Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Boston Bruins

By: Nick Lanciani

I continue to explore an important element of the game and what retired numbers around the league may look like in the future. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

UnknownBoston Bruins

Current Retired Numbers- 2 Eddie Shore, 3 Lionel Hitchman, 4 Bobby Orr, 5 Dit Clapper, 7 Phil Esposito, 8 Cam Neely, 9 John Bucyk, 15 Milt Schmidt, 24 Terry O’Reilly, 77 Ray Bourque

Recommended Numbers to Retire-

16 Derek Sanderson

Honestly, there’s got to be somebody out there wondering why the Bruins haven’t retired Sanderson’s number 16 yet, despite his short tenure with the Bruins (and overall short NHL career). If anything, his off the ice story is the ultimate combination of tragic and inspirational- and the work he does now is remarkable. Wouldn’t it be great to say one day to your kids at the TD Garden “and there’s number 16, which was worn by Derek Sanderson, a man who overcame many things, just like how you can overcome anything and make your dreams come true if you work hard enough and never give up hope.”

Sanderson was sensational on the ice, having won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins in 1970 and 1972. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1968 and had a career high 146 penalty minutes in his 2nd season with Boston in the 1968-1969 season as the ultimate definition of tough in the spoked-B.

His fast track to success was marred by his equally fast track to nearly destroying his life. If it weren’t for his new found faith and good friend Bobby Orr, Sanderson would be a distant memory in a tragic loss of superstar talent.

Since he turned his life around, Sanderson has become a financial advisor and a mentor to many young athletes in the sport as well as an immortal legend in Boston for his time spent with NESN alongside Fred Cusick in the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s.

It’s time the Bruins truly honored Sanderson for the remarkable man that he’s become off the ice. Sanderson and Orr defined not only a decade in hockey, but an entire era and playing style. It’s only fitting that they are equally honored by Boston.

37 Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron just turned 30- hard to believe- and has already spent a little over a decade in the league. It’s looking like Bergeron will be another legendary player in the category of “spent all of his time with one organization,” so it will be deserving of the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin.

Patrice Bergeron is the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin and what it means to be part of Boston sports lore. (Getty Images)
Patrice Bergeron is the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin and what it means to be part of Boston sports lore. (Getty Images)

While he’s not Milt Schmidt, Bergeron could share the “Mr. Bruin” nickname with Schmidt by the end of his career.

Bergeron became the 25th member of the Triple Gold Club, having completed the trifecta in 2011 after having won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins. He’s won three Selke Trophies, a King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and the NHL Foundation Player Award in his career thus far.

The two-time member of Team Canada in the Winter Olympics has also won two gold medals in 2010 and 2014. The only question for Bergeron someday will be, what hasn’t he done or been a part of?

Bergeron is adored by Boston fans for every little thing he does in what could otherwise be best summed up as perfection.

The perfect leader, the perfect teammate, the perfect two-way center, and even the perfect well respected rival- when it comes to facing the Montreal Canadiens. His impact on the franchise is insurmountable, considering he was barely penciled in on the roster, at 18 years old, for the 2003-2004 season.

33 Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara should see his number 33 raised to the rafters of the TD Garden as one of the best defensemen and leaders in the locker room in franchise history. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Zdeno Chara should see his number 33 raised to the rafters of the TD Garden as one of the best defensemen and leaders in Boston’s locker room in franchise history. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Chara often gets a bad rap for no reason from some Boston fans. The fact of the matter is that Chara is one of the best defensemen in the league. He’s a six-time Norris Trophy Finalist (2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014) having won in 2009.

If it weren’t for Niklas Lidstrom’s swan song season, Chara would have at least another Norris Trophy. Do I need to mention he’s the current record holder of the Hardest Shot competition with a blistering 108.8 mph slap shot?

Aside from being able to speak seven languages and sell real estate in the State of Massachusetts, Chara was the first player born inside the Iron Curtain to captain his team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

Without a doubt, there is no question surrounding his leadership off the ice and in the locker room. On the ice he’s well respected by league officials, perhaps supplemented by his 6’9” (7’0” on skates), 255-pound, stature.

He’s aging, yes, but what player doesn’t age after every season? He’s still insanely fit and athletic and capable of holding his own as a top-2 defenseman for the Boston Bruins. While it might take some convincing of Boston fans currently, Zdeno Chara absolutely deserves to have his number retired by the Bruins someday. He remains an influential piece to their turnaround and run to the Cup from 2006 to 2011 and leadership in their current roster and front office transition.

Tim Thomas will be best remembered for chasing a dream and reaching its mountaintop. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Tim Thomas will be best remembered for chasing a dream and reaching its mountaintop. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Gerry Cheevers backstopped some legendary teams in Boston and had the mask to match their toughness. Photo: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images
Gerry Cheevers backstopped some legendary teams in Boston and had the mask to match their toughness. (Photo: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Honorable Mention

30 Gerry Cheevers/Tim Thomas

By this point, it’s probably a long shot for the Bruins to retire number 30 out of respect for Gerry Cheevers. He played remarkably well for a dominate Boston team in the 1970s and if it weren’t for the World Hockey Association having diluted the NHL’s talent pool, probably would’ve led the Bruins to some more greatness.

Likewise, Tim Thomas overcame a lot of doubt to be at the top of the NHL mountain as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner and 2011 Stanley Cup champion. It would certainly be a classy move by the organization, but one that likely will never happen for either (or both) former sensational Boston goaltenders.

Other Notes

Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to setting aside Mark Recchi’s number 28. Not necessarily retiring it, but only using it for special players, which I guess is kind of the reason why nobody has been assigned number 28 on the Bruins since Recchi retired. Same goes with Marc Savard’s number 91.

It’s a shame that good players don’t always get to have extravagant careers. Players like Savard or Norm Léveillé will always be remembered for how they played on the ice by diehard Boston fans.

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Arizona Coyotes

By: Nick Lanciani

I continue to explore an important element of the game and what retired numbers around the league may look like in the future. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

Arizona_Coyotes.svgArizona Coyotes

Current Retired Numbers- 7 Keith Tkachuk, 9 Bobby Hull, 10 Dale Hawerchuck, 25 Thomas Steen, 27 Teppo Numminen, 97 Jeremy Roenick, 99 Wayne Gretzky

Recommended Numbers to Retire-

19 Shane Doan

Shane Doan is a rarity these days, considering how long he has been with one franchise. (Getty Images)
Shane Doan is a rarity these days, considering how long he has been with one franchise. (Getty Images)

Doan’s legendary career with the Coyotes is already in its twilight, but there’s something to be said about playing for only one franchise for your entire career- no matter the circumstances of whether the team will be around in Arizona or not, in the playoffs, or way out of contention.

Other Notes

Mikkel Boedker and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are 25 and 24 years old, respectively, so clearly it is much too early to predict where their careers will take them. They are talented- otherwise they wouldn’t be in the NHL- but they still have to earn their tenure as a member of the Coyotes and plant their place in the history of the franchise.

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Anaheim Ducks

By: Nick Lanciani

Starting today, I explore an important element of the game and what it may look like down the road- retired numbers. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration, and for the most part, I feel as though I shouldn’t have to explain more than what I’ve stated for each player under consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

UnknownAnaheim Ducks

Current Retired Numbers- 8 Teemu Selanne

Recommended Numbers to Retire-

27 Scott Niedermayer

Niedermayer played an influential part in leading the Ducks to their first and only Stanley Cup championship in 2007 and was a legendary defenseman, so it’s only fitting that Anaheim retires his number like they did with Teemu Selanne’s.

10 Corey Perry

Perry has been a face of the franchise and a fan favorite for the Ducks, it’s only a matter of time before he leads a loaded roster to Anaheim’s second Stanley Cup. When he does, he’ll add to his quickly running out of room trophy cabinet and likely have to move over that Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy or his Hart Memorial Trophy over a little bit to make room.

Honorable Mention

15 Ryan Getzlaf

Getzlaf is sensational hockey player, but his lasting legacy in Anaheim is still yet to be seen. He’s clearly a fan favorite and a tremendous forward for the Ducks, but does a fan favorite always mean a distinguished honor recipient of having his number retired someday by the Ducks?

Other Notes

It’s too early to speculate on how long Ryan Kesler will 1) be in Anaheim and 2) how much of an impact he will make as a Duck. If he goes on a legendary run with the Ducks, then there’s a good chance he could see his number retired someday.

Monday Roundup- 2015 Offseason Thoughts

By: Nick Lanciani

It’s been a busy offseason around the NHL- and by that I mean it’s been a rather unusual offseason around the NHL.

The Ryan O’Reilly saga finally ended in Colorado and began in Buffalo, but took a side trip into the side of a Tim Horton’s somewhere in Ontario. While the Sabres could use his offense, they could do without his legal offenses (moral of the story, everyone, don’t drink and drive- have a designated driver, be responsible- use common sense).

Mikhail Grigorenko’s been reunited with Patrick Roy in Colorado, although sadly the rest of the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Quebec Remparts will not be joining the party in Denver.

T.J. Oshie, Brandon Saad, Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton, Patrick Sharp, Cam Talbot, Phil Kessel, and others have all been on the move as the result of blockbuster trades.

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Boston Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney (pictured), has been wheeling and dealing this offseason- in stark contrast of his predecessor, Peter Chiarelli (bruins.nhl.com).

Don Sweeney’s been on a rampage (more on that later), Peter Chiarelli’s turned around the Edmonton Oilers in one offseason (at least on paper), and the Toronto Maple Leafs front office might be the smartest guys in the game for the first time in a longtime. Wait, what did I just say?

That’s right, on Thursday, 72-year-old hockey front office legend, Lou Lamoriello, resigned as president of the New Jersey Devils only to join the Toronto Maple Leafs (announced on Twitter a mere two minutes apart) as their 16th general manager in franchise history.

Fun fact: Back in 1987, Lamoriello drafted now fellow colleague, Brendan Shanahan, 2nd overall in his first season as the president and general manager of the Devils.

Now, Lamoriello joins Shanahan in Toronto’s front office. Things certainly are weird right now in New Jersey, in the meantime, by the way- where Ray Shero is currently their GM and Marty Brodeur is, well, among the front office of the St. Louis Blues. Yep, it’s safe to say nobody would have predicted that both Brodeur and Lamoriello would move on from the Devils.

In 2009, Lamoriello praised Shanahan after Shanahan attempted one final go in the NHL, with the Devils, only to decide he would not continue his career and thus stepped aside from playing, retiring before the 2009-2010 season. Lamoriello expressed so much praise, in fact, that he blatantly stated that should Shanahan want a job in the Devils front office, Lamoriello would go out of his way to make it happen.

But here we are in 2015, where Shanahan recently transitioned to the helm of the Maple Leafs front office and instead of going to his former boss for a position, he brought in his former boss.

Brendan Shanahan (left) introduces Lou Lamoniello (right) as the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)
Brendan Shanahan (left) introduces Lou Lamoniello (right) as the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)

Lamoriello spent 28 years with the New Jersey Devils organization, but now he’s about to embark on his first season with a different organization- just his second as a general manager- the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs, if you recall, hired Mike Babcock this offseason as their latest head coach, by the way. Babcock too, left an organization he spent a lot of time with for the Maple Leafs this summer. Babcock spent the last 10 years with the Detroit Red Wings before joining Toronto.

Both Lamoriello and Babcock have something in common, they both left teams that used red as a primary color for a team that wears a blue maple leaf proudly displayed prominently on their jersey (it’s a bit slow right now in the offseason, cut me some slack).

In other news, the National Hockey League began the formal expansion process this summer, having accepted expansion applications up until Monday.

Two cities formally submitted a bid before the deadline- Las Vegas, Nevada and Quebec City, Quebec.

Las Vegas billionaire, Bill Foley, continues to headman the construction of an arena in Las Vegas as well as a drive for season tickets while aiming to land an expansion team. Meanwhile, Montreal-based media conglomerate, Quebecor, aims to bring the NHL back to Quebec City.

One of Canada’s hockey gods, Don Cherry, has already provided his blessing for a return to Quebec City.

This is the first time the league has formally gone through the expansion process since the late 1990s when the league quickly grew in size adding the Nashville Predators, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Minnesota Wild, and the Columbus Blue Jackets between 1998 and 2000 to become the 30 team league that we all know and love today (with the minor relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg having occurred prior to the 2011-2012 season, of course).

Since the Thrashers relocation to Winnipeg, the NHL has continued to take a firm stance against having to move another team for a while. Prior to the formal announcement of the expansion process being officially explored, the Arizona Coyotes and the City of Glendale, Arizona were at odds with one another.

Despite IceArizona’s firm commitment to the State of Arizona, many thought the Coyotes would be on their way out of Glendale this offseason. Given how a short move back to Phoenix in such a short period of time would not be feasible, speculation led to the Coyotes packing their bags and moving to an NHL ready arena.

Downtown Phoenix does not have an appropriate sporting arena for hockey currently, thereby handing the Coyotes a double whammy when their Gila River Arena lease agreement with Glendale was pulled out from under them by the city.

After threatening substantial legal action, IceArizona and the City of Glendale came to terms on amending their agreement- eliminating an outclause from its initial version and adjusting some revenue sharing between the hockey club and the city (the team will now get a larger share, with the city footing less of the bill).

Again, the Coyotes are staying put. No escape route to Seattle, no move from one desert to another desert (Las Vegas), and no move to Quebec City that would further imbalance the conferences in the league.

But then again, the amended lease agreement is only for two years, so the Coyotes aren’t fully out of the woods yet.

There remains so much yet to be seen concerning the Arizona Coyotes and their strained relations with the City of Glendale. While a short-term deal is necessary for their immediate survival in the market, their ultimate situation is not comforting. Things still could get quite ugly in a couple of years, yet the two sides have something to work with right now and can always chip away at improving viability of the franchise in Glendale.

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The Arizona Coyotes will be debuting new jerseys this season, but their future in Arizona, despite glimmers of hope, is still uncertain in the long run (coyotes.nhl.com).

If not, perhaps the next two years is all the time the Coyotes need to convince Phoenix, Arizona and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns to construct a new- joint- arena that would be suitable for hockey in the desert and a return to downtown Phoenix for the Coyotes franchise. Otherwise, it could be enough for Seattle to scrap together some plans for a NHL-ready arena and sway the Coyotes into relocation.

Or there’s always Quebec City or Las Vegas, that, should either location not see the expansion process include them in the more immediate future of the league, could always have a stronger say in relocation. Both cities have strong interest from potential ownership groups and physical arena’s that are state of the art and nearing completion.

Speaking of Quebec City and Las Vegas, now is the perfect time to reach into these markets. A return of the Nordiques to the hockey crazed Ville de Québec would be a golden opportunity for the league to return the game to where it belongs and can further drive marketability.

For those that are opposed to adding another team in the Eastern Conference, kindly show yourself to the door. Realignment is never a fun topic, but I think we can all agree that sending the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets back to the Western Conference would be a good thing. As fans, we’d see a return of more Detroit and Chicago matchups, providing more fuel to the fire- built into the regular season schedule- when it comes to that longstanding rivalry.

And with the addition of a team in Las Vegas, well, it’s the same old, same old. It’s a never before seen market in all of professional sports and it would balance the conferences under the aforementioned scenario.

REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

So at the end of the day, why disappoint the good people of Quebec City once again, NHL?

Then again, balanced conferences are overrated, aren’t they?

Come to think of it, the European model for professional sports isn’t too bad when it comes to league structure. Yet, the North American model of conferences, divisions, and such makes for a much more exciting game. We’ll never see the NHL switch to a relegation model based upon Premier League association football, but maybe we’ll see the NHL become more at ease with unbalanced conferences.

Hey if the game works in a market, why ruin it by taking it away from that market just to satisfy conference structure? If the owners are going to squabble over that then they really aren’t looking out for the best interest of the league are they? Management’s number one goal is to profit from growing the game.

Without an interest, there aren’t any fans. Without any fans, there aren’t any marketing opportunities from potential sponsors looking to reach fans. Without any cash flow, there is no game. If there’s an economically viable market or situation, go for it.

UnknownLast, but not least, the Boston Bruins have been a busy team this offseason. One can only think that the B’s will make another move or two before training camp in September. Don Sweeney and the Big Bad Bruins front office are in on trying to sign defensemen, Cody Franson, or Christian Ehrhoff.

The Boston fanbase continues to grumble and gripe about the presence of Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg on the Bruins roster. One of the two could be moved before the puck drops in October.

And while we’re still at it, the Bruins still need a backup goaltender. While Peter Budaj or Jonas Gustavsson may not be the first names that come to mind when it comes to free agent backup goalies that are still available and could be dispensable for the Bruins, well, one of them might be all that the Bruins need.

Of course, Ray Emery and Ron Zepp are always still out there, granted Emery is a proven goaltender in the league (well mostly- he could be a backup for Tuukka Rask, but he’s past his number of chances of ever being a number one goalie in the NHL) and Zepp parallels Tim Thomas thus far in his career (minus the two Vezina Trophies, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup championship).

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Matt Beleskey (airborne) has found a new landing spot with the Boston Bruins this offseason. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I’ll go more into detail about the Boston Bruins offseason conundrum in another post prior to the season. Quite frankly, I’m still trying to piece together what their plan might be. For now it looks as though Patrice Bergeron could be set with (a recently spotted dancing in Montreal) Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, with Matt Beleskey-David Krejci-Jimmy Hayes, Loui Eriksson-Ryan Spooner-Brett Connolly, Zac Rinaldo-Chris Kelly-Max Talbot filling out the forward lines.

Their blue line still needs work, but can be corrected within a few seasons. What’s more important right now is that the Bruins sign a top four defenseman and obtain a backup goaltender (or at least, implement a plan for a successful backup goaltender). While not necessarily a problem with an elite starting goaltender of Rask’s quality, the revolving door of backup goalies the Bruins have had the last few seasons is something they must work on for the remainder of Rask’s dominance in net.

Anyway, this ends my stream of consciousness. I’ll go back to waiting for Cody Franson to make up his mind and sign somewhere now.

Sabres, Blue and Gold Scrimmage Entertains Hopeful Future

Down the Frozen River analyst, Colby Kephart recently ventured to the Buffalo Sabres Development Camp and captured some photos, videos, and thoughts related to the offseason experience.

By: Colby Kephart

Sabres prospects await play during the anthems in front of nearly 17,000 fans.
Sabres prospects await play during the anthems in front of nearly 17,000 fans.

All penalties in the game resulted in an automatic penalty shot as opposed to the usual special teams play.

2015 2nd overall pick, Jack Eichel, got things rolling with the first penalty shot of the game on Jonas Johansson (who was selected in the 3rd round in 2014).

Victor Olofsson (a 7th round selection in 2014) converted on a penalty shot against Johansson.

Following the scrimmage, both teams squared off in a shootout, with Sam Reinhart shooting first for the blue team.

Hudson Fasching (blue) and Jack Eichel (gold) also had opportunities in the shootout.

2015 2nd round pick, defenseman, Brendan “GOOO” Guhle, also had a chance in the shootout.

At the end of the day all of the players gathered at center ice to salute the fans in attendance.

A few standout players were center, Samson Reinhart, who had 2 goals and an assist, goaltender, Jason Kasdorf- acquired in the Tyler Myers trade with the Winnipeg Jets- played solid, and Josh Chapman. Kasdorf was calm and kept his net clear in his 30 minutes of play. Chapman, a defenseman, was by far a fan favorite with his a rough and tough stye. During the second period he got in a fight with Justin Kea, trading punches like no other. Chapman also put his body on the line blocking shots and hitting hard. Most of Buffalo believes he will receive a contract and be a part of the Rochester Americans roster in the AHL next season.

Colby’s Corner: Buffalo Sabres from #EmbraceTheTank to Playoff Contenders?

In the final edition of Colby’s Corner for the 2014-2015 season- and unofficial first edition of Colby’s Corner for the 2015-2016 season- Colby Kephart takes a look into the future of the Buffalo Sabres based on their offseason moves. Don’t fret, Colby’s Corner will return next season on an even more regular basis!

#EmbraceTheTank –> #2016StanleyCupPlayoffs?

By: Colby Kephart

I have been holding back on writing about the rumor that the Sabres might be playoff-bound next year. I may not have that answer, but I do know that this might be one of the most controlled rebuilds I have ever seen.

Sabres fans were excited going into this year’s draft, knowing that they would almost definitely be drafting Jack Eichel. However, the day turned out even better as Sabres general manager, Tim Murray, the mastermind that he is, pulled off his first trade on draft day- acquiring goaltender, Robin Lehner, and center, David Legwand, from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 21st overall pick in the draft.

Robin Lehner has a chance to become a number 1 goaltender with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015-2016 season. Photo via QMI Agency
Robin Lehner has a chance to become a number 1 goaltender with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015-2016 season. Photo via QMI Agency

Robin Lehner is 6’4”, 23 years old and has experience in the NHL, having started in 86 games as the backup for the Senators for nearly 3 seasons. Lehner has a career save percentage of .914. With Lehner only being 23 years old and having a chance as the Sabres’ number 1 goalie, the big Swede has an opportunity to continue to improve, and for Sabres fans’ sake, he will become their new franchise goalie.

Also part of the deal was David Legwand, a veteran center at 34 years old, who according to Tim Murray, was “part of the deal, a take it or leave it situation”. Most people write him off and do not think he will have an impact on the team. As for me, I believe that his impact will be big off the ice.

He has more than a thousand games in the NHL under his belt. With young centers like Zemgus Girgensons, Sam Reinhart, Eichel, and Johan Larsson, Legwand will be able to give little tips and tricks, as well as show guys like Reinhart and Eichel that they don’t have to be center stage to be successful. Legwand was in Nashville for years racking up points, but still the average fan wouldn’t even know his name.

So at this point, the Sabres have their goalie, and I finally was able to breathe knowing Buffalo’s future. Then the mastermind, Tim Murray, struck again with the man everyone in the league wanted: Mr. Ryan O’Reilly. Murray traded defenseman Nikita Zadorov and forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and J.T. Compher, as well as the No. 31 pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to the Colorado Avalanche for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn.

O’Reilly, a 24 year old center, is a high-caliber player who might turn out to be the Sabres’ first truly number one center in years, dating back to the days of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. O’Reilly comes with a year remaining on his $6 million AAV contract.

However, Tim Murray didn’t waste much time on locking him up longterm, giving O’Reilly a 7 year, $7.5 million AAV contract extension. Critics believe he was overpaid, as he received a front loaded contract, noting that when the contract kicks in beginning in the 2016-2017 season, O’Reilly will receive 11 million dollars (without a bonus).

Also included in the deal was 3rd/4th liner Jamie McGinn, a power forward with a scoring touch and is only 26 years old. In the 2013-2014 season, McGinn had a great total of 38 points (19 goals and 19 assists). He can provide some offense to 3rd or 4th lines, and could also be played with Marcus Folgino, as they have a similar style of play.

Or he could be put on the 4th line and hold his own with the big guys of the league and become a spark plug for the Sabres’ offense in games where they start off slow.

Finally, free agency opened up with the hopes of Sabres fans centered on finding a defenseman and, more importantly, a defenseman with a left-handed shot. Looking at big names like Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin (both of whom shoot left), the bar was set high and fans might have felt let down when the only moves made on July 1st were the signings of forward Jason Akeson and defenseman Matt Donovan, to one-year deals, while Martin signed a 4-year contract with the San Jose Sharks.

Both players are depth players, but Donovan has a chance to bust into the D pairs. He has some NHL games under his belt, but I, like the rest of all the Buffalo fans, was still waiting for a bigger name to help solidify the defense. The 3rd of July saw the Sabres sign 27-year-old Bobby Sanguinetti to a one year deal, who will more than likely be playing with the Rochester Americans in the AHL.

On our nation’s birthday, the 4th of July, the Sabres announced the signings of forward Cal O’Reilly (older brother of Ryan O’Reilly) to a two year deal. This adds another depth player to the Sabres and similar to Akeson, he will spend time in the AHL.

Buffalo signed another defenseman with a lot of NHL experience, and mileage around the league, Carlo Colaiacovo. Colaiacovo spent last year with the Flyers and played 33 games, amassing 8 points during that period.

The 32-year-old signed a 1-year deal worth $900,000. Colaiacovo is a left-handed shot, and with the experience that he has, will make the team on the Sabres 3rd defensive pair.

I envision Buffalo’s first D-pair will be Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges, followed by Rasmus Ristolainen and Mike Weber, with the 3rd D-pair of Mark Pysyk, if he re-signs, (he’s a current RFA with a qualifying offer having already been tendered by the Sabres) and Colaiacovo. I would imagine other depth defensemen would be Donovan and Jake McCabe, which would be perfect with the injury issues the Sabres usually face during the season.

Obviously, all of this could change since as of July 7th Cody Franson and Johnny Oduya are both still unsigned, left-handed shot, defensemen. If either are signed by the Sabres, they would walk into their defensive plans and into the fans’ open arms. Yet, both want long-term deals, and in this off-season, Murray has only been handing out one-year deals to players.

Other defenseman that could be targets would be Matt Irwin, Tim Gleason, David Schlemko and Ryan Wilson, all left-handed shots ages 27-31 and with cap hits around $1m- $2.2m. All of them also have experience within the NHL and could be a replacement if Pysyk doesn’t sign with the Sabres.

Now to the person that’s been all over Buffalo’s media, 2015 2nd overall pick: Jack Eichel. On July 1st, the Buffalo Sabres signed Eichel, or ‘the future’, as Sabres fans will eventually start calling him, solidifying himself onto the team. My expectation would be that Eichel slides into the second line center with a chance to play on the first line if he shines and has chemistry with Evander Kane or Tyler Ennis.

Jack Eichel is ready for a big debut season as the 2nd overall pick in this year's draft behind Junior superstar, Connor McDavid. (Getty Images)
Jack Eichel is ready for a big debut season as the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft behind Junior superstar, Connor McDavid. (Getty Images)

Speaking of 2nd overall picks, Sam Reinhart (taken 2nd overall in 2014), after having an amazing World Junior Championship tournament- leading the tournament in points- has a legitimate chance at making this year’s roster, according to some. But I am not one of those people.

I believe he will get all of the preseason to prove something, and depending on how he performs in the AHL with the Amerks, he will have a chance about midway through the season to make a run at truly breaking into the lineup.

Obviously, he will be one of the first choices to be called up should the team run into injury problems, like last season.

As for all the talk about the playoffs, here are my thoughts: I feel like the Sabres are one Top-4 defenseman away- and if everyone plays as expected, the Sabres will be looking at a wildcard spot or will be just out of the playoffs. The major issue is that nobody knows exactly how well Eichel will perform alongside Evander Kane; let alone how Kane will play in a new location. Everyone should be happy if Eichel puts up 15 goals and 20 or more assists in his first season. Another player to watch will be Girgensons. If he puts up a 20-goal season, then the Sabres will be set and fans should be eyeing a playoff run and a bright future.

As for the thinking surrounding a deep playoff run, I don’t think so. They will be matched up against a high seed, and fans should hope for a deep series to stand a chance. I understand this is a lot to think about, seeing how development camps just began. But this is for the Sabres fans who are unsure about next season and the other fans who will be caught off-guard by the Sabres next season.

I will end my prediction for next season with this; I believe the Sabres will be in an end-of-the-season battle for points, and we will either miss the playoffs by 2 or 3 points, or will steal a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

2015 NHL Free Agency- July 1st Signings Recap

– Nick Lanciani

This post will be updated throughout the day as signings are officially announced. Be sure to check out Twitter account (@DtFrozenRiver) for all of the latest signings, news, and analysis throughout the day.

Free agency begins at noon (12:00 PM EST) on July 1st. All that is known is shown and will be updated throughout the day. More analysis will come later as the day wraps up.

F Artem Anisimov signed a 5-year, $22.75 million extension with the Chicago Blackhawks worth an AAV of $4.5 million.

D Kevin Bieksa signed a 2-year, $8 million extension with the Anaheim Ducks.

F Mike Ribeiro signed a 2-year, $7 million extension with the Nashville Predators.

G Kari Ramo signed a 1-year $3.8 million extension with the Calgary Flames.

F Patrick Eaves and the Dallas Stars agreed to a 1-year, $1.15 million contract extension.

The Detroit Red Wings resigned F Andy Miele to a 1-year, $575,000 contract.

The Minnesota Wild announced that they have resigned F Mikael Granlund to a 2-year, $6 million ($3 million AAV) contract.

F Stanislav Galiev signed a 2-year, $1.15 million, contract extension with the Washington Capitals.

D Yannick Weber signed a 1-year, $1.5 million extension with the Vancouver Canucks.

G Tom McCollum resigned with the Detroit Red Wings.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed D Matt Hunwick to a 2-year deal, $2.4 million contract worth an AAV of $1.2 million.

The New York Islanders signed G Thomas Greiss to a 2-year, $3 million deal.

D Francois Beauchemin signed a 3-year, $4.5 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

D Taylor Chorney signed a 1-year deal, worth $700,000 with the Washington Capitals.

D Adam Pardy and the Winnipeg Jets agreed to a 1-year, $1 million contract extension.

F Matt Halischuk signed a 1-year, two-way, $750,000 deal with the Winnipeg Jets.

The New York Islanders and D Thomas Hickey agreed to a 3-year contract (resign).

D Nate Prosser signed a 2-year extension with the Minnesota Wild.

D Paul Martin and the San Jose Sharks agreed to a 4-year contract worth $4.85 million AAV.

The Edmonton Oilers signed D Andrej Sekera to a 6-year deal worth $5.5 million in AAV.

F Blake Comeau signed a 3-year, $2.4 million AAV deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

NYI signed 2008 draft pick, Kirill Petrov, to an entry-level contract.

Edmonton also signed F Mark Letestu to a 3-year, $5.4 million contract.

The Philadelphia Flyers have agreed to a 2-year deal with G Michal Neuvirth.

D Chris Butler resigned with the St. Louis Blues, 1-year, $675,000.

F Brad Richardson signed a 3-year, $6.25 million deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

The Chicago Blackhawks and F Viktor Tikhonov agreed to a 1-year, $1.04 million deal.

The Arizona Coyotes agreed to a 1-year, $1.75 million deal with F Steve Downie.

D Matt Bartkowski signed a 1-year, $1.75 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

Carolina Hurricanes resigned F Riley Nash to a 1-year, $1.15 million deal.

D Zybnek Michalek signed a 2-year, $6.4 million deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

The Calgary Flames signed F Michael Frolik to a 5-year, $4.3 million AAV contract.

G Anders Lindback signed a $875,000 contract with the Arizona Coyotes.

Jori Lehtera signed a 3-year, $14.1 million contract extension with the St. Louis Blues.

D Rasmus Rissanen resigned with the Carolina Hurricanes on a 1-year, two-way contract.

The Carolina Hurricanes signed D Jaccob Slavin to a 3-year entry-level contract.

G Jhonas Enroth agreed to a 1-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings worth $1.25 million.

D Barrett Jackson agreed to a 2-year, $4 million contract with the Nashville Predators.

The Montreal Canadiens signed D Greg Pateryn to a 2-year, $1.6 million contract extension.

F Alexander Burmistrov and the Winnipeg Jets agree on a 2-year contract extension worth $1.55 million AAV.

G Mike McKenna signed a deal with the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers signed D Sena Acolatse to a contract.

F Shane Harper signed a deal with the Florida Panthers.

F Ryan Carter signed a 1-year, $625,000 contract with the Minnesota Wild.

D David Warsofsky signed a 1-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

D Raphael Diaz signed an extension with the New York Rangers.

The Vancouver Canucks signed G Richard Bachman to a contract.

F Erik Condra signed a 3-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning worth an AAV of $1.25 million.

F P.A. Parenteau signed a 1-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs worth $1.5 million.

The New York Rangers signed F Jayson Megna to a contract.

F Matt Lindblad signed a deal with the New York Rangers.

F Cody Hodgson signed a 1-year, $1.05 million, deal with the Nashville Predators.

F Cal O’Reilly signed a 2-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres, worth $700,000 per year.

The Ottawa Senators agreed to a 1-year, two-way, contract with F Eric O’Dell worth $700,000 at the NHL level, $300,000 in the AHL.

The Buffalo Sabres signed D Matt Donovan to a 1-year contract.

The Dallas Stars signed F Curtis McKenzie to a 2-year contract extension.

D John Moore signed a 3-year deal with the New Jersey Devils.

F Zach Stortini signed a 2-year, two-way, contract with the Ottawa Senators.

F Blake Coleman signed an entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils.

The Vancouver Canucks signed D Taylor Fedun.

F Derek Grant and the Calgary Flames agreed to a two-way contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level.

The New York Rangers agreed to a contract with F Viktor Stahlberg worth $1.1 million.

F Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres agreed to a 3-year entry-level contract.

F Ruslan Fedotenko agreed to a two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild.

The Montreal Canadiens signed D Joel Hanley to a 1-year, two-way, contract.

The Carolina Hurricanes signed D T.J. Hensick to a 1-year, two-way contract.

F Sergei Plotnikov agreed to a 1-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

D Mike Kostka agreed to a two-way deal with the Ottawa Senators.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed F Richard Panik to a 1-year extension worth $975,000.

The New York Rangers signed F Brian Gibbons.

F Conor Sheary agreed to a 2-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

F Kael Mouillierat and the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to a 1-year contract.

The Minnesota Wild resigned F Jared Knight to a 1-year, two-way, $761,000 contract.

D Mike Green signed a 3-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings worth $6 million AAV ($18 million total).

F Kevin Porter signed a 1-year, two-way contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Boston Bruins resigned F Ryan Spooner with a 2-year, $1.9 million contract.

D Cameron Gaunce agreed to terms with the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers also signed D Brett Regner.

The Arizona Coyotes signed D Dylan Reese to a 1-year, two-way contract.

F Mark Arcobello agreed to a 1-year deal, worth $1.1 million, with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Minnesota Wild signed F Zac Dalpe to a two-way contract.

D Steven Oleksy signed a 1-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

F Paul Thompson signed a 2-year, two-way, extension with the New Jersey Devils worth $575,000 a year.

The Minnesota Wild signed F Marc Hagel to a contract extension.

F Brad Richards signed a 1-year, $3 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

The St. Louis Blues agreed to terms with F Pat Cannone.

The Buffalo Sabres signed F Jason Akeson to a two-way deal.

The Minnesota Wild signed G Steve Michalek to a two-year, entry-level contract.

In a bundle of signings, the Washington Capitals signed F Carter Camper, F Sean Collins, D Mike Moore, and D Aaron Ness to 1-year, two-way, contracts.

The Anaheim Ducks signed G Matt Hackett to a 2-year contract and F Chris Mueller and D Joe Piskula to 1-year contracts in a bundle of their own.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed Tim Brent and D Davis Drewiske to 1-year, two-way, contracts and Chris Conner to a 2-year, two-way contract.

F Gregory Campbell signed a 2-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets worth $1.5 million AAV.

The Montreal Canadiens signed D Mark Barberio to a 1-year, two-way, $600,000 contract.

The Tampa Bay Lightning agreed to terms with D Matt Taormina on a 1-year, two-way, contract.

F Matt Beleskey and the Boston Bruins agreed to a 5-year, $19 million ($3.8 AAV) contract. NMC on the first 2 years.

D Kevin Gravel signed an extension with the Los Angeles Kings with a 2-year deal.

The Montreal Canadiens and F George Halloway agreed to a 1-year, two way contract.

F Daniel Winnik returns to the Toronto Maple Leafs on a 2-year deal, with an AAV of $2.25 million, after splitting time with Toronto and Pittsburgh in 2014-2015.

The Arizona Coyotes signed D Dakota Mermis to an entry-level contract. Arizona also signed F Dustin Jeffrey to a 2-year contract.

F Antoine Vermette and the Arizona Coyotes reached an agreement on a 2-year contract, worth $3.75 million AAV.

The New Jersey Devils signed F Jim O’Brien to a 1-year, two-way contract.

F Shawn Horcoff signed a 1-year, $1.75 million, deal with the Anaheim Ducks.

G Nathan Lieuwen signed his qualifying offer from the Buffalo Sabres, agreeing to a 1 year, $605,000, two-way contract.

The San Jose Sharks signed John McCarthy to a 1-year, two-way, $600,000 contract.

G Jeremy Smith and the Boston Bruins agreed to a 1-year, two-way, $600,000 extension.

The New York Islanders signed Joe Whitney to a 1-year, two-way, $750,000 contract.

F Justin Williams signed a 2-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth $6.5 million ($3.25 million AAV).

Trades made on July 1st:

The Toronto Maple Leafs traded F Phil Kessel, F Tyler Biggs, D Tim Erixson, and a conditional 2016 2nd round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for F Nick Spaling, D Scott Harrington, F Kasperi Kapanen, a 2016 3rd round pick and a conditional 2016 1st round pick. Toronto retained 15% of Kessel’s salary ($1.25 million a year).

The Vancouver Canucks sent F Zack Kassian to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for F Brandon Prust and a 2016 5th round pick.

F Max Reinhart was traded to the Nashville Predators by the Calgary Flames in exchange for a conditional 4th round pick.

The New York Rangers acquired G Magnus Hellberg from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2017 6th round pick.

The Boston Bruins sent F Reilly Smith and the contract of F Marc Savard to the Florida Panthers in exchange for F Jimmy Hayes.

The First Round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (a Recap)

By: Nick Lanciani

2015 NHL Entry Draft

  1. Edmonton Oilers C Connor McDavid, Erie (OHL)
  2. Buffalo Sabres C Jack Eichel, Boston University (Hockey East)
  3. Arizona Coyotes C Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL)
  4. Toronto Maple Leafs C Mitch Marner, London (OHL)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes D Noah Hanifin, Boston College (Hockey East)
  6. New Jersey Devils C Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL)
  7. Philadelphia Flyers D Ivan Provorov, Brandon (WHL)
  8. Columbus Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski, Michigan University (BIG10)
  9. San Jose Sharks RW Timo Meier, Halifax (QMJHL)
  10. Colorado Avalanche RW Mikko Rantanen, TPS (FIN)
  11. Florida Panthers LW Lawson Crouse, Kingston (OHL)
  12. Dallas Stars RW Denis Guryanov, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)
  13. Boston Bruins (from LA) D Jakub Zboril, Saint John (QMJHL)
  14. Boston Bruins LW Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current (WHL)
  15. Boston Bruins (from CGY) RW Zach Senyshyn, Sault St. Marie (OHL)
  16. New York Islanders (from PIT via EDM) C Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL)
  17. Winnipeg Jets LW Kyle Connor, Youngstown (USHL)
  18. Ottawa Senators D Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL)
  19. Detroit Red Wings LW Evgeny Svechnikov, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
  20. Minnesota Wild C Joel Eriksson Ek, Farjestad (SWE)
  21. Ottawa Senators (from NYI via BUF) C Colin White, USA U18 (USHL) 
  22. Washington Capitals G Ilya Samsonov, Magnitorgotrsk (MHL)
  23. Vancouver Canucks RW Brock Boeser, Waterloo (USHL)
  24. Philadelphia Flyers (from NSH via TOR) C/RW Travis Konecny, Ottawa (OHL)
  25. Winnipeg Jets (from STL via BUF) F Jack Roslovic, USA U18 (USHL)
  26. Montreal Canadiens D Noah Juulsen, Everett (WHL)
  27. Anaheim Ducks D Jacob Larsson, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)
  28. New York Islanders (from NYR via TB) LW Anthony Beauvillier, Sherwinigan (OHL)
  29. Columbus Blue Jackets (from TB via PHI and TOR) D Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping, Jr. (SWE-JR)
  30. Arizona Coyotes (from CHI) C/RW Nicholas Merkley, Kelowna (WHL)

Pre Draft Trades

  • The Buffalo Sabres acquired G Robin Lehner and F David Legwand from the Ottawa Senators for the 21st overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
  • The Boston Bruins traded D Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for the 15th, 45th, and 52nd overall picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
  • The Los Angeles Kings acquired F Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins for the 13th overall pick, G Martin Jones, and D Colin Miller. Boston retained $2.7 million of Lucic’s salary.

Trades Made During the Draft

  • The Buffalo Sabres acquired F Ryan O’Reilly and F Jamie McGinn from the Colorado Avalanche for F Mikhail Grigorenko, D Nikita Zadorov, and F J.T. Compher and the 31st overall pick.
  •  The Edmonton Oilers trade the 16th and 33rd overall picks to the New York Islanders for D Griffin Reinhart.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs sent the 24th overall pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the 29th and 61st overall picks.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning swapped the 28th overall pick with the New York Islanders for the 33rd and 72nd overall picks.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs sent the 29th overall pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 34th and 68th overall picks.
  • The Anaheim Ducks acquired the 41st overall pick and a 2016 draft pick from the New Jersey Devils for Kyle Palmieri.

2015 Mock NHL Entry Draft

By: Nick Lanciani


1. Edmonton Oilers
                                                  C Connor McDavid, Erie (OHL)200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svg

Peter Chiarelli’s reign as GM of the Oilers begins with one of the most hyped turnarounds in hockey. Chiarelli’s leadership, combined with whatever decisions he makes in the offseason and drafting McDavid has talk of the Oilers making the playoffs, if not next season, then in the near future. A lot nearer than before. McDavid’s the best, period.

2. Buffalo Sabres                                                       C Jack Eichel, Boston University (H-East)Buffalo Sabres Logo

Eichel forgives Sabres GM, Tim Murray, on the stage with a professional handshake and is reunited (?- although they were never separated in the first place) with Evan Rodrigues. It’s possible that both make the roster on the same line.

3. Arizona Coyotes                                                    C Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL)Arizona_Coyotes.svg

Big, strong, great skating abilities- Strome is NHL ready as the plethora of talent youth in the desert continues to grow, that is unless they trade this pick. No matter the owner of the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Strome is a first choice franchise changer. While McDavid and Eichel overshadow him in the leadup to the Draft, Strome finds his niche and competes next season for the Calder.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs                                             D Noah Hanifin, Boston College (H-East)Unknown-3

Mike Babcock and Noah Hanifin make their Toronto debuts as legendary head coach, and potential NHL superstar defenseman, respectively in none other than the biggest market in the NHL. Hanifin is the best defenseman in the draft and Maple Leafs fans are going to love him (more than Dion Phaneuf!).

5. Carolina Hurricanes                                              C Mitchell Marner, London (OHL)Carolina Hurricanes Logo

This guy is a really skilled playmaker with 128 assists and 185 points in 127 career OHL games. He’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane and Jordan Eberle, with great vision and passing skills. Not a steal of the draft, but a great player to draft.

6. New Jersey Devils                                                 C Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL)New Jersey Devils Logo

He effortlessly transitioned from the Czech Republic to North America. He’s 6’3”, 210 pounds, and can play a two way game. Think of him as this year’s bigger version of Boston’s David Pastrnak, if that suffices your hopes. Zacha could be the centerpiece to the Devils rebuild and Ray Shero’s master plan.

7. Philadelphia Flyers                                                 LW Lawson Crouse, Kingston (OHL)Philadelphia Flyers Logo

6’4”, 211 pounds, and a physical force on the ice, Crouse brings a much needed power forward caliber to the Flyers lineup and adds size to their roster. Actually, he fits the Philadelphia style perfectly, big and tough.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets                                         D Ivan Provorov, Brandon (WHL)Columbus Blue Jackets Logo

Extraordinary at the 2015 World Junior Championship for Finland- 6’4”, 209 lbs, effective on the power-play, and difficult to move off the puck. Has hockey sense and hands that supplement his shot. Next to Hanifin, he’s one of the best defensemen of the draft. Columbus fans should get used to seeing Jack Johnson pair up with Provorov in the future.

9. San Jose Sharks                                                     D Zachary Werenski, Michigan (BIG10)Unknown-3

The youngest player in NCAA history joins the youth movement in San Jose. He can block shots and adjust on the fly. He’s got some size to work with at 6’2”, 206 lbs. Werenski was named to the All-Big Ten Hockey First Team and the All-Big Ten Freshman Team this season.

10. Colorado Avalanche                                             RW Mikko Rantanen, TPS (FIN)Colorado Avalanche Logo

He’s a big power forward that will provide some oomph in the Avalanche’s otherwise soft lineup. Rantanen’s a decent skater for his age and should be a part of Colorado’s retooling, as they gear up to avoid another disappointing season like this past season. Signing Carl Soderberg and trading Ryan O’Reilly for valuable parts will help put them in position for being a playoff contending team in 2015-2016.

11. Florida Panthers                                                   C Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL)Unknown-2

Offensively minded, Barzal was injured for a lot of WHL action. The Panthers luck out on a player that just may be able to make those around him better. He’s a 5’11”, 175-pound right shot forward with vision, playmaking skills, and had 12-45-57 totals in 44 games. Barzal also scored 4 times in 6 WHL playoff games.

12. Dallas Stars                                                           RW Timo Meier, Halifax (QMJHL)Unknown-5

Scored 44 goals in 61 games for Halifax this season. He can also be a playmaker as he had 46 assists this year too. Oh and he’s 6’1”, 209 lbs. Meier is exactly the player you want to covet if you are the Stars looking for substantial youth to build around.

13. Los Angeles Kings                                                LW Kyle Connor, Youngstown (USHL)Unknown

6’1”, 177 pounds, led the USHL in scoring with 80 points. His 34 goals ranked fourth in the USHL, with 9 game-winning goals and 32 points on the power play. Connor’s got quickness and hands that can do things with the puck on his stick.

14. Boston Bruins                                                        C Travis Konecny, Ottawa (OHL)Unknown

His second half of the regular season in the OHL really displayed his skill level. With that said, his size isn’t much of an issue as his compete level and willingness is unmatched- and so is his work ethic. Had 29-39-68 totals in 60 games with the 67’s this season. Despite needing defense, the Bruins go with something else they need- offense.

15. Calgary Flames                                                      D Jakub Zboril, Saint John (QMJHL)Calgary Flames Logo

Zboril plays a willingly physical game despite only being 6’1”, 184 lbs. His shot from the point could come in handy on the power play. In general, he adds versatility to Calgary’s defense and the Flames walk away filling exactly what they need, some future youth on the blueline.

16. Edmonton Oilers (from PIT)                                    D Oliver Kylington, AIK (SWE-2)200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svg

Kylington is a two-way defenseman that with proper development can fully utilize his skill set. Edmonton adds valuable youth to their blue line as their forwards continue to gain experience and begin carrying more of their weight. Likewise, they need a replacement for the deadline deal that sent Jeff Petry to Montreal. Looks like Peter Chiarelli’s still looking for a defenseman after all.

17. Winnipeg Jets                                                         C/RW Nicholas Merkely, Kelowna (WHL)Unknown-3

Merkely’s a great playmaker that knows how to crash the net with precision and skill. He also has a great hockey IQ that makes up for some lacking physical qualities in his game. Strong on the power play and spectacular on the penalty kill, Merkely brings a tremendous compete level and had 20-70-90 totals in Kelowna.

18. Ottawa Senators                                                     C Colin White, USA U18 (USHL)Unknown-2

Can’t go wrong with one of the best skaters in the draft. The Senators pick a forward that can move with the puck and carry it defiantly out of his own zone with ease. It also helps that he’s physically difficult to knock off the puck. He’s been compared to Patrice Bergeron and might be this year’s steal of the draft. White pays excellent attention to detail and wearing the opponent down by out playing his opponent all over the ice.

19. Detroit Red Wings                                                   LW Evgeny Svechnikov, Cape Breton (QMJHL)Unknown-1

He’s a big power forward that will bring some physicality to the Red Wings lineup. Svechnikov made a seemless transition to North American play, leading QMJHL rookie’s with 78 points in 55 games. This 6’2”, 199-pound left-winger is too tough to pass on and draws comparisons to another Evgeni- Malkin, that is.

20. Minnesota Wild                                                        D Brandon Carlo, Tri-City (WHL)Unknown-4

The 6’5”, 196 lb. defenseman brings size and athleticism as a shutdown defenseman. He’s definitely more defensive minded, but that fits with Minnesota given the mindset behind Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, among others. Did I mention he’s huge? Again, shutdown. Adds enough of a physical element to go deeper in the playoffs.

21. Buffalo Sabres (from NYI)                                        G Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie (OHL)Unknown-3

The Sabres are daring enough to take a chance at drafting a goalie in the 1st Round, given their numerous selections. While they skip over Ilya Samsonov, they go with the 6’4”, 215 lbs, Colts starter who had a 3.01 GAA in 51 games played with Barrie. The upside is that Blackwood’s a big goalie, fitting recent trends, the downside is that Buffalo still needs a goalie for the looming season.

22. Washington Capitals                                               LW Paul Bittner, Portland (WHL)Washington Capitals Logo

At 6’4”, 205 lbs. this LW adds some much needed size on a transitioning Capitals roster. He’s a power forward that’s willing to be the first to rush in on a dump and chase, which fits in well with Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Adding his size and aggression makes Washington a tougher team to play against.

23. Vancouver Canucks                                                D Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping Jr. (SWE-JR)Unknown-1

6’4”, 183-pounds, this left-shot defenseman is big and intelligent for his position. He’s a stay at home defenseman. Carlsson uses his size and strength as well as you need him to. He’s not an immediate replacement for Dan Hamhuis or Kevin Bieksa, but is ready to be the plan for the Canuck’s life after one or the other. Carlsson also has a reliable reach, given his height and nature of play.

24. Toronto Maple Leafs (from NSH)                             D Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL)Unknown-3

6’1”, 181 lbs. Smart transitional skating defenseman that can handle pressure in getting the puck out of his own zone- he’s a natural fit in Toronto’s energetic, young, roster. Mike Babcock will be able to manage his defensemen just fine with the Maple Leafs stockpiling on the blueline as a result of this draft.

25. Winnipeg Jets (from STL via BUF)                           C Joel Eriksson Ek, Farjestad (SWE)Unknown-3

Eriksson Ek is a 6’2”, 180 pound, left handed shot that is strong on faceoffs and plays a two way game. He brings size down the middle for the Jets, a much-needed commodity, and has great vision. Eriksson Ek was ranked 4th overall on the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of European skaters.

26. Montreal Canadiens                                                D Jacob Larsson, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)Unknown

6’2”, 191 lbs. Sweden knows how to make solid defensemen and Montreal begins to replenish their defensive prospects, given how their current blueline is aging. Larsson reads situations well and controls the puck excellently. While he transitions well, Larsson will need to put a bit more muscle on him before seeing full time NHL action.

27. Anaheim Ducks                                                        RW Brock Boeser, Waterloo (USHL)Unknown

Boeser is a two-way forward that was tied for first in the United States Hockey League with 35 goals and 32 points on the power play in 57 regular season games. The 6-foot, 191-pound, winger was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team and All-USHL First Team. Boeser will need to refine some elements of his game, but looks to continue to develop appropriately at the University of North Dakota this fall.

28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NYR)                            RW Daniel Sprong, Charlottetown (QMJHL)Unknown-1

Sprong is a nifty playmaker with good hands and great speed, but he’ll need to get stronger to make the transition to the NHL and add grit to his already impressive offensive game. His 270 shots on goal were the 10th most in the QMJHL, so he likes to shoot with impressive accuracy and a quick release.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (from TB)                                   LW Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current (WHL)Philadelphia Flyers Logo

DeBrusk is always following the puck, whether it’s on the forecheck or forcing turnovers. He can be excellent on the power play, focused on moving the puck where it needs to go and scoring. DeBrusk had 120 points in 144 games over two seasons with Swift Current and his tenacity is astounding. He might also bring some physicality to Philly, at 6’4”, 174 pounds, which is much appreciated by their fans who cherish hard working, tough, players.

30. Arizona Coyotes (from CHI)                                     C Filip Chlapik, Charlottetown (QMJHL)Arizona_Coyotes.svg

Positioning is one of Chlapik’s best assets, whether it’s with or without the puck, he goes to the right places. Smooth skating, with vision, he’s pretty decent all around as a 6’1”, 196-pound center. He was tied for the lead among QMJHL rookies with 33 goals in 64 games played. His impressive 33-42-75 totals help supplement his case as a first rounder. Chlapik also won 48.8% of his faceoffs in a solid transition from the Czech Republic to the North American style of the game.

*Barring any trades, this is how I see it progressing, but I’d like to see a lot of trades just to destroy my mock draft picks, like how someone always destroys any bracket I’ve ever made for any sport.

Other Prospects To Watch For

RW Michael Spacek, Pardubice (CZREP)

C Nicolas Roy, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)NHL Logo

C Jansen Harkins, Prince George (WHL)

LW Jordan Greenway, USA U18 (USHL)

D, Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)

G, Ilya Samsonov, Magnitorgorsk (MHL)

RW, Denis Gurianov (MHL)

The 1st Annual Down the Frozen River Awards

By: Nick Lanciani

I present these highly desirable (or not so desirable) awards to the following players, with the hopes that they’ll catch on and become an annual thing that we do. A note to all players (and readers), please don’t take these seriously. It’s meant to be a fun teaser for the NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

The “Hey That Guy’s Pretty Good” Award- Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning

Turns out that guy was good for something after all.

Oduya Like Puns Award- Johnny Oduya, Chicago Blackhawks (duh)

Odidya like that one?

Why Can’t I Have Him on My Team Award- Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning

I want him on my team, so I gave him an award as an incentive to be on my team. Shut up, obviously it’s going to work.

The Uncoachable Award- Matt Bartkowski, Boston Bruins

Uncoachable, undesirable, same thing. (This award would’ve been awarded to Dennis Wideman normally, but he lucked out this time).

The Torts Trophy- Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild

Awarded to the coach with the most fantastic meltdown of the season. *Careful of the language.*

The Bobby Orr Trophy- Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Presented to the most offensive defenseman in the NHL, so basically, Erik Karlsson should be able to rightfully say he won an award as a top defenseman in the league for something.

Biggest Surprise- Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

Presented to the player that surprised us the most in the regular season.

Bigger-est Surprise- Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning

Presented to the player that surprised us the most in the playoffs.

Bear in a Forrest Award- Anton Khudobin, Carolina Hurricanes

Given to our favorite goaltender to make fun of.

Heroic Comeback- Rich Peverley, Dallas Stars (would win this if he ever plays again, or if he doesn’t he still wins for wanting to get right back in the game…)

Awarded to a player with the best comeback either from an injury, adversity, or other means, basically it’s our version of the Masterton without the NHL getting in the way of it. Basically we gave it to Peverley for his determination to return as an honorary measure, it will follow the rest of our awards format (things that actually happened during the season) next year.

Best Comeback- 2013 Boston Bruins (vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals)

Awarded to a team that defeated another team in thrilling fashion. This award is held by a team until another team impresses us even more. This is the only award that can be won multiple times, without having any relevance to the season that just ended.

The Patrik Stefan Award- Dennis Wideman, Calgary Flames

Given to the player that committed the most embarrassing play of the year.

Fan Vote Winner- (winner TBD, take the poll or else it will be TBD forever)

Basically this award is pointless- it gives recognition to a player we looked over, but felt the fans might have some sympathy for.

Down the Frozen River(.com!)