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

Metropolitan Division: Flyers and Capitals trade blueliners

The Philadelphia Flyers sent Radko Gudas and 70% of his salary to the Washington Capitals, in exchange for Matt Niskanen

What the Flyers Get. 

Matt Niskanen, RHD

2018-19 Stats: 8G, 17A, -3. 

2018-19 Advanced Stats: CF 47.0, CF Rel -3.2%, FF 46.6, FF Rel -4.0%

As evidenced by the statistics above, Niskanen had a bit of a down year. Niskanen set career lows in most categories, in a season that he played a relatively full schedule. He has 2 years remaining at a $5.75M cap hit. He also possesses a 10-team no movement clause. The veteran does provide the Flyers with a veteran presence in their defensive room. If the team decides to keep Shayne Gostisbehere, Niskanen will be a guiding light in his development. 

This is the second trade that Chuck Fletcher has made in the past couple of weeks. It should show the Flyers fan base that he is committed to changing the culture of this franchise. With rumors swirling that their first round selection may be available via trade, I don’t think we heard the last from Mr. Fletcher this week. 

What the Capitals Get

Radko Gudas, RHD

2018-19 Stats: 4G, 16A, +6

2018-19 Advanced Stats: CF 49.1, CF Rel 0.7%, FF 49.7, FF Rel 0.9% 

Gudas is as reliable as it gets, when it comes to getting the puck out of the defensive zone. Pair those possession metrics with the fact that he had a 58.7% Defensive Zone start, and you could see why the Capitals targeted him. The biggest knock on Radko Gudas is his discipline. He has been suspended numerous times, including a 10-game ban for slashing Mathieu Perreault. This is probably the biggest factor contributing to the retained salary portion of the transaction. 

With the trade today, Washington has roughly $13M in available cap space. Some of which will be used to re-sign deadline acquisition, Carl Hagelin, as well as a few of their key RFA’s. 

Trade Grades

Flyers: C

Capitals: A

Any time you can free up salary cap space and upgrade your team, you are definitely the victor. 

stats provided by hockey-reference

cap figures via capfriendly.com

Has the Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin rivalry finally come to an end?

Since Crosby and Ovechkin came into the league, there has been no better rivalry in the NHL. But now that both have hoisted the Stanley Cup, is it still a rivalry?

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Humble Beginnings

Alexander Ovechkin took the league by storm after being selected 1st overall in the 2004 draft. Delayed by a year due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout, his rookie season came in 2005-06 when he recorded 106 points (52 goals, 54 assists) in 81 games. However he wasn’t the only rookie standing in the spotlight that year. Sidney Crosby, drafted 1st overall in 2005, recorded 102 points (39 goals, 63 assists) in 81 games. Even though Ovechkin took home the Calder trophy that year, all eyes were still on Sidney Crosby. This was only the spark of a feud that would last for over 14 years.

The 2008-09 Playoffs

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The Pittsburgh Penguins & Washington Capitals didn’t meet in the playoffs until the 2008-09 season in the 2nd round. The Penguins were coming off a 4-2 series win against the Philadelphia Flyers while the Capitals won a hard fought 4-2 series over the New York Rangers. The Pens & Caps battled back and fourth until it was time for game 7, where the Penguins came out on top. While the Capitals licked their wounds, the Penguins would ultimately go on to hoist their 1st Stanley Cup since 1992. Sidney Crosby recorded 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in 24 games & Ovechkin recorded 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in 14 games.

The 2015-16 Playoffs

The two teams would not meet again until the 2015-16 season. It was 7 years of playoff failures (and misses) by both teams. Much like the 1st time, they met in the 2nd round. Since it had been so long since the two superstars have crossed paths, there was clearly a ton of hype surrounding the series. It did not disappoint. It would go 6 games in favor the Penguins but would end with some fireworks.

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Nick Bonino would send Pittsburgh into a madhouse after scoring in OT to close out the series. You can view the goal here. Much like 2009, the Penguins would go on to win the Cup that year. Sidney Crosby also was rewarded his 1st Conn Smythe trophy as well with 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists) in 24 games. Ovechkin would end the playoffs with 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 12 games.

The 2016-17 Playoffs

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The wait for the next time these two meet wouldn’t be too far down the road. The following season, they met in the 2nd round once again. The Penguins looked like a team poised for another strong Cup run while the Capitals were the favorites to win it all. But this time, there were some very different fireworks from the series.

Matt Niskanen would deliver a cross-check to the head of Sidney Crosby in game 3 of the series, which you can see here. That would keep the superstar sidelined for part of the series, the Penguins didn’t let up. They’d have a healthy Sidney Crosby back in the lineup for game 7 of the series back in Washington. Capitals were coming off a dominating win in game 6 as well. But the Capitals would again come up short & would be sent packing in the 2nd round.

Again, much like the 1st two times, the Penguins would go on to win the Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby would be rewarded his 2nd Conn Smythe as well. He recorded 27 points (8 goals, 19 assists) in 24 games. Ovechkin would record 8 points (5 goals, 3 assists) in 13 games.

The 2017-18 Playoffs

It would be another short wait for to see the two players meet for another best-of-seven series. And like all the other times, it would come in the 2nd round. The Penguins were coming off back-to-back Cups and looked like a team utterly deflated after their 1st round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Then it really showed in their 6 game defeat to the Washington Capitals who finally exorcised the demons by beating the Penguins.

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Once you start knocking down barriers that have held you back for years, you know things are about the get special. The Capitals would go on to win the Stanley Cup that year defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games. You can see the celebration here. Ovechkin would capture his 1st Conn Smythe trophy as well. Crosby finished the playoffs with 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists) in 12 games. Ovechkin would finish with 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 24 games.

Has the rivalry finally ended?

Sidney Crosby & Alexander Ovechkin have now been on top of the hockey mountain. They have both done everything there is to do in the game. Will they ride off into the sunset now? Highly unlikely. These two have been compared by analysts & fans for over a decade. I think that will continue until the day they both hang up the skates for good.

Where We Are Now.

Sidney Crosby:

3x Cup winner, 7x all-star, 3x Pearson,2x Hart, 2x Conn Smythe, 2x Richard, 2x Ross winner.

1,216 career points (446 goals, 770 assists) in 943 games.

Alexander Ovechkin:

1x Cup winner, 11x all-star, 8x Richard 3x Hart, 3x Pearson, 1x Ross, 1x Conn Smythe, 1x Calder winner.

1,211 career points (658 goals, 553 assists) in 1,084 games.

Stats from HockeyReference & NHL.com

Feature Image Courtesy of Nikos Michals

Carolina Hurricanes

Who Are The Carolina Hurricanes?

If you would’ve told me the Carolina Hurricanes would be in the Eastern Conference Final in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs I might think you were nuts, but here we are. The Cinderella story lives on.

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Call me crazy, but I have caught the Hurricane Fever. The so called “Bunch of Jerks”have grown on me a lot this season in the NHL. Could it be because they have a lot of Chicago Blackhawks on their team? Maybe. But mostly because they have a lot of fun playing hockey and the storm surges this season were very memorable. To be honest though, it all stems from NHL analyst Don Cherry calling the Hurricanes a bunch of jerks during a coach’s corner back in February over their postgame celebrations. We all know the team could’ve shrugged off his comments and kept engaging fans that went to their games. But instead in an extremely savage way, they made a marketing campaign off Cherry’s comments with t-shirts which I bought one… and not to forget, an on ice projection.

Then, the team finished with a pretty impressive 46-29-7 record capping off their season with a 4-3 winner against the Philadelphia Flyers. They got in as the #1 wildcard seed and would have to face the Defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. The Caps would prove to be a tough team to beat on home ice, taking a 2-0 lead on the Canes going into game 3 after a Brooks Orpik game winner in OT. However, taking the Jerks lightly in Game 3 would be a mistake after Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton would score a pair of goals, and Brock McGinn would cap off a 5-0 win. While Game 4 was a completely different game, the result would be the same with Teuvo Teravainen and Warren Foegele scoring in this one would be the difference. Let us not forget about Petr Mrazek making 31 saves in this 2-1 win. Washington being very difficult to beat on home ice would take a 3-2 series lead with a 6-0 win . However coming home, the resilient Canes wouldn’t go quietly, winning the Game 5-2, setting up what seemed to be a David Vs Goliath type Game 7 in Capital One Arena in our nation’s capital. Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson would give the Caps a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission. Jordan Martinook would take a 2 minute penalty for tripping at 8:35 of the 2nd period. Sebastian Aho however, would get his team on the board with a Short-Handed goal, and his 2nd of the playoffs. The score would stay that way for about four minutes until Evgeny Kuznetzov would put the Capitals up 3-1. Hearts began to sink all around the Hurricanes fan base. Rest Assured, Teuvo Teravainen would score before the end of the second period. Setting the stage for a 3rd period that would be unnerving for both sides. Jordan Staal would score the only goal for the period bringing us what we all wanted, a Game 7 OT! No one would score in the first overtime, so we as hockey fans got to see a second one. Enter Mr. Game 7, Carolina Hurricanes Captain Justin Williams. He took a shot that would be deflected by Brock McGinn at 11:05 and propelled the Carolina Hurricanes into the 2nd round to face the New York Islanders

Now, the New York Islanders were just coming off a first round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. So to be honest, I was just as nervous as any other Caniac out there. Game 1 was one for the ages, Petr Mrazek and Robin Lehner stole the show both making 31 saves, but Jordan Staal nabbed the game winner. Game 2 was much of the same, except Curtis McElhinney was forced to come in after Mrazek left the game due to injury. Making 17 saves, he along with Warren Foegele and newcomer Nino Niederreiter would give the Canes a 2-0 series lead, taking both games on the road. Game 3 would also prove to be tough, but the Hurricanes won 5-2 behind a pair of Teuvo Teravainen goals. So here we are, Game 4, it’s a win or go home for the New York Islanders. Which seems strange only because this was a team that took out the 2nd best team of the decade. What feels like so long ago was on May 3rd, if you can believe that. The first period would see a pair of power play goals by Matthew Barzal and Sebastian Aho leaving the game tied at 1 after 1. Thanks to 3 goals in the second period by Teuvo Teravainen, Greg McKegg, and Justin Williams, The Hurricanes led 4-1 after 2. The 3rd period would see the teams trade goals, but Andrei Svechnikov scored his first goal since being injured in the first round after a tilt with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Brock Nelson would score the other goal for the Islanders, but it wouldn’t be enough…. The Carolina Hurricanes advance to face the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. Wait What???? That cannot possibly be right. Yes, that is absolutely what you just read.

Finally, I could go on and on about how exciting this team is. But I’ll let Don Cherry do the talking as he doubled down on his Bunch of Jerks comment, now calling fans of the team a bunch of front-runner fans, or for those who aren’t familiar with the term, bandwagon fans. Which to me isn’t a fair assessment of the Caniacs. This team deserves to have success. Whether they’re fans just along for the ride, it shouldn’t matter. It should be interesting to see just how far this team goes in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, but consider me along for the ride.

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

Washington Capitals

The Goalie Controversy the Washington Capitals have Brewing Beneath the Surface

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has one year remaining on his current contract. Phoenix Copley has proven to be a reliable back-up. The wildcard in the mix is the addition of the highly touted Russian Ilya Samsonov.

Braden Holtby is a Stanley Cup Champion. He has a Vezina Trophy as the leagues best goaltender from his outstanding 2016 season. The Washington Capital is a four-time all-star and winner of over 250 NHL games. He is one of the best goaltenders all-time in the playoffs with a .928 S%. His contract is also expiring after next season, his age 30 season. Can the former Vezina winner continue to hold down the crease in the US capital?

Holtby‘s Inconsistency

Since his Vezina winning 2016 season, Holtby has been up and down in performance level. His follow-up season in 2016-17 was even better than his Vezina year. His S% rose from .922 to .925 which was a modest improvement but the real improvement game in the GSAA (Goals saves above average) department. The stat measures how many goals a goalie saves based on the variety of chances he’s faced. In his award winning year he had a very good 12.43 GSAA, which was topped the following year with a career-high 19.25 GSAA. He looked as if he was becoming one of the best goaltenders in the world.

The feeling began to fade as soon as the 2017-18 season. His S% dipped to a near league average .907 and his GSAA plummeted to -8.36, a drastic 27.61 goal swing from the previous year. He seemingly began to lose the net to then back-up goalie Philipp Grubauer. Playing in just 54 games and starting less and less frequently as the season wore on, he began the first round of the playoffs with a ball cap on his head, sitting at the end of the bench.

After Grubauer faltered in the in the first two games of the first round series against the underdog Columbus Blue Jackets, Holtby entered the in relief in game two. Never looking back, the 2008 fourth round draft pick led the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup. His performance was Conn Smythe worthy and if captain Alexander Ovechkin‘s gritty run to his first cup wasn’t such a huge story, he may have won the playoff MVP trophy.

Coming into this season, Holtby seemed to have eradicated any doubt that he was their starting goalie. He again faltered putting up and uninspiring .911 S% and a 1. 79 GSAA. While these numbers weren’t terrible, especially in a year where goaltender numbers as a whole were down as scoring went up. Holtby couldn’t steal a game against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs and that may have been the difference against the Hurricanes, who are currently awaiting the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Emergence of Phoenix Copley

The back-up goalie was a throw-in piece in a trade where he came along with Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues at the 2017 NHL trade deadline. This season was the first full season in the NHL for Phoenix Copley at the age of 27. He hasn’t shown the ability to be a starter in the NHL but he did the one thing every coach wants his back-up goalie to do, find a way to win. It wasn’t always pretty, his numbers haven’t been great, but he has won. Starting 24 games this season, winning 16 games in the process.

His mediocre S%, a .905, was nothing to ride home about and his -4.06 GSAA was below replacement value. The difference between him and other struggling net-minders is that he is still winning games when called upon and at the moment, that’s all he needs to do as a back-up.

The Russian Hotshot

The top goalie taken in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was Ilya Samsonov out of Russia. The athletic goalie showed good positioning, excellent lateral quickness and strong reflexes and became one of the best goalies not in the NHL. This season the 6’3″, 205lbs goaltender made his way from Russia to the United States.

As one of the top goalie prospects in hockey, Samsonov isn’t likely to play second fiddle for long. He has all of the tools to be an NHL starting goaltender. He has a strong lower half that moves powerfully and efficiently laterally. The Russian netminder is excellent at coming to the top of his crease to challenge a shooter but has been know to be slightly over aggressive which can leave him out of position at times but he generally keeps under control. Samsonov has the ability to see around defenders as he has very active head movement. He is a complete goalie prospect that should improve with age and maturity.

Playing his first season in North America strictly in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. While his season started slow, Samsonov began to get comfortable around Christmas time and improving greatly in the second half of the season. After back-to-back shutouts against the Lehigh Valley Phantom and the Binghamton Devils in January, he won 8 of 11 games and posted a .920 S%. While this season was very much a learning experience for Samsonov, his second half improvement in the AHL was a promising sign, possibly leading to some NHL time next season.

Where’s the Goalie Controversy?

While the battle between Holtby and Samsonov may have yet to truly start, the contract situation of Holtby could accelerate the process. Washington is likely to let Samsonov come into training camp with an opportunity to win the back-up job from Copley who isn’t likely to put up much of a fight and can bide his time in the AHL with the Bears.

If the Russian youngster does come into the 2019-20 season as the back-up, Holtby would immediately take notice. Regardless of whether Holtby gets an extension this summer, Samsonov’s presence alone may signal the beginning of the end for Holtby. If an extension does present itself for the incumbent goaltender, it’s likely to be short-to-mid term in length at a fairly reasonable salary cap number. Due to this fact, the contract would be movable should Washington deem their salary cap situation too dire and they feel that Holtby has lost the net for the last time in a Washington sweater. If Samsonov can impress early next season and begin to poach starts from the 2016 Vezina winner, he may have to relocate his trophy case to another city sooner rather than later.

For More on the NHL, you can follow me on Twitter at @TheTonyFerrari 

All stats and information courtesy of the AHL, the NHL, Hockey Reference and Elite Prospects

Feature Image Courtesy of Josh Tessler