Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

Heading into the 2007 draft, there was not one clear cut prospect like in some years, 2008 (Stamkos) and 2009 (Tavares) for example. In 2007, there were plenty of good players,  but towards the draft it filtered down to three prospects at the top of the class.  According to NHL’s Central Scouting, the top three (in order) were Kyle Turris, Patrick Kane, James van Riemsdyk.  It seemed like those three would be the top choices, but in which order? And to which teams?

Turris, from Burnaby of the BCHL, was touted as a great skater with a combination of skill and hockey smarts.  Kane’s biggest knock was his size (5’10, 160) but was a scoring machine for London of the OHL.  Van Riemsdyk was a big scoring winger from the US National Development Program that hadn’t finished growing yet.

Philadelphia was in the midst of their worst season in team history and Phoenix had finished its’ third straight season near the bottom of the standings.  Chicago finished last place in their division, but with a bit of luck, won the NHL draft lottery, giving them the #1 pick, followed by the Flyers and Coyotes.

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All around the NHL, teams will have to make decisions on their rosters before Wednesday’s deadline.  In particular, the transformed Flyers are going to have to make some tough roster choices.

Right now there are 15 locks for spots (8 forwards, 5 defensemen, 2 goalies) on the current team ( Briere, Giroux, Hartnell, Jagr, Simmonds, Talbot, van Riemsdyk, Voracek, Carle, Coburn, Meszaros, Pronger, Timonen, Bobrovsky, Bryzgalov).  Blair Betts is a pretty safe bet. This leaves 6 or 7 spots open with about $7.7 million cap space.

Does first round pick Sean Couturier make the Flyers?

There are six forwards fighting for four jobs.  Two veterans, Andreas Nodl and Jody Shelley, along with four rookies, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo and Brayden Schenn.  Shelley counts towards the cap while he serves his five game suspension, and could possibly be relegated to the 13th forward once his punishment is up.  Schenn has been hampered by an upper body injury, which may have opened the door for first round pick Couturier.  If he’s sent to the Phantoms, Schenn will get a chance to heal up and will get plenty of ice time to continue his development. Couturier has impressed enough to be considered among the final cuts, and it sounds like he will make the opening night roster.  Whether he’s on the roster for nine games, or the entire season remains to be seen.  If he plays 10 games, the first year of Couturier’s contract is used up and if he plays 11 games, his contract counts against the organization’s 50 (the Flyers are at the max).  So it’s possible he will be on the roster for the first nine games and sent back to junior.   (more…)

Last season, we saw a great crop of rookies.  This year should be no different as plenty of guys are primed to make an impact on the NHL.

Jonathan Blum (Nashville)
In 23 games last season, Blum impressed the Predators enough to trade Cody Franson to Toronto, giving Blum a full time position. The 22 year old is a good decision maker who should fit right into Barry Trotz’ system.

Erik Gudbranson (Florida)
With Florida’s roster in flux, look for Gudbranson to get a shot to play some minutes with the big club. The team is hoping his offensive game continues to develop (12 goals in the OHL last season), but is still a defensive force.

Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida)
Like with Gudbranson, Huberdeau should get a chance with the Panthers. Florida’s brass loves his unselfish play and his hustle. The Panthers don’t want to rush him, but if he’s ready, no point in holding him down.

Ryan Johansen (Columbus)
After torching the WHL for 40 goals, 92 points last season, Johansen appears ready to join the big club in Columbus. With the recent additions by Columbus, it might keep Johansen down on the team’s depth chart. Despite that, he should still produce and work his way up.

Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado)
Landeskog was the most NHL ready of any player in the 2011 draft. He’ll be penciled in on the Avs’ top 6 and should be in the Calder conversation all season.

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The Flyers’ prospects met the Capitals for the fifth season in a row, the first of the series at a major arena.  The game, especially in the third, was intense as the youngsters from both clubs battled to leave their impressions in front of the big bosses.  However, at times, it looked like a typical rookie game with some sloppy passing and bad positioning.

Brayden Schenn battles for a loose puck during a faceoff.

Of course the eyes were two big names of the night were Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.  Schenn got a large ovation during introductions from the estimated 11,000 fans. While he wasn’t spectacular on offense, he was defensively responsible, including helping kill a Capitals 2 man advantage in the first period.  Couturier got an assist on Blake Kessel’s power play goal and also played some penalty kill. However, showed he needs to work on his skating and will have to gain some strength before making the jump to the NHL.  Both will get a longer look when they join the Flyers when training camp opens Saturday.

Newly signed Blake Kessel left his mark on the game, assisting on the Flyers’ first goal and scoring the team’s second, on the powerplay.  Kessel impressed the fans in attendance, earning third star of the game.  He easily stood out the most of all defensemen and showed why he was an Hockey East all-star last season with New Hampshire.

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Here are some thoughts on some of the potential rule changes being looked at in the NHL Research And Development Camp:

NHL Research And Development Camp (Photo:THN)

 Hybrid Icing: Safety is the main issue that gets addressed here (Remember Kurtis Foster’s injury?), without taking away from the game. Easily something I think that should be implemented in the game.  Although some would argue about the officiating on certain calls, which is the only real argument against it.

No Icing While Shorthanded: If the NHL can find a way to boost scoring, they’ll test it out (Remember the idea of round nets?) Now, I understand the want to score more often, but I don’t really like this idea. You should be able to ice the puck while shorthanded, make the other team actually have to work on the powerplay. The other guy has two or five minutes in the box, that should eb enough of a penalty on his team.

Overtime Changes ( 4 minutes 4 on 4, then 3 minutes of 3 on 3): If this gets rid of the shootout (unless the shootout goes to 5 shooters), im all for it. However, I really do not like the idea of 3 on 3 hockey, it should be 4 on 4 minimum.  Would be interesting to do on a test run basis in the NHL.

No Line Change For Team That Is Offsides: Honestly, I like this idea, if a line can’t come into the zone onsides, they shouldn’t be able to change. Honestly, unless the players on the line have been on the ice a while, but, going offsides is their own fault, is it not? But,like the next rule, it could have an impact on the game negatively.

Faceoff In Own Zone After Offsides Is Called: Now this, I do not like, at all. This would encourage dump and chase hockey, which, just isn’t that good  to watch from a fan standpoint. I don’t see this rule making it very far at all, it will not see the light of day in the NHL.

Eliminate The Trapezoid: Yes, yes, and yes. Getting rid of the trapezoid behind the net has my approval. Goalies should be aloud to play the puck, there is no good reason this rule was ever implemented. Goalies doing a bit more work, I don’t see any defensemen who would have to chase the puck otherwise, that would argue against that. Let the goalies be free from the evil trapezoid!

Goal Line Camera: A brilliant idea I can’t believe they didn’t think of sooner! So many close calls, some right , some wrong . Now, if we can work on defining “kicking motions”, that would be another huge step forward. I would really like to see this implemented in the NHL. But I feel it might not be 100% fool proof depending on the camera’s position if say, the goalie was on top of the puck.

On Saturday was a free to the public scrimmage to cap off the Penguins rookie development camp. Approximately 4-5ooo fans attended, which is pretty impressive since there were maybe 1-2000 at regular training camp during Crosby’s rookie year. It’s a nice sign of the popularity heights that the Penguins have enjoyed for a while now.

The scrimmage was two 25 minute games with periodic switches between 5 on 5, 4 on 4, and some 3 on 3 situations. So evaluations and opinions of players can be a little skewed, but then again we also missed the drills and evaluations of the earlier days in the week as well.

By far the most impressive player in the scrimmage was the Pens 2nd round pick this year Scott Harrington. The London Knight showed great skating ability and quite a fervor for jumping up in the play and impressed with puck handling as well.

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Yesterday, I spent the day at Flyers Development Camp, where Flyers prospects and invitees worked on drills to hone their skills with the Flyers’ development team, including Derian Hatcher, Ian Laperriere and Riley Cote.  Obviously at these camps, you won’t learn a whole lot about a player, especially doing repetitive drills.  Many of the drills were set up to see what the players could do, with the Flyers brass (including Paul Holmgren) watching.  The day was split into two sessions, defensemen early and forwards later.

Most of the fans’ eyes were on both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.  Schenn seemed to struggle in some of the early drills, but the team will probably take a deeper look at the young center during Flyers’ training camp in September.  Couturier showed some nice hands throughout the session.  His goal this year is to make the NHL, but between the Flyers’ lack of roster space and no need to rush him, he will likely find himself back with Drummondville of the QMJHL.

Zac Rinaldo is a curious case.  Not drafted by the Flyers for his scoring prowess, Rinaldo’s three years in the OHL got him 27 goals, 69 points and 669 PIM.  If you include postseason, he has yet to have a season under 200 PIM.  He had 331 PIM with the Phantoms in the AHL last year, and collected more suspensions (4) than goals (3).  So why is he even worth watching?  Well, it’s just development camp, but he looked impressive yesterday.  While some of his counterparts coasted through the drills, Rinaldo seemed to give his all throughout the morning.  If he can tone down his antics, maybe he can develop into solid role player.  That’s a big if though at this point.

Some other quick thoughts:

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