Pittsburgh Penguins: Sign Brandon Tanev

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Brandon Tanev to a 6-year/ $21M contract. 

Josh Tessler: Hey Justin, I need you to do a write-up on the Brandon Tanev signing in Pittsburgh. 

Me: Sure, I really like Tanev. He is a fantastic penalty-killer with amazing speed. He can really help shore up the bottom 6. What’s the specifics of the contract? 

JT: 6 years/ $21M $3.5M AAV

Me: **spits coffee all over my keyboard**

You read that correctly. 6 years for a 27 year old forward that has yet to play 200 games in the NHL. This leaves me to speculate, as to whether or not, Jim Rutherford has worn out his welcome with Pittsburgh Penguins fans. 

First, I really do like Brandon Tanev. He has all the attributes that you are looking for in a 3rd or 4th line player, and I don’t hate the money. However, when you have a team that is in the prime window for Stanley Cup contention, you cannot lock up depth pieces to long-term deals because these are the trade chips that you can use at the deadline to improve your roster. A rebuilding team is not going to accept bad contracts for rental players. 

In the past two Canada Days, Rutherford has handed a 5-year deal to Jack Johnson at 31-years old and a 6-year deal to Tanev at 27-years old, with limited NHL experience. These two signings will likely be carried through the remainder of the Crosby/ Malkin Era. 

Arizona Coyotes Acquire Kessel

The Arizona Coyotes, on Saturday night, acquired Phil Kessel, Dane Birks, and a 4th round pick, in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre Olivier Joseph. 

I’ll set a scene for you. Imagine you’re excited to watch an indoor football playoff game. You’re at a bar having a couple of drinks, and your friend won’t stop blowing your phone telling you the player you’ve wanted your team to trade for was acquired by them. You immediately don’t believe them, primarily because you know your small market team would never acquire elite talent that would put them at the cap ceiling. Then find out the cost was one of your favorite players in the team. One more drink was required to come to terms with everything.

It’s happened. The thing I wanted most this offseason actually happened. I actually feel foolish that my first reaction was “not Galchenyuk.” Like a spoiled Lakers fan over Lonzo Ball when we just acquired top tier talent for him. Galchenyuk and Pierre-Oliver Joseph have been sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Cheeseburger Phil, a 4th round pick, and Dane Birks.

Cheeseburger Phil Kessel is now an Arizona Coyote, and it’s a dream come true. Our leading scorer last season was Keller with 47 points. Kessel last year scored 82. (Per NHL.com)

What Arizona desperately needed was goal scoring, and this year they added a 30 goal scorer. I was on record last season saying that Galchenyuk wasn’t a 30 goal scorer considering how he hadn’t hit that mark in two seasons. With him only scoring 19 last season, it’s safe to admit what I said a year ago. That season was a career year and not the example of his consistent talent.

Kessel has had 5 seasons of 30+ production, and 11 consecutive seasons of 20+. Kessel is legit the answer to Arizona’s scoring woes.

Add in the fact that Kessel hasn’t missed a game in 9 seasons. (per ESPN) Arizona is sure adding guys who stay healthy after last seasons horrible misfortunes.

As of right now, the Coyotes top line is Keller-Schmaltz-Kessel. Not only did Keller play his best hockey with Schmaltz last season, but you add a multiple time Stanley cup champion, and elite goal scorer to that line, and Keller has just been handed the keys to not only a bounce back season. He’s been handed the keys to a career year two days before free agency.

Factoring in the acquisition of Soderberg (another 20 goal scorer) and the rumors of possibly more moves to come, Arizona is a legitimate playoff contender. I am fully comfortable saying that this team has gotten tremendously better over just the last couple of weeks.

I’m going to miss Galchenyuk. I loved his overall game and he paired very well with my favorite player, Conor Garland.

As for Joseph, I’ve been following him the last two Coyotes rookie camps, and moving on from his services was a great idea. Last year, he was easily the best at the camp, but this year he was far from it. I noticed that he was a lot slower than the season prior. It legitimately looked like he was nursing an injury. He wasn’t skating well in the corner, his transitions were sloppy, and his passing seemed to be weaker. The only upside he still had in my eyes was his shot. He has Keith Yandle‘s shot, easily. Unfortunately, like Yandle, he’s a defenseman and not a winger. I expect defensive ability with the potential upside of providing scoring depth.

The cherry on top of the deal was the 4th round pick as a “free asset” and Birks to replace Joseph on the depth chart. Chayka made an amazing trade and has made Arizona a playoff team. 

I should mention that Kessel is 31 with 3 years left on his contract with a cap hit of $6.8M (per capfriendly) , but he’s yet to show an signs of aging to date. If he does start to regress, he’s still likely to be a 60 point player, so this is still a huge net positive.

Chayka played pot of greed bois, and +1s are usually banned in Yu-Gi-Oh!

 

Player Profiles via hockey-reference.com

Featured Image Credit: Dinur Blum

Puck77

2019 NHL Mock Draft: Picks 21-25

Part 5 of my 2019 NHL Mock draft is here, and this will feature picks 21-25. For a quick refresher, click here for part 1, here for part 2, here for part 3, and here for part 4.

 

 

21st Overall Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins select Moritz Seider, Right Handed Defenseman, Adler Mannheim, DEL

The 6’4, 198 pound German from Zell (Mosel), Germany, is one of the rare commodities to come out of the German elite league, DEL. Although German hockey has been on the rise, very few 17/18 year olds have been selected as early as Moritz Seider likely will. His ranking has varied from as early as 10th and as late as 21st, with his average ranking being placed at 16.2.

 

For his size, he moves fast, with a very technically sound stride. He’s not easily knocked off the puck, and doesn’t often get out-worked along the boards or in front of the net, but could still get better with more strength. His transitional game is very strong as well, thanks in part to his handling of the puck, along with his skating. He also has a very good up-ice pass. He has great shooting ability, with an accurate wrist shot, and smart slapshots (low on net for deflections or rebounds).

 

What he isn’t exactly good at and should look to improve is his mobility at the blueline, in order to open up more passing and/or shooting lanes. When the opposing team is moving the puck up ice on his side, he looks to throw big hits, but he doesn’t quite have the awareness to know when he should/shouldn’t step up, often times drawing himself out of position. He isn’t very good in his own end either, as he is not exactly positionally sound, but he has the size to win netfront battles as well as battles in the corner, which gives him a base for defensive coaches to build on at the next level.

 

He did not produce at a high level in the DEL (two goals, four assists for six points in 29 games) but it was his first real test against competition outside of his age group. Where he did shine, however, was at the international stage. He first played on the German U20 World Junior Championship D1-A (one step below the WJC) where he put up a goal and six assists (seven points) in five games, leading the German’s to qualify for next seasons WJC.

 

After that, he cracked the German IIHF World Championship roster, where he faced off against NHL competition, as well as top prospects Kappo Kakko and Jack Hughes. He scored two goals in five games before being injured by Ladislav Nagy of the Slovakian team. It’s important to note that he has had injury problems, mainly being with his shoulder, outside of the concussion he sustained at the IIHF World’s.

 

Pittsburgh hasn’t had a great defensive core for a few years now, and the recent trade involving defenseman Olli Maatta makes their defensive needs jump off the page even more here. Right handed defensemen are hard to find as well, and Seider is a very intriguing selection for them.

 

Future Role: He is a long-term project, according to multiple evaluations on him, but I think otherwise. While his defensive coverage isn’t the most attractive, he was getting a first taste of playing against men, and I believe that next season, he will get his feet set there and stand out. I expect him to be a top-four defenseman, with the offensive abilities to play top powerplay minutes.

 

22nd Overall Pick: Los Angeles Kings select Nils Hoglander, Left Winger, Rogle BK, SHL

Hoglander is another one in the group of undersized skaters, as he stands at just 5’9, and 185 pounds. He has been ranked as early as 19th and as late as 41st, with his average ranking at 28.2.

 

Hoglander is one of my favorite prospects, and here’s why. He is a really, really good skater, burning defenseman time and time again. He also has the edgework to dart wide, and then quickly cut towards the net for a great scoring chance. Despite being undersized, he has strong balance, and can battle along the boards just as good as everyone else, which is a major plus for teams who are looking into him. He can dice up defenders too, as he has great stickhandling abilities. He can make a move while going full speed as well, making him unpredictable and difficult to defend one on one.

 

Because of all that, defenders tend to back off a bit more, as to not get burned wide, which opens passing lanes for him to exploit. And he is a good passer, too. He has a great shot, very accurate, though it does lack the necessary power to find success in the NHL. Beyond that, he is an excellent forechecker, and despite his size, does not shy away from playing physical.

Similar to Torey Krug, he can throw heavy hits at times.

 

He is a hard working player at both ends of the ice, mixing his aggressiveness with his positioning in the defensive zone to create turnovers. Transitionally, he uses his speed to blast into the offensive zone and get to work. But despite all of his great qualities, he lacks offensive production. It astonishes me how a guy who is such a fantastic skater, with a very aggressive play style, along with creative offensive instincts to pair with great passing abilities and an accurate shot, lacks production. Playing against men in the SHL last season, he managed to only put up seven goals and seven assists (14 points) in 50 games. He’s also one of the older guys eligible in the draft, due to his late December birthday.

 

Future Role: His ceiling is becoming a top-six winger at the moment, but he has all the offensive tools, and if he can turn the production up to where he should be with his talent, he could very well be a future elite winger. Why’s that? Because he plays a very complete game, and only needs to mature, fine tune the smaller details, and bulk up. Even if his production remains underwhelming, he has third line capabilities. He’s a safe pick in the late stages of the first round.

 

23rd Overall Pick: New York Islanders select Raphael Lavoie, Right Wing/Center, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

While Hoglander is one of my favorite prospects, Lavoie is my favorite, outside the top-10, that is. The Chambly, Quebec native has great size (6’4, 198 pounds) with room to grow. He may not have blazing speed, but he can beat defenders wide with his very strong strides, and solid acceleration. He also has arguably the best balance in this draft, as he is very difficult to knock off the puck and beat in board battles, as well as in front of the net.

 

Lavoie is a sniper in the offensive zone. His wrist shot is fantastic, and his slapshot packs a ton of power. Going back to his ability to win positioning in front of the net, he is a master at scoring in tight in those areas, whether it’s off a deflection or he gathers the rebounds. His stickhandling also allows him to make a quick move near the goaltender to beat him and score that way. He is dangerous in the cycle, and when he sees a lane, he takes it. He can also be a playmaker, as he sees the ice well and puts the puck on the tape of a teammate.

 

Before his draft season, Lavoie was known to be a lesser defensive zone player, and looked at as mainly an offense-only forward. However, this season, he showed a nose for the puck, and backchecked with authority to get it on his stick. He battles hard along the boards for the puck, helping defensemen down low. He is willing to block shots, basically anything to help his team win, he’s up for the task. He is an effective transitional player as well. With Halifax, he was able to post 32 goals and 41 assists (73 points) in 62 games played. He has the versatility to play all three forward positions, but is more likely to play wing due to his still questionable defensive capabilities.

 

Future Role: If he can continue to show his improvements in the defensive zone while maintaining and improving upon his offensive skills, he could be a top 6 winger, with the ability to play both powerplay and penalty kill minutes.

 

24th Overall Pick: Nashville Predators select Philip Tomasino, Center, Niagara Ice Dogs, OHL

The 6’0, 180 pound center for the Niagara Ice Dogs, Tomasino was a former fifth overall selection in the Ontario Hockey League draft. Tomasino’s rankings vary, as do many of the late first rounders, and has been ranked as early as 18th and as late as 34th, with his average at 23.7.

 

Similar to Hoglander, Tomasino is an incredible skater, which often leads to defenders backing off and granting him space to either shoot or pass. However, he doesn’t quite have the balance that Hoglander has, and he is more easily knocked off the puck. His stickhandling is superb, and he can make quick plays with his stick and skates to open up a teammate for a pass. He has a more developed shot than Hoglander, but he still has more room to improve with his power. He isn’t afraid to push his way to the front of the net or the corners to battle for a screen or the puck. He is a very effective forechecker, forcing lots of turnovers, but doesn’t play the body too often in those scenarios. He is always moving in the offensive zone, never stopping even for a second. That energy is tangible, and lots of teams would love to have that kind of guy on the ice for their team.

 

However, with that playing style, he frustrates opponents, and if he runs into a Brad Marchand, or a Dustin Byfuglien (dirty player or big, physical player) he could be on the tail end of something awful. He must bulk up, more so than most other prospects.

 

Defensively he struggles. Because he is outmatched physically, he tends to reach for the puck often, which makes it too easy for the opponent to make a move to get by him. He also doesn’t read the play effectively enough, and isn’t always in the right position. However, he does try and support the defense down low, and with that effort, coaches can help him with everything else.

 

The reason why I continued to bring up Hoglander multiple times is because these two players play an eerily similar style, with a near identical skill set. Both are creative offensively, whether it be stickhandling, passing, or shooting. Both are hardworking, and constantly trying to get the puck on their sticks. However, where Hoglander has him beat is in his more physical and aggressive play, looking more for the body and not the puck. That’s why Hoglander is a more effective player in the defensive zone.

 

But, while Hoglander struggles to produce offensively, albeit in a tougher league, Tomasino does not. He put up 34 goals and 38 assists (72 points) in 67 games played. He produces more than Hoglander, which tells me he uses his offensive skills more effectively. But he has more holes in his game, which is why he is a couple spots lower.

 

Future Role: If he bulks up, it should fix a few of his developmental hurdles. He will have to be coached well to be a reliable player on the defensive end, but it’s mainly positioning that is the issue. All minor flaws, meaning he will likely make it, and slot in, at the worst, as a middle six center, with the chance to play first line if needed. Certainly good enough to play on the powerplay once he makes it.

 

25th Overall Selection: Washington Capitals select Thomas Harley, Left-Handed Defenseman, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL

Harley was highly thought of by several other contributors on Puck77, recently being ranked 21st overall by those writers. Overall, the 6’3, 183 pound, Syracuse, New York native Harley has been ranked as early as 18th and as late as 24th, with his average being 20.5. So, why does he drop to 25?

 

Let’s get into it. He gets to his to speed very quickly, due to his strong first steps. He is quick with his edges, allowing him to change from defense to offense with rapid pace. That also makes him effective when moving across the point area, opening up passing and shooting lanes. Harley reads the play very quickly on offense, and he’s able to find teammates with a quick and accurate pass. He keeps his shots low and on net, and has greatly improved his shooting abilities from last season, which widens his potential scoring down the road. He is great in transition, with the ability to make a great first pass. He, at times, acts like a fourth forward on the rush, which also boosts his potential offensive output down the road.

 

But what he is most known for is his defensive game. He is very rarely out of position, and knows where to be at almost all times. He shows good strength despite being just 183 pounds, and tends to win board battles as well as net-front battles. But here is why I have him being selected a bit lower than many expect him to. He struggles against faster, shiftier forwards on the rush, and with the way the game is evolving, he could be left in the dust. His worst nightmare would be facing Johnny Gaudreau, Connor McDavid, Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen, Patrick Kane, etc., the list goes on and on. Even some lesser known guys like Carl Hagelin could make him look bad. He has to improve that area of his game to be effective at the next level.

 

As for his production last season, Harley had 11 goals and 47 assists (58 points) in 68 games for Mississauga. He also played for Team Canada at the U18 WJC, where he posted one goal and three assists (four points) in seven games.

 

Future Role: He is a safe pick in a sense that he will very likely crack an NHL roster down the road. He is a complete player, with maturity and high hockey IQ. His problem is he can’t handle what the game is becoming. At best, he will be a second pair defenseman with powerplay time, but at worst, a third pair journeyman defenseman, still with powerplay time. That being said, if he doesn’t fix that glaring hole in his game, he will really have to milk his offensive abilities to keep an NHL spot.

 

All stats via Eliteprospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Puck77

National Hockey League: Who Will Take Home The Hart Trophy?

The NHL Awards Show is coming up, and the finalists have already been announced. There are favorites and there are snubs, and fans have been vocal about who should win, and who deserves a nomination.

 

The Hart trophy is no different, and there have been varying cases for all three finalists. The Hart Trophy, for those who don’t know, is awarded to the player who is judged to be the most valuable to his team. Here are the finalists, and why they should, or could, win.

 

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Why He Should Win: Kucherov finished the season with 128 points, which, for this era, is unbelievable. He showed dominance in the league that had not been seen since the Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux era in Pittsburgh. He has already claimed the Art Ross trophy for most points in the entire league. A guy so dominant deserves this trophy certainly, but are point totals really enough?

Why He Should Not Win: Kucherov has every reason to win, but let’s look at what awards the players this trophy. “The player judged to be the most valuable to his team.” His own team. This is not league MVP, which Kucherov would claim, hands down.

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Was Kucherov really that vital to his teams performance? Well, yes, but if you take him out, the Lightning will still be a playoff team. They have Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s also not a captain, nor an assistant captain, so you can’t turn to leadership qualities for help. Yes, he led his team in points by a wide margin, and yes, he had a historical season in every sense. But no, Tampa would not blow up if he were not there.

 

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He Should Win: Sidney Crosby is the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Phil Kessel was swirling in trade rumors and Evgeni Malkin struggled, Sidney Crosby remained Sidney Crosby. He led the Penguins in points with 100, 18 more than second place Kessel. He led the team in assists with 65, 10 more than second place Kessel. He finished second on the team in goals with 35, behind linemate Jake Guentzel (40) and ahead of third place Kessel (27). He was tied with Kessel for power play goals (12) and had the most time on ice among forwards, averaging 20:59. He is the heart and soul of the Penguins, and their captain.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win: The Penguins had a down year in terms of where they finished as a team, as well as some individually underwhelming production. Crosby did not, as he held strong to his name. However, he’s just like Kucherov in a sense that the Penguins may not be awful if he were to leave them. Crosby is a huge figure in the locker room, but the Penguins still have so much star power with Malkin, Guentzel, Kris Letang, Kessel, Justin Schultz, and Matt Murray. They would still be a far different team, but I still believe they’re good enough to make the playoffs.

 

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Why He Should Win: As the captain of the Oilers, he went on to do McDavid things. He finished second in the league in points with 116, just 12 points behind the otherworldly production of Kucherov. He finished with 41 goals, which is tied with Kucherov for sixth in the league. He also notched 75 assists, second to only Kucherov (87) around the entire league. Edmonton is not a good team, and if you take McDavid off the roster, they’d be worse than the Ottawa Senators. What McDavid does for this team, no one can top it.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win It: While Kucherov was able to lead the Lightning towards a President’s Trophy, and Crosby was able to snag a playoff spot with the Penguins, McDavid was left golfing. He wasn’t good enough to get his team to the playoffs, despite being one of the best players in the league.

 

Deeper Dive

One way to decide whether or not a player was more lucky than successful is by looking at a stat that ultimately quantifies a players luck.

Higher than a 100 PDO means that person was lucky, and likely won’t repeat their season at that clip. Under 100 PDO is unlucky, and likely means that player could have done better. 100 PDO is average, not lucky or unlucky.

Kucherov finished the season with a 102.7, Crosby finished with a 101.9, and McDavid finished with a 100.7. That being said, Kucherov’s historic season was spectacular, but required a lot of luck, and he likely will never reach that total again in his career.

Crosby did not have as spectacular of a year, posting the lowest goal, assist, and point totals among the finalists, but still required some luck to reach triple digits, and if the Penguins struggles continue into next season, Crosby may not reach the 100-point plateau.

Meanwhile, McDavid was just a little over average, not requiring much luck to reach an incredible 116 points, and has a good chance of consistently hitting those marks despite being on a relatively weak roster.

 

In Conclusion

McDavid deserves this trophy through and through, because he produced at a very high rate, and didn’t need a lot of bounces to go his way to reach his mark, showing that he can consistently reach that same production season by season. He’s also the only guy you can look at and say “Without him, his team would really struggle.” He’s also the captain, and the captain of any team is extremely important as is. So while he didn’t produce like Kucherov did, he has the “C” on his sweater, and not as much luck on the ice.

 

Stats via NHL.com

PDO via Hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sign two key Defenders to new deals

Over the past several days, the Pittsburgh Penguins have signed a couple of their pending free agents to new contracts.

 

Chad Ruhwedel, 2-years $700k AAV

29-year old blue liner was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but he agreed to a two year extension. He brings depth to the right side of the Pens defense, though he lacks a lot of top end tools. Ruhwedel plays a very smart brand of hockey, and tends to be a quiet guy that listens to coaching. I don’t know that I have ever seen him make the same mistakes in consecutive shifts. He posted 1 goal and 2 assists in 18 games last season. While he was never a regular in the lineup, he was a key ingredient during the Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup run, when the team required the whole team to fill the void left by Kris Letang

Juuso Riikola, 1-year $850k

Rikola wowed the coaching out of training camp, and quickly earned a call up following the Justin Schultz injury. He appeared in 37 games, and had 2 goals and 3 assists. Both of his goals came as he was manning the 2nd power play unit. 

As news has been revealing, GM Jim Rutherford has been actively shopping Jack Johnson. And Olli Maatta‘s name has been rumored in each of the past few offseasons. It is likely that Rikola would be replacement, if Rutherford is able to find a trade partner for either of those defenseman. 

What’s Next

The team still has a few key Free Agents to re-sign, but I don’t think that we will hear about them until a Phil Kessel trade is completed. This will give the team a better understanding of their available cap space and remaining team needs. It is very likely the team will bring back Zack Aston-Reese, Marcus Petterson, and Teddy Blueger. They, also, want to work on an extension for Matt Murray, though I believe those negotiations are going to be tricky.

Their final order of business may be extending Jared McCann, before he has a huge season and drives himself out of the team’s price range. 

stats via hockey-reference.com

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