Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks: Reviewing Sven Bärtschi

Welcome to a possible new series called reviewing the Vancouver Canucks! First up is Sven Bärtschi (Sven Baertschi).

I will review the performance of current Canucks players (who also played 10+ games this season). Based on that, I won’t be writing a post on Erik Gudbranson or Quinn Hughes. Gudbranson is now on the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he was dealt at the NHL trade deadline. Hughes has only played in five NHL games, so I won’t be writing a post on him.

In terms of the series, it will go in alphabetical order (Ä is counted as AE in English so that’s why Sven is first). But, enough of the explaining. Let’s review Bärtschi’s play from this past season.

Offense

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Bärtschi scored 9 goals and 5 assists in 26 games played this past season. If we look at points per game, Bärtschi averaged roughly 0.875 points per game.

He was on pace to break his point record (35) this past season, but he struggled with injuries. We’ll talk more about his health later on, but over the course of his career, he’s had quite a few injuries. This past season, he wound up missing 56 games of 82. But, when he was in the lineup, he played top 6 minutes and was pivotal to the Canucks’ success.

If Bärtschi can stay relatively healthy, the Canucks will win more games. But, with him out of the lineup, the Canucks struggle as they are missing an integral piece to their offensive unit.

Defense

There’s not a lot to say about Bärtschi in the defensive zone. He isn’t a Selke contender nor is he a liability. He is just decent. But, Bärtschi has been crticised before on his defense. In the past, former Canucks general manager Brian Burke had indicated that he wasn’t in love with his defensive play. Since those remarks, it seems that the Swiss forward has improved slightly in the defensive zone. But, his defense is still not where you want it to be.

Injury bug bites again

He might be the most injury prone player in the league. In his last 4 seasons (all with Vancouver), he has missed 112 games out of 328 (over a third).

It truly is sad to see Bärtschi suffer from injury after injury because he possibly could be an elite LW and that’s something Vancouver needs right now. Plus, with his injury history, a lot of fans forget that he’s a special talent. He was taken 13th overall in the 2011 entry draft.

Rating

3 out of 5

Bärtschi was great offensively and especially on the power-play when he was in the lineup, but his lack of games and subpar defense drops his grade.

stats from naturalstatrick.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

Puck77

IIHF Worlds 2019: 5 Prospects To Watch

Some of the best prospects are gathered in Slovakia to play in the World Hockey Championships. But who should you really look out for?

On Friday, May 10th at 10:15 A.M. the World Championships start.  Canada takes on Finland in Košice, while Russia takes on Norway in Bratislava.

Some of the best players in the world are present for these first two games. A few of those names are the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, John Tavares and Finnish superstar Kaapo Kakko. Kakko, especially, is interesting since he is one of many prospects in this tournament who are wanting to prove themselves on the big stage. Here are some of the best that will be playing in the World Championships. 

 

1: The Hughes Brothers

Jack and Quinn Hughes playing together is probably one of the most exciting things to watch doing the Worlds. The chance to watch them play together is an amazing storyline to follow as they try to help the US win their first gold medal in almost 60 years!

Jack Hughes, however, is the more interesting of the two brothers. My apologies to Quinn, but having a potential first-overall pick play in the Worlds has to take the cake when it comes top prospects. Jack notched 112 points in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) and 48 points in 24 games in the United States Hockey League. Having a point of game is fantastic but two per game? Over an entire year? That should not be possible to do but Jack Hughes is doing it. He worst preformance came in the World Juniors, where to be honest did fairly well, but failed to grab a single goal as the US went on to lose in the final.

From what I’ve gathered, it looks like he will be playing with James Van Riemsdyk and Alex DeBrincat on the third line. If you ask me that’s a scary third line for all teams to face. Van Riemsdyk has always been good at winning net battles and if Jack can find him or get a shot through, the point potential is there. DeBrincat’s speed gives him a great outlet in the form of the breakouts as well as a nice option on offence to allow him space to get open. Especially if DeBrincat is as prolific as he was at last years Worlds.

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2: Kaapo Kakko

The Finnish wonderkid has to be the driving force for Finland if thay want to go anywhere in this year’s Worlds. Finland lacks a lot on paper with only two NHLers on the roster in the form of Juho Lammikko and Henri Jokiharju. Outside these two, its mostly players from the Liiga and SHL.

Although, one of those is Kakko and he will have to prove vital for Finland. In the friendlies leading up to the Worlds he has been the driving force of the offense and this will have to continue in the preliminaries for them to make it out the group. He will be given a lot of responsibility and if he can excel like he did at the Juniors, some might look to the 18-year-old as the number one pick at the National Hockey League Entry draft in June. 

During the Worlds, he will get first-line minutes and compared to the rest of the prospects, he will get more exposure. Something that makes watching Finland play a lot more exciting and should prove a good way to scout him before the draft. He will be playing against some of the best NHLers and on Friday, he will start with a baptism of fire vs. John Tavares and Canada.

 

3: Kirill Kaprizov

The savior of Minnesota, Olympic gold medalist, The Russian Crosby. Kirill Kaprizov has been described many ways. The last one I might have made up, but its not without reason, since he was the overtime hero of the 2018 Olympics for Russia (technically Olympic Athletes from Russia). The same as Sidney Crosby was for Canada in 2010.

Since that moment he hasn’t looked back, and his career in the Kontinental Hockey League has made him a staple on a very strong Russian team. He amassed 51 regular season points and 14 more in the playoffs (where he played on the fourth line for some of it), which speaks volume to his talent.

During the preseason Kaprizov has played with none other than Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. A line that torched the Czech Republic doing one of the pre-tournament games, combining for 11 points. Therefore, it’s hard to see this line split up during the Worlds so watch for Kaprizov to benefit greatly from this. Both in terms of assists but also with goals of his own. Personally, I would be stunned if he isn’t the top scorer at the end of the tournament with those line mates and his raw talent.

 

4: Moritz Seider

Captain of the Germany Under 20 squad that qualified to for the Juniors next year at just 17-years-old. Not only that, he also went on to win the Deutsche Eishockey Liga this season and was a key part of the Mannheim win during his first full season with the first team. The German defenseman has had a season to remember and its being capped off with a call up to the Worlds. If he performs well an already rising draft stock could go into overdrive.

The last game for Germany before the Worlds was against the USA. In this game Seider got to play with 35-year-old Yannic Seidenberg in a mix of young and old. A partnership where Seider’s youth and speed has to show but it’s a great window for him to show his talent on the biggest stage and like Kakko, show the scouts in attendance that he is able to hang with men and play against NHLers and some of the world’s best. Is a top-15 spot at the draft out the question if he does this? I don’t think so.

 

5: Joachim Blichfeld

Okay, this one might have a little bias to it. I’m Danish after all. However, I wouldn’t add him on the list if I didn’t think he was deserving of it. And with 119 points in the Western Hockey League, he is hard to look past on a list like this. On top of that he was the WHL player of the year. Even at the age of 20 that is a impressive feat for the Danish San Jose Sharks prospect.

Blichfeld has a goalscoring touch, that Denmark could be need of in terms of the depth scoring. Lars Eller and Mikkel Bødker will be playing many minutes and so will the second line. Therefore, they need Blichfeld to score on third line. This has become even more important for Denmark with Nikolaj Ehlers being hurt and Oliver Bjorkstand also declining the invite, so expect him to be handed a lot of responsability to provide depth scoring and chances with Mathias From potentially.

Statistics Provided By hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks: Should Break The Bank For The Top Pick

Fans Of The Vancouver Canucks Suffered A Big Letdown After Seeing The Results Of The National Hockey League Draft Lottery

The National Hockey League draft lottery was held on Tuesday, and Vancouver Canucks fans’ hearts were broken. After much hoping throughout the year (and praying for the team to lose game after game to get the best possible chance at a top-three pick), eventually the Canucks finished 23rd overall in the league. After an untimely leak of the draft lottery results, it was revealed that the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and the Chicago Black Hawks would move into the top three of the NHL entry draft in June, in that order. All three of these teams struggle with organizational depth, and a potential blockbuster trade with the Devils would make a lot of sense.

The Vancouver Canucks fan base as a whole is demoralised after seeing the draft lottery results. While the future is bright for the Canucks franchise, there is a lot of frustration with the management, the NHL, and the players.

Making A Pitch For The Top Pick

Young phenom Jack Hughes is the likely first overall pick in this summer’s upcoming NHL entry draft. His older brother, Quinn, is currently a top prospect that recently made his NHL debut for the Canucks. The media spotlight on Vancouver would spike if they managed to pull off a trade to unite the Hughes brothers, and it would be inexcusable no matter what it took to make this trade happen.

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The price will not be cheap, as Jack Hughes is a potential franchise-changing talent, but the Canucks could field some offers that the Devils could potentially accept. I thought long and hard about this and came up with the conclusion of this potential trade for the first overall pick:

Bo Horvat, Olli Juolevi, Jake Virtanen, Jacob Markstrom, and the 10th overall pick to the Devils for the first overall pick, and Corey Schneider.

The Devils struggle with offensive depth, and receiving Virtanen, a raw power forward with a lot of talent would definitely help that. Virtanen was the former sixth overall pick for Vancouver and hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. He should still be able to deliver 20 goals at some point in his career, and at age 22 still has a lot of potential.

Horvat Would Be Tough To Give Up

Horvat is a fringe top line player, an elite faceoff man and a spectacular defensive centre. Vancouver would definitely prefer to keep him, but he is arguably their best asset that would make a sliver of sense to trade. With another center coming back the other way in Jack Hughes, it would make this trade hurt less.

Markstrom has held the Canucks in many games this year and is arguably a bona-fide top-15 goalie in the NHL. Playing behind an absolutely horrid defence, Markstrom single-handedly salvaged many games for Vancouver. He has been incredibly consistent this year, constantly making enormous saves while looking calm, cool, and collected in net.

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Juolevi, yet another high pick the Canucks have taken, has yet to crack an NHL roster. He still is brimming with potential and should end up being a smooth top-three defenseman in the next few years. At just 20 years old, Juolevi is a massive asset and if he can improve his focus on the game he could potentially be a star.

While all these assets may seem like a lot to give up with the aforementioned players, along with the 10th overall pick (which could also be a top line player) also going to New Jersey in this hypothetical trade, here is what would be coming to Vancouver.

Once an elite starting goalie for the Canucks (and who was traded for the pick that selected Horvat), Schneider has fallen off a cliff. Schneider is a backup calibre goalie in New Jersey and is still making $6 million for the next three years. There is hope the Ian Clark could revive his career in Vancouver, and potentially be a starting goalie again. But in all likelihood, he could just be a salary cap dump.

Hughes Certainly Worth It

Jack Hughes, the projected first overall pick, is potentially franchise changing. He has a sky-high ceiling and would be an instant hit in Vancouver, replacing the retired Sedin twins with another pair of brothers. Jack Hughes could potentially be a 100-point player, and the only reason the Devils would potentially move that pick is because of the number of valuable players and prospects coming back the other way, and that there is a risk that he amounts to nothing. There is a high chance that New Jersey holds onto the pick and drafts/develops him, but there is an outside chance that a team like Vancouver, armed already with Jack’s older brother, might make a move for him.

This trade could turn out terrible for either team, and there is a lot of risk involved for both teams. if Juolevi and Virtanen both fail to hit their potential and end up as replacement level NHLers, while Jack Hughes becomes a star by putting up 25 goals and 100+ points, all of a sudden this trade is awful for New Jersey. However, if Virtanen becomes a 25 goal threat, Juolevi a top pair defenseman, Horvat a top line forward and the 10th overall pick a legitimate top-six forward or top-four defenseman (and Hughes fails to reach his potential), this trade could be among the worst in Canucks history.

Stats provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators: Examining The Underrated Signing Of Rem Pitlick

Yesterday, the playoff bound Nashville Predators signed star NCAA forward Rem Pitlick to a two-year entry level contract.

A speedy, high-scoring center, Pitlick has a lot of attributes that Predators fans should be very excited about. Plus, Preds fans may see him sooner than they think.

Player Info

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Listed at 5’9″ and 196 lbs, the 21 year-old Pitlick just finished his 3rd season playing for the Minnesota Golden Gophers (the University of Minnesota). Rem is the son of 400 game NHL veteran Lance Pitlick and the cousin of Dallas Stars forward Tyler Pitlick.

Three years after being drafted in third round (76th overall-2016) Rem signed a two-year ELC with Predators, worth $925k per season.

Statistics

Pitlick has performed well in all leagues he’s played in, most notably in the USHL (105 points in 103 games played) and NCAA (108 points in 112 games played). Pitlick had fantastic totals with Minnesota this year, putting up 45 points in 38 games for 5th in NCAA scoring, ahead of highly touted (and recently signed) prospects Ryan Kuffner (signed-DET), Adam Fox (Drafted CGY-traded-CAR), Max Vérroneau (Signed-OTT), Joel Farabee (Drafted-PHI), and teammate Quinn Hughes (Drafted-VAN).

Vérroneau (OTT), Kuffner (DET), and Hughes (VAN) are all on their respective teams’ roster to finish the current NHL season. Once again, all performed worse than Pitlick.

Dobber Prospects’ Matthew Somma adds praise to Pitlick’s game, saying that talent is undeniable, but lists size as a concern for the speedy scoring forward. Niko Salminen, also of Dobber Prospects, elaborates on more drawbacks of Pitlick’s game, saying that his defence is a large concern but praises his speed and creativity with the puck.

https://nhlrankking.com/Dobber/?id=199968

The chart above, also from dobberprospects.com, uses PNHLe (a graphing system used to predict NHL potential) to predict that Rem Pitlick could be a 2nd line forward in the NHL. PNHLe is  based upon the average production of NHL players who had similar scoring (to the focus player) in their respective junior leagues (in this case, the NCAA).

Possible Utilization 

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Taking into account Pitlick’s speed and offensive tendencies, as well as his exceptional scoring ability, it is not unbelievable that he could make the NHL this coming season.

Pitlick, much like many other recently signed prospects, will most-likely sign an amateur tryout contract with the Preds’ AHL club (Milwaukee Admirals) to close out the season.

If Pitlick jumps into the Preds’ lineup next season, I would expect him to be sheltered on the 3rd or 4th line but get top power-play minutes. This setup would theoretically improve Pitlick’s production while lowering his quality-of-competition.

Conclusion

Rem Pitlick is an exceptional skater, whom expresses tremendous offensive senses, fits the mold of the ideal NHL player in the current style of the game. Furthermore, Pitlick would most certainly be a welcome addition to an already stacked Predators team as soon as next season.

Stats and resources retrieved from dobberprospects.com, elite prospects.com, uscho.com, cap friendly.com, and thehockeywriters.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Vancouver Canucks

Bright Future for Vancouver Canucks’ Fans

The Vancouver Canucks have an outstanding group of talented youth and their future is bright.

When “he” burst onto the scene, fans in Vancouver had little faith in the drafting and talent acquisition of Jim Benning, Trevor Linden and the rest of the Management’s ability to create a winning team. After all they had seen the very best era of Canucks hockey, only to see the very same team disintegrate before their very eyes. And Canucks fans aren’t stupid. Sure they can be a little childish and entitled (this is the Left, sorry West Coast after all) but they do know hockey. Don’t fool yourself and think otherwise.

The Brock Star (Sorry Boston Red Sox Fans)

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Then “he” came along. Don’t get me wrong, Elias Pettersson is a generational talent, but it all started with Brock Boeser. Drafted at 23rd overall in 2015, during his NCAA career, he could score. It translated to the NHL in 2017-18. Most know the stories of his character, how upstanding he is, and if you haven’t look at who he went to prom after she asked. This is as solid a person you will ever meet.

Brock Boeser represented the beginning of the new era in Vancouver. His performance at the all-star game last season was legendary and it is unfortunate his freak injury prevented him from finishing the season. While the Calder was Mathew Barzal’s to lose, it would’ve been interesting race had Boeser hit his projected 42 goals.

Benning Working The Phones

But, Benning and team made a trade at the 2017 deadline, that transformed the belief and expectation from the fans in the team. Boeser was in the system, and the fans eagerly awaited his arrival. Olli Juolevi, while criticized greatly by some, could still be a genuine NHL defenseman.

But that all changed when they acquired Jonathan Dahlen and a pick from Ottawa for Alexandre Burrows. Vancouver’s farm system has something cooking. Legit NHL prospect talent. Potential scoring that you need. A promising core to build around.

Here Comes Gretzky 2.0?

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Then they drafted Pettersson, who admittedly, I was not mad at the pick, I just knew more about Cody Glass. Every fan in Vancouver is glad they were wrong, as it seemed like most Canucks fans wanted the team to select Glass.

I watched Pettersson in person at the prospects summer game in 2017. I was convinced at that game, right there and then, he was generational. (I have the documentation to prove it, workmates holding me accountable to my words). His performance in the Swedish Elite League made us all salivate. Juolevi was improving, Lind was drafted, etc…

Canucks Fans

The rest is, as we say, history. But it is worth going over again, because the Canucks system, while littered with potential, still needs something the fans know. They saw this in 1999 with the drafting of the Sedins (Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin) and the maturity of the West Coast Express. The fans know the Canucks have to have these prospects and talent pay out. The fans know this. Canucks fans cab now watch with bated breath.

And this article is more about the fans who watch this team. Other teams fans like to think the Canucks fans know nothing about hockey. The apathy is there because the fans aren’t dumb. This is why this article is so appropriate.

Canucks fans have a lot to look forward to. Their front office has done an impeccable job in landing top talent including Boeser, Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko and the list goes on and on.

Vancouver fans are being repaid for their loyalty. They’re being repaid for their faith in players. And when Trevor Linden wanted to take the old school, play Pettersson in the minors for 2 years approach, the NHL had changed. The fans knew this. Kids from the age of 18 to 22 were having significant impacts on their teams. They were taking mediocre teams and making them contenders. Now, the fans in Vancouver can see this happening on the west coast.

The fans aren’t dumb.

stats from Hockey-Reference

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals