Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
NHL Regular season hockey starts tonight! Who’s ready for action?
Predict your Stanley Cup Champions below in the comments. I will share mine at the end of this ramble.
The NHL website posted starting rosters for all 30 teams. With several teams juggling cap issues right now, there will be plenty of movement with prospects so don’t consider these official for the entirety of the 2013-14 NHL season (as it never is).
Here’s a look at some notable prospects and surrounding news who were either made opening night rosters or were cut:
Can Sami Vatanen take the next step in his career? Opportunity is certainly there with injuries to Sheldon Souray and Luca Sbisa. Time to make it count.
Jordan Caron and Reilly Smith are two B’s prospects to watch this season. It’ll be tough for them to remain earn their way up to top-six action but they’re probably better suited for depth roles at this point in their careers anyways. Torey Krug will be looking to prove that his stellar playoff performance last year was no fluke. Will Dougie Hamilton take a significant step offensively? I’d suspect he’s at least another year away.
Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko will earn meaningful NHL minutes this season. Girgensons will earn his keep playing tough minutes in his prime and we’ll see his responsibility increase over the course of the season but I expect Grigorenko to bust out this season. It will be fun to see how the Sabres utilize prospects Johan Larsson, Mark Pysyk, Joel Armia (once he returns from injury) and Rasmus Ristolainen. I expect Ristolainen and Larsson to showcase themselves really early. Nikita Zadorov remains with the Sabres but is currently injured with a finger injury. I would expect him to stay with the big club to watch from the sidelines until he is fully healed….then he will be sent back to the London Knights.
Brian Burke blasted Sven Baertschi for his inability to play two-way hockey so keep an eye on how he responds. The young Swiss forward has had heavy expectations placed on him over the past few seasons and the whole scenario reminds me of Nazem Kadri’s upbringing in Toronto. Sean Monahan was named to the opening day roster and will see (at least) a few games with the Calgary Flames. He’s an intelligent and responsible pivot who can contribute in all three zones and his length of stay in Calgary depends largely on how effective he is early on. If he returns to the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, he will become the most sought after trade option.
The ‘Canes sent defenseman Ryan Murphy to the AHL after many (including myself) felt he would replace the injured Joni Pitkanen. I don’t believe he will stay in Charlotte for very long. Carolina’s 2013 5th overall selection, Elias Lindholm, has made the roster but is just coming off an injury that kept him to limited action so don’t expect to see him in the lineup too soon. He will be phased in as he returns to full health.
Of note: Sergey Tolchinsky, signed as a free agent after being passed over in the draft, has exploded into his second OHL campaign scoring five times and recording nine points in three games for the Soo Greyhounds (2nd in league scoring).
Remember Kyle Beach? He was a favourite of mine coming out of the 2008 draft (11th overall) but the Hawks have loaned him to HV71 of the SHL. Joakim Nordstrom is a prospect to watch in Chicago.
Nathan MacKinnon is the obvious prospect to watch in Colorado this season as the 2013 1st overall selection eyes a potential Calder nominee. It will be interesting to see how the Avalanche utilize this speedy forward this season.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
After splitting time between the NHL and AHL last name, Ryan Johansen is a prospect who could be had cheap in some keeper leagues and should be presented with an opportunity to prove himself under the restructured Blue Jackets organization. Despite being drafted 2nd overall in 2012, Ryan Murray is another under-the-radar prospect to keep tabs on after missing last season with a shoulder injury.
Arguably my favourite team with respect to their prospect depth, the Stars have a ton of intriguing youngsters entering the league (or scheduled to very soon). Valeri Nichushkin is my horse in the Calder race from the 2013 draft class (after Drouin was sent back). He will earn opportunity immediately and is coming off a fantastic training camp. Kevin Connauton will enter the lineup on defence and is certainly a potential sleeper. Alex Chiasson is ready for NHL minutes and has flown under-the-radar in every league I’ve played in.
Of note: Stars’ prospect Gemel Smith currently leads the OHL in scoring after tallying 9 goals and 10 points in just four games of action. Smith was named the OHL Player of the Week after burying five goals and six points in two games.
DETROIT RED WINGS
Surprisingly, Gustav Nyqvist was sent down (again) to Grand Rapids but once Detroit figures out their injury situation and cap issues…he will be back. One of my favourite defensive prospects in all of hockey appears on the Red Wings’ opening day roster and I am eager to see how Xavier Ouellet performs.
The team that just named six alternate captains (ridiculous, in my opinion) will feature some new faces including Marc Arcobella (who’s slated to start in the top six), Anton Belov (a defenseman who demonstrated a big shoot in preseason) and Jesse Joensuu (a gritty in your face forward who really impressed the Oilers in training camp.
For whatever reason, Aleksander Barkov isn’t receiving the hype he deserves in fantasy circles. Maybe it’s because he’s coming off the shoulder injury….or, maybe it’s because he doesn’t possess the razzle dazzle skating ability….or, maybe it’s because he will be playing in Florida (not going to be a knock very soon when this team takes big steps). Either way, I love Barkov and see an extremely bright NHL future for the big skilled Finn. Personally, I’m excited to see Nick Bjugstad in a Panthers jersey and see how Drew Shore progresses from a strong NHL campaign last year.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Disappointed to hear that Tyler Toffoli was sent down to the AHL, there are no real rookies to watch in Los Angeles right now. Toffoli, if he sticks in Manchester all year, is a favourite of mine to lead the AHL in scoring with teammates Kozun and Pearson.
Do we consider Nino Niederreiter a prospect still? I do. His fresh start in Minnesota is exactly what he needed after never being able to find an identity or a spot in the lineup. Niederreiter isn’t the only youngster in Minnesota as Justin Fontaine (collegiate scoring star) and Mathew Dumba (an offensive dman) will make their NHL debuts and Jonas Brodin (a budding star defenseman, in my opinion), Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund look to take their next steps toward stardom. The Wild are deep on their main roster.
Michael Bournival is coming off a great training camp and has been named to the starting roster, however, it’s likely he’s AHL bound to await an NHL call-up. Look for defenseman Jared Tinordi to be the next big defenseman to excite Habs fans.
All eyes will be on defenseman Seth Jones and forward Filip Forsberg to showcase their skills and hopefully legitimately earn the franchise labels many have preceded to give them.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Mattias Tedenby is currently sidelined with an injury but this is his make or break NHL season. It feels like we have been waiting on him to show something at the NHL level for years now (and we have). Get it done Tedenby or pack your bags. Can Adam Larsson take the next step? Jacob Josefson and Andrei Loktionov are two players with intriguing offensive skills but can they prove to be the future faces of the Devils offensive push?
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
As I warned poolies a while back, Ryan Strome was sent to Bridgeport of the AHL and will not start the season on Long Island. Don’t panic! I truly feel he will be better served to gain some experience at the AHL level. Griffin Reinhart, drafted 4th overall in 2012, will start the 2013-14 Islanders season on the opening day roster. While Reinhart has the more intriguing draft pedigree, Matt Donovan is the defenseman to watch for fantasy purposes. Brock Nelson scored 25 goals and 52 points for Bridgeport last season and will debut his skills with the big club up front.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Jesper Fast and JT Miller outlasted Chris Kreider (sent to the AHL). Miller is a player that competes in the same way as former Ranger Brandon Dubinsky and current captain Ryan Callahan. He’s extremely responsible and competes hard every shift, a true blue-collared player.
I liked the Senators’ bold move of sending Mika Zibanejad to Binghamton (AHL) after a more than lackluster training camp, where GM Bryan Murray was more than candid to the media that he expected much more intensity from the 6th overall pick (2011). J-G Pageau was the rookie who beat Zibanejad out for the opening roster spot.
No surprise here, Scott Laughton starts the season with the Flyers after making it extremely hard to cut him at last year’s training camp.
I was surprised to see the Coyotes send Max Domi back to London before giving him a few games of action in regular season but after talks of immaturity, it’s clear that another year of OHL hockey won’t hurt. Actually, in his first game back Max Domi was ejected for a head shot….and it was a damn dirty one. Check it out:
Based on past precedents (even though McGinn was not injured) deserved a hefty suspension (in my opinion…10+ games) but David Branch slapped him with a mere four-game suspension earlier today.
With Letang sidelined with injury, Olli Maatta will remain with the Penguins for a few games of action. I see a very bright NHL future for Maatta as his responsible game projects nicely but I’m fairly confident he will be returned to London for one more Memorial Cup run. Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Conner and Jeff Zatkoff also made the roster.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Not really considered prospects anymore but I am interested to see the progression of Magnus Paajarvi on his new team, as well as Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, both exciting offensive players.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
The big name to watch is Tomas Hertl as he has an opportunity with Havlat’s injury but the speedy Matt Nieto turned plenty of heads at training camp and boasts impressive offensive skills too.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
I was shocked that the Lightning sent Jonathan Drouin, the reigning CHL Player of the Year, back to Halifax of the QMJHL…but I shouldn’t have been since Yzerman has shown to be patient with his prospects. He would’ve been fine playing in Tampa and I am sure many fantasy owners are disappointed, but it will be fun to watch him dominate the Q again…this time without his buddy Nathan MacKinnon.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
I am sure everyone has heard that Morgan Rielly has made the roster to start the year but that guarantees nothing, especially with Randy Carlyle behind the bench. Rielly won’t dress in the Leafs debut tonight versus the Habs and I would expect to see him in and out of the lineup until they need to make a decision at the 9-game mark. My gut says that they will eventually return him to junior as they don’t need both Jake Gardiner and him in the lineup. Yes, I think they will eventually trade Gardiner and I advocate the move. Gardiner hasn’t been the same player since his concussions and I feel he’d net a good return (a top end forward prospect).
Of note: Leafs prospects Connor Brown (4 goals, 9 points in 5 games) and Carter Verhaeghe (2 goals, 7 points in 4 games) are off to strong starts for Erie and Niagara, respectively, in the OHL.
Bo Horvat was smartly returned to junior to lead his London Knights in their quest to win the Memorial Cup. He had an up-and-down training camp and will need to prove that he can score for a full-season like he did to finish the year last year in London. Hunter Shinkaruk was returned to the WHL as well after a VERY impressive training camp. The Canucks have to be thrilled with their two first round picks from the 2013 NHL Draft. Injured but Niklas Jensen remains with the big club.
Connor Carrick has been one of the brightest standouts in any training camp and rightfully, has earned at least a 9-game tryout to being the season. Michael Latta and the mean Tom Wilson were named to the starting roster too.
Defenseman Jacob Trouba and forward Mark Scheifele are two future corner stones of the Jets’ organization and both will, hopefully, prove to be impact players as early as this season. With Winnipeg’s depth on the blueline, Trouba will likely be eased into action but he’s shown a knack for exceeding expectations so don’t be surprised to see him make a splash in the Calder race.
Check out my new OHL Newsletter called “Youngblood” (free download)
Stanley Cup Champions: St. Louis Blues
Stanley Cup Finalists: Pittsburgh Penguins
President Trophy Winner: Boston Bruins
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Lady Byng Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk
Vezina Trophy: Jonathan Quick
Calder Trophy: Valeri Nichushkin
Art Ross Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Norris Trophy: Alex Pietrangelo
Conn Smythe Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Jack Adams: Lindy Ruff
Selke Trophy: Jonathan Toews
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechkin
Thanks for Reading!