A WAY Too Early Playoff Projection – 2017-2018

To be honest, I’m just bored waiting for hockey season to finally start again. What better way to pass the time than making longshot projections. There should be a few changes to who makes the playoffs this upcoming season, let’s see how close I can get to what really happens this season.

Eastern Conference

Let’s start with how I see the Eastern Conference playing out. Here’s who I have making it, in no particular order, and a quick hit on why:

Returning Teams:

Pittsburgh Penguins – The defending Champs are a lock to be near the top of the standings again. There are some people predicting a three-peat, which I think is a bit of a stretch, but they should be in contention at the very least.

Montreal Canadiens – Carey Price will have his work cut-out for him again this year, as the blueline takes a big hit in my opinion. They added some much needed scoring with Drouin, but still didn’t fix for me to consider them a contender for the Cup at this point. They should still make the postseason, but likely another early exit.

Washington Capitals – The Caps are poised to take a step-back this year, but not far enough to drop them out of the playoffs. Ovechkin is still a goal scoring force, but has slowed in recent years. Can Kuznetsov take that next step? Is Oshie really as good as he was last year? They also lost both Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt this offseason on the backend, but with Braden Holtby arguably the best goalie in the past two seasons, they should be fine.

Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs took a major step forward, with big seasons from their rookies, and great seasons from their veterans. They upgraded on forward this year adding Patrick Marleau, and you can definitely put Ron Hainsey as an upgrade over both Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak. They added some size to the backend in Hainsey, something they lacked big time this past season. They should compete for a top spot in the East this year.

Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets had a better year than most expected, and they’ll likely take a step-back this year. They traded Brandon Saad and brought in Artemi Panarin, which is an upgrade in scoring for them. They’re still a young team, but should find a way to make the playoffs.

Boston Bruins – The Bruins, in my opinion, are a bubble team. Their defense corps is weaker than it’s been in years, and while they still have Rask to man the crease, and the likes of Marchand and Bergeron up front, they’ll be in a battle all year to make the playoffs.

Teams Jumping In:

Tampa Bay Lightning – No one would have predicted Tampa to miss the playoffs last year, but with the amount of injuries they suffered, it wasn’t a surprise. The two question marks going into this season for Tampa are the health of Stamkos, and is Vasilevksiy truly a number 1 netminder. They’re built deeper than almost any other team in the East, and should find their way back into the playoffs this year.

Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes are built deeper on the blueline than maybe every other team, save maybe Nashville. They have a good group of young forwards, and should continue to improve next year. The biggest question for Carolina is goaltending, and while the acquisition of Scott Darling helps, is it enough? Time will tell.

Falling Out:

Ottawa Senators – For Sens fans, they’ll argue “We were one game away from the Cup finals last year!”, but that was a big over-achievement for the Sens. They lost Methot on the backend, and while rookie Thomas Chabot should see a lot of ice time, they don’t have a deep enough group on the backend to push their way back into the playoffs. Up front, they lack goal scoring more than most teams going into next season. They’ll be on the bubble, but likely on the outside looking in.

New York Rangers – I picked the Rangers to fall out of the playoffs last year, and they ended up winning their first round matchup against Montreal. Signing Shattenkirk will help, but losing Stepan down the middle will also hurt. I think it’s about time King Hank starts to show decline, and if that does happen, the Rangers are screwed.

Western Conference

Not as much movement in the West, a lot of teams remain strong, while some didn’t do enough to change their fortunes. Here’s who I have making it, in no particular order:

Retuning Teams:

Chicago Blackhawks – The Hawks are a perennial powerhouse, and should continue to make the playoffs. Losing Hjalmarsson will hurt them defensively, and they’re likely to drop down the standings a bit. They added good depth scoring in Patrick Sharp, while shipping out Kane’s bestfriend and linemate Panarin to bring Brandon Saad back in. Losing Hossa for the season will hurt them as well, but not enough to make them fall out of the playoffs.

Nashville Predators – Last year’s runner-ups are almost as sure of a pick as any team at this point, stacked with the best blueline in the NHL. Adding Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino up front helps improve their depth scoring as well. Nashville will continue to be one of the better rounded teams in the NHL today.

Minnesota Wild – The Wild had a big season from Eric Staal and Mikael Grandlund, as well as another good season from Devan Dubnyk. They added Marcus Foligno, which improves their bottom 6 forward group, and should have a full season from Eriksson-Ek, which is a big bonus. The Wild should be a lock to make it again next year.

San Jose Sharks – The Sharks were a toss-up for me this year. They lost Marleau and his 27 goals, which I think impacts them more than they think it will. How much does Jumbo have left in the tank? Can he still be the number 1 centre they need? We shall see, but they’re a team I’d keep an eye on early in the season.

St. Louis Blues – The Blues made some good additions this offseason, adding Brayden Schenn into their top six, as well as Beau Bennett as a good depth addition. Jake Allen proved he can be the goalie they need, and their blueline didn’t look any less formidable after removing Shattenkirk at the deadline. The Blues have a good shot at coming out of the West.

Edmonton Oilers – McDavid will continue to carry this team forward, backed-up by the likes of Leon Draisaitl and Cam Talbot. This team still is not deep enough to make a serious run, and their blueline isn’t built like a champion by any means. If McDavid happens to get injured for a long period of time, I can’t see this team making the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks have a great blueline, and still have a decent forward corps. The question mark for them resides in goal, as Gibson has never been able to stay healthy. They brought in Ryan Miller, but he’s nothing more than a backup at this point in his career. They should still be able to push their way in, but it will be a battle.

 Teams Jumping In:

Dallas Stars – Losing Patrick Sharp doesn’t help Dallas, but adding in Martin Hanzal, Marc Methot, Alexander Radulov and most of all Ben Bishop pushed them further up the standings than anyone else going into next season. Their top-9 forward group is great, and adding in Methot gives them more stability on the backend as well. Look for the Stars to be one of the better teams this year in the West.

 Falling Out:

Calgary Flames – Mike Smith is hardly an upgrade in goal, which was a big issue for the Flames for most of last year. They’re still not good enough up front to be considered a lock for the playoffs, but they did upgrade their backend with Travis Hamonic. Adding someone like Jaromir Jagr would help their biggest need, so if they can add some additional scoring, they could make the push.

 

There are a few bubble teams in each Conference that could push their way into the playoff picture and should be in the fight to the bitter end. In the East I could see Buffalo, both New York teams, and even Philadelphia making a push. In the West, there are less teams I can see genuinely making an impact. Winnipeg could improve enough to stay in the hunt all year, but past them, other than Calgary I don’t see any other team with a legitimate shot at making a big enough impact.

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Drafting Skill: Anaheim Ducks

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.

Anaheim Ducks

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Rickard Rakell (C) 30th overall – Traded their own 1st rounder to Toronto for this pick, plus the 39th overall pick. HUGE win for Anaheim, as Rakell and Gibson are both stars of the team now, while Toronto ended up with the awful Tyler Biggs. Rakell has played in 236 games since being drafted, and just scored 30 goals this past season. Absolute steal at 30th overall in the draft here for the Ducks.

Round 2 – John Gibson (G) 39th overall – Gibson has progressed into the start every team hopes for, playing already in 118 games and winning 62 of them. He had another great year, with a SV% of 0.924 and a GAA of 2.22. No better pick for the Ducks here than Gibson.

Round 2 – William Karlsson (C) 53rd overall – Karlsson has played in 183 NHL games, scoring 50 points. Those are low numbers, but for a mid-2nd round pick, it’s fairly good. He was recently claimed by Vegas in the draft and will get a fresh start there. Many teams missed out on Nikita Kucherov in this round, as he was taken 6 picks later than Karlsson.

Round 3 – Joseph Cramarossa (C) 65th overall – Received this pick from the Islanders for James Wisniewski. Cramarossa was claimed by Vancouver off of waivers this year, putting an end to his brief stint in Anaheim. He’s only appeared in 59 NHL games, all coming this season, with only 10 points. Doesn’t look to be an everyday NHL player, other than for depth purposes.

Round 3 – Andrew Welinski (D) 83rd overall – Welinski doesn’t look like he’s an NHL d-man, having yet to skate in a game. Anaheim is loaded on the blueline as well, putting him further down the list of players expected to get a call. Missed opportunity here to add a good prospect, or player, by Anaheim.

Note: Josh Manson 6th round. Manson has played in 181 NHL games to date, and his stock has grown exponentially this season. He’s part of the bright future in Anaheim, and is exactly what every NHL team wants – a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman. Absolute steal by Anaheim down in the 6th round.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Hampus Lindholm (D) 6th overall – Lindholm has developed into a top-pairing d-man, one worthy of his spot at 6th overall. I think this is a great pick by Anaheim, as he’s played over 300 games and scored over 100 points while doing so. He’s got a bright future, one that many would love to have on their team.

Round 2 – Nicolas Kerdiles (LW) 36th overall – Kerdiles hasn’t progressed as expected, playing in only 1 NHL game to date. Looking back, the Ducks had better options at this point in the draft, with a handful of better players taken closely after him in the draft.

Round 3 – Frederik Andersen (G) 87th overall – Andersen battled with Gibson over the years for the starter’s role before being traded last offseason to Toronto for a 1st round pick in 2016 and a 2nd round in 2017. What a steal by Anaheim to find him in the third round, as he’s amassed 110 wins to-date in the NHL.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Shea Theodore (D) 26th overall – Theodore was traded to Vegas this offseason, to keep them from taking someone else from Anaheim. He played in 34 NHL games this year, and looked great while doing so. I firmly believe he’s a future top-pairing d-man, and while Anaheim is packed with d-men already, I think they gave up on him far too early.

Round 2 – Nick Sorensen (RW) 45th overall – Sorensen played the majority of the year at the AHL level, appearing in only 5 NHL games. He looks to be next in line for a regular spot on the roster however, which is a good sign 4 years after being drafted.

Round 3 – Keaton Thompson (D) 87th overall – Played most of the year at the AHL level, but also made a stint in the ECHL. The two picks after him look like they have a much brighter future, in Anton Slepyshev and Oliver Bjorkstrand, therefore I would view this as a poor pick.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Nick Ritchie (LW) 10th overall – Received this pick with Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen from Ottawa for Bobby Ryan. The Ducks clearly won that trade, by a mile, especially after trading their own 1st rounder in a package deal including Nick Bonino, to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler. Ritchie has struggled to find his offensive game at the NHL level so far early in his career, but has played in 110 NHL games to date. Anaheim would perhaps want this one back, to be able to take a young scorer like David Pastrnak for example.

Round 2 – Marcus Pettersson (D) 38th overall – Received this pick from Toronto for Peter Holland essentially, plus the 7th round pick used on Ondrej Kase. Petterson played this season in Sweden, scoring 9 points in 47 games. Not great numbers for a young defender, but it’s early to discount the pick yet. The Ducks will likely want him over in North America to get used to the different game sooner than later, and with the depth they have on D, there’s no rush for him to make the jump to the NHL.

Round 2 – Brandon Montour (D) 55th overall – Montour has developed into an NHL defender quicker than most do who are chosen in the 2nd round, playing in 27 NHL games this year, and appearing in all 17 of their playoff games. He’s a lock to make the team next season out of camp, and has a bright future ahead of him. Great pick by Anaheim here in the 2nd round.

Round 3 – Pick was traded as part of the Ryan Kesler deal.

Note: Ondrej Kase drafted in the 7th round. Kase was the 6th last pick of the draft, and appeared in 53 NHL games this year, scoring 15 points. That’s amazing for a 7th round pick, and the Ducks hope he can continue to grow off of this.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Jacob Larsson (D) 27th overall – Another good defense prospect for the Ducks, as they seem keen on building a deep foundation of defenders. They already have one of the best groups in the league, and Larsson will likely add to that in the future. He played in 4 NHL games this year, while also making appearances in the AHL and the Swedish League. He’s got a bright future ahead of him in Anaheim, great pick.

Round 2 – Julius Nattinen (C) 59th overall – Nattinen didn’t have a good year in the OHL this year, with only 38 points in 51 games. Those are weak numbers for a 20 year old, especially in a high-offensive league. This is shaping up to be a poor pick by Anaheim, one of their rare misses.

Round 3 – Brent Gates (C) 80th overall – Received this pick from Columbus with James Wisniewski for Rene Bourque, William Karlsson and a 2nd round pick. Gates had a good year in the NCAA, scoring 14 goals in 37 games. He’ll likely stay there next season at the very least, before the Ducks want him to make the jump to the AHL. He looks like a prospect with a bright future, as he improved from 7 points to 21 in comparing his last 2 seasons.

Round 3 – Deven Sideroff (RW) 84th overall – Sideroff had a good final year in the WHL, with 78 points (36 goals) in 67 games. Those are great numbers, especially for a 3rd round pick. He appeared in 3 AHL games this year, and that’s where he’ll start next year. He’s got the tools to make him a great player in the future, and the size to go along with it. Good pick late by Anaheim

Overall, the Ducks have had great success in drafting impact players. They’ve built their solid foundation through the draft, and possess one of the deeper prospect pools, especially on the backend, in all of the NHL. They look like they’ll be a team to watch for many years to come.

 

Sources: Hockeydb.com; http://prosportstransactions.com/hockey/

 

Drafting Skills: Arizona Coyotes

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.

Arizona Coyotes

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Connor Murphy (D) 20th overall – Murphy has played in 258 NHL games since being drafted, which is good for where he was picked in comparison to some who went before him. He played OK for Arizona, but was flipped this past week to Chicago with Laurent Dauphin for Niklas Hjalmarsson. Great trade for Arizona, as they’ve definitely found an upgrade for their backend.

Round 2 – Alexander Ruuttu (F) 51st overall – Ruuttu has been a bust for the Coyotes, never playing a game in North America. Arizona had so many better options here, with William Karlsson taken 2 picks later who has played 183 NHL games to date. Awful pick by Arizona here.

Round 2 – Lucas Lessio (LW) 56th overall – Traded Daniel Carcillo to the Flyers for Scottie Upshall and this pick. Upshall alone was more productive and effective than Carcillo ever was, however the pick didn’t turn out for Arizona. He was flipped to Montreal in 2015 for Christian Thomas, who again didn’t turn out. Nikita Kucherov was taken 2 picks later, soooooo…

Round 3 – Harrison Ruopp (D) 84th overall – Awful pick by the Coyotes, as he’s fallen down to the ECHL permanently it appears. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 2012 with a couple other pieces for Zbynek Michalek, but in the end the Coyotes would have been better if they had drafted someone else, say JG Pageau or Johnny Gaudreau?

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Henrik Samuelsson (C) 27th overall – Samuelsson looks like a bust, and was traded this year to Edmonton for Mitch Moroz who was drafted in the 2nd round of this same draft. Who was taken after Samuelsson in this draft? In the first round alone were Brady Skjei and Tanner Pearson. Big miss here by Arizona, an all too common theme throughout this.

Round 2 – Jordan Martinook (C) 58th overall – Martinook has played in 166 NHL games since being drafted, putting up only 50 points. Those are pretty good numbers for a 58th overall pick, and I don’t think the Coyotes would undo this one.

Round 3 – James Melindy (D) 88th overall – Bad pick here, as he played most of the past 3 seasons in the ECHL. He’s turned himself into a fighter, putting up over 250 PIMS this past year, and a rock solid -35 rating. Taken immediately after him was Brendan Leipsic, who looks like he’ll have a much better career now with Vegas.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Max Domi (C) 12th overall – Domi plays a much better rounded game than his father ever did, providing some physicality with a lot of offensive upside. He scored 38 points this year in 59 games, cut short due to an injury suffered in a fight. He needs to work on his discipline, as he takes too many penalties, and the Coyotes need him on the ice. He was a great pick at 12th overall by the Coyotes.

Round 2 – Laurent Dauphin (C) 39th overall – Dauphin was traded out of Arizona with Connor Murphy for Niklas Hjalmarsson. Sitting at 4 points in 32 career NHL games, Dauphin isn’t exactly a highly-touted prospect, but there haven’t been a ton of players taken behind him who have blown up the scoresheet either. The fact they were able to use him as a piece to upgrade to Hjalmarsson is great, but they could still have picked better here.

Round 3 – Yan-Pavel Laplante (LW) 62nd overall – Currently playing in the ECHL, Laplante is likely a longshot to make the NHL at any point in his career. The Coyotes don’t have a massive amount of prospects, and the fact he can’t cut it at the AHL level speaks volumes.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Brendan Perlini (LW) 12th overall – Perlini made his NHL debut this year, with 21 points in 57 games. That’s a little low for a 12th overall pick, 2 years after being drafted. His 14 goals are a positive sign that he can score, and may just need to be surrounded by better players. He’s likely at most a 2nd line/3rd line winger at this point, which is lesser than some of the guys drafted after him such as Dylan Larkin and David Pastrnak.

Round 2 – Ryan MacInnis (C) 43rd overall – MacInnis had a weak AHL rookie campaign that saw only 17 points in 68 games. He scored 38 goals in his final year in junior, but will need far better numbers at the AHL level if he ever hopes of cracking an NHL roster. At this point, this looks like a bad pick by Arizona.

Round 2 – Christian Dvorak (C) 58th overall – Traded David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois to Chicago for this pick. Dvorak has turned out to be a much better pick than MacInnis out of this second round, as he scored 33 points in 78 NHL games this year. The Coyotes didn’t have a great team this year, and Dvorak will likely increase his point production next year, once he has some better linemates to work with. Good pick here in late round 2 by Arizona, as he looks like a great young player.

Round 3 – Anton Karlsson (LW) 87th overall – Miss here by Arizona, as Karlsson had weak numbers this year in the Swedish league. One notable still on the board at this point were Viktor Arvidsson, who the Coyotes would much rather have right now.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Dylan Strome (C) 3rd overall – I’m not entirely sure Strome will pan out as an NHL star, and being drafted 3rd overall, it’s not looking like they made the right pick. There are plenty of players the Coyotes would have been better off with, and missing out on a true star with the 3rd overall pick is brutal. He’s still young, but hasn’t impressed me with his play to this point.

Round 1 – Nick Merkley (RW) 30th overall – Received this pick from Chicago for Antoine Vermette. Merkley had a good year in junior this year, with 63 points in 63 games, but as a 1st round pick, and playing your 4th season in junior, you’d expect much more out of him. He still has time to develop, but seeing some guys behind him already having good starts to their career is a tough pill to swallow.

Round 2 – Christian Fischer (RW) 32nd overall – Played in 7 NHL games this year scoring 3 goals, while scoring 47 points in 57 AHL games. He looks like he’ll develop into a good power-forward for the Coyotes, and will have a shot at the NHL roster next year in camp. They need the help, and this was a pretty good pick in early round 2. Obviously they’d rather have Aho, who was taken 3 picks later, but so would 29 other teams.

Round 3 – Kyle Capobianco (D) 63rd overall – Finished his junior career strong, with 45 points in 65 games. Needs big time work on his defensive game, with a combined -115 rating for his junior career! That’s massive!

Round 3 – Adin Hill (G) 76th overall – Traded Oliver Kylington to Calgary for this pick, plus the 83rd overall pick. Played 40 games in the AHL this year, with a SV% of 0.906 and a GAA of 3.16. Not crazy numbers by any means, but pretty good for a 20 year old netminder. He’ll have some time to develop, but the Coyotes need a goalie soon, so they’re hoping he can progress quickly.

Round 3 – Brendan Warren (LW) 81st overall – Traded Devan Dubnyk to the Wild for this pick. Could be one of the more lopsided trades in recent history, as Dubnyk went on to win 27 games in his first season in Minnesota. He’s since become one of the top goalies in the league, while Warren has yet to play an NHL game. Rough trade and bad pick.

Round 3 – Jens Looke (RW) 83rd overall – Looks like a bad pick, as he managed only 16 points in 46 games in Sweden this year. Not great, doesn’t look like he’s grown any since being drafted.

Arizona has had a lot of bad picks, which makes sense given their current roster situation. They’ve done well in the past couple drafts, picking up the likes of Jakob Chychrun and Clayton Keller, but will need a lot more of that if they ever hope to be a constant team pushing for the playoffs year in and year out.

Drafting Skills: Buffalo Sabres

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.

Buffalo Sabres

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Joel Armia (RW) 16th overall – Armia was traded with Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and Brendan Lemieux, plus the 1st round pick in 2015 for Zach Bogosian, Jason Kasdorf and Evander Kane. Looking at just the pick, Armia has finally developed into an everyday NHL player, scoring 19 points in 57 games this season. He was picked slightly early by Winnipeg, with better forwards taken after him including Phillip Danault, Vladislav Namestnikov and Rickard Rakell all taken later in the 1st round.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to St. Louis for Brad Boyes. The Blues picked Joel Edmundson with this pick, who played a full season again this year, while Boyes has since moved on from the NHL. The Sabres would be much better off with Edmundson in the fold, as their blueline needs help as-is.

Round 3 – Daniel Catenacci (C) 77th overall – Catenacci has only played in 11 NHL games to-date, which happened back in 2015-2016. He’s since been traded for fellow AHLer Mathew Bodie. There were 6 other players taken after Catenacci in that 3rd round who have played more NHL games, 3 of which have played over 100 games. Safe to say the Sabres would like a re-do on this one.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Mikhail Grigorenko (C) 12th overall – Grigorenko has not developed into the force they had hoped he would, being taken so early in this draft. He was dealt out as part of the package that brought in Ryan O’Reilly thankfully for Buffalo. He’s sitting at 64 points in 217 NHL games, which is not ideal for an early 1st round pick.

Round 1 – Zemgus Girgensons (C) 14th overall – Traded the pick 21st overall pick (from Nashville for Paul Gaustad) plus their 2nd round pick to move up to 14th overall. Girgensons hasn’t panned out as they had hoped, as he’s only scored 86 points in 277 games. Girgensons is their second pick of this first round that the Sabres would love to re-do, as there are better players to come after him in the draft.

Round 2 – Jake McCabe (D) 44th overall – Traded Paul Byron, Chris Butler to the Flames for Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and this pick. McCabe has turned into a serviceable d-man for Buffalo, playing in 76 NHL games this year scoring 20 points. He can play a physical game, and plays well in his own end. He’s a great pick in the middle of round 2 for Buffalo, in what turned out to be a weak draft class.

Round 3 – Justin Kea (C) 73rd overall – Kea won’t develop into an NHLer for Buffalo, as he has yet to play in a game, and is still playing the majority of his time at the ECHL level. Taken right after him was Esa Lindell, who looks like he’ll have a good NHL career. Miss here by Buffalo, as there were 6 other players taken after him who have played at least 25 NHL games, and look like they’ll have good, and some great NHL careers.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Rasmus Ristolainen (D) 8th overall – Ristolainen put up another 40+ point campaign, with 45 in 79 games. He’s the number 1 d-man on Buffalo, and while many question whether he has the skillset to be that player, he’s the best Buffalo currently has. He had a better year this year defensively, as he continues to work on his game. Buffalo wouldn’t change anything about this pick.

Round 1 – Nikita Zadorov (D) 16th overall – Received this pick from Minnesota with other pieces for Jason Pominville and a 4th rounder. I don’t like this trade for Minnesota, especially with losing Pominvile for essentially Zadorov. He was then traded as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade, which turned out great for Buffalo. Looking at just the pick of Zadorov, he was a good pick if you were looking to add a defenseman at this point in the draft.

Round 2 – JT Compher (C) 35th overall – Received this pick in the Sekera trade, along with Jamie McBain. Another pick given up in the O’Reilly deal, and another under-performing player Buffalo shipped out. He hasn’t developed into any sort of everyday NHL player, and could barely produce for the worst team in the league this year. A miss here by Buffalo with an early 2nd round pick.

Round 2 – Connor Hurley (C) 38th overall – Still playing college hockey, Hurley had a good year for Notre Dame with 16 points in 21 games. He’s been consistent in his years there, and could be a future player, depending on how he transitions to the pro-game in the next year or two. He’s a big-body with skill, something all NHL teams covet in a centre.

Round 2 – Justin Bailey (RW) 52nd overall – Traded Jordan Leopold to the Blues for this pick plus a fourth round pick. Bailey has split time recently in the AHL/NHL, putting up good numbers at the AHL level, but next-to-nothing at the NHL level. He’s still only 21 years old, and stands at 6’3” 214 lbs. He’ll likely have a great chance of making the team out of camp, and could be effective in a 4th line role providing physicality. Decent pick late in round 2 for Buffalo.

Round 3 – Nick Baptiste (C) 69th overall – Made his NHL debut this year, with 4 points in 14 games. Those aren’t great numbers, and the Sabres will likely want to replace him with a more effective player for next season. He’s likely a depth call-up ideally, but if he has a strong chance he could be part of the bright future in Buffalo.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Sam Reinhart (C) 2nd overall – Reinhart has a ton of skill, but has taken a while to adapt fully to the pro game. He’s small in size, and has struggled to put up points consistently. He’s now paired with one of the best young centres in hockey with Eichel in town, and will need to improve his consistency if he hopes to stick around and be part of the future. The Sabres would likely go a different way with a re-do of this pick with any of Draisaitl, Nylander or Pastrnak providing more offence.

Round 2 – Brendan Lemieux (LW) 31st overall – Part of the Myers/Bogosian trade, Lemieux is a tough customer, but lacks any tangible skills that will make him an NHL player. Bad pick by Buffalo here, taking grit over skill.

Round 2 – Eric Cornel (RW) 44th overall – Traded the 2nd round pick they received from Washington in the Matt Moulson trade for this pick, as well as a 3rd rounder. Played in the AHL this year, putting up a measly 14 points in 67 games, and didn’t put up a crazy amount in junior. Could he develop into an NHL player? Maybe, but doesn’t look likely right now.

Round 2 – Vaclav Karabacek (RW) 49th overall – Received this pick in the Pominville trade. Not a good pick here, and looks even worse considering Pominville is still a very good winger. Karabacek played this season between the AHL/ECHL. In the ECHL, he scored 11 points in 9 games, which are great numbers, but he’ll need to show that kind of poise at the AHL level before he can be considered a legitimate prospect.

Round 3 – Jonas Johansson (G) 61st overall – Johansson had great numbers in Sweden this year, with a GAA of 2.26 and SV% of 0.912. Those are stellar numbers for a young netminder, and while he struggled slightly in his brief stint in the AHL, he has great promise to become a good goaltender. He will start next year in the AHL, where he can work on getting used to the quicker game on the smaller ice surface.

Round 3 – Brycen Martin (D) 74th overall – Received this pick in the trade with Washington. Martin played most of the year in the ECHL, putting up small numbers, but has never been known to put up great offense. He will need a couple years of grooming before he can be viewed as a legit prospect, but looks right now like he’ll at most be a depth call-up.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Jack Eichel (C) 2nd overall – Eichel is basically already seen as the captain of the Sabres, only 2 years into his career. He was by far the best pick available after McDavid. No other explanation needed, great/easy pick by the Sabres.

Round 2 – Brendan Guhle (D) 51st overall – Buffalo traded their own 2nd rounder in the deal that brought in Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn, in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko and JT Compher. Great trade for Buffalo, as O’Reilly has become one of the best forwards for Buffalo. They received this pick from the Islanders with Matt Moulson for Tomas Vanek. Guhle

Round 3 – Pick was traded to Washington with Jaroslav Halak for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla. The pick eventually went to the Rangers, who took Robin Kovacs who has yet to develop. This trade didn’t work out as the Sabres expected, as Neuvirth only played 29 games for Buffalo before moving on.

Buffalo has missed on most of their first round picks, save Jack Eichel. They need to be better in regards to drafting, as that’s the path most teams are taking now to build championship teams. They’ve got a good foundational core to build around, but need to be better if they hope to keep adding to their core.

Drafting Skills: Pittsburgh Penguins

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.

Pittsburgh Penguins

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Joe Morrow (D) 23rd overall – The Pens traded Morrow to the Stars along with a 5th round pick that brought in Brenden Morrow and a 3rd round pick in 2013 (more on that below). Morrow has never blossomed into the NHL player many thought he would. He had a great junior career, but has only appeared in 65 NHL games since being drafted in 201, which ranks 61st in games played out of that draft. That’s not good enough for a first round pick.

Round 2 – Scott Harrington (D) 54th overall – Harrington is another player traded from the Pens out of this draft, originally part of the deal to Toronto that brought in Phil Kessel, and then onto Columbus. Harrington has bounced back and forth from the AHL to NHL over the past few years, never really finding his groove at the NHL level. It doesn’t look like he’ll amount to much, as he currently sits under 50 games played at the NHL level.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to the Flyers for the rights to Dan Hamhuis. He wouldn’t end up signing with the team, so this looks like a lost deal for the Pens.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Derrick Pouliot (D) 8th overall – There are many that still believe Pouliot can be an NHL player, however he’s yet to stay in the NHL for very long. He was drafted 5 years ago this June, and has only suited up for a total of 67 NHL games. The Pens are going through an extremely rough patch with their defenders in these playoffs, and he still isn’t a full-time player for the Pens. This is a pretty good indication on where he sits on their depth chart. Pouliot was a top-10 pick. Jacob Trouba was taken right after him, and has played in 271 games. He would fit in great with today’s Penguins.

Round 1 – Olli Maatta (D) 22nd overall – The second defenseman that the Pens took in the first round has turned out to be all that they hoped. He’s played in over 220 NHL games, and while he’s dealt with injuries over his young career, he’s played very well when in the lineup for the Pens. He’s seeing increased minutes in these playoffs, especially with the Pens decimated blueline. He’s a smooth skating d-man that sees the ice very well. This was a great selection by Pittsburgh.

Round 2 – Teddy Blueger (C) 52nd overall – Blueger played a full 4 years of College hockey before making the jump to the AHL 2 years ago. In his second season, he played a total of 54 games putting up 31 points. These numbers don’t jump out at you. He plays a very solid defensive game. He will likely develop into a bottom-9 centre for the Pens. He also plays a fairly physical game, while not taking an abundance of penalties (20 minutes in 54 games). This is a nice 2nd round selection by the Pens.

Round 3 – Oskar Sundqvist (C) 81st overall – Sundqvist has been working on his consistency at the AHL level, and has improved greatly in his 2nd year. He put up 20 goals and 46 points in 63 games this year. The Pens have an abundance of offensive players, but will likely see some change over the next couple of seasons with Chris Kunitz and others on their way out. He still has the chance to develop into an everyday player.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pick was traded to Calgary in the deal that brought in Jarome Iginla. Everyone wanted this to work out well for Iginla, one of the most likeable players. Sadly, it didn’t end in a Cup win. He was everything they hoped for, but not enough to push them over the top.

Round 2 – Tristan Jarry (G) 44th overall – Jarry put up great numbers in the AHL this year. He had a record of 28-15-1, with a SV% of 0.925 and a GAA of 2.15. This is great for a young goaltender in only his 2nd pro season. With Matt Murray likely the future in Pittsburgh, and the very likely possibility of Marc-Andre Fleury being shipped out this offseason, there’s no reason to think Jarry won’t be the backup as early as next season. Playing being the Pens is a great way to enter the league, and will likely help Jarry in his development.

Round 3 – Jake Guentzel (C) 77th overall – Talk about what looks like a steal. Guentzel started his first full pro season in the AHL this year by putting up 42 points in 33 games, including 21 goals. He got the call halfway through this year, and scored 2 goals in his debut! (check out his family celebrating his first goal, it’s great). He finished the year with 16 goals, and 33 points in 40 games. Through 18 playoff games, he’s got 16 points. What a steal in the third round for the Pens, even if this is a small sample size.  This was a great draft by the Pens.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Kasperi Kapanen (F) 22nd overall – Kapanen was part of the Phil Kessel trade, and is now part of the Leafs organization. He’s dominated at the AHL level, but struggled to find his game at the NHL level until late this season. Overall for his selection in this draft he’s performed well, however with David Pastrnak being taken 3 picks later (123 pts in 172 GP), it’s hard to wonder how even more powerful the Pens would be with the crafty right-hander on Crosby’s wing.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to San Jose in a group of picks for Douglas Murray. Murray played well for the Pens, and this pick hasn’t turned into anything great for the Sharks (Noah Rod).

Round 3 – Pick was traded to Calgary for Lee Stempniak. He never found his groove in Pittsburgh, putting up 7 points in 21 regular season games, and only 3 in 13 playoff games. The Pens were hoping for secondary scoring, and didn’t get it. Luckily, it was only a 3rd rounder that they gave up.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pick was traded to the Oilers for David Perron. He wasn’t the player the Penguins were hoping for. He played better parts of 2 seasons there, but never scored more than 22 points. This pick ended up being Mathew Barzal, who is projecting as a top-6 forward with high skill (79 points in 41 WHL games this year).

Round 2 – Daniel Sprong (RW) 46th overall – Sprong scored over a goal-per-game in the QMJHL this season, putting up 59 points in 31 games played. He has the offensive talent that should immediately translate to the NHL level, especially on a team like Pittsburgh where he won’t be heavily relied on to perform. He will likely make the team out of camp next season, and will get a shot at top-9 minutes for the Pens. Many are hoping he can find instant chemistry with either Crosby or Malkin, and make an impact immediately.

Round 3 – Pick was traded in a package of picks that brought in Marcel Goc. He only played 12 games that year for the Penguins scoring 2 points. Not a great pickup for the Pens.

 

Overall, the Pens have been average at the Draft. They struggled early on in this article, but have had great success in recent years, despite limited picks. They’ve hit on their 2nd and 3rd round picks way more often than on their first round selections, which is surprising but also lucky for the Pens. It’s easy for them to deal with a mediocre draft score, when they have 2 of the best players playing in today’s NHL in Crosby and Malkin.

Playoff Predictions 2017 – Round 2

NHL Playoffs 2017: Round 1 Predictions

Let’s take a stab at predicting round 2 of the 2017 NHL Playoffs, but first let’s recap my Round 1 predictions.

Eastern Conference

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

My Pick: Caps in 5; Actual: Caps in 6

(2) Ottawa Senators vs (3) Boston Bruins

My Pick:  Bruins in 6; Actual: Sens in 6

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

My Pick: Canadiens in 6; Actual: Rangers in 6

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

My Pick: Pens in 5; Actual: Pens in 5

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (WC2) Nashville Predators

My Pick: Predators in 7; Actual: Preds in 4

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

My Pick: Wild in 7; Actual: Blues in 5

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Calgary Flames

My Pick:  Ducks in 6; Actual: Ducks in 4

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

My Pick: Sharks in 6 games; Actual: Oiler s in 6
Not too bad considering the amount of upsets there ending up being.  Here is what we have going on in Round 2:

Eastern Conference

Ottawa Senators vs New York Rangers

I was surprised that the Senators were able to get by the Bruins in round 1. Erik Karlsson has been outstanding, by far the best player in the playoffs for the Sens. But not too far behind him is Bobby Ryan, who has come up with huge goals for the Sens. The problem? King Hank has been great, back to his old form for the Rangers. They were able to fight off the Habs in round 1, but they’re in for a more offensive team in this round. That being said, Hank likely knows he doesn’t have many more chances to get to the Cup final, and I expect him to continue to get better as this series goes on. I really like their chances of knocking off Ottawa.

My Pick: Rangers in 5

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals

The Caps were pushed hard in the first round, whereas the Pens had a fairly easy time dismissing the Jackets. The Pens are similar to the Leafs in terms of speed, and are likely better defensively. They won’t threaten the Caps as much with scoring depth, as it will come mostly from the top two lines on Pittsburgh. That being said, we’ve seen this many times before. The Pens always seem to come out on top. I would really love to see Ovi win a Cup, but I’m going to go with history here and pick the Penguins. Even without Letang, they have to be considered the favourites in the East. Whoever comes out of this series will likely have a much easier Conference final as they’re both superior to the Rangers and Sens.

My Pick: Pens in 7

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues vs Nashville Predators

I picked the Preds to come out on top in round 1, but didn’t expect them to handle Chicago so easily. The difference maker in this series could be Jake Allen. He carried the Blues through round 1, as they got badly outplayed in a couple games. Nashville boasts one of the strongest bluelines in all of hockey, but they lack depth scoring up front. The Blues will need a big series out of Allen again, as well as magic from Vladimir Tarasenko. The Predators need to just continue their play from the first round and they should be just fine. They’re my pick to win it all at this point.

My Pick:  Nashville in 6

Edmonton Oilers vs Anaheim Ducks

I was surprised the Oilers got past San Jose. Cam Talbot had a great series, but it didn’t help the Sharks that they were playing hurt. Anaheim is a big strong team, and you have to believe Ryan Kesler will be all over McDavid. If there’s one person who can throw McDavid off of his game it could be Kesler. The Oilers are going to have to hope he can get away from Kesler as much as possible, because if not, they have no hope in this series.

My Pick: Ducks in 6

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*