Puck77 Interview: Steve Kournianos of TheDraftAnalyst.com

Yesterday, I had the privilege to interview Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst). Kournianos is an NHL Draft Analyst for TheDraftAnalyst.com and he contributes for Sporting News NHL.

Kournianos has posted a ton of draft related content on his site including Rankings, Prospect Profiles and Mock Drafts. You should check out his content as you prepare to sit down to watch the draft this weekend.

In my interview with Kournianos, we touched on several different draft prospects who are eligible in the NHL Draft and some prospects who are eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. So, let’s take a look at what he had to say. 

Interview

Josh: The USNTDP has many top prospects including Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte and Jack Hughes. But, who are some draft prospects from the USNTDP who could be steals in the later rounds?  

Steve: I really like Patrick Moynihan, Owen Lindmark and Judd Caulfield. All did really well when given a chance in the top six. Moynihan can fly and wire it off the rush; Lindmark has a nonstop motor and is great off the cycle; Caulfield is a big-bodied two-way type with soft hands and underrated creativity. I also see defensemen Domenick Fensore and Marshall Warren being able to translate their speed, hands and playmaking into top-pairing roles when after two or three years in college.

Josh: While Jack Hughes is looking like the number one selection, the race between Kaapo Kakko and Hughes has gotten much tighter. What are some of the concerns that analysts have with Hughes?

Steve: I don’t know any notable analysts who have concerns. Only fans. I for one have zero concerns about Hughes.

Josh: Alex Newhook is sky-rocketing up draft rankings. Is there a chance that we could see Newhook be drafted before Trevor Zegras and Dylan Cozens?

Steve: Slim. It’s recency bias from the U18 words. Zegras or Cozens would have put up 150-point seasons in the BCHL.

Josh: In addition, do you believe that with Newhook playing in the BCHL, that it had a negative impact on his rankings earlier on this year?

Steve: My issue with Newhook had more to do with his frustration on the bench and his inconsistency fighting through tougher matchups. I don’t think league quality had anything to do with his slipping. Cale Makar and Tyson Jost were high picks from Canadian Jr. “A” because they were consistently dominant without any real concerns.

Josh: What do you think of Moritz Seider and what should NHL fans expect down the road with Seider? 

Steve: Seider is a hot topic and deservedly so. He is too good for his age group and held his own against adults. His hockey smarts and positioning impress me more than his size and mobility, which is what many are focusing in. I see a future No. 2 or No. 3 who eats up minutes and plays in all situations.

Josh: Last year, fans saw Joe Veleno fall and fall. Who do you believe might fall this year and why?

Steve: I think one of the WHL centers will drop. Dach, Cozens or Krebs. My money is on Krebs because of the Achilles tear coupled with the rise of Caufield, Seider, Knight and several others.

Josh: Alexis LaFrenière is projected to be the number one overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. If you had to choose an NHLer (current or former) as a comparable, who would you select and why?

Steve: Lafrenière is a mix between John Tavares and Patrick Kane — a well-balanced, strong and brilliant decision maker like Tavares and finesse, elite puck control and hands like Kane. He’ll be among the NHL scoring leaders every year.

Josh: Aside from LaFrenière, who do you believe that fans should pay special attention to next season as they could be taken early on in the draft?

Steve: So many to list by I’m already partial to Russian winger Vasili Ponomaryov, the Czech kids — Jan Mysak, Adam Raska and Jaromir Pytlik. Also Anton Lundell from Finland, Dylan Holloway from Canada and a quintet of Minnesota high schoolers in Blake Biondi, Jake Boltmann, Carsen Richels, Cole Hansen and Jack Smith.

Thank You

Thank you Steve for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to interviewing you again in the future.

player profiles from hockey-reference.com

Puck77

NHL Mock Draft Part Two: Selections 6-10

Part one is done, which looked at my prediction of the top-five National Hockey League entry draft selections, which means we are going through picks 6-10 for part two!

 

In this part I predict a trade, but other than that it is a straightforward prediction. For a quick refresher, Kappo Kakko went first, Jack Hughes went second, Cole Caufield at third, Alex Turcotte went fourth and Bowen Byram went fifth. 

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings trade back!

A trade kicks off part two, and it is a small one, but with a big impact. The Red Wings, I believe, are eyeing a prospect that should be available at 10th overall, owned by the Vancouver Canucks, and so they swap places, with Vancouver also eating Danny DeKeyser’s contract. Canucks fans have always complained about getting screwed over by the draft lottery, and so the team decides it’s time to move up, at the cost of DeKeyser’s hefty contract. Trade is Detroit’s 2019 sixth overall pick to Vancouver in exchange for the 10th overall pick, and Danny DeKeyser. So, here’s the pick:

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Vancouver Canucks select Trevor Zegras, Center/Both Wings, USNTDP

Zegras is like Alex Turcotte and Bowen Byram (who were selected in part one) in which he could arguably be the third overall pick. But with the Caufield selection at three, and Turcotte and Byram ultimately falling, Zegras is left available for the taking. (Why Detroit wouldn’t take him here will be explained when pick 10 rolls around).

For Vancouver, they have been dying to select a versatile, sure-fire future elite forward on draft day for a while. I know what you’re thinking, what about Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat? Pettersson was selected back in 2016, and needed a season before making the jump and, ultimately, becoming their best player. Boeser was everything but a sure-fire deal, being taken at 23rd overall in 2015. Horvat was drafted in 2013, at the tail end of the top 10 (ninth overall) and also wasn’t exactly a sure thing.

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So, it’s been a few years and the Canucks want more, and Zegras is probably the best forward (aside from Pettersson) that they have selected in the draft, and whether he ends up more vital to the team than Horvat and Boeser will be found out within a few years.

Zegras piled up 14 goals and 26 assists (40 points) in 27 games with the USNTDP juniors. The fact that he didn’t play up with Turcotte and Jack Hughes tells me he has about 1-2 years before making the jump to the NHL, but his playmaking ability is outstanding. He proved that when he played for the US National U-18 team for 60 games, where he put up 26 goals and 61 assists (87 points).

Next season, like with Caufield and Turcotte, he is committed to joining an NCAA club, and for him it’s Boston University. BU is well known in the hockey community thanks to Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle, just to name a few, so I feel that this is a big step in the right direction for Zegras.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, likely won’t join the NHL club at any point next season, unless he dominates with BU.

 

Seventh Overall Pick: Buffalo Sabres select Dylan Cozens, Center/Right Wing, Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL

This is an excellent selection for the Sabres. But then again, if any of the aforementioned players were available here, and the Sabres picked them, it would be excellent. That’s just how strong the top-10 prospects are in this class.

Playing in the WHL last season with Lethbridge, Cozens put up 34 goals and 50 assists (84 points) in 68 games, along with four goals and four assists (eight points) in seven playoff games. Cozens is leading the next wave of power forwards, that is currently led by Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Cozens is well balanced, with a good shot and good vision. But his defensive abilities, paired with his well-balanced scoring touch, prompted LastWordOnHockey’s Ben Kerr to believe he could be a first line center with a chance at winning the Selke Trophy. That’s big praise from a guy who does several scouting reports on all different players every year. Cozens could make the jump to the NHL off of a strong camp, but the chances are he needs another year or so to advance to the next level. 

Next Year’s Role: WHL time with Lethbridge, likely won’t join the club late in the season, but it is possible.

 

Eighth Overall Pick: Edmonton Oilers select Matthew Boldy, Left Wing, USNTDP


Why Matthew Boldy here? I know it’s a little off the board, and he is not the best player available. But that by no means says that he is not a good player. Boldy has good size (6’2”, 192 pounds), and he had a very good season with the USNTDP Juniors club. He racked up 17 goals and 26 assists (43 points) in 28 games, adding another 33 goals and 48 assists (81 points) in 64 games with the US National U-18 team. He might not be the best skater in the draft by any means, but as fellow Puck77 contributor Tony Ferrari points out, with some adjustment in his stride as well as a better first step and in general acceleration, he could wind up being one of the best players in the draft.

Now, when we head on over to Edmonton’s roster, we see they have a strong center core, both young and experienced (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira in the NHL, Ryan McLeod, Cooper Marody in their pool) as well as a solid bunch of right wingers with promise (Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi in NHL, Kailer Yamamoto, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Mafin in pool), as well as defenseman (Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse in NHL, Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Ethan Bear in pool).

As for left wings, they have Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder on the NHL club, and Tyler Benson in their pool. That is a very weak core, relative to their other positions (outside of goaltending), and while some players may go and new players will come in within the time that Boldy will be in the juniors/minors developing, they should still get a headstart in building up that very weak left wing.

Boldy is a safer pick than some guys who may have higher upside, but regardless, he fills a pretty large need the Oilers have. This is not that much of a reach either, it’s just that he was in the shadows of the earlier USNTDP picks and is, in my opinion, overlooked by the general fan. I believe this would be a great selection for Edmonton. He has committed to Boston College (NCAA) next season, where he will not be in anyone’s shadow.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, no chance he joins the Oilers late in season barring major injuries and/or he dominates in Boston College.

 

9th Overall Pick: Anaheim selects Kirby Dach, Center, Saskatoon Blades, WHL

Dach going to the Ducks is a match made in heaven. We all know the frustrating in-your-face, kind of dirty style of play that the Ducks utilize. While Dach isn’t necessarily dirty, he is a big guy, standing at 6’4, 198 pounds, and can very easily use that frame to fit the bill of a Duck.

The Ducks core is aging, and their prospect pool is very weak. They go best player available at this selection, and it really couldn’t be better for Anaheim. His size isn’t the only thing that is enticing.

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Dach had 25 goals and 48 assists (73 points) in 62 games played with Saskatoon, as well as five goals and three assists (eight points) in 10 postseason games played. He did not play any international games this past season with Canada, which is why he “dropped” to ninth (he ranges anywhere from third to 13th in this class) but he is still an intriguing prospect.

The knock on Dach is three things: 1) His acceleration is not good enough to translate to the NHL at this moment and he needs to really improve in that area to be a successful player at the next level. 2) He tends to keep his head down when skating with the puck, and despite his size, has gotten destroyed by hits on several occasions. 3) Finally, a lot of experts and fellow contributors on the site say that he does not have a very high ceiling (potential), but does have a very good skill set, or in other words, a high floor.

Next Year’s Role: Sticks with Saskatoon in the WHL all season, does not join NHL club at the end of Juniors.

 

10th Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings (via Vancouver) selects Victor Soderstrom, Right-Handed Defenseman, Brynas IF, SHL

First off, right handed defenseman are a rare breed, and whenever you have a chance to grab one through the draft in the first round (especially at tenth overall), you take that guy.

In Detroit’s case, they had the sixth overall pick, but I would consider it a reach if they took Soderstrom there, because of all the talented forwards. You’re probably thinking, why would Detroit, a rebuilding team, trade back when they had talented forwards to choose from? Because they have young NHL centers in Dylan Larkin and Michael Rasmussen, as well as young NHL wingers in Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi. Not to mention, forward prospects in Taro Hirose, Filip Zadina, and Joseph Veleno.

How about young NHL defenseman, that are right handed? Madison Bowey in the NHL, and Filip Hronek as a prospect. Most of their defensive prospects are left handed, including their top D prospects in Jared McIsaac and Dennis Cholowski. So Detroit does not necessarily need forwards, and they do need a right handed defenseman, who happens to be (arguably) the second best D-man in the draft class, while also off-loading a bad contract.

Soderstrom started the season with Brynas IF’s junior team in the U-20 division, where he played 14 games, with one goal and seven assists (eight points). When he made the jump to the SHL, which is Sweden’s version of the NHL, he produced just four goals and three assists (seven points) in 44 games, with a not-so-good -11 +/-. But, the fact that he was constantly relied on and kept at the highest level as an 18-year-old against men says something.

Playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, he recorded one assist in four games, which was also underwhelming production. But what makes him arguably the best defenseman available after Byram is taken, is his well-rounded skill set. He is a very good skater, and has an ability to get shots on net through traffic consistently. He is good transitionally, with the IQ to know when to join the rush and attack, and when to stick back.

Despite being 5’11, 182 pounds, he does a good job using his body to win battles in front of the net or in the corners. His floor, offensively, is really low at the moment, but he is playing against men and not kids in his age group, so that sets him back a step. But he has the skating and shooting ability to give him a base in which NHL coaches can build upon once he makes the jump.

As he bulks up, and gets stronger, the more battles he will win along the boards and in front of the net defensively, and playing against men actually boosts his ceiling for his defensive game. If he’s finding success this early with his size in the SHL (and he bulks up), he could be a very reliable defenseman in his own end.

Next Year’s Role: Likely stays in Sweden. I don’t see him coming to North America to play AHL hockey, or CHL hockey. It’s best he stays in Europe one more year against tough competition to build up on his defensive game.

 

All stats via Elite Prospects

Rankings inspired by other contributors on Puck77

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Puck77’s First Mock NHL Entry Draft – Results & Notes

We had our first Puck77 Mock NHL Entry Draft.

In our draft, we did the first three rounds of the upcoming NHL Draft and we had some outside help. CJ Turtoro of All About The Jersey (New Jersey Devils blog), Ryan Quigley  of Knights On Ice (Vegas Golden Knights blog), Tom Hunter of Mile High Hockey (Colorado Avalanche blog), Steven Ellis of The Hockey News, Jesse Marshall of The Athletic, James Reeve of SenShot (Ottawa Senators blog) and Tip Of The Tower, Josh Walfish of Daily Hampshire Gazette, Jeff Chapman of Copper and Blue (Edmonton Oilers blog) and Drew Stevenson (Puck Prose) joined us as “GMs”.

Below are the picks! Take a look at who your team selected.

First Round

  1. New Jersey Devils – Jack Hughes, Centre, USNTDP (CJ Turtoro)
  2. New York Rangers – Kaapo Kakko, Right Wing, TPS (Connor Criscuola)
  3. Chicago Blackhawks – Alex Turcotte, Centre, USNTDP (Matthew Spagnuolo)
  4. Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa Senators) – Kirby Dach, Centre, Saskatoon (Tom Hunter)
  5. Los Angeles Kings – Bowen Byram, Defense, Vancouver (WallMaz)
  6. Detroit Red Wings – Trevor Zegras, Centre, USNTDP (Tony Ferrari)
  7. Buffalo Sabres – Cole Caufield, Right Wing, USNTDP (Jan Brentjens)
  8. Edmonton Oilers – Dylan Cozens, Right Wing, Lethbridge (Ryan Boonstra)
  9. Anaheim Ducks – Matthew Boldy, Left Wing, USNTDP (Jacob Lariviére)
  10. Vancouver Canucks – Thomas Harley, Defense, Mississauga (Cody Rusan)
  11. Philadelphia Flyers – Arthur Kaliyev, Left Wing, Hamilton (Spencer Teixeira)
  12. Minnesota Wild – Vasili Podkolzin, Right Wing, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (Olli Huotari)
  13. Florida Panthers – Victor Söderström, Defense, Brynas IF (Jacob Langsam)
  14. Arizona Coyotes – Alex Newhook, Centre, Victoria (James Reeve)
  15. Montreal Canadiens – Cam York, Defense, USNTDP (Gabriel Béland)
  16. Colorado Avalanche – Peyton Krebs, Centre/Left Wing, Kootenay (Tom Hunter)
  17. Vegas Golden Knights – Spencer Knight, Goaltender, USNTDP (Ryan Quigley)
  18. Dallas Stars – Bobby Brink, Right Wing, USNTDP (Josh Tessler)
  19. Ottawa Senators (from Columbus Blue Jackets) – Philip Broberg, Defense, AIK (Daniel Gagnon)
  20. New York Rangers (from Winnipeg Jets) – Pavel Dorofeyev, Left Wing/Right Wing, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (Connor Criscuola)
  21. Pittsburgh Penguins – Ryan Suzuki, Centre, Barrie (Jesse Marshall)
  22. Los Angeles Kings (from Toronto Maple Leafs) – Nils Höglander, Left Wing, Rogle BK (WallMaz)
  23. New York Islanders – Brett Leason, Centre, Prince Albert (Jeff Chapman)
  24. Nashville Predators – Jakob Pelletier, Left Wing, Moncton (Steven Ellis)
  25. Washington Capitals – Philip Tomasino, Centre, Niagara (Drew Stevenson)
  26. Calgary Flames – Lassi Thomson, Defense, Kelowna (Alex Hobson)
  27. Tampa Bay Lightning – Raphaël Lavoie, Centre, Halifax (Kyle Pereira)
  28. Carolina Hurricanes – Samuel Poulin, Left Wing, Sherbrooke (Chris Bradley)
  29. St. Lous Blues – Moritz Seider, Defense, Adler Mannheim (Tony Ferrari)
  30. San Jose Sharks – Connor McMichael, Centre, London (Josh Walfish)
  31. Boston Bruins – Ville Heinola, Defense, Lukko (Josh Tessler)

Second Round

  1. Ottawa Senators – John Beecher, Centre, USNTDP (Daniel Gagnon)
  2. Los Angeles Kings – Brayden Tracey, Left Wing, Moose Jaw (WallMaz)
  3. New Jersey Devils – Matthew Robertson, Defense, Edmonton (CJ Turtoro)
  4. Detroit Red Wings – Albin Grewe, Right Wing/Left Wing, Djurgardens IF J20 (Tony Ferrari)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes (from Buffalo Sabres) – Nicholas Robertson, Left Wing, North Central Predators Mdgt AAA (Chris Bradley)
  6. Carolina Hurricanes (from New York Rangers) – Anttoni Honka, Defense, Jukurit (Chris Bradley)
  7. Edmonton Oilers – Egor Afanasyev, Left Wing, Muskegon (Ryan Boonstra)
  8. Anaheim Ducks – Nolan Foote, Left Wing, Kelowna (Jacob Lariviére)
  9. Vancouver Canucks – Ludvig Hedstrom, Defense, Djurgardens IF J20 (Cody Rusan)
  10. Philadelphia Flyers – Jackson LaCombe, Defense, Shattuck – St. Mary’s Prepatory – Minnesota (Spencer Teixeira)
  11. Minnesota Wild – Marshall Warren, Defense, USNTDP (Olli Huotari)
  12. Chicago Blackhawks – Mikko Kokkinen, Defense, Jukurit (Matthew Spagnuolo)
  13. Ottawa Senators – Kaeden Korczak, Defense, Kelowna (Daniel Gagnon)
  14. Arizona Coyotes – Jamieson Rees, Centre, Sarnia (James Reeve)
  15. Montreal Canadiens – Ilya Nikolayev, Centre, Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl (Gabriel Béland)
  16. Colorado Avalanche – Tobias Björnfot, Defense, Djurgardens IF J20 (Tom Hunter)
  17. Vegas Golden Knights – Jordan Spence, Defense, Moncton (Ryan Quigley)
  18. New York Rangers (from Dallas Stars) – Antti Tuomisto, Defense, Assat Jr. (Connor Criscuola)
  19. Montreal Canadiens (from Columbus Blue Jackets via Vegas Golden Knights) – Patrik Puistola, Right Wing, Tappara Jr. (Gabriel Béland)
  20. Winnipeg Jets – Henry Thrun, Defense, USNTDP (Justin Miner)
  21. Florida Panthers (from Pittsburgh Penguins) – Vladislav Firstov, Left Wing, Waterloo (Jacob Langsam)
  22. Toronto Maple Leafs – Vladislav Kolyachonok, Defense, Flint (Tyler Kuehl)
  23. Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders via Vegas Golden Knights) – Samuel Fagemo, Left Wing, Frolunda HC (Tony Ferrari)
  24. New Jersey Devils (from Nashville Predators) – Alex Beaucage, Right Wing, Rouyn-Noranda (Steven Ellis)
  25. Washington Capitals – Nathan Légaré, Right Wing, Baie-Comeau (Drew Stevenson)
  26. New York Islanders (from Calgary Flames) – William Constantinou, Defense, Kingston (Jeff Chapman)
  27. New York Rangers (from Tampa Bay Lightning) – Daniil Misyul, Defense, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Connor Criscuola)
  28. Carolina Hurricanes – Simon Holmström, Right Wing, HV71 (Chris Bradley)
  29. St. Louis Blues – Yegor Spiridonov, Center, Magnitogorsk 2 (Tony Ferrari)
  30. Detroit Red Wings (from San Jose Sharks) – Alex Vlasic, Defense, USNTDP (Tony Ferrari)
  31. New Jersey Devils (from Boston Bruins) – Ryan Johnson, Defense, Sioux Falls (CJ Turtoro)

Third Round

  1. Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa Senators) – Adam Beckman, Center, Spokane (Tom Hunter)
  2. Los Angeles Kings – Robert Mastrosimone – Left Wing, Chicago (WallMaz)
  3. Philadelphia Flyers (from New Jersey Devils via Edmonton Oilers) – Alexander Campbell, Left Wing, Victoria (Spencer Teixeira)
  4. Detroit Red Wings – Tuukka Tieksola, Right Wing, Karpat Jr. (Tony Ferrari)
  5. Buffalo Sabres – Artemi Kniazev, Defense, Chicoutimi (Jan Brentjens)
  6. New York Rangers – Shane Pinto, Centre, Tri-City (Connor Criscuola)
  7. Florida Panthers (from Edmonton Oilers) – David Levin, Left Wing/Right Wing, Sudbury (Jacob Langsam)
  8. New Jersey Devils (from Anaheim Ducks) – Karl Henriksson, Center, Frolunda Jr. (CJ Turtoro)
  9. Vancouver Canucks – Albert Johansson, Defense, Farjestad Jr. (Cody Rusan)
  10. Philadelphia Flyers – Dustin Wolf, Goaltender, Everett (Spencer Teixeira)
  11. Minnesota Wild – Hunter Jones, Goaltender, Peterborough (Olli Huotari)
  12. Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago Blackhawks) – Nikita Alexandrov, Centre, Charlottetown (James Reeve)
  13. Nashville Predators (from Florida Panthers) – Colten Ellis, Goaltender, Rimouski (Steven Ellis)
  14. Arizona Coyotes – Blake Murray, Centre, Sudbury (James Reeve)
  15. Montreal Canadiens – John Farinacci, Centre, Dexter School – High School – Massachusetts (Gabriel Béland)
  16. Colorado Avalanche – Trent Miner, Goaltender, Vancouver Canucks (Tom Hunter)
  17. Vegas Golden Knights – Cole Mackay, Right Wing, Sault Ste. Marie (Ryan Quigley)
  18. New Jersey Devils (from Dallas Stars) – Mads Søgaard, Goaltender, Medicine Hat (CJ Turtoro)
  19. Columbus Blue Jackets – Kirill Slepets, Right Wing, Yaroslavl 2 (Macalem Henley)
  20. Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg Jets) – Drew Helleson, Defense, USNTDP (Ryan Quigley)
  21. Ottawa Senators (from Pittsburgh Penguins via Vegas Golden Knights) – Graeme Clarke, Right Wing, Ottawa (Daniel Gagnon)
  22. Toronto Maple Leafs – Martin Has, Defense, Tappara Jr. (Tyler Kuehl)
  23. Edmonton Oilers (from New York Islanders) – Hugo Alnefelt, Goaltender, HV 71 Jr. (Ryan Boonstra)
  24. Vegas Golden Knights (from Nashville Predators) – Leevi Aaltonen, Right Wing, Kalpa Jr. (Ryan Quigley)
  25. Los Angeles Kings (from Washington Capitals) – Michal Teply, Left Wing, Benatky N.J. (WallMaz)
  26. Calgary Flames – Nikita Okhotyuk, Defense, Ottawa (Alex Hobson)
  27. Tampa Bay Lightning – Maxim Cajkovic, Right Wing, Saint John (Kyle Pereira)
  28. Carolina Hurricanes – Pyotr Kochetkov, Goaltender, Ryazan (Chris Bradley)
  29. St. Louis Blues – Domenik Fensore, Defense, USNTDP (Tony Ferrari)
  30. San Jose Sharks – Zachary Jones, Defense, Tri-City (Josh Walfish)
  31. Boston Bruins – Bryce Brodzinski, Right Wing, Blaine High School – Minnesota (Josh Tessler)

Notes From Several Of The GMs

In addition, several of the GMs submitted notes/commentary about their draft selections. Check out their notes.

Detroit Red Wings – Tony Ferrari

Detroit’s draft class from the first three round is a high upside masterpiece. With top selection Trevor Zegras being the premier playmaker in the draft, at least on par with Jack Hughes in that department, the Wings add a player that has a different element than anyone else in the system. Zegras is an elite playmaker unlike anyone else is their system. With Grewe and Fagemo, Detroit adds two wingers with good 200-foot games and high offensive upside. Both forwards have been projected as high as the first round so getting them where they went was a steal. Grewe is a bit undersized but doesn’t play like it. He attacks the puck carrier and drives to the net when he has it. A bit of a bulldog mentality. Fagemo is a speed machine and the fact that he’s an overager shouldn’t matter, he should have been drafted last year. His speed will carry him and his good hands will allow his offensive ability to show. Detroit finally gets some help on defence with the selection of Alex Vlasic out of the USNTDP. He’s an intriguing prospect with the size scouts covet and decent skating ability. He isn’t overly offensive but he’s not a black hole offensively. He has a lot to improve by the raw skills are there. Tuukka Tieksola is a player that many see as a player who could tune into something special down the line. He is a playmaker who is highly skilled. A third round selection that could be reminiscent mid-late round picks of Red Wings selections of years gone by.

Philadelphia Flyers – Spencer Teixeira

Arthur Kaliyev

Comparison – Zach Parise
Strong scoring presence, provides dynamic offensive tendencies (ie he’s not afraid to go anywhere in the offensive zone)

Jackson LaCombe

Comparison – Brent Burns
Speedy Dman with great offensive skills. Is a little inconsistent and playing at a high school
Level may have boosted his stats. All around great offensive player. (Boom/Bust pick, think Ryan Merkley or PK Subban)

Alexander Campbell

Comparison – Johnny Gaudreau
Extremely speedy centre with great hands, played with Alex Newhook in the BCHL. Defense is lacking

Dustin Wolf

Comparison – Frederik Andersen
One of the youngest players in the draft, Wolf has been a big contributor to Everett’s recent success. A goalie of fair size, Wolf is very calm in the net and isn’t shaken very often (from my understanding). (Warning: could be like Jack Campbell and take longer than expected to reach his potential)

Tampa Bay Lightning – Kyle Pereira

Raphaël Lavoie adds size to a relatively small forward core. With the likes of Alex Barre Boulet among other forward prospects likely to make the jump due to several depth forwards likely on their way out in free agency, they must add into their forward prospect pool.

Lavoie is also versatile, something that many teams covet, as he can play all three forward positions. It’s also a good thing that he has improved so quickly in his defensive zone work, making him a near complete player

Of the remaining players I looked into, Cajkovic had the most upside and was one of the more well rounded players. Once my pick rolled around, he was the BPA, and I could not pass up that kind of pick.

Arizona Coyotes – James Reeve

The Arizona Coyotes need to stock up on goalscoring forwards in this year’s draft. Rick Tocchet‘s team is build around one of the strongest defensive corps in the league and there are still a number of intriguing D prospects in the system. The offensive side of the ice, however, is somewhat lacking – particularly in front of the net. Newhook is a slam-dunk future NHLer that will continue his development in college – something the Yotes will have no issues with. Jamieson Rees is an underrated forward that fits the mould of the Coyotes, with GM John Chayka often taking a gamble on players he believes will develop further down the line. Blake Murray is arguably the biggest dark horse of the entire draft this year, with a penchant for goalscoring (30 in 50 games for Sudbury) but somewhat inconsistent play. If he can play consistently, something that will come with coaching, then he could easily be a steal in the third round.

Washington Capitals – Drew Stevenson

Caps draft selection thing: After several of restocking the blue-line cupboard, the Capitals now need to get game changers at forward. Philip Tomasino is not only one of the most prolific goal scorers in the draft, he’s also one of the youngest.

New York Rangers – Connor Criscuola

Kaapo Kakko was the consensus number two for the past year, and with his play at World Championship has brought himself into the discussion for #1. He’s only 18, but has dominated amongst men in the Liiga and now at the worlds.

San Jose Sharks – Josh Walfish

As the core of the Sharks gets older, no position group has more NHL experience than the centers. Looking to fortify that position for the future, San Jose was hopeful to use the depth at center in this draft to its advantage, and did so with Connor McMichael pick in the first round.

Two rounds later, the Sharks go back to a well that has been kind to it in the past and secures the rights to UMass commit Zac Jones. The Sharks had two prospects on last year’s team and watched how the Minutemen let their top-four defensemen bloom this season in their own way. They commit to the long-term project with the USHL’s Rookie of the Year and how much he can grow under Greg Carvel and Ben Barr in Amherst, Mass.

Carolina Hurricanes – Chris Bradley

Samuel Poulin, LW
Good size and physically ready for the pro game. Excellent bloodlines, son of ex-NHLer Patrick Poulin.
Excellent leadership abilities and a future power play specialist.
NHL comparison: Vladimir Tarasenko

Nicholas Robertson C/LW
Though still very early in the learning curve, has tremondous upside as a top-six NHL forward.
Small in stature, will need to add mass to his 5’9″ frame.
Very quick and agile, not many possess his first-step break. Patience is a must when developing Robertson.
NHL comparison: Yanni Gourde

Antonni Honka, D
Super-skilled with the puck. Wonderful skater and puck handler.
Future power play quarterback. Doesnt let his lack of size keep him from standing up opponents at the blueline.
NHL comparison: Jake Gardiner

Simon Holmstrom, LW
Sneaky-fast skater and very shifty. Injuries have held him back, but no denying his top-six line potential.
Has high-end offensive mindset, can improvise on the fly with the best of them.
NHL comparison: Jonathan Huberdeau

Pyotr Kochetkov, G
Surprisingly nimble given his stature (6’3″ 208lbs.).
Cool and poised under pressure, really found his game this year after being passed over the previous two NHL drafts
NHL comparison: Frederik Andersen

Dallas Stars – Josh Tessler

Even though the Stars only had one pick in the first three rounds, Bobby Brink is a great addition to their farm system. Great two-way forward and he’s great goal scorer. He’s a University of Denver commit and we’ll likely see some time on the USNTDP squad next season.

Boston Bruins – Josh Tessler

The Boston Bruins love drafting European defensemen, so I had to give them another. Ville Heinola is great puck-moving defenseman and will be a great fit for the Bruins down the road. 

In addition, Bryce Brodzinski is a solid late third round selection. He’s a big body forward, who can play at centre and right wing. Brodzinski had an excellent season for Blaine High School and is a University of Minnesota commit.

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres: At Look At Their Pending Free Agents

I recently spoke about the Buffalo Sabres possible draft selections. With that in the rearview mirror, it’s time for part two of their off-season: the re-sign phase.

The Sabres are a rising contender, and if they’re able to retain the players that are hitting the books, they should be taken very seriously next season.

Upcoming Unrestricted Free Agent Forwards: Jeff Skinner, Jason Pominville

Jeff Skinner (40 goals, 23 assists, 52.4 Corsi For%, Averaged 18:31 Time On Ice)

The Sabres, with the upcoming increase in salary cap, will have $30.208M in free space to work with. Jeff Skinner is the big fish in the Sabres pond, and he is a must re-sign. He had a 40-goal season on a team that missed the playoffs, which in itself is impressive.

But it’s also Skinner’s first time ever hitting that mark in his National Hockey League career. That tells me he just simply fits in well with this organization, and the fact that the team is young and has so much promise, there’s no reason to believe Skinner wouldn’t want to stick around and see where this team goes. At just 26-years-old, he is still smack dab in the middle of his prime. The Sabres should offer him a four-year contract for about $8.5M per year.

Jason Pominville (16 goals, 15 assists, 51.6 CF%, Averaged 12:28 TOI)

After the Skinner signing, the Sabres would have about $21.708M remaining in cap space. Jason Pominville is 36, but is still a solid bottom-six veteran. He produced over 30 points, making him a key offensive piece on that bottom-six, and should be re-signed.

The question isn’t whether or not he should get signed however. The Sabres are a young team, and they are nearly complete. What they need to get into the playoffs next season, are middle-six forwards, or even guys who can move up and down the lineup, while still producing. Pominville can still be that guy, as he has produced valiantly in his role.

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But that’s just it, he’s a role player. I don’t see Pominville being a guy who can play on the first line for extended periods and finding much success, especially given his age. Not to mention, the Sabres will likely (at least in the article I wrote) select Kirby Dach with the seventh overall pick, and I believe he could make the roster. His youth and offensive upside make him a more appealing forward from a production standpoint. His hard-nosed, physical play, along with his general size and strength to back himself up, allows him to also play in a role that Pominville would play.

For me, Pominville would be a good player to keep, but it’s just not necessary with the youth that’s ready to jump and the potential prospect they pick, and how close that player truly is to making the jump to the NHL squad. But for now, I have him as being let go. The Sabres can always circle back and give him an offer while he’s in the open market of course, but I believe it’s best to part ways now.

Upcoming Restricted Free Agent Forwards: Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues

Zemgus Girgensons (5 goals, 13 assists, 48.5 CF%, Averaged 13:37 TOI)

Still standing at $21.708M in free space, the Sabres have quite a bit of wiggle room. Girgensons brings something to the table that not many teams have; incredibly solid center depth. Buffalo has Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt down the middle on the top two lines, with Girgensons doing a solid job behind them on the third line.

Glancing at his statistics quickly, you’re probably thinking he’s not that great, why am I praising him? Well, you need to take a deep dive to figure out what went wrong this season.

In his career, Girgensons has averaged closer to 15 minutes of TOI, whereas this season he did not. He has also started his shifts in the offensive zone 42.5% of the time throughout his career. This season? His offensive zone start % (oZS%) was at just 15.3%. He started his shifts on the defensive end almost 90% of the time this past season. That’s just unfair for him, and it hurt his stats.

In the 2017-18 season, his oZS% was 49.5%, and his CF% was at 48.3% (career best). He still didn’t produce that many points, but his possession statistics were better, and he has always been a good penalty killer for the Sabres.

His importance to the team is major, because they clearly trust him in the defensive end if they deploy him there as often as they did this past season. I think they have to re-sign him for his defensive usage, and his lack of production and pedestrian possession analytics will make him cheaper than what his true value to the team really is. I’d say a 2-3 year deal, worth roughly $2.5M per season.

Johan Larsson (6 goals, 8 assists, 49.5 CF%, Averaged 14:18 TOI)

After the Girgensons re-signing, the Sabres would be left with $19.208M in free space. Larsson is in his prime like Skinner (26, going on to 27). But unfortunately, he too was left to fend for himself by  terrible line deployment. Similar to Girgensons, he had a oZS% of 15.6%, while he usually averages 32.3% oZS%. It’s concerning to me that these players, although usually reliable in their own end, are just thrown out there time and time again to play strictly defensive hockey.

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Larsson would be a nice re-sign here, but like Pominville, there are a lot of guys in the pipeline coming up. For example, Tage Thompson, Alexander Nylander, Victor Olofsson, and Rasmus Asplund, to name a few, are either very close to being NHL ready or will be set to make the roster next season. With that being said, there are other, likely better, options for Buffalo. It’ll also be cheaper on their end to call a young kid up then go re-signing a guy who hasn’t exactly been the most attractive third-liner.

Evan Rodrigues (9 goals, 20 assists, 51.3 CF%, Averaged 15:49 TOI, 74 GP)

With $19.208M still remaining in space, it’s likely the Sabres re-sign this man. Rodrigues, 25, has been a very productive and successful 2nd/3rd liner for the Sabres. His possession analytics are solid as his CF% is over 50%,, and he’s deployed like the average player with 41% oZS%. Although his production is down for a second liner, he should most definitely take a big step in the right direction over the next few seasons, especially with the growth of Mittelstadt, who he will more than likely play alongside with fairly often.

Due to his lack of production, his contract may be very cheap, despite the fact that he has been solid in possession statistics and his defensive zone play. The term should be a short “prove it” type deal, as he has shown promise but hasn’t quite hit his stride yet. Two years at $2.5M should be good for Rodrigues, leaving $16.708M in free space.

Upcoming Unrestricted Free Agent Defensemen: None

The defensemen on the Sabres are all very young and very talented. They’re either locked into an Entry Level Contract (ELC), are locked in long-term, or are restricted free agents. That is a huge cushion to fall back on, as if they can’t re-sign a defenseman, they can hold his rights and get something for that player, rather than have them walk for nothing at all.

Upcoming Restricted Free Agent Defensemen: Jake McCabe

Jake McCabe (4 goals, 10 assists, 48.4 CF%, Averaged 18:57 TOI)

McCabe has really started to look good in the Sabres organization. For the most part, his CF% has gotten better and better, and he may finally hit the 50% mark next season based on his recent trends.

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While his ice time has gone down over the past two seasons, people must also realize the talent that is around him. Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen make up the top two, while other defensemen consist of Zach Bogosian, Brandon Montour, Matt Hunwick and Marco Scandella. Taking into account the defensemen he is competing with, his value to the team takes a dip, as they have a few options to put in to replace McCabe, at least to the best of their abilities.

You then have to look at who can get called up, which includes Lawrence Pilut, Brandon Hickey, and William Borgen. Suddenly, McCabe is not a need. Pilut, in my opinion, is more than ready to compete and succeed at playing in the top four next season, effectively replacing the hole left behind by McCabe.

Because McCabe is restricted, the Sabres have options. The most likely option is a trade including his rights heading elsewhere, where a need for defenseman is growing. A team like the Dallas Stars may be a good fit, as they’re a great team as is and he could find a lot of success there.

Upcoming Restricted Free Agent Goalies: Linus Ullmark

Linus Ullmark (15-14-5 Record, 2 Shutouts, 3.11 Goals Against Average, .905 Save %)

Ullmark played in a career high 37 games last season, which is a step in the right direction for the young netminder. However, it was also his worst statistical year of his career. His save percentage (SV%) was terrible, and his goals against average (GAA) being above 3.00 is not pretty at all.

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When you look into their system, you find top goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and he could very well be ready next season to backup current number-one goaltender Carter Hutton.

I feel like Ullmark isn’t a fit in Buffalo, and should find a new job elsewhere with a stronger roster in need of a backup. A place that fits the bill would be the Colorado Avalanche, as they could be losing Semyon Varlamov, and the Vancouver Canucks, a rising team in need of a reliable backup behind Thatcher Demko.

Forwards Outlook

After moving on from Larsson and Pominville in terms of forwards, the Buffalo Sabres will have two open roster spots. Dach takes one right out of the draft in my series, while Thompson and Nylander can battle for the last spot.

I feel that all three guys should be slotted into the lineup, therefore a trade may be on the horizon. Conor Sheary could be a solid trade option and could bring in some decent draft capital, or even a solid prospect for the future. Sheary would fit best on a contending team looking for depth, and the easy selection is the Avalanche. I will get into potential trades in my next part of the Sabres offseason series.

Defensemen Outlook

If they do trade McCabe, that leaves them with seven defensemen at the NHL level. However, Casey Nelson and Hunwick aren’t exactly the most appealing bottom pair defensemen. They could look into their prospect pool and call up Pilut (which I touched on earlier), and move Nelson for a small draft package (perhaps a late round pick) to a team looking for a half-decent seventh defenseman.

Overall though, their d-core is the best thing this team has, and they’re all on the younger side of the spectrum. The main focus should be on goaltending and scoring, by adding another top forward.

Goaltending Outlook

Although they do not necessarily have a top end starter with either Hutton or upcoming rookie Luukkonen, they should have patience. Luukkonen has a very bright future, and the Sabres should not be desperate enough to sign a guy like Sergei Bobrovsky, which would only hurt Luukkomem’s growth moving forward. They need to just stay patient and let Luukkonen blossom into their future starter.

All stats via hockey-reference

All salary cap related info via capfriendly

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres: 2019 Entry Draft Options

The Buffalo Sabres had quite the start to the 2018-19 National Hockey League season. At one point, the Sabres were tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first in the Atlantic division. But as quickly as they rose, they fell right apart.

 

What exactly was the problem? Goaltenders Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark were not exactly good in net for the Sabres. Their defense is solid and deep (while also young) with plenty of growth ahead of them. However, the glaring issue is depth forwards, and just forward prospects in general. Drafting at number seven overall in the upcoming NHL entry draft, who are some of the players who could shore up the forward core as soon as next season, and become a star in the future?

 

Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (Western Hockey League)

The 6’4”, 195 pound centerman in Saskatoon may not be available at the seven spot in the entry draft, but there’s about 10 players you can argue are top-five talent in this draft, and he’s one of them. If he slips to seven, Buffalo should be yelling out his name at the draft.

He posted 25 goals and 48 assists (73 points) in 62 games played, with an additional five goals and three assists (eight points), in 10 playoff games. Using DobberProspects PNHLe, (which measures a players NHL potential using their point production, the league they play in, their age, and their position), he checks in between first and second line talent.

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The one downside, he’s a center. The Sabres have Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt and Zemgus Girgensons down the middle. They could always move him or Mittelstadt over to the wing, but with him at center behind Eichel, the Sabres have a serious shot at matching the Pittsburgh Penguins one-two punch of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle.

 

Alex Turcotte, C, Committed to Wisconsin (NCAA)

Playing with the United States National Team Development Program juniors (USNTDP Juniors), the 5’11”, 194 pound Turcotte posted 12 goals and 22 assists (34 points) in just 16 games. With the USNTDP U18 team, the centerman posted 26 goals and 35 assists (61 points) in only 34 games. Those are remarkable numbers, and not just that, he is incredible at both ends of the ice. From DobberProspects’ Cam Robinson on Turcotte: “The Wisconsin commit blends exceptional defensive play with high-end speed and skill. Has played second fiddle to Jack Hughes for years, but is beginning to step out of his shadow. A [coach’s] dream.” That is incredibly high praise, and deservedly so.

Again, he is a center as Dach is, but with some shuffling, the Sabres will certainly make it work. Using the PNHLe scale again, they place Turcotte above first line potential, and trending towards superstar status, meaning the sky’s the limit for the young Wisconsin-commit.

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Peyton Krebs, LW, Kootenay Ice (WHL)

Finally, a winger! Now, Krebs isn’t as good as Dach and Turcotte are expected to be, but he was also on a very bad Kootenay team, and was one of the lone bright spots on the roster. If the Ice have a better team, he could prove to be a huge steal for anyone outside of the top five.  He also fits the Sabres needs better, and like Dach, isn’t committed next season, and can make the jump if the Sabres believe he’s capable, which most likely isn’t as likely as Dach making an immediate jump, but the option is still certainly there.

Posting 19 goals and 49 assists (78 points) in 64 games is extremely impressive for a 17-year-old on a very bad team. In the World Junior Championships with Canada, he potted four goals and three assists (seven points) in four games. In the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he put up two goals and three assists (five points) in five games. DobberProspects’ Cam Robinson had this to say about the winger: “Krebs takes creative lines to dangerous areas of the ice. He’s the type of player that sees plays develop before those around him and uses that to exploit the opposition.  Krebs is a playmaker who can impact the game on any shift. He’s also capable of playing all three forward positions but likely ends up on the wing in the NHL.” He’s not only versatile, but has very high hockey IQ and great vision.

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On the PNHLe chart, he’s almost exactly on par with Dach, between first and second line potential, but Dach is closer to a big impact at the NHL than Krebs at the moment. With the Sabres however, Krebs would probably have more success, as there is a need for wingers over centers at the moment. Krebs better fills that need.

 

Who Would I Pick?

For me, this is a truly difficult choice. All three are versatile, and can fill needs at both wings, and if necessary, center. Dach is the closest to being NHL ready, and could certainly play next season, which is a huge plus. However, Turcotte currently has a higher ceiling, but is committed to play college hockey next season, and who knows if he’ll be ready after next season either. He’s certainly worth the wait, but the Sabres are so close to having a contending team that they need a player who is as close to being NHL ready as they can be at seventh overall, and Dach is that player.

If he is gone, the Sabres should go with Krebs, but Turcotte’s potential is tantalizing, and it will be a very difficult decision. But really, the Sabres cannot go wrong here.  

 

Prospect Evaluations and stats via DobberProspects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals