How to Get Rid of the Crickets

632pm1funkjFor all you guys who retweet anyone who fashions themselves to be an NHL insider, you can now stop being morons.  There are about 6 guys who are reputable.  Someone from the 4th period, or Eklund, or some stupid shit like that, learn your lesson.  These people are looking for attention, they aren’t reputable.  So when you buy into the shit out there and then cry that nothing happened at the deadline, that’s on you.  I’m not surprised at all that next to nothing happened, because I don’t listen to what anyone has to say except the beat writers for each team and the ACTUAL inside guys.

 

While I rant about that off the top, the fact is that a slow trade deadline does suck, even if you have low expectations for it.  So what can be done to improve what used to be one of the best days on the NHL calendar?

 

Make no mistake, this is a problem for the fans, not for the GM’s, and likely not for the league.  It’ll never be a problem for the GM’s.  The league will only feel like this is an issue until the ratings start to really fall.  I doubt they did today.  I would guess they fell off this morning, but at 1PM MST I guarantee with hardly anything having happened to that point the ratings went up a lot.

 

But at some point this show is going to get bad and people are going to stop watching.  I would think that it would be good for the league to keep this going.  I’m sure the ad dollars for Sportsnet and TSN must be good for trade deadline, otherwise why in the hell are they both starting at 8AM, 6AM MST?

 

The NBA has stumbled into something like NHL trade deadline used to be, their free agency.  NBA free agency has become a major event for NBA fans due to a 4 year cap on contracts as well as the limitations put on extending contracts of players.  And this gets the NBA a ton of discussion on sports talk shows, in newspapers and in blogs.  It’s good for the league.

 

So with that in mind, I have 3 suggestions for the NHL to really free things up for trade deadline day and get it back to being a marquee day in the NHL.

 

1) Move the deadline ahead to mid March.  This is where it was pre 2005 lockout, and we saw a lot more action then.  Why?  Other than there being no cap, more teams were officially out of it and more willing to sell off pieces.  GM’s bitched about this because they said it didn’t give players enough time to implement themselves in the team.  Well then do your deal a month before the deadline.  But later on in the year will not only give you more sellers, it gives teams a little more cap space to play with.

 

2) This is something that can’t happen until the next CBA, so we are a LONG way off here, but what about a 10% cap increase on the ceiling, decrease on the floor kicking in around the deadline?  In the offseason that is already the way it works, and it would really take the shackles off some teams.  There would still be a cap, you would still need to balance your assets, but it would definitely make it easier to do things.

 

3) The last one I have is more of a full season thing than just for the deadline, and again is a CBA issue, but I still don’t understand why teams can’t just retain salary and not have to retain the cap space as well.  What difference does this make to the owners?  Jim Dolan or MLSE would GLADLY pay for a bad contract to get rid of his cap hit.  And the small market teams could get better players without having to pay them.  So while retaining cap/salary on a player does help moves, the option to simply just retain the money on a player and be able to move the cap hit to a team would be massive.  It is still too restrictive right now.  Allow teams to eat up to 70% (up from 50%) of a players salary, and have the option to eat just his salary, without having to retain any cap.  And make it so that you can retain only for a certain amount of time on the deal.  Right now, if the Oilers for example wanted to retain a million on Jordan Eberle, they have to for every season on the rest of his deal (3 years).  If they had more flexibility on how long to retain salary, it would help.  Bryan Bickell wouldn’t be a Blackhawk.  Dustin Brown would no longer be an LA King.  Keep the number low for how many players you can do this on (right now it’s a max of 3, MAYBE you go to 4), but there just isn’t enough wiggle room for these teams to correct their mistakes right now.  That’s not good for the game.  It’s like the intentional fouling of awful free throw shooters in the NBA.  Yes I know, it’s pathetic.  Learn to hit your free throws.  But some players are going to be awful free throw shooters no matter how hard they work at it and that still won’t change that strategy.  NHL GM’s need to learn not to be painfully stupid, but no matter what you do they’ll still do stupid things, they’re human.  So help them correct the problem because nobody wins when they can’t.

 

Those are my idea’s.  It’s funny, because the players in 2005 were open to a luxury tax system and not a cap.  Just about all fans were dead set against this idea.  But in hindsight, a luxury tax might have been best for the league.  More trade action means more discussion about the league.  And more discussion about the league will lead to higher TV ratings and ticket sales.  Higher TV ratings and ticket sales obviously leads to more revenue.

 

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m just a fan who is disappointed that what used to be such an intriguing day is now basically nothing.  But I think and hope the league wants it to be more intriguing.  At this point on what I suggested, other than the first one, their hands are tied until the next CBA.  But hopefully one day they look at some of what I have suggested and I’m sure others will suggest as well to help free up GM’s to make moves.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Playing GM

trade-deadlineWell hopefully yesterday didn’t kill everything for Monday.  Trade deadline used to be the best day of year.  I started staying home from work for the deadline coverage in 2003, which was one of the best ones ever.  In 04 I worked on trade deadline day and was ecstatic to do so…because I was doing my practicum at TEAM 1260 at the time.  That was one of the busiest and most intriguing deadline days of all time.  Not just because of my gig, not just because of all the deals, not just because all 6 Canadian teams were buyers.  That was the day after the Todd Bertuzzi incident.

 

Anyway, enough of the trip down memory lane.

 

Even though Andrew Ladd is dealt, we still enter the last 2 days with most of the big names still on the board.  Eric Staal, Jonathan Drouin, Loui Eriksson, Mikkel Boedker, Dan Hamhuis, Cam Ward, Kris Russell, lots of good names still out there and likely to move.  So I’ll hit on them today, make some predictions on where they’ll land because I’m a loser who likes to do that shit, but I’ll also come up with some deals that would make sense for all involved that aren’t likely to happen today or tomorrow.  So…

 

I know Eric Staal isn’t what he was, but I still see this guy as the best player available right now.  He’s a 6’3, 200 pound centre who can still wheel.  He has a Cup, he has Olympic gold.  I don’t care what his numbers say, he’s had to play in a stifling system with no finishers in Carolina for a few years now, and it’s also been a revolving door behind their bench.  I love the Rangers for him, and not because his other brother is there.  The Rangers are ok down the middle, but Staal would make them great down the middle.

 

I was thinking the Islanders might make some sense too, but I remembered Staal has an NTC, so it’s unlikely that with an Islanders/Rangers 1st round matchup on the horizon (how SICK is that going to be?!?!) that he’ll want to matchup against his brother.

 

As for a darkhorse here, I’m still keeping my eye on the Preds.  They’ve got it going after a rough stretch to start the Ryan Johansen era, and this could be their chance to go for it.  Add a guy like Staal, and the Preds might have enough to compete with the Hawks come April.  Would Staal waive his NTC to go to Nashville?  I don’t know, but Peter Laviolette is the head coach, who was Staal’s coach for a lot of years in Carolina, including 2006.

 

I still don’t know why his teammate Cam Ward doesn’t get more love…ever.  He’s 4-0 lifetime in game 7’s.  2 at home, 2 on the road.  Like Staal, I have a tough time believing some of his down’s in his career aren’t because of the mess that has gone on in past years in Carolina.  Not this year though.  The Canes are back to respectability, and Ward has been a big reason why.  So why are the St. Louis Blues wasting their time giving Edmonton a 5th round pick AND a prospect for a backup who outside of a hot stretch in November and December this season, has never been an NHL goaltender.  The Blues DESPERATELY need a goaltender, and Ward is far and away the best one out there.

 

What the hell does Doug Armstrong have to lose?  Even if they want Jake Allen as the starter come playoff time, what’s the problem with getting a proven goaltender as your backup?  Hitch hasn’t had a money goalie since Ed Belfour.  If they don’t go get Cam Ward, they better have a DAMN good explanation as to why.

 

In Boston, the Bruins are likely to move Loui Eriksson, yet are pretty comfortably in a playoff spot.  I heard this suggestion and love it: Eriksson out, Mikkel Boedker in.  Similar players (I think Boedker could thrive away from Dave Tippett’s system), similar size, and they likely have a much better shot at extending Boedker.  They’re without a doubt more comfortable giving Boedker (26) a 6 or 7 year contract than they are Loui Eriksson, who at 31 this could be the last big season of his career.  As for where Eriksson could land, I really love the idea of Anaheim, especially if the Bruins could get Sami Vatanen back, but more might have to go with Eriksson to get that done.

 

As for the 2 defencemen, it’s sounding like Hamhuis is going to Dallas, which is a good fit.  Washington I would guess now with Carlson on LTIR would be in the hunt, and a scary good team would get even scarier.  I would pick the Caps over the Stars if I were Hamhuis.  But I’m shocked if he had the chance to go to the Blackhawks he shot it down.  I can’t see Dallas having a prayer against the Hawks come playoff time.

 

But perhaps they’ll now target Kris Russell as long as they can fit him in.  For all Stan Bowman has done, and as fun as it’s been to watch him maneuver, he still has to do something about the depth of his blueline which really should have cost them last year against the Ducks.  It was amusing though to see that Eric Francis believes Kris Russell is the best D-man available.  No Eric, just no.  Hamhuis has been to the final, he’s won Olympic gold, and the analytics show there is no comparison between the 2.  Yes, Russell is a better goaltender, and it is a skill to block shots.  I don’t dislike Russell, but to suggest he’s the better pickup is incredibly embarrassing to even suggest.

 

Finally as far as the big names out there, Jonathan Drouin is just too damn tough to predict.  But with Montreal now out of it, I wonder if they aren’t in a much better spot to make a deal with Tampa then they were when this mess first began.  They are no longer a playoff threat to the Lightning.  As for what could head to Tampa from Montreal, would the Habs roll the dice with sending their 1st round pick?  It would be a gamble for both, but it wouldn’t shock me.

 

Ok, now after nearly 1000 words I’m onto the reason I wanted to write this.

 

To Buffalo: Jacob Trouba

To Winnipeg: Sam Reinhart

It sure looks like the writing is on the wall in Winnipeg for Trouba.  With the Byfuglien extension, Trouba is 3rd on the depth chart on the right side.  They have been trying him on the left side, but they have Tobias Enstrom locked down for 2 more seasons, and Josh Morrissey should be with the big club next season.  I’ve heard from some that Enstrom makes more sense to move out, but Enstrom doesn’t get the return Trouba would get.

 

As for Buffalo, they’ve gone from looking like they would have one of the best young blueline’s in the league, to having Rasmus Ristolainen and a whole lot of nothing.  And while the blueline is brutal in Buffalo, they are loaded at centre with Eichel, O’Reilly, and Girgensons.  They need wingers, but as I’ve always said you can find wingers.  You can’t find centre’s, you can’t find D-men.

 

Add to all of this, Kevin Cheveldayoff and Tim Murray did the Kane/Myers blockbuster last season, so the relationship is there.  I’ve said before too that the Oilers sending Nugent-Hopkins to the Jets for Trouba makes a lot of sense too.

 

To Calgary: Travis Hamonic

To NY Islanders: Dougie Hamilton

Now I’ll say this off the top, I don’t know what the NTC case is with Hamilton.  I don’t believe he has one but I could be wrong.  Anyway, if he doesn’t, I could see this happening.  It hasn’t been the best start for Hamilton in Calgary.  He’s settled in a bit after a rough start, but I think people in Calgary expected more.  But for me this is much more about what they would be getting.

 

We all know Brian Burke loves his “truculence”, and Hamonic is a lot more that type of player than Hamilton.  Both are RH shots, both are locked down long term (Hamilton has 5 more years left, Hamonic 4).  For the Islanders, it brings back a younger and potentially better D-man for Hamonic who as we all know requested a trade last summer to a Western Canadian team.

 

2 more bonuses for Calgary are that this would save them nearly 2 million a year on the cap, and it would prevent the Canucks and Oilers from acquiring Hamonic.  The Flames are in the best position to do this deal out of all the Western Canadian teams.  The Oilers and Canucks don’t have what the Islanders want, and the Jets have no reason to do it.  I don’t expect Hamonic to be moved by Monday afternoon.  But if he were to go, this deal makes the most sense to me.

 

To Montreal: Taylor Hall

To Edmonton: Max Pacioretty

I floated this one the other day in my piece on the Oilers.  And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me…IF the Habs really are having the issues in the dressing room that some claim they’re having.  The Habs win the talent end of this deal, Hall is the more talented guy.  He has higher point totals in 3 of the last 4 seasons playing on a weaker team in a tougher conference.  He has more speed, and he is 3 years younger.  But the Oilers need to shake things up badly, and Pacioretty is the type of player they have lacked for a LONG time in Edmonton.

 

He’s a hockey players hockey player.  Mr. intangible.  Does all the little things right.  And he’s put up some big goal totals while playing on an offensively challenged team and never playing with a great offensive centre.  This is because Pacioretty will find a way to score a goal, he doesn’t look to do it on skill.  He’s 1.5 mil a year cheaper than Hall, and he still has 3 years left on that deal.

 

Finally, to me, each guy would be a better fit in the others rooms.  Hall would fit better in a room run through P.K. Subban and would help eliminate that rift in Montreal, and Pacioretty would fit better in a room run by Connor McDavid.  While I’m pretty positive there is no rift between Hall and McDavid (they live together), I do think there is an issue of who is the driver of the bus so to speak in Edmonton right now.

 

Of these last 3 deals I propose, none of them would have to get done by tomorrow at 1PM.  But I do think they are deals worth exploring for all the teams mentioned.  Hockey deals.  When GM’s want to, hockey deals are still out there to be made, you just have to look a little harder.

 

Hopefully between now and the deadline we see a lot of action.  Get back to trade deadline being one of the best days on the NHL calendar.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

 

Darkest Before Dawn

ChiarelliI used to call these “Deep Ice Horizon”, but I don’t think anyone ever got that.  DeepWATER Horizon was the name of the offshore drilling rig which caused the BP oil spill in 2010.  Oil.  Disaster.  Frozen water is known as ice.  The OILers play on ice.  It was brilliant.  Well, perhaps brilliant is too strong of a word.  Definitely amazing though.  OBVIOUSLY.

 

A warning.  I REALLY tried to make this one short, but I failed.  You likely know me, and if you do then you know I never shut up.  I can never get my point across in a few sentences.  I don’t know why that is, but I can’t.  Especially when it comes to the Oilers.

 

Things are shitty…YET. AGAIN.  If you’re an Oiler fan, you’re asking yourself today if things are ever going to change.  There have been so many times when it looked as though FINALLY there was a light at the end of the tunnel, only for things to go astray.

 

Before I go into what is to come, can I ask a favour of the media?  Because there was a lot of Oiler talk today and it made me think of something.  Could the media PLEASE not be so freaking stupid?  Now the big cry is “we can’t let them get ANOTHER 1st overall pick, it can’t be allowed!!!”  Please don’t talk if you’re saying that.  You look like a dip shit.  Save yourself the embarrassment.

 

First of all, the rules have changed…so pay attention, don’t be a schmuck.  The Oilers can finish 30th this season and end up picking as low as 4th.  They only finished 30th twice, and neither time did they tank.  The lottery rules have been drastically altered in the last 2 years, and it is insane luck that they won it last season.  If they won again this year, even from the 30th spot, it would be even more insane luck.  And it isn’t as if they’re trying to pull a tank like the Sabres and Coyotes did last year, or the Leafs are trying to pull this season (and for the billionth time, players don’t tank, but management does).

 

As insanely pathetic as it is, they’ve been trying to ice a winning club I would say since 2012.  I won’t give them 2011 because that season was all about just having a good room after the disaster 09 and 2010 were.  Don’t think they were looking to tank, but weren’t looking to ice a playoff team.  Point is they’ve been horribly run, but they haven’t been tanking at any point.

 

But what really is ridiculous about people ACTUALLY worrying about them getting the top pick again is…why?  Has it made them great?  No, in fact in a few cases (namely 2012) having the top pick hurt the organization, it didn’t help.  It is nearly impossible to make a trade in the NHL now, and when you pick 1st overall there is a ridiculous amount of pressure to take the top guy and that top guy in 2010, 11, 12 and 15 was never a D-man.  Hell, twice it was a winger.  If they had such amazing luck, then 2010, 11 and 12 would have had Doughty, Hedman and MacKinnon as the top picks.

 

Be honest about it.  You don’t want the Oilers to get the top pick again because either A) you have a routing interest and want “your team” to win it, or B) you’re worried that the Oilers will amass so many high end assets that they’ll essentially get to a point where they can get just about any player in the league they want if they choose to do so.  You shouldn’t have that concern, but some people tend to overrate that top pick.

 

The truth about the top pick that never gets talked about is that it isn’t nearly the same every year.  2011, the top end of the draft was average compared to some years.  Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t taken that next step to become elite, but none of those kids have.  Landeskog, Huberdeau, Larsson, Strome, Zibanejad, Scheifele, Couturier, Hamilton, Brodin…I just listed off the top 10 picks, none of them are elite players.  2012, Murray, Galchenyuk, Reinhart, Rielly, Lindholm, Dumba, Pouliot, Trouba, Koekkoek.  Some decent players in that list, better players than Yakupov, 3 D-men that I see who COULD be elite, but nobody who would make the Oilers much better right now then they are.

 

The Florida Panthers spun their wheels for a LONG time.  Only now are they starting to come out of it, and it’s because the right players have come along in the draft.  Funny how nobody talks about the Panthers rushing their kids into their lineup.  Funny how the Oilers had Horcoff, Smyth, Hemsky, Tom Gilbert/Nick Schultz, Khabibulin, Ryan Whitney, Eric Belanger all on the roster in 2012 and 13…all those vets, yet the reason the Panthers are so good is because “they brought in vets and the Oilers never do”.  The Panthers have finally worked because the right guys came along and the pieces fit.  Quit trying to make it out to be something it’s not.

 

Then you have the narrative that the Oilers should trade their kids.  Well…yes, they absolutely should.  But what is coming back?  Yesterday on Hockey Central at Noon Doug McLean talked about how the Bruins should go get Eberle.  OK…and what are the Oilers getting?  Never did say.  It’s weird, because I was of the understanding that the Oilers would need to get something to trade a player of value, but apparently not.  And it’s not just Doug McLean, I’ve harped on this for a few years now how it’s nice the Eastern media thinks they have it figured out and the Oilers and their fans don’t that the Oilers should just “trade the kids”.  No no, everyone gets that.  But everyone gets that if they are doing that, then they need to get pieces that will improve the team in weak areas.  And you never get that answer except for the one time Darren Dreger answered it by suggesting they move Klefbom for Hamonic, so in other words they make their blueline slightly better for now.  By the way, the Oilers have gone into the FREAKING TANK since Kelfbom went out, so do you now see what the Oilers see in Klefbom Dregs?

 

Add to this last one, all the media outside of Northern Alberta ever wants to tell us is how Edmonton is a dump and nobody wants to go there.  Ok..3/4 of good-great players in the league have a NTC.  So they’re supposed to bring in good UFA’s and trade for good players…yet nobody wants to play there and players can veto trades to Edmonton.  I’m sure this is just me making excuses for them though because there are no such things as reasons in life, just excuses.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s far from the only reason they are where they are, but until Connor McDavid, one of the most respected executives in hockey, proven GM and coach, and a new arena showed up why would anyone worth getting want to come?  It’s definitely handcuffed them.

 

Which leads me into the injury issues this season.  Is it an excuse to be 30th?  Hell no.  Is it why they aren’t in the playoff hunt?  Probably, yeah.  Their top D-man and 2nd best centre are gone.  They have been AT LEAST a month this season without Eberle, McDavid, Klefbom and Nugent-Hopkins.  No other team in the league has had that many key guys out for that length of time.  “Excuses”.  No, it’s a reason.  Not for the last 6 years, but for this one season it has been the reason.  The Habs REASON they’ve fallen out of it is because of the Carey Price injury.  The Oilers main REASON they’re in 30th and not at least a little better is because of key injuries.

 

Here I said I wasn’t going to be long and I’m 1000 words in, still haven’t got to the main point.  I’m not good at this…

 

That’s enough of my verbal beat down of how ridiculous the media can be in these siutations.  Here is what it comes down to now for Peter Chiarelli and what it should for Oiler fans.  This is the situation now, deal with it.  They’re going to pick top 5 or 6, and the “old core” has to go.  That is VERY clear now so you might as well get used to it.  But the situation is actually great, it is just gone worse than expected THIS season.

 

First and foremost, the “old core”.  Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov and Schultz.  I’ll be shocked if 4 of those 5, if not all 5 aren’t gone by September.  You have to make this Connor McDavid’s team.  He will get the captaincy next season and that new core will consist of him, Nurse, Klefbom, and Draisaitl.  I think the guys from the “old core” don’t really know how to deal with that and I believe one of the big problems in the room right now is that the “new core” is far better than the “old core” but the “old core” won’t follow.  So they need to go, but as I just said you can’t move those pieces just to simply move them, you have to move them for the right return.

 

Let’s start with Schultz and Yakupov and this is pretty easy…just get them off the roster.  Schultz without a doubt is gone, he isn’t being qualified if they don’t deal him by Monday.  So that nightmare is over and he hurts the team more than he helps them.  I believe he is a big part of the losing culture in Edmonton.  Yakupov I don’t believe is, but he simply can’t play.  He can score the odd goal, but his hockey sense is so non exsistent it’s not even funny.  Intelligence is a skill, and I wonder when scouts will notice that, because everyone thought Yakupov was a slam dunk number 1 pick in 2012.  Ironically the Oilers scouts didn’t but Katz or Lowe…depending who you talk to…demanded Yakupov be the pick.  He won’t get much in a deal, but he needs to go.  Both guys do nothing but hurt the team being in the lineup every night.  Neither guy can be trusted and both are offensive guys who provide zero offence.

 

Then we have the big dogs.  My target for Hall MIGHT be Montreal.  We know they have a big problem in their room right now, and it seems to be 2 sides: Pacioretty and Subban.  If I’m Peter Chiarelli, and the Habs don’t want to move Subban…what about Pacioretty?  3 years left, only a 4.5 million cap hit.  The Oilers LIKELY lose that trade.  But it gives the Oilers the type of guy they’re desperate for up front and in the room, and a guy who would fit better with Connor McDavid.  If they could get a little something extra from Montreal in the deal, cool.  But that would be something I would explore.

 

Jordan Eberle is being showcased for the Islanders in my opinion.  The Islanders need to find a winger for John Tavares, although that is a need that gets overrated by fans and media.  However, it’s still a need.  Would Eberle fetch Hamonic?  I don’t think so.  But would the Oilers eating a million dollars of Eberle’s deal fetch Hamonic?  That might work.  Hamonic is still well worth a 4.7 mil cap hit.  And if that still doesn’t do it, perhaps a 3rd team would need to get involved.  But I do think Eberle is close to a good return for Hamonic.  As much as I don’t like Eberle’s game, every team needs a guy like him.  Perhaps Griffin Reinhart can be used.  Obviously he wouldn’t go back to the Islanders, but could he be shipped elsewhere for a D-man more to their liking?

 

So just in those last 2 moves, that seem reasonable to me, the Oilers have gotten tougher and better in their own zone, and also freed up even more cap space.  And that’s the other end to this is that with the cap going down possibly as much as 4 mil next season, the Oilers being a team that has a lot of cap space and the coin to use it.  Add to this, as of February 24th this free agent class for once is looking elite.

 

The 1 guy left out of that big 5 group is Nugent-Hopkins.  Do you trade him or keep him?  He’s the one kid who I believe has all the intangibles you want to go with a high skill level, and he doesn’t come off as needing to be the alpha dog like maybe Hall does.  But he’s limited as a player, and he’s expendable with McDavid and Draisaitl down the middle.  I would want 2 things if Nugent-Hopkins is going.  I would want a young, franchise type D-man like a Jacob Trouba coming back, AND I would need to have a 2nd/3rd line centre coming into help the 2 kids out like a Tyler Bozak, Lars Eller, someone along those lines.  They don’t HAVE to move him, but I do believe 1 of him or Hall is on their way out.

 

But it could be that all 3 of the original 1st overall picks are gone come next season.  But that wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.  The Nordiques/Avs traded Sundin, Nolan and Lindros.  They also knew they had to lose a trade to make their team better in the summer of 94 when they moved Sundin to the Leafs for Wendel Clark.  Sundin without a doubt was the better player moving forward.  But that trade kick started that franchise.  1st in the East in 95, Cup in 96, President’s trophy in 97, game 7 of the West final in 99 and 2000, Cup in 01, game 7 of the West final in 02.

 

2000 words…

 

Back to Hall and RNH though.  Do you maybe move both out to open it up for July 1st?  Because let’s say they moved RNH for a package of picks and prospects alone.  Seems dumb, but if it’s done to free up the 6 million and the roster spot for certain players, it isn’t that dumb.  Stamkos, Eric Staal, Backes, Lucic, Ladd, Okposo, Loui Eriksson, Boedker, this UFA class is no joke and while the type of money they would get makes me sick, there is no doubt that 1 of those first 4 coupled with 1 of the second 4 would VASTLY improve this hockey club.  And while we’ve always been told in Edmonton “now it’s different” for top end UFA’s and high end players with NTC’s, now it actually is different.  A generational player coupled with a competent GM, top end head coach and a brand spanking new arena.

 

It’s funny, I’m not a guy who wants to sink 10-12 million a year into Steve Stamkos.  But I’m wondering if his camp hasn’t targeted Edmonton, because it’s come up a few times this season, and it’s come up from the national media, not anyone in Edmonton.  I wouldn’t do it, but I’d be lying if the Oiler fan in me wouldn’t be excited and try to justify the move should it happen.  He would have to play the wing though and we all know that seems to be 1 of the issues in Tampa for him.

 

So are Eric Staal and David Backes, but they have played a lot of the wing as well.  And here is why you sign these types is because if you run into injury problems, or need to matchup with a team down the middle, then you put them at centre.  And if not, then they play the wing and provide experience, size and in Staal’s case speed.  Backes is a bit of a spot picker, but he’s an intimidating guy and has been described by Ken Hitchcock as a “coaches dream”.  Even though he’s 3.5 years older, Backes might make more sense than Lucic if you need to pick between the 2.  Both would cost a TON though.

 

As for this years pick.  I would be willing to move it for the right player, and I would be willing to move down.  It isn’t what last year’s draft was, but this is a damn good draft.  If they move out both Hall and Eberle, then I probably would keep it and pick in that spot, unless it’s the top pick.  I would trade the right to take Matthews.  A team would offer a high end player, or they would offer a boat load of picks and prospects.  I think of the Coyotes and said this in my mock draft the other day.  They wouldn’t offer Ekman-Larsson I’m sure.  But they could offer their pick (will be a lottery pick), the Rangers 1st, their 2017 1st, and Dylan Strome.  That would be my ask and I believe a price the Coyotes would have to think about paying.  Matthews being the hometown kid would be massive for the Coyotes, and he’s a superstar talent.  The Oilers have no need for Strome, but they could use Strome to shore up the blueline.

 

But assuming they don’t get the top pick, they can’t (and won’t) go into next season with a spot open for that pick.  Laine and Puljujarvi can spend another year in Finland, or if they choose play in the AHL.  Matt Tkachuk can afford to play another year in the OHL, as could Jakob Chychrun and Olli Juolevi.  Matthews is really the only player in the draft who should be in the NHL next season.  Not the only guy who could be or will be, but the only one that should be.

 

I believe the writing is on the wall, Chiarelli and the Oilers are done f***ing around.  So while things are a total disaster on the ice right now, they have all the ammo they need to make this team a playoff team next season.  Yes…next season.  Chiarelli now has had a year to examine the team.  I’ll be flat out STUNNED if this roster doesn’t look extremely different come October.

 

So I know it sucks Oiler fans, but chill.  Things are going to get a whole lot better, and very soon.  FINALLY.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2016 NHL Mock Draft 1.0

0118-draft16I don’t know why I say 1.0, 2.0, etc.  I mean I do know why, it’s because other mock drafts in other sports use that.  But it isn’t as if there will ever be a mock draft 2.639.  I’ll keep going with it, but it isn’t lost on me that it is completely ridiculous.

 

So here we are, the time of year that I begin doing mock drafts.  World Juniors has come and gone, the prospects game has come and gone, time to prognosticate where some of these kids will go.  Now, needless to say a TON will change from now until late June.  But I do these, not for the prediction, because the prediction will be way off.  But I like to have a look at what teams need so it makes for an interesting read right before the trade deadline, then again at the end of the regular season, and so on.

 

As I’ve stated a lot the last few years, I believe less and less in “BPA” (best player available) every year.  It’s nearly impossible to make a trade anymore, fewer big names are making it to UFA anymore (this July 1st might be the exception to that rule…but it’s still February), and even if they do…historically it doesn’t go well.  So if you simply sit back and take the BPA every year, chances are you’re building a team with a lot of holes.  Sometimes it goes like the Flames has where it simply falls into place, but most times it’ll go like the Oilers has, or the Blue Jackets has, or the Panthers went for a lot of years where they’re just spinning their wheels.

 

* Division Leader

Standings as of 2/23/16

 

Edmonton Oilers1. Auston Matthews  Zurich  Suisse A

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Anze Kopitar

This would be both an insane level of humiliation for Oilers fans, and an amazing opportunity.  Unfortunately, points percentage wise the Oilers are the worst team in the NHL.  Peter Chiarelli has to and probably would trade down or out of this pick if the Oilers get it.  Could Matthews teamed with McDavid be amazing?  Yep.  But Matthews would be worth a TON to a lot of teams, and while it wouldn’t be a Lindros type return, it might be the biggest return in a trade since.  Would the Coyotes want the home town kid bad enough to part with Oliver Ekman-Larsson?  Some would say they would, but they aren’t a stupid franchise.  No doubt they would throw the moon at the Oilers, but they aren’t giving up their MVP.  I would expect the same out of Columbus, the Rangers, Montreal, and others.  Having said all this, with McDavid back, Klefbom back soon, and Nugent-Hopkins post trade deadline, I can’t see this team staying in the bottom 3 or 4.  Doesn’t mean they can’t win another lottery though, and man that joke isn’t getting old…

Other Options: None

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs2. Patrik Laine  Tappara  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 206  Shot: R

Comparison: Rick Nash

The Leafs worry me.  If they don’t land this top pick, I would be trading back.  And I don’t think this is lost on Leafs management and they do seem more willing to make a move back than most organizations.  Trading back is looked poorly upon by most teams, but if you know how to pick it’s a great move.  It isn’t as if they can’t use the size Laine would bring, but they don’t have much grit in the system, can use more help on the blueline, and above all else they desperately need high end centres.  If this is the scenario, I would trade back to 6 or 7 and take Michael McLeod.  Perhaps you get a 2017 1st, or maybe it’s with a team like Arizona who have two 1st’s.  The Leafs could then package the Rangers and Pens 1st rounders and perhaps end up with 3 top 10-15 picks.  I’m spit balling these ideas, but the one I don’t like is staying at 2 and adding another winger to a team full of wingers.

Other Options: Jesse Puljujarvi, Jakob Chychrun

 

 

Columbus Blue Jackets3. Jesse Puljujarvi  Karpat  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Blake Wheeler

If I don’t like Laine for the Leafs, I HATE Puljujarvi for the Jackets.  In this scenario, which is extremely unlikely to play out because the top 3 picks now are up for the lottery, all 3 teams would be legitimate candidates to trade back/out.  The thing this team needs is a 1st line centre, just like the Leafs.  And just like the Leafs, if they don’t get Auston Matthews, then the next best is Michael McLeod.  So I would trade back if I’m Columbus, yet Jarmo Kekalainen is a “BPA” guy.  Being a “BPA” guy cost Kekalainen a 1st line centre to build around because he was too busy taking every winger he could rather than building up his blueline.  So now if they pick 3rd, they’re taking a winger and failing yet again to address their need.

Other Options: Matthew Tkachuk, Jakob Chychrun

 

 

Buffalo Sabres4. Jakob Chychrun  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 215  Shot: L

Comparison: Rob Blake

Now this would be a pick I could get on board with.  The Sabres have a lot of pieces up front.  Down the middle they’re very set with Eichel, Reinhart, O’Reilly, and Girgensons.  1 of those last 3 can move to the wing if need be.  They do likely want to find Eichel a winger with Evander Kane being such a wildcard, but worry about that some other time.  Mike Harrington from the Buffalo News hasn’t been shy all season talking about how weak this team is on the back end.  They were looking solid, but Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov are gone, Mark Pysyk doesn’t look like he’s much to get excited about, and Zach Bogosian has been a train wreck.  Chychrun with Ristolainen moving forward, that has the makings of a great top pairing.

Other Options: Matthew Tkachuk

 

 

Winnipeg Jets5. Matthew Tkachuk  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrew Ladd

This to me might be the best case for the Jets to move on from Andrew Ladd.  They could go a different route.  Olli Juolevi makes sense for them.  But I personally compare Tkachuk to Ladd.  I don’t know if that’s the best comparison, but it helps make the point that the Jets don’t need to give Ladd too many years on a new deal and regret it in 3 or 4 years.  All this thinking also has nothing to do with the added bonus of papa Keith also being an original Jet and still to this day raves about his time there.

Other Options: Olli Juolevi

 

 

Calgary Flames6. Olli Juolevi  London  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Relatively tough spot for the Flames here.  It isn’t as if they can’t take another D-man.  You can’t have too many D-men, they’re the most valuable commodity in the NHL right now.  But the preference for the Flames I believe would be to land one of the big 3 wingers to put with Bennett, especially Tkachuk.  He’s a Burke kind of guy and make no mistake of Burke’s influence despite Trevliving having the GM title.  Juolevi though, just makes one of the best bluelines in the league even better.

Other Options: Alex Nylander

 

 

Vancouver Canucks7. Mikhail Sergachev  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 206  Shot: L

Comparison: Roman Hamrlik

Next up on my list is Michael McLeod followed by Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alex Nylander.  The Canucks can’t even consider any of those guys.  They HAVE to start stock piling defencemen.  I don’t know if it’s Sergachev, but it has to be D-man.  And FREAKING SPARE ME on how they need to take the BPA and can trade for a D-man.  No you can’t.  Take Sergachev, or Fabbro, or Bean, I don’t really care but just take a D-man and start building that blueline.

Other Options: Dante Fabbro, Jake Bean

 

 

Montreal Canadiens8. Michael McLeod  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Kesler

This scenario would be a no brainer for me.  McLeod would be absolutely perfect for the Habs.  A complete centre with size.  No, he might not ever be that elite 1st line centre every team needs, but there are a few teams who have won Cups without those guys, and they had a lot of guys like McLeod down the middle (the 2011 Bruins are exhibit A).  Despite me having McLeod higher than most in this spot, I still have a tough time believing that McLeod will be available here come draft day.  Scouting services aren’t as high on centres as NHL teams are.  Ryan Johansen was always a head scratcher as to why he was only ranked in the 7-10 range and then on draft day he went 4th overall.  If the Habs can snag McLeod, I’m sure they would be ecstatic.

Other Options: Alexander Nylander, Pierre-Luc Dubois

 

 

Arizona Coyotes9. Dante Fabbro  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Kevin Shattenkirk

Much like the Canucks, they can’t afford to take ANOTHER forward, let alone another winger even though in this scenario Alex Nylander and Pierre-Luc Dubois have fallen to them, at least according to my list.  To me, this is a BDA pick…best DEFENCEMAN available.  They now haven’t taken a D-man in the 1st round since 2011.  Their depth on D in the organization is pretty bad, and a D-man in this draft is pretty much a no brainer for them.  Now of course there is a possibility to address with the Yotes.  As I mentioned earlier, I can’t see them going as far as to offer Oliver Ekman-Larsson for that top pick.  But they have two 1st’s, of course their own is getting higher and higher.  And with Auston Matthews being a centre, Dylan Strome could be part of the package.  If you’re offering that deal to the Oilers, they might have to move Strome elsewhere to make the Oilers bite.  But a top 10 pick coupled with another 1st and maybe a top 4 D-man that a kid like Strome could possibly bring back…that would be tough to turn down.  If the pick belongs to the Leafs or Jackets, the Yotes can kiss the home town kid goodbye.  This is of course assuming they want Matthews, and this hasn’t been a management group too concerned with PR, they just get it right.

Other Options: Jake Bean

 

Ottawa Senators10. Alexander Nylander  Mississuaga  OHL 

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Milan Hejduk

A little worried here that the Sens don’t take wingers with their top pick under Bryan Murray.  They took a couple of wingers late in the 1st round in 2011 (Noesen, Puempel), but never with the top pick.  I think they would in this scenario though.  According to most, Nylander should be long gone by this point.  I think he could be, but not in this scenario.  Having taken Zibanejad, Lazar, and Colin White over the last 5 drafts they have invested a lot in centres, and then from 08-15 they have used their top pick on D-men 5 times (2010 the pick was traded for David Rundblad).  While I’m very low on the idea of taking 1 dimensional wingers high, I do think its the right move in this scenario.

Other Options: Pierre-Luc Dubois

 

 

Colorado Avalanche11. Jake Bean  Calgary  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

The D-men are FLYING off the shelves!  But this organization wouldn’t seriously take ANOTHER winger, would they?!  Dubois is my BPA here, clear cut.  But this team desperately needs to improve the blueline.  Nikita Zadorov, Nicolas Meloche, Chris Bigras, these aren’t answers to their woes.  This hasn’t been as bad of a situation as the Oilers, but it is the reason they haven’t gone from lottery picks to league powerhouse.  2014 was a fluke season.  This season has been better than last as they’re very much in the hunt for a wildcard spot, but they aren’t going anywhere if they make the playoffs.  Build up that blueline, and then this team can start thinking about being a Cup contender.

Other Options: None

 

Carolina Hurricanes12. Clayton Keller  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9.5  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyler Ennis

This team LOVES their college kids, and they are one of the few teams that really is desperate for a skill upgrade on the wings.  So while I’m not near as high on Keller as some are, I think the Canes would fall in love with this idea.  Of course I’m saying this pre a possible Eric Staal deal.  He would command not just a 1st, but also a real good prospect.  Let’s say that the team who trades for him is the NY Islanders.  They could likely get Michael Dal Colle back, who has ripped up the OHL since being traded to Kingston, back to looking like the kid taken 5th overall in 2014.  But that still wouldn’t be enough for the Canes in my mind.  The D which I harped on them for years to rebuild now looks loaded, and even without Eric Staal they still have Elias Lindholm coming into his own this season and Jordan Staal down the middle.

Other Options: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Julien Gauthier

 

 

NJ Devils13. Pierre-Luc Dubois  Cape Breton  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Shane Doan

He’s the clear cut BPA on my board at this point, but again…it isn’t about what I think about the prospects, it’s about what I think the team could or will do.  A lot of people seem to love the Devils blueline depth moving forward, I’m not as high on it though.  But in this scenario, Dubois is probably too good of a prospect to pass up.  A power forward with all the intangibles.  True, he might not be a 40 goal man someday, but he’ll be in that 25-30 range and you’ll be able to use him in any situation.  Pretty tough to turn down taking that kid.

Other Options: Julien Gauthier, Charlie McAvoy

 

 

Minnesota Wild14. Max Jones  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Scott Mellanby

So Gauthier is far and away the BPA here both for me and according to most lists.  But if it shook down this way, I think the Wild would go with Jones for a few reasons.  First and foremost, he’s the hometown kid.  In Minny, maybe more than any other place in the league, they LOVE their own.  But they could also use a lot more bite up front, and that’s Jones.  Gauthier is likely to be the better point producer of the 2, but they have a lot of “those types” on the wing.  Alex Tuch is big but he isn’t that physical.  Jones is that physical.  Of course, while they have some good kids on the blueline, they did dangle Jonas Brodin for Ryan Johansen.  So if they make a move there, perhaps a guy like McAvoy will make sense for them.

Other Options: Julien Gauthier, Charlie McAvoy

 

 

Philadelphia Flyers15. Julien Gauthier  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 225  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

I have zero doubts here who this pick would be if it all were to shake down like this today.  The Flyers love them some QMJHL and Gauthier falling to this pick would seem a little crazy, yet that’s the way it’s played out.  The Flyers have also done an awesome job of stockpiling on the blueline, and I’m still high on them down the middle with Giroux, Couturier, Laughton, and if need be Brayden Schenn.  A big skilled winger like Gauthier would be a great fit, added to the fact that they love the Q and he’s the BPA.

 

Nashville Predators16. Charlie McAvoy  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 208  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Yandle

“But they just dealt Seth Jones from their plethora of D-men”.  Yep, but they have nothing coming on the blueline.  And David Poile has never been shy about taking defencemen with his 1st pick.  So this pick makes a lot more sense to me than it might to others.  However, you can never have enough depth down the middle either and a lot of real good centres are still on the board like Brown, Jost, Kunin and Rubtsov.  If they took a centre, it would likely tell you how high they aren’t on Vlad Kamenev, the captain of Russia’s WJC team this year.  I have always really liked his game though, not to mention Craig Smith is still pretty young, and a 2nd line centre is tough to find on the market, but not impossible.

Other Options: Tyson Jost, Logan Brown

 

 

Detroit Red Wings17. German Rubtsov  Russia U-18  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikko Koivu

Ouch!  They REALLY need to start investing in some D in the 1st round.  But with McAvoy going to Nashville I don’t see any in sight for a while.  Would they trade up?  Not really their style.  And they are one of the few teams who might be able to make a player out of a kid like Sean Day, so maybe it isn’t THAT big of a deal.  But they haven’t taken a D-man in the 1st since 08, and have only taken one before the 5th round since 2011 (last year they took Vili Saarijarvi in the 3rd round).  To me, this is a big issue for the Wings to address, but nobody says anything because it’s Detroit and they can do no wrong (which isn’t far off).  So while this scenario isn’t likely to play out and they will finally add a D-man, it has in this case.  And if this were the case, I have to think they take the centre.  They love their Russians, and tell me Rubtsov doesn’t sound like a player they would crave.  Coupled with Larkin down the middle, they might not fill the void Datsyuk and Zetterberg are about to leave, but they would be pretty formidable.

Other Options: Tyson Jost, Luke Kunin

 

 

Boston Bruins18. Logan Brown  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 222  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Bjugstad

I’d have a tough time believing this team would pass on a centre if one is there for them.  Don’t forget, they have San Jose’s pick too, not to mention what could come in a deal involving Loui Eriksson.  In this scenario though I do think the choice is between Brown and Luke Kunin.  Tyson Jost just doesn’t feel like a Boston kid to me, but then again they did take Joe Colborne in the 1st round when he played in the AJ, so maybe they wouldn’t be turned off by Jost.  But it isn’t just the BCHL for Jost.  He’s the smallest of these 3, and both have a better 2 way game than Jost.  I’ll say Brown and it’s no mystery why.  That size is too good to pass up here, and they’ll have time to develop him as Bergeron and Krejci while entering the back 9 of their careers are far from done.

Other Options: Luke Kunin, Tyson Jost

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs19. Luke Kunin  Wisconsin  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 193  Shot: R

Comparison: Derek Stepan

Formerly the Pens pick that went to the Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade.  This is lottery protected, but as of now of course the Pens are in the playoffs.  They can’t chance Jost either.  My concern with Jost and I believe others concern with Jost will be if he can play centre in the pro’s.  His game kind of suggests he won’t.  And while I don’t think Kunin is going to be a 1st line centre, he’s definitely a centre the Leafs could build around and win with.

Other Options: Tyson Jost

 

 

Tampa Bay Lightning20. Tyson Jost  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Adam Henrique

This is officially a run on centres.  Tampa can use one, because if you haven’t heard, they might lose one this summer (which is a half truth, I don’t see Stamkos as a centre just like Jon Cooper).  Jost also feels like a Lightning player too.  Great wheels, great skill, average size but a little bit of grit.  I really like this pick for T-Bay and at this point Jost would be far and away the BPA.  Most have Jost going top 15, I can’t see him going before some of those other centres.  However if a team just wants a forward and don’t really care if it’s a centre or a winger, while any centre can play the wing, he would be more comfortable making the move than some of those other kids.

Other Options: None

 

 

Boston Bruins21. Will Bitten  Flint  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 167  Shot: R

Comparison: Dave Bolland

Formerly the Sharks pick that went to the Bruins in the Martin Jones trade.  If we learned anything from the Bruins draft last year, it’s that they don’t give a f*** what anyone else thinks.  This team will take who they want, when they want.  This leads me to Bitten who I had 45th, yet I have going 21.  However, while I had him 45th, I wish I had put him higher and he will be higher next update, and others like him as a 1st round pick so it isn’t THAT far fetched.  But above all else he is just simply their kind of kid.  Skill, speed, grit, and they have a bit of a need on the right side.  I have him being a RW, but he does play centre for the shit show that is the Flint Firebirds.  This is a total hunch, but after last year you can’t help but think they’ll make this kind of off the board pick with multiple 1st’s again this year.

Other Options: Kieffer Bellows, Logan Stanley

 

 

Anaheim Ducks22. Rasmus Asplund  Farjestad  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikkael Granlund

If I’m Bob Murray, I want a centre.  That’s really the only need they have moving forward, and it isn’t that pressing of a need.  They did try to fill that hole in the 2nd round last year by taking Julius Nattinen, and then in the 3rd with Brent Gates.  So maybe they have shored it up, but I still see centre as the biggest hole moving forward.  There are other kids like Tage Thompson and Brett Howden who I personally like better than Asplund, but another factor here is that the Ducks LOVE Swedes.  So this pick just makes a ton of sense to me.

Other Options: Tyler Benson, Kieffer Bellows

 

 

NY Islanders23. Logan Stanley  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’7  Wt: 220  Shot: L

Comparison: Brooks Orpik

This is a tough organization to figure out what they’ll do on draft day.  They love their wingers, they seem to hate taking D-men high and even if they do it doesn’t mean they like the kid.  They are very dysfunctional and yet it seems to work for them.  I’ll say they take Stanley, or at least some D-man here because taking ANOTHER forward just seems outlandish…which probably means they’ll take a forward.  Tage Thompson for example wouldn’t shock me.  Very big, very raw, possible centre whose dad is the coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers…the AHL affiliate of the Islanders.

Other Options: Libor Hajek, Tage Thompson

 

 

Arizona Coyotes24. Libor Hajek  Saskatoon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Dan Hamhuis

Formerly the Rangers pick that goes to the Coyotes as part of the Keith Yandle trade.  They aren’t done needing D-men, so while Kieffer Bellows continues to fall, how many damn wingers can they take?  Merkley, Perlini, Fischer, Dvorak are all coming while Domi, Duclair and Rieder are already on the big club.  So while Hajek is a bit of a reach here, I feel like they need to and will be really aggressive at the draft when it comes to re-stocking the cupboards on defence.

Other Options: Kieffer Bellows, Dillon Dube

 

 

St. Louis Blues25. Riley Tufte  Blaine  USHSW

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Reimsdyk

Kieffer Bellows remains undrafted.  But I had to look and I just couldn’t see the Blues going with Bellows.  The Blues have never been shy about taking high school kids.  They took 3 in a 2 year span (12 and 13), and not late either.  2nd and 3rd rounders.  They have been fans of the USHL in past drafts too.  Then you have the fact that Tufte has that incredible size and it would be tough to imagine the Blues passing on this kid.

Other Options: Kieffer Bellows, Brett Howden

 

 

Chicago Blackhawks26. Kieffer Bellows  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Brian Bellows

He’s fallen far enough.  The kid Bob McKenzie has 18th on the TSN list, Craig Button has him 14th.  The Hawks big need is on defence.  But they seem as though they have found a formula that is working.  They have their top 3 D-men locked down and those 3 are still in their prime.  I believe they feel they can develop 2nd-7th rounders on D, but it is more vital with the cap problems to get quality forwards, specifically wingers.  This way, when they have to move on from an Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Brandon Saad, etc, they have a kid who can step in and put up numbers.  Kieffer Bellows could be that guy down the road.  If they took him this season, he’s ready to step in once perhaps an Artemi Panarin wants too much coin and they end up trading him.

Other Options: Dillon Dube, Pascal Laberge

 

 

Carolina Hurricanes*27. Pascal Laberge  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 162  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Strome

Formerly the Kings pick that goes to the Hurricanes as part of the Andrej Sekera trade.  This draft would quickly shore up that problem they have with skill on the wings if they walked away from day 1 in Buffalo with Keller and now Laberge.  Lots of different options for the Canes in this spot, I took Laberge over Dillon Dube simply because they’ve leaned a little more Q than the dub in recent years, but they haven’t gone heavy with either.  They love the OHL, but there isn’t an OHL guy in sight…at least for me.

Other Options: Dillon Dube, Tage Thompson

 

 

Florida Panthers*28. Brett Howden  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 193  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

Believe it or not, this has nothing to do with his brother being in the organization, and everything to do with their type and what has been winning in Miami.  Size, grit, speed.  Add to that, the depth at centre in the organization isn’t great.  Obviously their top 2 guys are Barkov and Bjugstad, they’re good.  But Dave Bolland has been an atrocious signing, and they’ll need a guy to step into that 3rd line spot down the line.  They have a few possibilities, but far from a sure thing.  Howden, for me at least, would be a sure thing as a 3rd line centre.

Other Options: Tage Thompson, Dillon Dube

 

 

Dallas Stars*29. Markus Niemelainen  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mattias Ekholm

I would be shocked if the Stars still have this pick by this time next week.  Dan Hamhuis would look great in a Stars uniform.  But if they end up keeping this pick, what do you get the team that has everything?  I don’t love the Stars team, but I have trouble finding holes.  I guess the defence could still use work, even though Klingberg is quickly becoming a stud, and then Esa Lindell and Julius Honka aren’t far away.  They love their Fins as you can see, so why not Niemelainen who is pretty raw at this point but they can take a lot of time with.  Dillon Dube is pretty clear cut as the BPA by now though, probably the last of that top 23/24 group that Bob McKenzie sees a drop off after.  I probably go need more than most organizations do, but the Stars have invested a ton of high picks in wingers under Jim Nill.

Other Options: Dillon Dube, Tyler Benson

 

 

Washington Capitals*30. Dillon Dube  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 180  Shot: L

Comparison: Brendan Gallagher

 Unless his play really drops off now that Nick Merkley is done for the season, I can’t see Dube falling this far in the draft.  But, much weirder things have happened.  Doubt this pick is the Caps this time next week, but it is as of writing this.  I love this kids game.  In your face, gritty, greasy, whatever you want to call it.  And he can score.  But he has the size issue obviously.  Ironic too that this is exactly where Merkley went last year after most had him ranked much higher.  I talked about Dallas having everything.  Well if they have everything, what does that say for the Caps?  Imagine had they been smart enough to take Dylan Larkin over Jakub Vrana like they should have in 2014.  Or had they not been so stupid as to deal Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat at the 2013 trade deadline.  This team could be so loaded at this point they would be a Cup contender without Alex Ovechkin.  This team has missed on one 1st round pick since 2005, and that was all the way back with Anton Gustafsson in 08.

Other Options: Tyler Benson, Tage Thompson

 

Follow me on Twitter @Tj_soups

Flip Off

irPitchers and catchers have reported!  Spring training is basically now underway and we are now under 6 weeks away from final 4 weekend, MLB season getting underway, followed by the Stanley Cup playoffs, followed by the NBA playoffs, followed by the NFL draft.  I always debate which is better, October or April?  Both win, but the fact that snow is melting rather than snow is coming makes April the winner in my mind.

 

So, Jose Bautista spouted off…doubt you heard anything about that yesterday.

 

I completely understand his side of this story.  He hasn’t been paid what he’s been worth through this entire contract.  The Jays took a chance on him that his 2010 season wasn’t a fluke and the organization has been greatly rewarded for doing that.  He’s been worthy of 22 million a year and he’s only been making 14 million a year this entire time.  So he feels as if the organization owes him something.  But they don’t.  And to this point, I’m not a Mark Shapiro or a Ross Atkins fan.  But this isn’t their fault that Bautista didn’t bet on himself in 2011, it’s his.

 

And that’s what this boils down to for him.  He thinks “they owe me”.  They don’t owe him shit.  You didn’t bet on yourself in 2011, deal with it, or walk to a team that will give you that.

 

I also find it laughable that he grandstands the way he did.  “It’s not a negotiation”  Really?  Then why are you negotiating in the press?  I’m sure it was just a coincidence too that he wore a t-shirt that said “Home is Toronto”.  I’m sure that just happens to be his typical first day in Dunedin apparel.

 

If you aren’t a moron, it’s pretty clear what he’s trying to do here.  He’s looking to hold the organization hostage.  He thinks if he looks like the victim here that the fans, who already don’t like the new regime, will help force the organization’s hand here and they’ll cave to Bautista’s demands.

 

If I was running the team, this would piss me off and I would call his bluff.  I wouldn’t accept his terms which sound like it’s in the neighbourhood of 20×5.  No thanks.  You’re 36 when that starts, this ball club as good as it was last season has holes all over, not a chance.  If he wants to talk about a 2 or 3 year deal, I would listen.  Not 5, unless he only wants 10-15 million a year, which he doesn’t.

 

The downside for the organization is that if they are in the hunt come the trade deadline, they aren’t going to be able to trade him unless Bautista is so frustrated with the lack of a deal that he ok’s a trade.  Because the Jays can’t trade him without his permission, he has 10 and 5 rights (10 years in MLB, 5 with the same team for those who don’t know what that is).  I don’t think you can worry about that if you’re the Jays.  They can still qualify him next offseason and ensure they still get a 1st round pick for him, so it isn’t as if they would lose him for nothing.  If the season is a write off by the deadline and they don’t plan on doing a deal, you would think he would agree to move on.

 

Most importantly in all of this, is this guy just put himself ahead of the team by taking this all public.  No team in any sport needs a distraction, and he just became one.  And it amazes me that the initial reaction from some of the stuff coming out of Toronto that I heard and read, none of it was taking Bautista to task for this.  Of course for them, they’re tickled pink about a story to tell, so they love him for making their jobs easier.  You know how the media is objective and all…

 

But don’t be fooled by any of this.  Bautista knows EXACTLY what he’s doing here, and while it’s easy for me to say no to that from my living room without any negative fan and media backlash, Mark Shaprio doesn’t strike me as a guy who cares much about that either.  You can’t as a GM (or in his case a president) in any sport.  You have to do what’s best for your team, not what the fans and media want.  What’s best for a team that has a budget (a very large budget, but still a budget) isn’t paying what will highly likely be a declining player 20+ million a year.

 

Now, maybe Bautista is still mashing at 40 and this is a huge mistake.  It’s possible.  But it’s not probable.  Move on.  Short term pain for long term gain.  This lineup will still be high end without him, and that money can be used to really bolster both the staff and the bullpen.  None of the reasons for keeping this guy have anything to do with actual baseball.  It’s all “fan backlash, media backlash, etc.”  If he doesn’t want to negotiate and puts himself ahead of the team like he did yesterday, let him walk.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

 

2016 NHL Draft: Top 50 Prospects

0118-draft16Yes!  Something I’ve intended to do for years now in addition to doing my mock draft I finally have the time to do, thank you HORRENDOUS oil prices!

 

This list will be rough compared to what I’ll come up with by late June.  I compile information, I don’t get to watch a lot of these kids play so I look around, ask around, do whatever I can to find out how these kids play, and TRY to find out their weaknesses because one thing about when talking about draft prospects is that unless they have attitude issues, nobody will ever point out a flaw.  “His skating isn’t great but it is good enough”.  No, just say the kid doesn’t skate good.  “He’s not the most physical player…”  So he’s soft?  Just say it!  It is likely better for the kid anyway.  If you hear something negative about you and DON’T get pissed off and try to prove that person wrong, who would then still want that kid on their team?

 

So if a kid is considered somewhat soft, I’m not a fan.  If a kid is considered an average skater I’m going to knock him down.  I’m a “sizest”, and much to a lot of fans and media’s dismay, a team full of small players never wins anything.  You can afford to have 3 or 4 small guys on the roster, but that’s about it.  If you want rankings that don’t take size and how a game will translate in the NHL into consideration, check out Corey Pronman of ESPN.  That’s not a knock on his work, but I just see things vastly different from him.

 

This is where someone will point out the exception to the rule.  I love how sports is the only walk of life where people will point out the exception to the rule as if that wins an argument.  Anyway, the exception to that rule is the 08 Detroit Red Wings.  That was a small team.

 

Again though, that is the exception.  The rule is that you win with speed, grit and size.  You win with high end centres and high end defencemen.  Goaltenders are an enormous crap shoot, but I’m not anti goaltenders being taken high (last year for example I was very high on Ilya Samsonov).

 

Last year when doing this list I talked a lot about tiering the players and that to me it was more important to have tiers than what number the players were ranked.  After a few picks, there won’t be much separating players and that’s when it should boil down to need over BPA…because there will likely be hot debates over who is the BPA past pick 4 or 5.  I didn’t do tiering for this initial list, but I will get that done in the next few weeks and I will be updating this list as often as possible.

 

635873478224268717-AP-Finland-Ice-Hockey1. Auston Matthews  Zurich  Suisse A

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Anze Kopitar

What I love about this kid is he is this high in the rankings without being flashy.  It’s not as though he doesn’t have boat loads of skill, but it isn’t what he’s about.  He’s about being a complete centre, which…let’s be honest.  This last generation of U.S. born players haven’t been overly concerned with playing a complete game.  It’s odd, because when I was growing up they were.  Look at the 96 USA World Cup team, complete players all over the roster.  It seems lately there has been maybe too much emphasis on skating ability, because it is rare that you find a high end American prospect who isn’t a GREAT skater.  This kid is so different though.  Elite vision, shot, IQ, solid 2 way game which is rare for an 18 year old, he’s just going to be an elite number 1 centre and will be a piece not only the team who drafts him will be desperate for, but team USA in international tournaments have been desperate for.

 

jakob_chychrun_sarnia_sting_32. Jakob Chychrun  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 215  Shot: L

Comparison: Rob Blake

No, this isn’t vastly outdated.  I’m still THIS high on the kid despite underwhelming the scouts this season.  2 reasons: D-men are MUCH more valuable than wingers, and this D-man has all the tools to be elite.  6’2, 215, Craig Button calls him the best skater in the draft, high IQ, can run a PP, has a big shot, has a bit of a mean streak, there is nothing this kid doesn’t bring to the table.  Shitty year?  From what was expected yes, and others have had better years than expected.  But is he actually playing bad?  Not from anything I’ve seen or heard.  Might seem like I’m putting him here for attention rather than belief, I’m not.  It’s a combination of being this high on the kid and how much more vital a top D-man is to a team than a big winger.  And Juolevi might be close in most rankings, if not surpassed.  Chychrun has the tools to do it all in every situation.  Juolevi has limitations.

 

etupate3112SP_nu3. Patrik Laine  Tappara  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 206  Shot: R

Comparison: Rick Nash

Everyone is in love with him and Puljujarvi, but it is a must you keep in mind that teams simply do not win with these wingers.  Everyone always falls in love with them.  Rick Nash, Ilya Kovalchuk, Thomas Vanek, the myth is that these players can do it all and will be unstoppable.  The fact is that they are so physically gifted that they’ve never had to think the game.  And if they could think the game at a high level, they would be centre’s, not wingers.  It doesn’t mean they can’t learn to think it, but that is a talent too.  I hope they both have a 2 way game like Marian Hossa, but most wingers of this ilk never become more defensively then they have to be.  Having said all this, both guys have all the tools and I really don’t know how you put one ahead of the other.  What does it for me is that Laine is a bit more physical.  He’s probably not going to be as physical as Nash, but everything else in his game really reminds me of Nash.

 

Jesse%20Puljujärvi4. Jesse Puljujarvi  Karpat  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Blake Wheeler

Curse you Craig Button for stealing my comparison!!!  Someone can try to say that I just copied what Button said, but I actually did have Wheeler as my comparison for Puljujarvi a few weeks back when I first started putting this together.  Actually gives me a little more confidence that I actually know what I’m talking about…somewhat.  Anyway, like Laine, Puljujarvi is a stud prospect whom my only concern is being able to think and process the game, because he has all the tools imaginable just like Laine.

 

635811302260340869-GTY-4900609205. Matthew Tkachuk  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrew Ladd

He’s more of a playmaker than the old man was, and he’s a little smaller than the old man was, but that’s about it.  The game is pretty damn similar.  Unlike Laine and Puljujarvi, he’s going to do it with grit and toughness just as much as skill.  He’s the type of winger who is the exception to my rule, because this type is nearly impossible to find.  In the 90’s, every team had 1 or 2 guys like this.  Today, I’m not sure there are 3 guys like that in the league.

 

Olli+Juolevi+NAPsrAuj9rcm6. Olli Juolevi  London  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

He’s closing the gap on Chychrun for most people.  For me however, I still like the all world guy better, and the offensive numbers are very similar.  Still, should Juolevi end up near the level of Ekman-Larsson…whoever picks him won’t be complaining!  Smooth skater, great breakout pass, great stick defensively and takes great angles.  Offensively he’s just so smooth.  Walks the line as good as any 18 year old you’ll see, and his passing ability is elite.

 

Apr18_OHLplayer7. Michael McLeod  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Kesler

I don’t get this.  I don’t get how a kid with this size, speed, RH shot, just everything you want in an elite 2nd line centre finds himself behind Alex Nylander in every ranking.  It’s insane to me.  NHL teams understand how vital an elite 2nd line centre is, for some reason scouts don’t.  Actually, NHL teams miss on this too.  I was sky high on Dylan Larkin entering the 2014 draft, and Nashville, Arizona, and Washington all really needed him, and they all passed in favour of soft or undersized wingers.  Also think about this: if McLeod fails in his first few seasons, he’ll still have trade value.  If a kid like Nylander fails, like Jonathan Drouin or Nail Yakupov have failed to this point, they have no real trade value.  I just don’t get it, seems as though everyone gets caught up in pure skill.

 

0f8f40bd-3c2e-4760-8b55-3856be63946e_JDX-NO-RATIO_WEB8. Pierre-Luc Dubois  Cape Breton  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Shane Doan

This is a power forward draft, no doubt about that and Dubois isn’t far off guys like Laine, Puljujarvi or Tkachuk.  Bob McKenzie said it too, Dubois plays a pro style game.  For me, that’s huge.  That means he’s willing to get his nose dirty and go to the tough area’s on the ice.  Really has no holes in his game, just doesn’t have a skill that he possess at an elite level.  Then again, that might be his competitiveness.

 

Barrie+Colts+v+Mississauga+Steelheads+_3jDcRCjYQRl9. Alexander Nylander  Mississuaga  OHL 

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Milan Hejduk

Nylander is a finishing piece.  The type of player that you go get once your team is nearly rebuilt.  They’re easy to find around the league.  And they are the least valuable type of player in the league too, so if you need to pull off a trade you’re already going to have trouble finding value for an undersized, perimeter winger.  So I don’t like taking these guys in the first round, let alone the top 10.  But I have him at 9 for now because everyone else seems to be gushing over him, so I don’t know why I would be right and everyone else so wrong.  But 9 is still much lower than most.  We aren’t talking about him having Patrick Kane type talent.  Heck, even a kid like Johnny Gaudreau who was getting all this love earlier in the season is now being exposed.  He’s getting his at home when Hartley finds him soft matchups, but he’s a much different player on the road when the Flames can’t get him away from tough assignments.  In football if you don’t have guys who can block, a good QB, and the right guy drawing up and calling the plays, it doesn’t matter how good your WR is, he won’t have an impact.  That’s this type of winger.  If he’s without guys who can do the heavy lifting, his impact is going to be very limited.  Anyway I’ve rambled on far too long about this.  And I don’t HATE Nyalnder at all, an extremely talented kid who can put up a lot of points in the NHL.  But I wouldn’t take him top 10-15 in this draft unless you have a situation similar to the Jets in 2014 when they took a similar guy in Nik Ehlers.  They were pretty loaded everywhere and had grit and size, so that’s where it made sense.

 

Mikhail+Sergachev+CeCK7oxNcXdm10. Mikhail Sergachev  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 206  Shot: L

Comparison: Roman Hamrlik

I can’t help but wonder if the only reason he isn’t right there with Chychrun and Juolevi is because he’s Russian.  It would be logical, there is a higher bust rate with Russian players than any other nationality.  Another kid in this draft is Dante Fabbro, and it’s similar with him in that you wonder if he’s not just as good as the top 2 D-men, but scouts are just a little more nervous.  With Fabbro though, it’s about the league he plays in.  Sergachev is doing it in the OHL.

 

julien-gauthier-600x33811. Julien Gauthier  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 225  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

Upside is great, but the motor is the big question with this kid.  I still can’t help but think how valuable he’s going to be if he puts it together.  For this comparison, unlike with Puljujarvi, I did copy what Craig Button said.  The comparison to Neal is just spot on.  He won’t put guys on their ass very often, but he is great down low and on the wall, has real good wheels and an awesome shot.

 

orig-mediaitemid19992-526912. Dante Fabbro  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Kevin Shattenkirk

So I love everything I’m reading on Fabbro.  Everything.  But he plays in the BCHL.  Remember how high everyone got on Joe Colborne when he played in Camrose?  Or Dylan Olsen?  Players can work going from Jr.A, but you need to see them against better competition first.  So they really are a crap shoot.  But I still have him ahead of WHL riser Jake Bean because Fabbro seems to have a more complete game.  Nobody has anything negative to say about this kid, so you wonder if scouts are moving him up the rankings because they’re saying “he’s this good despite the league he’s in”.  But it is easy to have supreme confidence when playing inferior talent.

 

bean_jake213. Jake Bean  Calgary  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

Right now he’s one of the fast riser’s in this draft.  But something I’m not thrilled with is Bean’s defensive game.  He’s putting up great numbers, but there is just a lot of work to be done.  And I’ve been watching a guy in Edmonton for 4 seasons now who was highly touted, awesome offensively and supposed to figure out the defensive end of the ice.  It never happened, and while D play can be learned, the player has to be willing to learn it.  If I were interested in Bean, the interview process would be huge for me.  I want to know how intelligent this kid is, and what kind of passion he has for the game.  If both those things check out, then he’s got massive potential.  If they don’t, he could be another Justin Schultz.

 

Hamilton+Bulldogs+v+London+Knights+Lhmt7IUo1Bhl14. Max Jones  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Scott Mellanby

Much like with the other power forwards, I love how Jones game SHOULD translate.  Also, it has to be tough for him in London playing behind so many guys like Marner, Tkachuk, Dvorak, etc.  He plays an old school power forward game, he has a nasty streak.  Combine that with the way he can skate and shoot, I have to think he’ll be capable down the line of being a complimentary top 6 player.  Not a driver of a line, but a perfect guy to pair with your skilled players.

 

McAvoy U1715. Charlie McAvoy  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 208  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Yandle

Full disclosure, I get sick of doing write up’s on a lot of the D-men who come out of the USHL.  They are all SO similar.  Smooth skating, puck movers who have big questions about playing in traffic and playing with the type of toughness it takes to play in the NHL.  Now don’t get me wrong, we see a LOT of Canadian D-men like this, European D-men like this, but the USHL produces a ton of the same type of D-man.  McAvoy is one of these guys.  Does a great job quarterbacking the PP, does a nice job of jumping in the play when the time is right, and while he’s not physical he takes good angles and has a good stick.

 

Logan Brown16. Logan Brown  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 222  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Bjugstad

I have Brown higher than most and obviously you can see why.  You can’t teach 6’6, and you can’t find it very easily too.  So while a kid like Kieffer Bellows might end up being a decent player and has far less of a bust factor than Brown, a guy like Bellows can be found elsewhere.  Brown, it’s pretty difficult to find that guy.  First 2 steps is concerning, but high end speed is good and we are seeing a lot more guys improve their skating the last 6 or 7 years after they’ve been drafted.  Leon Draisaitl for example came to the Oilers this season with his skating drastically improved.

 

Jost3-CM17. Tyson Jost  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Adam Henrique

Like his teammate Dante Fabbro, it is very tough to judge Jost based on the league he plays in.  McKenzie has Jost ahead of Fabbro, I basically have them flipped.  I don’t think Jost will be a centre in the NHL (could easily be wrong though), and what I read on Fabbro just intrigues me more than Jost does.  But having said this, Jost is obliterating the BCHL with 91 points in just 43 games as of writing this.  And it isn’t as if nobody has ever come out of tier 2 junior, plenty of kids do.  But any kid is going to take a bit of a hit playing in a weaker league.

 

Rubtsov18. German Rubtsov  Russia U-18  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikko Koivu

A true 2 way centre who can be a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th line centre on a team so whoever picks him at worse is likely getting an NHL player.  But he definitely is expected to be a 2nd line centre who a team will be able to use in any situation.  Good size, speed, vision, shot, IQ, he just does everything very well.  If he can take his offensive game to another level, this kid could develop into a 1st line centre someday.

 

Kunin19. Luke Kunin  Wisconsin  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 193  Shot: R

Comparison: Derek Stepan

Really a very similar player to Rubtsov, I give the edge to the Russian because of the size, but it’s not as though Kunin is that small.  Plays a very smart game.   I don’t know if I like a comparison better than Kunin to Stepan and while I did come up with that, I’m sure I can’t be the only one making this comparison.  Great speed, great shot, and a great motor (I’m using motor now instead of compete level, easier to type).  He’ll be one of the safer picks in this draft.

 

Keller NTDP320. Clayton Keller  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9.5  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyler Ennis

Corey Pronman has Keller 4th on his list.  A tad different than my take on him.  If it’s a perfect situation, then it makes sense to draft him.  But rarely does a team ever have a need for a 5’9, sub 170 pound centre.  Also, while other area’s of the game can be taught, I think some scouts get caught up in that and simply assume the player will learn, but he has to be willing to do it.  I compare him to Tyler Ennis, and Ennis is a guy who has had some success in the league.  But for the most part his impact has been minimal, and the scouting report is very similar, with Ennis doing what he did in a tougher league.  Take a kid like Kunin.  I’m the only one with Kunin ahead of Keller.  But Kunin’s game suits the NHL better than Keller’s does.  Keller to me will not play the middle in the pro’s, so I do like that he is playing a 200 foot game now, that’ll help him down the road.  But I don’t hide from the fact I’m a bit of a sizest and even if a kid like Keller pans out, a team full of Keller’s never works.

 

Bellows21. Kieffer Bellows  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Brian Bellows

I’m sorry if you want a different comparison, but he does, he plays like his old man.  He’s a pure sniper.  Great shot, ability to get to where he has to score whether that’s the front of the net or find the dead/open ice in the slot.  You aren’t getting a complete player with Bellows, but he is a kid who will fill the net if he has the right centre feeding him the puck.

 

Tyler-Benson22. Tyler Benson  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Max Pacioretty

I realize he’s been hurt most of this season, but I have trouble punishing a kid for 1 injury plagued season.  I still like him better than some of the kids I have in front of him, but I can’t kid myself and not pretend the injuries don’t decrease his value.  But I got to this point and this is the point where the draft rankings get messy for everyone.  So I tend to favour upside when it gets to this point because nobody knows what they’re getting.  The kid is going to be a sniper.  Has a bit of an awkward stride, but he can score.  Knowing the vast majority of you reading this are from the Edmonton-Lloyd area, you likely know how amazing Benson was in his Bantam draft season and was the clear cut number 1 choice for the Vancouver Giants.

 

Stanley23. Logan Stanley  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’7  Wt: 220  Shot: L

Comparison: Brooks Orpik

He’s a classic stay at home D-man, a dying breed.  But any coach will take a guy who can put out against the other teams top line and eat 25 minutes a night.  But is Stanley going to be that guy, Orpik was that kind of guy for a lot of years. Or, will he just be an Eric Gryba type?  He’s more mobile than Gryba, but we’ll see.  He does show some flashes offensively, but chances are he’s just a stay at home guy.  But I’m a guy who still believes you need 1 or 2 D-men like this and being so unique, worst case scenario is he’ll get a lot of chances to make it.

 

Dube24. Dillon Dube  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 180  Shot: L

Comparison: Brendan Gallagher

He’s small but this kid has bite in his game.  He’s been able to shine this season for the top ranked team and defending WHL champs, going at over a point per game pace.  Dube really shows no fear out on the ice and is willing to play a very greasy game.  You hate to play against him, but you love him on your team.

 

2015-02-24-01-15-32-Tremblay2_détourée25. Pascal Laberge  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 162  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Strome

I’m a big fan of Dubois, Laberge was the MVP of the prospects game.  He showed off how skilled he is in that game, and while it’s just 1 game it’s a big game.  Your going against the best prospects in the CHL, it’s a big stage, and he showed up.  Was the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL draft, and had a tough start to his Q career last season and was dealt to Victoriaville.  But this season he’s starting to show why he was that pick and while I have him at 25, I could see him continuing to ascend.  He’s really slick, the question will be whether or not he’s willing to get his nose dirty and can do it in traffic.

 

Tage Thompson26. Tage Thompson  Connecticut  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Nik Antropov

Back to back total projects here.  He’s a shoot first guy, so he might be better suited for the wing.  Tough for a guy like me who believes in size to have him behind kids like Laberge and Dube, but they play in the CHL.  Thompson is doing it at UCONN, big difference.  But 2 things have shot Thompson up some boards this year.  He’s grown 3 inches in the last year, and back in the fall he recorded a hat trick while playing Boston University, not exactly weak competition.  He’s a shoot first kid, and a lot of people rave about his shot.  But he’s still a big project.  Is he Hugh Jessiman?  Or is he Blake Wheeler?  People always remember the former, but they forget the latter was a MAJOR project when picked by the Coyotes 5th overall in 04.  It is so tough to find a good comparison for Thompson because he’s so far from being developed.  I settled on Antropov, but again he’s a LONG way from being that guy.

 

rtufte27. Riley Tufte  Blaine  USHSW

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Reimsdyk

Damian Cox suggested in one write up he was the next Nick Bjugstad, in another talked about how great his skating is.  Sportsnet REALLY needs to stop trying to make him their draft guru, because he simply isn’t.  I want to know why Tufte didn’t want to play in the USHL.  Left Fargo after 12 games, and that’s a red flag.  The competition he is now playing against is also a big red flag.  He doesn’t play anything physical.  He’s a boom or bust guy.  Just like Thompson, is he Hugh Jessiman, or is he Blake Wheeler?  But there is no denying his domination of the Minnesota high school ranks.  If a team has a stocked cupboard, they might be willing to take a shot on him.  I can’t help but question his toughness though.  It’s fine if he doesn’t want to throw a hit, but he better be willing to at least use his size and go to the dirty area’s.

 

Libor Hajek28. Libor Hajek  Saskatoon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Dan Hamhuis

I like this kids game.  Has good wheels and is very gritty.  Point totals have really dropped off.  Had 13 points in the first 18 games, just 7 points in his last 36 games.  But when you see him play you can see the talent is there to do it at both ends of the ice.  Still, even if he never develops offensive consistency, he’ll be a miserable guy to play against.

 

Kale Clague29. Kale Clague  Brandon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Matt Niskanen

It’s ironic that the top 3 kids who going into the highly touted 2013 WHL Bantam draft would be eligible for this 2016 draft (Nolan Patrick of course isn’t up until next season), ironic that those 3 are all in the same boat.  Fell down the rankings this season, yet all 3 could still easily be 1st rounders.  Might just be being bias for the hometown kid, but I believe Clague is hurt by the team he plays for, Provorov in particular.  It takes away a lot of opportunity he would have to really develop.  He doesn’t have the same chance to develop like a Jake Bean has in Calgary.  Having said that, he didn’t have a good prospects game and hasn’t had the season most expected of him to this point.  He’ll have his chance to jump back into maybe the top 20 with a big playoff run.  He shines there, all will be forgiven.

 

Howden-Preseason-Sep830. Brett Howden  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 193  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

This is the type of kid any team would love.  And his scouting report really reminds me of Ryan O’Reilly.  Honest player, gritty as can be, will do anything to win.  He reaches his potential and he’s wearing a “C” some day in the show.  It was tough for me to have him behind some of the kids I have him behind, but the fact is the heart and soul guys are no sure thing either.  Perfect example right now is Anton Lander in Edmonton.  He’s a heart and soul guy, wore a “C” at every level, he’s simply not good enough.  Howden is a better skater than both of those guys though and he’s a pretty safe bet to be at least a bottom 6 centre, and a kid all Cup contenders need.

 

31. Rasmus Asplund  Farjestad  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikkael Granlund

 

32. Nathan Bastian  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 208  Shot: R

Comparison: Matt Beleskey

Is it because of playing with McLeod and Nylander that he’s improved so much, or is it just coincidence?  Tough not to love his game.  Very physical, does all the little things you want a player to do.

 

33. Taylor Raddysh  Erie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Troy Brouwer

Having a great year, has nice size, has a well rounded game, but his skating is a question mark and will likely keep him out of the 1st round.

 

34. Markus Niemelainen  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mattias Ekholm

Plays an extremely safe game however.  I could see him moving into the 1st round because he’s a safe pick with massive upside.

 

35. Alex DeBrincat  Erie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 163  Shot: R

Comparison: Mats Zuccarello

Obviously the comparison comes from the size, but also because both players play with some bite.  The question for me is whether or not DeBrincat has, not the speed, but the kind of speed he’ll need to overcome his lack of size.

 

36. Carter Hart  Everett  WHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 177  Glove: L

Comparison: Jarolsav Halak

Only thing holding this kid back from being a top 10 pick…yes, top 10, is his size.  If he had another inch and a half of height, he’d be that elite goaltending prospect this country has been waiting for (mind you at the junior level, he’s still likely on Team Canada the next 2 years at the WJC).

 

37. Sam Steel  Regina  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Riberio

One of the best playmakers in the draft, putting up a point per game, yet some scouts have soured on him.  For me it’s more of an issue of his skating being good enough to overcome his size which he obviously isn’t tiny, but not at all big.

 

38. Lucas Johansen  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Anton Stralman

The Rockets have a BIT of a history of developing D-men, and Ryan’s little brother could be the next in that line.

 

39. Sean Day  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 230  Shot: L

Comparison: Jay Bouwmeester

Wasn’t going to do big write up’s on guys past number 30, but I have to touch on Day.  I still have him higher than most, because for me at this point, he’s more than well worth the risk.  We’re talking about kids at this point who likely aren’t going to make the league anyway.  I would love to see Day go to a team like Detroit, Chicago, LA, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa, St.Louis, some team that has a great track record of taking their time with their kids.  I do really wonder, and I’m sure others do too, whether or not Day really loves hockey, because this kid has a ridiculous skill set.  And his body language most nights is that he is disinterested.  Top 3, if not the top skater in this draft, great size, he’s pretty solid in his own zone, it’s offensively where he leaves people scratching their heads.  Is it passion?  Is it the IQ?  His interview process is going to be vital, more so than any other kid eligible for this draft.

 

40. Filip Gustavsson  Lulea  SWE-J20

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 184  Glove: L

Comparison: Robin Lehner

 

41. Vitalli Abramov  Gatineau  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

 

42. Chad Krys  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Leddy

 

43. Samuel Girard  Shawinigan  QMJHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Torrey Krug

Girard is a 1st rounder for a lot of the scouting services.  I wonder if it’s because of the slight success (no pun intended) of Sami Vatanen or Torrey Krug or Jared Spurgeon.  For every 5’9 D-man who has been successful, I can show you 47 who haven’t been able to last in the league.

 

44. Carl Grundstrom  Modo  SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Patric Hornqvist

 

45. Will Bitten  Flint  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 167  Shot: R

Comparison: Dave Bolland

I kind of regret not having Bitten higher this time around, but then I come back to the reality that he’s really going to have to fill out to play the feisty game he plays in the pro’s.  Still, a lot of talent and an extremely high motor.

 

46. Tim Gettinger  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Daze

I might kick myself for not putting Gettinger higher.  Not only 6’6, but he can fly.  A bit of a disappointing season, but it’s 1 season.  Still an extremely intriguing prospect, wouldn’t be shocked to see him picked on day 1 come June.

 

47. Jordan Kyrou  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 175  Shot: R

Comparison: Matt Read

 

48. Evan Fitzpatrick  Sherbrooke  QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 206  Glove: L

Comparison: Michael Hutchinson

 

49. Trent Frederic  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 203  Shot: L

Comparison: Zemgus Girgensons

 

50. Dennis Cholowski  Chilliwack  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Gorges

 

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Pretty Great

50-manning-superbo_3569992bIt is such a letdown for a sports fan the day after the Super Bowl.  February is maybe the 2nd or 3rd worst sports month on the calendar, right up there with July and August.  And let’s be honest, those months most of us are golfing or at the lake so it doesn’t really matter.  February…gross.  Good news though is at least the economy is doing good….

 

Peyton Manning is really the first legendary career that I’ve watched start to finish in the NFL.  I started watching the NFL in 1997, Manning was of course the 1st overall pick of the 98 draft.  I remember where I was the day he was drafted.  West Edmonton Mall, then the Oilers played the Leafs that night in the NHL regular season finale, got to meet Ron Low after the game.

 

Of course going into that draft it was heavily debated, Manning or Ryan Leaf?  I watched Manning a lot that last year at Tennessee, really liked him.  I couldn’t stand Ryan Leaf, and I didn’t really know why.  Washington State was really good that year (went to the Rose Bowl), and he had an elite arm.  There was just something about Leaf that I didn’t like.  I think I liked the right guy.

 

Optically, that was a terrible game.  I actually pegged it while writing in my preview (for once).  If the Broncos were going to win, it was going to be ugly.  For those who try to argue that, I’m sure even the Broncos would disagree.  That’s how they want to play.  One of the toughest things in sports is to get your athletes with their massive ego’s to buy into playing a boring, disgusting to watch style of play.  But if they buy in, it works.  So the Broncos bought in and it worked.  The New Jersey Devils used to buy into that, and it worked.  The 01-04 Patriots bought in, and it worked.  All season people believed the Broncos were doing it all on smoke and mirrors because there was nothing pretty about how they were getting it done.

 

You’ll never get detractors to admit something else.  Most of us are dudes, and dudes have ego’s, and have trouble admitting if or when we’re wrong.  So the people who hate Peyton Manning will point to him doing nothing to win that game yesterday.  It’s fair, Manning was just a game manager.  But those people then have to realize that while Manning was that, Tom Brady was just that for the Patriots when they won 3 in 4 years.  And if you’re a Manning hater, you’re likely a Brady apologist (Bill Simmons).  When Brady was winning, the argument for Brady is that he wins.  Well, right.  And now Manning won.  You can’t change that argument now.

 

It was clear when Manning came back in week 17 that he came to the realization that he wasn’t needed to be the old Peyton Manning.  That’s what he was trying to be in the first half of the season.  Even if he could have still been that guy, this team didn’t need him to be that guy.  Just don’t lose the game, and the D will win it.

 

Terry Bradshaw was that guy for the Steelers in 74 and 75, and Bradshaw was a 1st overall pick who had a gun at the time.  That is how you have to win sometimes.  Bob Griese, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Jeff Hostetler, to a lesser extent Russell Wilson, to a lesser extent Troy Aikman, the formula works.  And it isn’t good for football because the game is better when QB’s are throwing and points are being put up, but if you want to win and you have an elite D then you simply let them win the game.

 

Years from now though, much the same with John Elway’s 1st Super Bowl, nobody will care.  Peyton Manning won 2 Super Bowls and has cemented himself as one of the all time greats.  All the records.  The Brady apologists won’t like this but he was 3-2 vs Brady in the playoffs (3-1 in the AFC title game).  I’m a pretty massive Tom Brady fan too, but give Manning his due.

 

As good as Tom Brady?  Joe Montana?  John Elway?  Probably not, he doesn’t have as many big/memorable moments as those guys had.  I would say his career is very comparable with Johnny Unitas.  Unitas had all the numbers.  When Unitas won in 58 and 70, he didn’t really have an iconic moment (though in 58 Unitas performed maybe the first true 2 minute drive that helped send the game to OT).

 

Always nice to see someone go out on top, but even better in the case of a guy like Manning or Elway who get punished by fans and media for not having better head coaches or better supporting casts.  I’ve made this point a million times, but Brady has Belichick, Manning took 4 different head coaches to the Super Bowl.  Bradshaw had Chuck Noll, Montana had Bill Walsh, it matters A LOT.  For Manning to do what he’s done, mostly without elite coaches (although Tony Dungy just got in the hall of fame), mostly without great defenses, it is pretty amazing when you think about it.

 

The greatest ever?  Probably not, but it is debatable.  One of the greatest of all time?  Any debate remaining left town after yesterday.

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Super Bowl 50 Preview/Pick ATS

19524079-mmmainAre you sick of this yet?!  I’m guessing it’s VERY LIKELY you are.  Thanks for reading this, because if it were me I wouldn’t!  I am to the point now where I look to avoid Super Bowl hype the week leading up to it, because really…how much is there to talk about?  I’m doing my picks, so that’s a little different than most, and I’m looking to take an angle here today that most won’t, but man it is TEDIOUS!

 

This game has the feel of a few different games.  Believe it or not, but I wasn’t around in January of 1969.  But I’m a sports history buff…well…I’m a sports history buff as long as there is video, who the hell wants to read anything?!  Side note, thanks for reading!

 

Heading into Super Bowl III, it was the old guard vs the new guard.  The old guard in that case was expected to destroy the new guard.  Even though he didn’t start the football game, Johnny Unitas did find his way into Super Bowl III.  But the Colts, favoured by 19 points going into the game, lost to the man who was quickly becoming a pop culture icon, Joe Namath.

 

Don’t you have a little bit of that feel this week?  Manning is the traditional, old school QB, and Newton is the “QB of the future” so to speak (although I roll my eyes at that notion).  It is rare you ever seen Peyton in anything other than a suit, or maybe khakis and a golf shirt.  It is rare that you ever see Newton in something you’ve never seen before.

 

Polar opposites, and it’ll make for a polarizing Super Bowl.

 

But that isn’t the only game I’m reminded of this week.  It also has a little Super Bowl XXXII feel.  That was when the defending champion and seemingly invincible Green Bay Packers led by the league MVP Brett Favre went in as massive favorites against the Denver Broncos, led by the old legend John Elway who just could never win the big one.  Many believed that would be Elway’s final game, much like Manning.  A few differences here though from that game, namely the fact that heading into this game it is Manning, the old legend who just can’t win the big one, has the ring.  You wouldn’t think so, but it’s true.

 

Last year heading into the game you just had a feeling that we were getting the best matchup and potential for the greatest Super Bowl of all time, which once we’re another 3 or 4 years away from it I believe that’s how it’ll be viewed.  This one in no way feels THAT way.  But this one has potential to be one of the greatest stories in Super Bowl history should the Broncos win.  It would be up there with Namath beating the Colts, Elway upsetting the Packers, the Giants ending the bid for 19-0.

 

Upsets are nice because most people pull for the underdog, but when it has a little something extra on it like those ones did and this one would, it’s so much better.  Nobody ever talks about Super Bowl IV when the Chiefs upset the heavily favored Vikings, because it didn’t have the dramatic story to go with it.  Super Bowl XXV is remembered for Scott Norwood missing wide right, but the Giants were massive underdogs going into that game.  Again, no “win one for the gipper” story.

 

But the thing is, there is potential for this story a lot of the time.  Super Bowl XLIII, Kurt Warner nearly pulled off the dramatic upset against the Steelers…but he didn’t.  Super Bowl XXVIII would have been an amazing story had the Bills after losing 3 straight FINALLY won the Super Bowl…but they didn’t.  Super Bowl XII had the potential for the ultimate redemption.  Craig Morton was a Cowboys 1st round pick and was cast aside for Roger Staubach and the 2 faced off for the Super Bowl.  What a redemption it would be for Morton to win.  Instead, he was horrific and the Cowboys destroyed the Broncos.

 

So in all likelihood, this game will go one of 2 ways.  It’ll either be one of the greatest stories ever told in NFL history, or it’ll be a blowout to begin the Cam Newton era of the NFL.

 

This all leads me to my pick ATS, and I’ll also do an over/under for the Super Bowl as I do every year.

 

I said on the podcast this week that I liked the Broncos because it was such a big number.  But the more I give this thought, the more I say “pick with your head”.  My head initially said “Panthers should be 6.5 point favorites”.  Right now, they’re only getting 6.  Then you have to look at what they did to the Seahawks D and the Cards D.  Those defenses are no joke.  They aren’t as good as the Broncos on D, but especially Seattle to end the season, they weren’t far off at all.  And the Panthers put up 31 on the Seahawks in the first half.  I also have to believe, despite Peyton Manning going to be ultra conservative, that the ball hawk Panthers D will get at least 1 pick.  And then as high as I am on the Broncos D, I just can’t see them stopping Cam Newton.

 

The Broncos haven’t played the Panthers and Newton since 2012, Broncos DC Wade Phillips hasn’t gone up against the Panthers since Newton’s rookie season…and the Panthers won that game.  I can see teams figuring it out when they see a guy on the 3rd or 4th time, not on essentially the 1st go around.

 

I won’t lie to anyone, I am pulling HARD for the Broncos.  A lot to love about the Panthers, but I tend to pull for the underdog like most people, and I tend to pull for the best story which would be the Broncos in this case.  But, that’s my heart.  I said I’m picking with my head.

 

Super Bowl 50

Denver vs Carolina

Panthers -6

Under 44.5

 

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