Mute your television. Turn off the stereo. And listen very, very carefully.
Can you hear that?
If I didn't know any better, that's the sound of the draft stock of Max Jones (2016) falling…… hard.
The London Knights product, speculated to be a first round selection in Buffalo this June, has not done himself any favours at all. Earlier this week, Jones decided to throw caution (respect?) to the wind and absolutely devastate Owen Sound Attack left winger Justin Brack with a blind-side hit. Despite being a very talented young man who is a very safe bet to be an NHL player, this type of behaviour is that which NHL General Managers may be leery of.
And it gets worse.
Despite the callous play, Jones served to exacerbate the situation by doing perhaps the worst possible thing you can after potentially concussing a fellow player.
He laughed about it.
This isn't behaviour that just worries General Managers leading up to the draft… it may just find you a place on a DND (Do Not Draft) list. With concussions being at the forefront of every sport discussion involving injury, Jones decided to show the kind of disregard for his fellow competitor that has stereotyped professional athletics in their approach to brain injuries.
Despite his blue-chip potential and remarkable skill, this goes beyond the likes of the Matt Cooke's and Raffi Torres' of the world, and lands a player right in Chris Simon territory. Jones will undoubtedly be drafted in Buffalo this year, but we may be hearing his name called on Saturday instead of Friday as a result of this misstep. His name will be called, but there will be teams who will nervous that one day he may be wearing their jersey should he do it again.
Hardly a great marketing ploy with a league trying to grow the game and expand.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have some of the worst goaltending depth in the league, and it is something that Brendan Shanahan and crew have needed to address.
Though this observer still advocates the use of a high pick this June to acquire a legitimate goaltending prospect in the brand of Carter Hart, Filip Gustavsson, or Tyler Parsons, steps have been made.
This week, the club announced the signing of Finnish product Kasimir Kaskisuo after his college team, University of Minnesota-Duluth, was eliminated from the Frozen Four tournament. In Kaskisuo's draft year, 2014, he was rated as the ninth best North American goalie and yet went undrafted in Philadelphia. Standing at nearly 6-3, the Finn netminder fits the mold that has emerged for the puckpocket protectors – coming out of a goalie factory like Finland certainly doesn't hurt.
With only Garret Sparks, who at this point is questionable as a legitimate NHL goaltender, and Antoine Bibeau who has much to prove at the pro level, the now-former Gopher has a stellar opportunity.
Should the Leafs decide to take a similar 'development-over-performance' year next season and give Sparks the backup role next season, it will be a battle between Kaskisuo and Bibeau for the Marlies net next season. While Bibeau has the upper-hand with his second pro season soon to be complete, it will not be a slam dunk. Count on the Maple Leafs to make it a straight meritocracy for the Marlies goal as winning a lesson that can only be taught one way.
While drafting goalies is a dark art at the best of times (one that I am currently devising an analytic system for – keep watch for a column this summer!), this may be the best 'found wallet' in a while for the blue and white. While it may be a Jussi Rynnas, it could also be an Ed Belfour.
Nobody gave the Mississauga Steelheads much of a chance against the formidable Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
However, they're making some people eat crow.
While the series is yet to be complete, the Steelheads have taken the series to a fifth and final game. This at a time where there were those who questioned if Mississauga could even take a game.
While this may seem only impactful to those of us who are OHL fans, consider the potential impact on the upcoming NHL draft. A strong playoff performance, including that which has been displayed with the absolutely sublime goal scored by Alexander Nylander on March 29th, will only serve to impact draft stock come June. Could this mean a top five selection for Nylander? Perhaps a top ten selection for Michael McLeod? All within the realm of possibility.
However, I'd like to focus on a lesser light. In a few viewings this season, I have come away quite impressed by a player who has garnered very little attention. While given a limited role, his poise, defensive awareness, and opportunism to join the rush have me intrigued. Though projected as a late round pick, my instincts tell me that this young man requires our attention as a potential late round sleeper.
And his name is Austin Osmanski.
Standing a solid 6-4 and 196, Osmanski plays a responsible game. He cares for his own house, and doesn't mind laying out the body. In fact, he seems to enjoy it. What stands out for me is his headiness for the game. He jumps into the rush from time to time, and he always seems to make the right play when he does by generating a better scoring chance than would seem possible. While he'll never be an offensive dynamo, he's the kind of player who can be the glue for a team at a time when it is sorely needed.
If you're in a deep Keeper, maintain an eye on this young man. It's likely he will be a free agent after the draft, but he's worth your time.
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