Hot Takes – Jan. 29th, 2018

So let’s just get right to it because if you’re reading this then you know I do a blog pretty much every Monday, and you know what I’m going to be most fired up about, so why the hell would waste your time with some ridiculous opening?!

 

Well, I have to give the jack asses in power a little bit of credit, because it does sound like they’re going to at least some what try to fix the problem.  But man, it really has to get to the point of well beyond humiliating for anyone to get off their asses and fix a problem in the NHL doesn’t it?!  It’s absolutely incredible that these dip shits can’t get out of their own way to fix things.  The officiating is disgraceful, and it’s not the fault of the officials, it’s the way that they are being asked to officiate.  I wrote about it last week, these knobs running the league (*cough* Colin Campbell *cough*) have unwritten rules that supersede the ACTUAL rules!!  I watch Connor McDavid play every night, and he’s mauled every night.  He’s not only the fastest player in the game, he’s the fastest player with the puck in the game, and beyond THAT, he constantly is putting himself in positions with the puck where he’s a threat to a defender where the choice is to either take some kind of penalty or allow a grade A scoring chance.  He probably draws four penalties a night on average if the game is being officiated properly.  He’s 10th in the league in drawing penalties.  Number one?  Matthew Tkachuk….known league pest who the league will also adjust their rules to as I hit on last week to allow him to play his game.  And do NOT get that twisted, I’m not an Oilers fan right now crying because a Flame is getting the most calls while my beloved Oiler isn’t.  I applaud Tkachuk, because he’s smart enough to understand that the league and officials are so stupid that adjust the way they officiate to allow him to play that way!  If McDavid was more greasy about things, I truly believe he’d get more calls!  But because he doesn’t, and because he draws so many that it would slow down the game (which is the big mandate for officials is to call as few penalties in a game as they possibly can, it’s become clear that they believe flow and keeping the PP’s even for both sides is more important than properly officiating it).  This league is completely fucked, there is just no two ways about it.

 

Would you believe that this is 100 times a nicer rant against the league than I originally had written?  There was a lot of name calling in the original, which I still would have had no problem with, because none of them deserve respect from hockey fans.  If any of us were as incompetent as these people are at their jobs, we wouldn’t have jobs.  And yet these completely unqualified jack asses just keep getting or remain in these gigs.  And it’s league wide.  It isn’t just in the league offices, it’s around the league.  Each team (and I’m talking on the ice here, not off) is a business and these businesses are being run by “hockey men” whom have no business training at all.  We are living in a day and age where you have fans (far from every fan, but a small number) who are not only more intelligent about the game and how to run these businesses than the “hockey men” are, but can publicly document it for everyone to see.  And I’m not saying that the “hockey men” hold no value, they absolutely do.  But they shouldn’t be running the businesses, whether we are talking on ice or off ice.

 

And yet the king of all these businesses is Gary Bettman, and when his name gets tossed out as being a shitty commissioner people will talk about revenue “well when he took over revenue was only here and now it’s here so he’s done incredible”.  Nothing like comparing something to nothing and giving one fact with nothing behind it to support it.  Revenue’s have gone through the roof while he’s been commissioner hey?  And they didn’t while John Ziggler was running things?  And they haven’t for the commissioners of the other sports leagues?  And inflation in his 25 years as commissioner has nothing to do with this?  If you’ve tossed that stat at people you’re a complete moron.  And just because revenues have gone up in NO WAY shows what could be.  What if scoring is way up and there for offensive records are put in jeopardy and there for the game becomes much more marketable?  You think revenues might go up?  I bet they would, and under Bettman the large majority of his tenure has seen scoring much further down than when he took over as league commissioner in 1993.  Another thing a massive spike in scoring would do as I’ve hit on before is make the sport much more enjoyable and interesting to gamble on.  Currently, the spread in every hockey game is -1.5, and those odds are normally astronomical to win.  We should live in a world where you can bet the Pens favoured by 2.5 against the Kings and the odds be near 50/50 for it to happen.  8-7, 8-5, 7-4, 9-5, these are scores that we should be seeing regularly in the league.  It would make the sport so much better in so many ways.  But again, the people running it, who are led by their 5’4 troll at the top just refuse to make that happen.

 

Anyway, I could go on about this all night, let’s get to some good news before I sign off…

 

What a week for the Flyers Ethnic Club!!  Two wins which extends the streak to five…or ten….or something like that.  Big win over the Wanna-be’s led by their star player, you all know him, #14, Massive Douche.  And don’t get me wrong, Massive Douche played great.  He was on his game that night.  Couple of cheap shots, couple of horrible chirps, got off the ice every time shit got heated, he played his game to perfection.  But it wasn’t enough as it turns out it’s a good idea to be decent at hockey for all that to be effective and his squad fell to the Flyers.  Then last night (as you likely saw on TMZ), with the Flyers rolling, and the Mustangs still reeling from the beat down they received at the hands of the Flyers just two weeks prior, decided to forfeit the game just hours before the Flyers were to arrive.  And yep, you guessed it….Tyler Campbell ONCE AGAIN with the GWG!  And not just that, but the Soups on Hockey camera’s were rolling and caught Campbell celebrating his latest snipe amongst the Flyers faithful after the game:

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Jan. 22nd, 2018

So I read an article last week that started off something like “The look on his face said it all.  As Tony Clark answered question after question by reporters, you knew what he wanted to say, but just refused to say the words.  The room was dark and ominous.  A child’s laughter could be heard in the distance”.  Something along those lines anyway.  I don’t write that way you may have noticed.  I basically write every piece the exact same way.  Try to be something interesting/humourous/so stupid it’s kind of funny, in the first paragraph and then get right into it.  The point here is this is sports.  So many of these guys writing on sports are much more worried with being writers than informing and educating people about what is going on.  When I read someone’s stuff, I couldn’t give a damn about how it’s laid out.  Let’s get to the point, get to the facts, get to the opinion’s, and quit wasting my time trying to script your movie.  So that’s my “opening” this week, me being pissed off about how most people do this.

 

Now on with act II….

 

My picks went 0-5.  Should I be anything surprised?  Set aside that they haven’t been good since October, look at the standings.  A damn expansion team is first overall.  Jersey is battling for first in what’s supposed to be the toughest division in hockey.  The two time defending champs are a serious threat to miss the playoffs.  The Jets are fighting for first in what actually is the toughest division in hockey.  The Blackhawks all of a sudden look like an average team (mind you, since Corey Crawford went out who was having a Vezina caliber season).  The hottest team in that division?  The Colorado Avalanche have now won nine in a row.  That team has about five NHL players up front, two NHL defencemen, and currently are running with Jon Bernier in goal and have won nine straight.  Teams like Washington, Boston, St.Louis and San Jose were fully expected to fade and instead they’ve either stayed the course or improved.  And of course the Oilers are the biggest disappointment in the league.  So this season is officially ASS BACKWARDS!!!  I could beat myself up over my picks all day, but it’s just a symbol of this season.  Everything that should be happening, isn’t happening.  We might be witnessing the most bizarre season in NHL history, definitely since 2006.

 

Another moral boosting victory for the Flyers Ethnic Club last night on home ice.  The pre game blockbuster that sent John Sloman and Casey Phipps to the Marwayne Imperials in exchange for two beef n cheddars, a medium curly fries and some BK chicken fries paid off in spades.  The trade really loaded an already full Imperials roster and left the ethnic club depleted, yet the Flyers managed to gut out tight defensive struggle.  Kayne Rowley showed why some have compared him to a young Dana Murzyn as he anchored the D, while the number one line of the Sedin twins and Sam Muhammad Sayeed produced the majority of the offence, and once again it was Tyler Campbell (I’m still him) coming through in the clutch with the GWG.  Flyers will be taking their show on the road for two this week, Wednesday night at the Multiplex, then back to Dewberry for a rematch with the Rusty Mustangs.  With the possibility of chicken or pizza being brought for snacks Wednesday, another two points is a virtual lock.

 

Back to less serious notes…

 

I might do a piece on this later in the season, but I’ll do the short version today.  And again I’m going to bitch about the mindset this league actually has.  Let’s run down the list of the unwritten rules which overrule ACTUAL written rules in the NHL:

  • If a player is so good that he draws penalties nearly every shift, then the unwritten rule is to ignore all of them except the blatant ones.  The theory is that it’s better to avoid slowing down a game rather than allowing your star players to shine.
  • Teams who have a reputation as a “defensive” team are allowed to get away with more because “that’s how they play”.
  • Players with the reputation of being a pest or chicken shit instead of being targets for officials are instead rewarded more and more as years go by because again, “that’s how they play”.
  • Teams who are on the PK have immunity from being called for tripping, holding, slashing, hooking, cross checking, interference or boarding because putting a team down 5 on 3 “wouldn’t be fair”.  Of course nothing can be done about high sticks or puck over glass penalties because they “have to call those ones”.

It’s just amazing to me, and I’m probably missing a bunch more.  The reason behind all of these is because “we want to let the players decide the game”.  Well, then why do you have rules in an actual rule book that counter this mindset?  Why don’t you want the most skilled players to be dominant?  Why are you rewarding teams who have less skill?  Why are you promoting playing like a chicken shit and doing things like diving and making dirty plays?  Why are you helping out teams who are on the PK?  You’re not allowing the players to decide shit, you’re giving weaker players and weaker teams a massive advantage.  The logic of the people looking after the rules and overseeing the officials is just asinine.  And they ACTUALLY believe that this is better for the product!  The fact that the owners haven’t figured out yet that these people are hurting the league and there for hurting their investments really blows my mind.  If I’m coaching a team or running a team I’m demanding, not asking, my players to dive every opportunity you have and to challenge the officials all game to make calls.  Hook, hold, trip, interfere, slash, etc. because these guys don’t want to make calls.  And the more often you do this, the less they’ll call because their goal is very literally to call as little as they possibly can to meet their goal of keeping the game moving.  If the league is going to continue to be a joke at running things, then players and teams may as well take full advantage of it.

 

The whole reason I started giving that shit thought this week was the Andrew Cogliano situation.  I’m probably on an island here, but I found that to be an absolute joke.  Not the fact that he got suspended, the fact that he was completely made out to be a total victim in all of it and that people around the league were actually suggesting he shouldn’t have been suspended because of his iron man streak.  FUCK RIGHT OFF.  Another example of how their is this “make it up as we go” culture in the NHL.  Thankfully the league stuck to their guns for once and suspended a guy based on his actions and not how it affected him personally.  So there was this outcry of support for Cogs, a tearful interview, and video tribute to him.  Like, this ACTUALLY happened for a guy because he got a two game suspension.  If the guy blocks a shot and it breaks a bone in his foot, nobody says shit.  “It was a heck of a streak, what a shame it had to end” and that would be it.  Instead, our soft as shit culture took over and it was made out to be as if the guy died….literally.  When Cogs retires, who in the hell is going to remember this if nobody says a word about it?  If he had got suspended for two games at the 237 game mark, and then gone onto play another 800 straight would we have then said “oh man, if only he hadn’t been suspended!!”  No, we would say he had an incredible streak of his own.  And if he continues doing what he’s been doing, playing in every game and ends up with another streak of say 200 games, who the hell will care about a suspension?  He’ll have played in 1,030 straight games which he was eligible for.

 

Last week I wrote a lot on Darnell Nurse.  This week I have to talk about Jesse Puljujarvi, and in a way the two are really similar.  Both have had the knock of having “no hockey sense”.  This is just a lazy narrative that “hockey people” have rolled with forever.  With some players, they’re simply so talented when they’re coming up that they never have to think the game.  So when they get to the league and can’t get by on their talent alone, they get that label of having no hockey sense.  If a player is an incredible skater but never has to go full out, does this mean he’s not a good skater?  My theory has been that if a player is intelligent that he’ll figure it out.  And this is why I can’t for the life of me figure out why the league doesn’t do IQ testing at the draft combine (a Wonderlic test like the NFL does).  If a kid has a high IQ, I’m betting he’ll be able to figure it out.  Nurse is starting to do that, and I’ve always said what I loved about him the most was his intelligence, all the while many people without knowing just how smart of a kid Nurse is wanted to label him as having “no hockey sense”.  ANYWAY, Puljujarvi has gotten this same reputation through his struggles.  Now with him, it’s tougher to gauge how intelligent he is given the language and lack of any kind of educational sources to go off of like with Nurse (OHL scholastic player of the year in 2013).  But it sure looks as though the whole “lack of hockey sense” theory is wrong with him too.  In my mind, it’s just a matter of gaining confidence.  He had it playing a weak team like the Canucks on Saturday, and even being the best player on the ice you can still see so much he can improve on which would take him to an elite level.  He still doesn’t drive the puck to the net.  And to me, that’s a bit like McDavid shooting more in that once Puljujarvi starts driving it to the net it’ll open up so much more and he will start backing defenders off.  A lot of his development will depend on his work ethic (which I’ve been told from an actual source…yes, I somehow have a source on this…is very good) and determination.  If he has those traits, the sky is very much so the limit with him.  I’ve said before, he has Rick Nash type ability.  His one timer still isn’t nearly developed (but I love that he’s not afraid to still try it), skating should improve the stronger he gets, the vision will improve dramatically the more comfortable he gets, it’s ridiculous how good this kid could end up being.  Not saying he’s going to get there, but it’s sure getting intriguing watching the rapid growth he’s made this season.

 

Of course the big news around the Oilers yesterday was Paul Coffey.  Man, just another example of how this organization is shady and shouldn’t be trusted by their fans.  On the surface, it looks like a harmless hire.  Every team should have a player development coach, if not a few (and yes, the role they described he’ll be filling is of a player development coach, not whatever they’re calling it).  But it just feels like Katz can’t get enough of the 80’s roster back in the fold.  And what qualifies Coffey to take this role anyway?  He’s 56 and has been out of the league for 16 years now.  He’s been coaching, but not at anything of a high level, it just feels like such a BS hire and that something really shady is going on that they’re going to drop on us at a later date, much the same as when Craig MacTavish was brought back in the 2012 off-season.  A year later he was the GM.

 

As for the team, they played one game against a shitty Canucks team on Saturday.  I don’t think much has changed since the last time I spoke on the matter.  But like I said last week, they have a chance to make things interesting again in this stretch.  Too tall of an order to get in the playoffs, but I’m sure fans would take a run similar to what Tampa Bay had late last season at this point.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NHL Picks – Jan. 20th, 2018

Man that picture hurts badly.  A lot more so the 13 than the 7.  7 was an absolute bust this season until he got on 13’s line and 13 has been incredible….and should be an Oiler.  Anyway, I’ll cry about the Oil later.  Let’s talk about me for a minute.  3-2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I had a winning week last week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  And it wasn’t a fluke either, the fluke was that I didn’t go 4-1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Oh by the way, f*** you Arizona Coyotes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Maybe try holding on to a one goal lead with 20 seconds to play ya bunch of assholes!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Anyway I don’t have much time to do these so I’ll get to it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (oh, maybe I didn’t need to go with so many exclamation points on that last one…)

 

Carolina at Detroit

Red Wings -110

So full disclosure, this was going to be a Hurricanes win.  I thought “even odds for both sides, are they kidding?!  The Hurricanes are the much better team!”  That’s how Vegas will get you!  The Hurricanes are playing their first game back after their bye week.  The Red Wings haven’t play in three days, but they’ve been able to practice (teams obviously don’t skate until the day before coming off their bye weeks).  Red Wings should win this game.

 

Toronto at Ottawa

Senators +130

Just from looking at the standings you think that the Leafs should run away with this game.  Leafs are comfortably in the 3rd spot in the Atlantic division, they’re kind of in no man’s land at this point in the season in that they look locked into playing Boston in the 1st round, no chance of catching Tampa, and no chance of another team catching them.  So I believe they’ve been struggling lately because there isn’t any urgency for them.  And the Sens are a bad matchup for the Leafs.  The Sens are a very patient, boring, technically sound club while the Leafs are at their best when they can run and gun.  No coincidence that the Sens have won the first two matchups this season and I like them to take this one again tonight.

 

NY Islanders at Chicago

Under 6.5 (+110)

It’s just too high of a number.  And I hate taking the under in any sports event.  You’re literally pulling for a boring game.  But the over in this one is at -130.  So people are betting hard that there will be seven goals scored in this one.  And hey, if I didn’t love betting value, I would love that bet too.  But +110 for an NHL game to go under, it doesn’t much matter who the teams are or who the goaltenders are, it’s just too good of a value pick to pass up.

 

Tampa Bay at Minnesota

Lightning -120

Not the greatest odds here, but I love this game simply because the Lightning are a top team in the league (they’re THE top team normally, but without Victor Hedman you have to adjust that) and they just had a closed door meeting after the last game.  Now, those are a bit ridiculous I know, but they do seem to give the team a jolt for a game or two.  Add to this, the Wild aren’t really anything.  Yes they’re battling for a playoff spot, and they’re capable of rattling off five or six in a row and beating top teams once in a while.  But even if the Wild are at their best, I don’t think it’ll be enough for tonight to beat what’ll be a very locked in Lightning team.

 

Vancouver at Edmonton

Canucks +160

I’m guaranteeing a Vancouver win tonight.  GUARANTEED.  And this isn’t trying to “reverse jinx” the Oilers.  It is however a matter of knowing this years squad all too well.  They play up and down to their competition.  It doesn’t mean they’ll beat the good teams, but it does mean that they’ll no show the weak teams.  They completely lack any focus.  Also, both teams coming off bye’s also makes this a lot more of a pick’em game then the odds makers have made this.  And finally, the matchup where the Oilers would have really owned the Canucks is now very gone.  Nugent-Hopkins is out, Brandon Sutter is back, so two weeks ago the Oilers would have been able to completely dominate the Canucks down the middle.  Now, it’s not even, the Oil still have the advantage, but it’s not near what it was.  I see a 4-1 Canucks win tonight with an Oilers performance much like we saw at home to the Red Wings, Coyotes (even though they won that one), Flyers and the NYE game vs the Jets.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Jan. 15th, 2018

I’ll just say it right off the bat here, with so many teams on bye weeks this past week, I don’t have a ton to talk about.  Probably won’t for the next few weeks as we’re going through bye weeks right now, then the All-Star break, it’s going to be February before there’ll be a lot going on in the NHL world again.  I should talk CHL trade deadline, I know.  This is called Soups on Hockey, not Soups on the NHL, but I really don’t get the bug to talk junior hockey until playoff time.  I will say that the arms race between the Warriors, Pats and Broncos in the WHL East division sure was intriguing (the Warriors definitely won it on paper getting Kale Clague!)  Anyway, a lot of this week focuses on Alberta.  A lot of Oilers as usual, but give props to the rivals when they’re due, and they’re very due right now.

 

Seven straight for the Flames, and it hasn’t been because of a weak schedule either.  Definitely caught a break in Tampa when Victor Hedman went down (the game was 1-1 and you could tell it took the air right out of the Bolts), but really that’s the only “bounce” they’ve got so to speak.  On one hand, I’m not surprised as I had them to win the Pacific at the beginning of the season.  But on the other hand, I wasn’t sure this team had this kind of run in them.  It’s a team of a lot of good, nothing great, which works for Vegas when you’ve got zero expectations/pressure and guys on the team shooting at over a 25% clip.  But for most teams, you need three or four guys to lean on.  However it’s working for them right now.  And don’t ever let it be said that Glen Gulutzan doesn’t know how to push the right buttons.  He knew this team was extremely inconsistent and picked the perfect time to go off on them and get their attention (Todd McLellan could stand to steal that move from his playbook).  I’m not sure if it’s sustainable, and I question if some of the media in Calgary will notice with so much of their attention on the Oilers struggles, but they’re a real good team that could easily come out of the Pacific.  The only problem is that Brad Treliving doesn’t have many bullets left in the chamber to add at the deadline.  I like a lot of their prospects (Valimaki, Fox, Parsons, Dube, Andersson, etc) but I’m not sure if they’ll have the kind of value to land a big fish, and I’m not seeing the need for many minor adds barring injuries of course.  Now national media, now you can start raving about them.  Not when they’re scuffling along…

 

You know, I’ll get to all Oilers shit a little later, but I’m going to hit on the offside rule rearing it’s ugly head yet again in their game on Tuesday.  Why do we even need to alter the rule?  Why not just alter the review?  Change the rule for just the reviews.  That way, linesmen don’t have to change the way they call it, the reviews go down even further than they have already this year, the spirit of the rule is upheld, and more goals will be upheld.  So Khaira doesn’t have his skate on the ice on that goal, but his body is onside, then it remains a goal.  If he is completely in over the line before the puck, THEN it’s no goal.  It would be an odd alteration, but I feel like it would work best for everyone.

 

Oh, the Blues are only 5-10 in their last 15?  Oh, the Blues are a middle of the pack team?  Oh, Brayden Schenn isn’t a 1st line centre?  Oh, Jake Allen is actually massively inconsistent?  Look, I don’t hate the Blues at all, but it’s like my rant about the Flames a few weeks back when they were playing like garbage and the media treated them like they’ve done no wrong.  The media just thought the Blues were so unbelievable to start this season.  Allen is Hasek circa 1997, Schenn is Messier circa 1990, Pietrangelo is Orr, Doug Armstrong is Sam Pollack, Mike Yeo is Scotty Bowman, like SHUT.  THE.  FUCK.  UP.  Why are these morons even more moronic than we expect them to be?!  The Blues aren’t anything right now!  Hey, they land John Tavares, totally different story.  All of a sudden then I’d love them to make some noise.  But all season, I could care less what they’re doing in October and November, they’re just an ok team which is going nowhere.

 

Flyers Ethnic Club with another big win last night out in Dewberry.  Former “Stang” Dustin Q. Harvie had a solid night between the pipes, Bobby Orr-cheski led the way on the blueline, Sedin twins one and two had big nights offensively, and linemate Tyler Campbell (that’s me, I’m him) had the GWG as the Flyers upped their record to 7-2-1 on the season.  Here’s the clip of Campbell sniping the GWG:

 

Onto the Oilers.  Ohhhh my Oilers.  Just when you get apathetic and want to call it a season, they have a week like this, followed by a weaker upcoming schedule, and it makes you say “MAYYYYYYBE”.  That maybe is more about them “maybe” getting back into the race than a “maybe” that they can make the playoffs because they would need to go about 25-4-1 over a 30 game stretch to legitimately get back in it.  But they very legitimately deserved to win in Nashville (and I’m not just talking about the offside, the Preds put home a puck that bounced off Adam Larsson’s face, pretty friendly bounce), came back to beat Arizona, and then of course came back to beat Vegas in OT.  Of course you know all that.  But now they come off the bye week to five at home.  Vancouver, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado.  I don’t know if they’ll sweep those four games, but they should (even with how well the Flames are playing, they’re just a match up nightmare for the Flames which is why the Oil have won six straight).  If you do THAT, then you get Tampa at home who now probably won’t have Victor Hedman barring an early return.  So that’s a lot more winnable then it once looked like it would be.  If they were to rattle off five straight (which would then be seven straight), then all of a sudden they have a pulse again with a massive three game set in California.  That’s glass half full.  The realist in me says they come out like complete dogs on Saturday against the Canucks who actually work hard, maybe go 3-2 on the home stand, and kick any optimism the fan base might have left directly in the teeth.

 

I alluded to it earlier, but Todd McLellan needs to wake up on this group and get after them a little more publicly.  You can’t constantly play that card, and I’m sure he gets the sense of late that this team needs a pat on the back more than a kick in the ass, but as a guy who gets down on himself often I can tell you even when you’re down on yourself, a kick in the ass can work as it’ll bring the fight out of you to start saying “fuck this guy, I’m gonna show that piece of shit!!!!!!!”  In other words, you tend to stop focusing on what’s going wrong and start focusing on what you need to do to make shit right.  And again, you can’t do it all the time, but once in a while it needs to be done even with a fragile group.  Yet he’s just continually patting them on the back.  I’m not going to go off on how he should be fired, I’m really not sure if he needs to go.  I can easily argue it both ways.  But no doubt he’s done one awful job with this team this season.  You look at things like that, the special teams (I actually don’t pin the PK on the coaching staff, because the PK is 3rd on the road!  So it’s clearly a mental thing on home ice), little things like positioning and spacing in the O zone, puck management, defensive positioning, you can point at coaching for all of it.  When it’s the same few guys, then fine, it’s the roster.  But it’s several different guys every night.  And I continually come back to this same point of while some guys may have thought the Oil would struggle to make the playoffs this season, nobody had them being THIS shitty.  So to pin everything on Peter Chiarelli is absolutely insane.  And I blame Chiarelli for a lot of it, no doubt.  He probably gets the large majority of it.  But please don’t tell me Todd McLellan doesn’t deserve to be questioned in all this, because he very much so does.  Take the PP for example.  We all get so frustrated at seeing the absolutely finished Mark Letestu being put out for it, but in reality if they have him as the one timer option he’s fine.  Not his fault if they can’t get him the puck, and he’s good in the dot which is also key to success on the PP.  But why is Klefbom continually being run out there when they are fully aware of his shoulder injury and inability to shoot the puck like he could?  It’s ridiculous at this point that Nurse hasn’t been given a significant opportunity in that role.  Also, anytime they look to move Lucic off the top unit they replace him with Maroon.  Why not replace Looch with Strome, use Strome in the bumper role where a right handed shot opens up more options, and use Draisaitl in Looch’s role?  Looch doesn’t primarily just stand in front of the net anyway, and Draisaitl has the size and hands to thrive in that role.  But what do I know?  The Edmonton media has taken up backing McLellan and taking full aim at Chiarelli, and I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with them liking McLellan and never having the access they want to Chiarelli.  Nope, not the media.  They don’t have rooting interests.  The only thing they’ll pull for is individual players they’ll tell you because that’s not having a bias when you like a player or players on a team more than other players.  Literally, this is their rationale.  This is what they literally tell us…with a straight face…that it’s ok when they’re bias towards a player they like…and they wonder why people trust the media less and less…

 

I should talk about Darnell Nurse again shouldn’t I?  I’m bias towards Darnell Nurse.

 

I wrote the piece on him a month ago, and in the three games this week he took it up yet another notch.  So are we seeing him go to yet another level?  Again as I just said, it is ridiculous that he’s not getting Klefbom’s minutes on the top pp unit.  I had to laugh driving home on Friday night listening to the post game show on CHED and Reid and Rob discussing whether or not Nurse is ready to QB this PP.  The D-man used on this PP is never going to QB it, that role belongs to 21 year old wearing 97.  He can walk the line better, his vision is definitely no worse than Klefbom’s, his shot is two or three times better than Klebom’s at the moment, and again I come back to the question of whether or not it’s possibly an edict from up top to keep his numbers down?  Because it’s making less and less sense as the season goes on.  He’s getting a fat new contract this summer boys and girls, don’t let anyone (Kelly Hrudey) tell you otherwise.  These D-men don’t get bridged, not after everyone around the league saw what happened after the Habs did that to Subban.  Pay Nurse 3.5 for the next two and then pay him 8×8 after that?  Or pay him 8×5 or 6 now?  You’re MAYBE going to save 2 mil, and then end up paying him 3 more mil then you could have got him at.  If you can get him to sign 8×5.5 tomorrow, I say you do it.  Of course this is Peter Chiarelli so he’ll likely give him 7 per just for the hell of it with his “ah fuck it, only 1.5 more than he’s worth” approach.  Anyway, back to Hrudey saying they should bridge Nurse for a mintue, it’s ironic Hrudey suggested that on Saturday being such a Flames homer.  Because Nurse right now isn’t far off what Dougie Hamilton was three years ago.  Imagine had the Flames bridged him for three years.  What would they be looking at paying him this off-season?  8 per?  8.5?  Not bridging him was the right call there, and its the right call here.  There is absolutely nothing about Nurse that suggests his play will be dropping off over the next two seasons.  That doesn’t mean he won’t have peaks and valleys.  Right now easily could be a peak, but again with this kid I’m going to point out the total package: IQ, skating, size, toughness and work ethic.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NHL Picks – Jan. 13th, 2018

With the way these have gone since October, I’m not sure I should return to doing these.  I have been so awful at these, and maybe I’m nuts but I actually feel like it’s shitty luck!  Go read my rationale behind my picks, I feel like other maybe a game here or there over the last two months of picks I give damn good reasons as to why my picks should win, and they never win!  I’m not even going to give the overall record this week, too pissed about it to count.  It’s like five games under .500 on the season, it’s actually not that bad.  But I could REALLY use a winning Saturday!

 

Winnipeg at Minnesota

Wild -130

Not the best odds here, but I guess they’re good enough.  The odds are better than they should be for a weak road team playing on the second half of a back to back against a team waiting on them.  The Wild last played Wednesday.  So even though the Jets have had an incredible season and the Wild are fighting for a playoff spot, the fact that the Jets are so bad (normally) on the road makes me say you have to take the Wild here.

 

Colorado at Dallas

Over 5.5 (-110)

I believe the last time these two played I thought without a doubt they were going over.  The Avs were always going over in their games, they had Bernier in net, and the Stars were starting Ben Bishop who had been awful on the road all season to that point.  So naturally it was a 2-0 game…See what I mean when I say my picks are right and it’s just insanely shitty luck?!?!?  ANYWAY…two teams coming off bye weeks, I’m expecting a lot of defensive break downs tonight much like we see early in the season when teams are still getting sharp.

 

Edmonton at Vegas

Oilers +170

This so goes against everything for me!  I cringe, no word of a lie, I’m truly cringing writing this!  HOWEVER…the Golden Knights, as hot as they’ve been, are coming off their bye week.  And so many teams take a game coming off a three or four day break to really find their groove.  Meanwhile the Oilers played in Glendale last night, and are going on their bye after the game.  So any temptation there might be to go hit up a casino pre game should be cooled by the fact that they can once the game is done.  I know a lot of love is given to the theory that the only teams who are playing shitty in Vegas are those who get in a day before, but when teams play back to back they don’t skate the next morning.  So don’t think they don’t have time to do shit too, and normally they’ll be flying out after the game.  So I’m going to be really brave here.  I can’t stand picking the Oilers, especially when they’ve been so shitty.  But the sharp pick here is to take the Oilers.  Add to all this, I have a feeling the Oilers goaltending will be real solid tonight.  If they go with Talbot, he’s coming off getting pulled and as we know goaltenders often bounce back from that embarrassment (even though it was in no way on him).  If they go with Montoya, he looked tremendous in relief last night and should be pretty fresh considering he hasn’t played much the last few months.

 

Arizona at San Jose

Coyotes +215

Same theory goes here.  The Coyotes just played last night, while the Sharks have been off for a week.  So we could see the same trend play out in both these games where the team having played last night will look great for the first period or two, and hang on to get the win.  And at +215, those odds are just begging to be bet!

 

Anaheim at L.A.

Over 5.5 (+135)

Both teams are coming off bye weeks, so this is much like the over I picked in the Stars/Avs game.  Also while writing this one I’m thinking back to an example of teams in similar situations which were the Jets and Oilers on Dec. 27th.  That game ended up 4-3, but was 4-3 midway through the 2nd period before the two teams finally settled down.  If the odds were the other way around I might go the other way.  But I just think it’s ridiculous for the under to have been bet so hard here because these games where both teams are rusty are just insanely unpredictable.  So I’m saying to take the over here.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – Jan. 2018

Is there perhaps any better time than now to release a piece on the Oilers organizational depth?  Wow, this season has gone so depressingly horrendous for this organization.  Worst year in the history of the club given the expectations vs the results, and that’s no exaggeration.

 

But I’ll continue to make the point that while its just that, it’s not a bleak scenario, just a real shitty season to go through.  This isn’t like 2014 or 15 where they hardly had anything, and nothing was going right.  This team is setup very well even despite so many missteps by the organization.  The system isn’t rich, but it features an elite prospect, and good depth.  It won’t get the love at this point that other systems around the league will because it only features one 1st rounder and none of the other kids were able to make splashes at the WJC, but trust me they’re in the midst of building a damn good system.  You can go after Peter Chiarelli for a lot of things (like most have, and deservedly so), but one thing you can’t deny is that since he’s taken over the drafting has been greatly improved.  I seen someone on Twitter the other day amidst the beat down of Peter Chiarelli take a swing at the way they’ve scouted and drafted saying something to the effect of “if they were going to take Eriksson Ek over Barzal then it’s just proof that the scouting hasn’t improved under these guys either!”  I love Barzal and would have taken him with that pick, so don’t get me wrong here.  But Eriksson Ek is a damn good prospect and just because at 20 years old he has yet to set the league on fire like Barzal has, doesn’t at all mean that he’s not going to be a hell of a player.

 

Under Kevin Pendergast and then Stu McGregor, I don’t recall looking at 4th and 5th round picks and getting real excited.  We’re seeing 6th and 7th rounders show as much or more promise as previous regime’s 2nd and 3rd rounders.  I’ll go back to the 2010 draft for example and how excited people were about it out of the gate.  But the question on Martin Marcincin for example was always hockey sense, and it was highly unlikely, even after the great start he had to the 2011 season, that light bulb was ever going to go on.  And it never has.  Another example from that draft was Ryan Martindale, who was putting up big numbers, but his skating and determination were always a massive question mark.  Those are things that just aren’t going to be fixed.

 

But now, we’re seeing a lot of kids drafted who have what I would call fixable flaws, and as long as they’re coachable, they’ll have a great opportunity to get their shot and stick in the league.

 

Things I like about the system: Maybe the most vital thing about the system is they look a lot better on the wings, especially when compared to what I had wrote in May of last year.  I would suggest that they got two tremendous prospects on the wing in the draft, with another exciting wildcard.  And in addition to that, what looked like a wildcard at that time in Tyler Benson has comeback and flourished this season.  The downside there is that only one of those wingers is ready to step in next season (and even that could be a little up in the air at the moment), but it’s much improved and is a big need for this organization in order to support the strength the club has down the middle.  Other areas I like are in goal.  I feel like Chiarelli has maybe done his best work shoring up the Oilers goaltending from the time he arrived.  I don’t recall them ever having this kind of goaltending depth.  And finally, given that this team hasn’t drafted a D-man in the 1st round since 2013, the blueline looks real good moving forward.  On this list you’ll see six of the ten defencemen that this regime has drafted since taking over in 2015.  Two of the four which aren’t on here were 7th round picks.  And the other two not on the list were drafted as projects and I certainly wouldn’t write them off as of now.  Six of the top eleven are D-men too, so it’s definitely something I feel they’ve done well considering they haven’t spent a 1st round pick there.

 

Things I don’t like about the system: Only one, but it’s a biggie.  Centre.  Without a doubt.  This organization is extremely weak down the middle after 97, 29 and 93.  They’ve completely ignored centre ice since they took McDavid in the draft.  I believe two of their 21 picks since taking McDavid have been used on centres, and both weren’t until the 6th round.  I don’t care how good you feel about your first three guys, you can’t leave your system depleted of centres like they’ve done.  It was a massive issue heading into the draft last year, so in this draft…saying it’s vital to take care of is an understatement.  Extremely careless of this organization to be so thin at such an important position.

 

Honourable Mention:

Nick Ellis  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Glove: L  Age: 23

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 7th, 2016

He hasn’t looked near as good to date this season as he did last.  After last season, I had Ellis as the 10th ranked Oilers prospect and suggested the only thing that could hold him back from playing in the NHL was his size.  He did technically get a call-up, but as you all know he didn’t see a minute of ice time.  It was clear the coaching staff had zero faith in him when he didn’t get the start either against Philadelphia or against Toronto on the second half of a back to back.  Tough to ignore last seasons performance, so he stays an honourable mention.  But with Brossoit now back down there and another prospect I’ll get to coming on strong, not to mention the possibility of two more kids entering pro hockey next season in the system, it’s tough to see Ellis being with the organization for much longer.

 

Cameron Hebig  Regina  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed December 28th, 2017

Hebig is the latest Oilers prospect.  I list him as a centre, but I’m not sure he’ll play centre in pro hockey.  He might, he does have damn good wheels, and as it currently stands the Bakersfield Condors don’t have much at centre, but at 5’10 that’s always dicey.  Also, he’s listed as 20, but he turns 21 in 11 days (playing as an overager this season).  Freshly dealt to the Pats from his hometown Blades which ensures that he’ll get some big minutes in the Memorial Cup this spring.  He missed all of last season, and it’s been quite impressive how he’s bounced back with damn near 1.5 PPG on a weaker Blades team (though much better than they were in his tenure there).

 

Dillon Simpson  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 205  Shot: L  Age: 24

Acquired: 4th Round, 92nd Overall, 2011 Draft

In the past when I’ve done this list, I’ve avoided the “veteran prospects”.  It wasn’t as if I didn’t like any of the guys, I just didn’t view them as prospects.  But I’m slightly changing that tune, though it’s highly unlikely you’ll see me rank any of them in the top 15 or so.  I like Simpson’s game and wouldn’t have been against rolling with him as the seventh defenceman had they started the season that way.  Chances are slim at best that he’s going to get a shot with the team now being nine D deep, and who knows if they’ll qualify him this summer.  It’s a shame though, because I think there might be a player there.  The knock has always been the wheels, but he makes up for it with IQ, composure, and how well he moves the puck.

 

Joey Laleggia  Bakersfield AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185 Shot: L  Age: 25

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2012 Draft

Not at all about production here. Much like I mentioned with Russell, nobody is tearing it up in the AHL for the Condors. Laleggia is 2nd on the team in scoring right behind Ty Rattie though (21 points in 33 games). But the team doesn’t have any centres who can produce offensively. So when that’s the case, you have to really scout what the kid can do and how he may fit with a good centre at the next level. The wheels are real good, he’s put up offensive numbers in the past whether it be as a winger or defenceman, and he’s responsible defensively. I think of a kid like Bryan Rust or Brandon Tanev who never put up the kind of numbers in the AHL which would garner attention, yet when playing with the right guys they’re very effective players. He’s very much like Simpson in that I’ve always felt like there might be something with Laleggia, and it’d be nice to see him get a few games at some point this season to see what they really have before possibly moving on from him this summer.

 

I felt while writing this that I better break it up between the honourable mentions and the top 20.  Otherwise it would just feel like a top 24 list, wouldn’t it?!  So I guess I can hit on a few of the other kids in the system while doing that.  I hated both the Markus Niemelainen and Matt Cairns picks in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft and so far they both look like disasters.  I actually had Niemelainen ranked in the mid 30’s going into the draft, but to be real honest I recall not being a fan despite having him there (definitely a case where I wasn’t being honest with myself on how I truly felt, just going with the rest of the scouting world).  Tough player to get a read on because he isn’t and never will be a great two way player.  He’s big and for such a big kid he’s really mobile.  But he’s back in Finland this season and from all reports he doesn’t seem to be growing as a player.  He was still eligible for the WJC this season, and I’m not even sure he was on Finland’s radar (though how do I know of course).  The kid I personally liked with that 63rd pick in the draft for the Oilers was Adam Fox, taken at 65 by the Calgary Flames…As for Cairns, he’s only got into one game so far this season with Cornell.  I know he was viewed as a project, but he did nothing to really impress in the USHL or the BCHL last season, and it continues to look like a wasted pick.  I’ll never forget reading about him leading into the draft and thinking “what is anyone seeing in this kid to make him a top 100 prospect?”  The very next pick?  St. Albert native and Ducks stud prospect Josh Mahura.  OOPS!!!  Hopefully I’ll get proven very wrong someday soon.

 

Also at some point I had to mention the great work that @EDProspectWatch does on You Tube.  If you want to follow these kids and how they’re tracking, you follow him on Twitter, and you subscribe to his You Tube page and trust me you won’t regret it!  The guy just does phenomenal work and I believe he mentioned something not that long ago about doing a new top 20 list himself (likely will be better than this one!) so watch for that to come out before too long.  Ok, that’s a good enough break I think…eh?!  On to the top 20.

 

***Made a very embarrassing mistake when I first put out these rankings, having Miroslav Svboda as the 15th prospect when he is no longer property of the team.  Stupid, sloppy, embarrassing mistake.  It’s been corrected now, but I apologize for the mistake.

 

20. Patrick Russell  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 205  Shot: R  Age: 25

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed May 9th, 2016

Russell really shows some ability if you watch him play.  But he just turned 25.  So it’s questionable whether the kid is going to grow into anything more than what he currently is.  He could, it’s not unheard of.  Look at a guy like Derek Ryan, or Fernando Pisani.  You’ll see a trend with any of the AHL kids I talk about on here.  It’s tough to get a read on how good their potential is this season as the club has really been struggling offensively.  But what I can say is Russell shows a lot of power down low, and pretty good explosiveness.

 

19. Shane Starrett   Whichita  ECHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 195  Glove: L  Age: 23

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 10th, 2017

I know it’s only been in the ECHL thus far, but thus far Starrett has looked pretty good!  6th in the league in Sv% at .923 as of writing this.  He got the one start in the AHL thanks to the shuffling that went on when Talbot went down, and even though he took the loss, he made 44 of 47 stops.  He looked great in his start at the rookie tournament in Penticton this past fall too.  Only gets to 19th for now, because it is only the East Coast league, but it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll do once room is made for him in Bakersfield.  He’s got the size and in today’s NHL that’s half the battle for a goaltender.

 

 

18. Tyler Vesel  Nebraska-Omaha  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 182  Shot: R  Age: 23

Acquired: 6th Round, 153rd Overall, 2014 Draft

I might have Vesel too low.  Then again, I might have him too high.  But he’s a kid who I haven’t seen much of.  Even in highlight clips, it’s tough to get a read on how his game might translate.  Doesn’t seem to score a lot off the rush, more shifty and agile than speedy in my viewings (but fully admit that could be wrong with how little I’ve truly seen him).  Maybe a good way to look at his production is by comparing it to former teammate Jake Guentzel?  Guentzel in his final season with the program put up 46 points in 35 games.  Vesel as of right now is a little below a PPG (16 points in 20 games), second in points on the team (behind Edmonton product David Pope), but the team this season isn’t anywhere near as good as that 2016 team was which Guentzel played on.  It’ll be much easier to get a read on him should they get him signed and into Bakersfield for next season.

 

17. Joe Gambardella  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 200  Shot: L  Age: 24

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 28th, 2017

I doubt he’s having the start to his pro career that he would of liked to (just 6 points in 16 games), but I’m keeping him in the top 20 because he’s still got that great speed, real good wrist shot, and while he’s not that tall he has a real thick frame.  And again, the Condors aren’t scoring much this season, there’s no high scoring AHL centre like Anton Lander was last season to get the most out of these wingers, so it’s tougher to judge their performances.  I know he went through college and was signed as a centre, but though I could be mistaken, I believe Bakersfield has used him primarily on the wing this season and as I’ve said before in my write up’s about him that is where I see him ending up should he make it to the show.  He’s got the tools to play, just a matter of putting it all together.

 

16. Philip Kemp  Yale  NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 202  Shot: R  Age: 18

Acquired: 7th Round, 208th Overall, 2017 Draft

An invite to team USA WJC camp as a 7th rounder in your 18 year old year?  That’s a HELL of a start to Kemp’s development.  Not only that, but he was the final cut for the States, and Elliotte Friedman even made a point of mentioning this in his 31 Thoughts article a few weeks back.  “Edmonton’s hoping it found a diamond-in-the-rough late in the 2017 Draft. Seventh-rounder Philip Kemp (208th overall), was the final defenceman cut from the Team USA World Junior roster. No guarantees, but that was a good showing for him.”  I said to a buddy after reading that “you know Friedman didn’t just write that after seeing it, he asked around if the kid was possibly the real deal as a prospect.”  I’ve hardly seen Kemp play, and though I really like the combination of RH shooting 6’3 D-man who skates well and is at an Ivy League school, I still don’t have enough on Kemp to rank him higher than this.  But it’s clear to me that in Chiarelli’s three drafts that he’s high (or someone in the room is) on simply taking RH shooting D-men who skate well, have a good size, and show intelligence.  John Marino, 6th round in 2015, righty, attends Harvard, 6’2, good skater.  Vincent Desharnais, 7th round in 2016, righty, attends Providence, 6’6, good skater.  Kemp is the same as those two and frankly its strategy I really like.  You get down to the 6th and 7th rounds, just look for guys who have most of the unteachable traits covered and of course we know the value of the righty shot on the blueline.  He took someone who fits this bill when he was in Boston in the 2012 draft named Matt Benning.

 

15. John Marino  Harvard  NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 6th Round, 154th Overall, 2015 Draft

He’s a ways away, but if you’ve read my first two Oilers top prospect lists then you know I’m a big John Marino guy.  Righty shot, decent size, real good skater, high IQ, and moves the puck real well.  For a 6th rounder, this is what the Oilers need.  And I hit on it earlier while talking about Philip Kemp that this is smart strategy by whoever is suggesting it for the Oilers at the draft table.  The big problem for Marino is he has Flames prospect and team USA blueliner Adam Fox playing in front of him, and they’re both RH shooting D-men so they never play together.  I love everything I hear on Marino though and believe the Oilers will look to get him signed at the conclusion of this season.

 

14. Stuart Skinner  Swift Current  WHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Glove: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft

The freshly dealt Stuart Skinner as he was just moved from Lethbridge to the Swift Current Broncos.  Not a great season for Skinner to this point, yet I’m starting to see his pattern is that he plays up and down to his competition.  His best game of the season so far was a 47 save performance against Portland who lead the WHL’s Western Conference.  Skinner was awesome in his start at the rookie tournament in the fall, and of course was tremendous for the Canes in their run to the Eastern Conference finals in the WHL playoffs last spring.  Yet his numbers don’t look that good at all.  So I believe we have to ignore the numbers with Skinner to a point because it’s quite possible that the bigger the game, the better he’s going to play.  So that’s the positive, but we still need to start seeing that higher level on a consistent basis.  I’ve never been quiet about not liking the pick for the organization (not that I don’t like Skinner, just didn’t like the move to trade up for him and not for others), so he had better prove the organization right in doing it.  I’ll be a little interested to see if maybe the team doesn’t have him back in the WHL next season as an OA.  With so many kids potentially taking up spots in Bakersfield and Whichita next season, if the organization has that option I’m wondering if they might take advantage of it?

 

13. Aapeli Rasanen  Boston College  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: R  Age: 19

Acquired: 6th Round, 153rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Pre World Juniors I had him on the list.  I was well aware of Rasanen from the day they picked him, always liked the pick.  But at the WJC, he just looked to me like a kid who is going to play in the league.  So he jumped up quite a few spots.  This ranking is a lot more about the probability that he’ll play rather than upside.  Because I don’t see Rasanen becoming a kid who’ll produce much, but more like a better version of what Mark Letestu is.  You can use him on the PP, PK, give him tougher minutes and he can handle it.  He’s just solid all around.  Good size, good speed, good shot, dominated the WJC in the dot.  The best centre in the system shouldn’t be 12th on the list, so this must be fixed by the organization by the time the 2018 draft has wrapped up.  Having said that, I believe the Oilers have a regular someday soon who was taken with a 6th round pick, not too shabby.

 

12. Graham McPhee  Boston College  NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 175  Shot: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 5th Round, 135th Overall, 2016 Draft

Ok, so the story here is that I made a lot of mistakes while making my original list.  You would think that after 6 years of blogging that I’d learn to trust my head a little less, because what happens is I’m so confident in my ability to remember sports and especially Oiler related things that I mess up.  So I end up making embarrassing mistakes that make this look like amateur hour such as including Miroslav Svboda in my rankings when the team no longer owns his rights, or completely forget about Graham McPhee. This one wasn’t near as bad at the moment I put these rankings out, but he still deserved to be ranked.  At the time?  Probably 16th or 17th. But since my mistake, he’s been on fire and made me want to come back and adjust this list. Not cause I want to look right, but I want to get it right for anyone who may want to look this up.  The kid has sniper written all over him as he loves to get it off his stick as quickly as possible.  The size is going to be real good once he’s filled out, and the wheels are well above average.  I would guess with both McPhee and Rasanen the talk from Pete Chiarelli this spring will be “we can do a deal now if you want to come out, we’d prefer you stay one more year and dominate, but it’s up to you.”  I would guess they’ll stay, but then it’ll be a concern in the spring of 2019 whether or not the Oilers can get these two signed. Both are intriguing.

 

11. William Lagesson  Djurgardens IF  SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 198  Shot: L  Age: 21

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

From off the list the last time around to cracking the top 11 this time around.  And I made mention of this in another blog I wrote, but it was difficult to leave him off when I did, because the guy was a personal favourite.  I loved his game, but felt others had a higher ceiling.  Then he may have been the best defenceman in rookie camp, so I know nothing!  And his ranking is a lot like Rasanen’s where I don’t love the upside, but I really love the potential to be a regular.  I’m not sure it’s fair to say he’s a Radko Gudas type because I don’t see him as being THAT nasty (also Gudas is a top four, I don’t see Lagesson being more than a five), but he’s got an edge to him without a doubt.  Skates well, and can move the puck well.  I do believe he has a bit of untapped offensive potential which could come out if he’s in the right role. But I see an old school/stay at home type defenceman here with the skating and puck moving ability you now need to go with that to succeed in the league.

 

10. Filip Berglund  Skelleftea  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

I read a piece David Staples did a couple months ago on Berglund and had some really good stuff in there.  One of the things he actually attributed to Jonathan Willis, and was said by Swedish hockey reporter Robin Lindgren.  “If the offence comes with him, that’s gravy, as plenty of good Swedish defenders (including Larsson and Oscar Klefbom) have failed to put up big numbers in the SHL.”  In the piece Lindgren also stated that Berglund reminded him a lot of Larsson.  In 26 games in the SHL this season, Berglund has 2 goals and 5 assists.  Compare that with last season where he had no goals and 9 assists in 47 games played.  So he’s obviously showing improvement on the offensive side of things, while defensively from every report you can find the kid is a rock, and with the limited viewings I can find of him he moves real well.  I know the reason he got passed over in the 2015 draft was because of a pretty bad knee injury, but he seems to have rebounded really well from it.

 

9. Ryan Mantha  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 225  Shot: R  Age: 21

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 1st, 2017

Mantha has been coming on a little bit of late, though one of his three goals on the season was an EN goal.  The size is real good as you can read, and the mobility, while it could stand to improve, is solid…especially for someone this big.  And he’s got a bomb of a shot which he gets away quickly and pretty accurately.  It’s always difficult to get a good read on AHL defencemen, even more so on such a low scoring team like the Condors are.  But midway through his first season of pro hockey there really hasn’t been any reason to get more or less excited about Mantha.  Most Oilers observers love the thought of Ethan Bear getting on that top PP unit as soon as possible, but Mantha has all the tools to be that guy someday as well.

 

8. Dmitri Samorukov  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L  Age: 18

Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft

If I did tiers like I do for my prospect lists leading into the draft, this would definitely be a new tier starting with Samorukov as we go from guys who have low ceilings or are more projects to the kids with much higher ceilings.  I admit, I didn’t know a lot about him when he was drafted.  Now that I’m following him, I’m loving what I’m seeing.  I wouldn’t say he’s a project, but I would say the upside is unlimited with this kid.  Love the size, love the mobility (not only a real good skater but very agile), love how active he plays, the shot looks great, and it’s really just a matter of how coachable he’s going to be.  If he’s got the IQ and coachability to go with his talent, this kids going to be a top four guy someday because the ability is without a doubt there.  One of only three 18 year old kids to play for Russia at the WJC, and when he got a chance to move up in the lineup he really thrived (I believe that was in the quarter final game against the States).

 

7. Dylan Wells  Peterborough  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 182  Glove: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

He takes a fall down my rankings with a combination of others playing very well, and he not playing up to last years standards as of writing this.  But he’s still showing flashes of being terrific, and I really believe it’s just typical of a goaltender to have his up’s and down’s, but considering in the summer he looked like a legitimate threat to Carter Hart’s job on the World Junior team to not even likely being much of a consideration for an invite to camp, he has to move down the rankings a bit.  Still, I really do see Wells as a high end prospect and believe he’s got all the tools, including the makeup, to play in the league.  His numbers have climbed a bit from earlier in the year (his G.S.A.A. is now up to 5.43, yet still nowhere near the incredible 31.87 he put up last year), and you have to remember that he’s playing on a very bad Peterborough Petes team.

 

6. Ostap Safin  St. John  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 191  Shot: L  Age: 18

Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft

This is the first of three wingers who all have different style games, but not much separates them as prospects in my mind.  Safin was a personal favourite of mine going into the draft (had him 47th in my final rankings), and I had him only one spot below this entering the season.  Yet still, Safin has exceeded my expectations a bit this season.  He leads the Sea Dogs in scoring, has been around a PPG player all season, and something you have to keep in mind is that the Q has gone from an absurdly high scoring league to maybe the lowest scoring league in the CHL.  So to be a PPG player (sitting 35th in PPG as of writing this), and on a team which after trading Joe Velano now has nobody for him to play with, is pretty impressive.  And that’s just the bonus.  Safin, much like Samorukov, is a kid who isn’t really a project, but has an unlimited ceiling.  With his size, skating, and willingness to play a physical game, the sky is the limit for this kid.  Reminds me a lot of Jujhar Khaira (with more offensive upside).  There is an off switch, and that’s the downside with him.  But when he’s on, he is terrific.

 

5. Tyler Benson  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

Talk about your turnarounds.  Late October, and Benson still hadn’t suited up yet.  At that point I’m saying to anyone who is familiar with the situation “this is looking bleak, and this kid is looking like a write off”.  I mean, he was supposed to be ready for camp, and now it’s a month into the season and he’s still not playing?!  But oh my….he literally took three games to knock the rust off, and has been on FREAKING FIRE ever since!  Is he a great skater?  No, he’s not a great skater.  But I’d say he’s an ok skater and such an intelligent player that he won’t have problems keeping up.  In his draft year I used Mark Stone as the comparison, and I’m a little proud of myself for thinking of that because that’s really who he has the potential to be.  Thick, physical, intelligent, can play quick and skates good enough.  David Perron is another guy who comes to mind, though Benson will likely be more physical and less of a pest than Perron.  As long as he can stay healthy, I really believe Benson is going to end up on McDavid’s wing in a few seasons because he can think the game at a similar level.

 

4. Kirill Maksimov  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: R  Age: 18

Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft

Speaking of kids who have potential to ride shotgun with McDavid….he gets the nod over Benson for 4th mainly because I feel like he has a game and something that nobody else in the entire organization brings to the table, and that is a pure sniper mentality.  This kid can flat out RIP.  IT.  His skating isn’t terrific, much like Benson, but unlike Benson, I feel as though Maksimov has room to improve his stride.  It appears to my naked eye that Maksimov currently lacks lower body strength, so once that improves we could see him gain that extra gear.  It’s not bad though, definitely could play in the league with the wheels he has as long as that shot continues to be the weapon it is.  Just go look at the way he scores.  Everything is Hull/Stamkos/Heatley/Kessel like.  I’m not saying he’ll become one of those guys, but he scores the same way they score.  Of course in saying that I’m mostly referring to his one timer.  His wrist shot has literally no back swing, and is also an absolute bullet.  Remember Joe Sakic’s?  His might be that good.  And he’s a righty, so on the PP in two, three, or four years, what a weapon to have with McDavid!  Some other things to take in here, he’s 5th in the OHL in goals (25 in 36 games as of writing this).  Three of the four in front of him have played either three of four more games.  The only guy who hasn’t is Boris Katchouk who has the luxury of playing on the OHL’s top team, and with it’s top point producer in Morgan Frost.  Maksimov has Ben Jones, who isn’t a slouch, but he’s not near what Frost has done.  It’s extremely early in the process, a long road ahead developing, but so far Maksimov has me ecstatic about what he could become.

 

3. Ethan Bear  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 205  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 5th Round, 124th Overall, 2015 Draft

Holding firm in the three/four slot.  Had him third in the spring, fourth in the fall, back to three here thanks to a graduation (at least in my rankings).  But if he hadn’t missed time with a concussion this season, he might be higher in these rankings as he got off to a torrid start for a rookie in the AHL.  Again, just like the last two guys I talked about and is always top of mind with Bear, skating is the debate.  And again, like the two guys below him, he’s probably got wheels which are good enough.  I recall a Vancouver analytics guy on Twitter during the rookie tournament describing his skating as “passable” while raving about Bear.  The issue though is that if all three of these 3-5 prospects were to make it, with how fast this league is getting, the team speed then would start to take a hit.  But make no mistake, Bear will play in the league, it’s just a matter of whether he’ll be a number six who is a PP specialist, or a top four.

 

2. Caleb Jones  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 20

Acquired: 4th Round, 117th Overall, 2015 Draft

Finally, a kid with no skating issues.  Not only doesn’t have skating issues, but is likely the best skater in the pipeline.  Jones is playing in the league someday, it’s just a matter of when, and how good will he be.  Right now the big thing in Bakersfield is for him to learn how to play in his own end.  Gaps, positioning, stick, handling bigger players down low, etc.  But that’s all stuff that can be coached up.  His wheels and offensive instincts really can’t be.  I won’t be shocked if Jones is pushing for a spot sometime next season should Peter Chiarelli (or whomever the GM could be…) can move out the right people, because they’ll need some cheap contracts on their bottom pair.  We better start wrapping our heads around the fact that Darnell Nurse is playing himself into a big extension that could exceed five million a year.  So Jones very possibly will have a chance to earn a spot, and I really believe that after a couple seasons on the bottom pairing, he’ll be pushing for a top four role.  The only thing that would hold him back is if he’s not coachable, which with the way he’s developed to this point, and how he embraced his role of Charlie McAvoy’s guardian so to speak at last year’s WJC, he really doesn’t seem like a kid who coaches have trouble getting through to.

 

1. Kailer Yamamoto  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 154  Shot: R  Age: 19

Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd Overall, 2017 Draft

A no brainer here.  Work on your shot kid, and that’s about it.  Yamamoto is almost guaranteed to be in a top six role on the Oilers next season.  Part of that is because of his rookie deal and how he can only be a max of 1.1 million against the cap, but even if that weren’t the case he’d be a prime candidate to step in.  I could care less that he hasn’t torn apart the WHL since he returned to Spokane, or that he didn’t set the WJC on fire (got better and better as the tourney went on though).  The kid damn near stuck with the NHL team this year and spent time on their top line…and if he had a better shot…which he likely will next season…then he probably is still there.  He’s tiny, but other than that the kid possess everything you want.  Speed, vision, intelligence, work ethic, determination, he plays the game you want every player to play it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he constantly gets a Johnny Gaudreau comparison, and that’s nice, but he’s much more Marty St. Louis than Johnny Gaudreau.  I think we’ll see as time goes on he’ll become a little more chippy of a player, just because of the intensity he plays with, it’s bound to come out on a consistent basis.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Jan. 7th, 2018

The first “Hot Takes” of 2018.  Obviously I’ll get to the Oilers and what a complete and humiliating shit show they’ve once again become, but before I do so I have to go around the league because that’s what this piece is about.  Don’t be so selfish Oilers fans!  Trust me, I’ll get to them…

 

I’ll start with the Avs.  Everyone wants to talk about what a great story Vegas is, but I have trouble wrapping my arms around it.  They got every break from the schedule makers imaginable, and they’re just on an insane hot streak much like the Jackets, Wild and Flames went on last year (combined playoff wins for those three last season: two).  I believe they’ll make the playoffs, but I believe it’ll still be a struggle to get in.  But the Avs got no breaks at all and were coming off a season where everything went wrong, and they did nothing in the off-season to really improve the club.  Yet they’re flourishing!  And not only is this team in the playoff hunt in the West, but all of a sudden their blueline moving forward has three studs to potentially build around.  Sam Girard, Cale Makar and Conor Timmins have the makings of a very nice trio.  The first two were known, but even a draft junkie like myself didn’t realize just how great Timmins was.  I did like everything I read on him leading into last years draft, but when a draft prospect has no flash in his game it’s tough to see the potential.  This is why I always harp on intelligence being a vastly overlooked skill.  If you can think quick, you’ll always find ways to improve.  It’s insanely early to suggest that will be three of their top four moving forward, and you’re looking at these three being 3-5 years away from being impact guys, but no doubt Avs fans should be excited about them, and excited at the huge improvement their team has made.

 

And maybe the most odd thing about all of it is Nathan MacKinnon taking off once Matt Duchene was dealt.  On one hand, I guess he started seeing more ice (I actually don’t have time to research those numbers, but it’s a safe bet), but on the other hand he’ll have started seeing top competition.  So maybe it was just a case of MacKinnon feeling like it was “his team” with Duchene out of the picture.  And that’s something I’ve always wondered about with Hall out of the room in Edmonton.  A lot can be picked apart on the Oilers right now, but that is one where the organization may have been right is to move on from an alpha dog like Hall so McDavid could more so take the reigns.  Even being close like they were, McDavid may have been hesitant to do so.  Doesn’t mean you needed to get killed on value while moving Hall though….Anyway, MacKinnon.  He’s second in league scoring as of writing this, and if the Avs make the playoffs combined with this continuing from him, he has to be the Hart winner.  A long ways to go, but he’s going to jump into the conversation.

 

The Avs success has got me to thinking…are there any truly weak teams anymore, or just teams who have the worst holes?  Look at Vegas, and looking at it statistically (so not at the actual roster), and they don’t have a flaw.  The Oilers have come crashing down this season, because they have an all time worst PK.  It’s not even a bad PK, it’s just horrific at home.  Going into yesterday’s game, it was the 4th best PK in the league on the road!  But that PK bleeds into their game because last season they were able to impose their will on teams and this year perhaps they’re too timid (especially at home) to play physical knowing that if they take a penalty, it’s a 45% chance of being a goal.  Last year, the Avs didn’t have goaltending.  This year they do, and look at not just a bit of a difference but the dramatic difference.  The Vancouver Canucks were a competitive team before Bo Horvat went down.  Now without Horvat, and Brandon Sutter was already out, now they can’t matchup with anyone down the middle and they’re getting obliterated.  The Islanders looked like a serious threat in the East.  Lost Johnny Boychuk and since then the blueline is a mess and they’re bleeding goals.  As bad as the Coyotes have been this season, it wouldn’t shock me at all with that roster to see them get a goaltending upgrade in the summer and be competing for a playoff spot next season.  The only organization in the league that I feel is truly bad at this point is Buffalo, because their confidence has just been beat into the ground much like the Oilers had been prior to last season.  It’s been a fine line between winning and losing in this league since the 2005 lockout, but in the last two or three years it sure feels as though that line has become even finer.  Fewer elite teams, fewer awful teams, and a ton of fluctuation in the standings year to year.

 

It’s easy to say having watched the Oilers just play them on Saturday, but it looks to me like the Stars are on the rise finally.  They’ve only played on the road in one of their last nine, so this could be wrong, but they sure took care of business while at home winning seven of eight.  Only four points back of the Blues now with two games in hand, and it wouldn’t shock me if they end up battling for top spot in the Central by late March.

 

Speaking of teams rising and falling, man I don’t get how the Boston Bruins are good!  You can point to all their positives all you want.  Charlie McAvoy being a tremendous rookie, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand.  Those guys are all great.  But they have a lot of slower players who are past their primes in key positions, yet they’re one of the best teams in the East at the moment.  Teams like the Bruins, Kings, Sharks, Blues, etc.  The media can spare me on speed being the reason teams win and lose in this league.  It has little to do with individual speed.  In the regular season in today’s league it’s just simply about depth.  Top nine up front, top four on D, and great goaltending.  Speed is overblown.  Team speed, sure, but that’s more of a sign of confidence than anything else.

 

The Bruins are about to pull away from the Leafs in the standings.  I haven’t heard it get much attention (although I’m sure Leafs fans notice), but the Leafs aren’t anything of the world beaters they appeared to be at the start of the season.  Teams have figured them out.  Now, obviously they’re going to the playoffs because I don’t know if you’ve noticed but beyond the top three in the Atlantic that division is a complete joke, but at the deadline they might look to do a lot of buying.  I’ve loved the idea of them going after John Carlson.  I feel like he would be a terrific fit in their system.  I would also look to upgrade at centre.  Babcock still doesn’t use Matthews head to head against other teams top lines, so they could use another guy like Kadri to do that.  I thought Bozak was that player, but I don’t know how much they like him these days (doesn’t seem like they do at all, but maybe I’m going off bad information).  I’m certain the Habs are going to eat half of Plekanec six million to get something for him at the deadline, so maybe he would be that guy?  I’m just spitballing.  They need a lot if they want to contend.  But then again, they still have a year left of Matthews and Marner on ELC’s, so the push to go hard after a Cup now likely isn’t there.

 

As for the Oilers….good gawd….

 

Let’s not forget that going into the Christmas break this team very much so looked like they were about to put a major stretch together and jump back into the playoff picture.  Had won four straight, and an eight game run where they looked like one of the best teams in the league.  They were dominating everyone five on five.  What in the hell happened over the Christmas break?!?  This is the point where I had originally wrote about how Todd McLellan is done and started discussing replacements and what else needed to be done.  It might surprise you to hear me say this, because I’ve slowly crept towards being in favour of that the last few months both on here and on Twitter.  But I said to a buddy yesterday during the game “You know what else I’d be cool with too?  Chiarelli putting out a statement acknowledging his mistakes, saying he’s going to adjust some of the ways he does things (AKA not take shit value for your assets), and saying Todd isn’t going anywhere”  He didn’t really do THAT, but he backed his coach, which should help the coach and the team settle down a bit.  I’m good with it, but now the build to next year begins.  This year has been completely pissed away.

 

So you obviously sell at the deadline.  Letestu, gone.  Maroon, gone.  For me Russell for sure needs to go to clear some cap space.  Most want Lucic gone, and I would be ok with that, but I can’t see there being a taker (not to mention I highly doubt Chiarelli would move him with their relationship).  But this doesn’t mean  that you can’t buy as well, you’re just not buying rentals.  Should a kid like Risto Ristolainen actually be made available by the Sabres, Chiarelli has to be all over that as he would be the perfect fit for what the Oilers blueline needs, and what the Oilers PP needs.

 

And McLellan has to get the ship pointed in the right direction here.  This team is already going to get a draft pick which will be miles ahead of where anyone thought it would be (I for one didn’t believe they’d have much of a draft in 2018 when all was said and done!), so while winning Rasmus Dahlin would be amazing it is not something this team needs to be a Cup contender someday soon.  So win games.  Get things back on track.  Look to make the PP and PK top five units from the All-Star break on.  Start using Puljujarvi on the top unit PP already!  It is the next step in his development, and what a chance they now have to really develop him.  The same could probably be said for Darnell Nurse or maybe an Adam Larsson.  Maybe you give them time on that top unit PP, and see if they can add more offence to what they bring to the table.

 

But I will say, if there isn’t much improvement between the All-Star break and game 82, this organization has to look at cleaning house.  You better not do it blindly and have competent people in mind to take those jobs.  You owe it to your fans, and you owe it to the young talent on this team.  You have to realize the blind luck and incredible gift you won in Connor McDavid and it’s vital they do right by him and get the best people possible in here to build a Cup winner around him.  With Katz money, the arena, the job they’ve done drafting the last few years, another high pick coming this year, and just about all of the pieces already in place it would have to be one of the most desired jobs in the league.  So doing something insane like promoting in house would be just an absolute nightmare.

 

Oh one more thing…analytics guys…I doubt any of you are reading this, but if any of you are…quit celebrating this as some big victory for you all and claiming that “you called this”.  None of you called THIS.  Sure, you might have expected the team to digress during the regular season (as did I), and you figured they would fight for a playoff spot.  Were any of you calling this when the team looked so good two weeks ago?  No, you weren’t, so shut up.  I know so many of you want to prove the media wrong.  I’m with you!  Such a large majority of the people in the media have no business having the voice they have and refuse to put in the work that many of us who blog and dig deeper do.  But just because the Oilers have been a train wreck this season doesn’t mean you won or have proven anything.  Keep your heads down and keep doing the great work that most of you do, quit looking to make it a fight.  Maybe then you’ll start getting the respect you deserve, because as a guy who appreciates analytics but doesn’t think they’re the end all be all, I want to like you guys.  But many of you make it damn near impossible to do so.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

They Gave me Nothing to Bitch About This Year!

So I always write a postmortem on the World Juniors.  And since I started doing this in 2012, I’ve had a lot of negative shit to chew on with Team Canada!  That year I basically said they were still the best even though they lost.  In 2013 I destroyed the job Steve Spott did coaching a super team as the two previous super teams (lockout year teams) had obliterated the tournament and they ended up finishing 4th.  In 2014 my theory became that they had lost their mental edge and that other countries were now confident they could beat Canada while Canada wasn’t confident they could win anymore.  2015 it was finally a gold and I discussed whether or not it was the best non lockout team ever.  2016 it was more so about how the team wasn’t nearly as bad as they got made out to be (lost on a 5 on 3 PP goal caused by a fluke penalty to the Fins who went on to win it all).  And finally last year I talked about how it really wasn’t much of a loss, just sucked that they had to lose a great game and it had to be to the Americans.  So I had a main topic to chew on all of those years.  This year, I’m lost!  I don’t know what one thing to hit on, so instead I’ll cover a bunch of different things, not just from Canada, but from some of the other countries too.  So if you’ve stayed with me thus far, you’re a true friend because both the title and that opening were pretty terrible!

 

I’m actually going to start with the performance of the Americans.  Is it just me or are the Americans actually not that great, but rather just play way over their heads when they play Canada?  Because you watch any of their non Canada games, and if they happen to win, they seem to just barely scrape by most of the time.   It wasn’t just this year, last year they had trouble with the Swiss and the Russians.  Of course this year they lost to the Slovaks, nearly blew the game against an overrated Finnish team, even against the Russians they had trouble before they bowed out to the Swedes.  They’re developing a lot of damn good talent, but it’s very much so like winning the tournament is 2nd for them to beating Canada.  As long as they beat Canada, that’s the main thing.  Gold would be cool too, but beating Canada is the real victory.  It’s odd.

 

That’s not the Swedes deal, and despite losing that heart breaker had nothing to hang their heads…or toss their medals away…about.  Great team, would have been full value for a win in that game also.  But the big takeaway from the tournament is just how special Rasmus Dahlin is.  I wrote this back in October:

The initial reaction with Dahlin is to go nuts with this comparison (Drew Doughty).  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.

I got one right.  Well, I write a lot of shit, so I get a few right, but if you check out my Saturday picks I get a lot more wrong!  I think I’m even higher on Dahlin now than I was at that time.  There were people who actually thought Andrei Svechnikov was a better prospect.  A one dimensional winger over one of the best defence prospects we’ve ever seen.  The kid does it all, and while he’s not in the McDavid class, he’s going to have a tremendous impact on whichever team drafts him (please Edmonton if they’re going to be this bad, it feels like they never win the top pick…)

 

As for the other big story from the Swedish end of things, I go back and forth about Lias Andersson chucking his medal in the stands.  On one hand, I don’t know if I like the gesture of tossing it in the stands like he did.  But listening to his post game interview, it’s simple that the kid doesn’t want silver, and what’s wrong with that?!  When Canada gets silver, most of the country wants to rip the silver medals off our kids and I’m sure a lot of people take issue with nobody doing something like that.  But then when someone from another country does it we should piss on it?  Again, maybe don’t toss it in the stands as it made a spectacle of it, but as a guy who can’t stand losing and is labelled as over emotional, I totally get it.

 

How about the re-emergence of the Czech’s!?  For an old guy like me, it seems like just yesterday the Czech’s were the gold standard for the dead puck era, perhaps the worst era hockey’s ever seen.  Back to back golds in 2000 and 2001.  But it’s been a long ass time since they were relevant in this tournament.  This was just their second 4th place finish since 01, and that’s the highest they’ve finished since.  They’ve obviously still got a ways to go to get back in there with the Swedes, Russians, Finns, Americans and of course Canada.

 

Ok, Canada.  What a win!  That was the best final game that Canada has won since the 2008 final.  Canada never wins those!  17, 11, 10, 04, 02, 99, we always lose the heart breaker….except if we get the Swedes apparently.  And who better to get the winner than Tyler Steenbergen?!  A team where nobody really stood out, just extremely solid everywhere, and it’s the 13th forward who snipes the winner.  Just awesome!  It was the exact Team Canada win that I expected when first writing about the team back in November.  Great goaltending, best blueline in the tournament (though I didn’t see that coming from Conor Timmins!  And I was higher on him than most going into the draft last year, but I had no clue he was even on their radar!), and very balanced up front.  No doubt they caught a break with the Czech’s upsetting the Finns, and not seeing the States again was likely a good thing because as I talked about earlier they seem to be hell bent on beating Canada, but this was the best team in the tournament.

 

As always, I take a look ahead at who could be on the team next season.  And much like on Rasmus Dahlin, I have to do a bit of bragging.  I had no idea I wrote all this last year at this time, but I guess did ok at predicting 2018, so maybe 2019 will go the same?

It’s always so difficult to project.  You just never know who’ll end up making their NHL club.  But I would guess that seven of the nine potential returnees will be back.  I’d say Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Taylor Raddysh, Michael McLeod, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, and Dante Fabbro are close to locks to being back with this club.  The two who I believe are unlikely yet eligible would be Tyson Jost and Pierre-Luc Dubois.  Dubois wouldn’t disappoint anyone if he wasn’t back, he was very underwhelming in this tournament.  Jost, who as you know by now I’m a massive fan of, started off amazing and really cooled off as the tournament went on.  He is your captain in 2018 should he be back, I guarantee that.

 

The key there though is a 19 year old Carter Hart.  That COULD be the difference, though in 2004 I remember thinking there was no way goaltending would be a problem with Marc-Andre Fleury coming back after nearly carrying Canada to gold by himself in 03.  Anyway, Carter Hart and then I’m guessing at this point Mike DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires looks like he would be the backup, but it’s still way too early to project other players on the team.  If you want some names who appear to be safe bets for next seasons team….Brett Howden, Sam Steel, Cliff Pu, Dennis Cholowski, Jordan Kyrou, Owen Tippett, Cale Makar, and Maxime Comtois.  But again, who in the freaking hell knows at this point what’ll happen.

For the record, DiPietro being left at home for Point was a complete joke and Canada is damn lucky that decision didn’t severely bite them in the ass, and also Maxime Comtois I felt the whole way through probably shouldn’t have been on the team over a kid like Nick Suzuki, Cody Glass or Owen Tippett.  Not like he played bad, but probably shouldn’t have been on the team.  ANYWAY…2019…

 

It’s actually ironic that this tourney will be back in Vancouver, because if you recall the team which won in Vancouver in 06, this team could be built a lot like that team was.  Less skill, more grinders, talented but young blueline, great goaltending.

 

Robert Thomas is the captain should he be back.  He’s tracking like he could play in the show next season, but the Blues have a deep organization.  Jordan Kyrou was good enough to make the show this season and was sent back because the Blues were too deep.  So I’m thinking Thomas will be back and the 1st line centre/star of the team.  Joining him as returnees will be Comtois, and I believe Alex Formenton.  I know Formenton came close to making the Sens out of camp, but he’s not ready to make the jump and there is no need to rush him.  The aforementioned Suzuki and Glass will likely be in Vancouver as well.  No need for Vegas to rush them having the success they’re having.  Owen Tippett I believe is a toss up at this point.  He nearly stuck with the Panthers, so we’ll see.  Gabe Vilardi, Michael Rasmussen, Morgan Frost, Shane Bowers, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan are kids who at least at this point and time I would say are good bets up front.

 

The blueline is likely going to be pretty young with no returnees and the highest picked kid from the 17 draft likely being Pierre-Olivier Joseph.  Ty Smith, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson and Jared McIssac are all probably locks.  And again, so much can change, but those four actually all fit real well together, and this 18 draft is defence rich.

 

At the moment, it doesn’t look like Canada will have near the team they were able to ice this year.  But for me, the big key is going to be starting goaltending, I’m calling it now, it’ll be Michael DiPietro.  He should have been on this years team, a part of me believes he was left at home so there couldn’t be a goaltending controversy because I believe DiPietro was that good currently where he could have stole the job even with how good Carter Hart was.  This team will have a punchers chance against what’ll be very talented American and Swedish teams, not to mention the Finns and Russians always being solid.  DiPietro is the type of goaltender who can steal a tournament for a team.

 

For all the talk of the Americans passing Canada which the Canadian media just seems so horny to write about, Canada is a shootout loss away from winning the tournament in three of the last four years.  The Americans have passed Canada in shootouts, I’m not sure they’ve passed us in any other way.  As one of my good friends used to say “they can f***ing have it”.  We’ll enjoy the gold which was won by scoring in a hockey game.  (hell yes that was a petty cheap shot at the Americans winning in the skills competition last year!)

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups