If you have taken a look at the NCAA Hockey schedule, you might notice that there are no games slated for this weekend, which one might assume as the holiday season is upon us. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how things have shaped up so far this year. The Christmas Break is an interesting time for college hockey because it acts as a half-way mark for the season, as well as a one or two-week break for most teams. This time allows for rest, refocus, and can even throw slumping teams right back on track. As for writers, this is the perfect time to make some bold predictions on the NCAA Hockey Tournament, so let’s get to it! Who’s in, who’s out, and who’s on the bubble?
Who’s in? – St. Cloud State
The Huskies have played extremely well this season, earning themselves a top ranking in the NCHC, but most importantly, the top position in the Pairwise rankings. Sitting at 12-2-1 overall, there isn’t much this team has done wrong. Considering their two losses came against #2 Denver, as well as one tie with #6 North Dakota, they don’t really have any blemishes. As both of these teams are conference foes, they will need to step up if they want to capture the NCHC crown. At the very least, an at-large bid seems definite at this point.
Runner-Up – Denver
Who’s out? – Nebraska-Omaha
I will probably eat my own words later in the season, but I’m calling the Mavericks to miss the NCAA Tournament. As of this moment in time, they are the definition of a bubble team, sitting 15th in the Pairwise rankings. Unfortunately, they have a very tough road ahead of them on the back half of the schedule. They face North Dakota a total of four times, as well as a series with St. Cloud State and Denver. They could rise to the occasion, but their current conference record of 2-6-0 doesn’t give me much confidence that they will.
Runner Up – Minnesota-Duluth
Who’s on the bubble? – Western Michigan
Western Michigan is looking good right now, with a 10-8-1 overall record. As a result of competing in the NCHC, their wins typically give them a big boost, while losses usually come against ranked teams and don’t bump them down too far. They need to take care of business in the second half, in which they play ten games against opponents in the bottom half of the NCHC. Unfortunately, they also have to deal with four games against St. Cloud State, which could be an issue.
Runner-Up – Miami
Who’s in – Minnesota State
The Mavericks are the team to beat in the WCHA. This program has been ahead of the competition for the past several years and continues to show it this season. Their only losses came against #1 St. Cloud State, a talented Bowling Green team, and capable Northern Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth squads. This offense is very deadly, only being shutout once, while posting five or more goals on eight occasions. Even if another WCHA squad rises to the occasion and defeats them in the conference tournament, the Mavericks currently come in at 6th in the Pairwise rankings.
Who’s out? – Alaska-Anchorage
Who to choose from in the WCHA? In all honesty, there are probably five or six teams already theoretically out of the NCAA Tournament, unless they would manage to win the conference’s automatic bid. Let’s just go ahead and pick on Alaska-Anchorage. I hate to kick a team while they’re down, but the Seawolves are dead last in the Pairwise rankings, not to mention the WCHA standings. They will likely miss the WCHA Playoffs entirely, meaning an early end to their season. They have only won one game on the season, coming against Lake Superior State. Oddly enough, they battled to a 1-1 tie with North Dakota to open up the season, but it has gone downhill for them ever since. Unfortunately, there are always to rumors about the Alaskan NCAA programs being eliminate due to their high travel costs. Hopefully this season doesn’t do any permanent damage to their longevity.
Runner-Up – Lake Superior State
Who’s on the bubble? – Bowling Green
I still don’t know what to make of this Falcon team. When they show up, they are good. The goalie tandem of Eric Dop and Ryan Bednard has been nearly unstoppable at times. The big question mark is their offensive ability. They have six ties on the season, which begs the question, are they capable of finishing off opponents late in the game? Outside of their one non-conference game with Western Michigan, they are unlikely to face a ranked opponent the rest of the regular season. They also have a great opportunity to ring in 2018 with some confidence, as they are participating in the Great Lakes Invitational. If they can take advantage of their strength of schedule and get a streak going, they have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990. They are currently 18th in the Pairwise rankings.
Runner-Up – Northern Michigan
Who’s in? – Clarkson
The Golden Knights have been a bright surprise for this conference. In their previous campaign, they finished 18-16-5, which is fairly respectable. Turn the page to their current campaign and they are just three wins away from that mark, with fifteen games yet to be played. With just three losses on the season, all of those being in nonconference play, Clarkson is in great position to finish in the top sixteen teams in the nation, as well as win the ECAC Hockey Championship(s).
Runner-Up – Cornell
Who’s out? – Quinnipiac
As with the WCHA, there are several teams that fit into this category, but let’s go with a team that technically still has a chance, but one I think won’t be invited to the big dance. If you read my Beginners Guide to NCAA Hockey, you know that I actually chose the Bobcats as my pre-season favorites, but boy I was wrong. Then again, most writers picked Harvard and they were wrong too, but I digress. Quinnipiac has struggled so far this season, early just a 6-10-2 record overall, with only three conference wins. Now other ECAC Hockey teams have had it tough, including RPI and Dartmouth, but the Bobcats had so much potential. For them to be 47th in Pairwise rankings is pretty deflating, and I don’t think they find the momentum they need after the break.
Runner-Up – Dartmouth
Who’s on the bubble? – Harvard
Alright, time to talk about Harvard again. The team that was once ranked in the top ten has now found themselves fallen from good graces. The Crimson have started the season 4-5-1 and need a big rebound heading into the second stretch of their schedule. The reason why I consider them a bubble team is because this is something that they are capable of. They are on a two-game winning streak, but they need to continue this momentum if they expect to be playing more hockey in March. While they do sit at 36th in the Pairwise rankings, I think the Crimson have an outside shot at getting hot at the right time and taking their conference’s automatic bid.
Apologies for the brief hiatus, but the NCAA Weekly Match-Up is back!
The NCAA season is in full swing at this point and there have been some interesting results. Here’s a quick recap of the latest and greatest:
– Denver skated to a tie against Lake Superior State earlier in the season and was swept by Western Michigan just one week ago. The former number one team has been replaced by an impressive St. Cloud State squad that owns a 7-0-0 record.
– The Big Ten has been playing some great hockey lately. They have five teams ranked in the top 20, with Minnesota leading the pack. The addition of Notre Dame has been very helpful for their league profile.
– A few powerhouse programs could be in trouble early. There is plenty of hockey left to be played, but Boston University, Boston College, and Minnesota-Duluth are all currently outside the top 25 squads in the Pairwise rankings, which determine the at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament.
There are plenty of other topics I could mention, but it’s time to focus on the here and now. Let’s turn our attention to the Madhouse on Mercer.
Bowling Green Falcons v. Lake Superior Lakers
Friday (11/10/17) and Satuday (11/11/17)
7:07pm and 7:07pm
Slater Family Ice Arena (Bowling Green, Ohio)
The Falcons and Lakers both have quality hockey programs. Typically, these teams are not respected by the national polls or college hockey media, so they both have plenty to prove. They also have great history, which they use to fuel their return to the “glory days.”
Bowling Green is a program that has recently rebuilt and is seeing gradual success. After their 1984 NCAA Championship, they slowly crashed to a near extinction of the program. Since that point, they have developed under Head Coach Chris Bergeron and are relevant once again.
After nine games played this season, the Falcons are led by forward Cameron Wright, who has managed totals of 4-5-9. Second on the team is Alec Rauhauser, with six helpers on the season. In addition to offense, the goaltending department for Bowling Green has been stellar this season. The play of sophomore Ryan Bednard and freshman Eric Dop have lifted the Orange and Brown to a 4-3-2 overall record. Dop has recently earned back-to-back WCHA Rookie-of-the-Week honors
The Falcons are coming off a successful weekend against then #20 Michigan Tech, skating to a 1-0-1 series, but securing the additional conference point in the shootout. Bowling Green was great on the power play, which produced all four regulation goals. This squad looks to continue rolling along, as they have not lost in their last five outings.
Lake Superior desperately needs a big weekend, as a pair of wins would help reverse the direction of their season. Their 2-6-2 record out of the gate is not what Head Coach Damon Whitten had hoped for. The Lakers do have one quality win, coming over #20 Northern Michigan. They also had a great outing in a 3-3 tie with then #1 ranked Denver. The defending NCAA Champions expected a swift victory over the Blue and Gold, but they ran into a brick wall in Nick Kossoff. The junior goalie had 63 saves on the night… Let me break this down for you. A good team is going to get off 25-35 shots a game. This guy had to stop double that. There was obviously some overtime hockey involved, but regardless, a big pat on the back to you sir. With that said, Kossoff has since given up the net to Mareks Mitens (which gets an honorable mention for all-time great hockey name). Both goaltenders have a 1-3-1 record on the years. The play of this tandem could be a deciding factor in the series.
The Lakers’ last series was a split against Alaska Anchorage. They managed an overtime victory on Friday night, but Saturday evening was a much different story. Lake Superior struggled to get on the board and were outgunned 4-1. With that result, they now have four points in the WCHA, which is good for 7th in the league. Bowling Green is currently tied with Minnesota State for first in the league.
Down the Frozen River will be traveling to Bowling Green, OH to cover part two of the series. On Saturday, you can expect live updates from our Twitter account (@DTFrozenRiver), as well as a post-game recap.
Players to Watch:
Bowling Green – Senior Forward, Mitch McLain; Freshman Goalie, Eric Dop; Junior Forward, Stephen Baylis
Lake Superior – Senior Forward, J.T. Henke; Junior Forward, Anthony Nellis; Junior Goalie, Nick Kossoff
Don’t worry, be happy! It’s a hockey-filled weekend!
This week, we will be taking a look at another non-conference matchup, as the boys from Mankato head to Boston to take on the Terriers. Last week, we were stuck on Minnesota, but we left out one nationally respected team, the Minnesota State Mavericks. Boston University is a historic program in their own right, having produced some quality talent over the years (yes, Jack Eichel counts). These two squads are both top-tier teams of their respective conferences, so it will be interesting to see how the Mavericks out of the WCHA can stack up against one of the powerhouses of Hockey East. A two-game series will be played, so what can fans look for in this Friday/ Saturday heavyweight fight.
Minnesota State Mavericks v. Boston University Terriers
Friday (10/13) and Saturday (10/14)
7:30PM and 7:00PM
Agganis Arena (Boston, MA)
Minnesota State opened up their season with a 4-0 loss to St. Cloud State. As their opposition was highly ranked in the national standings (currently sitting at number six in the NCAA), this is a “quality loss.” I use that term loosely because the Mavericks should be able to skate against any opponent. The Mavericks were hit with high expectations, being tabbed as the pre-season favorites of the WCHA. Another quality opponent in Boston University will surely reveal whether or not Minnesota State can live up to the hype.
Was their shutout loss to open the season just a fluke? This team looks poised to wreak havoc (at least in the WCHA) again this season. They really didn’t have any team-altering losses over the offseason. The graduation of four seniors does take a toll on their internal leadership, but only one of those skaters scored above 20 points in their final season. Collectively, the group only contributed 19 goals. One could argue Cole Huggins was a big loss, but he only started in 19 games. Although his 0.902 save percentage and 2.29 goals against average are respectable, these numbers seem replaceable, but maybe not as easily as one would think.
Jason Pawloski earned the start in the first game of the season. He gave up three goals in 56:57 of ice time, with the team’s fourth goal against being thrown into an empty net. Keep an eye on the coach’s decision to see who draws the start Friday night. Pawloski may get another shot, but we also could see new goaltender Connor LaCouvee in the crease. LaCouvee is a transfer student, formerly playing at Boston University. You can see how this may be in intriguing situation. He only played in five games last season at BU, but it surely isn’t a stretch of the imagination to see him playing either Friday or Saturday night.
Boston University has opened the season with two wins against ranked opponents. Their first win came against Union (ranked #16 at the time of play). Their second tilt was an exciting 3-2 overtime victory against Quinnipiac (currently ranked #17). If we are comparing resumes, the Terriers are definitely off to the better start. Both teams have faced quality competition; BU handled their opponents, while the Mavericks were shutout. It’s still a little early to make any bets based on one or two weeks of play, so let’s look at who has been leading the home team to victory.
After two games in the books, everyone is taking notice of Patrick Harper. Now this is nothing new for the Connecticut native, who was just one marker shy of a point-per-game pace last season. He was a force on the ice, ending with a +6 rating during his freshman campaign. With further development to grow stronger and faster, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him turn in an even better season this year. This Nashville Predators draft pick is doing all that he can to get noticed and convert his talents to professional hockey, but he will surely help the Terriers win many games in the process. Although it will not be sustainable, his 0.800 shooting percentage is impressive through two games.
Jake Oettinger, goaltender for BU, will be another player to watch, as he has started both of their games between the pipes. Oettinger had a very rewarding offseason, being drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round (26th overall). This is a big confidence boost for the young goaltender, who appeared in 35 games last season for the Terriers. So far on the season, Oettinger has only allowed 3 goals, facing 31 and 22 shots respectively. At this point, Oettinger is “the guy” for Boston U. and will be a guaranteed start in 30+ games again this season.
Lastly, another critical aspect of the game will be the special teams units. BU is converting their power-play chances at a very respectable 30%. Their penalty killing has been quite successful as well, only allowing one goal of seven opportunities. If things get a little dicey, which is always possible between two quality teams, there may be quite a few shorthanded situations at both ends of the ice. If this ends up being the case, Minnesota State will be able to put their team to the test. They failed to convert on their one power-play so far this season, while also only allowing one shot during their first penalty kill.
Players to Watch:
Boston University – Sophomore Goalie, Jake Oettinger; Sophomore Forward Patrick Harper; Sophomore Defense, Chad Krys (Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks)
Minnesota State – Junior Defense, Daniel Brickley; Freshman Forward, Jake Jaremko; Sophomore Forward, Marc Michaelis
The NCAA Hockey season is upon us once again. The cries of “Is it October yet?” have almost been answered. Many teams will begin playing exhibition games this weekend and their seasons will officially drop the puck one week later. College hockey, or #cawlidgehawkey if you want to be like John Buccigross, is becoming an increasingly deep source of professional prospects. Although playing in Major Juniors still seems to be the predominant route to the NHL, collegiate players are no joke. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at this quick list:
If you haven’t figured this one out yet, these are all former NCAA Hockey players who have become Stanley Cup Champions with the Pittsburgh Penguins (many of them more than once).
Even if you don’t follow along with college-level puck, check your NHL squad’s roster and I would almost guarantee a few players have come out of the NCAA. The developmental AHL and ECHL are also filled with former college hockey players trying to work their way up the ladder.
If you’re not into NCAA Hockey, it’s totally understandable. There are six different leagues, 60 different teams and over 1,200 individual players (and that’s just at the D-1 level). It may be difficult to dive into at first, but I can assure you it is worth your while. If you want to see grit, speed, talent and passion for the game of hockey all wrapped into one, attend any NCAA game.
Whether this is your first rodeo with college hockey or if you have been around the block a few times, the 2017-2018 season is about to begin. Here is a season preview for the upcoming campaign, which highlights each of the six leagues, as well as lists my predictions for the regular season champions of each organization. Read, enjoy and drop that puck!
Teams – AIC, Air Force, Army, Bentley, Canisius, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Niagara, RIT and Robert Morris
Without putting it bluntly, Atlantic Hockey has struggled since its 2004 founding. They are largely undeveloped unlike many other NCAA Hockey leagues, and many of the teams in this league haven’t been able to find much success – especially against out-of-conference opponents.
That being said, there is typically one team every year that appears to be poised to make a good run. This year, that is likely to be either Robert Morris or Air Force. Both squads return quality players and will try to build upon the growth they showed during the previous season. The Colonials will return team leader Brady Ferguson, who put up an impressive stat line of 24-34-58 last year. Meanwhile, Air Force earned a spot in the preseason polls, coming in at 17th. Although this is a positive sign, they will have to prove their worth when the puck drops.
Preseason Favorite – Air Force Falcons
Teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin
The Big Ten Conference is still very new to the NCAA Hockey scene, but it has already shown signs of success. After Penn State made the decision to form a D-1 hockey program, the Big Ten decided it was time to flex its muscles a bit and commit to creating a private league for its member universities. Although it was a shame to see the CCHA disband, it was seemingly bound to happen eventually.
This league boasts historic programs such as Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota, but the past isn’t worth more than memories (we don’t need to talk about all of the championships they have won… it’s a lot). This year, the Big Ten Conference will attempt to prove they are a dominate group among the NCAA. With Notre Dame joining as an affiliate member, the league now has seven teams. Five of those seven teams earned preseason rankings in the top 20, with Minnesota coming in at number three. Could this be the year a National Champion is crowned out of the Big Ten?
Preseason Favorite – Penn State Nittany Lions
Teams – Brown, Clarkson, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Quinnipiac, RPI, St. Lawrence, Union and Yale
ECAC Hockey (also referred to as the smarty-pants schools) has been able to stay in the spotlight over the past several years. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Union and Yale hoisted the NCAA Championship in back-to-back years. Cornell, Harvard and Quinnipiac are always strong contenders, while the other schools in the league are respectful in their own right.
It will be interesting to see how well Harvard recharges the batteries after facing key losses this offseason. Graduated seniors Tyler Moy and Alex Kerfoot both chipped in 45 points last season, with the remaining 2017 grads collectively contributing 41 goals, which is a lot of firepower to replace internally. With that said, Harvard should still compete well, but other conference opponents could take advantage of any offensive woes.
Preseason Favorite – Quinnipiac Bobcats
Teams – Boston College, Boston University, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Providence and Vermont
Hockey East Association once again enters the season with very high expectations. They have two teams, Boston University and UMass-Lowell, ranked in the top-five of the preseason poll. Hockey East is a conference that has and will continue to put quality programs in the mix for an NCAA Championship. Many consider this to be the best conference in college hockey, but the emergence of the NCHC has provided some stiff competition.
Make no mistake, Hockey East is still an amazingly talented league. Boston College, Boston University and Providence alone have combined for five championships over the past ten years. The demographics of college hockey are simply changing and other parts of the country, such as Denver and North Dakota, are seeing great success. We will see how this impacts Hockey East teams down the road, but for now, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Preseason Favorite – Boston University Terriers
Teams – Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan
As a college hockey fan, you either love the NCHC or you hate it. One way or the other, you must recognize the level of talent they acquired when they emerged as an NCAA Hockey league. They have five teams represented in the preseason poll, with Denver taking home top honors (if you consider a preseason ranking an honor). They have also brought home two NCAA Championships in as many years courtesy of Denver and North Dakota.
To put it simply, these teams are good.
No, they are great. There is no tip-toeing around the subject. The NCHC did exactly what they set out to do, which was create the most highly skilled, competitive and talented league in the NCAA. Are they the best? That is up for you as a fan to decide, but their early body of work speaks for itself. Keep an eye on the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to see if their master plan will continue to be a success or if they will take a step back this season.
Preseason Favorite – Denver Pioneers
Teams – Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan
Last, but certainly not least, the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference. As a graduate of Bowling Green State University, I can assure you I am very well-rounded in my knowledge of this league. The WCHA is probably one of the most divided leagues in the NCAA. Any given season, Ferris State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State are prepared to make strong postseason runs. Other teams in the league, such as Bowling Green, have the potential, but have never taken a serious step forward. On the other side of the coin, both Alaskan schools continually struggle and Alabama-Huntsville is still trying to turn in a successful season after their move to the D-1 level.
The last time a current member of the WCHA won a national championship was Lake Superior back in 1994… I don’t want to upset Lake Superior fans, but they are not the team they once were. Then again, you could say the same for Bowling Green, Ferris State, or Northern Michigan. I have a soft spot for the WCHA and hopefully a few of the teams at the top can regain some national prominence for the entire league.
Friday night marked Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a record (welcome again Vegas Golden Knights) 31 players were selected in the 1st Round. In case you missed any of the action, here’s how it all broke down.
2017 NHL Entry Draft– Round 1
New Jersey Devils–> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
Philadelphia Flyers–> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (OHL)
Dallas Stars–> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK, (Finland)
Colorado Avalanche–> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
Vancouver Canucks–> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
Vegas Golden Knights–> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
New York Rangers (from Arizona)–> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
Buffalo Sabres–> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
Detroit Red Wings–> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)–> D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas)–> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
Montreal Canadiens–> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
Dallas Stars (from Chicago)–>G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey-East)
Philadelphia Flyers (from Washington via St. Louis)–> C Morgan Frost, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Ottawa Senators–> C Shane Bowers, Waterloo (USHL)
Chicago Blackhawks (from Dallas via Anaheim)–> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
Nashville Predators–> RW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
St. Louis Blues (from Pittsburgh)–> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Trades Made on Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft
The Arizona Coyotes traded D Connor Murphy and F Laurent Dauhpin to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for D Niklas Hjalmarsson.
The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Artemi Panarin, F Tyler Motte and a 2017 6th round pick(170th overall) from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for F Brandon Saad, G Anton Forsberg and a 2018 5th round pick.
The Arizona Coyotes traded D Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 1st round pick (7th overall) to the New York Rangers for F Derek Stepan and G Antti Raanta.
The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Jordan Schroeder from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for FDante Salituro.
The Chicago Blackhawks traded a 2017 1st round pick(26th overall) to the Dallas Stars for a 2017 1st round pick (29th overall) and a 2017 3rd round pick (70th overall).
The St. Louis Blues acquired F Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for F Jori Lehtera, a 2017 1st round pick (27th overall), and a conditional 2018 1st round pick.
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded F Oskar Sundqvist and a 2017 1st round pick (31st overall) to the St. Louis Blues and acquired F Ryan Reaves and a 2017 2nd round pick (51st overall) in return.
The time has come for my annual prediction of how the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will go. This year’s draft class is overall weaker than years past, but comes with a difficult choice for the New Jersey Devils, as they hold the 1st overall pick. The talk surrounding Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier is reminiscent of the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin days leading up to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
With that in mind, let’s see how many picks I get wrong (it’s an annual tradition!)– this year’s draft is being held in Chicago.
1) New Jersey Devils –> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (WHL)
A gifted center, Nolan Patrick’s status as the long-time coming predicted 1st overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft should not be affected by his injury shortened season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Patrick is a 6’2″, 199-pound gifted two-way player that can not only contribute in goals and assists, but brings some size down the middle for the Devils.
2) Philadelphia Flyers –> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
If New Jersey doesn’t take Nolan Patrick 1st overall, then the Flyers shouldn’t really have any complaints, because either Nico Hischier or Patrick is quite the impressive steal for the 2.4% longshots at the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Hischier stands tall at 6’2″, 179 pounds, and had 38-48-86 totals with the Halifax Mooseheads in 57 games this season en route to being named the CHL’s Rookie of the Year.
3) Dallas Stars –> C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor (OHL)
Gabriel Vilardi was part of this year’s Memorial Cup champion, the Windsor Spitfires, and amassed 29-32-61 totals in 49 games played this season. He’s a two-way center that remains composed in all situations while utilizing unparalleled hands and finesse in this year’s draft. Vilardi would be quite the addition to Dallas’s prospect pool at 6’3″, 203 pounds and only 17-years-old (until August 16th, that is).
4) Colorado Avalanche –> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Finland)
One can assume that the Avalanche are bound to be trading a bunch of forwards for forwards this offseason (at least), but more important than having an offense is having a defense and an offense (which Colorado has had one in recent years and I’ll give you a hint– it hasn’t been a defense). Miro Heiskanen is a 6’1″, 172-pound two-way defenseman that had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 37 games with HIFK this season and is just part one of many moves towards turning things around at Pepsi Center.
5) Vancouver Canucks –> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
The Vancouver Canucks can begin to start thinking about their long term approach to the end of the Sedin era by assuring themselves of a strong presence down the middle. Casey Mittelstadt brings that strong presence at center by virtue of his 6’1″, 201-pound frame and tremendous skill. There’s a reason why he was named this year’s Mr. Hockey in the state of Minnesota. Mittelstadt had 21-43-64 totals in 25 games with Eden Prairie and 13-17-30 totals in 24 games with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) this season.
6) Vegas Golden Knights –> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
For their first draft selection in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights are bound to select perhaps the most tactically smart playmaker of the draft in Cody Glass. The 6’2″, 178-pound, right-handed center had 32 goals and 62 assists (94 points– T-7th in the WHL) and is sure to fit right in with the Golden Knights roster and longterm plans. Vegas would be wise to let him play coming out of the draft, since Glass is perhaps the most NHL ready player besides Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.
7) Arizona Coyotes –> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
The Arizona Coyotes have been stockpiling forwards (if you can believe it) in recent drafts, so this year seems to be the right time to snag a puck moving defenseman that’s committed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst next season. Cale Makar had 24 goals and 51 assists (75 points) in 54 games with the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season– a 20-point improvement in as many games compared to last season.
8) Buffalo Sabres –> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
At 6’6″, 215 pounds, Michael Rasmussen is exactly what the Sabres need to compliment the already sized up centers of Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. Sheer intimidation could be one thing Buffalo banks on in the near future, thanks to their Goliath centers, but don’t let that be the only thing. Rasmussen has silky hands and had 32-23-55 totals with the Tri-City Americans this season in the Western Hockey League.
9) Detroit Red Wings –> RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL)
Owen Tippett has been drawing comparisons to Phil Kessel (no, not necessarily because he’s a hot dogs and hamburgers guy– though we haven’t asked him– but rather, because Mike Morreale of NHL.com says so). The 6’0″, 200-pound, right winger had 44 goals and 31 assists (75 points) in 60 games with the Mississauga Steelheads and is a natural sniper.
10) Florida Panthers –> C Martin Necas, Brno (Czech Republic)
Martin Necas is a versatile center that can create space for the puck and generate offense with his playmaking mindset. The right-handed shot had seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 41 games with Brno this season. Florida shouldn’t be too concerned with his 6’0″, 167-pound frame, considering they’ve got a good mix of forwards to balance things out while Necas works on adding some muscle to his game.
11) Los Angeles Kings –> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
After missing out on this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings fired their now former head coach (Darryl Sutter) and general manager (Dean Lombardi) and immediately replaced them with John Stevens behind the bench and Rob Blake as GM, so trying to predict who they’ll draft is difficult based on recent history. However, Elias Pettersson (19-22-41 totals in 43 games with Timra) might just happen to fall into their hands at 11th overall. He’ll need a year of seasoning before appearing in the Kings lineup.
12) Carolina Hurricanes –> D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle (Sweden)
After a bout with mononucleosis in November, Timothy Liljegren wasn’t fully able to rebound this season with Rogle BK, however his skating remains unparalleled as one of the better defensemen of the draft. Liljegren can join the rush and pinch in from the point when needed in the offensive zone and scouts have yet to see the full potential impact of his style of play. Given the uncertainty surrounding Carolina’s money-puck strategy and how it will affect their blue line, drafting Liljegren might provide some security.
13) Winnipeg Jets –> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Klim Kostin missed a lot of time thanks to a shoulder injury, but that shouldn’t stop the Winnipeg Jets from taking a chance on what might be the best Russian forward in the draft. Puck possession is Kostin’s middle name and his 6’3″, 196-pound frame certainly must have something to do with that. The Jets could use him down the middle or restructure their wingers around the Kostin model, albeit acknowledging Blake Wheeler‘s size and existence already in Winnipeg.
14) Tampa Bay Lightning –> D Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City (WHL)
Steve Yzerman may continue to be a master of the salary cap (in terms of carefully maneuvering around large contracts, drafting and developing talent on a consistent basis and the like), but he’s got some critical thinking to do this offseason, what with pending RFAs galore and the Vegas expansion draft. Juuso Valimaki might be just enough to help relieve some of that pressure, having been one of the best defensemen of the WHL this season and amassing 19-42-61 totals in 60 games played.
15) New York Islanders –> C Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)
Offensively skilled, Nick Suzuki isn’t the biggest player (5’11”, 183 pounds), but he is one of the best power play specialists in this year’s draft– notching 14 power play goals for the Owen Sound Attack this season. Suzuki had 96 points alone (45 goals, 51 assists) in 65 games and would be an upgrade for the Islanders in more ways than one.
16) Calgary Flames –> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
Kristian Vesalainen is a 6’3″, 207-pound power forward that might be able to muster his way to a new arena for the Calgary Flames. Jokes aside, Vesalainen would be a solid draft pick by Calgary for his physical prowess and goal scoring ability. In the Battle of Alberta, the Flames could select their very own Milan Lucic, but with more of a two-way element to his game.
17) Toronto Maple Leafs –> D Nicolas Hague, Mississauga (OHL)
How could the Toronto Maple Leafs get any better than they already are with a lineup full of kids? Answer: they could draft Nicolas Hague. Toronto’s got a plethora of players waiting to insert themselves into their mix of forwards that it wouldn’t hurt them to give a little more attention to their blue line for a bit. Hague is a monstrous 6’6″, 215-pound, shutdown defenseman that can also contribute on the power play. He had 18-28-46 totals in 65 games with the Mississauga Steelheads this season.
18) Boston Bruins –> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
It seems unusual to say, but the Boston Bruins have a little something on the horizon to start thinking about– what will the team look like after Patrice Bergeron (and David Krejci)? Boston GM Don Sweeney has a recent history of opting for college players and could select center Ryan Poehling with the future in mind. The 6’2″, 183-pound, playmaker has great vision and puck protection and had 7-6-13 totals in 35 games with St. Cloud State this season. Additionally, Poehling’s got intelligence (both on and off the ice) as he graduated a year early from high school and just tuned 18 on January 3rd.
19) San Jose Sharks –> D Callan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
The San Jose Sharks have some big names to re-sign this offseason, including Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Naturally, while one might think the Sharks should use this draft to find their eventual replacements, San Jose is already in a good spot regarding forwards. Their blue line, however, could use someone like the 6’4″, 212-pound, likeness of Callan Foote. He had six goals and 51 assists (57 points) in 71 games this season and is sure to follow in the foot(e)steps of his father, Adam Foote.
20) St. Louis Blues –> LW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
A 30-goal-scorer in 52 games played with Sioux City this season, Eeli Tolvanen brings just about every offensive element the St. Louis Blues are looking for in a forward. He can shoot from just about anywhere on the ice– at any time too. Quick with his feet, Tolvanen can snipe an impressive shot. Don’t let his 5’10”, 170-pound setup fool you, this winger is ready to become even better at Boston College in the fall. After a couple of seasons of losing vital veteran forwards, the Blues get a chance for redemption by bringing in a goalscorer that could soon be skating on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko.
21) New York Rangers –> LW Jason Robertson, Kingston (OHL)
In 68 games with the Kingston Frontenacs this season, Jason Robertson (6’2″, 192 pounds) had 42 goals and 39 assists for 81 points. He knows what to do with the puck and with the unwavering uncertainty of Rick Nash‘s longevity, along with the legitimacy of Jimmy Vesey and others as impact players when you need them the most (like in the playoffs, for example), Robertson is a risk worth taking. He’s only a risk because his skating game could use some improvement.
22) Edmonton Oilers –> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
Lias Andersson is a mobile two-way forward that matches grit with nifty hands that generate scoring chances, as evidenced by his 9-10-19 totals in 42 games played with HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League this season. At 5’11”, 198 pounds, Andersson is the right fit for the Edmonton Oilers lineup, where he can increase his offensive skill by learning from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while taking a page or two from Milan Lucic in the physical game. Additionally, his father, Niklas Andersson, is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Kings and played in 164 career NHL games.
The Coyotes have two 1st round picks in this year’s draft and they’d be smart to take a forward with their second pick. Luckily, Shane Bowers is just the player for Arizona. The Boston University-bound center scored 22 goals and had 29 assists (51 points) in 60 games for Waterloo this season. The 6’1″, 183-pound forward models his game after Jonathan Toews, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Coyotes to have in their prospect pool with a clear need for a stable, solid, two-way center.
24) Columbus Blue Jackets –> RW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane (WHL)
At 5’8″ and 153 pounds, Kailer Yamamoto is not a player to overlook. Why? Because he scored 42 goals and had 57 assists for 99 points (6th in the WHL in scoring) in 65 games with Spokane this season. Yamamoto is relentless on the puck and has hands beyond his years, as well as speed and skill that make him quite the threat on the ice.
25) Montreal Canadiens –> LW Maxime Comtois, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
After acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, the Montreal Canadiens have made great strides at improving their group of forwards. But with the uncertainty of everything panning out as planned, why not add to the plan? Maxime Comtois is versatile and ready to take the next step in his professional career with the right guidance (*ahem* Claude Julien‘s system). Best inserted on the wing, Comtois had 22-29-51 totals in 64 games with Victoriaville this season. The 6’2″, 200-pound forward could play center if the Canadiens see it fit.
26) Chicago Blackhawks –> D Urho Vaakanainen, JYP (Finland)
Chicago is bound to have a tough offseason in a non-Cup year for the first time in a while, it seems, what with the Expansion Draft, as well as the salary cap working against their favor. While the Blackhawks may have to deal a top-4 defenseman or part of their core group of forwards (without getting too crazy, mind you, we’re not talking a trade involving Patrick Kane), Chicago can rest assured that Urho Vaakanainen is their defenseman of the future. The 6’1″, 185-pound blue liner is good at 1) getting the puck out of the zone and 2) playing his game– and a physical one at that.
27) St. Louis Blues (from Washington Capitals) –> D Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
An offensive-minded defenseman with a right-shot, Conor Timmins fits the bill for the St. Louis Blues. At 6’1″ and 185 pounds, Timmins can rush the ice as a two-way defenseman who contributed 61 points (seven goals, 54 assists) for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 67 games this season. Think Colton Parayko, but not, because this guy’s name is Conor Timmins and he doesn’t already play for the Blues.
28) Ottawa Senators –> C Josh Norris, USA U-18 (USNTDP)
A product of the United States National Team Development Program, Josh Norris had 23-28-51 totals in 52 games played this season. The 6’1″, 192-pound center could contribute to the Senators organization in a manner similar to how Colin White has been implemented into the roster. Who knows, he might be worth it, Ottawa.
Tremendous hockey sense and intelligence are part of Kole Lind’s game. A natural playmaker, Lind was also known to produce goals of his own for the Kelowna Rockets this season, amassing 30-57-87 totals in 70 games played. The 6’1″, 178-pound right winger could be a solid fit alongside the likes of Jamie Benn and Seguin in Dallas.
30) Nashville Predators –> C Robert Thomas, London (OHL)
Hey look it’s Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty! Again, I’m only kidding. This Robert Thomas of the London Knights had 16-50-66 totals in 66 games this season as a two-way forward. A noted playmaker, Thomas reads and reacts to the play before him beyond his years and will need some time to really come into his own at the NHL level. Yet, the Nashville Predators can afford to take their time carefully crafting the almost 6′, 188-pound, center in their system that’s produced the likes of Colton Sissons, Pontus Aberg and many more in recent years.
31) Pittsburgh Penguins –> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
It took Henri Jokiharju a few months to really transition to the North American style of the game, but for this offensively focused defenseman, that wasn’t a big deal. He can get the puck out of his own zone with ease– not just with crisp passes, but also due to his incredible stride and speed in the transition department. Jokiharju (6’0″, 180 pounds) had nine goals and 39 assists (48 points) in 71 games for the Portland Winterhawks this season.
Other top potential 1st round prospects that should easily be 2nd round picks if they’re not taken in Round 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft:
G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey East)
LW Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph (OHL)
D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
D Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)
LW Filip Chytil, Zlin (Czech Republic)
C Aleksei Heponiemi, Swift Current (WHL)
G Michael DiPietro, Windsor (OHL)
LW Matthew Strome, Hamilton (OHL)
C Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
LW Tyler Steenbergen, Swift Current (WHL)
So there you have it. This is how I see the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft shaking out. Be sure to tune in next Friday night (that’s one week from now) to watch your favorite team pick a teenager and hope for the best. I’ll be at work that night, so no spoilers, please. Let me believe I got more than two picks right for once.
The wonderful, Connor Keith, has joined the Down the Frozen River family, and shares his talented writing, insight, and analysis for everyone to enjoy. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season kind of came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor, posting things. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.
Anaheim Ducks (54-20-8, won conference)
After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fifth time kicked out in first or second round of playoffs since winning the Cup in the 2006-’07 season), Henry Samueli & reigning NHL General Manager of the Year Bob Murray intend to build on last year’s strong regular season & once again be the team to beat in Los Angeles. Although they’ve made many additions to stake this claim, the Ducks will need to circumvent the retirement of Saku Koivu & Teemu Selanne & find new leadership in the locker room.
The only front office news to come out of Anaheim this season was the four-year contract extension signed by Murray in May. He made quick work of the expressed confidence from Samueli by signing two trades. On June 27, he agreed to terms with the Vancouver Canucks that Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, & two draft picks were to be sent up I-5 in return for Ryan Kesler & a pick in next year’s draft. Three days later, he sent two picks in next year’s draft to Tampa Bay in return for Nate Thompson.
One of the major question marks for the Ducks is their goaltending. Jonas Hiller (29-13-7), who played in 50 regular season games last season (22 more than Frederik Andersen) between the pipes, is now playing for Calgary. Andersen (20-5-0) played in 28 games for the Ducks last, the most of the remaining goalies on the Anaheim staff (also lost Viktor Fasth to a trade in March with the Edmonton Oilers). The Ducks have since signed Ryan Faragher (20-9-4-1, played at St. Cloud State) to an entry-level contract, who played seven more games than Andersen last season, but in college. Based on all of this, I would assume that Andersen will be starting in the crease.
The Ducks come into the season having lost two big names in Nick Bonino & Daniel Winnik (signed with Toronto).
They lost only two of the top seven players with most regular season games with the Ducks last season in Nick Bonino (77) & Daniel Winnik (76) both playing 75+ regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost only two of the top 10 players with the most playoff games with the Ducks last season in Nick Bonino & Saku Koivu both playing in all 13 games. The Ducks are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Nate Thompson (81), Louis Leblanc (78, signed from Montreal), & Ryan Kesler (77) who all played 77+ games last season.
The Ducks are only losing one of their top four shot takers this year as Nick Bonino (159) joins Vancouver. He alone accounted for over 6% of the Ducks’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, two of the top five shot-takers are not returning, as Teemu Selanne (24) & Nick Bonino (22) are not returning. These shooters accounted for over 13% of the shots taken in the postseason.
Over 15% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Nick Bonino (22) & Mathieu Perrault (18) are with other teams. The Ducks have added Nick Ritchie (39), Ryan Kesler (25), & Shea Theodore (22) to more than make up for the missing goals.
Three of the leading six assisters will not be with the Ducks this season as Nick Bonino (27), Mathieu Perrault (25, signed with Winnipeg), & Daniel Winnik (24) are not returning. To take their vacant spots, the Ducks have signed Shea Theodore (57, drafted last season), Kenton Helgesen (41, drafted last season), & Nick Ritchie (35, drafted this season). These new additions have the potential to greatly exceed the numbers of the players they are replacing based on their stats from last season in lower leagues & could have a strong influence on the already potent Anaheim offense.
Only one of the top five +/- guys in the regular season have been lost in Dustin Penner (22, traded to Washington in March). With him, the Ducks also lost two of the positive +/- players during the playoffs. Nick Bonino (3) & Daniel Winnik (1) were two of only five Ducks to post a number higher than zero for the 13 playoff games. To make up for these lost numbers, Anaheim has signed Kenton Helgesen (31). His regular season statistics greatly exceed Penner’s, albeit in a lower league, & Anaheim hopes that he continues his growth in the Honda Center.
The Ducks lost two of their top seven penalty minute earners in Saku Koivu (46) & Luca Sbisa (43). Sadly, the Ducks picked up Nick Ritchie (136), John Kurtz (112, played in Norfolk last two seasons), Clayton Stoner (84, signed from Minnesota), Ryan Kesler (81), Andrew O’Brien (74, drafted in 2012), Christopher Wagner (68, drafted in 2010), Louis Leblanc (67), Kenton Helgesen (67), Joseph Cramarossa (59, drafted in 2011), & Max Friberg (55, drafted in 2011). This is one of the main spots where Anaheim lost a lot of ground. The new players, especially the young guys, will need to refine their discipline from taking so many penalty minutes, or Anaheim’s defense will be too exhausted to get back to the dressing rooms between periods.
Present roster consists of 27 forwards, 15 defensemen, & six goalies (48 men).