Changes of scenery for Panik and Morin, WJC wrap-up, OHL, WHL and QMJHL trade deadline movement, and more…
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Richard Panik to the Chicago Blackhawks for Jeremy Morin in a straight-up swap that gives both wingers a new chance to prove themselves. Both players have proven serviceable in the AHL but haven't done much with their NHL opportunities. 24-year-old Morin has 32 points in 82 career NHL games, while Panik (also 24) has 39 in 151. Morin has 22 points in 28 AHL games this year while Panik has 25 in 33. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more statistically balanced trade, but the takeaway here is that both teams had interest in a player so it’s likely that both new additions get another shot at the NHL in their new homes.
Speaking of players finding new homes…Kerby Rychel has reportedly requested a trade out of Columbus in a play for more NHL ice time. With six points in 16 career NHL games, the former 1st-round-pick clearly believes he’s ready to make the jump if given the ice-time to do so. Scoring at just under a point-per-game pace in the AHL while adding 43 PIM in 20 games makes him a valuable fantasy hockey asset and if he gets his wish, he’s going to become relevant in your pool in a big way soon enough.
The 2016 World Junior Championship wrapped up in dramatic fashion with the host Finland winning gold in an overtime thriller, leaving Russia with silver and USA earning bronze. Lots of storylines throughout to touch on, including huge production from 2016 draft-eligible prospects.
Team Finland was carried most of the tournament by beastly draft-eligible RW Jesse Puljujarvi (2016) and LW Patrik Laine (2016). Puljujarvi topped the WJCs with a ridiculous 17 points in seven games (while being named the tournament’s MVP and top forward), while Laine was third with 13 points. Both are expected to go in the top five in this year’s NHL entry draft. Sebastian Aho (CAR) centered the two on the ice and in the points standings, finishing with 14 points and a shout-out from Hurricanes GM Ron Francis who thinks he is nearly ready for NHL time. All-around defenceman Oli Juolevi (2016) had a dominant tournament, establishing himself as a potential top-10 pick this year. Captain Mikko Rantanen (COL) provided clutch points in both the final and semifinal, as did Kasperi Kapanen (TOR) including his beautiful golden goal below:
Team Russia went home with silver despite having no players in the top-ten in tournament scoring. Yegor Korshkov (2016) led the team with eight points in seven games, but his temper got the best of him leading to 16 PIM and a game misconduct in the gold-medal game. Ivan Provorov (PHI) took the shot with six seconds remaining that forced the final game to overtime, and had a pleasant eight points (all assists) in eight games.
Team USA hoped for a better finish than third but has to be happy with their players. Auston Matthews (2016) stood out almost every time he had the puck, showing off his smooth and powerful skating. He finished with 11 points in seven games and was named in the team’s top three of the tournament among goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (CAR) and defenceman Zach Werenski (CLB). Nedeljkovic had an outstanding showing, single-handedly keeping his team in games for long stretches and earning every fraction of his 0.943 SV%. Werenski finished with nine points in seven games and was named the tournament’s top defenceman, but was beat by the exact same power move at least three times, two of which led to goals against (including the game-winner in the video below). His defensive ability to hold off powerful forwards will need to be focused on if he hopes to make the jump to pro hockey and bigger competition. Matt Tkachuk (2016), son of NHL all-star Kieth Tkachuk, had an impressive showing as well – tying Matthews with 11 points while revealing his inherited rough side on occasion.
Perhaps the biggest news of the tournament was Team Canada being eliminated in the quarter finals. Dylan Strome (ARI), Joe Hicketts (DET), and Matt Barzal (NYI) were named Canada’s top players of the tournament, while Mitch Marner (TOR) scored two key goals and was named player of the game in a tight but undisciplined quarterfinal loss. Strome was certainly one of the only Canadians who played well every game, and Barzal showed more of what I like about him most – his strength on the puck. Between this tournament and the Summer Showcase, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a defenceman manage to strip him of the puck. Overall a very disappointing trip to Finland for some top prospects that hoped to showcase themselves.
Alex Nylander (2016) led Team Sweden with nine points in seven matches, and Dmytro Timashov (TOR) was an offensive catalyst, showcasing his excellent playmaking abilities resulting in seven points in seven games. Shutdown defenceman Andreas Englund (OTT) looked very solid and played a smart game throughout (with the exception of a half-hearted bronze-medal game blowout loss, where the entire team appeared to quit halfway through). Goalie Linus Soderstrom (NYI) was named the top goalie of the tournament, a great story for a player who has battled the adversity of Aspergers and ADHD; you can read more about his development Here. William Nylander (TOR) exited the event after leaving his first game from a nasty hit to the head. Bad news for Marlies fans as there is no timeline for return yet for the AHL’s second-leading scorer, who will be evaluated once he returns to Toronto.
The OHL, WHL, and QMJHL trade deadlines are almost among us which means new homes for many top players – a great chance to see how they adapt to new environments. Lots of players will be moving down from top-dog on a middling team to merely a piece of the puzzle on a competitive team and this adjustment to new roles and coaching is very important in viewing development.
Michael Dal Colle (NYI) has been traded to the Kingston Frontenacs where I was lucky enough to see his first game in person. Three points including an absolute snipe off a nice pass received and unloaded without hesitation. He has seen a significant drop-off in point production this season after a massive 93 points last year, but his skillset makes it very clear why he was drafted 5th overall and his size will give him a legitimate shot to make the Islanders in 2016-17.
Notable 2016 Draft-eligible towering defenceman Sean Day is thought to be on the move soon as he has sat out the last four games citing personal issues. The fourth-ever player given OHL exceptional player status (after Tavares, Ekblad, and McDavid) has 13 points in 29 games, "disappointing" only because of the pedrigree accompanying his former OHL draft status.
Jake DeBrusk (BOS) was the first major pickup for the Red Deer Rebels; he has adapted…nicely…with ten points in four games with his new teammates. Red Deer didn’t stop there, recently adding Adam Helewka (SJS) who had an outstanding four points in his first game. Another WHL dominator with the skills and big body that will help him transition to either the San Jose Sharks or Barracuda next year.
Connor Chatham (NJD) is headed to the Windsor Spitfires, and with a small stats boost could hit the point-per-game mark for the first time in his OHL career. This is the 20-year-old’s last chance to do so before likely turning pro next year.
Nikolas Brouillard (undrafted) was traded to Rouyn-Noranda, where the offensive defenceman will boost his already incredible 34 points in 26 games. Brouillard is a UFA and has received tryout invites prior to each of the last three NHL seasons, most recently participating in the Maple Leafs’ main camp. This is his last junior season and will surely get another tryout next year given his offensive numbers.
An often overlooked piece in the Evander Kane blockbuster last year, Joel Armia has gotten his first look on the Winnipeg Jets. After two successful AHL seasons many hoped he would push for an NHL job this season; Armia scored his first NHL goal this week but with a single point in seven games we may be waiting another season to see him truly break into the league.
Happy New Year everybody and as always, thank you for reading!
Hayden Soboleski – @soboleskih