June 16, 2015

Austin Wallace

2015-06-16

The final game of the Cup, the final game of the other Cup, and more…

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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