Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – April, 2019

What in the hell….I wrote a new blog?!?!  Not only that, this is the 2nd one I’m putting out today!  Maybe some day I’ll be able to get some consistency in my game…no wonder I relate to the Oilers so well…

 

This is one that is particularly overdue.  The last time I got around to doing an Oilers top prospect list, I was on a bit of an island trying to tell people how the system had improved.  This time around, many people have joined the party.  I’m so happy that the Peter Chiarelli nightmare is over, but the one thing I’ll never take away from the man is how well the Oilers have drafted under him, and most of this list is his doing.

 

So with that being said, the draft lottery having just taken place last night, and Bakersfield about to wrap up their terrific regular season, now is as good of a time as any to take a look at the Oilers system.  I want to start it off though looking at four guys in particular for one reason or another.

 

Hayden Hawkey  Providence  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Glove: L  DOB: 3/1/95 (24)

Acquired: Trade with Montreal, June 23rd, 2018

I try to keep all these short, but this one isn’t, nor is it much about the player.  This trade man…so many people love to crush the low hanging fruit when it comes to the Oilers or Chiarelli.  I get it, but it’s not my style.  Especially when it’s ridiculous to do.  This one though that has rattled me from the get go.  Why in the FUCK would you make a trade for a college kid going into his senior season with the ability to walk as a free agent???  This was just a classic example of how careless and moronic Chiarelli was as a GM, because you shouldn’t be making this deal.  The deal if you absolutely HAD to do it should have been conditional.  A 7th rounder to the Habs, with it becoming a 5th or even a 4th if Hawkey signed.  Nope.  Not Pete.  Peter didn’t know how to make trades that covered his ass in anyway.  Peter just rolled the dice, EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  Moron.  Good GD riddance.  As for Hawkey…great numbers this season (.920 Sv% in 40 games), but he’s highly unlikely to sign at this point so what does it matter?

 

Ryan Mantha  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 225  Shot: R  DOB: 6/18/96 (22)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 1st, 2017

Not much to say here but if you know of him then you likely know why I’m mentioning him.  Missed the entire season with a concussion and we’ll see if he’s able to resume his career.  I really doubt it to be honest.

 

Aapeli Rasanen  Boston College  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: R  DOB: 6/1/98 (20)

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

I’d love to know what happened to both Rasanen and Graham McPhee this season.  Just HORRENDOUS drop off’s.  This time last year I assumed he’d be signed by the Oilers by now.  He has his Sr. year to prove himself, and then if he does, I guess we’ll see if the Oilers want him, or if he’ll want the Oilers.  I still believe he could be a very valuable 4th line centre, maybe a Mark Letestu type.

 

Josh Currie  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R  DOB: 10/29/92 (26)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed July 19th, 2018

In the past, I wouldn’t list a kid like Currie because of his age (not that I technically did on this list either).  But he’s worked himself into the discussion with the team.  However, I have to piss on the feel good story a bit here and say that he really didn’t look like a kid who can play in the show long term to me in his 21 game stint to end this season, in my opinion anyway.  It’s an amazing accomplishment that he has even got to this point, and I’m not saying he should now be cast aside at all.  But I only see him being about a 15th forward for the Oilers or another club moving forward.  I’d be so happy to be proven so wrong on this, and it’s not as if Currie hasn’t proven a shit ton of people wrong to this point in his career.

 

Now that I’ve said my piece on those four, let’s get to the main list!

 

20. Cameron Hebig  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: R  DOB: 1/21/97 (22)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed December 28th, 2017

Hot start and then drastically cooled off.  Not a big surprise for me personally.  I see Hebig as a 4th line guy.  A John Madden type if he maxes out.

 

19-17. Olivier Rodrigue  Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 156  Glove: L  DOB: 7/6/00 (18)

Acquired: 2nd Round, 62nd Overall, 2018 Draft

Stuart Skinner  Wichita  ECHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Glove: L  DOB: 11/1/98 (20)

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

Dylan Wells  Wichita  ECHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 182  Glove: L  DOB: 1/3/98 (21)

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

You are reading this right.  So my man Matt Mosewich (well, we’ve never met in person, he might be a real asshole, I actually don’t know) had this essentially the same way.  Especially this season it rings true that there just isn’t really a way to separate these three right now, and you could easily make an argument for all three.  If I absolutely HAD to rank them I’d probably say Wells, Skinner and Rodrigue.  Reason being I believe Wells has shown the most high end ability in his game and is closest in terms of being in the system the longest.  Skinner is 2nd, probably the most consistent and has the best size of the three.  And then Rodrigue is 3rd for me mostly due to the lack of size and the unknown of having yet to play pro (nor will he for another season), though we may get to see Rodrigue start for Canada in next year’s WJC.  For all three guys though it is just far too early to project on them, but all three have shown flashes.

 

16. Philip Kemp  Yale  NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 202  Shot: R  DOB: 2/12/99 (20)

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

He’s nothing to get over excited about, but there is some reason to get excited about hitting on a 7th round pick.  Don’t believe that’s happened since 2003 for this organization (Kyle Brodziak).  I see him as a Mark Fayne clone, only question is whether we’re talking Fayne in Jersey, or Fayne in Edmonton.

 

15. Filip Berglund  Skellefteå  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R  DOB: 5/10/97 (21)

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

A little like Kemp in that he doesn’t have much flash in his game.  Maybe a little more offensive ability, but definitely not the type who oozes skill.  On one hand it’s good that he’s staying over in Sweden another season with the team currently looking at six D for two bottom pairing spots next season (I doubt they’ll want one of the kids on the roster as the number seven guy).  But on the other hand, we would like to get a closer look at him sooner or later.  20-21 I’m sure.

 

14. John Marino  Harvard  NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: R  DOB: 5/21/97 (21)

Acquired: 6th round, 154th overall, 2015 draft

If you have Marino lower than Kemp on your list, I get it.  As I just laid out, I believe Kemp has a good chance of making the NHL, probably a better one than Marino.  But because of Marino’s skating ability he gets the nod for me.  With both Marino and Kemp, the fact that they are attending Ivy league schools as D-men is pretty intriguing because I maybe value IQ more than anyone in all players, but especially in defencemen.

 

13. Ostap Safin  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 191  Shot: L  DOB: 2/11/99 (20)

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

Probably the biggest disappointment the Oilers have had on the prospect front this season.  It wasn’t disappointing play, but rather damn near a full season lost due to injury.  Safin might be the biggest wildcard in the Oilers system.  A classic boom or bust type.  He has the size, he’s great skater, a mean streak, and he has a lot of skill too.  He didn’t dominate the Q as most would like to see before getting too excited about him, but it was never going to make a difference anyway.  The motor is the big question with Safin.  Sometimes with kids who don’t have much of a motor, it’ll adjust according to the level of competition they face and so we could see a kid who really starts taking it to another level once he hit pro hockey.  We also could see a kid who is an absolute dog and shows little-no passion to play.  Don’t be surprised if he goes back home next season much the way William Lagesson and Markus Niemelainen did.  He needs playing time after this season.  He likely wouldn’t get a ton in Bakersfield, probably won’t want any part of the ECHL, so on loan to the Czech league would likely make the most sense.

 

12. Joe Gambardella  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 201  Shot: L  DOB: 12/1/93 (25)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 28th, 2017

It’s go time for Gambardella, and he’s right there.  He’s got the wheels that this organization needs a lot more of, so that’s a good thing.  And he started to gain the trust of Ken Hitchcock near the end of the season, so that’s another great sign.  He’s not a guy Hitchcock would normally like, but he seemed to really appreciate Gambardella.  27 goals, 45 points in 48 games in the AHL this season.  I think he can be a regular, but I do wonder if it’ll be with the Oilers.  Might be the wrong time for him to break through here, but he’ll get his shot in camp.

 

11. William Lagesson  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L  DOB: 2/22/96 (23)

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

I’ve always liked him.  There isn’t a high ceiling with Lagesson, but he sure looks like he’ll play in the league at this point.  Not a pretty skater, but he can move.  Not an offensively gifted player, but put up ok numbers this season.  Not a killer on the back end, but he loves to get his nose dirty.  He’s ready to see some minutes with the big club, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can accommodate that with so many other D-men in the system around the same level.

 

10. Joel Persson  Växjö  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 187  Shot: R  DOB: 3/4/94 (25)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed May 18th, 2018

He’s going to get one heck of a look to start next season.  Ignore that he’s on a one way contract, that really isn’t a big deal.  The contract is waiver exempt and that’s what matters, so they can play him in the AHL.  Maybe he starts there, but in my opinion they will start him on the bottom pair next season and Matt Benning will be moved for a winger.  Persson doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but is a well rounded D-man who can skate and move the puck well…AKA the type of defencemen the Oilers are desperate for.  He did a ton of the heavy lifting for Växjö this season, essentially being their number one defenceman.  You’ll see him next season on the big club, only thing that remains to be seen is whether or not it’ll be out of camp or if he’ll need 20-30 games in Bakersfield first and maybe a kid like Ethan Bear gets that bottom pairing slot out of camp.

 

9. Cooper Marody  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 173  Shot: R  DOB: 12/20/96 (22)

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st 2018

I love him, but I’m not sure I love him for the Oilers.  The wheels are concerning and with both the big club and the higher end prospects there are too many players like that in the system.  So for me personally, I’d be willing to part with him for the right piece.  But I love his game.  Pure playmaker who is unafraid to go anywhere on the ice.  If he does improve the wheels, he’ll be a one hell of a player.

 

8. Ryan McLeod  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 205  Shot: L  DOB: 9/21/99 (19)

Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2018 Draft

I wonder if Marody could give McLeod his compete, or if McLeod could give Marody his wheels?  For me, I’m going to favour the guy with the wheels and McLeod has ELITE wheels.  He’ll play in the league because his speed is that good.  But frankly it’ll be a matter of him playing with more balls that dictates whether he’ll be a bottom six player or a top six player.  He has all the ability to be a 2nd line player, if not a 1st liner, but it is pretty damn rare for a player to all of a sudden gain on ice bravery for lack of a better term as a trait…

 

7. Dmitri Samorukov  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L  DOB: 6/16/99 (19)

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

Hockey sense is going to be the determining factor with Sammy’s future.  He literally has all the tools.  Size, mobility, plays with an edge, moves the puck extremely well, hard shot, there is nothing physically that he doesn’t have.  Could be a number one someday.  Mind you, that can be said about most young D because a large majority of the top guys come out of nowhere!  Obviously nobody is going to bank on him being a number one someday, but a top four is definitely realistic.  However, what he’s done to this point really shouldn’t surprise anyone.  He’s looked tremendous as a 19 year old, of course he should when someone has this type of talent.  I expect there to be an adjustment period next season in Bakersfield that’ll have the fans and media down on him.  So I don’t expect us to really know what the Oilers have for another year and a half or so.

 

6. Ethan Bear  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 205  Shot: R  DOB: 6/26/97 (21)

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

As has been stated by myself and others hundreds of times by now, the big question is his skating.  And like Marody, I wouldn’t be afraid to part with Bear this off-season.  But unlike Marody, Bear’s trade value is probably less than it should be at the moment.  With neither guy, you don’t move him unless you get the right deal, but I’m just saying I’d at least listen on both.  Fans have got mesmerized by Jones skating ability that they seemingly have forgotten Bear’s ability to move the puck.  It’s elite, not to mention a big shot to go with it, and Bear’s overall skating isn’t that bad at all.  I find his lateral movement actually to be pretty high end, it’s the straight ahead speed that is lacking…in my opinion anyway.

 

5. Kirill Maksimov  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: R  DOB: 6/1/99 (19)

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

The ONLY reason I don’t have him 3rd is because the guys in the 4th and 3rd spots look to be such certain things at this point that I can’t bring myself to put Maksi higher than this.  But man, I fully believe this kid is going to make it and he’s going to be a total sniper.  A bomb of a one timer, and his best shot might be his wrister.  His wrister reminds me of Joe Sakic’s.  No back swing.  People also rave about his work ethic, the way his 200 foot game has developed, and the only knock is a lack of not great wheels.  Not that they aren’t good enough already, just that they aren’t great and I’ve made the point several times that I believe it’s coming.  You watch him skate and it just looks as though he lacks power.  Then you look at how he’s built and he still just has such thin legs.  So when he starts developing lower body strength, I won’t be surprised if we’re talking about his skating being one of his best traits.

 

4. Tyler Benson  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L  DOB: 3/15/98 (21)

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

I can honestly say I never lost faith in the ability.  I definitely was losing faith in the ability to remain healthy at this point two years ago, but not in the kids ability.  His IQ and playmaking ability are elite.  He’s willing to play a complete game too, something that maybe gets a little underrated with him.  I maintain that Benson is going to ride shotgun with 97 at some point very soon because they think the game so similar and he’s just such a perfect compliment.  People are worried about getting him more AHL time, I’m not sure they realize that the only reason he’s not in the show already is because injuries held him back.  He’s not your normal 32nd overall pick.  The mistake the organization has made in the past is they would keep a good roster spot open for a kid like this.  I wouldn’t keep a spot open (3rd line LW), but I’d have either a guy on a deal for 1.1 million or less, along with Joe Gambardella and Benson legitimately competing for that position.  He’s LIKELY ready, but let’s start making sure that the kids are earning their spots on the roster.  As has been said before he doesn’t have elite wheels, but he’s one kid who won’t need elite speed with how he thinks the game, and it’s not as if he’s a bad skater either.  He can move.

 

3. Caleb Jones  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 205  Shot: L  DOB: 6/6/97 (21)

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

Benson can move, but Jones can fly.  I’ve maintained over the last two years that Jones was a player because of the skating, and you all got to see that over 17 games this season.  I won’t spend much time here because you’ve all seen him closer than most of these kids, but I will say that I believe he’ll be a top four guy eventually, and I believe he’s proven that he’s ready for a spot on the bottom pair next season.  I would say that like Benson they should also have a veteran for Jones to compete with, I’d assume that’ll be whoever will likely be the number seven D-man, not to mention Lagesson.

 

2. Kailer Yamamoto  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 154  Shot: R  DOB: 9/29/98 (20)

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

I would say a set back of a season.  But consider this: Johnny Gaudreau is maybe the poster boy for undersized players in the league right now.  Gaudreau played one game before the age of 22.  I compared Yamo to Cam Atkinson in his draft year, Atkinson’s first full season (kind of, it was the lockout year) was at age 23.  And read his weight, 5’8 was one thing but 154 lbs is another.  I’ve had that number for a while, so I’m sure he’s packed on a few more pounds, but he’s still really small and still probably doesn’t have the strength he’ll need.  So I’d expect a full season in Bakersfield next season, but don’t bail on him yet.  He still has the qualities to thrive.  He has high end skill, high end IQ, and he’s insanely driven.  I thought it would have happened by now, but in hindsight that’s likely what I missed on him.

 

1. Evan Bouchard  London  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: R  DOB: 10/20/99 (19)

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th Overall, 2018 Draft

Craig Button doesn’t think he’s a top 50 prospect…annnnnnnnd THAT’S why fans don’t have much respect for what Craig has to say.  Bouchard is great.  Is he going to be a number one?  I don’t think so, but I never thought he would be!  Top pairing guy depending on who he’d be opposite of, but for sure a number three guy who is one of the best manning the point on the PP in the league, with a first pass that’ll be elite…if it’s not already.  Having said this, it’s setup for him to play all of next season in Bakersfield which is perfect.  He needs a season to work on his defensive play and work on his battle level in the corners and in front of the net.  He’s exactly what the Oilers need on the blueline, they just need to be a little patient.

 

The list should be done, but I’m sure the timing of this isn’t lost on anyone reading it, so why not add a bonus to this list?!  It is EXTREMELY early in the process so let’s not take this as gospel.  Obviously you get down to 8, there are a lot of different possibilities.  Kirby Dach was who Sam Cosentino projected.  To me, I believe Dach ends up going top six, not sure why he wouldn’t.  Alex Turcotte is who Craig Button projected, but again you’re talking about a highly skilled centre, why have people not noticed how highly valued centres are by NHL teams yet?  Kotkaniemi and Hayton weren’t supposed to go anywhere NEAR picks three and five this time last year!  I’d absolutely love either of those two to be picked by the Oilers, but I highly doubt either of those two will be around.  However I do feel safe in suggesting this kid will be around:

 

Peyton Krebs  Kootenay  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 181  Shot: L  DOB: 1/26/01 (18)

Comparison: Zach Parise

So to get to the Oilers picking Krebs, I had to do a mock in my head.  My mock draft went Kakko, Hughes (yes, Kakko then Hughes but in this case it doesn’t matter as either combination will go 1-2), Turcotte, Podkolzin, Byram, Dach, Cozens going 1-7.  That leaves the Oilers with Krebs at eight.  My buddy SPR loves the Oilers to go out and grab Philip Tomasino at eight and he’s been all over Tomasino for months now, and few know the OHL kids better than SPR.  But I’m looking at what I believe the Oilers will do, and I doubt anyone would cry about Krebs at eight.  Winger (ignore the talk of him playing the middle) who is a pure playmaker, terrific skater, and a high character kid too.  You look at the season he just had and then consider the shit show of an organization he played for (especially this season) and Krebs could be a HELL of a steal for the Oilers at eight.  They are desperate for talent on the wings, and Krebs is big time talent on the wing.  If Krebs is added to this list come the fall, he’ll be ranked 1st.

 

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2019 Playoff Prognostications Guaranteed…To Go Wrong

Did everyone see my 18-19 season prognostications piece?!  You didn’t?!?  Good…don’t….

 

I guess I should start this off by saying, I’m back!  First blog I’ve wrote since January, and that one was the first I had written since early December.  Life got in the way, started wondering why I was doing this for pretty much no reason at this point in my life (to be really honest), but the playoffs are here, it’s the off-season, and I got a little bit of the itch to do some writing and podcasting so I don’t know if it’ll keep going, but for today I’m putting out some new stuff.

 

I’m not sure why I’m calling these prognostications.  They really aren’t, they’re guesses.  Do we know what injuries will take place?  How the schedule’s might impact each team?  What game plan’s coaches may have in place?  We don’t know shit!  Yet, if these are right, you know I’ll be the first guy to let everyone know.  And if they’re wrong, I’ll never speak of them again.  Stupid either way.  So let’s get to all this stupidity, shall we?

 

Western Conference

P1 Calgary vs WC2 Colorado

Of all the first round series, this is the one that should be a cake walk.  The more I gave this series thought, the more I found myself saying that the Avs just matchup horribly with the Flames.  The Flames one weakness might be in net, and the Avs have almost identical goaltending.  The Avs have a fast team with two big time scorers, but the Flames have as fast of a team with two big time scorers and much better depth…not to mention a centre in Backlund who will likely see a lot of Nathan MacKinnon and the Norris trophy winner who’ll also see a ton of him.  The Avs got hot down the stretch to get in, but Cale Makar isn’t walking through that door…til game 3 at the earliest…and Bowen Byram isn’t walking through that door…until late June.

Flames Sweep

 

P2 San Jose vs P3 Vegas

First of all I’m going to say that I’m officially done doubting the Knights…despite who I have winning this series.  This is 100% about Martin Jones, or maybe Aaron Dell.  Whoever starts for the Sharks anyway.  If they get the goaltending, they win the series.  The Golden Knights top four on D is suspect at best.  I know they have pretty good depth up front, but the Sharks easily match that depth.  So this is about goaltending and we know how good Fleury can be.  Jones has been terrible this season, but I’ve seen this guy play tremendous in too many big spots over the last three seasons to believe he’s going to be shitty in the playoffs.  Remember, Braden Holtby struggled so much last season that he didn’t even start for the Caps in the playoffs, and then led them to a Cup.  I’m going to GUESS that this is Jones and all I am honestly doing is completely guessing here, as either team can win this.

Sharks in 6

 

P1 Calgary vs P2 San Jose

The big thing here is that Jones gets going for the Sharks.  To put it simply, if the Sharks get past the Knights it’ll be because Jones gets going.  If Jones gets going, then the Sharks matchup real well with the Flames, and would own a big advantage in the experience department.

Sharks in 7

 

C1 Nashville vs WC1 Dallas

This is going to be a very tough matchup for the Preds.  The Stars have a terrific young and emerging blueline, and both Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin have had terrific seasons.  The Stars definitely can win this series, and I expect to hear a lot of people pick the Stars either to win this series, or as a dark horse team in the playoffs in general.  It wouldn’t be a dumb thing to say.  But I believe what people are going to miss on the Preds is how much better of a team they are this season.  I don’t care that it didn’t show during the regular season.  They’ve been the final, they’ve won the President’s trophy, the regular season for them now mean’s nothing.  Simmonds, Granlund, even a kid like Dante Fabbro, these are very key upgrades for an already stacked team.  And I honestly can’t imagine Pekka Rinne will fall flat on his face like he did last spring.  I like the Preds to win this series and make a deep run, but this series won’t be easy.

Preds in 7

 

C2 Winnipeg vs C3 St. Louis

Sucks to say this, things couldn’t be more wrong for the Jets entering the playoffs.  Awful end to the season, awful first round opponent.  The Blues are one team that can match the Jets major advantage which is their size.  That’s the one thing that the Jets could maybe rely on in the playoffs, and the Blues are just as heavy of a team.  Blues have the better D, hotter goaltender, gone through major adversity, nothing to lose, this just couldn’t be a worst matchup for the Jets in my opinion.

Blues in 6

 

C1 Nashville vs C3 St. Louis

I gave big consideration for both these teams to go all the way.  Tough to pick against the Blues given they’ve been the best team in the Western Conference in 2019.  But again with the Preds, the regular season hasn’t meant shit to them.  They have another level or two that they can crank it up, and I believe they are going to and once they do, I don’t see the Blues matching it.

Preds in 6

 

Nashville vs San Jose

I think everyone in hockey believes this will be the West final…if both squads get the goaltending.  As far as the combination of forwards and defence go, these appear to be the best rosters in the West.  I’m banking on them getting the goaltending they need to get to this point.  And if they meet, I like the Preds goaltending a little more, and I believe the Preds also own advantages both down the middle and on the blueline, where the size and speed are saw-offs in my mind.

Preds in 7

 

Eastern Conference

A1 Tampa Bay vs WC2 Columbus

My upset special!  This will probably be extremely wrong, but I do actually see how the Blue Jackets are a brutal matchup for the Lightning.  Bobrovsky hasn’t been himself all season, but we know how hot he can get.  They aren’t better than the Lightning anywhere, but have similar depth, and the Jackets are a team better built to play playoff hockey.  Everyone in the hockey world right now is pointing and laughing at the Blue Jackets for loading up at the deadline only to get Tampa in the first round.  When everyone goes one way, I love to go the other and even though I had Tampa and Nashville in the final to start the season, I’m taking the Jackets here.

Jackets in 7

 

A2 Boston vs A3 Toronto

My tune on this has changed the last two or three weeks.  I was all in on the Leafs pulling the win, and still believe that they should.  But the vibe around them couldn’t be worse right now.  Sounds like a ton of issues within the organization right now, the Bruins seem to be 100% in their heads, Andersen hasn’t been overplayed this season, I worry about the team wearing down as the season’s gone on, it just feels all wrong.  And the people who I’ve heard take Toronto love to point out how last year the Leafs were up going into the 3rd in game 7.  That’s avoiding the truth of what went on in that series.  The Bruins were the better team in at least five of the games, and maybe six.  The games the Leafs lost without Nazem Kadri, he wouldn’t have made the difference.  And while they’ve added Tavares and Muzzin since last season, they’ve lost Bozak, Komarov, and JVR.  I expect a better series than last year, but again I just can’t get over how in the Leafs heads the Bruins seem to be.

Bruins in 7

 

M1 Washington vs WC1 Carolina

So in case anyone hasn’t noticed, and I’m pretty certain they haven’t, nobody is saying shit about the Caps entering the playoffs…again.  Last year these guys finally faced no pressure.  This year it’s even less.  Nobody is picking them to go back, and nobody is crushing them for not ever getting over the hump.  Personally, I see that as a scary recipe for the rest of the league.  The Canes are a solid team, but I see them as having won their Cup by getting in the dance.

Caps in 6

 

M2 NY Islanders vs M3 Pittsburgh

I believe most will be calling the Pens to win this in 4 or 5, and the Islanders know this.  They’ve been the underdogs all season and that won’t change in this series.  Even though the Penguins win just about every matchup in this series, the Isles are playing with house money, have tremendous goaltending, and I believe will push the Pens to the limit before finally bowing out.

Pens in 7

 

A2 Boston vs WC2 Columbus

Boy would the Bruins ever be pumped up about catching a break like this would be.  And it’s funny that while I actually really like how the Jackets matchup with the Lightning, I feel they don’t at all with the Bruins.  The big thing is that against the Bruins they wouldn’t have the edge in the grit department.  Even though the Bruins aren’t big, they won’t get pushed around.

Bruins in 6

 

M1 Washington vs M3 Pittsburgh

I really believe that we’re going to see this matchup again, and I believe that this time around people are going to be pretty disappointed with what occurs.  The Caps have always felt to me like the more talented squad, but they couldn’t get over the mental hurdle.  Even though last season to me was more about the Pens gassing out then the Caps being the better team, it removed the mental hurdle for the Caps.  I just don’t like the Pens at all coming into these playoffs and I believe Jim Rutherford did a terrible job upgrading the club for another run at a Cup.

Caps in 5

 

Boston vs Washington

This is one that I could see going either way if it is to happen.  Some might go with the Bruins thanks to maybe believing the Caps will wear down.  I don’t know if we’ll see that from the Caps until maybe the final should they get there.  And if you had to give one team an edge in this series, I’d say the Caps depth skill is something the Bruins can’t match.

Caps in 7

 

Stanley Cup Final

Washington vs Nashville

I wouldn’t cry about this being the final.  The Preds love to push teams around, and the Caps proved last year that they’re capable of pushing back.  Not the speed in the final most may expect given the way the game is going, but what it would lack in speed, it’d more than make up for in skill and physical play.  As I hinted at with the East final, I believe that by THIS point, we might see the Caps simply running out of gas.  Combine that with an extremely talented Preds team desperate to win a Cup, I’ll stick with my pick in the fall of the Preds winning their first.

Preds in 6

 

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