Drafting Skills: Montreal Canadiens

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

Montreal Canadiens

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Nathan Beaulieu (D) 17th overall – Beaulieu was the subject of trade rumours this year, and found himself as a healthy scratch at times, but he is surely an everyday NHL defender. In 74 games, he had 28 points with limited time on the number 1 powerplay unit. He has grown his overall game in recent years, but many would like to see more offensive upside from him. In his final 3 seasons in junior, Beaulieu put up 142 points in 184 games. Those are great numbers for a defender. This was a solid pick by Montreal at 17th overall.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to Florida for Dominic Moore. Moore had 11 points in 21 regular season games, and then only 5 in 19 playoff games in his only year in Montreal. Not great numbers for giving up a second round pick, as the Habs were hoping for more in their playoff run.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to Winnipeg for 2 other picks, none of which became an impact player.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Alex Galchenyuk (C) 3rd overall – For a lot of people, the jury is still out on Galchenyuk, but for me, he’s absolutely a true #1 centre. Montreal has never fully given him the right people to play with, constantly playing lesser minutes than less deserving players on his team, yet he still has scored 204 points in 336 games. He was on pace for his best season yet before being injured, and came back slow. I would take him on my team any day, and there aren’t many from his draft year that I would take over him.

Round 2 – Sebastian Collberg (RW) 33rd overall – Swing and a miss here by Montreal as Collberg is back in Sweden after never making it to the NHL. His last season in the AHL, he had 10 points in 42 games. Not a great pick for the Habs, with many better options behind him.

Round 2 – Dalton Thrower (D) 51st overall – Received this pick from Nashville for Hal Gill, amongst other picks/players in a package deal.

Round 3 – Tim Bozon (LW) 64th overall – Another miss by Montreal, as Bozong played this year in the AHL and ECHL, recording a combined 21 points in 57 games. Those aren’t great numbers for a 23 yeard old in those leagues. Taken immediately after him were Adam Pelech and Jimmy Vesey, who would have both been MUCH better picks.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Michael McCarron (RW) 25th overall – I think it’s safe to say this was another miss by the Habs. He has only played in 51 NHL games since being drafted, and scored a whopping 5 points in 31 NHL games this year. He adds some toughness to Montreal, especially with them being a smaller team, but not enough to make up for his lack of offense. There are a dozen or two players taken after him that the Habs could have taken instead of McCarron and they would have been much better off.

Round 2 – Jacob De La Rose (C) 34th overall – Received from Nashville for Andrei Kostitsyn. De La Rose played a total of 9 games this year in the NHL with zero points scored, and 62 games in the AHL with only 31 points. Given he’s a second round pick, he wasn’t expected to light up the league, but he still can’t find a spot on a team that traded for 3 fourth line forwards at the deadline, 4 years after being drafted. He likely will never be an everyday player at this point.

Round 2 – Zachary Fucale (G) 36th overall – Received from Calgary for Michael Cammalleri, Kari Ramo and a 5th round pick, and received Rene Bourque and Patrick Holland back. Awful trade for Montreal, as Bourque didn’t become what they hoped, while Cammalleri has been one of the most consistent goal scorers in the NHL since the trade. Fucale on the other hand, showed great promise early on in his young career, before being demoted to the ECHL to start this year. He struggled in the season, with a GAA of 3.17 and SV% of 0.898. Those are not great numbers for a young goalie, and it looks as though he won’t grow into what many thought he would when he came out of junior.

Round 2 – Artturi Lehkonen (LW) 54th overall – The lone bright spot of the 2nd round for Montreal, Lehkonen made his NHL debut this year with 28 points in 73 games. He showed some high-end skill that will likely develop next year, his 2nd in North America since coming from Sweden. He should fight for a top-6 role next year up front, and given Montreal’s lack of offense, if he can find his offense early he should see increased ice-time.

Round 3 – Connor Crisp (C) 71st overall – Received this pick from Dallas with Michael Ryder for Erik Cole. Luckily Ryder turned out better than Cole, because Crisp was a flop. He has yet to play an NHL game, and likely won’t as he spent this year in the ECHL. Another miss by Montreal.

Round 3 – Sven Andrighetto (RW) 86th overall – This was a great pick by Montreal, as he found his offensive touch this year, scoring 22 games in 20 AHL games, but only 8 in 27 NHL games. He showed great promise to improve into a scorer, and then was shipped out for a fourth liner in Andreas Martinsen. Andrighetto then scored 15 points in 19 games for Colorado when he was given extra time. He should continue to grow his offensive game next year.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Nikita Scherbak (RW) 26th overall – He only managed to get into the lineup for 3 NHL games this year, scoring 1 goal. In the AHL, he had a good year with 41 points in 66 games, but sits towards the bottom end of players drafted in the 1st round in 2014. One has to figure Montreal expects him to be in the lineup opening night next year, and they hope he can score like he did in junior because they desperately need it. He looks legit, so I’ll give this pick a passing grade.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to the Islanders in a package for Tomas Vanek. This was a good trade, as Vanek light up for Montreal, scoring 15 points in 18 regular season games and 10 in 17 playoff games. They didn’t give up much to get him, so it was definitely worth the gamble.

Round 3 – Brett Lernout (D) 73rd overall – Lernout is a big man at 6’4” and over 210 pounds, and should slide into Montreal’s lineup full-time as early as next season. He doesn’t provide much of an offensive boost, but plays a solid defensive game. Good find in the third round by Montreal.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Noah Juulsen (D) 26th overall – Juulsen is a hard guy to play against, and showed this at this year’s World Juniors for Canada. He scored 34 points in 49 WHL games, which are solid numbers for a defender. Many are projecting Juulsen to challenge for a spot next year, but if not, a year in the AHL will be good for his development. He projects as a top-4 guy, and should get there sooner rather than later.

Round 2 – Pick was traded along with another pick to Edmonton for Jeff Petry. Great trade for the Habs, Petry has played top-4 minutes for the Habs since coming over, and has been consistently one of their better d-men.

Round 3 – Lukas Vejdemo (C) 87th overall – Miss here by Montreal. In 48 Swedish Elite League games, Vejdemo managed only 8 points. This was his third year in that league so it’s not like he was getting used to playing against men.

Overall, Montreal has poorly drafted in these 5 drafts. The majority of their picks have amounted to nothing, with the exception of a rare few. They need to improve drastically over the next short while if they hope to continue to be amongst the playoff teams each season.

 

Sources: www.hockeydb.com ; http://www.prosportstransactions.com/hockey/DraftTrades/Years/index.htm

2017 NHL Playoffs Predictions – Round 1

Cup 2017

Let’s take a stab at predicting round 1 of the 2017 NHL Playoffs

Eastern Conference

(1) Washington Capitals vs (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto snuck into the playoffs in the second last game of the season and are set to take on Goliath. Can they play the role of David? I don’t think so. Washington is battle tested and hungry. Many have picked them to win the Cup in the past few seasons and they always seem to falter on the big stage. Will this be their year? They have possible the strongest team they’ve had yet. They will be too much to handle for the Leafs d-core, which is the weakest of all 16 playoff teams. I believe Toronto will steal at least one game, especially if they have a healthy Frederik Andersen. Auston Matthews and co will do their best to play the role of spoilers, and stranger things have happened. If Andersen gets hot, Toronto has a powerful offense, which has made up for their weak d-core most of the season.

Series Result: Capitals in 5 games

(2) Ottawa Senators vs (3) Boston Bruins

Boston comes into the playoffs playing extremely good hockey. Ottawa limps into the playoffs. Is that enough to decide the series? No, but Ottawa will be in serious trouble with the red-hot Bruins. The big/mean Bruins will be handful for the Senators, who have been dealing with multiple injuries on their backend over the past couple of weeks. The big matchup to watch will be Patrice Bergeron and Erik Karlsson. Only 3 other defensemen log more minutes than Karlsson, and surely Bergeron can’t play upwards of 26 minutes each game. If Karlsson is healthy, he could be the deciding factor in this series. I still think the Bruins will be too much for Ottawa to handle.

Series Result:  Bruins in 6 games

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (WC1) New York Rangers

This was a tough one for me to pick ending so early, as the Rangers have been a powerhouse on the road this year. That being said, Montreal has been the better team all year. Carey Price has been playing well, and looks to carry the team again. Radulov has provided some extra offense for the Habs, and even with the Rangers high-powered offense they have to be considered heavy favourites. King Hank has been struggling lately to say the least. In his 6 starts since coming back from injury, he’s gone 1-3-2 with a combined SV% of just 0.886. They’ll need Lundqvist to be a lot better than that if they hope to win this series.

Series Result: Canadiens in 6

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (3) Columbus Blue Jackets

There aren’t many players who get under Sidney Crosby’s skin more than Brandon Dubinsky, and you better believe he’ll be a thorn in Crosby’s side all series. The Jackets surprised everyone this season, they were a bubble team for a lot of people, and ended up 4th in the entire league in points. They draw the unfortunate luck of playing the defending champs in the first round. Crosby looks to have taken his game to another level this year, which looks like disaster for Columbus. I feel their luck will run out early in the first round.

Series Result: Penguins in 5

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (WC2) Nashville Predators

A lot of people are picking the Hawks to win the Cup, or at the very least come out of the West. They draw a tough matchup in the Nashville Predators in round 1. This is one series that could change the entire results of the playoffs. Chicago has that winning pedigree, and stars like Kane and Toews who live for these big game moments. Nashville doesn’t have nearly the star power up front, but they sure do on D. PK Subban, Roman Josi , and company will look to shut down the Hawks top 2 lines, and hope to get continued goal scoring from Filip Forsberg. Can they upset Chicago? Absolutely.

Series Result: Predators in 7

(2) Minnesota Wild vs (3) St. Louis Blues

I’ve picked the Blues in each of the past 2 seasons to win the Cup, and have come up empty. I truly believe this team has what it takes to make a run. They have a tough test in the first round in the Minnesota Wild. Many view the Wild as a defensive team, however only the Penguins scored more goals than the Wild in the regular season. Couple that with the likes of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and friends on D, and Devan Dubnyk in net? This is a Stanley Cup team if there is one. They are built with both veterans and youngsters. They are built deep. The Blues have a great team themselves, led by one of the best pure goal scorers in Vladimir Tarasenko, and they will give the Wild a tough fight – I just don’t think it will be enough.

Series Result: Wild in 7

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Calgary Flames

Another interesting matchup, with the younger Flames taking on the seasoned Ducks. Both have great goaltending, which neither can really take the advantage from. The Flames have struggled at times this year, while Anaheim has remained consistent, despite injuries to John Gibson. They’re battle-tested in the playoffs, whereas the majority of the Flames core are not as experienced. They matchup well in terms of offense, but the Ducks have one of the deepest d-cores in the league today. They will have their hands full with Johnny Hockey, but I like their chances of shutting down the Flames big line.

Series Result:  Ducks in 6

(2) Edmonton Oilers vs (3) San Jose Sharks

Connor McDavid is arguably the best (second in my opinion) player in the world today. That being said, he hasn’t yet experienced playoff hockey at this level. His first matchup will likely be dealing with the brute that is Brent Burns. He’ll have his moments, but Burns has shut-down the best of them. He is a beast, and will impose his will as he pleases. The Sharks are hungry to avenge their Stanley Cup loss last season, and the team is too experienced to get bounced in round 1. The Oilers have some toughness of their own in Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon to name a couple, but they aren’t deep enough to fully challenge the Sharks. This will be a good experience for the young Oilers, but the Sharks are the favourite here in my eyes.

Series Result: Sharks in 6 games

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)

 

NHL 2016-2017: Early Playoff Prediction

Being that it’s end of August, and not a lot going on in the hockey world, I figured I’d take a long shot at predicting the playoff teams for the 2017 NHL playoffs. I would love to be able to say that the Leafs have a shot at a playoff position going into this season, but I don’t see them fairing much better than bottom 5 overall in the upcoming season.

Let’s recap last season’s playoff teams:

Eastern Conference Western Conference
Washington Dallas
Pittsburgh St. Louis
Florida Chicago
NY Rangers Anaheim
NY Islanders Los Angeles
Tampa Bay San Jose
Philadelphia Nashville
Detroit Minnesota

If you look at the list, there’s not a lot of teams that are poised to fall-off at a rate that will see them miss the playoffs this year. But there are a few. Here is who I think will fall out of the playoff picture this upcoming season:

Eastern Conference

Detroit Red Wings – Will the streak reach 25 straight seasons? It’s possible, but I view this team as on a decline. Losing one of the most skilled players in the game in Datsyuk will hurt Detroit, who as a team who barely scraped into the playoffs last season. They’ve made strides to make up for losing Datsyuk in signing Frans Nielsen and taking a chance on Thomas Vanek, but it feels as though this team is destined to miss the playoffs sooner rather than later. How can they avoid this? A good start would be to see Gustav Nyquist have a bounce-back season after posting only 17 goals last season, versus 27 the year before.

NY Rangers – This is a long-shot here, as the Rangers still boast the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, but they’ve quickly gone from a Cup-contender to a fringe playoff team in the past few seasons. Barring significant injuries, King Hank is still one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, fully capable of carrying his team to the playoffs alone, however if he is to go down with an injury, they remind me a lot of the Montreal Canadiens of last season. While the Rangers have been better offensively than Montreal in previous seasons, swapping out Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad seems like a downgrade for the Rangers, who heavily relied on the offense Brassard provided last season (1st on team with 27 goals). Again, this is a bold prediction, but one that seems more plausible than ever.

Who will replace these teams?

Montreal Canadiens – It could be as easy as saying “with a healthy Carey Price”, but they’ve also added more grit in Andrew Shaw, and potentially addressed a lack of scoring with Alexander Radulov. Sure there’s some concern around the maturity and dedication of Radulov, but a 1-yr deal is a very acceptable gamble by the Canadiens. Their biggest questions come on defense, with all eyes on how Shea Weber performs, after replacing dynamic player in PK Subban. I don’t see how this team misses the playoffs with a healthy Carey Price.

Buffalo Sabres – Is this team ready to make a run at the playoffs? I believe so. They’ve upgraded in both ends of the ice in adding Kyle Okposo up front, and Dmitry Kulikov, the only real question remains can Robin Lehner remain healthy and how will he perform as a full-time starter. If Eichel can avoid the sophomore slump, and  if Lehner performs as the Sabres hope he does, this young team could carry the momentum of an excited fanbase into the playoffs. They’ll be a fun team to watch in the upcoming season.

Western Conference 

Minnesota Wild – While the wild did add Eric Staal into the mix, in such a competitive Western Conference, the Wild feel like a team that outplayed their potential last season. This isn’t so much of the Wild team falling off in value as it’s more of a feeling that a non-playoff team from last season will push them out of a spot.

Who will replace Minnesota?

Winnipeg Jets – With the emergence of Mark Scheiffle last season (61 pts in 71 games), and a blueline that consists of Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, and Jacob Trouba, this is a team on the rise. With the biggest question mark coming in goal, the Jets have plenty of young options in Michael Hutchinson, Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie, that if Ondrej Pavelec fails to perform, they have no shortages of options. The home crowd in Winnipeg is a fun one, and seeing them in the playoffs again would be great for everyone (except Minnesota that is).

Again, these are bold predictions, as we sit here 50 days before the start of the season. I’m sure there will be a team that surprises us all and makes a strong push for the playoffs (I’m looking at you Edmonton).