Recapping the Bruins’ 2018 NHL Draft

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Photo Credit: NHL.com

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

The Boston Bruins came away with 5 players in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, all selected on Day 2. The reactions were… mixed, to say the least. What did I think? Read on to find out:

2nd Round, 57th Overall – D Axel Andersson, Djurgardens IF J20 (SuperElit)

Andersson Johan Sahlen

Photo Credit: Johan Sahlen

I’m going, to be honest – with the players left on the board here, I was not a fan of this pick. The organization has a ridiculous number of defensemen in the pipeline, and there were better forwards available. Regardless, I don’t think it was a complete whiff. I will refer you to the scouting report compiled by CanucksArmy, who is one of the best names in public player analysis. Andersson appears to be several years away from making an impact but could be a lesser, right-handed version of Urho Vaakanainen.

PuckNerd’s Grade: C+

3rd Round, 77th Overall – C/W Jakub Lauko, Pirati Chomutov (Czech)

Lauko Piratichomutov.cz

Photo Credit: Piratichomutov.cz

This was an absolute steal at this point of the draft. Lauko has the speed for days. He broke into the Czech Extraliga at age 16 and has yet to look out of place. He can sometimes find himself with a bit of Michael Grabner syndrome (speed, no finish), but he is slowly working the kinks out in that respect. I think the upside is probably a less-skilled version of Jake DeBrusk, who has better wheels than the 2015 1st Rounder. Excellent value here in the 3rd Round, and a definitive upgrade over Frank Vatrano, for whom the Bruins acquired this selection. For reference, Lauko ALSO appeared in CanucksArmy’s Top 100.

PuckNerd’s Grade: A-

4th Round, 119th Overall – C Curtis Hall, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

Curtis Hall USHL

Photo Credit: USHL

Hall is never going to wow you with pure skill, but I like his hockey IQ, and he is another burner in the speed department. The Yale commit was a little quiet offensively in the USHL, and I’m not sure if he has offensive upside at the NHL level, but this is a solid bottom-six forward for a decade if he pans out.

PuckNerd’s Grade: B-

6th Round, 181st Overall – D Dustyn McFaul, Pickering Panthers (OJHL)

McFaul Pickering Panthers.jpg

Photo Credit: Pickering Panthers

Yeah, I have to be honest – I have literally never heard of Dustyn McFaul. He couldn’t crack the Kingston Frontenacs’ roster last year, so he went to a very, very bad Pickering squad and helped them slowly improve over the last two seasons. The Clarkson commit has a bit of NHL upside but is definitely a long-term project. Decent mobility and instincts, needs to improve his shot and one on one defense, but he also won’t enroll at Clarkson until at least the fall of 2019, so this is not a pick Boston fans should expect to see in the spoked-B any time soon.

PuckNerd’s Grade: C-

7th Round, 212th Overall – C Pavel Shen, Mamonty Yugry (MHL)

Pavel Shen KHL

Photo Credit: KHL

When was the last time the Bruins took an overage KHL player? I honestly couldn’t tell you. Shen was passed over last year, despite being a point per game player in the Russian junior leagues, and, despite some injuries, this past season, continued to produce at a similar pace. He’s an overager but is a mid-August birthday, so he only was eligible for last year’s draft by about a month. He is signed to a contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL for next season, so I don’t expect him to come to North America any time soon, but there is dynamic skill there. Needs a little work on his skating, but he is a decent size (6’1″, 185 lbs), has a great shot, and plays a North American style of game. This is a good sleeper pick by Don Sweeney – uncharacteristically taking a flier on a high-upside guy in the 7th Round is a great strategy. Time will tell if it works out for Boston.

PuckNerd’s Grade: A+

Some risky picks, some great ones, some less than stellar ones; probably about on par for what you would expect from a draft. What do YOU think about this class? Let me know in the comments below, and please follow me on Twitter (found above) to get more analysis moving forward!

When Will Bruins Marchand Learn?

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PHOTO CREDITS: (si.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

When it comes to the Boston Bruins, you either love them or you hate them and it has been that way for all ninety-three years that the organization has existed. While more and more fans join the fan base on the daily, a large part of the hockey community still has a strong distaste for the hockey team based out of Massachusetts. Many fans of the Bruins would argue that they love the team because of the hate they receive from fellow hockey fans.

Of course, for the Montreal Canadien fans, the Toronto Maple Leaf fans, and even the Vancouver Canuck fans, hating Boston is just something that comes with cheering for their team. But for the other organizations in the National Hockey League, part of the reason for the hate of the Bruins is due to one specific player. Brad Marchand.

Over the past few years, Brad Marchand has brought controversy and dirty plays to the league and in many eyes, he should no longer be allowed to play the sport of hockey. While those claims are exaggerated, the belief for the punishment can be argued due to the repeated offenses by Marchand.

Below is the list of Marchand’s suspensions and fines as of June 12th, 2018.

  • March 2011 – Suspended Two Games – Elbowing on R.J. Umberger
  • December 2011 – $2,500 fine – Slew-foot on Matt Niskanen
  • January 2012 – Suspended Five Games – Low-bridge hit on Sami Salo
  • January 2015 – Suspended Two Games – Slew-foot on Derick Brassard
  • December 2015 – Suspended Three Games – Clipping on Matt Borowiecki
  • February 2017 – Fined $10,000 – Dangerous trip on Niklas Kronwall
  • April 2017 – Suspended Two Games – Spearing on Jake Dotchin
  • January 2018 – Suspended Five Games – Elbowing on Marcus Johansson
  • March 2018 – Fined $2,000 – Diving
  • April 2018 – Fined $6,000 – Cross-checking Andrew MacDonald

There is no question that Brad Marchand has made some wrong decisions on the ice and the results of his actions have had some negative effects on the team and the overall image that people have on him. Early on in his career, Marchand had to play a dirty-type of hockey in order to earn him playing time.

Yet, Marchand still possesses the hockey skill to be a talented scorer in any day of the NHL. In the final three years in his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career, Marchand was always above point-per-game – scoring 80 points, 44 points, and 29 points while the number of games that he played decreased as the years progressed.

Brad’s play did peak the interest of the Boston Bruins, who drafted him 71st overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, however, he wouldn’t quite get his opportunity in the big leagues until the 2010-2011 season. Well, that season just so happened to be the season where the Bruins would win the Stanley Cup.

Marchand would score twenty goals in his rookie season with the Bruins – and would continue to hit the milestone for every other season except for the 2012-13 season, due to the lockout.

However, in the past few seasons, Brad has found a new level of scoring in the National Hockey League. Marchand has hit 85 points on back-to-back seasons (2016-17, 2017-18) and has nearly hit the 40 goal mark in both of those campaigns. The play of Marchand has seemingly increased and the team’s dependency on that stellar play has also increased as the seasons go on.

Marchand is one of the best players offensively during both five-on-five situations as well as shorthanded situations. Out of all the current active players in the National Hockey League, Marchand ranks first in most shorthanded goals scored with twenty-three. In addition, Brad has been in the league for a significantly less amount of time, seven-less seasons than the second player on that list.

 
Rank Player Career Start SHG
1. Brad Marchand 2009-10 23
2. Rick Nash 2002-03 22
Antoine Vermette 2003-04 22
4. Tomas Plekanec 2003-04 20
5. Eric Staal 2003-04 19

 

As mentioned previously, Marchand has rapidly become one player on the Boston Bruins that is relied on the most. In the past 2017-2018 season, Brad Marchand broke the record for most overtime goals in Boston Bruins history, with 11.

Not only would the Nova Scotia native surpassed a Boston Bruins record, but he would tie an NHL record – most overtime goals in a single season, scoring five in the ’17/’18 season. That ties him with Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, and Alex Galchenyuk.

Outside of the NHL, Marchand has had great success in international play as well. In both the 2007 and 2008 IIHF World Junior Championships, Brad left with gold medals. Marchand would also take home two gold medals in 2016 – one in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September, and another in the 2016 IIHF World Championships in May. Brad was arguably the top player for Canada during the World Cup of Hockey, scoring the game-winning goal in the final game against Team Europe and scoring the most goals in the entire tournament (5).

There is no doubt that Brad Marchand is an incredibly skilled player – especially offensively. He has no reason to play a dirty style that he used when he first made his appearance in the league. While he has voiced his apologies and his belief that he must be better, the results have not yet taken place.

Recently, Marchand has sparked more controversy due to the licking of opposing players’ faces during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Marchand was able to get off with only a warning from the NHL, but even prior to that step, the thought of licking the face of another player baffles every fan of hockey or any other sport for that matter.

Boston Bruins owner, Jeremy Jacobs, put that idea into perspective back in May.

“This is a player that, I can only think of 30 other teams that would love to have him, so there’s a margin that you give him. But, I think he’s used up this margin.”

You have to imagine that that margin is indeed shrinking for Marchand. The league has possibly let Marchand off the hook once too many times and with one more step over the line – there could be some big consequences for Brad coming. For the 2018-2019 season, Brad Marchand cannot be the dirty Marchand. No more low-end hits, no more spearing, no more slew-footing, no more elbows, and definitely no more licking.

Evaluating Boston’s O’Fer at the 2018 NHL Awards

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Photo Credit: NHL.com

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

OK, in all fairness, I don’t think Patrice Bergeron was this year’s Selke winner. It really should’ve been Sean Couturier. Bergeron is the best defensive forward of this generation, and has a legitimate argument for the best of all time – but that’s not what this article is about. Instead, I want to discuss why the way the PHWA votes for these awards is increasingly concerning.

Let’s start with the Selke because it is the most logical entry point. Here is the breakdown of what each player who received a vote received:

Selke Voting Distribution.png

Via PHWA

Let’s analyze this starting at the bottom. I was unaware that Vladimir Tarasenko killed penalties. He must have to get a vote – oh, wait. He averaged a whole 8 seconds of shorthanded time on ice this season. That was – wait for it – good for the 21st most on his own team. He had the same number of giveaways as takeaways (32) and was 9th on his own team in takeaways. But yes, 5th best defensive forward in the league.

Hyman Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports

Some of the more unheralded players here did get some love. Toronto’s Zach Hyman actually lead the entire league in shorthanded time on ice by a forward. He had a 5v5 goal differential of +23, despite a zone start ratio below 50%. He averaged a .11 takeaway to giveaway per hour ratio, and drew the same number of penalties that he took. Hyman is one of those players that gets a bad rap because he is a winger, but he clearly is one of the better defensive forwards in the league.

Backlund Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

Colton Sissons and Mikael Backlund were also in the Top 10 of shorthanded time on ice by a forward. What is interesting though is Sissons has a negative 5v5 goal differential, a negative 5v5 penalties drawn to taken ratio, and averages more giveaways than takeaways per hour. He DOES, however, start a significant percentage of his shifts in his own end, so take that as you will. Backlund is a different animal, averaging over 3 takeaways per hour while averaging under 2 giveaways per hour this season. He had a very low 5v5 PDO this year, sitting at 94.79, so his lack of counting stats probably hurt him in this vote.

Stone Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports

What about Mark Stone? A personal favorite, Stone is far and away the best defensive winger in the league. He drew 10 penalties this season and took only 3. When killing penalties, only 7 goals were scored against the Senators with Stone on the ice, only 1/8th of the total given up by the Sens all year. While Stone does tend to give the puck away a lot (3.03 per hour), he also averages 3.3 takeaways per hour, and it is important to note that the giveaways could, in part, be attributed to being an outstanding player on an inferior team.

Guys that really shouldn’t have gotten as much love? For all of his strengths, Sidney Crosby averaged twice as many giveaways than takeaways per hour and had a negative 5v5 penalty differential. He only played a total of 18 minutes and 13 seconds on the penalty kill all season. Yet, he appeared on 12 ballots, with Don Brennan of The Ottawa Sun believing him to be the 3rd best defensive forward in the league. Dustin Brown appeared on two ballots despite averaging more giveaways than takeaways per hour this season and playing on a line with the eventual winner in Anze Kopitar.

Bergeron Maddie Meyer Getty Images

Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

So, Couturier, Bergeron, Kopitar. Let’s start with good old Bergy. He took 7 penalties at 5v5 this year and drew 5. Not ideal, but not overly detrimental. He averaged 1.67 giveaways per hour, but nearly twice as many (2.92) takeaways per hour. He had a 5v5 goal differential of +15 and had a goals for percentage of 60.87%. On the PK, he generated 3 shorthanded goals, and allowed 10, while playing nearly 40% of the shorthanded time on ice for the Bruins this year. He did miss 18 games due to injury, which undoubtedly had an adverse impact on his resume.

Couturier Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Derik Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports

Couturier played nearly 45% of the Flyers’ shorthanded minutes this year, an absolutely ludicrous number. He also allowed 24 goals against in that timeframe, but that could very easily be attributed to the shaky goaltending situation in Philly. He had a 5v5 goal differential of +30, which is absolutely absurd, leading to a 62.3% goals for percentage. He drew 18 penalties, taking only 8 all season. His giveaway to takeaway ratio is much smaller (1.47 per hour versus 1.66 per hour), but still favors more takeaways than giveaways.

Anze Kopitar Sergei Belski USA Today Sports

Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

Kopitar averaged more giveaways (2.21) per hour than takeaways (2.06) per hour at 5 on 5. He drew 11 penalties and took 7 (+4 penalty differential). His 5v5 goal differential was +13, much closer to Bergeron’s +15 mark, and his goals for percentage, 56.31%, was by far the lowest of the 3 finalists. He played around 40% of the Kings’ shorthanded time on ice, allowing 9 goals against while generating 3 shorthanded markers.

Based on all of this information, I think it is very clear that not only should Kopitar not have been the winner of this award, but he probably shouldn’t have been in the Top 2, and there’s an argument that he shouldn’t have even been a finalist. Couturier is the clear winner for me, despite the obvious Boston bias.

So, why did Kopitar win? Well, the Kings weren’t expected to make the playoffs this year, Kopitar had a subpar offensive season last season, and rebounded to score 35 goals and 91 points. Couturier had a career year offensively, but he “only” had 31 goals and 75 points. Bergeron had 30 goals and 63 points in 64 games. The other two both played all 82. So, this looks to be a bias towards “a defensively minded forward who scores a lot of points” which is not the point of the award in the first place.

Karlsson Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

That’s not the only example of voters skewing a vote based on misinterpreting the meaning of an award. What about the Norris? This is turning into the award given to a defenseman who has been good for a while, hasn’t won one, and voters decide that it is “his year.” Last year, Brent Burns won his first Norris, after tallying 75 points, but doing most of his damage during a hot start, and falling off a bit later in the year. That one, I didn’t mind a ton, despite Erik Karlsson almost singlehandedly willing the Senators into the playoffs literally one foot (he scored 71 points in 77 games in case anyone was wondering). The year before was Drew Doughty’s “year” – he scored 51 points that year, whereas Karlsson lead his team (again) with 82, leading the league in assists with 66. The biggest difference between the two? Karlsson was a -2, Doughty was a +24. Plus-minus is such a flawed stat, but voters still seem to cling to it.

Norris Voting Distribution

Via PHWA

This year, the three finalists were Victor Hedman, PK Subban, and Drew Doughty. They finished 4th, 7th, and 9th in scoring respectively. When we look at 5v5 scoring, the only one in the Top 5 of goal differential was Victor Hedman (T-3rd) at a +25. PK Subban was a +18, and Doughty was a measly +10. For context, Anaheim’s Josh Manson led the league in 5v5 goal differential by a defenseman at +30 and received one 4th and one 5th place vote. Boston’s Matt Grzelcyk (+26) was 2nd, Hedman’s Tampa Bay teammate in Anton Stralman (+25) tied with him for 3rd, and Nashville’s Roman Josi (+20) was 5th.

Manson Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

Point totals at 5v5 are also interesting, as Hedman put up 29 (tied for 6th), Subban tallied 25 (15th), and Doughty scored 24 (tied for 16th). The top 5 in this category? Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (35), Dallas’ John Klingberg (34), Toronto’s Jake Gardiner (31) and Minnesota’s Matt Dumba tied with Manson at 30. Based on this analysis, Hedman had an argument for being a finalist, but Drew Doughty finishing so close to him? Asinine.

Barzal Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

What about the Calder? I think we can all accept that Matt Barzal scoring 85 points in 82 games is immensely difficult to ignore, and this award was probably his. That went unquestioned, with him winning in a landslide. I DO take issue, however, how the rest of the finalists ended up.

Calder Voting Distribution

Via PHWA

Brock Boeser was practically the only offensive threat in Vancouver and had a chance at scoring 40 goals (which won Auston Matthews the Calder last year) were it not for a ghastly injury that cost him 20 games. Clayton Keller was good, but ended up being very streaky, and scored around the same number of points as Boeser did in 62 games in the full 82 game season. Kyle Connor scored 31 goals, but scored only 57 points, and, again, was really streaky. He came on strong as the year progressed. Yanni Gourde was OK but probably should not have garnered a 1st place vote.

McAvoy Angela Spagna

Photo Credit: Angela Spagna

Then we get to our favorite Bruin, Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy, as a defenseman, had 32 points in 63 games, averaging over 22 minutes a night. He lead the Bruins in 5v5 time on ice and lead all rookies by an absurd margin.  He consistently was asked to play against the opposition’s top players and was very successful. He was tied for 7th in the entire league in 5v5 goal differential at +19 for defensemen, an awe-inspiring feat. As mentioned in the Norris discussion, Matt Grzelcyk was 2nd in this category, but played slightly lesser competition, and played fewer games. If he had played the entire season, he would’ve gotten a lot more attention for this award. (If you don’t know already, I am a huge Matt Grzelcyk guy, so I don’t apologize for constantly pushing him).

This appears to largely be a positional bias, as defensemen very rarely win the Calder, and only do so when they either have a weak rookie class to compete against or tally ludicrous, offensive numbers. McAvoy should’ve at the very least been a finalist for this award. Instead, he finished 5th.

Cassidy Arthur Pollock

Photo Credit: Arthur Pollock

I won’t discuss the Jack Adams a lot, other than congratulating Bruce Cassidy on winning the award in any other season that the Vegas Golden Knights did not exist. What I find interesting is that there was someone who left Gerard Gallant completely off their ballot, which I find ridiculous to a degree I’m not sure can be expressed properly in words.

So, what’s the point of all of this? Well, I don’t think the B’s really had any legit shot at winning any of these awards. But the fact they finished so low shows a real lack of homework done by some of these voters. That is amplified when you dig deeper into the numbers for the finalists and show that we as a sport need to strive to be smarter and demand more of our coverage. We wonder why commentary such as Marc Bergevin referencing “intangibles” numerous times when defending the recent Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi deal continues to perpetuate itself. Hockey needs to evolve. I want to help. Let me know how you think I can do that in the comments below!

All statistics courtesy of corsica.hockey and hockeyreference.com

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Schedule Breakdown

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Photo Credit: John Wilcox

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow me on Twitter @thesportsguy97

The Boston Bruins will get up close and personal with the Stanley Cup Champs as they will open the 2018-19 season in Washington to face the Capitals on October 3rd at 7:30 P.M. The Caps will hoist their first Stanley Cup banner in franchise history before puck drop. If that wasn’t enough the Bruins then will travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres the next night for their home opener against potential top pick Rasmus Dahlin.

The Bruins will open their home slate on October 8th with the annual Columbus Day matinee against the Ottawa Senators at 1 P.M. The season-opening homestand will continue with games against the Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings.

The Bruins will go on three separate West Coast road trips in October, November, and February taking on the likes of the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars in November, the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks in October and the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights in February. At the tail end of the season the Bruins will be away from home for seven of their final ten games of the season.

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The Bruins won’t just be going on the road next season, they’ll be hosting four consecutive home games four separate times during the year. The first such stretch will occur at the beginning of November when the Bruins will take on Dallas, Vancouver, Stanley Cup finalist Vegas and Toronto, which will be their first matchup against the Leafs since Game 7 of their first round series.

One of the biggest storylines at the end of last season was the arduous stretch of 21 games in 39 days from March 1st onward. Fortunately, the Bruins will catch a break in 2018-19 with just 18 games in the final 37 days of the season. Look for the team to be a little more rested going into postseason play next season if they do indeed make it there.

The Bruins bye week will begin January 20th, the week before the All-Star break. The B’s will return to action on the 29th when they host the Winnipeg Jets at 7 P.M.

Other schedule highlights:

First matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on October 27th at 7 P.M. in Boston

Annual Black Friday matchup (11/23) at 7:30 P.M. in Boston which will be against the Pittsburgh Penguins

First matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 6th in Tampa at 7:30 P.M.

First matchup against Hart Trophy Winner Taylor Hall as the B’s take on the New Jersey Devils on December 27th in Boston at 7 P.M.

The Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks on New Years’ Day at 1 P.M.

All-Star Weekend in San Jose starting January 25th

Super Bowl Sunday matinee (2/3) in Washington against the Capitals at 12:30 P.M.

Season Finale on April 6th in Boston against the Lightning at 12:30 P.M.

Full Schedule

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Boston Bruins Need To Pass On Milan Lucic

 

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Milan Lucic #27 of the Edmonton Oilers falls to the ice after contact with Bobby Ryan #9 of the Ottawa Senators as teammate Filip Chlapik #78 looks on in the first period at Canadian Tire Centre on March 22, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
(March 21, 2018 – Source: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                      Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

Former Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic is looking to leave Edmonton. Depending on the sources cited, Lucic wants another shot at the Cup and/or wants out of Canada. Former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has begun to shop around Lucic and his contract.

Who doesn’t remember that hit? When Jack Edwards said that hit would be on hockey highlight reels for a decade, he was right. That hit has ingrained itself into hockey history and it will certainly be a part of Lucic’s career highlight reel when he retires from the NHL.

Once again, the Boston media began sniffing around about bringing Lucic back to the TD Garden. So, should the Black and Gold welcome Milan Lucic back to Boston?

The Boston Bruins should look on that hit and Milan Lucic’s time in Boston with nostalgia. Then the Black and Gold should move on to better options in free agency.

Sure, there is interest in Lucic. He’s still a big body that can deliver punishing hits and could be a solid middle-six forward for the Black and Gold. But the Bruins already have that in David Backes (and there are rumors that the B’s are trying to get him out of Boston).

Well, it’s a complicated one obviously given the length of the contract,” offered NHL Insider Darren Dreger. “The worry, I suppose, from some that Milan Lucic can’t deliver in the capacity that he has historically. He’s not coming off a very solid year, but there’s interest in this player. I’ve spent enough time on this file over the last several days, I would say, to at least acknowledge that there’s interest in Milan Lucic.

“The problem though is, to your point, what’s the construction of a trade and what has to go out with Milan Lucic just to bait a team to take on that contract. I still believe he’s got game. He’s 30 years old, but you’ve got to be certain of that as an interested general manager because there is a pile of money – and it’s not just about the cap space. We know he’s a $6 million cap hit. We know that from a salary standpoint, Edmonton paid what – $8 million this past season, $7 million owing Lucic next year and then it drops to 6, then 4, then back up to 5, and then 4 in the final year of the deal – 2022-23.

Milan Lucic has begun to slow down. That’s bad enough in a league where the players keep getting faster every season.  He always seems to be two or three steps behind players like Connor McDavid, and he’d have trouble keeping up with the B’s speedier players.

His numbers have also fallen off. Lucic put up just 34 points (10 goals) for the Blue and Orange last season. He’s also had a very rough go of it since last Christmas. The B’s just can’t afford to that kind of money into a player that is having a Jimmy Hayes kind of season.

 

Once again, the Boston Bruins are hemmed in by cap space. The B’s have $7.4 million left and several forwards still unsigned. At this point, Reilly Nash is a better buy for Boston than Lucic. Nash’s contract will eventually end up at around $3 million, half the price of Lucic’s contract.

That six million dollar contract will be a tough sell for some organizations, and it will certainly make Don Sweeney think twice before agreeing to any kind of deal that brought Lucic back to Boston.

While free agency frenzy will surely grab a hold of the Bruins, there are better choices to be made with the money they have available.

Ilya Kovalchuk: A Bad Idea For The Boston Bruins

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Gold medal winner Ilya Kovalchuk #71 of Olympic Athlete from Russia celebrates after defeating Germany 4-3 in overtime during the Men’s Gold Medal Game on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 25, 2018, in Gangneung, South Korea.
(Feb. 24, 2018 – Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images AsiaPac)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                             Twitter:    @Godwentwhoops

Free agent Ilya Kovalchuk is back on the market, and he’s interested in coming back to the NHL. Naturally, Boston area organizations jumped on the story and began spinning and weaving the idea that the 35-year old Russian player would want to wear the ‘spoked B’ and play for the Boston Bruins.

Are the Bruins actually looking to get him? Honestly, who knows at this point. There is active speculation that the B’s are a ‘top contender’, but it’s just speculation. Boston-area media has an ugly tendency to go ‘full Toronto’ at times when it comes to hockey rumors.

So, what are the odds the B’s are actively pursuing him?

Kovalchuk could provide a big body on the wing for the Krejci (who is also under aggressive speculation on him being moved) line next season. In his five years in Russia’s Continental Hockey League, Kovalchuk’s game has expanded into something that better resembles Patrice Bergeron (who is a finalist for the Selke award for the seventh consecutive year).  It also seems that the B’s might thank forward Rick Nash as his time as a summer rental and move on.  This leaves an opening that former No. 1 overall pick could fall into.

Kovalchuk is certainly not a bad player. He led the KHL in scoring last year, putting up 63 points in 62 games. He could bring size, snarl, and a very dangerous shot to the second line, especially if David Pastrnak finds himself on that line at the start of next season.

While a Kovalchuk signing sounds like a great idea, it’s very unlikely that it will happen in Boston, and there are several reasons why.

Kovalchuk has been out of the NHL for five years. While the KHL isn’t the AHL, it’s certainly not the NHL. Kovalchuk is 35 years old, and the last thing the B’s need to do is to swap out a quarter-season rental for a full season one.

Kovalchuk is also a natural left winger. That’s the one position the B’s are positively overloaded with talent right now. Sure, he did play at right wing with the Devils organization, but again that was five years ago.

Financially, it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the Black and Gold. Kovalchuk will be expecting a decent salary to return. Ty Anderson from 98.5 The Sports Hub projected that Kovalchuk would be looking for a contract similar to the one signed by Patrick Marleau to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was a three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal ($6.25 million dollar cap hit).

Frankly, the Boston Bruins aren’t going to be able to afford him. The Black and Gold have about $7.4 million left in cap space after they signed Matt Grzelcyk to his two-year deal.  Assuming the B’s do move on from Rick Nash, they’re still short a few forwards, and they’ve yet to sign Riley Nash, Sean Kuraly, and Tim Schaller. Trying to pull off a two or three-year deal at $6 million will certainly price himself out of Boston, even with a potential cap increase next season.

Finally, it also seems like a bad idea from the perspective of the B’s current culture. The B’s have invested heavily in the youth movement right now. The last thing the Bruins need to bring into the locker room is a player whose time is rapidly running out.  The B’s can’t afford to tie themselves down to another Rick Nash type signing.

The Boston Bruins aren’t really looking to make sweeping changes going into the 2018-19 season. Kovalchuk might sound great on paper, but he won’t be what the Bruins need to be better moving forward.

PuckNerd: 2018 NHL Mock Entry Draft

Draft Logo

Photo Credit: USHL.com

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

Let’s start with a few caveats here: I am not, nor do I proport myself to be some sort of draft expert. I do my research, and rely heavily on the work of the top men in the field – Corey Pronman, Scott Wheeler (both of The Athletic), Steve Kournianos (The Draft Analyst), Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino (Sportsnet), and Craig Button and Bob McKenzie (TSN) are always my sources of information. I watched film on every single one of these players, but very few of them were full games – I do not have the time, nor resources necessary in order to invest that amount of time into their analysis.

Additionally, these are not draft rankings, nor are they how I truly believe the draft will pan out. If it was merely me doing what I expect each team to do, Montreal probably takes Jesperi Kotkaniemi far too early, and there ends up being a domino effect throughout the next 20 picks. Basically, Montreal does something dumb and out of left field, so your typical Habs’ weekday. It is also not a ranking. For instance, Liam Kirk is not projected in the 1st Round in this mock. However, he IS in my Top 30 prospects overall. This is a reflection of how I evaluate and rank prospects, which is reliant on their potential to be an impact NHLer, rather than reaching an arbitrary games-played marker in their NHL careers.

So, without further ado, let’s get this show on the road. Be sure to keep an eye out for a long episode of PuckRants, where frequent cohost Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty) joins me to do our own mock draft, and discuss some of the prospects in depth. Also, keep an eye on my Twitter feed during the draft – I will do my best to engage with you guys and give you my opinions on picks as they happen. Enjoy!

 

1) Buffalo Sabres – D Rasmus Dahlin, Frolunda (SHL)

Dahlin

Photo Credit: Bjorn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Is this even in question at this point? Dahlin is everything you want in a modern NHL defenseman – smooth skating, great offensive instincts, obscene hands, a brilliant first pass, and he doesn’t mind laying the big hit in the neutral zone. This is a franchise defenseman who Nick Lidstrom has stated is further along in his development than Lidstrom himself was at that age.

2) Carolina Hurricanes – RW Andrei Svechnikov, Barrie Colts (OHL)

Svechnikov

Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Again, is this even in question at this point? Svechnikov recently had dinner with Canes’ new owner Tom Dundon, who then all but confirmed that he was pick. Svechnikov is big, strong, and is lethal offensively. He is the next great Russian goal scorer, no doubt about it. He won’t be Alexander Ovechkin, but a more consistent Ilya Kovalchuk? Maybe.

3) Montreal Canadiens – D Quinn Hughes, Michigan (Big 10)

Hughes

Photo Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here’s where things start to get interesting. The obvious pick is Halifax’s Filip Zadina, but he has even stated he doesn’t believe Montreal is going to select him. The Habs are looking to either take a centerman or a defenseman here, and I don’t feel comfortable taking one of the top centermen from this class before Zadina. I DO, however, think that there are a couple of defensemen that are arguably at this spot. Barring a trade, I think the Habs will take Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes.

He’s not as dynamic as Adam Boqvist, but we’ve already seen what happens to dynamic rearguards in Montreal (see Subban, PK). Hughes is a little undersized, but skates incredibly well, and has elite level Hockey IQ. He COULD be in the NHL next year, but I want him to go back to Michigan and obliterate the NCAA – no need to expose him to the raging garbage fire that is going to be the Canadiens’ season next year.

4) Ottawa Senators – LW Filip Zadina, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Zadina

Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

This is another spot that could see some bizarre things happen, and they all depend on what the Senators decide they want to do with Erik Karlsson. I, for one, think that they won’t be dumb enough to trade the best defenseman we’ve seen in about a decade, but who honestly knows at this point. Ottawa needs so much that I don’t think they can be picky here – take the elite goal scorer in Zadina, and watch him flourish in a market that desperately needs a go-to triggerman that doesn’t play primarily on the blueline.

5) Arizona Coyotes – D Adam Boqvist, Brynas J20 (Superelit)

Boqvist

Photo Credit: Dave Reginek/Getty Images

After a horrendous start spurred on by a bit of bad luck and an injury to Antti Raanta, the Coyotes were actually one of the league’s better teams once Raanta returned to the crease. They have a plethora of elite forward prospects, the least of which should be Dylan Strome, who should be in the NHL full time next year. Beyond Oliver Ekman-Larsson (who I think WILL stay in the desert), all they really have on the back end is Jakob Chychrun, who is coming off an injury-shortened season, and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, last year’s 1st Rounder, who is still several years away from making an impact.

The clear choice in a draft flush with high-end defensemen is to take one, and let Ekman-Larsson help mentor the young Swede in Boqvist. Boqvist is nearly as dynamic as Rasmus Dahlin, and needs a little work in his own end, but should be a point producer on the point for the next decade and a half. I think he eventually has #1 defenseman upside, but with Chychrun and Ekman-Larsson already established in Arizona, he won’t be forced into anything any time soon. Side note – Arizona looks legitimately frightening long term if they take a defenseman in this spot. Dear lord…

6) Detroit Red Wings – D Evan Bouchard, London Knights (OHL)

Bouchard

Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

The fun home-town story in Quinn Hughes is already off the board. Detroit needs just about everything. I don’t think they are enamoured with any of the wingers still on the board here, and they don’t have any one area I think needs a lot of serious attention in particular – they just kinda need good players. The smart play here is Bouchard, who excelled on a London Knights team that began to rebuild for the first time in what seems like forever. He is bigger than Hughes or Boqvist, but slightly less dynamic. He still has top pairing upside, but don’t expect him to put up dominating offensive numbers at the NHL level.

7) Vancouver Canucks – D Ty Smith, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Smith

Photo Credit: Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs

The Canucks have been tied heavily to Bouchard, but, alas, he’s already off the board. They definitely need a defenseman though. Let’s look at their prospect depth chart there, shall we? Troy Stetcher is in the NHL, but likely nothing more than a bottom pairing puck-mover. Olli Juolevi looked better this year when he returned to Finland, but it remains to be seen what he eventually becomes at the NHL level. Nikita Tryamkin decided he would rather play in Siberia than with the Canucks.

They decided they didn’t want Jordan Subban. After that, their next best defensive prospect is Harvard commit Jack Rathbone, a 4th rounder last year, who is very far away from an NHL job. Look to their backyard, and Ty Smith is your guy. He won’t knock your socks off with high-skill plays, but he thinks the game well, skates well, and moves the puck well. Not elite at any one thing, but really good at just about everything. At this point, he’s just a warm body for a Canucks squad that has no idea how to find defensemen at this point.

8) Chicago Blackhawks – C/W Oliver Wahlstrom, US NTDP (USHL)

Wahlstrom

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

You know how every year, we look at the Blackhawks’ roster and wonder, “How in the hell did they get THAT guy?” Artemi Panarin – undrafted free agent signing. Brandon Saad – 43rd Overall in 2011. Andrew Shaw – 139th Overall in 2011. Alex DeBrincat – 39th Overall in 2016. They get to pick in the Top 10 since selecting Patrick Kane #1 Overall in 2007. The next highest selection in that timeframe? Kyle Beach, 11th Overall in 2008. Less than ideal. This is another one of those times though. Oliver Wahlstrom has dazzled us with his creativity and hockey sense for years, and has the best shot in the entire draft class. Better than Svechnikov or Zadina, both of whom are pegged as perennial 40 goal scorers in this league.

His playmaking is underrated, and he is defensively responsible. After committing to Maine at age 13, decommitting, and committing to Harvard soon after, he found his academics far too difficult to reach the lofty admission standards for the Crimson. Instead, he will enroll at Boston College in the fall. Not a bad fallback option. He is certainly a 1 and done player in the collegiate ranks, and could even push for a roster spot should he decide to sign his entry-level deal (Cape Breton of the QMJHL hold his CHL rights).

9) New York Rangers – D Noah Dobson, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

Dobson

Photo Credit: NHL.com

The Rangers found two great prospects last year in Lias Andersson (7th) and Filip Chytil (21st), both of whom have already played in the NHL. What is concerning following their trade of former captain Ryan McDonagh is their lack of defensive depth. Right now, they look rather barren outside of Libor Hajek (acquired in the McDonagh trade), they don’t have a high end defensive prospect. The jury is still out on Anthony DeAngelo’s development, as he is already on his 3rd organization since being a 1st Round pick, Neal Pionk doesn’t really move the needle, nor does John Gilmour or Rob O’Gara.

I have never been a huge fan of Ryan Lindgren, and the only other two prospects of note are Yegor Rykov (acquired in the Michael Grabner trade with New Jersey) and Sean Day, the only player granted exceptional status by the CHL to be drafted outside of the 1st Round. Dobson is not going to be a top pairing defenseman; he doesn’t have the elite level skill that indicates that to me. He is still a good, puck-moving defenseman, and at minimum should be a middle pairing defenseman who can contribute on both ends of the ice.

10) Edmonton Oilers – LW Brady Tkachuk, Boston University (Hockey East)

Tkachuk

Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

I know that Edmonton really needs defensemen. They’ve needed help on D since the mid-2000s. But has there ever been a player that screams Peter Chiarelli more than Brady Tkachuk? (Milan Lucic is already under contract in Edmonton, he doesn’t count). I’m convinced that, had Jesse Puljujarvi not fallen to them at #4 in 2016, they would’ve taken Brady’s older brother Matthew in a heartbeat.

Tkachuk will be in the NHL next season. I have no doubts about that. He does not possess the high end skill of a Top 5 pick, but he will be much in the role of his brother. He is much more of an agitator than Matthew, but I think Matthew is a better skater. Brady is a quintessential power forward, and my biggest concern is his foot speed. It’s not bad, but it’s not eye-opening either. For a team that needs young, inexpensive help on the wings for their elite top 2 centers, Tkachuk should solve some of their problems in the near future.

11) New York Islanders – C Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Assat (Liiga)

Kotkaniemi

Photo Credit: Kuva: AOP

This is a project pick. Regardless of whether or not John Tavares remains an Islander, Kotkaniemi presents an intriguing set of attributes. He has good size, high end intelligence, already has good speed and puck skills, and has shown a knack for playmaking. He isn’t the number 1 center many are touting him as though. At this point, he is thin and lanky, and skates very much as if he hasn’t grown into his body yet. This can be seen as a positive, given that he is likely to improve once he does, but it also clouds his analysis to some degree. This is a high upside pick the Islanders can and should be willing to make.

12) New York Islanders (via Calgary) – LW Joel Farabee, US NTDP (USHL)

Farabee

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

That Travis Hamonic deal looks really good now, doesn’t it? If Kotkaniemi is the high risk/high reward pick, Farabee is about as safe as you can get. He WILL play in the NHL eventually, because of his skating and two-way acumen. He’s not overly flashy, but has good goal-scoring instincts, and is a threat to score at any strength. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed you would expect from a goalscorer, but he has quick feet, and is light on his skates. I like his shot, and for a relatively smaller player, he is never shy about taking the puck to the net. The Islanders already have an American goalscorer in the system in Kieffer Bellows, and Farabee has really nice 2nd/3rd line scoring upside. Bellows and Josh Ho-Sang bring the dynamism from the wings, and Farabee and Anthony Beauvillier will bring the two-way, transitional offense.

13) Dallas Stars – C Joe Veleno, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

Veleno

Photo Credit: NHL.com

The Stars don’t exactly have a great track record in the last decade with their 1st Round picks. That has left their prospect pool a little dry. Because of this, I’m not sure who they think is going to be playing center behind Tyler Seguin long term. Is it Mattias Janmark? Maybe, but I still haven’t seen the dynamic offensive upside from him. It definitely isn’t Jason Spezza. All of the Stars’ elite forward prospects are wingers. This is an easy spot to take a centerman.

Veleno was the first player ever granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada to enter the QMJHL a year early, but his offense never truly manifested itself in the dominant fashion we saw out of Connor McDavid or John Tavares. He is a player that isn’t exceptional at any one particular thing, but does everything really, really well. A midseason trade to Drummondville saw him generate more offense, so there is a hope that he simply hasn’t had the right situation for that part of his game to develop. This is a good pick to supplement all of the wingers in the Stars’ system.

14) Philadelphia Flyers (via St. Louis) – D Bode Wilde, US NTDP (USHL)

Wilde

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

The Flyers have one of the deepest prospect pools in the entire league, a credit to the talent evaluation of Ron Hextall. Combined with the fact that they hold two 1st Round Picks this year, they can afford to take a bit of a risk here. Bode Wilde is the ultimate wild card (no, I do not apologize). He is big, moves immensely well for his size, has a good first pass, isn’t afraid to lay the body, and has brilliant hands. Unfortunately, he still has difficulty utilizing all of his skills on every single shift. He can look bored, lackadaisical, and uninterested at times, especially in his own end, but once he gets the puck on his stick, things are gonna get wild (nope, still not sorry).

15) Florida Panthers – D Rasmus Sandin, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Sandin

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

After a slow start in Sweden, Sandin came and joined a powerhouse Greyhounds squad, and was excellent. He has shown great offensive instincts, a good first pass, and a willingness to jump into the offense. I really like his vision, as he consistently makes passes where he appears to have eyes in the back of his head. He is a little undersized, but that is not a liability in his own end, as he has shown an ability to use his stick positioning deftly and accurately. He lacks the afterburner-esque top gear you would expect from a defenseman who plays his particular style, but he has great edgework, and uses it to his advantage. Florida could use a dynamic puckmover on the back end to complement Mike Matheson and Aaron Ekblad moving forward.

16) Colorado Avalanche – LW Vitali Kravtsov, Chelyabinsk (KHL)

Kravtsov

Photo Credit: KHL

Kravtsov did not have a stellar regular season in Chelyabinsk. Granted, he was a teenager getting regular (albeit low in the lineup) playing time in the KHL, not a small feat, but he did not have too much of an impact. He also did not play on Russia’s national team at any tournament this season. What he DID do is obliterate the KHL in the playoffs. After 7 points in 35 regular season games, he tallied 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 points in 16 playoff games. For context, Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is one of 3 players who have tallied at least 30 points in an NHL playoff run this century (31 this year), had 10 points in 16 playoff games in the KHL. Kravtsov is still a few years away, but Colorado could use another high end winger to complement the Gabriel Landeskog/Mikko Rantanen duo on a second line, and Kravtsov has the high end upside to be a real steal at this point of the draft.

17) New Jersey – RW Dominik Bokk, Vaxjo J20 (Superelit)

Bokk

Photo Credit: Nisse Nilsson

Bokk is quite the wildcard. He looked very good in the Swedish Junior league, but not great in limited showings at the professional level. After Dahlin, he has the best hands in the entire draft. Possessing elite creativity, he is going to be a fixture on highlight-reels for the next decade. He is several years away from making an NHL impact, but he adds a level of dynamic offensive skill that will perfectly complement Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier.

18) Columbus Blue Jackets – C Barrett Hayton, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Hayton

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

In stark contrast, Hayton is not a flashy player. He’s a solid two-way centerman, but he has some offensive upside, which he showed when the powerhouse Greyhounds sent much of their roster to the World Juniors. The Blue Jackets saw promising growth out of Pierre-Luc Dubois this year, and Alexander Wennberg can hopefully return to his 2016-17 self, but outside of those two, there isn’t a single promising center-iceman in the system. This is very much a best player available selection, but one Blue Jackets fans should feel comfortable with.

19) Philadelphia Flyers – C Ty Dellandrea, Flint Firebirds (OHL)

Ty Dellandrea of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Dellandrea had the unfortunate issue of playing for the Firebirds, the OHL’s premier disaster of a franchise. Despite the utter lack of help he had around him on their roster, he consistently drove play and pushed the pace both ways. It says a lot about him when he was able to put up such an outstanding performance on a team that was in shambles both on AND off the ice, and not let the off ice garbage effect him. He has a little Travis Konecny in him, and Flyers fans will absolutely love his attitude, as well as his natural playmaking abilities.

20) Los Angeles Kings – LW Grigori Denisenko, Yaroslavl (MHL)

Denisenko

Photo Credit: HC Lokomotiv

The Kings have very few elite offensive prospects in their pipeline. There’s a legitimate reason for that – 2 Cups in the last 6 years will do that. While Denisenko can sometimes have a problem staying dominant on a game to game basis, he is one of the more dynamic offensive talents in this class. When he is on his game, he can take over in an instant. He needs to get a little bigger, and it would serve him to play at a higher level than the Russian Junior Leagues, but if you are a team like Los Angeles, you have to take the chance on the potential superstar this late in the 1st Round, regardless of the risk involved.

21) San Jose Sharks – C Rasmus Kupari, Karpat (Liiga)

Kupari

Photo Credit: Timo Savela

There have been varying opinions on Rasmus Kupari this season. Me, I’m lukewarm on him. I don’t see him as a gamebreaking centerman, but I also don’t think he is a miss this late in the first round. I see a lot of Mikael Granlund in him, without the absurd-level of creativity. He is relatively smart, but decision making is a little touch and go for him at times. He doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but it is good enough to be productive. I worry about how much of his offense will translate to the NHL level, but it is impressive that he was productive at all in the Finnish Elite League in a season where he didn’t turn 18 until over halfway through. San Jose doesn’t have much in terms of centermen in their system, so they can afford to take a chance on Kupari at this point.

22) Ottawa Senators (via Pittsburgh) – C Ryan McLeod, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Ryan McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

This screams Senators here. McLeod was a high OHL pick, but hasn’t necessarily developed as one would expect. There doesn’t appear to be a ton of elite skill here, but he is pretty good at most everything. He lacks the top-end north/south speed, but is competent enough to get the job done, and has excellent small-area mobility. What concerns me, and leads me to believe there won’t be a ton of offense at the next level is his apparent lack of creativity. A large part of his offense is created by him using his physically more mature body to drive the net against younger, smaller competition.

This is somewhat of a commonality with players who struggle to translate their junior production. He missed being eligible for last year’s draft by only a few days, making him one of the oldest prospects in this class. While it means he has a larger body of work to scout from, it also means he likely has much less growing to do before reaching his ceiling. His 200-foot game is good enough that he should warrant a high selection, but with all of the chaos going on in Ottawa at the moment, I can see them rationalizing a “safe” pick at #22.

23) Anaheim Ducks – C Akil Thomas, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

Thomas

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Thomas has a tendency to play more of a perimeter game, but for Anaheim, they already have plenty of guys willing to go to the net hard. I love his vision and playmaking ability, and if he were to use it more, his shot would also be a weapon in his arsenal. Thomas needs some work with his stride, which can get short and choppy, especially as he tires, but as we have seen with players like Bo Horvat, this is a skill that is correctable with the right work ethic and skill coach combination. His production stagnated a little this year after a tantalizing Draft minus-1 year, but he does enough well to provide hope that it was an outlier, and he can rebound. Besides, after Sam Steel and Rickard Rakell, who do the Ducks have down the middle once Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf retire?

24) Minnesota Wild – D K’Andre Miller, US NTDP (USHL)

Miller

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

Miller is a very interesting prospect. A converted forward, his hulking physique would typically scream a classical shutdown defenseman. What we have seen at the USNTDP, however, is smooth skating, and a brilliant student of the game. Don’t expect him to quarterback a powerplay, or be a primary point producer on the back end, but he is the definition of a modern-day defensive defenseman; he has the ability to skate with the elite forwards in the league, makes a smart, well executed first pass, has the ability to jump into the offense when necessary, and, yes, is big and strong enough to be an intimidating presence in his own end. He could play with a little more of a mean streak, but that is not necessarily something to be concerned about. He reminds me very much of Brandon Carlo, with perhaps a little more offensive upside in the tank.

25) Toronto Maple Leafs – LW Jonatan Berggren, Skelleftea J20 (Superelit)

Berggren.jpg

Photo Credit: Erland Segerstedt/TT

This is a fast-rising prospect that has Kyle Dubas written all over him. Berggren may seem like a reach to some here, but I am a huge fan of his. He didn’t spend much time in either of Sweden’s pro leagues, instead torching their top junior circuit to the tune of 59 points in 37 games. For context, that’s a better rate of production than Nicklas Backstrom, William Karlsson, Victor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm, Adrian Kempe, Gustav Nyquist, Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad, Lias Andersson, and Alexander Wennberg at the same age. Not half bad. Where he gets dinged a little is in the size department, but clearly, nobody has informed him of that.

He goes into the hard areas, and is fearless regardless of his opponent at all times. He very much reminds me of Arvidsson – not elite speed, but a ridiculous motor that has you wondering where he is hiding the Energizer Bunny. He is relentless on the puck, and can take over a game in a single shift. While the Leafs definitely have a need on the back end or up the middle, I don’t see someone here that they are going to jump on to fill one of those spots. Berggren is a heavy sleeper in my opinion, and the Leafs may be getting a future top line winger in the fabulous Swede.

26) New York Rangers (via Boston) – D Ryan Merkley, Guelph Storm (OHL)

Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Here’s the most controversial prospect in the draft, bar none. Merkley is the most dynamic defenseman in this draft. Yes, I think his offensive creativity rivals and perhaps exceeds (at times) that of Rasmus Dahlin. He is the best puck distributor I’ve seen in years, and will singlehandedly win a game with the plays he makes. Unfortunately, he can also singlehandedly lose you a game in his own end. He is small, and is easily pushed off the puck. He seems frustrated when he can’t figure it out in his own end, and appears to get inside his own head, preferring to give up rather than attack harder on defense. This is not a character flaw as some tout it to be – this is a mental issue, that I think the right organization can help him work through eventually.

He seems open to improving, and were he on a better team, I think he would have fewer frustrations. It reads like a player who gets frustrated because he feels like he has to do everything himself. Proper support should fix that in time. I also don’t think he is the prospect with the most red flags in this draft – being a former #1 Overall Pick in the OHL Draft and playing so close to Toronto has lead to a bit of hyperbole and over analysis of a player who was so dominant as a youth and rookie junior player. It is also worth noting that he is one of the youngest players in this class, not turning 18 until more than a month after the draft. There is far too much upside to ignore at this point in the draft, and as the Rangers have three 1st Round Picks, they can afford to gamble a bit here and get a Top 5 talent late in the 1st.

27) Chicago Blackhawks (via Nashville) – D Calen Addison, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

Addison

Photo Credit: Lethbridge Hurricanes

The Blackhawks are barren on the back end. Addison brings a puck-moving element that they sorely lack from the blueline. He is a little undersized, and, much like Merkley, struggles in his own end. If you can live with the frustrations in his defensive game, he can push the pace offensively enough to offset them in a limited role. The hope is that the defensive game can reach a relatively competent level; if it does, this is a decade and a half powerplay quarterback for a Blackhawks team that will soon lose Duncan Keith.

28) New York Rangers (via Tampa Bay) – C Isac Lundestrom, Lulea (SHL)

Ishockey, SHL, LuleŒ - Malmš Redhawks

Photo Credit: Simon Eliasson/Bildbyra N

Lundestrom was the centerman for the most dangerous Swedish line at this year’s World Juniors, skating between Bruins’ prospect Oskar Steen, and Blackhawks’ pick Tim Soderlund. The three of them were deadly with their relentless two-way play, skating, and cycle game. I don’t see the game-breaking offense from Lundestrom, but he more than fit in the Swedish Elite League as an 18 year old. His defensive game is nearly pro-ready, and he should provide enough complementary offense at the NHL level to give the Rags a deep center corps for the next decade.

29) St. Louis Blues (via Winnipeg) – RW Serron Noel, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Serron Noel of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Serron Noel reminds me a little of Blake Wheeler (ironic given how St. Louis acquired this pick) –  a big man who doesn’t necessarily rely on his hitting to overpower opponents, and instead chooses to use his feet and reach to generate offense. He doesn’t do it consistently enough to suggest to me that he can become Wheeler, but he has smooth enough hands to become a key contributor on the edge of the crease, or drive to the net for a classic Milan Lucic-style bang-in back post tally.

30) Detroit Red Wings (via Vegas) – RW Ruslan Iskhakov, CSKA Moscow (MHL)

Iskhakov

Photo Credit: KHL

Speed, power, hands, and a little razzle-dazzle. Iskhakov likely suffers from playing in the Russian junior ranks, casting some doubts on his likelihood of coming over to North America quickly, but he is about as dynamic offensively as you are going to get in a late 1st Round pick. He uses his speed and strength to draw lots of penalties, and can weave his way through an opposing defense with ease. As with most young danglers, he needs to clean up his game significantly behind the opposing blueline, but the upside is clearly there, and Detroit is a franchise with a history of bringing out the best in an eclectic and elusive offensive talent.

31) Washington Capitals – RW Kirill Marchenko, Khanty-Mansiysk (MHL)

Marchenko

Photo Credit: KHL

The Caps were just lead to the Stanley Cup by a Russian goal scoring captain in Alexander Ovechkin. He also lead them in goals in the postseason. Their leading scorer in the post season was Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov. Russian 2015 1st Rounder Ilya Samsonov just signed his entry-level deal last month. If there is a team with zero fear of the “Russian Factor” it should be Washington.

In Marchenko, they begin to restock a forward prospect pool that has very little outside of Shane Gersich now that Jakub Vrana is clearly a regular NHLer. His stupid-high hockey IQ and creativity remind me a lot of Kuznetsov, and he’s a player who, simply put, is fun to watch at all times. This is a potential gamebreaking talent with the last pick in the 1st Round, not much more you could ask for.

My Late Round Sleepers:

C Liam Kirk, Sheffield Steelers (EIHL)

Kirk

Photo Credit: Karl Denham

I have spoken much of Kirk this year, and the upside is for real. He is a dangerous offensive talent who hasn’t had much direction in his development, which leads me to believe that there is significantly more there. He has publicly stated that he plans to play in the CHL next year, so eyes now shift to the CHL Import Draft for his destination. Not only is this a potentially historic pick, but getting a player with game-breaking upside outside the 1st Round is absurd value, and should be impossible to ignore. He also isn’t the only Brit with his eyes on the NHL, so let’s be sure to keep an eye on the Steelers next season…

C Mathias Emilio Pettersen, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Pettersen

Photo Credit: USA Hockey

The Norwegian-born Denver commit had an up and down year, but I still see plenty of offensive upside here. He strikes me as the kind of player that will develop into a monster in college, and after he graduates in 4 years, he has the entire league kicking themselves to why they missed on him. Keep an eye in the middle rounds.

C Jachym Kondelik, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Kondelik

Photo Credit: The New York Times

Continuing the trend of European-born NCAA commits, this future UConn Husky presents an interesting physical package. It is rare to see 6’7″ centermen with any offensive upside at this point, and I think there is some there for Kondelik. He needs significant work with his skating, and his decision making can be concerning sometimes, but he is worth a pick late in the draft.

D Scott Perunovich, Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC)

Perunovich

Photo Credit: Duluth News Tribune

Perunovich is the consummate late bloomer – after playing high school hockey in his first draft year, and not presenting a ton of game-breaking ability in his second draft season in the USHL, he exploded as a freshman with the Bulldogs. If he makes it past the first half of the second round, I’ll be shocked. There are some warts in his defensive game, but if anyone passes on this offensive upside, they better have a very, very good reason for it.

C Yegor Sharangovich, Dinamo Minsk (KHL)

Sharangovich

Photo Credit: Francis Larrede Photography

If you hadn’t guessed my ultimate sleeper, you clearly are new here. I’ve been all aboard the Sharangovich hype train for months. He is pro-ready, has an elite shot and brilliant offensive instincts. He needs a little work in his own end, but everything there is correctable. He lacks the elite top-gear but is fast enough east/west to mitigate any concerns. Seriously, this is the definition of a late round steal, and I would be advocating for him strongly from the 4th Round on.

D Jordan Harris, Kimball Union (US Prep)

Harris

Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Harris is a little undersized and lacks true game-breaking skill on the back end, but he reminds me very much of a slightly bigger Matt Grzelcyk – smooth skater, an excellent first pass, and makes up for the lack of physical prowess with a great stick in his own end. He beats you positionally and by outthinking the opposition, and I have plenty of time for players whose primary skill is to outsmart you. Realistically, I seem him as more of a late-2nd, early 3rd Round target, but he should be the second prep schooler to come off the board after Thayer’s Jay O’Brien

Enjoy this? Please leave your comments below, and feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns, and be sure to check out the original article, and the rest of my personal work here.

PuckRants: Episode 9 – Mock Draft Time!

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By: Spencer Fascetta & Mike Cratty | Follow Us on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey & @Mike_Cratty

 

It’s that time of year again! And no, I don’t mean the Draft, it’s time to drop a new episode of the PuckRants Podcast! Frequent co-host Mike Cratty joins me as we discuss the recent Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi deal, what in the heck is going on in Ottawa, then go through a full 1st Round Mock Draft for the upcoming 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Enjoy!

Boston Bruins Roster Analysis: Part 4

 

Chara:McAvoy - Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Getty Images / Prime Time

By: Chris Nosek | Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

Now that we have reviewed the situation for each of the starting forwards let’s make our way over to the blueliners. We all know last season they lost Colin Miller in the expansion draft and although he played very well in Vegas, for the Golden Knights, there is no guarantee that he would have played to the same level while fighting for a spot on the third pairing. Rather than focus on him, let’s look who actually played for Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins this season.

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Clearly the top defensive pairing on this team, both are already coming back for next season. McAvoy will be due for a massive pay raise at the end of this coming season, and lucky for Sweeney, a large amount of cap space will be freed up when Zdeno Chara comes off the books of the end of the season as well. I feel that $5 million for the 41-year-old defenseman is a bit much, but I think they will get their money’s worth – IF they are able to keep his minutes down like we have been talking about for the past 3 seasons. McAvoy has proven that he will be able to take over the leading defender role on this team after the upcoming departure of Big Z.

Kevan Miller vs FL Panthers, Joel Auerbach:Getty Images

Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach

Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

One year ago the debate began; Colin Miller or Kevan Miller – who should get protected from selection by the Vegas Golden Knights. Opting for experience and contract term, Kevan Miller was selected to stay in Boston after showing significant improvement to his game after Bruce Cassidy took over behind the bench. Demonstrating an ability to play both defensive sides, Kevan Miller has proved to be very valuable on the blue line. He is not a full-time second pairing defenseman, but should an injury occur he can be bumped from the 3rd pairing to help fill the empty spot. Miller has some trade value, and I would explore the option, but I would wait until the trade deadline starts to approach next season before pulling the trigger on a deal to dump his $2.5 million hit to the salary cap. His value should increase, and waiting will also give you the time to see what other youngsters like Zboril, Lauzon, and Vaakanainen are able to bring to the table.

One of the younger defensemen who stepped up this past season and certainly earned another shot to see what he can do was Matt Grzelcyk. Having just received a contract with a very reasonable cap hit of only $1.4 million, Grzelcyk will now have two more seasons to show if he can develop into a top 4 defenseman with an ability to move the puck. (Read more about Matt Grzelcyk’s new contract in Max Mainville’s article HERE and follow him on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj).

Nick Holden – Adam McQuaid

During the 2016-2017 playoffs, the newly appointed Cassidy had to work with Sweeney to dig deep into the organization and burn the first contracted seasons for both Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy. More injuries put them in a position calling up Rob O’Gara and to rely on Joe Marrow to play minutes in the playoffs. Surprisingly enough, this season it was Adam McQuaid who was relied upon to take those 3rd pairing minutes, and Nick Holden was brought in at the trade deadline to build the veteran depth on the blue line to keep from burning more seasons on young players’ contracts.

Holden only cost Sweeney a 3rd-round draft pick, and that isn’t a terrible price for a half season depth piece rental player. Although Holden gave it his best efforts, he is not going to fit in long-term on this team and will be finding another new home during the offseason. Adam McQuaid is a little bit different of a story because he still has another season on his contract. I wouldn’t be too upset if they were able to boost a return package by including Quaidder in a deal, and I would even go as far as shopping him with some retained salary. As helpful as having his money off the books would be, it is not worth giving away the 31-year old veteran. He does provide value as a 7th or even 8th defender and has a veteran, hard-hitting presence that the other defenders can feed off of when he is healthy enough to be on the ice.

In Summary:

McAvoy will have one more season to grow and develop as Chara’s partner, after which Chara will either be retiring or taking a severe pay cut to stick around on a second pairing. Grzelcyk has a chance to show if he has the potential to step up and be a top-four defenseman, possibly getting paired with McAvoy in a few years. Holden will not be returning as he was only ever intended to be a rental while Miller and McQuaid are pieces that should be shopped around and are 7th defenders who should be competing for a bottom pairing spot.

Re-Signing Khudobin Should Be Top Priority For Boston

San Jose Sharks Vs Boston Bruins At TD Garden

Photo: The Boston Globe

By: Tyler Aragao | Follow me on Twitter @Tyleraragao40

In today’s NHL its been proven countless times how important it is to have a reliable number two option in goal. Looking at some of the recent Stanley Cup champions the trend is evident.

The Blackhawks in 2015 relied on Scott Darling to push them past Nashville in the first round en route to their third title in five years, the Penguins in 2017 needed veteran Marc Andre Fleury who led them back to the conference finals while Matt Murray was injured. Most recently the Capitals needed youngster Philip Grubauer who played admirably during the regular season while Braden Holtby struggled.

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The Bruins haven’t had much success in the number two spot since Chad Johnson departed the team in 2014. The Bruins have used Niklas Svedberg, Jonas Gustavsson, and have sprinkled in youngsters like Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban along the way. With neither bringing consistency the Bruins sought an old friend and brought back Anton Khudobin for a two-year stint.

Year one was disastrous, to say the least. Khudobin didn’t pick up his first win until December and then wouldn’t win again until February. Though he finished the season, strong Khudobin played in just 16 games, starting 14.

Year two yielded much better results with Khudobin appearing in 31 games, 29 of them starts. His 2.56 GAA and .913 save percentage were far better than his 2.64 GAA, and .904 save percentage of last season. His play also impacted Tuukka Rask in a positive way. The Bruins number one played in 54 games, 53 of them starts. Rask won 34 games, posting a .924 even strength save percentage for the season. It was the first time since 2014 in which Rask played less than 60 or more games.

Khudobin’s sparkling play in the early portions of the season was crucial with Rask’s struggles, and one might imagine without a competent backup if the Bruins even make it into the playoffs let alone advance to the second round. Khudobin’s play allowed the Bruins to rest Rask more and gave the all-star goalie time to work out of slumps and keep himself sharp.

The goalie market this year is chalk full of experienced goalies. Kari Lehtonen, Cam Ward, and Jonathan Bernier have spent numerous years in the league as starters and backups. So while there are options via free agency, the Bruins might already have their preferred choice. Khudobin himself has expressed his desire to continue his career in Boston and why not. In four career seasons with the Bruins, he’s 33-16-9, with a 2.50 GAA, and a .914 save percentage.

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The modern-day recipe for success in the NHL requires two capable goalies. The Bruins have learned the hard way on how failing to shore up in goal can impact a team’s playoff hopes. In 2015 and 2016 the Bruins sputtered out of the playoffs in the final weeks and even the final game of the regular season with a burnt out Rask and no one to step up behind him.  While the backup goalie might be overlooked by most fans to all 31 teams competing for the Stanley Cup is an essential component, and the Bruins should be no different.