The final game of the Cup, the final game of the other Cup, and more…
Well, that’s it. It’s always kind of a bittersweet day for me. On one hand, I loved watching the final game, it was great. On the other… That is all the hockey we get. Nothing more until the fall. Well, I guess everyone will just have to stick around here and get their hockey fix via the draft! I’ll be ramblings on today’s games, and Brendan and Zach will be around to talk more about the draft later.
Game six was awesome and I really disagree with people saying it wasn’t an entertaining series. It was a great series to watch, and even with the low scores I didn’t feel like the pace of play suffered, or that it was a goalie duel.
I was hoping that Jonathan Drouin could kickstart the Lightning and force a game seven, since Johnson had a broken wrist, and Stamkos had a broken shot. Speaking of injuries, Bishop played through a torn groin. A. Torn. Groin. It hurts to even type that.
While both the Blackhawks and Lightning are case studies in losing your way to a cup (Kane, Toews, Stamkos, Hedman), the Lightning especially are examples of how a strong AHL team can translate to a strong NHL team a couple of years down the road. The Syracuse Crunch won the 2013 Calder Cup, and were led in scoring by none other than Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson.
Both the Vancouver Canucks and the LA Kings are hoping for some of that same magic, after both ended their team’s seasons early, but not their franchise’s. The Kings’ Manchester Monarchs won this year’s Calder cup, ousting the Canucks’ Utica Comets in the process. There is is a fairly strong correlation between how well a farm team does and how well the parent club does two or three years down the road, so there might be hope after all.
Jordan Weal was awarded the Calder Cup MVP after tying teammate Michael Mersch with 22 points for the playoff scoring lead. Weal has a tremendous amount of skill, and a second-to-none work ethic. The only thing holding him back is his 5’10 frame. At 23, and with three productive AHL seasons under his belt, it is getting to make or break time. If a player dominates the AHL for more than two years, and still doesn’t get a long look in the NHL, that is a worrying sign. Despite the Kings’ insane depth, Weal will challenge for a spot in training camp next year, and if he doesn’t make it he will be subject to waivers.
Jacob Markstrom allowed 8 goals in 80 minutes between games five and six, which was more than he had allowed in the past four games combined. In 18 of 23 games he let in two goals or less, which is incredible and indicative of how great he was outside of that small stretch. He ended up with the best stats of any AHL goaltender, with a 2.11 GAA and .925SV%. He was even better in the regular season with a 1.88 GAA and a .934 SV% to go along with a sterling 22-7-2 record. Would have likely been the Calder Cup MVP had the Comets won.
Some real quick hits on potential NHLers on both squads:
The Monarchs with a good shot of carving out NHL careers include :
Michael Mersch, Nick Shore, Adrian Kempe, Derek Forbort, Jordan Weal, Colin Miller and Nic Dowd.
Michael Mersch was really the biggest surprise of the playoffs, and the player you should look to add to your farm if there isn’t a summer roster freeze in place. Mersch is an AHL rookie with an NHL frame. He started the season slowly but finished on a point per game pace, scoring 45 points overall in the regular season. He stepped it up big time in the playoffs with 13 goals and nine assists in 18 games. He should be one of the first call-ups for the kings next year, and should be considered one of their top prospects.
Nick Shore made his NHL debut right on time this year at age 22, and still had time to help the Monarchs win a cup. He scored just seven points in 34 NHL games, but did so in a bottom six role. He scored 60 points in 57 combined playoff and regular season AHL games, and looked a step ahead of the competition in most aspects of the game. He could be the Kings’ third line center of the future, but injury is the only reasonable path to top-six minutes offensively.
I touched on Weal earlier, and to catch in depth analysis of the rest of the Kings’ prospects, make sure you pick up the Prospects Report!
Even quicker hits on some Canuck prospects:
The Comets with a decent shot are:
Alexandre Grenier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen, Frank Corrado, Sven Baertschi, Adam Clendening Ben Hutton, and Jake Virtanen.
This crop is much better than the last time the Canucks’ affiliate made it this far, the 2008-09 Manitoba Moose. Other then Cory Schneider, that team featured Michael Grabner as its third leading scorer and not much else. Guillame Desbians, Alexandre Boluc, Mario Bliznak and Pierre-Cedric Labrie were the other Canuck prospects that played significant roles on that team, while 18-year-old Cody Hodgson joined them from junior in the postseason.
Grenier and Gaunce both showed very well, and will challenge for a fourth line spot in the fall. Gaunce is a former first round pick that has lost most of his offensive luster, while Grenier is a 6-5 former third round pick that has just gotten better while remaining underneath most people’s roster.
Nicklas Jensen had a bit of a disappointing season and playoffs, but played his best hockey in the finals on the Comets’ top line. His chances of making the NHL are getting slimmer by the day.
Shinkaruk still needs to work on all aspects of his game, but at age 20, that is to be expected. He still has lots of skill and upside.
Frank Corrado and Adam Clendening are both going to challenge for full-time spots on the Canucks back end, and depending on how free agency goes, there could be room for both of them.
Sven Baertschi was excellent all playoffs, and has basically assured himself a spot next year in the Canucks’ middle-six.
Jake Virtanen really impressed in his professional debut, with the coach praising his attitude, humbleness and work ethic. He played a physical role these playoffs, but worked his way up from the fourth line to the second. He has all the tools to be an NHLer in short order, and while he doesn’t have the upside of others picked around his slot, the former 6th overall pick is as close to a certain NHLer as you can get.
A 2015 Draft-eligible forward winning his league’s championship, but not the one you think.
A bunch of already drafted prospects winning their league’s championship:
I love the enthusiasm by the crowd, Utica really turned into a crazy hockey city this season.
Finally, take a look at the Dobber community’s mock draft here.