Season Review/Look Ahead-Rhett Gardner

This past season,forward Rhett Gardner came to UND as an unknown for many UND fans. By the end of the season,everyone knew who he is. He is a strong relentless forward that loves to screen goalies in front of the net and win key puck battles in the corners. Gardner’s physical game helped shut down the CCM line in the NCAA Tournament against Michigan. The forward is even draft eligible this season. If picked he will be picked in the sixth or seventh round. The forward showed something special towards year’s end and dramatically improved his all around game.The Canadian forward scored 18 points last season in 41 games.

Next season, look for Gardner’s ice time to increase and for his point totals to rise. Gardner has a propensity to take penalties with 52 penalty minutes in 41 games played. If Rhett can take less than one penalty minute per game he can dramatically improve his standing with the NHL. We expect him to be drafted in the seventh round this year by a team willing to take a chance on a strong forward with a good net front presence. If Gardner can improve his discipline just a bit, regardless of which team if any selects him, he will be in a strong position to play in the NHL in the next five years.

Grade-8/10

If Rhett had an identical season to this one minus the 52 penalty minutes this grade would be a nine. We think that if he takes less penalties he will better provide another strong Austin Poganski-like net front presence that will see him generate a lot more goals from around the blue paint.

Stats:http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=119371

Second Day Gems-San Jose Sharks

 

The 2016 NHL Draft is being held at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo about one month from now. As of today, five teams do not have first round picks due to previous trades.While these teams are missing out on players that could play in the NHL as early as this upcoming season, they are not missing out on potential and talent. Here is a brief look at a team’s organizational need and a potential pick that meets that need. The selected player would be the team’s first pick but not a first rounder.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have a goalie of the future in Martin Jones. The former King has backstopped them to the Western Conference Finals. The Sharks youngest goalie prospect is Mantas Armalis who is under contract with the Sharks for next season. Another two players to keep an eye on are Aaron Dell who will be 27 next year and Troy Grosenick. The former Union goalie has one year left on his entry level contract while Dell is an unrestricted free agent. If the Sharks bring back Dell they will sign one more goalie to compete with the backup job with Grosenick and others competing for time in the minors. Since their youngest prospect is 23, the Sharks need a developmental goalie whom they can work with and still has time left to play for his junior team.

Pick-G Evan Fitzpatrick

The Sherbrooke Phoenix netminder is the number one ranked North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting. He helped Canada get to the bronze medal game and vastly outplayed his goalie partner Stuart Skinner in the tournament. Fitzpatrick is calm in the next and has outstanding rebound control. Throughout the U18 World Championships the netminder impressed with his calm demeanor, strong tracking skills, and ability to redirect the puck be it on superb toe saves, or through making a strong outlet pass. Fitzpatrick will take a few years to develop,and will have to earn a contract from the Sharks. He will. After two more years with the Phoenix the netminder will end up in San Jose, as a Barracuda in the AHL. In four years,given the right circumstances, Evan Fitzpatrick could find himself in the NHL.

If Fitzpatrick is taken,then the Sharks could take another goalie like Tyler Parsons of the London Knights or USA goalie Joseph Woll later in the draft and pick a defenseman with this late second round selection.

References:http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectbrowse.htm?cat=3&sort=finalRank&year=2016

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=15753

http://www.generalfanager.com/teams/san-jose-sharks

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=216160

 

Seamore Sports on AIH201416 Again

Last night, I had the distinct honor of being invited back to talk about the Capitals’ unfortunate end to their season as well as some other NHL draft notes with the awesome folks who run the AIH201416 podcast. The whole episode itself is worth a listen as they discussed everything from ham to the Western Conference Finals and just how good Victor Headman(Did someone say team MVP?) is. Listen to this podcast on Itunes and give it a good rating, Philip and Alan are two of the most down-to-earth hockey analysts I have talked to

While they are proud Jets fans, they talk hockey on both podcasts objectively and without bias. Give these guys a listen… your hockey mind will thank you.

Here is the link: Seamore sports is on last but the whole podcast is worth a listen:

http://cyberears.com/index.php/Browse/playaudio/29615

Also here is the Arctic Ice Hockey Post regarding this podcast:

http://www.arcticicehockey.com/2016/5/16/11683478/aih-20416-episode-36-san-jose-sharks-st-louis-blues-tampa-bay-lightning-washington-capitals

Final PS: Congrats to Philip Iver for being named managing editor of Arctic Ice Hockey. Fans of all 30 NHL teams, and hockey fans in general should give it a read.

2016 NHL Mock Draft Top 3

After watching the NHL Draft Lottery this past weekend, we now now the order of all teams that did not make the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs draft first, the Winnipeg Jets moved up to pick second, and the Columbus Blue Jackets have the first three picks.

Here is the mock draft for the top three picks.

1.Toronto

C Auston Matthews

The two way forward from Arizona has spent the year abroad in Switzerland. He has been the consensus number one pick for his play style and skills all year. Matthews chose a quicker route to the NHL by playing abroad. This will allow Toronto to send him to their AHL affiliate, the Marlies, next year if he needs time to adjust. He won’t. Matthews is the most complete player in the draft, and it would take a super-sized ransom of picks and roster players to get this pick from the Leafs.

2.Winnepeg

F.Patrick Laine

A high-scoring high-skilled Finnish winger going to the Jets.Where have we seen this one before? Laine has a fantastic shot, and can dominate shift after shit at times. The new Finnish flash will be given every chance to make the opening-night roster for the Jets. If he does he will end up on the third line as a scoring winger. This being early May, it is hard to project his line mates, as the Jets will look to make a series of moves to avoid lottery participation next year. If the Jets could pair Laine with a seasoned winger like Drew Stafford, look for Laine to get plenty of scoring chances next year.

3. Columbus

F. Jesse Puljujarvi

Puljujarvi played outstanding during his time at both the World Juniors, and the U18 Championship for the Finns. Every shift he played, he was the center of attention. People have compared Laine to Ovechkin, but seeing Jesse’s shot also gave me those thoughts regarding Puljujarvi.

All three of these teams will draft game-changing players that will have a massive impact on the next decade of the NHL.This draft will be fun to watch. Look for more thoughts on each team’s first round selection as the summer goes on.

 

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

 

 

5 Teams 5 Thoughts-Group B

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So far,Canada has lead the way in Group B. Here are some thoughts on all teams in Group B of the 2016 IIHF Men’s U18 World Championship

Canada

The Canadian side is the group best equipped to play the Americans. They have it all. Most importantly, the team has gotten strong goal-tending from Evan Fitzpatrick and Stuart Skinner. Fitzpatrick had a better outing against the Czech side Saturday night than Skinner did against Denmark. Evan Fitzpatrick displayed outstanding rebound control and bailed his team out multiple times. All of Canada’s defenseman have strong shots.Forward Jordan Kyrou had an outstanding night against Denmark with four goals. Finally, Tyson Jost has looked outstanding this tournament. He has set his teammates up for multiple chances and has been one of the best players in the tournament so far.

Finland

The Finnish side just got a lot better as Jesse Puljujarvi is coming to play for them after his season in Finland ended. He is an all-around forward that will give Finland the tools they need to challenge Canada for the Group B Title and a chance to avoid a strong American side until the finals.

Denmark

The Denmark side has had an unfortunate run of things in this tournament. After playing a strong Slovak side to within a goal in regulation the team lost 10-2 to Canada. Denmark showed signs of promise in that match as they capitalized on their chances in the first twenty minutes and made it a 2-2 match. After the power outage ended, Canada woke up and Denmark could not do anything to stop them.

Czech Republic

Even in defeat yesterday, the Czech side was impressive. Ondrej Vala did a nice job establishing a constant net front presence, and the Czech defense and goaltending kept them in the match. The Czech side needs to have better starts the next two matches to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

Slovakia

After avoiding an upset against Denmark the Slovak side lost in regulation to Finland. The Finnish side had a decent match. Slovakia plays a decent game and as long as they can keep things close in their last two pool play matches they should be on track for a spot in the quarterfinals. Slovak goaltender Roman Durny needs to have a strong performance the rest of the way to give his side a chance to advance past the quarters.

 

 

 

5 Teams 5 thoughts-2016 U18 Worlds

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Grand Forks, ND

The first three days of the 2016 IIHF Men’s World U18 Championship have been full of action-packed games, gut-wrenching endings and stellar play from all teams. Here are some thoughts on each team in Group A involved. Look for more regarding group B tomorrow.

Group A

USA

Wow. This whole team is one of the better USA teams I have seen compete in a long while. Every player is buying in to coach Danton Cole’s system, and every player has top-flight skill. Forward Kiefer Bellows seems to be auditioning to make the World Juniors team next year with his outstanding play. Forward Logan Brown, to me, is stronger on the puck than some NHL forwards were at his age. I have not seen him lose many puck battles in the two games he has played in during this tournament. Both of these players need to continue their strong start for the USA to finish this tournament with the gold.

Latvia

Two things here: The Latvian defense has sold out to make every shot block and pass block over their first two matches. Keying that defense has been the goalie, Mareks Mitens. Mittens kept his team in the match all game vs. Sweden. Mitens made some otherworldly saves I have not seen NHL goalies make. If Latvia is to avoid relegation they need 2 more stellar performances from their defense and Mitens.

Russia

After a less than stellar outing Thursday night, Russia came back to win in overtime against Switzerland on Saturday. Their team seemed to settle in after being rattled by the magnitude of the opener vs. the American side Thursday night. Danil Tarasov had a respectable game in net and allowed Russia the chance to win on a superb breakaway by Pavel Dyomin. If Russia can hold like today their side can surprise some teams going forward.

Switzerland

After a thrilling overtime winner vs Latvia Thursday the Swiss side found itself on the other side of the coin Saturday as Russia took the extra point in the overtime session. Lead by Nico Hischier, Switzerland finds itself second in group A with 3 points. If Switzerland can find some secondary scoring, they can assure themselves a date in the quarterfinals.

Sweden

Sweden needs goaltending. Filip Larson has allowed nine goals on 29 shots so far. This 76.32 save percentage is the lowest of all qualifying goalies in the tournament. Larson is not solely to blame, from the two games seen so far the Swedish defense has allowed a fair amount of tough chances for him to stop. In addition, top talent Alex Nylander has played well and saved his team’s bacon with a short side snipe vs Latvia, and did register a point today, however if Sweden avoids relegation the side needs secondary scoring and goal tending to advance.