Well, we’ve almost made it. Basically all the junior circuits and European professional leagues are either in the throws or just beginning their playoff rounds. As such, we’re able to put a feather in a few caps of players who outkicked their draft slot or are positioning themselves to be early selections this June.
It’s a magical time of year. The sun is starting to shine; the hockey is starting to ramp up, and fantasy playoffs are well under way.
Enjoy it, folks. The long hockey-less summer is just around the corner.
Of note, due to a little family vacation over spring break, this was written before any evening games on Thursday, March 22nd
The WHL released their Conference All-Star Teams this week:
WHL Eastern Conference All-Star Teams
FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Logan Flodell (Saskatoon, Sask.) – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Defenceman – Kale Clague (Lloydminster, Alta.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
Defenceman – David Quenneville (Edmonton, Alta.) – Medicine Hat Tigers
Forward – Jayden Halbgewachs (Emerald Park, Sask.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
Forward – Glenn Gawdin (Richmond, B.C.) – Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Aleksi Heponiemi (Tampere, Finland) – Swift Current Broncos
SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Logan Thompson (Calgary, Alta.) – Brandon Wheat Kings
Defenceman – Josh Mahura (St. Albert, Alta.) – Regina Pats
Defenceman – Colby Sissons (Edmonton, Alta.) – Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Tyler Steenbergen (Sylvan Lake, Alta.) – Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Jordy Bellerive (North Vancouver, B.C.) – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Forward – Brayden Burke (Edmonton, Alta.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
WHL Western Conference All-Star Teams
FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Carter Hart (Sherwood Park, Alta.) – Everett Silvertips
Defenceman – Cal Foote (Engelwood, Colo.) – Kelowna Rockets
Defenceman – Ty Smith (Lloydminster, Alta.) – Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Matthew Phillips (Calgary, Alta.) – Victoria Royals
Forward – Cody Glass (Winnipeg, Man.) – Portland Winterhawks
Forward – Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Calgary, Alta.) – Spokane Chiefs
SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – David Tendeck (North Vancouver, B.C.) – Vancouver Giants
Defenceman – Henri Jokiharju (Tampere, Finland) – Portland Winterhawks
Defenceman – Juuso Valimaki (Nokia, Finland) – Tri-City Americans
Forward – Ty Ronning (Burnaby, B.C.) – Vancouver Giants
Forward – Dillon Dube (Cochrane, Alta.) – Kelowna Rockets
Forward – Patrick Bajkov (Nanaimo, B.C.) – Everett Silvertips
There aren’t too many surprises here, but I will dig into one potential snub.
Now, I cover the Canucks so this may come across as a tad biased and I took a wee bit of flak from some fans of WHL squads across the Western Conference when I tweeted these sentiments but I’ll push on.
Kole Lind finished the regular season as the fourth highest scoring player in the Western Conference with 95 points (39+56) in 58 games played. He led the conference in points-per-game (1.64), even-strength production (70) and primary points-per-60 (1.45).
The latter marks sat second in the entire Western League behind league point leader, Jayden Halbgewachs – a player nearly two full years his senior. And yet, his name is nowhere to be found on those all-star squads.
Lind failing to crack an all-star team means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it’s interesting to note how Lind proceeded after being cut from the Canadian World Junior team this past winter (he ran a 19-game, 36 point streak for nearly seven weeks).
Tri-City better watch out for an angry Lind as the two teams kick off their first round matchup this week.
While we’re digging through some advanced CHL statistics, how about Andrei Svechnikov? Forget any ‘whispers’ that he’s not the age that he’s represents – there are documented official statistics for him dating all the way back to when he was nine years old.
The real story should be that he’s been on another planet of late.
The near-consensus number two pick heading into the June’s Entry Draft ran his point streak to 22 games and 44 points before earning himself a four game suspension to start the playoffs – which by the way seemed like quite an overreaction to the play
Some people have been asking so here is the Andrei Svechnikov 5 minute head shot penalty in the last game of the regular season. No chance the #OHL suspends him for this, nor should they pic.twitter.com/xfXnK3K1Nr— Generals Live (@GeneralsUpdates) March 20, 2018
With 2+1 tonight, Andrei Svechnikov extends his point streak to 22 games and 44 points (20+24). He now sits with 70 pts (39+31) in 43 GP.— /Cam Robinson/ (@CrazyJoeDavola3) March 17, 2018
His 1.63 points-per-game ranks 6th in the OHL & his 0.89 goals-per-game sits 2nd in the CHL
He's also 17yo, despite what you may have heard
He also sits second in the OHL in primary points-per-game (1.41) behind only Jordan Kyrou – who is two years older.
The Russian winger converted on 20.18 percent of his low-danger shots, 22.86 percent of his medium danger attempts and 33.33 percent of his high-danger opportunities. This illustrates his innate ability to score in a myriad of ways.
That ability will assuredly help him transition to the NHL next season and make him a threat from anywhere in the offensive zone for the meat of his career.
Svechnikov is going to be terrorizing goaltenders for a long time.
Stats taken from Prospect-Stats.com
Evan Bouchard wrapped up his draft-eligible campaign – his third in the OHL, with a whopping 87 points (25+62) in 67 games played – that mark led all CHL defenders and actually led all CHL draft-eligible players in general.
He sat second in the OHL in shots on goal with 297 or an average of 4.43 per contest.
People look at Bouchard’s counting stats and see a superstar in the making, and while he’s had an absolutely stunning draft campaign, some pause is needed.
He relied a great deal on special team’s production, as 31 percent of his points on the year came outside of five on five play.
His production was boosted a great deal by often playing 30-35 minutes a night on a depleted London Knights’ squad that ran virtually all of its offense through him.
When watching Bouchard, something that jumps out is his mobility. He’s a fine skater at the OHL-level and will likely be the same in the NHL as he continues to work and improve, but he lacks much explosion from a stop, doesn’t have great edges and isn’t deft at walking the line to create lanes to get his shot through when he runs into tight checking situations.
Again, I want to illustrate that his ability to do these things at the junior level have all been more than adequate but it’s worth wondering if he will have that same ability as he moves up.
Craig Button recently ranked Bouchard as the fifth best prospect in this draft, and while I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him fall in an around that spot this June, I believe a team would be leaving a higher upside player on the board to do so.
It’s been announced that Winnipeg’s 2017 first round pick, Kristian Vesalainen will be signing an entry-level contract at the completion of his season with Kärpät in the Finnish Liiga.
The 18-year-old has been all kinds of impressive as a draft-plus one player playing in a top pro league. He finished 17th in league scoring with 22 goals and 43 points in 49 games played – the former total ranking sixth in the league.
That point mark is the fourth best U19 season in Liiga history trailing only Teemu Pulkkinen (54 points), Sasha Barkov (48 points) and Sebastian Aho (45 points).
Vesalainen is a terror from the circles down and can unleash his wicked shot with precision during both even-strength play and on the man-advantage.
Cracking the Jets’ roster will be trying as Winnipeg boasts some arguably the youngest, most talented and deepest winger crops in the NHL so don’t be surprised or discouraged when he begins his North American career in the AHL.
That has been a nice influx of discussion surrounding uber-prospect, Quinton Byfield of late – and for good cause.
The 15-year-old is already a physical specimen standing 6’3 and weighing in at 190lbs. He’s big, fast, owns great puck skills, is a consummate worker in all three zones and can finish and distribute with equal deftness.
He’s absolutely torched the elite minor midget circuit in the GTA to the tune of 48 goals and 92 points in just 34 games – 22 more points than the next closest player in the league.
His 2.71 points-per-game represent the third best mark ever in that elite grooming league and stacks up nicely next to former ETAMMHL greats such as Steven Stamkos (2.98), Taylor Hall (2.88), Matt Duchene (2.04) and 2019 top prospect, Alex Newhook (2.24).
Despite having a late August 2002 birthday – meaning he’s just a couple weeks away from being eligible for the 2021 crop, Byfield has all the earmarks of a franchise pivot destined to push top QMJHL performer, Alexis Lafrenière for the right to hear his name called first on the NHL draft floor in 2020.
Dylan Strome got the call back up to the bigs earlier this week and made the most of his 12 minutes of ice time. He had four shots on net, scored a power play goal while seeing just over half of his team’s ice with the man advantage.
I know many people remain high on Strome, and I can understand why. He’s just 21 years old and has put up tremendous numbers everywhere but the NHL, but I can’t shake the feeling that his feet will never catch up to the rest of his game.
Playing with pace is something a lot of cerebral players need to adjust to when breaking in the NHL, and Strome has struggled with that part of his game. I do believe he’s got the ability to be a player who can feast on the power play but I’m inching closer and closer to viewing him as a guy with potential second line centre upside rather than the top line pivot he was drafted to become.
After a heroic FIVE OVERTIME marathon, Eeli Tolvanen and his Jokerit mates survived to fight another day beating CSKA 2-1 to push the series to a game six.
The Predators will have to wait a few more days to get their top prospect into the NHL lineup.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3
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