Friday, October 25, 2013

One To Watch: San Jose Sharks

Hockey's Future currently ranks San Jose in the bottom third for prospect depth but I have a feeling the Sharks are laughing about that these days. Tomas Hertl leads the NHL in rookie scoring right now and Matt Nieto is also having a productive first year in the NHL. 

The HF write up is right though when the subject of depth comes up; there isn't much in the Sharks' system. Freddie Hamilton, Sean Kuraly and Rylan Schwartz lead the short list of notables. And then there's the players they took in the 1st round this past June. 

2012 Choice: Sean Kuraly - The freshman had a decent year at Miami although his 12 points was dwarfed by fellow rookie Riley Barber's 39. Already this year Kuraly has 6 points although the RedHawks are only 4 games into the campaign. The former Indiana Ice forward was a dangerous offensive weapon in this final year in that league. 

My selection as One To Watch for San Jose this year comes after the jump. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One To Watch: Buffalo Sabres

The bad news for the Buffalo Sabres is that they have a single win in the first ten games of the year and look far from a playoff caliber team. The good news is that this may be a temporary thing as the club has the means to kick off a serious rebuild and quality youth is already on the way. 

Already this year the Sabres have dressed 6 rookies including defenceman Nikita Zadorov who has played just once. Rounding out that group are Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen and the guy who was featured in this write up a year ago. 

2012 Choice: Mark Pysyk - They don't get much more humble or likeable than defenceman Mark Pysyk who I've had the good fortune to get to know over the last 6 years in Edmonton. He made his professional debut last year and played 19 games with the Sabres last year at the end of the shortened season. Pysyk joined me in studio for an hour this past summer and told me that he didn't necessarily expect to make the team out of camp this year but a month in and he's played on the top pairing with veteran Christian Ehrhoff.

My selection as One To Watch for Buffalo this year comes after the jump.

Monday, October 21, 2013

2014 Draft Blog: Jordan Papirny Pt.2

Last month we were introduced to Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Jordan Papirny. He introduced himself to us with the first chapter of his 2014 Draft Blog which he's agreed to share with us and our audience over the course of this season. 

If you missed Part I you can find it HERE. And now here is a quick follow up from Jordan Papirny.

One To Watch: Tampa Bay Lightning

It probably surprised a lot of people when the Lighting sent 1st round pick Jonathan Drouin back to junior a few weeks ago. I think that it's a positive reflection of where the franchise is though, that a young player as uber-talented as he is, even Drouin couldn't crack this year's roster. That's a good thing. 

It's equally encouraging to see the roster and note a few players who have worked their way into the NHL through the team's AHL development system; another sign that the organization is doing things the right way. Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik and Radko Gudas are prime examples of that type of success. 

2012 Choice: Nikita Kucherov - The talented Russian had a strong season in the QMJHL after overcoming an injury and a trade from the Quebec Remparts to Rouyn-Noranda. It was then pretty poetic that Kucherov's 6-point night eliminated Patrick Roy's Remparts from the playoffs. This year Kucherov is on the farm in Syrachuse and already producing at well over a point per game pace. 

My 2013-14 selection as One To Watch for Tampa Bay comes after the jump.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

One To Watch: Philadelphia Flyers

The awful start to the season in Philly is enough for some Flyers fans to start looking closely at the depth of the organization to see if help is on the way. Fortunately there are some interesting players in the system but even the most staunch Flyers supporter would admit the prospect pool isn't as deep in Philadelphia as it is for most NHL teams. 

Rookie Nick Cousins is off to an impressive start on the farm with the Adirondack Phantoms. Ty McGinn and Michael Raffl have already been recalled to the big club. Plus, you could make a pretty good argument that Philly's top prospects are still in junior and college. 

2012 Choice: Anthony Stolarz - I thought last year was an interesting one for Stolarz as he moved from the NAHL to the NCAA. Then things got even more intriguing; Midway through the year the big goalie left Nebraska-Omaha for the London Knights of the OHL and ended up playing well into May as the club reached the Memorial Cup. This year the team hosts the tournament so Stolarz will be getting a done of action once again. 

My selection as One To Watch for Philadelphia in 2013-14 comes after the jump. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

One To Watch: Columbus Blue Jackets

A new chapter has begun in Columbus with a new-ish President, a new GM and new expectations after getting so close to making the playoffs last season. John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen have a history of taking a struggling team and turning them around and the Blue Jackets have shown vast improvements over the last two years. 

Some of the depth of the organization has to be credited to former GM Scott Howson and his staff; Under Howson's watch the club drafted names like Boone Jenner, Oscar Dansk, Ryan Johansen, Matt Calvert and John Moore. 

2012 Choice: Oscar Dansk - It wasn't the season that the Swedish goalie nor the Erie Otters were hoping for as Dansk was pretty average in his rookie OHL campaign. His team finished dead last in the Western Conference but this year both Dansk and the Otters are on the rebound. 

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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2014 Draft Blog: Tanner MacMaster

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.

Last month we heard from Jordan Papirny, goaltender of the Brandon Wheat Kings who was the first member of the 2014 Draft Class to submit a blog entry. 

Today it's Tanner MacMaster's turn, the top ranked player from the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The Calgary native was heard from recently on The Pipeline Show during the 2013 AJHL Showcase event. You can listen to that interview in its entirety here

After the jump, the first blog entry this season from Tanner MacMaster of the Camrose Kodiaks.

Friday, October 11, 2013

One To Watch: Boston Bruins

The good news is you've been drafted by an original six team with legendary alumni, a ton of history and recent success as well. The bad news is that you somehow have to crack the roster of a club that has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice in the last three years. 

It's not impossible for a young player to do just that; Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Dougie Hamilton are three examples of players that managed to do it but only undrafted Torey Krug managed to do it out of camp this year and he had last year's playoff performance to help his cause. 

Guys like Carter Camper, Ryan Spooner and Matt Bartkowski have seen spot duty with the Bruins but arguably would have played more had they been in another organization. It's a good problem to have though. 

2012 Choice: Carter Camper - The college standout appeared in 3 games for the Bruins the year previous and I wondered if he'd force his way into more NHL action last year. That didn't happen; he played 57 games in Providence instead, compiling nearly a point per game in that time. Camper is undersized but his numbers at Miami are pretty impressive with 183 points in 156 games. It just might be a case of a guy needing a better opportunity with a thinner organization. 

My selection as One To Watch for the Bruins comes after the jump. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

One To Watch: Dallas Stars

The new-look Stars have a couple of rookies on their roster who the club can expect a decent amount of production from this year. Both Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin made the opening night roster and although the Russian has yet to hit the score sheet, the former Boston University Terrier has two goals in as many games. 

Nichushkin is the first Dallas 1st round pick to step right onto the roster since 1983 when Brian Lawton went from high school in Rhode Island to the Minnesota North Stars the next year. Pretty amazing when you think about it. 

2012 Choice: Reilly Smith - The Ohio RedHawk split the shortened year between the NHL and AHL because of the lockout. He got into 37 games with Dallas and managed a modest 9 points as a rookie. This past summer he was packaged with Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow and sent to Boston in the deal that landed Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button. 

My selection as One To Watch for Dallas in 2013-14 comes up after the jump.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One To Watch: Winnipeg Jets

I don't think I would suggest Winnipeg has the best crop of prospects but they might have my favourite group of young players. That opinion is largely influenced because of the number of WHL veterans the Jets have drafted and therefore, the number I have seen and dealt with the most. 

I really like the drafting by the Jets the last few years even though I wasn't sure they picked the best player available when they took Mark Scheifele, even that selection is panning out well. 

Eric Comrie, Josh Morrissey, Brendan Kichton, Nic Petan, Jimmy Lodge, JC Lipon - and that's just the class of 2013! Add to that mix Jacob Trouba, Scott Kosmachuk, Juho Olkinuora... there is a ton of talent in the system. 

2012 Choice: Jacob Trouba - Anyone who has heard The Pipeline Show probably knows I'm a massive Trouba booster. I said it before the 2012 draft that he was my top D-man of the class and I hold to that now. I thought he was terrific at the 2012 WJC in Edmonton as an underage player but he was on a completely different level in Russia last year. At Michigan he nearly led the team in scoring as a freshman and this year with the Jets he's already playing nearly 22 minutes a night. S-T-U-D.

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

One To Watch: Florida Panthers

Another club with a lot of prospect depth is Florida who has chosen to add veterans to the roster meaning much of their youth will continue to develop in the minors. Recent additions of Tim Thomas, Scott Gomez, Brad Boyes, Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert mean the likes of Jacob Markstrom, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden and Alex Petrovic won't be as much of a factor this year as expected just a month ago.

Tough break for those young players but down the road they may be the biggest beneficiaries of those signings.

2012 Choice: Rocco Grimaldi - Injured seriously and early in his freshman season, Grimaldi was given a do over and made good on it last year with North Dakota. His 36 points in 40 games was bested only by a pair of seniors so Grimaldi's year has to be considered a major one offensively. He was part of USA's gold medal at the 2013 WJC in Russia going from scape goat to hero over the course of the 10-day event. Grimaldi is poised to have a massive year as a sophomore at North Dakota.  

My 2013-14 selection as One To Watch for Florida comes after the jump. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

One To Watch: Edmonton Oilers

Few teams have the prospects depth that the Oilers currently do and expectations are high that the club will eventually climb its way out of the NHL basement and back to contention. 

I had a number of valid players to pick from for this piece as a few prospects have be assigned to Oklahoma City for the first time so all of them have peaked my interest. How will players like Oscar Klefbom, Martin Gernat, David Musil and Travis Ewanyk perform as AHL rookies? Then there are the guys that fans want to see take major steps forward this year like Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Ryan Martindale and Brandon Davidson. Will goaltending improve or become an issue? 

But there are also a number of interesting prospects still playing in junior or college worth following as well and I chose one of those guys today. 

2012 Choice: Dillon Simpson - Another strong season of growth and development at North Dakota for the local product. Simpson picked up 24 points in 42 games and he's not really expected to be an offensive guy moving forward. This year will be his final season at North Dakota and he's also been given the honor of being named captain of the club. As a senior at the age of 21 (not until February!), Simpson is barely older than some of the freshman coming in this year. 

My selection as One to Watch for the Oilers this year comes after the jump.

One To Watch: Nashville Predators

It could be quite a while before they are celebrating a Stanley Cup championship in the Music City but that's not to suggest that Nashville is without promising prospects. Beyond rookies Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg, there are a number of players who peak my interest and should have meaningful NHL careers. 

2012 Choice: Brendan Leipsic - What a year for the undersized forward from Winnipeg. His 120-point campaign was equaled only by his linemate as the pair led the entire Canadian Hockey League in scoring. Leipsic is a star at the junior level but the jury is out on whether he'll have the same level of success as a pro. I'm more interested to know what he does this season for an encore; can he lead the CHL in scoring again? Will he force his way onto the Canadian roster for the 2014 WJC in Sweden? Neither will be easy but he's already set the bar high for himself.

My pick as One To Watch for Nashville this year comes up after the jump.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

One To Watch: Anaheim Ducks

The once 'Mighty' Ducks of Anaheim will be once again if their impressive pool of prospects reach a modicum of their potential. Depth at all positions should help the Ducks return to the top of their division and keep them up there for the long run. 

John Gibson in net. Shea Theodore, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen for the blue line. The likes of Nic Kerdiles, Devante Smith-Pelly, Antoine Laganiere, Rickard Rackell, Kevin Roy and Peter Holland are all poised to contribute at the top level over the next few years. And so is this year's pick for this series. 

2012 Choice: Nic Kerdiles - What a year it was for the power forward. A ridiculous ruling by the NCAA threatened Kerdiles college career until a season suspension was reduced to about a month. If not for that, we'd be talking about Kerdiles the Kelowna Rocket instead of the Wisconsin Badger who helped turn the program around after he was allowed to start playing. 

My choice as One To Watch for the Anaheim Ducks comes after the jump. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

One To Watch: Phoenix Coyotes

The Desert Dogs have several interesting prospects in their system thanks to solid drafting over the last number of years. The organization has shown patience with them; even when a guy like Oliver Ekman-Larsson comes along, an AHL stint isn't out of the ordinary. 

That said, high draft picks like Mark Visentin, Brandon Gormley and Ethan Werek are taking longer than some expected. Meanwhile, Lucas Lessio and Michael Stone start the year with the big club. 

2012 Choice: Henrik Samuelsson - Quite frankly, Samuelsson could have been my pick again for this year because he's heading into a very telling season. Last year he evolved into one of the true power forwards in the WHL that could hurt you physically or on the score board. I wasn't sure if he'd be back from Phoenix right away this year but was returned by the Coyotes shockingly early. He's off to a good start in what will be his final WHL season. 

My 2013-14 selection as One to Watch for Phoneix is after the jump. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

One To Watch: Carolina Hurricanes

It's just a personal opinion but I wonder about the Hurricanes, specifically in regard to drafting and player development. Sure they have their hits but it feels to me, and I could be wrong, that they have more than their fair share of misses too. And again, I think drafting and player development are two completely and separate issues but if one lacks, the other will rarely yield positive results.  

The selection of Jeff Skinner deserves a lot of praise but having stepped right into the NHL from Kitchener, the 'Canes can't take credit for developing him to being NHL ready. It's a similar picture with Justin Faulk who appeared in all of 50 AHL games. 

Whereas guys like Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash, Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowmen were that have, so far, failed to reach expectations placed on them. 

2012 Choice: Keegan Lowe - The Edmonton Oil King blueliner took a massive step forward in his development in 2012-13. The years prior he was often partnered with Mark Pysyk and it provided Lowe with a safety net to take risks which often got him in trouble, but not the team thanks to his partner. My question going in to last year was how Lowe would survive without Pysyk covering for him. The results were impressive and somewhat surprising. Lowe elevated his play dramatically, arguably becoming the teams most reliable blueliner. He took on the mantle of leader despite not wearing the 'C' and his production jumped from 3 goals to 15, his points from 23 to 31. 

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