really believe this team has yet another gear.  They’re big, tough, fast, and McDavid carrying the team has taken a lot of pressure off a lot of guys and allowed them to develop.  Now we are seeing RNH and Eberle playing really good 200 foot games and their offence is now coming around, and that’s in large part thanks to McDavid carrying the team through their struggles.  Next season they’ll add a much improved Jesse Puljujarvi to the mix.  They can still stand to improve a lot at the deadline however.  I believe the needs would be a 3rd line centre, a RH shooting offensive defenceman, a top 9 RW, and possibly a backup goaltender (we’ll see how Laurent Brossoit fares).  I highly doubt they would pay big for rentals, but some cheaper ones along the lines of Radim Vrbata, Michael Stone and Thomas Greiss I could perhaps see happening.  Playoffs this season, and I hope you’re ready for Cup expectations next season Oilers fans.

 

Florida

21-19-10 (.520)

5th in the Atlantic

Injuries have been the big problem with this club.  No Barkov, no Huberdeau, no chance.  They’ve actually done ok considering who is in their lineup most nights.  The problem for this team will be moving forward and the concern about going too heavy on analytics.  I don’t know how that’ll go, it’s never been done.  I’m a person who believes if you lean too heavy in any direction in life you’re likely setting yourself up to not so much fail, but avoid success (like that?!)

 

Los Angeles

24-21-4 (.531)

4th in the Pacific (2nd wild card)

They’re just quietly moving along.  They’ll get Jonathan Quick back in a month, and the big one which nobody is talking about is Anze Kopitar has yet to bust out.  He will, make no mistake.  He’s not finishing the season with 10 goals, probably around 20.  And probably above the 60 point mark.  While I really wish I had my pick back of them shocking the world and winning it all again this season, a lot can change in a few months and I did suggest at the time that they would start slow and finish strong.  However, being an Oilers fan I really don’t like the possibility of playing the Kings in the 1st round…

 

Minnesota

32-11-5 (.719)

1st in the Central

Welp…I’ll brag again.  I picked them to win the Central before the year in my season preview, I threw $20 bucks on it which will turn into $200 in April, and this is just a typical Bruce Boudreau team.  He is the best regular season coach in NHL history.  Yep, I’m saying that.  He can’t win for shit in the playoffs, but if you need a culture change like the Oilers needed or the Avs need now, you hire Bruce Boudreau.  Regular season, the man just wins.  Playoffs, especially in game 7’s, different story.  But for now Minnesota Wild fans shouldn’t care about that.  This has been a rejuvenating season for the Wild both in the standings and in the organization with a lot of prospects developing very nicely.

 

Montreal

29-14-7 (.650)

1st in the Atlantic

I’m not too high on the Habs even though I do think they can go relatively deep in the playoffs.  Carey Price elevates the team simply by being in goal.  He’s played bad by his standards over the last month, but as we seen last season his presence is just massive.  Now, a Matt Duchene deal goes down, that would change my tune on things, and I do think they have the pieces to get that deal done.  But until that happens this team is just too thin up the middle.  What if they play Boston in the playoffs?  Likely won’t, but if they did the Bruins can run Bergeron, Krecji and Backes against them and anyone of those guys could be a brutal matchup for a kid like Galchenyuk over a seven game series.

 

Nashville

24-17-8 (.571)

3rd in the Central

They’re coming on strong now.  They’ve taken a while to get their act together, but now they’re healthy, Jusse Saros is starting to see more games in goal (I believe he’ll be their starter come playoff time), and they’re going to be a problem for the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs if that’s who they get.  At the moment they look like a team who could win the West, and I’m not as down on the West as most are, I think this Preds team is THAT good.  This blueline hasn’t been healthy for a while now.  Obviously Subban is great, I can’t believe how good Ryan Ellis has become, and Roman Josi is their top guy.  Three guys capable of logging number one minutes, and Ekholm is a number two or three guy.  If Ryan Johansen plays to the level I believe he’s capable of, this team is going to be difficult for anyone to handle.

 

New Jersey

20-21-9 (.490)

8th in the Metropolitan

I never shut up about it, but I have to say it again here: they got crushed in the Hall/Larsson swap.  They won the value, but their blueline was already shaky with Larsson.  Without him, they’ve been terrible.  I GUESS you could make the argument that they’re in a playoff race, but I don’t see them being much of a factor down the stretch.  This is a very bare organization and as a big Taylor Hall fan I fear he’s going to be stuck with mediocrity or less for the next three and a half seasons.

 

NY Islanders

21-17-9 (.543)

6th in the Metropolitan

The coaching change has helped recently, and they seem to be making a push.  But I have my doubts they can sustain it, and I’m not sure it’ll make a big difference long term.  Much like the Devils, their prospect pool doesn’t look that good, they still have trouble drawing UFA’s despite a new arena, it’s not a good situation in Brooklyn at the moment.  And if you’re John Tavares, do you really believe you can win a Cup there?  Good for the Islanders and their fans if he does, but from the outside looking in I believe they’re never going to be much better than what they’ve been the last three seasons because they haven’t done too good developing their kids.  If Tavares isn’t willing to sign an extension come July 1st, I believe the Islanders have to move on, as difficult as that would be to stomach.

 

NY Rangers

31-17-1 (.643)

4th in the Metropolitan (1st wild card)

I’m not really buying them as anything of a threat in the East.  I guess they always are based on Henrik Lundqvist, but this team has got 21 goals out of Michael Grabner.  You really think that’s going to hold up?  Nick Holden has given them 24 points.  It’s just like Columbus in that they aren’t winning fluky, but they’re getting too good of seasons from too many guys.  That’s not to piss on what they’ve done either.  They’ve had a great season to this point and I wonder when people are going to notice that Alain Vigneault is an elite head coach in this league?  There are maybe three or four of them and he’s one of them.  But while it’s been a great season for the Rags, I just don’t see them getting out of the Metro.  It’s the Pens and Caps world, they’re just living in it.

 

Ottawa

26-15-6 (.617)

2nd in the Atlantic

You talk about under the radar.  The Sens season without Craig Anderson and riding Mike Condon has been amazing, and is getting absolutely zero recognition in this country thanks to the Leafs and Oilers having break out seasons.  But top to bottom this team is just real solid and while I have my worries about Guy Boucher as head coach long term, he’s now turned around two different organizations.  If they’ve been this good with Condon between the pipes, I would guess that they’ll be even better with Anderson back in goal soon.  I’m getting really amped about the possibility of the battle of Ontario returning this April after an 11 year absence.

 

Philadelphia

25-19-6 (.560)

5th in the Metropolitan (2nd wild card)

That 10 game streak, which had them see seven backup goaltenders and only one true number 1 goaltender, helped them fool people.  This isn’t a good team.  They’re well built moving forward, one of my favourites moving forward.  But right now they just aren’t that good.  Shaky goaltender, the blueline is going to be good but right now it’s a bit of a shit show.  Dave Hakstol has done a very good job in his year and a half there of getting a lot out of such a flawed team.  Playoffs are obviously possible, just like all the teams in the East, but I wouldn’t bet on them and if they do get in I can’t see them going anywhere barring trading for a top end goaltender or something along those lines.

 

Pittsburgh

30-13-5 (.677)

3rd in the Metropolitan

They’ve just cruised all season haven’t they?  A little under the radar, which is helpful.  I think of them the same way as I thought of the 09 Red Wings.  They were the defending Cup champs, and basically flew under the radar all season despite maintaining their spot near the top of the standings.  I would say right at the moment I’d have them as my Cup favourites.

 

San Jose

31-17-2 (.640)

1st in the Pacific

They’ve really surprised me this season.  I really expected a drop off, and it could still come, but they’ve been great since a rocky start.  I believe they’ll cruise to top spot in the Pacific.  The Oilers are playing great, but they’re due for a drop off, I still trust the Sharks a lot more.  Martin Jones has somewhat quietly become one of the top goaltenders in the league.  I always assumed he was another guy who was a product of the Kings system and would be horribly exposed in San Jose.  WRONG!  Very, very, VERY WRONG!  Definitely one of the favourites out of the West this season, look like the best bet in the Pacific come playoff time.  I wonder if now isn’t the time for Doug Wilson to make a big move which could possibly get this team over the hump?

 

St. Louis

24-20-5 (.541)

4th in the Central (1st wild card)

This team is slowly fading, and by the end of the season they might be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  Jake Allen is the big issue, as he is proving to be a guy who can’t hack it as a number 1 goaltender.  Now, maybe they go get a guy like Mike Smith as I suggested a week ago?  Doug Armstrong had him in Dallas.  But I wonder/worry for them that they’re going to stick with Allen no matter what this season.  To me, it was evident in the series against the Wild in 2015 that Allen wasn’t the answer long term, yet here we are with the Blues giving him another shot.  If they can shed Allen’s deal though, it would open up the possibility of Smith, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, some real solid options.  Other than between the pipes, nothing much to talk about.  Solid team top to bottom, just not in goal.

 

Tampa Bay

22-22-6 (.500)

8th in the Atlantic

I’m shocked at how big of a drop in play they’ve had since Stamkos went down.  Playoffs are still possible, but it sure is looking bleak at the moment.  Erik Erlendsson who covers the Lightning has hinted at the possibility of a coaching change in the last few weeks.  I believe Yzerman is using the Nikita Nesterov trade to Montreal as a bit of a test run for the team.  Maybe they respond with better play, maybe they quit, but at least Yzerman will get his answer which is more important this season than others seeing how Ben Bishop is gone after the season no matter what.  If they aren’t going to see the playoffs, Yzerman better get something for him.  It’s crazy though, this team even without Stamkos is far too talented to miss the playoffs.

 

Toronto

23-15-9 (.585)

3rd in the Atlantic

You might hate them, but for me personally I’m getting really amped at the idea of the Leafs getting in the playoffs, and I’m saying they will.  I’ll never back off the point that I want all seven Canadian teams to make the playoffs.  Doesn’t mean I’ll pull for all of them once they’re in, but the playoffs are much better when Canadian fans are packing the buildings.  I said it last year pre draft that I felt Matthews and Marner would be the Leafs version of Toews and Kane and so far that looks to be pretty spot on.  I don’t believe Mike Babcock gets enough credit with the job he’s done with these kids.  He’s the best coach in the league and it might not be close.  Think about this: it looks pretty good for the Leafs to meet the Sens in the 1st round of the playoffs.  Even better than that, it’s possible we get Habs v Leafs in the Atlantic division final.  That wouldn’t suck!  This team could stand to upgrade the blueline before the trade deadline.  The current group have really overachieved to this point in the season, but adding a couple of guys like a Michael Stone and/or Fedor Tyutin could be massive additions.

 

Vancouver

23-21-6 (.520)

5th in the Pacific

I can’t believe this team is legitimately in the hunt for a playoff spot.  Willie Desjardins to this point has to be a Jack Adams candidate.  Man, the goaltending looked weak, the blueline looked far too young, the Sedins looked to be fading and they hardly had anything else up front.  Yet here we are, granted in a Western Conference which is really down this season, but they’re in a playoff spot!  I can’t see them going anywhere should they get there, but as I laid out in the fall, this team won’t do a full on rebuild because their fan base has proven to be fickle in the past.  It’s a recipe for mediocrity, but it’s what they’re stuck with.

 

Washington

33-10-6 (.735)

1st in the Metropolitan

They’re back in top spot, and while that’s never a bad thing there is clearly something flawed with this club.  I’ve maintained that I believe a big upgrade at centre is needed, and with Matt Duchene available I would be looking to bring him in if I were GM Brian MacLellan.  This would allow them to move Kuznetsov to the wing and if the playoffs showed us anything last year it was that Evgeny Kuznetsov couldn’t handle either one of Crosby or Malkin.  Duchene is a 1st line centre.  Doesn’t mean you have to play him with Ovechkin, but they need a guy like him to finally take the next step in Washington.  You don’t want to build specifically just to beat one team, but I think the Caps have to do something big like this to give themselves a fighting chance against the defending champs.  Anyway, they probably won’t and I’m saying all of this for nothing.

 

Winnipeg

23-25-4 (.481)

6th in the Central

I’m not sure why so many in the Canadian media figured the Jets were going to the playoffs.  It’s as if we see a team making good moves and assume that good moves mean that a team is good.  The Devils won the value end of the Hall/Larsson trade, so they’ll make the playoffs.  They still aren’t good up front, they’re now really bad on the blueline, but they’re making the playoffs?  The Flames got Brian Elliott for cheaper than we thought he would be, had Matt Tkachuk fall to them in the draft, so they’re making the playoffs.  They’re still really thin up front and it’s been proven that Ken Hitchcock’s system makes the goaltender not the other way around, but they’re making the playoffs?  That was the Jets.  And it wasn’t even a move Cheveldayoff made, it was just simply winning the chance to pick Patrik Laine.  “PLAYOFFS!”  Why?  Their goaltending was a massive question mark and has proven to be weak, they’re extremely young, and they’re in a very tough division.  This team is going to be damn good in a few seasons, and I think they’ve played good thus far!  They just need to stay the course.

 

Midseason Prognostications:

*wild card winners

Pacific

1. San Jose

2. Edmonton

3. Anaheim

*4. Los Angeles

5. Calgary

6. Vancouver

7. Arizona

 

Central

1. Minnesota

2. Nashville

3. Chicago

*4. St. Louis

5. Dallas

6. Winnipeg

7. Colorado

 

Western Conference Playoffs

San Jose vs Los Angeles

Edmonton vs Anaheim

Minnesota vs St. Louis

Nashville vs Chicago

 

San Jose vs Anaheim

Nashville vs St. Louis

 

San Jose vs Nashville

 

Atlantic

1. Montreal

2. Ottawa

3. Toronto

*4. Tampa Bay

5. Buffalo

6. Boston

7. Florida

8. Detroit

 

Metropolitan

1. Washington

2. Pittsburgh

3. NY Rangers

*4. Columbus

5. NY Islanders

6. Philadelphia

7. Carolina

8. New Jersey

 

Eastern Conference Playoffs

Montreal vs Columbus (I have heard mixed reports on how this sets up if four teams from each division get in, but the last wild card team isn’t in the same division as the top seed, which is how I believe this will play out this season, amazingly it has yet to happen)

Ottawa vs Toronto

Washington vs Tampa Bay

Pittsburgh vs NY Rangers

 

Montreal vs Toronto

Pittsburgh vs Tampa Bay

 

Pittsburgh vs Montreal

 

Stanley Cup Final

Pittsburgh vs Nashville

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Burning it to the Ground?

It is so easy to write about the Calgary Flames simply from a title standpoint.  Whether things are going great or going poorly, you always have that team nickname to fall back on!  Right now, things are going REALLY poorly in Southern Alberta.

 

Should I really go into my spiel which those who read my stuff have now heard hundreds of times?  Ok, once more.  I’ve maintained over the years, despite being an Oilers fan, I’m a Flames well wisher.  It’s best for the province when both teams are good, which in turn is best for the rivalry.  And don’t get me wrong, I want to beat no team more than the Flames as an Oilers fan, and I expect Flames fans to feel the same way.  But I don’t subscribe to this theory that it’s fun watching them be awful.  There was no joy from 1997-2003 in beating the Flames as an Oilers fan, and I’m guessing it was bittersweet for some Flames fans from 2007-2016.  For both fan bases, the other team should be a necessary evil.

 

So now that I’ve said that, let me pile on the Flames!!!

 

I’m kidding.

 

I’ve really liked the direction the Flames have been headed in since hiring Brad Treliving.  Yet all of a sudden in the last two weeks, everything appears to have gone from running smoothly to being on the verge of destruction.  The Flames have now lost six of their last eight games, the latest two coming in humiliating fashion.  One to the rival Oilers, the other to the likely hated by most (because if you don’t love them you likely hate them) Maple Leafs.  They’re now just clinging to the final wild card spot in the West, and if you go by points percentage (which I believe is much more accurate) they are on the outside looking in.

 

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night that Brad Treliving’s job could be in jeopardy as he still does not have a contract extension for next season.  Nobody is commenting on it, and as Friedman said on Saturday the whole situation is “really weird”.  Agreed.

 

If they are seriously thinking of letting him walk…are they nuts?!

 

I understand things aren’t perfect right now for the Flames.  I fully understand the very recent struggles this team has had, but this clearly isn’t about what’s gone down in their last eight games.  This appears to be yet another bizarre happening with an organization which has had plenty in the last 10 years or so.  And the one constant through it all has been Ken King.

 

Daryl Sutter leaving coaching to focus solely on being GM, that was bizarre.  Jim Playfair run out after one season as head coach to bring in a well past his prime Mike Keenan.  Jay Feaster hired as assistant GM…not by Darryl Sutter.  Rumours of Brent and Darryl Sutter being at odds during Darryl’s final season there.  Rumours of Jay Feaster not being given the green light to rebuild a clearly deteriorating hockey club with a very shallow prospect pool.  Brian Burke being hired as President of Hockey Operations while Feaster was still the GM.  That’s quite a freaking list boys!!!

 

From the outside looking in, it’s felt like Burke actually brought some stability to the organization, which coming off the job he did in Toronto, few thought he could do.  But the hiring of Treliving and the combination of the two of them has seemingly been tremendous.  Where is the wrong move for Treliving?

 

Since he’s been running the draft they’ve done an amazing job with things.  2014 they had one of my favourite drafts.  2015 I was so bitter that he got Dougie Hamilton for such a cheap price when he would have been a perfect fit for the Oilers (and the Oilers three picks they could have offered were better than the three Flames picks according to the draft value chart, but the Bruins wouldn’t deal with Peter Chiarelli), and then with his remaining two 2nd round picks Treliving made two real solid picks.  Last year, more of the same.  In fact, this is what I said in my write up on them as one of my six teams whose draft I liked:

“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.”

I don’t care how Sam Bennett is currently doing, that was the right pick.  As I said, the Hamilton trade before the 2015 draft was a steal.  Last year Tkachuk falling to 6 was a gift, but he didn’t screw it up.  The Brian Elliott trade, again I don’t care how it’s gone that was a no brainer deal to make, literally everyone in hockey praised him for it!  Chad Johnson, great signing to be the backup, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Michael Frolik, getting 2nd round picks for guys who were about to walk like Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell was all great!  Has Glen Gulutzan been a good hire?  Probably not, although this team when they’ve simply gotten good goaltending have looked like a playoff team.

 

And that’s the big difference.  You look back at 2015, and I was saying it at the time that things just simply snowball.  Analytically they weren’t a good hockey team, yet they maintained their roll all season.  You start to get bounces, you start to get massive saves, and everyone just starts to get this feeling in the room like nothing can go wrong.  All of a sudden guys start playing above their normal levels and you start seeing extraordinary performances like we did with all those late game comebacks they had that season.

 

This season?  Well lately it looks like they know they aren’t going to get that save or that bounce, and when it goes that way (as Oilers fans have seen for the previous seven seasons or so) guys tend to not have anywhere near the fight they would normally have.  Can’t we all relate to that?  I know it’s never easy as a fan to look at these guys as every day people, but if you start getting a few breaks one day like traffic isn’t heavy or there isn’t a long lineup to get your coffee in the morning or perhaps someone you don’t like isn’t at work, doesn’t that give you a lot of extra jump?  Vice versa, if it’s a day where it is basically the lyrics to “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette, you’re dragging your feet and have a tough time getting up for other things you have to do that day.

 

If Flames upper management was smart, they would realize that in 2015 this team was still in the beginning of a pretty big rebuild.  I wondered this at the time and it might be right in the long run that it was actually more of a curse than a blessing that the Flames had that amazing run in 2015 with McDavid and Eichel at the top of the draft.  What would make sense would be if management’s expectations started getting far too high after that season, but the way Friedman was talking yesterday morning on the FAN 960 is that isn’t it at all.  I believe he said “even if they make the playoffs I’m not 100% that he (Treliving) would be coming back.”  Wow!

 

I don’t know how else to say it other than this is going to be a MASSIVE mistake in my opinion should the Flames let this guy go.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Team Canada 2018 Pt.1

In the fall of 2012 there was no NHL hockey in sight.  The third lockout in the last 18 years was ongoing, so outside of tracking what most of the Oilers were doing in Oklahoma City (specifically Justin Schultz who got all Oilers fans hot and bothered with 48 points in just 34 games in the AHL that season), there wasn’t a lot to talk about.  One blog idea I did come up with however was looking at what the Team Canada roster might look like for the 2014 Olympics 15 months out.  Today, I have a lot of stuff I could talk about, and have talked about.  But these are the type of pieces that are fun to write, fun to read, and fun to look back at down the line.

 

I would say it’s 60-40 right now in favour of the NHL not going to Pyeongchang next February.  So this piece could easily be for not.  But really, who cares?  You simply can’t go wrong talking about a potential team Canada roster for a best on best tournament.  I didn’t talk about it when it came to the World Cup of Hockey (did I ever bother to mention that I believed it was a gimmick tournament?)  But this is the Olympics.  An ACTUAL tournament.

 

Should they go to the Olympics, and be healthy, this easily could be the best team Canada of all time.  I’m not saying that for shock affect either.  The stars aren’t aligning for the players to go right now, but if they do, the stars will have aligned for Canada to be amazing.  So here is the forward group I would project about 10 months out from being named.  I should add that I’m assuming that it’ll be 14 forwards, 8 defencemen and 3 goaltenders as it was in 2014.

 

Marchand – Crosby – Bergeron

Tavares – McDavid – Stamkos

Benn – Toews – Carter

Couture – Seguin – MacKinnon

Duchene

Marner

 

I think the first thing which is noticeable is no Getzlaf or Perry.  Now Perry didn’t make the gimmick tournament team originally and only was added because of injuries, so perhaps he isn’t all that surprising.  I’m still wanting both guys on my NHL team any day of the week obviously.  But the foot speed is fading and as we’ve seen in the last two Olympics you just can’t afford to sacrifice speed in this tournament.  Personally I was worried about both those guys the last time around!  They were terrific as you know, but four years down the road I just think there Olympic days are done.  Having said that, they’ll without a doubt be in the discussion for the squad.  More so Getzlaf who might be looked at for that 4th line centre role.

 

Another very large omission I have is Mark Scheifele.  I originally had him on the team.  The guy is damn near a point per game player and has done nothing but improve since coming in the league.  His 200 foot game is still a work in progress, he’s still weak in the dot, and while he’s not slow by any means, look at the wheels the three guys I have on that 4th line have.  That’s too sweet to pass up in my opinion.  Some people will scoff at having two players currently on the Avs on this squad, but again I’m looking towards next season.

 

Finally for omissions I have to talk about Taylor Hall.  It just became clear through injury after injury after injury at the gimmick tournament and how Doug Armstrong and the team Canada brass continued to pass on him that he isn’t one of their guys.  So if they passed on him in 2014 for St. Louis, and passed on him in 2016 when they had several chances to add him to that roster, there is zero reason to believe they’ll take him this time around.  Hope I’m wrong, I’m a big Taylor Hall fan, but I just don’t see it happening.

 

I really wonder whether or not the brass would have the balls to pick two guys like Seguin and MacKinnon for the 4th line.  Neither of those guys are great away from the puck, but both have next level wheels that I personally would have a lot of trouble leaving off the squad.  All that skill, all that speed, and I just don’t know how you say no to either of them.

 

Bergeron on this club might be a little sketchy with his play dropping off a bit this season, but I just think that he has to be on this team because he does too many things for you.  Worst case scenario is he’s your 4th line centre who wins virtually every draw and is your top penalty killer.  But we’ve seen how well he plays with Crosby, and he is great with Marchand, and those three together were unstoppable at the gimmick tournament, so I believe he would need to have a major decline between now and November to not be named to this team.

 

As for Marner, he’s a kid with an insane amount of skill, and Mike Babcock obviously knows him well.  Some of the thinking with Marner as well is that by November he will be viewed as one of the top wingers in the game.  Also, you always want to take younger guys where you can to get them some experience.  It’s not overly likely that a 14th forward would be needed, so it’s a safe spot to put a kid like Marner.

 

Lots of omissions who easily could make this squad (other than Getzlaf, Perry, Scheifele and Hall).  Ryan O’Reilly, Sean Monahan and Claude Giroux I would say are right there.  Sam Reinhart, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Ryan Johansen, Sean Couturier, and Bo Horvat are all kids I believe you have to keep your eye on moving forward.  Horvat specifically is a guy who is currently really emerging.  He’s another Bergeron.

 

Then you have the defence, and at this time it would take a miracle for the other countries for Canada’s blueline to look anything other than incredible.

 

Keith – Doughty

Vlasic – Burns

Brodie – Pietrangelo

Rielly – Subban

 

Could be one of the top Team Canada bluelines of all time.  This is a lot more balanced than 2014 was, because we know that in 2014 they insisted on lefty/righty combos and Canada was weak on the left side.  While the left side still isn’t AS good as the right, there is nobody on there who isn’t worthy of being there.

 

Can they finally get it right and have one of Brodie or Giordano on this team?  In 2014, Giordano should have been there.  It was bizarre that they were so desperate for left handed shooting D, yet Giordano was left off the team for Jay Bouwmeester whom by the time Bouwmeester was dealt from the Flames in 2013 was very clearly the better of the two D-men.  In 2015, T.J. Brodie emerged as another elite LH shooting D-man for the Flames, yet for the gimmick in the GTA (as it should have been dubbed) last fall neither guy was anywhere to be found…and Jake Muzzin was on the team.  Get it right people.  I would only take one, I would take the better of the two at the time of the selections and I believe it’s a complete coin flip as to who could be that guy.  I’m guessing Brodie, but it’s a complete guess obviously.

 

Morgan Rielly’s selection would be similar to Mitch Marner’s.  Babcock knows him, he’s had all the tough minutes for the Leafs and has held his own.  The offensive numbers haven’t been as great as expected this season, but those will come.  On the big ice he would thrive.

 

Omissions obviously include Shea Weber (losing foot speed much like Getzlaf and Perry), Aaron Ekblad, Kris Letang, Giordano (as I mentioned), Bouwmeester and Muzzin.  But again, all of these guys will be in the mix and you could easily substitute anyone of them for a guy I have on the team.  Kids/dark horses to watch for over the next year could be Josh Morrissey, Ryan Murray, Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot, Ryan Ellis, Damon Severson, Colten Parayko, Jared Spurgeon, and Chris Tanev.  Of course you never know, especially on defence, who could completely come out of nowhere.

 

Think about this too.  This could be the 1st PP unit for team Canada:

Crosby

Stamkos Tavares McDavid

Burns

Maybe put Benn in Tavares spot for that net front presence, maybe Subban goes to Burns role if they prefer more of a bomb coming from the blueline.  Regardless, I’ll just let you drool about this for a minute…

 

Done drooling?  It was good wasn’t it?!  Ok, so finally we have the tendy’s.  And unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’re going to get the hot debate that we had going into the 2014 games.  Even if Carey Price went down…or Price and Holtby went down, things are a lot different than they were back then.

 

Price

Holtby

Jones

 

Yeah….they’re seven or eight deep now.  I don’t have Devan Dubnyk on this team, and he just might be the best goaltender in the league to this point of the season!

 

The third spot in my opinion would be between Matt Murray and Martin Jones.  Total toss up in my mind.  Jones has been incredible this season, but Murray has played incredible when he’s been healthy.  I said Jones, but by November, especially if he has a 2nd ring, people might be screaming for Murray.  And the beauty of it with both of them is that they both have pretty good experience too.

 

You might be asking yourself “why one of them and not two time Cup champ Corey Crawford?”  Simply because of age, but make no mistake I’m a massive Corey Crawford fan.  Then you have Cam Talbot who I think is clearly on the outside of this picture, but would anyone be fearful of Talbot being as high on this food chain as the backup?  I wouldn’t.  The guy has been pretty damn consistent for a year now.  A hiccup when he first got to Edmonton, but since that adjustment he’s been outstanding.  Hell, if Mike Smith keeps up the way he’s played this season I believe he would warrant a look, and you likely have forgot that he was the 3rd man in 2014 (not even a question in the infamous words of Ken Holland who apparently can’t scout goaltenders because Jonathan Bernier was miles ahead of Mike Smith that entire season).  Even my man Cam Ward has his game back this season!  So there are zero issues between the pipes for Canada anymore, although I never really agreed that there were, but Canada is as deep as they’ve been since 2002.

 

And circling back to Dubnyk, he could easily be that 3rd guy too.  He might even be the backup over Holtby.  But I believe they would pretty much cement Price as the starter, Holtby as the backup early on in the process.  After that, it’s more of a chess game and they would likely lean towards a younger guy in that spot seeing how the likelihood of the top two guys getting hurt are pretty slim.

 

It’s insane with the club I just laid out.  There are literally no holes, and superstars all over.  John Tavares is essentially an afterthought on this club, and he would be the first line centre for most other countries.  I wrote it hours after the 2014 tournament was done, this could be the best team Canada of all time.  At that time I was more so focusing on McDavid teaming with Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Tavares, and MacKinnon (who is surprisingly not going to be a sure thing for this squad).  You add in that the goaltending and LH shooting D depth has improved greatly, which were the only spots people could SOMEWHAT point at as holes the last time around, and it just leaves no doubt that if they’re healthy it might be disappointing should they not only win, but exceed the domination we saw in Socchi.

 

IF the NHL decides to go that is…

 

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