Tag Archives: Joel Eriksson Ek

Bruins complete wild comeback over Wild, win, 5-4, in OT

Torey Krug scored the game-winning goal in overtime in his return to the lineup for the Boston Bruins, while Patrice Bergeron contributed four assists in their, 5-4, comeback win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night at TD Garden.

Tuukka Rask (11-2-2 record, 2.18 goals against average, .928 save percentage in 15 games played) made 32 saves on 36 shots faced (.889 SV%) in the overtime win for the Bruins.

Jaroslav Halak was originally slated to start, but was sick and replaced by Rask ahead of warmups Saturday.

Minnesota goaltender, Alex Stalock (5-3-1, 2.79 GAA, .908 SV% in 12 games played) had a season-high 34 saves on 39 shots against for an .872 SV% in the overtime loss.

Boston improved to 15-3-5 (35 points) on the season, while maintaining their top of the Atlantic Division statues.

Meanwhile, Minnesota slipped to 9-11-3 (21 points) on the season and remained last (7th) in the Central Division.

The Bruins improved to 9-0-4 at home this season and the Wild fell to 8-4-1 all time in Boston.

The B’s are now on a three-game winning streak.

Kevan Miller (knee) suffered a setback in his ongoing efforts to return from his injuries near the end of last season and in the offseason and missed his 23rd game this season on Saturday.

Miller and John Moore (shoulder) have yet to make their season debuts for Boston so far.

The Bruins were also without the services of Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Zach Senyshyn (lower body) and Par Lindholm (laceration) on Saturday night against the Wild.

Kuhlman’s been out for the last 15 games and is still wearing a boot after being injured in Toronto on Oct. 19th, while Backes participated in Saturday’s optional morning skate in a red no-contact sweater.

Backes’ ongoing upper body injury– likely a concussion suffered in his collision with Ottawa Senators forward, Scott Sabourin, on Nov. 2nd– is one that the Bruins are not looking to rush his return, considering it would be at least his third concussion with the club since signing with Boston on July 1, 2016.

Meanwhile, Senyshyn missed his 5th consecutive game and cannot be reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) while injured, so even though most of Boston’s forwards are ready to go and his services are not needed, the focus is on his return to health before he can be assigned as necessary in whatever role the team feels is right for him.

Lindholm sustained a cut in Thursday night’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres, missed most of the first period, but returned and would have been a healthy scratch on Saturday with Brett Ritchie’s return to the lineup.

Now, instead of Lindholm sitting comfortably in the press box on level nine at TD Garden, he is likely doing so while bandaged or stitched up and doing his best to heal while taking in the game.

Bruce Cassidy juggled his lines for Boston’s matchup with Minnesota, moving Chris Wagner to the second line right wing slot with Jake DeBrusk on the left wing and David Krejci at center and returning Charlie Coyle to the third line center position between Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen.

Ritchie’s return to action meant he’d skate on the fourth line right wing with Joakim Nordstrom on the left and Sean Kuraly down the middle.

On defense, Krug returned to the action for the B’s after missing the last five games with an upper body injury and resumed his role as a second pairing defender on the left side with Brandon Carlo as his partner.

Matt Grzelcyk returned to his usual spot on the third defensive pairing, but was matched up with Steven Kampfer on Saturday as Cassidy wanted to keep his veteran 7th defender fresh and scratched Connor Clifton for a night.

As a result of Krug’s return, Urho Vaakanainen was reassigned to Providence.

Jared Spurgeon kicked off the game’s action with a hooking penalty against Bjork at 1:07 of the first period. Boston didn’t convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Less than a minute after their power play expired, the Bruins were shorthanded when Zdeno Chara hooked Jason Zucker at 3:55.

Minnesota was unsuccessful on their first skater advantage of the night.

But at 8:46 of the opening frame, Krug slashed Kevin Fiala in retaliation for some stick work that Fiala had initiated on Krug, resulting in the Wild’s second power play of the game.

This time around, Minnesota was sure to notch a power play goal as Zucker (8) collected a goal off a rebound from Brad Hunt’s initial shot from the point to give the Wild the, 1-0, lead at 8:53, while on the skater advantage.

Hunt (6) and Mats Zuccarello (6) tallied the assists on the goal.

It was the 7th time this season that the Bruins gave up the first goal in a game– and for the 2nd consecutive game as the B’s allowed the first goal on Thursday against the Sabres.

Midway through the period, Brad Marchand and Matt Dumba exchanged pleasantries along the wall, yielding roughing minors at 11:25 and resulting in 4-on-4 action.

About 90 seconds later, the Wild went on a rare 4-on-3 power play thanks to Charlie McAvoy’s tripping infraction against Zucker at 12:56.

Minnesota was unable to convert on the resulting abbreviated 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 opportunities.

After one period of play at TD Garden on Saturday night, the Wild led the Bruins, 1-0, on the scoreboard with Minnesota holding the advantage in shots on goal, 15-10.

The Wild also led in takeaways (5-2) and hits (9-7), while the Bruins led in faceoff win percentage (54-46).

Both teams had four blocked shots aside and two giveaways each heading into the first intermission.

Minnesota was 1/3 on the power play and Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage entering the second period.

Early in the middle frame, Chara blasted a shot from the blue line that was tipped in by DeBrusk (4), tying the game, 1-1, at 4:14 of the second period.

Chara (6) and Ritchie (2) picked up the assists on DeBrusk’s goal, yielding Ritchie’s first assist on a goal since Oct. 19th in Toronto.

Two minutes later, Victor Rask (2) turned and angled his skates flawlessly at a flying pass from Spurgeon to put Minnesota back into command of the scoreboard, 2-1, with a goal at 6:14.

Spurgeon (9) and Ryan Suter (11) nabbed the assists as the Wild regained the lead.

Midway through the period, Chara caught Zucker with a high stick that drew blood and resulted in a four-minute double-minor for Boston’s captain at 12:43.

Eric Staal (7) deflected Suter’s shot on the ensuing power play to the empty space right in front of himself and utilized his hand-eye coordination to whack the loose puck into the twine as the Bruins netminder reacted to the initial shot by the Wild defender.

Suter (12) and Zuccarello (7) each earned their second assist of the night as Minnesota pulled ahead, 3-1, at 14:26.

Moments later, Marchand cross checked Carson Soucy and presented the Wild with yet another power play at 17:14. This time, Minnesota was unsuccessful on the advantage.

With only seconds remaining in the period, Krug sent a shot that caromed off the boards and back into the slot whereby Marchand (16) snagged the rebound and sent the puck into the back of the twine– bringing the Bruins to within one-goal– at 19:56.

Krug (12) and Bergeron (13) had the assists as the B’s trailed, 3-2, entering the second intermission.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Wild led the Bruins, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 26-23, in shots on goal– despite Boston holding a, 13-11, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston led in blocked shots (12-11) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Minnesota led in takeaways (5-4) and hits (16-13) heading into the third period.

Both teams had three giveaways aside and the Wild were 2/6 on the power play, while the Bruins were still 0/1.

Just 30 seconds into the third period, Bergeron tripped Jonas Brodin and was charged with Boston’s 7th straight penalty of the night.

Minnesota did not score while Bergeron was in the box, but capitalized on a lucky bounce early in the period when Fiala (5) tried to work a backhand deke through the low slow while attempting to shake off a Bruins defender and accidentally sent the puck airborne, deflecting it off of Krug’s stick and into Boston’s own net.

Fiala’s unassisted effort gave the Wild a, 4-2, lead at 5:19 of the third period.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Minnesota’s Victor Rask, received a holding penalty at 14:39 and ended Boston’s run of seven consecutive penalties in the game.

The Bruins did not score on their second power play of the night.

With 2:22 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker, which proved successful– not just once, but twice– first on Krejci’s (3) goal at 18:05 and then again on the power play with another goal from Krejci (4) at 18:53.

On Krejci’s first goal of the game, DeBrusk couldn’t redirect an initial attempt into the net, leading to Bergeron’s quick tap of the puck to the veteran No. 2 center for the surefire goal on the unguarded side of the net while Stalock was out of position.

Bergeron (14) and DeBrusk (4) had the assists as the Bruins pulled to within one, 4-3, at 18:05.

Then at 18:29, Minnesota’s Luke Kunin tripped McAvoy, which led to Boston’s third power play opportunity of the game and Minnesota’s 2nd consecutive penalty of the night.

While Kunin was in the box, the Bruins went to work on a 6-on-4 advantage with 1:31 remaining on the gameclock and their goalie pulled.

That’s when, at 18:53, Krejci rocketed a one-timer pass from Bergeron into the back of the net after Bergeron had enough time to retrieve a new stick from the bench and chip in for his third assist of the night, tying the game, 4-4.

Bergeron (15) and Krug (13) tallied the assists on Krejci’s second goal and the B’s forced overtime for the 6th time this season after scoring two goals in 48 seconds.

After 60 minutes, Boston led Minnesota in shots on goal, 38-33, and had a, 15-7, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins also led in hits (25-23) and faceoff win% (52-48) heading into overtime, but the Wild led in blocked shots (15-13), takeaways (13-6) and giveaways (7-5) as the extra frame began.

Since no penalties were called in overtime, Minnesota finished the night 2/7 on the power play and Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

Cassidy started overtime with Krug, Marchand and Bergeron on the ice while Bruce Boudreau opted for Joel Eriksson Ek, Suter and Spurgeon to kick things off for Minnesota.

Midway through the overtime period, Krug (3) waltzed his way from end-to-end, skating right up the middle of the ice while the Wild players just… let him go by… …and slipped a shot through Stalock’s five-hole to complete Boston’s comeback and seal the deal on a, 5-4, overtime win.

Once more, Bergeron (16) and Marchand (23) had the assists as Bergeron picked up his fourth assist of the game on Krug’s game-winning overtime goal at 2:41 of the extra frame– completing a span of three goals in 4:36 elapsed game time from the third period to the end of overtime for Boston.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 39-36, despite trailing in shots on goal in the overtime period, 3-1, to the Wild.

Minnesota wrapped the night up leading in blocked shots (16-13) and giveaways (7-5), while Boston ended the night leading in hits (25-23) and both teams split faceoff win% (50-50).

The Wild fell to 0-3 on the season in overtime, but the Bruins improved to 1-1 in the extra frame this season, while improving to 2-2-2 when trailing after two periods.

Boston finished their two-game homestand 2-0-0. 

The B’s will begin a two-game road trip with games on back-to-back nights next Tuesday in Montreal and Wednesday in Ottawa before returning home to close out the month of November against the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee in the NHL’s 2019 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown.

The Bruins will unveil their new alternate sweaters on Sunday at an event for season ticket holders and likely debut their new threads on the ice in their matchup with the Rangers.

Minnesota Wild 2019-20 Season Preview

Minnesota Wild

37-36-9, 83 points, 7th in the Central Division

Missed the postseason for the first time in seven years

Additions: F Gabriel Dumont, F Ryan Hartman, F Luke Johnson, F Drew Stafford (signed to a PTO), F Mats Zuccarello, D Fedor Gordeev (acquired from TOR)

Subtractions: F Pontus Aberg (signed with TOR), F Eric Fehr (NLA), F Landon Ferraro (signed to a PTO with VAN), F Cal O’Reilly (signed with Lehigh Valley, AHL), F Matt Read (signed to a PTO with TOR), F Dante Salituro (signed with Indy, ECHL), D Anthony Bitetto (signed with WPG), D Gustav Bouramman (traded to FLA), D Michael Kapla (signed with Toronto, AHL), D Nate Prosser (signed with PHI), G Johan Gustafsson (DEL), G Andrew Hammond (signed with BUF)

Still Unsigned: F Chase Lang

Re-signed: F Ryan Donato, F Joel Eriksson Ek, F Kevin Fiala, D Brad Hunt, D Carson Soucy, D Hunter Warner

Offseason Analysis: It’s a wild time for the Minnesota Wild on what will likely be a wild ride to the bottom of the standings before things get better.

At the very least, Minnesota tried to jumpstart things and stave off a rebuild by firing Paul Fenton one season after naming Fenton as General Manager and replacing the now former GM of the franchise with Bill Guerin.

Guerin– who spent parts of 18 seasons as winger with the New Jersey Devils, Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins– was most recently the assistant general manager for the Penguins and is just the fourth general manager in franchise history for the Wild.

Bruce Boudreau returns as head coach, despite finishing in last place in the Central Division en route to Minnesota missing the playoff last season for the first time since 2012.

Before Fenton was fired, he signed Mats Zuccarello on July 1st to a five-year, $30 million contract worth $6.000 million per season.

Zuccarello has never scored more than 26 goals in a season– a feat he accomplished in 81 games with the New York Rangers in 2015-16– and is 32-years-old.

He usually amasses at least 50 points a season, however, so it’s not quite an overpay, but rather a bit of a concern due to the long-term nature of the contract, plus the fact that he has a no-movement clause through the first three years and a modified no-trade/no-movement clause in the final two years.

Basically, it’s a great deal for Zuccarello because it protects him from the Seattle Expansion Draft in 2021, which is exactly why it could come back to bite the Wild.

Minnesota’s defense is aging and the entire roster only has three pending-unrestricted free agents at the end of the upcoming season, which means Guerin’s going to have to get creative at restructuring some of the mess left behind without just letting players walk in free agency.

If the Wild are confident this season will be better than last season– it’s make or break.

When things don’t work out, at least the inevitable front office turmoil has already been taken care of (hopefully).

Offseason Grade: F

This offseason, Minnesota pulled the equivalent of making just enough of an effort on an exam to get one or two answers right, but missed the mark on everything else.

Having said that, firing Fenton and hiring Guerin is probably the one or two questions on the exam that they got right. Other than that, there’s not much else that went well for the Wild to assure the Hockey Gods that they’re prepared for the 2019-20 season.

2019-20 Central Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Central Division

  1. z-Nashville Predators, 103 points
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points
  3. x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points
  4. wc2-Minnesota Wild, 93 points
  5. Chicago Blackhawks, 92 points
  6. Dallas Stars, 92 points
  7. Colorado Avalanche, 86 points

Nashville Predators: Pros and Cons

Before you continue reading, it’s important to remember that this is the most unpredictable division in the league currently. Seriously.

Nashville is more than likely going to take the division in the regular season thanks to their minor moves in the offseason and major gains in the long haul, but everything else?

That’s to be determined.

Matt Duchene’s cap hit ($8,000,000) costs the Preds a million dollars less than P.K. Subban ($9,000,000), but there’s 10 pending UFAs on the roster after this season. If a legitimate one-two duo down the middle can’t get the Predators a Cup, then this window may be closing– and fast.

Pekka Rinne isn’t getting any young and the crease will soon be Juuse Saros’ before you know it.

The good news?

The Preds are still one of the most impressive teams on the blue line with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro.

How would the Predators fail?

Somehow 30 points in a season gets you a seven-year contract (*ahem* Colton Sissons), but kudos to General Manager David Poile on doing so at a $2.857 cap hit though. That being said, this is dangerous logic that’s tempting fate at the hands of the Hockey Gods, which might only further weaken Nashville’s goaltending when it counts in the postseason.

St. Louis Blues: Pros and Cons

Glue guys score important goals in the playoffs and glue guys come in all shapes and sizes– including dadbod, a la Pat Maroon.

But there’s just one problem, the hometown hero that lifted St. Louis over Dallas into the Western Conference Final has left the Blues for the Tampa Bay Lightning– a product of the salary cap era, a big postseason performance and a… wait, he’s not making a huge salary?

Why did Maroon leave? Because Ivan Barbashev– the younger, better, faster, stronger more long-term approach player– is still an unsigned RFA and the Blues have less than $2.000 million in cap space currently.

St. Louis still has its core, however, and will now find out if Jordan Binnington is truly “The One” or a one hit wonder over the course of a full season of having Binnington as their starter.

When all is said and done, the defending champs have a great chance to continue to make noise in the regular season and, well, we’ve never experienced the Blues winning the Cup before, so… can it happen again? Is that a thing?

How would the Blues fail?

The cliché Stanley Cup hangover. It’s a long, grueling, season that takes its toll– even with all sorts of proper training and nutrition.

Winnipeg Jets: Pros and Cons

The Jets are in trouble. Sure, they might have a decent season and finish in a divisional spot heading into the playoffs, but they’ve got about $16.150 million in cap space and currently unsigned RFAs in Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Eric Comrie right now.

Not to mention the fact that they traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in the offseason for Neal Pionk, but at least Winnipeg got back their 2019 1st round pick in the transaction (previously dealt to New York in the Kevin Hayes trade).

Yes, a team that should see a bounce-back season in the crease from Connor Hellebuyck leading the way to a potential deep postseason run, might not even make it past the First Round if two of their prominent players (Laine and Connor) are still unsigned by the start of the regular season.

Other than that, Dustin Byfuglien is aiming for a strong run without any more injuries and the rest of Winnipeg is looking to quietly do their thing under the tremendous leadership of their captain, Blake Wheeler.

How would the Jets fail?

If Laine and/or Connor miss any part of the regular season, the Jets aren’t going to be soaring all that far without the fuel to get them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Minnesota Wild: Pros and Cons

What an offseason for the Wild and their fans, right? I mean, things are really wild in Minnesota.

First, Mats Zuccarello lands a five-year, $30.000 million contract in the State of Hockey, then (now former) General Manager Paul Fenton is fired and now Bill Guerin has his first job as an NHL GM.

Welcome to the club, Mr. Guerin, now undo all of this mess that was done by the last guy and the guy before him dating back to July 4, 2012.

At least a full season of Ryan Donato in a Wild sweater should be exciting.

Joel Eriksson Ek signed a two-year extension and Ryan Suter’s play wasn’t too terrible last season, but the wheels fell off in the crease because of how bad puck possession was in front of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock.

Though they’re forecasted as a wild card berth (the forecast formula accounts for more than just last season), Minnesota’s not looking like they’re really going to be much better than they were last season– if at all.

Unless Guerin has any big plans up his sleeve and can get to work patching the holes left and right.

How would the Wild fail?

If they add another player over the age of 30 to their roster, then you know it’s a full-on rebuild (which might actually be for the better at this point).

Chicago Blackhawks: Pros and Cons

Patrick Kane had a tremendous season in 2018-19, amassing 44-66–110 totals in 81 games while the Blackhawks failed to make the postseason for the second straight year.

In the meantime, those that remain from Chicago’s three Cups in five years core are another year older. Jonathan Toews is 31, Kane is 30, Brent Seabrook is 34, Duncan Keith is 36 and starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, is 34.

While incredibly talented, time is not on the Hawks’ side.

That’s why General Manager Stan Bowman has been working to make the team younger with Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and newcomer Olli Maatta (acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer) taking on larger roles on the Original Six squad.

Even better, 28-year-old defender in his prime, Calvin de Haan, bolsters Chicago’s blue line and provides some much needed time on ice relief for Seabrook and/or Keith as second-year head coach, Jeremy Colliton, sees fit.

Winning the 3rd overall pick in the draft in June, brought Kirby Dach into the equation– whether he’ll be ready for NHL stardom behind Toews and Strome immediately or not.

Though the Blackhawks are forecasted to narrowly miss the postseason for the third straight season, they aren’t going to miss out on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by much and will be the team to knock out one of the teams higher up in this outlook (*ahem* Minnesota).

How would the Blackhawks fail?

Age continues to chip away at the memories of yesteryear. That, or injuries, probably.

Dallas Stars: Pros and Cons

The Stars weren’t happy with the production from their best players despite the fact that they were– in fact– their best players. Who would’ve thought?

But now Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are joined by veterans Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry among Dallas’ forwards, while Andrej Sekera has taken a supporting role on the defense in place of the current unrestricted free agent Marc Methot (who may retire altogether).

On the bright side, Dallas’ defense contains Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, John Klingberg and one of the most underrated aspects in the league– itself.

The Stars defense– combined with the superb duo of Ben Bishop as the starting goaltender and Anton Khudobin as their backup– is really solid.

Unfortunately, the team with the most goals at the end of the game always wins and sometimes Dallas just couldn’t score.

That’s where General Manager Jim Nill has looked to Pavelski’s prowess and Perry’s ability– should he rebound– to try to fill the cracks in their offensive game and start winning games even if they only give up a goal or two when it matters most (the playoffs).

Should the Stars beat the aging curve, they’ll make it back to the playoffs. But don’t think it’s easy– they coasted into the postseason last season and shouldn’t make a habit out of that if they’re looking to play their best hockey deep into June.

How would the Stars fail?

Somehow bringing in Pavelski (35-years-old), Perry (34), Sekera (33)– thereby increasing your overall average age– and expanding your list of no-trade and/or no-movement clauses to seven players on your roster just doesn’t always seem to payout. But at least Perry and Sekera are on one-year, $1.500 million contracts.

Colorado Avalanche: Pros and Cons

Pro: This forecast doesn’t take into account how much of an outlier the 2016-17 season was for the Avs.

Con: Unfortunately, the 2016-17 season has to be included in the dataset to “accurately” predict the upcoming season’s outcome until the 2026-27 season or so.

Pro: Colorado has one of the best first lines in the NHL.

Con: Mikko Rantanen is still an unsigned RFA (and he’s a vital part of the first line).

Pro: Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and Andre Burakovsky are all newcomers to the Avalanche with something to prove. GM Joe Sakic was busy on the phone(s)!

Con: If the team doesn’t gel by January, it’s going to be a long season.

Pro: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar.

Con: The number of games Gabriel Landeskog will be suspended for at some point in the season.

Pro: This is a very exciting team to watch and a surefire dark-horse to make the Stanley Cup Final.

Con: Now I’ve jinxed them.

How would the Avalanche fail?

By proving this forecast right and inexplicably regressing to their 2016-17 season ways. Otherwise, they’re definitely not actually finishing last in the Central Division… right?

DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Snowed Under: Wild fall 2-0 to Jets, face 3-1 series defecit

 

In the midst of a Minnesota snowstorm, the hometown crowd watched their hopes all but buried as the Wild were simply unable to overcome their laundry list of injuries and a suffocating Winnipeg defense.

Already without Ryan Suter, the Wild took another hammering blow late in Game 3 when Zach Parise got sandwiched by Mark Scheifele and Ben Chiarot and suffered a fractured sternum (side note: ouch) that rules him out of the rest of the playoffs. Parise’s spot in the lineup would be filled by Tyler Ennis, seeing his first NHL playoff action since 2011 when the diminutive forward was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

Winnipeg was not without their own injury problems, losing Tyler Myers after an awkward collision with Marcus Foligno in Game 3. Though not as key an element to his team as Parise is to the Wild, Myers still eats a lot of quality minutes on the Winnipeg blueline. Young Tucker Poolman would taste his first ever playoff action as he filled in for the towering Myers.

The game started much the same as it ended…and middle-d…you know what I mean.

Tight checking, excellent stick position, and a near-complete lack of offensive chances were a theme in this one. Not to say that there wasn’t action, as from the opening puck drop the two teams continued the series’ main theme: That is, both teams spent every shift actively trying to kill each other. Arguably 2018’s roughest series so far, it isn’t even so much the quantity of hits we’ve seen in this one, but moreso that every hit we do see is thrown with seemingly as much force as it can possibly be delivered with. No great wonder why so many players are nursing injuries.

Other than a brief flurry by Winnipeg that Devan Dubnyk answered with three or four quality stops about 8:30 into the frame, the opening 10 minutes had little to speak of in terms of scoring opportunities.

Finally it was Minnesota who started to find some traction, first coming from an unlikely source in their fourth line of Foligno – Joel Eriksson EkDaniel Winnik, who deployed an effective dump and chase strategy, sending two forecheckers in hard and fast to get the Winnipeg defense in deep, then working the puck free to a second wave usually of the third forward and a pinching defenseman. All Minnesota lines adopted the strategy for a solid few minutes in the late first, and all had decent chances, including Nino Niederreiter feeding Eric Staal right in the goal mouth, only to have an excellent backhand chance waffled away by Connor Hellebuyck. Shortly after, Minnesota’s sustained pressure forced the Jets into a penalty, and on the resulting power play Josh Morrissey got away with an egregious cross-check to the face/neck of Staal, who lay on the ice for a few seconds before slowly making his was to the bench all while play continued around him. The Minnesota crowd was…less than pleased.

To continue their displeasure, shortly after the penalty concluded, it would be Morrissey starting a breakout to Scheifele, who played a give-and-go with Kyle Connor beautifully, taking Connor’s drop pass in the low slot and ripping a snapshot through traffic and over Dubnyk with just 28 seconds left to play, sending the Minnesota crowd into a symphony of boos so loud I think P.K. Subban actually might have heard them.

Minnesota ended the period leading 10-7 in shots, but down on the board. Shot blocking was a major theme of the first period, and the game, really. It also contributed to the growing list of banged up players, as both Mathew Dumba and Dustin Byfuglien left the ice at different points in the first because of shot blocks.

The second started with a bang, as on the opening shift the Wild jumped on a turnover by Jacob Trouba and flew up the ice on a three-on-one lead by Mikael Granlund. #64 in green showed Hellebucyk shot all the way, but with just inches to spare sent a pass across the crease to Dumba who looked to have a sure goal, before the glove of Hellebucyk robbed him blind. A few minutes later Jonas Brodin sprung Niederreiter on a breakaway with an unbelievable stretch pass (that frankly I have no idea how Nino even managed to corral on his stick) but just before he could get the shot off a desperate Morrissey poked the puck off of his stick and clear of danger.

Dubnyk would see little action of serious consequence in the middle frame, a few whacks at a centered puck in the blue paint by Adam Lowry the only real threat of the second 20 minutes. The Wild did, however, lose Granlund for a few minutes in the middle of the frame, but he would return to finish the game. Also of note was Dumba taking a run at Byfuglien, which worked out about as well as you’d expect.

Late in the period Brodin nearly played hero himself, absolutely dancing a Winnipeg defender at the blueline and walking in to label a wrist shot for the high blocker side of Hellebucyk, but the newly-elected Vezina candidate had the answer, as was the case all night.

By the end of the second the Wild lead 20-19 on the shot clock, but struggled to find room to construct any serious chances.

The Jets took the attack to Minnesota for stretches of the third, attempting to prevent them from even having the chance to tie the game. An early chance by Joe Morrow found a goal post, and later Scheifele found one of his own, which created some chaos around the Wild goal that Dubnyk had to tidy up. Laine then got a breakaway opportunity in the dying minutes of the third that was harassed just enough by Spurgeon to allow Dubnyk to poke the puck away before any harm could come.

It took Minnesota until just under two minutes remaining to gain enough solid puck possession to get Dubnyk off, but the extra attacker still couldn’t help them solve the labyrinth that was Winnipeg’s defensive scheme, and Scheifele buried the 2-0 dagger with 10 seconds remaining to seal Minnesota’s fate.

Outshot 30-28, the Jets took the first road victory of the series, giving them the chance to win the first playoff series in franchise history in front of what will surely be a raucous Winnipeg Whiteout crowd on Friday night (DTFR coverage brought to you again by yours truly).

How Minnesota finds a way to extend this series is beyond me. The injuries to key players just seem to be too much for them to overcome. They’ll need nothing short of a miracle to make it back to Xcel Energy Center for Game 6.

Wild go crazy in 4-goal 2nd period, win 6-2 in Game 3

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Minnesota’s offense exploded in a four-goal second period and the Wild defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 6-2, on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Devan Dubnyk had 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 save percentage in the win, while Connor Hellebuyck stopped 16 shots out of 22 shots faced for a .727 SV% in 40:00 time on ice in the loss. Jets backup goaltender, Steve Mason, turned aside all seven shots he faced in the third period.

It didn’t take long for the action to get going in Game 3 as Minnesota defenseman, Matt Dumba, was sent to the penalty box just 43 seconds into the first period for slashing Jets captain, Blake Wheeler. Winnipeg had a couple great looks on the power play, but was unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

A few minutes later, Matt Cullen, was taking the skate of shame to the sin bin for slashing Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry, much to the dismay of the fans in the building who all disagreed with the call. Cullen himself was not pleased, but the refs set the standard for the night— nothing was going unnoticed.

Almost a minute into their second power play of the night, Wheeler (1) had the puck near the hash-mark to the left of Dubnyk and fired a wrist shot that deflected off of Wild blue liner, Jonas Brodin, and beat Dubnyk’s short side and gave the Jets a 1-0 lead on just his third career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Wheeler’s power play goal came at 4:50 of the first period and was assisted by Dustin Byfuglien (3) and Patrik Laine (2). With the assist, Laine now has points in each of his first three career postseason games in what was also the third consecutive game where Winnipeg scored first.

Jets defenseman, Ben Chiarot, delivered a cross check to Eric Staal and was assessed a minor penalty at 7:26. Shortly thereafter, after Hellebuyck had frozen the puck for a faceoff, already shorthanded, Adam Lowry roughed up Minnesota’s Jason Zucker.

Lowry was handed a minor penalty for roughing and the Wild went from a regular 5-on-4 power play to a two-man advantage with about 1:21 remaining on the first penalty. The Wild did not pass up on the 5-on-3 opportunity.

After Paul Stastny had already broken up a one-timer intended for Zach Parise, Minnesota went to work again in the offensive zone.

Mikael Granlund pinched in from the point on the power play to keep the play alive, sending the puck across the ice, where Mikko Koivu eventually ended up with it on his stick. Koivu quickly fired a shot, but Hellebuyck made the save, though the puck rebounded. That’s when Granlund (1) was able to pocket the loose puck in the twine as he was crashing the net to tie the game, 1-1.

The goal, Granlund’s first of the postseason, was assisted by Koivu (3) and Staal (1) at 9:47 of the first period.

Play settled down for a bit until Chiarot cross-checked Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle and was sent to the box with 2:59 remaining in the period. It only took 49 seconds on the power play for Zach Parise (3) to convert on the man advantage and give the Wild their first lead of the night, 2-1.

Koivu set up the play after quickly realizing where Parise was positioned, feigning a shot on net when in actually firing a hard pass towards the goal for Parise— who had his stick on the ice the whole time— to redirect past Hellebuyck. Koivu (4) and Jonas Brodin (2) picked up the assists on Parise’s goal.

In the closing minute of the period, Josh Morrissey centered the puck to Kyle Connor for a redirect on Dubnyk, but Dubnyk denied the Jets of any follow up chances, having absorbed the puck and covered it up.

Regardless, after the whistle, Dumba and Mark Scheifele got involved in a bit of an exchange that resulted in Dumba going to the box for roughing at 19:27.

After 20 minutes of play, the Minnesota Wild led 2-1 on the scoreboard and 13-7 in shots on goal. Minnesota also led in blocked shots (6-5), hits (9-7) and giveaways (4-2), meanwhile Winnipeg led in takeaways (2-0). The Jets were 1/3 on the power play in the first period and the Wild were 2/3 on the man advantage in the opening frame.

Nick Seeler opened up the second period at Xcel Energy Center by beating Hellebuyck and ringing the goalpost. Shortly thereafter, Minnesota scored anyway.

Joel Eriksson Ek set up in front of the goal after passing the puck to Daniel Winnik, who lobbed it over to Matt Dumba. Dumba (1) fired a shot past a screened Hellebuyck and into the net to give the Wild a 3-1 lead. The goal was Dumba’s first playoff goal since 2015 and Winnik (1) and Eriksson Ek (1) picked up the assists.

Eriksson Ek’s assist was his first career playoff point.

A few minutes later, Tyler Myers (2) and the Jets made it a close game after Myers found a loose puck with a clear path to the goal and sent a cannon of a slap shot over the right pad of Devan Dubnyk to make it a 3-2 game. Myers now has goals in back-to-back games, but would leave the game later in the second period with what appeared to be a lower body injury. He did not return.

After Myers’s goal, the Wild took a string of penalties, first for Parise tripping Wheeler at 7:23 and then for Coyle holding Winnipeg defenseman, Jacob Trouba at 10:24.

Winnipeg was not able to amount anything on the scoreboard on either power play and the Wild kept rolling along.

Staal (1) notched his first of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 14:40 of the second period when Granlund used the boards to snag the puck in the offensive zone, then send a spin-o-rama pass to Staal for a one-timer that beat Hellebuyck. Granlund (2) and Dumba (1) had the assists on the goal that made it 4-2, Minnesota.

Twenty seconds later, Boston University product and U.S. Olympian, Jordan Greenway (1) scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal to make it 5-2, and the barrage of offense for the Wild continued. Matt Cullen (1) and Nick Seeler (1) had the assists on Greenway’s first NHL goal in both regular season and postseason play.

Marcus Foligno (1) kept the trend of first career postseason goals going as he scored a few minutes after Greenway made it 5-2. Foligno’s goal came at 18:23 of the second period and made it 6-2, Wild. Jared Spurgeon (1) and Seeler (2) had the assists as Minnesota completely dominated every action on the ice.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Wild led 6-2 on the scoreboard and 22-19 in shots on goal. Minnesota also led in blocked shots (15-5) and giveaways (6-4). Winnipeg led in hits (17-15) and takeaways (3-2) after two periods. The Jets were 1/5 on the power play and the Wild were 2/3 heading into the second intermission.

Winnipeg head coach, Paul Maurice, made a change in goal heading into the third period, replacing Connor Hellebuyck with Jets backup, Steve Mason, for the final frame of regulation.

There was no scoring, nor any penalties called in the third period and Bruce Boudreau’s Minnesota Wild played a conservative period, mixed with high caliber defense and some offensive chances.

Minnesota held on to a 6-2 win in Game 3, cutting Winnipeg’s series lead in half (2-1), and forcing at least a Game 5. The Jets outshot the Wild 31-29 after 60 minutes of play, but Minnesota led in blocked shots (20-8) and faceoff win percentage (52-48).

Winnipeg finished the game leading in hits 26-19 and finished the night 1/5 on the power play. The Wild finished the night 2/3 on the man advantage.

Game 4 is set for Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center where the Wild will look to tie the series, 2-2. Puck drop is expected a little after 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on CNBC, while Canadian fans can get their fill on Sportsnet and TVAS2.

True North Stronger: Jets edge Wild to open series; win first-ever playoff game

 

For those expecting this to be a one-sided series, Game 1 would like to have a word with you.

On the opening night of the 2018 NHL Playoffs (also known as the most wonderful time of the year) the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets treated us to exactly what we expect from playoff hockey: a hard-hitting, fast-paced, raucous affair with something for everyone.

In the end, it would be Winnipeg firing the opening salvo in the series, treating the thundering crowd at Bell MTS Place to the first playoff victory in franchise history. What a victory it was.

The city of Winnipeg hosted its first playoff series Game 1 since 1985 (insert joke about how many current players weren’t even alive) and they did not disappoint. The legendary Winnipeg Whiteout was as incredible a sight as ever, there may have been more people filling the downtown streets around the arena than there were in the arena (it’s a small venue joke and also a legitimate observation), and the Jets took the ice to an earth-shaking ovation. Pregame festivities were actually slightly delayed by a crowd that simply refused to cease their chant of ‘Go Jets Go!”

For Minnesota, the uphill battle was obvious. On the wrong end of some heavy betting odds, missing top defenseman Ryan Suter (28+ minutes of ice time suddenly unaccounted for), and likely unable to hear themselves think, the Wild’s gameplan was to hopefully control the pace and take the crowd out of it.

That did not go well in the early minutes.

Winnipeg came out flying. After buzzing offensively for the first couple minutes, they turned their focus to their other greatest weapon: Physicality. First it was a booming open ice hit on Daniel Winnik by Ben Chiarot. On the very next shift, Brandon Tanev stapled Eric Staal to the boards at one end, then linemate Adam Lowry crushed Jared Spurgeon (in his first game back from injury) at the opposite end.

Lowry was a standout in this game. He and Tanev combined for multiple quality scoring chances, and he played most of the game with the apparent mindset that if it was wearing white, it needed to die. He did leave the ice with about 50 seconds left in the first period, but returned for the second and played the rest of the game without issue. If Minnesota wants to change their fortunes (and potentially save the lives of some of their players) going forward, they’ll need to find a way to neutralize #17.

Potentially as a result of Lowry’s play, the first tv timeout was extended due to some maintenance on a pane of glass in the Minnesota end. After play resumed it was all Winnipeg for the rest of the period. If not for stellar play by Devan Dubnyk (including a spectacular robbery of Andrew Copp after he picked up a deflected point shot at the side of the net) and a great effort by Minnesota to keep most of the chances to the outside, the score could have been out of hand within the first 20 minutes.

My personal highlight of the first was Dubnyk snagging a left wing shot in his glove, before delivering a beautiful Booker T-esque spinebuster to a net-crashing Mathieu Perreault. Not much came of it, but it looked awesome and Dubnyk talking to the referee and very visibly laughing was terrific.

The shot clock read 13-4, but the scoreboard said 0-0 after 20 minutes.

Things picked up slightly in the second, as just 20 seconds in it would be Eric Staal taking the game’s first penalty (a trip on Mark Scheifele). The power play was mostly uneventful, but did include a shorthanded bid by Joel Eriksson Ek that was first negated by Patrik Laine, before ‘J.E.E.’ was absolutely obliterated by a backchecking Dustin Byfuglien.

After the power play it was Hellebucyk’s turn to save his team’s skin, as a terrible giveaway by Jacob Trouba behind his own net gave the Wild essentially a stationary 2-on-0, that luckily the Winnipeg goaltender was able to negate with a blocker save. Eriksson Ek would get another breakaway opportunity, this time avoiding being murdered by Big Buff, but would not find paydirt. The puck then went the other way and saw Kyle Connor unleash a beautiful toe-drag wrist shot from the high slot only to have Dubnyk windmill his hopes and dreams.

Just when it was starting to really look like we would see another scoreless period, Winnipeg would repeat a play they had tried on their previous power play to no avail and find success, with Mark Scheifele taking a sneaky centering feed from Blake Wheeler and ripping a one-timer past Dubnyk to finally break through with 2:23 to play.

Ironically, the Wild would outshoot the Jets in the 2nd, but find themselves trailing 1-0. But Winnipeg found itself down by one in its own right, having lost Mathieu Perreault to an upper body injury, after the diminutive centerman seemed to be the focus of some physical play throughout the period. After taking a huge open ice hit from Mikko Koivu, a tie-up and subsequent body slam from Nick Seeler seemed to be the final blow to end Perreault’s night.

After two periods of goaltenders stealing the show and solid defensive work, the doors got blown wide open in the third.

It started off the opening draw, with Winnipeg executing a perfect set play to spring Connor on a breakaway only to be denied by Dubnyk. The Wild quickly turned the tables, however, as less than two minutes into the frame it would be rookie Jordan Greenway tallying his first ever playoff point in his first ever playoff game by feeding three-time Cup winner and oldest man in the playoffs Matt Cullen for a beautiful one-timer over the shoulder of Hellebucyk to tie the game at one.

A two-minute track meet ensued, before a bad pinch by Dustin Byfuglien allowed Mikko Koivu (who got blown up by Lowry just as he chipped the breakout pass ahead) to feed Mikael Granlund to lead a 2-on-1 with Zach Parise. Granlund showed shot all the way, before feeding a pass to Parise’s stick at the last possible instant for a back-door tap-in to complete the two-goal swing and give Minnesota the lead just over two minutes after tying the game.

The once-booming Winnipeg crowd fell silent. Briefly.

Then Paul Stastny left a drop pass for Patrik Laine just inside the blueline and the 19-year-old phenom ripped a shot from the top of the circle that Dubnyk simply couldn’t catch up to. 2-2, just like that, less than a minute after the second Wild goal.

On the very next shift it looked like Winnipeg was going to take the lead right back, as Joel Armia took the puck on a cross-ice feed and got robbed blind by Dubnyk. The puck squeaked behind the Minnesota goaltender, but his teammates piled on to make sure it couldn’t find the promised land, and a big scrum followed.

The Jets would fire 15 consecutive shots on net after the second Minnesota goal, dominating most of the third period. Then with just over seven minutes left in the game, Joe Morrow would net his first ever playoff goal (and first career game-winner of any kind) with a blast from the point that deflected off of a Minnesota stick and fooled Dubnyk.

Hellebucyk and his teammates would fend off the Minnesota attack for the final minutes, including stops on a beautiful rush by Koivu, and a combined effort from Mathew Dumba and Jason Zucker to hold the fort and secure the 3-2 victory.

Minnesota has nothing to hang its head about, however. It gave a fired-up, heavily-favored Winnipeg team all it could handle, and Dubnyk showed the kind of form that can steal some games. Throw in the abundant physicality, and we’ve got ourselves a very entertaining under-the-radar series to watch.

Speaking of which, Game 2 will come to you Friday at 7:30pm Eastern on USA Network, SN and TVAS2. If you happen to miss it, though, do not fret. Our very own @kephartc will have a recap for you.

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)