Wednesday, July 4th – 8:20pm
I hope that all of you hockey fanatics enjoyed the Canada Day and Fourth of July celebrations, as well the Free Agency “Frenzy” that took place. After spending nearly a week in cottage country I am just catching up on all of the changes throughout the NHL.
As expected, Justin Schultz was signed by the Edmonton Oilers. As Rich Dillon stated earlier, perfect fit for the former Anaheim Duck as Schultz will get plenty of opportunity to display his talents among this incredibly talented forward group of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner, and Paajarvi. The pressure to succeed certainly increases for Schultz but I’d expect a season of 40-45 points for him. I am very interested to see which forward(s) are dealt eventually for help elsewhere. I’d agree with Dobber and most other people in thinking Gagner and Paajarvi are the two most likely candidates.
At the 2012 NHL Draft, there was no shortage of speculation that Tambellini might draft defenseman Ryan Murray ahead of Nail Yakupov. I wonder how confident Steve Tambellini was in winning the Justin Schultz lottery and how that played into his decision. For me, Yakupov was a no-brainer but if he somehow knew that the Oilers had the inside edge in securing Justin Schultz, I am sure it made his decision to take the forward much easier.
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher did a great job courting both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to come to the Minnesota Wild. The team instantly improves their chances of contending by tenfold. Not only do the Wild strengthen their forward and defense by these signings but with their great prospect depth, it will give Chuck Fletcher plenty of flexibility to move some of his prospects for immediate help if the team finds themselves in a battle for the Stanley Cup. I’d suspect that only Mikael Granlund, Mathew Dumba and Jonas Brodin are considered “untouchables” but it’d probably take a lot to pry away Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson, and Brett Bulmer. Zack Phillips, Jason Zucker, Raphael Bussieres, Chad Rau, Mario Lucia among others gives the Wild plenty of options. Minnesota Wild fans have to be ecstatic at how the culture of this team has changed overnight with the additions of leader-type players in Parise and Suter.
For me, the biggest question for the Wild will be how their goaltending situation plays out with Backstrom’s large salary and Josh Harding’s newly inked deal. I’d expect that Harding will be given plenty of opportunity to steal the starting job so that the Wild could potentially rid them of Backstrom’s contract. Matt Hackett is a good goaltending prospect in the Wild’s system that has made solid progress since being drafted in 2009 while Darcy Kuempfer and Johan Gustafsson give them good depth in the crease.
NHL prospect development camps are continually popping up around the league. Last week, I provided some news on Rangers’ camp. Let’s turn to the Maple Leafs’. Toronto is currently in the middle of their scrimmages and after two days there are several prospects garnering headlines.
David Broll was involved in two heavy weight fights against 2011 first round pick Tyler Biggs and invitee David Wolf. For anyone who hasn’t caught any live viewings of David Broll playing for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL), his physical presence is something to see. He’s a huge specimen out on the ice and looks like a tank coming down the ice. His future is as a fourth line heavyweight.
For more information on Tyler Biggs, Morgan Rielly as well as some other more unknown Maple Leaf prospects please have a quick read of Draft Schmaft’s observations of the players.
From the article, views on Tyler Biggs….
“The greatest improvement in Biggs’ play could be attributed to the skating work he has put in over the past month. Biggs seems to have more explosiveness and his diagonal cuts were sharp. Biggs found open ice for himself on several occasions. His wrist shot did not hit the net but had some heat to it. Played a physical game which should come as no surprise to anyone.”
Views on Morgan Rielly…
“As advertised. Competes with Tony Cameranesi for best skater award at camp. A multi-directional skater who gives the impression of his skates barely touching the ice surface. His pivots are smooth and effortless and Rielly has great lateral mobility. Rielly showed great hockey sense and vision in where he places himself, how he navigates through bodies, and how he chooses to attack the offensive zone. As Jim Hughes stated, his passes are hard and quick and in my opinion – at the pro-level. Rielly also sought out and found open lanes before shooting…enough about offence…what surprised me most was how well he played defence. His anticipation of plays created turnovers and he advanced the puck forward. In his own zone, Rielly showed patience as his slick turns kept defenders at bay. Rielly’s speed allows him to regain position in his own zone to handle one-on-one plays. After Stuart Percy, Rielly may have played the best defence today.”
Get to know Ryan Rupert (Leafs’ 2012 6th round pick) and twin brother, Matt Rupert, who was invited to attend their prospect camp as well. Leafs see your pair and raise you twins.
Undrafted camp invite Charlie Sarault (led Sarnia Sting in scoring this past season) scored in the first scrimmage as well. He’s an excellent playmaker but is undersized so he Is likely going to have to take the long route to the NHL.
Leafs’ prospect goaltender Garret Sparks had a shutout today in the scrimmage. Sparks was excellent playing for the Guelph Storm last season and is looking to be a great. The 2011 7th round selection appears to be proving that it was a smart value pick for the buds. Sparks is the only drafted goalie participating at the Leafs’ camp.
Greg McKegg (2010 3rd round) notched two goals in the first scrimmage on Tuesday and continues to show plenty of promise as he has shown good developmental strides over the past few seasons. McKegg and the Leafs have a big decision to make, does he return to the London Knights as an overage player or take the next step into the AHL? My guess is the latter.
Jamie Devane (3rd round, 2009) and Dominic Toninato (5th round, 2012) showed good chemistry in the second scrimmage Wednesday as they teamed up to help Team White take their second win in as many days. Devane is another truculent hulking forward that projects to become a bottom six forward that makes it tough on the opposition to play against. Toninato is a highschool player that will need some time to develop but he has good hockey sense and the potential to develop into a top six player if all things go right….and in Leaf-land, that’s a given, right? Ahhhh….
Petter Granberg (4th round, 2010) turned heads at camp as well…
“He plays with great patience and positioning,” said Jim Hughes, director of player development, “He’s well-schooled. He understands the position. He moves the puck intelligently. He’s a big, strong kid. This is a few years down the road. You can see he’s making the progression.”
25-year old Finnish/Russian winger, Leo Komarov was a man amongst boys at Leafs’ development camp…and rightfully so. It appears as though Komarov could contend for a roster spot as soon as this season.
The Florida Panthers’ first round selection, Michael Matheson, is performing well at the Panthers’ Development Camp and his skating is getting plenty of praise.
The Panthers have been impressed with Matheson so far and have compared his skating style and puck moving ability to current Florida defenseman Brian Campbell. Matheson, however, is a long way away from cracking the roster.
“He is not only a good player, but a real character guy,” said Brian Skrudland, the Panthers’ director of player development. “There have been no surprises with this guy. He can skate, has the heart and the desire. He knows what he wants. He’s going to Boston College and why not? He’s excited and we’re excited for him. We’re looking forward to seeing this guy in the future.”
Ottawa Sentors’ prospect Mark Stone is hoping to impress the Senators’ brass at their development camp in hopes of landing a spot out of training camp. It will be interesting to see if the 20-year-old Stone can crack the lineup after making his NHL debut last year but he’s been an overachiever so I would not bet against him.
Calgary has re-signed Akim Aliu to a one year two-way contract. The former 2nd round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007 is running out of time as he’s played in only 2 games at the NHL level. However, Aliu was able to rack up 2 goals and an assist in those three games last season and GM Jay Feaster had some kind words to say about the gritty forward.
“Akim made tremendous strides in getting his career development path back on track this past season in Abbotsford and he was rewarded for his hard work by receiving an end-of-season recall to Calgary,” said Flames General Manager Jay Feaster. “In his two games with our Club he showed that he is a very good skater, is willing to play a strong physical game and can also score goals at the NHL level. We really like the tools Akim possesses and the passion he brings to his game. We are confident that, given Akim’s talent and ability, along with his solid work ethic, if he also continues to believe in his coaches and our organizational commitment to him, he will soon realize his dream of becoming a full-time player in the NHL.”
Thanks for reading,