Friday, June 30, 2017

NHL Draft Grades

The NHL Draft has come and gone, and I've had a little time to assess what every team has done. If you're keeping score on how many predictions I got right, I got Cale Makar, Cody Glass, and Owen Tippett with the correct teams and in the right slots, plus Klim Kostin going to the right team, but 11 slots lower than expected (he went 31st overall). Now, it's time to look at what each team did and hand out arbitrary grades.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks lost their first round pick in the Patrick Eaves deal, and given that they just resigned him to a new deal, it appears to be a first round pick well spent. They did incredibly well to pick up both Maxime Comtois and Antoine Morand in the second round while they addressed their potential black hole in the goalie pipeline with Olle Eriksson-Ek in the fifth round. Jack Badini and Kyle Olson were also picked, and clearly, the Ducks have confidence in their blue line, as none of the picks were defensemen. Grade: B+

Arizona Coyotes: Most of their picks were on the blue line, with Pierre-Olivier Joseph having the most potential of the bunch. He needs to add weight, but he has all of the makings of another Oliver Ekman-Larsson. I didn't like that they didn't take a goalie in the draft, as it's rather barren beyond Adin Hill, but I did like Tyler Steenbergen, as he could be a steal in the fifth round. Grade: B-

Boston Bruins: The Bruins went predominantly centers and defensemen, with no wingers taken. Urho Vaakanainen was a safe pick, and given Jakub Zboril's slight regression in his development, it's not a bad pick. Jack Studnicka was a pick I liked here, as he fits the Bruins mold for centers. Grade: B

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres picked the best player available when it came time for their turn in the first round in Casey Mittelstadt. He will need a year, minimum, but he can eventually slot in behind Jack Eichel as a number two center. Other than Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen, however, the rest of the draft wasn't necessarily that great, as I thought they took a little long to address their blue line deficiencies. Grade: B-

Calgary Flames: For just having one pick in the first three rounds, the Flames made it count, as Juuso Valimaki will eventually slot in with TJ Brodie once he gets developed. The rest of their draft was throwing darts and hoping they hit the bullseye, but they did pick up Travis Hamonic in a trade, bolstering their blue line right away. Grade: C (not counting the Hamonic trade)

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes need a number one center, and while Martin Necas doesn't necessarily have that ceiling, he does provide speed, another aspect that the Hurricanes currently lack. Most of their picks have rather low ceilings, but are largely safe bets for lower end roles if they make the NHL, especially Stelio Mattheos. Grade: B

Chicago Blackhawks: With losing Trevor van Riemsdyk and Niklas Hjalmarsson in the days leading up to the draft, it was no surprise that the majority of their picks were defensemen. Henri Jokiharju was a reach, but he fits what the Blackhawks want out of their defensemen. With nine picks, the Blackhawks filled every position except in goal, where they could have used someone for much later. Grade: B

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs needed to hit a homerun on their first pick, and with Cale Makar, that's exactly what they did. While he is a year away, minimum, he has all of the makings of a franchise defender. They also did well in drafting Connor Timmins in the second round, further fortifying their shaky blue line. The rest of the draft wasn't as inspiring. Grade: B+

Columbus Blue Jackets: With no first round pick this year, the Blue Jackets could afford to just simply add warm bodies into the prospect pool. Picking Alexandre Texier was a surprise choice, but he fits exactly what the Blue Jackets want in a player, as he provides grit. Grade: C+

Dallas Stars: The Stars addressed their biggest problems in the first round, as Miro Heiskanen will add stability to a blue line that sorely lacked a steady presence while Jake Oettinger adds a top end goalie that should be ready by the time Ben Bishop's contract ends. They also drafted Dylan Ferguson, who got flipped for Marc Methot, further helping their blue line. Grade: B+ (moved up to A- after the trade for Methot)

Detroit Red Wings: For the most part, it was about getting as many players as they could for the Red Wings. They did fill a need for offense in Michael Rasmussen, who also happens to fill a size need as well. It helps that he can skate well. I liked the pick of Keith Petruzzelli, who could figure into the golatending future if he picks up a few extra pounds and develops as expected in college. Grade: C

Edmonton Oilers: They took a major chance on Kailer Yamamoto, but not based on skill. He's got a fair amount of filling out to do, but only a 5'9" frame to work with. However, his skill set should work with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Getting Stuart Skinner in the third round was also a smart move. Grade: B

Florida Panthers: The Panthers only had five picks, but they already have a considerably deep prospect pool. Getting the best scorer available in Owen Tippett was great, though reaching for Aleksi Heponiemi could be the bigger payoff if he gains weight, as he's just a buck-forty. Grade: B-

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are still in salary cap hell, given they're still on the books for both Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik. However, they did incredibly well in the draft, going down the middle with all their picks, as only wingers were not picked. Getting Gabe Vilardi at 11 was smart, as was picking up a rising Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Matt Villalta is another option in the eventuality that Jonathan Quick will retire, but the Kings hope that won't happen for a few years. Grade: B+

Minnesota Wild: Without a first or second round pick, the Wild had to make the most out of what they did have, and it seems like only Ivan Lodnia could be a potential NHLer. Size was largely ignored, as four out of the six picks are under 6' and only one breaks the 200 pound mark. Grade: D+

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens need scorers, and none of the picks look like a gamebreaking scorer. As a matter of fact, none of the picks were wingers. Ryan Poehling's potential ceiling is 60 points while they appeared to overcompensate for losing Mikhail Sergachev by adding four defenders. Grade: C-

Nashville Predators: The Predators paid lip service to each of the positions, with every spot getting one player richer after the draft. The best picks were Eeli Tolvanen, a pure goal scorer who fell to them at 30 and may very well begin his pro career sooner rather than later, and Jacob Paquette, the second to last pick in the draft who could see his numbers go up with a bigger role in Kingston. Grade: A

New Jersey Devils: They get a passing grade just for picking Nico Hischier, a player that may need another year in major junior, as he needs to pack on a few pounds, but he provides a dynamic presence down the middle. While they didn't fill their blue line needs until late, they did pick up a potential steal in the fourth round in Nikita Popugaev, who fell due to a drop in production late in the draft year. Grade: A-

New York Islanders: The Islanders went defensemen with their first three picks and left wingers with their last two picks. It is debatable whether any of them will have an impact, but the trade of Travis Hamonic for a 2018 first round pick indicates they may be hedging their bets in the case that this year doesn't pan out for them. Grade: C

New York Rangers: They reached on their two first round picks, but Lias Andersson was a solid pick while Filip Chytil could surprise if he pans out. The Rangers are still in win-now mode, as none of this year's picks are expected to contribute in two years. Grade: C+

Ottawa Senators: For just having four picks, the Senators did pretty well in shoring up their depth. Shane Bowers isn't a top center, though the draft was pretty thin on top centers after Hischier and Nolan Patrick, but he should be no worse than a quality third line center. Alex Formenton could be another London Knight that breaks out post-draft year while Jordan Hollett was a value pick late in the draft and could be a factor in net. Grade: B-

Philadelphia Flyers: Nolan Patrick was obviously a great pick, as he now figures to make the opening night roster thanks to a trade that sees the Flyers saying good-bye to Brayden Schenn. Morgan Frost was a reach, but they made up for it in value by taking Isaac Ratcliffe in the second round and Matthew Strome in the fourth round. The Flyers continue to replenish their pipeline, and now, all facets appear to be plentiful. Grade: A

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins traded out of the first round to take Ryan Reaves, who figures to be the cop on a team that can use one. As for the actual draft, the Penguins drafted four defenders, with the best potential going to Zach Lauzon. As is the case with recent drafts, the Penguins are in no hurry to rush any of their prospects. Grade: B+

San Jose Sharks: They reached for Josh Norris, but the potential as a Logan Couture clone was great, and the Sharks would gladly take it if that is the case. The Sharks stocked themselves down the middle with two other centers, a need that may be coming if Joe Thornton bolts in free agency. Grade: B-

St. Louis Blues: The Blues added Brayden Schenn and lost Ryan Reaves in draft day trades, and they added a solid two way player in Robert Thomas, as well as power forward Klim Kostin in the draft. They addressed their blue line late in the draft. Grade: B

Tampa Bay Lightning: Going with mostly centers in the draft, their best pick was defenseman Callan Foote, who suddenly gives the Lightning a strong prospect pool of defenders, which includes recently acquired Mikhail Sergachev. If Alexander Volkov and Alexei Lipanov come over to North America within a few years, they stand a decent chance of making an impact on the Lightning. Grade: B+

Toronto Maple Leafs: Timothy Liljegren headlines a pretty good draft pool for the Maple Leafs, and while he had a poor season, his potential is such that he could be the offensive starter from the blue line that the Leaf have lacked since Tomas Kaberle. Eemeli Rasanen is an intriguing defender who is a project, but has the size to be a difference maker while Ian Scott is a good option in goal. Grade: A-

Vancouver Canucks: Elias Pettersson was a slight reach in the first round, but his potential marks out to be a number two center, at worst, once the Sedins move on. Their next three picks were great, as Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich were solid picks, as was goalie Michael DiPietro. Grade: B+

Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights' plan was go down the middle, and they did incredibly well with most of those picks. Cody Glass was a great pick at six while Nick Suzuki figures to slot behind him within a couple of years. Erik Brannstrom was a bit of a reach, but Nic Hague was a solid value pick in the second round. One sleeper to watch is Jake Leschyshyn, who figures to get a bigger role with Regina next season. Grade: A

Washington Capitals: Bereft of a draft pick for the first three rounds, this looks like a throwaway draft for the Capitals. None look like a contributor down the line, but the Caps have proven people wrong before. It's just harder to say so for this year. Grade: F

Winnipeg Jets: Though well stocked on prospects, the Jets did alright this year, with Kristian Vesalainen providing a possible big body that can score up front, thus cutting down on the possibility of moving Dustin Byfuglien to forward. Dylan Samberg is a few years away, but he has potential on the blue line. Grade: B-

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fielding a Team

The Expansion Draft has come and gone, and now, each of the 31 teams will be ready to go on the ice. The Vegas Golden Knights spent close to the cap, with just $0.9 million left over after the draft and various trades. With that, let's look at each of the players taken from the existing 30 teams plus trades.

Clayton Stoner-Taken from Anaheim, the Golden Knights were enticed to take him when the Ducks agreed to also trade Shea Theodore to them. Theodore is more likely to make an impact than Stoner, whose contract comes off the books after next season.

Teemu Pulkkinen-AHL goal scorer who is on the clock to find his game in the NHL or be doomed to career AHL'er. The Golden Knights will be his fourth NHL team, after Detroit, Minnesota, and Arizona couldn't get much out of him.

Colin Miller-The Bruins needed to make room for Charlie McAvoy, and Miller's departure will do just that. As for the Golden Knights, a third line role appears likely, though if he can get his PPG closer to his rookie year, a second pairing role could be in his future.

William Carrier-Buffalo traded a draft pick to the Golden Knights as a likely guard against them taking Linus Ullmark. Carrier will be on his third NHL team, but will likely be given a bigger role.

Deryk Engelland-He was entering free agency, but the Golden Knights convinced him to sign a new deal, enabling them to bring him home. Adds grit and not much else.

Connor Brickley-The Hurricanes traded a fifth-round pick to entice the Golden Knights into picking Brickley, and they may not be done dealing.

Trevor Van Riemsdyk- Solid defensive option taken from Chicago, he too, could be on the move if the Golden Knights decide he isn't an answer on the blue line. He's on the move, as Carolina traded to get him.

Calvin Pickard-Every team needs a backup goalie, and Pickard will fit that description (more on who he's backing up). He wasn't ready for a full-time starting gig, but the Golden Knights will be a better team up front than his former home in Colorado.

William Karlsson-The Blue Jackets threw in their first round pick to ensure that the Golden Knights would take him. Karlsson figures to challenge for a spot on the second line, as...

Cody Eakin-Barring anything out of the blue, Eakin enters the season as the Golden Knights' first line center. A very good second liner, this is his chance to shine with a bigger role now that he isn't behind Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza.

Tomas Nosek-Likely headed for the AHL, Nosek couldn't crack a rather thin Detroit lineup.

Griffin Reinhart-Reinhart has yet to fulfill his potential, and now that the Golden Knights are his third team since being drafted in 2012, he is on the clock to prove that he is not a bust.

Jon Marchessault-A 30-goal scorer, the Panthers threw in Reilly Smith to ensure that the Panthers would not lose either Roberto Luongo or Jason Demers.

Brayden McNabb-The Kings didn't lose when McNabb was taken, but given that they're still saddled with the contracts of Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, they were hoping for a lot more, especially since they're officially in salary cap hell.

Erik Haula-The Wild threw in Alex Tuch and an assurance from the Golden Knights that Haula would be signed to a new deal if they took him. At worst, he's a solid fourth line player.

Alexei Emelin-Physical presence, was likely picked as part of a later trade, which will be discussed then.

James Neal-Nashville didn't want to lose him, but given their lack of center depth plus Neal agreeing to waive his NMC, it had to happen. Vegas gets a player good for 30 goals, but also with just one year left on his contract.

Jon Merrill-Second pairing defender duty is likely awaiting Merrill, who may very well be paired with a defensively responsible player that the Golden Knights picked up, which will be mentioned later.

JF Berube-Most likely headed to the AHL, he was picked because the Islanders threw in Mikhail Grabovski and a first round pick this year.

Oscar Lindberg-Solid center who will likely see third-line duty and possibly more if he outplays William Karlsson.

Marc Methot-Defensively responsible, his likely defense partner could be Jon Merrill.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Likely AHL bound, he can fill in on an NHL roster if injuries impact the team, and he provides grit and leadership in the locker room.

Marc-Andre Fleury-The face of the franchise, he needed a fresh start now that Matt Murray is firmly entrenched as the Penguins' starter. Still, Fleury has a few good years left and can be a sure thing on what is most likely few sure things on the Golden Knights.

David Schlemko-The likely condition of the Golden Knights taking Emelin, Schlemko is headed to Montreal.

David Perron-Offensively gifted, but consistency forever remained an issue in his NHL career thus far.

Jason Garrison-Considerable money freed up for the Lightning, they also threw in negotiating rights to Nikita Gusev, and given that the Golden Knights not only have a solid top pairing guy, but also a lure for Gusev in his former SKA teammate Vadim Shipachyov, they made out pretty well here.

Brendan Leipsic-The forgotten man in the Maple Leafs' youth movement, he gets a fresh start, but is now on his third team. Expect him to challenge for a spot on the NHL roster.

Luca Sbisa-Possible that he could be paired with Jason Garrison, but also possible he plays third pairing minutes, too. Much maligned in Vancouver, he's far better in his own end.

Nate Schmidt-Defender with promise, he will see more time in the NHL, as he isn't behind the likes of John Carlson and Karl Alzner.

Chris Thorburn-Fourth line duty awaits this physical presence. The Golden Knights also acquired the Jets' first round pick this year and gave up the first round pick originally owned by Columbus in return.

The Golden Knights now own the 6th, 13th, and 15th overall picks in this year's draft. The question is whether they decide to move two of the three or all three in an effort to get either the first or second overall pick.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rebranding Madness

Last night, the NHL and Adidas made their pact official, as the rebranded uniforms for each team were unveiled, and to say most were rather disappointing would be an understatement. Since every team unveiled their new home looks, rather than go through each team, I'll go through the highlights and lowlights.

Before getting into that, it should be noted that most of the teams will carry over their looks from last year, with the collar being the lone exception, as it will look decidedly different.

The highlights: There were really only four teams who benefited the most from the Adidas rebrand.

The Colorado Avalanche were the worst affected by the Reebok branding of 2007, but now that the jagged striping that adorned their first looks has returned, it automatically puts the Avs in the highlight category. Granted, I would have loved for more than gray separating the maroon and the blue, but given how badly their Reebok jerseys looked, you'll take what you can get.

I can technically put the Carolina Hurricanes in the highlights category, since they returned the storm warning flags onto the waist stripes, albeit in a more subtle manner. Adding more black to the waist and arm stripes actually adds a little more to what was a rather ordinary look.

The Minnesota Wild almost always put out winners when it comes to sweaters, and this look is no exception. The fact that they're going with forest green as their regular home colors only cements the look as one of the best of the rebranding.

I'm going to level with you: I had extremely low expectations for what the Vegas Golden Knights were going to trot out. To say that they exceeded expectations would be an understatement, as it looks passable, though the red does look out of place.

As for lowlights, let's just say that Calgary, Ottawa, Columbus, Vancouver, and Washington all had their chances to make a fresh start, and none of them took that chance, instead opting for familiar looks. Also, Buffalo only took half a chance, getting rid of the piping, but for some reason, keeping the numbers on the front of the jersey.

Edmonton going with orange as a full-time home jersey may be a nod to their early days in the WHA, but that doesn't mean it should have remained as such today. Going with a darker shade of blue doesn't help.

Nashville got rid of the piping, opting for a cleaner look. Too clean, if you ask me, as there's not nearly enough navy on the jersey. Even a smaller striping of navy on the waist and arm stripes would have brought it out of the lowlights category.

This was the rebranding that the New Jersey Devils went with? I was hoping for a lot more than just broadening the arm stripes and getting rid of the waist stripes, which is the biggest no-no that they could have done.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

NHL Mock Draft: Picks 16-31

With Adidas revealing all 31 teams' new (sort of, for some teams) uniforms, I'm expediting the mock draft.

16-Calgary Flames: Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane (WHL)

The Flames have had success with players like Yamamoto, as they have his contemporary height-wise in Johnny Gaudreau. Super skilled offensively, and Sam Bennett still needs wingers that can score.

17-Toronto Maple Leafs: Cal Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL)

Toronto could always use another defensive prospect, as they remain thin at that unit, a fact exposed by their third pairing of Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak getting repeatedly torched. Foote isn't a game-breaker, but he is reliable in his own end and has a little more offensive than his dad Adam, a former Colorado defender.

18-Boston Bruins: Nic Hague, D, Mississauga (OHL)

The Bruins have tried preparing for the eventuality of Zdeno Chara finally hanging it up, and though Charlie McAvoy, last year's first round pick, looks like a sure thing, the first round pick from 2015 Jakub Zboril is not as certain to be great. Hague has the size and may provide solid two-way play to go along with McAvoy's offensive prowess and Brandon Carlo's stay-at-home abilities.

19-San Jose Sharks: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL)

The Sharks need young defenders in the pipeline, especially since they just gave up on Mirco Mueller living up to his potential. Joseph is a puck mover that needs to gain weight, but is checking off the boxes in most other areas.

20-St. Louis Blues: Klim Kostin, RW, Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

St, Louis got pushed around a lot last year, and despite an off-year thanks to injuries and a lack of playing time in the KHL, Kostin showed what he could do when given the time to show. Provides a physical element that was missing last year.

21-New York Rangers: Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (Sweden)

The Rangers are getting old on the blue line, and though they just parted ways with Dan Girardi, they still have decent ability there. The future doesn't look too bright beyond that, and Brannstrom would not only be a body on the blue line, but also a puck mover that they haven't had in a while.

22-Edmonton Oilers: Robert Thomas, C, London (OHL)

Though listed as a center Thomas can play anywhere up front, and he's likely the safest pick in the first round. The Oilers would like to have better depth up front, especially when it comes to the third and fourth lines, and Thomas can bring a two-way game to those areas right away if needed.

23-Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota): Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, HPK Jr. (Finland)

I fully expect the Coyotes to take a goaltender either here or with their second round pick. Presuming they do like what they see in that category, it's down to Luukkonen or Jake Oettinger. Luukkonen has the higher upside, and I think he's a little closer to NHL ready.

24-Columbus Blue Jackets: Kole Lind, RW, Kelowna (WHL)

The Blue Jackets are sound defensively, but they didn't have nearly enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh in the first round. Sadly, this year's draft doesn't have much in the way of offensive talent, but Lind is one of the better options available. Plus, going down the wing, the Blue Jackets could use another guy there.

25-Montreal Canadiens: Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (Finland)

The Canadiens just traded away Mikhail Sergachev, leaving their defensive pipeline a little less stocked. Reliability is what he will provide, but he may require a few years to develop his hockey sense a little more.

26-Chicago Blackhawks: Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph (OHL)

A project, Ratcliffe has the size that Chicago desperately needs, as they've been lacking in that lately and were pushed around by St. Louis and Nashville in recent playoff tilts, teams with at least one physical presence. He can provide a little offense, but once he gets a little more weight, his size will be his greatest asset.

27-St. Louis Blues (from Washington): Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane (WHL)

Anderson-Dolan rose up the draft board thanks to his tournament play in the World Under-18s, and he is just now scratching the surface of his potential. With Dan Lambert now coaching Spokane, it will be interesting to see how much offense he can really provide.

28-Ottawa Senators: Jason Robertson, RW, Kingston (OHL)

Robertson could afford to improve his skating, which seems to be a theme with most draft picks this year, but if any team knows about offensive talent that needs improved skating, it's Ottawa, as Robertson draws comparisons to Mark Stone, who's done pretty well in Ottawa. Work ethic is something to watch, but the offensive skill is there.

29-Dallas Stars (from Anaheim): Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Frolunda (Sweden)

The offensive upside is there with Vesalainen, but he also had an up and down season, as he moved quite a bit. Size suggests power forward, but he may be a few years away.

30-Nashville Predators: Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC)

Assuming the Predators don't trade this pick in pursuit of a center like Matt Duchene or Tyler Johnson, the Predators go with the draft route, taking Poehling, who could end up a Mike Fisher clone, as in not great offensively, but very good in many areas, and can play a shutdown role if needed.

31-Pittsburgh Penguins: Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (Sweden)

Liljegren's stock took a tumble, and with Pittsburgh needing to figure out a plan in case they don't keep Justin Schultz and/or Derrick Pouliot doesn't pan out, Liljegren would fit the Penguins system perfectly, as his offense is way ahead of his defensive game.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

NHL Mock Draft: Picks 9-15

Continuing on with the NHL Mock Draft, and the rest of the lottery teams:

9. Detroit Red Wings- Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City (USHL)

Detroit was awful offensively, and short of guys like Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist finding their offensive games again, they need a game-breaker badly. Tolvanen has the potential to be just that.

10. Florida Panthers- Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL)

Florida has plenty of young talent in the pipeline, but it doesn't hurt to have another player ready, especially if Jaromir Jagr eventually hangs it up. Tippett is the biggest boom or bust pick of the potential first round players, but the upside is great here.

11. Los Angeles Kings- Martin Necas, RW, Brno (Czech Republic)

The Kings have been left behind when it comes to the changing game, which is speed. Necas provides their best chance at catching up, but he also brings a reliable two-way game up front, so it isn't just one dimension.

12. Carolina Hurricanes- Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL)

The Hurricanes are lacking down the middle, and while Suzuki isn't a gamebreaker down the middle, he is reliable and has enough offensive talent to one day be a number one center.

13. Winnipeg Jets- Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City (WHL)

The Jets don't have that intimidating presence up front, and while it is a folly to suggest that Rasmussen will be a great power forward, there is a lot to like, with his offense being no worse than third-line. At best, he would open up opportunities for the likes of Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning- Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

While it is possible that the Lightning could lose some talent up front (Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat), they do have pretty good talent in the pipeline. Comtois would add a two-way element that has largely been missing from the forward unit, with potential for above average offensive output.

15. New York Islanders- Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL)

Because it is unknown whether the Islanders will ever put their young talent on display, one can never know how the defensemen will pan out. In the event that most don't, it may be wise to pick one, and Valimaki is more developed offensively than defensively, but the puck mover type is what they sorely need the most.

Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 NHL Mock Draft: Picks 1-8

With the NHL Draft being next week, it's that time again for me to come up with a mock draft. Today, it will be picks 1-8, and given that there's not as much depth as in years past, it will also be predictions sure to go wrong.

1. New Jersey Devils- Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon (WHL)

New Jersey needs major help down the middle, and they have their pick of Patrick and Nico Hischier. Despite an injury-riddled season, Patrick is the most ready to step into the NHL right now. If the worst he can be is another Jonathan Toews, the Devils will gladly take it.

2. Philadelphia Flyers- Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL)

The more dynamic of the two, Hischier would be at worst, a year away because of his need to put on a little more weight. He would add to an already good offense that can always use another center to slot behind Claude Giroux.

3. Dallas Stars- Gabe Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL)

Skating concerns aside, Vilardi checks off every other box, and with Jason Spezza nearing 35, it would be a good idea to start thinking about getting a center to slot behind Tyler Seguin. At worst, he's a year away, at best, he could step in right away.

4. Colorado Avalanche- Cale Makar, D, Brooks (AJHL)

Colorado needs defensemen...badly. Getting a puck possession player up front in Tyson Jost was a start, but now, they need help on a long neglected blue line. Miro Heiskanen is the safer pick, but Colorado may wish to swing for the fences, and that is what Makar's potential is right now.Smaller player, but plays bigger than his size.

5. Vancouver Canucks- Casey Mittlestadt, C, Eden Prairie (USHS)

Split time between Eden Prairie High and Green Bay of the USHL, Mittlestadt carries great offensive potential. A year away, since he's a Minnesota commit, he could down the line, form a dynamic duo with Brock Boeser once he makes the NHL.

6. Vegas Golden Knights- Cody Glass, C, Portland (WHL)

Because nothing will be known about the Golden Knights' roster until Wednesday, they can go in any direction. Glass could at his best, be the face of a franchise that provides offense in spades.

7. Arizona Coyotes- Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Sweden 2)

The Coyotes really need more of a veteran presence, especially if Shane Doan decides to retire. However, looking further into the future, Pettersson would be a dynamic center that has top line potential...if he can put on some weight. A couple seasons in Sweden's top league will help.

8. Buffalo Sabres- Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finland)

The last time the Sabres drafted a defenseman in the first round, they did pretty well, as Rasmus Ristolainen is their top guy now. The problem is that there's virtually little else on the blue line, and the pipeline in that section is not too great. Heiskanen at worst, would be a solid two-way player with better offensive upside than Ristolainen.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Getting Ready for the NHL Draft

With the NHL season coming to its conclusion on Sunday, that means the order for the 2017 NHL Draft is now finalized. Starting Thursday, I will make my predictions (sure to go wrong) on who goes where based on the order. Here is the order, as it stands right now.

1-New Jersey Devils
2-Philadelphia Flyers
3-Dallas Stars
4-Colorado Avalanche
5-Vancouver Canucks
6-Vegas Golden Knights
7-Arizona Coyotes
8-Buffalo Sabres
9-Detroit Red Wings
10-Florida Panthers
11-Los Angeles Kings
12-Carolina Hurricanes
13-Winnipeg Jets
14-Tampa Bay Lightning
15-New York Islanders
16-Calgary Flames
17-Toronto Maple Leafs
18-Boston Bruins
19-San Jose Sharks
20-St. Louis Blues
21-New York Rangers
22-Edmonton Oilers
23-Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)
24-Columbus Blue Jackets
25-Montreal Canadiens
26-Chicago Blackhawks
27-St. Louis Blues (from Washington)
28-Ottawa Senators
29-Dallas Stars (from Anaheim)
30-Nashville Predators
31-Pittsburgh Penguins

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Duds for Moose Jaw

Lost in the Stanley Cup excitement (Go Preds!) are some notable changes within the major junior ranks. Today, it's about what one team will trot out starting next season.

Pictured above is what the Moose Jaw Warriors will be wearing, and the keen-eyed will notice that they take their cues from the New York Islanders' soon-to-be former third jerseys. That look didn't look too good on the Islanders, and it certainly doesn't look good on the Warriors, and to make matters worse, they decided to double the pain. The numbering is probably the best thing about it, but that's where the good news ends. The contrasting nameplate on both sets does little to actually make it work, as seemingly far too many teams use it.