Tag Archives: Shayne Gostisbehere

Philadelphia Flyers 2017-2018 Season Preview

Philadelphia Flyers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers

39-33-10, 88 points, 6th in the Metropolitan Division (’16-’17)

Additions: G Brian Elliott, F Corban Knight, F Jori Lehtera, F Phil Varone, F Brendan Warren

Subtractions: F Chris Conner (signed with Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL), F Nick Cousins (traded to ARI), D Michael Del Zotto (signed with VAN), F Roman Lyubimov (signed with HC CSKA Moscow, KHL), G Merrick Madsen (traded to ARI), G Steve Mason (signed with WPG), F Andy Miele (signed with Malmö Redhawks, SHL), D Jesper Pettersson (signed with Djurgårdens IF, SHL), F Brayden Schenn (traded to STL), F Eric Wellwood (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boyd Gordon, D Nick Schultz, F Chris VandeVelde

Offseason Analysis: Philadelphia Flyers general manager, Ron Hextall, didn’t play the Powerball, but may have won the lottery after all– considering the fact that the Flyers moved from 14th to 2nd overall at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft via the draft lottery and were then able to select Nolan Patrick from the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Landing Patrick over New Jersey’s 1st overall pick, Nico Hischier, might resemble the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in initial success. Edmonton Oilers 2010 1st overall pick, Taylor Hall didn’t have much of a team around him in Edmonton in his rookie season of 2010-2011, while Boston’s Tyler Seguin had the eventual 2011 Stanley Cup champions as his linemates.

Hischier joins the rebuilding Devils, while Patrick landed on the middle-of-the-road Flyers and if you’re a fan of either of those teams, you’re probably hoping that the first two picks of the 2017 draft aren’t a full repeat of the 2010 draft, where Hall was traded to New Jersey just last year and Seguin was dealt to Dallas in 2013.

Hextall didn’t have to patch much on Philadelphia’s front lines. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier still exist, while Valtteri Filppula continues to be an underrated force of nature that he is as a top-9 forward.

Patrick joins the influx of youth in the City of Brotherly Love, where Travis Konecny dangles and scores goals and Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere shut down opposing teams on the blue line.

The Flyers currently have five defensemen on their NHL roster and shouldn’t be too worried about how the sixth spot and depth spot will fill out– alas, this is the reason why training camp and the preseason exist.

But while Hextall had an easy offseason of minor tweaks to the roster, a couple of key components from last season’s team are no longer members of the franchise.

Brayden Schenn was dealt to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 1st round pick (Morgan Frost) and a conditional 2018 1st round pick. Nick Cousins was sent to Arizona in a trade that involved other, less important, components. More importantly, Steve Mason was not offered a contract and jettisoned for the Winnipeg Jets via free agency as Brian Elliott agreed to terms with Philadelphia on a 2-year, $2.750 million per year contract.

Entering his fourth NHL season, Lehtera is coming off of a career worst seven goals, 15 assists (22 points) performance in 64 games played last season (due to injuries and otherwise). Healthy and in need of a change of scenery, Lehtera appears to be reinvigorated and ready to slide in alongside the likes of Giroux, Voracek, Konecny, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal.

Since the late 1990s, the Flyers have had about 3,000,000 million different starting goaltenders. Okay, the real number is somewhere around 30, but the point is this– Philly may have found a number one starter in Brian Elliott.

After being traded to the Calgary Flames from the St. Louis Blues, Elliott went on to appear in 49 games– the most he’s played since the 2009-2010 season (55 games with the Ottawa Senators). Last season, Elliott’s numbers (a 2.55 goals against average and a .910 save percentage) nearly reflected that of his 2009-2010 season (2.57 GAA with a .909 SV% in 6 more games than his 2016-2017 campaign).

Yes, Elliott was considerably worse in Calgary than in St. Louis. He never had a GAA above 2.28 with the Blues (and his 2.28 GAA came in 24 games during the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season). His final year with St. Louis (2015-2016) amassed a 2.07 GAA and a .930 SV% in 42 games played en route to a Western Conference Finals appearance (and loss to the San Jose Sharks).

Granted, St. Louis had a defense in front of him– and an offense, for that matter– all of his years in a blue note, while Elliott’s short stint with the Flames was largely unprotected. There was no 1A/1B scenario, unlike when Elliott played with Jake Allen in St. Louis and Calgary’s defense was not of the caliber of Colton Parayko and all who came before him on the Blues.

But Elliott is determined to find his game again on a stable roster, where Gostisbehere, Provorov, Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning look to hold down the fort in the defensive zone.

And if Elliott has a bad night or an off-week, then Michal Neuvirth is more than ready to step in and tame the crease, like how the Blues juggled Elliott and Allen for a few seasons.

Coming off a season with a -17 goal differential, the Flyers will need to replace a two-time 50-point scorer (Schenn) with more than what they brought in during the offseason. Hextall is opting for the build from within strategy, having witnessed an impressive rookie campaign from Konecny and since landing Patrick 2nd overall in June.

Inaction can work, as the old saying “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken” goes, but will it be enough to put Philadelphia back into Stanley Cup contention for the first time since 2010, let alone back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Offseason Grade: C

Simply put, the Flyers could’ve gotten more up front in the Brayden Schenn deal, it seems, from either the Blues or literally any other team and that hampers their offseason success in finding a suitable replacement for Steve Mason as one of their goalies by signing Brian Elliott.

2017 NHL Expansion Draft: Protected Lists

30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.

The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

To recap, here’s all of the protected players:

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette

Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm

Goaltender: John Gibson

Arizona Coyotes

Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder

Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn

Goaltender: Chad Johnson

Boston Bruins

Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller

Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan

Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton

Goaltender: Mike Smith

Carolina Hurricanes

Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen

Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy

Goaltender: Scott Darling

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews

Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

Goaltender: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto

Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard

Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky

Dallas Stars

Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza

Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell

Goaltender: Ben Bishop

Detroit Red Wings

Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera

Goaltender: Cam Talbot

Florida Panthers

Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle

Goaltender: James Reimer

Los Angeles Kings

Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli

Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin

Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker

Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber

Goaltender: Carey Price

Nashville Predators

Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen

Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey Devils

Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

New York Islanders

Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock

Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal

Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Ottawa Senators

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris

Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf

Goaltender: Craig Anderson

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek

Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning

Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz

Goaltender: Matt Murray

San Jose Sharks

Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney

Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Goaltender: Martin Jones

St. Louis Blues

Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender: Jake Allen

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos

Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman

Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk

Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Vancouver Canucks

Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev

Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson

Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

January 13 – Day 90 – Ready for an Original Six game?

It’s finally Friday, so sit back and watch some hockey after that stressful business week. The action gets started at 7 p.m. with two games (Toronto at the New York Rangers and Chicago at Washington [NHLN]), followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Florida and Buffalo at Carolina). Columbus at Tampa Bay (SN/TVAS) drops the puck at 8 p.m., trailed an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps (New Jersey at Calgary and Winnipeg at Arizona).

Short list:

  • Toronto at New York: It’s another Original Six game this evening, this one taking place at Madison Square Garden.
  • New York at Florida: Last postseason, the Islanders upset Florida in the Eastern Quarterfinals before falling to Tampa Bay.

Don’t tell anybody, but Toronto is only four points out of playoff position, and tonight’s game in the Big Apple will be a good test to see if they’re capable of acting  on the opportunity.

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The Leafs make their lone trip of the season to Manhattan with an 18-13-8 record. The main problem for Toronto has been their defense and goaltending, which has allowed 111 goals against – only the 15th-fewest in the league.

With the exception of six games, 17-9-7 Frederik Andersen has always been the man in charge of the crease for the Maple Leafs this season. So far, he’s saved .918 percent of shots faced for a 2.69 GAA, which ties for 18th and 27th-best among the 44 goalies with 17 or more appearances.

While Andersen has been far from impressive, he can’t shoulder the entire blame. The Leafs have allowed an average of 32.6 shots-per-game to reach Andersen’s crease, tied for the fourth-worst in the league. Morgan Rielly has given all he can and more to Toronto, as he leads the club with 67 shot blocks.

If the Leafs truly want to make a playoff push, I’d expect them to be active at the trade deadline to bring in a quality defenseman.

Although the Leafs have tied for the seventh-best effort on the penalty kill with a 83.6% kill rate (led by Roman Polak‘s 16 short-handed blocks), percentages can be deceiving. Toronto averages 11:35 penalty minutes per game, the second-highest in the NHL, and Andersen has struggled mightily. He’s allowed 19 power play goals to slip past him, which ties for the seventh-most in the league.

Fortunately, Toronto has been very successful on the power play. Led by William Nylander and his 15 power play points, the Maple Leafs bury the puck 22.4% of the time with the man-advantage, the seventh-best rate in the league. Nazem Kadri has been the one responsible for most of those situational goals, with eight to his credit (tied for the fourth-most in the NHL).

You know you’re in a tough division when you’re riding a two-game winning streak and have the fifth-best point percentage in the NHL, yet you’re still only in a wild card spot. That’s the position the 28-13-1 Rangers find themselves in, although that can change with a win tonight, as they could take advantage of Pittsburgh‘s two-game losing skid and jump into third place in the division. As they have been all season, they’ll be led by their dominant offense that has accounted for a league-leading 144 points.

Although it’s more than a two-headed assault, the main pair getting a lot of the praise right now in New York are Kevin Hayes and Derek Stepan, both of whom have an impressive 31 points to their credit. Of course, they’ve mostly been facilitators. The striker on this team is still Michael Grabner with his 19 tallies.

As you might expect, the Blueshirts‘ power play is no slouch. In fact, they’re third best in the league, successful on 23.2% of their opportunities. Ryan McDonagh has been at the forefront of that effort with nine power play points, but hasn’t been the one scoring the goals. That duty has been shared by Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey, all of whom have four power play goals.

Even the penalty kill has been impressive, refusing to yield to the opposition’s man-advantage 83% of the time, the 10th-best effort in the league. Kevin Klein gets to take a lot of responsibility for that ranking, as his 16 shorthanded blocks are tops on the club.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Grabner (+22 [fifth-best in the NHL]), Nick Holden (+20 [tied for seventh-best in the league]) and Henrik Lundqvist (18 wins [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (17 wins [10th-most in the league]) and Auston Matthews (21 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has put a -137 next to the Rangers‘ name to indicate they’re the favorites this evening. It’s hard to argue with, given their success regardless of who they’re playing. Until Toronto can put together a full game on a regular basis, they will not be able to stand up to talented teams like New York.

Hockey Birthday

  • Art Ross (1886-1964) – It’s nearly impossible to fully summarize all Ross did. The defenseman won two Stanley Cups as a player, and tacked on an additional three as a coach or general manager for Boston. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1949, and the yearly award for the season’s leading scorer is named in his honor.
  • Cesare Maniago (1939-) – This goaltender played 568 games over 15 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the North Stars. He completed his career with a 190-257-97 record on a 3.27 GAA.
  • Kelly Hrudey (1961-) – Another netminder, the Islanders drafted Hrudey 38th-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. That being said, he spent most of his 15 seasons in Los Angeles en route to a 271-265-88 career record.
  • Nikolai Khabibulin (1973-) – Drafted in the ninth round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the original Jets, this goaltender would’ve been a steal 100 picks earlier. The Bulin Wall finished his 18-season career with a 333-334-97 record, four All Star selections and a 2004 Stanley Cup title while in Tampa Bay.
  • Sergei Brylin (1974-) – The 42nd-overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft played his entire career with the club that drafted him – New Jersey. During that time, he notched 308 points to win three Stanley Cups.
  • Marc Staal (1987-) – The middle Staal brother was the 12th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, and that’s where he’s played every since. Over his entire career, he’s notched a +40.
  • Connor McDavid (1997-) – In only 88 career games, the first pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Edmonton has already notched 96 points. There’s no ifs about it: he will be the next superior player, if he’s not already.
  • Ivan Provorov (1997-) – The seventh-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Philadelphia, this defenseman has finally joined the Flyers this season. He’s made quite the impact, tying Shayne Gostisbehere with 19 points for most by a Philly blueliner.

Talk about an evening of comebacks. First, Third Star of the Game Taylor Hall made his return to Edmonton. Then, the Oilers scored a game-tying goal with 7:24 remaining in regulation to force overtime, which they used to beat the Devils 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The lone goal of the first period belonged to Travis Zajac (Kyle Palmieri and Michael Cammalleri) and the visiting Devils. He tipped-in his shot with 1:54 remaining in the frame to put New Jersey ahead going into intermission.

Edmonton pulled the game back even almost immediately after returning to the ice. 16 seconds after the initial puck drop, Andrej Sekera (Second Star Leon Draisaitl and Adam Larsson) scored a snapper to tie the game at one-all. That draw lasted until 51 seconds remained in the second period, when Steven Santini (Hall and P.A. Parenteau) scored the first goal of his career. Once again, Jersey took a one-goal lead into the dressing room.

As stated before, the Oilers tied the game with 7:24 remaining in regulation off a wrister from First Star Patrick Maroon (Draisaitl and McDavid). Neither side was able to break the knot, so the game advanced into three-on-three overtime.

Only 1:50 into the five-minute period, Draisaitl (McDavid and Oscar Klefbom) ended the game in the home club’s favor with an impressive slap shot, his 16th goal of the season.

Cam Talbot earned the victory after saving 16-of-18 shots faced (88.9%), leaving the loss to Cory Schneider, who saved 31-of-34 (91.2%).

The Oilers‘ victory is the second-straight by a home club in the DtFR Game of the Day series, improving the hosts’ record to 49-29-14, 10 points better than the visitors.

2016 Mock Draft: The Complete First Round

By: Nick Lanciani

 

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Here’s a look at how I think the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will pan out. Of course, I expect just about every single one of these predictions to be wrong. Likewise, experts and draft rankings may say a player is going to go 11th overall, but there’s always a good chance that player could slip up or down on Draft day, so I’ve tried to take account for that as I see fit.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of good players, but how often do we see them get drafted in the right order— especially when hindsight is 20/20 (I’m looking at you, 2010 NHL Entry Draft).

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1) Toronto Maple Leafs–> C Auston Matthews, Zurich (SUI)

If you read my mock draft from last month, you might realize that it seems not much has changed with my top-14 picks. This one should be self-explanatory. Hope is back in Toronto in the form of Auston Matthews. A 6’1”, 210-pound center, Matthews is a two-way player similar in nature to Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles or Patrice Bergeron in Boston. In 36 games with Zurich this season, he had 24-22-46 totals.

Matthews was named the Rising Star Award winner and finished 2nd in voting for the MVP of the National League A in Switzerland. Matthews is the franchise center that the Maple Leafs have been waiting for since the days of Mats Sundin. He led the United States to the bronze with 7-4-11 totals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

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2) Winnipeg Jets–> RW Patrik Laine, Tappara (FIN)

Patrik Laine is the number one choice for number two. You read that right, folks. Laine is one of the next best things for the city of Winnipeg and Jets fans alike. The 6’4”, 206-poung right-winger is a treat to watch and could easily fill the hole left behind by Andrew Ladd’s departure around the trade deadline. We’re talking about the kind of player that could have a bigger year than Blake Wheeler’s already big year. Laine’s size and skill combined with his maturity provides some strength on an increasingly younger and talented Jets roster.

Laine had 10 goals in 18 playoff games with Tappara en route to being named postseason MVP and winning the championship in Liiga (Finland’s top professional league). He had 17-16-33 totals in 46 games during the regular season and led all Liiga rookies in scoring. As well, Laine tied Auston Matthews in goals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship while helping Finland win gold.

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo

3) Columbus Blue Jackets–> RW Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (FIN)

It’d take a pretty sizeable trade to get Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen to give up the 3rd overall pick— and for good reason. Puljujarvi is the next best skater in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft behind Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. His talent and hockey sense drive his offensive game as one of the better prospects on the wing.

Puljujarvi would easily contribute to the youth movement in Columbus as the organization looks to get back to competitive form with a dominant AHL squad in Lake Erie leading the influx of prospects.

The 6’3”, 203-pound forward had 13-15-28 totals in 50 games played for Karpat in Liiga as a 17-year-old. In addition, Puljujarvi was one point shy of Jaromir Jagr’s record for U-18 players at the World Junior Championship level, having scored 17 points in seven games en route to winning gold with Finland this year at the 2016 IIHF World Juniors.

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4) Edmonton Oilers–> LW Matthew Tkachuk, London (OHL)

Originally, I had Jakob Chychrun pegged at 4th overall as the Draft’s best defenseman, but after seeing a second half of the season fade out from Chychrun, even I am skeptical of what he can become. With that, I still have faith in him (see mu 8th overall pick), but while the Oilers could use a young defenseman (that they won’t let slip away— *cough, cough* Jeff Petry), they’ll be forced to take Matthew Tkachuk instead. Not that that’s a bad thing. He’s a talented forward with lots of grit at 6’1”, 195-pounds.

Tkachuk tied Auston Matthews in scoring for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with 11 points and hand 30-77-107 totals in 57 games with the London Knights this season. And, oh yeah, he scored the game winning goal in this year’s Memorial Cup Final for the Knights against Rouyn-Noranda. Tkachuk can also revamp a power play unit, given that 42 of his points this season with London came on the power play.

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli can’t complain about this pick jumpstarting a quick revitalization in Edmonton with Connor McDavid receiving a skilled, young, winger on his line.

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5) Vancouver Canucks–> LW Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed it yet, but there’s a dumpster fire in the Canucks management office. All kidding aside, Vancouver has had bad asset management over the last few years. Trading Jared McCann was, well, not a smooth move on Canucks GM Jim Benning’s move. Granted, Erik Gudbranson is a better defenseman than half of Vancouver’s blue line, but that’s not saying much.

Okay, now that trade analysis is out of the way, here’s the hot take on Pierre-Luc Dubois: he’s good. Dubois is a smart and versatile forward that brings a level of flexibility to the Canucks lineup. He’s more than capable of playing alongside Bo Horvat. Dubois stands tall at 6’2”, 201-pounds, but don’t let his size fool you, he’s got great hands and can play on edge. He led the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles with 57 assists and 99 points in 62 games this season and was a plus-40 rating. Dubois also finished the season in the top-six in the QMJHL in goals and points.

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6) Calgary Flames–> C Logan Brown, Windsor (OHL)

Calgary has a youth movement that at times, seems to work very well, and at other times shows exactly the kind of thing you would expect from young players— inexperience. They’ve done a good job of building through the draft, though at times surprising with who they’ve selected. Their primary focus this offseason should be on a solid defenseman, but they’re not going to find the one they’re looking for at 6th overall in the draft (yes, I know Olli Juolevi exists, let me finish).

The Flames are going to have to be one of those teams that just goes with the best available player on the board, given their position, and since Logan Brown is just that. He’s also bigger than most of their defensemen, so there should be no problem with adding size to their offense without addressing their long-term defensemen needs just yet. At 6’6”, 222-pounds, Brown is a skilled center with speed and the ability to handle the puck better than any other. Think of Joe Thornton as a comparable, since Brown is apt to be a playmaker first, goal scorer second.

He had 21 goals and 74 points in 59 games with the Windsor Spitfires this season. He also had 29 points on the power play and won 53% of his faceoffs, so there’s that.

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7) Arizona Coyotes–> D Olli Juolevi, London (OHL)        

Olli Juolevi is one of the best defensemen in this year’s draft. Of course, hindsight is always better than foresight, but for all you Team Chychrun vs. Team Juolevi people, final rankings and second half of their season performance really separates the two from one another. Both are NHL ready, but one is clearly more ready than the other and has a bit more hockey sense to him.

The fact of the matter is that Juolevi fits the Coyotes style and brings an edge to their blue line that Arizona desperately needs, given the uncertainty of who they’ll bring back and for how long with plenty of pending free agents in the desert. While the Keith Yandle deal from the spring of 2015 paid in dividends for the Coyotes with the addition of Anthony Duclair, they still lost a defenseman that they put a lot of time and effort into forging. And Brandon Gormley wasn’t much of a success either, so much so that they sent him to Colorado. There’s plenty of cause to add another defenseman to forge and create some competition for a roster spot next season.

Juolevi comes ready-made at 6’2”, 182-pounds and provides some solidarity should the Coyotes part with Oliver Ekman-Larsson in any fashion in the coming years. Juolevi had nine goals and 42 points for the London Knights this season with a plus-38 rating. He also won gold with Finland at the 2016 World Juniors and transitioned from Finland to the OHL with ease.

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8) Buffalo Sabres–> D Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia (OHL)

Sometimes players fizzle out a little before the draft to only prove everyone wrong when the experts say they’re unsure of how that player will turn out. At least, that’s what I hope is the case for Chychrun. Look, he’s one of the best defensemen in the draft, given the fact that he is definitely a first rounder and years later we could be looking back on this draft saying that Chychrun was the best defenseman from this draft.

The point is this, he’s a 6’2”, 214-pound, two-way defenseman and is sure to fight for a roster spot on the Sabres come this October. While Chychrun ultimately fell in some draft rankings, he is still a cut above many other defensemen in the draft, given his size and familiarity with the North American style of the game. His physicality and awareness brings a solid foundation to Buffalo’s blue line. Chychrun had 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games along with a plus-23 plus/minus rating this season with the Sarnia Sting.

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9) Montreal Canadiens–> RW Alexander Nylander, Mississauga (OHL)

Nylander had four goals, five assists and nine points for the Swedes at the 2016 World Junior Championship and blossomed as a skilled forward this year with the Mississauga Steelheads. He’s built for NHL stardom and could do so on one of the biggest stages in the sport in Montreal. Nylander is the 6’0”, 180-pound younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward, William Nylander, and is bound to jumpstart a Canadiens offense that was streaky at best (aside from being injured) this season. He had 28 goals and 75 points in 57 games in his first OHL season with Mississauga.

He’s a dynamic skater that is more than effective on the power play, notching nine power play goals for the Steelheads. Nylander can separate himself from any other skater on the ice with ease. If the Sabres overlook Jakob Chychrun, there’s a good chance he could go 8th overall, but since they probably won’t look past Chychrun, Nylander is best fit to go to another rival of the Maple Leafs— the Habs. I’ll say it again, he’s going to be picked by a rival of Toronto, but the question is which one?

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10) Colorado Avalanche–> D Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor (OHL) 

In light of all the rumors/actual evidence that the Avalanche are/are not shopping Tyson Barrie, this one seems self-explanatory. Colorado moves a defenseman to then take a defenseman (that they’ll have to start the process all over again with) at the draft. This seems to be a very Colorado move, but stay with me for a moment on this one. Mikhail Sergachev packs a punch— we’re talking Rob Blake style impact, but with an offensively minded side of the game.

Sergachev is a big 6’2”, 208-pound defenseman and was named the best defenseman in the OHL in his first season in North America this season. His two-way presence along the blue line brings enough of an offensive element to his game to satisfy anyone that likes watching someone hit someone along the boards with their size, then start a quick transition the other way (and execute it well). With Sergachev, we’re talking almost like an Erik Karlsson, but with more strength when it comes to playing defense.

He plays with confidence and speed and had 17 goals and 57 points in 67 games with the Windsor Spitfires in his rookie season. Add to that his 31 points on the power play and maybe the Avalanche are ready to take on a young, NHL-ready defenseman that might be able to help them figure out what the heck they are doing. Sergachev is the total package that the Av’s have failed to produce on their own, but desperately want, and brings balance to their youth movement all around.

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11) New Jersey Devils–> C Tyson Jost, Penticton (BCHL)

If you’re the Devils and you’re committed to Cory Schneider as one of the league’s best-underrated goaltenders, then you should be working harder than ever to prevent the current turnaround from lasting forever. You owe it to Schneider and his goalie equipment. Okay, rant aside, New Jersey could use younger talent and it might not be a bad idea if it does take them a few years to groom it properly. After all, letting another Zach Parise get away wouldn’t be good.

The fact of the matter is this— New Jersey isn’t going anywhere unless they figure out that they need to build around Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique, Schneider and the like. Yet the Devils seem pretty insistent on going where they want with what they have, which means it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add to their lack of strength down the middle. Ray Shero is a smart general manager knows how to add talent.

Tyson Jost is perhaps one of the best-underrated players available in the draft as a 6’0”, 194-pound center heading to the University of North Dakota next season. Jost could become a cornerstone forward for New Jersey as long as they’re willing to add to their foundation. He had 42 goals and 104 points in 48 games for Penticton this season, with 14 goals on the power play and seven game-winners.

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12) Ottawa Senators–> D Jake Bean, Calgary (WHL)

The likes of another Erik Karlsson in Ottawa wouldn’t be a bad thing considering their addition of the annual butt-end of a pylon joke, Dion Phaneuf this season. Jake Bean is a solid defenseman with a considerable offensive element of his game that with some work, could flourish in the NHL. Plus his name fits the Senators obsession with defenseman with short, four-letter last names, like Cody Ceci.

Bean is a 6’0”, 173-pound offensive defenseman with excellent wheels and smart puck possession. He can make excellent passes and carry his own weight. With proper training, Bean could strengthen up enough to become a force to be reckoning with on the blue line. His stick, body and talent is sure to be a great compliment alongside any of Ottawa’s defenders in the years to come. One more thing to note, Bean led the Western Hockey League defensemen with 24 goals in 68 games in his second full season in the league with the Calgary Hitmen.

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13) Carolina Hurricanes–> C Clayton Keller, USA U-18 (USHL)

First the Hurricanes made waves by landing Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason, next they’re going to make waves by selecting Clayton Keller with the 13th overall pick. Here’s why: despite what everyone tells you about size in hockey, you don’t always need size— you just need skill (and a lot of hard work). Keller is a skillful 5’9”, 168-pound center reminiscent of the likes of Martin St. Louis or Jonathan Drouin. Overlooked, doubted, under recognized, Keller is a smart, tactical, forward.

He led the USA’s U-18 program with 70 assists and 107 points in 62 games this season. As well, Keller recorded four goals and 10 points in seven games at the 2016 IIHF World U-18 Championship en route to a bronze medal. The Hurricanes need to retool down the middle in the post-Eric Staal era and Keller is likely to be their man. He’s committed to Boston University in 2016-2017 and was also selected in the second round (40th overall) of the 2014 OHL Draft by the Windsor Spitfires, proving that he’s got plenty of options for some development before making the NHL jump.

Carolina shouldn’t rush things with him, if they’re committed to the long term approach of success (though the same can’t necessarily be stated for the relocation rumors surrounding the team).

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14) Boston Bruins–> D Charlie McAvoy, Boston University (Hockey-East)

Boston needs a defenseman, so Boston drafts a defenseman they can keep their eyes on throughout his development, as McAvoy is across town at Boston University. Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, has a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason just as he did last offseason and must look to add depth on the blue line both in the immediate future and down the pipeline.

McAvoy brings an excellent 6’0”, 208-pound frame with excellent defensive awareness. While he’s not NHL ready, a year or two of development looks to pay off in dividends with his 39 blocked shots in 37 games played this season as a freshman at BU. Likewise, McAvoy had three goals and 25 points and was a plus-10 rating in his first year as a Terrier. He had a plus-5 rating with the bronze medal-winning United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Under the guidance of some veterans and Boston’s coaching staff, McAvoy could turn into a household name at TD Garden.

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15) Minnesota Wild–> LW Max Jones, London (OHL)

Minnesota has some tough decisions to make this offseason with regards to their plethora of pending free agents, potentially buying out or trading Thomas Vanek and the inquiries they face in the ongoing phone calls about Darcy Kuemper. With four picks in the 2016 Draft, the Wild could be looking to stockpile a few more (and they’ve got assets to move). With Bruce Boudreau at the reigns the Wild should become a contender with the right pieces. The only trouble is finding those pieces between now and then.

An addition that’s needed for Minnesota to surpass their previous playoff failures is found in 6’2”, 203-pound forward, Max Jones. He would bring size and physicality to their lineup along with a skilled stick that scored 28 goals and 52 points in 63 games as a London Knight this season. Barring his brutality (he had amassed 106 penalty minutes and a 12-game suspension in the OHL playoffs), Jones could be a wild enough power forward for the Wild.

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16) Detroit Red Wings–> D Dante Fabbro, Penticton (BCHL)

The phrase “defense wins championships” has long been synonymous with the Detroit Red Wings. While their offense has improved in age and dynamics, as Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan surely cannot do everything; the Red Wings have been a little lackluster on the point in prospects. Actually, it hasn’t been a little— it’s been virtually non-existent with every young defenseman in their system having either faded out or been traded.

The point is, Detroit needs a younger defense sooner rather than later to avoid a situation similar to the *ahem* Boston Bruins or New York Rangers.

Fabbro brings in a solid 6’0”, 189-pound stature that had 14-53-67 totals in 45 games for Penticton this season. The Boston University bound defenseman will need some time to develop, but the Red Wings can take a year or two to work their way with him and align everyone on the same “defense wins championships” page. Of note, Fabbro was named the top defenseman in the British Columbia Hockey League for his efforts this season.

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17) Nashville Predators–> D Logan Stanley, Windsor (OHL)

Replacing Seth Jones isn’t easy— was something I expected to say in twenty years if you asked me three years ago at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but now everything’s changed since Jones didn’t pan out the way Nashville envisioned how they’d utilize him. Still feeling the effects of Ryan Suter jumping ship (and Shea Weber almost jettisoning the Predators), Nashville goes with Logan Stanley to regain some control of developing their defensemen the way they want to.

At 6’7”, 225-pounds, Stanley packs a punch standing tall and bone crunching-ly strong. Additionally, he skates well and can pair up with just about any defenseman willing to carry the more offensive sides of the game as Stanley fits more of a stay-at-home, shutdown blue liner role. He had 5-12-17 totals and 103 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Spitfires this season and handles speedy forwards with ease, often breaking down oncoming rushes.

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18) Philadelphia Flyers–> C Michael McLeod, Mississauga (OHL)

The Flyers are in prime position for aligning themselves as playoff contenders for the next few seasons (at least) if they continue to manage their assets and commit themselves to a solid goaltender (looking at you Michal Neuvirth). Philadelphia has a lot of centers, so what’s one more? Likewise, GM Ron Hextall has mentioned that he wants to add size. He should do so, with versatility.

Michael McLeod led Mississauga in shorthanded goals (four) and 21-40-61 totals this season. Combined with his work ethic, McLeod’s 6’2”, 188-pound frame and speed shows durability as a playmaking forward that could develop well on the wing in Philly. While Shayne Gostisbehere holds down the blue line for the Flyers, drafting a smart, gifted offense will help balance the franchise’s talent pool in the coming years.

Overall the Flyers are a few steps away from taking the New York Islanders model into a deeper playoff routine…

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19) New York Islanders–> C Luke Kunin, Wisconsin (BIG 10)

…and speaking of the Islanders…

First, what were the they thinking with that Casey Cizikas extension? Second, they’re going to need someone to step up big time to replace Kyle Okposo, especially with the threat of John Tavares opting to hit the free agent market in 2017— though do you think New York won’t learn anything from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s current situation with Steven Stamkos to put more than enough emphasis on valuing their best franchise player? Enough ranting about the organization overall, more about Luke Kunin.

Kunin is a 5’11”, 193-pound solid center that was named to the Big Ten Conference All-Freshmen team after leading the Wisconsin Badgers with 19 goals (five of them on the power play) and 127 shots on goal in 34 games this season. Again, “solid” is the keyword here. Dependable on special teams and durable in the lineup are other expected qualities from Kunin, especially with some time to develop, he could become one of the better two-way players in the league, emulating the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar. But again, the other keyword here is development (which he’ll certainly get in his coming years at Wisconsin).

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20) Arizona Coyotes (from New York Rangers)–> LW Riley Tufte, Blaine (HS-MN)

Having already addressed Arizona’s needs, this one is simply one of those “take one of the highly ranked guys, oh and talk about his size being important to the lineup” selections.

Look, with a roster that already has Max Domi and other skilled, young players, looking to create a dynamic mix of skill and toughness in the desert, Riley Tufte is a clear choice for the Coyotes at 20th overall if he’s still available by then. He’s a 6’5”, 211-pound left wing that wins battles along the boards. Tufte also has a heavy shot and had 47 goals and 78 points (with six power play goals) in 25 games en route to winning the 2016 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award. He also had 10 goals in 27 games with Fargo in the USHL and is committed to the University of Minnesota Duluth next season to add some more strength and development to his game.

In time, he’ll leave opponents howling for mercy in Arizona (I just wanted to make a pun, please appreciate it).

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21) Carolina Hurricanes (from Los Angeles Kings)–> D Dennis Cholowski, Chilliwack (BCHL)

Some things were said about the Hurricanes and some things remain. Meanwhile, they’ve got some good defensemen coming up the ranks and lots of potential trade bait on the blue line, both in the now and in the future. Sometimes a change of scenery is best for both teams in regards to the lack of development for players like Ryan Murphy. Likewise, the uncertainty of Justin Faulk’s future in Carolina looms overhead.

It only makes sense to make a selection that you intend to groom properly and insert into the lineup down the road. Dennis Cholowski is a 6’0”, 170-pound sturdy defenseman with excellent hockey sense and decent skating ability. He had 12 goals and 40 points in 50 games with Chilliwack this season and knows how to open up enough space for a breakout. With some strength and development at St. Cloud State University, Cholowski could become a solid, underrated, blue liner for Carolina.

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22) Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago Blackhawks)–> LW Kieffer Bellows, USA U-18 (USHL)

Barring a Patrik Laine breakdown, the Winnipeg Jets make out with two solid first round picks in my mock draft.

Kieffer Bellows is just what the Jets need for a pure goal scorer that’ll help the likes of Mark Scheifele and whoever else Winnipeg has down the middle. Bellows scored 50 goals this season with the USA U-18 national development team and is sure to make a sound next season at Boston University. His 12 power play goals and nine game-winning goals and 81 points came in 62 games this season. At 6’0”, 196-pounds he’ll be more than ready to be a durable winger coming down the pipeline in the next few seasons. Oh and he likes to shoot from anywhere, as evidenced by his 50 goals with the NTDP U-18 team.

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23) Florida Panthers–> RW Alexander DeBrincat, Erie (OHL)

The Florida Panthers are trending upwards and they appear to be only getting better, what with the Keith Yandle trade and signing as the latest piece to the puzzle and the ageless wonder— excuse me, legend— Jaromir Jagr in great shape.

Alexander DeBrincat brings a lot of skill to the Panthers roster, despite his 5’7”, 163-pound frame (but again, size doesn’t matter when hard work and talent is enough to prove people wrong). DeBrincat may have had his run-ins with trouble on the international Junior stage, but he’s not one to pass up on and cast off as uncoachable or whatever. He anticipates what comes to him with ease and has an impressive release on an accurate shot that played alongside Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome the last two seasons.

Along the way, DeBrincat amassed 102 goals in 128 games with the Erie Otters as perhaps one of the most underrated forwards alongside the likes of McDavid and Strome.

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24) Anaheim Ducks–> C Rasmus Asplund, Farjestad (SWE)

After surprising everyone with the way they flapped around the bottom of the standings at the start of this season, the Anaheim Ducks worked their way as far as a disappointing Game 7 loss in Round 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Nashville Predators. Then they fired Bruce Boudreau and hired Randy Carlyle as head coach. Apparently they think that every ten years they can win a Cup or something with the same head coach and just the same amount of confusion in the offseason. Where they’re headed nobody knows.

But drafting Rasmus Asplund certainly won’t be a mistake for the Ducks. Asplund’s a 5’10”, 176-pound center that will need some time to develop in order to strengthen up and fully transition to the North American style of the game, but he’s got superb leadership and great competitiveness in his game. The potential for this 4-8-12 total point scorer in 46 games with Farjestad this season to improve as he comes more into his development as a two-way forward is yet to be calculated as to just how far off the charts he could reach. Asplund is one of those well-liked guys you can work with and tailor to your needs.

Think of a lesser known, better kept secret, David Pastrnak type of player on the ice with the potential of being the next Teemu Selanne style leader off the ice. Anaheim fans will surely like that.

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25) Dallas Stars–> RW Vitaly Abramov, Gatineau (QMJHL)

The Dallas Stars aren’t looking to do much this offseason besides find better goaltending, if possible, and work on ensuring that Tyler Seguin is fully healed and ready to carry the team on his back alongside Jamie Benn again (slightly warm hot take).

Dare I say it, but drafting Vitaly Abramov could pay off in— stars— for the Stars. The 5’9”, 175-pound winger led the Gatineau Olympiques with 38 goals (with 11 of them on the power play) and 93 points this season en route to being named the QMJHL Rookie of the Year. Abramov is highly competitive and has a quick shot. There’s no need to worry about his transition to the North American game, because he’s already further developed than most for his skill level.

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26) Washington Capitals–> C German Rubtsov, Team Russia U18 (RUS)

Capping off a President’s Trophy winning season (and their best season in franchise history) with an early second round of the playoffs exit to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins was not something on the Washington Capitals’ list this season. But their plethora of talent isn’t sure to diminish anytime soon.

German Rubtsov is the kind of two-way player that could really excel under Barry Trotz’s guidance and/or alongside Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov— actually pretty much anyone on the Capitals roster. As a 6’2”, 178-pound forward with 26 points in 28 games for Team Russia’s U18 team, Rubtsov displayed flashes of brilliance in his hockey sense and defensive awareness, bringing forth a tremendous two-way element to his game. He’s sure to win some battles in high traffic situations for Washington in the years to come with a little fine seasoning in their system, wherever that may be.

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27) Tampa Bay Lightning–> D Lucas Johansen, Kelowna (WHL)

Tampa Bay has a lot on its plate this offseason, between the swirling rumors around trading Ben Bishop, their defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals, oh and the fact that Steven Stamkos could very well be heading to unrestricted free agency and the Lightning will be left without a #1 franchise player if he decides to leave. But hey, sure, let’s look ahead for the organization, why not? What else could possibly go wrong— insert plea for Victor Hedman to tough it out and anyone else worried about what skilled Lightning player will be taken by Las Vegas at next year’s expansion draft.

Enough kidding around, Tampa could use a defenseman that is young and may need a year or two before coming into the league because, well, what else might they need. They’ve got plenty of young forwards, young defensemen (I’m looking at you Slater Koekkoek, okay actually I just wanted to type that name) and a young goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy; so really, the choice is yours Steve Yzerman and crew. Take Lucas Johansen and you’ve got your hands on a 6’1”, 176-pound younger brother of the Nashville Predators’ Ryan Johansen.

This Johansen can skate well and play at both ends of the rink and is in an organization that has produced Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Tyson Barrie. That’s some pretty good company to be in and enough reason for Tampa to look to the future of a shut down pair in Lucas Johansen and Hedman.

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28) St. Louis Blues–> C Pascal Laberge, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

David Backes is heading to free agency, Paul Stastny isn’t getting any younger, but at least Vladimir Sobotka may be making his return to the St. Louis Blues lineup next season. As an aside, I’m a huge fan of Sobotka, just throwing it out there. Tight against the salary cap, the Blues may be singing the blues in Ken Hitchcock’s final season as head coach if they can’t find a way to restock their prospect pool and finagle a way to keep high-end talent on their roster. It’s the tragedy of the salary cap era to see a team that’s so good, make it only so far, then have to dismantle nearly everything when they get behind the eight ball a bit against the cap.

With that, Pascal Laberge is a promising center that led the Victoriaville Tigres with 68 points in 56 games this season. He was named MVP of the 2016 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January, by the way, and is a 6’1”, 172-pound, right-shot that goes to the dirty areas to pick up points and notch goals. His compete level and ability to play the puck along the wall, while winning battles all over the ice, prove he can develop into an all-in-one impact player for St. Louis, like Backes, but perhaps a tad better. It’s time to start thinking long term and begin building down the middle for the Blues.

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29) Boston Bruins (from San Jose Sharks)–> C Tage Thompson, Connecticut (Hockey-East)

Remember everything I said before about the Bruins? Yeah, well, they need a lot of help. Regardless of whatever they’re able to attract this offseason, they’re still quite a ways off from righting the ship unless they can pull off a miracle it seems. But hey, the good news is that they have two first round picks at their dispersal and some talent forming in their pipelines/already with the NHL club in the likes of Frank Vatrano, Colin Miller (who’s a pending RFA) and others.

Tage Thompson works perfectly for them to keep an eye on through his development at UConn. He led the NCAA with 13 power play goals this season and had 14 goals and 32 points in 36 games with the Huskies. The 6’5”, 195-pound forward finished his freshman year with lots of promise and has enough time to continue to develop into a solid, accurate shooting, quick with the hands center that would bring an immense boost to Boston’s power play if all goes according to plan. Thompson will also have to add some strength to match his height and the level of his game, but he’s got some time while Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci hold down the fort on the Bruins top lines.

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30) Anaheim Ducks (from PIT via TOR)–> RW Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)

I talked about the Ducks before, so I’ll cut to the chase, especially since you’ve been such a good reader making it all the way to the end of this mock draft. Thanks for that.

Julien Gauthier is a monstrous 6’3”, 225-pound power forward. Obviously I meant that in a good way. While some see him as a second or third rounder, Anaheim sees his potential and grabs him before anyone else can even begin to dream about having him in their lineup in the years to come. His 41-11-57 totals in 54 games for Val-d’Or are impressive enough to be a tactical selection by the Ducks, in light of being the only 2016 NHL Draft-eligible player to play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. Gauthier had two assists in five games played at the 2016 IIHF WJC.

And that does it. That’s all folks. Well, at least for the first round, but I don’t think you want to see me project all seven rounds do you? Thanks for reading. May your favorite team have the best of luck at Friday and Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft. We’ll have a live blog of the first round going and keep you updated on all the trades made, as usual.

2016 NHL Awards Live Blog

By: Nick Lanciani

Tonight is the 2016 NHL Awards ceremony from Las Vegas, so I figured I’d recap every award tonight as they are presented.

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Calder Memorial Trophy winner- Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks

Other finalists- Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) and Connor McDavid (EDM)

Ted Lindsay Award winner- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Other finalists- Jamie Benn (DAL)  and Braden Holtby (WSH)

General Manager of the Year- Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh Penguins

Other finalists- Brian MacLellan (WSH) and Jim Nill (DAL)

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner- Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers

Other finalists- Mats Zuccarello (NYR) and Pascal Dupuis (PIT)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award winner- Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Other finalists- Alex Ovechkin (WSH) and John Tavares (NYI)

King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner- Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Other finalists- none announced

NHL Foundation Player Award- Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

Other finalists- Matt Martin (NYI) and P.K. Subban (MTL)

EA Sports NHL 17 Cover Athlete- Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

Other finalist- Joe Pavelski (SJ)

James Norris Memorial Trophy- Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Other finalists- Brent Burns (SJ) and Erik Karlsson (OTT)

Frank J. Selke Trophy- Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Other finalists- Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and Ryan Kesler (ANA)

Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy- Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

(presented to the goal scorer who scored the most goals in the season, so this one was already technically awarded before Wednesday night)

William M. Jennings Trophy- Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

(presented to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest total goals against in the season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Jack Adams Award- Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

Other finalists- Lindy Ruff (DAL) and Gerard Gallant (FLA)

Then NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took some time out in the night to remember Ed Snider and Gordie Howe. We had this to say…

Art Ross Trophy- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

(presented to the player that led the league in scoring at the end of the regular season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy- Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Other finalists- Aleksander Barkov (FLA) and Loui Eriksson (BOS)

Vezina Trophy- Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Other finalists- Ben Bishop (TB) and Jonathan Quick (LA)

Hart Memorial Trophy- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Other finalists-  Jamie Benn (DAL) and Sidney Crosby (PIT)

 

 

 

Another Strong Game from Braden Holtby Helps the Capitals win 1-0 and Advance to Round 2.

The Washington Capitals took care of the pesky Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 1-0 on Sunday afternoon . Washington officially won the seven game series 4-2 and did not allow the Flyers to force another game. The Capitals were led by their stellar goaltender Braden Holtby who picked up the win in a 29 save shutout, his second shutout of the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Flyers looked to pull of another miracle win against the Washington Capitals in Game 6 this afternoon in Philly at an electric Wells Fargo Center. Again the Flyers went with goalie Michal Neuvirth who has been sensational in his past two games going 2-0 with a .987 SV% and a .50 GAA and with one shutout. While the Capitals are hoping goaltender Braden Holtby can turn in another shutout like his Game 1 performance.

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Game 6 started just like Game 5 did, very physical. In Game 5 there was a fight just 10 seconds into the game. Well, Game 6 started the same way, but no fight was started. Instead, it was just hit after hit after hit from both teams, obviously trying to set the tone early in the game.

Just a couple examples of the physical play was Flyers winger Brayden Schenn absolutely LEVELING Caps center Nicklas Backstrom along the right side boards. As well as Flyers new guy, who was the captain of their AHL team, Colin McDonald CLOBBERING Capitals Andre Burakovsky in the corner of the Caps zone. Both these hits got the home crowd of the Flyers amped up and ready to go!

Now surprisingly there were no great scoring chances by both teams, just a couple outside shots here and there that were easily saved by both goalies. It took a while for the games first penalty to dawn upon us as well. At the 13:18 mark of the first-period Flyers superstar Claude Giroux got the call for hooking Caps winger T.J Oshie. This sent the Capitals to their deadly power play and their first of the game. Philly was up to the task and only let two shots reach Neuvirth and killed off the infraction with awesome shot blocking.

Washington would then go right back on the power play just 4:55 later when Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds slashed Caps D-man Karl Alzner. The Caps would get a couple quick shots that were easily saved by Neuvirth. On a faceoff play just 45 seconds later Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald missed lifting the stick of Capitals Marcus Johansson and caught him up high with a hi-sticking call. Washington would then go on the 5 on 3 power play.

Then finally, with 31 seconds remaining in the period we get the games first scoring chance thanks to Washington vet Justin Williams. He received a pass in the high slot from center Nicklas Backstrom and fired a quick wrist shot that was turned away nicely by Neuvirth’s blocker. Washington would end the period still on the 5 on 3 PP.

Washington started the second period with the 5 on 3 power play. Nothing came from this two-man advantage as the Flyers were able to kill it off. The next penalty went to Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom as he was slapped with a double minor for hi-sticking Flyers grinder Ryan White. Then as the replays ensued it was really the stick of Philly winger Chris VandeVelde who caught him up high but the penalty didn’t change. Then just five seconds later the Capitals would take another penalty, this time, Washinton D-man Matt Niskanen got a two-minute infraction for hooking Philly winger Wayne Simmonds. This would send the Flyers to a crucial 5 on 3 power play in hope for a goal to break the 0-0 tie.

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Unfortunately, the Flyers only managed three shots on goal and it was a terrible power play to go along with it. Then to put insult to injury of that awful power play, Flyers grinder Ryan White got called for holding the stick of Capitals defender Matt Niskanen just 6:55 into the second and it nullified the Flyers PP and made the game 4 on 4.When the 4 on 4 ended it sent the Caps to their fourth power play of the game, but only had 30 seconds to work with and blew their chance to strike first as the PP expired.

At 8:59 into the second period we got the games first goal courtesy of Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. Washington star Alex Ovechkin held the puck in at the right blue line, and spotted Caps Winger Marcus Johansson in the slot and hit him with a pass. Johansson settled the puck down and slid the puck over to the goal scorer, Nicklas Backstrom who was standing at the left side dot. Once the puck hit Backstrom’s stick he quickly fired a wrister up high that beat Neuvirth up high for the 1-0 lead.

This goal snapped Neuvirth’s shutout streak at 106:20, an outstanding mark that lasted a game and 2 periods. Washington also finally beat Neuvirth after he saved their previous 72 shot attempts. So clearly the Caps were relieved they were able to finally get a goal. The second period ended with the Capitals up 1-0, so if the Flyers want to keep their playoff hopes alive they better wake up in the third period.

Hey, look! You could have guessed it, the Flyers took ANOTHER penalty. This time is was Flyers winger Sam Gagner who hooked Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov. Washington would then get their 5th man advantage of the game, but only had one shot on goal. Once again the Flyers were outstanding on the kill.

The rest of the third period was back and forth to say the lease. Each team had numerous scoring chances but were always denied by the goalies of Neuvirth and Holtby. The Flyers would then pull Neuvirth with 1:20 left in the game desperately trying for that tying goal. Sadly, the Flyers were not able to get one past Holtby in the dire minutes of the game and lost Game 6 by a score of 1-0. The last glimmer of hope on the Flyers “cinderella” type season was after that final buzzer rung, their fans immediately gave the team a standing ovation.

Holtby once again played a phenomenal game, saving all 29 shots thrown his way for his second shutout of the series. While Michal Neuvirth played outstanding again in the losing effort stopping 25 out of 26 shots for a .966 SV%.

The Washington Capitals final stat leaders for their first series are as followed. Their leading point getter was Nicklas Backstrom (2G, 5A), leading goal scorer was John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin both with 3 goals and assist leader was Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson both with 5 assists. While their goaltender Brenden Holtby finished the series with a marvelous  4-2 record, a .968 SV%, and a .84 GAA in 6 Games as well as two shutouts.

The Philadelphia Flyers leading point getter was a 4-way tie for first. Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sam Gagner, and Shayne Gostisbehere all had 2 points (all players had 2 assists), leading goal scorer was a 6 way tie all with 1 goal (Shayne Gostisbehere, Jakub Voracek, Micheal Raffl, Andrew McDonald, Chris VandeVelde, and Ryan White), and leading assist getter were the same 4 people who lead in total points.

While Steve Mason finished his playoffs with a dreadful 0-3 record, a .852 SV%, and a 4.09 GAA in 3 Games (Games 1, 2, and 3) and Michal Neuvirth finished with a 2-1 record, a .981 SV%, and a .67 GAA in 3 Games (Games 4, 5, and 6). You can clearly tell that the Capitals were the better team overall and the Flyers offensive production was bad. A major key on why they got bounced in the first round.

Philadelphia lead in faceoffs (35-24), penalty minutes (10-6), hits (38-32), blocked shots (21-15), and giveaways (14-13). While the Capitals only lead in shots (29-26). Philly finished 0/3 on the power play and Washington finished 0/5.

Washington was able to finish off the Flyers and not allow them to force a Game 7. They won the series 4 games to 2. Philly will now pack their bags and begin the offseason earlier than they hoped for as they are officially eliminated from the playoffs. The Capitals will now take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that will begin as soon as the other four series finish.

 

 

 

Michal Neuvirth’s HUGE Second Game in a Row Paired Ryan White’s Game Winning Goal Help the Flyers Force a Game 6.

The Philadelphia Flyers squeezed out a 2-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night IN Washington, D.C. The Capitals came into tonight’s game up 3 games to 1 in the 7 game series looking to finish off the Flyers. The Flyers had other thoughts tonight and played an average overall game, but thanks to underrated goaltender Michal Neuvirth, they escaped with the shutout win.

Philadelphia Flyers Logo

Washington wanted to forget about their disappointing Game 4 and start anew in Game 5.  Once again the Flyers followed their gut instinct and went with Michal Neuvirth after his impressive performance in Game 4. He led the Flyers to a crucial win in a game that was win or go home and he looked to do the same tonight.

The first period started out as a wild one, with the two teams engaging in an early brawl just TEN seconds into the game. The brawl featured Philly winger Brayden Schenn and Caps winger T.J. Oshie. Both players fought for a good amount of time and both got a number of clean punches in but the fight ended in a clean tie. After this start to the game, you could tell that tonight’s match up wasn’t going to be an easy win for either team. The games first penalty went to Capitals vet Justin Williams just 1:08 into the game as he was called for a double minor (four minutes) for hi-sticking Philly defender Nick Schultz. Now the Flyers still struggling on the man advantage looked to score an early goal to get the crowd out of the game. Well, this didn’t happen, in fact, they only mustered three shots on net and with a stellar penalty kill by the Caps, their fans got loud with the kill.

Next, Paul Bunyan aka Radko Gudas took the Flyers first infraction of the game when he cross-checked Washington D-man Karl Alzner 5:45 into the period. This mistake sent the Caps to their almost unstoppable power play and the first of tonight’s contest. Philly was on lock down defense and only gave up 2 easy shots and killed that opportunity with comfort. Finally, almost 10 minutes into the game, Washington grabs the games first primal scoring chance. Surprisingly, Caps enforcer Tom Wilson grabbed the puck behind the Flyers net. He then spotted fellow enforcer Daniel Winnik in front and hit him with an amazing no look-back hand pass from behind the net. Winnik received the pass and fired a quick wrister on net and was kicked aside by Neuvirth’s right pad and made a miraculous save to keep the score at 0-0.

Again, there was another penalty called just 1:53 later with Caps winger Justin Williams getting called for goaltender interference on Michal Neuvirth. This brace sent the Flyers to their second PP of the game, but just like the last one, they only threw two weak shots on net and it was killed off with poise. Now 5:28 later, a little scuffle ensued between Caps winger Jason Chimera and Philly defender Nick Schultz. This little brouhaha resulted in each player getting a two-minute penalty for roughing.

The second period started off edgy with the teams combining for 3 hits within the first 1:05. Then just 2:05 into the second period the Caps took ANOTHER penalty with Marcus Johansson roughing Flyers rookie Colin McDonald from behind. Philadelphia was sent to their third power play of the game, but this didn’t last as long as the Flyers hoped for. Just 1:35 into the Flyers PP, rookie defender Shayne Gostisbehere got called for two minutes for holding the stick of Capitals Daniel Winnik. The two teams played four on four hockey for the remainder of the two penalties.

Once again, there was another penalty for the Capitals. This time, it was Washington’s Justin Williams again for catching Flyers captain Claude Giroux with a hi-stick. Philly would then go on their 4th man advantage of the game and this time, they would cash in and grab the games first goal. As the Capitals penalty expired, Flyers defender Mark Streit moved the puck over to Flyers winger Sam Gagner on the left point. Gagner decided to let a one-timer clap bomb go towards the net. His shot hit Philly grinder Ryan White who was standing in front of Holtby’s net. The puck hit White and fell down right in front of him. White quickly jumped on the puck and fired it on net with his back still facing Holtby. The puck took a lucky bounce and hit Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney who was standing at the side of the net. Unfortunately, Chorney was in the wrong place at the wrong time as the puck hit his skate and ricocheted into the wide open net to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

The Capitals would then grab the next excellent scoring chance with just 2:09 remaining in the second period. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who was on the half board on the right side, located Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin in the high slot. Backstrom skimmed a pass to Ovi who had trouble with the puck in his feet. As he was being peppered from behind by Philly call-up Colin McDonald he was still able to get a wrist shot on net. Neuvirth was able to propel the puck out with his right pad but was not able to control the rebound as the puck scooted out to his right. Washington winger Marcus Johansson was able to reach the rebound, turn, and fire the puck on net. Neuvirth was able to push off to his right and absolutely ROBB Johansson of a wide open net and a sure goal with his right pad. This save was one of if not the best save of Neuvirth’s game and kept his team in the lead going into the second intermission. The Flyers were lucky to not have given up a goal because they were heavily outshot by Washington 16-2 in the second period alone. HUGE credit to goalie Michal Neuvirth for standing on his head.

Washington Capitals Logo

Philadelphia started the third period fast obviously looking for that insurance goal. Only 2:30 into the final frame, Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere had the puck at the point and shot a laser to the net that beat Holtby to the right but not the post and rang right off the cross bar. Philly would then get another scoring possibility with the Capitals taking their 5th penalty of the game 6:51 into the third. Caps right winger Jason Chimera dished out a huge cheap shot on Flyers stud Jakub Voracek and got two minutes for boarding. Philly would only manage one shot on this PP but gave up a great short-handed chance. Caps winger Daniel Winnik went streaking down the left-hand boards. He out waited sliding Philly D-man Shayne Gostisbehere and centered a pass towards streaking Caps enforcer Jay Beagle. Beagle lunged for the puck and tipped it on net but was stoned by Neuvirth who robbed Beagle with a huge left pad save to keep their lead intact again. Flyers Ryan White would then get a trip to the sin bin after interfering with Washington defender Nate Schmidt. The Capitals would look to find a way to tie the game on their sizzling power play. Well, the Flyers penalty killers were up to the task again and killed the penalty off while only giving up one small shot.

Washington would then get their best opportunity of the game with 6:34 left in the game. Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin came busting down the right-hand side of the ice. He rifled a wrist shot low far side that was easily turned away with Neuvirth’s left pad. The juicy rebound went right into the wide open slot just sitting there waiting for Washington defenseman, Dmitry Orlov to hammer it home, but Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere had other plans. Right as Orlov was about to fire home the game-tying rebound into the open net, Gostisbehere dove and knocked the puck away as well as Orlov’s stick right out of his hand for a marvelous defensive play!

Like I said, that was Washington’s last prime scoring chance of the game. They pulled goaltender Braden Holtby with 1:02 left in the game in the hope of a game-tying goal. Washington was only able to get one shot through on goal as Philly was blocking everything in sight. Then with 31 seconds left in the game, the Flyers would put the icing on the cake. Flyers 4th liner, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare stole the puck off the stick of Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and passed the puck over to Flyers fellow 4th liner Chris VandeVelde. He then would go in all alone on the wide open net and throw the puck into the goal to end the Caps chance at a comeback and make the score 2-0. This score held till the final buzzer for a huge win.

Philly won this game thanks to wonderful goaltending from Michal Neuvirth for the second game in a row. Tonight he turned away all 44 shots thrown his way for hist first shutout of his 2016 playoff campaign. On the other hand, Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped 10 out of 11 shots faced for a .900 SV%. The Flyers 11 shots are a team record for fewest shots in a playoff game in franchise history.

The Capitals lead in shots (44-11), penalty minutes (19-13), faceoffs (38-34) and hits (35-17). The Flyers only led in blocks (18-6) and giveaways (5-4). Philly were a dreadful 0/6 on the power play while Washington was 0/2.

The Flyers once again staved off elimination and cut into the Caps series lead and now made it (3-2). Philly will now head back home to the WFC for Game 6 in the hope of forcing another Game 7. This game will be played on Sunday at Noon and can be seen on NBC, CBC, or TVAS.

Michal Neuvirth Finally Gets the Chance to Shine, Earns A Huge Win to Avoid the Series Sweep.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoThe Philadelphia Flyers earned a vital win by the score of 2-1 Wednesday night over the Washington Capitals in a rocking Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers were led by Czech-born goaltender Michal Neuvirth who made a stellar 31 saves.

Finally, Flyers head Coach Dave Hakstol looked to his “number 2” goaltender Michal Neuvirth to provide momentum for his club. In my opinion, this coaching move came a game short, because clearly Neuvirth should have started Game 3! On the other hand, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby looked to continue his hot start to the series. Coming into Game 4, Holtby has stopped 93 out of 95 shots thrown his way in three games for an amazing .978% SV and a mindblowing .67 GAA with one shutout under his belt.

The beginning of the game started very fast. With each team going back and forth, trading shots off the post. The games first penalty went Capitals defender Taylor Chorney as he interfered with Flyers center Nick Cousins just 5:03 into the game. This sent the Flyers to their awful power play, who prior to game 3 were a dreadful 0/13 on the man advantage. So the Flyers were looking to grab a quick and early goal and that’s exactly what they did thanks to rookie sensation Shayne Gostisbehere. Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds dished the puck to the slot intended for Brayden Schenn, his stick got lifted and the puck went right to “Ghost’s” stick. He passed the puck to superstar center Claude Giroux who passed it right back to Shayne, who then moved it back to Giroux, and then received a perfect pass right in his wheel house! Ghost unleashed a massive one-timer from the point and beat Holtby high blocker side just 48 seconds into the PP to send the crowd into a frenzy. The goal was Gostisbehere’s first career playoff goal.

The Capitals looked to jump right back and tie the game. Just 26 seconds later Caps youngster Evgeny Kuznetsov came down the right-hand side and let a powerful wrister go, but Michal Neuvirth stood tall and shut that opportunity down faster then you could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

This next part was one of the scariest moments in Flyers winger, Scott Laughton’s career. Scott Laughton was skating for the puck in the corner and also involved in a hard battle with Caps D-man John Carlson. Laughton got over-powered by Carlson and taken down unintentionally HARD into the boards banging his head and neck in both an awkward way. Laughton attempted to get up but just laid motionlessly behind Holtby’s net. This was definitely a scary sight for any hockey fan or player to see. He was then stretchered off the ice  10-15 minutes later after being tended to by the trainers, then was taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary measures. Everyone here at Down The Frozen River wishes a speedy recovery!

The Flyers jumped right off the bat in the second period looking to extend their 1-0 lead. Just 31 seconds into the second-period Flyers captain Claude Giroux flew down the right-hand side throwing a wrister towards the net and finding the stick of Brayden Schenn. He then put a nasty redirection on target, but Braden Holtby denied that chance with ease.

Then with 16:09 remaining in the second the Flyers finally got their second goal they were pushing for. Brayden Schenn came down the right side, stopped on a dime at the point, and threw a weak wrister on net that was easily handled by Holtby, and waffleboarded into the corner. Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds collected the rebound in the corner and dished it up to defenseman Andrew MacDonald at the point who then drilled a laser beating Holtby to his right for the 2-0 lead. This was MacDonald’s 2nd career playoff goal.

Washington Capitals LogoThe Flyers would then take their first penalty of the contest just six minutes later. This time, it was Philly right winger Sam Gagner getting a two minute trip to the box after interference agaisnt Washington’s vet Justin Williams. This would send the Caps to their sizzling power play. Coming into Game 4 they were a lethal 8/17 on the manpower advantage with 5 of their 6 goals scored in Game 3 coming on the PP. Well, the Flyers were up to the tall order and only gave up one shot during the two minutes and killed it off with poise.

The Capitals would then grab another infraction, this time, with Nicklas Backstrom going to the box for holding D-man Andy MacDonald. This sent the Flyers to their second power play of the game, but this one did not last long at all. Flyers stud Jakub Voracek got the call for holding Caps enforcer Jay Beagle just 28 seconds into their PP. So the two teams ended the second with 4 aside hockey.

The third period couldn’t have started off any better for the Capitals and any worse for the Flyers. Just 2:38 into the third-period Capitals defender Karl Alzner gave his D partner Matt Niskanen a perfect cross ice pass. Niskanen received the pass and threw a wrister towards Neuvirth in hope for a rebound. He got just want he wanted, as Neuvirth made the save but was unable to corral the rebound and it squirted free right to the stick of Caps hot offseason addition T.J. Oshie. Oshie grabbed the juicy rebound and lifted it right over the sprawling Neuvirth’s pad to get the Capitals on the board and make it 2-1.

Washington would get two more prime scoring chances to tie the game. The first one coming with 10:52 remaining in the game. John Carlson found his partner Nate Schmidt open up for a one-timer on the top of the right faceoff dot. Schmidt rifled a slap shot to the net, but right into Neuvirth’s chest. Then exactly three minutes later, Washington right winger Marcus Johansson fired the puck on net from the left dot, Neuvirth made the easy save but let the rebound sit right in the crease for the taking. Caps enforcer Tom Wilson noticed the sitting puck in the blue paint and took a wrister but was absolutely robbed by the glove of Neuvirth, I mean complete larceny!

The Flyers would end up holding off the Caps final onslaught of shots to grab a critical 2-1 win. Washington controlled most of the third period, but the only reason why Philadelphia was able to hold on was because of their goalie Michal Neuvirth. It was the Flyers 1st playoff win in their last 5 playoff games.

Michal Neuvirth was phenomenal to say the lease, stopping 31 out of 32 shots, for a .969%. While Caps tendy Braden Holtby turned away 23 out of 25 shots for a .920%. This was Neuvirth’s 3rd start in the last month in half due to injury. So I would say he didn’t miss a beat!

Washington lead in shots (32-25) and faceoffs (29-27). The Flyers lead in hits (42-38), blocks (28-12) and giveaways (12-11). Philly converted once on the power play but finished 1/2 while Washington went 0/2.

Flyers earned a decisive win to avoid the sweep and grab their first win of the series (3-1). These teams will go to Washington on Friday night where the Capitals will look to put away the pesky Flyers on home ice and clinch the seires. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm and the game can be seen on NBCSN, CBC, CSN-DC, and CSN-PH.

Carlson, Beagle and Co. Jump Out to 1-0 Series Lead Against Flyers

By: Nick Lanciani

Washington Capitals LogoBraden Holtby and the Washington Capitals shutout the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-0, in front of a rowdy crowd on home ice at the Verizon Center on Thursday night.

Holtby made 19 saves en route to the shutout victory, while Steve Mason made 29 saves on 31 shots against in the loss.

About midway into the first period, Brooks Orpik went on a string of taking penalties, including an illegal hit to the head of Nick Cousins, which the Flyers were unable to capitalize on. Philadelphia was leading 11-8 in shots on goal after twenty minutes of play, while failing to convert on three power play opportunities.

The second period saw the Capitals go on the power play early in the period as Flyers defenseman, Mark Streit, was sent to the box for holding almost three minutes into the second frame. Washington was unable to convert on the power play. At 8:50 of the second period, Dmitry Orlov was sent to the sin bin for tripping Philadelphia forward, Sam Gagner, putting the Flyers on the power play to no avail.

Philadelphia then took two penalties about two and half minutes apart, as Ryan White served a charging minor at 13:28 and Brandon Manning was sent to the box for delay of game at 16:02 of the second period. 19 seconds into Manning’s penalty the Capitals scored on the power play on a shot from the point by John Carlson. Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie picked up assists on what became the game winning goal by Carlson.

By the end of the 2nd period, Washington was outshooting Philadelphia 22-15, limiting the Flyers to 4 shots on goal in the period.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoThe pace of the game picked up for the third period in both intensity and undisciplined play.

After killing a too many men on the ice bench minor, served by Ryan White at 2:30 of the 3rd period, the Philadelphia Flyers were shorthanded once again after Sam Gagner took a 4-minute double minor for high sticking Brooks Orpik 5:28 into the final period. This led to a lenthgy penalty kill, which Steve Mason and the Flyers were able to kill off unharmed.

A little under eight minutes later, Wayne Simmonds and Tom Wilson dropped the gloves and squared off after Wilson boarded Flyers defenseman, Andrew MacDonald. Both Simmonds and Wilson picked up 5-minute major penalties for fighting. About a minute later, Shayne Gostisbehere and Andre Burakovsky had a little shoving match that resulted from an interference call on Gostisbehere and a slashing minor on Burakovsky.

At 16:36 of the third period, Jay Beagle sealed the deal for Washington with a shot that beat Mason and reached the back of the twine with help from Marcus Johansson. Trailing by two goals late in the third, the Flyers pulled Mason for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail. Holtby stood tall in goal and the Capitals pulled off the 2-0 shutout with an additional scrum after the sounding of the horn to end the game.

Jakub Voracek picked up a roughing minor, White received a 10-minute misconduct, while Beagle and Karl Alzner each received roughing minors at 20:00 of the third period.

The Capitals outshot the Flyers 31-19 after 60 minutes of play and also led in hits (29-27) and blocked shots (23-21). Philadelphia had a 31-26 advantage on the faceoff dot and led in giveaways 9-5. Washington was 1/6 on the night on the power play, while the Flyers 0/4.

Washington came into Thursday night as this season’s President’s Trophy winners with the best record in the NHL. This series is the 5th Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup between these two teams and their first matchup since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on April 22, 2008. This year also marks the 38th playoff appearance in 48 seasons for Philadelphia and the 26th Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance for Washington in 41 seasons.

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals split the regular season series with Claude Giroux and the Flyers this season, with 8 of their last 12 meetings having been decided by one goal (until Thursday night). Holtby went into the game with a 48-9-7 record on the regular season and a 2.20 GAA and .922 SV% in 66 games played.

The series shifts to Game 2 on Saturday night in Washington with the home team (the Capitals) in command of a 1-0 series lead at 7:00 PM EST on CNBC. The Flyers might be without the services of Sean Couturier, who suffered a shoulder injury in Game 1, while the Capitals are expected to be in full force on home ice at the Verizon Center.

How the Flyers Got Here (and Where They’ll Go)

Frank Fanelli officially joins Down the Frozen River with his first post and explains what it felt like for Philadelphia Flyers fans heading into this weekend’s action and how far he thinks the Flyers will be able to go in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Philadelphia Flyers Logo

By: Frank Fanelli

As the Flyers geared up for their playoff push, for us Flyers fans, it felt like the 2009-2010 season all over again. That season, the Flyers were very shaky- going up and down in the standings battling for a playoff spot with the New York Rangers. In their last 12 games, the 2009-2010 Flyers went 2-10, which was terrible down the stretch, but somehow it all came down to the very last game of the regular season against the Rangers. Philadelphia eventually won 2-1 in a nerve-wracking shootout.

This year is very much just like that year in all aspects of the season. In their first 20 games the Flyers went a disappointing 6-14 to start the season. When I first saw this start to the season I thought to myself “Oh boy, here’s to another disappointing season with no postseason play” I was livid with their start because this year I thought it was going to be so much different.

Well, their mid-season form took to full affect just like always, going back and forth with win after win then a string of loss after loss. It really wasn’t a promising sight. I mean the Flyers were still in contention but I thought nothing of it because they never showed any potential to creep into a playoff spot. Now that has completely changed!

On March 3rd the Flyers sat at 29-34, just out of a playoff spot and got a huge wakeup call by getting thrashed 4-0 to the mediocre Edmonton Oilers— AT home nonetheless! This, without a doubt in my mind, was a call to action for the Philly squad, coming back the next game and demolishing the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-0 and kick started this team’s push to the playoffs.

The Flyers then went on a resurgent 10-7 run in their next 17, leading up to their record at 39-27-13 with 91 points entering Friday— barely hanging on to that last Wild Card spot. From then, I believed the Flyers would make the playoffs because of the way they had been playing lately. They had 3 games remaining on their schedule, against the below average Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (who are on fire), and a strong New York Islanders team to end their season.

*Editor’s note: The Flyers lost, 4-3, in overtime to the Maple Leafs, and then beat the Penguins and Islanders to cap off their season, if you’ve been under a rock. Although by now, hopefully you know they’re in and the matchups have been determined.*

Prior to clinching, I believed that if the Flyers wanted to make the playoffs, they were going to have to realize they needed to pick up their play! The Flyers would make the playoffs because they have played very solid as a whole team and they would realize this and push to the end.

Philadelphia will play the Washington Capitals, who locked up the President’s Trophy with the best record in the NHL, in the first round of the playoffs. These two teams split the 4-game season series 2-2, with both teams trading wins back and forth. These 4 games were always a constant battle with the Capitals outscoring the Flyers 12 goals to 10. Also 3 of the 4 games were separated by only 1 goal with 2 of the games going past regulation. Philadelphia won both of those games. The Flyers are 110-78-19 overall against the Capitals. Going 2-2 against them in 4 playoff series matchups dating back to 1984, with 3 of the 4 series matchups going to 6 or 7 games!

So clearly the facts are all there for it to be a very close and intense playoff matchup, which any hockey fan will love to watch. I think the Flyers will battle the Capitals in an intense 6 game series favoring the Flyers in the end, but this is where I think their “Cinderella” type season will come to an end.

I just do not see the Flyers making a long run in this year’s playoffs, especially with how hot the Penguins, Lightning, Panthers and even the Rangers have been playing lately. Even with Michal Neuvirth projected to be back in the lineup, ready and healthy for the playoffs. The Flyers simply do not have enough fire power in their offense.

For example, their star captain Claude Giroux through 79 games only had 66 points when he was projected to reach 81. Their second in “command” Jakub Voracek only had 53 points through 70 games when he was originally projected to have 73. These two players are clear examples on why Philadelphia will go out in the second round because they do not have enough offensive prowl.

Let alone their very shaky defense, which has a very hard time scoring as well. Their top scorer, rookie sensation Shayne Gostisbehere, who had an astonishing 43 points in 61 games up to Friday, which ranked 7th in scoring among rookies. Other than “Ghost” they have no offensive production from their defense, who also can be exploited for a good amount of goals which is very risky.

michal-neuvirth-steve-mason
Michal Neuvirth (Left) with Steve Mason (right) (USA Today Images)

Last but not least their goalies are sub-par to say the least. Their “rock” Steve Mason, as of late, in his last 15 games leading up to Friday, went 9-4-2 with a .950% SV and a 2.10 GAA. He has had to fill in for Neuvirth, because before Neuvirth got hurt, he was basically the starter. So Mason has been a HUGE part of the Flyers success in their recent games, but I do not see Mason being a productive starter in the postseason.

The reason why is because of his measly playoff record, going 2-6 with a .907% and a 3.11 GAA in 8 starts with Columbus and Philly. Even if Michal Neuvirth is able to come back in time (which he is, as of Sunday) for the playoffs— his playoff record is 4-5 with a .914% and a 2.30 GAA in 9 starts with Washington.

Clearly, as you can tell, both of these goalies have proven that neither of them are a reliable playoff starter. With the Flyers low offensive production, shaky defense, and unreliable goaltending, these are just a couple of prime examples as to why the Flyers will bow out in the second round of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.