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

NHL Draft-First Round Thoughts

Here are some brief thoughts after day one of the draft. Day two begins today at noon eastern.

1.Where were all those magical trades we were hearing about beforehand? Seems to me like the rumors were oversold as most are yearly.

2. I am surprised the Avalanche chose Tyson Jost over Logan Brown. Both are good players,however Brown seems ready to jump to the NHL now. Jost will play at least one year at North Dakota.

3.Why on earth did the Blue Jackets not take Jesse Puljujarvi? They selected a great player in Pierre-Luc Dubois, however Jesse could have helped them win sooner than Dubois. Jesse has proven himself in a professional league against players older than him. In addition, the Finnish forward showed he did not need Sebastian Aho to play well at the U18 Worlds in Grand Forks.

4. Edmonton still wins something at the draft. It’s Edmonton of course. They pick up an outstanding two-way forward with a rocket shot and precision passing. Imagine trying to stop a line with Puljujarvi, Connor McDavid,and Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle. Good luck. Edmonton should look to bolster their defensive prospect pool on day two.

5. St. Louis got fleeced. I understand Elliot has one year left on his deal. He seemed to have a lot of cold streaks during the season. On the other hand, this guy lead the team to the playoffs multiple times and often was playing against teams like the Sharks that used physical play to wear down the Blues defense. Calgary has plenty of A- to B+ prospects the Blues should have asked for in addition to these two (3rd in 2018 is conditional) picks.

6. Props to the Washington Capitals. The team was able to pick up a draft pick from the Blues in the third round for losing a mere two spots. This trade evens out with the horrendous Mike Weber deal completed around the trade deadline. The Capitals used their pick to get a strong offensive defenseman from the WHL in Lucas Johansen.

7.The Johansen pick gives the Capitals a strong offensive defenseman that has some speed. Hopefully Caps fans see him in the AHL soon. Johansen could make the NHL in a few years if he finishes strong in the WHL and impresses at Hershey. The Capitals have a history with picking strong WHL defenders and they know what they are getting out of that league.

8.Dear Jets fans, I know Logan Stanley was not your first choice with your second first rounder. The tweets last night and today have made that quite clear. What if and stay with me, he becomes a top four defenseman? Would that justify the pick? Top two? What makes you happy here? In my mind the Jets drafted someone with the potential to provide a physical stay at home presence when paired with a guy like Jacob Trouba. Best case, in two years Stanley is pushing for NHL time and playing the stay at home yin to an offensive defenseman’s yang. There is a huge value to that. Worst case, career AHL player with a Joe Finley career path. Give Stanley time. I have no problem with the risk for the Jets because of the reward. Scoring wise it may not show, but the Jets will benefit if Stanley can improve his skating and movement. If he can’t  then all it means is you took a risk for a player and it did not turn out the way you wanted.That happens to teams every single year. The draft,regardless of sport, is an imperfect art. When drafting 18 and 19 year olds who will (minus the usual few) take at least a year and sometimes three to four to develop, this selection process becomes even more imperfect. If in four years Stanley does not play at least 20 games in the NHL feel free to let the bust label fly. Until then, enjoy watching him develop and seeing where his career goes.

Grimaldi to Colorado-My Thoughts

Yesterday, Rocco Grimaldi was traded from Florida to the Colorado Avalanche in return for backup goalie Reto Berra. Grimaldi is a strong skating forward who was a second round pick for the Panthers in the 2011 NHL Draft. The  California native is a strong skating forward with high speed and potential. Grimaldi routinely shuttled in between the AHL and the NHL with the Panthers. A couple of years ago, he played two games in one day.

I agree with Ross Sellers of Mile High Sticking. This was a depth move for the Avs to make. However, one thing to note about Grimaldi, he has top end speed and was never given more than a cup of coffee  at one time in the big leagues with the Panthers. Florida has an outstanding group of forward prospects,and Rocco did not get enough of a chance to show his skills. Rocco is only suited to play either a top line forward,which he is not ready to do yet, or a third line scoring forward.

What Grimaldi lacks in physicality, he makes up for with goal-scoring potential,and a strong hockey sense of where to be on the ice at all times. The Avalanche now have a fair amount of cap room to make more moves this offseason. Depending on what moves they make, Rocco could finally find himself on the big club for a full 82 game season this year.

The UND alum deserves a chance to make the big club this season. Rocco has paid his dues in the minors. He will benefit the Avs tremendously on their third line this year.

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

 

SeasonReview/Look Ahead-Brock Boeser

Burnsville,MN native Brock Boeser came to UND as a highly touted recruit with  a shot that moved like lighting and when true, would send the fans to a thunderous applause.The Vancouver Canucks selected him in the first round with pick number 23 in last summer’s draft. The talented forward came to UND after deciding not to go to the University of Wisconsin. Brock was considered to be the star recruit of UND’s 11 freshman class coming into the 2015-2016 season.

Brock would not keep UND fans waiting long as the hype soon became reality as Boeser gave UND fans a taste of what to expect with a hat trick against Bemidji State in his first regular season home game at Ralph Englestad Arena this year. Throughout the year Boeser would always seem to be in the right place at the right time to notch a key goal. His shot is so quick. Brock ended the season with 60 points including 27 goals in 42 games.

Brock does a great job picking his locale in the net before he shoots the puck. He has a quicker release time than any college hockey player I have seen, and often knows just where to aim for each goal. Coming into this season, Boeser is an early favorite for the Hobey Baker Award,given to the best player in college hockey.

Most UND fans were shocked and happy that Brock chose to return for his second season. His return allows UND to potentially retain two thirds of the vaunted CBS line that lit up college defenseman and goalies on a weekly basis. With Tyson Jost coming to campus, UND has a potential to have a line with three first round draft picks  on it if Nick Schmaltz comes back for another season.

In the future, Boeser will not need much time at the AHL if any.We think Boeser is better than some of the forwards that the Canucks deployed on their third line this past season. We expect Boeser to command top power play minutes and be on the first line in Vancouver in two years at the max. Brock Boeser is a superstar and soon Canucks fans will see what Waterloo (USHL) and UND fans already know. He can change the game in an instant and his mere presence on the ice will make your entire team better.

Grade: 10/10

Link:http://www.uscho.com/stats/player/mid,25309/brock-boeser/

Potential to Trade-Edmonton

Coming into the 2016 NHL draft the Edmonton Oilers are faced with  a ton of options. They can pay a steep price to move up and draft a franchise defining forward named Auston Matthews,Jesse Puljujarvi,or Patrick Laine.

That will not happen because yes, you can have too many Connor Mcdavids on your team when you need a star defenseman. There are multiple star defenseman that will be available when the Oilers pick. Edmonton has a great forward core and do not need more help right now building it out.

Depending on who they value most, there could be an incentive to trade down with a team looking to jump up to grab Logan Brown, Pierre-Luc Dubois, or Matthew Tkachuk. The Oilers’ system could use some more defensive prospects to bolster the cupboard a bit. Trading for more picks and still getting the player you want would be a slam dunk move to make. We think their trade partner will be another Canadian team with different prospect needs.

Who to trade with? Well, some teams right below them could be looking to move up to grab one of those elite forwards. Vancouver would require the least return for the Canucks to give up, but since the Canucks have a small amount of draft picks this year, do not look for that to happen.

We think Edmonton should trade with Montreal. The Canadiens have an extra second round pick and could use that and a future late round pick to move up to four. The Habs could use that pick on a big physical center like Logan Brown.

The Oilers could add depth to their prospect pool and use that first round pick on Mikhail Sergachyov. The Russian defenseman plays a physical,two way game, and can provide Edmonton with some much needed grit with a little offensive upside to compliment it. The Windsor Spitfire (OHL) had a 57 point for the regular season this past year and has proven to be a strong puck passing defenseman who knows where to be on the ice at all times. If Mikhail can improve his point production this year, he will be ready to play in the NHL next season.

References

http://www.generalfanager.com/teams/edmonton-oilers

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=312213

 

 

Potential to Trade-Toronto

This brief series will focus on which teams picking in the top ten might look to trade. These teams could look to trade up or down.

1.Toronto

Ok, the only reason that Toronto would trade rights to Auston Matthews is if it was overwhelmed with an offer. The only team that may trade for him is Arizona, who is desperate to boost sagging attendance. Matthews would accomplish this quite nicely.If Toronto could get two first rounders and two top line or defense pairing players,then it should be considered.

The Coyotes would be making this deal to sure up attendance numbers by bringing Matthews to town. Auston would compliment the pieces the Coyotes have right now and make them playoff ready now.The only piece the team would be missing is a top flight goaltender.

If Matthews goes to Toronto,he will have to wait to compete in the playoffs for at least two years. The Leafs franchise has a ton of top prospect talent throughout its system headlined by Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Until those prospects consistently prove themselves in the NHL, there will be some questions regardless of the talent of those prospects. If Toronto forces Arizona  to give up more players than a first line forward and top pair defenseman then it should do this deal in a heartbeat. Two top picks plus two stars now are all worth more than Auston Matthews would be.

The Arizona forward plays an outstanding two way game and does a great job playing defense,however he still has a jump to make from the Swiss League to the NHL. We expect him to about 20 games into the season. Matthews may not win the Calder but he will help whatever team he is on immensely next year. We think Auston will have a better season with the Coyotes than with the Leafs due to the supporting cast he would have in Arizona. Even if the Leafs sign Steven Stamkos which is far from guaranteed, there is no guarantee that the other Leafs prospects will have the necessary seasons to make the playoffs. Arizona came closer to it than the Leafs.

Reference to Reporter Jimmy Murray who broke this rumor

https://twitter.com/MurphysLaw74/status/740945820158185473?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Look Back/Ahead Christian Wolanin

Coming into the season,Christian Wolanin was known as a fairly well touted recruit coming off of a strong 41 point regular season and run to the Clark Cup Final with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. The Quebec native had a decent first year for the Fighting Hawks. The Ottawa Senators prospect played some forward during the season as UND had to deal with forward injuries. Wolanin did what Tucker Poolman did the year before.

Wolanin plays a two way game, and was routinely involved in the play when he was on the ice. While he did not contribute a whole lot on the score sheet, he made good plays in his own end to move the puck out while being responsibly positioned in the offensive end as well. The former Lumberjacks Captain is on track to see top four time with UND and play a key role on its penalty kill this year.

Ottawa fans, be patient. Wolanin will sign with the Senators at some point as they have his rights without competition for three more years from this August 15th. The Senators’ fifth round draft pick from this past draft showed flashes of his potential this year. Look for Wolanin to improve by a similar mark he did from his first year to his second year in the USHL. Christian scored 18 more points in year two of his USHL time. If he does something similar, he will be on track to sign with the Senators soon.

At the next level, Christian is a top four defenseman who can contribute on the power play. He is not now nor will he ever be Erik Karlsson, however with time he could grow into a Mike Green-esque quarterback of a power play unit with better defensive skills than Mike Green possesses. Wolanin will spend one or two seasons in the AHL after signing before going to the NHL squad.

Season Grade-7/10

Reference:http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=188788

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