Winnipeg Jets’ 2014 NHL Draft

Nikolaj Ehlers - Jets'  1st round pick in 2014

Nikolaj Ehlers – The Jets’
1st round pick in 2014

Nikolaj Ehlers (F) – 1st round, 9th overall

After Jacob Trouba, this could be the best draft pick the Jets have ever made. He’s instantly the most skilled player in the entire organization, and draws comparisons to Patrick Kane based on his build, skating, and offensive arsenal. Like Kane, he’s normal in height – nearly 6′ – but very slim at just over 160 lbs; his skating is quick and elusive, and like Kane, he’s just as good a finisher as he is a play-maker. Given more height and weight, he might have been in the running for the first overall pick. But instead the Jets were able to nab him at 9, and add a potential 1st line winger who will beautifully complement Mark Scheifele down the road. No one should expect Ehlers to play in the NHL this year or next – he needs a few years to fill out – but here’s hoping that he gets a taste of the AHL playoffs at the end of his junior season, just like Josh Morrissey did this past year.

Check out his sweet stats here

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Free Agency Special: 2014 UFA’s

PaulStastny1

Paul Stastny will have this reaction after he cashes in on July 1

Every July 1, NHL General Managers fall over each other to shell out big-ticket deals to mid-ticket players. This has led to countless cap disasters, with recent buy-out victims like Brad Richards, Ed Jovonovski, and Ville Leino being perfect examples. (Though nothing beats the David Clarkson contract in terms of bad value). In general, the biggest overpays tend to be for defencemen and centres, because they’re generally in shortest supply.

What’s worse is that many of these mid-level players are also past their prime. In general, most players peak in their mid-to-late 20’s. But what you’ll find is that most of the free agents are well into their 30’s. In fact, if you like at the UFA list, you’ll see that among the top-20 previous salary earners, only 1 of them (Paul Stastny) is under 30. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any bargains further down the list, but it’s safe  to say that there will be more bad contracts given out on Tuesday than good ones. Continue reading

2014 NHL Draft: Top-10 Prospects & Mock Draft

Sam Bennett of the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs

Sam Bennett of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs

The draft is upon us. Here are my top-10 prospects and a mock draft. Check out my other draft posts from this week here and here. Continue reading

The Winnipeg Jets and the NHL Draft

A Good Draft Pick

A Good Draft Pick

Check out another recent draft post here

The Winnipeg Jets are killing the draft. Killing it.

Everyone knows about Trouba, Scheifele, and Morrissey – all of whom look like great picks so far – but the Jets aren’t get enough credit for the picks they’re making outside of the first round. Whether it’s Adam Lowry – a potential power forward who’s easily the most hyped non-first rounder in the system – Scott Kosmachuk – a big-time scorer in the OHL – Nic Petan – one of the most skilled players in the entire 2013 draft (at pick #43!), or Andrew Copp – a 4th round pick they plucked from Michigan State who has the makings of a reliable NHLer – the young talent they’re assembling is impressive. I haven’t even mentioned Connor Hellebuyck, who was named NCAA goaltender of the year after posting absurd numbers that wouldn’t even make sense to you if I posted them. (Hockey db it, seriously, it’s stupid how good he was). Continue reading

Lessons from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft

 

It's Joe Sakic

Back in June of 2011, as excitement for our newly returned Jets gripped the city, I made my way down to Minneapolis for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. For a hockey-crazed fan like myself, it was memorable, to say the least. All the hockey media is out in full force – the boys from TSN, Sportsnet, The Hockey News, and many more. Continue reading

2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Thoughts

SJ Sharks

Until his appearance for Canada at this year’s Olympic tournament, Marc Edouard Vlasic was probably the most underrated defenceman in the NHL. Though never flashy, Vlasic does all the little things well – gap control and positioning, smooth outlet passes, and the complete and utter destruction of dangerous scoring chances. In my opinion, Vlasic is a microcosm of his team – an underrated, but incredibly important cog in a team who often rides second fiddle to the big names in the Western Conference like Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, and 1st place Anaheim. Is it finally time for the Sharks to rise up and claim their rightful place as one of the NHL’s elite post-lockout teams?

 

EAST

Boston – Detroit

A veteran laden Bruins team which finished atop the NHL standings faces an underdog group filled with talented youngsters. The Bruins long-time core of forwards (Krejci, Lucic, Bergeron, Marchand) has been filled out nicely with the additions of Jarome Iginla and Reilly Smith, as well as a pair of Swedes in Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg. While Detroit has done exceptionally well given their injury depleted lineup, it’s hard to imagine super sophomores Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar keeping up their recently torrid scoring pace in a 7 game series against the likes of Rask and Chara. And with Pavel Datsyuk not at 100%, and Henrik Zetterberg out for the series, the smart money is on Boston. Their four-line attack is a lot for any team to handle, especially a team like Detroit, who doesn’t really have the horses on defence that they once did; of their top-4 defenders from the 2011 playoffs – Lidstrom, Kronwall, Rafalski, Brad Stuart, only Kronwall remains.   

 

Pittsburgh – Columbus

The most potent offence in the East faces off against the Eastern Conference’s version of the Nashville Predators. Columbus has a number of underrated forwards, like future star centre Ryan Johansen, small sniper Cam Atkinson (reminds me of Steve Sullivan), grinding power forward Brandon Dubinsky, and two-way Russian centre Artem Anisimov. To say nothing of last year’s Vezina winning goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky. They also employ a tough forecheck, and have a lot of skilled guys who are also muckers, like Foligno, Calvert, and the aforementioned Dubinsky. But the skill in Pittsburgh is overwhelming – Sid, Gino, James “the real deal” Neal, Kunitz, etc. Kris Letang is back to anchor the D-crew, and for all the talk surrounding him, Marc-Andre Fleury has been very good this season. Plus, Pittsburgh has been banged up all year, and now that they finally have Martin, Orpik, Scuderi, Malkin, and ‘Tanger all ready to go, I think they’ll raise their game enough to beat a young, albeit tenancious opponent. I think each game will be hard fought, but it would take a small miracle for Columbus to make it out.

 

Tampa Bay – Montreal

Sometimes you hear people say “this team is red hot”, or “wow this player is on a tear”. That expression could be used for Carey Price, who’s put the world on notice ever since his uber-solid play at this year’s Olympic games. But if you want to suggest he’s “on a hot streak”, I object. I don’t think Price is “so hot right now”, I think he’s flat out the best goalie in the NHL. Some goalies “steal” games – they get shelled and still manage to win. Other goalies are solid – they win you the games you’re supposed to win. Not that many goalies do both. Price does both. You know who else did that? Patrick Roy. Bam. Comparison made. Montreal has had a lot of scoring depth the past two years, but now that they’ve added Tomas Vanek, they also have a legitimate top-line with Pacioretty-Desharnais-Vanek which could make them a handful for their next opponent if they’re able to move on. (Would likely be Boston…!) On the Tampa side, the health of Ben Bishop, Valtteri Filppula, and rookie sensation Ondrej Palat are all in question, and I think as a whole, they just won’t have enough to get by a solid group in Montreal.

 

New York R – Philadelphia

Very even match-up. New York has the edge in goal with Lundqvist – especially if Steve Mason is out (already not playing game 1), but Philadelphia has the depth and talent that New York can’t match. Voracek is big, fast, and has tons of skill; Simmonds is a beauty power forward with size, strength, and surprising hands; Hartnell is a great net presence with good finish, Matt Read is an underrated sniper who plays responsibly too, Sean Couturier is a future Selke winner, and Vinny Lecavlier has been there before. And then there’s Claude Giroux – what can you say about this guy? With the exception of size, Giroux has everything you could possibly ask for – speed, shot, hands, vision, and most of all, a tremendous ability to raise his game when it’s on the line. Furthermore, the best pick-up at the Trade Deadline this year was defenceman Andrew MacDonald (similar to St. Louis’ Jay Bouwmeester who was acquired last season). Good size, skates well, makes very good decisions, moves the puck well, and keeps the game simple. He’s already re-signed long-term, and has formed a nice shut-down pair with Luke Schenn. All that said, New York is a good team too – they also have plenty of depth at forward, and a nice defence, but their top-end guys are really under the gun. After 19 games with the Rangers, Martin St. Louis scored only 1 goal, and for his part, Rick Nash has never been a big guy in big moments. I also feel that Henrik Lundqvist isn’t quite what he used to be; his backup – Cam Talbot, had a better G.A.A and save % this season by a wide margin, (2.36 vs. 1.64; .920 vs .941), and provided a lot of stability at times when Lundqvist was struggling. And when your top-scoring forward over 82 games is Mats Zuccarello, I think that says something about the quality of your team. New York also suffered an injury to a key player – Chris Kreider – a big young winger who can really fly. He’s exactly the kind of player who would have been valuable come playoff time when things tighten up and there’s a little less room to move. When all’s said and done, I feel that Philadelphia is one of those aggressive, attacking teams that really takes the play to their opponent. If Lundqvist doesn’t stand on his head, I think Philly comes out ahead.

 

WEST

Anaheim – Dallas

Is it as simple as Perry and Getzlaf versus Benn and Seguin? If so, this would be a tough series to call. But after those four potent talents, Anaheim boasts way more depth. Cogliano, Bonino, Perreault, and Palmieri are all underrated forwards who have quietly helped this team finish atop the Western Conference. They generate a lot of chances and puck possession for the Ducks. Silfverberg is another young talent, and Maroon has been playing an increased role of late. Anaheim also skates better than almost any team in the league, and their versatility is impressive – to a man, these forwards are either big and fast, or fast and skilled. Kari Lehtonen is a good goalie for Dallas, but he’s going to have to stop everything including the kitchen sink to win this series, and if the Ducks can hold Seguin and Benn even a little in check, I’m not sure where the rest of the offence would come from. For Dallas, Ray Whitney is day-to-day, Rich Peverley is out for the year after the heart scare, Erik Cole hasn’t generated much since early in the year, and 18-year old Russian talent Valeri Nichushkin might be spent after playing his first 82 game NHL season. Only question mark for the Ducks is in goal, where it looks like opening day starter Jonas Hiller will be a 2nd or 3rd string goalie – Frederik Andersen was a revelation for the Ducks, and will start, with goalie-of-the-future, John Gibson serving as back-up.

 

Colorado – Minnesota

This is an interesting series. At first glance, it would seem to be all Colorado – they finished 2nd in the West and 3rd in overall in the NHL, won the season series, and boast the better goalie. But they’re also a very young team – O’Reilly and Landeskog are 21; Mackinnon is 18 – are without their best player, Matt Duchene, for at least the first two games of the series, and they’re playing a veteran group that boasts some great players like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville, and Mikko Koivu. Is Colorado ripe for an upset? If they are, it seems like not many are calling it. Perhaps that’s because Ilya Bryzgalov is an average goalie, at best, and despite Duchene going down with a knee injury, and Colorado having a high seed already locked up, they just managed to keep winning down the stretch. Their turnaround this year has been unbelievable, after finishing last year in 29th overall, and a lot of credit goes to the incredibly inspiring and stabilizing force that is Patrick Roy, who should call the cops if the Jack Adams trophy is awarded to anyone but him. Minnesota will be a tough challenge to be sure, but even without Matt Duchene, Colorado’s potent attack and strong goaltending should be enough to get by a strong Wild team.

 

St. Louis – Chicago

Two weeks ago, most people would have taken St. Louis. But now with the health of Backes, Oshie, Sobotka, and Berglund in question, and talented Russian Vladimir Tarasenko out indefinitely, the Blues are walking wounded. And Chicago is not the team you want to play when half of your top-9 forwards are shuffling in and out of the infirmary. While the Ryan Miller acquisition obviously made sense, it sucks that a team who’s been struggling to score (only 5 goals in their last 6 games!) effectively gave up power forward Chris Stewart (Blues scoring leader last season), and replaced him with 3rd line pest, Steve Ott. If all that wasn’t enough, Chicago is finally healthy after their own run of injuries. Assuming Toews and Kane are near 100%, coming off relatively minor shoulder and  knee injuries, the entire Hawks group has a clean bill of health. They don’t quite have the depth they had last year after losing Frolik, Bolland, and Stalberg, but they still have so much high-end skill with Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Toews, and Keith – more than enough to get by a once mighty, now floundering Blues squad. Awful timing for St. Louis, but them’s the breaks.

 

San Jose – Los Angeles

For me, this is the single most interesting series in the first round. While everyone is talking about Chicago-St. Louis, I think the Stanley Cup finalist from the West will come out of this series. And I think it will be San Jose. Everyone talks about Quick, Kopitar, Carter, Doughty, and the grating, defensive style LA plays that is so conducive to playoff success. But when I look at how these teams match up, I see a Sharks team that has top-end talent similar to Chicago, and more depth than any team league wide, including Boston. The top-4 of Thornton, Marleau, Couture and Pavelski is second only to the Chicago four (Kane, Toews, Sharp, Hossa). But following them, you have Brent Burns – who is really coming into his own as a top-flight power forward; Tommy Wingels, who plays like a poor man’s T.J Oshie; dynamic rookie Tomas Hertl, who’s now healthy following knee surgery (and still has Joe Thornton’s admiration); Tyler Kennedy, who despite a somewhat underwhelming season offensively, is a versatile third line winger, and Marty Havlat, who for all his injuries over the years, can still be a dynamic top-6 forward over a brief stretch. They also have playoff predator Raffi Torres, who will be looking for his next Czech forward to run into oblivion. (If you’re unaware, youtube “Torres-Michalek” or “Torres-Hossa”). Depth guys like James Sheppard and Andrew Desjardins have moved up in the lineup and been very reliable, and if more injuries hit, the Sharks have another youngster in Matt Nieto who is both skilled and highly touted. This is a veteran group who is hungry to win. With the exception of Thornton & Marleau,(34), and Boyle (37), most of the other key players are in their mid-to-late 20’s. They also have a lot of size and skill, meaning they can’t be pushed around easily, even by a team like LA. Aside from their forwards, their defence boasts quiet stars in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and veteran Dan Boyle, as well as some other unheralded young players – Justin Braun, and Jason Demers. In goal, Antti Niemi had just an ok year, but he was actually named the Sharks’ MVP last season, not to mention that he was good enough to win the cup with Chicago in 2010. I’m not saying Niemi will be the reason the Sharks go deep, but he’s good enough to take them there if they play as they can.

 

The 2014 NHL Trade Deadline

 

Canucks centre Ryan Kesler

Canucks centre Ryan Kesler

The NHL trade deadline is a day where mistakes are made. For Jets fans, our franchise forefathers provided a dramatic example of how deadline-day deals gone wrong can change the course of the franchise – for the worse.

Back in 2007, the Atlanta Thrashers were riding a high. They had a dynamic top-line which included superstar forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa, they had a franchise goalie in Kari Lehtonen, and they were poised to make their first ever playoff appearance. With a single-minded focus on achieving playoff berth, General Manager Don Waddell made two ill-advised moves that set the team back, and ultimately, helped cost him his job.

On February 24th, 2007, Waddell traded 21-year-old defenceman Braydon Coburn to Philadelphia in exchange for 34-year-old veteran blueliner Alexei Zhitnik. The next day, he traded  Glen Metropolit and three draft picks in exchange for former all-star power forward, and then-current eating champion, Keith Tkachuk. In the very short-term, the move worked out, as Zhitnik and Tkatchuk helped Atlanta clinch the weak South-East division. But the Thrashers weren’t able to savour their achevement,  as they promptly lost in 4 straight games to the 6th seeded New York Rangers. Tkachuk would return to the Blues as a Free Agent the next year, while Zhitnik would play one more, largely unproductive season with the Thrashers and go home to play out his career in Russia. Meanwhile, Braydon Coburn would go on to become a very good, top-4 defenceman in Philadelphia, while the draft picks given up for 22 games worth of Keith Tkachuk could have been used to select players like Max Pacioretty, David Perron, and Derek Stepan. (Though there’s no guarantee that the Thrashers would have been smart enough to make any of those picks).

Now that isn’t to say that the trade deadline can’t be used intelligently by savvy GM’s. In 2006, the Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes made a few good moves, bringing in veteran forwards Mark Recchi and Doug Weight to fill the void left by Erik Cole, who missed several months with a broken neck. And in 2009, the cup-winning Pittsburgh brought in some linemates for Sydney Crosby, adding forwards Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin.  Boston brought in Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, who helped them win the Cup in 2011, while Los Angeles made a splash in 2012, bringing in sniper Jeff Carter in a blockbuster deal which sent Jack Johnson to Columbus.

However, in the last 8 years, those are the only four teams which made major moves at the deadline and succeeded in their quest for the cup. The other winning teams made only minor moves – if they made moves at all – while the other 5 or 10 teams ( per year!), who loaded up at the deadline, came away with nothing.

Now I understand when a team at the top of the league looks across at their major rival and tailors their moves towards that match-up. Pittsburgh knew their competition in the East last year was in Boston (as it is this year), and went out and got Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Doug Murray – three big veterans who they felt would help them match-up against the ‘Big Bad Bruins’. While I think they did a poor job identifying their needs – they needed a top-4 d-man and some help in net far more than they needed forwards – at least they were a true contender that was going for it all. What I really can’t understand – or accept – is when a team mortgages the future when they aren’t good enough to compete now, like the Thrashers did in 2007, and the Islanders did this year with the Thomas Vanek deal. (I don’t know if Garth Snow should be trusted to run a Bantam A3 team.)

This year, if I were a team not located in Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, or San Jose, I wouldn’t part with an asset higher than a 4th round pick, assuming the return is a rental player. While I could see a few other teams making a nice run, I don’t think any other teams have a shot to go all the way and win the cup, including the 1st place Anaheim Ducks. Let’s take a look at some of the players that should be available between now and Wednesday.

Top 20 Players Available – 2014 Trade Deadline

(20) Ryan Smyth – LW – Edmonton

After another disappointing season, the Edmonton Oilers are once again in sell-off mode. And while he isn’t the player he once was, Ryan Smyth could still be a veteran leader on a team that needs some forward depth in the bottom of their lineup. He won’t fetch much – maybe a 5th round pick – but hopefully he’ll get another shot to win the cup on a contending team.  

(19) Tom Gilbert – D – Florida

An underrated puck-moving defenceman, Gilbert will never be confused with a playoff warrior. On good teams, he’s a #5 defenceman, but if you need a right-handed defenceman to help your powerplay – like the New York Rangers, or the Boston Bruins – this is your man. His contract expires after this season, so he should come cheap at the deadline. He also looks a bit like Tom Petty, if that helps any.

(18) Marcel Goc – C – Florida

Once the most highly touted German-born player of all-time, Marcel Goc has turned into a reliable 3rd line centre who can fill in on the 2nd line in a pinch. He has a very reasonable cap hit at $1.7M (only $100,000 more than Jets 4th line centre, Jim Slater), and would be a nice addition for any team looking to bolster their depth down the middle. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made his way back to San Jose, the place where he began his career back in 2003.  

(17) Martin Erat – LW – Washington 

Martin Erat has been on the trade block for months. After an ill-fated trade deadline deal last year where the Capitals gave up their top prospect – Filip Forsberg – in order to pry Erat out of Nashville, Erat has struggled in Washington, and desperately wants out. But with so many teams up against the Salary Cap, and Erat’s $4.5M cap hit, the Caps have been unable to deal him thus far. For nearly a decade in Nashville, Erat was a solid 50-point scorer who could easily have reached 60 on a more offensive team. While those days me be behind him, he could still provide offensive depth, especially on the power play, where he likes to set up on the right half-wall and look for cross-seam passes. I’m sure there will be a taker by Wednesday, though Washington may have to retain part of his salary. This may be one of the last deals George McPhee makes as Caps GM, as his contract is set to expire at year’s end, and it’s unlikely to be renewed.   

(16) Lee Stempniak – RW – Calgary 

One of the more underrated wingers in the NHL, Stempniak was once a pretty good goal scorer in his St. Louis days, scoring 27 goals in 06-07, and 28 in 09-10. Since then, he’s been floating between a 2nd and 3rd line option, while becoming a fairly reliable, all-around player. A free agent in July, Stempniak won’t be highly sought after on Wednesday, but for a 3rd or 4th round pick, someone will be getting a good player, who’s just 30 years old. Anyone could be in the mix since the asking price isn’t high; Pittsburgh would be a fit.    

(15) Chris Phillips – D – Ottawa 

Drafted 1st overall in 1996, this franchise stalwart remains in Ottawa to this day, but those days might be numbered. With his contract up in July, Phillips’ agent is currently in negotiations with Sens GM Bryan Murray, and word on the street is he’ll be probably be traded if an extension isn’t reached by Wednesday. At 35 years of age, Phillips is that grizzled veteran defenceman who can provide depth for a contending team, and step into the top-4 if an injury takes place. Boston is the best bet to land Phillips if he becomes available, but Pittsburgh and San Jose would also make sense based on recent injuries to their blueline (Letang and Martin in Pit; Stuart in San Jose).  

(14) Brad Boyes  – RW – Florida 

Once a 40-goal scorer with the St. Louis Blues (07-08), Boyes’ stock has really dropped in the last few years. He struggled to get a contract this past off-season, with Florida’s measly 1-year, $1M being the best offer, or perhaps the only one. The investment has been a great one, as Boyes leads the offensively starved Panthers with 17 goals. He could fit in on almost any team’s second line and provide the kind of scoring depth that every team needs going into the playoffs. With the injury to Pascal Dupuis earlier the year, he’d be a great fit alongside Sydney Crosby in Pittsburgh, and it might only take a 3rd round pick to get him.

 

(13) Jaromir Jagr – RW – New Jersey 

The ageless wonder, Jagr continues to score and an age-defying pace, with 19 goals and 52 points through 62 games this season. At 41, he may not have a lot left in his legs after an 82-game season plus an Olympic appearance, but I’m sure there’s someone out there willing to take a chance. There’s always chatter about him going back to his roots in Pittsburgh, but a more likely option might be the Flyers, who loved the way he complemented Claude Giroux in his breakout season in 11-12. He’s a Free Agent after this season, so it won’t take a huge offer to get him should Lou Lamoriello choose to listen – a 2nd rounder may get it done.  

(12) Ales Hemsky – RW – Edmonton 

Since 2002, Ales Hemsky has known nothing beyond the copper and blue of the Edmonton Oilers. Highly touted coming out of junior, this puck magician burst out in 2006 with a 77 point season, helping the Oilers reach the Stanley Cup final where they lost in a tremendous 7 game series to Carolina. While he was normally around a point-per-game in the years that followed, he suffered a number of injuries, especially to his shoulder, and was replaced as the top-line right winger when Jordan Eberle emerged a few years ago. In the last year of his contract, it looks like Hemsky will be traded by Wednesday. Boston has been mentioned in years past because of his familiarity with fellow Czech player David Krejci, but I think the Bruins are more interested in adding to their defence after losing the vastly underrated Dennis Seidenberg for the rest of the year. Again, Pittsburgh could be a fit given the hole on the right side, but the asking price has to be right. A 3rd round pick would be a good gamble for this former impact player – he probably would have fetched a 1st round pick a few years ago.   

(11) Chris Stewart – RW – Buffalo  

You may be thinking, “didn’t Chris Stewart just get traded to Buffalo?” Yes, he certainly did. But shortly after the trade was made, Pierre Lebrun reported that the Sabres aren’t done, and may be looking to shop Stewart leading up to the deadline. I don’t blame Sabres GM Tim Murray, as Stewart is known for his heavily inconsistent play, and that’s not the kind of influence you want on the young players that will be coming in droves to Buffalo as they begin their rebuild in earnest. At his best, Stewart is a physical power forward with good hands and a nice scoring touch. He has already scored 28 goals twice, and is just 26 years old, but he has a tendency to take every second year off. With another year left on his contract worth $4.15M, the market for him may not be the top contending teams, as most of them are pressed for cap space. Montreal would be an interesting option, given their seemingly endless search to find players with size, although that normally ends in them adding more tiny players like Brian Gionta, David Desharnais, Danny Briere, and Brenden Gallagher.   

(10) David Legwand – C – Nashville 

After 14 years in a Nashville uni, it looks like the Predators will finally be parting with David Legwand. The 2nd overall pick in 1998, he was drafted immediately after Vinny Lecavalier, and never lived up the draft-day hype. That said, he has carved out a very good career for himself as a two-way, 2nd line centre, and would be a great addition for a lot of teams. With the Preds more or less out of playoff contention, and Legwand’s contract up this summer, he should be shopped hard leading up to Wednesday’s deadline. If Kesler truly is in play, whoever loses out on him might look to Legwand, so long as they believe they can sign him in the off-season. (Unlike Legwand, Kesler isn’t a rental). I don’t think he’ll quite garner a 1st round pick, but maybe a package of a 2nd rounder, and a decent prospect.  

(9) Matt Moulson – LW – Buffalo 

It’s been an interesting year for Matt Moulson. After several productive seasons with the Islanders alongside friend and linemate John Tavares, he was banished to Buffalo (along with a few high draft picks), in exchange for Thomas Vanek. As a pending free agent, it looks like he’ll be finding yet another NHL home in a few days. Underappreciated for a few years in Long Island, he has suddenly found a lot of love in hockey media circles, widely praised for his soft hands and his nose for the net. He’d be a nice addition to any team’s top-6, and one of  the potential suitors includes his former team, the Los Angeles Kings.  The Kings actually signed Moulson out of college in 2006, but after a few years split between the AHL and the NHL, they pronounced him a *tweener and let him walk, where he made his way to the Islanders and scored 30 goals three years in a row. Oops. 

*A tweener is a player who is too good for the AHL (or other non-NHL leagues), but who can’t make an impact in the NHL.  

(8) Christian Ehrhoff – D – Buffalo 

This puck moving defenceman is an interesting option for a number of reasons. Ehrhoff signed a 10-year, $40M deal with Buffalo in 2011, which was heavily front-loaded, with $13M in bonuses paid out in the first two years of the deal. That means that while the cap hit on the deal is $4M per year, the last seven years only amount to $18M, or ~ $2.5M per year. It’s pretty hard to get a solid puck-moving for $4M a year, nevermind $2.5M, so Ehrhoff will certainly peak the curiosity of a number of teams, depending on the asking price. He proved to be quite dangerous on the powerplay in Vancouver, where he scored 14 goals in back-to-back seasons. Given his lack of success in Buffalo, I don’t know if anyone will pony up a 1st round pick for him, but a 2nd rounder and a prospect would seem reasonable. Given that Ehrhoff isn’t a rental, the market for him won’t be limited to contending teams. That said, the Sabres may wait till the off-season to move him.  

(7) Marek Zidlicky – D – New Jersey 

Marek Zidlicky is one of the more underrated defencemen of his generation. For years, this puck-moving d-man played in defence-first systems in Nashville and Minnesota, and still managed to put up 40-to-50 points a year. At 37 years young, he continues to carry the mail, playing over 21 minutes a game and scoring 29 points through 59 games. Teams in the market for an experienced defenceman who can contribute in every zone need look no further. With New Jersey still technically in the playoff race, there’s no guarantee he’ll be shopped, but that could change very quickly as the Devils face a tall task, needing to climb over 4 teams to claim the last spot. As a playoff rental, he shouldn’t break the bank either – the asking price is probably a 2nd round pick plus another late pick or prospect. 

(6) Andrew MacDonald – D – New York I 

Andrew MacDonald is gonna get paid this off-season; the only question is who’s writing the cheque. Playing over 25-minutes per game, he’s been one of the lone bright spots on an Islanders team that looks poised to collect another lottery pick in this year’s draft. While he probably isn’t a top-two defenceman on a better team, MacDonald is a smart, polished defenceman with sneaky offensive ability who would fit in any team’s top-4. And best of all, at age 27, his best years are still ahead of him. It will take a 1st round pick to pry him away, and the team giving up that pick may want some assurance that he’ll be amenable to a contract extension in his new home. A lot of teams will have Garth Snow on speed dial between now and Wednesday.  

(5) Marian Gaborik – RW – Columbus 

With his lack of recent success, it’s easy to forget that Marian Gaborik is a three-time 40-goal scorer in the NHL. He’s already played 13 seasons in the NHL despite being only 31, and has scored almost 350 goals in his career. But the years have not been kind to Gaborik’s body, as he has missed large stretches due to injury, especially since 08-09. His brief time in Columbus has been a bust, but he’s only two years removed from his last 40-goal season, and there’s always the hope that a player with his abundance of speed and scoring ability could recapture some of his former greatness. I’m sure the Blue Jackets would be happy to mitigate some of the loss they took on this trade – which sent former 1st round picks Derick Brassard  and John Moore to New York at last year’s deadline. There a number of interesting fits for Gaborik which all come with their issues – LA and Pittsburgh could certainly use some scoring off the wing, but they’d have trouble squeezing his $7.5M salary under the cap. He’d be an intriguing fit in Vancouver with the Sedins, but the Canucks may be going into a rebuild and might not want a rental player.  Detroit could use a proven scorer to go along with their young guns, but they tend to hoard their draft picks and refuse to make mistakes at the deadline. Ultimately, Jarmo Kekalainen may decide to keep Gaborik if he can’t get a good return, particularly since the Jackets are battling for their second playoff berth in franchise history.  

(4) Mike Cammalleri – LW – Calgary 

With all the talk about Callahan, Kesler, and Vanek, Mike Cammalleri might be the most underrated player on trade deadline day. A two-time 80-point scorer, Cammalleri has also been money come playoff time, with 17 goals and 32 points in 32 career playoff games. Still only 31 years old, Cammalleri is akin to a poor man’s Marty St. Louis – an undersized sniper who makes the most of his small frame. There’s talk of him landing in Los Angeles – the place where he began his career – but the Flames would need to retain part of his salary to make that work, as LA is close to the cap ceiling.  

(3) Ryan Callahan – RW – New York R 

When the news came out a few weeks ago that Rangers GM Glen Sather was allowing Callahan’s agent to contact other teams about a possible sign-and-trade arrangement, a lot of people began to speculate. Early word was that he was headed to St. Louis, making the Blues an even more formidable playoff adversary. Then the rumour was that he was headed to Tampa Bay for Marty St. Louis, which caused an incredulous Phil Esposito – once the GM of both the Rangers and Lightning, just about lose his mind. (If you haven’t heard the sound bite, it’s hilarious). The only reason the Rangers captain is on the block is due to his reportedly outrageous contract demands, rumoured to be 6-7 years, and $6.5-$7M per year. I’m sure 30 NHL teams would love to have Callahan for 4 years at $5M, but with his abrasive, injury inducing style of play, and his limited offensive ability, a long-term deal at nearly $7M is more of a joke. Sather is playing hardball with the Callahan camp, insisting that he’ll be dealt if an extension isn’t reached by Wednesday. The only problem is that no one is going to give up a king’s ransom for Callahan if they can’t sign him too, and who wants to sign a guy asking for almost $2M more than he’s worth? I have a feeling Callahan will end up staying in New York for a deal similar to Dan Girardi, who signed last week for 6 years, $5.5M per.

(2) Thomas Vanek – LW – New York I 

It’s time for Garth Snow to undo some of the damage he’s caused this franchise, which most recently included his massive bumbling of this year’s Vanek deal, where he gave up a potentially signable Matt Moulson, along with 1st and 2nd round draft picks. With Vanek spurning the Islanders contract offer, and the team descending to the depths of the Metropolitan division, it has only furthered the perception that Garth Snow is ill-suited to run this team. To make matters worse, it is widely rumoured that Vanek’s preferred destination is Minnesota, the place where he played college hockey. If that’s true, then the Wild aren’t likely to give up a bevy of picks in order to acquire a player whom they can sign for nothing come July, and the rest of the league won’t want to give up significant assets for a rental player whose heart is elsewhere. Despite all that, I’m sure the Isles will get a 1st rounder for Vanek, even as a rental, but that’s not a huge return for a player of his caliber.  

(1) Ryan Kesler – C – Vancouver 

Things are starting to get ugly in Vancouver. After five straight division titles, and years of perennial contention, the Canucks look like they won’t even reach the post-season this year. And with a dearth of talented youngsters in the system, the rebuild has to begin in earnest. Fortunately, there is no better piece to dangle than Ryan Kesler – a rugged, talented, and playoff-tested performer who comes second only to Patrice Bergeron for the moniker of “best second line centre” in the league. With two years left on a very reasonable deal which pays him $5M per year, Kesler will command a hefty return – a promising young roster player to fill his role on the 2nd line, along with a 1st round draft pick and some other picks to pad the deal. The most persistent rumours have him going to Pittsburgh, with Brandon Sutter going the other way, or to Columbus, because he played college hockey at Ohio State. The Columbus rumour is laughable, as Ryan Johansen is mentioned as part of the deal, but there’s no chance that Columbus will give up on Johansen, who looks to be a bona fide 1st line centre. However, if the Canucks were okay with Brandon Dubinsky or Artem Anisimov, then the Blue Jackets would be happy to oblige them. The major sticking point is that Kesler has a full no-trade clause, so he controls where he ends up. Chances are he’ll be looking to go to a contender, and many of those teams are currently strapped for cap space. As a result, this deal might have to wait till the off-season. 

 

Other Players Under Discussion 

Martin St. Louis – RW – Tampa Bay 

Tampa looks like a sure-fire playoff team, and with Steven Stamkos’ return imminent, trading St. Louis would be akin to giving up on the playoff run. If there truly is resentment behind the scenes between Yzerman and St. Louis, a deal will come in the off-season.  

Andrei Markov – D – Montreal 

I don’t think this long-time Canadien is going anywhere. He’s a pillar of the Montreal defence along with P.K Subban, and with the Habs near the top of the Eastern Conference, trading Markov would take the wind out of their sails. That said, if they can’t re-sign him in the off-season, they might deal his rights before July 1. 

Paul Stastny- C – Colorado 

With Stastny’s contract up in July, and Matt Duchene and Nate Mackinnon entrenched as the top-2 centres for the next decade, many people don’t see an extension coming for Paul Stastny. That said, unless the return is huge, they’ll keep him for the playoff run. Plus, with a mountain of cap space in the off-season, they might decide to keep him anyway. 

Tyler Myers – D – Buffalo

 Back in 2010, everything was coming up Myers, as the 19-year-old rearguard won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie. But since then, things have gone downhill both for Myers and the Sabres, as a steadily weakening team demanded more from a green, 20-something d-man, while providing him none of the supports needed to grow and refine his game. Still just 24, the smooth skating, 6’8 behemoth would be a giant pick-up (PI), for a team looking for a potential top-pairing defender (note: every team is looking for a potential top-pairing defender). Colorado has been mentioned as a natural fit, with their abundance of talented young forwards and lack of defenders, but don’t think that Duchene, Landeskog, or Mackinnon would be included in such a deal. Perhaps Ryan O’Reilly could be a part of the mix though. Again, this type of deal is more likely to happen at the NHL Entry Draft in late June, rather than at the trade deadline.   

Cam Ward – G – Carolina 

With the exception of Roberto Luongo, no goaltender needs a change of scenery more than Cam Ward. The 2006 Conn Smythe winning goaltender has really fallen from grace in the past few years, as injuries have ravaged his career, and a lack of post-season play has probably taken a mental toll as well. But with two years left at $6.3M, it’s hard to imagine many teams having great interest, particularly at the deadline. Perhaps the market will widen in the off-season, as teams re-evaluate their needs, and more importantly, their budget.  

Martin Brodeur – G – New Jersey 

Colour me surprised if Brodeur moves at the deadline. He’s played in New Jersey since 1993, and there aren’t many teams looking for a starting goalie. I really can’t see Lou Lamoriello trading Brodeur for a draft pick if he’s going to that team as a back-up. On the other hand, with Cory Schneider entrenched as the current and future Devils’ starter, trading Brodeur would give him the out he needs to look for another opportunity in the off-season, without looking like the bad guy who walks away from his long-time home. (Unlike Mats Sundin, who refused a trade out of Toronto and then walked away the next year via free agency.)

 

Six Thoughts: On the Jets, the Olympics, and Paul Maurice

Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice

Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice

(1) Jets Fire Claude Noel

I don’t think anyone would have been surprised had Kevin Cheveldayoff fired Claude Noel at season’s end, but to do it in early January – just over the Christmas break, but weeks before the Olympic break – tells you that his hand was forced. After losses to Tampa Bay and Columbus, Chevy felt that his team needed a new direction, and can you blame him? It wasn’t just that they lost, it was how they lost, not even mustering 15 shots on goal in the 4-2 loss to Tampa, and the embarrassing defeat on Saturday night against Columbus, where they gave up 4 unanswered goals in a 6-3 loss.

Let me begin by saying that I don’t think Claude Noel was the problem. In other words, I don’t think that a better coach would be guiding this group to the playoffs. There are only so many things under a coach’s control, and the line-up that goes onto the ice – save a few minor tweaks – isn’t one of them. However, his line combos, player usage, and defensive systems left something to be desired. I remember cringing every time Noel would send Tim Stapleton out on the powerplay instead of Johnny Oduya in Year 1 – yes, the same Johnny Oduya that won the Stanley Cup in Chicago last year, and was named to the Swedish Olympic team last week. I cringed every time he put Chris Thorburn on the left side of Jokinen and Setoguchi, as if his fourth line, grinding presence would help create much-needed offence. I cringed when he left Michael Frolik off the powerplay, and frequently (and inexplicably), the penalty kill, despite being one of our most consistent and well-rounded players. And we all bashed our heads against the wall, or some other hard object, anytime he played James Wright more than 8 minutes a game, especially when those shifts took place in a game we were losing. (James Wright’s 0 goals offer no rebuttal). His usage of Dustin Byfuglien – whose ability to create momentum sapping giveaways more than negates his ability to create offence – as a #1 defenceman was always puzzling, especially when Zach Bogosian would seem like a more natural fit as a shut-down, match-up defender, while Buff could be more effective given the “easier minutes” (i.e offensize zone starts, and weaker competition). And his penalty killing systems – or those he allowed his assistant coaches to implement – were too laissez faire, especially given the surplus of good-skating forwards, who would be more effective in a more aggressive system. (Many good penalty killing teams have the forwards attack the puck holder, rather than allowing a skilled player to set up calmly and read the ice.)

But beyond all that, the one thing that always troubled me about Claude Noel was that I couldn’t figure out where he drew his source of authority. Was he a brilliant strategist like Ken Hitchcock? A “player’s coach” like Alain Vigneault? A fiery disciplinarian like John Tortorella? A Hall-of-Fame, former NHLer like Patrick Roy? My sense of Claude Noel was that he was a nice guy who is relatively bright and has good attention to detail. These qualities probably make him a decent Assistant Coach, but in order to be a Head Coach in the NHL, you need to have some dominant trait that will garner the players’ respect. Unfortunately, I don’t think that he had one. That’s bad enough when you’re managing 22, mostly grown men on a daily basis, but when you’re dealing with players like Alex Burimstrov, Evander Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien, all of whom can be problematic for various reasons, you need someone with a tremendous skill set and a strong personality. You need someone who can communicate – not necessarily with the media, but with the players. The coach doesn’t need to be liked by all of his players, but he needs to be respected. Whether the poor results we’ve seen this year were in part a product of a failed relationship between Claude Noel and his team, we aren’t likely to know, but when you’re the General Manager of an NHL franchise, and you feel that you have the wrong man leading the herd, it behoves you  to do something about it.

(2) Jets Hire Paul Maurice

For those who want a drastic change behind the bench – a Hitchcock, a Tortorella, or a Keenan to really shake things up, you may be disappointed by Paul Maurice. As some have already said, his style is somewhat reminiscent of Claude Noel’s. He isn’t charismatic, he won’t scream at his players openly, and in general, he won’t rock the boat a lot, but his strengths are what Noel’s were at least leaning towards. He’s a fairly serious character, who has a bright hockey mind, and a no-nonsense approach. He lead the 2002 Carolina Hurricanes  to a surprising Stanley Cup Finals appearance, boasting no top-end talent, but only an average group of grizzled veterans, who combined timely goals with a commitment to smart play in all three zones. He become the youngest coach in the NHL when he became bench boss of the Hartford Whalers in 1996, after his playing career was cut short by an eye injury. He was just 28 years of age at the time. He also became the youngest coach in NHL history to reach 1000 games, at the age of 43. Whether he’s the right man to lead this group long-term is hard to know at this point, but based on his experience in the league, one can only assume that he’s an upgrade on the previous coaching staff. His contract is for the remainder of this season, so he has just over 35 games to shepherd this flock and start leading them in the right direction. If things go well, he’ll be extended; if they continue more or less as they are, then Chevy may look elsewhere this off-season, when there will be more coaching options available.

(3)  Canadian Olympic Team Selections

Did you tune in to watch Team Canada’s Olympic selections last Tuesday? If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you did. No big surprises in goal, where Price and Luongo will jockey for starting position, while Mike Smith – who has been impressive since he got to Phoenix in 2011 – will likely see the press box as 3rd string. With P.K Subban making the club, there weren’t any big surprises on the back-end either. Sure, some thought Brent Seabrook or Dan Boyle might make the team, and a few Pens fans thought Letang was deserving, but with Doughty, Weber, Pietrangelo, and Subban all on the right side, there are a lot of excellent right-handed defenders to choose from. Sure, one of those guys could probably move over and play the left side, but we’re talking about a short tournament, where a lot of small adjustments will already be taking place – bigger ice, new playing partners, new coaches, and oh yeah, a bit of pressure to bring home the gold. Beyond all that, I think a lot of people undervalue Hamhuis and Vlasic. They’re both smart players, with good size, skating, and general puck moving ability. They aren’t flashy, but they play key roles on two of the most successful franchises of the past half-decade, taking on the other team’s top players on a nightly basis. Interestingly, Hamhuis leads all Canadian defencemen in plus-minus over the past three years, and Vlasic has really come into his own over the past year.

All of the controversy was saved for the forward selections. To be fair to Yzerman and co., it’s pretty hard to whittle down the list of Canadian forwards to just 14 guys, considering about half the top-30 scorers in the NHL are Canadian, and a significant portion of those outside the top point getters are team captains, Stanley Cup winners, and equally worthy in countless other ways. Joe Thornton is in the top-5 in scoring, and he never even got a sniff of the action. Same goes for Stanley Cup winner and past Olympian, Eric Staal. Mike “All I do is Win” Richards also wasn’t close to getting a spot. Guys like Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, and Bergeron were locks – there’s your top-4 centres already taken care of. Tavares and Perry too, and With Stamkos progressing nicely after fracturing his leg, he’s another sure thing – though he can still be replaced up until the day before the tournament begins if the bone isn’t fully healed. Patrick Sharp is putting together a great season, and his chemistry with Toews, and overall versatility, make him a smart choice. Benn and Duchene are rising stars who played their way onto this team, and Jeff Carter is a big, good skating winger with a wicked shot who was the last guy cut from the 2010 team that won gold in Vancouver. Most people begrudgingly accepted the selection of Kunitz, since his chemistry with Sidney Crosby is undeniable. The pick that caught everyone by surprise was Patrick Marleau, who theoretically took the spot of Marty St. Louis, who most people had penciled into this lineup. While I thought that pick was odd, the one that angered me was the one that took Rick Nash over Claude Giroux.

While many people wouldn’t have picked Marleau, I can see what they’re thinking. He’s a big guy, a great skater, and has a nice pair of mitts. He was a member of the 2010 squad, although his line, which included then-San Jose teammates, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley – was probably the least successful group. While I saw him as a top-line type of winger, what I was surprised to learn is that Patrick Marleau actually plays a lot on the penalty kill – more than any other team Canada forward except Ryan Getzlaf and Patrice Bergeron. He plays either wing, and on a team full of vocal leaders, maybe it’s nice to have a quiet, low-maintenance guy like Marleau who can readily accept a lesser role and not be a distraction in the least.  What I didn’t get, and still fail to see, is why Rick Nash is on this team. Nash has all kinds of talent – he’s a big guy who skates well, has long reach, and often makes defender look silly when they try to challenge him in open ice instead of backing off. He loves driving to the net, and he can basically stick handle in a phone booth – although I still have yet to see any hockey player actually do that. (Youtube video badly needed – Patrick Kane or Pavel Datsyuk, preferrably). But Nash has been hurt a lot this year. At the time of his selection, he only had around 15 points in 24 games – unimpressive totals for a player of his calibre. Nash lacks versatility – he won’t kill penalties, and he won’t be counted on much with the man advantage, as they are enough guys on this team with better vision, playmaking, and finishing ability.  Perhaps the biggest knock on him is that he isn’t a “big-game” player. In all the years in Columbus, he never took that team anywhere, and while perhaps that’s unfair, he also wasn’t very good for New York in last year’s playoffs; some even suggested that the Rangers might have been better off with the players they gave up in the Nash deal – the main ones being Artem Anisimov  and Brandon Dubinsky. Claude Giroux and Martin St. Louis are big-game players. Giroux was one of the most dominant players all the way through the 2011-2012 season, leading the Flyers to a first-round upset of the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins. St. Louis is a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner as leading scorer, including last season, as well as a Stanley Cup winner in 2004. What’s more shocking is that his own GM, Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, passed him up.

The reality is that, while I don’t like the Nash pick, just as others may not like the Marleau pick, the Kunitz pick, the Hamhuis or Vlasic pick, or any number of other picks, the difference between gold and not-gold (the only appropriate measure of Team Canada’s success is of course, gold), will not come from the play of their 7th defenceman, or their 13th forward. In the NHL, it usually comes down to about 10 players – 5-7 forwards, 2-4 defencemen, and 1 goalie – who make up the majority of Stanley Cup teams. It will be no different at this tournament. In 2010, only two forward lines were good in the big games – the Richards-Toews-Nash line, and the Morrow-Getzlaf-Perry line. The defensive pairings that worked well were Keith-Doughty, and Niedermayer-Weber. Crosby scored the OT winning goal, but his line, along with Eric Staal and Jarome Iginla, was silent through much of the tournament. The San Jose line of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau was dreadful, and Patrice Bergeron barely played as the 13th forward. On D, Chris Pronger struggled mightily, and Brent Seabrook barely played. Dan Boyle was fine, but all I remember him doing was taking a stupid, retaliatory penalty in one of the later games. Despite all the talent on this roster – and I believe that it is far more impressive than the team which won gold in 2010 – only half the players on this team, at most, will really decide Canada’s fate.

Canadian Olympic Roster

(4) International Olympic Team Snubs

First, here’s a quick list of all the notable snubs:

Russia: Alex Semin, Nail Yakupov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Burmistrov, Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Nabokov

Czech Republic: Radim Vrbata, Jiri Hudler, Thomas Fleischmann, Jan Hejda, Rostislav Klesla, Jakub Kindl

US: Bobby Ryan, Kyle Okposo, Keith Yandle, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Ben Bishop.

Sweden: Marcus Johansson, Patric Hornqvist, Robin Lehner, Victor Hedman.

Finland: Saku Koivu, Sean Bergenheim

Switzerland: Sven Baertschi (one of only 3 Swiss forwards who play in the NHL…)

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Canada’s picks look a lot better when you consider the list above. Every major hockey nation except Slovakia made at least one really strange move, leaving off a player who should have been a no-brainer. For instance, I thought the Russians prided themselves on having incredibly skilled, and equally passionless players in their line-up? All kidding aside, to leave out a player of Alex Semin’s calibre doesn’t make sense to begin with, but to snub him in favour of a number of KHL players who aren’t even stars in that league? Hmmm. I’m sure those players are good, but if Russia gets into a tight game, they’ll probably wish they had Alex Semin’s stick at the end of the bench, instead of former Phoenix Coyote, Viktor Tikhonov. (Not the most obscure of the Russian picks, not even close). The Czech Republic left off a number of good NHL players, including Radim Vrbata and Jiri Hudler, both of whom would seem to be better choices than little Roman Cervenka – who failed to make a go of it last year in Calgary – and Petr Nedved, the former star NHLer who is now all of 42 years old. They also passed up a number of competent NHL defencemen. Everyone talks about the US leaving Bobby Ryan out in the cold but what about Kyle Okposo, who is the second leading US-born scorer in the NHL? It was also odd that they passed on Yandle, Jack Johnson, and Erik Johnson – all of whom are 25-27, in the prime of their careers, and play big minutes for their teams in all situations, in favour of the eventual group of 8, which includes five players under the age of 25. But who needs experience on the back-end. One might have also thought Ben Bishop would make a good option in net, considering he’s the best US goalie this season by a country mile, if the stats mean anything. Another big shock was the Swedes taking all-but washed up NHLer, Henrik Tallinder over Victor Hedman, a towering, smooth skating, fast developing #1 blueliner who’s helping to lead the resurgent Tampa Bay to the top of the Eastern Conference. And last, but certainly not least – what were the Fins thinking by leaving out Saku Koivu. He’s been one of the best Finnish players of his generation, and he’s having a great year on a Ducks team that is surprisingly at the top of the league. He’s been way better for Anaheim than Teemu Selanne – not to say that Teemu shouldn’t be there, as he’s probably the best Finnish player of all time – but surely they could have found room for Saku.

While it’s really hard to predict what might happen in such a short tournament, I would seed the contenders like so:

(1) Canada    (2) Sweden    (3) Russia    (4) US

(5) Oh to be in Chevy’s Shoes

Oh to be Kevin Cheveldayoff. To be working the phones constantly, working on deals to improve your team, monitoring the development of your prospects, scouting the new crop of future stars, and making lists of potential free agents for the coming summer sweepstakes. Ok, maybe that isn’t exciting to everyone, but I do about half of those things in a normal week, so let me tell you my findings.

While Kevin doesn’t let me work the phones very often, I do keep up with the prospects. Most of us saw Nic Petan and Josh Morrissey suit up for Canada at the World Juniors in Sweden. Although Canada finished a disappointing 4th in the tournament, there were a lot of positive signs for Jets fans. Nic Petan had a few big games for Canada, including a two-goal performance in a come-from-behind victory over Slovakia in the preliminary round. The crafty centre from the Portland Winterhawks led the WHL in scoring last year, and was 2nd in the league before departing for the World Junior tournament. He has the hands of a 100-point scorer, but the size of an AHL lifer, so it’ll be interesting to see how he develops over the next few years. Meanwhile, Josh Morrissey played a steady role as Canada’s #5 defenceman – good in transition, and quick to join the rush. He too is small in stature, and there is some concern that he’ll be overmatched physically at the NHL level, but he plays a style reminiscent of current Jet defenceman, Toby Enstrom – good hands, fast feet, a fluid skating stride, and a keen ability to read the play. 2012 draft pick Andrew Copp was somewhat of a surprise at the World Juniors, as he not only made the US roster, but was selected as an assistant captain. He had 5 assists in the tournament, and looks to be a bit of a steal considering he was drafted in the 4th round. He was also leading his college team in goals and points before he left for the World Juniors. One other junior player worth mentioning is Scott Kosmachuk of the OHL’s Guelph Storm. The Jets third round pick in 2012 is having a career year, with 31 goals in 43 games, after scoring 35 in all 68 games last year. It’ll be very interesting to see how his offence translates to the next level, as the gap between the CHL (WHL/OHL/QMJHL) and the AHL is far bigger than the average fan knows. Many a junior player has scored at a torrid pace in the Canadian leagues, only to lose their scoring touch in the AHL, and never scratch the surface of their NHL dreams, unless they were blessed with the size and skating needed to play a grinding, 4th line role.

Speaking of the AHL, there are three St. John’s Ice Caps rookies worth talking about. Adam Lowry, Brenden Kichton, and J.C Lipon. Lowry was the most touted coming into the year, after he finished his junior career being named the WHL player of the year. While he had a slow start to the year offensively, he’s come on of late, scoring 2 goals, 1 assist on Saturday night, while being named 1st star. Overall, he has 13 points in 29 games, but you might give him a pass for the meantime as he was missed 8 games at the start of the season due to injury, which put him behind the 8-ball. The big centre – who stands 6’5 – needs to improve his skating, but if he’s able to do that, he could become a very interesting player in the NHL. He probably will never be a big scorer, but he could be a valuable third line centre who punishes opposing forwards and plays a gritty, shut-down role while contributing a bit of offence on the side. While Lowry was the most touted of the three, it’s Kichton that has impressed the most thus far. After racking up 240 points in his last three years of junior hockey, this defenceman – and yes he is a defenceman – has posted another 30 points in only 37 games in the AHL. To put that in perspective, he’s third in scoring among all rookies, only behind two forwards, and third in scoring among all defencemen, including veterans. Among rookie D, he’s leading by 7 points, with only one player even close to him (Ryan Sproul, a Detroit 2nd round pick in 2011). The book on Kichton from the scouting perspective is that he’s a small defenceman who isn’t a good enough skater to challenge for a full-time NHL spot. While those things may be true, it may also be that he’s too creative offensively not to try him on your powerplay at some point. If he keeps up this pace in the AHL, expect him to get a brief, late-season call-up in order to get his feet wet in the NHL. Lastly, there’s J.C Lipon. A member of last year’s Canadian World Junior team, Lipon plays a bit like Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. A tireless worker, and constant annoyance to his opponents, Lipon is continuing to play his abrasive style in the AHL, collecting 66 PIM’s in 34 games, while also collecting 19 points. Like Lowry, his offence stats have taken off recently, with most of those 19 points coming in the last 20 games. While he doesn’t have the offensize upside of Marchand, he too could be a valuable member of a third or fourth line one day, killing penalties, agitating opponents, and being loved by his teammates.

And now, to actually put on the GM hat. Alright, your team has a decent group of top-6 forwards but almost no depth on the 3rd or 4th lines. You have a group of talented defencemen, very few of whom actually like to, or are able to play well defensively. And you have a starting goalie who earns $3.9M per year over 5 years, who stops the puck like he’s a back-up making $950,000. GO.

Hmm…

That’s sort of what Cheveldayoff did in the off-season. He re-signed Montoya to back-up Pavelec. I like Montoya – he’s quite a decent back-up. But we probably needed someone who would provide a stiffer challenge for the starting role. To boost the forward group, he traded draft picks to Chicago in exchange for Frolik (awesome move), signed Matt Halischuk on the cheap (good move), and traded a 2nd rounder to Minnesota for Devin Setoguchi. The last move, in which he gave up the biggest asset, was by far the worst. You can see Setoguchi’s strengths – he’s pretty quick, he has good hands, and a good shot. However, unless you give him a playmaking centre, he isn’t very effective. Save 2 or three games, he hasn’t done much good for the Jets, and why Cheveldayoff thought he was a fit was beyond me, as acquiring him in order to play with Kane and/or Jokinen makes absolutely no sense. Chevy also failed to replace Ron Hainsey, who despite his deficiencies, is a decent shut-down defenceman. He and Bogo were the “tough-minutes” pairing last year, lining up against the other team’s top players in many situations. With Hainsey gone to Carolina, and Bogo injured much of the season, Byfuglien has been forced to eat a lot of those minutes, along with Enstrom/Stuart/Clitsome on the left side, none of whom are good enough for that specific role. That match-up problem has been a disaster for the Jets all year, and it needs to be fixed this off-season.

So here’s what I’d do if I were in Chevy’s Shoes, starting with the trade deadline. I’d deal Mark Stuart – a pending UFA this off-season – for a draft pick, likely a 3rd round pick, but maybe we get a 4th rounder too. (A 2nd round pick would be a dream come true). Let Ellerby eat those minutes down the stretch and see if he can become a solid NHL defenceman. (He certainly skates well enough, and has great size too). Trade Jokinen for a 2nd round pick, or whatever you can get for him. He’s another free agent, and I doubt we’ll re-sign him, so you might as well get something for him. You can use these picks later on in a package for an NHL-ready player, or to stock the cupboard with more prospects. Let O’Dell play on the 3rd line, and give Lowry a shot for a game or two as well. Trade Setoguchi as well for a 3rd or 4th round pick. Halischuk will be back before then, and if there are other injuries, Lipon/Klingberg/Gordon/Samson can fill in from St. John’s. Buff stays for the meantime, as larger deals for non-rental players (players who don’t have expiring contracts), tend to happen at the NHL Draft in late June.

Fast forward to the NHL draft, where we trade Dustin Byfuglien. I’m not sure where – there’s been talk that Philly is interested, but that’s mostly from Eklund, who is entertaining, but rarely on the money. (Though he did call the crazy Flyers day in June 2011 when they traded Richards and Carter). Anyway, we trade Buff, probably for a less talented, but steadier NHL defenceman, or perhaps a young forward with some upside. Unfortunately Buff will be the best player in the deal, so we might get a pick or prospect along with whatever player we get back. Chances are the optics of the deal won’t look great, since Byfuglien’s upside is so high, and his deficiencies so well known, but the real key is the move we make afterwards to patch up the defence, (assuming we don’t get a forward instead of a defender).

Along with Enstrom, Trouba, and Bogosian, we need another defenceman to play in the top-4. A defensively responsible guy who skates well and plays a simple game. After that, we need another bottom-pairing defenceman to push the top-4, to go along with Clitsome, Ellerby, Redmond, etc. A really nice free-agent option would be Andrew MacDonald, currently of the New York Islanders. I’m sure we’re not the only time who’d be interested in him, assuming he even makes it to free agency. He plays about 25 minutes per game along with Travis Hamonic, and although he wouldn’t be a top-pairing guy in many other cities, any defenceman who can log those kind of minutes without floundering is a fine and rare bird. He’s from Nova Scotia, so maybe we’ll keep Adam Pardy around so they can bro down, Atlantic style. If we miss out on MacDonald, we can try to address the top-4 D in the Byfuglien trade. As for the bottom-6, a nice option is Colorado’s Andre Benoit – an underrated, veteran puck mover who quietly plays 20 minutes per game in Colorado.

At forward, we need to remodel our entire bottom-6. Of the current group, I’d hope that most of them would be gone, except Matt Halischuk, and maybe Jim Slater, who should be recovered from sports hernia surgery by the start of next season. James Wright is fine as a 13th forward, but not an every-day player; the same goes for Eric Tangradi, and Chris Thorburn, who is a free agent and may not be back. Setoguchi and Jokinen are gone by this point, (if not traded, their contracts have expired). The key building block is the third-line centre, and an interesting free agent option is Ryan Garbutt, a Winnipeg native whose game has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, to the point where he’s become an effective penalty-killer, agitator, as well as a decent offensive contributor. Another option would be for Chevy to inquire about Red Wings’ centre, and St. Andrews native, Darren Helm – a lightning-fast skater whose had a tough time with injuries over the past two years, and may be wearing out his welcome as a result. (Plus he’s not Swedish, and they’re only allowed a few of those in Detroit.) Other good free agent options are Marcel Goc (Florida) and John Mitchell (Colorado). If we’re looking for more offensive depth on the wings, Lee Stempniak or Mason Raymond are slated to be free agents, and would be a giant upgrade on our current bottom 6’ers. A few other depth players for the 4th line include Daniel Winnik, Ryan Jones, and Ryan Carter.

Bottom-line, until we address our forward depth, we can’t expect to have a consistent team.

(6) The Maurice Era

It was a pretty nice debut for Jets coach Paul Maurice last night. Not only did the Jets beat the Coyotes 5-1 in front of their home crowd, but they dominated almost the entire game, outshooting the Coyotes 39-19, and hemming them in their zone for large portions of the game. The Coyotes actually opened the scoring on the powerplay, but from that point on, it was all Jets.

While it was hard to notice any structural changes which led to their win – and Maurice was pretty clear that there was no time to make any significant changes – the effort and enthusiasm shown by the entire group was obvious. It was particularly evident in certain players, like Devin Setoguchi, who broke his 19 game goalless streak, and skated with great vigor and enthusiasm throughout the night. Setoguchi had been a frequent Noel target, and was more or less the only skilled player who saw large stretches of pine.

Beyond the win, which was satisfying for all those in attendance, and for those watching at home, the post-game interview with the new head coach was almost equally satisfying, at least to my ears. I listened to a coach who was incredibly excited to be an NHL head coach again. He spoke about his time in the KHL, where the language barrier forced him to learn new ways to teach.  He talked about the time spent at TSN, which gave him time to watch and analyze more games, coaches, and strategies than ever before. When combined with his experience as a Head Coach – and remember, this man is only 46 years old, yet he has almost 15 years of experience – I was struck by the wealth of knowledge and wisdom this man has collected. He delivered all of this in a light but serious tone, and with a heightened sense of importance – not self-importance, as he mentioned several times that he didn’t want to make the interview all about him, despite the fact that it had to be. Everything he said sounded sincere, and he mentioned several times how appreciative he was for the opportunity to coach again in the NHL. The evening couldn’t have been better.

2013 NHL Fantasy Draft Guide

Fantasy Draft Pic

It’s pool time, poolies. Time to ridicule friends, work colleagues – basically anyone – for their foolishness as they reach for yesterday’s flash-in-the-pan, playoff heroes while passing on tomorrow’s rising stars. In a nutshell, it’s mocking someone who drafts Bryan Bickell over Vladimir Tarasenko. Someone is bound to do it – make sure he hears about it.

Each year TSN (Scott Cullen), Yahoo (Greg Wyshynski), The Hockey News, and several others of note publish their expectations for the coming fantasy year. For fantasy dabblers who don’t feel like doing their own research, they are good resources. However, just as with predictions of the NHL standings, I find that even experts base their predictions too heavily on what happened last year, rather than taking a wider view of things and considering a few years worth of data.

With that in mind, I looked at the last 3 years worth of basic stats (G, A, P) for the top-60 forwards. I didn’t bother with defencemen or goaltenders because things change much more quickly for those positions, since they are more dependent on their teams for their stats. (More on this later). But before we get down to the meat and potatoes, I want to share a few thoughts on draft strategy.

DRAFT STRATEGY

In my experience, you rarely win a draft in the first few rounds, but you can easily lose it. For instance, taking an injury-prone player like Marian Gaborik – who was very popular about 5 years ago when he first joined the Rangers – is a big risk. On the other hand, their are always a few steals in the late rounds – usually unexpected starting goalies, like Tim Thomas back in 2009, or Brian Elliot in 2011. But that’s not where the draft is won or lost either. The winners are determined in the middle rounds, and the key to victory is to load up on guys that aren’t valued by your competitors.  For anyone who only looks at Yahoo rankings – based primarily on last year’s stats, it’s a great opportunity for you to take an established guy coming off a sub-par year – perhaps due to injury – or an up-and-comer who hasn’t increased his stock enough with the majority of fans.

Here are some other important factors to consider when looking for undervalued players:

  • Breakout Age – I’ve noticed a trend with non-elite NHL prospects, i.e all the guys EXCEPT Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, etc. While the very elites tend to put up huge stats by the time they’re 19 or 20, most everyone else tends to take a few more years. For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that age 24 is a particularly productive year for many young players, and is the most common time for a player to have their first big offensive season. That isn’t to say that a player can’t break out sooner, but typically, most valuable fantasy players have shown you what they’ve got by the time they’re 24 or 25. The most common exception to that rule is a pure complementary player who finds himself on a great line – guys like Chris Kunitz, Mike Knuble, Scott Hartnell, etc, who play a gritty, net-based game and depend on good linemates for their stats.
  • Powerplay Time – this is particularly important for defencemen. You’d be hard-pressed to find a valuable fantasy d-man who doesn’t play on his team’s first pp unit. Go to NHL.com in the first 5 or 10 games of the season and check out which available defencemen are getting lots off pp time – regardless of whether they’re posting good stats. (There’s a log which breaks down ice time into even-strength, powerplay, pk, etc). You’ll probably find that a guy like Carolina’s Justin Faulk – who may not leave the ice on the PP – could be just as valuable as Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, yet Seabrook will be picked in virtually every pool, while Faulk will probably be free in half of them (at least to start the year). The powerplay ice-time rule goes for forwards too – it’s the reason why Boston isn’t necessarily a great team to draft from, since they have a weak powerplay, and they split the ice-time quite evenly between the Krejci line and the Bergeron line. Again, no one is going to draft Cam Atkinson anywhere near Milan Lucic, but assuming the pool doesn’t use PIMs, Atkinson may end up being within 5 points of Lucic at year-end.
  • Team Popularity – This one is pretty obvious. Players from Canadian teams, original-six teams, and recent NHL powerhouses (Pit, Lak, Was, etc.), will have well-known players as compared to less successful teams in the south and mid-west US, i.e St. Louis, Columbus, Carolina, Dallas, etc. As a result, most fans won’t think about Brandon Dubinsky when they’re making their last forward pick, but will opt instead for Mason Raymond, despite the fact that Raymond may play on the 3rd line in Toronto, while Dubinsky mans the top-line in Columbus (with Gaborik). Similarly, if you’re familiar with a team’s fantasy depth chart, you could take a #1 offensive d-man on an unpopular team – say Alex Goligoski in Dallas – rather than taking the #3 from a Canadian roster, i.e Kevin Bieksa. Since you’re probably not overly familiar with fantasy depth charts, I’ve provided one for you. It includes all the forwards and defencemen for each team, and an approximate order of where they should be taken within that team. I.e you take Kevin Shattenkirk after Alex Pietrangelo, but before Jay Bouwmeester. (Bouwmeester plays top-pairing with Pietrangelo, but Shattenkirk will get more time on the powerplay).

To sum up, here are some quick tips while you’re making your draft picks:

  1. Make safe picks early – established top-liners who don’t have an injury history
  2. Look for undervalued players in the middle  rounds – guys coming off a down year
  3. Look for upside late – usually younger players (<25)

 

THE LISTS

For anyone who didn’t know, I’m a list maker. I like to rank, order, and predict. Here’s the first list for your perusal. It includes the past three years of data for most of the top-60 forwards in the NHL – or at least the 60 forwards I found to be most relevant. I separated a few younger players at the bottom from the rest of the pack because I don’t feel that their stats are representative of what they will achieve this year, or in the years that follow, but I left young players like Stamkos and Tavares in the main group since they are already sublime talents.

Quick legend

P/82 takes the total points, divided by games played, and then pro-rates the total to an 82 game season. I.e, if Sidney Crosby had the same average points-per-game, and had played the full season (82 GP), he’d be averaging 132 points a year.

AGP is average games played

GM is games missed

3-YEAR POINT TOTALS – 2010-2013
Rank Player Team Age Pos  GP  P P/82 AGP GM
1 Sidney Crosby PIT 26 C 99 55 104 159 132 38 113
2 Evgeni Malkin PIT 27 C 149 74 105 179 99 58 63
3 Steven Stamkos TBL 23 C 212 134 111 245 95 82 0
4 Martin St. Louis TBL 38 RW 207 73 160 233 92 80 5
5 Daniel Sedin VAN 33 LW 201 83 128 211 86 78 11
6 Claude Giroux PHI 25 C 207 66 151 217 86 80 5
7 Henrik Sedin VAN 33 C 212 44 176 220 85 82 0
8 Pavel Datsyuk DET 35 C 173 57 118 175 83 67 39
9 Alex Ovechkin WSH 28 LW 205 102 104 206 82 79 7
10 Jason Spezza Ott 30 C 147 57 89 146 81 57 65
11 Jonathan Toews CHI 25 C 186 84 97 181 80 72 26
12 Patrick Kane CHI 25 RW 202 73 121 194 79 78 10
13 Henrik Zetterberg DET 33 C 208 57 140 197 78 80 4
14 Eric Staal CAR 29 C 211 75 124 199 77 82 1
15 Ryan Getzlaf ANA 28 C 193 45 137 182 77 75 19
16 Corey Perry ANA 28 RW 206 102 92 194 77 80 6
17 Nicklas Backstrom WSH 26 C 167 40 117 157 77 65 45
18 Anze Kopitar LAK 26 C 204 60 131 191 77 79 8
19 Phil Kessel TOR 26 RW 212 89 109 198 77 82 0
20 John Tavares NYI 23 C 209 88 107 195 77 81 3
21 Patrick Sharp Chi 32 LW 176 73 87 160 75 68 36
22 Mike Ribeiro Phx 33 C 204 50 133 183 74 79 8
23 Thomas Vanek BUF 29 LW 196 78 97 175 73 76 16
24 Joe Thornton SJS 34 C 210 46 141 187 73 81 2
25 Marian Hossa Chi 34 RW 186 71 94 165 73 72 26
26 Brad Richards Nyr 33 C 200 64 113 177 73 77 12
27 Patrik Elias NJD 37 LW 210 61 115 176 69 81 2
28 Rick Nash Nyr 29 LW 201 83 84 167 68 78 11
29 Loui Eriksson Bos 28 RW 209 65 108 173 68 81 3
30 Mikko Koivu MIN 30 C 174 40 103 143 67 67 38
31 Chris Kunitz PIT 34 LW 196 71 90 161 67 76 16
32 Alexander Semin Car 29 RW 186 62 90 152 67 72 26
33 James Neal Pit 26 LW 199 83 79 162 67 77 13
34 Vincent Lecavalier Phi 33 C 168 57 78 135 66 65 44
35 Max Pacioretty MTL 25 LW 160 62 66 128 66 62 52
36 Patrick Marleau Sjs 34 LW 212 84 84 168 65 82 0
37 Marian Gaborik Clb 31 RW 191 75 76 151 65 74 21
38 Zach Parise Min 29 LW 143 52 61 113 65 55 69
39 Matt Moulson NYI 30 LW 211 82 84 166 65 82 1
40 David Krejci BOS 27 C 201 46 111 157 64 78 11
41 PA Parenteau Col 30 RW 209 56 107 163 64 81 3
42 Joe Pavelski Sjs 29 C 204 67 91 158 64 79 8
43 Patrice Bergeron Bos 28 C 203 54 99 153 62 79 9
44 Bobby Ryan Ott 26 RW 210 76 82 158 62 81 2
45 Daniel Briere Mtl 36 C 181 56 77 133 60 70 31
46 Andrew Ladd WPG 28 LW 211 75 80 155 60 82 1
47 Martin Erat Was 32 LW 180 41 91 132 60 70 32
48 Teddy Purcell TBL 28 RW 210 52 100 152 59 81 2
49 Blake Wheeler Wpg 27 RW 209 54 95 149 58 81 3
50 Mike Richards Lak 28 C 203 53 89 142 57 79 9
51 Paul Stastny Col 28 C 193 52 82 134 57 75 19
Under-25
1 Taylor Hall EDM 22 LW 171 65 80 145 70 66 41
2 Jamie Benn DAL 24 LW 181 60 92 152 69 70 31
3 Jordan Eberle EDM 23 C 195 68 88 156 66 75 17
4 Logan Couture SJS 24 C 207 84 74 158 63 80 5
5 Matt Duchene COL 22 C 185 58 80 138 61 72 27
6 Jakub Voracek Phi 24 RW 206 54 87 141 56 80 6
7 Evander Kane Wpg 22 LW 195 66 67 133 56 75 17
8 Derek Stepan Nyr 23 C 212 56 84 140 54 82 0
9 Tyler Seguin Dal 21 C 203 56 65 121 49 79 9

If you’re looking for players to take in the later rounds…

Here is a little chart which gives you a very general idea of where a player might rank on his team in terms of fantasy-worthiness. It’s tough on teams like Boston and St. Louis since all of them have been packed in like sardines over the last few years in terms of scoring, but it’s a decent approximation for most other teams.

FANTASY DEPTH CHARTS
Pit Was Chi Tbl Ott Phi Edm Det Sjs Col Bos Stl Tor Lak Ana
1F Crosby Ovechkin Kane Stamkos Spezza Giroux Hall Datsyuk Couture Duchene Krejci Oshie Kessel Kopitar Getzlaf
2F Malkin Backstrom Toews St. Louis Ryan Voracek Eberle Zetterberg Thornton Parenteau Eriksson Backes Lupul Carter Perry
3F Neal Grabovski Hossa Purcell Michalek Hartnell Nugent-Hopkins Franzen Pavelski Stastny Bergeron Roy Kadri Brown Palmieri
4F Kunitz Johansson Sharp Drouin Turris Schenn Gagner Weiss Marleau Landeskog Lucic Berglund Van Riemsdyk Williams Silfverberg
5F Dupuis Erat Saad Filppula MacArthur Simmonds Perron Aflredsson Burns O’Reilly Marchand Steen Bozak Richards Koivu
6F Jokinen Brouwer Bickell Killorn Zibanejad Lecavalier Yakupov Nyquist Havlat MacKinnon Iginla Stewart Clarkson Frattin Selanne
7F Bennett Laich Kruger Malone Conacher Read Hemsky Abdelkader Kennedy Tanguay Paille Tarasenko Bollland Stoll Penner
8F Sutter Perreault Shaw Couturier McGinn Schwartz Cogliano
1D Letang Green Keith Hedman Karlsson Streit J. Schultz Kronwall Boyle E. Johnson Chara Pietrangelo Phaneuf Doughty Fowler
2D Martin Carlson Seabrook Carle Wiercioch Timonen Petry Smith Vlasic Barrie Hamilton Shattenkirk Ranger Voynov Beauchemin
3D Leddy Krug Bouwmeester
Nyr Min Car Mtl Van Wpg Phx Nyi Dal Clb Buf Fla Njd Cgy Nas
1F Nash Parise E. Staal Pacioretty H. Sedin Wheeler Ribeiro Tavares Benn Gaborik Vanek Huberdeau Elias Cammalleri Wilson
2F Stepan M. Koivu Semin Plekanec D. Sedin Kane Vrbata Moulson Seguin Horton Hodgson Fleischmann Zajac Stempniak Fisher
3F Brassard Pominville Skinner Galchenyuk Kesler Ladd Doan Okposo Whitney Dubinsky Ennis Versteeg Ryder Hudler Legwand
4F Richards Heatley J. Staal Briere Burrows Little Boedker Bouchard Eakin Atkinson Stafford Kopecky Jagr Glencross Hornqvist
5F Callahan Granlund Tlusty Gallagher Hansen Setoguchi Hanzal Bailey Peverley Johansen Leino Barkov Henrique Baertschi Stalberg
6F Hagelin Coyle Ruutu Eller Higgins Frolik Vermette Nielsen Cole Foligno Foligno Matthias Clowe Stajan Bourque
7F Pouliot Niederreiter Scheifele Korpikoski Grabner Chiasson Umberger Backlund Cullen
8F Zuccarello Nichushkin
1D Del Zotto Suter Faulk Subban Edler Byfuglien Yandle Visnovsky Goligoski Johnson Ehrhoff Campbell Zidlicky Giordano Weber
2D McDonagh Spurgeon Sekera Markov Hamhuis Enstrom Ekman-Larsson Hamonic Gonchar Wisniewski Myers Kulikov Larsson Wideman Jones
3D Diaz Garrison Bogosian R. Murray Josi

FANTASY FORWARD PROJECTIONS

Here’s how I rank the top-150 forwards in the NHL. It’s based largely on opinion.

Rank Player Team Proj Injury Notes
1 Sidney Crosby PIT 105
2 Evgeni Malkin PIT 95
3 Steven Stamkos TBL 95
4 Alex Ovechkin WSH 95
5 John Tavares NYI 90
6 Martin St. Louis TBL 90
7 Nicklas Backstrom WSH 90
8 Patrick Kane CHI 85
9 Claude Giroux PHI 80
10 Matt Duchene COL 80
11 Ryan Getzlaf ANA 75
12 Corey Perry ANA 75
13 Jonathan Toews CHI 75
14 Phil Kessel TOR 75
15 Taylor Hall EDM 75
16 Jordan Eberle EDM 75
17 Daniel Sedin VAN 75
18 Henrik Sedin VAN 75
19 Jason Spezza Ott 75 Day-to-day
20 James Neal Pit 75
21 Bobby Ryan Ott 75
22 Pavel Datsyuk DET 70
23 Henrik Zetterberg DET 70
24 Eric Staal CAR 70
25 Jamie Benn DAL 70
26 Anze Kopitar LAK 70
27 Joe Thornton SJS 70
28 Chris Kunitz PIT 70
29 Zach Parise Min 70
30 Matt Moulson NYI 70
31 David Krejci BOS 70
32 Logan Couture SJS 70
33 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Edm 65 IR till November
34 Rick Nash Nyr 65
35 Mikko Koivu MIN 65
36 Tyler Seguin Dal 65
37 Patrick Sharp Chi 65
38 Thomas Vanek BUF 65
39 Patrick Marleau Sjs 65
40 Joe Pavelski Sjs 65
41 Blake Wheeler Wpg 65
42 Evander Kane Wpg 65
43 Mike Ribeiro Phx 65
44 Marian Hossa Chi 60 Day-to-day
45 Nail Yakupov Edm 60
46 Alexander Semin Car 60
47 Marian Gaborik Clb 60
48 Paul Stastny Col 60
49 Derek Stepan Nyr 60
50 Teddy Purcell TBL 60
51 Loui Eriksson Bos 60
52 Vincent Lecavalier Phi 60
53 Max Pacioretty MTL 60
54 PA Parenteau Col 60
55 Patrice Bergeron Bos 60
56 Andrew Ladd WPG 60
57 Mike Richards Lak 60
58 Jason Pominville Min 60
59 David Perron Stl 60
60 Ryan O’Reilly Col 60
61 Derek Roy Stl 60
62 Ryan Kesler Van 60
63 Jeff Skinner Clb 60
64 Jakub Voracek Phi 60 Day-to-day
65 Gabriel Landeskog Col 55
66 Martin Erat Was 55
67 Jonathan Huberdeau Fla 55
68 Tyler Ennis Buf 55
69 Brad Richards Nyr 55
70 Daniel Briere Mtl 55
71 Chris Stewart Stl 55
72 Brad Marchand Bos 55
73 Jarome Iginla Bos 55
74 David Backes Stl 55
75 T.J Oshie Stl 55
76 Milan Lucic Bos 55
77 Pascal Dupuis Pit 55
78 Mike Cammalleri Cgy 55 Day-to-day
79 Nathan MacKinnon Col 50
80 Nazem Kadri Tor 50
81 Alex Galchenyuk Mtl 50
82 Patrik Elias NJD 50 Day-to-day
83 Scott Hartnell Phi 50
84 Bryan Little Wpg 50
85 Wayne Simmonds Phi 50
86 Tomas Plekanec Mtl 50
87 Justin Williams Lak 50
88 Joffrey Lupul Tor 50
89 Dustin Brown Lak 50 Day-to-day
90 Derick Brassard Nyr 50
91 Ray Whitney Dal 50
92 Jordan Staal Car 50
93 Johan Franzen Det 50
94 Kyle Turris Ott 50
95 Cody Hodgson Buf 50
96 Travis Zajac Njd 50
97 Milan Michalek Ott 50
98 Mikhail Grabovski Was 50
99 Brayden Schenn Phi 50
100 Stephen Weiss Det 50
101 Brent Burns Sjs 50
102 Jiri Tlusty Car 50
103 Marcus Johansson Was 50
104 Tyler Bozak Tor 50
105 David Desharnais Mtl 50
106 Sam Gagner Edm 45 IR till December
107 Ryan Callahan Nyr 45 IR till November
108 Troy Brouwer Was 45
109 Jaromir Jagr Njd 45 Day-to-day
110 Tomas Fleischmann Fla 45
111 Valtteri Filppula Tbl 45
112 James Van Riemsdyk Tor 45
113 Radim Vrbata Phx 45
114 Teemu Selanne Ana 45
115 Brandon Saad Chi 45
116 Matt Read Phi 45
117 Daniel Alfredsson Det 45
118 Gustav Nyquist Det 45
119 Alex Tanguay Col 45
120 Patrik Berglund Stl 45
121 Alex Steen Stl 45
122 Vladimir Tarasenko Stl 45
123 Kyle Palmieri Ana 45
124 Kris Versteeg Fla 45
125 Brandon Dubinsky Clb 45
126 Kyle Okposo Nyi 45
127 Dany Heatley Min 45
128 Mikael Granlund Min 45
129 Colin Wilson Nas 45
130 Mike Fisher Nas 45
131 Lee Stempniak Cgy 45
132 Alex Burrows Van 45
133 Adam Henrique Njd 45
134 Nathan Horton Clb 40 IR till January
135 Bryan Bickell Chi 40
136 Patric Hornqvist Nas 40 Day-to-day
137 Brendan Gallagher Mtl 40
138 Curtis Glencross Cgy 40
139 Sven Baertschi Cgy 40
140 Josh Bailey Nyi 40
141 Frans Nielsen Nyi 40
142 Mikkel Boedker Phx 40
143 Jannik Hansen Van 40
144 Jussi Jokinen Pit 40
145 Devin Setoguchi Wpg 40
146 Mark Scheifele Wpg 40
147 Cam Atkinson Cbj 40
148 Pierre-Marc Bouchard Nyi 40
149 Martin Hanzal Phx 40
150 Jakob Silfverberg Ana 40

TOP-25 DEFENCEMEN

Rank Player Team Injury Notes
1 Erik Karlsson Ott
2 Kris Letang Pit Day-to-day
3 P.K Subban Mtl
4 Mike Green Was
5 Alex Pietrangelo Stl
6 Duncan Keith Chi
7 Drew Doughty Lak
8 Ryan Suter Min
9 Shea Weber Nas
10 Dustin Byfuglien Wpg
11 Justin Schultz Edm
12 Kevin Shattenkirk Stl
13 Niklas Kronwall Det
14 Oliver Ekman-Larsson Phx
15 Zdeno Chara Bos
16 Keith Yandle Phx
17 Slava Voynov Lak
18 Tobias Enstrom Wpg
19 Alex Edler Van
20 Dan Boyle Sjs
21 Andrei Markov Mtl
22 Brian Campbell Fla
23 Dion Phaneuf Tor
24 Mark Streit Phi
25 Jack Johnson Clb

25 MOST UNDERRATED SKATERS

Pos Player Team
F Matt Duchene Col
F Jamie Benn Dal
F Logan Couture Sjs
F Mikko Koivu Min
F Paul Stastny Col
F Tyler Ennis Buf
F Teddy Purcell Tbl
F Jakub Voracek Phi
F P-A Parenteau Col
F David Perron Edm
F Mikhail Grabovski Was
F Brandon Dubinsky Clb
F Nick Palmieri Ana
F Gustav Nyquist Det
F Matt Read Phi
F Brandon Saad Chi
F Vladimir Tarasenko Stl
F Cam Atkinson Clb
F Jaden Schwartz Stl
D Kevin Shattenkirk Stl
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson Phx
D Slava Voynov Lak
D Justin Faulk Car
D Justin Schultz Edm
D John Carlson Was

GOALIE RANKINGS

Team Quality
Rank Starter Team Split-Time Playoffs Defensive Back-up Notes
1 Rask Boston YES 1 C. Johnson
2 Quick Los Angeles YES 1 Scrivens
3 Lundqvist New York R YES 1 Biron
4 Anderson Ottawa YES 1 Lehner
5 Crawford Chicago YES 2 Khabibulin
6 Fleury Pittsburgh YES 2 Vokoun
7 Howard Detroit YES 1 Gustavsson
8 Niemi San Jose YES 2 Stalock
9 Holtby Washington YES 2 Neuvirth
10 St. Louis Halak-Elliot YES 1
11 Rinne Nashville MAYBE 1 Hutton
12 Bobrovsky Columbus MAYBE 1 McElhinney
13 Luongo Vancouver YES 2 Lack
14 Price Montreal MAYBE 2 Budaj
15 Smith Phoenix NO 1 Greiss
16 Backstrom Minnesota MAYBE 2 Harding
17 Dubnyk Edmonton MAYBE 3 Labarbera
18 Lehtonen Dallas MAYBE 2 Ellis
19 Pavelec Winnipeg MAYBE 3 Montoya
20 Varlamov Colorado MAYBE 3 Giguere
21 Nabokov New York I MAYBE 3 Poulin
22 Ward Carolina NO 3 Khubodin
23 Miller Buffalo NO CHANCE 3 Enroth
24 New Jersey Schneider-Brodeur NO 2
25 Anaheim Hiller-Fasth MAYBE 2
26 Philadelphia Emery-Mason YES 3
27 Toronto Reimer-Bernier MAYBE 3
28 Tampa Bay Bishop-Lindback MAYBE 3
29 Thomas Florida NO CHANCE 3 Markstrom
30 Ramo Calgary NO CHANCE 3 MacDonald

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That’s it for now. If you have questions, complaints, abuse, etc, leave a comment.