What to make of the Ryan Murray signing?

Via TheDenverPost

The Edmonton Oilers announced Friday that they have signed Ryan Murray to a one year contract. Murray, coming off a Stanley Cup championship with the Colorado Avalanche, will add a depth presence to the Oilers blue-line.

From @NHL_Sid who covers the Oilers at Oilersnation, he isn’t the best Rush Defender at all and has been closer to average defensively the past few years. However, he excels in High Danger Passes and is generally a solid offensive defenseman. Another knock on Murray is that he’s known to be injury prone. For a one year 750k deal, there is essentially no risk here. I like this signing a lot.

However, before signing Murray, the Oilers were already over the cap space by ~6 million. Adding the league minimum deal for Murray brings them closer to 7m. Sure, Oscar Klefbom and Mike Smith can be put on LTIR but they would still be over by 500k. As well, they still need to re-sign RFA Ryan McLeod. So, where do the Oilers go from here?

Configuration of the D-Corps

Before I get into what I believe happens to make the cap space work, here’s what the Oilers D core may look like come Oct 12.





Darnell NurseCody Ceci played top-pair minutes the moment Jay Woodcroft came in and that will not change. Brett Kulak brought out the best from Tyson Barrie but with Duncan Keith retiring, and Philip Broberg coming in as a rookie, it’d be wise to play Kulak on the second pair. Evan Bouchard coming off an amazing offensive season will continue to make strides with the calming presence of Kulak. Now, the third pair is kinda scary. Broberg will be playing in his first full NHL season, but I’d rather him play with a defensive guy and not Barrie, who’s known for his offense. Now, you can definitely just play Murray on the third pair to address this issue, but this means either making a 4.5M Barrie the 7th defenseman, or you’re risking sitting a rookie in Broberg which you don’t want to do. So, to fix the D-corps and solve the cap space issues and what I believe the Murray signing is signalling is a trade.

Tyson Barrie Trade

I believe Tyson Barrie will be traded. Ryan Murray and Brett Kulak can easily play the right side if needed, and the Oilers already have an elite offensive defenseman in Evan Bouchard. Clearing up his 4.5m plus the 6.4m from Smith and Klefbom would give the Oilers around 4.17 million to sign Ryan McLeod AND another depth forward in free agency. Teams that would look at Barrie could include the Seattle Kraken, Ottawa Senators, or the Montreal Canadiens. As for a price point, I think a mid round pick is very fair value for Tyson.

In the end, your D core now looks like:





This is a better puck moving, cost efficient and defensive D-core which is exactly what the Oilers need to succeed in their quest for the Stanley Cup.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Oilers content to come!

Turbulence Ahead: Free Agent Fits (Winnipeg Jets)

Via NHL.com

The 2022-23 season is about to get under way. Training camps open in short order. Preseason play around the NHL starts September 24th, with the Winnipeg Jets opening their preseason the following night in Edmonton vs. the Oilers on September 25th.

Unhappy, unsettled Winnipeg Jets fans seem to be hoping for more activity leading up to 2022 NHL training camp. Fans should keep these three players in mind to help fill the bottom-6 forward group with more experience and skill.

Sonny Milano – LW/RW

In the 2021-22 campaign, Sonny Milano showed he could be a consistent NHLer playing alongside Anaheim Ducks star, Trevor Zegras. In 66 games he scored 14 goals and added 20 assists.

A bit of a late bloomer, yet still only 26 years old he’s worth the risk on a one year prove it deal.

Evan Rodrigues – C

With injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh last season, Evan Rodrigues proved early in the season to a reliable source of offense when called upon. In 82 games Rodrigues put up 43 points (19 G, 24 A).

Question marks a plenty up the middle of the ice in Winnipeg. Rodrigues would be a perfect fit on a win-now Jets team and provide depth at center.

Brett Connolly – RW

Brett Connolly was bought out by the Chicago Blackhawks on July 11, 2022. A professional tryout contract (PTO) could be a possibility with him. Now Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness was part of the coaching staff in Tampa Bay when Connolly played for the Lightning.

The sixth overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft played 37 games in the AHL for the Rockford IceHogs producing 35 points. In nine NHL games, he had just one point.

A projected forward lineup would look very strong going into the 2022-23 season if Winnipeg were to sign these three players:

  • Line 1: Connor – Dubois – Perfetti
  • Line 2: Ehlers – Schiefele – Wheeler
  • Line 3: Milano – Lowry – Appleton
  • Line 4: Harkins – Rodrigues – Connolly
  • Extras: Barron, Toninato

With a shallow prospect pool of NHL ready forwards ready to fill out the bottom-6 and $6,279,634 in salary cap room, there is room to add.

The top two lines could be your top line or second line any given night depending on match ups, and if Cole Perfetti shows ready to take the next step.

Milano and Rodrigues would give the forward group some flexibility to move players around if injuries arise or younger players don’t step up early in the season. New head coach Rick Bowness showed in Dallas he isn’t afraid to balance out line combinations.

Connolly could fill a role through training camp and preseason to let Winnipeg evaluate their younger players and determine if they are ready for an 82 game NHL schedule. While also giving himself a chance to show what he has left at the NHL level, if anything.

Something is better than nothing when it comes to roster moves for Winnipeg Jets fans who are starting to become more discouraged with the direction the team is going, especially after a spring of misleading press conference exit interviews and a summer of who wants out and the lack of free agent spending.

Joe Thornton Appears Unlikely to Return to Panthers for 2022-23 Season

Via Jasen Vinlove (USA TODAY Sports)

NHL legend and current Florida Panthers winger, Joe Thornton seems to have moved on from his time within Florida’s organization. Thornton’s wife, Tabea, posted a message of goodbye on her Instagram last Wednesday.

“South Florida, I loved our time together! This break-up hurts and I will miss you,”

– Joe Thornton’s wife, Tabea

It became apparent that the Panthers were ready to move on from Thornton after they inked veteran forward Eric Staal to a professional tryout on July 13. Thornton, who has played 24 NHL seasons since making his debut in 1997 with the Bruins, turned 43 in July.

What will Jumbo Joe do next?

Thornton has recently agreed to become the new director of the Spengler Cup, which is an international competition that takes place in Davos, Switzerland annually. The tournament hasn’t taken place since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thornton is no stranger to hockey in Switzerland, as he has spent time with HC Davos of the Swiss National League (NL) on multiple occasions throughout his career. His most recent stint with HC Davos came before the 2020-21 NHL season in which he recorded five goals and six assists for a total of 12 points before returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What are the implications for the Panthers and their lineup?

Simply put, this won’t be too tough of a pill to swallow for Florida. Thornton, who signed a one year contract with the Panthers prior to the 2021-22 campaign in an attempt to finally win an ever-elusive Stanley Cup, only played in 34 regular season games, the lowest amount in his career. He was able to muster five goals and five assists in a somewhat limited role, where he averaged just over 11 minutes of ice time per game. Nonetheless, he was penciled in as a healthy scratch most nights. Thornton’s vacated spot leaves room for newly acquired players like Colin White, who suited up in 24 games for the Senators last year, and intriguing prospects like 2018 first round pick Grigori Denisenko to draw into the lineup and get an expanded look in the NHL.

Thornton’s Career Wrap Up

At this point, it appears highly unlikely that Thornton latches on with another team for a 25th season. Thornton and veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara, who also remains a UFA, are the only two active players in any of the four major North American sports leagues who have played in the 1990’s. If this is truly the end of Jumbo Joe’s time in the NHL, what a career it was. Thornton suited up in an incredible 1,714 NHL games, good for sixth most all time in NHL history. He put up a stunning 1,539 points in that span, including 430 goals and 1,109 assists. This places him 12th on the list for all time points leaders in the NHL. Thornton’s swift passing ability, high hockey IQ, and hard nosed style of play allowed him to cement himself as one of the true legends of the game. His career accolades include six NHL all-star selections, an Art Ross and Hart Trophy win in 2006 when he put up 125 points with the Bruins and Sharks, and an NHL First All-Star Team selection also in 2006.

Top 10 performances from the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup: Part Two

Via Erica Perreaux // Hockey Canada

Welcome back to the second edition of the top 10 performances from the 2022-23 Hlinka-Gretzky cup. In the first part, we went over our picks numbered 10-6. Today, we will take a look at the top five players that impressed us the most from the highly touted tournament.


5- Aron Kiviharju, Defenseman, Team Finland/TPS, Liiga

What would make the 2023 NHL entry draft so much more elite than it already is? If Aron Kiviharju was eligible. Unfortunately, Aron was born in January of 2006, making him eligible for the 2024 draft.

But there’s no debate when anyone says that Kiviharju is a lock at first overall in 2024. Completely dominant in every level of hockey that he’s played in, Kiviharju has demonstrated elite offensive and defensive skills whenever he steps on the ice. He didn’t only compete against top players older than him; he dominated them, too.

His hands and his skating sticking out the most, his creativeness with the puck allows him to have the guts to pull off some of the craziest moves you could ever imagine. We saw him do that with a lethal goal at the tournament.

His feet didn’t have an off switch in the tournament. His legs never quit moving. From end to end, Kiviharju possessed the skill where he would always be in motion and while it did make him look restless and a bit bouncy, it showed signs of a player that would demonstrate elite edge work and endless speed in the future.

While he is still almost two years away from standing on stage and putting on a Chicago Blackhawks jersey (kidding… maybe), he’ll be a joy to watch for a long time. We should all feel lucky enough to watch him develop in person, as it could be likely that he’ll retire with many Norris trophies.

4- Otto Stenberg, Center, Team Sweden/Frölunda HC J20, J20 Nationell

Otto Stenberg was the highlight Swede of the tournament. Arguably the most clutch player out of anyone in the entire tournament, Otto tore it up tallying five goals and nine points in five games. Unfortunately his team couldn’t beat Team Canada in the finals, but Stenberg’s elite performance will be remembered for a long time.

Everything about Stenberg was amiable during this tournament. His unprecedented power play skills, his puck distribution abilities, and his overall talent of outsmarting and outplaying opponents was on display during the Hlinka-Gretzky cup.

Throughout the tournament we saw that dominance show off in moments when he showed his strength and used some of his pro-paced level of hockey. He looked like a beast with every single game and that’s because he was playing like a fully developed NHL player against kids.

His cheat code of a wrist shot assisted him for five huge goals. His release, accuracy, and booming power made him look as if he had the most developed and arguably the best shot among any other player at the tournament.

Stenberg, who was the captain of Team Sweden, played best on the powerplay. He had tons of fantastic looks at even strength where he would easily beat out defenders wide, make opponents look silly using his quick and nifty hands, and had many other tidbits of action, but the main course was his powerplay.

Not only did Stenberg set up his teammates in the most creative and deceptive ways where the teammates would be given a scoring opportunity, but he also capitalized on his own chances including going top corner and bar down using one-timers and his notoriously dangerous wrist shot. There was a lot to like about the Swedish center, and if people weren’t already sold on him before the tournament, they certainly are now.

3- Calum Ritchie, Center, Team Canada/Oshawa Generals, OHL

Calum Ritchie was the highest scoring player out of this tournament and it isn’t a stretch to say that we expected it. Ritchie played in the OHL last year with the Oshawa Generals and he tallied 19 goals and 45 points in only 65 games as a 16 and 17 year old. Those types of numbers get players drafted in the third and even second rounds of the draft if they were 18, yet Ritchie put up those numbers a year younger.

While you may be asking why the leading point scorer of the tournament sits at third, ahead of two others, but the honest truth is that a lot of his points were lucky. Fairly, hockey is a game of bounces and you have to be able to create your own luck, but there were a few moments that made you think that anyone playing in the tournament could’ve been just as lucky enough to score the same exact type of points.

There were so many things to like from Ritchie in Red Deer this year, and I was pleasantly surprised with his defensive skills. He had awareness like no others, he broke up multiple high-danger chances, he tracked the puck down well, and he positioned himself like an experienced NHL player on countless occasions. Mentally, he was ahead of anyone else on the ice.

But while his defensive abilities were extraordinary, his ability to create space and time for himself was remarkable. His ability to get himself that extra helping hand of a second of extra time and a bit more time to work around helped him generate scoring chances for himself and his teammates through passes. A lot of that was caused because of his elite transition game which we saw him to the best in Oshawa last year.

Calum Ritchie has this touch to his game where once he enters the offensive zone (which he does quite a lot), he unlocks a boost in his game and a pep in his step. He activates a sense of urgency and a want to get the puck in front of the net. We saw him score points through his transition game which any hockey fan finds so much fun to watch.

Simply put, Ritchie did get a ton of lucky bounces and everything at the Hlinka-Gretzky cup went the way he would’ve ever wanted it to, but he did show extreme levels of compete and skill at the tournament and it’ll be so much fun watching him explode past defenders and set himself up (as well as his teammates) in the offensive zone this year in the OHL.

2- Brayden Yager, Forward, Team Canada/Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL

A lot of people will personally believe that Brayden Yager was the best player in this entire tournament and I’ll definitely side with them on that one… if it wasn’t for the guy we have at one. I wouldn’t even say that Yager is two; he’s like a 1B to the 1A.

“Phenomenal” doesn’t even come close to describing how Yager performed at the Hlinka-Gretzky cup this year. He was five levels ahead of anyone else whenever he stepped foot on the ice and others simply couldn’t catch up to his pace including some of his own teammates. His game sense, speed, passing abilities, and game smarts outwitted everyone including his teammates in situations where he had made a beautiful play just for his teammates to not be in proper position.

We all know how elite Yager was in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors last year, and it looked like he was even better this time around. Arguably the best playmaker this upcoming draft, his well-roundness was noticeable every time he played. Not once did I see him attempt to create a play whenever he had the puck. If nothing was generated, it was the lack of finish from him or his teammates. Yager generated any type of play under any type of pressure in any type of situation. He was the go-to guy if you ever needed something executed, and executed quickly.

His ability to create plays at high speed will comfortably transition into the NHL level quicker than almost anyone and he even had a few looks of that in the tournament that made me think he was NHL-ready now.

While his shot lacked power and his physicality and hitting lacked strength, it’s all a little early and he will eventually gain mass and he will become a bigger and more aggressive player. With more work on his shooting and more size gained, he’ll be a tank and he will steamroll the competition. We saw how often he tried to engage in heavy-hitting situations; it just never went his way because of his size. Once he gets bigger and stronger, he’ll be a tough challenge to play against.

Yager impressed me a lot during the tournament and my love for his play grew even more during the games. With what he was able to create at such high speeds and such difficult given roles, he really did make me believe in him and I can guarantee anyone that it will translate into NHL hockey relatively soon.

1- Zach Benson, Forward, Team Canada/Winnipeg Ice, WHL

Last year, Zach Benson was my favorite player on the Winnipeg Ice. He stood out the most on a team that had star power such as Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekie. His speed, hockey sense, ability to pre-plan plays in his head, and his overall ability to control neutral and offensive play with and without the puck was all on display at the tournament.

Scoring seven points in five games, Benson wasn’t the highest scoring player and his goal scoring wasn’t anything that stood out. Having him first in these rankings is quite a hot take considering players like Otto Stenberg and Brayden Yager tore up the tournament with ease. But to me, Benson truly sent me over the moon with his efficiency.

During this tournament we saw him improve on his deceptiveness. When he was with the Winnipeg Ice last year, he struggled with him being able to outmanuever and outsmart bigger and better opponents. While his hockey smarts and his creation of space and perfect passing plays has always been his best aspects, deceptiveness was a bit of a working area, and it was obvious that he had already started on improving it.

The top thing about Zach Benson is plainly how smart he is. It’s really cliche to say that a hockey player is smart, or that he knows how to play the game inside out, but Benson topples the competition with his toolbox.

He knows how to make and what to do so that opponents bite. A lot of the time we saw how Benson would go deeper in the zone than he needed to. That made him look vulnerable in situations where he could lose the puck with a simple hit or poke check. Then at the last second, he would turn using his exceptional edges, make the opponent crash into the boards, and eventually create an odd man opportunity in favor of his team.

While explosiveness was an issue with Benson, his skating technique was nothing short of aspiring. His strides weren’t choppy and his legs never stopped moving. He had a smooth skating ability that very possibly lacked a little bit of power on the starts and off crossovers.

While Zach’s scoring wasn’t perfect and 3 of his own teammates out-did him, I still loved Benson the most out of any other player in this tournament. If people thought he was good a few months ago in Winnipeg, he’s going to turn the heads of many people this upcoming year seeing how much he’s improved and how he’s able to figure out competition so easily in the WHL.

As the highly-regarded tournament came to a close, many hockey fans were introduced to so many new players and no matter if you are a prospect junkie or not, the talent that we saw from these players really makes you excited. To know that the 2023 NHL draft class will be filled with kids that are able to do things we’ve never seen before is reassuring especially for fans with teams that are in the rebuilding stages.

Even though it was short-lived and it felt like it came and went too soon, we saw so many fantastic players, and making this list made me realize how good this upcoming draft class will be because of how many promising prospects I had to leave off the list.

Josh Leivo: Low Risk, High Reward

Via Marie Sorvin of USA Today

It has been a very interesting offseason, not only across the entire NHL, but especially for the St. Louis Blues and General Manager Doug Armstrong. There have been some good parts, but there have been too many bad parts. Most Blues fans focus on the big moves of the summer, such as the four year extension for Nick Leddy, the eight year extension for Robert Thomas, trading Ville Husso, or letting David Perron walk. While yes, these transactions have been extremely impactful to the team, there has been one move that St. Louis made that has, somehow, been forgotten by a lot of people. Let’s talk about Josh Leivo.

In case you missed it, or if you forgot, the Blues signed forward Josh Leivo to a one way, one year, $750k, contract for the 2022-23 season. Leivo, who turned 29 in May, is now set to play for his fifth NHL team before he turns 30 years old. Leivo was drafted 86th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the 2011 NHL Draft. He made his debut for the Leafs in 2013 and was there until 2018 when he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in December, 2018.

Since then, he’s bounced around the league, playing for three teams in the past three years, spending time with Vancouver, Calgary, and Carolina. So why am I talking about a player who only has 77 points in his nine year career that signed to a league minimum contract for only one season? Here’s why.

With the departure (again) of David Perron, the injury to Alexei Toropchenko, and most Blues prospects not being ready for a full time roster spot, there are definitely some holes in the lineup. This is where Leivo comes in. His best season of his career was 2018-19 where he had a career-high 24 points. That may not be that eye popping, but more notably, 14 of his 24 points were goals. That is what Josh Leivo is. He has been a bottom six forward for almost all of his NHL career, yet he still has some very surprising goal scoring ability. Last season, he spent most of his year in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves. In 54 regular season games with the Wolves, Leivo put up 22 goals and 46 points.

However, the best part of Leivo last season was his historic performance during the Calder Cup Playoffs for Chicago. In 18 playoff games, Leivo put up an absolutely staggering 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points. Talk about having the clutch gene! The 29 points of course, leading all players in the Calder Cup Playoffs. That is the main reason why Doug Armstrong signed Leivo to a “prove it” deal. There’s definitely something there with Leivo. And it gets even better. Leivo is an extremely strong forward on both the offensive, and defensive, sides of the ice. His best year analytically was 2018-19, where he had 0.14 xGF/60, which is 6% better than league average, and -0.25 xGA/60, which is 10% better than league average (data via hockeyviz.com). So his defensive impact is extremely strong, and has been strong for just about his entire career. He also has some very impressive skating for a bigger power forward like him. It was about time that he exploded in production during the playoffs.

To summarize, Leivo is on a league minimum contract for only one year. Even if he doesn’t play well on a 3rd or 4th line role, he can easily go down to the minors, where he will thrive. However, I expect him to be just about a full time bottom six forward. He can play a physical kind of game if he is needed on the fourth line, but also has the skillset of a middle six player. Leivo is a great pickup for the Blues, and I think he will be a really good depth piece for the team.

Top 10 Performances at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup: Part One

Via Andreas Robanser

As the yearly Hlinka-Gretzky Cup came and went, it was no surprise that the heavily touted Canadians nabbed gold in dramatic fashion with a win over team Sweden. Although getting any action over the summer is rare, prospect enthusiasts were greeted to an entertaining tournament filled with some of the best prospects that will be eligible for the 2023 NHL entry draft.

Although the draft is still almost a year away and playing hockey in the summer can always impact a player’s performance, the fact that hockey fans saw many top prospects that will be a part of arguably one of the best drafts in NHL history, was both relieving and exciting.

Although late, in today’s article we will go over the top 10 performances that I personally loved at the 2022-23 Hlinka-Gretzky cup. There were so many players to choose from, most of them coming in from Canada, Sweden, and Finland, but eventually settling on the list we have today, these players were the ones that impressed me the most.

10- Denver Barkey, Center, Team Canada/London Knights, OHL

I would be lying if I said that people expected this much dominance from Denver Barkey at the tournament this year. Although he did possess so much talent and contributed to the London Knights last season in very few minutes of play time, he played almost as if he were snake bitten.

Putting up only seven goals and 15 points in 53 games in the OHL last year, Barkey clearly struggled with production and wasn’t expected to make Team Canada. When he came into camp and impressed everyone, the hockey world knew that the leap that Denver would take was going to be monumental.

And it was.

You could argue that Barkey was the heart and soul of Team Canada this year. With every single shift came aggression on and off the puck. We saw him play an energetic 200-foot game where he would find himself pressuring the net to make big blocks and high-level defensive plays within moments from each other. He had the energy and the dedication that many young players simply don’t have around his age.

Barkey did finish the tournament with two goals and four points in five games, but it felt like he did so much better with numbers than that. The game of hockey truly does revolve around numbers. Analytics, stats, goals, assists– it all has digits and values. But with Barkey, those digits and values go silent. He’s one of those players that won’t score a ton, but will contribute to the team and play in his given roles outlandishly well.

While he may sound perfect, the flaws are clearly there. What makes Barkey such a wild card is that on draft day, whatever team ends up picking him, will be gambling a lot depending on where they select him. He has a number of flaws such as foot-speed, getting burnt out quick, and puck control. Those things stuck out to me the most at the Hlinka-Gretzky cup, and those blips make me wonder how far he’ll fall in the draft. But while he could completely crash and burn, the upside is obviously there.

Behind the back pass from Canada forward Denver Barkey to Riley Heidt

His talent to box out opponents and make sure that nobody would get past was a massive addition to Team Canada, and many fans saw how much he positively affected the team. His energy was, simply put, unmatched. Denver Barkey was so much fun to watch at this tournament, and it really makes you wonder how he’ll do on the London Knights this upcoming year.

9- Ethan Gauthier, Right Wing, Team Canada/Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL

Here’s a player that some of you will be surprised isn’t higher.

Ethan Gauthier popped off at the tournament this year finishing fourth overall in points with seven. Six of those points were goals. If you can’t tell what type of player Gauthier is, maybe his 18 goal season in the QMJHL as a 17 year-old will tell you who he is.

Can’t guess? He’s a sniper. Gautheir has an elite shot that we saw him use against the Swedes in the gold medal game. He’s got a really impressive and bombardic shot that may lack a little bit of power, but that will come with age.

Ethan Gauthier snipes one past Swedish net-minder to make it 2-1 Canada

While his shot may be a massive factor into why he’ll likely be a first round pick, he fascinated me in a few other areas, too. For example his net front play and the tenaciousness around that area was visible. Anytime that Gauthier would end up in that position, he would attack the net and try to jam in the puck. And he wasn’t scared to get his head taken off for it, either.

He was hungry for conflict all tourney long. Not once did he go out on the ice and not try to retrieve the puck using his strength and power. He would never hesitate when going for a huge hit, he never backed down from a bigger player, and he never second-guessed himself in moments of physical desperation. He was arguably the biggest heart on that Canadian team and his willingness proved with every single game.

Gauthier could’ve been on my list a lot higher, but I may value the sense of urgency too much to have him there. While he did score a ton of goals and his heaviness and load was such a pain for the other teams, he did have a few moments where he didn’t look like he was fully invested into the play. Sometimes it was an awful pass, or sometimes it was a missed opportunity to make that extra play. Occasionally he just didn’t even skate quick enough to hold on to the play. To me, that made him fall a little bit.

That being said, there is still so much to like about him and he will eventually turn out to be the life of an NHL team.

8- William Whitelaw, Center, Team USA/Youngstown Phantoms, USHL

One of the many Youngstown Phantoms players that will likely be drafted next year, William Whitelaw was one of the unlikely golden players for the USA this year. USA made the colossal mistake to not let any players from the USNTDP come play at the tournament, and that made that team significantly worse. Inevitably, the States went home empty-handed.

Yes the team suffered and the disappointment was clearer than day, but Whitelaw really stood out. Leading that team in points, Whitelaw commenced the tournament as disappointing as the rest of the team. The best way to say it is that he got burnt out quickly. And yes, that is a red flag.

He started off the tournament scorching hot. He skated quicker than anyone else on the ice, beating out players left and right, he was scoring goals and creating plays that defenders had no time to react to, and he was the most noticeable and the most lively player on team USA.

William Whitelaw goes top shelf on German goalkeeper to make it 8-1 USA

His best game was against team Germany where he tallied two goals and one assist. The excitement for him was there. It’s a shame that he got burnt out. While we’ll need way more time with the Minnesota native to get a full understanding on the type of player he is, it’s no stretch to assume that he’ll be a ton of fun watching on a winning team.

At the end of the tournament, the highly respected American prospect didn’t look nearly as fast as he started. Sometimes his shots were butterflies and had almost no sense of actual scoring chance. Even a few times he got beaten out by some of the weaker players at the tournament. His last game was a complete 360 from his first game, and it really sucked to see.

Yet in the games that Whitelaw succeeded in, those were the games that were the most fun to watch. I could have taken him off the list completely, but he did so many positive things that eliminated the bad things in the games that he did well in. With how energetic and active Whitelaw felt earlier on, it made me really intrigued to see what he could do this upcoming season, which made me put him up this high in the rankings. He’s got so much room to grow and the potential is sky high with this player.

7- Michael Hrabal, Goaltender, Team Czechia/Omaha Lancers, USHL

The only goaltender on our list, Michael Hrabal showed a lot of positive and negative areas during the tournament. In his best showing against Team USA where the Czechs upset USA 3-1, most, if not all, of the credit belonged to Hrabal who outperformed expectations as he made 34/35 saves, finishing the game with a .971 save percentage.

While he did have a couple goals scored on him that seemed really easy to save, Hrabal proved to the world that he is a skillful goaltender with a tool set that will eventually earn him a spot in the NHL. Like many goalie prospects, he’s ways away from the NHL and he will need extra time to develop to perfect his game, so the timeline on him will be extended much further than anyone else on this list.

Hrabal reacted really calmly in stressful situations which is something you love to see in goalies. He always stuck it simple. Not once did he have to exaggerate a save or extend his point to make scouts gawk at what he was up to. He kept it safe, he played his position, and he did well enough to make this list. Putting up a .920 save percentage in 24 Czechia U20 games last year, Hrabal was expected to steal the show for Czechia in between the pipes, and steal the show he did.

“Hrabal had a few good looks. Especially against the Americans. He covered up rebounds, tracked shots through traffic, and controlled dangerous opportunities impeccably. But I did notice moments where he could’ve succumbed to numerous high-pressure moments. It happened in a few later games. He would be a little twitchy and unstable, and because of that twitchiness he let in a couple preventable goals and got into the butterfly position a bit too early for my liking. And yeah, even though he did look wobbly quite a bit, he’s got a lot of potential.”

– David Phillips, Scout for The Scoring Touch

Now as we wait for the USHL season to commence, it will be Hrabal’s biggest challenge and the most important “prove it” season of his entire life.

6- Eduard Sale, Right Wing, Team Czechia/HC Kometo Brno, Czechia

This tournament began the overdue Eduard Sale hype train. Right from the get go, Sale showed off so many of his talents that I could write about for days. Trust me, it will happen when his prospect report comes out later in the year.

Sale was the engine, the life of the party, the absolute brainiac to all of Czechia’s offensive and even defensive motor at this tournament. His vision and playmaking make him an exceptional player. He knows how to set the puck, where to dish it to, and he always finds his teammates’ sticks even in the harshest possible situations.

He’s a quick yet steady skater that doesn’t have any bounce to his stride. A lot of the time you’ll see speedy players have a bit of a hop when making crossovers and even striding. Sale has complete steadiness and never bobbles around when he skates. It makes him a super versatile and flexible skater. It also makes him adapt really well in certain situations and makes him such a satisfying skater to spectate.

One of the things that I rarely see anyone talk about with Sale is how calm he is. He never makes bad decisions out of panic, he always has the situation under control, he’s never too late, and his patience is on point.

Eduard Sale scores breakaway to put Czechia up 4-1

The one thing I would like to see from Eduard is how quick he gets shots off. Too many times his release lacked quickness and set a possible goal back. When the shooter waits too long, he’ll lose the open net and the shot is much easier to save. We saw that numerous times with Sale during the games played. Even with a bit of a delayed release, his shot looked spectacular nonetheless and earned him a few impressive pucks.

Although execution of the shot lacked perfection, he was one of the best players at the Hlinka-Gretzky cup, and his season in Czechia this year will take flight as long as he remains as dominant as he was during his time in Red Deer.

With that, those are our picks from 10 to six at the Hlinka Gretzky Tournament. While these players impressed me modestly, there were still five other players that performed spectacularly, which we will have more for you to read soon.

Rangers Lineup Overview: Who Joins the Core?

via Blue Line Station

The New York Rangers are coming off of their rebuild, and more importantly, a season which saw them finish 7th in the NHL, 2nd in the Metro division, as well as reach the conference finals, losing to the back-to-back defending champs. However, for every team not named the Colorado Avalanche, they need to make changes to their roster in order to improve, and those changes are more than likely to come from within the organization.

Defensive Outlook

On defense, there is not a lot that is set to change. The top two pairs for the Rangers are set: Ryan Lindgren with Adam Fox, and K’Andre Miller with Jacob Trouba. With Trouba named captain and a breakout season for Miller, that secondary pairing is only going to get better. Furthermore, prospect Braden Schneider made his NHL debut last year, and played a significant portion of games, albeit not spectacularly. Despite this, he will be looking to improve, and Nils Lundkvist and Zac Jones will be clawing at the doors to get that 6th roster spot. Still, we could yet again see that spot go to infamous Ranger Libor Hajek.

Defensive Prospects

The two most notable prospects looking to push their way onto the roster are Lundkvist and Jones, and it looks like at least one of them will be given a spot.

Starting with Lundkvist, the Swedish defenseman is a former first round pick in 2018. While highly touted at the time, he has yet to break into the NHL. Scoring 15 points in 34 games last season for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL, time will tell if Lundkvist lives up to his potential. He will be given the opportunity to do so, and may even look to replace Braden Schneider on the 3rd pairing if Schneider struggles out of the gate. Lundkvist really shines in his offensive game, having put up multiple 30 point seasons with Luleå of the SHL. This proves he can be relied on as an offensive defenseman, and with a 4% chance at becoming a star and a 42% chance at becoming a full time NHLer according to JFresh’s prospect player cards, he can look to jump start his career in training camp and in the 2022-23 season.

Secondly, we have Zac Jones. Drafted in the 3rd round in 2019, it seems as though the Rangers are eager to see how he can perform with the team. Scoring 35 points in 52 games for the Wolf Pack last year, Jones proved that his offensive game could translate from the NCAA to the AHL. Now it is time for him to make that next step, as he is looking to build upon a year last year that saw him progress greatly. On most depth charts, it looks like Jones is the preferred pick over Lundkvist, but we will have to wait and see for training camp. Jones has a 8% chance of becoming a star and a 39% chance of being a full-time NHLer; but regardless of these stats, he will definitely get a shot at a roster spot come September. A pairing with Schneider would likely serve to benefit both players, as Schneider struggled particularly in his offensive game.

Lastly, even though he played 43 games last season, Schneider is still considered a prospect by many standards. At a 4% chance of becoming a star, the offensive outlook may look bleak for Schneider, but it is clear that the Rangers value his size at 6’2″, 202 pounds. At times last year, he struggled to control his size and play, however he can easily improve on that with the help of the coaching staff, as well as captain Jacob Trouba, who has become notable for his hits that walk the line of being suspendible. Although it is likely he remains on the roster come opening night, there is always a chance his spot gets taken in training camp by one of the aforementioned players.

Offensive Outlook

When viewing the forward core, it is important to note the departures from last year’s roster. Kevin Rooney, Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Strome, and Tyler Motte are the forwards that have either left in free agency, or remained unsigned. With Vincent Trocheck signed for the 2C role, ideally to play with Artemi Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad or Chris Kreider being inseparable, the top 6 seems to be set, as Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko look eager to take the first and second line right wing spots respectively. Where it gets particularly interesting, however, is in the bottom 6. Let’s look at the candidates to take spots on the roster, and where the prospects fit in.

Forward Prospects

First, we have the Rangers 2018 first round draft pick in Vitali Kravtsov. Kravtsov, whose had an up and down tenure with the Rangers organization refusing to play for the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, seems to be willing to give it another go; and the Rangers seem to be equally as eager to put all of that in the past. With Copp gone, Kravtsov could easily side beside Panarin and Trocheck as that second line right winger. However, if the Rangers prefer to ease him into the lineup, he could play alongside Filip Chytil in a revamped kids line. Despite only playing 19 games last year for Traktor of the KHL, he put up 13 points, and is still a very highly thought of prospect in the NHL according to JFresh’s prospect card, with a 17% chance of being a star and a 91% chance of being a full-time NHLer. He will most definitely see playing time in the NHL next year; its only a matter of where in the lineup he slots, and whether or not he lives up to that potential.

Another first round pick could also be looking to make the roster come September, as 2022 World Junior champion Brennan Othmann made a name for himself at the aforementioned tournament. With his big physical play, as well as the skillset that got him drafted in the first round, we could see him look to play fourth line minutes. Furthermore, if he is granted a nine game tryout in the NHL (so his contract is still slide eligible), and his play make the front office decide to keep him around, we can see the new kid line come to fruition: Othmann, Chytil, and Kravtsov. Othmann scored a whopping 97 points in 66 OHL games, but the Rangers may want to give him time to develop. He has a 3% chance to become a star and a 21% chance to become a full time NHLer, but that can easily increase if he is given the time and space to develop. There is no rush for Othmann, so we will see what the Rangers decide to do come training camp.

Fourth Liners

So with Othmann and Kravtsov possibly joining the Rangers, where does that leave the rest of the core? Well, let’s look at who else the Rangers have. As previously mentioned, Ryan Carpenter joins the ranks. Ryan Reaves, Sammy Blais, Dryden Hunt, and Julien Gauthier are also options for the fourth line, or in case Othmann isn’t ready for NHL minutes, available to join Chytil and Kravtsov on the third line. Regardless, there is zero doubt that Barclay Goodrow will be the Rangers fourth line center.

If the fourth line is guaranteed to have Blais and Goodrow, it is likely that Carpenter joins them. His defensive game is likely the reason why the Rangers signed him. Having that shut-down fourth line right behind a scoring, speedy third line could really put the hurt on teams, especially during the playoffs. But if Blais is higher in the lineup, don’t be suprised to see a mix of Gauthier, Reaves, and Hunt amongst the rotation of fourth liners.

Breakout Candidates: The (Old) Kids

Now that we looked at most of the lineup, excluding the established players, lets look at who can break out in the 2022-23 season.

Alexis Lafrenière: Playing limited minutes last year, and with the departure of Copp and Vatrano, Lafrenière will be put in a spot where he can live up to that first overall potential. He scored 31 points in 79 games last year but he excelled in the playoffs; expect that number to jump.

Filip Chytil: Chytil had a decent 2021-22 season, but where he made a name for himself was in the 2022 playoffs. Chytilmania returned, and we will see if he can turn the Rangers’ third line into a scoring line.

Kaapo Kakko: Last amongst the kid line is Kakko. Kakko may never score a bunch, but if he can turn into a 200 foot player, similar to fellow countryman Aleksander Barkov, then the Rangers may have found themselves a gem at second overall.

K’Andre Miller: Every Ranger fan will remember that highlight reel goal that he scored against the Panthers, going coast to coast and making a beautiful move. Much like this kid line, he made some amazing plays in the 2022 playoffs. Partnered with Trouba once again, he will no doubt exceed in his junior year.

It is clear that this 2022 playoff run was amazing for their development. It cannot be understated the importance of this run, and I think every diehard Ranger fan will remember “The Shift” for the rest of their lives.

The Rangers are looking to improve in 2023, and while this is an optimistic outlook, the ceiling of this team is the Stanley Cup. We will see come June whether or not this Rangers squad hoists the cup for the first time since 1994.

What NHL Teams Drafted Best Each Draft (2000-2003)

Via Ryan Remiorz

This piece will focus more on the scouting staff drafting players whether they hit where they needed, or well in the later rounds, not much of what happened afterwards, like if the player was involved in a lopsided trade, or lost rights.

2000 – Tie Between New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild

When I’d decided to do this, I wasn’t anticipating much of any ties, yet here we are with the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. Overall, the draft wasn’t amazing, with Rick DiPietro being the first overall pick going to Long Island, and no player hit the 900 point plateau.

We’ll start with the Rangers, who went quality over quantity. Out of nine picks they had in the nine-round draft, only three would actually play a game in the NHL, and two more than 18. The two players who played more than 18 games have had more than a cup of tea in the NHL.

Dominic Moore was picked in the 3rd round, 95th overall. He ended up playing a hair under 900 games, playing 897, and putting up a total of 282 points, 106 of them being goals. Moore played 101 playoff games, scoring 12 goals and totaling 29 points. Mostly a bottom-6 guy, he was reliable when needed, putting defense first, not a bad find in the 3rd round.

The Ranger also got a fairly decent player in the 7th round, only future Hockey Hall of Fame goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, 205th overall. Lundqvist was arguably the most dominant goalie in the 2010s, where in 887 total games, all with the Rangers, he posted a 459-310-96 record, averaging a .918 Sv% and a 2.43 GAA. In the 2011-12 season, Lundqvist won the Vezina trophy, awarded to the best goalie that season. He was the backbone of the Rangers team for 15 seasons, a pretty solid get in the 7th round, could be one of the best draft steals of all time.

On the other hand, the Minnesota Wild had two home run hits with their first two picks. Outside of those two picks, not much coming from them, but more than the Rangers.

With their first round pick, 3rd overall, they would pick a winger from the Slovak league named Marian Gaborik. Gaborik would go on to play in 1,035 games in the NHL, and lead the draft class in points with 815, 407 of them being goals. He scored 30+ goals in seven different seasons, three of them being 40 or more. In the 2013-14 campaign, he won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings, and in that run, Gaborik scored 14 goals, totaling 22 points in 26 games.

Marian Gaborik being drafted (via John Doman)

In the 2nd round, 33rd overall, Minnesota went with a defenseman out of the WHL named Nick Schultz. Never really known for his offense, Schultz would only have one 20 point season, and only had 175 points in his career. Granted, most likely more than you. He was more known for his defense-first style of play, which is how he eclipsed 1,069 total games played over 17 seasons. He never won any trophies, but getting a defenseman this quality in the 2nd round was a steal.

Outside of those two players, nothing super special, except in the 8th round, 232nd overall, they chose defenseman Lubomir Sekeras, who had 213 games played in the NHL, not terrible value.

The only other team worth mentioning are the New Jersey Devils for this draft, who drafted the likes of Paul Martin in the 2nd round, who was a great defenseman for a long time, playing in 870 regular season games, Mike Rupp who played a crucial part in their 2003 Stanley Cup win, who played 610 games in a tough-guy role, and Deryk Engelland in the 6th round, who many forget was drafted by New Jersey, played in 671 regular season games, known for his role in the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season.

2001 – Ottawa Senators

The 2001 Entry Draft was highlighted by guys like Ilya Kovalchuk, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville. Much better than the 2000 draft, the team that did the best was no doubt the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators had the 2nd overall pick, and they made no mistake with that. They chose Jason Spezza, from the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Spezza would have a fantastic NHL career, playing 1,248 regular season games, scoring 363 goals, and adding 632 assists, for 995 points. Without Covid, he’d no doubt be a member of the 1,000 point club. Playing 19 seasons, most of which with Ottawa, but also with the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs, he never won anything at the NHL level, but he’s consistently been a great player. He set an Ottawa Senators record for assisting on 71 goals back in the 2005/06 season.

They had a second pick in the first round, 23rd overall, where they picked a defenseman out of Windsor, Tim Gleason. Not as well known as Spezza, but Gleason’s had more than a cup of coffee in the NHL. Playing in 727 regular season games, Gleason scored 142 points. Never known for his scoring, Gleason played a solid defensive game, being a reliable player for a long time. He never signed a contract with the Senators, signing an ELC with the Los Angeles Kings back in 2006, and was a part of bringing Jack Johnson to LA. Currently, he’s a coach in the Carolina Hurricanes organization.

In the 4th round, the Senators had two picks. Their first of the two picks was 99th overall, goalie Ray Emery. Emery played 287 games in the regular season, with the Sens, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, and Chicago Blackhawks. Most know him as being a hot head, and fighting Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. In the 2012-13 season with the Chicago Blackhawks, Emery won the William M. Jennings trophy, and the Stanley Cup. His record stood at 145-86-28, with a career .906 Sv%. Sadly, Emery died back in 2018 after drowning at the age of 35. May he rest in peace.

Ray Emery vs Braden Holtby (via Bruce Bennett)

The other 4th round pick isn’t super memorable, but 127th overall, they selected Christoph Schubert. Schubert, a 6’3″ defenceman coming from the German league, played four of his five seasons with the Senators (Atlanta being the other team). He played in 315 games, which isn’t nothing. Never much of a point producer, only 72 total. Not terrible value in the 4th round.

The last notable player that Ottawa drafted came all the way in the 6th round, 193rd overall, Brooks Laich. Laich was never a star, as a center he only hit the 50 point plateau twice. Playing in 776 regular season games, he was always a glue guy, someone who you’d be able to stick anywhere in the lineup, he always did his job and won puck battles. In the playoffs, he always showed up, yet never winning the Stanley Cup. Laich played in 65 playoff games, and scored 10 goals and 32 points, nearly a half a point-per-game.

The only two other players the Senators drafted that played some games were Brandon Bochenski (7th round, 223rd), a winger who played 156 games scoring 68 points, who is actually the mayor of Grand Forks, ND, fun fact, and Toni Dahlman, a Finnish winger who only played in 22 games, picked in the 9th round, 286th overall.

2002 – Detroit Red Wings

In a draft that saw the Columbus Blue Jackets take Rick Nash first overall, this wasn’t a hard draft to do research on, but it came down to two teams, and the other one I will touch on later on.

Their first pick was in the second round, 58th overall, where they selected Jiri Hudler. Many forget about Hudler, he played in 708 total games, scoring 428 points in that span. Most remembered for his 76 point season, and winning the Lady Byng as a member of the Calgary Flames in the 2014-15 campaign, then falling off hard. He helped Detroit win a Stanley Cup in 2008 where he had 14 points, five of them being goals, in 22 games.

Jiri Hudler with Lady Byng Trophy (via Yahoo Sports)

Five picks later, the Red Wings chose Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann never played a game with Detroit, instead he was packaged with two picks to the Washington Capitals, one of those picks ended up being Mike Green, for Robert Lang. Fleischmann played in 657 games, putting up 335 points. In 14 seasons, he only had two where he ended up with over 50 points, one of them he scored 61. He found himself mostly playing on the 3rd line, but he prolonged his career by doing the right things.

Their next pick came in the 3rd round, 95th overall, which was Valtteri Filppula. Filppula was a great player his whole career, one of my personal favorites. Hes played in 1,056 games so far, scoring 197 goals, and totaling 530 points. Currently, he’s an unrestricted free agent, and he still may have a shot from teams. He’s meshed well most of his career in the top-9, and the later stages of his career being in the bottom-6. He was another member of this draft winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008. In that run, Filppula scored five goals and 11 points. A solid get in the late 3rd round.

The last pick of the draft, the Red Wings picked up Jonathan Ericsson. Mostly a defensive player, Ericsson battled it out every night for a long time. Playing in 680 games, he only had a total of 125 points, with a season high point total of 15, which he hit three times. His career was filled with injuries, and as time went on, he got slower and slower as the game picked up in pace fast. He was a good player for a while, and had a lot of value being the last pick in the 2002 draft.

The other team I hinted to before was the Toronto Maple Leafs. They drafted two 1,000 game players, Alexander Steen and Matt Stajan. Both great defensive players, and great teammates. In the later stages in the draft, they picked up Ian White, who played 503 games in the NHL, more than a cup of tea. I went with Detroit because their guys had hardware, and made the most out of not having a 1st round pick.

2003 – Tie Between Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf (via Getty Images)

To wrap up this edition of what team drafted best each year, we go to what most know as the best draft class in NHL history, 2003. Another tie, something I don’t love, but I don’t have the heart to put one over the other.

The Anaheim Ducks won the 2007 Stanley Cup because of this draft. They had two 1st round picks, and they hit grand slams with both of them.

First off, 19th overall they selected then future captain, Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf was an elite player his whole career up until he retired this past season, in 2021-22. Playing in 1,157 regular season games, he was known as one of the best passer playmakers of the 2010s. He scored 282 goals, but had 737 assists, for a total of 1,019 points. While he never won an individual award, he won the Stanley Cup like I’d previously stated, in 2007. In that run, Getzlaf had 17 points in 21 games, a big difference maker. He was a three time NHL all star, and won two gold medals for team Canada internationally.

Their second first round pick came nine picks later, where they selected Corey Perry. Still active in the NHL, Perry was another difference maker in the 2007 Stanley Cup win for the Ducks, where in 21 games, he put up 15 points. In 1,176 games, Perry scored 405 goals, 453 assists, for 858 points. He has some more personal hardware than Getzlaf, as in the 2010-11 season, he won both the Maurice Rocket Richard trophy, and the Hart Memorial trophy, in which he played a full 82 game season, scored 50 goals, and had 98 points. More recently, Perry hasn’t been a stranger to the Stanley Cup Final, where he’s made it the past three seasons, except lost in all three visits.

It wasn’t until the 6th round where Anaheim would draft another impact player. They took winger Drew Miller, brother of goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller played 571 games across 11 seasons where he scored 122 points. He mostly found himself in the bottom-6 portion of the lineup, as he was more of a gritty defensive guy. He did win the Stanley Cup with Anaheim, but only played three games and recorded no points then.

The last notable player from Anaheim’s portion of this draft is Shane O’Brien. O’Brien was a defender drafted from the OHL. Drafted in the 8th round, he played in 537 games, scoring 13 goals and totaling 92 points. O’Brien was a big guy when he played, another gritty, Brian Burke esk player, that prolonged his career by gaining the trust of his coaches,

Now, for the Chicago portion of 2003. Anaheim made a Stanley Cup team out of this draft, Chicago made a dynasty out of this draft. To keep it short, we’ll talk about three players.

14th overall the Blackhawks would take defender Brent Seabrook. Nowadays, Seabrook is just known as a contract, but back then, he was a great defender. He’d play in 1,114 games in the regular season, scoring 103 goals and 464 points overall. As a part of the Blackhawks’ anchor of a defensive core, Seabrook helped lead them to three Stanley Cups.

Brent Seabrook (via NBC Sports)

In the 2nd round, 52nd overall, the Blackhawks took a goalie from the QMJHL named Corey Crawford. Crawford would be the backbone of the Blackhawks legacy. Playing in 488 games, he would go 260-162-53 in that span, with a .918 Sv% overall. Adding to his Stanley Cups, Crawford would win the William M. Jennings trophy in the 2012-13 season, and the 2014-15 season. He was a two time all star, and led the NHL in shutouts in 2015-16 with seven. He would sign a free agent deal in New Jersey, but retire before he would play a game for the club.

Finally, in the 8th round, the Chicago Blackhawks took a chance on a forward at the time from the WHL, Dustin Byfuglien. The 6’5″, 260 lbs. at-the-time forward was a scary foe to line up against. Known for his fierce play, superhuman strength, and big hits, Byfuglien was a main contributor on the Blackhawks in their cup win in 2010. He scored 11 goals in that run. Over his career, he played 869 regular season games, scoring 525 points before quietly retiring after dealing with injury.

The next edition will be much shorter, and depending on the numbers, should be out next week.

A New Look for the 2022-23 Calgary Flames

Via Frank Franklin

The off-season has been rough for Flames fans. On July 13th, the teams star player Johnny Gaudreau declined an eight year, $84-million contract and left Calgary to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Since Gaudreau was not traded, and simply signed with Columbus, Calgary received nothing but a hole in its roster. A 115 point hole in its roster.

Then before the month of July ended, another major roster change occurred.

The Flames announced a major trade between themselves and the Panthers.

Another member of the Flames 100-point club from this past season was on the move. This time, Matthew Tkachuk was traded to Florida for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.

Huberdeau was quick to sign a contract extension with the Flames. A contract extension that was identical to the one that Gaudreau turned away. Fans were quick to notice that Huberdeau perfectly filled that 115 point gap that Gaudreau left. Huberdeau and Gaudreau were tied for second in league points last season.

Flames GM, Brad Treliving had one more major change to make to the Flames roster. Treliving signed arguably one of the biggest free agents of the off-season, Nazem Kadri. However, to make room for Kadri’s $7 million a year cap hit, the Flames traded centre Sean Monahan and a conditional 2025 first round to Montreal for future considerations.

Kadri is coming off a career year with the Avalanche. In the regular season he amassed 87 points and while on the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup run, he got 15 points in 16 games.

Treliving had great things to say about Kadri in a recent press conference.

“He can play on the powerplay. He can play heavy. He’s highly, highly competitive and is a highly skilled, smart player. — He is our kind of player”

– Calgary GM Brad Treliving

Anaheim Ducks Representatives at the 2022 World Juniors

Via Hockey Canada

The NHL has Stanley Cup contenders and basement teams every season. The Anaheim Ducks find themselves somewhere in the middle of that spectrum – as a rebuilder. For a team that hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since the 2018-2019 season, and for a team which hasn’t won a playoff game since 2017, the Anaheim Ducks have quite the prospect pool – which makes perfect sense given the quality of the players which they’ve drafted in that span. The Ducks’ prospect pool is a deep one, and four of its members played in games at the 2022 World Junior Championships, which took place in Alberta, Canada this August. We’ll review their performances below.

Forward Mason McTavish; Team Canada

The tournament’s MVP scored at a ridiculous pace this tournament. With eight goals and 17 points in only seven games, Mason McTavish finished the tournament 1st in points. 2nd in points was Finland’s Joakim Kemell, who recorded 12 points. While a five-point margin may not seem that great, one must take into account that both players played the maximum amount of games possible: seven.

In the round-robin, during a game against Team Slovakia, McTavish became just the 7th team Canada player to score four goals in a game. It’s his shot, skill, and determination (though we’ll circle back to that later) that made such a performance possible.

McTavish loves to carry the puck, and does it at such a skillful level that he rarely turns it over. A shoot-first player by nature, McTavish can make a seam-pass brilliantly, as he showed his teammates (and opponents) time and time again while playing on the first power-play unit, as well as on a line with phenom Connor Bedard at even-strength play.

The 2021 3rd overall selection won’t quite be remembered for any of that, however. Here’s where we circle back to his determination: during the Gold Medal Game against Team Finland, in overtime, with the game practically over and the Canadians ten minutes away from having a silver medal placed around their necks, McTavish blocks a Finnish shot that has goaltender Dylan Garand beat. Bedard tries to fend off a Finnish fore-checker, the game seemingly over; until McTavish knocks the puck down out of mid-air while it’s above the goal-line. Being arguably the biggest transitional play in World Junior’s history, play ensues, and shortly thereafter, Kent Johnson receives a nice pass from Logan Stankoven, and makes no mistake, ending the game. Talk about a plot twist.

You could say that Mason McTavish is not only a shoot-first player by nature, but a 200-foot player as well.

Defenseman Olen Zellweger; Team Canada

We mentioned McTavish as being 1st in points and Kemell being 2nd. Here’s where the 3rd place scorer comes in: defenseman Olen Zellweger. Not only was Zellweger Canada’s top minute-cruncher among their defense-corps, Zellweger was one of the tournament’s most consistent scorers, recording nine assists and 11 points in seven games. An offensive defenseman who sees the ice well and can play big minutes, Zellweger was the only defenseman on the top powerplay unit, and stayed there throughout the tournament.

The 34th overall pick in 2021, Zellweger will turn 19 on September 10th, meaning he’ll be eligible to return at the 2023 World Juniors, which is scheduled to be held in late December to early January in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Zellweger will seek to produce offensively again, and all-the-while, finding his teammates for goals.

Forward Sasha Pastujov; Team USA

Though it’s still too early to tell, Sasha Pastujov may be one of the 2021 draft’s biggest draft steals. A player who has a knack for producing, Pastujov did just that at this tournament, though not quite at the rate at which he produced with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, Pastujov recorded one goal and four points in five games. He is eligible to return at the 2023 World Juniors, and would undoubtedly be poised for a better showing, though a point-per-game rate of .80 is nothing to laugh at. The hallmark of Pastujov’s game are his quick deceptive dekes he pulls off relative to the pace of the play; relative to where his opponents are situated on the ice. He uses skillful weight-displacement to throw opponents off, and will look to improve on these near-perfect abilities throughout the first-half of the OHL season before the 2023 tournament begins. Good board play and puck retrieval from Pastujov can improve possession metrics and can create scoring chances and hopefully, more goals from Pastujov the next time around.

Defenseman Ian Moore; Team USA

A depth defenseman on Team USA, 2020 3rd round pick Ian Moore recorded one assist in five games. A solid two-way defender, Moore stands at 6’3″, 185 lbs, and is good at breaking up attempted zone entries by his opponents. His ability to generate offence is equally as impressive given his smooth skating, which may be the foundation of his game. A good prospect-comparable is Ryan Johnson, the Buffalo Sabres’ 2019 1st round pick. Moore is 20 years of age, so he’ll be unable to participate in the 2023 tournament. However, Ducks fans don’t need to worry, as Moore is committed to Harvard of the NCAA, where he played during the 2021-2022 season, and took his two-way game to the next level.