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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The three of us continue our mock draft from Part I (1-15).

16. Buffalo Vladislav Namestnikov, C (London, OHL)
His speed and forechecking will be 2 valuable assets to the Buffalo Sabres system.  Another plus is his ability to switch from center to wing, making him fit on any line with little to no effort.

17. Montreal Zack Phillips, C (St. John, QMJHL)
Centering the top line at St John’s and improving his linemates scoring outputs in addition to his own makes him a great option if still available at #17.

18. Chicago Tomas Jurco, RW (St. John, QMJHL)
What hands he has, a real whiz with the puck.  A Youtube star already.

19. Edmonton Oscar Klefbom, D (Farjestad, SEL)
Will be a great addition to Edmonton’s defense, he adds decent size (6’4″, 200lbs), and a nice shot to the blueline.

20. Phoenix Joel Armia, RW (Assat, SML)
An intriguing prospect that can appear quite high for many teams from the 10 pick onward. His combination of size and skill would complement Phoenix well.

21. Ottawa John Gibson, G (USA U-18)
Already 6’3, 205 at age 17, he covers up a lot of net.  Lead USA to gold at the U18s.

22. Anaheim Brandon Saad, LW (Saginaw, OHL)
The Ducks will love Saad’s ability on the ice, speed is his greatest asset. Has a nice balance of offensive/defensive ability.

23. Pittsburgh Nicklas Jensen, LW/RW (Oshawa, OHL)
A strong skater with good scoring ability at the RW will fit well for the Pens in due time under a Dan Byslma system. Add in his size and you also may have a future net front presence.

24. Detroit Jonas Brodin, D (Farjestad, SEL)
Brodin is a good skating, two-way defenseman.  Plays a smart game in his end, and will fit right in with Detroit.

25. Toronto Boone Jenner, C (Oshawa, OHL)
The Leafs are going to love this guy, a shot blocker, board battler, and he’s not too bad at scoring either. And more all around good players, is exactly what Toronto needs in their system.

26. Washington Mark Scheifele, C (Barrie, OHL)
His size and skill down the middle would fit the Capitals to a T. As they recently have had an abundance of big players who still have skill and speed.

27. Tampa Bay Jamieson Oleksiak, D (Northeastern, HE)
The 6’7, 245 monster may need some more time to develop, but could eventually be Tampa’s Twin Towers with Hedman.

28. San Jose Scott Mayfield, D (Youngstown, USHL)
Extremely sturdy on his feet, smart, great puck carrier, but never afraid to fight or deliver a big hit when it’s needed. Could be huge for the Sharks in the future.

29. Vancouver Jonathan Miller, C (USA U-18)
While the Canucks can use a pure scorer in their talent pool. This late in the first round they may have to accept a project of a good two-way player who didn’t quite put it all together this past season. A worthwhile risk.

30. Toronto Tyler Biggs, RW (USA U-18)
A big, physical forward that likes to use his size and isn’t afraid to work hard.  Definitely a Brian Burke player.

Cujo picks: 16,19,22,25,28
Joey picks: 17,20,23,26,29
RD picks: 18,21,24,27,30

We’re doing something a little different, instead of one person doing their own mock draft, we are going to set ourselves in a semi-draft atmosphere by splitting the teams between the three of us (Cujo, Joey, RD) and picking our draft that way.  We figure it’ll make things a little interesting and a little competitive as well. There will also be a little reasoning behind each pick.

In order to keep things from getting long, we’re dividing up the draft into two parts, 1-15 and 16-30.

Without further ado, here is part 1 of our draft!

1. Edmonton Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C (Red Deer, WHL)
Highly anticipated number one. As much young talent the Oilers have. Why not stack the deck with even more elite talents.

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Heading into the 2011 NHL Draft, we have heard that after the top 3 names are selected, (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau) the talent pool declines rapidly. I do agree to a certain extent, but there is still plenty of talent to be had at this year’s draft, it is not as bad as some are making it out to be. I thought it would be fun to highlight 3 players in each category (Offense/Defense/Goalie) that would be great choices for teams who have to select later on in the first round.

OFFENSE:

Sven Bartschi

My first selection for a team looking for a forward is Sven Bartschi of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. If you need a left winger who is a playmaker who also knows how to score, he looks to be your guy.  In his first WHL season he has tallied 34 goals and 51 assists, including 5 game winning goals. In his first ever WHL playoffs he tallied  27 more points with 10 goals and 17 assists. He is more of a 5 on 5 guy, he has powerplay points, but they come few and far between. His vision is easily his greatest asset on the ice, he can find his teammates with the greatest of ease.  He is incredibly quick, has great stickhandling skills, and has great endurance for long shifts. The only real gripe about him is his size, at 5’10”, 181lbs, he isn’t the biggest guy on the ice.

Markus Granlund

My second pick to watch is really kind of a stretch, Markus Granlund, a center from HIFK of the Junior A SM-Liiga in Finland could be a surprise in the NHL, but he still needs some development time. While with HIFK his stats have improved over the years, most recently hitting the 50+ point mark. The kid is simply amazing when it comes to skating and stickhandling, those who saw his Mike Legg-esqe goal with HIFK know what he can do with a puck. The biggest hurdle with him, is that he needs to get used to the physical north american game, so development time is a must, we won’t see him in the NHL for a few years.

Tomas Jurco

My third and final pick to watch is Tomas Jurco, a right winger of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL. He tallied 56 points in 60 games  this year with Saint John, and tallied another 16 points in 13 playoff games. Tomas has the drive to do one thing on the ice, and that is score, when he sees a scoring chance, you can bet he’s going to do anything in his power, including using his 6’2″ 175lbs frame to plow through defenders and turn that chance, into a goal. But when he doesn’t want to do that, he can just deke around the defenders, he has the hands to what he pleases with the puck (Just look him up on Youtube). The biggest issue facing Tomas is his consistency, he’s a bit of a streaky player.

DEFENSE:

Duncan Siemens

My first pick for a defensemen to watch is Duncan Siemens who played with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, his 3rd year in the league. He tallied 43 points this past season (only 5 goals) and had a sparkling +/- at +40. This doubles his output from the year before, when he only had 20 points.  He is obviously more of a setup guy instead of a scorer, but he has defense down well. He never gets rattled on the ice, he knows where to be on the ice in each situation that can arise (powerplay, shorthanded, 5 on 3, etc). The biggest issue with Duncan is his speed, he can get beat in some foot races, but he’ll try everything, including taking a penalty, to stop the scoring chance.

Ryan Murphy

My second pick to watch is Ryan Murphy who just played his 2nd year with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. He had 79 points in 63 games this year with a  +/- of +22.  This kid can do it all, 5 on 5, shorthanded, powerplay, just an all around great, and smart (only took 36 PIM’s) defenseman. His biggest asset is his ability to shoot and pass, he can shoot through bodies and find the net, and can pass through bodies to find his teammates. This is the kind of Defenseman General Managers drool over, as well they should. The biggest issue concerning Ryan is, honestly nothing, he knows the game end to end.

David Musil

My final Defensive pick to watch is David Musil, who played his 2nd year this year for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. While this year he had a small decline in point production, he still has a lot of potential on the ice. He could very well be the diamond in the rough in this year’s draft. Overall he is very good, but there isn’t really anything he does that makes him stand out, but he’s one of those defensemen who just does all the little things right, but not at a level that stands out (positioning, puck clearing, passing, shooting), would be a compliment to any defensive pairing. I’m not one hundred percent sure he would go in the first round, but whatever team does pick him up will have a potential gem on their hands.

GOALTENDER:

Jordan Binnington

My first pick for a goaltender to watch is Jordan Binnington, who played the past two seasons with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL. He went 27-12-5 this past season with a Save Percentage just under .900 and a 3.05 Goals Against Average.  Jordan has great reflexes, and a good glove side, if he can see the puck, he will stop it. The biggest concern with him is in traffic, he has a hard time finding the puck. And he can let in a weak goal every now and then, but he doesn’t get rattled easily.

John Gibson

My second pick is a no brainer, this guy is ranked the 1st overall goalie in the draft according to central scouting. John Gibson, who played in the USHL. He will obviously need some time to develop but he could be something phenomenal for the team that picks him. He’s known as one of the calmest guys on his team,  you will never see him rattled when he gets scored on. Moves across the net with ease, has great timing, and seemingly knows where the puck is going to be.  The biggest issue with him is development time, if you need a quick goalie solution, he’s not your guy, he’s going to need some development time (probably 2-3, possibly 4 years), but when he’s there, be ready for a big payoff.

Tadeas Galansky

My final pick for a goaltender to watch is a longshot at the NHL level, but could surprise folks, Tadeas Galansky, who is playing his 2nd season with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. He has seen limited time with the Spirit, but has made due with the time he has gotten, putting up a decent 9-5-2 record, .910 Save Percentage and a 2.89 Goals Against Average. He has been a little weak at times, but others (such as a 50 save performance against Windsor) he can steal a game. He is pretty good laterally, decent glove and blocker, but down low he seems to have some trouble. The biggest issues are rebound control, and development time.

While we are all excited to see how the top three pan out at this year’s draft, the real excitement will begin afterwards, because it is anyone’s race the rest of the 1st round. I hope you enjoyed looking at, and learning a little bit about some guys that I think could make an impact in the NHL, despite being in the “less talented” section outside the top 3 draft choices. Many NHL careers will begin at the draft, and not just for the ones who get drafted one, two, and three.