Apologies for the brief hiatus, but the NCAA Weekly Match-Up is back!
The NCAA season is in full swing at this point and there have been some interesting results. Here’s a quick recap of the latest and greatest:
– Denver skated to a tie against Lake Superior State earlier in the season and was swept by Western Michigan just one week ago. The former number one team has been replaced by an impressive St. Cloud State squad that owns a 7-0-0 record.
– The Big Ten has been playing some great hockey lately. They have five teams ranked in the top 20, with Minnesota leading the pack. The addition of Notre Dame has been very helpful for their league profile.
– A few powerhouse programs could be in trouble early. There is plenty of hockey left to be played, but Boston University, Boston College, and Minnesota-Duluth are all currently outside the top 25 squads in the Pairwise rankings, which determine the at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament.
There are plenty of other topics I could mention, but it’s time to focus on the here and now. Let’s turn our attention to the Madhouse on Mercer.
Bowling Green Falcons v. Lake Superior Lakers
Friday (11/10/17) and Satuday (11/11/17)
7:07pm and 7:07pm
Slater Family Ice Arena (Bowling Green, Ohio)
The Falcons and Lakers both have quality hockey programs. Typically, these teams are not respected by the national polls or college hockey media, so they both have plenty to prove. They also have great history, which they use to fuel their return to the “glory days.”
Bowling Green is a program that has recently rebuilt and is seeing gradual success. After their 1984 NCAA Championship, they slowly crashed to a near extinction of the program. Since that point, they have developed under Head Coach Chris Bergeron and are relevant once again.
After nine games played this season, the Falcons are led by forward Cameron Wright, who has managed totals of 4-5-9. Second on the team is Alec Rauhauser, with six helpers on the season. In addition to offense, the goaltending department for Bowling Green has been stellar this season. The play of sophomore Ryan Bednard and freshman Eric Dop have lifted the Orange and Brown to a 4-3-2 overall record. Dop has recently earned back-to-back WCHA Rookie-of-the-Week honors
The Falcons are coming off a successful weekend against then #20 Michigan Tech, skating to a 1-0-1 series, but securing the additional conference point in the shootout. Bowling Green was great on the power play, which produced all four regulation goals. This squad looks to continue rolling along, as they have not lost in their last five outings.
Lake Superior desperately needs a big weekend, as a pair of wins would help reverse the direction of their season. Their 2-6-2 record out of the gate is not what Head Coach Damon Whitten had hoped for. The Lakers do have one quality win, coming over #20 Northern Michigan. They also had a great outing in a 3-3 tie with then #1 ranked Denver. The defending NCAA Champions expected a swift victory over the Blue and Gold, but they ran into a brick wall in Nick Kossoff. The junior goalie had 63 saves on the night… Let me break this down for you. A good team is going to get off 25-35 shots a game. This guy had to stop double that. There was obviously some overtime hockey involved, but regardless, a big pat on the back to you sir. With that said, Kossoff has since given up the net to Mareks Mitens (which gets an honorable mention for all-time great hockey name). Both goaltenders have a 1-3-1 record on the years. The play of this tandem could be a deciding factor in the series.
The Lakers’ last series was a split against Alaska Anchorage. They managed an overtime victory on Friday night, but Saturday evening was a much different story. Lake Superior struggled to get on the board and were outgunned 4-1. With that result, they now have four points in the WCHA, which is good for 7th in the league. Bowling Green is currently tied with Minnesota State for first in the league.
Down the Frozen River will be traveling to Bowling Green, OH to cover part two of the series. On Saturday, you can expect live updates from our Twitter account (@DTFrozenRiver), as well as a post-game recap.
Players to Watch:
Bowling Green – Senior Forward, Mitch McLain; Freshman Goalie, Eric Dop; Junior Forward, Stephen Baylis
Lake Superior – Senior Forward, J.T. Henke; Junior Forward, Anthony Nellis; Junior Goalie, Nick Kossoff
I could have easily chosen either of the dynamic duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov in Tampa, who have been going Harlem Globetrotters on every team they’ve come into contact with, but I think Schwartz deserves some props. The diminutive Blues winger has always been a very good under-the-radar guy, usually playing 2nd fiddle to his linemate Vladimir Tarasenko. But Schwartz made the headlines this week, with a hat trick against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, followed up the next night with another goal against Colorado, and finished off with an assist against Vegas Saturday night (more on that game later). All in all, a 4-goal, 5-point week in 3 games is more than enough to earn Schwartz this completely meaningless nomination.
Team of the Week: Tampa Bay Lightning
Alright, we good, Bolts fans? We square? Cool.
The Lightning have looked borderline immortal so far this season, with a 7-1-1 record bolstered by this week’s 3-0-1 stretch. But it’s not just that near-flawless week putting them here, it’s how they did it. Tampa’s 3 victories came by a combined score of 12-3 (granted, a big part of that percentage was the 7-1 sha-lacking they put on Pittsburgh), and if not for a sweet little backhand move by Kyle Palmieri in the 3rd round of the shootout in New Jersey (oh, more on that game later, too), the Bolts could have walked away with a perfect week.
Game(s) of the Week: Tampa Bay Lightning 4 @ New Jersey Devils 5 (SO), Tuesday October 17th & St. Louis Blues 2 @ Vegas Golden Knights 3 (OT), Saturday October 21st
It simply wasn’t possible to leave either of these games out.
First up, we had the current Team of the Week squaring off with the former Team of the Week, in a battle of two of the league’s hottest clubs. What we got was 72 total shots on goal, 35 hits, 9 power plays (resulting in 3 goals), and a whole mess of fun. The game started with Cory Schneider making a terrific paddle-down save on Brayden Point just moments into the action, and just a few minutes later Drew Stafford let a seemingly harmless wrister go from the right wing boards that eluded a rusty Peter Budaj (his first game action since the preseason) and gave the Devils the 1-0 lead. Budaj would settle down a bit in the next few minutes making a few quality stops, eventually leading to his team tying the game, and taking the lead just minutes later, on the strength of goals from Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat. It would be short-lived, though, as just 4 minutes later a top shelf power play rocket from Palmieri would even the score, and Brian Gibbons would follow suit in the final minute of the period to send New Jersey to the room with the lead.
Things settled down on the scoreboard for most of the 2nd period, although both goaltenders were still busy. Finally with just under 6 minutes to play Kucherov would fire a rocket directly from Russia with love and even the score, before linemate Stamkos would give the Lightning the 4-3 lead in the closing minutes of the 2nd. Tampa did their best to lock the game down the rest of the way, but finally with just over 4 minutes remaining Stafford would bury his own rebound to cap off a gorgeous passing play, score his 2nd of the night, and send it to overtime. A relatively tame 3-on-3 period would send it to the shootout, where Palmieri’s nifty mitts would deposit the only biscuit of the frame and send the Jersey faithful home happy.
Now onto a Saturday night in Vegas, where the upstart Golden Knights would look to make history by being the first franchise to ever start its inaugural season with 6 wins in 7 games.
Things weren’t looking great for the Golden Knights early on, as the Blues peppered young Malcolm Subban mercilessly in the opening frame, St. Louis eventually holding an 18-4 shot advantage when the period came to a close. But Subban managed to limit the damage to only a lone Magnus Paajarvi tally and get his team into the dressing room only down 1-0. Vegas would feed off of the strong play of their goaltender, and reward him in the 2nd period with power play tallies from both Reilly Smith and Colin Miller, and they’d take a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period.
Unfortunately for Vegas, just past the midway point of the 3rd period Subban would appear to strain his groin kicking out his right pad for a save, and would have to be helped from the ice, leaving the task of surviving the continued St. Louis onslaught to another youngster, former Blue Jackets prospect Oscar Dansk. Unfortunately for the young Swede, the first shot he faced would be an Alex Pietrangelo one-time bomb from the high slot with just over 5 minutes to play, drawing the game even once again on a shot that no goaltender could be expected to do anything about. The Blues would do everything in their power to get the winning goal past Dansk in the closing minutes, including a Schwartz tip that got behind the Vegas netminder but went wide of the net with just 8 seconds on the clock, but the youngster held the fort and took the game to extra time.
Overtime brought another golden opportunity for Schwartz, who found himself with all alone in the slot with a clear lane to shoot, only to be bested by the right leg of Dansk. Then Brendan Leipsic would jump on a turnover to break in all alone, but Jake Allen met his backhand with a flash of the leather to keep the game going. But just over a minute later, and with less than 30 seconds left, Smith would jump on a loose puck, glide into the St. Louis zone, and float a beautiful pass to a streaking William ‘Wild Bill’ Karlsson who ripped a one-timer over the two-pad stack of Allen to send the building into bedlam and the Golden Knights into the history books.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Despite their apparent ability to win with anyone wearing goalie pads in net (I could see a Twitter campaign for this being a hit), Vegas’ injury situation is no laughing matter. Marc-Andre Fleury is still dealing with the effects of a concussion (which as we know really doesn’t have a set recovery time), and Subban is out for at least a month. The goaltending duties now fall on Dansk and Maxime Lagace for the foreseeable future. If there’s any consolation to be found in this for the Golden Knights, it’s that they’ve had tremendous success with injury replacements so far. Subban played very well in Fleury’s absence, and Alex Tuch (who was called up to replace the injured Jon Marchessault) has 2 goals and 3 points in his first 3 games with the club.
Roman Polak has signed a 1 year deal with the Maple Leafs, in what was almost certainly just a plot to further shorten the useful lifespan of Steve Dangle’s heart.
Potential big-money bet: Does Montreal fire Claude Julien and replace him with Michel Therrien?
Side bet: Does Therrien walk into that press conference to Eric Bischoff’s “I’m Back” entrance music?
Side-side bet: Over/under on amount of sticks Carey Price destroys before Montreal’s next victory.
If you haven’t seen/heard/read any of Ed Olczyk‘s comments from his return to broadcasting (both on Wednesday in St. Louis for the NBCSN broadcast or Thursday in Chicago to call the Hawks/Oilers game) while in between chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer, please do yourself a favor and go find them. Truly inspiring stuff from one of the best in the business, and the standing ovations he received at both games are enough to give anyone chills.
On a somewhat related topic, Brian Boyle also made his return to action, this time on ice in a full-contact practice on Sunday. Boyle has been battling a form of cancer that attacks bone marrow, but cleared the final ‘hurdle’ in his treatment regimen to be able to get back on the ice with his teammates. Once he and his coaches feel he is fully into game shape, we should see the big man out of Boston College going back to work.
The NCAA Hockey season is upon us once again. The cries of “Is it October yet?” have almost been answered. Many teams will begin playing exhibition games this weekend and their seasons will officially drop the puck one week later. College hockey, or #cawlidgehawkey if you want to be like John Buccigross, is becoming an increasingly deep source of professional prospects. Although playing in Major Juniors still seems to be the predominant route to the NHL, collegiate players are no joke. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at this quick list:
If you haven’t figured this one out yet, these are all former NCAA Hockey players who have become Stanley Cup Champions with the Pittsburgh Penguins (many of them more than once).
Even if you don’t follow along with college-level puck, check your NHL squad’s roster and I would almost guarantee a few players have come out of the NCAA. The developmental AHL and ECHL are also filled with former college hockey players trying to work their way up the ladder.
If you’re not into NCAA Hockey, it’s totally understandable. There are six different leagues, 60 different teams and over 1,200 individual players (and that’s just at the D-1 level). It may be difficult to dive into at first, but I can assure you it is worth your while. If you want to see grit, speed, talent and passion for the game of hockey all wrapped into one, attend any NCAA game.
Whether this is your first rodeo with college hockey or if you have been around the block a few times, the 2017-2018 season is about to begin. Here is a season preview for the upcoming campaign, which highlights each of the six leagues, as well as lists my predictions for the regular season champions of each organization. Read, enjoy and drop that puck!
Teams – AIC, Air Force, Army, Bentley, Canisius, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Niagara, RIT and Robert Morris
Without putting it bluntly, Atlantic Hockey has struggled since its 2004 founding. They are largely undeveloped unlike many other NCAA Hockey leagues, and many of the teams in this league haven’t been able to find much success – especially against out-of-conference opponents.
That being said, there is typically one team every year that appears to be poised to make a good run. This year, that is likely to be either Robert Morris or Air Force. Both squads return quality players and will try to build upon the growth they showed during the previous season. The Colonials will return team leader Brady Ferguson, who put up an impressive stat line of 24-34-58 last year. Meanwhile, Air Force earned a spot in the preseason polls, coming in at 17th. Although this is a positive sign, they will have to prove their worth when the puck drops.
Preseason Favorite – Air Force Falcons
Teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin
The Big Ten Conference is still very new to the NCAA Hockey scene, but it has already shown signs of success. After Penn State made the decision to form a D-1 hockey program, the Big Ten decided it was time to flex its muscles a bit and commit to creating a private league for its member universities. Although it was a shame to see the CCHA disband, it was seemingly bound to happen eventually.
This league boasts historic programs such as Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota, but the past isn’t worth more than memories (we don’t need to talk about all of the championships they have won… it’s a lot). This year, the Big Ten Conference will attempt to prove they are a dominate group among the NCAA. With Notre Dame joining as an affiliate member, the league now has seven teams. Five of those seven teams earned preseason rankings in the top 20, with Minnesota coming in at number three. Could this be the year a National Champion is crowned out of the Big Ten?
Preseason Favorite – Penn State Nittany Lions
Teams – Brown, Clarkson, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Quinnipiac, RPI, St. Lawrence, Union and Yale
ECAC Hockey (also referred to as the smarty-pants schools) has been able to stay in the spotlight over the past several years. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Union and Yale hoisted the NCAA Championship in back-to-back years. Cornell, Harvard and Quinnipiac are always strong contenders, while the other schools in the league are respectful in their own right.
It will be interesting to see how well Harvard recharges the batteries after facing key losses this offseason. Graduated seniors Tyler Moy and Alex Kerfoot both chipped in 45 points last season, with the remaining 2017 grads collectively contributing 41 goals, which is a lot of firepower to replace internally. With that said, Harvard should still compete well, but other conference opponents could take advantage of any offensive woes.
Preseason Favorite – Quinnipiac Bobcats
Teams – Boston College, Boston University, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Providence and Vermont
Hockey East Association once again enters the season with very high expectations. They have two teams, Boston University and UMass-Lowell, ranked in the top-five of the preseason poll. Hockey East is a conference that has and will continue to put quality programs in the mix for an NCAA Championship. Many consider this to be the best conference in college hockey, but the emergence of the NCHC has provided some stiff competition.
Make no mistake, Hockey East is still an amazingly talented league. Boston College, Boston University and Providence alone have combined for five championships over the past ten years. The demographics of college hockey are simply changing and other parts of the country, such as Denver and North Dakota, are seeing great success. We will see how this impacts Hockey East teams down the road, but for now, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Preseason Favorite – Boston University Terriers
Teams – Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan
As a college hockey fan, you either love the NCHC or you hate it. One way or the other, you must recognize the level of talent they acquired when they emerged as an NCAA Hockey league. They have five teams represented in the preseason poll, with Denver taking home top honors (if you consider a preseason ranking an honor). They have also brought home two NCAA Championships in as many years courtesy of Denver and North Dakota.
To put it simply, these teams are good.
No, they are great. There is no tip-toeing around the subject. The NCHC did exactly what they set out to do, which was create the most highly skilled, competitive and talented league in the NCAA. Are they the best? That is up for you as a fan to decide, but their early body of work speaks for itself. Keep an eye on the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to see if their master plan will continue to be a success or if they will take a step back this season.
Preseason Favorite – Denver Pioneers
Teams – Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan
Last, but certainly not least, the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference. As a graduate of Bowling Green State University, I can assure you I am very well-rounded in my knowledge of this league. The WCHA is probably one of the most divided leagues in the NCAA. Any given season, Ferris State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State are prepared to make strong postseason runs. Other teams in the league, such as Bowling Green, have the potential, but have never taken a serious step forward. On the other side of the coin, both Alaskan schools continually struggle and Alabama-Huntsville is still trying to turn in a successful season after their move to the D-1 level.
The last time a current member of the WCHA won a national championship was Lake Superior back in 1994… I don’t want to upset Lake Superior fans, but they are not the team they once were. Then again, you could say the same for Bowling Green, Ferris State, or Northern Michigan. I have a soft spot for the WCHA and hopefully a few of the teams at the top can regain some national prominence for the entire league.
The time has come for my annual prediction of how the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will go. This year’s draft class is overall weaker than years past, but comes with a difficult choice for the New Jersey Devils, as they hold the 1st overall pick. The talk surrounding Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier is reminiscent of the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin days leading up to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
With that in mind, let’s see how many picks I get wrong (it’s an annual tradition!)– this year’s draft is being held in Chicago.
1) New Jersey Devils –> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (WHL)
A gifted center, Nolan Patrick’s status as the long-time coming predicted 1st overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft should not be affected by his injury shortened season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Patrick is a 6’2″, 199-pound gifted two-way player that can not only contribute in goals and assists, but brings some size down the middle for the Devils.
2) Philadelphia Flyers –> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
If New Jersey doesn’t take Nolan Patrick 1st overall, then the Flyers shouldn’t really have any complaints, because either Nico Hischier or Patrick is quite the impressive steal for the 2.4% longshots at the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Hischier stands tall at 6’2″, 179 pounds, and had 38-48-86 totals with the Halifax Mooseheads in 57 games this season en route to being named the CHL’s Rookie of the Year.
3) Dallas Stars –> C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor (OHL)
Gabriel Vilardi was part of this year’s Memorial Cup champion, the Windsor Spitfires, and amassed 29-32-61 totals in 49 games played this season. He’s a two-way center that remains composed in all situations while utilizing unparalleled hands and finesse in this year’s draft. Vilardi would be quite the addition to Dallas’s prospect pool at 6’3″, 203 pounds and only 17-years-old (until August 16th, that is).
4) Colorado Avalanche –> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Finland)
One can assume that the Avalanche are bound to be trading a bunch of forwards for forwards this offseason (at least), but more important than having an offense is having a defense and an offense (which Colorado has had one in recent years and I’ll give you a hint– it hasn’t been a defense). Miro Heiskanen is a 6’1″, 172-pound two-way defenseman that had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 37 games with HIFK this season and is just part one of many moves towards turning things around at Pepsi Center.
5) Vancouver Canucks –> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
The Vancouver Canucks can begin to start thinking about their long term approach to the end of the Sedin era by assuring themselves of a strong presence down the middle. Casey Mittelstadt brings that strong presence at center by virtue of his 6’1″, 201-pound frame and tremendous skill. There’s a reason why he was named this year’s Mr. Hockey in the state of Minnesota. Mittelstadt had 21-43-64 totals in 25 games with Eden Prairie and 13-17-30 totals in 24 games with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) this season.
6) Vegas Golden Knights –> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
For their first draft selection in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights are bound to select perhaps the most tactically smart playmaker of the draft in Cody Glass. The 6’2″, 178-pound, right-handed center had 32 goals and 62 assists (94 points– T-7th in the WHL) and is sure to fit right in with the Golden Knights roster and longterm plans. Vegas would be wise to let him play coming out of the draft, since Glass is perhaps the most NHL ready player besides Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.
7) Arizona Coyotes –> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
The Arizona Coyotes have been stockpiling forwards (if you can believe it) in recent drafts, so this year seems to be the right time to snag a puck moving defenseman that’s committed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst next season. Cale Makar had 24 goals and 51 assists (75 points) in 54 games with the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season– a 20-point improvement in as many games compared to last season.
8) Buffalo Sabres –> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
At 6’6″, 215 pounds, Michael Rasmussen is exactly what the Sabres need to compliment the already sized up centers of Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. Sheer intimidation could be one thing Buffalo banks on in the near future, thanks to their Goliath centers, but don’t let that be the only thing. Rasmussen has silky hands and had 32-23-55 totals with the Tri-City Americans this season in the Western Hockey League.
9) Detroit Red Wings –> RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL)
Owen Tippett has been drawing comparisons to Phil Kessel (no, not necessarily because he’s a hot dogs and hamburgers guy– though we haven’t asked him– but rather, because Mike Morreale of NHL.com says so). The 6’0″, 200-pound, right winger had 44 goals and 31 assists (75 points) in 60 games with the Mississauga Steelheads and is a natural sniper.
10) Florida Panthers –> C Martin Necas, Brno (Czech Republic)
Martin Necas is a versatile center that can create space for the puck and generate offense with his playmaking mindset. The right-handed shot had seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 41 games with Brno this season. Florida shouldn’t be too concerned with his 6’0″, 167-pound frame, considering they’ve got a good mix of forwards to balance things out while Necas works on adding some muscle to his game.
11) Los Angeles Kings –> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
After missing out on this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings fired their now former head coach (Darryl Sutter) and general manager (Dean Lombardi) and immediately replaced them with John Stevens behind the bench and Rob Blake as GM, so trying to predict who they’ll draft is difficult based on recent history. However, Elias Pettersson (19-22-41 totals in 43 games with Timra) might just happen to fall into their hands at 11th overall. He’ll need a year of seasoning before appearing in the Kings lineup.
12) Carolina Hurricanes –> D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle (Sweden)
After a bout with mononucleosis in November, Timothy Liljegren wasn’t fully able to rebound this season with Rogle BK, however his skating remains unparalleled as one of the better defensemen of the draft. Liljegren can join the rush and pinch in from the point when needed in the offensive zone and scouts have yet to see the full potential impact of his style of play. Given the uncertainty surrounding Carolina’s money-puck strategy and how it will affect their blue line, drafting Liljegren might provide some security.
13) Winnipeg Jets –> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Klim Kostin missed a lot of time thanks to a shoulder injury, but that shouldn’t stop the Winnipeg Jets from taking a chance on what might be the best Russian forward in the draft. Puck possession is Kostin’s middle name and his 6’3″, 196-pound frame certainly must have something to do with that. The Jets could use him down the middle or restructure their wingers around the Kostin model, albeit acknowledging Blake Wheeler‘s size and existence already in Winnipeg.
14) Tampa Bay Lightning –> D Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City (WHL)
Steve Yzerman may continue to be a master of the salary cap (in terms of carefully maneuvering around large contracts, drafting and developing talent on a consistent basis and the like), but he’s got some critical thinking to do this offseason, what with pending RFAs galore and the Vegas expansion draft. Juuso Valimaki might be just enough to help relieve some of that pressure, having been one of the best defensemen of the WHL this season and amassing 19-42-61 totals in 60 games played.
15) New York Islanders –> C Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)
Offensively skilled, Nick Suzuki isn’t the biggest player (5’11”, 183 pounds), but he is one of the best power play specialists in this year’s draft– notching 14 power play goals for the Owen Sound Attack this season. Suzuki had 96 points alone (45 goals, 51 assists) in 65 games and would be an upgrade for the Islanders in more ways than one.
16) Calgary Flames –> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
Kristian Vesalainen is a 6’3″, 207-pound power forward that might be able to muster his way to a new arena for the Calgary Flames. Jokes aside, Vesalainen would be a solid draft pick by Calgary for his physical prowess and goal scoring ability. In the Battle of Alberta, the Flames could select their very own Milan Lucic, but with more of a two-way element to his game.
17) Toronto Maple Leafs –> D Nicolas Hague, Mississauga (OHL)
How could the Toronto Maple Leafs get any better than they already are with a lineup full of kids? Answer: they could draft Nicolas Hague. Toronto’s got a plethora of players waiting to insert themselves into their mix of forwards that it wouldn’t hurt them to give a little more attention to their blue line for a bit. Hague is a monstrous 6’6″, 215-pound, shutdown defenseman that can also contribute on the power play. He had 18-28-46 totals in 65 games with the Mississauga Steelheads this season.
18) Boston Bruins –> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
It seems unusual to say, but the Boston Bruins have a little something on the horizon to start thinking about– what will the team look like after Patrice Bergeron (and David Krejci)? Boston GM Don Sweeney has a recent history of opting for college players and could select center Ryan Poehling with the future in mind. The 6’2″, 183-pound, playmaker has great vision and puck protection and had 7-6-13 totals in 35 games with St. Cloud State this season. Additionally, Poehling’s got intelligence (both on and off the ice) as he graduated a year early from high school and just tuned 18 on January 3rd.
19) San Jose Sharks –> D Callan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
The San Jose Sharks have some big names to re-sign this offseason, including Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Naturally, while one might think the Sharks should use this draft to find their eventual replacements, San Jose is already in a good spot regarding forwards. Their blue line, however, could use someone like the 6’4″, 212-pound, likeness of Callan Foote. He had six goals and 51 assists (57 points) in 71 games this season and is sure to follow in the foot(e)steps of his father, Adam Foote.
20) St. Louis Blues –> LW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
A 30-goal-scorer in 52 games played with Sioux City this season, Eeli Tolvanen brings just about every offensive element the St. Louis Blues are looking for in a forward. He can shoot from just about anywhere on the ice– at any time too. Quick with his feet, Tolvanen can snipe an impressive shot. Don’t let his 5’10”, 170-pound setup fool you, this winger is ready to become even better at Boston College in the fall. After a couple of seasons of losing vital veteran forwards, the Blues get a chance for redemption by bringing in a goalscorer that could soon be skating on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko.
21) New York Rangers –> LW Jason Robertson, Kingston (OHL)
In 68 games with the Kingston Frontenacs this season, Jason Robertson (6’2″, 192 pounds) had 42 goals and 39 assists for 81 points. He knows what to do with the puck and with the unwavering uncertainty of Rick Nash‘s longevity, along with the legitimacy of Jimmy Vesey and others as impact players when you need them the most (like in the playoffs, for example), Robertson is a risk worth taking. He’s only a risk because his skating game could use some improvement.
22) Edmonton Oilers –> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
Lias Andersson is a mobile two-way forward that matches grit with nifty hands that generate scoring chances, as evidenced by his 9-10-19 totals in 42 games played with HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League this season. At 5’11”, 198 pounds, Andersson is the right fit for the Edmonton Oilers lineup, where he can increase his offensive skill by learning from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while taking a page or two from Milan Lucic in the physical game. Additionally, his father, Niklas Andersson, is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Kings and played in 164 career NHL games.
The Coyotes have two 1st round picks in this year’s draft and they’d be smart to take a forward with their second pick. Luckily, Shane Bowers is just the player for Arizona. The Boston University-bound center scored 22 goals and had 29 assists (51 points) in 60 games for Waterloo this season. The 6’1″, 183-pound forward models his game after Jonathan Toews, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Coyotes to have in their prospect pool with a clear need for a stable, solid, two-way center.
24) Columbus Blue Jackets –> RW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane (WHL)
At 5’8″ and 153 pounds, Kailer Yamamoto is not a player to overlook. Why? Because he scored 42 goals and had 57 assists for 99 points (6th in the WHL in scoring) in 65 games with Spokane this season. Yamamoto is relentless on the puck and has hands beyond his years, as well as speed and skill that make him quite the threat on the ice.
25) Montreal Canadiens –> LW Maxime Comtois, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
After acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, the Montreal Canadiens have made great strides at improving their group of forwards. But with the uncertainty of everything panning out as planned, why not add to the plan? Maxime Comtois is versatile and ready to take the next step in his professional career with the right guidance (*ahem* Claude Julien‘s system). Best inserted on the wing, Comtois had 22-29-51 totals in 64 games with Victoriaville this season. The 6’2″, 200-pound forward could play center if the Canadiens see it fit.
26) Chicago Blackhawks –> D Urho Vaakanainen, JYP (Finland)
Chicago is bound to have a tough offseason in a non-Cup year for the first time in a while, it seems, what with the Expansion Draft, as well as the salary cap working against their favor. While the Blackhawks may have to deal a top-4 defenseman or part of their core group of forwards (without getting too crazy, mind you, we’re not talking a trade involving Patrick Kane), Chicago can rest assured that Urho Vaakanainen is their defenseman of the future. The 6’1″, 185-pound blue liner is good at 1) getting the puck out of the zone and 2) playing his game– and a physical one at that.
27) St. Louis Blues (from Washington Capitals) –> D Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
An offensive-minded defenseman with a right-shot, Conor Timmins fits the bill for the St. Louis Blues. At 6’1″ and 185 pounds, Timmins can rush the ice as a two-way defenseman who contributed 61 points (seven goals, 54 assists) for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 67 games this season. Think Colton Parayko, but not, because this guy’s name is Conor Timmins and he doesn’t already play for the Blues.
28) Ottawa Senators –> C Josh Norris, USA U-18 (USNTDP)
A product of the United States National Team Development Program, Josh Norris had 23-28-51 totals in 52 games played this season. The 6’1″, 192-pound center could contribute to the Senators organization in a manner similar to how Colin White has been implemented into the roster. Who knows, he might be worth it, Ottawa.
Tremendous hockey sense and intelligence are part of Kole Lind’s game. A natural playmaker, Lind was also known to produce goals of his own for the Kelowna Rockets this season, amassing 30-57-87 totals in 70 games played. The 6’1″, 178-pound right winger could be a solid fit alongside the likes of Jamie Benn and Seguin in Dallas.
30) Nashville Predators –> C Robert Thomas, London (OHL)
Hey look it’s Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty! Again, I’m only kidding. This Robert Thomas of the London Knights had 16-50-66 totals in 66 games this season as a two-way forward. A noted playmaker, Thomas reads and reacts to the play before him beyond his years and will need some time to really come into his own at the NHL level. Yet, the Nashville Predators can afford to take their time carefully crafting the almost 6′, 188-pound, center in their system that’s produced the likes of Colton Sissons, Pontus Aberg and many more in recent years.
31) Pittsburgh Penguins –> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
It took Henri Jokiharju a few months to really transition to the North American style of the game, but for this offensively focused defenseman, that wasn’t a big deal. He can get the puck out of his own zone with ease– not just with crisp passes, but also due to his incredible stride and speed in the transition department. Jokiharju (6’0″, 180 pounds) had nine goals and 39 assists (48 points) in 71 games for the Portland Winterhawks this season.
Other top potential 1st round prospects that should easily be 2nd round picks if they’re not taken in Round 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft:
G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey East)
LW Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph (OHL)
D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
D Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)
LW Filip Chytil, Zlin (Czech Republic)
C Aleksei Heponiemi, Swift Current (WHL)
G Michael DiPietro, Windsor (OHL)
LW Matthew Strome, Hamilton (OHL)
C Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
LW Tyler Steenbergen, Swift Current (WHL)
So there you have it. This is how I see the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft shaking out. Be sure to tune in next Friday night (that’s one week from now) to watch your favorite team pick a teenager and hope for the best. I’ll be at work that night, so no spoilers, please. Let me believe I got more than two picks right for once.
Jordan Dettrow makes his podcasting debut on the Down the Frozen River Podcast as he joins the rest of the crew via Skype to talk about this year’s NCAA Frozen Four and other college hockey headlines.
This week’s episode also includes the DTFR Podcast’s first official guest (since Jordan and Frank don’t technically count, as they’re part of the team). Will Roberson stopped by to talk about what it’s been like to balance life as a Queens University of Charlotte student athlete and intern with the Charlotte Checkers this year, as well as how awesome the Checkers organization is and some of the hype surrounding their push for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Stay tuned for more 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage coming soon and as always, hear what the DTFR Crew has to say about the latest news and notes from the NHL, right here on the Down the Frozen River Podcast.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.