NHL Picks – Oct. 28th, 2017

Wow.  It’s all I can say is wow.  I know I’m not this good at picking NHL games, but so far, so very good!  4-1 last week, 11-4 on the season thus far.  All I do is look for value with these picks.  It would be easy for me to sit there and take the five biggest favourites every Saturday night, but you won’t win any money that way because if one of those five lose (and extremely likely they would), then all you’ll do is break even or perhaps lose a bit.  I want picks that come close to doubling your money or more.  That way, even these picks go 2-3, you could still end up breaking even or perhaps even winning a little depending on which two win.  So at 11-4, I would have won you a nice chunk of change so far this season.  Hopefully, that continues tonight.

 

L.A. at Boston

Kings -110

I’m a little leery of this pick, because the Kings are going to start losing before too long, and they’ve been on the road now for over a week.  But I just don’t like the Bruins this season.  Two of their four wins are against teams that I don’t see making the playoffs.  Meanwhile the Kings look back to their 2014 form.  I just think the Kings are that much better, so with the same odds for both, take the Kings.

 

NY Rangers at Montreal

Rangers +125

This is just purely a value play here.  Really…all of these picks are.  I look for the best value plays every week.  But to be honest, I don’t have a good reason for picking the Rangers.  I don’t like the Rangers at all this season!  But how are the Habs favourites against any team in any location at the moment?  With Price not playing up to his normal standards, the Habs really don’t have an edge anywhere, and they have trouble with speedy teams which the Rangers are.  In their first matchup this season, the Rangers took it 2-0.  At +125, it’s just the smart play to take the Rangers.

 

Philadelphia at Toronto

Over 6 (-115)

Oh, the Leafs are playing?  ALWAYS.  TAKE.  THE.  OVER.

 

Pittsburgh at Minnesota

Pens -115

This simply comes down to the fact that the Pens are a better team then the Wild right now, and it’s decent value at -120.  Did you know that Matt Murray hasn’t lost this season?  All the Pens loses thus far are in games which Antti Niemi started in goal.  Matt Murray is going for them again tonight.  Mind you, Niemi is never starting for them again now that the Panthers acquired him off waivers, but the point is that Murray has been great for the Pens.  Especially of late, allowing just two goals in his last two games.

 

Chicago at Colorado

Blackhawks -1.5 (+225)

It’s expected to be a battle of the backups in Denver tonight.  Have you seen Anton Forsberg play this season?  I’ll take Forsberg.  The Hawks played last night, but so did the Avs.  And have you noticed that the Avs have come back to earth after an ok start?  They’ve lost four of their last five.  If you’re thinking the Avs will come out flying and pissed after last night’s 7-0 beat down to the Golden Knights…they’re playing a team which is much better who are coming in pissed themselves having lost back to back games.  I just love the Hawks here, and to win by two it triples your money.  Huge value.

 

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Hot Takes – Oct. 23rd, 2017

If you know me, you know that I’m always itching to talk.  I know I’m annoying, but I can’t stand silence.  And I’m an AWFUL conversationalist.  If I don’t know someone well or don’t know if you have an interest in sports, I’m fucked.  Don’t know how else to put it.  I know sports, I don’t know shit about anything else.  Even the weather, it’s 50/50 at best.  “Nice day out isn’t it?”  I…I…just can’t tell.  And you’re laughing right now, I work with an asshole who if you try to talk weather with the guy you’ll get an argument from him!  It’s small talk, and the guy will look to argue with the small talk!  And to go back to the awful conversationalist, if I’m in the wrong head space I just sound like even more of an idiot than I already am!  A few Saturday’s ago I was at a wedding and was worried about where Steph and I were going to sit, so when I ran into people I knew I probably sounded like I was on something.  No, just basically can’t walk and chew gum at the same time…

 

Anyway, sometimes I just want to talk hockey, and sometimes I’ll think of a lot of small stuff that I can talk about, but nothing big enough to write 500-1,000 words about.  That’s what this will be for.  I did it last year with the NFL and I loved doing it.  The title is “hot takes”, but they really aren’t hot takes at all.  They’re rationale takes, but that’s the joke so you can all go ahead and give me a courtesy laugh now….

 

I’ll start where everyone else will start right now.

 

What do you do if you’re Marc Bergevin?  I was so wrong on this Habs team.  I figured that they had enough on the roster to at least stay in the hunt in the Atlantic until the right trade came along.  Don’t look like that is going to be the case.  They still have a lot of time to see this thing through, but it’s really starting to look like a lost season already, and this should have been the year they really pressed to win a Cup with the Carey Price extension kicking in next season.  Do you give into what Joe Sakic is asking for and go get Matt Duchene?  For the Habs, that price is then likely to be Galchenyuk + to even land the defenceman the Avs want.  Then you’ll need to add a lottery protected 1st rounder, and a prospect along the lines of Joni Ikonen.  I’m a Duchene fan.  He’s a fringe first line centre (keep in mind, my idea of a first line centre is a guy who can put up 60-80 points who doesn’t need any sheltering).  But wow, that would be a steep price, probably too steep for me even with how bleak it is in Montreal.  So maybe you go the other way?  Off load bad contracts, and set yourself up to go hard after John Tavares this summer.  Look to get rid of some guys like Brendan Gallagher, who might be a greasy player and a fan favourite, but doesn’t have either speed or size which in today’s game if you don’t have one then you damn sure better have the other!  Real tough spot for Marc Bergevin.

 

Maybe the biggest thing that has bit Bergevin in the ass in his tenure as Habs GM is that his mandate was clearly to make the team bigger, and the league in the last three seasons has dramatically increased in speed.  That’s how the Lightning are built.  The Leafs are built.  The Sens, not as fast as the previous two but still a very quick team.  Meanwhile, the Bruins are slow.  The Panthers don’t have much speed.  And of course the Montreal Canadiens are slow.  If they had a legitimate number one centre or at least real solid two way depth down the middle it would go a long way, but there is no more denying that speed is dominating this league right now.

 

Which actually leads me to the Kings, who aren’t at all doing it with speed and perhaps look like the best team in the league right now!  I’m not surprised they’ve started hot.  A lot of the analytics guys liked them to rebound this season.  I didn’t, and I’m still a skeptic because I’m not sure they can stay healthy (hell, already bit with the injury bug with the Jeff Carter cut).  But having said that, they look better than I even expected them to.

 

Plenty of good seating is still available in the brand new Little Caesars Arena for that Red Wings/Canucks matchup last night in Detroit.  I guess it’s only “Hockeytown” when they’re at the top of the standings….

 

Bad loss by the Flames last night, real bad.  I wasn’t at all surprised about the Carolina game on Thursday night.  It was the same as the Oilers playing Ottawa.  The NHL gives these teams the equivalent to bye weeks this early in the season, it’s ridiculous scheduling.  And as we’ve seen a lot last year and so far this season, those weeks are killers for teams in their first game back.  So while Glen Gulutzan lit them up for that performance, he might want to take notice that it’s not just his team, it’s every team because they aren’t sharp and they’re playing teams who are.  But Saturday night, the Flames are playing an injury plagued Wild team on the second half of a back to back and blow a 2-1 lead with less than 10 minutes to play in the third.  Add to this, they were facing Alex Stalock in goal and not Devan Dubnyk.  The difference between the Oilers and Flames to this point has been Mike Smith.  If not for Smith’s play out of the gate, this Flames team might only have one win so far on the season.

 

You know, Elliotte Friedman has brought up that Joe Sakic said something about having an intriguing offer on the table for Matt Duchene, but Friedge didn’t know who the team was.  I wonder if it would be the Flames.  They’ve been quietly mentioned as suitors for Duchene this whole time, and I’ve believed they should be in on any top end centre in the league if they want to counter what the Oilers do.  I know their fans likely wouldn’t like this, but they could afford to part with T.J. Brodie to get him.  If you sent Brodie and Sam Bennett to the Avs for Duchene and Nikita Zadorov, who says no?  Zadorov and Bennett are both former first rounders with a ton of potential but yet to reach it, and Brodie is a top pairing D-man for Duchene who as I said earlier I have as a borderline first line centre.  If you’re the Flames, Monahan-Duchene-Backlund down the middle is going to be a handful for anyone.  And does it hurt the Flames blueline THAT much?  You still have a great top three, and in the right situation Zadorov could become that beast of a D-man a lot of scouts knew he could be and next to Travis Hamonic or Dougie Hamilton could be the right situation.

 

Sandwiched between the Kings and the Flames in the Pacific right now is YOUR Vegas Golden Knights who are an unbelievable 6-1-0 so far!  Chill on the record though.  There wins are against the Stars who Ken Hitchcock had yet to of coached up and get the flaws out of their game, the Coyotes twice, the Bruins, and the Sabres.  Saturday was really the first impressive win they’ve had, and while the Blues are hot early, a lot of people including myself don’t have them making the playoffs this season.  In fact, the only team they’ve played that I had making the playoffs is Dallas and as I said, you knew it would take a bit for Ken Hitchcock to fix what ailed the Stars sloppy play last season.  Its a great story, but I’m just saying you might want to go easy on how good you may believe they are.  They get the Blackhawks tomorrow night, and that’ll tell a lot more than their first seven games have.

 

While I’m surfing around the Pacific, I may as well hit on the Oilers even though I did after the loss to Carolina last Tuesday.  They’re coming around as I suspected they may.  That loss in Philly wasn’t a bad one at all.  Those afternoon games are brutal for the large majority of the league who never play in them.  Boston, Philly, the Rangers, they constantly play in them.  You could see the Oilers were really sluggish early on, and I honestly thought it was impressive they had it tied going into the third.  Talbot has now had back to back strong games, the defensive zone play (not a coincidence) is improving a lot despite Oscar Klefbom looking really off, and they’re getting both Draisaitl and Caggiula back this week which should help the scoring issues out (though the PP really needs work, I’d start with sitting down Klefbom and giving someone like Benning or Nurse a chance with that unit).  Speaking of Nurse, he’s definitely the bright spot for the Oilers thus far.  Very early, and he isn’t seeing a lot of tough minutes, but he’s been a stud to this point.  They need someone to step up with Sekera not only out now, but all season as Sekera is likely not to be the same until next fall.  Perhaps Nurse will be that guy.

 

Love or hate them, the Leafs are the most fun team to watch in the league, and they’re damn good too.  I’m not quite willing to say I was wrong to say they’d miss the playoffs, but they seem to avoid injury issues, and the big key is that Mike Babcock is just a different level of coach.  To me, there are four different levels of coaches.  You have the guy who’ll hurt the team, the guy who’ll neither hurt nor improve a team from what they are, you have the tiny window guys who normally win the Jack Adams but never last long term, and then you have the elite.  And it’s so rare that you can find an elite head coach in the NHL.  It’s either the 2nd or 3rd guy I mentioned.  But Babcock is that elite coach and the Leafs have skipped steps other teams have had to do on their way to the top and having him behind the bench is the biggest reason for that.

 

Of course the site is now called “Soups on Hockey”, and neither the site nor this article will focus solely on the NHL, so to close today I’d just like to shoutout once more to my nephews on their big game yesterday for the Whitecourt Wolverines.  Chase Haygarth with his first goal in the AJHL, setup by his brother Easton who added a snipe himself and was the first star of the game in a 4-2 win over the Drumheller Dragons.  The Wolverines have now won four straight and currently sit second in the AJHL North.

 

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NHL Picks – Oct. 21, 2017

Another winning week!  3-2 last week, 7-3 so far on the season!  Man, Thursday night I got a little giddy about all four sports going that night and so I decided to bet on hockey, football and basketball.  Cleaned up!  Six bets placed (I could cry that I only laid 10 bucks a game…I have no balls), and the picks went five for six.  Having said that, I don’t love these picks.  Not as many games tonight, so the selection to begin with were slim, but I did struggle to find five bets. So it’ll be that I’m scorching hot right now vs picks I’m not thrilled about.

 

Nashville at NY Rangers

Preds -115

Last night, I got this game as the Preds being even money, which meant the Rangers were the favourites.  But at -115 it’s still a decent pay off.  The Rangers are shot, they’re done.  This isn’t an early season slump where they’re about to come out of it.  They’re one of the worst teams in the league down the middle, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the Derek Stepan trade.  That blueline is solid, but it’s not nearly good enough to overcome what they don’t have down the middle, and what they no longer have between the pipes.  They’ve pushed hard this week.  Took the Pens to OT, took the Isles to a shootout, but they just aren’t good.  And the Preds are hot, having gone 4-0-1 after an 0-2-0 start.  Nashville are the underdogs here!?  This is one of the best teams in the league against one of the worst!  I’ll gladly take the Preds.

 

Toronto at Ottawa

Sens +105

Man I hate picking against the Leafs, because if I’m wrong then there fans who are good enough people to read my stuff (hi Chris) won’t let me forget it.  And they’re red hot right now.  But the Sens are in the middle of a five game home stand right now, and they’re 0-1-1 so far.  And the Leafs have to cool down at some point, don’t they?!?  So basically I just believe that this is going to be a much bigger game for the Sens then it is for the Leafs.  Add to that, I just believe the Sens matchup well with the Leafs.  They’ve got nice depth up front too, Karlsson is back, and when Craig Anderson is on his game he is a better goaltender then his brother Frederik Andersen.  Haaaaa….jokes.  Take the Sens.

 

Toronto at Ottawa

Over 6 (-125)

Obviously won’t talk much more about this game since I just did, but it simply comes down to taking the over when we’re talking about the Leafs.  9, 13, 7, 9, 7, 2, 9.  Those are the goal totals from there games so far this season.  Over.  Every.  Single.  Time.  I concede, this is the first time this season that the Leafs are playing a team with a good rep defensively (although the Devils lit them up for five on Thursday night).  But until they start giving us a reason not to, take the over when the Leafs are playing.

 

 

Florida at Washington

Panthers +125

As I said off the top, I don’t LOVE some of these picks and this is one of them.  But I feel like it’s a value pick.  Both teams played in different cities last night, so no advantage there.  But in that, both backups are in, and I’ll take James Reimer over Phillip Grubauer.  I also like that the Panthers are on a three game slide, so they should be the more desperate team tonight.  Add those two things to the fact that they’re the underdog in this one, I like putting a little juice on the Panthers in this one.

 

 

Chicago at Arizona

Blackhawks -1.5 (+175)

I fear this one could get ugly for the Coyotes.  They’re playing hard of late, but this matchup is just all wrong for them.  They’re building their team in the mold of the Blackhawks, but the Hawks are already that team.  Can you trust Louis Domingue to hold the fort in goal?  And since the Hawks started Anton Forsberg on Thursday, Corey Crawford is back in goal tonight.  It’s just all wrong for the Coyotes who I thought would be pretty decent out of the gates and instead they’ve just completely fallen on their faces.

 

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Better Now Than Later

Sucks.  What else do you say?  13 days ago it looked like we were seeing the beginning of a season where the Edmonton Oilers were going to take another step and this time into the group of elite teams in the league.  Now?  Maybe the worst team in the league.

 

But while that is the case today, it’s highly unlikely that’ll continue, for few reasons.

 

For starters, as of writing this, the game has just ended and Gene Principe just mentioned in his interview with Justin Williams how the Hurricanes have had a tough time getting going having only played three games previous to this one.  Well the same can be said for the Oilers, at least in their last two games.  Going into last night, the Oilers had played one game in eight days.  Thank you schedule makers.  You might think that’s just a piss poor excuse, but the Hurricanes are saying it, I picked them to win the Metro.

 

As for the Oilers, it may hurt them even more so because they don’t have set lines right now.  McDavid and Maroon, Klefbom and Larsson (Klefbom has made some horrendous mistakes so far, that won’t continue), and Letestu and Kassian.  That’s literally it right now for players on the team who have had success together.  Maybe you’ll say Lucic and Nuge…they’ve played together…some….I wouldn’t say they’ve had success together.  So they’re a really unsettled team.  Combined with the lack of games lately and it’s not all that shocking it took them until late in the second period last night to start gelling.

 

Another thing I’d like to point out, the last two teams couldn’t have been worse matchups for the Oilers.  Without Leon Draisaitl and with so many guys struggling to start the season, you at least want to play teams who you matchup well with.  The Sens and the Canes are miserable to play against.  Both play extremely disciplined, fast, and move the puck as well as any teams in the league.  So when you’re not going right against teams like these, you’re in trouble.

 

I know it’s scary to see a team that looks like the Dallas Eakins coached Oilers.  Those were insanely dark days.  But this team simply isn’t that.  It’s funny how level headed some of the analytics guys I follow on Twitter try to convince everyone that they’re level headed and just following the numbers, but then when things go like this they believe Peter Chiarelli has done everything wrong and that he’s put the Oilers in a helpless position.  And I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of the moves Chiarelli has done of late, but don’t be completely insane.  They’ve got all the pieces to be a playoff team, and they’ve got the trade chips to fill the holes that could push them into contender status.

 

You know who was the second worst team in the league last year after eight games?  The Nashville Predators.  2-6-1.  Meanwhile the Red Wings sat 5th overall in the league.  The Devils were a point ahead of the Caps.  The Leafs were a point behind the Jets.  And as we know, this is basically how the standings ended up…

 

By the end of the game last night, it was clear they were starting to bust out of the slump.  They out played the Canes, and very literally just didn’t get the bounces, which as we all know is what happens towards the end of slumps.  Now, no doubt, if Draisaitl can’t return soon (we’ll find out today if he’s going on the road trip), things could get worse.  But I actually believe getting out of town is what this team needs right now.  And it’s not an easy upcoming schedule, but it’s a lot of teams they at least matchup well with.  They can match, if not better, the Hawks speed, and the Hawks tend to have trouble with bigger teams.  The Flyers are playing well, but it’s a winnable game.  The Stars are a heavy team that the Oilers are built to beat.  And five on five the Oilers are a better team than the Caps…though the huge issue there is if the Oilers PK continues to be hot garbage then the Caps could destroy them.  Those are four of the next five games.  They also get the Pens in this five game stretch, and twice in the next two weeks.  They’re a bad matchup for the Oilers, but I’d guess that most in the room view the Pens as their measuring stick right now and we will see the best out of the team in both of those games.

 

This isn’t going to keep up.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s BRUTAL to see!  I really believed they would be hot out of the gate and then have a slump like this later on.  But would you rather this adversity come now, or come in April?  I personally prefer a team that has to go through tough times in a season.  It’s THE reason I had the Preds to upset the Hawks in the playoffs last year.  The Preds took all season to get their game to where it was capable of being, while the Hawks had everything go perfectly for them.

 

McDavid isn’t this bad, Talbot isn’t this bad, Klefbom isn’t this bad, the PP will get better, the PK will get better, Draisaitl will be back, the shooting percentage will go up, the save percentage will go up, it can’t go much worse than this right now…and with any kind of puck luck they’d be a 3-2 team right now and I wouldn’t have anything to write this week other than my Saturday picks article (which I’m 7-3 to start the season, that’s the only amazing start to a hockey season that is sustainable….).  Hard to see it this way right now, but this club will be much better off going through a stretch like this in mid October rather than…let’s say…mid April.

 

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NHL Picks – Oct. 14, 2017

In my debut week I actually went 4-1?!  A little insight here, I’ve been AWFUL at picking NHL games in the past.  In fairness, I’ve never given picking NHL games the type of attention you should if you’re going to pick them (like I will doing these picks), but still…not good until last week.  I can honestly say I’ve never had a 4-1 night picking NHL games.  Hopefully this is the start of a new trend!  Something I hope everyone understands, but just in case I’ll point it out, I’m not just looking for winners with no pay off here.  I’m digging hard for value.  Last week’s 4-1 means nothing if all the bets were -190.  I did the math, and believe had someone put 20 bucks down on all five of those picks, they would have had 70 extra dollars in their pocket Sunday morning.  So I’m not just looking to win, looking to get you some money here.

 

Carolina at Winnipeg

Hurricanes +115

First game back home after a road trip is never a good thing.  Now, the Jets do appear to have found some goaltending in the last two games, but is it sustainable?  As a Jets well wisher, I sure hope so!  But it’s far too early to believe in Connor Hellebuyck.  Add to all this, the Canes have a real good club and are still looking for their first win on the season.  So Carolina gives you the better goaltender, better defence, the more hungry team, and good odds.  Take them.

 

New Jersey at NY Rangers

Devils +125

I think we have to ride the Devils until they give us a reason not to.  Early last season, the Rangers were beating everyone in large part due to their speed and depth up front.  Right now, the Devils are beating everyone due to their speed and depth up front.  Battle of the backups is expected tonight, so I’m not sure you can give either team the advantage in that department.

 

 

Coloroado at Dallas

Stars -1.5 (+140)

Wow, what a start by the Avs!!  This team really has their shit together…right?  Well, let’s maybe look at who they’ve defeated.  An overrated and fading Rangers team, two wins against an overrated and fading Bruins team, and last night they beat what in exhibition season would be the road team on a split squad night for the Ducks as Ryan Getzlaf was a late scratch to go with the injuries to Lindholm, Kesler and Vatanen.  So they aren’t really proving much just yet, they’ve had a weak schedule.  The Stars haven’t looked that great either, winning just one of their first four.  But their schedule has been a lot more difficult than the Avs.  Then on top of this, the Avs are on the second half of a back to back, and the smart money is taking the Stars to win by two.

 

Ottawa at Edmonton

Oilers -1.5 (+155)

The Oil have been off since Monday, but maybe more importantly for this bet and for the Oil, they’re coming off two loses where they were outworked by worse teams.  They’ve been sitting in Edmonton all week hearing about it.  Granted, Leon Draisaitl is out tonight with an eye injury, but with no Erik Karlsson I just don’t believe the Sens will have an answer for anything the Oil can throw at them.  I know, the Sens were world beaters last night in Calgary and won 6-0, but don’t read too much into that.  Finally, it’s Mike Condon in goal for the Sens, not Craig Anderson.  Condon is one of the top backups in the league, but he’s not Anderson.  So while I don’t like taking teams to win by two very often, this one at these odds is a pretty good bet.

 

NY Islanders at San Jose

Under 5.5 (-110)

I really despise taking the under and pulling for a boring game, but this is a solid bet.  Neither of these teams have been filling the net to start the season, and both have had a lot of time early on in the season to have their defensive games cleaned up.  This is a trend we’re seeing as scoring was WAY up to start, and it hasn’t taken long at all for things to come crashing back to earth…somewhat.  So with even odds, despite hating the under, it’s the smart bet here.

 

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Game of the Night!

What the hell?!  Scoring is up to start the season???  Somebody in the hockey world will undoubtedly put an end to this!  Mark Spector, lead the parade, let’s get back to “just lettin’ ’em play” hockey where you can hook, hold, and trip guys all day…especially if you play like a piece of shit.  We can’t expect the refs to hold this standard can we?  After all, they’re good guys, and in hockey if you’re a good guy then that gives you carte blanche to be as horrendous at your job as possible!  Colin Campbell…good guy.  Kevin Lowe…good guy.  Jim Rutherford must have become an asshole while in Pittsburgh because in Carolina he was a good guy too!

 

I really didn’t mean to get on a rant there, but I did, so live with it.

 

The point I was trying to make is that the hockey so far has been TERRIFIC!  Sure, there have been some brutal blowouts.  And we all know that you end up with some crazy scores at the start of every season as teams settle in.  And coaches will adjust.  But no matter how bitter some people in the media will be about it, you and I both know how great this is and could continue to be.

 

Case in point…I’m writing a blog about an October game between the Leafs and the Blackhawks!  Why?  Because going into tonight, these two teams have combined for 30 goals in just four games.  They’re literally averaging 7.5 goals  a piece.  I always enjoy Chicago and Toronto games these days since we so rarely get to see them play anymore.  But now, two of the best teams in the league to start the season, and both are scoring out their asses!!

 

Now, I am a realist.  The Leafs did their damage against the Jets and the Rangers.  The Jets gave up six to the Flames on Saturday, who were shutout by the Oilers on Wednesday.  The Jets…while I’m a big fan…are the most overrated team in the league and just aren’t a good club.  The Rangers, most had them out of the playoffs this season.  In their season opener they lost to the Avs.  The Avs, at MSG.  That’s not a good sign!  Then on top of that, it’s becoming a fact that Lundqvist is badly fading.  A terrific playoffs last spring, but during the regular season he wasn’t what he was and it appears as though that trend down is continuing.  So while it’s been a great start for the Leafs, this is a great test for them.

 

The Blackhawks are much more so the team that doesn’t need to prove themselves.  Three Cups in the last eight seasons, we all know their track record, we all know the names.  And hey, beating Columbus and Pittsburgh?!  Maybe the two best teams in what’s considered to be the toughest division in hockey (it’s not)?!  Unreal…right?  Nah.  Both teams were on the second half of back to backs, both teams started their backup goaltenders.  The wins look amazing on paper, but they very much so are not.

 

But this game looks as though it’ll be incredible.  Both teams are a very legit three lines deep.  In fact, they might have the deepest forward groups in the league.  The Leafs are looking to prove they were no fluke last season, the Hawks appear pissed about people actually believing they wouldn’t make the playoffs this season.  I’m not sure if any regular season game can ever be a classic, especially the third game of the season, but it has all the makings of one hell of a fun watch and a great way to cap Thanksgiving weekend!

 

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NHL Picks – Oct. 7, 2017

A new name to the site now, and in that I’ve stopped doing NFL picks.  I HATE that, because I’m pretty good at it.  So I have to fill my gambling addiction….actually I really don’t have an addiction and am actually a huge…you know the word….when it comes to gambling away my money.  But I do want to test myself, and do believe I can pick NHL games well if I start looking in depth at them.  So here we go.  Use these at your own risk, and don’t bet what you don’t have.

 

Tampa Bay at Florida

Panthers -110

I said it in my season preview, EVERYONE is sleeping on the Panthers this season….why?!  Because they lost a 45 year old player?  Because Jason Demers is a god in the analytics community?  I just don’t see it.  They had a ton of injuries last season which were the reason why they fell off.  They’re healthy now, and pushed the Lightning pretty good last night out shooting them 36-24 (inflated by the Panthers attempting to comeback, but I believe even when the game was tied at two the Panthers were ahead).  Panthers are starting a fresh James Reimer tonight, while the Lightning are expected to go with Andrei Vasilevskiy again despite being so busy last night.  At -110 at home, I love the Panthers in this spot.

 

Buffalo at NY Islanders

Sabres +100

Moneyline on this one.  I know the Islanders will be a little pissed off after last night’s embarrassing showing in Columbus, but the key in all that is last night.  The Sabres played Thursday, so they’ll be a little more fresh.  Also, while in Brooklyn, the Islanders have drawn poorly and especially early in the season.  So there isn’t much of a home ice advantage.  After that, where do the Islanders hold a distinct advantage on the Sabres?  Up front?  No, very similar.  On D?  I’d say the Islanders are better on the blueline but not much.  In goal?  Well the Islanders are starting Jaroslav Halak tonight.  You can trust Halak at your own risk, I’m not about to after how last season went.  I don’t really like either team, but I like the Sabres at even money in this spot.

 

Nashville at Pittsburgh

Under 6

My inclination was to go over with this game.  EVERYTHING says go over…so I’m saying take the under.  You HAVE to think Matt Murray is going to bounce back some game soon.  He’s going to come out pissed off and have a 30 shot, 28 save performance.  At the other end, the Preds are starting Juuse Saros who I fully believe will be the Preds starting netminder soon.  I don’t hesitate to admit, this game should go over.  But when I bet anything, I’ve learned to trust the opposite of what I think.  Both these teams are going to be looking to button it up defensively tonight, so I’m expecting a 2-1 or 3-2 game here.

 

Columbus at Chicago

Blackhawks +190 (-1.5)

Did you see what the Hawks did to the Pens Thursday night?!  Wow!  This team is pissed.  This team is pissed because a lot of the media has wrote them off.  I took them to win the Cup, so I don’t THINK I’d count as one of the people they’re pissed at (also I’m not in the media).  But I’ve read and heard reports of the Hawks being told that some didn’t even have them making the playoffs.  This team is a very legitimate three lines deep with ridiculous skill, a much improved blueline, and a top rate goaltender.  Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets just played last night.  I don’t know if you’ll ever see me take a team where one is on the second half of a back to back, even if it is the first week of the season.  Add to all of this, it’s Joonas Korpisalo in goal for the Blue Jackets, not Sergei Bobrovsky.  It’s always a little scary to take a team to win by two, but I’m willing to roll the dice in this spot.

 

Winnipeg at Calgary

Flames -130

This one isn’t GREAT odds, but it’s good enough.  Both teams are coming off embarrassing performances on Wednesday night, so they’ll be looking to make amends for that.  Then it comes down to who the better team is, and that’s simply the Flames.  Who would I pull for in this game?  The Jets.  But the Jets are very overrated because not only is the goaltending bad, but the defensive play is bad.  A lot of fans and media believe that because they have a lot of talent on defence then they should be a good defensive team, and that’s just not the case.  The game is played five on five, not three on two.  The Flames have the better blueline, are a better defensive team, and the better goaltending.  Take the Flames here.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018 NHL Draft: Mock Draft 1.0

So normally I don’t start doing these until February, right after the CHL top prospects game.  But I wanted to do more than just a season preview this year.  So, out comes a top 32 list, and out comes the first mock draft of the season.  Obviously this is a ridiculous amount of time away from going down, and things will change dramatically.  But I like to discuss team needs, I like to discuss where and why I believe teams will finish where they do, and really it’s just a fun exercise and hopefully an entertaining read.

 

At this point and time, I don’t have any more of an intro than that.  I’ve worked hard on the season preview, top 32 list and now this mock draft the last week or so, and I’m spent.  So let’s get to the picks.

 

1. Rasmus Dahlin (1)  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Doughty

You could not ask for a better fit.  The Avs aren’t just awful on the blueline, they’re specifically awful on the left side.  How that’s possible, I’m not sure.  One of the toughest things to acquire in the league are RH shooting D-men, yet they have two serviceable top four RH shooting D, and another stud prospect on the way.  LH shooting D, I’m not going to suggest they’re a dime a dozen, but much easier to acquire.  Yet the Avs have a project in Zadorov, and nothing else.  So Dahlin would be absolutely perfect for this dreadful organization.  The Doughty comparison is very real, this kid is that good.

 

2. Adam Boqvist (3)  Brynas  SWE-U20

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Leetch

If the Wings get a high pick in this draft, and pass on one of these D-men, I might go insane.  I’m not even a Wings fan, but I’ve just had it with some of the decisions that have been made by this organization the past few seasons.  Boqvist would fit their needs so perfectly it’s insane.  RH shooting D-man, and a Swede no less.  It would be odd should D-men go with the first two picks in the draft, let alone two Swedish D-men.  But it is a massive year for D, and the Swedes are leading that parade.  Boqvist is already the big riser in this draft to start this season, so I expect his stock to keep on rising for the time being.

 

3. Andrei Svechnikov (5)  Muskegon  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Vladmir Tarasenko

What a fit from a marketing standpoint this would be for the G-Knights.  I’m not near as high on Svechnikov as others are, but there is no denying that this kid is going to be fun to watch, and no team needs an entertaining product more than Vegas does.  I could try to talk about their needs, but let’s be honest….at this point, they have too many to list.

 

4. Quinn Hughes (9)  Michigan  NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

Much like the Wings with Boqvist, if the Devils were to pass on one of these D-men, I might lose it.  And I don’t think I’ve ever pulled for the Devils in my life!!  But man, this team so badly needs a D-man ever since ridiculously giving up Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall.  You don’t give up the need for the luxury!!  It’s like a person in Lloyd trading their F-250 truck with 4 wheel drive for a Ferrari, when you can’t afford to buy another vehicle.  What a steal of a trade, but now how are you getting to work for seven months out of the year schmuck?  I could come up with analogies on how awful that trade was for Jersey all day long.  Anyway, here is their chance to somewhat makeup for it.  They’re loaded up front moving forward, so this top pick, especially in this draft, HAS to be a D-man and a kid like Hughes would fit well.  For me, I’d probably take Wilde as it would give them a RH shot which is a bigger need for them, and I see Wilde as a kid who’ll be able to play in any situation where because of his stature I doubt Hughes can.  But as long as they take a D-man…that’s all I ask.  Will Butcher and Damon Severson are FAR from enough.

 

5. Joe Veleno (2)  St. John  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Richards

In this scenario, Veleno falls into their laps as the Canucks for the third year in a row would have the fifth pick.  Veleno could be that big piece up front this organization really needs.  I always rave about Bo Horvat, and I was really big on the Elias Pettersson pick last June.  But I’m also really big on Veleno and the good news for Canucks fans is that A) they should be in range to get him this June, and B) it’s likely that more teams near the top of this draft will be looking to take the D-men, which could allow a kid like Veleno to drop if need be.

 

6. Brady Tkachuk (4)  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Tkachuk

As I said in my write up about the Isles in the season preview, I believe they’ll hover around a playoff spot until the trade deadline, and if Garth Snow doesn’t have John Tavares locked up and they look more likely to miss than make it, then I’m sure he’ll come to his senses and make the right decision to move JT.  With that will likely come a plummet in the standings, and there we have the Islanders picking 6th.  I don’t know if there is a need for a kid like Tkachuk, but he kind of fits the mold of a Garth Snow and Doug Weight type player.  Don’t forget, Weight played a lot with his dad throughout his career and will know Brady VERY well.  Could factor into a decision should he be on the board for the Islanders.

 

7. Bode Wilde (8)  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 194  Shot: R

Comparison: Aaron Ekblad

I felt as though Jason Botterill butchered his first draft.  Maybe it’s not him though, maybe it’s the scouting that’s really hurting this organization?  Either way, man they HAVE to start getting after addressing their blueline.  No excuse not to this season with how deep this draft is with defenders.  Wilde has a great chance to be an all world defenceman.  Not an area of the game he can’t excel in, just a matter of putting it all together.

 

8. Filip Zadina (10)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Nikita Kucherov

I always talk about John Chayka being an analytics guy and wonder how much that factors into their pick.  I believe with Keller and Chychrun in 2016 it did.  Joseph though was interesting.  I loved the pick, but didn’t think he’d be “their type of kid”.  Zadina I believe would be simply because he’s a high end offensive talent.  I’d watch for him to be valued a little less by NHL organizations than fans, media and independent scouts have him come June (maybe not, but let’s be honest I’m trying to forecast literally everything in this one!) but the Coyotes are a team that wouldn’t care where he plays just as long as his underlying numbers are there.

 

9. Ty Smith (11)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Jared Spurgeon

I was big on them stockpiling D-men in this past draft, and so that doesn’t change seeing they selected Kristian Vesalainen with the 24th pick (and the right pick, he was the clear cut best player left on the board).  They took four D-men in total when all was said and done, including Dylan Samberg who I really like, especially for the Jets.  But they need more sure bets and Smith would be just that.  Don’t forget too, they love Western Canada, probably have picked more kids out of the West than anywhere else since they moved back to Winnipeg.

 

10. Oliver Wahlstrom (13)  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 195  Shot: R

Comparison: Nick Schmaltz

They better start shoring up centre moving forward.  They appear to have done a good job taking Trent Frederic (despite the skepticism I and a few others had about the pick), but they need a lot more than that.  Bergeron, Krejci, and Backes are all on the back nine now of their careers.  The B’s desperately need to start drafting centres who can possibly take over those roles in a few seasons.  Otherwise, they could be looking at a longer rebuild than it’ll need to be.  Walhstrom is about perfect for the Bruins.  Highly skilled, right handed shot, good size, and a Massachusetts kid on top of all that.  A few years ago I scoffed at everyone saying they would take Charlie McAvoy just because he was playing at BC.  That was the only reason everyone had him going to the Bruins.  Well…they were right, and it’s been a home run pick to this point!  So if Wahlstrom is in their range, I like the odds that they take him.

 

11. Jared McIsaac (12)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

They used to be so predictable under Paul Holmgren.  Their scouting staff was obsessed with the Q.  At the 2013 draft, they needed a defenceman, so it was the easiest pick to mock outside of the top five that they would take Samuel Morin because he was the clear cut top D-man out of the Q.  Well the clear cut top D-man out of the Q right now is Jared McIsaac.  That easily could change, and there is a strong possibility that McIsaac rises up the boards and won’t be around for the Flyers when they pick.  But I believe they’re going to look to re-stock the shelves on D at this draft now that they look pretty solid up front, and if they’re looking on D then I can see their scouts loving McIsaac.

 

12. Rasmus Kupari (7)  Karpat  Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: R

Comparison: Matt Duchene

Not a mistake here.  This pick was formerly property of the Blues, traded to the Flyers in the Brayden Schenn deal, although the Blues can defer to 2019 should it be in the top 10.  Seeing how I have them in the 12 hole, it belongs to Philly.  I’m higher on Kupari than most are at this point (save Craig Button who has him 5th in his rankings), and I did just say that I believe Philly will look to re-stock on D in this draft.  But if they do end up with two picks, they still own the rest of there draft picks at this time as well as an extra fifth and two extra sevens, so it’s not like you have to strictly load up on D-men high in the draft just because you may want to add to your depth on the backend.  As for Kupari, he’s another centre like Patrick and Rubtsov, not to mention they still have Claude Giroux.  But you can never have too many centres and I strongly believe this kid is going to shoot up others rankings.

 

13. Ryan Merkley (19)  Guelph  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Keith Yandle

Could Doughty be gone soon?  At this point…it’s possible.  I’d assume they get him locked up, but he can’t sign an extension until July 1st, and they probably won’t talk extension until sometime next spring.  But even if Doughty stays, this team can stand to add to their blueline.  They got some good value on some D-men in last June’s draft, but you can’t expect kids like Markus Phillips and Mikey Anderson to turn into studs.  Not that Merkley is a lock to be one by any means, but he has a ton of upside and the Kings can really develop their kids.  Also, if Doughty were to stick around, what a perfect mentor for Merkley being a former Storm defenceman himself.  Finally, I harped on it all last season and I’ll do it again this season….the Kings LOVE them some OHL!  Four more kids out of the OHL last June, at this point I just have a tough time imagining them going anywhere other than with an OHL defenceman in the first round.

 

14. Jet Woo (18)  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 205  Shot: R

Comparison: Travis Hamonic

They addressed this in the draft last June by taking RH shooting D with their top two picks.  But I feel as though it’s such a vital piece to a teams puzzle that you need to ensure that hole is filled.  You can always trade D-men, especially RH shooting D-men.  I’m not saying they MUST take one in the first round this season, but I like the fit of Woo should they draft in this range.

 

15. Joel Farabee (17)  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 152  Shot: L

Comparison: David Pastrnak

They haven’t taken a winger in the first round since the 2011 draft when they took two.  But that’s actually why I believe a winger is now feasible in the first round.  I’d probably look at a D-man first if I were Pierre Dorian, but in this scenario and at this time I’m not seeing a defenceman available.  But a kid like Farabee could be a perfect fit for guys like Colin White and Logan Brown moving forward.  Centres who are really good, but maybe aren’t centres who’ll elevate their wingers much.

 

16. Evan Bouchard (20)  London  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Jeff Petry

Here will be an interesting strategy to follow in the 2018 draft.  Do you look to scoop up defencemen early because there are so many good ones?  Or do you go after a centre or winger early on because the draft is so flush with D-men and you can load up on them in rounds 2-7?  The Rangers are a team that may face this dilemma, mainly because their system is still so weak, but they did get a couple of good additions in June with Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil.  So maybe they feel good about how they are up front moving forward (no pun intended)?  Bouchard is just a safe and solid pick.  Upside is questionable, but at minimum he should play in the league for a long time.

 

17. Barrett Hayton (12)  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 186  Shot: L

Comparison: Bo Horvat

Yet another team that will likely look to re-stock the cupboard on the blueline in their organization, but in this scenario, looking at things at this time, no way Hayton can fall any further.  Plus, the Sharks have historically loved their OHL kids.

 

18. Jacob Olafsson (21)  Timra  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: David Krejci

Tough to say where the Caps will want to go in this draft.  They have kept the shelves pretty well stocked on defence over the years, and haven’t been shy to simply go out and get the top offensive talent.  And I for one have bitched a lot in recent years about this team failing to address the problem I believe they have down the middle.  Olafsson would do just that.  Yes, they have some talented guys at centre on the team, but when you have to see the Pens five times a season and likely in the playoffs also, you need to be elite in the middle, not just solid.

 

19. Jack McBain (6)  Toronto  OJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

I can’t see this happening, because as you may have read or can see now, I’m sky high on McBain.  But it’s October, and I’ve never done a mock this early, so I don’t know if I should predict McBain ends up where I got him, or mock as if the draft was happening tomorrow.  I obviously picked the latter since McBain is here.  I’m guessing you’ll know the story here.  The Jackets are really desperate to find a number one centre, and McBain, especially this late in the draft, would be the closest thing to it.  But again, I really believe McBain is going to be a top ten pick come June.

 

20. Ryan McLeod (15)  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Sean Monahan

The Ducks have needed some help at centre in the system for a while.  Rakell can play the middle, but is probably better suited to the wing.  Sam Steel looks like a stud, but I don’t believe they should put all their eggs in that basket.  Getzlaf and Kesler are on the back nine of their careers and they really don’t have any other needs, so I’d look centre in this first round and Ryan McLeod would be a very safe pick.  Perhaps getting underrated much like his brother did in 2016.

 

21. Isac Lundestrom (22)  Lulea  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Sam Reinhart

Lundestrom would be a terrific fit for the Preds as of writing this.  The team doesn’t have any glaring holes either on the big club or in the system.  David Poile has maybe been the best GM in the league over the last three years.  Everything he has done has seemingly been a home run.  Getting a kid like Lundestrom who can pretty much play anywhere in your lineup would be another one of those.

 

22. Benoit-Olivier Groulx (16)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

This pick formerly belonged to the Calgary Flames, going to the Islanders in the Travis Hamonic deal.  I really believe the Islanders are going to be rebuilding come this draft, and they already took Tkachuk in this scenario, so naturally they have to take a defenceman here right?  Well…remember what I said earlier about how teams may hold off on D with this draft being so flush with them.  Plus, Garth Snow has shown he doesn’t like to take D-men in the first round.  Two through seven, he’ll load up, but early on he looks for guys up front.  Groulx won’t replace Tavares by ANY means!  But, he along with Barzal and perhaps a solid veteran (Nugent-Hopkins?), it could be very solid down the line and mitigate how long it may take them to get back to the playoffs.

 

23. Jesperi Kotaniemi (23)  Assat  Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Victor Rask

Dale Tallon has loved building down the middle, and loved building with size since taking over as Panthers GM (the first time) in 2010.  And it’s worked.  I feel like most people have slept on the Panthers to rebound this season after and injury plagued season in part because they’re so big and skilled down the middle.  Kotaniemi would only add to that, plus in this scenario he has fallen a bit if you go by most rankings (obviously not by mine).

 

24. Rasmus Sandin (NR)  Rogle  SWE-J20

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Dimtry Orlov

I REALLY doubt the Habs are going to own this pick come draft day.  But if they do, then I believe the aim will be to replace the hole in the system left behind by the Mikhail Sergachev trade.  Sandin at this time falls into a pretty large group of blueliners who could end up going late in the first round.  Solid two way kid who has real good speed north/south, just needs to improve his edge work to go to the next level.

 

25. Xavier Bouchard (25)  Baie-Comeau  QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Alec Martinez

They by no means have an aging blueline.  After Suter, who really isn’t that old himself, they have guys like Dumba, Brodin and Mike Reilly all under 25.  But in the system, it gets pretty bare, and if I’m a GM I’m not leaving positions which are tough to fill like centre and defence bare in the system.  Bouchard has some filling out to do, but definitely has the talent to be a solid top four D-man.

 

26. Alexander Khovanov (27)  Moncton  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Man, they love centres!  And good on them, that’s my way to build a hockey team up front.  Wingers be damned, centres can do it all…that’s why they play the middle.  Jim Nill has also shown he’s not afraid to take a Russian kid after selecting Val Nichushkin and Denis Gurianov in the 13 and 15 first rounds respectively.  Khovanov is the type of Russian kid I really have nothing against as he isn’t the “unstoppable” winger, just a solid, intelligent, two way centre.

 

27. Calen Addison (30)  Lethbridge  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Goligoski

You know who Alex Goligoski was drafted by?  The Pittsburgh Penguins.  If I’m Jim Rutherford, I just look to take the best talent on the board at this point.  Crosby is 30, Malkin is 31, so the objective here is just to get them as much help as you possibly can.  Addison would fit the Pens perfectly being a highly active and great skating defenceman.

 

28. Ty Dellandrea (24)  Flint  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Alexander Wennberg

I’m a fan of Dellandrea, and feel he’s getting a bit underrated by some in the scouting community due to a lack of flash.  But he’d be a perfect fit for what the Oilers need.  I harped on this for a lot of last season, and throughout the draft.  This team DESPERATELY needs some centres in the system!  I can’t see the Oilers owning this pick by the time the draft rolls around, but whether they do or don’t this team must address this gaping hole in this draft.  They’ve done a terrific job drafting since Peter Chiarelli took over.  Get some centres because there is going to be one, and maybe two centre spots on this team that’ll need to be filled by cheap contracts in a few seasons.

 

29. Milos Roman (29)  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Bryan Little

Not a lot of mystery to this pick.  Ron Francis wasn’t messing around in the 2017 draft going after a boat load of centres in hopes of addressing that hole.  I believe he’ll look to continue to load up with centres in this draft until it becomes a strength of the team, just like he did with the defence, and look how deep they are on defence now.  Roman is stocky and can really fly.  An added bonus is the time he’s spent playing with Canes 2017 first round pick Martin Necas.

 

30. Anderson McDonald (28)  Sherbrooke  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 203  Shot: L

Comparison: James Neal

The Lightning have loved taking kids out of the Q under Steve Yzerman.  I believe they’ve taken more kids out of the OHL, but they’ve had a big presence in the Q as well.  McDonald is a big forward, and a skilled forward.  He’s not a power forward though.  If you know that and are good with that, then he’ll be high on a teams list.  I believe he fits the Bolts great, and they could use a little more size up front, but size that can skate and contribute offensively.

 

31. Akil Thomas (26)  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Vincent Trocheck

In this scenario, which in no way will happen come June, I believe the Hawks will be looking to go back to taking the top offensive talent on the board.  Last year, they did a great job adding two RH shooting D-men in Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell with their top two picks.  Thomas would fit the Hawks perfectly.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018 NHL Draft: Top Prospects 1.0 (Top 32)

Everyone tends to go nuts about drafts when they’re 12 months out or so.  In 2012 I was raving to people 12 months out about how amazing that draft was going to be….it was terrible.  But this draft is really shaping up to be a solid one.  Better than last June’s was, remains to be seen if it’ll match up to 2015 or 16.  If I had to compare it to one, at least at this point, I’d say 2008.

 

Nothing original from what anyone else is saying, but the way I see it is this is going to be a defence rich draft, just like 08.  That draft was supposed to be amazing, and never came close to those expectations.  But the one thing which did happen in that draft is a lot of the D-men either met or exceeded expectations.  If you go through the first round, the busts were mostly forwards and goaltenders.  Doughty, Pietrangelo, and Karlsson all became stars, others like Myers, Gardiner, Sbisa and Carlson at least met expectations, and then guys such as Bogosian, Schenn, and Del Zotto have underwhelmed but were still able to carve out nice careers in the league.

 

Anyway, this will be the first of at least five different rankings list I’ll put out this year.  Without a doubt this one will be the worst.  A lot is going to change, a lot more information will be gathered and shared on these kids, and I’m sure you’ll see at least one or two of the kids in my top 32 today end up being fifth or six rounders.  For those of you who remember Nick Ebert….going into the season I believe everyone had him as a top ten pick, some in the top five of the 2012 draft.  He ended up being the last pick of that draft.  A LOT of hockey to be played.

 

As always before I begin, pay closer attention to the tiering than the ranking.  Especially right now.  Tough to separate these kids at this point and time.

 

Tier One

1. Rasmus Dahlin  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Doughty

The initial reaction with Dahlin is to go nuts with this comparison.  It’s so rare we see a defenceman who can excite you at both ends of the ice like Dahlin can.  And remember, he’s playing against men.  He can play either side of the ice, tremendous wheels, loves to play physical, great vision, I wouldn’t say he has a bomb but he has a very good shot, he’s just got elite/number one defenceman written all over him.  I know some are gun shy on taking D-men high in the draft, and history proves that it’s risky, but this kids the exception to that rule.  I believe that because he’s a D-man that some have been slow to realize just how special this kid is, but I believe by late June he’ll be the clear cut top pick and a franchise changer for whichever team is lucky enough to land him.

 

Tier Two

2. Adam Boqvist  Brynas  SWE-U20

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Leetch

He’s the first major riser of the season.  This kid had scouts drooling at the Hlinka.  I don’t think you can call a D-man who is 5’11 undersized anymore.  Last year, six of the nine D-men taken in the first round were only 6’0 or shorter.  Some of that was a result of it being a weaker draft year, but there is zero doubt that the league is trending towards smaller, higher skilled D-men.  Going with Leetch as the comparison rather than Erik Karlsson…some of that is looking to avoid what others are going to say.  Either way, we’re talking about a potential elite offensive defenceman.

 

3. Brady Tkachuk  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Tkachuk

I once had Matt Tkachuk’s comparison be the old man.  And I’ve heard analysts say that during this past season.  NOPE.  Matt is a rat (and I mean that as a massive compliment), where Keith was one of the biggest, baddest power forwards in the league in the 90’s.  Brady Tkachuk plays more of this style.  Look at his 126 PIM’s in 61 games last season…to go with 25 goals and 54 points.  An old school, put you through the boards type of power forward.  He’s the type of winger who I’m not afraid to rank high, because he’s rare, especially in today’s game.  Tkachuk skates well enough and has enough of a “bully” type personality on the ice that I really could see him dominating the league.  Missed last year’s draft by one day.  Might have gone as high as 3rd had he been eligible.  If you’ve read my stuff in the past then you wonder why I’d have a winger ranked this high.  True, I always say wingers can’t lead teams to Cups, but in the case of Tkachuk, he is such a rare type of player to find that I believe you have to jump on the chance to take him if you can.

 

4. Andrei Svechnikov  Barrie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Vladmir Tarasenko

Not done for shock value.  Scouts are raving about this kid, but once again we have the big, fast, unstoppable Russian winger.  These types of players never have the impact on a team that many fans and media believe’s they’ll have.  As I said with Klim Kostin throughout last season, I’m just out on the big Russian winger.  But he at least is still 5th which is higher than I’ll have most of these kids.  He’s compared to Tarasenko because of size, speed, skill, shot, and of course nationality, I just think they have a very similar style.  So if he can get near that level, he’ll be well worth the 5th pick in the draft.

 

Tier Three

5. Jack McBain  Toronto  OJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

I might have him higher than anyone.  The book is that he’s not a great skater, and I’ve been preaching the last year or so that the league is getting A LOT faster so you can’t just be an ok skater anymore.  The other night though I seen my man Brock Otten (who I’ve never met and maybe talked to once on Twitter) talk about how his skating is getting really underrated.  Even if it is a weakness, I believe McBain has the right makeup to not only improve it with a tenacious work ethic, but the smarts to overcome it should it not get a whole lot better.  And it really is his first few steps that needs work, his top end speed is good.  I feel like players can improve their explosiveness.  And he has the rest.  Size, tremendous vision, great shot, and is very committed to playing a 200 foot game.  In the past, the league he plays in would hold him back.  But it’s not tough to scout a league like the OJHL anymore.  We all saw Cale Makar shoot up into the top five last season.  A weaker draft definitely played into that, but I’m sure it’ll be in most scouts minds when looking at McBain this season.

 

6. Rasmus Kupari  Karpat  Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: R

Comparison: Matt Duchene

Another kid who is on the rise as we enter the season.  Size is decent, right handed shot, skill, wheels, already plays a very responsible 200 foot game, this kid has it all.  I get the sense that if he were in the CHL and his name were Max Power (great name) that he might already be hyped as a top three pick.  For now, I’ll put him sixth at the top of the second tier, but I won’t be surprised if I’m moving him up to that next tier come January/February when I do my next list.

 

7. Bode Wilde  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 194  Shot: R

Comparison: Aaron Ekblad

Already committed to Harvard for the 2019 season.  Harvard.  So it’s safe to assume he’s got a high IQ, to go with real good size and a RH shot.  I don’t know if I LOVE the Ekblad comparison, but there is a lot to it.  Smart, good size, good skater, big shot, righty, willing to play nasty, and plays with some swagger.  I’m tempted to put Wilde higher because of all that, but he’s still a bit raw.  Some of the more raw type prospects who I’ve been sky high on in the past have me a little spooked and questioning myself when it comes to my theories on these type of players.  Anyway, I still like Wilde a lot and could see him sneaking up into that first tier by seasons end.  A lot of people have Wilde coupled with Quinn Hughes, and Hughes ranked higher.  Wilde is a 2000 born, and potential to be the type of kid who can play in any situation, where Hughes size will limit him even though he very likely will be the better offensive defenceman.

 

8. Quinn Hughes  Michigan  NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

Like with Brady Tkachuk, Hughes is a late 99 which is why he’s already playing at Michigan this season.  Side not, you’ll start hearing a lot about his brother Jack this season as he has scouts buzzing (available for the 2019 draft).  So last year, I used Vatanen as the comparison for Erik Brannstrom.  Ironically, Hughes not only has a very similar game and stature to Brannstrom, they’re only a little over a month apart in age (September 1999 for Brannstrom, October 1999 for Hughes, also Lou Bega was big at that time).  A little surprised with how much he’s risen already, but as I said off the top, speed and skill is really taking over.  While I still believe you can’t over do it, teams are going to be more willing than ever to ignore size.

 

9. Filip Zadina  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Nikita Kucherov

Here’s a guy who has some scouts going NUTS.  Being a winger, and the type of winger that isn’t overly tough to find these days, I’m not going near as nuts, but still being in the top ten is nothing to sneeze at.  It could be because of who I have him compared to.  Kucherov broke out last season, and if they’re seeing that too with Zadina then that would explain it.  I’m comparing him to Kucherov with past seasons in mind, not so much his 2017 campaign.  On skill alone Zadina is a top five pick, and easily could be.  For me though I just prefer to jump on players who are a little tougher to find and there for he ends up in the ten spot.

 

10. Ty Smith  Spokane  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Jared Spurgeon

I’ve scouted this kid as much or more than anyone to this point.  How do I know that?  Because I’ve watched him since about Novice as he played a lot with my nephews growing up.  The talent was pretty obvious early on.  Great skater.  He’s not overly dominant at either end of the ice, but despite his size is developing into the type of player who can play in any situation.  Ironically, this MIGHT hurt him come draft day.  Some might scoff at the Spurgeon comparison or be underwhelmed by it, but I just mean he’s an undersized kid who knows how to contribute at both ends of the ice, and I might be a bigger Spurgeon fan than most are.

 

11. Jared McIsaac  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

Offensively at this point, he’s probably not in the same category as the D-men ranked above him.  But man, he has a lot of the same game and upside as Bode Wilde.  Maybe has the best breakout pass of any D-man in the draft at this point.  Real nice size, real good skater, bomb of a shot.  Some comparisons I’m shaky on, but I love this one of McIsaac to Klefbom.

 

Tier Four

Joe Veleno  St. John  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Richards

I believe I’m the only person to have Veleno this high, but whatever.  My list.  Simply put, he’s the best centre in the draft and the best centre in the draft doesn’t tend to fall very far.  2012 might be looked at as an exception to that rule, but remember that Alex Galchenyuk was drafted as a centre, and injuries that season cost him going 1st overall.  But on top of all that, what doesn’t Veleno possess?  He’s a complete player who plays very cerebral.  Terrific skater, good size (not great for a centre, that might be another small thing that hurts him), his reputation is that he’s got a tireless work ethic, he just does EVERYTHING so well.  He’ll be a coaches dream.  So what’s the issue?  First thing that springs to mind is that maybe being a CHL exceptional player that he hasn’t met scouts lofty expectations?  Maybe it’s that he doesn’t have that elite offensive flash in his game?  Either way, I’m sky high on the kid.

 

13. Barrett Hayton  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 186  Shot: L

Comparison: Bo Horvat

A complete centre.  Tough to see him becoming a first line centre at this point, but definitely has potential to be one of those elite second line centres who a coach can use in any situation.

 

14. Oliver Wahlstrom  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 195  Shot: R

Comparison: Nick Schmaltz

A boat load of skill, but a questionable motor.  I have my doubts on whether or not he’ll remain a centre at the next level.  Some might question the comparison here, and there’s a very good chance it can change.  But at the moment, it’s perfect.  Size, shot, position, questions of if he’ll play the middle, questions about his motor, just couldn’t be more similar…at least as prospects.

 

15. Ryan McLeod  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Sean Monahan

Another kid who just missed last years draft by a few days, six in his case.  Did not perform too well in the regular season, but then he came alive in the playoffs going at a PPG pace.  Kind of like the Wahlstrom/Schmaltz comparison, McLeod more so reminds me a lot of Monahan in his draft year.  Late birth date, similar size and skill set, maybe a little underrated due to over exposure, and just a solid overall game where he does nothing special but everything very well.

 

16. Benoit-Olivier Groulx  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

Very similar prospect to Jack McBain, with less size and there for I got him lower.  But again, despite the skating issues (and like McBain it’s the first step that’s lacking), I believe this kid has the compete and work ethic to fix the problem and become a very good two way centre someday.  Plays a very complete game.

 

17. Joel Farabee  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 152  Shot: L

Comparison: David Pastrnak

I have a feeling I’m going to be pushing Farabee up my rankings all season.  I don’t like taking wingers, but where I get burned is on wingers who can tilt the ice, because those guys aren’t useless.  Farabee can FLY.  Going to be one of the best…perhaps the best…skater in the draft.  He has elite puck skills and vision to go with those wheels, and a high motor on top of it all.  Not a lot to dislike other than the current weight, but once he’s up around 170 or so it won’t be any issue.

 

18. Jet Woo  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 205  Shot: R

Comparison: Travis Hamonic

It’s funny, a lot of people really like Woo, but everyone has him ranked around this spot.  Doesn’t have the offensive upside which guys like Wilde, Hughes, Smith and McIsaac have.  But having said that, he really gives you nothing to dislike.  Size is fine, RH shot, great skater, plays confident, very willing to get his nose dirty, just a damn good and in my opinion he’s a very safe kid to roll the dice on.

 

19. Ryan Merkley  Guelph  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

I have seen some compare him to Ryan Murphy and if I start seeing that same thing then he’s going to go into free fall in these rankings because Murphy had no idea how to distribute or play away from the puck.  But that’s just who some compare Merkley to, not everyone.  He has all the ability to be an elite point producer from the blueline in the show someday.

 

20. Evan Bouchard  London  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Jeff Petry

Nothing flashy about Bouchard.  He isn’t going to lay anyone out with a big open ice hit, and he isn’t going to create any highlight reel plays.  With everyone looking for the pure puck movers these days, a kid like Bouchard is probably getting a bit underrated.  But while most like to criticize the limited upside, I think you have to get a little excited about the limited downside.

 

21. Jacob Olafsson  Timra  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: David Krejci

 

22. Isac Lundestrom  Lulea  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Sam Reinhart

 

Tier Five

23. Jesperi Kotaniemi  Assat  Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Victor Rask

 

24. Ty Dellandrea  Flint  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Alexander Wennberg

 

25. Xavier Bouchard  Baie-Comeau  QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Alec Martinez

 

26. Akil Thomas  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Vincent Trocheck

 

27. Alexander Khovanov  Moncton  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

 

28. Anderson McDonald  Sherbrooke  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 203  Shot: L

Comparison: James Neal

 

29. Milos Roman  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Bryan Little

 

30. Calen Addison  Lethbridge  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Goligoski

 

31. Krystof Hrabik  Liberec  CZE

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: David Backes

 

32. Giovanni Vallati  Kitchener  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Damon Severson

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017-18 NHL Season Preview & Prognostications

I have been grinding away on this thing for a month now.  Some of it might be out of date.  I went through it a few times and believe I have everything updated, but I easily could have many mistakes.  I don’t feel like dicking around too much with an opening, so here’s my 2017-18 NHL season preview and predictions.

 

Pacific Division

1. Calgary Flames

As you’ll see with my seedings, a lot of this is based on how badly I believe teams want to finish higher up going into the playoffs.  I still quite frankly don’t see the Flames as a better team than the Oilers.  Brad Treliving had another great offseason, but too often we confuse “great offseason” with “great team”.  Don’t forget, the gap between the Flames and Oilers last year was significant.  The Flames were nine points behind the Oilers at the end of the season, only got one point in the four games against them, and were soundly beat in three of the four matchups.  Having said all this, the Flames are better and I believe the Flames will have an eye on home ice all season long.  Travis Hamonic (if healthy) gives them one of the best top four’s in the NHL, and they have two wildcard’s in Mike Smith and Sam Bennett whom if they play to their potential could take them from dark horse, to legitimate contender status.  Even if Smith is what he’s been, which isn’t too good, I think with this blueline that in the regular season Smith will be good enough between the pipes to win the division.

 

2. Edmonton Oilers

It’s only been pre-season, but this team has felt like it’s got a new swagger.  The attitude feels as though it’s gone from “what we could be” to “what we should be”.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m too much of a fan boy.  I try to be objective, but I’m not in this case?  But that’s how it feels to me.  What I love though objective or not is that they have about six or seven guys capable of taking another step, and to be contenders they really only need about two of those guys to actually do it to go from fringe contenders to legit contenders.  I don’t like them to win the division mainly because I don’t see it being as important to them as it would be to the Flames.  They obviously could, but I see the Flames as being built a little better for the regular season, the Oilers being built a little better for the playoffs.  The thing that they have going for them though is a ton of ammo for the trade deadline.  All of their picks moving forward, and a prospect pool now flush with talent.  One or possibly even two big additions along with a couple smaller ones around the trade deadline wouldn’t shock me at all.

 

3. Anaheim Ducks

My initial inclination was to keep the Ducks atop the division.  They’ve won it five straight seasons, and despite the public theory that they’re getting old, Bob Murray has done perhaps the best job in the league when you consider draft position of keeping this team young.  Deepest blueline in the league, it’s not even close, and a lot of good young players up front as well.  We all focus on Getzlaf and Perry, and to a lesser extent Kesler, but other than those three there isn’t a lot of guys who are on the back nine of their careers.  HOW-EV-A (as Screamin’ A. Smith would say), you have old man Kesler out until December, and the top D-man in Hampus Lindholm out until at least November.  And that’s just when they’re expected back, they’ll both likely take a while getting up to speed.  That’s a big hit to this team.  I also don’t like that they’re coming off a crushing loss in the conference finals last season.  And finally, I don’t believe they’ll kill themselves winning the division this season.  Why?  For this group, it’s never done a thing for them.  Don’t get me wrong here at all, I still see them as a big threat to come out of the West, just believe their run of division titles will come to an end this season.  Might not.  They win it again, I won’t be at all surprised.

 

4. San Jose Sharks

Much like the Ducks, it’s foolish to believe this team is done.  They were kicking the shit out of everyone in the division at the trade deadline last year.  Even before the Thornton and Couture injuries they began to descend, but it doesn’t discount the fact that they were still the dominant team in the division for the majority of the season.  I have them fourth, but won’t be surprised at all if they’re in the mix with the top three for the division crown.

 

5. Los Angeles Kings

Interesting team.  The analytics crowd loves them and sees them as being a top four team in this division, and possibly a threat to win the division.  But I don’t feel like they’re considering that John Stevens system won’t fit the makeup of this team nearly as well as Daryl Sutter’s did.  I felt as though Daryl Sutter’s system covered up a lack of depth on the blueline.  Not Doughty, but maybe guys like Muzzin and Martinez.  At the end of the day, I just think this will be a saw off.  They’ll score more, but they’ll give up more, and being an old team you have to assume that injuries are going to be a big factor and if Quick continues to have injury issues this is a team that could plummet to the bottom of the division.

 

6. Arizona Coyotes

As of writing this, I’m wondering if anyone is going to notice that through all the drama this team had in the offseason, that they’re actually really improved.  I’d say they improved between the pipes, though Raanta has to prove he can play 50-60 games.  Improved drastically down the middle with Derek Stepan, Clayton Keller is expceted to have a big impact and be one of the top contenders for the Calder, and even though I didn’t like the Hjalmarsson trade they probably improved the blueline even though Connor Murphy likely will improve the Blackhawks back end just as much.  According to the analytics guys on Twitter, the Jason Demers trade has put this team into Cup contending status too…..I’ve said this before: Dave Tippett, while one of the best coaches in the game, didn’t really fit with having such a young and offensively talented team.  Rick Tocchett has been around teams which were really young and talented while in Tampa and in Pittsburgh.  I think this team could push for a playoff spot.  I don’t think they’ll make it, but won’t be anything surprised if they make some noise this season.

 

7. Vancouver Canucks

When you start seeing guys like Sam Gagner, Thomas Vanek, and Michael Del Zotto signing for bigger deals than they likely could get elsewhere…you know you’re in the midst of a rebuild.  No surprise, it had to happen, I guess the surprise is that ownership seems to be embracing it after a few years of fighting it.  There’s no sugarcoating it for Canucks fans, it’ll be a rough five year stretch or so.  Maybe you have a lucky season like the Flames had in 15, or the Avs had in 14, but it’ll be rough.  They’ve got pieces coming, and a few already on the roster.  I love Bo Horvat’s game.  I’m not big on wingers, but Brock Boeser looks like he has perennial 30 goal potential.  I was a big fan of the Pettersson pick this June, Thatcher Demko is likely a year away, and they’ve done a real nice job of stockpiling D-men despite the struggles that Olli Juolevi has had since being selected.  But this is just the beginning.  If everything goes right, maybe it’s only three years.  Realistically, I believe it’ll be around 2022 before this team starts making the playoffs regularly again.  So it’s potentially a long road ahead Canucks fans, but unfortunately the team had no choice.

 

8. Vegas Golden Knights

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the Golden Knights, because it would be dumb to talk as though I know what we’re going to see from this team.  I picked them 8th in the division, but I know for sure this isn’t the worst team in the NHL, and they easily could finish as high as sixth in this division.  Great goaltending, blueline has depth but you’d be hard pressed to pick a legit top pairing out of that right now, they have good wingers, but they’re flat out AWFUL down the middle.  It’s going to take a while, but shouldn’t take anywhere near as long as it took for Columbus, Atlanta, or even Nashville to get up to speed with the rest of the league.

 

Central Division

1. Dallas Stars

I’m really not sky high on the Stars like the rest of the hockey world is, despite having them to finish first in the Central.  I’m not a big Ben Bishop fan, I’m not a big Jason Spezza fan, and their blueline did improve this offseason but it’s still far from elite.  The key here is Ken Hitchcock, and Hitch seems to get a lot more out of guys in the regular season than most do.  Seguin and Spezza will both be a hell of a lot better 200 foot players this season.  Martin Hanzal will be a Hitchcock favourite and take a lot of pressure off the top two centres.  Ben Bishop will have great numbers because the quality of shots he’ll face is going to drop drastically.  And the D will look better than it is because there will be much more of a commitment to board work by the wingers, centres playing lower (kind of already hit on that but I will again), and nobody busting the zone looking for a stretch pass.  They’re going to be a regular season beast.  Just don’t expect me to have them going very far in the playoffs.  The one thing I will say however is that Tyler Seguin could become elite thanks to Hitch now being there.  It’s scary how similar his situation is to that of Mike Modano’s in 1996.

 

2. Minnesota Wild 

Much like the Stars, I’m not in love with this Wild team.  But I think it’s a complete roster, and I love the head coach….at least in the regular season.  For five months last season, I was counting my money.  I was the only person who had the Wild to win the Central division, and threw 20 bucks down to back it up.  It was a LOCK…until the last month of the season when they collapsed.  The big concern here is how old the core of this team is getting.  As of January 21st, Parise, Staal, Koivu, and Suter are going to be 33 or older.    I believe they’ll have another big regular season, first or second place in the division, but just like last season I don’t see them going anywhere in the playoffs.

 

3. Chicago Blackhawks

Analytics guys aren’t fans of what the Hawks did this off-season, but I sure am.  A lot of the band is back together, and that’s great, but that’s not why I love what they did.  I was never a big fan of Artemi Panarin, and Brandon Saad is only part of the replacement.  The other part is Alex DeBrincat.  He should thrive being put in the same spot that Panarin was in on the Hawks PP.  I also love getting Connor Murphy who is just entering his prime in for Nik Hjalmarsson who is just about done his, and a RH shot on top of that which the Hawks needed on the blueline.  So if I’m so high on them, why only 3rd?  It’s a damn good division, and I don’t see the Hawks caring about where they finish in the division, just as long as they’re in the dance.  Last season, they cruised through the regular season.  People can say it was this or it was that which cost them against the Preds.  The truth is that the Preds had their struggles throughout the season, while the Hawks faced zero adversity.  It’s not going to be intentional, but this team is going to face adversity this season.  And they’ll be so much better come April because of it and because of the changes.

 

4. Nashville Predators

As we head into the 17-18 season, I’ll lay a prediction on you.  That prediction is that John Tavares will leave the Islanders, and my prediction is that he’ll end up with the Nashville Predators when it’s all said and done.  I know they just locked down Ryan Johansen for 8×8.  But you can move that contract…if you even need to.  If we get near the trade deadline, and the Islanders look as though they’re going nowhere, and Tavares hasn’t been signed, they have a lot of chips they could deal Garth Snow.  And with the way David Poile has been going the last three seasons or so, it’s the type of move he’d do.  Add to that the relationship Tavares has with Subban, thanks to last springs Cup run it’s one of the hottest markets in the league, they’re in a now weakened Central division, it’s a perfect spot for him.  Anyway, I’m sure most will have the Preds winning the division.  Maybe they will, but I see them as a team that couldn’t really give a damn about winning the division.  As we saw last year, they just need to get in.  I’m guessing Pekka Rinne will continue his slide throughout the regular season, and that Juuse Saros is the man come playoff time.  That slide from Rinne will set the Preds back a bit during the regular season, hence the second straight year they end up with the second wildcard spot.

 

5. St. Louis Blues

To me, this club is in an odd spot.  I don’t think they’re as good as the top four I have in this division.  Now, obviously if I got them fifth, I know.  But I mean that I see it as a top four and any of those top four could finish one through fourth, and then the Blues are clearly fifth.  And they aren’t really old.  Jake Allen finally proved me wrong in the playoffs, Tarasenko is a winger, but he’s an elite offensive player, and the blueline is anchored by Pietrangelo and Parayko.  And they’ve done a good job keeping the system healthy, so they have a lot of kids on the big club, and a lot who are close to making the jump.  But I just see them taking a step back this season.  I mean, it’s already starting to take shape with all the injuries they’ve suffered just in training camp.  Robby Fabbri might have been the biggest key to the Blues season, and now unfortunately he’s done for the year.  Very possible they challenge or even best the Sharks for the final playoff spot in the West, but I just don’t see them doing much better than that.  It’s not a rebuild, but they do need either a home run of a draft pick or a big trade/free agent signing this summer to get back to being a Cup contender as I don’t believe this core as constructed can get to that point.

 

6. Winnipeg Jets

I’ve been a big Kevin Cheveldayoff fan, but one area where he’s dropped the ball drastically is between the pipes.  He rode Ondrej Pavalec for far too long, and then last season he didn’t take it seriously at all going with Michael Hutchinson and Conor Hellebuyck.  Now he’s going with Steve Mason?  I just don’t get it at all.  This team has all the assets in the world to go out and pay what they need to for a top flight netminder, and Chevy won’t do it.  Because of this, he’s pissed away Dustin Byfuglien’s prime, and likely Blake Wheeler’s by now too.  I absolutely and completely understand the excitement fans and media have for the Jets because of how they’ve drafted and stockpiled assets.  But it’s all for not if Cheveldayoff isn’t going to take goaltending seriously.  I really hope Steve Mason works out, playoff hockey is just better with the Jets involved and more specifically the Winnipeg fans involved, but I don’t see it happening again this season.

 

7. Colorado Avalanche

A joke.  A fucking joke.  What do you say about this organization at this point?  It pisses me off, and I’m not even an Avs fan.  If you’re an Avs fan, I don’t know what to tell you.  It legitimately feels as though Joe Sakic doesn’t want the GM job, and yet he’s stuck with it.  It’s a disgrace.  This was an elite organization for so long, and now it’s like this.  Ok, so what to like?  A healthy Semyon Varlamov should help them at least be competitive.  I love Tyson Jost and believe he could be a kid that’ll overcome this mess and thrive.  Mikko Rantanen is a good looking young player too.  The big one is Nathan MacKinnon.  He has to prove he can go to another level that we all believe he has.  Too much speed and skill to not be an elite centre.  But…maybe he’s just a winger?  Or maybe once Matt Duchene is gone (if ever with how this has gone) he’ll grab the reigns to the team a little more?  I don’t know.  The only thing I do know is what a disgrace this organization is right now, and unless they win another Connor McDavid, they aren’t going anywhere.

 

Atlantic Division

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Obviously last season got derailed by the Stamkos injury.  But it’s not as easy as Stamkos staying healthy and they’ll be back to being a contender.  Hedman and Kucherov also need to repeat what they did last season, and the jury is now going to be out on Andrei Vasilevskiy.  He’s the number one guy now, and he has all the tools to be a Vezina candidate.  He would probably be my X factor for the Bolts this season, but if he performs up to expectations, this team will be great top to bottom and not only will contend for top spot in the division, they’ll contend for the Cup as well.

 

2. Montreal Canadiens

It’s trendy right now in the Toronto media to bash the Habs and believe that this team is going to be trash just because they had such a weak pre-season.  I’m not buying it.  They made a pretty big splash when they acquired Jonathan Drouin, but I don’t see that move having the impact others think it’ll have.  They’ll try Drouin at centre to start the season, but the kids problem in Tampa was he refused to play a 200 foot game, so now he’s going to commit to doing it?  So I don’t see this team being any better down the middle.  And they were weak down the middle already.  Having said that, I still like them to finish high in the division and be a threat to come out of the East.  Don’t overlook the coach, and don’t forget about what they have in net.  I also still buy into them because I don’t think Marc Bergevin is done.  He’ll look to make a push this season with Carey Price’s new contract kicking in July 1st.  This is their window.  John Tavares?  I could see it.  Matt Duchene?  He’d be an upgrade.  It doesn’t look pretty right now, but by the spring I believe they’ll be looked at as a contender in the East.

 

3. Florida Panthers

Man, EVERYONE is sleeping on the Panthers!!  We do realize that this team was the division champ just two seasons ago…right?!  We do realize that they were decimated by injuries last season…right?!  I know Luongo is older, but I still feel like the guy is a very good starter in this league.  Couple that with Reimer being a very good backup.  A big key will be Aaron Ekblad getting back on track, but I fully believe he will do that.  He wouldn’t be the first kid in this league to have injury problems (concussions specifically) to set him back for a season or two, only to get back on track and become a star.  Then they look terrific down the middle, I’m a big fan of all three of Barkov, Trocheck and Bjugstad.  DO NOT SLEEP ON THE PANTHERS!  If they stay healthy, they’re going back to the playoffs.

 

4. Ottawa Senators

The big thing that sticks in my mind with this team is that Guy Boucher did this EXACT same thing in Tampa Bay.  2011 they go from missing the playoffs to game seven of the East final.  The next season the Lightning missed the playoffs and never made it back under Boucher who began to alienate his team.  I also don’t like how Erik Karlsson enters the season injured.  Craig Anderson is a year older too.  But having said all that, it’s a real solid squad top to bottom with very few holes.  Both Kyle Turris and Derrick Brassard are in the last year of their deals, and should have big seasons as they look for deals that will set them up for life.  Once he’s healthy, Colin White is going to be a key contributor.  He was phenomenal for the U.S. at the WJC last winter, and the only reason he fell to the Sens in the draft was because he had mono in his draft year.  I like putting Thomas Chabot in Binghamton to start the season, zero need to rush the kid.  So I believe they’ll get back in the playoffs, and they could finish as high as second in this division, but I like them in the four hole.

 

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

This will be the most controversial and gain me more heat with people than any other prognostication.  I always say it, I pull for the Leafs to be at least relevant.  The Leafs being good is good for the NHL.  But I think they’re just barely going to miss the playoffs this year.  Everyone is high on them, and I completely understand it.  They’re making all the right moves.  But just because you’re making all the right decisions doesn’t mean that you’ll get all the bounces.  Last season, a lot of things went the Leafs way.  Mainly, very few injuries, and a lot of teams who took them lightly.  So this isn’t a knock on any of their kids or the way management has went about doing anything.  It’s just that it’s unrealistic to expect none of the kids to regress, avoid injuries again, all the while other teams are taking them much more seriously.  And this isn’t to say that I don’t think they’ll be in it.  They’ll be in the hunt for a playoff spot for sure.  But I just think this is going to be much more of a grind for them this season and ultimately I see them just barely missing, or just barely making the playoffs.  I have them 5th in the division, but obviously I wouldn’t be shocked if they continue to trend up and finish first in this division.

 

6. Boston Bruins

I see TSN has them going to the playoffs.  No.  In a league that is getting faster and faster, this team is not.  Charlie McAvoy looks like the goods, no doubt.  David Pastrnak is a very good young winger.  But what else is there to hang your hat on if you’re a Bruins fan?  Is Brad Marchand going to have another career year?  Is Zdeno Chara going to turn back the clock?  Is Patrice Bergeron going to remain an elite centre forever?  David Backes has been in steady decline now for a few seasons, is he going to turn it around?  I just don’t see it at all with this hockey club.  Short term last season, they got a boost from the coaching change.  But I think you’ll see this year what this squad really is and what they really are is a team in decline.

 

7. Buffalo Sabres

I crushed Jason Botterill for his failure to address the blueline at the draft.  And rightfully so, he did a terrible job at this years draft.  That system has nothing coming on defence, and he did nothing to help that.  However, he did do a solid job upgrading the current blueline with Marco Scandella, and Nathan Beaulieu is likely an upgrade from what they had.  But still, this teams blueline is pretty bad, and I think it’s become obvious that Robin Lehner isn’t the answer between the pipes.  Up front you have nothing to complain about if you’re a Sabres fan.  Eichel has that fat new contract, O’Reilly is one of the best two way centres in the game, Sam Reinhart should continue to grow, and Kyle Okposo appears to be healthy again.  But overall, it is just a bad roster, and Botterill is likely going to have two or three more years of building before he can get this team near the top of the division.

 

8. Detroit Red Wings

There is no point in spending much time on the Red Wings.  Ken Holland has done a very poor job over the last several years after maintaining their success for such a long time.  Looks like a terrific new building, but I believe it is going to be a while before it sees playoff hockey.  Goaltending looks bad, Dylan Larkin doesn’t look like the superstar so many jumping the gun to say he was in his rookie season, Henrik Zetterberg is still real good but can’t carry the team on his own, still have some talent on the wings, but couple that with the horrific job they’ve done with their blueline over the last five or six years and you have what they are right now.

 

Metropolitan Division

1. Carolina Hurricanes

Like everything on my blog that appears to be done for shock value, allow me to explain that I’m not saying this for shock value.  Some of this is circumstantial.  The Blue Jackets are due to digress after being so injury free, getting incredible goaltending, and losing a few guys who really helped their PP.  We all know the Caps are likely to digress, and the Pens are likely going to be more worried with ensuring they’re healthy and rested going into the playoffs rather than winning the division.  But there is also a lot of love for the Canes.  Last year I was really high on them, and if they had good goaltending they probably would have been a playoff team.  Well I believe (like a lot of analytics people) that Scott Darling is the next Cam Talbot.  Late bloomer, elite backup, and terrific underlying numbers.  Him, combined with what should be the league’s top PK (in a season expected to see a big increase in PP’s), the best young blueline in hockey, a boat load of offensive talent up front and a very well coached team.  I just think things are going to pop for this team at some point, and I’m willing to put my money on this season.  I’d like to see Ron Francis add a go to guy up front.  Maybe Matt Duchene is that guy, or maybe it’s someone else.  But as constructed, I believe this team can take advantage of some tough circumstances for the other top teams and take this division.

 

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

One thing I’m pretty sure about is that this team is eventually going to gas out this season.  They barely got past Ottawa, and then had a lot of puck luck in the Cup final against Nashville.  Seeing how only one team repeated in the last 20 years, I’m going to guess that they can’t 3-peat thanks to fatigue.  I know, Kris Letang is back and that’ll be a big help.  I also expect Justin Schultz to continue growing as his confidence is now sky high compared to where it was when he first went to Pittsburgh.  As with any team, the starting goaltender has to stay healthy.  But it needs to be mentioned with the Pens because of the fact that they no longer have the Marc-Andre Fleury luxury.  They still have Sid, they still have Geno, they still have Phil, but I just don’t think there is ANY shot that this team pulls off a third straight Cup win.

 

3. Columbus Blue Jackets

I like the Jackets, but I don’t love them.  Get past the insane hot streak this team went on last season and just say it out loud.  They finished third in their division and got bounced in five games in the playoffs.  So at their absolute best with Sergei Bobrovsky playing out of his skull in goal, they were third and won one playoff game.  The blueline is real good, but maybe not as good as some seem to think it is.  They’re similar down the middle where they’re solid, but lack that elite centre who could put them over the top.  Now, Matt Duchene would help that.  He’s not an elite centre, but he’s close to it and for this team might be good enough to take them to the next level.  Duchene has never played with a blueline this good who can actually get him the puck.  Basically they’re a lot like Montreal.  Well coached, terrific goaltending, a better blueline, but probably more desperation in Montreal from management to go get the piece or pieces to take them to the next level.  Also, the Habs have it easier in their division.  The Metro is damn tough.

 

4. Washington Capitals

This team is now in a weird spot.  I believe they’ll still be a bit of a regular season power, but they’re not really a threat.  I see a season much like the Blues had last season.  Nobody is talking about John Carlson right now, but I won’t be surprised if he ends up being dealt at the trade deadline.  For him, why stay?  If you want to win, it’s becoming clear that you won’t do it in Washington.  But having said that, they still have Backstrom, Ovechkin, Oshie, Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Holtby, and the aforementioned Carlson (at least until around the trade deadline).  The one thing I’ll say is that I do wonder if Barry Trotz figured out how to better utilize his talent in the playoffs last year when they moved Ovechkin to the third line, allowing him to carry his own line much how Mike Sullivan used Phil Kessel in 2016.  I haven’t heard or read that he plans on doing that again though.  They’ll still be a solid hockey club through 82 games, but come playoffs they’ll do what they do yet again.

 

5. NY Rangers 

It’s amazing how nondescript the Rangers are considering they’re the NEW YORK Rangers.  It is actually a credit to their management that they’re such a boring and forgettable (yet consistently good) franchise.  But they’re about to reach the end of this real good run they’ve been on since about 2006.  The big reason is Henrik Lundqvist is reaching the end.  But while that’s the biggest, there are a lot of other reasons too.  The blueline is getting old, and I’m not sure the Kevin Shattenkirk signing is going to improve things that much.  He’s a solid top four puck mover, but he’s pretty bad in his own zone.  And they’re going to really miss Derek Stepan who could play in any situation.  Hopefully for their sake Mika Zibanejad is ready to step into that role.  I believe they’ll contend for a playoff spot, but it’s 50/50 in my mind whether or not they’ll make it back this season.

 

6. Philadelphia Flyers

This is a very good, up and coming team.  But they aren’t ready yet.  I can’t think of a move Ron Hextall has made thus far that I could bitch about.  He’s been the exact opposite of Paul Holmgren, who looked to be in on everything and seemingly had no plan other than to spend as much as he possibly.  But not with Hextall.  He’s had a plan, and the plan was to rebuild, and the rebuild is almost complete.  But I just don’t think they’re there yet.  The blueline WILL be good, but don’t confuse that with being good currently.  Brian Elliott is a big question mark in goal.  No doubt he’ll be motivated, but he’s had consistency issues throughout his career.  Nolan Patrick is going to be a terrific player, but he’s not there yet.  I don’t know what else to say.  They’re on the right track, Flyers fans will just need to be patient for another season.

 

7. NY Islanders

I’m not seeing it for the Islanders.  I got the sense that Garth Snow was ready to blow up the system and do whatever he could in hopes that John Tavares would get stupid and believe they’re moving towards being a Cup contender by having a better offensive team.  He got Jordan Eberle, and at the time it was viewed as the first move of many.  And then he did the Travis Hamonic deal for picks….ok….I think we all figured there must be more to come.  Since then, crickets.  I wonder if A) Snow misjudged how high the prices were going to be for players like Duchene and Galchenyuk, and B) if the McDavid extension gave them pause on doing a deal with Tavares.  Because it felt like as soon as the 13.25 number came out (even though it ended up being 12.5 for McDavid) that we stopped hearing about the Islanders being in on anyone.  And now they have a bit of a downgrade on defence, not much of an upgrade up front from what Strome was giving them last season, and don’t look strong in any area.

 

8. New Jersey Devils

This team is just very flawed.  That blueline is just so bad.  A lot of young talent up front, but the blueline is just not good.  Can Taylor Hall EVER find a team that is relatively old and balanced?!  Moving forward, down the middle, this team is great.  Hischier, McLeod, Henrique is still young if they want to use him there, John Quennville, Pavel Zacha can play the middle though I believe he’s better on the wing, so they’re set at centre.  And Cory Schneider should bounce back with a bit of a better season.  But it’s a bad team.  Too many flaws, not well enough coached, Ray Shero has a lot of work to do.

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Calgary vs San Jose (wildcard one)

Smith gets exposed by the experienced Sharks and the Flames go home early.

Edmonton vs Anaheim

Another war between these two but this time with home ice advantage and some hired guns the Oilers get past the Ducks

Dallas vs Nashville (wildcard two)

The Stars will be great in the regular season, but come playoff time they’ll get exposed a bit.

Minnesota vs Chicago

Much like the Stars, the Wild will get exposed by the Hawks.

Tampa Bay vs Ottawa (wildcard two)

No miracle run for the Sens this time around as the Bolts are just too good top to bottom.

Montreal vs Florida

I don’t feel great about this Habs pick, not only to finish 2nd in the division but to defeat the Panthers in the playoffs.  But again, don’t forget what they still have in the fold.

Carolina vs Washington (wildcard one)

I really love the Hurricanes this season, and who honestly likes the Caps at this point?

Pittsburgh vs Columbus

The Pens once again will just be too much for the Jackets come the postseason.

 

Conference Finals

Tampa Bay vs Carolina

Gross!!!  Tampa is fun to watch, but two Southeast teams playing in the conference finals?!  Yeah, I can see it happening.  I believe the Canes are perfectly situated this season to knock off the Pens both in the regular season, and the playoffs.  And for the Lighnting, I just believe they’re the best team in the East.  They pushed hard to make the playoffs without Steven Stamkos.  Now, they have Stamkos back, sure they might miss Jonathan Drouin, but they’ve gained Mikhail Sergachev on their blueline.

 

Edmonton vs Chicago

This is a very sexy matchup for hockey fans.  The three time champs vs the emerging powerhouse.  Toews and Kane vs McDavid and Draisaitl.  Again, I believe the Oilers are going to really load up at the trade deadline this season.  But I really like what the Hawks did this off-season, much more than most.  I believe come playoff time, they’re going to make a lot of noise yet again.

 

Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bay vs Chicago

I actually have a rematch of a recent Stanley Cup final.  I don’t know if I’ve ever done that when making picks, but this one feels logical to me.  Again, I see the Hawks.

 

Stanley Cup Champion

Chicago Blackhawks

 

Awards

Hart – Connor McDavid

Why fight it?  It’s very likely a two player race.

Norris – Roman Josi

After his run last spring, writers are going to be paying a lot more attention to him this season.

Vezina – Carey Price

Much like McDavid, why fight it?

Calder – Alex DeBrincat

This one is REALLY interesting.  You could toss about 15 names out for this and be in the hunt.  Everyone says Keller or McAvoy, but I love the situation and talent combination of DeBrincat.

Jack Adams – Bill Peters

I have them to win the Metro.  If they win the Metro, Bill Peters is getting this award.

Richard – Patrik Laine

It’s coming, he’s winning one someday soon, so why not now?

Art Ross – Connor McDavid

And again I ask…why fight it?

Conn Smythe – Patrick Kane

The Cup pick is certainly wrong, so I don’t even know why I’m predicting a Conn Smythe winner!

 

Here we go folks.  Puck drops tonight, enjoy the season!

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