NHL Pyramid: UND Fighting Hawks 2018-2019

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee Violent Turtle Photography)

Every year for the past few seasons, Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan and Youtuber extraordinaire, Steve Dangle, has created a prospect pyramid for the Leafs and inspired countless blogs and videos with this system. A few years ago, I created an NCAA adaptation of this with the NHL Pyramid for UND. Let’s see what this year’s tiers look like for the Fighting Hawks. This pyramid will focus on a player’s chance to make the NHL, and play at least enough games to no longer be considered a rookie.

Tier One: 75 percent or better chance 

Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, Grant Mismash, Colton Poolman

The pair of incoming recruits were both drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first and  second rounds, respectively. Bernard-Docker, and Tychonick have played together before on a defensive pair. The two compliment each other quite well. Bernard-Docker is more of a two-way defender that can make the occasional play on offense. On the other hand, Tychonick is an offensive dynamo who is able to generate offense in bunches. Both have strong components to their game. Each defender also had the advantage of spending this summer with the newest Senator and former UND defender Christian Wolanin. They know what it takes to get drafted, and spending time learning about what to expect from Wolanin, combined with a coaching staff featuring head coach Brad Berry, who has a track record of working with and developing defenders in the pro game. How long they each spend here will be a function of their personal goals, and what happens with the Senators this season. One good thing UND fans have going for them with Bernard-Docker and Tychonick is their drafting team. Ottawa has seen what three years can do for development with Wolanin. They will not be rushed to the pro game, as the Senators already see the reward for waiting for a player to develop.

As for Mismash, the second round pick  of the Nashville Predators is in the mix for another spot on the World Juniors’ roster this year. One thing that stands out to me about his game is his consistency. Even if his stats don’t reflect themselves in the box score, he is improving in the defensive end with his positioning. The Predators’ prospect looks to earn himself more time this season, and be a key contributor for the Fighting Hawks in all situations.

As for Poolman, he is the only undrafted free agent to make this list. He has already turned down NHL offers, according to Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. Poolman is a strong two-way defender that will be called on to lead the younger defensive corps the Fighting Hawks will have this season. He did earn an invite to Vancouver Canucks’ development camp. As a junior, look for him to embrace his captaincy for UND and lead the team from the back end. He will not jump up into every single rush for the Fighting Hawks, but when he does he usually makes good things happen. Every NHL team has a need for strong, puck-moving, and responsible two way defenders. Look for more from Colton this year, and look for him to consider his options when the season ends.

Tier Two: 50-75 percent chance

Nick Jones, Peter Thome, Colin Adams, Rhett Gardner

Each of these three players has a strong quality to their game, and something to add on this season. Nick Jones is coming off of a season where he averaged nearly a point-per-game (30 points in 34 games). He is a smaller forward who does not let his height define him. Jones plays a solid two-way game, and this season his chances of earning an NHL deal hinge on his ability to replicate his success, and show scouts his defensive prowess on the penalty kill. The NHL is filled with superb forwards under six feet, no reason why Jones can’t develop into one with a consistent well rounded game this year. His continued development and leadership will be a strong benefit to a younger UND team this season.

As for Thome, to me his rank this high is for a few reasons. First, he earned multiple games in net from a national champion goalie (Cam Johnson who signed a pro deal with the New Jersey Devils upon his season ending) because of his calming play. The Minneapolis native is 6’4″ and uses every bit of his frame to cover a lot of net.Thome plays a smooth game as a netminder. He does not make a lot of highlight reel saves because his positioning and frame allow him not to have that as a constant need. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect gained key experience going up against high-powered teams last season in his limited time. What Thome can build on this season, is lateral movement and puck handling this year. If Thome can improve his lateral game to help his defense out, combined with his superb glove play and positioning he could rise to the top tier here relatively soon. The other issue for Thome is Columbus itself. While Sergei Bobrovsky is locked in as the starter,  Thome will have to develop for a few more years at UND and then look to move up from Columbus’ AHL team, the Cleveland Monsters’ soon.

The Blue Jackets have three goalies that are drafted and not signed, just like Thome. His toughest competition within the system comes from Elvis Merzlikins playing overseas for HC Lugano in Switzerland this year. Look for Thome’s game to take the next step as he moves into a full time starting role for the Fighting Hawks this season.

As for Colin Adams, he showed flashes of brilliance with his goal scoring prowess this year. He scored a goal in two of his first three games last year. Adams only finished with five tallies but still profiles as a strong sniper able to generate offense as needed, especially on the power play. With one year under his belt, I look for him to have an improved season as long as his defense can allow him to generate more ice time and therefore more goal scoring chances. Good, and cheap goal scoring is always in demand in the NHL, Adams developing his game to get more time on the ice will allow him to better showcase his skills. He put up 51 goals in two seasons in the USHL. If Adams can earn more ice time he will score more this season. The Islanders will be closely watching their prospect develop this season.

Finally, while I think Rhett Gardner has developed dramatically in his time at UND, he is in this tier more as a function of who else the Stars have and the amount of time I expect him to spend in the AHL. Rhett will get an NHL look and very soon, but he will be competing against Riley Tufte and other forwards who possess Rhett’s same defensive prowess, but are able to score a few more goals more consistently than Rhett has shown so far. Will Rhett Gardner play in the NHL? In my opinion, yes. Will that happen before a longer stint in the AHL than some other Stars’ prospects, I don’t know. Gardner has a senior season ahead of him to build the offensive side of his game and become a leading goal scorer for UND.

Tier Three: 25-49.9 percent chance of making the NHL

Jasper Weatherby, Gabe Bast, Gavin Hain

The Oregon native is a strong power forward that the Sharks thought enough of to trade up to get in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He developed in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild. He put up 106 points in 104 BCHL games. Weatherby is 6’4″ like Thome and will see immediate chances on UND in at least a bottom-six role. If he showcases the gains he has made in his game over the summer, combined with the needs of the team he could get even more time. UND develops all types of forwards, but, like Austin Poganski before him, he is a strong two-way player that will develop into an all around player at the NCAA level.

As for Bast, he came off shoulder surgery as a freshman and only played 27 games on defense for UND. I think he is a potential gem for the Fighting Hawks for a few reasons. Bast’s physical style of play and responsibility on the back end will help open up opportunities for UND’s offensive-minded defenseman this season. In addition, there is offensive potential not discovered at this level for Bast. He can generate offense as shown in his last full season of junior hockey, he put up 40 points (9 goals, 31 assists) in 49 regular season games for Penticton.

Gavin Hain was also drafted this offseason by Dave Hakstol’s Flyers. Look for him to compete for time on ice with sophomores Jordan Kawaguchi and Colin Adams, just to name a few. He will develop here for a few years, and has an impressive background playing for the USA National Development Team before coming to UND.

Tier Four: Everyone Else

As for every other UND player, I hope to be proven wrong. This team has a lot of depth this year, including senior leader Hayden Shaw.  The point is to say that this team, like every college hockey team, has a lot of depth and players develop at irregular intervals and times.

Also, college hockey championships are not won without depth players. Regardless of NHL capability, every player on this roster is here for a reason and belongs on this team.

Finally, UND has over 40 players playing in pro leagues around the world. To me that means that all players are being scouted every game by pro organizations around the world. Look for a lot out of everyone on this team this season. I hope multiple people not named on this list make the NHL and prove me wrong.

 

 

Expansion Draft Three Thoughts

The NHL Expansion Draft is now complete. The Vegas Golden Knights have their initial roster. They selected 30 players and traded for a few more. By the end of the night Vegas ended up with 12 picks in the 2017 draft. Five of those picks are in the first two rounds. Here are some quick thoughts on what took place tonight.

  • Why on earth did Florida give up Reily Smith just to lose a 30 goal scorer in Jonathan Marchessault? I get that Florida is not a cap team, but in my mind you cannot justify giving up a player who is just a year removed from a 50 point season in a third line role. Smith will bring some needed depth scoring to Vegas right away. To me this was the worse trade of the night for a team losing a player to the Golden Knights. While yes, the Panthers gained five million dollars in cap room, they lost two promising players who can score with some regularity. The Panthers still have a bright outlook next year, but they now need a bit more out of their up and comers and have to hope Jaromir Jagr comes back for another season. Florida just gave up 88 points between the two from last season to rid themselves of five million dollars in cap room.
  • Look for Vegas to pick up another goalie or more shortly. Tonight they selected Calvin Pickard, Marc-Andre Fleury, and J.F Berube. Berube was selected as part of a deal with the Islanders where Vegas also took on the contract of injured forward Mikhail Grabovski, and Jake Bischoff. The former Isles goalie has an expiring contract, and Vegas needs multiple goalies for its AHL and ECHL teams. Pickard is a serviceable backup that can start when called upon. Look for the Golden Knights to draft multiple goalies as well. Jake Oettinger out of Boston University would be one possible choice for them. He could move through their system quickly and start for them in three years.
  • Vegas has a lot of options with some of the players it picked up. Teams are willing to pay a premium for quality defenseman like Marc Methot, and Vegas wants more picks and assets to help them build for the future. Dallas has let teams know they are looking at moving their third pick and need help on their blue line. The Golden Knights have plenty of options and could put together a package to get that pick.

 

 

San Jose Sharks vs Edmonton Oilers: Round 1, Game 1

After taking time to process through the emotions from the Sharks overtime win over the Oilers.

1st: The game started and I was so excited for playoff season to be underway!! It started off really good, SJ recorded the first three shots on net. I was thinking Okay, they got this!  Then all hell broke loose!! Everything fell apart from two minutes in till Caggiula’s hooking penalty at 19:45. Things started to pick up in those 15 seconds. Sharks made it out of the first, down 2-0

2nd:  1:43 minutes in the second Joel Ward gets it started with a power play goal! Making it 2-1. I am always hard on Ward. I am defiantly not his biggest fan! I made a beat with Oliver that if SJ pulled out a win. I would not say anything bad about him in game 2…I am glad I am eating my words…This would be the only goal of the second period. The Sharks dominated! I was on the edge of my seat!!

3rd: Started off just as well as the second. Tomas Hertl working hard behind the net to kick it out to Paul Martin who crushes into the back of the net making it his first playoff goal as a San Jose Shark at 14:38, 2-2…Tied…in the 3rd… So, now my heart is pounding and I swear I was going to be going to the ER with how hard my heart was working. San Jose continued to keep control of the game and it would stay that way. Jones didn’t allow a single puck to get behind him. Now, into overtime!! I seriously think I am going to die…I am on my feet and I don’t think I sat down at all during the intermission.

Overtime: 3 and 22 seconds in Vlasic makes a pass that hits right on Karlsson’s tape beating Talbot glove side corner. Over time ends!! Rogers Place falls dead silent for the first time all game. The sea of orange slowly turns into a slow-moving stream up the stairs…

A few thoughts: Hertl was unstoppable last night. He took the spot of Thornton and didn’t look back. Having Hertl on the power play is a huge advantage and I think that he is going to be the future of the San Jose Sharks! To be honest I have only been a Sharks fan since last April, when I got back into watching hockey. Vlasic is so understated as a player. He is a play maker!

 

I am looking forward to biting my nails to watch game 2!!

 

Thoughts on the New NHL Hawks

With UND’s season ending multiple players have signed NHL deals over the past week and a half. Here are some thoughts about what each player brings to their new squad.

Brock Boeser-Vancouver Canucks

Canucks fans, do you like having a consistent sniper on the wing who can score more than 30 goals a season and out skate the other team? If so Brock Boeser could one day soon be the answer to the eternal, ‘who plays with the Sedins’ ?, conundrum. The Minnesota native had wrist surgery and missed the World Juniors. When he was out, UND’s scoring fell off as its more physical players instantly faced tougher match ups. When Brock is on he can score goals at a blistering pace. He also has the capacity to be a consistent defensively responsible forward depending on how he is used. If you have a tough goal-scoring winger that can back check,well, ask any Capitals fan about how rare it is to have a player like that on your team.

Tucker Poolman-Winnipeg Jets

The East Grand Forks native is recovering from multiple shoulder injuries. When healthy he will be the Jets’ fifth or sixth defenseman next season. Tucker Poolman has a booming point shot and knows how to not get caught trying to do too much. Pairing Poolman with an offensive minded left shot defenseman would give the Jets the best of both worlds. They would get a reliable defender who can score when needed, which would allow another one of their defenseman to take more chances. This could benefit someone like Josh Morrissey who , so far, has not come close to matching his WHL output.

Tyson Jost-Colorado Avalanche

Tyson Jost leaving is the biggest blow to UND. He is a complete player who has broken Connor McDavid’s scoring record in the U-18 World Championship. Tyson is a dominant two-way forward that will be at the core of Colorado’s rebuild. In his brief time at UND, Jost has routinely scored highlight-reel goals and made strong plays defensively. The new Avalanche forward can produce a point per game as well as be a future Selke trophy candidate if he continues to play his strong defensive game. Jost had an integral part getting Canada to the semifinals in the U18 World Championships in April, a key role in getting UND back to the NCAA tournament, and will be asked to do the same thing for the Avalanche as he develops.

Hawks Fly to Minneapolis in 6-5 OT Thriller

GRAND FORKS, ND

In front of a raucous crowd of 10,540 fans at Ralph Englestad Arena, UND pulled out a series win over the St. Cloud State Huskies 6-5 in overtime. the game was a back and forth affair throughout as neither side had a lead of more than one goal. Trevor Olson got the game winner in overtime on a shot that went in and out so fast it had to be reviewed.  He now has three game winning goals in the past four games.

St Cloud State opened the scoring with a deflection goal from Nick Poehling 15:11 into the first period. 18:06 into the first period , Robby Jackson put the puck past Cam Johnson however, after a lengthy review, the goal was overturned due to St Cloud having too many men on the ice .During the play, Blake Winiecki took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to give UND a power play.

The Hawks would  capitalize on the ensuing power play thanks to a strong wrist shot from St. Louis Blues prospect Austin Poganski 19:16 into the first period to tie the game.

53 seconds into the second period, Poganski whipped a perfect pass from the goal line to  a wide open Tyson Jost on a shorthanded chance who did not miss his chance to stake UND to its first lead of the evening.

A bit later in the period, Blake Winiecki won a puck battle with multiple UND skaters below the UND goal line, got the puck to Robby Jackson, who then fired the puck to Patrick Newell. He made no mistake with his wide open chance and tied the game with 8:46 left in the second period.

Soon after the Newell tally, Brock Boeser would find a loose puck at the side of the net and tap it home to return UND to the lead 10:37 into the second period. The Hawks would take a 3-2 lead into the locker room after two periods.

The Huskies would battle back as 7:11 into the third period, John Lizotte fired a puck past a slip-sliding Cam Johnson to tie the game. Then shortly afterwords, Shane Gersich would capitalize on a three on zero breakaway to put UND up 4-3.

That lead did not last long, as John Lizotte would pot an unassisted tally to tie the game 1:02 after the Gersich Tally. Not much later, Nick Poehling would give St. Cloud its second lead of the night after numerous UND attempts to clear the puck. As the seesaw game continued, Christian Wolanin fired home a point shot to tie it up 15:58 into the third period.  The score would remain this way till Olson ended it 07:38 into overtime.

UND will take on either Denver or Minnesota Duluth in Minneapolis next week in the Frozen Faceoff. Their opponent is contingent on the winner of the Western Michigan- Omaha series. Should Omaha win, the Hawks will take on Minnesota Duluth. Should Western Michigan win, UND will take on Denver.

 

 

 

 

The Hawks Pyramid to the NHL

Well, a few days ago, blogger and YouTube Star extraordinaire Steve Dangle invented a new way to rank each team’s NHL prospects. He used a pyramid system to group prospects rather than listing them one through whatever arbitrary number is used. (click his name for a video with a primer on the pyramid idea)

This system is excellent in my view because it gives more flexibility and because it removes pointless dogmatic arguments. I am using this system in college hockey. I will write about a few teams. The main one of course is going to be the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The tiers will be separated by the chance to play at least one game in the NHL at some point in each players’ pro career upon leaving UND.

The highest tier is the highest chance of playing even one game in the show. Each tier decreases in probability.

Tier One

75 percent or greater

Brock Boeser, Tyson Jost

Well, most UND fans have seen the scoring prowess of Brock Boeser. His shot is NHL ready now and he has one more year to work on his speed before making the jump to Vancouver. He will play an NHL game as soon as this year.

Jost is another first round pick that plays a responsible two way game and has a knack for making plays all over the ice. His mere presence on the ice made his Canadian team better at the U18 World Championship this past April . Tyson will kill penalties and play key special teams minutes this year. If he can develop his shot a bit and generate say a point a game he could make the jump this year as well. The Avalanche do not have a better unsigned center prospect in their system than Tyson Jost.

Tier Two

50-74.9 percent chance

Tucker Poolman, Austin Poganski, Christian Wolanin, Cam Johnson, Rhett Gardner

This is where some of the more developed players reside. Poolman could have jumped to the Jets this year but stayed to play with his brother Colton among other reasons. Gardner earned a late round pick from the Dallas Stars thanks to his stellar work in all three zones. He has a role now as a faceoff specialist. Rhett reminds me of Corban Knight. He can win a faceoff any time and can play in all three zones. Cam Johnson earned a development camp invite to the Penguins based on his superb play this past season including Midwest Regional MVP in Cincinnati on the way to backstopping UND to its eighth National Championship. Poganski has a strong presence on the ice as a reliable net-front presence and is UND’s best penalty killing forward going into the season.

Tier Three

25-50 percent chance

Gage Ausmus, Matej Tomek, Chris Wilkie, Shane Gersich

All four of these players will have roles on this team. Ausmus is UND’s first two year captain since Chay Genoway. Gage reminds me of Andrew MacWilliam. He is a great stay at home defenseman that does not do much offensively. His defensive skills allow his partner to jump up into the rush more knowing that they have a strong backup.

Tomek did not play at all during the regular season last year due to both being injured and then being outplayed by Cam Johnson and Mat Hrynkiw. If Tomek earns ice time he will have a chance to elevate his ranking,however the Flyers drafted another goalie this year in the first round. That goalie is Carter Hart. The Everett Silvertip will be ready for the NHL before Tomek may even be a starter here. The Flyers have six other prospect goalies and all of them but Tomek played last year. Matej has a lot of work to do to improve his stock in the Flyers organization but has the potential to do just that.

Wilkie and Gersich remind me of Rocco Grimaldi. They are both smaller players who are strong on the puck and need to score constantly to be considered valuable to their team. Both can improve their spots with the increased time they will get on the higher lines this year.

 

Tier Four

0-24.9 percent

Everyone else

The most likely person in this tier to play an NHL game at some point Johnny Simonson. He has improved each year and has gotten better on the puck. His goal scoring is catching up to his speed. Simonson still has two more years to showcase himself for an NHL team.

Ranking college players is even more imperfect than ranking pro prospects. Someone in tier four could make the league before someone in tier one. This is just a snapshot in time based on expectations and past performance. What are your thoughts on this system.What are your tiers? What are your tiers for some other teams? We will write about more teams as the season goes on. Also let me know what I missed in the comments.

 

 

Season Review/Look Ahead:Johnny Simonson

Last season, Johnny Simonson had an expanded role with the Fighting Hawks. He played a third line role and improved from his freshman season.In his second season Simsonson generated 17 points in 43 games playing a third line depth scoring role. Simonson is a 5′ 10″ forward who relies on speed and grit to help UND win. While Simonson had more chances last year, we look for him to have a breakout season this year. Since the Grand Forks native will have a bigger role, we expect him to double his total points in the season this year playing either a top nine or top six scoring forward role. His play will determine if he earns any significant special teams time. I expect Simonson to have at least 20 points due to his increased ice time and higher skilled linemates.

This past year, Simonson improved some areas of his game like his playmaking. He still has work to do to make getting knocked off the puck harder. If he has a good rest of the offseason, Simonson could be a breakout star for the Fighting Hawks this season. Like Drake Caggiula before him, we think an NHL team could be waiting to sign him if he produces. We hope Simonson has a difficult decision to make next offseason regarding turning pro.

Grade: 7/10

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=118020

 

Another Reason to Love Hockey: The Future

One reason I absolutely love hockey is because of how prospects develop. Let me use this entry to showcase that point.

Hockey is a unique animal when it comes to drafts. Most players are drafted when they are 18 or 19. A tiny fraction play in the NHL the year after they are drafted. Most head off to college, or return to their respective clubs be they junior or international. While there they are developing and improving daily and trying to earn a contract.

Earn a contract? That is right. All hockey prospects have to earn a contract based on skills and performance after being drafted. If not, and your rights with the team run out, you may find yourself out of a chance to ever play NHL hockey. Plenty of first rounders go unsigned and never see the NHL. For instance, from the 2007 NHL Draft, five first rounders have never played a single NHL contest. Three more have played 20 or less games. This goes to show that drafting is an inexact science. Imagine if Edmonton picked P.K Subban that year instead of Alex Plante in the first round. Plante played 10 games in the NHL and Subban has played 434 games so far. Subban was picked  43rd by Montreal. Plante was picked 15th by Edmonton.

Let’s also discuss what happens for players who are not drafted. Plenty still get a chance to play. Torey Krug went from Michigan State to earning a pro contract with the Bruins. Recently Drake Caggiula and Troy Stecher have earned chances to play at the next level with the Oilers and Canucks.

All of this shows that the draft is an imperfect art. Just because you are drafted high does not mean you will succeed. On the other hand, those that go undrafted often have better careers than some players picked in the first round of both of their draft years.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/draft/nhl2007e.html

Reasons to Love Hockey:Reboot

Sorry Guys, Life happens and I haven’t been able to be post as quickly as I normally would.

Today there are less than 100 days left till the puck drops at the Shark tank against the LA kings. This post is not really a reason more just a review of what has happened in the last two weeks.

We had some crazy trades and an amazing first day of free agency.   The San Jose Sharks have signed four players so far and on the first day. David Schlemko is one of the two high profile players that SJ picked up. I would have to say the Schlemko is going to be a good addition to the team. I am interested to see how this plays out. He has a tendancy to either be really good or really bad, either way, he will be a good replacement for Roman Polak. Which I personally feel was a major liability for the Sharks on defense this past season. Mikkel Boedker, I am not so sure how I feel about him, it honestly will depend on what line they end up placing him on. I think he might play well with a player like Donskoi and Hertl, but only time will tell. The two re-signs are Aaron Dell(G) and Micheal Haley (C). I am looking forward to see what Haley does this season. I think it was smart to bring him back.

Now Dell, I have been watching this player for six years and I have a good feeling about this upcoming season from him. I am was ecstatic when I saw that SJ resigned him, like literally jumped up and down (sorry downstairs neighbors), I think he will be a great backup option to Jones. They have very similar playing styles and I believe Dell has earned his shot to play on NHL ice. I know a lot of you are thinking about how untested he is on a professional rink, but you will never know how well any player can handle the pressure of the “big” time, with over 6,500 minutes of playing time between the ECHL,CHL and AHL, It is in my honest thoughts that he can handle it and I am really looking forward to seeing were it all heads for him.