This wasn’t a good time to be a week late. Better late than never, but it makes for a LOT of thoughts on shit! The draft lottery, the playoffs, and at the end I’ll be tossing in a little 1-15 mock draft. And I’ll just be straight about this, I got a ton of sun today and it’s now 1 AM Monday morning, so this is where the opening stops, enjoy the rest as I’m off to bed!
Good on the Sabres for winning the draft lottery. At first, I found myself pulling against them. Then at some point during the completely needless, desperate ratings grab of a two hour break I kind of found myself asking why that was? Tim Murray is gone, and it was Tim Murray who intentionally tanked two years in a row for Ekblad and McDavid, and then assumed he would land Mike Babcock, and on all three of those occasions bitched and moaned like a child not getting an extra juice box when none of them went his way. But that was Tim Murray, the door hit him in the ass a year ago. Jason Botterill is competent, and while I was really disappointed in him for not taking D-men in last years draft when he had the chance, it’s now going to work out for him as he’ll own the best D prospect to come along since Victor Hedman, and one of the best of all time. Dahlin is a franchise changer, and the fact is that now if O’Reilly were to stay (big question mark), you’d have Eichel, O’Reilly, Mittelstadt and Dahlin. Phil Housley can ensure that at least one of those guys is on the ice at all times. And this will really help Rasmus Ristolainen too should they hang onto him as he can now see more of the second and third lines rather than take on all the tough minutes. Of course this is unlikely to happen next season. They’ll need to give Dahlin a year or two before they start giving him the tougher assignments. As constructed, the Sabres are still going to be a year away from the playoffs. But I know from experience as an Oilers fan, there was no hope left after 2015, and then they won McDavid and even though you knew they weren’t making the 2016 playoffs that things were changing. I just hope Terry Pegula stays the fuck out of the way and let’s Jason Botterill do his thing.
I bring up that last part, because I’m starting to notice that we as fans and the media tend to often be blaming the wrong guy when things go wrong in an organization. The Cleveland Browns had the first and fourth picks in the NFL draft a week and a half ago, and they took Baker Mayfield (mistake) and Denzel Ward (reach) when the rest of the football world undoubtedly would have taken USC QB Sam Darnold at one, and NC State DE Bradley Chubb at four. So what the hell happened? It’s a new front office in Cleveland. A HIGHLY respected GM, who’s biggest strength is as a talent evaluator. Well what I believe has happened, and has been happening there is owner Jimmy Haslam can’t keep his nose out of everyone else’s business. If you look back, it all adds up. He took Johnny Manziel in 2014, and it wasn’t anyone in their front office who made the pick, it was Haslam…LITERALLY after a homeless man told him he needed to take Johnny Manziel. That’s a true story. While I don’t believe Mayfield is Manziel as so many people like to compare, he’s a celebrity QB like Manziel. He was the biggest celebrity QB in the draft. And then at four, Denzel Ward played at Ohio State, so he likely wanted the local kid. And if you’re a GM and your boss is demanding you take these kids…what can you do?! If John Dorsey had traded back, he likely would have been crucified by Haslam for putting getting Mayfield in jeopardy. Same with the fourth pick and Ward. Do I KNOW that this was Haslam’s doing? No. But it sure smells the exact same as everything else has with the Browns. Anyway, this is all brought up because I wonder if this is actually what separates teams in the NHL more than anything else? Elliotte Friedman on the 31 Thoughts podcast two weeks ago was talking about how Craig Leipold in Minny is a very hands on owner. He was the reason for the Suter and Parise deals, and was the reason for the Vanek signing too (which now explains it because that NEVER made sense for Minny). In Edmonton, Friedman has said that Katz is very hands off, which is awesome to hear. But I wonder how hands off Kevin Lowe is? I recall a few years ago on Oilers Now, you could tell that when Lowe came up Stauffer would blindly defend Lowe. One caller asked Stauffer what he had done for the organization and Stauffer responded with something to the effect of “well the Oil Kings have now won two of the last three WHL titles and a Memorial Cup”. Stauffer clearly had a mandate whether it be his own or from the top that Lowe is never to be questioned. Remember how defensive Lowe got when Mark Spector took him to task after he fired Steve Tambellini and hired Craig MacTavish as the GM? Another good point that Friedman brought up when talking about it is that it’s often the owners who are the reason for bad July 1st contracts. The reason is so simple, yet do we EVER give it a thought? Business. Get some buzz. “Go get someone, we need to sell more season seats”. Almost guarantee that Loui Eriksson was signed in Vancouver for that reason.
So who will be the new GM for the Leafs? Kyle Dubas? Mark Hunter? Probably Dubas. But let’s get one thing straight, Hunter hasn’t “loaded their system” as so many want to make it out to be. Who? Who is he so responsible for that was just such an amazing find? He wanted them to take Mitch Marner. Right. He had Marner in London. It’s not exactly difficult to pound the table for the guy you know best. Had the Leafs brought in Kelly McCrimmon as they attempted to do at that time, and that been McCrimmon’s call in that draft, he would have pounded the table for Ivan Provorov, and the Toronto media would be hailing him as this amazing talent evaluator too? It’s ridiculous. William Nylander? Hunter wasn’t in the room. Auston Matthews? Don’t think I’d call taking him going off the board there. Travis Dermott? I guess that one is his and it’s been solid. It was also pretty obvious, as Dermott was expected to go around that point in the draft and the Leafs badly needed to stockpile defencemen. Carl Gundstrom? That was a pick I really liked, but he got real lucky in my mind that Grundstrom was still available where he picked him. Andreas Johnsson? Not Hunter’s pick. Shanahan wasn’t even there for that one. I pull for the Leafs to be good, and rarely say anything bad about them, but this is why Canada hates them. The Toronto media just can’t avoid wildly overrating them when things are good. They either go too far in overrating them, or too far shitting on them. I follow the draft and follow what teams have in their system pretty closely. The Leafs are no longer the shit show they were when it comes to drafting, but they aren’t crushing it either. They’ve done ok. That’s all. And if that would be the label then I wouldn’t say a word. But man alive, even my favourite guy Elliotte Friedman was making Hunter out to be some draft guru in 31 Thoughts last week. Come on!!! Anaheim, Nashville, Tampa, Winnipeg, these are teams who are consistently killing it at the draft. In Hunter’s three years running the Leafs draft, he’s done fine, but he hasn’t done anything worth raving about either, so let’s cool it already on that talk.
I’ve tried to be real about the Golden Knights on here all season. Felt around December that they weren’t for real in the sense that this would be the norm long term, but that they were going to make the playoffs. They won the division, relatively comfortably. I felt they’d get rolled by the Kings, and they swept the Kings. Now, I had changed my tune going into the series with the Sharks (how could you not by then), but still. To put away a damn good Sharks team in six games, it’s just ridiculous at this point the roll this team is on. I STILL don’t think they’ll be able to recapture this magic next season, it reminds me a bit of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, a bit of the 1991 Minnesota North Stars, but who the hell knows?! And in case you forgot, Carolina won the Cup that year, Minnesota was up 2-1 on a Pens team with nine hall of famers in the 91 final. I don’t know if the Golden Knights can get past Nashville or Winnipeg, but I’m done being surprised by anything this Golden Knights team does. For this season, they’re very much so for real. Outside of Fleury being spectacular, I’m not sure how, but they are.
I don’t think the Jets will wrap it up tonight. Too much pressure, the Preds not only are on the ropes but got humiliated at home on Saturday night, so they’ll come out and play the way they did in game four. I do believe that they can take a game seven in Nashville though. I’ve said it for a couple months now, the Preds just keep looking to flip the switch. Maybe it catches up with them tonight, maybe Wednesday, maybe not to the final, but I personally feel that more than anything this is what’s costing them.
Meanwhile what’s costing the Pens is that they’re simply running out of gas. Awesome on the Caps for possibly finally getting over the hump, and perhaps finally getting past the Pens (should they) will catapult them. But what I feel is actually happening is that the Pens are just on fumes. Maybe they still pull out the series, but to do so would now take seven games, and then what’ll be a very fresh Tampa team will be waiting for them. The three peat looks to be on life support.
Ok, so this isn’t one of my official mock drafts, but I will do a mini one right now for all the lottery teams. In brackets is where I have them ranked currently (not the last rankings, but on the rankings I’m working on)
Buffalo – Rasumus Dahlin (1). Without a doubt this is the top pick
Carolina – Filip Zadina (3). Most are going to say Svechnikov, I’m not a fan at all, but get the appeal. Zadina is safer. Both are going to be elite wingers, so the smart move is to take the safer guy here.
Montreal – Andrei Svechnikov (8). For those who haven’t read my rankings, I’m not as high on Svechnikov as everyone else because of the Russian factor, because of fears that Russians grow up learning to play the game one on five, because of fears that he can’t think the game and is simply able to currently dominate thanks to his superior physical gifts and talent. Anyway, I’m on an island with that thinking and believe he’ll go top three for sure. Montreal probably should trade back, but that literally never happens in the top five.
Ottawa – Adam Boqvist (4). Karlsson is likely gone, so that’ll play a factor here. I view Boqvist as being pretty even with Brady Tkachuk, so then you look to need and Boqvist is likely going to be viewed as the much bigger need. Add to that, RHD is such a highly valuable asset to own in this league.
Arizona – Brady Tkachuk (6). They’re going to be begging for this to be the scenario to play out. From a business POV, the Coyotes can use a shot in the arm such as the son of perhaps the best player in Phoenix Coyotes history on the team.
Detroit – Quinn Hughes (15). I definitely believe they’re going D with this pick, and it’ll be between Hughes and Evan Bouchard for them. I don’t see Hughes ever being a number one guy as he’s just too small to play tough minutes (5’9, 167 lbs), but he’s going to be the fourth forward every time and extremely dangerous every shift.
Vancouver – Evan Bouchard (9). I’ve changed my tune a ton on Bouchard. The more I thought about it, the more I buy into his passing ability and IQ making his average skating a minor issue. And he’s not that bad of a skater, he’s just not overly quick. But he’s so smooth, and he’s going to step into the league next season and perhaps be in someone’s top four by the end of the season much like Charlie McAvoy did.
Chicago – Oliver Wahlstrom (7). Amazing skill and shot. He’s listed as a centre, but I roll my eyes at that. Shoot first centres are just so difficult to play with, so I believe he’ll be much better utilized on the wing. As for the Hawks picking him, he’s their kind of player. The Hawks crave pure skill maybe more than any other team in the league, so if he’s there at eight I fully expect Stan Bowman to take him.
NY Rangers – Noah Dobson (5). I have a very difficult time believing Evan Bouchard will ever be better than Noah Dobson, but most don’t, so Dobson could be available for the Rangers. If he is, they’re going to pounce. They don’t have much for D in the system as things stand now. So to get what I believe is a Seth Jones clone at nine is pretty remarkable.
Edmonton – Bode Wilde (10). This is not where I’d go with this pick. And I like Wilde, but I believe Chiarelli and company will LOVE Wilde. Why? He’s a RHD who is big, mobile, and going to Harvard in the fall. You know who else went to Harvard? Peter Chiarelli. If it’s me, I’m taking Joe Veleno (2). In my opinion the Oilers only have two potential centres at the next level in their top 20 prospects. Veleno’s a pure playmaker in what has become a playmakers league. But I doubt the Oilers do it even though this is right around where Veleno is ranked (McKenzie currently has him 11th).
NY Islanders – Jesperi Kotkaniemi (12). This is assuming they lose John Tavares. Should they, then they’ll really need a centre. Sure, they can sign someone in the off-season, they can put Josh Bailey back in the middle, but long term they need someone. Kotkaniemi would compliment Barzal perfectly. I love the kids game. Playmaker who is a 200 foot player.
NY Islanders (via Calgary) – Joel Farabee (17). Garth Snow is in love with high end skilled players. So in getting Kotkaniemi he’ll have his guy to do the dirty work moving forward, and then he goes and gets Farabee to drive play on the second line behind Barzal. For me, I think about what a combo Farabee and Barzal would be on the PP. Both capable of running it from the wall, ones a lefty, ones a righty. Could be lethal. Wondering if they go forward-D with these two picks? Maybe, but they don’t like taking D in the first round. Did it two years in a row, Reinhart was a bust and Pulock has had trouble getting regular minutes.
Dallas – Joe Veleno (2). They get Veleno to go with Seguin, Faksa and Shore long term down the middle…yikes!! That’s a bitch to deal with for the rest of the Central division moving forward.
Philadelphia (via St. Louis) – Ty Smith (11). I like him a lot more than most. Size sucks, let’s not lie, but he’s got a really high IQ, great work ethic, great skater, plays cerebral which scouts seem to dislike for some reason (gotta be dynamic cause it’s scored as 3 if it’s a dynamic goal ya know…), he has all the traits that you need to be a number one defenceman. As for Philly, I know they have gone D a lot, but some of those guys have yet to pan out and might not. Smith would be as much BPA as a need for Philly in my opinion anyway.
Florida – Akil Thomas (16). I’m a lot higher on Thomas than most are. I just think he’s a lot like Veleno in that once he plays with higher end players his game will go to another level. Tremendous playmaker. And a bit of business here too in that while Thomas is a Canadian kid, he’s Florida born, and he’s exciting to watch. At 15 he’d be picked for hockey reasons, but the latter part of that sure doesn’t hurt.
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