Sunday, September 15, 2019

San Jose Sharks 2019-20 season preview


         In a season in which they were expected to win, the San Jose Sharks once again failed to win the Stanley Cup. After just beating the Golden Knights and Avalanche in the first and second rounds, a deflated and injured Sharks team fell to the eventual champions, the St. Louis Blues, in the Conference Finals. The Sharks survived a cap crunch, and head into 2019-20 with high expectations, even without their former captain.

          Additions: Jonny Brodzinski, Dalton Prout, Trevor Carrick

          Subtractions: Joe Pavelski, Justin Braun, Gustav Nyqvist, Joonas Donskoi, Joakim Ryan, Michael Haley, Rourke Chartier, Kyle Wood

With Joe Pavelski leaving for Dallas, Logan Couture was named the new captain of the Sharks. A Shark since 2009-10, Couture had a career high 70 points in 2018-19, with 27 goals. Tomas Hertl finally broke out. He scored a career high 35 goals and 74 points, becoming a top line player, though the Sharks could put him on the second line. Another player to break out was 2015 9th overall pick Timo Meier. Meier scored 30 goals with 66 points, both career highs. He earned himself a four year, $24 million extension. Evander Kane became the first player since Tiger Williams in 1980-81 to lead the league in penalty minutes and score 30 goals. Kane had exactly 30, and had 153 penalty minutes. Kevin Labanc had a surprise 17 goal, 56 point season, and was lined up to get a big payday as an RFA. Instead, he signed a very odd one year deal worth $1 million. Joe Thornton returns for his age 40 season, and his 22nd year. He scored 16 goals, with 51 points last season. While he hasn't scored 20 goals since 2010-11, Thornton has always been a big assist player, with 1,065 apples in his career. In his first full season, Marcus Sorensen scored 17 goals with 30 points, becoming a good depth player for San Jose. Melker Karlsson's four assists were a career low, but his 12 goals were his most since his rookie season (2014-15). Barclay Goodrow finally got a starting opportunity, and had a career high 17 points. But his seven goals in 82 games matched his goal total in 47 games in 2017-18. Lukas Radil came from the KHL, and as a 28 year old rookie, he scored seven goals in 36 games. In his first NHL season, Finnish forward Antti Suomela had eight points in 27 games. The Sharks signed depth forward Jonny Brodzinski. In his 54 career NHL games, he has 11 points. A 2016 2nd rounder, Dylan Gambrell has played in 11 NHL games, plus two more in the playoffs. In the AHL last season, he scored 20 goals with 45 points in 51 games.

Brent Burns is the rare player to get better with age. For the fourth consecutive season, the defenseman shot the puck 300 times. He scored 16 times, and his 67 assists led to a career high 83 points. He finished second in Norris voting. He is entering his age 34 season, but he hasn't missed a game since 2013-14, so don't expect a decline to happen soon. Erik Karlsson struggled with injuries in his first season with the Sharks. He played in just 53 games, and scored a career low three goals. He did have 45 points, and got an eight year extension. In the first year of an eight year deal, defensive defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a minus for just the second time in his career, and the first time since 2007-08. His 25 points were his lowest since 2014-15. Despite scoring just one goal, Brenden Dillon tied his career high point total of 22 thanks to his 21 assists. His +19 rating was by far a career high. With Justin Braun off to Philadelphia, Tim Heed will look to take his place. In 37 games last year, Heed had 13 points, for a 28.8 point pace. Radim Simek played only in the NHL last year. He had nine points in 41 games. Jacob Middleton played in three NHL games, making his debut. The 23 year old had 19 points in 57 games. Eight year veteran Dalton Prout signed with the Sharks. In 20 games for the Flames last year, Prout had two points.

The reason the Sharks fell short again was because of how bad the goaltending was last year. Only two goalies played all year for the Sharks, but they both had a SV% under .900. Martin Jones played in 60 games for the fourth consecutive season, and had his worst year, with a 2.94 GAA and .896 SV%. His backup, Aaron Dell, had a great first two NHL seasons, but faltered in the third. He had a 3.17 GAA and a .886 SV%. If the Sharks want to contend, then their goalies have to be better.

           Deep Depths
The Sharks traded for depth defenseman Trevor Carrick. Carrick played in one NHL game last year, and has played in four overall. He had 47 points in 71 AHL games. Nick Desimone could be NHL ready after scoring 14 goals with 46 points in 65 AHL games as a defenseman. Goalie Antoine Bibeau hasn't played in the NHL since 2016-17 with the Leafs. He figures as the third goalie after posting a .904 SV% in the AHL.

           Up and Coming
Ryan Merkley could be NHL ready by 2020-21. The 2018 first rounder is a defenseman, and had 71 points in 63 OHL games. He turned pro with the Barracuda (AHL), and played in six games, regular season and playoffs included. In his first full AHL season, Jeremy Roy, the first pick of the 2015 second round, had 21 points in 58 games. A 2016 2nd rounder, Jonathan Dahlen was acquired at the trade deadline in a prospect swap, then had four assists in seven AHL games. He scored 14 goals in 50 games pre trade.

           2019 draft class
Round 2, 48th overall: Artemi Kniazev
Round 2, 55th overall: Dillon Hamaliuk
Round 4, 108th overall: Yegor Spriridonov
Round 6, 164th overall: Timur Ibragimov
Round 6, 184th overall: Santeri Hatakka

The Sharks have been very consistent under Head Coach Peter DeBoer. They have improved by one point every season under him, from 98 in 2015-16, to 101 in 2018-19. They finished in third every year until a second place finish in 2018-19. Doug Wilson returns as GM. The 1981-82 Norris winner has made some savvy trades to improve the Sharks depth, including acquiring Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson.

           Projected Lineup
Timo Meier - Logan Couture - Kevin Labanc
Evander Kane - Tomas Hertl - Barclay Goodrow
Marcus Sorensen - Joe Thornton - Melker Karlsson
Lukas Radil - Dylan Gambrell - Jonny Brodzinski
Extras: Antti Suomela, Ivan Chekhovich

           Marc-Eduoard Vlasic - Brent Burns
           Brenden Dillon - Erik Karlsson
           Radim Simek - Tim Heed
Extras: Dalton Prout, Jacob Middleton

                     Martin Jones
                     Aaron Dell

The Sharks are a good team, and while they got worse in the offseason, losing Pavelski, Braun, Gustav Nyqvist and Joonas Donskoi, they are still a playoff team. I predict the Sharks will finish 4th in the Pacific Division, making the playoffs.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-20 season preview

From Getty Images

       It is amazing how quick a team that won two consecutive Stanley Cups could go to retooling. The Penguins, now two seasons removed from their 2017 Stanley Cup, traded away Phil Kessel and Olli Maatta, big parts of the cup teams, bringing in Alex Galchenyuk and Dominik Kahun, as the team looks to build a younger core around the aging Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.

       Additions: Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev, Dominik Kahun, Pierre-Olivier Joseph

       Subtractions: Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta, Matt Cullen, Garrett Wilson, Chris Wideman

It is pretty much official that Connor McDavid has passed Sidney Crosby as the best player in hockey. But in 2018-19, Crosby, even at age 31, proved that he is still the second best. He scored 35 goals, and his 100 points were his most since he won the Hart Trophy in 2013-14. He finished 2nd in Hart voting, and 4th in Selke voting. But his partner in crime throughout the years, Evgeni Malkin, took a step back. In 68 games, he scored 21 goals, which was least in a single season with at least 50 games played. While he still had 72 points, his -25 rating was a career worst. Crosby's most consistent linemate last year, Jake Guentzel, broke out in a big way. He scored 40 goals with 76 points, both demolishing career highs. Another player to regress in 2018-19 was Patric Hornqvist not including 2008-09 and 2012-13, when he didn't even play in 30 games, Hornqvist failed to score 20 goals for the first time, with 18. His 37 points were also a career low. Coming back from Arizona for Kessel was Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk scored 30 goals in 2015-16, but hasn't scored 20 since. He had 19 goals and 41 points in his lone season in the desert. Nick Bjugstad enters his first full season in Pittsburgh. He scored nine goals in 32 games there post trade from Florida. His 14 overall goals in 64 games was lower than his career average. Another player that was a part of the trade with Florida with Bjugstad was Jared McCann. He scored a career high 19 goals, and his 11 in 32 games with Pittsburgh alone would have been a career high for him. Bryan Rust spent some time on Crosby's line, which resulted in a career high 18 goals, with 35 points. Acquired for Maatta was Czech forward Dominik Kahun. In his rookie season in Chicago, Kahun scored 13 goals with 37 points, finishing 11th in Calder voting. The Penguins signed free agent forward Brandon Tanev to a questionable six year deal worth $20 million. Tanev is already 27 years old, and is a third liner at best. He scored a career high 14 goals and 29 points in Winnipeg last season. Dominik Simon also spent time on Crosby's line. He had career highs in games played (71), goals (8), assists (20) and points (28). With 21 year veteran Matt Cullen retiring, it will be Zach Aston-Reese's job to be the fourth line forward. In 43 games last year, Aston-Reese scored eight goals with 17 points. Teddy Blueger scored 21 goals with 39 points in 45 AHL games, earning himself his first taste of the NHL. He had 10 points in 28 games, and due to an injury to McCann, he got to play in a single playoff game.

Kris Letang ran the defense again, but he was also hurt again. In 65 games, he tied his career high of 16 goals, and he had 56 points too, finishing 6th in Norris voting. Brian Dumoulin has developed as Pittsburgh's 2nd best defenseman. He scored a career high 23 points, and he was an astounding +31 player. Justin Schultz got Norris votes in 2016-17, but he has fallen off in every season since. He played in just 29 games last year, with 15 points. He could be traded, as he is a pending UFA. Currently an RFA, Marcus Pettersson had a great first season. While playing in a league leading 84 games between Anaheim and Pittsburgh, Pettersson had 25 points, 19 of those coming in 57 games with Pittsburgh. He finished 10th in Calder voting. Physical defenseman Erik Gudbranson was a -27 in 57 games in Vancouver until he was traded to Pittsburgh. He was a +7 with two assists in 19 games post trade. He had 52 hits in 19 games with Pittsburgh. Before the season, the Penguins signed Jack Johnson to a five year deal that looked awful before the ink was dry. He was a -4 with 13 points in 82 games, with a career high 233 hits. Chad Ruhwedel has been a depth defenseman for the past three years in Pittsburgh. He suited up for 18 games, and he was a -9. In his first year in North America, Juuso Riikola played in 37 NHL games, with five points.

After winning two Stanley Cups as a rookie, Matt Murray has regressed. He improved after a bad 2017-18 season, but his .919 SV% and 2.69 GAA weren't better than his rookie season numbers. However, his 14.67 GSAA was a career best. In four playoff games, Murray struggled, with a 3.02 GAA. In his first full season as the backup, Casey DeSmith had a .916 SV% and a 2.75 GAA. In 29 games over the past three seasons, Tristan Jarry has a .906 SV% and 2.84 GAA.

               Deep Depths
The Penguins signed Finnish forward Oula Palve, who had 51 points in 53 games in the Finnish League last year. Joseph Blandisi played in six games for Pittsburgh after being acquired for Derek Grant. Depth defenseman Zach Trotman played in 13 games last year.

               Up and Coming
The Penguins' farm system is one of the league's weakest as the team has traded assets for proven talent, and their first round pick in this past draft was their first in a while. They used that pick on Sam Poulin, who scored 76 points in 67 QMJHL games. Part of the Kessel trade was defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph. A 2017 first rounder, Joseph had 47 points in 62 QMJHL games.

                2019 draft class
Round 1, 21st overall: Sam Poulin
Round 3, 74th overall: Nathan Legare
Round 5, 145th overall: Judd Caulfield
Round 7, 203rd overall: Valtteri Puustinen
Round 7, 211th overall: Santeri Airola

Mike Sullivan is one of the longest tenured Head Coaches in the NHL, and he has only been with Pittsburgh since 2015-16. Every year under Sullivan the team has had a winning percentage over .600. GM Jim Rutherford was tested after the first round playoff exit, and we will see if the Kessel trade works out.

                Projected Lineup
Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Jake Guentzel
Alex Galchenyuk - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Dominik Simon - Nick Bjugstad - Dominik Kahun
Brandon Tanev - Zach Aston-Reese - Bryan Rust
Extras: Teddy Blueger, Oula Palve

               Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
               Marcus Pettersson - Justin Schultz
               Jack Johnson - Erik Gudbranson
Extras: Chad Ruhwedel, Juuso Riikola, Zach Trotman

                          Matt Murray
                          Casey DeSmith
Extras: Christian Jarry

The Penguins are a really good team, and even after trading Kessel and Maatta, and being swept in the first round, they are a good bet to be in the playoffs. I predict the Penguins will finish 2nd in the Metropolitan Division.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Philadelphia Flyers 2019-20 season preview

From NBC

          It was a very eventful offseason for the Flyers. It was the first for new GM Chuck Fletcher, they saw a new Head Coach enter, as well as multiple players. They also didn't give up too much, and they still have over $13 million in cap space to sign two big RFAs. By no means is the offseason over in Philadelphia.

           Additions: Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, Tyler Pitlick, Kurtis Gabriel, Andy Welinski, Nate Prosser

           Subtractions: Radko Gudas, Ryan Hartman, Andrew MacDonald, Jori Lehtera, Corban Knight, Phil Varone

In 2018-19, Claude Giroux did something that he has done a lot in his career: lead the Flyers in points. While he dropped off significantly from his career high 102 points in 2017-18, he was still a point per game player, with 85 points, and 63 assists. Sean Couturier scored a career high 33 goals with 76 points, and finished 6th in Selke voting. He has become a top defensive forward in the league. Jakub Voracek scored exactly 20 goals for the third consecutive season, with 66 overall points. In his return to Philly, James van Riemsdyk scored 27 goals, but he played in just 66 games, so he was on pace for 33.5 goals. The Flyers traded for Kevin Hayes' rights, but then signed him to an excessive seven year deal worth $50 million. Hayes' 55 points in 2018-19 was a career high, but he has only scored 20 goals once (25 in 2017-18). Currently an RFA, Travis Konecny scored 24 goals, with a career high 49 points. He looks to hit 25 goals and 50 points after just missing both benchmarks in consecutive seasons. Oskar Lindblom had a decent rookie season, with 17 goals and 33 points. A former first rounder, Scott Laughton scored a career high 12 goals and 32 points. He also kills penalties. Nolan Patrick, drafted 2nd overall in 2017, has battled injuries in his two year NHL career, and has scored 13 goals with 30-31 points in both seasons. He looks to take his game to the next level. Tyler Pitlick was acquired from Dallas. He had wrist surgery, but could be ready to go by Opening Night. He scored eight goals in 47 games with the Stars last year. That's a 14 goal pace, which matches his career high. Michael Raffl has had a very inconsistent career. He's only played in 70 games once, he has scored 20 goals once, and he has 30 points once. And they all didn't come in the same season. He scored just six goals with 18 points in 2018-19. German Rubtsov eyes an NHL role after scoring 10 points in 14 AHL games last year. A 2016 first rounder, Rubtsov has dealt with multiple injuries since he was drafted. Kurtis Gabriel played in a career high 22 games for the Devils last year, with four points. He had 59 penalty minutes.

Ivan Provorov had a down season, with a career low 26 points and -16 rating. This is coming after 17 goal, +17 season. He is currently an RFA. After a 65 point 2017-18, Shayne Gostisbehere had a down season, with 37 points and a -20 rating. He had a great rookie 2015-16, struggled in 2016-17, was great in 2017-18, and struggled in 2018-19, so I'd bet a good season from Gostibehere in 2019-20. Travis Sanheim had a good first full season. He had 35 points as a 22 year old. Matt Niskanen comes to the Flyers after a down season in Washington. His 25 points were his lowest since 2012-13. Robert Hagg had a solid second season, with 20 points, a career high. Justin Braun comes from San Jose after spending his first nine years there. A defensive defenseman, Braun had 16 points last year. His -14 rating was a career low. Philippe Myers made his NHL debut in 2018-19. In 21 games, he had two points. In 53 AHL games, he had 33 points. A 2013 first rounder, Sam Morin has played in just eight games over the last three seasons. He missed most of the season with a torn ACL.

The Flyers sent out an NHL record eight goalies in 2018-19. The only two to play in 15 games, and also the only two with a GAA under 3, return. That's not counting the AHL bound Alex Lyon. Carter Hart, the hopeful savior of the Flyers, made his NHL debut as a 20 year old. He had a 2.83 GAA and .917 SV%. Brian Elliott, a 12 year veteran, returns to Philly for a third season. He had a .907 SV% and 2.96 GAA last season.

          Deep Depths
Russian forward Mikhail Vorobyev made his NHL debut in 2018-19, with two points in 15 games. Nicolas Aube-Kubel also made his NHL debut, playing in nine games. Nate Prosser signs with the Flyers after playing all but one of his 354 career games for the Wild. He played in 15 games last year. Andy Welinski signs in Philly after playing in 33 games over the past two seasons for Anaheim.

          Up and Coming
A 2018 first rounder, Joel Farabee had a great first season at Boston University, with 36 points in 37 games. A 2017 first rounder, Morgan Frost dominated the OHL for a second consecutive season. He scored 37 goals with 109 points in 58 games. Over the past two seasons, Frost has scored 79 goals with 221 points in 125 games. A 2017 second rounder, Isaac Ratcliffe scored 50 goals in 62 OHL games. Ratcliffe, Farabee and Frost are all third line options over Rubtsov.

          2019 draft class
Round 1, 14th overall: Cam York
Round 2, 34th overall: Bobby Brink
Round 3, 72nd overall: Ronald Attard
Round 4, 103rd overall: Mason Millman
Round 6, 165th overall: Egor Serdyuk
Round 6, 169th overall: Roddy Ross
Round 7, 196th overall: Bryce Brodzinski

The Flyers hired a new coach in the offseason, and it is Alain Vigneault. An NHL Head Coach for 16 seasons, Vigneault teams have a .588 winning percentage. He went to the Stanley Cup final in 2011 with Vancouver and in 2014 with the Rangers, but lost both of them. Chuck Fletcher had a long tenure in Minnesota, and had an active first offseason in Philly.

           Projected Lineup
Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk - Kevin Hayes - Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom - Nolan Patrick - German Rubtsov
Michael Raffl - Scott Laughton - Tyler Pitlick
Extras: Kurtis Gabriel, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Mikhail Vorobyev

           Ivan Provorov - Travis Sanheim
           Shayne Gostisbehere - Matt Niskanen
           Robert Hagg - Justin Braun
Extras: Philippe Myers, Sam Morin, Nate Prosser

                         Carter Hart
                         Brian Elliott
Extras: Alex Lyon

The Flyers are a team with optimism they could make the playoffs, or they could finish in last place. Unfortunately, my prediction for the Flyers in 2019-20 is the latter.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ottawa Senators 2019-20 season preview

From Getty Images

          The nightmare for Ottawa Senators fans might not ever end. The team has been the worst in the NHL the past two seasons, and they forfeited their first round pick, 4th overall in this past seasons draft. Losing out on what would eventually become Bowen Byram will be a killer for the Senators, especially as the team is worse than they were last year.

           Additions: Artem Anisimov, Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey, Tyler Ennis, Michael Carcone, Ryan Callahan (contract)

           Subtractions: Cody Ceci, Zack Smith, Mike Condon, Ben Harpur, Magnus Paajarvi, Oscar Lindberg, Brian Gibbons, Darren Archibald, Max McCormick, Stefan Elliott

Brady Tkachuk, drafted 4th overall in 2018, had a nice rookie season, with 22 goals and 45 points. Not including Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel, who were all traded in February, Tkachuk lead the team in goals. The leader among returning forwards in points was Chris Tierney, who had a career high 48, led by a career high 39 assists. Colin White signed a big extension in the offseason. In his first full year, White scored 14 goals with 41 points, becoming the number one center by the end of the season. Bobby Ryan's 15 goals and 42 points were his most since 2015-16, but his -29 rating was a career worst and his $7.25 million cap hit still looks terrible. Just like everyone who joins the Senators these days, Mikkel Boedker regressed. His seven goals were his worst since 2012-13, and he was a -23. The Senators brought in Artem Anisimov from Chicago in exchange for Zack Smith. Anisimov scored 20 goals in three straight seasons up until 2018-19, when he scored a respectable 15 with 37 points. That is tied with Ryan for second in goals among returning players. Jean-Gabriel Pageau played in just 39 games, and ended up with just 12 points. Drake Batherson, a 2017 4th rounder, is trying to make the team in a top six role. He had nine points in 20 NHL games, and scored 22 goals with 62 points in 59 games in the AHL. Connor Brown scored 20 goals in 2016-17, but fell in the Leafs depth chart since. He comes to Ottawa after an eight goal, 29 point season. Anthony Duclair scored 19 goals, eight of those coming in 21 games with Ottawa, for a 31 goal pace. In a depth role with the Maple Leafs, Tyler Ennis scored 12 goals. He is a three time 20 goal scorer. In his rookie season, Rudolfs Balcers had 14 points in 36 games. He scored 17 goals in 43 AHL games. Logan Brown has played in six NHL games, and is trying to make the 2019-20 Senators. He had 42 points in 56 AHL games.

Thomas Chabot developed into a legitimate number one defenseman for the Senators, with 14 goals and 55 points. He lead the team in points, not including the traded Duchene and Stone. After Chabot, the defense gets woozy. Dylan DeMelo's four goals and 22 points in his first season in Ottawa were career highs. Nikita Zaitsev is getting paid $4.5 million a season, most among Ottawa defensemen. In Toronto last year, he had 14 points. Another former Leaf, Ron Hainsey, joins the team. The 38 year old had 23 points and a career high +30 rating last year. Christian Wolanin had 31 points in 40 AHL games, and 12 points in 30 NHL games. With Zack Smith gone, Mark Borowiecki is the new longest tenured skater, though he he has only played in 70 games once. In 53 games this past season, he had five points. Christian Jaros had 10 points in a 61 game rookie season.

Craig Anderson returns for possibly his final season. He is a UFA after the season. He had a weak .903 SV% and terrible 3.51 GAA last season. He is now 38. In 24 games for the Senators after a trade from Vancouver, Anders Nilsson had a .914 SV% and 2.90 GAA. He signed a two year extension.

            Deep Depths
Nick Paul played in 20 games for the Senators, and scored two points. He has played in 56 games over the last four seasons. Michael Carcone had 44 points in 62 AHL games for Utica and Toronto last year. Cody Goloubef played in five games, his first NHL games since 2016-17. The defenseman has 23 points over 134 career games.

           Up and Coming
Erik Brannstrom, acquired for star winger Mark Stone, played in two NHL games. He had 32 points in 50 AHL games, and is the Senators' top prospect. He could make the NHL team. Vitali Abramov played in one NHL game after being acquired for Matt Duchene. In 70 AHL games, he scored 16 goals. Alex Formenton scored his first NHL goal after getting a nine game cameo. He had 34 points in 31 OHL games. Josh Norris, acquired for Erik Karlsson, scored 10 goals with 19 points in 17 games at the University of Michigan. After signing from Princeton, Max Veronneau had four points in 12 games.

           2019 draft class
Round 1, 19th overall: Lassi Thomson
Round 2, 32nd overall: Shane Pinto
Round 2, 37th overall: Mads Sogaard
Round 4, 94th overall: Viktor Lodin
Round 5, 125th overall: Mark Kastelic
Round 7, 187th overall: Maxence Guenette

DJ Smith was hired as the replacement to Guy Boucher. He was an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs, and now he gets his first Head Coaching gig. Pierre Dorion might not be liked by fans, but he has the trust of another person fans hate, owner Eugene Melnyk.

                Projected Lineup
Brady Tkachuk - Colin White - Drake Batherson
Anthony Duclair - Chris Tierney - Connor Brown
Mikkel Boedker - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Bobby Ryan
Tyler Ennis - Artemi Anisimov - Rudolfs Balcers
Extras: Logan Brown, Max Veronneau

                 Thomas Chabot - Dylan DeMelo
                 Erik Brannstrom - Nikita Zaitsev
                 Christian Wolanin - Ron Hainsey
Extras: Christian Jaros, Mark Borowiecki

                           Craig Anderson
                           Anders Nilsson

If you are an Ottawa Senators fan, you probably aren't predicting them to make the playoffs. If you aren't an Ottawa Senators fan, then you aren't picking them to make the playoffs. I fall under the second category, and I have Ottawa finishing 8th once again.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

New York Rangers 2019-20 season preview

          Having a top farm system in the NHL is always a good thing. Having a top farm system, then getting the 2nd overall pick, then signing the top free agent available is an even better thing. The Rangers might not even be a playoff team, but they had an amazing offseason, signing Artemi Panarin and drafting Kaapo Kakko. They even traded for a top defenseman on top of that.

          Additions: Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, Greg McKegg, Philip Di Giuseppe, Danny O'Regan

         Subtractions: Kevin Shattenkirk, Jimmy Vesey, Neal Pionk, Frederik Claesson

In his four year NHL career, Panarin has always been a very valuable asset. He won the Calder Trophy in 2015-16, he has scored no less than 74 points in a season, and scored 28 goals with a career high 87 points last year, setting the record for most points by a Blue Jacket in a single season. He signed with the Rangers on a seven year deal worth over $12.6 million a season. Panarin will share the top line with center Mika Zibanejad, whose 30 goals and 74 points in 2018-19 were career highs. He also led the team in both categories. Chris Kreider could be entering his final season with the Rangers. A free agent at the end of the year, Kreider scored 28 goals with 52 points in 2018-19. Kakko comes from the Finnish league, where as a 17 year old, he scored 22 goals in 45 games. He scored six goals in 10 games at the World Championships. He could be on the top line with Panarin and Zibanejad. The team signed Pavel Buchnevich to a two year deal after he scored a career high 21 goals. After being acquired from Edmonton for Ryan Spooner (who was later bought out), Ryan Strome scored 18 goals with 33 points in 63 games. His 19 goals overall were a career high, and his 35 points were his most since 2014-15. Vladislav Namestnikov is entering a contract season. He had a down year, with 11 goals and 31 points, and it seems like a 2017-18 midseason trade from Tampa has hurt him. At 19, Filip Chytil scored 11 goals, but he was a -22 player. Jesper Fast, another forward entering a contract year, had a rough 2018-19, with eight goals and 20 points. Brett Howden, a 2016 first rounder, had 23 points in a 66 game rookie season. Lias Andersson, drafted 7th overall in 2017, had just six points in 42 NHL games, and 20 points in 34 AHL games. Brendan Lemieux is an RFA, and is coming off a 12 goal rookie season. Three of those goals were scored in his 19 games with the Rangers. Greg McKegg was signed as an extra forward after a career high six goals and 11 points in 41 games for Carolina. Cristoval "Boo" Nieves has been a depth forward for a couple of years now. He had 10 points in 43 games last year.

Jacob Trouba is the new top defenseman after being acquired from Winnipeg. He signed a seven year, $56 million deal as well. He scored a career high 50 points, led by his 42 assists. Currently an RFA, the Rangers might not have the cap space to sign Tony DeAngelo. His 30 points in 61 games last year led Rangers defensemen. Brady Skjei had 25 points for a second consecutive season, and scored a career high eight goals. Marc Staal has fallen as he has aged. He had 13 points and a career worst -9 rating last year. The Rangers acquired prospect Adam Fox from Carolina. At Harvard, Fox had 48 points in 33 games. Libor Hajek made his NHL debut last year, with a goal in five games. He had just five points in 58 games in the AHL. Brendan Smith has had a rough stint in New York. He had 13 points in 63 games with a -7 rating, and despite the fact he is getting paid over $4 million, he may not start.

Henrik Lundqvist will be in the Hall of Fame when he retires, as the former Vezina winner has had an amazing career. But, he had a rough 2018-19, with a .907 SV% and 3.07 GAA. For now, he is still the starter. Alex Georgiev had a decent rookie season, with a .914 SV%. He remains as the backup.

             Deep Depths
Matt Beleskey's $1.9 million cap hit will go away after the season. Over the last two seasons, he has one goal in five games for the Rangers. He had five goals with 22 points in 53 games this past AHL season. Vinni Littieri had three points in 27 NHL games, but he scored 23 goals in 48 AHL games. Philip Di Giuseppe signed a two way deal. In 150 career NHL games, he has 41 points.

             Up and Coming
Besides Kakko, Andersson, Howden, Chytil, Hajek and Fox, the Rangers have more young talent. 2018 first rounder Vitali Kravtsov could be NHL ready after scoring 21 points in 50 KHL games. Potentially Lundqvist's future replacement, Igor Shesterkin posted otherworldly numbers in the KHL. He had a 1.11 GAA and a .953 SV%.

             2019 draft class
Round 1, 2nd overall: Kaapo Kakko
Round 2, 49th overall: Matthew Robertson
Round 2, 58th overall: Karl Hendriksson
Round 3, 68th overall: Zach Jones
Round 4, 112th overall: Hunter Skinner
Round 5, 130th overall: Leevi Aaltonen
Round 6, 161st overall: Adam Edstrom
Round 7, 205th overall: Eric Ciccolini

David Quinn returns for his second season as Head Coach. It was a tough first year, but now his roster is better. With both Boston and the Rangers, Jeff Gorton has an amazing resume as a GM. A goalie with the Rangers in the late 70s, John Davidson returns, this time as team President.

             Projected lineup
Artemi Panarin - Mika Zibanejad - Kaapo Kakko
Chris Kreider - Ryan Strome - Pavel Buchnevich
Vladislav Namestnikov - Filip Chytil - Lias Andersson
Brendan Lemieux - Brett Howden - Jesper Fast
Extras: Vitali Kravtsov, Greg McKegg, Boo Nieves

             Brady Skjei - Jacob Trouba
             Marc Staal - Tony DeAngelo
             Libor Hajek - Adam Fox
Extras: Brendan Smith

                       Henrik Lundqvist
                       Alex Georgiev
Extras: Igor Shesterkin

The Rangers are one of the most improved teams in the NHL. But, the Eastern Conference is looking very tough this year, and it doesn't look like the Rangers have a spot in the playoffs. I predict they'll finish in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division.

Friday, September 6, 2019

New York Islanders 2019-20 season preview


          2019-20 was almost a dream season for the Islanders, after beating up on John Tavares and the Maple Leafs twice, while finishing one point out of a division title, then sweeping Pittsburgh in round one. The almost part kicked in when they were eliminated in round two by Carolina. In his second offseason in New York, GM Lou Lamoriello once again made all the picks he was given, signed some players, but no stars, and seemingly missed out on the top free agent available for the second straight season.

           Additions: Semyon Varlamov, Derick Brassard

           Subtractions: Robin Lehner, Valtteri Filppula, Luca Sbisa

After winning the 2017-18 Calder Trophy with an 85 point season, Mat Barzal regressed, with 18 goals and 62 points, and he almost didn't score in the entire month of March. After scoring a career high 40 goals in 2017-18, Anders Lee, in his first year as captain, scored 28 goals. But the silver lining was that his plus minus went from a career worst -25 in 2017-18 to a career high +20 in 2018-19. Pass first winger Josh Bailey has never scored 20 goals in a season, but his 40 assists and 56 points were both second on the team to Barzal. Brock Nelson picked the perfect time to have a career season. He scored 25 goals, with a career high 53 points and a +20 rating, in a contract year. He got a $6 million payday. Jordan Eberle re-signed, though his 19 goals and 37 points were career worsts, not including the shortened 2012-13 season. Always a great defensive center, Casey Cizikas had a career best year. He scored a career high 20 goals, and was a +22 player, finishing 21st in Selke voting. Anthony Beauvillier scored 18 goals. Over the last two seasons, the 22 year old has scored 39 goals. In his first year on Long Island, Leo Komarov had a career high 20 assists and plus 18 rating, and even though he wasn't hurt, he didn't score a goal after January 20th. Derick Brassard signed a one year deal to be the third line center. While he was very solid from 2013-14 to 2017-18, he was on three different teams last season, and didn't seem to fit in with any of them, with 14 goals and a -19 rating. Cal Clutterbuck's 23 points were tied for his most in his six seasons with the Islanders. He is rehabbing from back surgery, so his availability is up for question. In his return to Long Island, Matt Martin had 275 hits, and six goals, the latter his most since his first stint with the Islanders. Former fifth overall pick Michael Dal Colle got his real first shot at NHL action. He had seven points in 28 games. Andrew Ladd missed the playoffs with a torn ACL. He had 11 points in 26 games, and owns one of the worst contracts in the league. Tom Kuhnhackl re-signed after nine points in 36 games in his first year with the team.

Ryan Pulock has turned himself into the team's number one defenseman, with a career high 37 points and +21 rating. His partner, Adam Pelech, also wildly improved, with 21 points and a +22 rating, both career highs. Nick Leddy had three consecutive 40 point seasons, but his 26 points in 2018-19 were his lowest since 2012-13. At least his league worst -42 rating in 2017-18 evened out at zero. Devon Toews was impressive in his rookie season, with 18 points in 48 games. Scott Mayfield had his best season, with 19 points and a +18 rating. Johnny Boychuk's 74 games played were his most with the Isles, but his three goals were his lowest with the team. When Thomas Hickey was injured, Toews stepped in, and Hickey never got his spot back. He had four assists in 40 games, and figures as the seventh defenseman.

Semyon Varlamov was signed to a hefty four year, $20 million deal to replace Vezina finalist Robin Lehner. A former first rounder and Vezina finalist in 2013-14, Varlamov had a .909 SV% and 2.87 GAA in Colorado last year. Thomas Greiss had a great bounce back season, with a .927 SV% and 2.28 GAA. Goalie coaches Mitch Korn and Piero Greco have an amazing track record.

               Deep Depths
Enforcer Ross Johnston had four points in 17 games, with 23 penalty minutes and he averaged under eight minutes a game. Before the team signed Brassard, Tanner Fritz had a legitimate shot at being the third line center. He had one assist in eight NHL games, and 37 points in 57 AHL games. Defenseman Grant Hutton had six points in nine AHL games after coming from Miami University (Ohio), where he had 21 points in 37 games.

              Up and Coming
Defenseman Noah Dobson was drafted 12th overall in 2018, and he's a top 12 prospect in hockey. He has won the Memorial Cup two seasons in a row, with 42 points in 40 playoff games over the last two years. He had 42 points in 56 regular season games, and he has a shot at making the NHL team. Josh Ho-Sang has always been blocked in the NHL. In his 53 game NHL career, Ho-Sang has 24 points. He had 43 points in 56 games in the AHL. Sebastian Aho, a defenseman, had 46 points in 67 AHL games. He had four points in 22 NHL games in 2017-18. First rounder Oliver Wahlstrom had a rough year at Boston College, then went to the AHL and had seven points in 10 games, playoffs and regular season combined. Kieffer Bellows had just 19 points in 73 games, disappointing for the 2016 first rounder.

             2019 draft class
Round 1, 23rd overall: Simon Holmstrom
Round 2, 57th overall: Sam Bolduc
Round 5, 147th overall: Reece Newkirk
Round 6, 178th overall: Felix Bibeau
Round 7, 209th overall: Cole Coskey

Barry Trotz had a great first year as Islanders Head Coach. In his career, he has a .567 winning percentage, over 20 years. But, he has only gotten past the second round in the playoffs once, when his Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Lou Lamiorello has only made one trade in two years as Islanders GM, trading goalie prospect Eamon McAdam to Toronto for Matt Martin, on July 3, 2018. He re-signed Lee, Eberle and Nelson, but couldn't keep Lehner or Tavares, or bring Artemi Panarin to Long Island. His best moves were getting Trotz to coach the team, and originally signing Lehner.

           Projected Lineup
Anders Lee - Mat Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd - Derick Brassard - Leo Komorav
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Extras: Michael Dal Colle, Tom Kuhnhackl, Tanner Fritz, Josh Ho-Sang, Ross Johnston

           Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
           Devon Toews - Scott Mayfield
           Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Extras: Thomas Hickey, Sebastian Aho

                         Semyon Varlamov
                         Thomas Greiss
Extras: Chris Gibson, Jared Coreau

The Islanders might not look amazing on paper, but they have some quality players and amazing coaches. I predict they'll finish 3rd in the Metropolitan Division, making the playoffs.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

New Jersey Devils 2019-20 season preview

          To get the first overall pick in the NHL nowadays means being bad, and hoping you are also lucky. For the second season in three years, the Devils have been bad, and lucky, getting two first overall picks. To add to Nico Hischier, the Devils drafted Jack Hughes first overall in 2019. Hughes and Hischier are part of the bright future that Ray Shero has built, but with star Taylor Hall's contract year looming, a cap crunch could be coming in New Jersey.

           Additions: PK Subban, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds, John Hayden

           Subtractions: Stefan Noesen, Drew Stafford, Steven Santini, John Quenneville, Kurtis Gabriel, Kenny Agostino, Eric Gryba

Knee surgery limited Hall, the reigning Hart winner, to just 33 games, where he had 37 points. Health and his contract remain big talking points. Hall is one year removed from a 39 goal, 93 point season. In his fourth season in New Jersey, Kyle Palmieri continued to be a prolific scorer, with 27 goals. He led the team in goals, and also in points, with 50. Though he has is yet to have a season like other recent first overall picks like Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Hall, Nathan MacKinnon or even Rasmus Dahlin, Hischier has been an impressive teenager over the past two seasons. He has 99 points combined, with 47 (17 goals) in 2018-19. The expectations for Hughes will obviously be high. He had 48 points in 24 games for the US National Under 18 Team, and as a 16 year old on the Under 18 Team in 2017-18, Hughes scored 18 goals in 18 games. He could step in the second line center role, moving Travis Zajac to the third line. Zajac, a Devil since he was drafted in 2004, was a career worst -25, but his 46 points were his most since 2013-14, and his 19 goals were his most since 2009-10. He also received Selke votes. Wayne Simmonds comes to New Jersey on a prove it deal. His 17 goals in 2018-19 were his lowest in a full season since 2010-11. In the five seasons prior to 2018-19, Simmonds averaged 28.8 goals a season. The Devils traded for Nikita Gusev's RFA rights from Vegas, then signed him to a two year, $9 million deal. The Russian comes to North America from the KHL, where he had 82 points in 62 games, plus 19 more in 18 playoff games. With the arrival of Hughes, Texas native Blake Coleman will likely move to the wing. He scored a career high 22 goals in 2018-19. Multiple injuries limited 21 year old Jesper Bratt to 51 games, where his career high 25 assists led to 33 points. That's a 53 point pace. Drafted 6th overall in the star studded 2015 draft, Pavel Zacha has yet to take it to the next level. Zacha did score a career high 13 goals in 2018-19, but leveled out at 25 points again, and he hasn't played in more than 70 games in a season. He could drop to the fourth line this year. Miles Wood dropped off from 2017-18, when he scored 19 goals. In 2018-19, he scored 10 goals, and was a -10 player. Over three seasons, Wood has racked up 261 penalty minutes. The fourth line right wing has yet to be decided. John Hayden, acquired at the draft from Chicago, has a good chance at playing on the right side. Over three NHL seasons, Hayden has 22 points. In his rookie season, Brett Seney had 13 points in 51 games. Joey Anderson had seven points in a 34 game rookie year. Kevin Rooney had 10 points in 41 games.

The Devils acquired their top defenseman for the next three years when they got PK Subban from Nashville. Subban, who won the Norris in 2012-13, has averaged at least 22 minutes a game in every season, and is a four time 50 point scorer. Subban is coming off a down year in Nashville, with 31 points in 63 games. Sami Vatanen played in just 50 games, ruining his first full season in Jersey. He had 17 points, but he was a career worst -17. Damon Severson was an awful -27, but he had his best offensive season. His 11 goals and 39 points were career highs. Will Butcher endured a little sophomore slump, as his point total went from 44 down to 30, and his plus/minus dropped below zero, all the way to -17. At age 36, captain Andy Greene had 25 points, his most since 2013-14. He has been a -34 over the last three years. Connor Carrick, acquired for Ben Lovejoy at the trade deadline, Carrick scored seven points in 20 games post trade. He is battling with Mirco Mueller for the final defensive spot. Mueller scored 11 points in 53 games, both career highs.

Cory Schneider had an amazing career, but starting in 2016-17, injuries started to derail it. He played in just 26 games in 2018-19, and struggled, with a .903 SV% and a 3.06 GAA. He had an awful 6-13-4 record. Schneider could share the starting job with goalie of the future MacKenzie Blackwood. As a 22 year old rookie, Blackwood had a .918 SV% and 2.61 GAA.

                  Deep Depths
The Devils signed 32 year old veteran Ben Street to a two way deal. For the Ducks last year, Street had five points in 21 games, and 26 points in 32 AHL games. 2015 third rounder Blake Speers hasn't played in the NHL since 2016-17. He had just eight points in 43 AHL games, a very disappointing season. The team signed defenseman Matt Tennyson, who played in four NHL games in Buffalo last year, and has played in 124 NHL games in total. He had 21 points in 47 AHL games.

                  Up and Coming
Another guy battling with Mueller and Carrick for the final defensive spot is 2018 first rounder Ty Smith. Smith is coming off a 69 point season in 57 WHL games. He could make his NHL debut, but I don't see him starting in the NHL until 2020-21. 2017 2nd rounder Jesper Boqvist comes from the Swedish League. He had 35 points in 51 games there, and is a candidate to play on the 4th line. A first rounder in 2016, Michael McLeod made his NHL debut, with three assists in 21 games. He still needs to work in the AHL, after recording 33 points (but just six goals) in 55 games.

                  2019 draft class
Round 1, 1st overall: Jack Hughes
Round 2, 61st overall: Nikita Okhotyuk
Round 3, 70th overall: Daniil Misyul
Round 3, 80th overall: Graeme Clarke
Round 3, 82nd overall: Michael Vukojevic
Round 4, 96th overall: Tyce Thompson
Round 4, 118th overall: Case McCarthy
Round 5, 127th overall: Cole Brady
Round 5, 129th overall: Arseny Gritsyuk
Round 6, 158th overall: Patrick Moynihan
Round 7, 189th overall: Nikola Pasic

Ray Shero has done a great job rebuilding the Devils. He has had the luck of getting two first overall picks, and also fleecing Peter Chiarelli in the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson trade. In four seasons under John Hynes, the Devils have a .492 winning percentage.

                    Projected Lineup
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Nikita Gusev - Jack Hughes - Jesper Bratt
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Wayne Simmonds
Miles Wood - Pavel Zacha - John Hayden
Extras: Brett Seney, Joey Anderson, Jesper Boqvist

                    Will Butcher - PK Subban
                    Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen
                    Connor Carrick - Damon Severson
Extras: Mirco Mueller, Ty Smith

                                   Cory Schneider
                                   MacKenzie Blackwood

The Devils had a great offseason, bringing in Hughes, Subban, Simmonds and Gusev to go with Hall, Hischier, Palmieri, Severson, Vatanen and Butcher. If the goaltending can hold up, which I think it can, then the Devils will finish 4th in the Metropolitan Division, making the playoffs in 2019-20.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nashville Predators 2019-20 season preview


              It is not a normal thing, in any league, where a team trades way a star player, just so they can sign another star player. But the Nashville Predators did just that, trading away PK Subban so they could have the cap space to sign Matt Duchene, hoping that would improve their league worst 12.9 powerplay percentage in 2018-19. Beside that, it was a quiet offseason in Nashville, as they look to get back to beyond the first round of the playoffs.

            Additions: Matt Duchene, Daniel Carr, Steven Santini, Connor Ingram, Jeremy Davies

            Subtractions: PK Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Brian Boyle, Cody McLeod

After the Predators had just one 30 goal scorer and three fifty point players, and two 50 point forwards, they brought in Duchene, who did both last year. His 31 goals were a career high, and his 70 points were tied with 2013-14 for a career high. He also played in just 73 games last year. His 70 points would have led Nashville. Duchene is an improvement from Ryan Johansen, whose 64 points, led by a career high 50 assists, led the team. Johansen scored just 14 goals, and hasn't scored 20 since 2014-15, his last full season before joining the Preds. Despite playing in just 64 games, Filip Forsberg scored 28 goals with 50 points. Since his rookie season of 2014-15, Forsberg has scored 144 goals, for an average of 28.8 goals a season. But he may not be the team's best goal scorer. Viktor Arvidsson scored a career high 34 goals, and in just 58 games, for an 82 game pace of over 48 goals. He set the record for most single season goals in franchise history. He is also signed for the next five years, with a steal of a $4.25 million cap hit. Kyle Turris had a very disappointing season. Acquired for now top pairing defenseman Sam Girard, Turris had just 23 points in 55 games in 2018-19. He is getting paid $6 million for the next five seasons, and he's also 30 years old. It is a make or break season for Turris. Mikael Granlund had 69 and 67 points in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively. He wasn't on pace to hit 60 points when the Wild traded him to Nashville at the trade deadline. With Nashville, Granlund scored just one goals with five points in 16 games. Craig Smith scored 20 goals for the fifth time over the last six seasons, with 21. His 17 assists were tied for the second lowest over that stretch. Nick Bonino might have had his best season since 2013-14. He scored 17 goals with 35 points and a +27 rating, finishing 13th in Selke voting. Colton Sissons signed an odd seven year, $20 million extension in the offseason. He is coming off career highs in goals (15), points (30) and plus/minus (+20). Calle Jarnkrok had at least 15 goals with 30 points in three consecutive seasons leading up to 2018-19, but he scored just 10 goals with 26 points instead. Austin Watson was suspended for the first 27 games of the season for domestic violence, then he was suspended indefinitely in January (it ended up being 27 games) for alcohol abuse, leaving his career in jeopardy. The former first rounder had 16 points and a +11 rating in 37 games. 5'6'' forward Rocco Grimaldi played in a career high 53 games, with a career high 13 points, and scored some highlight reel goals along the way. Reigning AHL MVP Daniel Carr signs with Nashville. He scored 30 goals with 71 points in 52 games. In his 100 game NHL career, Carr has 15 goals and 35 points. Frederick Gaudreau played in 55 games, and scored his first three NHL goals (his three in the 2016-17 playoffs not included). He had just four points overall. Depth forward Miikka Salomaki scored seven points in 37 games.

Even without Subban, the Predators have some good defensemen. Captain Roman Josi is entering a contract season. He is a consistent Norris contender. He scored 15 goals with 56 points in 2018-19, finishing 7th in Norris voting for the 7th consecutive season. Mattias Ekholm finished 10th in Norris voting, with a career high 44 points and +27 rating. Coming off a career 2017-18 season where he scored 32 points in 44 games, Ryan Ellis had a career high 41 points, with a +21 rating. To take Subban's spot in the top four, the Predators are leaning on 2016 first rounder Dante Fabbro. Fabbro had 33 points in 38 games at Boston University, then came to the NHL. He scored his first career goal, playing in four games. 15 year veteran Dan Hamhuis returned to Nashville as a 36 year old. In 57 games, he had five assists, and a -2 rating. Steven Santini, acquired for Subban, is a defensive defenseman with 21 points in 114 career games. Yannick Weber has never lived up to his 11 goal 2014-15 season, with just five goals in the four seasons since. His +7 rating in 2018-19 was a career best. In three seasons in Nashville, Matt Irwin has 29 points in 168 games, with a +22 rating.

Pekka Rinne, who at age 35 won the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18, would have been a UFA after 2018-19, but signed a two year extension on November 3, his 36th birthday. He finished 7th in Vezina voting, with a .918 SV% and 2.42 GAA. When Rinne leaves, the Predators have their goalie of the future in Juuse Saros. Saros had a .915 SV% and 2.62 GAA. In his career, he has a .920 SV%.

                Deep Depths
Matt Donovan, who played in the NHL from 2011-12 to 2014-15, returned to the NHL, playing in two games. In the AHL, he scored 11 goals with 35 points in 64 games. Jarred Tinordi, a former first rounder with 53 games of NHL experience, hasn't played in the NHL since 2015-16. He had 22 points in 75 AHL games. Laurent Dauphin had 35 points in 61 AHL games.
                Up and Coming
Eeli Tolvanen was a top prospect entering 2018-19. He still is, even after a disappointing season. He had two points in four NHL games, and 35 points in 58 AHL games. Rem Pitlick, whose brother Rhett was just drafted, cousin Tyler plays for the Flyers and father Lance was a former NHLer, He had 45 points in 38 games at the University of Minnesota. Defenseman Alexandre Carrier has two games of NHL experience, from 2016-17. In the AHL, he had 37 points in 76 games.

               2019 draft class
Round 1, 24th overall: Philip Tomasino
Round 2, 45th overall: Egor Afanasyev
Round 3, 65th overall: Alexander Campbell
Round 4, 109th overall: Marc Del Gaizo
Round 4, 117th overall: Semyon Chystyakov
Round 5, 148th overall: Ethan Haider
Round 6, 179th overall: Isak Walther
Round 7, 210th overall: Juuso Parssinen

Stanley Cup winning coach Peter Laviolette is entering his 6th year as Predators Head Coach. As a Head Coach for the Predators, Flyers, Hurricanes and Islanders, Laviolette has a .589 winning percentage. The GM throughout Nashville's entire history, David Poile has been known to make some gutsy trades, and the Subban for Duchene cap space is one of them.

               Projected Lineup
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund - Matt Duchene - Kyle Turris
Calle Jarnkork - Nick Bonino - Craig Smith
Daniel Carr - Colton Sissons - Austin Watson
Extras: Rocco Grimaldi, Miika Salomaki, Frederick Gaudreau

               Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
               Mattias Ekholm - Dante Fabbro
               Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber
Extras: Steven Santini, Matt Irwin

                          Pekka Rinne
                          Juuse Saros

The Predators are obviously a good team, as a team that has made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons has to be. But every year, there is always one surprise team that doesn't make the playoffs. This year, I think it's Nashville. I think they are a fifth place team, not good enough for the playoffs in 2019-20.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 season preview

From Sportsnet

          There's always one team that misses the playoffs by a game in the NHL, and they normally come from the East. It was the Islanders in 2016-17, the Panthers in 2017-18, and the Canadiens in 2018-19. It always hurts to miss the playoffs, then get a middle round draft as compensation. It also doesn't help that both the Islanders and Panthers missed the playoffs the following season, both times by a much more significant margin. The Canadiens are trying to fend that off, and while they had a ton of cap space, their big move in the offseason ended up as an offer sheet to Sebastian Aho of the Hurricanes, which was matched. Their other offseason moves didn't amount to much, and their departures were replaced.

          Additions: Ben Chiarot, Nick Cousins, Keith Kinkaid, Phillip Varone, Riley Barber

          Subtractions: Andrew Shaw, Jordie Benn, David Schlemko, Nicolas Deslauriers

 After two consecutive underwhelming nine goal seasons, Max Domi was traded to the Habs from Arizona in what was perceived as a bad trade. But Domi broke out in a big way, with career highs in goals (28), assists (44), points (72) and plus/minus (+20). He also shot a career high 203 times. Tomas Tatar had a bad run in Vegas, with six points in 20 games, after being acquired for a first, second and third round pick. He was traded to Montreal with top prospect Nick Suzuki for captain Max Pacioretty. He rebounded with 25 goals and a career high 58 points and +21 rating. Brendan Gallagher proved to be arguably the most underrated player in the league. He scored 30 goals for the second consecutive season, with a career high 33, plus 52 points. Jonathan Drouin scored 53 points, led by a career high 35 assists. Phillip Danault broke out in a big way. He had a career high 41 assists, 53 points and +17 rating. His average ice time of 17:47 led Montreal forwards. He also finished 7th in Selke voting. Third overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored 11 goals with 34 points in his rookie season, and while it doesn't live up to the seasons by the players picked above him, and even 4th overall pick Brady Tkachuk, but it is still promising. He looks to jump from the third line center spot. Paul Byron failed to score 20 goals for a third straight season, but his 15 goals and +16 rating aren't bad. In his first season in Montreal, Joel Armia scored a career high 13 goals, and he did it in just 57 games. 24 year old Artturi Lehkonen had career highs in assists (20), points (31) and plus/minus (+10). Nick Cousins comes from Arizona on a one year deal. He is coming off a season where he recorded career highs in assists (20) and points (27). Jordan Weal eyes a fourth line spot after scoring 10 points in 16 games with Montreal after a trade deadline trade last year. Matthew Peca scored a career high 10 points in a career high 39 games. Nate Thompson was re-signed after seven points in 25 games for Montreal.

In his first year as a captain, Shea Weber scored 14 goals in 58 games, for a 20 goal pace. He isn't the player he once was, but he now could be underrated. At age 31, Jeff Petry scored a career high 13 goals and 46 points. He got Norris votes for the first time. Ben Chiarot signs a three year deal after a career season in Winnipeg playing with Dustin Byfuglien. His five goals and 20 points were career highs. Now 21, Victor Mete was a +17. In his 120 career games, he still hasn't scored his first goal. After being acquired for two depth players, Brett Kulak had career highs in goals (6), assists (11), points (17), plus/minus (+12), and pretty much every significant stat, and in just 57 games. The sixth, and maybe even fifth spot, are up for grabs. Mike Reilly, like Kulak, played in 57 games. He has 19 points in 76 games over two years for Montreal. Christian Folin is a righty, which could benefit him. He had four assists in 19 games for Montreal last year.

Carey Price isn't the same goalie he was in 2014-15, when he won the Hart and Vezina award. He is still a starter, but he's not worth the $10.5 million he earns annually. He had a .918 SV% and a 2.49 GAA in 2018-19. Former Devils backup Keith Kinkaid joins the Habs in the same role he had in New Jersey. He is coming off a career worst season, with a .891 SV% and 3.36 GAA.

           Deep Depths
It's never a good thing when two players in this section combine for $7 million in cap space. But Dale Weise and Karl Alzner are likely to be buried in the AHL this year. In his return to Montreal, Weise had no points in nine games. He played in three AHL games for Laval, and scored two goals. Alzner hadn't missed a game since 2009-10, but after a bad year one in Montreal, Alzner played in just nine games. He was waived, and played in 34 AHL games. After scoring 10 goals with 30 points in 2017-18, Charles Hudon played in just 32 NHL games, and scored five points. He needs to earn back a fourth line spot, but that looks unlikely. Philip Varone returned to the NHL last year, playing in 47 games for Philly. Former first rounder Michael McCarron has failed to impress, with just eight points in 69 career games. He had 21 points in 32 AHL games.

            Up and Coming
Ryan Poehling looks like the favorite for the fourth line center job. His NHL debut, which came in game 82 last year, will be impossible to match. He scored a hat trick. He had 31 points in 36 games at St. Cloud State previously. Noah Juulsen could be the favorite for the sixth defenseman spot. Over the past two seasons, Juulsen has eight points in 44 games. He was a first rounder in 2015. A first rounder by Vegas in 2017, Nick Suzuki eyes his NHL debut. He had 94 points in 59 OHL games, and 42 more in 24 playoff games. Charlie Lindgren looks to compete with Kinkaid for the backup job. In 18 career NHL games, He has a 2.89 GAA and .912 SV%.

             2019 draft class
Round 1, 15th overall: Cole Caufield
Round 2, 46th overall: Jayden Struble
Round 3, 64th overall: Mattias Norlinder
Round 3, 77th overall: Gianni Fairbrother
Round 5, 126th overall: Jacob Leguerrier
Round 5, 131st overall: Rhett Pitlick
Round 5, 138th overall: Frederik Nissen Dichow
Round 6, 170th overall: Arsen Khisamutdinov
Round 7, 201st overall: Rafael Harvey-Pinard
Round 7, 206th overall: Kieran Ruscheinski

Claude Julien returns as Head Coach for the third full season in his second stint as Montreal Head Coach. A Head Coach in the NHL every season since 2002-03, Julien's teams have a .592 winning percentage. Marc Bergevin has always been criticized, but that criticism seemed to vanish last year, when the Domi trade worked out great, Drouin rebounded and Weber outplayed PK Subban, whom he was traded for. Those three players were part of Bergevin's last three blockbuster trades.

             Projected Lineup.
Tomas Tatar - Max Domi - Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin - Phillip Danault - Paul Byron
Arttuti Lehkonen - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Joel Armia
Nick Cousins - Ryan Poehling - Jordan Weal
Extras: Nate Thompson, Matthew Peca, Nick Suzuki

              Victor Mete - Shea Weber
              Ben Chiarot - Jeff Petry
              Brett Kulak - Noah Juulsen
Extras: Mike Reilly, Christian Folin, Karl Alzner

                            Carey Price
                            Keith Kinkaid
Extras: Charlie Lindgren

The Canadiens were a good team last year, but they saw career seasons from Domi, Danault and Petry, and surprise seasons from Weber, Tatar and Drouin, plus the traded Andrew Shaw. If the returning players continue from their 2018-19 production, then Montreal could make the playoffs. But with Florida's big offseason, and Toronto, Tampa and Boston continuing to be powerhouses, plus a strong Metropolitan Division, the Habs will finish 5th and miss the playoffs in 2019-20.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Minnesota Wild 2019-20 season preview

From Getty Images

             After three consecutive first round exits from 2016 to 2018, Wild owner Craig Leipold had enough. GM Chuck Fletcher's contract was not renewed, ending his almost nine year tenure as general manager. After a thorough month long search, longtime Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton was hired. If avoiding a first round exit was what Leipold wanted, then the good news is that the Wild were not eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2018-19. The bad news was that the Wild didn't make the playoffs in the first place. Fenton traded core players Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, and tried to trade another one, Jason Zucker, twice, but both deals fell apart. After one season, Fenton was relieved of duties in August, after the draft and free agency. Those three trades left the Wild with one terrible contract, and two young middle six forwards. It could be a year or two until new GM Bill Guerin gets the team back to the playoffs.

               Additions: Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman

               Subtractions: Pontus Aberg, Nate Prosser, Matt Read, Anthony Bitetto, Andrew Hammond

Probably the best news all season for the Wild was that Zach Parise was healthy, though he did have a knee injury at the tail end of the season. He played in 74 games for the first time since 2014-15, and his 28 goals and 61 points were also his most since '14-15. He led the team in both categories. But now 35 and with six more years left on his contract at over $7.5 million, the Parise contract still looms over the Wild. Eric Staal surprised with 42 goals in 2017-18, his most 2005-06, but he followed it with his second to worst season. He scored 22 goals with 52 points, but that's not bad for a 34 year old. The third and final Wild member with 20 goals, Jason Zucker went from a career high 33 in 2017-18 to 21 in 2018-19, and he won the King Clancy Trophy for leadership on and off the ice. To help with scoring, the Wild signed the only other player in NHL history who's last name starts with "Zuc", Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarello scored 40 points in just 48 games, for a career high .83 points per game. He had 11 points in 13 playoff games. Captain Mikko Koivu tore his ACL, and played in just 48 games. His eight goals and 29 points were his lowest since his rookie 2005-06 season. Ryan Donato played in 22 games after being part of the Charlie Coyle trade. He was promising, with 16 points. Kevin Fiala, acquired for Mikael Granlund, played in more games than there are in an NHL season (83), and was an awful -12 with seven points in 19 games post trade. 6'6'' forward Jordan Greenway scored 12 goals in his rookie season. Former first rounder Luke Kunin failed to impress, 17 points in 49 games. He was the only former first rounder to have a weak season. Joel Eriksson Ek, part of the star studded 2015 draft, had just 14 points in 58 games. Ryan Hartman enters on a two year deal after scoring 12 goals for Nashville and Philly. Marcus Foligno's three year streak of 23 points ended when he had just 19. Despite playing in all 82 games, his spot in the lineup could be in jeopardy. Former 20 goal scorer Victor Rask had just three points in 23 games after being acquired for Nino Niederreiter. He is trying to win back the fourth line center spot from Kunin or Eriksson Ek. JT Brown scored eight points in 56 games. He figures as the backup winger.

Ryan Suter has the same terrible contract as Parise, but at least he's always healthy. He averaged over 26 and a half minutes a game again, and scored 47 points, and earned Norris votes for the 10th consecutive season. Entering a contract season, Jared Spurgeon is coming off a career high 14 goals and 43 points, while finishing top 10 in Lady Byng voting for the second consecutive season, and finished 11th in Norris voting. A chest injury sustained in a fight with Matthew Tkachuk cost Matt Dumba 50 games. He scored 12 goals, and was leading defensemen in scoring at the time of the injury. He was on an 82 game pace of 30.75 goals. Normally a defensive defenseman, Jonas Brodin had a career worst -15 rating, with 18 points. Another defensive defenseman with a career worst plus/minus, Greg Pateryn was a -11 in his first season in Minnesota. Tough Nick Seeler had 64 penalty minutes in 71 games, averaging just over 12 minutes a night. He also had seven points. Brad Hunt played in 29 games with the team after being acquired from Vegas. He had five points and a -5 rating.

Devan Dubnyk has declined since his magical 2014-15 season. He has been healthy, though. In a league leading 67 games, Dubnyk had a .913 SV% with a 2.54 GAA, while leading the league with 28 losses. Dubnyk might have been overworked because of how bad his backup, Alex Stalock, was. Stalock had a .899 SV% and 2.99 GAA.

                   Deep Depths
Kyle Rau played in six NHL games in 2018-19. In the AHL, he scored 26 goals with 53 points in 69 games. German forward Nico Sturm scored 45 points in 39 games at Clarkson University, then played in two games for the Wild. Louis Belpedio could be the first defenseman to be called up. He had 21 points in 70 AHL games in 2018-19, and two assists in three career NHL games. Veteran defenseman Matt Bartkowski played in two games for the Wild, making them his fourth NHL team. He scored a goal, and owned a +2 rating.

                   Up and Coming
Top prospect Kirill Kaprizov is one year away from likely coming to the NHL. When he does, he is looking at a top six, maybe even top line role. Last KHL season (2019-20 just started), Kaprizov scored 30 goals with 51 points in 57 games. He was also very impressive for OAR (Russia) at the 2018 Olympics. Top goalie prospect Kaapo Kahkonen came to North America for the first time, and ended up winning the AHL starting job. In 39 games, Kahkonen had a 2.78 GAA and .908 SV%. Kahkonen looks to be the starter when Dubnyk is out of the picture, but the Wild did just draft goalie Hunter Jones in the second round. He is years away. The last two Wild first rounders, Matt Boldy and Filip Johansson, are at least two years away.

                     2019 draft class
Round 1, 12th overall: Matt Boldy
Round 2, 42nd overall: Vladislav Firstov
Round 2, 59th overall: Hunter Jones
Round 3, 75th overall: Adam Beckman
Round 5, 149th overall: Matvey Guskov
Round 6, 166th overall: Marshall Warren
Round 6, 172nd overall: Nikita Nesterenko
Round 7, 197th overall: Filip Lindberg

Bruce Boudreau could be in his last year as Wild Head Coach. He has now been Wild coach under three GMs, after Guerin was hired. An NHL Head Coach for three teams in every season since 2007-08, Boudreau teams have never endured a losing season, and they have a .641 regular season winning percentage. He's missed the postseason only twice, but he has a .478 winning percentage in the playoffs. An assistant GM with Pittsburgh since June of 2014, Guerin gets his first GM opportunity. He was a 18 year veteran player with over 1,250 games played.

                     Projected Lineup
Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Mats Zuccarello
Jason Zucker - Luke Kunin - Ryan Donato
Jordan Greenway - Mikko Koivu - Kevin Fiala
Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Ryan Hartman
Extras: Victor Rask, JT Brown

                     Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
                     Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba
                     Nick Seeler - Greg Pateryn
Extras: Brad Hunt

                               Devan Dubnyk
                               Alex Stalock
Extras: Kaapo Kahkonen

The Wild are just one year removed from three consecutive playoff appearances. But they traded away some of their core players, and they are depending on aging players and young, unproven talent. If three of Greenway, Fiala, Donato, Kunin and Eriksson Ek breakout, then the Wild can make the playoffs, especially if the latter two are the ones to breakout. But even then, it is hard to see the Wild make the playoffs in a tough Central Division. I still see them as a last place team.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Los Angeles Kings 2019-20 season preview

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        The story of the Kings can be told be just one stat. Only two returning players had a plus/minus over zero in 2018-19. Those two players, Austin Wagner and Kyle Clifford (Nate Thompson and Jake Muzzin were traded midseason), are fourth liners. A quiet offseason that really only saw the Kings get a new coach looks to be the start of a rebuild.

         Additions: Joakim Ryan, Mario Kempe, Martin Frk

         Subtractions: Dion Phaneuf, Brendan Leipsic, Jonny Brodzinski, Peter Budaj, Nikita Scherbak

A two time Selke winner, Anze Kopitar had a career season in 2017-18, but he fell in 2018-19. His -20 rating was a career worst, and while his 22 goals and 60 points weren't as bad as his 2016-17 season, it's still disappointing for a player getting paid $10 million. Dustin Brown has actually gotten better as he has aged, with 50 goals and 112 points over the last two seasons. Ilya Kovalchuk's return to the NHL was a dud, as the former Rocket Richard winner scored just 16 goals with 34 points in 64 games. Kovalchuk is now 36, and earning $6.25 million a season. In his prime, Tyler Toffoli has been more inconsistent than ever. After scoring 31 goals as a 23 year old in 2015-16, Toffoli has scored 16. 24 and 13 goals in the three seasons since. His 13 goals in 2018-19 and 34 points, plus a -16 rating was very disappointing, and he is a trade target. Jeff Carter had the worst season of his career, with career worsts in plus/minus (-20), goals per game (.17) and points per game (.43). Alex Iafallo had a nice 15 goal season, but like everyone else, his plus/minus was terrible (-17). Adrian Kempe had a promising 2017-18 season, but fell a little bit in 2018-19, with 12 goals and 28 points. He is currently an RFA. Austin Wagner had a good rookie season, with 12 goals, even though he averaged less than nine minutes a game. Kyle Clifford's previous career high in goals was seven entering 2018-19, then he scored 11 goals. Trevor Lewis played in just 44 games, and scored 12 points. Over the last two seasons, Michael Amadio has 21 points in 80 games. Nikolai Prokhorkin comes to North America after scoring 20 goals and 41 points in 41 KHL games.

The Kings had just two defensemen with 70 games played, and just three returning defensemen with more than 40. Just after signing an $11 million deal, Drew Doughty had a terrible season. His points went from 60 in 2017-18 to 45 in 2018-19, and for the third time, he was a minus player. His -34 rating was the second worst in the league. Alec Martinez missed 22 games, leading to just 18 points, his lowest total since 2012-13, when he played in just 27 games. Former first rounder Derek Forbort saw his plus/minus drop by 31 points. He averaged 20 minutes a night for the third consecutive season. Paul LaDue played in a career high 33 games, and had five points. Joakim Ryan signed after playing in 106 games for the Sharks over the last two years, with 19 points. Sean Walker had 17 points in 22 AHL games, and 10 points in 39 NHL games. Matt Roy and Kurtis MacDermid combined for seven points in 36 games.

Jonathan Quick had his worst season in 2018-19, and it is not up for discussion. His previous career lows were a 2.54 GAA and .902 SV%. In 2018-19, he had a 3.38 GAA with a .888 SV%. If the Kings want to be relevant, Quick needs to be better. While Quick was inconsistent and battling injuries, Jack Campbell stepped up. Drafted 11th overall in 2010, Campbell played in his first full season, and had an impressive 2.30 GAA and .928 SV%. Cal Peterson had a .924 SV% in 11 games.

            Deep Depths
Martin Frk signs with the Kings after scoring six points in 30 games for Detroit in 2018-19. He was good in 2017-18, with 11 goals and 25 points in 68 games. Adrian Kempe's brother, Mario, comes to L.A. after scoring 13 points in 70 games over two seasons in Arizona. Matt Luff scored eight goals in 33 games, which is a 20 goal pace. He will fight for an NHL starting job.

            Up and Coming
Carl Grundstrom, a part of the Jake Muzzin trade, had 39 points in 55 AHL games, and scored five goals in his first 15 career NHL games. Blake Lizotte made his NHL debut after 42 points in 37 games at St. Cloud State. Gabe Vilardi made his pro debut in the AHL last year, playing in four contests. He missed the rest of the season with a back injury. Jaret Anderson-Dolan played in five NHL games. He had 43 points in 32 games in the WHL. Defenseman Kale Clague had 29 points in 52 games in the AHL.

            2019 draft class
Round 1, 5th overall: Alex Turcotte
Round 1, 22nd overall: Tobias Bjornfot
Round 2, 33rd overall: Arthur Kaliyev
Round 2, 50th overall: Sam Fagemo
Round 3, 87th overall: Lukas Parik
Round 4, 95th overall: Jordan Spence
Round 4, 119th overall: Kim Nousianinen
Round 6, 157th overall: Braden Doyle
Round 7, 188th overall: Andre Lee

Just 13 games into the season, the Kings fired John Stevens, in Stevens' second season as coach. They hired Willie Desjardins, who had a rough track record in Vancouver. The new coach is former Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan. With the Sharks and Oilers, McLellan teams have a .594 winning percentage. An NHL hall of famer and a King for 14 seasons, Rob Blake remains as GM, but he may not for long if the Kings continue to go downward. The third coach over the last two years that Blake has hired, Blake played under McLellan in San Jose in Blake's last two NHL seasons.

              Projected Lineup
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Toffoli
Alex Iafallo - Jeff Carter - Carl Grundstrom
Nikolai Prokhorkin - Adrian Kempe - Ilya Kovalchuk
Kyle Clifford - Trevor Lewis - Austin Wagner
Extras: Michael Amadio, Matt Luff, Jaret Anderson-Dolan

              Alec Martinez - Drew Doughty
              Derek Forbort - Paul LaDue
              Joakim Ryan - Sean Walker
Extras: Matt Roy, Kurtis MacDermid

                            Jonathan Quick
                            Jack Campbell
Extras: Cal Peterson

The Kings aren't a good team. Their core has aged, and their young players are still a year away from being regulars. The Kings will have an L.A./Anaheim rivalry with the Ducks, but that rivalry will be for last place in the Pacific Division.