Names To Watch For In The Draft Part 1

We all know about the big names in the upcoming draft. You have your Connor McDavid’s and your Jack Eichel’s. Now what about your other names?
Noah Hanifin (ISS – #3), (TSN – #3) – Not as sexy as a franchise player like McDavid or Eichel, but still a very good player. If it wasn’t for two franchise players like McDavid and Eichel, Hanifin would be your consensus number 1 pick, and he wouldn’t be a shabby number one pick. He’s currently a 17 year old playing in the NCAA and he’s doing very well. As a defenseman, he has 3 points in four games, almost unprecedented at 17 years old. He does need to work on his shot a little bit, but he’s going to have a very good career in the NHL. You can watch him this year playing at Boston College.
Pavel Zacha (ISS – #10) (TSN – #6) – Allan Walsh’s client has been coined as the Czech Wonder Kid. He’s currently playing for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Not the a superstar skill player like Connor McDavid, he’s a big physical player with skill that can be compared to Nick Ritchie or possibly Milan Lucic.  He has the size to play in the NHL sooner than later, but may need some time to work on his passing. He’s a great overall package. I had him as #5 on my list. Superstar ceiling.
Paul Bittner (ISS – #18) (TSN – #29) – WHL superstar Paul Bittner seems like he’s been in the WHL forever, and it wouldn’t be a lie. This is his 3rd WHL season and he’s still 17 years old. Very physical player. Could be a Pavel Zacha-lite player, but still very good. If drafted near TSN’s ranking of 29, he could be a huge steal. I personally can’t see that happening. I have him at #18 as well. His floor would be a bottom six player in my opinion, but his ceiling is much higher. No matter how he does in the preseason after he’s drafted, I would put him back in the WHL. He could use some seasoning. Make sure to check him out playing for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
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Nashville Predators Preview

The message was clear: Shea Weber needs help. After finishing as the top point scorer and one goal shy of being the top goal scorer in 2013/2014, the elite defenseman’s lack of support became more evident than ever.

The biggest move by general manager David Poile was made during the NHL Entry Draft when he traded forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spalling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for previous 40-goal scorer James Neal. A trade that has generally been viewed as a positive one by the Predators’ fan base.

After acquiring goal scorer James Neal, everyone started asking the obvious question: who is going to deliver him the puck in the same fashion as Evgeni Malkin did in Pittsburgh? Poile went out into free agency to solve the problem to the best of his ability. He came back with three potential first-line centers to partner up with Neal: Olli Jokinen from Winnipeg Jets, Mike Ribeiro from Arizona Coyotes, and Derek Roy from St. Louis Blues. It will be interesting to watch if Ribeiro can revive his much trouble career and if Jokinen or Roy can shine in their new environment.

One thing is clear; Shea Weber cannot do everything on his own if the Nashville Predators wants to be in the hunt for a playoff spot come May.

Buffalo Sabres Preview

Tim Murray’s first summer as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres was a busy one. The disappointing 2013/2014 season resulted in four new assistant coaches for head coach Ted Nolan, including former elite NHL: ers Bryan Trottier and Arturs Irbe. On the player side, the second-overall-pick Sam Reinhart is supposed to bring much needed playmaking ability on the center man position. His intelligence and leadership qualities make him a good candidate to run for captaincy in a few years. Speaking of captaincy, the Sabres are yet to select a captain for the 2014/2015 season. Newly acquired Brian Gionta from free agency is one named that might surface along with current assistant captain Drew Stafford.

The Sabres made two big moves buying out defensemen Christian Ehroff and forward Villo Leino . As a result, they were able to bring in seven players: Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges being the most notable ones.

It will be interesting to see if Swedish goaltender Jhonas Enroth finally can take one addition step to become a true No. 1 goaltender in the National Hockey League, something that is essential for the Sabres after they traded away their best player in recent years, Ryan Miller, at last year’s trade deadline. Also, look for defenseman Tyler Myers to continue to grow into an elite player.

The Buffalo Sabres might not be competitive in 2014/2015 or even in 2015/2016, but they are definitely on the right track.

Montreal Canadiens Season Preview

The Good

GM Marc Bergevin was able to add to his roster by bringing in forwards Manny Malhotra and P.A. Parenteau (though trade) along with defenseman Tom Gilbert.  Parenteau will be counted on to provide offense in their top six, whereas, Malhotra will be utilized as a faceoff specialist, thus taking pressure off of Plekanec and allowing him to focus more on his offensive game.  In my opinion, Tom Gilbert was the smartest signing that the Habs made this off-season (aside from extending Subban of course) because the Habs now have 3 right handed shooting defensemen and 3 left handed shooting defensemen thus giving their defense much more flexability.

The Question Mark?

With Brian Gionta (free agent) and Josh Gorges (trade) now in Buffalo, the question in Montreal is who will emerge as the leader(s) in the locker room.  Many people have pointed to the likes of Markov, Plekanec, Pacioretty, and Subban as possible choices.  The question still remains, with the loss of a lot of leadership, will the Habs have enough voices in the locker room to help them though the tough times that come with an 82 game schedule and the grind of the playoffs?

The X-Factor

CAREY PRICE.  We have seen it over the last two seasons in Montreal.  Two years back during the lockout shortened season, Price was having a fantastic year and after the Habs clinched a playoffs spot, it seamed like the team, and Price in particular, had taken their foot off the gas.  That trend continued into the post season as the Habs were tossed aside in 5 games by the Ottawa Senators.  This past season, Price had a Vezina worthy season, won Olympic gold and carried that momentum into the post season.  He led Montreal to the conference finals.  If Price can emulate his season from a year ago, the Habs have a great chance of duplicating or even making it further this coming season.


3rd place in Atlantic Division; 2nd round loss in playoffs to Tampa Bay Lighting

Metro Teams Preview- Isles, Rangers, Caps, Devils

New York Islanders 

The Islanders finished the 2013-14 season with a total 79 points and a  record of 37-37-11, good for 13th out of 14th in the Eastern Conference and dead last in the Metropolitan Division.  It was a season of little highs but mostly lows for the Islanders who were coming off of a playoff berth in the season prior.  While the season left much to be desired, the Islanders had one of if not the best off seasons this summer.  In the draft they took Michael Dal Colle with the fifth overall pick and later in the first round took Josh Ho Sang with a picked acquired from Tampa Bay.  Later round picks saw the drafting of goalie Illya Sorokin, who was taken with an eye towards the future allowing him to continue his development in the KHL before coming to North America.  Free agency was the cherry on top for the team who looked to address certain areas, in particular the situation in goal.  The first move was accomplished early on with the acquiring of the rights to Jaroslav Halak from St. Louis, later signed to a four year deal and then the signing of former Bruins back up goalie Chad Johnson to a two year deal.  Finally creating a solid tandem in net.  The splash move though was the acquisition of Mikhail Grabovski from the Capitals and Nikolai Kulemin from Toronto, bringing their pairing back together.  In all the Islanders made the moves necessary to be competitive this season, they just now have to put it altogether on the ice.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll be in the playoffs this season, especially as John Tavares will be back and this year will more prospect development as well.


Washington Capitals

This season will mark the beginning of the Barry Trotz era in Washington, as the Caps fired Adam Oates two weeks after the end of the regular season.  General Manager George McPhee was also let go as his contract was not renewed with the club.  With changes at the top, it begins a new era in Washington.  Last season the Capitals can up short as they missed out on the second wild spot by just three points and third place in the Metropolitan Division by four points.  For a good portion of the season, they had a playoff spot, but the collapse looked ever looming in the rear view mirror for the team, especially as the Flyers came surging up the standings following their dismal start to the season.  What killed the Caps were a number things, from a flawed defense to an offensive attack that lacked bite.  They were more or less listless for the second half of the season.  Some of the moves that the team made in the off season was the interesting signing of Brooks Orpik to a five year contract and Matt Niskanen to a seven year contract to solve the defensive woes.  How Trotz handles this season will be interesting as he’ll have to start where Oates left off.


New York Rangers

Coming into this season, the Rangers are reigning champs of the Eastern Conference and looking to get back to the Finals, this time for a much different result.  This off season among the things that the Rangers needed to address are the power play, but also to prove that last season’s run was not just a right place in the right time run, but there’s more gusto as well.  In the off season, the team was extremely active on the first day of free agency.  Joining into the frenzy along with the rest of the league.  They lost Benoit Pouliot to Edmonton, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle to Tampa Bay, and were able to move on from Brad Richards as well.  On the other side, they brought on Dan Boyle from the San Jose after the Islanders failed to sign him on even though they owned his rights.  The other signing of note was Tanner Glass from Pittsburgh, who was signed to a three year contract.  It should be interesting in the second year of the Vignault era, especially after last season’s run.


New Jersey Devils

Much like Washington, the Devils came up short last season as they fell short of the second wild card spot by a difference five points behind the Detroit Red Wings.  They also finished six points behind the Flyers who took home third in the Metropolitan Division.  The biggest issue for the Devils last season was staying healthy, and with the moves made this off season along with the continued development of the younger players.  If they can have a healthy Elias back, that will be an added boost for a team that came close last season, but were missing a few major pieces.  In the off season, Anton Volchenkov was bought out by the team.  The additions that were made, was Mike Cammaleri from Calgary and Martin Havlat from San Jose.  It should be interesting to see what New Jersey can put together this season.

The Montreal Canadiens Preview

The Montreal Canadiens had an interesting season last year. Being the only Canadian team in the playoffs and to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s safe to say that they had a successful season last year. But there is always room for improvement, they barely escaped the clutches of the Bruins and when they did they were quickly ousted by King Henrik and the Rangers in six games. But that is all in the past, now let’s preview of the 2014-2015 Montreal Canadiens.

Off Season Changes

Top 3 Subtractions

The Montreal Canadiens did a few interesting things during the offseason. They lost a lot of key pieces and didn’t get any big acquisitions to really fill in the holes. They lost top six forward Thomas Vanek, captain Brian Gionta and traded top four defenseman Josh Georges. Here is an in depth analysis for all three in particular order.

Thomas Vanek

Let’s start with Thomas Vanek had 15 points in 18 games in the regular season, which is great! In the post season he had ten points in total which is a great contribution. During the trade deadline the Habs desperately needed more offense. Also they needed some size and they got it. Vanek provided them a good amount of offense and provided more of a bigger presence. He got in front of the net and helped out here and there in the dirty areas. But the truth is: Vanek isn’t that sort of player. He uses his hands more than he uses his size in those situation. The Habs were looking for a bigger Brendan Gallagher and didn’t get it. Montreal did lose a top six forward but it wasn’t a huge lost, sure they might’ve lost some production but it just wasn’t the right fit. Vanek didn’t fit in the role they were hoping for.

Brian Gionta

Now to talk about what most people say is the biggest lost this season for the Canadiens: Brian Gionta. This year Gionta produced 18 goals and 22 assists which gives him 40 points in 81 games. Gionta has been producing around that many points for a while now (excluding his past two injury riddled seasons.) Gionta wasn’t ever the one to really be known for his scoring touch. He was captain for his leadership qualities and his role on this team was a defensive player who help mentor the younger players. Gionta lost his grip on the offensive role when younger guys began to step in (Gallagher, Eller, Galchenyuk and as of recent Bournival.) Gionta’s time in Montreal really ran out, management didn’t think of him as a vital piece to resign at a hefty price (three-year, $12.75.) Letting go of Gionta ultimately gave them more money to give to Subban in the monster contract. Looking at this now I think it’s best for the franchise, the fans and Gionta especially to move on.

Josh Georges

Now onto the move that confused me the most out of all of them, the Josh Georges trade to Buffalo . This was a result of a leak of information about a rare trade with rivals Toronto that included Georges. The deal was in place and all that needed was for Georges to wave his no trade clause. But he didn’t. This causes a bit of stir which resulted him getting traded to Buffalo instead for a second round draft pick. This move confused me for the most part, first of all why would they want to trade such a solid defensive defenseman and secondly why Buffalo of all places Josh?

Montreal is losing one of their best defenseman who really was the anchor for P.K Subban. While Subban was making plays and over extending to try and get a goal Georges was there to make sure that if Subban were to fail that at least someone would be able to keep things at bay. Georges was the main reason that Subban could do his highlight reel goals and take such high risks. Now who do you play with Subban? Do you split up Emelin and Markov?( Who were a great student-mentor pairing.) Or do you trust Tom Gilbert, Mike Weaver or one of the young guns enough to pair with Subban?

Overall I think this move forces Subban in awkward place. He knows have to really prove that he can play both sides of the game. He’s going to have to take less risks and really make sure to make the most of his situation. In the end the Habs need to work with what they got and they still have a really good core without him!


Top 3 Additions

There isn’t much to choose from, the Habs didn’t pick up many pieces. They many did house cleaning so they could sign P.K Subban. Here are the top three additions that the Canadiens made this offseason.

Manny Malhotra

            I really like this pickup for Montreal! In opinion probably their best one! Personally I loved Malhotra in Vancouver. He was a key penalty killer and was an ace in the faceoff dot. He was one of the best defensive center men in the league! Then came the devastating eye injury that sidelined him pretty much the entire year. Almost all the experts doubted that he could make it back into the NHL. Everyone thought that his career was over. He made his recovery but he was far from a hundred percent. After a few more seasons in Vancouver GM Mike Gillis forced him out of the lineup. The following season after that (which happens to be this last season) he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes on a tryout contract. After he officially signed and he played in his known role. He killed off penalties and took defensive zone face-offs. This is a great addition after the departure of captain Gionta. Malhotra also brings great leadership and inspiration to the younger guys. He is going to be a great example for other players to follow not only on ice but off it too. I can’t express how much I love this pick up. I see him in a fourth line center role and on the penalty kill. I really hope he works out well in Montreal.

P.A Parenteau

            I don’t know much about Parenteau. Last year he had 33 points in 54 games. Most people suggest that he is here to replace Vanek as a top six forward. Which is very concerning. But Vanek did play on the first line most of the time in where ever he was. Meanwhile Parenteau played on a defensive third line with Jamie McGinn and John Mitchell who aren’t known for their scoring touch. Maybe he’ll excel playing alongside Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk. In past season when he played for the Islanders his production has been much better. So we’ll see, he’ll be an interesting fit on that projected line.

Tom Gilbert  

            Tom Gilbert has recently became a country man ever since he left Edmonton back in 2012. He wasn’t a fit in Minnesota after two seasons there and he left the rebuild that was happening in Florida. After all of this he has ended up in Montreal. The only fit I see Gilbert in is a cheaper Josh Georges. Which amazes me since how do you replace a defensive defenseman like Georges with another offensive defenseman. It’s not like I hate Gilbert but I don’t think it’s a fair trade off. But the biggest delima here is where do you really put Gilbert? Do you trust him with a younger guy? Do you split up Markov and Emelin and put Gilbert with Markov? Or do you put him with Subban? Like I said earlier P.K’s partner needs to be extra cautious just in case Subban get’s punished for over extending. I do expect Gilbert to put up numbers but replacing Georges with him leaves a defensive void there. I expect the defensive core to step up as a committee to fill that gap.

Final Thoughts

In all honesty the Habs took the safe route. They locked up Subban for long term and for a lot of cash. That had to have been their biggest move of the off season. They also replaced some players that had to leave (either because they wanted to move to a different team or that Montreal moved them to get more money to sign Subban.) I like having Malhotra instead of Gionta (even though many will disagree with me) Parenteau will be an interesting fit in my opinion and I’ll be looking forward to see how that works out. Even though I don’t agree with subbing Georges out for Gilbert I guess I’ll have to live with it. Overall I’m just happy that the Habs didn’t make any drastic and stupid moves. The only move that might cost them down the line is Subban’s contract but I rather think of happier thoughts. Thank you for reading and we’ll see how the season turns out for the Canadiens.

Chicago Blackhawks Preview!

One season removed from their second Stanley Cup Championship in five years, the Blackhawks are still one of the best teams in all of hockey. The Hawks made one notable move on the first day of unrestricted free agency, inking center Brad Richards for a one year deal at $2 million. The Hawks may have finally acquired a solid second line center in Richards, who was bought out by the Rangers, three years into his massive nine-year deal. Despite a solid performance in the 2014 Rangers Cup Final run, he had relatively disappointing point totals during the regular seasons in New York. Chicago would be ecstatic if Richards can regain the 90 point form he had playing for the Dallas Stars, but he is more likely to chip in with around 60 points with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane on his wings. Young star Teuvo Teravainen may have to continue waiting for his chance to showcase his elite skillset in a top-six role with the team, as general manager Stan Bowman further improves on a potent offensive core. With the re-signing of Kane and Toews to decade-long contracts, and the deep defensive group led by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook behind them, the Hawks will continue to be a Cup contender for years to come.