Erik Cernak’s unexpected rise continues to provide depth on Tampa Bay’s blue line

Erik Cernak is here to stay, at least as it is now in Tampa Bay. Young defenseman was not even expected to play this season but he already played in 16 NHL games this year.

Coach Jon Cooper talked about him last weekend and expressed his surprise about the young Slovakian d-man’s rise. Cooper said, that based on the training camp, he did not expect Cernak to get NHL anytime soon. Yet he has played 20 games on a very high level.

Cernak was more than a solid substitute of right-handed veteran defenseman Anton Strålman. Strålman is an excellent defenseman with plenty of experience with the age of 32. Cernak played solid, collecting +8 rating and 5 assists.

If there is any injury doubt in the remainder of the season, Erik Cernak should be Tampa’s first choice replacement. But looking further than this year, Cernak might be a very reasonable solution for the Lightning.

Young defenseman a healthy solution

Coming next July, the Lightning will have approximately 12 million in their salary cap space to sign so many key weapons. Most importantly Brayden Point, but also trio of experienced veteran defencemen – Braydon Coburn, Anton Strålman and Dan Girardi.

Everyone is pleased with Cernak in Tampa

You cannot resign all of these guys if you are the Bolts. And now you will have just three available defencemen signed – McDonagh, Hedman and Sergachev. And… Erik Cernak, still being under his entry-level contract.

I assume that the Lightning will give up on at least one of the three mentioned UFA-to be defencemen. If Tampa Bay needs one of those replaced immediately, here is 21-years old Slovakian D-man to play.

If Cernak is ready to play a full 82-game season for the Lightning, there should be no problem at all and he can be both effective and nice solution for the salary cap hell, which is coming to Tampa Bay starting next July.

Jack Hughes 2019 NHL Prospect

NHL 2019 Draft Prospects Watch

As reported by Sports Net the 2019 NHL draft prospects are being scouted heavily as the year goes on. This years draft again seems to be a heavy forward draft in the first round. The top-10 are very interchangeable like many drafts before this. Example was last years draft when the Montreal Canadiens took Jesperi Kotkaniemi before many other highly sought out prospects the draft was shocked but it seems like the first twenty or so picks can be anywhere from 1-20, meaning the 20th ranked guy can be a potential one and one can be a potential twenty. 

Either way looking at the top-10 for this 2019 upcoming draft seem to look like…

  1. Jack Hughes: The brother of Vancouver’s 2018 draft pick Quinn Hughes. Jack though play defense compared to his defenseman brother. At 17-years-old Hughes is already being seen as the sure number one the draft. He really emerged on the scene when he scored 159 points, 101 assists and 58 goals with the Toronto Marlboro Midget AAA, before heading over to the U.S. Developmental program which has been the hot bed for developmental and the home for many former USA draft picks. Hughes played 27 games with the USNTDP Juniors team scoring 54 points in that span, he recently played in the World Juniors U18 were he scored 7 goals and 12 points in 7 games. Hughes has 13 points in 8 games for the USNTDP this season. Seemingly like a favorite for the #1 pick this year. 
  2. Vasili Podkolzin: Has been ranked within the 4-7 range by many other hockey scouts. Due to the talent in the draft he can easily be a #2 draft pick. Vasili emerged during the international play of the World Juniors U18 where he scored 15 points in 8 games. At every major international tournament Vasili has been an impactful player. Playing for the SKA St. Petersburg team will be a solid developmental time for the 17-year-old forward, the only concern is in years we have seen the many Russian superstars get drafted and not come into the league for a years due to the KHL. 
  3. Kirby Dach: There was definitely some concern on this kids ability to stay consistent and score. He has the whole package of a great forward, great hockey IQ, great skating ability, plays both sides well and can score. While he only scored 7 goals for the Saskatoon Blades in 2017-18 he is off to a 13 goal performance through 25 games with 39 points thus far. Dach emerged on the scene in Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. Right now his NHL potential is unsure, eh could be a top six forward if consistent but will fall in the top-five range for sure in the 2019 draft.
  4. Dylan Cozens: This kid has fallen in the top four range and even the #2 ranked prospect by McKeen’s hockey. Cozens has spent his time in the WHL for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Before coming to the WHL he spent one year with the Yale Hockey Academy Prep where he scored 27 goals and 57 point sin 30 games. This year already Cozens has 31 point sin 24 games in the WHL right now, he has good size for the forward position at 6’3 he does not need to worry about being questioned on his size. He can sure bury the puck, his potential falls in the top-six forward role depending on the team.
  5. Kaapo Kakko: Another Finland prospect, Kakko has been another big thing developing in Finland. He is playing in the Liiga right now where he is off to a hot start, he has been ranked in the number two to three range. Has a desire for the puck, plays in the offensive end extremely well, protects the puck well, skates well and is not afraid to get physical. Kakko has 13 points in 20 games right now. For a younger forward in the Liiga he uses his hockey IQ and smarts to be ahead of the play, playing at the international level this upcoming year for the Finland U20 teamwill be the final test to Kakko’s NHL potential.

World Junior Hockey 2018

World Junior Hockey Games: January 4, 2018

Today there will really be no excuse to not watch every single game on today as many are probably dealing with some snow circumstances, or canceled school, we all should be at least tuning into the USA vs Sweden game at 4 PM(EST).

Belarus vs Denmark 

Probably one of the least exciting games of the day airs at 12 PM(EST) as Belarus takes on Denmark in a battle of the basement of the tournament. Belarus has lost all five games up to this point in the tournament, they dropped 6-1 to Sweden, 3-2 to Switzerland, 5-2 to Russia, 6-5 to the Czech Republic and 5-4 to Denmark. Denmark is most certainly the favorite here today as Belarus has competed this tournament but just do not match up well vs other teams. Denmark now is also struggling this tournament as they have dropped their first four games to USA, Finland, Canada and Solvokia and their only win coming against Belarus two days ago.

USA vs Sweden 

This begins the medal round games as USA faces off against Sweden, whatever team win goes on to play the Czech Republic or Canada, whatever team loses plays for the loser of the Czech, Canada game, for the bronze medal. As we get to see some great talent displayed in this game, Sweden’s #1 prospect for this 2018 NHL draft Rhasums Dhalin and former first-round pick Liass Andersson. The US has a total of 11 first round picks and they seem to be the favorite here today. But, USA vs Sweden has to be a game you put on your radar right now to watch, two teams that are seeing success this tournament and two of the better teams here. Sweden has collected five wins, coming against Belarus, Czech’s, Switzerland, Russia, and Solvokia. Now they face one of their best opponents for the final day of the tournament. The USA only dropped one game this tournament in which was an upset loss to Solvokia, but they have handled their own taking wins vs Canada, Finland, Denmark, and Russia. USA needs a win to move on.

Czech Republic vs Canada 

A battle for gold kicks off tonight at 8 PM(EST), and it seems Canada is the favorite after manhandling Switzerland, and as the Czech’s beta Finland in a thrilling shootout win, now the two meet for a chance to battle for gold. The winner moves on, loser battles for bronze. Canada the powerhouse of the games it seems like are rolling through much of the competition their only loss coming to the USA, but Canada has beaten Finland, Solvokia, Denmark and Switzerland most wins coming in a blowout fashion. Going up against another solid team though Canada will not take an easy one tonight as the Czech’s have won games against Russia, Belarus, Switzer, and Finland. Canada seems to be the favorite here tonight, either way, this game will be a great game to close out the day.

NHL Preview: Colorado Avalanche 2017-18, Youth To Watch, Barrie & Johnson Health

Colorado Avalanche(22-56-4:7th Central):

By no means was the worst team in the NHL saved for last on purpose, out of the 31 teams I’ve covered this offseason oddly enough it happened that way and seemed to work out perfectly because the Avalanche will be the exact same team, possibly a little better than last season. After rumblings of Matt Duchene being traded for much of last season and all of the offseason, he has yet to go, along with Gabriel Landeskog. Duchene will more than likely be gone sometime soon though and possibly Landeskog as well. Either way, they are both reporting for camp and will be an Avalanche to start the season(unless something happens if so, I’ll be sure to report on it!). Aside from those two the Avalanche still have Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Jost, Mikko Rantanen, Colin Wilson and Sven Andrighetto on the front end, on the back end the Av’s have Eric Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Nikita Zadorov as of now. Plus Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier the Av’s roster really does not look terrible on paper, but they are extremely young and inexperienced. Aside from being a young team they really do not have a reliable #1 goalie and only two possibly three defensemen. Give this team a few years and they will prosper. As I forgot to mention though the Avs will probably receive a couple picks and some young guys for Duchene and Landeskog, therefore making this team really inexperienced.

The Central is too competitive right now and so is the Western Conference, just count the Av’s out now. If you’re a gambling man do not put your fortune on the Av’s to win more than 30 games next season. They have a tough schedule, a young team, no identity and some question marks in goaltending. Despite the Av’s blunders last season and to come next season there will still be some exciting hockey to watch in Colorado, some key guys to look out for next year are…


Tyson Jost: Obviously. 10th overall in the 2016 draft will draw some attraction to one. Jost appeared in the final six games for Colorado last season and recorded 1 goal, that’s a start and much more to follow. Jost is goal scorer through and through, there’s really no other way to describe the 5”11 forward, he seems to see the ice well and envision plays well, despite scoring goals he’ll do his fair in the corners and win loose puck battles. Jost is an easy top six forward in the making, at the right moment and right team he can see some top three forward talk later in his career as well. Jost played one season at the University of North Dakota where he tallied 35 points, 16 goals in 33 games. Before that Jost was the “C” of team Canada’s U18 in the World Juniors in 2015-16, Jost scored 6 goals and 15 points in 7 games. WJC was where many recognized Jost and his goal scoring ability. Despite the Av’s mishaps next season Jost will be an exciting player to watch grow next season and be the highlight of this Av’s team for years to come.

Sven Andrighetto: As of now it looks like Andrighetto will be paired with Duchene and MacKinnon to start the season, the former Canadien served three seasons in Montreal prior to last season, Sven has yet to play a full 82 games. Andrighetto has had a slow start to his career being passed in the 2013 draft a lot and being tossed up and down line ups he has yet to make a name for himself. Sven holds a ton of speed and talent, paired with Duchene and MacKinnon, will help this 25-year-old forward’s game soar to the next level. Given full time and a some solid linemates Sven will see a breakout season for himself, it would be possible to see Andrighetto produce 35 points, given some power play time and top six forward minutes Sven will be given all the tools to excel next season.

Mikko Rantanen: Rantanen saw full time last year and despite the Av’s disappointing season the 20-year-old forward showed some signs of progression. Rantanen had 38 points and 20 goals in 75 games last season. Rantanen tore it up in the AHL in 2015-16 scoring 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games. Rantanen is a big forward with a ton of playmaking and scoring ability, he has that NHL-ready hockey sense and flawless skating ability, given the chance to use his size and presence a bit more, Rantanen will excel at the NHL level. It’s tough to say where Rantanen will end up next season right now he’ll be a bottom six forward but easily will crack the top six come later in the year. Rantanen will be an exciting player to watch grow and excel in the Colorado organization.

Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson: One of the two go down, the Avalanche’s defense is screwed, royally. Johnson missed 36 games and Barrie has seen his fair share of injuries and missing time. When the two are healthy they are exciting to watch, Barrie has the ability to be a top 20 defenseman given some consistent production and Johnson stays healthy he is a solid top four defenseman on any team. The Avalanche have more forward prospects than defenseman, but these two are the two defenseman to keep an eye on in the regular season.


NHL Preview: Edmonton Oilers 2017-18 , Nurse Contract year, Strome Role, Puljujarvi Expectations

Edmonton Oilers(47-26-9: 2nd Pacific):

Well, what a surprise this team was they went from dead last in the Pacific in 2015-16 to 2nd in Pacific last season. Much should be accredited to Connor McDavid of course. Ok let’s toot McDavid’s horn he won the Hart Memorial, Ted Lindsay, and Art Ross trophy finished ahead of Sidney Crosby in points(100), had 70 assists and scored 30 goals. Okay, we get it he’s pretty good at hockey. But the Oilers have a team now centered around McDavid that looks to be here to stay. With Leon Drastically recent contract extension(7 yrs, $8.5 mil a year), Patrick Maroon who doesn’t seem to mind playing with McDavid, Milan Lucic, Ryan Strome and a couple of key role guys like Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian that help round out this roster. Along with a defense that continues to grow and get better, Oilers defense only allowed 207 goals against last season the 8th least among all teams and allowed 2.5 goals per game the 8th least again. With a defense that continues to make strides individually and as a unit, this Oilers defense seems to be one of the more reliable defenses in the league. Plus having Cam Talbot starting 70 games a season posting 42 wins, a 2.39 GAA and saving 2,117 shots a year doesn’t hurt.

Moral of the story is Edmonton has been bad for quite some time now, last season was the first time in ten years the Oilers clinched a playoff spot. The Oilers have a balanced lineup, a superstar(two superstars), a solid defense and Cam Talbot in net, they are here to stay and with the Oilers around for awhile the Pacific gets a little bit more difficult for those teams like the Sharks and Flames.

Honestly, what is there to say about the Oilers, they have McDavid and Draisaitl producing 80 plus points, Maroon tapping in goals, Lucic doing his part. Oscar Klefbom leading the defense and Kris Russell playing a sound game. But the Oilers did not win the Stanley Cup last season and for them to make that leap a few guys will need to step up and play some bigger roles such as….


Darnell Nurse: Entering his bridge deal year, Nurse has yet to contribute 70 games to the Oilers in his two years with the team, he battled injuries last season and played in 69 games in 2015-16, where he posted only 10 points. Nurse was the Oilers first round, seventh overall pick in 2013 and at 6”4, 220 pounds has not fared well with Edmonton. But with Edmonton’s success last season and looking to repeat that year, Nurse may be put into a better situation to succeed. Plus the pressure of a contract extension may help the 22-year-old defenseman produce more. He is still a big piece to this Oilers defense and if Nurse can meet the expectations many had for him, produce 40 points then the Oilers defense is even more solidified. Nurse will be a player to watch and Edmonton will be counting on him to help this team make that stride deeper into the playoffs.  

Jesse Puljujarvi: What a disappointing year for the 19-year-old, after playing 28 games and failing to then be assigned to the AHL team is not a good start for the rookie. Puljujarvi just did not produce what the Oilers were expecting him to. Luckily though he is extremely young and on a team that seems to treat their young players fairly well and allow them to develop. As it seems now though Puljujarvi will be on the starting roster for next season, aside Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Milan Lucic. Next season is more of a time for Puljujarvi to prove his top six worth, play a full season and show Edmonton he is able to handle NHL play. The Oilers need this kid to produce some points next season, he was a 4th overall pick and was highly sought out coming into the season. Next season is a big step for the young forward.

Ryan Strome: Islander fans have some mixed emotions for Strome he showed some signs of light but also showed signs of being a liability out there. After being dealt over to Edmonton for Jordan Eberle, the Mississauga native gets the chance to play in Canada again. Strome will more than likely be a third line center or second line center(depending on Nugent Hopkins), at the spot alongside Drake Caggiula and Jussi Jokinen some pressure will be taken off the 24-year-old center, but the Oilers brought him for some center depth and a player that can produce 30 points a year. With some pressure off him, Strome should excel more, surrounded by some great youth and a growing franchise in Edmonton, Strome’s fresh start may do him some justice. His center depth will allow the Oilers to have more tools and options come postseason time.

Cam Talbot: Holy sh*t, Talbot started in legitimately almost every game, he didn’t start in 9 games last season. Is there even a back up in Edmonton? Seriously though, Talbot aside from McDavid was hands down the sole reason the Oilers made it into the postseason and made it past the Sharks the first round. Talbot had a career year for himself and set the bar high. He’s now in contention with some elite goalies in the NHL and is the guy Edmonton is relying on to steal a few games here and there. Talbot now at age 30, seems like a good age to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup if you’re Edmonton. Often goalies get looked upon to do more, or they are the question mark of the team, but honestly, after a 42 win year, 73 starts and a 2.39 GAA is it even possible for Talbot to do “more”? I’m sure there is more for Talbot to do, he’ll be just fine for Edmonton. 


NHL Preview: Vancouver Canucks 2017-18, Horvat Ceiling, Prospect Growth, Del Zotto Role

Vancouver Canucks(30-43-9: 7th Pacific Division):

A basement team for the past two seasons now, with the Sedin brothers aging and a question mark at goaltender, the once hopeful postseason Canucks quickly turned into the re-build Canucks. The bright spot about this team though is they did sign Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto. The Canucks have a ton of youth on their roster and brewing in the AHL/Major Junior leagues. But with Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, and Brock Boeser the Canucks have some talent on this line up right now. The Canucks defense does not look too bright but not too gloomy either, with Alexander Adler, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher nothing spectacular but it’ll get the job done. The Canucks goalie situation is again their problem with Andress Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom the two will be battling for the #1 spot and having two goalies split time, never pans out well(ask Dallas).

Obviously the Canucks are no playoff team and won’t be for sometime, they made some moves but not enough to push them into playoff contention. The Sedin brothers will continue to be 50 point producers but to expect anything more in them in Vancouver and at 36-years-old is unrealistic, they can’t do much more than 50 points. They have some offensive tools the Canucks but not enough depth and too many question marks to be a playoff team, let alone a middle of pack team. Some players that will be looked upon for some major production despite the Canucks unlikelihood of cracking 35 wins are…

Screenshot 2017-08-24 at 4.25.10 PM

Bo Horvat: I’ve spoke about this guy before, and I will continue to toot his horn, he is a legitimate scorer and point producer. Paired along Sam Gagner/Brock Boeser and Baertschi, Horvat does not get a ton of help in Vancouver but managed to break through for 52 points and 20 goals. Horvat shocked some of us last season with his All-Star appearance and career year, but the bar is set now in Vancouver and management will be looking for Horvat to continue to get better. Horvat is one of those players at 22-years-old on a bad team, that can only continue to grow or completely bust. But I think we can expect a 50 plus point season from Horvat. Vancouver has yet to sign Horvat to a contract extension, this late in August and nothing happening is not a good sign but also could mean nothing. Horvat will get around 5-6 years and an AAV of $27.5-33 mil.

Loui Eriksson: Remember when Eriksson got brought into Vancouver and everyone was like “oh my god he’s going to score 25 plus next season with the Sedin brothers, they’re going to be a sick line!!” Yeah Eriksson scored, 11 goals and had 24 points in 65 games. That escalated quickly(feel bad for fantasy owners, yikes). But a year under his belt in Vancouver, getting used to the Sedin brothers and the style of play Eriksson should hopefully produce a bit more. He has the capability and needs some time under his belt with the new club(note: Eriksson came to Boston played poorly first two years then scored 30, and same with Dallas). Eriksson with the Sedin brothers, power play minutes and line one minutes, barring he can get over the hump and get back to his ways will be a solid 40 point player for Vancouver. Which Vancouver needs desperately and they need Eriksson to be the 2015-16 Eriksson they thought they were getting.

Michael Del Zotto: A lot of talk has surfaced about Del Zotto’s readiness to lead the Canucks defense, first off he’s not leading the defense, there is still Edler, relax there people. Del Zotto is still going to be looked upon heavily for Canuck fans and management, they did sign the streaky defenseman to a $3 mil contract. Del Zotto has shown some signs of progression but also has shows signs to be the worst defenseman in the league. Despite all Del Zotto’s failures, moving to Vancouver a less media-rich, press heavy market the defenseman will have a ton of pressure taken off his back. Vancouver will see the 2014-2015 Del Zotto before Philadelphia got his head and the 2011-2012 New York Del Zotto before New York media got to him. Some players cannot thrive in a media rich market and Del Zotto will perform much better with less expectations and press in his face 24/7.

Jacob Markstrom: Markstrom will more than likely get the starting job in Vancouver but honestly for these two goalies there’s not a ton pressure, between a low ceiling for the Canucks and their postseason hopes being slim to none, we can agree we all are not expecting either of these goalies to steal every game. Nonetheless goalies still have that competitive edge just like all athletes do and their will to win, will come down to who starts. Markstrom has some history in Vancouver and showed some bright spots, we can expect him to be the starter next season. Markstrom if he wants to continue to hold his job and become a starting goaltender, next year will be a big test for the 27-year-old goalie.