Jimmy Vesey

The New York Rangers Trade Jimmy Vesey To The Buffalo Sabres

featured image photo credit – Dinur Blum

Per Darren Dreger of TSN, the New York Rangers trade forward Jimmy Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 3rd round pick in 2021.

Vesey, 26, has been rumoured to be on the move for quite a while and is already an interesting story as it is. Some may remember back in 2016, Buffalo acquired Jimmy Vesey’s rights from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 3rd round pick in 2016. However, due to the fact that a deal was not made, Vesey was ruled an unrestricted free agent and eventually signed in New York with the Rangers for a 2 year deal worth $2.275 million dollars per season.

New York’s focus for this deal was to shed another contract as the team looks to improve the roster by either means of the draft or via free agency. As of writing this post, the Rangers now have approximately $20 million dollars in cap space which could make them, big players in the free agent market to accelerate their rebuild. The Rangers are rumoured to be targeting Artemi Panarin, who is the best unrestricted free agent forward on the market. Panarin will command roughly 9-11 million and the Rangers needed to move some cap space, which meant that Vesey needed to go.

As for the Sabres, they get a solid forward to help bolster their scoring depth on a cheap one year deal. They completed a similar trade last off-season with the Pittsburgh Penguins when they acquired left-winger Connor Sheary. Again, general manager Jason Botterill is working the phones and adds another depth winger in Vesey.

Vesey will likely slot in on the Buffalo Sabres’ third line alongside Evan Rodrigues and Tage Thompson. If Vesey gets off to a hot start, Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger could decide to move him up to the second line to play with Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo. 

In the visual below (from Sean Tierney), you’ll see Vesey’s playing style mapped out. You’ll see that Vesey is great at primary assists and shot creation, but isn’t reliable in high danger situations. Plus, he’s not going to create many zone entries nor is he going to light up the score sheet. He’s just a plain depth top 9 forward, but in the right spot, he could be a top 6 forward.

visual from Sean Tierney, data from Corey Sznajder

If Vesey pans out for Buffalo, he could be a huge part of their team going forward. If not, I am sure that Jason Botterill and company could look to trading him as a rental to another team for some future assets. 

stats from hockey-reference.com and Corey Sznajder

visual from Sean Tierney

 

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres’ Development Camp Review

The 2019 Buffalo Sabres Development Camp ended Saturday with the annual 3-on-3 French Connection Tournament.

The tournament provides a fun end to the camp but also gives both the prospects and free agent camp invitees the opportunity to stand out and put themselves on the radar of the onlooking Sabres brass. The tournament was won by Team Blue, who prevailed in a shootout over Team Gold after the game finished 1-1. Although it’s hard to put too much stock in performances during 3-on-3 games, there were notable efforts from many players.

Pro Experience A Big Factor

It was an important week for Tage Thompson, both on and off the ice. His first season in Buffalo did not go to plan for him. He experienced long spells as a healthy scratch before being sent down to AHL Rochester. He had a strong end to the season with the Americans, and appears to have carried that good form into the off-season. One criticism of Thompson last season was that he lacked the physicality to make it in the NHL. He appears to be addressing this issue, starting this summer. He stated that he has so far put on eight pounds and this will certainly not have gone unnoticed. Thompson was also this year’s recipient of the Craig Ramsey Leadership Award, given to the hardest working player at the camp, further highlighting the commitment he is putting in to getting better. It will be interesting to see how Thompson fares in training camp, especially with the lack of RW depth in the Sabres organization.

The other standout player of the week was undoubtedly Victor Olofsson. The Swede, who put up 63 points in 66 games with Rochester last season, looked a cut above the rest in the 3-on-3 games. He figures to be a regular fixture in the Buffalo Sabres’ line-up next season and a good training camp will cement that. Olofsson impressed Sabres’ HC Ralph Krueger with his work away from the puck and that will be something he has to continue doing to secure his place in the opening night line-up.

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Two Amerks Looking to Make Jump to Next Level

Two other players who will be hoping to crack the Sabres team this year are Will Borgen and Rasmus Asplund. Borgen had a seamless transition to the pro ranks last season, playing 75 games (including four in Buffalo). He will be hoping to take advantage of long-term injuries to Zach Bogosian and Lawrence Pilut and make the Sabres out of training camp. He brings a physical defensive game, something the Sabres lacked at times last season. I would expect him to get a long look before a decision is made. Ultimately another season in the AHL would do him no harm.

Asplund used this development camp to further stake his claim for NHL playing time next season. The Sabres desperately need to reshape their forwards ranks and Asplund may be one of the beneficiaries of this. After a slow first half of last season, Asplund really impressed in the second half. He finished with 41 points in 75 games. A case could be made that he would benefit from seasoning in the AHL, and he may start the season there. However he has shown all the tools that would make him an improvement to the Sabres’ bottom six. He may need to bide his time though, especially with the signing of Finnish free agent Arttu Ruotsalainen. The pint-sized center also had a strong development camp and will have his sights set on making the Sabres’ lineup.

A Mixed Week for the 2019 First Rounders

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All eyes were on 7th overall pick Dylan Cozens coming into this week but it was a frustrating week for the Lethbridge Hurricanes player. He struggled with illness all week, having to go off the ice at times during practices. His 3-on-3 tournament then ended in his first game with a nasty thumb injury. Speaking after the tournament on Saturday, Cozens stated that the injury does not initially appear as bad as it looked. He will visit a specialist on Monday to have it checked over.

It was a much better week for the Sabres other first round selection Ryan Johnson. The defenseman displayed his high-quality skating and puck moving abilities all week. He capped it off with strong performances in the 3-on-3 games, including a highlight reel shootout goal in the final. The University of Minnesota commit will look to build on these performances as he starts his NCAA career in the fall.

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Free Agent Standouts

Out of the 11 free agent invitees, the clear standout player was Dawson DiPietro. The winger from Western Michigan University was arguably the most notable player on the ice during the 3-on-3 games. He scored multiple times and created chances nearly every time he was on the ice. He displayed high energy and a relentless work ethic and looked like a player ready-made to make the transition to the pro ranks. Sabres scouts will have been very familiar with him throughout last season. He is a teammate of 2018 draft selection and defense prospect Mattias Samuelsson. DiPietro is definitely a free agent to keep an eye on for the future.

The other top free agent performer in the 3-on-3 games was goaltender Darion Hanson. Whilst the other goaltenders split time during the games, Hanson played every minute for Team Blue, due to an injury to Jonas Johansson. He made a couple of eye-catching saves and made the winning save in the final shootout to help Team Blue lift the trophy. He will be a player that I imagine the Sabres will keep an eye on as he heads back to Union College for his junior year.

Plenty More Work to Be Done

Overall it was a successful week for all the prospects taking part. For the new players it was a good first taste of life in a professional hockey organization, especially with all the off ice and media work they completed. And for the returning players it was an opportunity to show the improvements they’ve made from their off-season work. The players will break now for their summer workouts, with the hope of receiving an invite to the Prospects Challenge in September and another chance to stake their claim as part of the Sabres’ future.

stats from hockey-reference.com and eliteprospects.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Rasmus Ristolainen

Buffalo Sabres: Colin Miller In, Rasmus Ristolainen Out?

featured image photo credit – Lisa Gansky/Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, the Buffalo Sabres acquired Colin Miller in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights. 

Bob McKenzie of TSN broke the news yesterday afternoon. McKenzie explained that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill struck a deal with Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon to send two draft picks to Vegas for Miller. In particular, the Sabres dealt a 2nd round pick (2021 draft) and a 5th round pick (2022 draft). The 2nd round pick was originally the pick of the St. Louis Blues and was acquired by Buffalo in the Ryan O’Reilly trade.

With the addition of Miller, the Sabres have bolstered their blue-line and now have a plethora of talent on their blue-line. They have Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Brandon Montour, Marco Scandella, Miller and they still have many assets in their farm system. The Sabres have quickly become a strong defensive club.

Per DailyFaceoff.com, Miller is on the third defensive pairing alongside Scandella. But, I don’t believe that Jason Botterill decided to trade for Miller to put him on his third pairing. Instead, I believe that one of Sabres’ defensemen on the right side will become expendable. 

Who Could Be On The Trading Block?

If Botterill does decide to trade a right handed defenseman, it’s likely that Ristolainen is the defenseman that gets moved.

Throughout his time in Buffalo, Ristolainen has received a lot of criticism. While he’s been effective in the offensive zone and has shown to lay down hits, he’s rather inadequate in the defensive and neutral zones. He’s not dependable and he can’t be trusted to do the dirty work to get the puck from zone-to-zone. Instead, he’s more of a typical offensive defenseman. Ristolainen is essentially a one-trick pony, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Each team needs a point and shoot guy, who can deliver consistently on special teams. 

But, I believe that his time in Buffalo is running out. In the visual below from Sean Tierney, you’ll see how inadequate the Finnish defenseman is at break-ups and possession exits. 

visual created by Sean Tierney, data from Corey Sznajder

Ristolainen Is An Offensive Threat

Ristolainen’s value is also really high as many teams could utilize his shot from the point. There are quite a few clubs across the league, who have had power-play issues last season and would love to have a defenseman like Ristolainen firing shot after shot. Plus, if you look at the chart below from Tierney, you’ll see how effective Ristolainen was in the offensive zone last season. He was one of the biggest primary shot contributors on the Sabres blue-line and had the most shots/60 out of all of them.

visual created by Sean Tierney, data from Corey Sznajder and EvolvingWild

With that being said, there are many clubs across the NHL that could use his services and the Sabres could add some much needed forward depth in return. For example, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders desperately need someone like Ristolainen. Perhaps, Botterill will call one of these clubs and work out a deal that benefits both sides.

stats from hockey-reference.com, Corey Sznajder, EvolvingWild

visuals from Sean Tierney

Follow Josh Tessler, the author of this post on Twitter (@JoshTessler_)

2019 NHL Draft: Potential Gems Part 1 – Atlantic Division

Welcome to a new series I’m starting here on Puck77. Hidden gems in the NHL Draft.

 
If you couldn’t tell already, I’m an absolute draft nut. And I was starting to get antsy with me not having done a prospect series of some sort in a while. One of my favourite weekends of the year just wrapped up, and as a result, all 31 NHL teams have a new crop of young talent in the pipelines. Some of them could be hall of famers, some of them could be NHL mainstays, some of them might not even see a game of professional hockey. But that’s the beauty of the draft. And to give you all a little more information on who to look out for, I’m going to start a series going over one potential hidden gem from each team’s 2019 draft class. Without further ado, let’s kick things off with the Atlantic Division.
 

Boston Bruins – Matias Mantykivi (D, 6th Round, 185th Overall)

 
The Bruins went slightly off the board with their first round pick and drafted forward John Beecher, a dynamic centre who has good size and great offensive tendencies to make it a good selection overall. Because they didn’t have a second or a fourth round pick, they ended up picking four more players on day two, with one of them being Matias Mantykivi.
 
Mantykivi is a small Finnish defenseman who spent the majority of this season palying for SaiPa U20 of the Jr. A SM-Liiga, which is essentially Finland’s junior league. He was very good offensively this season, putting up 36 points over 34 games for the team while also seeing some ice time with Kettera of the Mestis league (Finland’s version of the AHL) and Saipa of the SM-Liiga, their top league. It’s unknown where he will be playing next season, but the most likely scenario is that he remains in Finland to further develop his game until the Bruins believe he’s ready to come to North America.
 

Buffalo Sabres – Filip Cederqvist (LW, 5th Round, 143rd Overall)

 
Without a doubt, the Sabres’ most hyped up pick was forward Dylan Cozens, taken at seventh overall. The big centre from the WHL could look to provide a really solid one-two punch with Jack Eichel eventually. They also selected a solid two way defenseman at 31st overall in Ryan Johnson. After these two were selected, the Sabres went on to make four more picks, three of them being forwards and one of them being a goaltender. If I have to pick one of these guys to be a potential hidden gem, I’m going with Filip Cederqvist.
 
After getting passed over last year in his first year of eligibility, the Sabres took a flier on Cederqvist in the fifth round and it looks like a pick that could pay off for them. The Skara, Sweden native is a 6’1 winger who spent most of this season playing for the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL and had a pretty solid campaign, putting up eight points in 33 games. He also spent time with the Lakers’ J20 team where he put up 32 points in 26 games. As of now, it seems like Cederqvist will spend most of his development in Sweden, but he could turn out to be something for the Sabres.
 

Detroit Red Wings – Albin Grewe (LW, 3rd Round, 66th Overall)

 
The Red Wings had one of the busiest days at the draft of any team, leaving Rogers Arena with 11 new prospects under their belts. Their first pick was off the board, but not surprising to me at all, taking German defenseman Moritz Seider at sixth overall. I firmly believe Seider could turn out to be a gem for the Wings, seeing that he wasn’t getting much coverage playing in Germany. But that’s a post for another time.
 
Instead, I’m going with Albin Grewe as the Wings’ hidden gem (his last name is pronounced Gree-vay. Don’t make the same mistake I did). He’s said to be a gritty winger who can also put the puck in the back of the net. Through 25 games with Djurgardens IF J20 of the SHL’s junior league, he put up 34 points. He’s under contract with Djurgardens IF of the SHL, and will more than likely start next season on the main squad rather than in the minors. I personally had Grewe going mid-second round, so the fact that they took him in the third round strikes me as a potential steal for the Red Wings.
 

Florida Panthers – Cole Schwindt (C, 3rd Round, 81st Overall)

 
With Roberto Luongo on the brink of retirement and James Reimer entertaining the possibility of getting bought out, it’s not at all surprising that the Panthers went with the top goaltending prospect in Spencer Knight as their first round pick. They had a busy day on day two, leaving with eight more draft picks. Out of all of the Panthers’ mid-to-late rounders, Cole Schwindt was the one that stood out to me.
 
The 6’2 Kitchener native spent this season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, and finished a solid campaign with 49 points in 68 games. He has good size and he’s only 18 years old, so another year or two in the OHL could do wonders for him until the Panthers are ready to bring him to the pros. There’s a great chance we could see Schwindt turn into something.
 

Montreal Canadiens – Arsen Khisamutdinov (LW, 6th Round, 170th Overall)

 
The Habs got one of the first presumed steals of the draft in the first round, selecting forward Cole Caufield at 15th overall when he was projected to go as high as seventh overall. Like the Red Wings, the Canadiens had a busy day at the draft and left with ten new prospects. One of these ones was Arsen Khisamutdinov.
 
Khisamutdinov (I feel bad for the announcer who has to say that name) is an overage forward who was born in 1998 and spent this season playing back home in Russia. The 6’3 winger spent the majority of this season playing for Reaktor Nizhnekamsk of the MHL (Russia’s version of the CHL) and also impressed in a small sample size with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, putting up five points over nine games. There always seems to be a number of overage Russians that go in the mid rounds of drafts, and Khisamutdinov looks like he could become a solid pickup for the Habs.
 

Ottawa Senators – Mads Sogaard (G, 2nd Round, 37th Overall)

 
The Senators could have had the fourth overall pick in this draft but sacrificed it in the deal that brought them Matt Duchene (who isn’t with the team anymore). Regardless, they ended up getting a first round pick back from the Columbus Blue Jackets in an ironic deal that sent Duchene to the Jackets. Either way, one first round pick is better than none, and they used theirs to select Lassi Thomson, a solid Finnish defenseman from the WHL. While they only selected six players this past weekend, they might have found a gem in Mads Sogaard.
 
It might be hard to call Sogaard a gem considering he’s a second round pick who was picked right around where he was projected to be, but he has potential to become a really good starting goalie in the league. The 6’7 Danish goalie spent this season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL and finished with a record of 19-8-2 with a GAA of 2.64 and a save percentage of .921 to go with it. He will likely head back to the WHL for at least one more season, but he could turn out to be something special for the Sens.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning – Max Crozier (D, 4th Round, 120th Overall)

 
After drafting defenseman Cal Foote in the first round a couple of years back, the Lightning went with his younger brother in 2019, drafting forward Nolan Foote. The Bolts drafted a total of seven players in 2019, and one player in particular that sticks out as a potential gem is Max Crozier.
Crozier spent this season playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, putting up 43 points in 60 games from the back end. Being 6’1 and right-handed, he already has an edge in terms of value over some other players. He’s committed to play for Providence College of the NCAA next year, and it will be interesting to see how he develops over a couple years of college hockey.
 

Toronto Maple Leafs – Mikko Kokkonen (D, 3rd Round, 84th Overall)

 
The Maple Leafs didn’t have a first round pick in 2019, but kicked things off in the second round by selecting skilled forward Nick Robertson at 53rd overall. They only made six picks this year, but their potential gem might have come in the third round in the form of Mikko Kokkonen.
 
After reading some scouting reports on his game, he was described as the type of defenseman who won’t blow you away with any one aspect of his game, but plays a steady all around game. He put up 16 points in 59 games for Jukurit of the SM-Liiga and is known to be good defensively as well. If his development goes according to plan, it’s possible he could cap out as a good top four defenseman at the NHL level.
 
Thanks for reading. Tune in next time when we’ll be going over a potential gem from each Central Division team.

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