Prospect Ramblings: Pod Signs, Caufield Moves On & Knight Shines

Dave Hall

2021-06-01

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Prospect Ramblings.

While some get the privilege of enjoying cutthroat playoff hockey, the remaining fanbases are forced to look towards much less nail-biting events. In this case, it’s the NHL Draft Lottery, which is set to run on Wednesday, June 2nd. This will be our first look at Ron Francis and the newly appointed Seattle Kraken organization, as they look to move up the leaderboard to announce their inaugural draft pick. They currently sit in the third spot with a 10.3% chance of winning that coveted first-overall.

In case you need a refresher, here is how the percentages shakedown heading in:

Buffalo Sabres – 16.6%

Anaheim Ducks – 12.1%

Seattle Kraken – 10.3%

New Jersey Devils – 10.3%

Columbus Blue Jackets – 8.5%

Detroit Red Wings – 7.6%

San Jose Sharks – 6.7%

Los Angeles Kings – 5.8%

Vancouver Canucks – 5.4%

Ottawa Senators – 4.5%

Arizona Coyotes – 3.1% (Forfeited)

Chicago Blackhawks – 2.7%

Calgary Flames – 2.2%

Philadelphia Flyers – 1.8%

Dallas Stars – 1.4%

New York Rangers – 1.0%

While most years have their fair share of question marks heading into draft day, this year’s draft crop holds a higher percentage of uncertainty. With no consensus number one, two, or even ninth player in the draft, Wednesday’s lottery has the potential to turn many scout’s rankings topsy-turvy. It’s just one of those years where a player you had ranked 15th gets taken fifth, and vice versa. It’s going to be fun.

Make sure to get familiar with this year’s crop with DobberProspect’s list of Draft eligibles, and while you are it, take a look at Tony Ferrari’s “all vibes” mock draft. I will personally be diving into the draft and its eligibles at a later date, perhaps when we have a more concrete look at where each team will fall at the draft.

Good luck to those teams and may the bingo balls fall in your favor.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the Vancouver Canucks created their own buzz before the festivities take place on Wednesday, by signing their 2019 10th overall draft pick, and now top prospect, Vasili Podkolzin. His entry-level deal carries an overall cap hit of 1,775 Million (925,000 + 850,000 in bonus).

The 20-year-old Russian had a breakout year, despite his challenges to stay relevant within SKA St. Peterburgh’s regular-season lineup as a second-year sophomore. Of course, even with his ice-time battles, he refused to drift away from his patented brand of hockey. Night in and night out, he played his usual intense, two-way game, which he took to new levels during his most recent playoff run. Through just 16 (postseason) games, he matched his regular-season point total (11), while taking over as one of the club’s go-to options down the stretch. His final tally would tie Vitaly Kravtsov as the KHL’s all-time U20 playoff point producer.

He’s built like a train, he delivers a tireless work ethic, and has all the wanted intangibles to be leaned upon in the midst of a deep postseason run. He compliments the young talented core in Vancouver well.

Heading into 2020-21, many had their hopes set on the young Russian playing out the remainder of his (KHL) contract, which was set to expire at the end of April, and potentially join the Blue and Green for the final season stretch, or in best case scenario, a playoff run. Obviously, given the complications of the timeline, combined with the Canucks place in the standings at the time, none of this came to fruition.

So, what does this mean for fantasy owners going forward?

Simply put, make sure he is in your lineup right out of the gate next season. While his contract does allow him to be sent to the AHL (as opposed to heading back to Russia if he is not ready), the kid is basically a shoo-in to debut with the Canucks. Whereabouts in the line-up? Your guess is as good as mine. Although, if I had to hedge a bet, it would be in a third-line role. While much of this will depend on their off-season transactions, his game fits the bill to slide into a checking role with immediate ease. Of course, depending on his translation, his skill set should allow him to enjoy sneak picks with the top echelon of the roster.

Just keep in mind, even at his peak, he is poised to become a complementary top-six piece. He has a decent offensive projection, but the majority of his upside is geared towards his 200-foot game. On top of that, he brings the ability to play in all situations, which includes penalty kill and powerplay, meaning he has the potential to offer a nice platter of category implications for owners.

Overall, Canucks fans have the right to be excited. He has an NHL-ready frame, and all of the gears to put that weight to work. All indications are that he is an NHL’er before he even makes his way across the pond.

Montreal Canadiens’ newly appointed head coach, Dominique Ducharme, struck a nerve within the fanbase when he elected to sit his three youngsters to start their bout against the Leafs. This included their sharpshooting stud, Cole Caufield. His reasoning? Stacking up to a so-called “inferior” team (Toronto), he felt the need to set a precedent early on by inserting a veteran, role-playing roster in order to set the tone for the remainder of the series. While I didn’t necessarily agree with the decision myself, from an empathetic viewpoint, I could see the benefit he was looking for. Sort of.

Fast forward to game 3, after the teams had split the first two matches, Caufield was inserted and settled in with a smooth transition. Given his inept ability to not only shoot the puck but create high-level opportunity from very little, he looked noticeable out the gate. By each game, heck, by each shift, he looked more and more comfortable, inching his way up the line-up. Even with just a lone assist and no goals – although, he leads the postseason in crossbars with two – on his stat-sheet, he has his fingerprints all over this 4-3 series win.

Down 3-games-1, in a stranglehold series deficit, he does this in overtime:

While the play comes off of an errand, and downright irresponsible pass, he has the poise to execute this give-and-go with ease, despite the intense pressure of the circumstance. He holds uncanny game-breaking intangibles.

Fast forward to game 7, where he spent 18% of his minutes alongside Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli, he draws a momentum-killing penalty – thanks to a creative shimmy shake on Pierre Engvall – bringing his team to the man-advantage during a nail-biting one-goal match. It was this very call that led to the eventual game-winning goal, one that Cole helped create, setting up in his comfort area on the half-wall (#22).

The 5-foot-7 winger and his fourth-seeded Canadiens move on to face the Mcdavid slaying, Winnipeg Jets in round two. There are no questions leading into this round – Cole Caufield will play. Congratulations to the Habs’ on an incredible comeback.

Between the pipes, first-year goaltenders continue to write a massive storyline in this year’s postseason.

Even though he and his Florida Panthers team would eventually concede to the defending champions, rookie goaltender, Spencer Knight was given – no, he stole – the spotlight to close out the final two games of the series. With 10 million dollar man, Sergei Bobrovsky, struggling to put together a single save, and Chris Driedger suffering the same type of setbacks, Joel Quinnvielle looked to their prized rookie for game 5. It was the playoff debut that books are made out of.

Despite allowing a goal on his first shot against – an impossible cross-crease play in which he was hung out to dry -, Knight shut the door on the remaining 37 shots faced, bringing the series to 3-2 and giving the Cats’ an injected dose of life. Meanwhile, Bob was earning a “us regular people” year’s salary in the training room as the club’s number three.

What a moment:

To say that Spencer Knight had an incredible season would be a criminally charged understatement. Let’s take a look at some of his accomplishments since January.

World Junior Championship – 6GP -1.63 GAA – .940 SV % – 5-1-0 record.

  • Gold Medal

NCAA (Boston College) – 21GP – 2.18 GAA – .932 SV % – 16-4-1 record.

  • NCAA (East) First All-American Team
  • NCAA (Hockey East) First All-Star Team
  • NCAA (Hockey East) Goaltender of the Year
  • NCAA (Hockey East) Player of the Year
  • NCAA (Hockey East) Reg. Season Champion
  • NCAA Top Collegiate Player (Hobey Baker Award) Finalist

Florida Panthers (Regular season) – 4GP – 2.32 GAA – .919 SV % – 4-0-0 record.

Florida Panthers (Playoffs) – 2GP – 2.07 GAA – .933 SV % – 1-1-0 record.

To top it all off, there is this:

If you think you have had a busy and stressful 2021, perhaps you should give Spencer a call to see how he feels. What an accomplishment.

It looks like their timeline for feeling the effects of signing a high-profiled goaltender to an incredible dollar value, just days after drafting a top-end goaltender with their first-round pick has finally come. This move stumped me then, and it continues to stump me today. The Panthers will be looking to get creative in their moves during the off-season in order to correct their situation between the pipes.

Is it even a possibility to move a 10-million dollar goaltender who has two straight seasons of mediocrity? Could they somehow make a package  – likely a large one – to send over to Seattle to entice them to eat his nasty contract?

The fact of the matter is Spencer Knight has been considered and has now proven that he is the real deal. He will need game time, and while a split is likely the more probable option, a change is bound in Sunrise.

Thanks for joining me for another week. Catch me on Twitter @hall1289.

 

 

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