Saturday, September 28, 2013

One To Watch: New York Islanders

No longer a laughing stock but still earning respect, the New York Islanders have built a pretty decent stable of young players after years of less than mediocre results at the NHL level. The Islanders have prospects on the way at every position so the pieces are there for the once floundering organization to finally right the ship for the long haul. 

GM Garth Snow, a goaltender in his NHL days, selected a pair of NCAA netminders in June - one coming off a fantastic freshman season, the other hoping to make his own mark in college this coming year as a rookie. Stephon Williams was terrific for Minnesota State and Eamon McAdam could become Penn State's starter as the program moves to the Big 10 conference. 

Forwards in the system include Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Taylor Cammarata and Kirill Kabanov. But with the amount of blueliners the Islanders have drafted over the last four years, my pick today shouldn't come as any surprise. 

2012 Choice: Scott Mayfield - The big defenceman had just completed his freshman year at Denver and I wanted to know what steps forward his development would take as a sophomore. This year may prove even more interesting for Mayfield after turning pro last spring. This year Mayfield will play in Bridgeport and hope to adapt quickly as the organization is flush with defencemen on the way.

My selection for Islanders prospect of 2013-14 to be One To Watch comes after the jump. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

One To Watch: Colorado Avalanche

We talk a lot about NHL rookies on The Pipeline Show but in Colorado, the guy behind the bench this year is a pretty intriguing freshman. Patrick Roy is the rare coach who was a superstar player who spent time in junior hockey preparing for his return to the NHL. After 8 seasons with the Quebec Remparts, Roy feels he's finally ready to take on the head coach job in Colorado and that is going to make for interesting discussions all year. 

But the One To Watch series doesn't talk about coaches, it's looking at a young guy on the ice coming up the system and the Avalanche certainly have some interesting players on the way.

2012 Choice: Mike Connolly - A very disappointing season for a guy I admittedly held high hopes for. The former Camrose and Duluth standout had a very impressive season as a rookie pro in 2011-12, mostly in San Jose's system but Connolly fell far from that success last year. There was an injury to start the year and by the end of it he'd managed just 9 goals and 23 points in 65 AHL games. This year Connolly is playing in Germany.

My 2013-14 choice as One To Watch for Colorado comes after the jump.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

One To Watch: Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are still considered one of the contending teams in the Western conference but for the first time in a few years there appears to be talented youth on the way. Camp has seen solid performances from recent draftees and it's compelling to see how many, if any, of the prospects at camp earn a spot with the big club. 

2012 Choice: Joe Cannata - The former Merrimack standout played sparingly in the AHL and ECHL last season and received a late season recall to sit on the bench while Cory Schneider was injured. Cannata posted decent numbers in AHL Chicago and oddly enough, pretty forgettable ones with ECHL Kalamazoo. He should see a lot more starting time this year.

My 2013-14 One to Watch for Vancouver comes after the jump.

Friday, September 20, 2013

WHL Preview & Predictions (East)

We had our massive WHL Preview show a couple of weeks ago with both Dean Millard and I joined in studio by a couple league broadcasters and on the phone by a third plus a media man in Seattle. Corey Graham or the Oil Kings and Red Deer Rebels voice Cam Moon were kind enough to sit in with us. Then we also spoke with Kamloops Blazers broadcaster Jon Keen and ESPN 710 Seattle's Andy Eide. 

I'll refer you to that show, the archive is RIGHT HERE, as I will not be going as in-depth here in the blog but using this as more of a summary to what we discussed that night. 

After the jump, my predictions for the East conference and the two teams I'm looking at for the conference finals. Plus, having posted my Western conference predictions earlier, I'll also include my WHL Championship final and who I'm selecting as the WHL representative at the 2014 Memorial Cup in London, ON.

WHL Preview & Predictions (West)

We had our massive WHL Preview show a couple of weeks ago with both Dean Millard and I joined in studio by a couple league broadcasters and on the phone by a third plus a media man in Seattle. Corey Graham or the Oil Kings and Red Deer Rebels voice Cam Moon were kind enough to sit in with us. Then we also spoke with Kamloops Blazers broadcaster Jon Keen and ESPN 710 Seattle's Andy Eide. 

I'll refer you to that show, the archive is RIGHT HERE, as I will not be going as in-depth here in the blog but using this as more of a summary to what we discussed that night. 

After the jump, my predictions for the West conference and the two teams I'm looking at for the conference finals. 

One To Watch: Los Angeles Kings

The recent Stanley Cup champions have built their team around size and skill and added to both of those categories at the 2013 NHL Draft. New additions like 40-goal man Valentin Zykov and 6'7 winger Justin Auger fit the bill not to mention CHL Goaltender of the Year Patrik Bartosak.

L.A.'s NHL depth allows the team the luxury of bringing along their prospects slowly and that's paid off for guys like Slava Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Trevor Lewis, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan. That's good news for guys that are still biding their time on the farm.     

2012 Choice: Martin Jones - The former Calgary Hitmen goalie wasn't drafted but signed after an impressive camp invite. Heading into last year it was feasible that with so many Jonathan Bernier trade rumors going around, a NHL appearance might be in Jones' near future. That didn't happen but he did manage to have arguably his best professional season. He played 56 regular season games and held a 2.53 GAA and 9.19 SV%. 

My Los Angeles prospect pick for One To Watch in 2013-14 comes after the jump. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One To Watch: Washington Capitals

The Capitals only had one rookie contribute much at the NHL level last season and that was 25 games from defenceman Tomas Kundratek. The former Medicine Hat Tiger was originally drafted by the New York Rangers but has worn a Caps jersey for all 30 NHL games that he has appeared in. 

Yevgeni Kuznetsov is the top prospect for the Washington Capitals but he's spending another season in the KHL before coming over to this side of the Atlantic. 

There are a number of other quality guys in the system, Tom Wilson and Madison Bowey immediately come to mind, but the franchise isn't as deep as it was a decade ago. That's probably a good thing because it should mean that there is more NHL success so they are drafting later than they had been.

2012 Choice: Braden Holtby - The former Saskatoon Blades keeper established himself as the new starter for the Caps with a strong lockout shortened season. His 23 wins were one off the league high although he managed the total playing far fewer games than the trio of goalies with 24 wins. Holtby is still young but a strong start to the year would make him a viable consideration for the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.

My 2013-14 One To Watch pick for the Capitals comes after the jump. 

One To Watch: St. Louis Blues

Solid drafting and patient player development have been keys to the success of the St. Louis Blues in recent years. The team spent its fair share of time at the lower end of the standings but made the most of the down years. The Blues drafted in the top half of the first round four times in five years from 2006-2010 and still have those players on their roster, or the players they received for them via trades. 

Despite picking much later these days, the Blues have still done very well at the draft with a number of their prospects trending upwards. 

2012 Choice: Max Gardiner - I thought Gardiner was an interesting player in an even more interesting situation. The former Golden Gopher was back in the NCAA but with a different program, and a new one at that in Penn State. Gardiner had a good year collecting 21 points in 23 games but only managed 3 goals. I'm guessing more was expected and if so, more will be counted on as he begins his junior season with the Nittany Lions. 

My 2013-14 choice for One To Watch with the Blues comes after the jump.

Monday, September 16, 2013

One To Watch: Calgary Flames

It's definitely a new era in Southern Alberta as a number of fan favorite veterans have moved on, Brian Burke has joined the organization and the team has embraced a rebuilding mentality.

With that comes a number of young prospects and new faces to the team and a level of uncertainty. But just because these new players aren't proven doesn't mean they can't get the job done. For the first time in a number of years, the Flames have a number of young prospects in the system for fans to be excited about. Perhaps the rebuild won't take as long as it has for other franchises in different cities.

2012 Choice: Laurent Brossoit - The Edmonton Oil Kings netminder began last season trying to erase the memories of a sub-par Memorial Cup and summer U20 camp performance. For the most part, Brossoit had a very successful year although he was overlooked for Canada's entry at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Russia. The goaltender posted career best numbers with a 2.25 GAA and .917 sv% and was even better in the playoffs. 

My 2013 selection for One To Watch for the Flames comes after the jump. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

One To Watch: Minnesota Wild

An intriguing mix of seasoned vets, actual superstars and a smattering of talented youth on the way. The Minnesota Wild should be a team to consider a threat in the very near future although I'm not sure if that's reasonable to say about this season.

Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin are just the tip of the prospect iceberg that Wild fans enjoyed watching last year. There are a number of guys still in college or junior who could impact the NHL roster in the near future including Mario Lucia, Zack Phillips, Tyler Graovac, Adam Gilmour, Carson Soucy and Darcy Kuemper. Of course there is a defenceman on the way as well, more on him in a second. 

2013 Choice: Charlie Coyle - Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Coyle's. My question leading into last season was whether he would be able to produce offensively as a pro. That answer came in the form of 25 AHL points in 47 games and 14 more in 37 NHL contests. 

My selection for One To Watch with the Wild for 2013-14 comes after the jump.

One To Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins

"Beau Bennett and a bunch of defencemen". That's how I heard one analyst describe the depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect system recently. While I think that's forgetting Teddy Blueger and some interesting goalies, the statement does hold up for the most part. The blueline appears to be solidified for the Penguins for the foreseeable future. 

Oli Maata, Brian Dumoulin, Simon Despres, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp, Derrick Pouliot... the list is a lengthy one. Oddly enough, it's not a defender I'm going to focus on today. 

2012 Choice: Joe Morrow - The former Portland Winterhawk was a 1st round pick by Pittsburgh in 2011 but the Pens shipped him to Dallas in order to acquire Brendan Morrow at the deadline. At the draft in June, the Stars flipped him to Boston. I spoke at length with Morrow about last season and he was very candid about it all. Despite being part of his third organization in less than 6 months, Morrow is still a high quality prospect. 

My One To Watch for Pittsburgh in 2013-14 is after the jump. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2014 Draft Blog: Jordan Papirny

It's become an annual tradition; guest blogs written by a handful of draft eligible players who share their experiences throughout the key season. Some of the names of players who we have recruited and agreed to give us their time in the past include 1st round selections like Mark Pysyk, Jordan Eberle, Joe Colborne, Curtis Lazar, John Moore, Michael Matheson and Brett Connolly. 

This year's first entry come from a goaltender of note from the WHL, Jordan Papirny of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Papirny was a recent guest on the show as part of our IN STUDIO summer series and after meeting him I was compelled to ask if he'd like to take on this project over the season. 

After the jump, the first chapter in the season-long blog written by Brandon netminder Jordan Papirny.

One To Watch: New Jersey Devils

From the outside looking in, it feels like New Jersey is midway through a era change. New ownership, the eventual end of Martin Brodeur's fantastic career, the NHL retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk... Only Lou Lamoriello seems like the only constant in New Jersey. 

I still don't agree with the team's decision to use the 2012 1st round pick, 29th overall, knowing they had to forfeit a 1st rounder by 2014. It's not hindsight to suggest it was clear the odds were against the Devils ever picking later than that. Plus, it's not like Stefan Matteau is worth more than the pick they will now be forced to give up in 2014 as a result.

I don't get it but perhaps someone will fill me in on why that isn't horrible asset management. 

2012 Choice: Jon Merrill - The defenceman was looking to put 2011-12 behind him but faced a new challenge; injury. Merrill's season didn't begin until January thanks to a cracked vertebrae. Once he got back in action at Michigan he helped stabilize the club which had struggled mightily for most of the year. Merrill finished the year in the AHL with Albany and had 8 points in 12 games. 

My New Jersey choice for One To Watch in 2013-14 is after the jump. 

One To Watch: Detroit Red Wings

A new conference and new, lower expectations are a couple of storylines for the Detroit Red Wings these days. No one is picking the Wings as Stanley Cup contenders anymore. In fact, there are some who wonder if a playoff spot might be in question and that seems odd attached to an organization that has been at the top for so long. 

One thing that does remain consistent in Motown is the courage to draft players other teams get cold feet on. While some questioned his hockey sense, Detroit looked at Anthony Mantha and saw 50 goals. Mitch Wheaton missed much of the season but the Wings take the chance on a 6'5, 230 lb blueliner. 

It's not the first year; A concussed Martin Frk in 2012. The penalty and suspension magnet named Mike McKee. Injury plagued Marek Tvrdon and Landon Ferraro.

The Red Wings are willing to look past junior level "flaws" and focus on the underlying positives that can be polished and developed as a pro. 

2012 Choice: Ryan Sproul - The talk after the 2012 draft was that had there been another month or two in the regular season, Sproul may have been a first rounder. Last year I asked if the defenceman could live up to those expectations and take a larger than normal step forward in his development. He ended the year with 66 points in 50 games and was named the CHL Defenceman of the Year.

My choice for Detroit's One to Watch in 2013-14 is after the jump.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One To Watch: Chicago Blackhawks

You have to respect an organization that just keeps turning prospects into players year after year. Chicago is one of them. The most recent example is Brandon Saad, a player that slipped out of the first round in 2011 and right into their lap; a year later he's in the NHL. 

This past June was another example of the Hawks selecting highly regarded players that, for some reason, were available later than expected but didn't slide past Chicago. John Hayden, Ryan Hartman and Tyler Motte come to mind. 

2012 Choice: Kyle Beach - The former 1st round pick had fallen on hard time due to injury. I wondered if Beach could stay healthy and return to his offensively productive power forward role that he played as an AHL rookie. While his 26 points in 66 games won't excite anyone, he did score 16 times and recorded 204 PIMs and that's still a rare combination that Beach brings to the table. 

My Chicago pick for One To Watch in 2013 is after the jump. 

One To Watch: New York Rangers

The New York Rangers had a pair of rookie skaters play their way to the NHL last year in forwards J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider. The 2013 draft wasn't a banner day as the club didn't have a selection until the 3rd round. Still, there are a number of intriguing prospects in the system for the Rangers but one in particular is coming to what could be a telling year.  

2012 Choice: Michael St. Croix - The Edmonton Oil Kings leading scorer compiled 92 points including 37 goals. Both his goal and point total were down from the previous season when the team went on to capture the WHL championship. St. Croix had a good, not great year, which didn't help answer my question last summer; is he a NHL prospect or a career minor leaguer? At this point I lean towards the latter. 

My pick for One to Watch in 2013 after the jump.