Analysis of the Buffalo-Winnipeg swap, breaking down Craig Button’s new draft rankings and a look at the Calder Trophy race.
Thursday, February 12th
Let’s get straight to the big news that shook down Wednesday afternoon with Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian headed to Buffalo in a trade. Kevin Cheveldayoff did a miraculous job in a trade where his hands were tied (Kane being a diva with a questionable character and then add in the fact that he was out for the remainder of the season). As I was reading the return for Kane, I kept getting more and more impressed.
I won’t address Drew Stafford or Tyler Myers too much as they are both beyond their “prospect” designation but Stafford gives Winnipeg a great depth option who can replace Kane’s minutes. In Tyler Myers, Winnipeg is banking on him returning to a similar level that he did when he won the Calder Trophy as a rookie. With Trouba, Myers, Byfuglien, Enstrom and Morrissey (arriving soon) on the blue line, that’s arguably the best in the entire NHL.
Joel Armia has taken his sweet time developing into a worthy pro-prospect and while the jury is still out on whether he can become a legit top-six winger, his AHL production has been impressive. Winnipeg gets a skilled Finnish forward who’s close to NHL action. The last time the Jets had a Finn in their system was Teemu Selanne.
Brendan Lemieux was a nice get in the trade and will replace some of the sandpaper grit that departed in Evander Kane…down the road obviously. Like Kane, Lemieux has a good set of offensive skills and a knack for scoring goals. He needs to work on his shift-to-shift consistency and is at his best when playing on the edge but his 36 goals in 46 games speaks to his above-average shooting ability. It’s becoming very fun to follow any draft eligible player from the Barrie Colts because it’s quite clear that Dale Hawerchuk’s former team (Winnipeg) fancies his current players. Over the past few years (including Atlanta drafts), we’ve seen quite a few current/former Colts land in Winnipeg – including Bryan Little, Alexander Burmistrov, Ivan Telegin, Michael Hutchinson, Mark Scheifele and now Brendan Lemieux.
With an eye on the 2015 NHL Draft class, keep tabs on Colts’ Rasmus Andersson (more on him later), Mackenzie Blackwood (goaltender), Roy Radke and re-entry Andrew Mangiapane as possible Jets selections.
The 1st round pick – In addition to getting Buffalo to include Lemieux, I was surprised that there was an additional 1st round pick thrown in (with the Jets’ choice). Buffalo had three current 1st round picks (their own, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues’) so moving one, especially with their deep prospect cupboards, was probably easier than if it were a different team.
The ever-controversial “Craig’s List” was updated today with Craig Button’s latest draft rankings (February). Button is a guy I definitely respect as he’s at the rinks (I see him there quite often) and has the history of scouting but there were some “head scratchers” in this release. In the end, it’s his opinion so I won’t fault him but here are a few players I disagree on.
Ivan Provorov was bumped up to the 5th overall spot and sits as the top ranked defenseman on Craig’s List. There’s a ton to like about Provorov’s game and I don’t mind him being in the Top 5 but I question what he will become at the next level. He’s extremely smart, elusive and his defensive awareness is off the charts but there’s something about his game that I’m not content on. I think in the best-case scenario, Provorov becomes Drew Doughty lite which would be quite the accomplishment. I doubt he gets to that level.
Pavel Zacha was ranked 17th on Button’s January 7th release and fell to 31st after playing five games and missing time since with an injury? Why the big drop? He says he doesn’t think Zacha is an elite prospect and that’s fine if that’s his opinion but if it’s because he’s played limited time or received limited views, I’m not sure that justifies a 14-spot drop. In my opinion, Zacha is one of the best pro prospects available in the draft. He’s a hungry competitor who plays a physical game, owns a pro-ready shot and impressive speed. I am looking forward to his return to see how this injury affects his game and whether he can re-establish himself as a top 15 prospect (he’s still there for me).
More on Pavel Zacha from McKeen’s Hockey’s David Burstyn,
“A man amongst boys, Zacha already has the disposition of an NHL regular and makes mature plays .. a verysubtle player who owns the boards; chips pucks in deep and can retain possession down low without even the slightest bit of effort .. employs a huge frame in which he uses it to block/box a player out as he then inches his way towards the goal .. sets up extremely well on the half boards; boasts a strong release as he can snap a puck “
Mathew Barzal’s 19th ranking will definitely catch the attention of most critics but it’s one that I can live with. He has just recently returned from a broken knee cap and in my past live viewings, I’ve been left wanting more. In saying that, I’ve caught him in action on TV/internet and he does own some high-end offensive tools but his lapses in decision making worry me at time. I think that it’s safe to project him as Top 15 player with a good chance he gets picked up around 10th.
Timo Meier landed in the 11th spot on Button’s list and I applaud that. It’s no secret around here that this versatile Swiss forward is high in my books. Good to see the undersized Anthony Beauvillier ranked inside the Top 30 and in Button’s case, way inside at 16th overall. I’d be shocked at this point in time if a team nabbed him that high but clearly there’s a lot to like about his strong two-way, high-character game.
Who do you think is too high or too low on Craig’s List?
Back to Barrie Colts’ import rookie defenseman Rasmus Andersson…he’s red hot right now. With nine assists over his past three games, including a four-point effort on Saturday, Andersson sits third on OHL defensive scoring with 53 points in 51 games. He’s second in the league with 30 powerplay assists. He’s an intriguing prospect with lots of growth left to his game. Excellent at passing the puck and finding lanes, Andersson will need to work out the clunkiness from his startup stride and show more involvement when he’s not in possession of the puck – both workable areas. As it sits, he’s projected as a second round selection.
That David Pastrnak kid continues to shine with Boston. He’s one of the few Bruins who actually gets me excited. Actually, check that…the only one. I am regretting telling one of my buddies to pick him up in our keeper league. Nice guys always finish last. Anyways, Pastrnak went through a short four-game pointless drought last week (as expected with young players) but has points in two straight and was fantastic versus Dallas on Tuesday. He’s a player who I feel creates a scoring chance every time he touches the ice. If you can acquire him, do it. If you missed him, try Kevin Fiala. Got a good feeling about this player too. Loved him at the 2015 WJC.
ICYMI – My 2015 NHL Mock Draft from a week ago
The Calder Trophy race is really heating up and Filip Forsberg better prepare himself for a strong push from Johnny Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad and John Klingberg, each of whom are racking up impressive points.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been a big Filip Forsberg guy but what he’s doing is quite impressive, posting some great consistency. Forsberg has only gone pointless in a three-game stretch once and now sits with 18 goals and 48 points (54 games).
I drafted Johnny Gaudreau 9th overall after taking Teuvo Teravainen 1st overall in my past keeper league hoping that one of them panned out this season. Thank you Johnny Hockey. It’s been nice checking the boxscore and finding Gaudreau appear there quite often. He sits second in rookie scoring with 15 goals and 40 points (53 games). Oh by the way, Teravainen was recently scratched by the Blackhawks. He won’t be relevant until Chicago finds him some worthwhile time on the powerplay. Teravainen has looked good but as a third/fourth line player, we will need to stay patient. I’m confident that the patience will pay off.
Aaron Ekblad has been a great defenseman for years now and despite him showing great progression with every level he climbed, I still questioned whether he would become a relevant producer at the NHL level. I’m glad that I was wrong. Scoring nine goals and 30 points is a good rookie season for any player, let alone a defenseman through 52 games. At this pace, it appears Ekblad will crack the 40-point marker by season’s end and the fact that he’s playing 22:09 minutes a night, adds to his value.
It’s not often that a prospect sneaks up on me but John Klingberg did exactly that. I checked our league site to see a buddy add some defenseman named John Klingberg one night and then watched him rifle off three goals and seven points over his next three games. Damn, I definitely missed that one. He wasn’t even on my radar and I blame myself. However, it’s been fun watching his production as a rookie. Scoring three points every four games is downright silly for a rookie blue liner but it’s put Klingberg into legitimate Calder contention. The Swedish defenseman has 10 goals and 29 points in just 40 games.
What player would get your current vote for the Calder Trophy?
Connor McDavid dreams of being a Maple Leafs. Yes, pretty please.
Nikita Scherbak (Montreal Canadiens prospect) scores a beauty…
If you want a player who’ll contribute across-the-board stats, keep an eye on Nick Cousins (Flyers). He’s produced at every level and plays an agitating skilled game. Cousins was recently named AHL Player of the Month after scoring seven goals and 17 points in 13 January games with the LeHigh Valley Phantoms. Check out this sweet pass from cousins….
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Thanks for reading, @RossyYoungblood (Brendan Ross)
As always, feel free to converse, comment or rambling in the comment section below.