Tag: NHL Draft

A Look At The 2019 Top-10 NHL Draft Prospects: Part One

The World Juniors have ended and in a bit of unusual fashion. Finland ended up upsetting Canada and USA for the Gold, Russia earned a Bronze and USA walked away with a Silver medal. Of the three teams that earned medals, all of them rostered a potential top-three pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL draft. The World Juniors is the perfect scenario for the large majority who do not follow these prospects through major juniors or international play to see what they are made of. It sure did not disappoint as the Gold game consisted of the top-two 2019 prospects, Kaappo Kakko and Jack Hughes. As we know, Kakko scored the game-winner and earned gold. Coming ahead of Hughes this time around, but will Hughes be ahead of Kakko come June in Vancouver?

For months now Hughes has been and still is regard as the #1 for the upcoming draft but after a rather weak and short World Juniors, some have second guessed Hughes number one ranking. Therefore let us take a look at the top-10 prospects and where they may fall come June 2019.

  1. Jack Hughes: Aside from playing only four games, Hughes did have four goals in those four games. He currently has 48 points with the US National Development Team (USNTDP) and has dominated the World Junior play in previous years as well collecting 54 points in 27 games for the USTNDP in 2017-2018. All stats and numbers aside, I believe Hughes is an unbelievable skater, has great puck control, sees the game very well and anticipates plays well but my biggest fault with him is his decision making with the puck in tight areas, as well as his size at the professional level. I know we have seen players like Clayton Keller and Johnny Gaudreau be successful in the NHL but Hughes is much like a Patrick Kane but smaller and a lot lighter. He is going to be a top talent in the NHL at some point but in my opinion we may be over shooting Hughes here. What I mean by that is, yes he will be a top-two pick, yes he will be a top point scorer in the NHL but I don’t think he will be a player who comes into the league right away. It would be best for Hughes to be drafted and spend sometime in major juniors, AHL and just take a year to develop a little more.
  2. Kaapo Kakko: Kakko has the size at 6’2, and showed a great World Juniors performance this past week. He collected 5 points in 7 games (2G, 3A). Right now he is playing with TPS Liiga where he has 20 points in 27 games. His best year came in 2017-18 when he 55 points with TPS U20 Liiga in 38 games. Kakko is very strong on his stick, he plays very well below the goal line and is able to make plays in tight areas. He is not as a great skater/playmaker as Hughes but his intangibles like work ethic, size, puck control and board battle ability gives him some separation from the pack. He reminds me a lot of almost a Kevin Hayes, Anders Lee type player. Not flashy with his hands, not an overall great skater but plays great along boards, can score, helps teams maintain and control possession and plays all areas of the ice very well. I would not be surprised to see Kakko potentially go number one depending who is the number one pick.
  3.  Dylan Cozens: This kid is having a great year with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, collecting 55 points in 39 games (23G, 32A). Aside from not having the physical attributes of an NHL player, Cozens does have the size at 6’3. He has been ranked anywhere from 2-5 on scouts reports but for me this type of player is a player that can come into a decent NHL team and help out. It would be best to have him play one more year at the WHL or AHL level after being drafted but Cozens won Rookie of the Year for reason. He is an explosive forward that can play either center or wing, from the report. Cozens would be the Flyers ideal pick, he plays a great 200-foot game, can kill penalties, play the power play, play below the goal line and is quick enough to keep up with the play. He is sometimes overly physical but he is in the right place always and always has his feet moving. I’d suspect this kid to be #3 in 2019 draft.
  4. Vasily Podkolzin: In a offensive driven league Podkolzin makes it in the top-five for sure. He is currently playing in one of Russia’s top-ranked junior leagues the MHL (SKA-1946), he played well in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this year and has played many seasons now for Russia’s international teams possessing a top-six role always. He is regarded to be a solid all around forward, who can set plays up, finish and play defensively. He has all the tools to be an NHL forward but we have seen some trouble with Russian players coming over to the NHL recently which is my only concern for this kid. Scouts have been high on this kid, he sees the play well, thinks the game well and can play the d-zone just as well as the offensive zone. Podkolzin is going to be potentially be a #3 or #4 pick depending what team ends up where. But I can see him being an Ottawa Senator or Los Angeles King next season.
  5. Trevor Zegras: There is not much talk around this kid due to playing in the same program with Jack Hughes, Zegras is falling way under the radar right now. He has been regarded as an “elite center”, right now he has 45 points in 31 games for the US National U18 team and 16 points in 10 games for the USHL’s USNTDP Juniors. Zegras despite his 159lb frame is going to be an expectational center at the NHL level. He is committed Boston University for the 2020 season, but Zegras is a play maker through and through. His passes are nearly always on target, he sees the play so well and is able to create plays along the walls and in open ice. He may not be regarded as a goal scorer but his ability to quickly change directions, get separation and find the scoring areas will make him value-able at the college level and eventually the NHL level. He is regarded as a top-10 pick but I think he will move up a bit come June.

On Tomorrow’s list…

  • Alex Turcotte
  • Matthew Boldy
  • Kirby Dach
  • Bowen Byram
  • Raphael Lavoie

What do the St. Louis Blues do? Rebuild or Push Ahead?

The Blues regulation loss to the New York Islanders Saturday night makes it now their 19th loss of 39 games. They currently sit 7th in the Central division and 12 points out of a wild card spot. The Blues did not anticipate a season like this and Saturday nights lost to the Islanders is a perfect example of (1) how “unlucky” this team has been (2) the lack of will, and depth scoring this team has and (3) failure to capitalize on leads. The Blues lost last night leaves them with a lot of questions to answer. With the Islanders only managing 14 shots on goal the WHOLE game the Blues still lost 4-3 in regulation. Therefore we must ask what are the Blues options right now?

  1. Push ahead, say whatever, we wash this season away and get back after it next season. Realistically the Blues have no chance of making the playoffs right now and in the off-season they signed Patrick Maroon, David Perron, Tyler Bozak and still have Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn on longer-term contracts as well. The Blues can just continue to play, be competitive and try to win the most games they can because losing out is never something a team wants to do. Especially a team with as much talent and success as the Blues have had in the past. The Blues traded away their 1st round pick this summer for Ryan O’Reilly therefore their picks this year if they do not have this 2019 1st rounder (explain later) would be a 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th round.
  2. Tank, try to finish within a top-10 2019 first round draft pick spot. This would be the Blues best option realistically, the conditions on the trade for O’Reilly earlier this summer was “if the Blues finish within a top-10 draft pick spot they have the option to keep the pick and give the Sabres their 2020 first round pick.” Therefore, Blues lose, who cares you are already 29 of 31 right now, it makes no sense to win.
  3. Trade Vladimir Tarasenko, get two first round picks for this 2019 draft year (assuming they keep their 2019 this year), I will say the term rebuild loosely but “rebuild” on the fly and get a good return for Tarasenko. The Blues end up doing this, they will definitely get a first rounder from a desperate playoff team, a mid-level prospect and potential bottom-9/top-6 forward. This seems like the second best option.
  4. Get Jake Allen out of net, and out of St. Louis and try to find a #1 goaltender. The Blues have been to the playoffs numerous times now in the last ten years and each time they have failed to convert. Partially, not the only reason but some of it is because they lack goaltending. I would say get rid of Allen and try to find someone like a Petr Mrazek that could potentially be a solid goaltender but really anything is better than Allen right now. The Blues have two prospect goalies, Ville Husso and Evan Fitzpatrick. Husso who is not playing well in the AHL right now but has put up decent numbers in his pervious two AHL season and International play. Fitzpatrick who has not put up great numbers in the ECHL this season nor the QMJHL his previous season but is a 2016 second rounder.

The Blues in my opinion, I may not watch the Blues a ton but still watching them enough to realize they do not have the goaltending to get the job done, their scoring depth is too inconsistent and Tarasenko is playing on the third line. It seems the Blues should just turn the page to 2019-2020 already and start looking at what they can do to be the best team for the start of next season.

Biggest winners and losers of the 2018 NHL Draft first round

As expected the horse Rasmus Dhalin landed in Buffalo first overall, the second pick went on par with how we all thought it was going to with Andrei Svechnikov to Carolina but basically from there on it was a bit of a roller coaster. Here are some of the biggest winners and losers of the 2018 NHL draft first round.

Winners…

New York Islanders: Islanders steal Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson back to back is a huge grab for the young and upcoming franchise. The Islanders capitalized on the Rangers stretch and will hope that their top first-round picks come to haunt the Rangers in years to come.

Buffalo Sabres: Walking away with a generational talent and franchise defenseman is a win in anyone’s books. Dahlin going to the Sabres is huge for this organization as they now have Eichel, Mittlestadt, Ristolanien, and Dahlin to be the face of this franchise.

Detroit Red Wings: Stealing Zadina at number 6 as he was projected to be a #3 overall choice is huge for the Red Wings. As they now receive an elite goal scorer and projected top three forward, the Red Wings are happy for sure. As well as snagging Joel Veleno at number 30 was a win, Veleno was expected to be a top ten pick but his draft stock rapidly as the draft went on. A huge win for Detroit here.

Surprises of the top ten…

Out of the first round the biggest surprise had to be Jesperi Kotkaniemi to Montreal although they did say they were going to go after him it was a bit odd they did not wait on him a bit as he may have been later in the draft. Along with the Coyotes drafting yet another center in Barrett Hayton passing on Filip Zadina and other solid wingers in this draft. The biggest surprise in the top ten was the Rangers drafting KHL rookie Vitali Kravstov, while Noah Dobson and Oliver Wahlstrom were still on the board. A stretch of a pick two years in a row by the Rangers, somebody better hope these Rangers scouts know something none of us know about their last two top ten draft picks because if they do not pan out it will look almost as bad as the Dylan Mclirath and Al Montaya picks.

Losers…

Ottawa Senators: Ottawa stretched big time in the first round with Jacob Bernard-Docker, not something you want to see out of Ottawa after everything that is going on with this team. Luckily they walk away with Brady Tkachuk but still, they could have waited on Docker a bit.

Philadelphia Flyers: Joel Farabee was a solid choice as he is going to be a very solid addition to their forward group but Jay O’Brien 5 picks later was not what many expected the Flyers to do. A big stretch from the Flyers but luckily O’Brien has some upside.

New York Rangers: Taking Vitali Kravstov at 9 was not what anyone in the world expected, passing on two sure talents and proven prospects in Wahlstrom and Dobson may come back to bite the Rangers. Luckily there is a lot of upside to Kravtsov and they did hit the mark on K’Andre Miller but also did again stretch a bit with their 28th overall choice taking Nils Lundkvist. It was clear the Rangers had one thing on their mind going into yesterday’s first round, they wanted upside and to take gambles. See how it works out.

Noticeable players left on the board…

Serron Noel- RW out of OHL Oshawa General tallying 53 points in 62 games. Also playing for Canada’s U18 team this past World Juniors. Noel was ranked 19 by Bob McKenzie and within the top 20 by other scouts but landed out of the first round now.

Bode Wilde- D out of USA U18 National team scoring 41 points in 61 games as a defenseman is quite the mark. Wilde also played for USA U18 World Juniors this past year. Wilde was ranked to be within the top-20 this draft but fell out of the first round.

Ryan McLeod- C out of Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL scoring 70 points in 68 games with 26 goals. McLeod brother of Mike (New Jersey Devils prospect) was projected to go within the 20-31 range but fell as well.

Mattias Samuelsson- D out of USA U18 National team playing in 58 games scoring 31 points as well as playing for the U18 team at the World Juniors tallying only 2 points in 7 games. Samuelsson is a Western Michigan University commit as he will play for them in the 2018-19 season. Samuelsson was a projected second-round pick but could have been a stretch for some. Still, he holds a ton of talent with his 6’4 frame and heavy lefty shot.

John Tavares contract watch, Canadiens 3rd overall 2018 draft choice

John Tavares watch

It is now 11 days until July 1st and the Islanders and John Tavares have yet to come to a deal. It was rumored last week that Tavares and the Islanders were looking at 10.7 million per year, long-term deal obviously but nothing went forward after that and there is nothing set in stone. The watch is really heating up and if Tavares becomes a UFA in 11 days he will be without a doubt the number one most pursued free agents in the last decade.

Yesterday the Maple Leafs hit the news about something they are brewing “IF” Tavares hits UFA watch. Per Bob McKenzie

“Like a lot of teams, no doubt, if John Tavares gets to the UFA shopping period. It is still an “if” at this point. Toronto is believed to be putting together a promotional video for JT that may even include a cameo pitch or two from some current Leafs players. It was also talked about last the Leafs put in a sheet of ice at the Air Canada Center for some promotional purposes.

Tavares has been one of the biggest targets for Toronto the moment he was rumored to be nearing the end of his contract and Tavares and the Islanders could not come to a deal this season. Besides Toronto, there are still some teams flying under the radar that IF Tavares does reach UFA market, will be pursuing him heavily. Aside from Toronto, Vegas has said to be making a push for Tavares, some other teams that have not per say pursued Tavares but may make a push for him are the Canadiens and Rangers. The Canadiens and Rangers would not be the best suitors for Tavares, but with the cap space they have it may be worth throwing an offer Tavares’s way. At the end of the day, I think we see a deal be done later in the week, around Friday, Saturday.

Canadiens to draft Jesperi Kotkaniemi 3rd overall 

Another mistake coming out of Montreal? We shall see in 3 days as the Canadiens said they will be pursuing Jesperi Kotkaniemi, passing on Filip Zadina, Quinton Hughes, Brady Tkachuk and more. The Canadiens said if they cannot trade down for Kotkaniemi they will be drafting him 3rd overall still. At the beginning of the draft Kotkaniemi was not this high on the draft board, but after a successful showing at the combine, he has risen up the board a tremendous amount, moving in the eye of the Canadiens at number three.

Kotkaniemi played out of Liiga for Assat playing 57 games scoring 10 goals and 19 assists as well as for Finland U18 World Juniors team tallying 9 points in 7 games, Finland U18 and U20 on the International stage combining for 22 points in 20 games. Kotkaniemi center slot may be the reason the Canadiens have been so evident on drafting Kotkaniemi. Along with his 6″2 190 lb frame, and the Canadiens recently trading Alex Galchenyuk and not acquiring a true center could be the reason for his uproar in the rankings as of late.

 

 

 

2018 NHL Draft: Top-10 Teams Needs and Possible Picks

No.1: Buffalo Sabres, Needs- A winning season, top defenseman

Who will they get? Well, it is pretty obvious the no.1 draft prospect for the past several months now has been Rasmus Dhalin. There is literally a 100 percent chance the Sabres get Dahlin. Which means they add an elite level defenseman to their back end to supplement Rasmus Ristolanien.

No.2: Carolina Hurricanes, Needs- Scoring forward, top-six forward

Who will they get? This one is up for grabs between two players, as a lot of the hockey reporters and draft experts have stated since the releasing of this year’s picks. The two players who we can possibly see the Hurricanes grab are either, Andrei Svechnikov or Filip Zadina. Svechnikov is a 6’2 right winger, who won the OHL Rookie of the Year this season playing for the Barrie Colts. While Zadina is also a 6-foot right winger playing out of the QMJHL for Halifax. Either or would be good fits for the Hurricanes, but I think we see Carolina getting Svechnikov due to his bigger frame, NHL style of play and scoring ability and someone they can slot on the wing with the Hurricanes top two lines.

No.3: Montreal Canadiens, Needs- Scoring, badly. 

The Canadiens had one of the worst seasons among NHL teams and a lot of it was due to forward scoring issues and some back-end injuries. They lacked the ability to score goals consistently and lacked forward depth. With the number three pick, the Canadiens will most definitely be going after a forward to the slot with Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galychenuk. With the assumption the Hurricanes go after Svechnikov, I think it would be tough to pass up on Filip Zadina. He can play the wing with Drouin and is ready to make an impact on the front end of most NHL teams, especially this Montreal team. While Brady Tkachuk could fall here, Zadina is a more established goal scorer and plays a more NHL style game compared to Tkachuk.

No. 4: Ottawa Senators, Needs-Scoring or a top-four defenseman.

Who will they get? This is a tough one the Senators will be losing at least one forward on their team this offseason and possibly Erik Karlsson if they cannot find a happy medium for him. The Senators were praying for the number one draft pick to allow Dahlin to play alongside his childhood favorite player Karlsson. Unfortunately like most things for the Senators this season it turned out they received the fourth pick and will probably be going after either Tkachuk or Noah Dobson. Tkachuk has a ton of potential to his game and provides a very gritty, tough style to his game. While he can score, as well as play both sides of the puck it really comes down to what the Senators think they need more. Dobson is a 6″3 defenseman, who if he can put on some weight will be great. He has a ton of potential and room to grow. I still think Tkachuk goes four here though.

No. 5: Arizona Coyotes, Needs- Top-six forward, scoring, defenseman. 

Who will they get? It would be interesting to see the Coyotes pick this year after getting Keller two year ago, a scoring, speedy, Patrick Kane esq forward. The Coyotes once again get a top-five pick and now have to be thinking about another scorer. They have some solid defenseman on their back end, as well a lot of potential up front. They could use either a forward or defenseman. If Oliver Ekman Larsson actually does leave they definitely could use a defenseman. Based on the judgment of some of the experts we can expect either Noah Dobson or Evan Bouchard to go here. Bouchard is a 6″2, 193-pound defenseman playing out of the OHL with London this year. He holds a HEAVY shot and logged major points and minutes which brought him up the draft list this year. Either or will go here. Dobson or Bouchard. Think Bouchard though.

No.6: Detroit Red Wings, Needs- DEFENSEMAN.

Who will they get? Now, if the Red Wings do not get a defenseman, they need to fire everyone in their front office. Because they literally have ZERO defensemen. Trevor Daley and Nikolas Kronwall are going to crumble any second now. Danny Dekeyser has not turned out to be great and they need a big-time defenseman BADLY. Which leaves us with four defensemen to choose from. Depending on Arizona, it could either be Dobson, Bouchard, Quintin Hughes or Adam Boqvist. Upside to Boqvist, he plays the same style as Dahlin more offensively and has the goal-scoring ability like a forward, while still being able to play a defensive game well. Downside his size, he is 5’11, 168 pounds. A must for Boqvist to add some size to his frame and you have a top defenseman you asked for. Hughes upside is a puck moving defenseman who can man the power play and reads the play really well. He can add a presence on the back end like Boqvist not as much offensively. This is a tough one because both are smaller in size and both have similar upsides as well. Here at six, we may see either Dobson or Hughes go.

No.7: Vancouver Canucks, Needs- Defenseman. 

Who will they get? The Canucks added Brock Boeser to their forward end last season in the draft and have turned out to be a great addition and superstar for years to come. The Canucks should look to increase their worth on the back end, they are still pieces away from being a solid NHL team so whoever comes in will be coming into play right away. The Canucks could be looking at drafting Boqvist or Hughes. As discussed above, both would not be a bad choice. I think we see the Canucks grab Hughes here and Boqvist falls a little bit, near the 9, 10 range.

No.8: Chicago Blackhawks, Needs- Forward depth, defenseman depth. 

Who will they get? This will be an interesting choice for the Blackhawks. As we saw their defense lack depth and was a major problem for them. But for some reason, the Blackhawks love drafting forwards and scoring forwards for that matter. Which is why we see them go after and grab Oliver Wahlstrom, a right winger from the USA-18 USHL team. Wahlstrom scored 47 goals in 60 games last season and everything surrounding this kid has been his goal-scoring ability. If the Blackhawks want goal-scoring, this is their guy.

No.9: New York Rangers, Needs-Top scoring forward, top-five defenseman. 

Who will they get? This will be a pivotal part of the Rangers rebuilding process as they picked up two top-end forwards in last years draft, Chytil and Andersson. While adding Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek on the backend during this year’s trade deadline. The Rangers would love to add another top-end forward as well as a difference-making defenseman with Ryan McDonagh gone. The Rangers could be looking at either Serron Noel the right winger out of Oshawa OHL team or Boqvist. Noel is a power forward, who brings his everything all game, he plays a very gritty style game and great two-way game some have compared this kid to Blake Wheeler. Another name in conversation to fall here is Barret Hayton a top end center from Sault Steel Marie from the OHL, who is a solid center but really makes the leap here due to a weak center draft. I see the Rangers either going after Boqvist or Noel here.

No.10: Edmonton Oilers, Needs- Defenseman, forward depth. 

Who will they get? Essentially the Oilers draft a forward he has the chance to play with Connor McDavid and as we have seen whoever is slotted next to McDavid usually produces so if they can find a forward to consistently play next McDavid and produce would be a win for the Oilers. But they lacked defensive production and defensive depth last season. Which is why the Oilers may go defenseman. They have had some woes with drafting forwards so this will be interesting for the Oilers come at the ten mark. I think the Oilers may end up drafting, Boqvist here if he falls or one of the two top centers in the draft in Hayton or Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Kotkaniemi has been an up and coming center in this years draft class all year. This will be a tough one as the Oilers will have to see how the teams in front of them draft. If Boqvist is there still they have to jump on him easily.

 

 

 

 

Matt Barzal is GOOD at hockey.

The fact this kid has just anonymously won the Calder trophy is unreal in itself. Yes, Brock Boeser missed the last month of the year but the winner was clear from day one when Matt Barzal blessed the Islanders with his presence.

Aside from the fact, Barzal has 82 points in 80 games, four game-winning goals, and 26 power play points. I am not sure we can keep track of his accomplishments of player of the week, player of the month, etc this kid has gone above and beyond in all expcetations this team and fans had for him. He’s up there in assists among the league leader(Barzal 60, Giroux 67), right there in points among the league(sort of he is top-20 though), and is just a point behind John Tavares for points among the Islanders leaders. Barzal has proved to be one of the best rookies in the league and one of the best rookies in the last 10 years or so since Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Just after Barzal’s four point night Tuesday, he became the first rookie since Crosby to record 60 assists in one season and the first rookie to record 80 points since Malkin. Process that, and realize who Malkin and Crosby are.

Barzal has not only shattered records month after month, but I think the conversation has to start that Barzal may possibly be the best rookie in New York for quite some time. I do not know all the rookies in NY sports history but he has certainly made this Islanders team much better than they should be and has gained a ton of media attention that has put New York sports on the map even more than it already was.

Talk is cheap, so for the sake of me trying to sway you here, watch this video of Barzal and tell me your jaw did not drop several times.

Casey Mittlestadt future with Buffalo

As the 2017-2018 NHL season winds down a lot of NHL teams have recalled their recent draftees or signing(s) to test them in the remaining NHL action. Some are more publicized than others, and that so happens to be the case in Buffalo. Despite a 25-42-12 record for the Sabres and 31st place finish. Buffalo fans still seem to be hopeful for the future, with all eyes on the recent 2017 draft pick, Casey Mittlestadt. Besides Mittlestadt, the Sabres do have a few other solid prospects waiting to make their mark in the league but Mittlestadt has been a proven goal scorer and difference maker in the levels he has played at prior to this.

Mittlestadt recently won the World Juniors tournament MVP, in which he tallied 11 points(4G, 7A) in 7 games. Playing his first season of NCAA hockey with the Univ. of Minnesota, Mittlestadt slotted 30 points(11G, 19A) in 34 games, earning the NCAA (BIG) All-Rookie team, and in just this year Mittlestadt has some pretty impressive accomplishments under his belt. Like, WJC Best Forward, Most points, All-Star team. But before coming to Minnesota and World Junior play this year, Mittlestadt slotted 94 points in 49 games between the Eden Prairie High(HS) and Green Bay Gamblers(USHL).

It is pretty evident coming out of high school Mittlestadt was going to make an impact wherever he went. Despite his 6’1 frame and 185-pound stature, Mittlesatdt has not allowed the talk of being weak on the puck get to his head.

This same hype came when Jack Eichel was drafted yet, I would assume many thought Eichel was the better player, a bigger body, unbelievable shot and just a player who can take over the game. Well, hopefully with the addition of Mittlestadt it can be Eichel + Mittlestadt to = a better Buffalo season next year. We can project Mittlestadt to be a full-time player and make the opening day roster but it is up to him to keep that spot. Right now he is playing alongside Evan Rodrigues and Kyle Okposo, not two players that will really make this kid’s skills shine, but it is only a matter of time until it is Jack Eichel-Mittlestadt and Pominville on a line together. Until then, get ready for another top draft pick Buffalo! Dahlin?