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Top 10 Bounce Back Candidates for the 2019/20 NHL Season

Which players in line for a bounce back season?

Every season there is always a couple great players that have a bad season where you go, “What Happened??” (Looks at the career of Scott Gomez and cringes).

Now sometimes it is because of injury, some because of going to a new team and some just get old. Point is these players can’t always have perfect seasons unless you’re Nicklas Lidstrom and your nickname is the “Perfect Human.” So I am here today to give these players and you some optimism for some players that I think can have a bounce-back season!

For this list, I won’t be including Rookies, because they have just one season on record, or players over 35 because of the likelihood they bounce back is very low. Also will not include goalers because guessing what goalie is going to be “good and bad” from season to season is like trying to find Brad Marchand‘s tears on the ice after game 7. (Too soon?) Anyway let’s get into it

10. Ondrej Palat (28 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 64 Games Played, 8 Goals, 26 Assists, 34 points, +4

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Remember the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015 when they had that cute triplet line of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat? It looked like all three would be the new cornerstones of the team. Since then the Lightning has seen Kucherov become a perennial candidate for the Art Ross Trophy, Johnson hasn’t had over 50 points since that 2015 season and Ondrej Palat just hasn’t been healthy. Over the last 3 seasons Palat has only played 195 possible games out of 246 and prior to that hasn’t played a”full season” since the 16/17 season when he only missed 7 games. I am choosing him as a bounce-back candidate because the Lightning are going to need him to step up with the possible shedding of players following the rapture that was the sweep in this year’s playoffs and the likelihood of Brayden Point sitting out looming because of a contract dispute. Palat will get every chance on Tampa to get back over 60 points only if he stays healthy.

9. Derick Brassard (31 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 70 Games played, 14 G, 9 Assists, 23 Points, -19

When you get traded 2 times during one season usually that isn’t a good sign. A decent 3rd/ 2nd line center that can get you 40-50 points regularly Brassard had a rough time last year getting traded twice from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Florida Panthers after only getting 15 points up to the trade, then finished his season with the Colorado Avalanche with a combined 8 points during his time with the Panthers and the Avs’. So safe to say he had a rough year. As a UFA this summer he could end up being a great addition for a team looking for center depth and could surprise a lot of people after what was one of the worst seasons of his career.

8. Ryan Getzlaf (34 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 67 Games Played, 14 Goals, 34 Assists, 48 Points, -19

With only playing 67 games and 56 the season prior, combined with the team around him eroding quickly, the Anaheim Ducks Captain has been under some tough times. Being very close to my age cut off for players it made choosing Getzlaf a somewhat difficult choice but seeing now that he has a new head coach and a whole summer for him and his teammates to get healthy (The Ducks only had one player play the full 82 games last season) this could be a season that sees not only Getzlaf get high point totals but the Ducks team as a whole could rebound.

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7. Rickard Rakell (26 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 69 Games Played, 18 Goals, 25 Assists, 43 Points, -13

This is the only time I will be putting two players from the same team on this but it had to be said. As one of my favorite players in the NHL, watching Rakell struggle with injuries and just look tired last season sucked for me as a fan. Maybe it was the factor a lot more stress was put on him with Getzlaf and Perry being out for major stretches of the season or even him dealing with his own injuries it just didn’t look like the Rakell I was used to seeing the last couple seasons and I believe with a strong healthy season out of him and his teammates he will be back over 60 points next season.

6. Alexander Wennberg (24 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 75 Games Played, 2 Goals, 23 Assists, 25 Points, -1

Prior to the 2017/18 season, it looked like Wennberg was going to be a core member of the up and coming Jackets core having come off of 59 point season and had just signed a 6 year, 29 Million Dollar deal. This deal looked like a steal because he was going to get 60-70 points the rest of this contract and was going to be the 1st line center that they needed due to them trading Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones. Fast forward 2 seasons, 141 games, healthy scratches and only 60 points combined later it looks like a contract the Jackets want to get rid of. I believe that next season is a make or break season for Wennberg with the Jackets not signing Matt Duchene the 2nd line Center position is his to take. If he continues to struggle though he will find himself on another team pretty quick.

5. Max Pacioretty (30 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 66 Games Played, 22 Goals, 18 Assists, 40 Points, -13

How quickly people forget a player’s struggles if they have a great playoff. During the playoffs having only played 7 games he scored 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points and all was forgiven. I was one of those people until I looked at his point outputs the last 2 seasons. During his last season with the Montreal Canadiens, he had only 17 goals along with 37 points (a full 30 point drop from the season prior) and had only played 64 games. He was then traded to Vegas the following summer and was promptly signed to a 4 year 28 Million dollar (7 Mil Average) contract not even playing a game yet with the team. This season he got over 20 goals again but had only 40 points and was injured. He started to get going later on in the season having gotten used to his linemates (Was often Paul Stastny who was also injured)  and it looked good and thus lead up to his playoff performance. Now, this season lets see if he can put it all together and get back to his 35-40 goal self having had a full season in a new system and hopefully better injury luck.

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4. Drew Doughty (29 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 82 Games Played, 8 Goals, 37 Assists, 45 Points, -34

Bet you thought I wasn’t going to do any defensemen! For most defenders, this stat line wouldn’t be terrible (Besides the +/-) but for Drew Doughty who is considered one of the best of his kind, this was not a great year for him or the Kings. Having only been a minus player twice in his career this -34 stat sticks out. The point totals were there but the play all around seemed to lack. For Doughty, it isn’t like he just forgot how to play hockey but his level of play was not of that of his Norris Caliber of a couple year ago. When Doughty plays like one of the best D’s in the league the Kings do well. And while it may be a long shot for the Kings to get back into playoff contention a Bounce back year from Doughty will bring them that much closer.

3. Jordan Eberle (29 y/o)

Season Stats 2018/19 – 78 Games Played, 19 Goals, 18 Assists, 37 Points, -6

If you’re Canadian you’ll remember Jordan Eberle’s run in the world Juniors 2009 where he was an absolute monster. (Go look up his highlights from then you won’t be disappointed) If you’re anybody else then you will remember him being a cog of a very broken Edmonton Oilers team that traded him after one bad playoff performance. Which was his only playoff experience considering the team hadn’t made the postseason since 2006. Flash forward to now and you have a player who just signed a 5-year deal after having a great playoff. Eberle can get you 25-30 goals and 50-60 points. Last season didn’t go well for him and I expect after signing a nice deal, having a great playoff (9 Points in 8 games) and having gotten used to playing under Barry Trots, Ebs’ will be back as one of the leading scorers on this New York Islanders squad.

2. William Nylander (23 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 54 Games Played, 7 Goals, 20 Assists, 27 Points, -4

The most hated, evil Villain Toronto has ever seen. As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan who is on Twitter, I can say for certain that if you like the Leafs and you’re on Twitter you either A.) Hate Nylander and want him off the team B.) Really LOVE Nylander and will defend him till death. There is no middle ground on Twitter. In real life, I believe in Willy and think that having a summer of training with the Leafs, a training camp and preseason with the Leafs and starting the Season with…. the…. LEAFS…. will do him better than chilling in Switzerland wondering if he getting a contract till December and not playing or practicing with NHLers.

1. Jaden Schwartz (26 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 69 Games played, 11 Goals, 25 assists, 36 points, -6

So you see those 11 goals he scored in 69 games up there? Yea he scored 12 in the playoffs on his way to winning the Stanley Cup and nobody says one thing about the season he had. I don’t blame them. When you’re an integral part of a team that won a Cup you don’t talk about the horrible season he had but heading into these playoffs that were the question. Prior to this season, you could have guaranteed that Schwartz would give you 55-60 points a season when healthy. During the 2017/18 season prior to getting hurt, he was on pace for a career year in points with 59 in 62 games and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t break it this season. In saying that all the Blues had very bad seasons prior to the beginning of January to it is safe to say with a Stanley Cup ring on his finger and a reinvigorated sense of accomplishment, Schwartz is one the main guys I  believe will have a huge comeback season.

 

 

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Is trading for Colin Miller a possibility?

Are the Chicago Blackhawks a possible suitor for Colin Miller?

It was reported yesterday by, David Schoen, that the Vegas Golden Knights are trying to clear cap space by trading defenseman, Colin Miller.

Miller, has reportedly fallen out of favor with Golden Knights coach, Gerard Gallant, being scratched multiple times this season as well as game one against San Jose. He also suffered some injuries this year only playing in 62 games.

In those 62 games, Miller, posted a stat-line of three goals and 26 assists. Also, in the playoffs he played in six games and recorded a goal and two assists.

That is a drop off from his first season with the Golden Knights, in 82 games he put up 10 goals and 31 assists for 41 points which lead all of the Golden Knights defensemen.

Should the Blackhawks make an offer on Miller?

The Chicago Blackhawks are expected to keep Brent Seabrook, Connor Murphy, Duncan Keith, Henri Jokiharju and Erik Gustafsson on the blue line for their five main defensemen. Defensemen, Slater Koekkoek and Carl Dahlström could be that sixth guy. The ‘Hawks may want an upgrade for the second or third pairing and Colin Miller could be the answer.

Colin Miller is a right handed defenseman. Brent Seabrook, Connor Murphy and Henri Jokiharju are all right handed defenseman. That could be a concern, but Connor Murphy has shown he is comfortable playing on either side.

Miller, also brings decent size to the Blackhawks. He is 6’1″ and 196 pounds. He also is a very quick defenseman, has a heavy shot and is a great offensive defenseman in general. Collin Miller does struggle in his own end, but his excellent skating allows for him to get back and defend one-on-one. Colin Miller, can also play on both sides.

Per Miller has always been an outstanding player in terms of advanced analytics. In the 2018-2019 season he recorded a 56.9 CF% and a 56 FF% respectively (Corsi For % and Fenwick For %).

Also, seen in the chart below he is excellent in Offensive xG, Offensive CF, Defensive GF, Defensive xG and Defensive CF at even strength. (This was taken from all his total ice time from Boston and Vegas).

Per Corsica, Colin Miller, ranked 10th on the Golden Knights with an xGF of 71.18 and an ixGF of 5.55 (Expected Goals For and Individual Expected Goals For).

So, going back to the original question, should the Blackhawks make a trade for Colin Miller?

While it’s not likely the Blackhawks make a deal for Miller. If the Chicago Blackhawks fell they need to bolster their defense they should at least consider Colin Miller. He is currently making $3,875,000 for three more years and is only 26 years of age per CapFriendly.

Hypothetical Deal

I could see the Blackhawks moving forward Dylan Sikura, defenseman Jakub Galvas and a 2020 third round pick for Colin Miller.

Dylan Sikura, is a 23 year old left winger. He put up eight assists with the ‘Hawks this year, but is an excellent two-way forward. This year he put up a 55.1 CF% and a 53.8 FF%. He also recorded 23 takeaways to seven giveaways, which is a 3.28:1 takeaway to giveaway ratio. He projects to be a middle six forward, perhaps even a top six forward.

Jakub Galvas, is a 19 year old left-handed defenseman. He put up 4 goals and 13 assists in 40 games in the Tipsport Extraliga (top Czech league). He is a mobile defenseman and a puck-mover similar to Colin Miller. Next year he will be playing in Liiga with Jukurit. He projects to be a fifth or sixth defenseman, at his best maybe a fourth defenseman.

Conclusion

While a deal is unlikely to be made by the Blackhawks for Colin Miller, he is a great defenseman. Any team would be happy to have him as part of their defensive core. He can be played in all situations.

stats-from: Elite Prospects, Hockey Reference, Corsica and Evolving Hockey

special thanks to: David Schoen and CapFriendly

Featured Image Credit: Nikos Michals

The Sweet 16: How each team can win the Stanley Cup.

So the field is set, so how does your team win the Stanley Cup?

With the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 shootout win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, the field of 16 is officially set. So let’s break down what each team has to do to win the Stanley Cup. I am not going to speculate on the value of goaltending depth.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The recipe for success is pretty obvious for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They need to avoid any egregious injuries on their blue-line. I don’t take for granted how exceptionally talented Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos are, but the Lightning have plenty enough scoring depth to overcome losing him. Losing a guy like Victor Hedman or Ryan McDonagh, and I don’t think the Lightning could overcome that.

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Calgary Flames

The 2018-19 version of Cinderella has got to be the Calgary Flames, but I don’t think they are wearing brittle glass slippers. Their key to success will rely, solely on their ability to generate offense below their first line. The production of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm is both expected and guaranteed, at this point, but getting James Neal, Derek Ryan, and Sam Bennett to perform consitently would go a long way in a deep playoff run. Also, figuring which goaltender is going to give them the best chance to win and getting them performing confidently, will be a key to their success.

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Boston Bruins

Boston’s key to a long run begins in the first round. By this I mean that they need to dispose of the Maple Leafs very quickly and get rested and healthy before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. It would help if Columbus can give Tampa some trouble, and force a six or seven game series. As far as what they have more control over, the Bruins need to get the best of Tuukka Rask and play shut down defense in front of him. Boston may be the most likely team to match depth with the Bolts, but they don’t quite match up in terms of skill. So they will need to take a physical attack and keep Tampa on their heels.

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Washington Capitals

Avoid the hangover. This is the time of year that requires stamina and health. That is why we have only had back to back champions twice in the last 25 years. Beyond the fatigue factor, the Caps really need to continue to show their depth. They had 7 score 20 or more goals this season. If they are able to continue that production, they will be a very difficult to line up against in a seven game series.

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New York Islanders

The best offense is a good defense. The Isles have been smothering this season. They have allowed the fewest goals in the league. Part of this is due to the resurgence of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, and the other part is due to the structured defense that is common in a Barry Trotz coached team. I always joke amongst friends that the New York Islanders have the 4 best 4th lines in the game, but in a way it is true. All four lines are willing to play a grindy style in the tough areas of the ice. If they are able to control the time and pace of the game, they could have the ability to shut down more talented teams.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

“God Mode Freddie” or better defensive structure. The Toronto Maple Leafs have allowed 245 goals. Only the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals have allowed more among qualifying teams. If the Leafs cannot figure out  how to limit scoring chances, their stay in the bracket will be short-lived. Barring an overhaul to their stylistic play, they will rely heavily on Frederik Andersen. While Freddie has had a solid season, with a .918 SV% and 2.73 GAA, but has allowed 14 goals in his last 5 starts. He has to return to his Vezina Candidate form for the Maple Leafs to have a chance to win the Cup.

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San Jose Sharks

A recurring theme across this article will be the value of goaltending, and that goes without saying. No netminder will face more criticism, from his own fan-base, than Martin Jones, and, in fairness, he has earned most of it this season. He has a .896 SV%, which ranks 51st out of goaltender with 21+ starts. He will have to be the Martin Jones that carried the Sharks to the Cup Finals 3 years ago. Getting a defenseman as talented as Erik Karlsson back will go a long way towards inproving a goalies stats. He has been out for  a while with a groin injury, but it is widely speculated that he will return for the playoffs. Though Timo Meier was injured in the Sharks last game, Coach Deboer assumes he will be ready to go for the playoffs.

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Pittsburgh Penguins

A few days ago, I would have used this spot to preach about the necessity of getting healthy, but with the return of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin on Thursday night, I think the Pens are in good shape, health-wise. The only missing regular, at this point, is top pairing defenseman, Brian Dumoulin. For me, the key to Pittsburgh’s success is putting the best lineup on the ice each night. This is as deep as I have ever seen the Pens team. While some may see that as a positive, it can create some struggles for Mike Sullivan. The difference between dressing Adam Johnson or Garrett Wilson can decide a game. Their styles are very different, but each can bring a value against specific opponents. A heavier physical game would lend to Wilson, while a speed game would better suit Johnson. Beyond that, you have the issue of the 6th and 7th defenseman. Assuming Dumo is healthy for Game 1, the coaching staff will have to choose which left-handed defenseman they choose to sit. Jack Johnson has played a very sound defensive game, but seems to hinder Justin Schultz from playing the style he prefers to play. Recently recovered Olli Maatta has seemed to interrupt the chemistry of the pre-established pairs. Marcus Petterson compliments Eric Gudbranson very well and offer a long pairing that is very hard to get odd man rushes against. I think it is likely that the staff uses a rotation of those 3 depending on the matchups and health of the rest of the team.

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Nashville Predators

The biggest issue facing the Nashville Predators is their ability to score goals. They have only 235 goals on the season. Only the Dallas Stars have fewer among qualifying teams. Having a healthy Victor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg will certainly go a long way towards providing the required scoring. Finding the depth required for a deep playoff run could pose a real challenge. They need to get enough offensive support from the blue line to be a formidable opponent to anyone in the West.

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Winnipeg Jets

Of all the teams on this list, none is trending worse than the Winnipeg Jets. They are 4-5-1 in their last 10 and have lost 4  of 6. Their leadership group will be strongly tested as the playoffs begin. If the Jets rebound and win the first round, that adversity will go a long way. On the ice, Winnipeg needs to protect a lead. The Jets have lost 9 games this season when leading after 2 periods. No team in the playoffs have lost more than 5 games in that situation. A lot of playoff games are decided by protecting a one goal lead in the 3rd period, it will be critical for Winnipeg to learn how to win these games.

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Carolina Hurricanes

Just have fun. No one really expected this team to be here in January. The Canes need to just ride the wave. Carolina can overwhelm teams with shots from varying angles. They generate a ton of shots on goals. If they continue this trend and win net front battles, they could get a lot of greasy goals. Winning the special teams battles could also prove critical for the Jerks. They have been a phenomenal penalty kill team all year, and that will need to continue in the postseason. But in my opinion, whoever plays the Hurricanes will have to have excellent goaltending, as they generate so many shots.

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St. Louis Blues

Wow, another team that needs great goaltending to win in the playoffs, but the Blues are a prime example of this with a rookie netminder. Jordan Binnington should definitely get some consideration for the Calder Trophy, but the playoffs are a whole new experience for some rookies. If he can carry his stellar play into the postseason, the Blue Notes should be able to play with anyone. Beyond Binnington, the Blues will need to get production from players outside their top line. Their center depth should be able to create mismatches in the faceoff circle, so they can spring that into possession domination.

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Columbus Blue Jackets

Play like the All-Star team that you have assembled. The Blue Jackets added two-thirds of Ottawa’s top line to their 2nd line at the deadline, essentially giving them two top lines. If those players can perform to the expectations, there is enough talent for them to give trouble to anyone. The other thing they need to do is hide all the calendars from Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob is one of the most elite goaltenders in the regular season, but he can never find the same consistency in the playoffs. They added Keith Kincaid at the deadline, but I do not believe they intended him to be insurance for “Playoff Bob.” This team will sink or swim with Bobrovsky in net.

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Vegas Golden Knights

Keep being Vegas. This team continues to defy the odds and break every expansion record ever set. They no longer have the surprise factor to rely on, so they need to continue to play with a chip on their shoulder. Marc-Andre Fleury returned to action last week and will provide them with reliable goaltending for another deep playoff run. The addition of Mark Stone has yielded great results. Vegas has the forward depth to keep pace in the West, but will they have enough scoring to dethrone any of the dominant teams from the East.

Dallas Stars

The old adage in sports is that defense wins championships. This has to be true for the Dallas Stars to make a deep run. Only the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings have scored fewer goals than the Stars this season. On the opposite side of that coin, only the New York Islanders have surrendered fewer goals. They will need to rely on structured defense and great goaltending to keep their season going. When Ben Bishop has been healthy this year, he has been a run away Vezina winner, but with only 45 games played health will continue to be a concern for Bish. They will certainly need him healthy for the best odds of survival.

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Colorado Avalanche

We are all well aware of the chaos that opposing coaches have matching up against Colorado’s top line. Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog are quite possibly the most dynamic line in the game, but can they get subsequent production? If they cannot find that depth scoring that is required to win in the playoffs, then a lot of pressure will be thrust upon Phillip Grubauer. Don’t forget that he had won the starting job in D.C. last season before losing the first two games against Columbus. He will have to be very confident to get past those memories.

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Summary

A lot of things have to go right to win the Stanley Cup. That is why it is considered the hardest trophy to win in all of sports. Only one team gets the 16 wins required to raise the cup. This is not a definitive list of keys to success for each team. It is merely observations, from myself, as to what teams can do to better their chances to win.

The playoffs begin on April 10th, so make sure your beermeister is topped off and enjoy the greatest playoffs in sports. As “Badger” Bob Johnson used to say, “It’s a great day for Hockey.”

Don’t forget to enter our NHL Bracket Challenge for a chance to win signed puck from Casey Desmith. The password to enter is 4readers.

Stats and standings provided by nhl.com

 

 

Who Should Sign Nail Yakupov This Offseason?

According to Russia’s AllHockey, multiple NHL teams are interested in signing Nail Yakupov. The question is, who?

Who is Nail Yakupov?

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Nail Yakupov, listed at 5’11” and 194 lbs, is a 25 year-old who is currently playing for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. He was drafted Second overall by the Sarnia Sting in 2010. Yakupov, a native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, moved to Canada at the young age of 17 to play for the OHL club. Yakupov took the OHL by storm, as the speedy winger scored 101 points in just 65 games. This incredible season led to immediate anticipation for the forward’s NHL future. Yakupov remained dominant in the OHL for the 2011-12 season (69P-42GP), leading to the birth of the “Fail for Nail” catchphrase. The perennially bad Edmonton Oilers selected Nail Yakupov 1st overall in the 2012 NHL Draft (the Oilers’ 3rd straight 1st overall pick). Unfortunately for Nail, his NHL career so far has been one of befuddling mismanagement.

Is Yakupov Really That Bad?

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Nail Yakupov made his NHL debut in the 2012-13 season, following the conclusion of a 4 month-long labour dispute (Sept. 2012-Jan. 2013). Despite the drawbacks of missing 4 months of professional training, Yakupov had a productive rookie season, recording 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games.

Over the next 3 seasons, all of which were spent with the Albertan franchise, Yakupov produced 80 points in 204 (a total of 111 points in 252 games with the Oilers). This totals are solid, although not fantastic, and certainly not up to the superstar forward expectations the forward set for himself. Over this time on the (still) poor Oilers, Yakupov averaged 14:42 of ice time (3rd line comparable) and an abysmal 46.3 CF% while running with a PDO of 96.6, which is also poor.

According to Dom Galamini’s Hero Charts, Yakupov’s last 3 seasons in the NHL have been comparable to 4th line, defensively minded players. Neither of those aspects make Nail an especially good player and are certainly not what Yak was advertised as. However, there is a player to be salvaged in Yakupov.

Deployment

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Despite what Yakupov’s lackluster production and ho-hum analytics suggest, a large part of Yakupov’s downfall can be attributed to deployment. According to SB Nation’s Copper and Blue, Yakupov’s most common line-mates in Edmonton were:

  • Sam Gagner (solid, middle-six forward)
  • Derek Roy (3rd line center)
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st line center on most teams)
  • Mark Arcobello (inconsistent bottom six forward)
  • Mark Letestu (defensively minded 4th line Center)

All of Gagner, Nugent-Hopkins, and Roy are solid play-making centers that have worked well with Yak. although, each centre had a revolving door of other wingers that have hurt both Yakupov and the centers themselves. Arcobello is an inconsistent scorer whom has solid shooting tendencies but is by no means a top-six player. Mark Letestu is an okay player, whom is most known for his defensive abilities, not exactly the type of player that you want to pair with a pure scorer.

A connection can also be made between Yakupov’s struggles and line mates, ice time, and production.

For example, the majority of Yakupov’s rookie season was spent with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. While averaging 14:34 of ice-time (middle-six comparable minutes), playing with a play-making center (Gagner) and an experienced scoring winger (Hemsky), Yakupov put up a career-high 17 goals and 31 points. A solid line that was able to produce offense like this was ideal for both a pure scorer (like Yakupov) and the Oilers.

An example of a non-ideal setup for such a scorer was playing with inconsistent, defensively minded players. Such a setup was used throughout Yakupov’s final season with the club, when Nail suited up alongside Zack Kassian and Mark Letestu. This deployment is clearly detrimental to an offensively minded scorer and was a baffling decision for the Oilers to make, seeing as how Yakupov had success with Connor MacDavid.

Can Yakupov actually Produce at a High Level?

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Outside of his time with the Oilers, Yakupov (while averaging 10:47 minutes of ice time, 4th line comparable) produced 12 goals and 25 points in 98 games (with STL and COL). Needless to say, this production is abysmal. I’ll be the first to admit that Yakupov’s only saving grace here is strictly his lack of ice-time, with Yak only reaching 5 minutes of ice time for the Avs on some nights.

Yakupov has had a couple productive seasons with the Oilers. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much luck outside of the Oilers organization, which seems like an oxymoron at this point.

Despite his disappointing production (which can once again be credited to deployment), Yakupov still clearly possesses a high level of scoring ability, which was something that Nail wasn’t afraid to show in the KHL this season. In 47 games with SKA St. Petersburg, Yakupov had 23 goals and 33 points. Surprisingly, Yakupov was able to achieve this production while averaging just 14:10 of ice time. (Once again, deployment is key)

St. Petersburg is considered a powerhouse in the KHL. It often is the go-to team for former NHL players (such as Ilya Kovalchuck, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeny Dadonov). This makes distribution of players a complex and touchy science in that league. Despite Yakupov playing mainly 3rd line KHL minutes, production wise, he is similar to a 2nd line NHL player. Prorated to NHL numbers using NHLE  it rounds out to roughly 42p per 82gp, which is an impressive feat.

Who Needs Nail Yakupov?

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Yakupov is a perfect fit for many NHL teams. Being a relatively young, fast, offensively minded forward, Yakupov can be the missing piece in many teams’ top nine forward groups. Listed below are 5 teams that could use a Nail Yakupov in their lineup as soon as possible.

Arizona Coyotes (37-33-7, 81P in 77GP, 200 GF)

Currently sitting outside of the playoffs with 81 points and 5 games remaining, The Coyotes have made huge improvements over last season’s disappointment. They added scoring in Michael Grabner and Nick Schmaltz, making big impacts (when healthy). Despite these efforts, the team is 4th last in Goals For (GF). The Yotes’ top six forward group would most definitely welcome the addition of Nail Yakupov, whom could replace quite a few players (a-la Brad Richardson, Josh Archibald). Playing Yak with Derek Stepan and Alex Galchenyuk would be ideal, even trying Yak with Galch and Clayton Keller would be interesting.

Dallas Stars (41-31-6, 88P in 78GP, 198 GF)

Sitting on a 5 point-cushion over the Colorado Avalanche in the standings, the Stars have long over-achieved while lacking useful depth, a curse that often catches up with the Texan franchise come playoffs. Outside of the big-three of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov, the Stars have little forward depth, with a 24 point deficit between Jamie Benn (52 points) and the next highest scoring forward (Radek Faksa, 28 points).

Now that’s horsesh*t.

Yakupov would be a welcome and much-needed addition to the teams’ mediocre forward core. Pairing Yak with the Stars’ most capable center (outside of Seguin) would be ideal, although the Stars aren’t likely to resign Jason Spezza. A nice alternative option would be actually signing known top 6 forwards, such as Matt Duchene.

Buffalo Sabres (31-36-10, 72P in 77GP, 211 GF)

Officially being eliminated from playoff contention last week, the Sabres’ season came to a unexplainably disappointing end. All is chaos once again in Buffalo. A far cry from the joyous gloating that took over the city following a 10-game winning streak in November. Despite valiant effort(s) to increase scoring through the acquisition of Connor Sheary and Jeff Skinner, the team still sits 6th last in GF. Yakupov would definitely strengthen Buffalo’s weak situation on the wings.

Edmonton Oilers (34-34-9, 77P in 77GP, 223 GF)

Nope. No. Never. Maybe? They’re always weak on the wings. No. Noooooooooooo. Nope. Never again. Please God nooooooooooooooooooooooo. This would be the funniest and probably worst option for Nail overall, so no. Seriously, no.

Carolina Hurricanes (42-28-7, 91P in 77GP, 228 GF)

Probably the most favorable option for Yakupov, the Hurricanes are turning almost all their attention towards acquiring scoring. Whether that’s been through drafting (Svechnikov), trading (V. Rask for Niederreiter), or signings (Williams). Yakupov could easily replace Michal Ferland (whom is dead set on leaving in free agency). Yak, if playing with either the perennially underrated Teuvo Teravainen or superstar Sebastian Aho, could easily score 20 goals and 40 points.

Conclusion

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Despite being horribly mismanaged since his sophomore season, Nail Yakupov has shown that he is a capable offensive player. One that can and should be able to definitely play meaningful minutes at the NHL level. There will be many suitors if he decides to hit the FA market this summer. Teams would be incredibly wise to invest in the much maligned sniper.

Resources retrieved from NHL.com, en.khl.ru, eliteprospects.com, hockey-reference.com, @CompleteHkyNews on Twitter.com, ownthepuck.blogspot.com, coppernblue.com, frozen pool.dobbersports.com, and dailyfaceoff.com

 

 

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NHL Trade Deadline Day: Western Conference Preview

A Look At The National Hockey League’s Western Conference On Trade Deadline Day

As I mentioned in my post featuring Trade Deadline Day in the Eastern Conference, I am not an NHL “insider”, just a fan of the game that loves to talk about hockey. With that in mind, here’s a peek at what might happen with teams in the NHL’s Western Conference. 

CENTRAL DIVISION

Winnipeg Jets

Let’s just get the Mark Stone trade to Winnipeg done already. It’s been a topic of conversation for what seems like weeks. Winnipeg General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is a very cautious fellow as we have all learned, but the Jets need this trade. They are sputtering. Should they acquire Stone, you have to think the Jets are the Western Conference favourites.  Nikolaj Ehlers has just returned from injury, which should provide a big boost. 

Nashville Predators

Missed out on Ottawa Senators forward Matt Duchene, which no doubt made GM David Poile quite sour. But no glaring weaknesses on this team, other than a wonky power play, which is a mystery. From their own blueline back they are rock solid. Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers would be a great fit here. Poile is not afraid to go after a big fish. If one GM pulls off a shocker trade today, my money is on Poile. 

St. Louis Blues 

Well, well, well. What took them so long? What a run going on here. With David Perron and Brayden Schenn out with injuries, Blues might look to acquire some depth up front. If the clock strikes midnight on goaltender Jordan Binnington, do they trust Jake Allen to handle the load down the stretch? Go get Ryan Miller again out of Anaheim and thank me later. 

Dallas Stars

Poor Dallas. They make a “win-win” deal with the New York Rangers for Mats Zuccarello, and instantly lose him for a month with an upper body injury. And Jamie Benn gets hurt the same game. If Minnesota GM Paul Fenton is crying himself to sleep at night over the state of his Minnesota Wild, Stars GM Jim Nill is going to need therapy. Nill said prior to the Zuccarello injury that he was done trading, but does he spin back for one more look around today?  Likely not. 

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Minnesota Wild

Three straight wins has put Minnesota back in a wild card spot. Made a good deal in getting underrated Ryan Donato out of Boston a few days ago for Charlie Coyle. Any thought of trading veteran Eric Staal has likely stalled, as he doesn’t really want to move which would make interested teams shy away. Couple of key injuries to Matt Dumba and Mikko Koivu could have Fenton kicking tires around the league. But gut feeling here is they gamble with what they have. 

Colorado Avalanche

Left for dead 10 days ago, the Avalanche have peeled off four straight wins by a combined 19-4 score against some tough opponents to get back in the hunt. Secondary scoring has been an issue here for most of the season. Look for an upgrade there. They should talk to Patrick Roy about coming out of retirement too to help out in net. But no surprise if Colorado sits tight today. Just not their time yet. 

Chicago Black Hawks

Might be too little, too late for Chicago this year, after a tough loss on Sunday to the Stars. They sit five points back with teams to climb over. Could make for an interesting day for GM Stan Bowman. Goalie Cam Ward likely available for the right price. Bowman would love any interest in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but highly unlikely they can be moved with their contracts. Marcus Kruger anyone?

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PACIFIC DIVISION

Calgary Flames

Boredom could end up being Calgary’s biggest issue down the stretch. But they are kicking tires and making sure no Mark Stone is unturned. Can their goaltending take them through to June? Getting Stone might hide some of those crease blemishes. Solid roster from top to bottom if they opt to sit this one out. 

San Jose Sharks

Show me the way, San Jose. GM Doug Wilson knows this may be the best team he’s ever had. Hot on Calgary’s heels for first place in the division, Wilson added more firepower late Sunday night, acquiring Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings for two draft picks. Not many weaknesses on this roster. There have been questions about goaltending all season, but Martin Jones is a proven playoff performer. 

Vegas Golden Knights

Losing six of their last seven will have GM George McPhee searching for a roster spark, as this offence has simply dried up. Could Vegas make a play for Artemi Panarin? They could. Not sure if they can put together a package that would appease Columbus that provides immediate help in return, but Vegas does have the picks and prospects to help pull it off. They are bound to be buyers today. They got a taste of success last year. Still hungry. 

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes will likely come up a bit short this year, but they are trending in the right direction. Hindsight is 20/20, but that Dylan Strome trade to Chicago might haunt this franchise for years. Richard Panik could be moved today, but otherwise expect a quiet day in the desert. 

Vancouver Canucks

A healthy Canucks squad could have been the surprise of the Western conference this year. Having said that, not much here that Vancouver would be willing to part with that would help a contender. Just too many injuries at the wrong time. Stay the course, and watch out next year. 

Edmonton Oilers

Oh those Oilers. You could say the Oilers have already made their best move, firing former GM Peter Chiarelli. But even if you give interim GM Keith Gretzky the authority to make more moves today, where does he start? Alex Chiasson and Zack Kassian are certainly available. Finding a home for winger Milan Lucic, no matter how much money Edmonton has to eat, should give Gretzky the job full-time. Like a Red Kelly number retirement, this is going to take a while. 

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Anaheim Ducks

Duck. Duck. Lose. Things are quite ugly in Anaheim too. Long, heavy contracts attached to aging and underachieving players makes things difficult for GM Bob Murray. The Brandon Montour trade was a bit of an odd start to the dismantle, but there is not many untouchables in this Duck hunt. 

Los Angeles Kings

The tank is in full force in L.A., losers of seven straight games. GM Rob Blake is open for business, and he started early with the Jake Muzzin to Toronto trade a few weeks ago. Players like Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford should draw some interest today. But the team is likely stuck with Ilya Kovalchuk and Jeff Carter for the time being. Unloading Jonathan Quick would be beneficial, but it’s unlikely they can. 

Follow me on Twitter @cbradley2928

Statistics provided by hockey-reference and theScore

Featured Photo Image Credit: Nikos Michals