Tyler Myers

Vancouver Canucks Sign Tyler Myers

It’s beginning to seem like a theme in July. The Vancouver Canucks make a free agency signing (or signings) that have the hockey world scratching their heads. This year it’s Tyler Myers at five years for $6 million per year.

While this isn’t as atrocious as it initially could have been, the Vancouver Canucks make a signing on July 1st that isn’t popular in many circles outside of “Old School Hockey Men”. With rumours floating around in the week prior to free agency that the deal could have been seven years at $8 million average annual value (AAV) this could have been a much worse situation.


Tweet courtesy of @BlakePriceTSN

The Good

Tyler Myers is an NHL Blue liner without a doubt but he could be miscast and played up the lineup at times. What he does bring to the table however are great size and decent puck skills. The 6’8″ defender has a massive frame and outstanding reach. This profiles as an outstanding feature for a blue liner. His skating is good for his massive size and he can be a freight train once he gets up to speed. The Canucks showed that is a video they posted to their twitter.


Tweet courtesy of @Canucks

The Bad

This contract is too long and for too much money. Often playing on the third pairing last season on the Winnipeg Jets , Myers struggled at times. He was often paired with sub-par players and was unable to raise his game to cover for them despite being in favourable matchups against the oppositions lesser skilled offensive players.

Myers has been a steady 30-point defencemen that’s often touted as a two-way or offensive blue-liner. This isn’t the case however, as he is often a source of possession metrics that are less than favourable. His time in Winnipeg and his time with the Buffalo Sabres to begin his career do not show much variance in any either Corsi For (CF%) or Fenwick For (FF%) in the chart below, courtesy of Hockey Reference.

The Ugly

While some may try to blame the poor possession or play driving metrics on his teammates in Buffalo or his reduced role and poor quality of teammates in Winnipeg, the fact of the matter remains that Myers isn’t a positive factor on any pairing that he was on last season. The chart below from Sean Tierney’s Public Tableau show just that.

Canucks July 1st Misstep

Myer’s doesn’t drive possession and he isn’t a positive impact offensively at all. He isn’t particularly skilled defensively but does have the advantage of size. His last major award or accomplishment was his Calder trophy win in his rookie season over a decade ago. He’s been riding that accomplishment since then and in combination with his mammoth size, he often gets overvalued by the “eye-test” on both ends of the floor because there are tools that are evidently there. The problem is that he can’t be expected to put the whole package together and be a serviceable top-four defender this late into his career.

For more the draft, prospects and the NHL in general you can follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari

All statistics and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats. Visual provided by Sean Tierney’s Public Tableau

Feature image credit Dinur Blum

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. 

Winnipeg Jets

Evaluating The Winnipeg Jets’ Return For Jacob Trouba

On Monday evening, the Winnipeg Jets traded defensemen Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in exchange for defensemen Neal Pionk and the 20th overall selection in this year’s draft.

It would have been easy for me to evaluate the trade when it happened, but that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I needed to see what would happen with that pick on Friday night. Now, we know. The Winnipeg Jets selected defensemen Ville Heinola with the 20th overall pick.

There are a lot of things to unpack with this trade, so let’s just start with Trouba.

Jacob Trouba

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There was always a lot of discussion that Jacob Trouba did not want to live in Winnipeg. He definitely has asked for a trade at least twice in the past. The first time was a few years ago amid speculation that he was not comfortable playing either on the left side or deep in the lineup. The second time was this spring. I’ve always thought it is unfair to assume that players are unwilling to be sold on a team just because of geography. If Trouba didn’t want to play in the city of Winnipeg, he would have been much more aggressive with his “get me out of here” attitude. To me, Trouba hating Winnipeg or the Jets was never, ever the case.

The issue, as we now know, was something deeper for Trouba. In an interview with Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, Trouba explained that his desire to be moved stemmed from his personal life. In the fall, Trouba’s fiancée Kelly will begin her residency on the road to becoming a doctor. Simply put, it was a greater opportunity for her outside of Winnipeg, and it became important for Jacob to help her in that quest because he had the chance to do so. This was never about the Jets. The first trade request was about opportunity, and this time is no different.

The Jets lose an undeniable first pairing defenseman. I don’t need to tell you that is not ideal in the short term.

That said, I am not buying the narrative that the Jets got completely fleeced here. The fact is that the Jets needed to make a move for Trouba. Until we learn what the other offers were (don’t hold your breath on that one), we cannot really weigh them against each other. The only thing we can look at is the assets that the Jets acquired.

Neal Pionk

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The talent is definitely there, but there is undeniable work to be done. Sometimes it is true that you cannot teach a hockey player certain things. There are often offensive defensemen that cannot figure out how to defend properly, or centres that cannot play wing. But more often than not, players with Pionk’s talent can be taught these things.

In terms of possession numbers, it’s not pretty. Pionk carries a career 41.3% Corsi percentage in just 101 games. You don’t really need to look at a heat map to get a better explanation. To sum that up, his defensive heat maps light up in all the wrong areas. I’m sure you get the picture there. However, Pionk does have enough positives offensively that it’s possible to work with him. After all, Pionk is just 23-years old. He has played just 101 games as I mentioned, and keep in mind the Rangers haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire the past couple years. Pionk has good speed, nice hands, and decent vision. Although you may need to shelter him at times, there is plenty of room to improve. I don’t buy the argument, or the twitter consensus among the armchair GMs, that he is ‘bad’.

I believe Pionk was not the focal point of the return for the Jets. Rather, Pionk was an asset that they believe they can develop, but I believe that getting their first round pick back was the focal point. To me, Kevin Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff have a good enough drafting resume that they were confident enough they would get the right player at 20th overall.

Ville Heinola

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There is a lot to like with Ville Heinola. Ranked 18th overall on Puck77’s final draft rankings, Heinola is a mobile defensemen who is very smart at both ends of the ice. An exceptional puck mover, Heinola also cuts down passing lanes very well. Quite often, it’s tough to find a defensemen who can do both while skating efficiently. Although there is admittedly room to grow with his skating; he’s more of a smooth skater than an overly fast one. Heinola also skated very well beside Henri Jokiharju with Team Finland at the World Junior Under 20 Championships this past winter.

Heinola adds to the group of young, talented Finns within the Jets’ organization; Patrik Laine, Kristian Vesalainen, Sami Niku, and perhaps more on the way. The benefit for Jets fans in this scenario is that they can rest easier with first round selections than fans of many other teams can. With the exception of Logan Stanley, all of Kevin Cheveldayoff’s first round picks as GM of the Jets have appeared in the NHL for the team. Even with Stanley, I believe his chance may still be coming.

The Deal As A Whole

It is hard to look at Jacob Trouba for Neal Pionk and Ville Heinola and feel amazing, but the reason for that is the uncertainty. There are no guarantees on Pionk or Heinola, and it is very possible that the Jets come up essentially empty while trading a bonafide first pairing guy. I would err on the side of caution before panicking about this trade for Jets fans. This trade is one of the only trades that Cheveldayoff has made that in his entire tenure that caused panic, or even just reason to believe it wouldn’t somehow work out. It is important for Jets’ fans to have some faith in what Cheveldayoff has done so far, and to believe that if he passed up another deal, there is probably good reason for it.

My final thought on this trade is that I am skeptical. However, there is upside on Pionk, and potential on Heinola. The success of this trade now depends on the development staff of the Winnipeg Jets, and there is a strong enough track record that I just can’t push the panic button on this one.

article referenced from the Winnipeg Sun, written by Ken Wiebe (https://winnipegsun.com/sports/hockey/nhl/winnipeg-jets/personal-decision-for-trouba-jets-werent-the-issue-for-departing-defenceman). statistics obtained from hockey-reference.com, hockeydb.com, quanthockey.com.

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

NHL Draft Profile: Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight is the top goalie among most draft aficionados. He was the unheralded backbone of one of the best USNTDP of all-time. His ability to stay calm, cool and collected paired with maybe the best athleticism for any player in the draft combine to make Knight a top prospect in the 2019 NHL Draft.

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Name: Spencer Knight

Date of Birth: April 19, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Darien, CT, USA)

Hieght: 6’3″

Weight: 198lbs

Catches: Left

Position: G

Rankings

Ranked #12 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The top goaltender in the draft has been outstanding all year. He has shown all the tools that talent evaluators look for in a young goaltender. His mental make-up is strong and he does an excellent job staying poised. He doesn’t panic or get flustered after allowing a weak goal. He stays focused and is able to see around screens because he shows great awareness of the play. The American goaltender does an excellent job at keeping his back upright and keeping a solid base to ensure that he’s using his entire 6’3″ frame in the net. In the video below, you can see Knight hold his ground despite the Finnish players best attempt at poking the puck free.  

Throughput the year, Knight showed that his maturity was well beyond his years. Often times with young goalies, sustained pressure from the opposition can lead to a break down in positioning and cause the young netminder to allow a goal that he would normally save. This isn’t often the case for Knight. He is able to harness his poise and focus in on tracking the puck while staying in good position. His eyes stay locked in on the puck and he is able to make multiple saves by kicking his pads out and closing down on the puck despite good movement from the opposing team. The video below if a perfect example of Knights ability to keep focused and dialed in on the puck. 

 

At the draft combine, many came away with the realization that Knight was among the best athletes in the draft. Knight shows his impressive athleticism with his ability to move laterally with precision and recover on plays that become a scramble in front of him. His lateral movement is extremely crisp and he rarely overshoots his positioning. He comes across the crease with a strong push. His ability to keep his upper body high while sliding over helps him stay big and cover the net as he transitions. Below you can see Knight unable to corral the loose puck in front of him but quickly recovers and uses his athleticism to make an outstanding save. 

Lower body strength and stability is an asset that goalies need and Spencer Knight has both. The future franchise netminder has the strength to keep his pad down and pinned to either post while still being able to stay upright and actively following the puck. The lower body strength aids in his push off from post-to-post and allows him to kick out his pads during a slide. As you can see below, Knight is able to use the aforementioned lower body strength to push off the right post and explode towards the recipient of the pass. His strong core allows him to stay upright long enough to make the marvelous save. 

When it comes to positioning, Knight is consistently stable. He plays a mature game which makes him far ahead of the curve for draft eligible goaltenders. The goalkeeper does a good job at absorbing the puck into his chest and not allowing egregious rebound more often than not. His reflexes have developed further throughout the year and he’s been able to track and catch shots quite well. When the puck is shot to his blocker side, he often deflects the puck into the corner or up into the net depending on the situation. Knight is able to track a pass through the middle of the ice and not over commit on a slide. He stops in perfect position and is able to make the save with ease as you can see in the video below.  

What the Detractors Say

While no 18-year-old goaltender is perfect, Spencer Knight does everything you’d like a goaltender to do. One of the few aspects of Knight’s game that scouts have picked on is his tendency to play fairly deep in his net at times. While he comes out to challenge shooters in one-on-one scenarios, he has sunken into his net at times during sustained pressure. While this hasn’t been an issue at junior level, it could become an issue at the next level as the athletic goalie moves forward. His athleticism helps him make up for the depth in which he plays at but he could stand to play a little higher in his crease.

Preseason Outlook

Having played in 14 games with the USNTDP U18 team a year early, many expected Knight to put on a show for the 2018-19 season. His positioning and athleticism allowed him to play up a level with success. Coming into the year, the young goaltender was considered the top goalie and he did nothing to change that fact.

Video courtesy of Justy Power YouTube

USNTDP Success

The top-tier prospect in net was outstanding this year on a stacked USNTDP team. With the high-powered offence, Knight certainly received his fair share of goal support but there was a number of times where Knight would put on a goaltending clinic. Early in the season Knight put together a masterful performance against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ranked third in the NCAA at the time. Showing off all of his tools, this game signified his dominance and showed that he can read a play and play good positional hockey at a young age. In the video below, Knight makes an outstanding save on a slap shot from the circle. He shows excellent reflexes with the glove stage. 

Knight continued to put together good performances against both USHL and NCAA competition. He finished the year with a save percentage of .903 against USHL opponents but a .913 overall if you include the tougher NCAA schedule as well. This showed that he was able to play up to the competition and he benefitted from facing more steady work rather than the games in the USHL where his team often outshot the opposition by a wide margin.

Strong U18 World Championships

The world stage was where Knight shone brightest this year. At the U18 World Championships this year, Knight was able to dominate his peers. In his six games at the tournament, he allowed just 1.51 goals against average and had a sparkling .936 save percentage. However it was the save that he made that showed he would be an NHL goaltender sooner than many thought coming into the year.

Spencer Knight will be taken…

Somewhere in the 15-25 range most likely but there’s a chance he goes slightly earlier. Goalies are seldom drafted in the first round anymore but Knight is destined to be the exception. He’s one of the best American goaltending prospects in years and projects extremely well. His athleticism and mental fortitude will serve him well as he hopes to take the next step at Boston College next year. He is likely to step into a prominent role in the program despite being a freshman. His first task will be taking full control of the net and continuing to develop with the help of his Boston College athletic staff. The future franchise goaltender should, and likely will, be selected in the middle of the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

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

All stats and information provided by Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

New York Rangers

New York Rangers: Jacob Trouba Moving To Broadway

The New York Rangers have made a trade with the Winnipeg Jets for defenseman Jacob Trouba.

Cheveldayoff Making Another Move With NYR

Trouba will be a restricted free agent on July 1st and he hasn’t been open to signing a long-term deal in the past with Winnipeg. With Trouba’s interest levels of remaining in Winnipeg being very low, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff called his friends in Manhattan to work out a trade.

It wasn’t very long ago that the Jets made a trade with the Rangers. Prior to trade deadline, Cheveldayoff acquired Kevin Hayes from the Rangers. Hayes was added at the deadline to help provide the Jets with some centre depth, but he’s now in Philadelphia. Just to note, Hayes isn’t technically a Philadelphia Flyer just yet. He’ll be a free agent like Trouba and the Flyers had acquired his signing rights.

Who The Jets Are Getting

Per the New York Rangers twitter handle, the Rangers dealt Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Oddly enough, the Jets previously owned the pick, but coughed it up in the deadline trade for Hayes. With the trade, the Jets now have a first round pick and have five picks in total for the draft.

They also inked Pionk. Pionk has been a serviceable defenseman for the Rangers. He’s a solid 4th/5th defenseman. In the past, he’s shown to fans that he’s capable of putting up solid power-play numbers. But, he’s not spectacular in his own zone nor the neutral zone. His defensive corsi-for and his expected goals against aren’t great. 

In the visual below from Sean Tierney, you’ll see just how awful Pionk was on the Rangers’ blueline. Pionk’s break-up percentage and possession exit percentage were both quite low. He’s not a puck mover and can’t be trusted in critical situations.

visual created by Sean Tierney, data from Corey Sznajder

Jacob Trouba

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On the flip side, Trouba is a stellar two-way defenseman. But, he’s much better in the offensive zone.

In the chart below (created by CJ Turtoro), you’ll see that Trouba was more efficient at shot contributions/60, shot assists/60 and shots/60 than Pionk. He’s also a lot better in the defensive zone as well. But, the only area where Pionk has him slightly beat is zone entries.

visual created by CJ Turtoro, data from Corey Sznajder

All-In-All

At the end of the day, this was a great trade for both sides. It’s been rumoured for a while that Trouba has no interest in playing in Winnipeg and it’s evident that Cheveldayoff gave up on his mission of making Trouba feel more at home. He was able to net his first round draft pick back and a solid depth defenseman.

For the New York Rangers, they’ve been adding young defensemen left and right. Earlier this year, they acquired Adam Fox from the Carolina Hurricanes and they are back at it again. With Trouba and Fox moving to Broadway, the Rangers defensive unit has quickly become a pretty good unit. Their opponents in the Metropolitan Division won’t have a lot of fun next season.

data from Corey Sznajder, hockey-reference.com

visuals from CJ Turtoro and Sean Tierney

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals