Nick and Colby talk about what went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams eliminated in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier, as well as preview the already in progress 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round.
For the second time this season, David Pastrnak recorded a hat trick against the Montreal Canadiens as the Boston Bruins defeated the Habs, 4-1, at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
Pastrnak regained the lead as top goal scorer in the league with 41 goals so far this season and became the first player since Gordie Howe to score multiple hat tricks against Montreal in the same season (Howe did so back in 1951-52).
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (21-5-6 record, 2.11 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 33 games played), made 28 saves on 29 shots against for a .966 SV% in the win.
Canadiens netminder, Carey Price (24-20-4, 2.73 GAA, .913 SV% in 48 games played) stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced for a .919 SV% in the loss.
Boston improved to 35-11-12 (82 points) on the season and remained atop the entire league, while Montreal fell to 27-25-7 (61 points) and stayed put in 5th place in the Atlantic Division.
The B’s also improved to 20-2-9 at home this season and have won eight out of their last ten games.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Connor Clifton (upper body) and Jeremy Lauzon (suspension) on Wednesday.
Lauzon wrapped up his two game suspension from last Saturday’s, 4-2, win against the Arizona Coyotes for an illegal hit to the head of Coyotes forward, Derek Stepan.
Meanwhile, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor changes among his forwards against the Canadiens.
Joakim Nordstrom was back in the lineup after missing the last four games due to allergy related complications and resumed his usual role on the fourth line left wing– reuniting the Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner trio.
Cassidy moved Danton Heinen to the third line right wing with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle down the middle.
As a result, Par Lindholm joined Anton Blidh as Boston’s only healthy scratches against Montreal as Urho Vaakanainen was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) late Sunday night after being recalled on an emergency basis.
Wednesday night marked the 750th all time regular season matchup between the B’s and Habs. Montreal has won 363 of those matches, while Boston has now won 284 of them. The two clubs tied in 103 times in that span.
Almost midway through the opening frame, Brad Marchand snaked his way into the attacking zone and through Montreal’s defense before curling a pass to Pastrnak (39) for a one-timer into the back of the twine– giving Boston the game’s first lead, 1-0.
Marchand (47) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal– his 39th of the season, which established a new career-high in goals for No. 88 in black and gold– at 6:59 of the first period.
The pair of wingers on Boston’s first line each have amassed at least 70 points in the last four seasons– marking the 10th time a Bruins player has recorded 70-plus points in four or more consecutive seasons.
Just past the midpoint of the first period, the Canadiens made an error in judgment and had too many skaters on the ice– yielding the first power play of the night to the Bruins at 10:32, but Boston did not convert on the ensuing legal skater advantage.
Late in the opening frame, Marchand got tangled up with Jeff Petry in front of the Montreal net as the two players exchanged shoves and roughing penalties (with Marchand earning an extra slashing minor in the process).
The Canadiens had their first power play of the night at 18:48 of the first period while Heinen served Marchand’s extra minor in the box.
Montreal’s power play would extend into the second period as the two teams entered the first intermission with the B’s in the lead on the scoreboard, 1-0, and in shots on goal, 11-10.
After one period of play, Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (6-2) and takeaways (2-0), while the Habs led in hits (12-11) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).
Both teams had four giveaways aside and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
The Habs began the second period with 48 seconds remaining on their power play, but their special teams were no match for Boston’s penalty kill fresh off the intermission as the Bruins killed off Marchand’s minor.
Moments later, Pastrnak (40) tallied his second goal of the game after Kuraly fed Pastrnak with pass while on a two-on-one break-in that led to Pastrnak deking and scoring top-shelf while Price dove in desperation.
Kuraly (15) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal and the B’s led, 2-0, at 4:16 of the second period.
For the first time since Glen Murray tallied 44 goals in the 2002-03 season, a Bruin recorded 40 or more goals in a season as Pastrnak reached and surpassed the 40-goal plateau.
He also required the fewest games (58) by a Bruins player to score 40 goals in a season since Cam Neely reached 40 goals in 36 games played in 1993-94 (which is also the fastest in franchise history to reach 40 goals).
Less than a minute later, Marco Scandella ripped a shot from the point that went off of Nick Suzuki’s (12) hip and past Rask– cutting Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, and putting the Habs on the scoreboard.
Scandella (8) had the only assist on Suzuki’s unintentional redirection goal at 4:52 of the second period.
Shortly thereafter, Heinen slashed Artturi Lehkonen and was sent to the box at 5:38.
Prior to the ensuing faceoff on the power play for Montreal, Zdeno Chara and Brendan Gallagher exchanged pleasantries with Chara promptly delivering a swift cross check to Gallagher and Gallagher receiving a roughing minor as the two were sent to their respective penalty boxes with Heinen already in Boston’s sin bin at 5:38 of the middle frame.
The Canadiens didn’t convert on the resulting power play.
Late in the second period, the nastiness continued with Jonathan Drouin and Wagner exchanging shoves and receiving roughing infractions at 14:32.
While on the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Joel Armia took a penalty for roughing against Torey Krug at 15:14 and yielded a 4-on-3 advantage for Boston for an abbreviated 1:19 span.
Montreal failed to clear a rebound in the resulting zone time for the Bruins as Patrice Bergeron battled Petry’s net front presence before the loose puck ended up on Pastrnak’s stick.
Pastrnak (41) slid the rubber biscuit through Price’s five-hole into the far side of the goal for his fourth hat trick of the season and first since Jan. 9th against the Winnipeg Jets.
Pastrnak’s hat trick goal was unassisted at 15:45 of the second period as Pastrnak joined Washington Capitals prolific goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, as the only other active player to score nine hat tricks (including regular season and playoffs) prior to his 24th birthday.
Pastrnak’s third goal of the game was also his eighth goal against Montreal this season and left him second to Phil Esposito in Bruins franchise history for the most hat tricks in a single season– Pastrnak has four thus far, while Esposito notched seven hat tricks in the 1970-71 season for Boston.
Shortly after play resumed, Kuraly bumped into his own defender, Charlie McAvoy, and went down the tunnel, but returned to play unharmed ahead of the third period.
Entering the second intermission, the B’s led the Habs, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 26-19, in shots on goal through 40 minutes of play.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (11-2) and takeaways (4-1), while Montreal led in giveaways (8-6) and faceoff win% (56-44).
Both teams recorded 17 hits aside after two periods of action. The Canadiens were 0/2 on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final period.
Early in the final frame, McAvoy sent the puck off the boards and out of play, but received an automatic delay of game penalty despite the on-ice officials convening to determine if the puck had gone clearly out of play or otherwise (it was evident via replay that the puck glanced off the boards, changed direction and traveled out of the playing surface, but alas, delay of game penalties of this nature cannot be subject to video review).
So the Canadiens went on the power play at 4:19 of the third period, but the Habs continued to struggle on the skater advantage.
Gallagher tried to get under the skin of Bruins defender, John Moore, in the dying seconds of Montreal’s power play in effort to yield an extension on the advantage, but Moore was not biting and Gallagher actually caught the B’s defender with a high stick at 6:18, reversing the skater advantage from the Habs to Boston.
Despite being presented with another power play opportunity of the night, the Bruins failed to convert while Gallagher was in the box.
With about 2:34 remaining in the game, Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, pulled Price for an extra attacker to try to muster a pair of goals for his team in the dying minutes of the game.
Despite using his team’s timeout after a stoppage with 43.7 seconds remaining, Montreal’s last ditch effort was no match for Boston’s strong defense and forward progression.
Pastrnak flipped the puck down the ice whereby Marchand won a battle along the boards and was able to free the puck to Bergeron (24) for the empty net goal that sealed the deal on Boston’s, 4-1, victory.
Marchand (48) had the only assist on Bergeron’s empty netter at 19:40 of the third period and finished the night with a pair of helpers.
At the final horn the Bruins had won and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-29, with the final score reading as a, 4-1, win over the Canadiens.
Boston wrapped up Wednesday night ahead of Montreal in blocked shots (13-6), as well, while the Habs finished the game leading in giveaways (10-8), hits (27-25) and faceoff win% (58-42).
The Canadiens went 0/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s went 1/3 on the power play in Wednesday night’s matchup.
Rask extended his franchise record for longest point streak to open a season at home– improving to 13-0-6 at TD Garden this season with the win.
The Bruins also improved to 20-5-3 when leading after the first period, 20-1-6 when leading after two periods and 21-7-8 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Boston wraps up their two-game homestand against the Detroit Red Wings next Saturday (Feb. 15th) before going on a four-game road trip with stops against the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.
Eight is great and eight is the number of goals the Boston Bruins scored en route to their, 8-1, victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
Oh and by the way, David Pastrnak had a hat trick.
Jaroslav Halak (5-1-3 record, 2.40 goals against average, .930 save percentage in nine games played) made 36 saves on 37 shots against for a .973 SV% in the win for the Bruins.
Canadiens starter, Carey Price (10-7-3, 3.09 GAA, .900 SV% in 20 games played) turned aside six out of ten shots faced for a .545 SV% before being replaced by Keith Kinkaid (1-1-2, 4.29 GAA, .877 SV% in five games played) in the loss.
Kinkaid made ten saves on 13 shots against (.769 SV%) for no decision.
Boston improved to 16-3-5 (37 points) and remained atop the Atlantic Division– in command of 1st place of not just the division, but 1st place in the entire league by virtue of holding a game-in-hand over the Washington Capitals.
Montreal, meanwhile, fell to 11-8-5 (27 points) on the season and stuck in 3rd in the Atlantic.
The Bruins extended their current winning streak to four games and are now 7-3-1 on the road this season.
They’re now also 10-0-2 when leading after two periods, 11-1-0 when leading after one period and 12-2-3 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) remained out of the lineup for Boston with Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) joining the long list of injured Bruins for at least the next two games (Tuesday night in Montreal, Wednesday night in Ottawa).
As a result of Bergeron and Ritchie’s injuries, Boston recalled Brendan Gaunce and Jack Studnicka from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Monday.
Gaunce, 25, has six goals and five assists (11 points) in 14 games with Providence this season and signed with Boston on July 1, 2019 as a free agent after spending 2015-19 with the Vancouver Canucks organization.
Studnicka, 20, leads Providence in scoring with nine goals and nine assists (18 points), as well as a plus-seven rating in 21 games with the “Baby Bruins” this season. The 6’2″, 175-pound center was drafted by Boston in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
He made his NHL debut Tuesday night in Montreal, joining Cameron Hughes as the only other Bruin to make their NHL debuts this season.
Par Lindholm returned to action after missing the last game while resting up after sustaining a cut in last Thursday’s, 3-2, win over the Buffalo Sabres.
With Bergeron and Ritchie out, Bruce Cassidy made some adjustments to his lineup, starting Studnicka as the second line center with Jake DeBrusk on his left wing and Charlie Coyle on his right wing.
David Krejci, in the meantime, was promoted to the first line center role with Brad Marchand and Pastrnak in their usual roles.
Sean Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen as his wingers, while Lindholm centered the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner.
Cassidy made one change to his defense, replacing Steven Kampfer with Connor Clifton on the third defensive pairing after keeping Kampfer fresh while in his role as the seventh defender for the B’s.
Gaunce and Kampfer served as healthy scratches for the Bruins on Tuesday.
Early in the opening frame, Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher tripped up Pastrnak while trailing the Boston forward behind his own net and was sent to the penalty box at 6:10 of the first period.
Krejci sent Kuraly deep into the offensive zone on the ensuing power play, whereby Kuraly connected DeBrusk with a bump pass as DeBrusk (5) crashed the slot and sent a shot into the back of the twine to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead on a power play goal.
Kuraly (4) and Krejci (12) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 8:03.
The Canadiens responded with a goal of their own a little over a few minutes later on a three-on-two rush up the ice that left Shea Weber (8) wide open for a quick one-timer that beat Halak’s blocker side at 12:41.
Gallagher (9) and Tomas Tatar (14) had the assists on Weber’s goal, tying the game, 1-1, midway through the first period.
The score wasn’t tied for long before Nate Thompson “tripped” Clifton at 13:56 and was assessed an infraction for what appeared to be a phantom call.
Boston went on the power play for the second time of the night and quickly converted on the skater advantage with a trademark one-timer blast from Pastrnak (21) at 14:24.
Coyle (8) and Marchand (24) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s first goal of the night as the B’s regained the lead, 2-1.
Eight seconds later, Charlie McAvoy was penalized for interference against Nick Suzuki at 14:32, presenting Montreal with their first power play of the night.
The Habs did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
With less than a minute remaining in the first period, Marchand (17) snagged a loose puck that floated off of Coyle’s stick while the Bruins forward attempted a wraparound, then elevated a backhand shot over Price while the Canadiens goaltender dove in effort to make a save.
As a result, Coyle (9) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal at 19:23 and the Bruins led, 3-1, entering the first intermission.
The goal marked Marchand’s 600th NHL point– becoming the 11th player in Bruins franchise history to record 600 points in a B’s sweater, joining Terry O’Reilly, Krejci, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Bergeron, Bobby Orr, Rick Middleton, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk and Ray Bourque (per Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Marchand’s also just the 4th Bruins player in the last 45 years to record his 40th point in 24 games or fewer, joining Adam Oates (24 games played in 1992-93), Esposito (22 GP in 1974-75) and Orr (21 GP in 1974-75).
After one period in Montreal, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 13-8, in shots on net.
The B’s led in blocked shots (6-5) and giveaways (11-8), while the Habs led in hits (14-8) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).
Both teams had three takeaways aside.
The Canadiens were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2 entering the second period.
Pastrnak (22) entered the attacking zone off the draw, deked past a Montreal defender and sniped a shot over Price’s blocker on the short side to give Boston a three-goal lead eight seconds into the second period.
Marchand (25) and Zdeno Chara (7) had the assists on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game and the Bruins led, 4-1.
Boston added another goal to their immense lead when Bjork (4) capitalized on a breakaway, sending a shot into the twine past Price’s glove side to make it, 5-1, for Boston at 1:10 of the second period.
Kuraly (5) had the only assist on the goal.
The Bruins had a pair of goals in a span of 62 seconds to chase Price out of the crease as Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, replaced his starter with Kinkaid after Bjork made it, 5-1.
Pastrnak (23) finalized his hat trick less than halfway through the game with a shot that beat Kinkaid at 9:06 of the second period– scoring his 2nd hat trick of the season and 6th of his career.
Brandon Carlo (6) and Krejci (13) had the assists on Pastrnak’s hat trick goal as Boston made it, 6-1, in Montreal.
The 23-year-old right winger for the Bruins, Pastrnak, leads the NHL with 23 goals in 24 team games– the most by any player within 25 team games since the 2005-06 season, when Simon Gagne had 23 goals through this point in the season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
A few minutes later, Clifton caught Tatar with a high stick and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 12:43, but the Habs didn’t score on the ensuing power play.
Through 40 minutes of play at Bell Centre, the Bruins led, 6-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Canadiens, 27-15, in shots on goal.
Montreal held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone (14-7) and led in hits (23-15), while Boston had the advantage in blocked shots (12-9), giveaways (18-16) and faceoff win% (51-49).
Both teams had six takeaways aside, while the Canadiens were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were still 2/2 on the skater advantage (only one penalty was called in the second period and it was against Boston).
Almost midway through the final frame of regulation, Kuraly worked the puck to Torey Krug as Krug broke into the zone heading for the net, before dropping a pass back to Coyle (5) for the one-timer from the slot that beat Kinkaid to make it, 7-1, for Boston.
Krug (14) and Kuraly (6) had the assists on Coyle’s goal at 8:26 of the third period.
Midway through the third, Studnicka reacted to a cross check from Max Domi and the two were sent to the box– Studnicka for rouding and Domi for cross checking at 15:38.
Just 20 seconds after both teams resumed full strength action, Studnicka sent a pass from the trapezoid to Heinen in the slot, whereby Heinen (5) one-timed a shot past Kinkaid.
Studnicka (1) collected the primary assist and his first career NHL point– in his first career game, nonetheless– and Krug (15) tallied the secondary assist on Heinen’s goal as the Bruins led, 8-1, at 17:58.
At the final horn, Boston had finished off Montreal, 8-1, in their first eight-goal game at Bell Centre since Oct. 28, 1998 (a, 9-2, win), as well as their first eight-goal game against the Habs in general since Feb. 9, 2011 (an, 8-6, win at TD Garden).
The Canadiens finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-24)– including a, 10-9, advantage in the third period alone– and in hits (34-19).
The B’s wrapped up Tuesday night leading in blocked shots (16-12) and giveaways (24-18), while both teams split faceoff win%, 50-50.
Montreal finished the night 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/2 on the power play.
The last time a Bruin scored a hat trick in Montreal was on Nov. 30, 1987, when Steve Kasper notched three goals in a, 6-4, loss at Montreal Forum.
Boston finishes their quick two-game road trip (1-0-0) with a Wednesday night matchup in Ottawa against the Senators after traveling by train from Montreal overnight on Tuesday.
The B’s return home after completing games in back-to-back nights with a Black Friday matinee against the New York Rangers in the NHL’s 2019 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown.
Boston will debut their new third jersey in Friday’s matchup.
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
- p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 109 points
- x-Boston Bruins, 105 points
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points
- Florida Panthers, 89 points
- Montreal Canadiens, 89 points
- Detroit Red Wings, 84 points
- Ottawa Senators, 78 points
- Buffalo Sabres, 71 points
Tampa Bay Lightning: Pros and Cons
The Lightning are annual favorites among the experts to win the Stanley Cup, so it’s no surprise, really, that they haven’t yet. There’s either too many expectations to live up to or there’s too much of a casual atmosphere from season-to-season.
You know what they say when you assume.
Just like the Washington Capitals and their 2018 Stanley Cup championship, it’s better for the Bolts if nobody is talking about them. Prior to the Caps winning in 2018, there was a “Cup or bust” mantra that just didn’t work.
Nothing is willed without hard work and humility.
That’s not to say Tampa doesn’t work hard or isn’t humble, but rather, they must lose on the big stage repetitively until everyone expects them to fail. That’s when they’ll go on a run.
They’ve managed to keep their roster together (granted, RFA center, Brayden Point, is still unsigned) while trimming the fat (gone are the days of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi on the blue line) and are still Stanley Cup front-runners, but they likely won’t get back to the 60-win plateau in back-to-back seasons.
The Lightning will still get to 50 wins for the third season in-a-row, have Nikita Kucherov set the league on fire in scoring and yield out-of-this-world goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy before the real season starts– the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
How would the Lightning fail?
Everyone keeps talking about the Lightning as if they’re some godsend (too much hype, remember?). That, or General Manager Julien BriseBois blows up the roster and/or Jon Cooper is fired as head coach.
Boston Bruins: Pros and Cons
The Bruins core remains strong among their forwards and as long as they’re able to negotiate an extension with RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without any bumps in the road, then their defense is pretty sound too.
Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year deal last summer, so the 1A/1B tandem of Tuukka Rask and Halak in the crease seems fine for another run in 2019-20.
Boston exceeded expectations in 2017-18 and went under the radar in 2018-19– though they managed to amass only 10 losses in regulation since Jan. 1st, which means they were actually pretty loud in the points percentage column.
Injuries come and go.
If the Bruins are able to stay healthy instead of dropping like flies to their 12th defenseman on the depth chart, they might actually pick up a few more points than they did last season.
With Bruce Cassidy as head coach, things should remain status quo in the regular season, but Boston still needs to address their top-six forward problem.
David Pastrnak can play on the first or second line, but on any given night that leaves one of their top two lines in need of a scoring winger.
General Manager Don Sweeney managed to patch a hole at the third line center– acquiring Charlie Coyle as last season’s trade deadline loomed– and Coyle was one of their better players in their 2019 Stanley Cup Final postseason run.
But with a couple of depth signings for bottom six roles in the offseason (Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie), everyone getting another year older and David Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit through 2020-21 still on the books, Boston’s hands are tied.
How would the Bruins fail?
There’s enough bark in the regular season, but not enough bite for a deep postseason run. It’s harder than ever before to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons– and that’s before you consider age, injuries and regression.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Pros and Cons
Toronto has Auston Matthews as their second best center. Yes. Second best. Why? Because John Tavares enters the second year of his long-term seven-year deal that he signed last July.
That alone will continue to keep the Leafs afloat with a strong 1-2 duo down the middle.
Regardless of the Mitch Marner contract negotiations (or lack thereof), the Maple Leafs are just fine with their forwards– having traded Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche and acquiring Alex Kerfoot in the process (Calle Rosen and Tyson Barrie were also swapped in the deal).
Patrick Marleau is gone and it only cost Toronto a conditional 2020 1st round pick (top-10 lottery protected) and a 2020 7th round pick in the process, but an affordable Jason Spezza at league minimum salary ($700,000) on a one-year deal for fourth line minutes will do just fine.
By puck drop for the 2019-20 season, the Leafs will save $10.550 million in cap space thanks to David Clarkson (yes, his contract’s back after a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights that sent Garret Sparks the other way) and Nathan Horton’s placement on the long-term injured reserve.
The stars are aligning for Toronto to still need to get past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.
With Kadri gone, however, perhaps they will be able to do so with or without Boston in the equation.
How would the Leafs fail?
They don’t sign Marner and they lose in another Game 7 because of it. There’s a lot of turbulence ahead for Toronto General Manager Kyle Dubas considering the Leafs have one defender under contract after 2019-20. If the team doesn’t breakout in the postseason, it’s really just status quo until proven otherwise.
Florida Panthers: Pros and Cons
The Panthers are beginning to ripen with a mix of youth and experience among their forwards, plus a defense that quietly does their job.
They also added Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman and (most importantly) Sergei Bobrovsky to the mix.
While Acciari’s $1.667 million cap hit through 2021-22 is a slight overpay for a fourth line center, at least it could be worse. Connolly’s making $3.500 million for the next four years and even Stralman has a cap hit of $5.500 million through 2021-22 when he’ll be turning 36 on August 1, 2022.
Ok, so it was an expensive offseason for Florida– and that’s before you add the $10.000 million price tag for the next seven years of Bobrovsky in the crease.
Yes, despite landing one of the better goaltenders in the league in free agency, General Manager Dale Tallon managed to make matters complicated after, say, the fourth year of Bobrovsky’s contract.
Bobrovsky will be roughly 37-years-old by the time his contract with the Panthers expires and not everyone can be like Dwayne Roloson in the net forever.
At least they drafted Spencer Knight (in the first round– a goaltending prospect curse).
Though they missed the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by 12 points for an Eastern Conference wild card spot, the Panthers are in a position to gain more than a few wins with new head coach (and three-time Stanley Cup champion) Joel Quenneville behind the bench.
How would the Panthers fail?
Florida’s already landed the biggest prize in head coaching free agency with Quenneville reuniting with Tallon in Sunrise. What could possibly go wrong (besides Tallon being replaced by a clone of Stan Bowman and then the Panthers go on to win three Cups without Tallon in command)?
Montreal Canadiens: Pros and Cons
Montreal didn’t get Matt Duchene or Sebastian Aho in free agency, so they got the next best thing– not overspending on July 1st.
That’s not to say Duchene and Aho aren’t quality players, but rather just an observation of cap concerns for the Habs with Max Domi as a pending-RFA in July 2020 and the rest of Montreal’s future core (Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Victor Mete, Cayden Primeau and Jesperi Kotkaniemi) to consider going down the road.
Granted, Aho could’ve sped the process up a bit if it weren’t for those pesky RFA rights and compensation in the CBA, right Montreal?
The Canadiens need a legitimate number one center, but General Manager Marc Bergevin has been preoccupied restructuring the defense in the meantime.
That’s not a bad thing.
Shea Weber is 34 and under contract through the 2025-26 season, though after 2021-22, his base salary drops to $3.000 million in 2022-23 and $1.000 million from 2023-26 (meaning he could be traded with ease in a few years, despite his $7.857 million cap hit).
But Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry are both over 30 and have no-trade and/or no-movement clauses in their contracts.
At least free agent addition, Ben Chiarot, is 28-years-old, but he also carries a no-trade clause as part of his three-year deal.
How would the Canadiens fail?
Claude Julien inexplicably reverts back to his old ways and doesn’t play the kids, Carey Price is injured for most of the season and/or Bergevin overcompensates in a trade because of his failure to secure a free agent center.
Detroit Red Wings: Pros and Cons
Steve Yzerman has come home and is rightfully the General Manager for the Red Wings, but as we’ve seen in Tampa, his masterplan takes a little time.
Detroit is four or five years out from being an annual Cup contender, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings haven’t already sped things up in their rebuild.
Trading for Adam Erne isn’t a grand-slam, but it does make the average age of the roster a tad younger.
It also means that the Red Wings now have seven pending-RFAs on their NHL roster and roughly $37.000 million to work with in July 2020.
How would the Red Wings fail?
Having Yzerman in the front office at Little Caesars Arena is like adding all of the best toppings to a pizza. The only downside is that leftover pineapple is still on the pizza from all of the no-trade clauses delivered by the last guy.
Ottawa Senators: Pros and Cons
The Senators are looking to spend ba-by.
Just kidding, they don’t plan on being good until 2021, so does that mean starting with the 2020-21 season or the following year in 2021-22?
But they do have a ton of draft picks stockpiled including two in the 1st round in 2020, three in the 2nd round, one in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, a pair in the 6th and one in the 7th.
Plus they have roughly $15.600 million in cap space currently and eight players under contract for next season that aren’t on the injured reserve.
For some reason (Eugene Melnyk) current-RFA Colin White is still unsigned and 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was signed in free agency, but at least Cody Ceci is a Maple Leaf now.
Oh and former Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith is Ottawa’s head coach now. That’ll show them!
How would the Senators fail?
More importantly, how would Ottawa succeed?
Buffalo Sabres: Pros and Cons
Pro: The Sabres will probably be better than last season.
Con: Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s new head coach and nobody knows what to expect (he went 19-22-7 in the lockout shortened 48-game season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13).
Pro: Only eight skaters are under contract next season.
Con: Only eight skaters are under contract next season, including Rasmus Ristolainen and nobody is sure whether or not the club is trying to trade him.
Pro: Marcus Johansson!
Con: Jimmy Vesey! (Only cost Buffalo two third round picks over three years to get him.)
Pro: The average age of the roster is about 26.
Con: Matt Hunwick is the oldest player at 34-years-old, followed by Carter Hutton at 33 and Vladimir Sobotka at 32.
Pro: Royal blue in 2020!
Con: It’s not until 2020.
How would the Sabres fail?
If Buffalo actually finishes last in the division, instead of any improvement whatsoever.
Nick and Connor review the Vegas Golden Knights draft history, praise Carter Hart’s NHL debut, talk about Scott Gordon’s introduction as interim head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as the Patrik Berglund situation, Whalers Night and a teaser 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship preview.
*Editor’s note: Paris is hosting the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles is hosting the 2028 Summer Games. The 2026 and 2030 Winter Games host cities have yet to be selected.
Vegas Golden Knights
51-24-7, 109 points, 1st in the Pacific Division
Lost in Stanley Cup Final to WSH, 4-1
Subtractions: D Philip Holm (signed, KHL), F James Neal (signed with CGY), F David Perron (signed with STL), F Teemu Pulkkinen (signed, KHL), D Luca Sbisa (signed with NYI), F Nick Suzuki (traded to MTL), F Tomas Tatar (traded to MTL), F Paul Thompson (signed with FLA)
Offseason Analysis: Only one team in the NHL’s more than a century of existence has ever won the Cup in their inaugural season. The 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights almost joined the 1917-18 Toronto Arenas as the only teams to win the Cup in their inaugural season. Toronto beat the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s (PCHA) Vancouver Millionaires 3-2 in a best of five-game series.
Vegas came up three wins short of winning it all in the modern-day best-of-seven game series against the Washington Capitals that the Stanley Cup Final has become.
The Golden Knights didn’t have an unfair advantage in the 2017 Expansion Draft. General Manager George McPhee worked the trade market to his advantage, primarily building the inaugural season’s core group of players through acquisitions.
Owner Bill Foley has touted the “Cup-in-three” mantra, meaning it’s his goal as an organization to win the Cup in their first three years of existence. Upon league expansion in 1967, it took the Philadelphia Flyers seven years to win their first Cup.
Foley wants to do it in half the time.
McPhee’s already gone to work on improving his roster from year one to year two. He’s added Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens.
Stastny, 32, joins the Golden Knights after spending last season with the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. In 82 games split between the Blues and Jets, Stastny had 16-37–53 totals.
A deadline acquisition by Winnipeg, he had 13 points down the stretch in the remaining 19 games of the regular season, then had his best career performance in the postseason (15 points in 17 games) en route to the Western Conference Final against (his now current team) Vegas.
Despite Stastny’s playmaking style and ability to elevate the players around him in Patrik Laine and friends in Winnipeg, the Jets were no match for the hard-charging Golden Knights.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
The old saying rings true for Stastny, despite Winnipeg’s intentions on re-signing the veteran NHL center entering his 13th season in the league. He’ll slide in on Vegas’ second line behind William Karlsson and play alongside one of his best friends since they played together at the 2010 Winter Games, Max Pacioretty.
Yes, that’s right, Pacioretty is a Golden Knight– in case you’ve been under a rock since training camp.
At its surface, the price of the Pacioretty trade is one well spent for both teams. Vegas acquired Pacioretty in exchange for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick. That’s right about what you’d expect as a going rate for a top-six scorer– one current roster player, a prospect and a draft pick.
But for all that McPhee dealt to the Detroit Red Wings to add Tatar at the trade deadline last season, this Pacioretty deal carries a hefty trade-tree baggage, whereby a lot of assets were ultimately tossed in the pot for Pacioretty’s services.
At the very least, McPhee not only added a five-time 30-goal scorer, but he signed him to a four-year extension right away too. So if things don’t work out this season, the Golden Knights will remain in the hunt for the next few years.
On top of their solid core group of forwards, Vegas has a crafty defense that’s capable of doing more than turning heads like they did last season. There’s just one catch though– they’ll have to do it without Nate Schmidt for the first quarter of the regular season.
Schmidt will be serving a 20-game suspension for a performance enhancing drug, leaving Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to do the bulk of the work with Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland rounding out the rest of the top-four defenders.
Brad Hunt and Nick Holden, in the meantime, seek to use the first 20 games as an audition for the sixth defenseman role upon Schmidt’s return to the lineup.
Miller signed a four-year extension this summer and Theodore signed a seven-year deal worth $5.200 million per season. While seven years might be a bit more than the Golden Knights can chew if Theodore’s play heads south, at least he’s signed to a manageable $5.200 million cap hit– up to 50% of which can be retained in a trade.
With an immense top-nine group of forwards and questions surrounding who will step up on defense in Schmidt’s absence, head coach Gerard Gallant must adjust accordingly as he’s always done– on-the-fly and with the complete buy-in of the dressing room.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury— now signed through the 2021-22 season, thanks to a three-year extension this summer on top of the remaining year on his current contract– must find a way to continue his rejuvenated play in net. Last season’s 2.24 goals against average and .927 save percentage are more than likely unattainable in back-to-back seasons.
One thing working in Fleury’s favor is his reduced workload. In his second-straight season under 50 games played, Fleury appeared in 46 games last season after battling a concussion.
Malcolm Subban (2.68 GAA, .910 SV% in 22 games played last season) is still in line to become the next Golden Knights starting netminder in the post-Fleury era, but he undoubtedly must see an increase in playing time this season.
It’s not quite a 1A, 1B option for Vegas, but rather a precaution for Fleury and a means of keeping their starter fresh for what could be another long postseason run.
Unless any of the other Pacific Division teams have anything to say about it.
Offseason Grade: B+
McPhee bolstered his top-six forward group this offseason with two simple moves, while preserving the large-scale depth of the Golden Knights prospect pool. They didn’t land Erik Karlsson, John Tavares or Ilya Kovalchuk, but they did get Max Pacioretty.
And they still have quite an impressive amount of cap space to work with next offseason as the franchise continues to settle into existence.
Nick, Colby and Connor talk the Max Pacioretty trade, Eugene Melnyk’s latest antics, John Tortorella’s extension, Adam McQuaid and Steve Yzerman stepping down in Tampa. Also in this episode– DTFR’s official 2018-19 Atlantic Division preview.
Early Monday morning in Montreal, the Canadiens shipped off their captain, Max Pacioretty, to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2nd round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft originally belonging to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Just how early on Monday in Montreal was it? It was still Sunday night in Las Vegas.
That’s right, the Habs traded their captain and face of the franchise not named Carey Price while East Coast Canadiens fans were sleeping.
At first glance, it seems like the Golden Knights pulled off a landslide of a deal, but there’s no clear-cut trade winner or loser from this one.
Yes, Montreal was stuck between a rock and a hard place in trading Pacioretty, but they managed to get a valuable prospect and a high round draft pick out of it at the end of the day (on top of Tatar who will likely become a roster placeholder until one of the players in the system takes his job during the rebuild).
While Tatar’s 20-14–34 totals in 82 games with the Golden Knights and Detroit Red Wings last season aren’t as attractive as Pacioretty’s five career 60-plus point seasons since entering the NHL in 2008-09, the onus on re-signing Pacioretty for more than just a rental is now on Vegas General Manager George McPhee (which is now accomplished as moments after posting this analysis, the Golden Knights announced a four-year extension for Pacioretty).
Consider a little bit of the weight of the world off the shoulders of Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, given that he’s now no longer responsible for potentially losing Pacioretty for nothing in free agency next July.
Yes, Tatar isn’t perfect, but the race to rebuild in Montreal is on. The race to win now in Vegas continues.
This trade has no winners or losers, but rather a symbiotic relationship between two organizations heading in opposite directions. The Golden Knights land a gifted scorer in his prime, while the Canadiens get one of the best prospects in Suzuki for the future– and the future is near.
Pacioretty, 29, has 226 goals and 222 assists (448 points) in 626 career NHL games with Montreal. He was named the 29th captain in franchise history in 2015 and became the seventh Canadiens captain to be traded in the expansion era (since 1967). Pacioretty is also the first Habs captain to be traded since Vincent Damphousse was dealt to the San Jose Sharks on March 23, 1999.
In an injury derailed 2017-18 campaign, Pacioretty had 17-20–37 totals in 64 games. He was originally drafted by Montreal in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He has 10 goals and nine assists (19 points) in 38 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Tatar, 27, has 228 career points (119 goals, 109 assists) in 427 career NHL games split between Detroit and Vegas. He has 4-5–9 totals in 25 career postseason appearances, including a goal and an assist in eight games with the Golden Knights in their 2018 Stanley Cup Final run.
He was selected by the Red Wings in the second round (60th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Suzuki, 19, was originally drafted by the Golden Knights in the first round (13th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and appeared in 64 games with the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) in 2017-18. He had 42-58–100 totals last season and recorded 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 11 playoff games for Owen Sound and appeared in one AHL playoff game with the Chicago Wolves.
Friday night marked Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a record (welcome again Vegas Golden Knights) 31 players were selected in the 1st Round. In case you missed any of the action, here’s how it all broke down.
2017 NHL Entry Draft– Round 1
- New Jersey Devils–> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
- Philadelphia Flyers–> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (OHL)
- Dallas Stars–> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK, (Finland)
- Colorado Avalanche–> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
- Vancouver Canucks–> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
- Vegas Golden Knights–> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
- New York Rangers (from Arizona)–> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
- Buffalo Sabres–> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
- Detroit Red Wings–> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
- Florida Panthers–> RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL)
- Los Angeles Kings–> C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor (OHL)
- Carolina Hurricanes–> C Martin Necas, Brno (Czech Republic)
- Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg)–> C Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)
- Tampa Bay Lightning–> D Callan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
- Vegas Golden Knights (from N.Y. Islanders)–> D Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)
- Calgary Flames–> D Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City (WHL)
- Toronto Maple Leafs–> D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle BK (Sweden)
- Boston Bruins–> D Urho Vaakanainen, JYP (Finland)
- San Jose Sharks–> C Josh Norris, USA U-18 (USHL)
- St. Louis Blues–> C Robert Thomas, London (OHL)
- New York Rangers–> C Filip Chytil, Zlin (Czech Republic)
- Edmonton Oilers–> RW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane (WHL)
- Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)–> D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
- Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas)–> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
- Montreal Canadiens–> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
- Dallas Stars (from Chicago)–> G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey-East)
- Philadelphia Flyers (from Washington via St. Louis)–> C Morgan Frost, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
- Ottawa Senators–> C Shane Bowers, Waterloo (USHL)
- Chicago Blackhawks (from Dallas via Anaheim)–> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
- Nashville Predators–> RW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
- St. Louis Blues (from Pittsburgh)–> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Trades Made on Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft
- The Arizona Coyotes traded D Connor Murphy and F Laurent Dauhpin to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for D Niklas Hjalmarsson.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Artemi Panarin, F Tyler Motte and a 2017 6th round pick (170th overall) from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for F Brandon Saad, G Anton Forsberg and a 2018 5th round pick.
- The Arizona Coyotes traded D Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 1st round pick (7th overall) to the New York Rangers for F Derek Stepan and G Antti Raanta.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Jordan Schroeder from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for F Dante Salituro.
- The Chicago Blackhawks traded a 2017 1st round pick (26th overall) to the Dallas Stars for a 2017 1st round pick (29th overall) and a 2017 3rd round pick (70th overall).
- The St. Louis Blues acquired F Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for F Jori Lehtera, a 2017 1st round pick (27th overall), and a conditional 2018 1st round pick.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins traded F Oskar Sundqvist and a 2017 1st round pick (31st overall) to the St. Louis Blues and acquired F Ryan Reaves and a 2017 2nd round pick (51st overall) in return.
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.
23) Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota Wild) –> C Shane Bowers, Waterloo (USHL)
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.
29) Dallas Stars (from Anaheim Ducks) –> RW Kole Lind, Kelowna (WHL)
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.