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

Seamore Sports on David Snape Show

Recently, I had a chance to go on the David Snape Show. David is a British blogger and radio host that discusses a wide variety of topics on his blog and weekly radio show. The interview with me starts at about the 45 minute mark. The whole show is an outstanding medley of sports,politics,and music that deserves a listen. Thanks to David for having me on the show to talk about NHL hockey.

David Snape Show 20/6/16 – Listen right now

Potential to Trade-Vancouver

Before reading, keep in mind this is merely pure speculation based on the Canucks prospect pool. This is one of a lot of scenarios i bet Jim Benning is thinking of right now.

Canucks fans, do you like having more draft picks? Think Jim Benning way over paid for  a very physical yet very slow skating Eric Gudbranson? Want a forward core that can play defense and score(more than just the Sedins)? Upset that the Oilers got Frozen Four Most Oustanding player Drake Caggiula?  Ok, well then hear me out.

I understand Pierre Luc-Dubois is an outstanding player, but what if I told you there was another similar player who may not score 30 goals a season with regularity , but could help set up a future 30 goal a season guy like Brock Boeser. This player had over one hundred points this season playing for the most recognized Junior A team in the BCHL ,the Penticton Vees,this year and was only one of three players from Junior A to make the U18 World Championship squad for team Canada.

This player’s name is  Tyson Jost. Now look, I understand that Dubois is who the Canucks are most likely targeting, but if you could trade back and pick up a second or third rounder from say the Canadiens or another team selecting between 9-15 would you do it and risk Dubois not being there? Or would you ask for more back from that team ?

If so what would it take? I might suggest a second this year to move up and say a third round pick next year. Of course I wouldn’t have had to have suggested that if not for a certain general manager getting fleeced by Florida.

Ok, say this scenario happens and the Habs part with a second and third to move up and draft Dubois or Logan Brown. What does this mean for the Canucks? It means they would be in a position to add two extra prospects with more picks, and pick someone who could be skating in Utica in two years. Jost is  that refined in his game. What ever line he was on at the U18 World Championships he made better. Defensively, Jost was one of Canada’s best forwards. Plus, you know that if you want Dubois to develop well he will most likely spend at least one if not two more years in the QMJHL,

Jost will spend this year playing against older more physical competition in the NCAA for the defending national champions in an NHL-like facility. North Dakota has all of the tools needed for Jost to develop fast. At a maximum you would probably wait only two years for Jost to play in Vancouver. Plus, on some level wouldn’t you like to see Boeser and Jost developing chemistry this year at North Dakota knowing that they will be playing for you in two seasons?

Look, Dubois is a highly skilled elite talent, if the Canucks are not offered a decent deal they should pick him. If some team is willing to over pay to move up, should the Canucks listen, move down and draft Jost or another similar player? Absolutely.

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=148111

 

Interview with Gustavs Grigals

Recently, we had the chance to catch up with another goalie from the Latvian side in the 20016 IIHF U18 World Championships. We have interviewed goalie Mareks Mitens  recently and we recently interviewed Gustavs Grigals.

Grigals was named one of the top three players for the Latvian side at the tournament and his combined efforts with Mitens helped the Latvian side avoid relegation in a harrowing three game series against Denmark.

This past season, Grigals was outstanding for his HK Riga side in the Russian Junior League (MHL). The net minder had a 2.36 Goals Against average and a sterling 92.6 save percentage. In addition, Gustavs helped the Latvia U20 side gain promotion to the World Juniors Championship being held in Montreal and Toronto this upcoming December.

Below are Grigals’ answers to our questions.

What is your favorite memory of the season?

“My favorite memory is a game in the Russian Junior Hockey League (MHL) against the league champions “Loko” from Yaroslavl where I was able to save all 40 shots. Also, I have good memories about the World Junior Championship Division 1 in Austria where we won and got promoted to the 2017 World Junior Championship.”

What was favorite thing you did in grand forks besides playing hockey?

“We did not have a lot of spare time, but with the time I had I enjoyed seeing the local college life and exploring the city.”

What are your pro hockey goals for next year and beyond?

“I want to play at a high level and become a stable and good goalie whilst getting good education. Also, I want to make the U20 team and play in the World Championships in Toronto.”

What where your thoughts on the overall tournament experience in Grand Forks?

“It was a well organized and overall a great tournament. It was an excellent experience to play against the world’s best players and teams.”

What NHL goalie do you model your game after?

“I try to watch every goalie and pick something from everyone. I love watching some goalies like, Carey Price because he is very calm and skilled and Jonathan Quick because he is flexible and quick.”

What was your favorite aspect of your team at the tournament this year?

“I liked that we were like a family. The players really helped each other and the goalies. They blocked many shots and sacrificed themselves for the team.”

What is your favorite non hockey hobby?

“In my free time, I love to spend some time with my family and friends, go to the school and try to relax. I also enjoy spending time with my dog and teaching it new commands.”

What is the biggest improvement to your game you have made in the past year?

“The biggest improvement for me this season was that I started to play at a higher level as I was able to play in the U18 and U20 world championships in the same season. It inspired me to work harder, to become better every day. I believe that if you work hard good things will happen.”

 

Stats: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=280628

 

Five Final Thoughts-U18 Worlds

Finland played an outstanding game to win the gold, while the USA played a great game to win the bronze. Here are five final thoughts about everything from the games to my experience at the Ralph.

1.Jesse Puljujarvi is an amazing player. He made so many great passes in his short time at the tournament. His hands are Nick Backstrom’esque. The Finnish winger has a shot that rivals Alex Ovechkin. The team that team drafts him will not be sorry. Puljujarvi could play as a scoring winger on an NHL team’s third line next year.

2.Minus the final game against the Americans, Evan Fitzpatrick was superb. He was cool and calm in net for team Canada. He kept them in every game he started. The Canadian goalie made some nice saves while displaying a strong rebound control.He also made some nice outlet passes during the tournament as well. Look for him to be drafted by the end of the third round.

3.The fan experience at the Ralph was great. I enjoyed the Lamplighter lounge setup from its buffet to its copious concession options. The buffet for ten dollars was an outstanding value. The hockey hot stove series was also well done. General Manager Jody Hodgson should be commended for the work he put in to make the fan experience world-class. The Ralph showed that it can host events like these, and hopefully is able to host more of these international events in the near future.

4.Kudos to the TSN team. Brian Mudryk and Craig Button are consummate professionals and did an excellent job broadcasting the games.They conveyed a reasoned amount of excitement for all teams involved.I learned a lot of background on all of the players they talked about.They made the upcoming draft even more interesting thanks to their copious amounts of research. The entire broadcast team did an excellent job of promoting Grand Forks,The Ralph Englestad Arena, and the University of North Dakota. In addition, the team did a superb job covering all of the different teams and backstories throughout the tournament.

5. North Dakota Fighting Hawks commit Tyson Jost was outstanding during this tournament. He elevated his draft stock to the top half of the board for sure. He could go top ten. Jost is an outstanding two way player and setup his line mates multiple times throughout the tournament. As Craig Button would say, his “Ice Q” or his hockey intelligence on the ice is very high.North Dakota fans would rejoice if Jost stayed at UND for more than one year. If Jost had to, he could play in the AHL tomorrow.

 

Mareks Mitens Interview

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Recently, we had a chance to catch up with Latvian Under-18 National Team goalie Mareks Mitens. He had one of the most eye-opening performances of the tournament with a 43 save effort in an overtime loss to Sweden. His Latvian side was nineteen seconds away from beating an Alex Nylander lead Swedish side in regulation. A win there  probably gives the Latvian side a quarterfinals entry. Mitens helped his side avoid relegation with a shootout win over Denmark in the deciding game three.He came off of the bench just to play the shootout which is quite impressive. Check out some highlights of his work at the link below.

Latvia vs. Sweden

Here are the Latvian netminder’s answers to our questions.

What is your favorite memory of the season?

“1) I had a serious groin injury this season,so i didn’t play a lot. And because of that this championship is the best memory i have for this season.”

What was a high and a low of the tournament?

2) “One of the best moments for sure was game against Sweden. Sadly that we lost it,but that game gave as confidence. But the best moment was last game against Danes. Where we came back from being down by 2 goals and won it in SO. It was an amazing feeling when I stopped the last shot. That game showed that we are a really team and we are going to stand up for each other.”

“Lowest points for us was probably games against USA and Russia. Probably we were too confident and those teams put us back in place where we belong. For me,the game agais Russia was the weakest. Not sure why,but that day just was unlucky for us.”

What was favorite thing you did in Grand Forks besides playing hockey?

3)”We didn’t do anything much besides hockey. Just went shopping and that’s it. But it was much different than Europe. It was nice to see a college lifestyle,just like in movies.”

What are your pro hockey goals for next year and beyond ?

4)”Not sure right now about my future, when i get back home, i will talk with my agent and then know something more. But for sure my goal is to make NCAA Division 1 Hockey and after that to play in NHL,as every hockey player”.

What where your thoughts on the overall tournament experience in Grand Forks ?

5) “It was a great tournament with a highly skilled players and teams. I played last year in U18 too, and thought this year it wont surprise me,but teams were really good, enjoyed watching other games and most important thing, playing against some of the best teams and future NHL stars. It was an amazing experience. ”

What NHL goalie do you model your game after?

6) “It is not like I’m watching one goalie and trying to play like him. I try to watch every goalie and pick a bit from everyone. I love the watching old goalies like Hasek and Brodeur. Cause these goalies were battling for every puck,and it doesn’t matter for them how they stopped the puck.”

What was your favorite aspect of your team at the tournament this year ?

7) “I really liked that we were like a family, there was a connection with us. But players really helped each other. They blocked so many shots, if someone made a mistake, other ones was trying to cheer them up. The team spirit is what i liked the most.”

What is your favorite non hockey hobby?

8) “Besides hockey I love travelling. I’ve been in so many countries and there is a lot of countries I still want to visit. In free time I watch a lot of movies or tv series. I’m a big fan of Blacklist. And i like solving puzzles or doing some brain games.”

What is the biggest improvement to your game you have made the past year ?
9) “The biggest improvement for me,this season, was that I started playing and practicing smarter. I didn’t rush on anything. Hard work can lead you to injuries. Thats the reason I had an injury. After the injury I started practicing smarter, and Im feeling better now. and I became mentally stronger.”

 

Semifinal Thoughts

After a quarterfinal round that was highlighted by a fantastic tilt between Finland and Russia, we are set for a stupendous semifinal Saturday at the 2016 IIHF U 18 Men’s World Championship at the Ralph Englestad Arena. Finland Takes on USA in the matinee game, while Canada will battle a Sweden in the nightcap.

Here are our predictions for each game:

Finland-USA

First,one statement. Wow! Jesse Puljujarvi is utterly fantastic. He has the shot that reminds me of Alex Ovechkin and the hands of Nick Backstrom. Several times I saw him set up on the Finnish powerplay where Ovechkin would be. Also, Eeli Tolvanen will be drafted in the first round of the CHL Import Draft with his performance at this tournament. The fast Finnish forward had a hat trick Thursday and is a strong threat for the Finns this weekend. The Americans,on the other hand, have not faced a single test all tournament. This team has outscored all opponents 38-4 in total. Clayton Keller is angling to be a top 15 pick while Kiefer Bellows and Logan Brown may end up joining them there. I think Brown would be an excellent top ten pick and could even make the jump to the NHL next season. This will be a close game, and Finland will come out strong,but a late Clayton Keller tally will give the Americans the victory.

Prediction:4-3 USA

Sweden-Canada

Alex Nylander plays like his twitter handle,Snipeshow98. Nylander saved the Swedish side from the upset of the tournament vs. Latvia. Sweden has shown a strong powerplay this tournament and its goaltending lead by Filip Gustavsson has improved throughout the tournament. Canada has played a strong physical game all tournament long and Saturday looks to be no different.Tyson Jost has made everyone on his team look even better,and whatever team ends up drafting him is going to enjoy his style of play. The Canadian defense is backstopped by Evan Fitzpatrick who may be playing himself into the second if not the first round in this tournament. Canada’s physical play style and Jost’s superb setups will propel them to the gold medal match.

Prediction: Canada 3-1

Five Games Five Predictions-U18 Worlds

After a competitive preliminary round at the U18 World Championships we have the quarterfinal and relegation round match ups set. Eight teams remain in the battle for the gold medal, while Denmark and Latvia are fighting to remain in the top division for the 2017 U18 World Championships. Here are some thoughts/predictions for each game in these rounds. I will also predict the result of the relegation series.

Denmark-Latvia

First, a credit to both teams. Each team had its high points in the preliminary round despite not winning a game. Denmark nearly upset Slovakia losing a close one goal game. Latvia lost two heartbreakers in overtime to Switzerland and Sweden. Latvia was 19 seconds away from upsetting perennial power Sweden. Based on what I have seen in this tournament, I think Latvia will come away victorious. The Latvian side has blocked a high amount of shots, and goalie Mareks Mitens kept them in the Sweden matchup with a 43 save performance.

Prediction: Latvia wins the series in two games 2-1, and 3-1 to stay in the top division.

Finland-Russia

Both sides have gotten better as the tournament has gone on. After an 8-2 loss to the USA side, Russia’s play has improved. Goalie Danil Tarasov has played well for the Russian side throughout the tournament, and has kept them in the games he has started. Pavel Dyomin has played exceptionally well this tournament, and helped the Russian side win in OT over the upstart Swiss side. Finland has gotten better thanks to the addition of top three 2016 NHL Draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi. The fantastic Finnish forward has an outstanding shot and a knack for finding the right spot to be on the ice no matter the situation with high situational awareness. Forward Eeli Tolvanen has showcased his skills and will be a player to watch as well. Tolvanen is a pure sniper and some of his goals this tournament have been outstanding. His effort against Denmark was one to watch. In addition, the Fins play an outstanding defense. The best example of this is their complete shutout in the third vs. Denmark. The Finnish side gave up no shots on net during this period. Finland has the better top-end talent with a strong defense backing it up.

Prediction: Finland wins 3-1.

Canada-Switzerland

Canada fought off Finland in their last game of group play to win group B. They did so with a strong two goal first period and superb goaltending from Evan Fitzpatrick. In this quarterfinal round it will be key for Canada to start strong. If Canada can win the first then they will win the match. Switzerland hung with the American side on Tuesday for most of the match thanks to decent goaltending from Phillip Wuthrich who made 33 saves. If the Swiss hang around like Denmark did for a period (2-2 after one) this one may get a little too interesting for the Canadians, if not then I expect the Canadians to win handily thanks to their strong all around play keyed by UND commit Tyson Jost who is battling Alex Nylander of Sweden for the tournament scoring title.

Prediction: Canada wins 5-1

Sweden-Slovakia

Slovakia rallied against the Czech side to win Tuesday evening. The Swedish side has looked strong since its defeat against the United States. The Slovak side has the best penalty kill in the tournament. In 19 chances the Slovaks have allowed only one power play tally. This reliance on defense will play a key role in this matchup. In addition, goaltender Roman Durny has kept his side in every match he has played in. For the Slovaks to pull off the upset they will need to block a lot of shots and give Durny a chance. If they do this one could get interesting. I see Sweden, led by Alex Nylander, winning this match although it will be the closest of any of the quarterfinal games due to the strong Slovak defense.

Prediction: 2-0 Sweden

USA-Czech Republic

The American side has been dominant for the majority of its time in this tournament. Logan Brown is playing like a higher-skilled version of Milan Lucic and very rarely gets knocked off of the puck. Keiffer Bellows and Clayton Keller have been phenomenal. Both are fast high skilled players with great hockey IQ’s and outstanding shots. The Czech side will need huge contributions from the likes of Ondrej Vala to have a chance in this one. He has impressed me with his net-front presence throughout the tournament, and Czech goalie Josef Korenar will have to be perfect for the Czechs to have a chance. This one will start close, but the American side will prevail in the end.

Prediction: USA 6-1

 

 

Seamore Sports On AIH20416

Tonight I had the chance to participate in the AIH20416 podcast with two excellent hosts Phillip Alver and Alan. We talked about UND Hockey, the fan experience at the Ralph Englestad Arena, and various NHL Draft prospects eligible for this year’s draft in Buffalo. The Seamore sports segment is the last one but this is an excellent podcast and this episode is worthy of a full listen. Thanks again to Phillip Alver and to Alan for inviting me and Seamore Sports on the podcast.

http://www.cyberears.com/index.php/Browse/playaudio/29521