Sunday, September 29, 2019

Winnipeg Jets 2019-20 season preview

From Getty Images

      The offseason was very eventful for the Jets, and almost all of it was bad. They lost three of their top five defensemen, without gaining anyone better. It took them until there was a week left until the season started to sign their two star RFAs, and now one of their best defenseman is considering retirement. Things are crashing down in Winnipeg.

       Additions: Neal Pionk, Anthony Bitetto, Gabe Bourque, Mark Letestu

       Subtractions: Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Kevin Hayes, Ben Chiarot, Brandon Tanev, Matt Hendricks, Marko Dano, Par Lindholm, Joe Morrow

Even though he is now 33 years old, Blake Wheeler remains a star. While his 20 goals in 2018-19 were lower than average, a career high 71 assists led to a second consecutive 91 point season. Mark Scheifele got even better. He scored a career high 38 goals and 84 points, leading the team in the former category. Yesterday, Kyle Connor signed a seven year deal worth $50 million. The winger is coming off a season where he scored a career high 34 goals and 66 points. Patrik Laine had a down season. As the calendar turned to 2019, Laine had scored 24 goals with three hattricks, included a five goal night. However, he scored just six more goals throughout the rest of the season, finishing with 30 goals and 50 points, both career lows. His -24 rating was the worst on the team, 12 points higher than the next worst player. Nikolai Ehlers played in just 62 games, resulting in 21 goals and a career low 37 points. Bryan Little had a rough season. Not including the lockout 2012-13 season, Little's 15 goals and 41 points were his lowest since 2009-10. Mathieu Perreault scored 15 goals, but his 30 points were his lowest in a season where he played in at least 50 games. In just 69 games, Andrew Copp scored a career high 11 goals, and was a +20. 6'5'' center Adam Lowry scored 12 goals with 23 points. In his first full season, Jack Roslovic scored nine goals with 24 points. The last two spots are up for grabs. Mason Appleton is the favorite for one of them. He had 32 points in 40 AHL games, earning himself a 36 game NHL trial. Gabe Bourque had eight points in 55 games for the Avalanche last season. Depth center Mark Letestu has 560 games of NHL experience, though only two of those games came last year.

Josh Morrissey is under contract for the next nine seasons after signing an eight year extension recently. Playing in just 59 games, Morrissey finished with a career high 31 points in 2018-19. The Jets season could depend on if Dustin Byfuglien retires or not. Byfuglien has been the backbone of the Jets defense over the years. He played in just 42 games last year, resulting in a career low four goals with 31 points. Nathan Beaulieu returns after scoring five assists in 18 games for the Jets after being acquired at the trade deadline. Coming back for Jacob Trouba was Neal Pionk. The offensive defenseman had 26 points in his first full NHL season. Sami Niku had four points in 30 games last year, with 12 points in 20 AHL games. Dmitry Kulikov is in the last year of a three year deal. He had six points, all assists, in 57 games last season. The Jets signed depth defenseman Anthony Bitetto. In 36 games for the Predators and Wild last season, Bitetto had three points.

After finishing 2nd in Vezina voting in 2017-18, Connor Hellebuyck had a down season. He allowed a league high 179 goals, but his 1,872 saves led the league. He had a .913 SV% and a 2.90 GAA. Laurent Brossoit had a good season as backup. He had a .925 SV% and a 2.52 GAA.

          Deep Depths
Tucker Poolman spent all of 2018-19 in the AHL after playing in 24 NHL games the season before. He had 25 points in 43 games. Seth Griffith had 57 points in 69 AHL games last year. He has 19 points in 79 career NHL games. Logan Shaw scored 27 goals in 63 AHL games. He has 180 games of NHL experience.

          Up and Coming
Kristian Vesalainen had a good shot at a fourth line role, but a weak camp cost the 2017 1st rounder that opportunity. He had 17 points in 31 KHL games, 13 points in 22 AHL games, and one assist in five NHL games, all last season. 2016 first rounder Logan Stanley didn't impress in his first AHL season, with 22 points in 73 games.

           2019 draft class
Round 1, 20th overall: Ville Heinola
Round 2, 51st overall: Simon Lundmark
Round 4, 113th overall: Henri Nikkanen
Round 5, 134th overall: Harrison Blaisdell
Round 5, 144th overall: Logan Neaton

Paul Maurice is entering his 22nd season as NHL head coach, and his 7th with the Jets. Overall, his teams have a .525 winning percentage. While the Jets have been good under him, he could be fired if they don't start off well. The same could be said for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who had a losing offseason.

             Projected Lineup
Kyle Connor - Mark Schiefele - Blake Wheeler
Nikolai Ehlers - Bryan Little - Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault - Adam Lowry - Jack Roslovic
Gabriel Bourque - Andrew Copp - Mason Appleton
Extras: Kristian Vesalainen, Mark Letestu

              Josh Morrissey - Neal Pionk
              Nathan Bealieu - Dustin Byfuglien (if he doesn't retire)
              Dmitry Kulikov - Sami Niku
Extras: Anthony Bitetto, Tucker Poolman

                           Connor Hellebuyck
                           Laurent Brossoit
Extras: Eric Comrie

The Jets have been very good recently, but they are coming off a terrible offseason. Still, with Connor and Laine signed, they have a strong offense and goaltending. If Byfuglien comes back, then their defense can hold up, and propel the Jets into 4th in the Central Division and a playoff birth.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Washington Capitals 2019-20 season preview


            The theme of this past NHL playoffs was that anyone can beat anyone. All four division winners were eliminated in the first round, applying to the Metropolitan Division winning Capitals. The offseason saw the unloading of some 2018 Stanley Cup champions, and they also signed three depth players to four year contracts. However, the Capitals are still favorites for the 2020 Stanley Cup.

             Additions: Radko Gudas, Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic

             Subtractions: Matt Niskanen, Brett Connolly, Andre Burakovsky, Devante Smith-Pelly, Brooks Orpik, Dmitrij Jaskin, Nathan Walker, Riley Barber

It was another amazing season for Alex Ovechkin. Arguably the greatest goal scorer ever, Ovechkin scored 51 goals with 89 points. It was his 8th 50 goal season, and he was a point away from his first 90 point season since 2009-10. He won the Rocket Richard trophy for the 8th time in his career, and for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. One of the best pending free agents is Nicklas Backstrom. The center scored 22 goals with 74 points. In his 10 seasons with at least 70 games played, Backstrom has reached 70 points eight times. Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to serve a minor suspension to start the season. He scored 21 goals with 72 points, and might now be the best number two center in the league. TJ Oshie had a great season, with 25 goals and 54 points in 69 games. Jakub Vrana had a big breakout season, as the now 23 year old scored 24 goals with 47 points with a +20 rating, all career highs. Tom Wilson played in just 63 games after being suspended for parts of the season. He scored a career high 22 goals with 40 points. Lars Eller had another solid season, with 13 goals and 36 points. The Capitals signed Richard Panik. For the Coyotes last year, Panik scored 14 goals with 33 points. Carl Hagelin had 11 points in 20 games after the trade deadline from the Capitals. However, he had just eight points in 38 games for the Penguins and Kings earlier in the season. The Capitals signed Garnet Hathaway to a questionable four year deal. In a career high 76 games for the Flames last year, Hathaway scored 11 goals. Nic Dowd scored a career high eight goals with 20 points in 64 games. He competes with Travis Boyd for the fourth line center role. In his first full season, Boyd had 20 points in 53 games. Boyd could move to the wing, pushing out either Chandler Stephenson or Brendan Leipsic. Stephenson played in 64 games with 11 points and a -13 rating. In 62 games for the Canucks and Kings, Leipsic scored seven goals with 23 points. The Capitals are already Leipsic's 5th team, and he has played in just three seasons.

In the first year of a new deal with an $8 million AAV, John Carlson scored 13 goals with a career high 70 points and a +21 rating. Dmitry Orlov had 26 assists with 29 points. Michal Kempny had a career season, with six goals and 25 points. He missed the playoffs after tearing his hamstring. The physical Radko Gudas was acquired via trade. He had 20 points with a +6 rating. He also had 63 penalty minutes. The Capitals acquired Nick Jensen at the trade deadline, and he had five assists in 20 games. Christian Djoos played in 45 games, with 10 points. It was a step down from a solid rookie season. In his rookie season, Jonas Siegenthaler played in 26 games, with four assists.

Not only is Nicklas Backstrom a pending free agent, but Braden Holtby is too. The former Vezina winner had a .911 SV% and a 2.82 GAA. In his first season as Holtby's backup, Pheonix Copley had a .905 SV% with a 2.90 GAA.

                 Deep Depths
Tyler Lewington made his NHL debut, and had a goal and an assist in two games. He also had seven penalty minutes. Liam O'Brien scored 15 goals in the AHL, with 118 penalty minutes. Michael Sgarbossa scored 30 goals with 65 points in the AHL.

                 Up and Coming
Ilya Samsonov had a weak first season in North America after dominating in the KHL. He had a 2.70 GAA and a .898 SV% in the AHL. 2018 first rounder Alex Alexeyev had 10 goals with 43 points in 49 WHL games. 2016 first rounder Lucas Johansen had 14 points in 45 AHL games.

                 2019 draft class
                 Round 1, 25th overall: Connor McMichael
                 Round 2, 56th overall: Brett Leason
                 Round 3, 91st overall: Aliaksei Protas
                 Round 5, 153rd overall: Martin Has

After losing the eventual Jack Adams winner, Barry Trotz, the Capitals hired his assistant, Todd Reirden to be their Head Coach. The Capitals had another great season under Reirden. Brian MacLellan returns as GM. The Stanley Cup victory probably keeps him his job for a couple more seasons.

                  Projected lineup
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - TJ Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Garnet Hathaway - Nic Dowd - Travis Bowd
Extras: Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson

                  Michal Kempny - John Carlson
                  Dmitri Orlov - Nick Jensen
                  Christian Djoos - Radko Gudas
Extras: Jonas Siegenthaler

                             Braden Holtby
                             Pheonix Copley

The Capitals are a very good team. They have a great core, and even though they are aging and some are reaching free agency, they will still be very good in 2019-20. I predict a first place finish.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

NHL Trade Review: Blues acquire Faulk

from Getty Images

       The St. Louis Blues have acquired defenseman Justin Faulk and a 2020 5th round draft pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Joel Edmundson, forward Dominik Bokk and a 2021 7th round pick. The Blues immediately signed Faulk to a seven year extension with a $6.5 million AAV.

       Even after winning the Stanley Cup, the Blues could use some defensive help. Captain Alex Pietrangelo will be a free agent after the season, and Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson are aging. Faulk is a big addition to the defensive core, even though he could be on the third pairing, behind Pietrangelo and Colton Parakyo. Faulk was entering a contract season, and will have a $4.83 million cap hit for his first season in St. Louis from his previous contract. The new contract for Faulk is hefty, and overpays him, and seven years is a lot, plus the extra year the Blues get him before the extension kicks in. They also traded Edmundson, one of their current starters, and Bokk, a recent first round pick.

        Faulk, 27, scored 11 goals with 24 assists for 35 points in 82 games for the Hurricanes in 2018-19. In his NHL career, all in Carolina, Faulk has scored 85 goals with 173 assists for 258 points in 559 games.

        The Hurricanes have a boatload of defensemen. With Faulk entering a contract year, it looked like he wasn't going to stay in Carolina. There were rumors of a trade with Anaheim, but Faulk reportedly blocked that deal (he has a no-trade clause). By acquiring the left handed Edmundson for the right handed Faulk, the Hurricanes balance out their defensemen; three lefties (Jaccob Slavin, Jake Gardiner and Edmundson) and three righties (Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Trevor van Riemsdyk) with Haydn Fleury and Gustav Forsling as extras. They also get Bokk, who was drafted 25th overall in 2018. The German is currently playing in the Swedish League.

         Edmundson, 26, scored two goals with nine assists for 11 points in 64 games for the Blues last season. In his NHL career, all in St. Louis, Edmundson has scored 13 goals with 39 assists for 52 points in 269 games.

         Bokk, 19, has no points in four games for Rogle BK Angelholm of the Swedish League this season. In his SHL career, Bokk has scored nine goals with 16 assists for 25 points in 66 games.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Vegas Golden Knights 2019-20 season preview

      Cap space was a common theme throughout the NHL offseason, but it may have applied to the Golden Knights the most. The Golden Knights had players to sign, including William Karlsson, and they started the offseason over the salary cap. Vegas got through the offseason, but they had to trade some players along the way.

      Additions: Garret Sparks, Jaycob Megna, Patrick Brown, Tyrell Goulbourne,

      Subtractions: Colin Miller, Erik Haula, Nikita Gusev (rights), Ryan Carpenter, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Daniel Carr, Tomas Hyka, Maxime Legace, David Clarkson (contract)

Jonathan Marchessault fell from an amazing first season in Vegas in 2017-18, but he still had a good season. His 25 goals and 59 points lead the Knights. William Karlsson wasn't going to keep up his league high +49 rating and 23.4 shooting percentage, which led to a career high 43 goals. Those numbers came in 2017-18. In 2018-19, he scored 24 goals with 56 points. The Golden Knights made the biggest trade at the trade deadline, acquiring Mark Stone from Ottawa, then extending him to an eight year deal. Stone scored five goals with 11 points in 18 games after the trade, with six goals and 12 points in seven playoff games. Overall in the regular season, Stone's 33 goals and 73 points had him finishing 12th in Hart voting. As a winger, he finished 2nd in Selke voting. Reilly Smith had another solid season, with 19 goals and 53 points. Alex Tuch signed a seven year extension, and followed it up with a 20 goal, 52 point season. Max Pacioretty had a tough first year in Vegas. The five time 30 goal scorer scored 22 goals in 66 games, with 40 points. His -13 rating was the worst on the team. Paul Stastny played in just 50 games, but he still scored 13 goals with 42 points. Cody Eakin had a career high in goals (22), points (41), and plus/minus (+19). Brandon Pirri played in just 31 games, but he still scored 12 goals, for an 82 game pace of 31.75 goals. A known enforcer, Ryan Reaves scored a career high nine goals and 20 points, while racking up 74 penalty minutes. Tomas Nosek and William Carrier compete for the final spot. Both scored eight goals last year. In 68 games, Nosek had nine assists, while Carrier had just one in 54 games. Valentin Zykov scored two goals in 10 games in Vegas.

Shea Theodore emerged as the top defenseman, with 12 goals and 37 points. However, Nate Schmidt isn't far behind. After returning from a PED suspension, Schmidt had nine goals with 30 points and a +22 rating in 61 games. Brayden McNabb finished with 16 points and a +11 rating. In his first season in Vegas, Nick Holden had 15 points and a +5 rating. Jon Merrill had a career high 15 points and a +16 rating. Deryk Engelland re-signed. He had 12 points in his age 36 season.

Marc-Andre Fleury had a .913 SV% with a 2.51 GAA, and finished 4th in Vezina voting, and received Hart votes as well. Malcolm Subban took a step back. He had a .902 SV% and a 2.93 GAA. Garret Sparks comes from Toronto, where he was the backup last year.

         Deep Depths
Jaycob Megna comes to the Golden Knights after spending three seasons in Anaheim. He had four points in 28 games last year. Curtis McKenzie has 99 games of NHL experience. In 71 AHL games last year, McKenzie scored 20 goals with 112 penalty minutes. Due to many injuries, Patrick Brown played in eight playoff games for the Hurricanes last year despite not playing in any regular season NHL games. In the AHL last year, Tyrell Goulbourne had 135 penalty minutes.

          Up and Coming
Cody Glass has a great chance of making the team. He had 69 points in 38 WHL games. He had 15 points in 22 playoff AHL games. Defenseman Nic Hague had 32 points in 72 AHL games. He could play in an NHL depth role.

          2019 draft class
Round 1, 17th overall: Peyton Krebs
Round 2, 41st overall: Kaedan Korczak
Round 3, 79th overall: Pavel Dorofeyev
Round 3, 86th overall: Layton Ahac
Round 4, 110th overall: Ryder Donovan
Round 5, 135th overall: Isaiah Saville
Round 5, 139th overall: Marcus Kallionkieli
Round 5, 141st overall: Mason Primeau

Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams award in 2017-18, but the Golden Knights' winning percentage went down by 98 points. He is definitely not on the hot seat. To avoid Kelly McCrimmon getting a GM gig with another team, the Golden Knights moved McCrimmon to GM, and promoted former GM George McPhee.

           Projected Lineup
Max Pacioretty - Paul Stastny - Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith
Brandon Pirri - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch
Tomas Nosek - Cody Glass - Ryan Reaves
Extras: William Carrier, Valentin Zykov

           Shea Theodore - Nate Schmidt
           Brayden McNabb - Jon Merill
           Nick Holden - Deryk Engelland
Extras: Jimmy Schuldt, Nic Hague

                        Marc-Andre Fleury
                        Malcolm Subban
Extras: Garret Sparks, Oskar Dansk

The Golden Knights had a rough season last year. But, they are still very talented. They are just a year removed from a Stanley Cup Finals experience, and their entire first line wasn't even on that team. I think the Golden Knights will finish 1st in the Pacific Division, and win the Stanley Cup in 2019-20.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Vancouver Canucks 2019-20 season preview

        It was an eventful offseason for the Canucks, as it seemed like they are sick of losing. With a young core, the Canucks added multiple veterans to hopefully put heir rebuild on the fast track. They could potentially have the Calder winner two years in a row as well, which isn't easy to do.

        Additions: JT Miller, Tyler Myers, Michael Ferland, Jordie Benn, Oscar Fantenberg, Justin Bailey, Tyler Graovac, Zane McIntyre

        Subtractions: Ben Hutton, Markus Granlund, Derrick Pouliot, Ryan Spooner, Luke Schenn, Tom Pyatt

Elias Pettersson was a Calder favorite entering 2018-19, and won the trophy by the season's end. He scored 28 goals with 66 points in 71 games. It was a very successful first year for the former 5th overall pick. Brock Boeser had a solid second year, with 26 goals and 56 points, but he failed to play in 70 games once again. Bo Horvat scored a career high 27 goals and 61 points. The Canucks sacrificed their upcoming first round pick for JT Miller. Miller scored 13 goals with 47 points for the Lightning last year, breaking his three year 20 goal streak. The Canucks signed Michael Ferland, who scored 17 goals with 40 points for Carolina in 2018-19. Former sixth overall pick Jake Virtanen scored a career high 15 goals and 25 points. Sven Baertschi played in just 26 games, and scored nine goals. Tanner Pearson struggled with the Kings and Penguins, and was traded for the second time midseason, this time to the Canucks. In just 19 games, Pearson scored nine goals, the same amount of goals he scored in 61 games with his previous two teams. In his first year in Vancouver, Antoine Roussel scored nine goals with a career high 31 points in 65 games. Loui Eriksson scored 11 goals with 29 points, the latter his most in three seasons with the Canucks. Josh Leivo was acquired from midseason, and scored 10 goals in 49 games. Overall, his 76 games played, 14 goals, 10 assists and 24 points were all career highs. Brandon Sutter played in just 26 games, with six points. Jay Beagle had a rough first season in Vancouver. He scored three goals with 13 points, and the defensive center was a minus player for the first time since 2013-14. Nikolay Goldobin's 27 points were a career high. In his first full season in Vancouver, Tyler Motte scored a career high nine goals. Tim Schaller had 10 points in 47 games in his first season with the Canucks.

Longtime Canuck Alex Edler re-signed before hitting unrestricted free agency. He scored 10 goals with 34 points. He had a double digit goal total for the first time since 2011-12. The team signed Tyler Myers to a five year deal worth $30 million. The 6'8'' defender scored nine goals with 31 points for Winnipeg this past season. The often injured Chris Tanev enters a contract year. The defensive defenseman played in less than 60 games for the third consecutive season. He had 12 points in 55 games. The 2019-20 season will be the long awaited rookie season for Quinn Hughes. Hughes played in five NHL games last year, with three assists. In 32 games at the University of Michigan, Hughes had 33 points. Troy Stecher had 23 points, one less than his career high set in his rookie season. He is a good bottom pairing defenseman. The Canucks signed Jordie Benn to a two year deal. Benn's 22 points for the Canadiens last year were a career high. He was also a +15. The Canucks signed Swedish defenseman Oscar Fantenberg. In 61 games with the Kings and Flames last year, Fantenberg had four points. Playing in just 41 games last season, Alex Biega nearly doubled his career high point total, with 16 points.

In his second season as the Canucks' starter, Jacob Markstrom had a .912 SV% and a 2.77 GAA, finishing 10th in Vezina voting. Perhaps the team's second biggest prospect after Hughes, Thatcher Demko had a .913 SV% and a 2.81 GAA in nine games last year. He had a 2.58 GAA and a .911 SV% in 16 AHL games.

          Deep Depths
Even after the 16 forwards mentioned above, the Canucks still have good forward depth. Adam Gaudette had a weak rookie season, with 12 points in 56 games. In 63 NHL games over the past four seasons, Justin Bailey has nine points. Reid Boucher played in just one NHL game, but in the AHL he scored 31 goals with 62 points in 56 games. Defenseman Guillaume Brisebois played in eight NHL games at the end of the season.

          Up and Coming
Former fifth overall pick Olli Juolevi's future seems murky. He was already assigned to the AHL. He had 13 points in 18 AHL games last year. He needs to have a good AHL season to have an NHL chance in 2019-20. Goalie Michael DiPietro had a .920 SV% in 21 games for the Windsor Spitfires, but he was traded to the Ottawa 67's, and had a .897 SV% with Ottawa. He played in one NHL game, and allowed seven goals on 24 shots.

           2019 draft class
Round 1, 10th overall: Vasily Podkolzin
Round 2, 40th overall: Nils Hoglander
Round 4, 122nd overall: Ethan Keppen
Round 5, 133rd overall: Carson Focht
Round 6, 156nd overall: Arturs Silovs
Round 6, 175th overall: Karel Plasek
Round 6, 180th overall: Jack Malone
Round 7, 195th overall: Aidan McDonough
Round 7, 215th overall: Arvid Costmar

A former NHLer of almost 1,000 games, Travis Green enters his third season as Canucks Head Coach. The Canucks haven't had a season over .500 under Green. GM Jim Benning signed an extension in the offseason, which was a surprise to many.

           Projected Lineup
Michael Ferland - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - JT Miller
Tanner Pearson - Jay Beagle - Jake Virtanen
Loui Eriksson - Brandon Sutter - Josh Leivo
Extras: Antoine Roussel, Tyler Motte, Tim Schaller, Nikolay Goldobin

           Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
           Quinn Hughes - Tyler Myers
           Jordie Benn - Troy Stecher
Extras: Oscar Fantenberg, Alex Biega

                       Jacob Markstrom
                       Thatcher Demko

The Canucks are an improved team. But, they still aren't good enough to make the playoffs. I predict the Canucks will finish 5th in the Pacific Division, but miss the playoffs in 2019-20.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Toronto Maple Leafs 2019-20 season preview

           After the 2019 playoffs, the Maple Leafs' recent playoff woes became a theme: they will lose in seven games to the Boston Bruins. Out of Toronto's last four playoff appearances, three of them included a game seven loss to Boston. Now Toronto will need to get over their playoff struggles against the not just the Bruins, but against every team. The Maple Leafs have not been to the second round of the playoffs since 2004.

            Additions: Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, Cody Ceci, Jason Spezza, Ilya Mikheyev, Ben Harpur, Nick Shore, Kenny Agostino, Pontus Aberg, Kevin Gravel, Jordan Schmlaltz, Michal Neuvirth (PTO), Matt Read (PTO), David Clarkson (contract)

            Subtractions: Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Ron Hainsey, Garrett Sparks, Tyler Ennis, Igor Ozhiganov, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman

The Mitch Marner saga was well documented, as the RFA forward reportedly had an absurd asking price for his new contract. He signed a six year deal with a $10.893 million cap hit that makes him the seventh highest paid player in the league, but just the third highest paid player on his team. He scored a career high 26 goals, and his 92 points led the team. Auston Matthews had another great season, with a career high 73 points in 68 games, plus 37 goals. John Tavares had a great first year with the Maple Leafs, with a career high 47 goals and 88 points. Kasperi Kapanen had a nice breakout season, with 20 goals and 44 points. After two consecutive 61 point seasons, William Nylander was an RFA, and held out until the December 1st deadline, then signed. He was bad in his 54 regular season games, with seven goals and 27 points. He unintentionally completed the not-so-hard task of getting the fan base to turn on him. The Leafs acquired 25 year old center Alex Kerfoot from the Avalanche. Kerfoot scored 15 goals with 42 points in his sophomore 2018-19 season. Playing on a line with Tavares and Marner, Zach Hyman scored a career high 21 goals with 41 points. He tore his ACL and could miss the first month of the season. However, since he isn't expected to miss significant time, he is still in the projected lineup below. Like Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson also had a breakout season. He scored 20 goals with 43 points. Trevor Moore had 39 points in 46 AHL games, earning an NHL stint. He had eight points in 25 games. The Leafs signed Russian forward Ilya Mikheyev. In the KHL last year, he scored 23 goals in 62 games. He eyes a bottom six role. The Leafs signed Toronto native Jason Spezza to a one year deal as the 16 year veteran eyes his first Stanley Cup. For the Stars last year, Spezza scored eight goals with 27 points in 76 games. The last forward spot is up for grabs. Former first rounder Frederik Gauthier is the best option among returning Leafs. He had 14 points in 70 games last year, but he isn't a right winger. Kenny Agostino is another option. In 63 games for the Canadiens and Devils last year, he had 24 points. Pontus Aberg scored 11 goals in 37 games for the Ducks last year, but he scored just one in 22 games with the Wild after he was traded to Minnesota.

Morgan Rielly had a major breakout season. He never had double digit goals in a season entering 2018-19, then he scored 20. He also had 72 points, a career high. He finished 5th in Norris voting. Unfortunately, he is the only Toronto defenseman signed past 2019-20. Tyson Barrie came to Toronto in the same trade as Kerfoot. He scored 14 goals with a career high 59 points last year. After being acquired in a trade from the Kings, Jake Muzzin had 16 points in 30 games, and somehow finished 11th in Norris voting. Travis Dermott had shoulder surgery, and could miss a similar amount of time as Hyman. He had 17 points in 63 games last year. The Leafs traded for Cody Ceci, who had 26 points for Ottawa last year. He is a -60 player over the last three seasons. Like the last forward spot, the last defensive spot is up for grabs. Justin Holl spent all of last year in the NHL, but only played in 11 games. Ben Harpur had five points in 51 games for Ottawa last year. Martin Marincin has played in a depth role in Toronto over the past four years, playing in 116 games total for the Leafs.

Frederik Andersen had another decent season, with a .917 SV% and a 2.77 GAA. That's been the average numbers for him in his Maple Leaf career. The problem is who will back him up. The answer seems to be Michael Hutchinson. In five games for the Leafs last year, Hutchinson had a .914 SV% and a 2.64 GAA. 11 year veteran Michal Neuvirth is in camp on a PTO as well.

                 Deep Depths
Nic Petan was acquired by the Leafs at the trade deadline. He scored one goal in five games post trade. before the trade, he had two assists in 13 games for the Jets. The Leafs signed depth defenseman Kevin Gravel, who had three assists in 36 games for Edmonton last year.

                 Up and Coming
The Leafs' top two prospects are both defensemen that are an option for the final spot on D. They were also the last two Toronto first round picks. Timothy Liljegren had 15 points in 43 AHL games, and played in one ECHL game last season. As an AHL rookie, Rasmus Sandin had 28 points in 44 games. Jeremy Bracco had a great AHL season. He scored 22 goals with 79 points in 75 games.

                 2019 draft class
Round 2, 53rd overall: Nick Robertson
Round 3, 84th overall: Mikko Kokkanen
Round 4, 115th overall: Mikhail Abramov
Round 4, 124th overall: Nicholas Abruzzese
Round 5, 146th overall: Michael Koster
Round 7, 204th overall: Kalle Loponen

There is no denying that Mike Babcock is an great coach. He has been to the Stanley Cup finals three times, and won once. But he may be on the hot seat in Toronto after three consecutive first round exits, and a mini controversy when he didn't play Matthews a lot in game 7 of the series vs Boston last season. Kyle Dubas did a great job of getting around the salary cap, and signing his RFAs.

                  Projected Lineup
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Trevor Moore - Alex Kerfoot - Kasperi Kapanen
Ilya Mikheyev - Jason Spezza - Kenny Agostino
Extras: Frederik Gauthier, Pontus Aberg, Nic Petan, Nick Shore

                  Morgan Rielly - Tyson Barrie
                  Travis Dermott - Jake Muzzin
                  Ben Harpur - Cody Ceci
Extras: Justin Holl, Martin Marincin, Kevin Gravel

                                 Frederik Andersen
                                 Michael Hutchinson

The Maple Leafs are scary good. But, they play in a great Atlantic Division that has two better teams than them. The Leafs are still a third place team, behind the Lightning and Bruins.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tampa Bay Lightning 2019-20 season preview

From Getty Images

         It might have been said a million times this offseason how the Lightning collapsed in 2018-19. They tied the record for most wins in a season with 62, they had the Hart winner on their team, and had three 40 goal and 90 point scorers, and nine players with at least 40 points. But they fell against the Blue Jackets in the first round, and were swept. The Lightning enter the preseason needing to sign one of their top players, and figuring out how to succeed in the playoffs.

         Additions: Patrick Maroon, Kevin Shattenkirk, Curtis McElhinney, Luke Witkowski, Luke Schenn, Mike Condon, Gemel Smith, Scott Wedgewood

         Subtractions: JT Miller, Anton Stralman, Adam Erne, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi

Not only did the Lightning finish with 128 points on the season, Nikita Kucherov did too. He scored 41 goals with 87 assists for 128 points, leading the league in the latter two. He won the Hart and Ted Lindsay awards at the end of the year. Steven Stamkos finished with a career high 98 points, and he scored 45 goals for the first time since he won the Rocket Richard with 60 in 2011-12. The Lightning have just under $8.5 million in cap space to sign RFA Brayden Point. Point scored 41 goals with 92 points. 20 of his goals came on the powerplay, which led the league. The forward with the next most points, Yanni Gourde, nearly had half as many points as Point. Gourde finished with 22 goals and 48 points, but he still dropped off from his rookie 2017-18 season. Not counting his 14 games in 2012-13, Tyler Johnson's 18 assists were a career low. But, he scored 29 goals, tied for his career high. Alex Killorn scored 18 goals with 40 points, and was a +22 for the second consecutive season. He also kills penalties. Another penalty killing forward is Anthony Cirelli. As a rookie, Cirelli scored 19 goals with 39 points. He finished 6th in Calder and 11th in Selke voting. Ondrej Palat has regressed over the last few years. He scored just eight goals in 2018-19, with 34 points in 64 games. The Lightning signed veteran forward Patrick Maroon, fresh off a Stanley Cup victory with the Blues. Maroon scored 10 goals with 28 points last year. Rookie forward Mathieu Joseph scored 13 goals, giving the Lightning solid third line production. Fourth line center Cedric Paquette scored a career high 13 goals. Danick Martel eyes the final spot on the wing. In nine games last year, he had two assists. 2015 2nd rounder Mitchell Stephens could be the depth forward. He scored 11 goals with 24 points in 32 AHL games. Another option is Carter Verhaeghe, who scored 34 goals with 82 points in 76 AHL games.

Victor Hedman, who entered 2018-19 as the reigning Norris trophy winner, put up another great season, with 12 goals and 54 points. He was a Norris finalist for the third consecutive season, finishing third. Ryan McDonagh finished his first full season with the Lightning with a career high 46 points and +38 rating. Mikhail Sergachev took a minor step back from his rookie season, with 32 points. He is still just 21. Erik Cernak, part of the Ben Bishop trade, had a good rookie season, with 16 points and a +25 rating in 58 games. He will take Anton Stralman's top four spot. Brayden Coburn had 23 points, his most since 2011-12. He re-signed to a two year deal in the offseason. The team signed Kevin Shattenkirk to a one year deal. He had four consecutive 40 point seasons from 2013-14 to 2016-17, but he didn't reach 30 in his two seasons with the Rangers. He was bought out by the team. Jan Rutta was acquired midseason, then had two assists in 14 games for Tampa. He has 28 points in 94 career games. Former fifth overall pick Luke Schenn signed with the Lightning. He had two assists in 26 games for the Canucks and Ducks last year. He has 145 points in his 11 season career.

The Lightning didn't just have the Hart winner, their goalie won the Vezina Trophy. That would be Andrei Vasilevskiy. In his age 24 season, Vasilevskiy had a 2.40 GAA and a .925 SV%. He had a league leading 39 wins. The team signed Curtis McElhinney, who had one of the best seasons of his career at age 35. He had a .912 SV% and a 2.58 GAA for the Hurricanes. He had a 2.01 GAA and .930 SV% in five playoff games. The signing of McElhinney puts last year's backup, Louis Domingue, in an awkward spot. Domingue had a .908 SV% and a 2.88 GAA last year.

               Deep Depths
Luke Witkowski returns to the Lightning. They drafted him in 2008 and he played 2014-15 to 2016-17 in Tampa Bay, but was with Detroit the last two seasons. He had two assists in 34 games last year. The Lightning also signed Gemel Smith, who played in 17 games for the Stars and Bruins last year. He scored 16 goals with 40 points in 47 AHL games. The team also signed Scott Wedgewood, who had a .908 SV% and 2.68 GAA last year in the AHL.

              Up and Coming
2017 first rounder Cal Foote could be NHL ready. In his first AHL season, the defenseman scored 10 goals with 31 points in 76 games. The team drafted his brother, Nolan, in the first round this past year. In his first AHL season, Taylor Raddysh scored 18 goals with 46 points in 70 games in his rookie AHL season. Alexander Volkov scored 23 AHL goals for a second consecutive season, with 48 points.

               2019 draft class
Round 1, 27th overall: Nolan Foote
Round 3, 71st overall: Hugo Alnefelt
Round 3, 89th overall: Maxim Cajkovic
Round 4, 120th overall: Max Crozier
Round 6, 182nd overall: Quinn Schmiemann
Round 7, 198th overall: Mikhail Shalagin
Round 7, 213th overall: Mckade Webster

Jon Cooper has been the Lightning Head Coach since the end of 2012-13, making him the league's longest tenured coach. The Lightning have a .644 winning percentage under Cooper. After taking over for Steve Yzerman, GM Julien Brisbois has the challenge of getting the Lightning over the hump in the playoffs.

                Projected Lineup
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Danick Martel - Cedric Paquette - Patrick Maroon
Extras: Mitchell Stephens, Gemel Smith, Carter Verhaeghe

                Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak
                Ryan McDonagh - Mikhail Sergachev
                Braydon Coburn - Kevin Shattenkirk
Extras: Luke Schenn, Luke Witkowksi, Jan Rutta, Cal Foote

                              Andrei Vasilevskiy
                              Curtis McElhinney
                              Louis Domingue
Extras: Mike Condon, Scott Wedgewood

The Lightning are stupid good. While their postseason collapse last season hurts, the team is still very good, and while they lost JT Miller and Adam Erne, they made veteran additions in Maroon, Shattenkirk and McElhinney. I still think they will finish 1st in the Atlantic Division.

Monday, September 16, 2019

St. Louis Blues 2019-20 season preview

          It is almost a tradition at this point for the defending Stanley Cup champions to have a quiet offseason, which makes sense. This applies to the St. Louis Blues, who won the Cup for the first time in their 52 year history in a wild seven game series. They signed their RFAs and some depth defensemen, using all but about $500k in cap space. But the main problem is next offseason, with Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Schenn, Joel Edmundson and Jay Bouwmeester a year away from free agency, and both goalies two years away. The window for a second championship could already be closing.

          Additions: Derrick Pouliot, Jake Dotchin, Andreas Borgman, Nathan Walker, Nick Lappin

          Subtractions: Patrick Maroon, Michael Del Zotto, Jakub Jerabek, Nikita Soshnikov, Chris Thorburn, Jordan Schmaltz, Chris Butler

For the fifth consecutive season, Vladimir Tarasenko scored at least 33 goals, and scored exactly that for the second straight year. Tarasenko finished with 68 points in 76 games. Over the past four years, Tarasenko received Hart, Lady Byng and Selke votes, but for the first time since 2013-14, he didn't get any award votes at all. Speaking of the Selke Trophy, Ryan O'Reilly had a career season, and won that award. He also finished second in Lady Byng voting. His 28 goals were a career high, and his 77 points were a career high. His 23 points in 26 playoff games earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy. After a career season in 2017-18, Brayden Schenn regressed. His 54 points were his lowest since 2014-15, and his 17 goals were his lowest since the shortened 2012-13 season. In his first year in his third stint with the Blues, David Perron scored 23 goals, the second most in his career. He had 46 points in just 57 games. He was on pace for a career high 33 goals. Jaden Schwartz had a rough season, but he had a strong postseason. He had more playoff goals (12) in 26 games than in the regular season (11 goals in 69 games). Tyler Bozak had a decent debut season in St. Louis. He scored 13 goals with 38 points, but both were below his career average. He's still a good third line center. Oskar Sundqvist was impressive in his first full season, scoring 14 goals with 31 points. Robert Thomas had a great age 19 season, with 33 points. Alex Steen hasn't aged well, and because of his $5.75 million cap hit, he is a trade candidate. His 10 goals were his lowest full season goal total since 2008-09. Ivan Barbashev scored a career high 14 goals, playing on the fourth line. Zach Sanford had 20 points in 60 games, and could see second line time due to the Blues' weak left wing depth. Sammy Blais and Robby Fabbri battle for the final left wing spot. Both of them under performed in 32 games each in the regular season, with a combined 10 points. Blais played in five more playoff games than Fabbri, giving him the leverage.

It will be interesting to see what Alex Pietrangelo's next contract is. The Stanley Cup winning captain received Norris votes in six out of the seven seasons leading up to 2018-19, and Lady Byng votes in six of the previous eight seasons, but didn't receive votes for either in 2018-19. He scored 13 goals with 41 points. Vince Dunn had a breakout 2018-19 season, with 12 goals and 35 points, both second among defensemen on the team. He was also a +14. Colton Parakyo had a career low 28 points, but he scored a career high 10 goals, finishing 20th in Lady Byng voting. Jay Bouwmeester, a 16 year veteran, has been with the Blues since the middle of 2012-13, but he could be entering his last year with the team. The soon to be 36 year old had 17 points in 78 games this past season. Joel Edmundson had 11 points and a +8 rating in 64 games, and had seven points in 22 playoff games. Carl Gunnarsson played in just 25 games but his seven points put him on pace for a career high 23 points. Robert Bortuzzo scored two goals in 17 playoff games, the same amount of goals he scored in 59 regular season games.

Jordan Binnington busted onto the scene in 2018-19 as a nothing prospect and won St. Louis a Stanley Cup. In 32 games, almost all of them down the stretch, Binnington had a .927 SV% and a league leading 1.89 GAA. He finished 2nd in Calder voting and 5th in Vezina voting. He passed Jake Allen on the depth chart. Allen had another mediocre season, with a .905 SV% and a 2.83 GAA.

              Deep Depths
In his rookie season, forward Mackenzie MacEachern played in 29 games, with five points. The Blues signed the 8th overall pick in 2012, Derrick Pouliot. The defenseman had 12 points in 62 games for Vancouver last year. The club also signed big defenseman Jake Dotchin, who played in 20 games for the Ducks last year. The Blues traded for defenseman Andreas Borgman, who played in 48 games with the Leafs in 2017-18. He spent last year exclusively in the AHL, with 17 points in 45 games.

               Up and Coming
Jordan Kyrou will push for an NHL spot after debuting in 2018-19, with three points in 16 games. In his first AHL season, he had 43 points in 47 games. Mitch Reinke played in one NHL game, and had 45 points in 76 games in the AHL. He was one of the two defensemen named to the AHL all rookie team. 2017 first rounder Klim Kostin captained Russia in the World Juniors. In the AHL, He had 24 points in 66 games, with 102 penalty minutes.

               2019 draft class
Round 2, 62nd overall: Nikita Alexandrov
Round 3, 93rd overall: Colten Ellis
Round 5, 155th overall: Keean Washkurak
Round 7, 208th overall: Vadim Zherenko
Round 7, 217th overall: Jeremy Michel

You probably know by now that the Blues were dead last in the NHL on January 2nd, then won the Stanley Cup. You also probably know that it was interim Head Coach Craig Berube that lead them there. After Berube was hired, the Blues went 38-19-6, for a .651 winning percentage. Doug Armstrong was a great GM of the Year candidate. He now has a lot of work in front of him.

               Projected Lineup
Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Vladimir Tarasenko
Zach Sanford - Ryan O'Reilly - David Perron
Sammy Blais - Tyler Bozak - Robert Thomas
Alex Steen - Ivan Barbashev - Oskar Sundqvist
Extras: Robby Fabbri, Jordan Kyrou

               Vince Dunn - Alex Pietrangelo
                Jay Bouwmeester - Colton Parakyo
                Joel Edmunson - Robert Bortuzzo
Extras: Carl Gunnarsson, Derrick Pouliot, Jake Dotchin

                           Jordan Binnington
                           Jake Allen

The Blues are obviously a good team, and besides losing Patrick Maroon, they are virtually the same team that just won the Stanley Cup. I think the Blues will make the playoffs again, finishing 2nd in the Central Division.

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.