2019 NHL Free Agency Predictions

With Free Agency kicking off on Monday, I’ve decided to predict where several UFAs will sign. 

I won’t be predicting an RFA signings, as most likely you won’t see many offer sheets as there hasn’t been an offer sheet that has been accepted/not matched since Dustin Penner signed with the Edmonton Oilers in July 2017. Plus, we haven’t seen a RFA sign an offer sheet since February of 2013, when Ryan O’Reilly signed an offer sheet from the Calgary Flames. So, this post will only be about UFAs.

Forwards

Artemi Panarin (Florida Panthers)- Panarin has been making the rounds to Colorado, New York and Florida among other places but this seems to be the place for “The Breadman” and will sign a long term contract to play with Aleksander Barkov and Joel Quenneville.

Matt Duchene (Nashville Predators)- It has been reported that this move is going to happen even though the Montréal Canadiens are trying to sneak in and steal him. Nashville needs offense and Duchene is coming off a strong season and should improve what was an awful power-play for Nashville.

Joe Pavelski (Colorado Avalanche)- Colorado is ready to make another step after reaching the second round of the playoffs and have loads of cap space. They are going to make some noise and this will be one of several moves.

Mats Zuccarello (Colorado Avalanche)- As I mentioned prior, Colorado has a lot of cap space. The Avalanche have to do something with it and adding two top six forwards to go along with their young core would improve things tremendously.

Anders Lee (New York Islanders)- Reports are that Lee and the Islanders are not close on contract negotiations, but the Islanders can’t let another captain go.

Gustav Nyquist (Columbus Blue Jackets)- Columbus is an interesting spot where they are losing some key players, but they still have some strong pieces to help them stay relevant. They have some money to spend and could use a scoring winger.

Marcus Johansson (Washington Capitals)- The Capitals have some players they would like to resign, but adding back Johansson after a disappointing first round exit will help as they enter the end of their contender window.

Joonas Donskoi (Edmonton Oilers)- The Oilers need someone to be productive next to Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid that isn’t super expensive and Donskoi could be that guy.

Wayne Simmonds (Minnesota Wild)- All of the reports are indicating that the Wild are the favorites for Simmonds. General Manager Paul Fenton seems to be willing to pay him probably more than he deserves at this point in his career. To be fair, Simmonds has been playing on an extraordinary team friendly deal for years, so get get your money Wayne.

Defensemen

Jake Gardiner (Montreal Canadiens)- Montréal is looking to improve what was a mediocre power play and Gardiner can put up offensive numbers when used correctly. This will be an odd sight and it will be amazing when he puts in the OT winner in his first game back in Toronto.

Tyler Myers (Vancouver Canucks)- It is has been rumored for so long. It would shocking if anything else happened.

Anton Strålman (Toronto Maple Leafs)- Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is busy with the Mitch Marner negotiations, but he will make some moves on defense. I predict that we’ll see Dubas bring back Strålman to replace Ron Hainsey.

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida Panthers)- Again, this had been rumored for so long. It would be shocking to see Bobrovsky not head down to South Florida.

Robin Lehner (Carolina Hurricanes)- After having an outstanding season Lehner can go anywhere he wants and the Carolina Hurricanes will need a starter after losing their two goalies.

Semyon Varlamov (New York Islanders)- After losing Lehner, the Islanders will need a goalie to go with Thomas Greiss. Varlamov is a prime candidate to be a platoon starter.

Cam Talbot (Calgary Flames)-After Brian Elliott resigned in Philadelphia, Talbot needs to find a new place and like so many teams it seems Calgary will platoon David Rittich with someone. A Talbot/Rittich platoon could be a strong one. But, it might be tough for Edmonton Oilers fans to see Talbot wearing a Calgary sweater.

Petr Mrazek (Edmonton Oilers)- Another team that will platoon goaltenders and needs to as Mikko Koskinen can not be the number one guy again.

player profiles – hockey-reference.com 

NHL Draft: German League Prospects For The Draft

Only seven days remain before the 2019 National Hockey League entry draft and prospects from all over the world will be gathered to see their fate. Among the prospects, there are a few of them that will be coming from Germany. 

The journey to the NHL is long and hard and while it’s still heavily dominated by the Canadian players, the Europeans are starting to gain more and more momentum. Over the next week or so, I will try to look at the players from the European leagues that could be stars in the NHL down the road and late round steals.

First up is Germany. We’ve seen quite a bit of top talent coming from Germany. Players like Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and Philip Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche have been stellar in the NHL. On the international scene, German hockey has created near miracles, something that Puck77’s Wally Mazurek also focused on in his article from earlier this week. But how do the Germans stack up ahead of the 2019 entry draft and what players from their leagues is worth keeping a small eye on during the draft?

Moritz Seider – Adler Mannheim – Defender

The next German star of the NHL is well within the cards for 18-year-old Moritz Seider. Talks have him to being taken mid-first round and for good reason. The Mannheim defender has had a dream season, where his first of many great achievements came when, at the age of 17, he  took the German Under-20 team back to the World Juniors top division as its captain. To be the captain at that age is something unique, but his young age didn’t show in the tournament. He was a star player for the Germans, getting seven points in  five games for the Germans.

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In the domestic league, he helped Adler Mannheim win their seventh league title. And once again the young defender was a key part of it, playing 43 games for the club. While his points production wasn’t as good as it was at the junior levels, he held his own and played in all the 14 playoff games.

To end the season, he also got to shine doing the IIHF Worlds Championships, where he was playing extremely well for Germany, with strong play on the blue line on both sides of the zone. He never looked out of place on the German team and for a teenager playing against men and NHLers, that’s one of the biggest compliments to receive. Sadly, his tournament ended on a sour note as he was taken out with a minor injury against Slovakia.

Seider is possibly one of the best mid-to-late first rounders in a few years and with his size and speed he can become a great pick and, in my opinion, would be one of the major steals of the draft if he were to drop outside the top 20. He has all the tools and skills to become one of the better defenders in the league if he continues his development.

Simon Gnyp – Kölner Haie – Defender

Last year was a fantastic year for German hockey. Not only due to the success in the Worlds and Under-20 team getting promoted back to the Worlds Juniors, but also due to the success of the Under-18 team.

Under the leadership of captain Simon Gnyp, they also gained promotion to the top of Under-18 hockey. Like Seider, he also showed a great ability to get points from the blueline during this tournament as he grabbed eight points in just five games. A huge part of the reason for the promotion and its very likely that he will be a part of the World Juniors next winter for the Germans.

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Gnyp has somewhat been overshadowed by Sieder in a lot of the German prospect talks, but Gnyp has played 14 games in the DEL against the best that Germany has to offer, and at only 17-years-old that is a monumental achievement. And while he wasn’t a regular in the Kölner line-up, he did manage to find a lot of success on the Under-20 level at Kölner EC U20, where he had 35 points in just 29 games. Being a point a game in any league is good. But when it’s done as a freshman in the junior league its worth taking note of.

His one weakness is his size. At only 5’11″ and 179 lbs., he is on the smaller side when it comes to the NHL build for a defenseman. However, as we seen with players like Jared Spurgeon and Samuel Girard, its more than possible to break into the NHL even with a smaller frame. I see him going in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he turns out to be one of those picks that people look back on with a lot of pride in a few years as he dons an NHL uniform.

Nino Kinder – Eisbären Berlin U20 – Center

The top scorer of the German Under-18 team and another part of the aforementioned team that gained promotion, Nino Kinder’s nine points was a key part in their success. Especially since he always found a way to score the key goals in the tournament, with very important tallies against Kazakhstan and Denmark.

Within Germany, he has mostly been apart of the Under-20 team in Berlin although he has had a small taste of Men’s hockey with five DEL games to his name. In the Under-20 league, he has been good and shown a lot of nice signs with a lot of offense. With 41 points in 33 games, and 17 goals to his name, its clear to see that he can find the back of the net at the junior level in Germany.

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The major question now is if it can be transferred to the big leagues. Next season will be a very important year for him where he more than likely will feature more heavily in DEL. This is yet to be confirmed and this could scare off a lot of teams from looking his way despite a fine international showing, at least in the early rounds. I see him as a late pick, potentially even seventh round that by a team hoping that his skills at the junior levels will be showing as he takes the next step in his career.

Jan-Luca Schumacher – Jungadler Mannheim U20 – Center/winger

While Jan-Luca Schumacher has never played a game in DEL, his stats in the juniors in Germany is astonishing. Well over a point and a half per game in over 30 games for Mannheim tells the story of his talent.  A great playmaker at the junior levels, he has all the tools to go quite far. At only 17, he has time to grow as well and he might have as he has a smaller frame.

Schumacher was a major part of the U18 German team who won the promotion, where he got six points. And like Kinder, he also made some key contributions along the way.

Schumacher and Kinder are very similar players and they both are going to have to show that they can break into the men’s league and transfer their fantastic play to the senior level. And that is a lot easier said then done, so his lack of senior level might hurt his draft stock, since the pure junior players that tend to be picked in the first couple of rounds are playing in the juniors in North America. Therefore, I feel he would be another late round pick from a team looking for a steal.

Statistics Provided By EliteProspects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals 

 

Germany Is Quickly Becoming A Hockey Powerhouse

Germany in recent years have risen to become a great Hockey country. Established players like Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and Philipp Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche stand out, but they have a lot of young talent.

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While there are many more great hockey countries (like Canada, USA, Sweden, Russia, Finland), I believe that Germany is quickly moving up in the hockey world ever since the 2018 Winter Olympics where they placed 2nd overall.

Who are the players in the NHL now?

This year, 2018-2019, there were eight German players in the NHL (via Elite Prospects). Six were skaters and the other two were goalies. All together they totaled 371 games played (5th most since 09-10). Their 68 goals, 98 assists and 166 points rank 2nd, 4th and 2nd respectively (since 09/10). It just shows how great this group is.

The players who played this year include: Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton Oilers (105 points), Dominik Kahun – Chicago Blackhawks (37 points), Tobias Rieder – Edmonton Oilers (11 points), Tom Kühnhackl – New York Islanders (nine points), Korbinian Holzer – Anaheim Ducks (four points), Nico Sturm – Minnesota Wild (zero points), Thomas Greiss – New York Islanders (2.28 GAA .927 SV%) and Philipp Grubauer – Colorado Avalanche (2.64 GAA .917 SV%).

It’s clear that Germany has a lot of talent in the NHL, but how many quality prospects do they have in the system?

Who are the most promising young players for Germany?

In the past five years (14-18) there has been six German players selected in the NHL Entry Draft. This list includes: Leon Draisaitl (3rd overall, 2014), Frederik Tiffels (167th overall, 2015), Manuel Wiederer (150th overall, 2016), Leon Gawanke (136th overall, 2017), Dominik Bokk (25th overall, 2018) and finally Justin Schütz (170th overall, 2018). Only one of these players has made the NHL, Leon Draisaitl, but all of Manuel Wiederer, Leon Gawanke and Dominik Bokk have signed their ELC’s.

Now what does the draft pool look like for Germany? Well this year the top German prospect is defenseman, Moritz Seider. 

Moritz Seider

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I’m gonna hand this part off to, Tony Ferrari, one of our prospect gurus at Puck77. Ferrari recently wrote a profile post on Seider. Below, is a section from his profile.

“Moritz Seider is a very good two-way defenceman. He has developed into a very good player defensively over the course of this season while playing in the DEL, the top tier men’s league in Germany. He uses his size well and competes hard against men in the dirty areas of the ice. He is a very good skater who has good-to-great top end speed and good acceleration. He could improve that area with added strength as he physically matures. His edge work is exceptional for a player his size, able to change direction backwards and forwards as well as laterally. His transition from defending to attacking, or visa versa, is aided by his ability to recognize where the play is developing.

His physicality isn’t a strength but the fact that he positions himself well and keeps close gaps against the oncoming rush. He does an excellent job with his stick positioning, consistently disrupting the play. This forces opposition to the outside with consistency, limiting the dangerous chances. When engaged physically against larger, stronger men he can be pushed around a bit but the projection of his 6’4” frame would lead you to think that his physical development will lead to improvement in those areas.

Offensively, Seider is an excellent passer. He does an excellent job of facilitating the puck down low, putting the puck on the stick of his teammates in high-danger scoring areas. His crisp passing is an asset in both breaking out of his zone and entering the offensive zone as he consistently makes the mature and smart play. His NHL-ready wrist shot is used both to score and to create chances down low. He locates his shot well leading to hard, accurate shots around a screen in front of the net or he shoots the puck in an area that gives the goalie to leave a rebound available to be cleaned up by the net crashing forwards. His slap shot is hard but sometimes lacks consistent accuracy. Overall, he’s developed into a capable two-way defender that could be among the most mature in the draft class.”

Thanks to Tony for that excellent scouting report. Moritz Seider is clearly the best German player to enter the NHL draft since Leon Draisaitl.

Draft Eligible Germans

There are a lot more draft eligible players from Germany this year but I’ll only be covering the top five outside of Moritz Seider.

  1. Taro Jentzsch (LW/C) Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL. A power winger who has offensive upside and great vision. Questionable speed and 19 years old. 18G – 24A – 42P (53 GP)
  2. Nino Kinder (W/C) Eisbären Berlin, DEL. A playmaking forward who has a decent shot. Split time between the DEL and the U20 team. 17G – 24A – 41P (33 GP U20)
  3. Simon Gynp (LHD) Kölner Haie, DEL. Puck-Moving defenseman who has decent speed and a decent shot. Inconsistency in his game and needs to bulk up. Split time between the DEL and U20 team. 9G – 26A – 35P (29 GP U20)
  4. Tobias Ancicka (G) Eisbären Berlin, DEL. A smaller goalie (6’1″, 172 pounds), but can make a save when he needs to. Played for U20 but also DEL 2. 3.36 GAA and a .902 SV% (33 GP U20/DEL 2)
  5. Jan-Luca Schumacher (W/C) Jungadler Mannheim, DNL U20. A skilled playmaker with a smaller frame (5’10, 163 pounds), and needs to work on multiple parts of his game. 16G – 45A – 61P (34 GP U20).

Who Are The Top Draft Prospects For Next Year?

Next year you have guys like Tim Stützle (23G-32A-55P in 21 U20 games), who might be the best center since Leon Draisaitl to come out of the draft from Germany. You also have other talented players in John-Jason Peterka (45G-49A-94P in 48 Czech U20 games) and Lukas Reichel (11G-31A-42P in 32 U20 games).

Germany has a great future with young established NHL players (Leon Draisaitl) and young players making their way through the ranks of German hockey (Moritz Seider and Tim Stützle).

stats-from: Elite-Prospects

special thanks to: Tony Ferrari

photo credit – pixabay.com

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers: Ken Holland to the Rescue

It was widely reported on Sunday that Ken Holland is expected to accept the GM position for the Edmonton Oilers.

Let’s take a look back at Holland’s time with the Detroit Red Wings, and see if he can fix the Oilers.

Director of Amateur Scouting (1987-1994)

When his playing career ended with the Adirondack Red Wings, Holland took a post in the Wings scouting department. He served as an amateur scout for Western Canada. His work did not go unnoticed, as he was promoted to Director of Amateur Scouting after just two years.

Some of his highlight picks as Director of Amateur Scouting include Chris Osgood, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Federov, Keith Primeau, and just for fun Wes McCauley (the league’s most famous referee).

Assistant General Manager (1994-1997)

In 1994, Holland was promoted to Assistant General Manager under Jim Devellano and Scotty Bowman. Together the trio built the team that culminated in a 1997 Stanley Cup Championsip.

Upon the completion of the 1997 season, Ken Holland was promoted to General Manager, while Devellano became the Senior Vice President and Alternate Governor and Bowman remained the Head Coach.

General Manager (1997-2019)

The era of dominance was just beginning in 1997. Detroit would make the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons, beginning in 1990. They won the Stanley Cup 4 times (’97, ’98, ’02, and ’08) during that stretch. It is an unprecedented streak that will be very difficult to match in the post-expansion era. As we know, all good things must come to an end, and the glory days came to a screeching halt in 2017.

It was at that point that many wondered what it would take to rebuild the Wings, considering their aging contracts that carried a heavy cap hit. With contracts like Henrik Zetterberg ( 2YR, $6.1M), Mike Green (1YR, $5.375M), and Johan Franzen (1YR, $3.9M), the Red Wings were forced to bring in Steve Yzerman to clean up the dire cap situation.

It was initially reported that Ken Holland would remain with the organization as Presided of Hockey Operations, but that all changed when the Edmonton Oilers offered him a 5-year, $25M contract to take their vacant General Manager position.

Rebuilding the Oilers

Now the task for Holland becomes finding some help for the best player in the game, Connor McDavid. Edmonton will begin the season with ~$71M committed to 35 players. That gives them about $12M for the 15 available roster spots. That assumes that they are not able to offload the Milan Lucic contract, which is a difficult task without including a prominent trade chip.

Obviously, moving Lucic will be talked about a lot this off-season, but lets look at some players that actually have value on the trade market.

Trade Chips

Leon Draisatl, C/LW/RW

OK, put down the pitchforks and listen to me for a second. Do you ever expect his value to be any higher? He is coming off of a season that saw him score 50 goals and eclipse the century mark in points. His versatility would make him the most attractive trade target in recent memory, and yes, I know Erik Karlsson was traded last season. Gathering the resources from the trade to go along with the extra $8.5M of cap space could move this rebuild into the fast lane.

Oscar Klefbom, LHD

The return for Klefbom would not be nearly as high as Draisatl, but he is the easiest defenseman on their roster to trade. He has 4 years remaining at $4.1M per year. While he may not be best suited for top pairing on most teams, he is definitely a guy that can share minutes with the best in the league. His offensive potential makes him an attractive option for a 2nd power play unit. It helps that the Oilers have an abundance of Left-Handed Defensemen.

Jesse Puljujarvi, RW

Puljujarvi has never really found his footing in Edmonton. When pundits talk about players that could use a change of scenery, this guy’s name always comes up. He could be the sweetener Holland adds to move a bad contract.

Buyout Options

Again, most of you expect Milan Lucic’s name to show up in this section. Sorry to disappoint you, but it will not. I will reserve this section for realistic, financially responsible buyouts.

Sam Gagner, C/RW

The Oilers brought back Sam Gagner around the trade deadline in a player for player trade featuring Ryan Spooner. While Gagner showed upside (10P in 29GP), that is not what you need from a $3M player. Utilizing the Buyout Calculator on capfriendly.com, it would free up ~$2M if they chose to buy him out. I do believe Gagner could fetch something on the trade market, so this route would be a last option.

Adam Larsson, RHD

Quite possibly the biggest mistake in Peter Chiarelli’s tenure as GM of the Oilers, Larsson’s name is worse than anything you would hear at a sailor’s convention, in the eyes of Blue and Orange faithful. Larsson has not been a total failure for Edmonton, it’s just never easy to win a trade when the return wins league MVP. He has averaged over 21 minutes per night in his 3 seasons and still has a positive +/-, which is not easy in Edmonton. However, a buyout would save the Oilers $3.5M in each of the next two seasons.

Brandon Manning, LHD

Another lost trade by Chiarelli, Manning was eventually sent to Bakersfield and subsequently scratched from their roster. With one year remaining on his deal, I see no other solution than to buy him out. It would only equate to $1.3M in savings, but that is more attractive than $1.75M in unused salary.

Coaching Search

The Edmonton Oilers CEO, Bob Nicholson, made it abundantly clear in March that the next GM would have full discretion on the next head coach. As to who Ken Holland may target, there has been speculation already that Mike Babcock would be a candidate.

Obviously, this speculation would come up because of their time together in Detroit, but I find it unlikely unless the Dubas/ Babcock feud is real.

Another name to consider would be Dan Bylsma. The former Sabres and Penguins bench boss has ties to Holland, as he was hired as a Detroit assistant last season. He has experience coaching superstars and a championship pedigree. He would definitely be a splash hire that could rejuvenate the Edmonton faithful. This is just my speculation as to a possible candidate. I don’t think we will hear a true list of candidates until Edmonton makes the hiring official.

stats from capfriendly.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

Puck77 Daily Roundup – Hot Posts/Articles/Links To Check Out

Looking for some hockey blog posts and/or articles to read! Look no further.

Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl has been nominated for the King Clancy Award. Jeff Chapman of Copper and Blue talks more about the nomination.

Christian Pagnani of The Oilers Nation talks about how the Edmonton Oilers can create some cap space.

Should the Detroit Red Wings pursue Jake Gardiner during free agency? Josh Tessler explains why in his new post on The Wings Nation.

James Tanner of Editor In Leaf discusses why the Toronto Maple Leafs deserved to beat the Boston Bruins in Game 4.

WallMaz evaluates Chicago Blackhawks forward prospect, Evan Barratt in his new post.

Kyle Pereira ranks the top 20 all-time NHL goaltenders in his post. Check out where Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Carey Price, Jacques Plante and others fell on the top 20.

Chad DeDominicis of Die By The Blade addresses the rumors about the Buffalo Sabres potentially signing Arttu Ruotsalainen.

David Quadrelli of The Canuck Way talks about two Canucks who are joining Team Sweden for the World Championships.

Tony Ferrari talks about Kaapo Kakko and how he’d be a great fit with the New York Rangers.