Starting with the big news over the weekend in the announcement that Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher has signed with the New Jersey Devils. By signing with the Devils, Butcher instantly becomes their top defensive prospect and should even be given an extended opportunity to make the NHL roster to start the year. What is curious about his decision is that he played College hockey in Denver so would already have roots and ties to the city. I have never been there but I understand it is a very beautiful and ideal place to live. Also, it is not like the Avalanche are stacked on defense either at the NHL level or with prospects so his opportunity remains relatively the same. The money was not an issue as all teams were limited to the ELC restrictions. Does this mean that the Avalanche are viewed as such a dysfunctional organization that Butcher wanted no part of it? Perhaps he feels the Devils are closer to turning the corner than the Avalanche? All that really matters is that if you own Butcher (63% Fantrax owned) and have been patiently waiting for him, the wait is over. The Devils top four defense seems likely to be
Andy Greene – Ben Lovejoy
John Moore – Damon Severson
That leaves two spots open on defense and here are the candidates. Will Butcher who offers offensive upside and could be eased into the NHL in a bottom pairing in insulated situations and on the power play. Yaroslav Dyblenko, 23-year-old free agent signed this summer from the KHL. He has more pro experience than Butcher playing the last four years in the KHL and is more of an all-around player with less offensive upside. Steve Santini, big defensive defenseman who had 38 games in the NHL last year. Micro Mueller, recently acquired from San Jose and resigned to a multi-year contract indicates the Devils intentions for him.
In summary, the opportunity for Butcher is there but there is no guarantee he makes the NHL, but at the very least he will play premium minutes in the AHL.
Several teams were pursuing Butcher obviously, and those who came up short are now looking at other alternatives. The Los Angeles Kings have invited 36-year-old defenseman Chris Lee to their training camp on a PTO. Lee was never drafted by an NHL team but was recalled one time in a NHL game by Pittsburgh and took part in the pre-game warm up but was a scratch. That is the closest he ever got to the NHL. Since then he has been playing in Europe and in the last four years in the KHL he has won two Gagarian Cup Championships, was the highest scoring defenseman last year with 65 points and represented Team Canada at the World winning the Silver Medal and producing two points in seven games. While undersized at 5-11 he is an excellent skater and passer as demonstrated during the World Championship. Only 3% Fantrax owned he may not be eligible in most leagues as he has never signed a NHL contract and was never drafted, but he is certainly watch list eligible. At 36-years-old Lee is far from a prospect, but I love to cheer for the underdog and stories of perseverance in pursuit of fulfilling a dream and I hope Lee makes the Kings.
The Ottawa Senators announced their Rookie Camp roster and one name which jumped out at me is invitee Pius Suter. Suter is another undrafted prospect who played some junior hockey in the OHL with the Guelph Storm where in 127 career regular season games he had 52 goals and 96 points, was a OHL Champion and posted two points in four games at the Memorial Cup. Suter has also represented Switzerland in several international tournaments including most recently the last World Championship where he had a goal and three points in eight games. Currently playing in the Champions League with his club team Zurich, Suter had a four goal game.
The Sens Rookie Camp opens September 8th which also overlaps with Zurich’s season suggesting there has been more than an invite discussed to lure him away from regular season games with his club team. Ottawa also has several contract spots open with only 45/50 contracts according to Cap Friendly.
While in the OHL I had the opportunity to watch Suter play live several times and he reminds me of another undersized player from Europe in Petrus Palmu. Both are on the short side, are high energy very fast players with a very high compete level. They don’t let their height deter them from playing an aggressive forechecking game and being physical against bigger opposition. They both have excellent offensive skill sets and are finishers more than playmakers. Again I am really rooting for the Sens to sign Suter, who if signed likely plays the season in my backyard with the Sens newly relocated AHL affiliate in Belleville. Keep an eye on Suter at the rookie camp and if he plays well and gets an NHL contract he would become a player to watch list as he is only 1% Fantrax owned currently, but that number should start to increase.
In case you missed it, the KHL season has already begun and Nashville Predators 2017 first round pick Eeli Tolvanen made quite a debut with a hat-trick. Tolvanen is the youngest player in KHL history now to score a hatty at 18-years-old. After three games now, he is tied for the league lead in points with six (three goals, three assists).
Big announcement from the DobberProspects Radio podcast last night as they introduced a patreon page. One of the very cool perks you would qualify for in supporting the show is entry into a CHL fantasy league. Officepools offers WHL, OHL, and QMJHL fantasy league management for box pools where you pick players from a group. More details are pending on this once office pools opens registration for the leagues soon but if you want to reserve a spot in the league or just support the show you can do so on the patreon page here