Trade Candidates – Jan ’17

February has just arrived, and the Trade Deadline is only a short month away. March 1st can’t some soon enough for us hockey fans hoping for a busy deadline. Most would think that the looming expansion draft should create some major trades from here until the expansion draft takes place. Here is my take on the top 10 players who appear like they could be on the move:

10) Gabriel Landeskog – Trade rumors have been surrounding Colorado for the better part of 2 months now, with good reason. They are in the middle of one of the worst seasons in recent NHL history. They have a lot of pieces that they can move to upgrade for the future, starting with their captain. Landeskog surely would bring in a prospect plus a mid round pick.

Where to?: Ottawa, Florida, Calgary

9)  Shane Doan – Spending his entire career in the Coyotes organization, Doan hasn’t had much of a chance at capturing a Stanley Cup. He’s now 40 years old, and on the final year of his contract, and potentially his career, it’s time for a chance with a contender. He doesn’t provide a big scoring punch anymore, but is regarded as one of the best leaders in all of the NHL, and could surely help out a team in need.

Where to?: Nashville, San Jose, Minnesota

8) Ryan Miller – Vancouver is still sitting JUST outside of the playoffs, however with the compressed schedule, and teams starting to gain momentum heading towards the post-season, the Canucks could be one of the teams to slide off and towards the basement. It’s time to sell whatever you can in Vancouver, and like other Canadian teams in recent years, accept the rebuild. Miller can provide solid backup down the stretch for a team in need of an upgrade, and there are plenty.

Where to?: Edmonton, Columbus, Boston

7) Radim Vrbata – Vrbata hits all checks that teams are looking for: cheap AAV, right handed shot, good speed, great shot. Problem is? He is due a bonus that could hinder a lot of teams. This could hurt his potential landing spot, as a team would need some cap space to play with.

Where to?: Montreal, Nashville, Ottawa

6) Martin Hanzal – Like Colorado, Arizona finds themselves as sellers at this deadline (like many others). Hanzal is on a very cheap (expiring) deal, and can instantly upgrade any team’s 3rd line centre. Arizona has plenty of prospects waiting in the wings who they will gladly add to the lineup next year. There should be plenty of willing suitors for Arizona in this case leading up to March 1st.

Where to?: San Jose, Montreal, Chicago

5) Thomas Vanek – Vanek has stated that he loves playing in Detroit, but they are surely going to miss the playoffs. 25 years straight is a record that will likely stand for a long time, so they are more than due for a bit of a rebuild. They have some core pieces in place, and viable veterans. Vanek, on an expiring deal, could bring back a 3rd round pick for Detroit at minimum. He can surely help add scoring depth to a Cup hopeful.

Where to?: Pittsburgh, Nashville, Chicago

4) Jarome Iginla – With how bad Colorado has been trending on a nightly basis, they will surely be one of the more active teams leading up to March 1st. Iginla could help a team’s scoring depth looking to make a push. He’ll draw some attention, even if he’s not quite the same Iginla of a few years past.

Where to?: Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Minnesota

3) Matt Duchene – Another Avalanche that could (should?) be on his way out of town before the trade deadline. Duchene could bring back a boat load for the Avalanche. He’s signed for two more seasons so he’s not a rental. He could slot in perfectly on any team as either their first or second line centre. If Colorado is looking to go full-rebuild, and right now they sit with the best possible chance at landing either of coveted centres due to be drafted high, trading Duchene would surely ignite the rebuild a lot quicker than expected.

Where to?: Nashville, Montreal, NY Islanders

2) Kevin Shattenkirk – Shattenkirk is a pending UFA, and will not be returning to the Blues next season. The biggest question surrounding St. Louis right now is between keeping Shattenkirk and pushing for contention this year, or trading him off for future assets and riding out this year however it plays out. They currently sit in a playoff spot, and have the talent to make a run. However, their goaltending has been atrocious this year, going from 1st to 30th in SV% alone. Shattenkirk will draw lots of interest the closer we get to March 1st.

Where to?: Toronto, Edmonton, Dallas

1) Ben Bishop – Tampa Bay has had some very serious goalie struggles so far this year. Everyone expected the tandem of Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy to be a force this season, and with the caliber of skaters they have, Tampa was expected to be viewed as a contender. Going into February, Tampa sits 14th in the East, but only 6 points out of a playoff spot. They could use some help defensively, even if for the short-term. It appears as though Bishop will be on his way out of Tampa this summer, so the time is now to capitalize on his value.

Where to?: Colorado, Dallas, Calgary

 

Trade Candidates – Dec ’16

December has just come to a close, and while we’re only a little over a third of the way through the season, it’s becoming more evident who will likely be sellers come the deadline at the end of February. Here is my take on the top 10 players who appear like they could be on the move:

10) Sedin Twins – eventually, one would hope the Canucks realize they’re not built like a playoff team, and accept the rebuild. This would require moving the Twins. This will be quite difficult, as they have another year left after this at a high cap hit. If they wish to stay together, that will only make things more difficult. 

Where to?:  Minnesota, Nashville, Montreal

9)  Jaromir Jagr –  Jagr is not likely to move, as Florida still hopes to make the playoffs, and he enjoys playing there. However, if Florida continues to struggle, I’m sure teams will come calling. 

Where to?: Montreal, San José, Dallas

8) Ryan Miller – Miller still plays at a high level, and can be that extra factor to push a team over the top. Can we see him on the move again near the deadline? All depends again on the Canucks willingness to accept the rebuild. He can help many teams who could use a better 1-2 punch. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles

7) Radom Vrbata – Enjoying a bounce back year, Vrbata can provide secondary scoring at a very low cap hit. He should have many interested suitors the closer we get to the deadline, and Arizona again far away from a playoff spot. 

Where to?: San José, Chicago, NY Rangers

6) James Van Riemsdyk – Big, skilled wingers are hard to come by. Soft hands down low, and with a cheap cap hit for this year and next make him a highly valuable target. Lots of rumours that the Leafs are willing to move him. 

Where to?: Rangers, Minnesota, Nashville

5) Thomas Vanek – Another winger singed out of camp that is having a bounce back year. Vanek, much like Vrbata, can help provide a secondary scoring punch to a team in need. 

Where to?: NY Rangers, San José, St. Louis

4) Jarome Iginla – Iginla is surely towards the end of his career, time to give it another shot at a Cup. That won’t be happening in Colorado. 

Where to?: Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Montreal

3) Dennis Seidenberg – Here’s a guy who almost had no place to play this year if it wasn’t for a strong showing at the World Cup. He’s having a decent season on a lackluster team. He’s cheap, and can improve almost any current D-core. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, NY Rangers

2) Dmitry Kulikov – Teams looking to add on defense will likely have a hard time finding players available. Kulikov could be one of the few names floating around the market. He can add depth to a team in need. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, NY Rangers

1) Ben Bishop – many would have predicted Tampa move Bishop this past offseason, but with the expansion draft looming closer and closer, it would make most sense to move Bishop at the deadline for a piece that could push Tampa over the top as they push for Cup. 

Where to?: Buffalo, Vancouver, Colorado

Team Rankings – Oct ’16

My current take on the first month of the 16-17 NHL season, power rankings style:

1) Montreal Canadiens – Does this start ring a bell to anyone? Montreal off to another great start this year, but we all know what happened last time around. Keeping in mind, with a healthy Carey Price they will most certainly help them continue this trend, they’re also sitting near the top of the league (tied 4th) in goals for with 31. Price has already missed time this year, however back-up Al Montoya has looked like he will be reliable. Shea Weber has done his job to silence any critics of the summer blockbuster that brought him to town putting up 4 goals and 6 assists in 9 games, along with a team-best +12.

Trending – Even

2) Pittsburgh Penguins –  The defending Cup champions haven’t missed much of a beat, even without their captain to start the season. Having Crosby back in the lineup (4 goals in 3 games so far) has been a big boost for Penguins, as they’ve also recently gotten young goalie Matt Murray back into the lineup. Their in a much better start at this point in the season than they were last year. Barring any big injuries, the Penguins have a strong chance to have a great season.

Trending – Even

3) Minnesota Wild – For myself, this is the biggest shock so far of the 2016-2017 season. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk can claim much of the credit for this on his own, as he posted 3 consecutive shutouts at the end of October. Minnesota’s best acquisition of the off-season was bringing in new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who could be the most underrated coach in all of the NHL. Boudreau has changed Minnesota’s style of play, and so far it appears to be paying huge returns. Can they keep it up? I personally didn’t expect them to be 3rd in NHL points by the end of October, but now I’m beginning to wonder how wrong I actually was about this team.

Trending – Up

4) Edmonton Oilers –  Similar to the Canadiens, this has a lot to do with their star player being healthy. Connor McDavid is arguably the best player on the planet already in only his second season. The things he can do at such a high rate of speed is incredible to watch. Milan Lucic appears to be a fit on his line, and the Oilers are showing both improved D and goaltending. This should be the year they finally find themselves in the playoff picture.

Trending – Even

5) Tampa Bay Lightning – This team is built to win a championship – now. They’re running out of time, as they will lose a couple key pieces to both the expansion draft, and to the salary cap in the next year – despite Steve Yzerman’s wizardry with re-signing star players. Ben Bishop hasn’t been playing like his old self, but could be on the move sooner rather than later with other teams suffering key injuries to goalies. Future goaltender Vasilevskiy has looked great in 3 starts (2.05 GAA, 0.929 SV%). They lost their last 3 games in October after winning 4 of their first 5, so they will look to bounce back before in November.

Trending – Down.

6) Chicago Blackhawks – Off to a 5-3-1 start, the Blackhawks are once again near the top of the Western Conference standings. Richard Panik has been the biggest surprise in the early going, with 9 points in 9 games. It seems Chicago has a way of just FINDING players that can help them score. Panik had been bounced around before landing in Chicago, so one has to believe it won’t last. But then again, it’s Chicago…

Trending – Up

7) NY Rangers – Jimmy Vesey has looked great so far for the Rangers, living up to expectations that he set by opting out and signing with the Rangers this summer. Chris Kreider is enjoying a good year so far, despite missing a few games due to injury. Mika Zibanejad has looked stellar early on. All has been going well so far for the Rangers. Can it keep up? It’s still very early, but they’ve looked like a complete team.

Trending – Even.

8) San Jose Sharks – The Sharks have looked pretty good so far this season, posting a 6-3-0 record. Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are up to their usual thing, and Tomas Hertl has looked great early on. With not many years left for Jumbo Joe, you have to think the mind-set in San Jose is win now. They’ll have to add some scoring depth mid-season, but they boast a strong lineup night-in and night-out.

Trending – Up

9) St. Louis Blues – Jaden Schwartz started the year on the IR, Jori Lethera has missed time, but overall the St. Louis Blues have been hit or miss depending on the night. Some nights they look elite, others they haven’t. They managed a great record in October (5-2-2), and they’re hoping they can build off of that going into November. The better they start, the better off they’ll be playing in the tough Western Conference.

Trending – Even

10) Washington Capitals – The Caps have gotten off to a slower start this season, after dominating for much of the regular season last year. Part of the struggle has been scoring goals. Ovechkin has only managed 6 points (4 goals) in 8 games played. Issue is, with those 6 points he sits 2nd in team scoring behind only Marcus Johansson. They’re having some struggles that they haven’t shown in the past, however they still have an impressive record (thanks to Braden Holtby) at 5-2-1 through to the end of October.

11) Detroit Red Wings – Another big surprise – for me at least – is the play of Detroit through October. They’ve gotten excellent goaltending from both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. Howard has started 3 games and is currently at a GAA of 0.86 (!!) and a SV% of 0.973. Those numbers are sure to take a hit, but he’s certainly playing well in an expansion year in which he could be taken by Vegas, or traded to one of many teams who could use an upgrade. Also worth noting, Tomas Vanek put up 8 points in 7 games for Detroit in October before getting hurt, very impressive.

Trending – Up

12) New Jersey Devils – The Devils added Taylor Hall in hopes that he would increase their goal scoring, and he’s done well (5 goals in 8 games), however Adam Henrique has fallen off in production through October. He managed to score 2 goals and 2 assists, which isn’t awful, but they were hoping for an increase from him. Cory Schneider continues to be one of the best at his position, sporting a solid 0.941 SV% and 1.86 GAA. The story is the same, goal scoring wanted.

Trending – Even.

13) Florida Panthers – Losing young stud Jonathan Huberdeau before the start of the season really hurt their chances. Enter Jonathan Marchessault. He has put up an incredible 6 goals and 5 assists in 9 games for Florida in October, however they were sitting at 4-4-1 when the month ended. They’re going to need more from Aleksander Barkov (5 points) and Jaromir Jagr (4 points) if they hope to be in a good position when they finally do get Huberdeau back.

Trending – Even

14) Ottawa Senators – The Sens struggled early on defensively, but Craig Anderson has been rock solid as of late. Coming off receiving terrible news regarding his wife’s health, he posted an impressive shutout of the red-hot Edmonton Oilers. If the Sens can play with the emotion that they did in this game, and carry it out further, they can rattle off some wins early on. Mike Hoffman has struggled early this season, posting only 1 goal in October. They’ll need more from him if they hope to climb their way into the playoffs this year.

Trending – Up

15) Boston Bruins – Brad Marchand has continued his strong play from last season, and at the World Cup, putting up 10 points in 8 games. Boston has managed to stay at .500 (4-4-0) despite having time missed by all of Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, David Backes, and David Pastrnak. If they can get all of the above healthy and into the lineup, they should do just fine.

Trending – Up.

16) Philadelphia Flyers – Last year it seemed as though the Flyers finally found viable goaltending. This year, that’s definitely not the case. They were near the top of the league in goals for, but finished dead last in goals against. Both Mason and Neuvirth have been terrible for the flyers, both sporting a higher than 3.45 GAA and lower than an 0.880 SV%. The offense is there, they just can’t keep the puck out of their own net.

Trending – Even

17) Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks started the year missing 2 key players in their lineup due to them remaining unsigned – Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm. Both are now signed, however neither suited up in a game for the Ducks in October. John Gibson has been shaky at times to start the season, and the Ducks finished 3-4-2 in October. Adding these two back into the lineup will be a much needed boost for the Ducks going forward.

Trending – Up

18) Buffalo Sabres – Losing your future star in Jack Eichel, as well as Evander Kane before the season was a gut-punch for the Sabres, who had playoffs aspirations at the start of the season. A big boost to the Sabres is having goaltender Robin Lehner back healthy to start the season. He has missed a couple games due to a stomach virus, but has looked great as of late. The Sabres are hoping they can keep pace in the Eastern Conference until they can get their injured players back later in the season.

Trending – Even

19) Calgary Flames – I think it’s safe to say Brian Elliot would love to forget his three starts in a Calgary uniform in which he surrendered 14 (!!) goals. He has turned it around since then, allowing no more than 2 goals in his next 4 starts. Calgary as a whole has gotten off to a tough start, with Sean Monahan also struggling early (4 points). This team is better defensively than they’ve played, and should be able to produce more offense than they currently have been.

Trending – Up

20) Dallas Stars – The Stars have been struck by injuries early on, as Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza, Jiri Hulder, and Patrick Sharp have all missed time. Hemsky will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing hip surgery, however the key loss is Sharp who’s currently rehabbing from a concussion. If he can come back healthy, with no relapses, this team should still make the playoffs. Goaltending hasn’t been great for the Stars either, but everyone knew that coming in. Perhaps they will look to improve this through trade? Bishop? Fleury? There are plenty of better options for a team this talented than Niemi and Lehtonen.

Trending – Even

21) Colmubus Blue Jackets – Rookie d-man Zach Werenski has outstanding, playing most nights on the top pair, while putting up 6 points in 7 games. He’s definitely put himself in the Calder conversation early on, and has helped ignite offense each night for the Jackets, which they desperately needed help with. Sergei Bobrovsky has started each game, and while he’s 3-3-1, he’s rocking a solid SV% of 0.941 to go along with 2 shutouts. He’s been everything anyone would want in their number 1 goalie. He needs help up front. If the Jackets want to push themselves into the playoffs they’re going to need outside help.

Trending – Up

22) Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks had surprised everyone and got off to a 4-0-1 start which no one expected, beating teams like St. Louis, LA and Anaheim. They lost their next 3 games in regulation to end October at a respectable 4-3-1 record.  The issue that most people predicted has been coming to the front – goal scoring. They managed a league low 17 goals for in October. Their major signing in the offseason, Loui Eriksson, managed all of zero goals in October, with 4 assists and a -4 rating. The Canucks appear to be in for a long season, the nice start will soon be forgotten.

Trending – Down

23) Toronto Maple Leafs –  The rookies in Toronto have been incredibly fun to watch. The Leafs have struggled in the early going to close out a lead, as they’ve blown multiple 3rd period leads. Frederik Andersen has looked better as of late, after struggling early on. William Nylander was just named NHL Rookie of the Month for October, and along with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Nikita Zaitsev, the young leafs have looked great in the early going. Add in a little better defensive play and they should be able to round-out their game going forward.

Trending – Up

24) Colorado Avalanche – Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov has not been great, posting a GAA of 3.18. Not the worst in the league by far, but the Avs themselves are only averaging 2.85 goals for per game. So there’s blame to be placed on both sides. The Avs recently called up their number 1 rated prospect Mikko Rantanen, so Avs fans are hoping he jumps starts the offense. So far, he’s come up with zero points in 2 games, not an ideal start.

Trending – Down

25) New York Islanders –The Isles big signing of the offseason has not lived up to expectations at all. Andrew Ladd has managed no goals and only 1 assist so far in 9 games.1 point in 9 games! That’s while spending 99% of the first 6 games on a line with John Tavares. Not what you were hoping for when you signed him to an AAV of $5.5 million. Yikes. The Isles defense have been helping out offensively, scoring 10 of their team’s 27 goals in October. They need more help up front. Fans must be missing Kyle Okposo right about now..

Trending – Down

26) Winnipeg Jets – The Jets are an interesting case. They’ve looked great in some games, and bad in others. They’ve gotten steady goaltending from their tandem, and they’ve gotten good offensive support from rookie Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler. But after those three, it falls off quickly. They don’t possess the depth that others do in the division, not to mention that Jacob Trouba is still holding-out on the Jets, hoping for a trade. Time will tell, but as of right now they don’t look like a playoff team.

Trending – Down

27) Los Angeles Kings – Another team hit with injury trouble, which includes start Jonathan Quick. Tough to get by in today’s NHL without your starting goaltender (see Montreal last season). The Kings are also struggling to score, as they put up only 20 in 9 games in October. Hard to win in today’s NHL with that kind of support, no matter who’s in net. They’re now on their 3rd goalie of the season in Peter Budaj, and while he has played better lately, he’s not an ideal number 1 goalie. Things are looking bleak in LA.

Trending – Down

28) Nashville Predators – This has to be the biggest disappointment so far this year. Many were picking the Predators to win the Cup, yet they’ve started the year 2-5-1. Yikes. This team possesses a lot of talent, and boasts the best defensive corps in the league, but they were near the bottom in goals allowed in October. They’ve got to be better than they’ve been, and they can be.

Trending – Down

29) Carolina Hurricanes – A noticeable trend early in the ’16-’17 season was more goal scoring, or, as in the case with Carolina, weaker goaltending. The combo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack has been awful for Carolina. Lack is posting a GAA of 4.00 and a SV% of 0.857, while Ward isn’t much better at a GAA over 3.00, and a SV% under 0.900. One of the only bright spots for Carolina so far is the play of Jeff Skinner, who put up great numbers in October – 5 goals, 6 assists, +1 (somehow) in 7 games played in October.

Trending – Down

30) Arizona Coyotes – Once again, the Arizona Coyotes are dealing with goaltending issues. Mike Smith is dealing with another injury after only starting 2 games. The Coyotes are a young team, with a cupboard full of high-talent prospects. Last year was the emergence of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, this year we’re seeing Dylan Strome, Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak, and more as they try and make an impact for the Coyotes. Time will tell if this team can imrpove, but the future is definitely bright for the Yotes.

Trending – Up

 

*Stats from NHL.com. Cap info from CapFriendly.com*

Players To Watch – Breakout Candidates

It’s the Eve of the 2016-2017 season, beyond excited to get this year going. Most people have already completed their fantasy drafts for the upcoming season, but here’s who I think will be the player to watch for each team this upcoming year.

Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome. Although he didn’t have as great of a year last year in Erie as many would have thought, the 3rd overall pick from 2015 is set to begin his rookie campaign this season. Adding his size and talent to the young-and-improving Coyotes is a combo that should work out well for both sides. He could wind up 45-50 points in his first year.

Anaheim Ducks – Nick Ritchie. He’s excelled at every level he’s played so far, and managed 30 points in 38 AHL games last year. He struggled last year when called up, but coming into his first full season Ritchie has a lot left to prove. He should get minutes on the ducks top 6, and surrounded by guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry should help Ritchie get to 45 points.

Boston Bruins – David Pastrnak. Slipped a bit in production last year with 26 points in 51 games, however I expect a big season coming from the young forward. He should open the season on the top line with Bergeron and Marchand, which only boosts his value. If he remains there all season, and gets some PP time, he could be near 60 points at the end of the year.

Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart. This is the year where the 2nd pick in 2014 really makes an impact with the Sabres. He showed great chemistry at the end of the year with Jack Eichel, and started to see more ice because of it. He’ll carry that momentum into this season and continue to increase production. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t hit 65 points this year.

Calgary Flames – Sam Bennett. Centering the Flames second line, Bennett has steadily improved his overall game in each of the last 2 seasons. While I don’t expect him to shoot the lights out this year, I think it’s reasonable to expect him to approach the 50 point mark in his second full season. If Matthew Tkachuk sticks with the Flames all year, it will give him better linemates than the likes of Michael Frolik and Lance Bouma.

Carolina Hurricanes – Elias Lindholm. Should see some time on the top PP unit coming into his third season. His numbers have held steady at 39 points, should be no reach to see him get close to 50 this year. He’ll have some more skilled linemates this year in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, which could also boost his production.

Chicago Blackhawks – Nick Schmaltz – I don’t particularly believe Schmaltz will have a stellar year, but he is someone to keep an eye on during the season as a late waiver-wire grab. I think eventually he will replace Artem Anisimov on Chicago’s second line between reigning MVP Patrick Kane and most recent breakout star Artemi Panarin. But until then, only choose the top dogs when it comes to the Hawks. They have a very thin bottom 6.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Zach Werenski. Right now he’s been playing top pairing minutes with Seth Jones. That right there is enough to take a gamble on, not to mention the 14 points he had in 17 AHL playoffs games leading to the Calder Cup win. Kid can play. Could he be the newest young d-man to take the NHL by storm? Yes please.

Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon – Last time I’ll say this – this is HIS year! It’s always felt as if he’s on the cusp of an 80-point campaign, but just hasn’t gotten there yet. He showed brilliance at the World Cup, it’s time to start putting it all together. I truly believe he can be among the elite in the NHL.

Dallas Stars – Jiri Hudler – Not exactly lining up with most of my other picks, in that he’s not exactly ‘young’ anymore. Hudler gets a chance to play with a few of the best offensive forwards in the NHL today in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Will he take full advantage of this? He’s an upgrade on the role Patrick Eaves was playing on this line the last few seasons, and even if he bounces off the top line, he’ll still be lining up with Jason Spezza as his centreman. Hudler could hit 60 points if the Stars can manage to stay fairly healthy this year.

Detroit Red Wings – Gustav Nyquist. Expect a bounce back season from Nyquist, he’s far too skilled to be a 40-point player. Will he break 60? Doubtful, only because of the surrounding cast he currently has in Detroit, but he should be a lock for 50-55.

Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid. Just kidding, I expect Leon Draisaitl to take another step forward after putting up 51 pts last year. The Oilers have gotten better around him, and this should free him up a little more. He’ll get plenty of looks on the PP this season, especially with the departure of Taylor Hall. I’d be willing to bet that Draisaitl breaks through the 60 point plateau this season.

Florida Panthers – Jonathan Marchessault. With the nasty injury to Jonathan Huberdeau, this opens up a spot on the top line in Florida. Marchessault has put up great numbers in the AHL (263 pts in 306 games), but the 25 year old has never had a full season in the NHL. This is his chance to take the ice-time while it’s available and make the most out of it. If he sticks there for a few months, he should hit 40 points by year end.

Los Angeles Kings – Teddy Purcell. This team doesn’t really possess a potential breakout candidate in my opinion. Their forward depth is ugly when you look past Kopitar, Carter, Toffoli, and… well that’s it. Purcell will get plenty of ice time in the top 6 and on the powerplay, but it looks like this team will struggle to score. Don’t expect more than 40 points out of Purcell.

Minnesota Wild – Matt Dumba. Here’s a guy I would gamble on for a late defensemen to breakout. He showed in junior he can score, and show glimpses last year he can as well. Problem he’s facing is playing time. If he can gain more minutes, he could push past the 30 point mark, and potentially 15 goals if the Wild use him on the PP.

Montreal Canadiens – Alex Galchenyuk. If they ever give this guy the chance to play on the top line, and it looks like he will this year, he could easily breakout for 65 points. Play him a full season with Pacioretty and see if it works. If not, then bring in a centre who does work. Galchenyuk has all the skill, I just feel he hasn’t been fully given the opportunity to play with the best players. Let’s do that this year.

Nashville Predators – Kevin Fiala. The Swiss winger looks to be a lock to make the team and stick there all year. He’s been practicing on the top line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, so if he can stick there… lookout. Adding PK Subban to the mix has only increased the scoring opportunities that will come to this team, and Fiala looks to be right there in the mix. The rookie should be right in between 40-50 points in his first year in the big leagues.

New Jersey Devils – Adam Henrique. Re-united with his old buddy Taylor Hall, Henrique’s value has never been higher. He had 50 points last year with weaker linemates, expect 60-70 this season as he teams-up again with the speedster Hall, who will be playing this season with something to prove.

New York Islanders – Ryan Pulock. The key here will be if Pulock can bump Boychuk off of the top PP unit in New York. He’s got a HEAVY shot, and can put that on display with the likes of John Tavares on your team. He showed some poise late last year when he was called up, and played well in the playoffs for Isles. He had 17 goals 2 years ago in the AHL, so if he can bring that touch to the NHL level, he could be a force from the back-end.

New York Rangers – Pavel Buchnevich. Highly regarded as a rookie to watch, Buchnevich will see plenty of ice on the Rangers’ second line. Will he hit 50 points? It’s tough for many rookies to get to this level, especially in his first year coming over from the KHL, but Buchnevich possesses the skill-set to do so.

Ottawa Senators – Derick Brassard. A trade to Ottawa looks to have sparked Brassard as he’s looked great on a line with Bobby Ryan so far (yes, I know it’s only preseason). He didn’t quite have the most productive linemates last year, but he’s still a top 75 fantasy player in today’s NHL. Don’t reach too high for him, but he should be a lock for 50, and could hit 60 points if the chemistry with Ryan is real.

Philadelphia Flyers – Ivan Provorov & Travis Konecny. Technically cheating, but both of these rookies should have solid campaigns. Provorov has dominated junior for the past couple of seasons and with the injury to Del Zotto, will have plenty of ice-time available. Look no further than the Flyers again this year to have the breakout defensemen of the year on their team, as he could easily put up 40 points for a rookie. Konecny should be able to manage the same, as currently he’s playing alongside Jakub Voracek who has looked to be back to his old-self after an off-year.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Connor Sheary. A full season on a line with Sid the Kid? Sheary possesses the speed needed to keep up with Crosby. If he can continue the chemistry shown late last year and in the playoffs, he could be the new and improved Chris Kunitz. If Crosby recovers from this most recent concussion scare, he should return immediately to the dominance he showed at the World Cup and in the second half of last season. Look for Sheary to put up 25 goals minimum if he sticks with Crosby for an extended period of time.

San Jose Sharks – Tomas Hertl. He showed some great chemistry late in the season with the two Joes. Can he carry it over to this season? If he does, expect high 50’s. He’s got loads of talent, just needs to finally breakout.

St. Louis Blues – Nail Yakupov. I was picking Robby Fabbri here until the trade for Yakupov, but I’ll take one last gamble on the Yak. He’s got the skill, and the work ethic. If he finally gets a chance with good linemates, I think he can regain the magic that made him a 1st overall pick. He sure looked good on McDavid’s wing until the injury earlier last season. I’d take a gamble on 50 points this year, it’s now or never.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Jonathan Drouin. Easy pick, he’s coming into his last season on his rookie contract, and Tampa will have a tough time keeping him. Expect him to perform very well, to showcase his skills for whomever he’ll be playing for in 2017-2018. That is, unless Tampa unloads some other contracts, which is a possibility considering the magic Steve Yzerman has been able to wield recently (see Kucherov contract).

Toronto Maple Leafs – Morgan Rielly. Auston Matthews is hyped to get anywhere from 40 to 60 points. Morgan Rielly looked like a top defensemen at the World Cup this year, logging big minutes for the young guns. Add to the Leafs a much improved offense, and the smooth puck-mover could be in for a good season offensively. Time will tell how much time he gets with the man-advantage, but I’d be willing to be he creeps over 45 points this year.

Vancouver Canucks – Bo Horvat. It’s time to move on from the Sedins and start giving the future more minutes. That starts with Horvat. Give him more time at even-strength, and on the man-advantage. Start seeing what your future looks like, see how much further he can grow. But on a team I envision finishing dead last, I can’t see more than 45 points out of Horvat. If he can click with some linemates, maybe he’ll sniff at 50.

Washington Capitals – Andre Burakovsky. He’s shown some flashes of high-end skill, and it looks as though this year he’ll get the minutes. Playing alongside either Backstrom or Kuznetsov will only enhance his skill, as he did score 87 pts in the one year he played in the OHL. More than likely he’ll end up on the 2nd unit on the PP, however he should still be in reach of 50 points. I’d take a gamble on this young skater going even higher.

Winnipeg Jets – Mark Scheifele. He scored at a point-per-game pace near the end of the season, and proved he has what it takes to be a number 1 centre in this league for years to come. Add in the hard-shooting Patrik Laine, and Scheifele’s point totals should continue to rise. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t hit 70 points this year.

Follow me on twitter @RubberOnIce

(*Credit hockeydb.com – great place to look up historial stats easily)

 

Standings Predictions: 2016-2017

After reading the USA Today’s article predicting the standings of the upcoming season, I figured it was a good time to make some final predictions of my own (mostly because I disagree with some of their choices). I’m not going to predict exact point totals for each team, only the order of the standings as I see them today:

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division:

  1. Washington Capitals – This team remains fairly intact from last year, I see them again dominating on a nightly basis just like last year.
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins – Little bit of a Stanley Cup hangover in Pittsburgh. Finishing just behind the Capitals, just like last year.
  3. Philadelphia Flyers – Flyers get good seasons from both Mason and Neuvirth as they continue to battle for starts. Youngster Ivan Provorov has an impressive season, helping carry the Flyers up the standings
  4. New York Rangers – The decline continues for the Rangers. King Hank isn’t getting any younger, it looks as if this team’s chance for a Cup may have come and gone for the near future.
  5. New Jersey Devils – Newcomer Taylor Hall clicks with junior teammate Adam Henrique, and backstopped by one of the most consistent netminders in Cory Scneider. This is a team to watch if they can start scoring goals.
  6. New York Islanders – It looks as though this team will take a minor step back, while I believe it will only last one year. Tavares loses long-time linemate Kyle Okposo, and it will be hard to fill his void – I don’t think Ladd provides what they need.
  7. Columbus Blue Jackets –  I do see Columbus taking strides and getting better, however they’re unfortunate to be in this division. I think overly they improve their wins/loss ratio from last year, just not enough to climb into the playoffs.
  8. Caroline Hurricanes – this team is built on the backend for years to come, the only questions remains is who will score for them? They’ve got a couple young prospects they can slot into their lineup, but not enough to compete in this division.

Atlantic Division:

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning – With the majority of their stars now locked up for the future (other than Kucherov), this team can get back to focusing on winning hockey games. A full year of Jonathan Drouin will only help one of the NHL’s most potent offensive teams.
  2. Florida Panthers – Aleksander Barkov continues to grow under veteran leader Jaromir Jagr, and takes the next step into the elite player category. Adding James Reimer to back up Bobby Lu should keep the Panthers near the top of their division.
  3. Montreal Canadiens – There will be a point this season where the Habs struggle, and the media and fans will freak out. That being said, this team is too good to fall too far down the standings. A healthy Carey Price and this team is again a favorite to win it all.
  4. Buffalo Sabres – The biggest question mark coming into this season is one that was being asked last year, is Robin Lehner an NHL starter? Injury prohibited us from getting an answer on that, but Buffalo also added more firepower in Kyle Okposo. If the blueline and Lehner can perform, Buffalo could be a fun team to watch this year.
  5. Boston Bruins – Many question marks on Boston’s blueline coming into this season, as their Captain has looked as though he’s been increasingly slowing down as of late. Can Rask regain form? Can the Bruins score enough to outweigh their defensive weakness? My gut says no.
  6. Detroit Red Wings – Losing Datsyuk hurts, big time. But the real weakness for Detroit is on the blueline (a recurring theme in this division). I see Detroit taking a major step back this season. The playoff streak comes to an end.
  7. Toronto Maple Leafs – Will the Leafs be much better than last year? By a small amount yes. They will definitely be more fun to watch. The youth-movement is in full force in Toronto, as fans get to see Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner (hopefully) on a nightly basis. Frederik Andersen should provide more stable goaltending, and an improved blueline all point to signs of good things to come.
  8. Ottawa Senators – While I do believe bringing in Brassard makes the Senators a better team, I don’t believe they have the goaltending to compete this coming season. The Hamburgler took a major step back last season, and Craig Anderson is due to begin declining. I see this team as a whole taking a step back.

Western Conference

Central Division:

  1. St. Louis Blues – Even with a couple notable subtractions this offseaon in David Backes and Brian Elliot, the core of the Blues remains intact and as strong as ever. They will require Jake Allen to stay healthy all season, but with that, they look like the can roll through MOST other teams in their division. Vlad Tarasenko could potentially challenge Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard trophy with another great season.
  2. Dallas Stars – Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, and now add in Jiri Hudler. That’s an impressive group of players. Question marks? Two very shaky goalies. We’ll see if they can improve over their performances last season, that will make or break this team.
  3. Nashville Predators – I’m a firm believe that the Predators severly won the Subban for Weber trade. Pekka Rinne stays healthy and this team could win the Cup. They have the best defense corps overall in the NHL. Add in a full season of Ryan Johansen creating chemistry with Filip Forsberg, and potentially youngster Kevin Fiala? If Pekka Rinne stays healthy and returns to form, look-out.
  4. Chicago Blackhawks – The Blackhawks are overly due for a season of regression. How much more often can they continue this trend of being at the top of the NHL standings year in and year out? This was the hardest team to place for me. They could win the conference, or they could fall off to 4th in their division. I believe they will regress slightly in the goal scoring department, which will ultimately push them back in the standings.
  5. Winnipeg Jets – I really like where this team is headed. Can they bump up against a playoff spot? Yes. Adding a young gun in Puljujärvi only increases the firepower the Jets began to show at the end of last season. I expect big things from Mark Scheifele this year and Connoy Hellebuyck. I would love to see playoff games again in the Peg.
  6. Minnesota Wild – I don’t believe the Wild have the offensive power to compete in the Central Division. They have a great goaltender in Devan Dubnyk, and a young blueline in Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, and seasoned vet Ryan Suter. They’re hoping this is the season that Nino Niederreiter hits his potential, but if  he doesn’t and no one else has a breakout season, they won’t even sniff at the playoffs.
  7. Colorado Avalanche – While I consider losing Patrick Roy as a coach a positive, this team is too weak outside of the top 2 lines to push their way into a playoff spot. Only thing that can change this is a huge season from Semyon Varlamov, and they’ll need Nathan MacKinnon to finally breakout. Having one of these things happen is likely, having both would be lucky. And Colorado will need all the luck they can get.

Pacific Division:

  1. San Jose Sharks – This has to be the year the Sharks win a Cup. If not, they could be waiting a few years before being back at the big dance. Patrick Marleau was showing his age last season, and Joe Thornton can only put off the age factor for so much longer. They are built deep, and strong. This is the team to watch this year.
  2. Anaheim Ducks – John Gibson is now the man in Anaheim. Is he ready to shoulder the heavy workload that comes with being a full-time starter? Time will tell. This is another team, like the Sharks, that is slowly ageing, and counting down the years it has left to be in the Cup conversation.
  3. Arizona Coyotes – The future is now in Arizona. This team is built DEEP in the prospect pool. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair looked great last season, and the Coyotes are likely to add a couple more high-potential prospects to their NHL roster including Dylan Strome and potentially (likely) Christian Dvorak. Add this to their already talented group and it smells of success. Will it be instant? Most would guess no, but there’s plenty of opportunity in this division for Arizona to win games.
  4. Edmonton Oilers – Is Connor McDavid enough to push these guys out of the basement? Short answer is yes. But they’ve also improved on defense in adding Adam Larsson (sorry Oilers fans), and adding some grit and size up front in Milan Lucic. It’s only a matter of time before Edmonton FINALLY puts it all together.
  5. Los Angeles Kings – Sure they still have the best defensemen (overall) in the NHL in Drew Doughty, and boast the likes of Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick, but their bottom six forwards are… yikes. They’re no longer the powerhouse they once were. They need to add a few key pieces in order to even have a chance to squeak into the playoffs.
  6. Calgary Flames – The problem in Calgary is their bottom six group of forwards. They posses some good young talent in Johnny Hockey, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. However, beyond that, it begins to stretch thin. They’ve addressed their biggest flaw from last season in bringing in a proven start in Brian Elliot. While this team has taken strides forward, they still need to improve their bottom six before they can be looked upon as a Cup contender.
  7. Vancouver Canucks – Hands down, the Canucks are the worst team heading into the 2016-2017 season. They are aging on forward and in net, and do not boast the prospect pools such as Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary. Vancouver is due for a dead-last, draft lottery winning rebuild. The time is now.

Playoff Picture:

Eastern Conference:

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning
  4. Florida Panthers
  5. Montreal Canadiens
  6. Philadelphia Flyers
  7. Buffalo Sabres
  8. New York Rangers

Western Conference:

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. San Jose Sharks
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. Nashville Predators
  5. Anaheim Ducks
  6. Chicago Blackhawks
  7. Edmonton Oilers
  8. Winnipeg Jets

Outlook on 2016-2017: Calgary Flames

Continuing to attempt to predict outcomes of the 2016-2017 season. Next up: The Calgary Flames

2015-2016 Important Notes:

Finish – 12th place in the Western Conference, 26th overall

Goals for vs. goals against – minus 29 (25th overall)

Picked 6th overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft – Matthew Tkachuk

Where Will the Flame Finish?

The Flames possess some very young and exciting players in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. Their biggest obstacle is competing with the likes of San Jose, Anaheim and the Kings in their division. Gaudreau is coming off of a 78pt campaign, and looks every bit like the real deal. He reminds me so much of Patrick Kane when he broke into the league, and has great chemistry with Monahan. These two are the building blocks every team is dying for. Add in a newly drafted Matthew Tkachuk, and this team looks like it’s headed in the right direction.

The biggest struggle last year for the Flames was keeping the puck out of their net. Jonas Hiller looked lost on most nights, and they had 3 other goalies make appearances in a Flames uniform last season. Many thought the Flames would end up with Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes to start the 2016-2017 season, however they went a different route and brought in Brian Elliot. What does this mean to Calgary? They’ve helped stabilize the biggest question mark surrounding their team. Backing up Elliot will be Chad Johnson, who looked great in Buffalo last year, going 22-16-1 with a GAA of 2.36 and a save percentage of 0.920. These are great numbers for what will be your number two goalie. With these additions in net, the Flames should have no problem pushing for a playoff spot this season. If they can stay healthy, and improve defensively (most goals against allowed with 260), they should be a fun team to watch.

Johnny Hockey

One of the smaller guys in the NHL, Gaudreau has not let his size hold him back. He’s improved in each of his first two full seasons, going from 64 to 78 points and finishing in the top 10 in league scoring. How much further can he go? It appears the sky is the limit for the self-named Johnny Hockey. He possesses all of the skill in the world, and is a very competitive player night-in and night-out. He’s had great chemistry with Monahan since they both broke into the NHL, and with the maturation of fellow teammates in Sam Bennett, and adding a skillful prospect in Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames look to be adding more offensive weapons to their roster in the very near future.This will only create more room and opportunity for Gaudreau to score. Gaudreau should continue to be in the top 10 in scoring for many years to come, with the potential to challenge for the Art Ross for many years to come.

Defensive Improvements

When Calgary traded for Dougie Hamilton, many believed they had stolen him from Boston. Did he live up those expectations in his first season in Calgary? Many would argue no, however he still managed to put up 43 pts. Another year playing with a well-respected veteran in Mark Giordano will only help Dougie develop into a better all-around defensemen, as he still requires some improvements in his own end. That being said, replacing the horrendous goaltending in Calgary from last season with Elliot and Johnson will surely help all Flames defenders. Finishing last in goals allowed is never a good indication of your defensive game, however another solid addition by the Flames this past season was replacing Kris Russell with young prospect Jyrki Jokipakka. He should step into the Flames bottom pairing this season and help the Flames in their own end of the ice. Comparing last year to this year, there really is only way one to go, and that is most definitely up.

The future is bright (and now) in Calgary. This is a team to watch in the next few years.

Outlook on 2016-2017: Columbus Blue Jackets

Continuing to attempt to predict outcomes of the 2016-2017 season. Next up: The Columbus Blue Jackets

2015-2016 Important Notes:

Finish – 15th place in the Eastern Conference, 27th overall

Goals for vs. goals against – minus 33 (26th overall)

Picked 3rd overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft – Pierre-Luc Dubois

Where will the Jackets finish?

I find Columbus one of the harder teams to predict each season. Their roster on paper looks like it should be a borderline playoff team, but they’ve struggled over the past two seasons to put it all together. One would assume that with a healthy Sergei Bobrovsky that they are immediately a better team than last year. Bobrovsky had his season cut short due to injury, but is currently participating at the World Cup and looks to be in fine form going into this season. It’s imperative that the Jackets have a bounce-back year from their captain Nick Foligno. Coming off the 2014-2015 season in which he scored 31 goals and 73 points, he struggled in 2015-2016 and only managed 12 goals and 37 points. Is he a regular 65-75 point producer? No, but he should be able to provide the Jackets with a 20 goal season.

Seth Jones looks to be rounding into form for the Jackets, and along with other youngsters in Ryan Murray and even David Savard, they look to be built on the back-end for years to come. The Jackets possess enough grit in their lineup to keep teams on their toes night in and night out, and they’ll count on strong seasons from Brandon Saad, Cam Atkinson, and a solid sophomore season from Alex Wennberg if they hope to push for a playoff spot.

Built For The Future

Columbus possesses a strong prospect pool heading into the 2016-2017 season. Their AHL affiliate Cleveland Monsters (formerly Lake Erie) won the Calder Cup last season, which is always a good thing for NHL teams. Their AHL team contains future bright-spots including Sonny Milano (31 pts in 54 games as a 19 year old), Daniel Zaar (43 pts in 71 games as a 20 year old), along with Oliver Bjorkstrand, TJ Tynan, and others. Add to this, junior defensemen and 2016 1st round draftee Zach Werenski (31 pts in 31 games in the NCAA), and newly drafted Pierre-Luc Dubois (99 points in 62 games in the QMJHL), and this team is full of future NHLers. The next couple of years in Columbus should be exciting for fans, with the future looking as bright as almost any other.

Making Room For The Young Guns

With so many young stars waiting in the wings, and looking to join the big club this season or next, the Jackets will have trouble finding the room to accommodate the influx of young talent that is waiting. I’m sure all Jackets fans would love to see the likes of David Clarkson and Scott Hartnell replaced by the next generation. That being said, is there a market for these players?

Simple answer for David Clarkson is no. When he signed his current deal (4 years remaining at a hit of $5.25) with Toronto I thought they would never be able to get out of it, so I suppose there always is the potential of a team taking on the Clarkson deal, I just can’t imagine who. If anyone offers ANYTHING, the Jackets would be wise to take it. While he’s not unplayable, he’s just simply not worth half of his current cap hit.

Is there a market for Scott Hartnell (3 years at $4.75)? Another tough contract. Hartnell enters the season at 34 years old, and has begun showing signs of slowing down. I can see a team like Arizona searching for a player like Hartnell. They too have a young team on the rise, but they don’t possess many players like Hartnell in their lineup, whereas Columbus has similar players in Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno. I can see Arizona making a push to trade for Scott Hartnell before the end of the season, especially if they’re in the playoff picture come March.

All in All

I envision the Jackets improving enough this season to push for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. Backed by a healthy season of Sergei Bobrovsky, and an added offensive punch from youngsters, this team looks built for the future. If only it could get rid of a few contracts (*cough* David Clarkson *cough*).

(Credit: NHL.com ; www.capfriendly.com; hockeydb.com)