New York Rangers

New York Rangers: Who Should They Select At Pick #20?

The New York Rangers have two first-round picks in the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the second overall pick and pick #20.

 

The second overall selection will be obvious, as everybody knows. They will take whomever the Devils don’t between Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko. As for Pick #20, they could go in a multitude of different directions, obviously based on who falls to them.

My personal preference is for them to target defense or center help, because their defense is still an issue and their center depth could be better, with Vladislav Namestikov and Ryan Strome not being long-term options. In terms of wingers, I think they have enough young wingers, especially with them likely getting Kakko at #2, so I wouldn’t pursue a winger unless somebody who was supposed to go top-10 falls. Here are some options at those two positions that I think could be realistic to fall to #20.

Moritz Seider, Defenseman, Mannheim Adler Mannheim

With the Rangers needing defense and needing some size on this team in general, I think a perfect guy to fit that mold is German defenseman Moritz Seider. At 6’3″ and 208 pounds, he has the size and physicality that is needed on this team and in the league, even with it shifting to a speed and skill game. Seider has the strength, physicality, and instincts to be a good defensive defenseman.

Embed from Getty Images

His offensive game won’t wow anybody at this level, but he did have 11 assists in 12 games at the most recent international junior competition, showing some potential there. His goal-scoring ability will likely be small, as his highest goal total at any level was six in 2017-18 in the Deutsche Nachwuchs Liga. However, I think an improvement in his offensive game would come if being drafted and developed by the Rangers, who have always done well with making guys that weren’t previously offensively-minded or two-way defensemen more productive offensively.

However, if he is drafted by the Rangers, I still would want Seider to prioritize being a stay-at-home defenseman first, because I think the Rangers do lack that right now, especially one that is physical and one with defense-first instincts.

Raphael Lavoie, Center, Halifax Mooseheads

If the Rangers target any more offense in this draft, I think it should be at the center position. One guy that could realistically be there is the Quebec Junior League’s Raphael Lavoie. Lavoie is a guy that could have risen into the Top 10 if he took a major leap, but is still a dominant offensive player.

He scored 32 goals and 41 assists during the regular season for Halifax, and added 20 goals and 32 assists in their playoff run leading the Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup finals.

Embed from Getty Images

Skill wise, he is a very good, straight forward skater that is tough to get off the puck and is good in terms of creating chances for teammates. Today’s game has evolved into young centers having this high end speed, and while I don’t think Lavoie has that, he still has good speed for his size (6’4″ and 200 pounds). His side-to-side speed and agility are one of his major issues he has to work on, especially in the defensive end of the ice. However, that is something that can be developed with good coaching.

His stick skills, vision, and speed for his size make him a good mold to be an NHL center, if he can improve the other aspects of his game. If the Rangers were to draft him, I think he would stay in Hartford for two or three years. But down the road, when guys like Namestikov and Strome probably will be gone, a player like Lavoie could be a decent second or third line center if developed properly, and with his size and skill I wouldn’t mind them taking a chance on him at 20 if he’s there.

Cam York, Defenseman, USNTDP Juniors

From a big-bodied defenseman in Seider to a smaller but quicker defenseman in Cam York, the Rangers could also take a chance on a guy who is more of the modern mold of the NHL, defensemen that can skate and join the rush on offense. At 5’11” and 172 pounds, I would imagine he’d have to bulk up a little bit to compete at the NHL level, but at 18 years old, he still has time to grow into his body more.

However, for that type of defenseman, he can be very good. Offensively his numbers have proven that, with 14 goals and 51 assists on the U.S. National U18 team. In 2015-16, he also had a season with 18 goals and 51 assists for Shattuck St. Mary’s Bantam.

Defensively, he skates well both straight forward and side to side, which is important against more athletic forwards in today’s NHL. He will need to work on his stick skills as a defender as well as his physicality due to not having a lot of size, but those are instincts that can be developed in the American Hockey League and in college hockey.

Whoever drafts York will have him as more of a project anyway. Like I said, he still has to grow into his body, plus he has already committed to the University of Michigan for this season. So between that, growing into his body ,and proving himself in the AHL, he will have a long way to go. However, his speed and offensive ability certainly make him similar to a lot of the new mold of NHL defensemen, and I would not mind if the Rangers decided to put a Cam York in New York.

Alex Newhook, Center, Victoria Grizzlies

One of the faster centers in this draft, Alex Newhook makes the final spot on this list. The Rangers have always loved faster centers, so Newhook could be a perfect fit. He has very good straight forward speed but even better side-to-side speed that would help out wingers that like to spread the ice and switch a lot in head coach David Quinn’s system.

Skill wise, his stick handling and moves are good in front and around the net too, and help for both passing and shooting. Statistically, Newhook had a great year in the British Columbia Hockey League with Victoria, totaling 38 goals and 64 assists in 53 games, proving those skills.

Embed from Getty Images

The question surrounding Newhook is whether he can do it at tougher levels, as the BCHL isn’t thought of to be as strong of competition as other development leagues, so he would likely need more time to develop. He is committed to Boston College next year, where I would imagine he would stay for more than one year unless he makes a huge leap, and then I think he would transition to the AHL level.

Not to mention, at 5’10” and 190 pounds, he may need time to grow into his body too. Therefore, I think between that and him needing to improve his defense and his decision-making both with and without the puck, he will need time.

However, his speed and skill level show that he could fit as a sophisticated offensive center if he proves he can do it against tougher competition throughout college and the AHL. This pick would be a gamble if the Rangers make it, but he can be an ultimate boom if he can handle that higher competition with that kind of speed both straight forward and side-to-side.

Statistics provided by Eliteprospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

 

Clearing the Puck! Your Weekly Look at the World of Hockey!

Welcome to Clearing the Puck! Your weekly look at the world of hockey from the week of May 19th-May 25th. This week we look back on the Blues advancing to the Stanley Cup final, the Ottawa Senators have a new head coach and there’s a team who isn’t good but they know it.

Incase this is your first time, here is the rundown. What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web. Without further ado, let’s dive into the week!

St. Louis Blues Continue the Dream

The St. Louis Blues continue to defy expectations. Well known is the fact that they were dead last in the league, they made some changes and they have been one of the best resurgence stories in years. Led by some timely goal scoring from Jaden Schwartz and stable goaltending from Jordan Binnington, the Blues took the injury plagued San Jose Sharks down in six games. After losing the first game of the series in convincing fashion, many wrote the Blues off but much like every other time they’ve been written off this year, St. Louis fought back and counter punched winning four of the next five, not even needing a seventh game.

Video courtesy of Sportsnet

They had players step up at key times all throughout the playoffs and this series was no exception. Tyler Bozak provided the game winner in game four, Schwartz had a hat-trick in a pivotal game five and Binnington provided air tight play in goal as they shut the Sharks out in game six. The Blues magical run continues onto Boston for the Stanley Cup. Can their magic continue?

San Jose has to Face the Music

The sharks missed out on what may be one of their last true chances at the Cup. They face questions as to who stays and who goes as they have integral pending free agents Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton with limited salary cap space. What to make of their restricted free agents? Both Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier are in need of new deals as well. General manager Doug Wilson has a lot of work to do if he wants to extend the Cup Window another year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Erik Karlsson will be a part of those plans as he tweeted out this message, thanking Sharks fans and seemingly saying goodbye.


Tweet courtesy of @ErikKarlsson65

The message conveyed doesn’t sound like someone who realistically thinks there’s a chance to return. The questions immediately turn to captain Joe Pavelski. It’s likely the Sharks retain their captain but it’s no guarantee. There are a lot of questions in the Shark Tank.

Ottawa lands DJ Smith

If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you think this is hilarious. If you are an Ottawa Senators fan, you are worried because of his failures as the Leafs assistant coach. If you’re an optimist, you’re just happy with the new blood. It’s probably best to be in that third camp. Last time DJ Smith was a head coach, he led the Oshawa Generals to a Memorial Cup in the 2014-15 season. Prior to that, he was an assistant in the bench of the Windsor Spitfires, winning two more Memorial Cups there. Having worked with and developed young players in the OHL, as well as with the Leafs, DJ Smith has shown the ability to develop prospects.

Now for the pessimist point of view. Smith was not great in his role with the Maple Leafs. He failed to scheme an effective defensive system and he lacked directing the special teams. His contract was up in Toronto and there was no guarantee he was being brought back. For more on the entire situation, you can check out this piece here by our very own Josh Tessler.

Puck77 Three Round Mock Draft!

It’s here! The team here at Puck77 along with many outside contributors completed a three round 2019 mock draft. Each team was represented by a different member of the team. Acting as that teams GM we tried to draft according to the route that we felt the team could do. From having players taken right before our picks to making off-the-board picks, this activity felt authentic and genuine.

Special thanks to all involved from the Puck77 team. Thank you as well to everyone from outside of the team that helped out and represented a team such as Steven Ellis (The Hockey News), CJ Turtoro (SB Nation), Tom Hunter (Puck Don’t Lie), Jesse Marshall (The Athletic), Jeff Chapman (SB Nation), Josh Walfish (Daily Hampshire Gazette), Ryan Quigley (SB Nation), James Reeve (Fansided) and Dave Stevenson (Fansided) for helping us out! They are all in the tweet below so make sure to give them a follow!

https://twitter.com/thepuck77/status/1130845172395257858?s=21

Corey Pronman’s Draft Rankings

Draft season is here for most teams and this week one of the best in the business released his rankings. Corey Pronman’s NHL Draft rankings from the Athletic put his rankings out for the subscribers of the Athletic to consume. He has some major differences from other public rankings and does a fantastic job explaining why he has players where they are. Draft season is always fun because the rankings can vary from person to person and let’s be honest, we’re all wrong in some things and right on others. It all comes down to watching, evaluating and then making your best estimation on who’s better than who. Check them out if you haven’t yet and you subscribe to the Athletic. If you don’t already subscribe, then you probably should.

Phil “The Thrill” on the move?

The lovable Phil Kessel could be in the move again. Seemingly on the trade block since donning in Pittsburgh Penguins colours, the sniper has been rumoured to be going to the Minnesota Wild for Jason Zucker and more. Including Jack Johnson and Victor Rask in the deal has been discussed as well. The Penguins have been trying to improve their backend on limited funds and seem to have settled on giving up Kessel, and his cap hit of $6.8 million, in order to gain a defenseman in a trade or free agency. It was first reported by Josh Yohe of the Athletic Pittsburgh here.


Tweet courtesy of @FriedgeHNIC

As stated above, the Wild don’t seem to be on Kessel’s list. He is said to be weighing his options and allowing time for other deals to manifest. Kessel is able to score goals and out to points without a doubt. His demeanour has been criticized as being slightly aloof while also managing to be abrasive with some teammates and coaches but he produces. Kessel can be a key cog on any team looking to compete for a Cup, but if the Wild are hoping that he’s their “Guy” then they could be falling into a problematic situation similar to the Toronto Maple Leafs did years ago.


Tweet courtesy of @Sportsnet

Finland, Canada Tie it at the Buzzer, Wins in OT!

The quarter finals of the IIHF World Championships went down on Thursday. Canada set to play the pesky team from Switzerland. A team that always seems to give the Canadians issues, the Swiss opened the scoring early in the game. After Mark Stone put Canada on the board, Nico Hischier responded at the end of the second period. With less than a minute left, Canada had an empty net while down 2-1. Hoping to avoid a second consecutive year of heartbreak at the tournament at the hands of the Swiss, they pushed for a goal. The hockey gods answered their wishes and with 0.4 seconds left in regulation, Damon Severson‘s point shot hit the Swiss goalkeeper only to trickle through, barely making it across the goal line to tie the game. In overtime, Mark Stone directed the puck into the net to give Canada the victory they never imagined with a few seconds left in regulation.


Tweet courtesy of @HC_Men

Similarly, the Finnish squad led by 2019 top prospect Kaapo Kakko was up against the reigning champions, Sweden. The game was back and fourth. Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed three goals from distance, only one of which had a serious screen in front of him. This seemed to give the Fins all the life they needed. Fighting back to get within a goal, the Finnish team pulled their goalie. The captain of team Finland, Marko Antilla, scored his first goal of the tournament with 1:28 left in the game to tie it up for the Fins! After an offside review called by the officials, it was confirmed, Finland tied the game. Going into overtime the Swedes has the obvious advantage skill-wise as they were loaded with NHL talent including tournament leading scorer, Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (18 points in 8 games). That didn’t matter however as the Fins were relentless. Less than two minutes into the extra frame, Sakari Manninen streaked down the left wing and fired a laser beam of the far side shoulder of the future Hall of Famer, Lundqvist. Game over, Finland was onto the semis.


Tweet courtesy of @IIHFHockey

The other two quarterfinal games were competitive in their own right but neither held the drama of these two games. For a full recap of the days events, check out the World Championship recaps by Frederick Frandsen here.

Larkin can still have Lar-kids (I’m sorry)

If you’ve been following the World Championships, you know that Detroit Red Wings center, and likely next captain, Dylan Larkin has been one of the best players on the American squad. He produced five points in seven games, with two game winning goals including an overtime winner against Finland. He’s been a good 200-foot presence who has showed up offensively in the big moments.

What you also might know is that he didn’t play the final game of the Americans tournament, a 4-3 loss to Russia in the quarterfinals. The reason he didn’t play was that he was hit in the… how do I say this without getting in trouble? Let’s just say we were concerned about his future children. Thankfully all is well and his chance at being woken up with breakfast on some future Fathers Day is still there.


Tweet courtesy of @TSN_Sports

I don’t know about you, but that didn’t look pleasant. Sitting out the rest of the tournament definitely seemed wise. Also, credit for the terrible pun goes to Steve Dangle (Sportsnet, Steve Dangle Podcast) and Ryan Hana (Winged Wheel Podcast).


Tweet courtesy of @Steve_Dangle

All QMJHL Memorial Cup Final!

The Prince Albert Raiders continued the WHL Champion losing streak in the Memorial Cup tournament losing all three of their games. The last time a WHL champion won a game at the tournament was in 2015 when the Kelowna Rockets advanced to the final. The OHL champion Guelph Storm represented the league well but fell in the semi-final to the QMJHL champs in the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 6-4 last night. This set up a final with the host Halifax Mooseheads who won the round robin.

Video courtesy of Sportsnet

The years final is set to be the first all QMJHL final since 2006 when the Quebec Remparts defeated the Moncton Wildcats. The final should be great action as these two teams know each other well from playing in the QMJHL together. It should be an action packed, fast-paced and intense final!

“We’re Sh*t! And we know we are!”

We couldn’t leave you without your weekly laugh. Possibly the best story of the IIHF World Championships didn’t come from a team with crazy talent or an unbelievable performance. It was the fun loving, boisterous and recently hockey-crazed team from Great Britain. The British entrant was entertaining from start to finish. They had some great jerseys and even better personalities. As you can see in the video above, they got their lone win in overtime against France. The goal was outstanding and it cleared them of relegation, actually pushing France to relegation. The best part of the game though? The post game celebration. The entire team gathers together at center ice and chanted “We’re shit! And we know we are!” This is other level self-depreciation and we all loved it!

Tweet courtesy of @CaitlinSports

Thank you as always for joining me this week to clear the puck and find the news for the week! Tune in next week when we finally have some Stanley Cup final games played and the World Championships and Memorial Cup both conclude!

For more on the NHL, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information courtesy of NHL.com, Hockey Reference, the IIHF, the OHL, the WHL, the QMJHL and eliteprospects.com

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Puck77 Mock Draft Review

The writers here at Puck77, with some outside help, did a three-round National Hockey League mock entry draft. I represented the General Manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 

Due to prior trades, there were only two picks for me to utilize. Those picks were in the first round (27th overall) and third round (89th overall). My two picks were Raphael Lavoie and Maxim Cajkovic. Here’s a deeper look into why I believe these guys could be fits with Tampa. 

 

Raphael Lavoie

 

Who is Lavoie, anyways? Lavoie was ranked 23rd by fellow writers on Puck77 in their last monthly prospect rankings. Playing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Lavoie played mostly center. He put up 32 goals and 41 assists (73 points), in 62 games, as well as 20 goals and 12 assists (32 points) in 23 playoff games.

 

His frame, standing at 6’4, 200 pounds, helps make a relatively small team like Tampa just a little bit bigger. He isn’t a great skater, but he has a stellar shot, and he uses his frame to win battles along the boards, something that the Lightning struggled with in this postseason against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Embed from Getty Images

 

His playing style was compared to that of Kevin Hayes of the Winnipeg Jets, though if we were to compare him to a current Lightning forward, I’d say he is an Alex Killorn type player. He resonates energy with his strong, physical presence on the ice, while also holding a cannon of a shot.

 

The difference that all Bolts fans are hoping for; Lavoie’s consistency can’t be Killorn-like. Killorn goes through periods of hot streaks, where he’ll score at a point-per-game pace, and then disappear for handfuls of games following those hot streaks. It also seems as though he is on his way out of Tampa shortly, and Lavoie is the perfect player to fill his shoes, and eventually surpass Killorn’s role of a third line grinder, and blossom into a top-six center. But let’s dive a little bit deeper on Lavoie, singling him out on my 2019 Forward Draft Class spider graph.

 

Based on the graph, he has high upside (NHLe Score), according to advanced analytics. He projects to be a top-six center at the NHL level, but leans more towards a first-line talent. His involvement in the play (INV%) is crucial to note when looking at top prospects, because if they’re supposed to be a top-of-the-line guy, they need to get involved in their teams play, and Lavoie does a good job of getting out on the ice and getting involved in the play and helping his team succeed.

 

His even strength per 60 minutes (ESP60) is really good as well, which is encouraging to see. It shows that, at 5v5, he finds success at a high pace. He also shoots a lot, which is good, and he’s also great at putting the puck in the back of the net (Goals For%), though relative to his teammates (GF% Relative), he doesn’t project that high. But, he is still young and as his skating develops, so too will his goal scoring touch.

 

Maxim Cajkovic

 

Cajkovic is a winger playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, where he put up 22 goals and 24 assists (46 points) in 60 games. He has been ranked 66th by TSN draft analyst Bob McKenzie, but he has also been ranked as early as 47th and as late as 91st in the draft, so it’s quite possible that he does drop to the Lightning’s selection.

 

Standing at 5’11 and 187 pounds, he yet again adds a size factor that Tampa lacks. With Adam Erne potentially gone, as well as even Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson shipping off, wingers have slowly, but surely, become a bit of a necessity, and a shot at a guy like Cajkovic is a solid choice.

Embed from Getty Images

 

According to EliteProspects.com, he is a very good skater and, like Lavoie, has an excellent shot. He is a few years out, but there’s a chance that he could fill a top-nine role, similar to J.T. Miller, who plays at times with Steven Stamkos on the first line, and down on the third line with Anthony Cirelli.

 

For this spider graph, I wanted a bit more detail on Cajkovic, since Lavoie is already a top guy. To understand a late-round prospect, you need more detail. His upside is similar to that of Lavoie, as he can play on the top-six, but he leans more on the second line tier than first. He also gets involved frequently on his teams’ offense, but that could also be because Saint John was awful, and he was one of the only bright spots on the team. He is well-rounded, in that he plays well on both ends of the ice (OffCat%, DefCat%, which is offensive/defensive effectiveness), and he does shoot a lot (Shot60).

 

But where he struggles is his even strength production. His ESP60 is a bit on the low end, which isn’t great. What is deceiving is his ESPINV% (Even strength point involvement %), because while he’s involved in his team’s production a lot (but his team is also really bad) and it’s not hard to get involved in most of the offense when you’re playing defense the whole game. It’s just good to know that he’s reliable both ways and has a ton of upside. Which, for what was my third-round pick, was not bad at all.

In Conclusion

The chance that Lavoie is available when the 27th overall pick is on the clock is likely, and he’s an intriguing selection. But, as for Cajkovic, not so much. He has a lot going for him, and I look at him as a safe pick after the first-half of the second round passes by. Regardless, if the Lightning do snag him at 89th, I’d consider him a steal.

 

All stats via EliteProspects

Spider Graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by Will Scouch

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Clearing the Puck! Your Weekly Look at the World of Hockey!

Welcome to Clearing the Puck for the week of May 12th-18th! This week we will look into the struggles of Jack Hughes, the referee’s having a hard time when the Cup final starts and we say goodbye to our favourite “Jerks”!

What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web.

World Championship Recap

The IIHF World Championships have been an absolute blast. The tournament has had great stories such as the team from Great Britain and there have been resurgent performances like tournament leading scorer and maligned Toronto Maple Leaf William Nylander. The Swedish forward is tied for the tournament lead with 10 points and he’s done it in just four games. Hart Trophy favourite and team Russia star Nikita Kucherov is also tied at 10 points in four games as well, whereas Michael Frolik and Jacob Voracek, both of the Czech Republic, produced the same in five games.

As for the standings, team Germany is the big surprise. The undefeated Germans have been lead by Leon Draisaitl (3G, 1A) and Dominik Kahun (4A) up front, 2019 draft eligible Mortiz Seider (2G) on the back end and the outstanding play of goaltender Matthias Neiderberger (.956 Sv%). The German hockey program has had a great last two years as they unexpectedly won the silver medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. They have established themselves as a rising international power in hockey.

The stories at the World Championships are endless. The drama of comeback wins, shocking collapses and underdog teams giving the favourites a run for their money. Daily recaps by Puck77’s own Frederik Frandsen can be found here!

Hughes Struggles, Kakko Dominates

The debate about who goes first overall in the 2019 NHL Draft isn’t getting any easier. The consensus number one heading into the year, Jack Hughes, has struggled mightily at the World Championships as he’s been put in a position he’s not familiar with, the bottom-six. In this position, the young American has been inconsistent and hasn’t looked particularly dangerous in the games four games that he’s played. He has generated chances and flashes the tools that made him the top-ranked prospect heading into the season.

Meanwhile, Kaapo Kakko has had his way with opposing goalies at the tournament. He was leading the tournament in goal scoring with six, heading into Friday’s action. He has put up outstanding performances throughout the tournament, but he may have scored his sixth goal more beautifully than any other.

Tweet courtesy of @StevenEllisTHN

The struggles of Hughes and the success of Kakko has driven a conversation as to who goes first overall. While many claim recency bias, the reality is that every game counts. Every game will be evaluated and every time the players go head-to-head, the games mean more. Many high profile prospect/draft aficionados have changed their tune including one of the best in the business, Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects.

Tweet courtesy of @Hockey_Robinson

Puck77 Mock

Speaking of the draft and prospects, we have an exciting experiment! The team at Puck77, with help from many others such as Steven Ellis of the Hockey News, Jesse Marshall of the Athletic Pittsburgh and CJ Turtoro of SB Nation among many others, has been live tweeting a the #Puck77Mock! What we’re doing exactly is performing a three round mock draft of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Each person gets a team and then selects for that team. Follow along as the third round has started and you can follow along on the Puck77 twitter page! Watch for the article that’s sums it all up this week!

https://twitter.com/thepuck77/status/1128355104661417986?s=21

Tweet courtesy of @thePuck77

Rouyn-Noranda, Prince Albert, Guelph are the Champs!

The Memorial Cup field is set. The host team, Halifax Mooseheads, will be joined by the champion of all three CHL leagues. The powerhouse Rouyn-Norada Huskies of the QMJHL, the newbie Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL and the Cinderella Guelph Storm are all set to convene in Halifax. The field is a good mix of teams with scoring, goaltending and coaching spread out over the four-team field.

For a view at each team, we have in-depth looks on each team from the Puck77 junior hockey writer Tyler Kuehl below, for a quick look and Tyler’s prediction, we have his Tournament Preview here.

Huskies Preview

Raiders Preview

Storm Preview

Halifax Preview

The tournament began last night as the host Halifax was very unwelcoming as the defeated the Raiders on the strength of a three point night from Maxim Trepanier. There was also this massive hit.


Tweet courtesy of @Sportsnet

Ben Bowns is a British Legend!

One of the best stories of the entire IIHF World Hockey Championships has been the entire team of Great Britain. Whether it’s the outstanding sweaters or the wild, party-having fans in the stands, it’s almost impossible to not cheer for this team. Of the players on the roster, the one that fans and analysts have dialed in on is goaltender Ben Bowns! Between some outstanding saves and the amount of fun the entire British team is having, one of the biggest stories of the tournament has been the play of Ben Bowns.

Tweet courtesy of @IIHFHockey

While his stat line isn’t anything to ride home about (.883 Sv% and a 6.01 GAA), the team has been vastly overmatched against teams like Canada and the USA and Bowns has still managed to steal the show. The moment that out him on the map may have been an absolutely stunning save of top prospect Jack Hughes. It was a doozy!

Tweet courtesy of @IIHFHockey

6 More Years of the Shanaplan!

The first five years of the “Shanaplan” have produced a team that went from cellar to true contender. Gone are the days of Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. Further more, gone are the days of P.A. Parenteau and Byron Froese. The Toronto Maple Leafs now have Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. The Leafs now have a competitive team that is consistently a playoff contender and they were one of the best teams in the NHL the last two years.

Tweet courtesy of @MapleLeafs

One of the interesting things about Brendan Shanahan’s deal is that he is in for the long haul. It also suggests that he is possibly he’s around for another coaching hire if/when the team decides to move in from Mike Babcock. He’s also going to be around when Matthews deal is up meaning he will be able to secure the future of the franchise at least one last time. His deal is also done the same year that Tavares’ deal is done. Brendan Shanahan is going to be here for this current core’s best years.

The WNHL! Could it be?

The landscape of women’s hockey is changing. This, we all know, is because some of the top women in the game have banded together to agree not to play in any league in North America until a sustainable league is in place. That news came out at the beginning of May and the release is below.

Tweet courtesy of @HilaryKnight

This week, the newest little tidbit of information comes from the great Katie Strang of the Athletic. She came out with an article this past weekend laying out what a possible WNHL could look like assuming the NHL were to step in. The NHL starting a league of their own, using many of the existing infrastructure that they use for the men’s game, seems like the best course of action. If you are able to, it is behind a paywall, check out Katie’s great piece here.

Hand-pass?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The San Jose Sharks benefitted from some poor officiating throughout the playoffs. First it was the five-minute major penalty to Cody Eakin with the phantom or the offside review that caught Gabriel Landeskog an inch offside as he exited the ice. Both of those happened in series deciding game sevens. The latest error was only in game three. Are the referees making progress?

The latest incident with the officials came in overtime of game three of the Western Conference Finals against the St. Louis Blues. After breaking into the offensive zone, Timo Meier got the puck to the slot, came up to the St. Louis defence and went down to his knee. The puck went up into the air and Meier batted it to the slot where it was picked up by Gustav Nyquist. It was at this point where the referees should have blew the play dead. Instead, Nyquist passed the puck to Erik Karlsson right in front of the net and he squeaked it through Jordan Binnington‘s pads. The Blues immediately became infuriated and called on the referees to reverse the call but it wasn’t reviewable and the blatant hand pass was upheld.

Tweet courtesy of @SpittingChiclets

Boston deserves a Championship, it’s been 4 months

Can you sense the sarcasm? The city of Boston currently holds both the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Now the Boston Bruins have made the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins have been dominating. They almost can’t be stopped and the Hurricanes had no answer. Who knows, maybe the San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues can take the red hot Bruins down.

Tweet courtesy of @GopherState

The fact that Boston has felt the need to go out and win three of four major North American sports Championships is both annoying and impressive. The Bruins have an outstanding opportunity to win the Stanley Cup as NHL champions after sweeping the Hurricanes and now getting some much needed rest while the Western Conference Finals finish up. As much as fans around both Canada and the United States would hate to see a 13th championship parade in Boston since 2001, it would be an impressive and nearly unprecedented run for a classic sports town.

Goodbye to the Lovable Jerks

One of the saddest moments of the week was saying goodbye to everybody’s favourite “Jerks”, the Carolina Hurricanes. Their Cinderella run came to an end in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bruins. Many hockey fans jumped on the bandwagon after a season’s worth of post-game celebrations, aptly coined, the Storm Surge. The celebrations caught fire around the league as people adored the team for The analytical superstar Hurricanes were a possession monster all season long.

Their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney were solid all year, both providing good play. The defensive core is in good shape as they are all tied up with good contracts. Offensively, they struggled at times but their youth provided some pop. Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teräväinen are all key young contributors that can continue to grow. To finish off this week, with the elimination of our fun little team from Raleigh, I present to you the Sportsnet Storm Surge Compilation.

Catch You Next Week

Thank you as always for taking the time to Clear the Puck with us here at Puck77, your home for hockey news and analysis for fans by fans! Come back next Saturday morning for the next instalment of Clearing the Puck! Until next time, enjoy all the hockey from the Memorial Cup, NHL Western Conference final and IIHF World Hockey Championships!

Stats and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, the IIHF and the Athletic.

Feature image courtesy of Nikos Michals

 

Memorial Cup Preview and Predictions

This is it…

After nine months of grueling work, four teams remain in the 2018-19 CHL season. In Halifax, the Mooseheads will host the three champions from the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL as the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Guelph Storm, and Prince Albert Raiders look to capture junior hockey glory. The tournament will see teams with vastly different styles clash, and teams who never have met will become instant rivals. Big names are given the opportunity to cement their legacy before they move up to the professional ranks, while unknowns have the chance to become legendary. With a lot of stories coming into this tournament, the 101st Memorial Cup is setting up to be quite entertaining.

Halifax at Home

This will be only the second time the Mooseheads will host the Memorial Cup. The first tournament they hosted was back in 2000, where the Mooseheads lost in the semifinals to the controversial “Brampton Boys”-led Barrie Colts. This year’s team looks to do one better, and repeat the success the team Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin led to the 2013 Memorial Cup title. Playing at Scotiabank Centre, the Mooseheads have clear home-ice advantage, and there is substance to back that up. Halifax went 25-5-4 at home during the regular season, and finished 8-3-1 on home ice during the QMJHL Playoffs. Despite not winning the President’s Cup, the Mooseheads have a great opportunity to redeem themselves in the Memorial Cup.

Raiders in Unfamiliar Territory

It was one of the most incredible seasons in the CHL. While the Prince Albert Raiders have been a competitive team for the majority of their history in the WHL, it has been a long time since they have been a contender for a championship. The last time the Raiders won the WHL Championship was back in 1985, the same year they went on to win the Memorial Cup. The Raiders had not even made it to the Ed Chynoweth Cup Finals since then, until this year. 

The Raiders started the season with an amazing 26-1 start through the beginning of December. While the Raiders cooled off by the end of the regular season, Prince Albert still finished as the best team in the WHL. With the play of Noah Gregor, Brett Leason, and goaltender Ian Scott, the Raiders were able to win their second WHL Championship. With none of the players on this roster having played at this stage of the season, you could expect some jitters early on from this team.

Huskies’ Second Chance

May 29th, 2016. Rouyn-Noranda met the London Knights in the Memorial Cup Final. The Huskies were less than five minutes away from their first ever Memorial Cup, but a goal from Christian Dvorak sent the game into overtime, where Matthew Tkachuk scored to give the London Knights their second Memorial Cup. Gilles Bouchard was behind the bench for that game, and Jacob Neveu, Peter Abbandonato, and Samuel Harvey were on that roster.

While the core of this year’s team has changed since that day three years ago, the few that remember the disappointment of losing in the championship game, look to change their fate this time around. The Huskies finished with the most points in the entire CHL, and have shown why throughout the playoffs. With arguably one of the best goaltenders coming into the tournament with Samuel Harvey, and a solid offence led by Joel Teasdale, Noah Dobson, and Abbandonato, Rouyn-Noranda has a good chance to get back to the Memorial Cup Final.

Cinderella Storm

The Guelph Storm were not picked by many to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup, even when they made it to the OHL Finals. Despite having the talents of Nick Suzuki, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Sean Durzi, the Storm were in tough throughout the postseason. In round two, Guelph trailed the top-seed in the West, the London Knights, 3-0. Yet, the Storm were resilient, and somehow reeled off four straight to move on to the Western Conference Finals. Going up against the third-best team in the OHL, the Saginaw Spirit, the Storm found themselves down 3-1 in the series. Once against Guelph rallied and came from behind to win the series in seven. They then trailed the best team in entire league 2-0, but came back and won the OHL Championship by winning four straight against the Ottawa 67’s, a team that had not lost all postseason.

The biggest question is can they take the “comeback kids” mentality in this tournament? They cannot allow themselves to trail, because of the round-robin format. They have three games to prove themselves. If they fall behind at all in the Memorial Cup, the clock might strike midnight on the Storm. 

Round-Robin

With the round-robin portion of the tournament only lasting five days, the schedule is important in deciding how this tournament how could pan out. The opening night on Friday sees Halifax kick things off against Prince Albert, a game that the Mooseheads have the advantage given that it is their home barn and the Raiders will not take well to the loud Halifax crowd. 

The next game will have Rouyn-Noranda play Guelph, which there could easily be 10 goals scored between the two teams. However, for the Storm, they will have to come back the next night against the rested Moosheads. That could spell trouble for Guelph following what could be a long game against the Huskies.

The Raiders will take on the Huskies on the following game. That one will be a treat as the world will get to see two of the best goaltenders in the CHL, as Scott and Harvey go head-to-head. Huskies may have a deeper offencive attack than the Raiders, but don’t think that Scott could easily steal the show that night. 

Guelph will meet a tired Prince Albert team the next night, with Halifax closing out the round-robin with a President’s Cup rematch against Rouyn-Noranda.

My Picks

The teams that may have the easiest time in their three games are the Huskies and Mooseheads, as neither have to play on back-to-back nights. That said, both will lose at least one game, as Rouyn-Noranda will beat Halifax in the final game of the round-robin, sending the Huskies directly to the final.

This would force a tiebreaker between Guelph and Prince Albert. The Storm may have played outstanding over the last month or so, but the Raiders will come away to move onto a semifinal meeting with the Mooseheads.

Halifax will come out strong, looking to take advantage of the tired Raiders. Prince Albert will give a valiant effort, but the Mooseheads will come away with the victory, and force a rematch, once again, against the Huskies.

With a day off in between the semifinal and championship game, there will be no excuse of fatigue for Halifax. It will be another tight battle as it was in the President’s Cup Finals, and just like that series, the Huskies will come away with the win, and earn the franchise’s first Memorial Cup.

All statistics and records are from the CHL, QMJHL, OHL, WHL, and Elite Prospects