Rossy’s Hockey Prospect Ramblings – April 22nd

by Dean Youngblood on April 22, 2015

 

Those damn lucky Oilers and McDavid, Ehlers finishes off an outstanding junior career, Leafs draft approach, NHL Mock Drafts and junior players make impact in AHL debuts.

 

Wednesday, April 22nd

 

Old news now but with the Edmonton Oilers winning another draft lottery and the rights to draft Connor McDavid….I’m still not sleeping very well. Prior to the draft lottery, I said to my buddies and confessed to my girlfriend, “as long as Edmonton doesn’t end up winning then I am fine with whatever team wins it.”

 

Yup…I jinxed every other team and the Oilers fans can thank me when Connor McDavid stands in front of their future beautiful rink, next to his statue as one of the all-time greats in Edmonton. My frustration with the Oilers’ luck quickly turned when I started getting threatening angry texts from my buddies in my keeper pool. That’s when I clued in.

 

Our keeper league has a rule in place where the bottom five teams (of 20) are assigned the corresponding bottom five NHL teams and if one of them wins the lottery, then that guy wins the lotto too. Here’s a little backstory on our league. It’s been running for a decade and I recently decided to try rebuilding on the fly but unfortunately it resulted me in snapping my six-year championship run (obviously, the other guys were happy about that).

 

 

As part of my “rebuild” I traded Daniel Sedin prior to last year’s draft for Daniel Alfredsson and a 2015 1st. I knew I’d lose out in the short term but that 1st had a VERY good chance of becoming McDavid if the owner’s team sucked as much as I had thought. He didn’t finish last and for that I am thankfully because 3rd last allowed me to be assigned Edmonton and Connor McDavid! I almost feel guilty 😉

 

Point of my story…I traded of Daniel Sedin & a 2015 3rd (insignificant) for Connor McDavid.

 

McDavid will now join the following keepers: Stamkos, P. Kane, Perry, Ja. Benn, Gaudreau, Teravainen, Burakovsky, Subban, Yandle, Hedman.

 

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Wayne Gretzky endorses McDavid saying,

He’s as good as I’ve seen in the last 30 years and “I hope he brings Edmonton a Stanley Cup and he breaks my records … he’s got the talent and the makeup to do it. I hope he leaves a couple for me, though. I could use that.”

 

Like Gretzky was, McDavid is the classiest and most professional young player to come along in a very long time. The Oilers certainly struck gold oil. With their young core, there should be no more excuses.

 

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With the Mooseheads eliminated, Jets top prospect Nikolaj Ehlers’ phenomenal junior season is done finishing with 31P in 14 playoff games, sitting as the current QMJHL playoff leader.

 

Nikolaj Ehlers wraps up his QMJHL career with 86G 205P in 114 regular season games and added 21G 59P in 30 post-season games

 

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Keep an eye on QMJHL regular season scoring champ and MVP – Conor Garland. The undersized crafty forward has had a sensational third season tripling his assist totals to a swelling 35G 94A 129P in 67 regular season games. He’s remained red hot in post-season action with two goals and 23 points in 12 games, including a 5-assist game 7 to send his Moncton Wildcats to the QMJHL Conference finals knocking off the above mentioned Halifax Mooseheads.

 

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Jeremy Bracco doesn’t get the 2015 NHL Draft respect that he deserves. He’s already the US NTDP all-time assists leader with 114 beating out some plug named Patrick Kane and he’s producing advanced numbers (2G 7P in four games) at the U18s on a deep, DEEP USA squad. NHL Central Scouting has him ranked beyond the Top 50 in North America but he’s a lock for the 1st round in my books. As a wise scout once told me, “I’d rather be wrong on size than skill”.

 

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Great article explaining how valuable the second 1st round picks that the Leafs and Oilers own are. For Toronto, Asst GM Kyle Dubas has clearly stated that the Leafs are not worried too much about their 4th overall pick because the group is pretty much determined after McDavid and Eichel.

 

“You kind of know who the first two picks are going to be and you kind of know who the players are coming up behind them. So whether you’ve got, I think everyone knows who they are, Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Mitchell Marner, Pavel Zacha, Matthew Barzal, Ivan Provorov, it’s focusing in on that group of players and more, and really start to break them down and become as certain as you possibly can about each one and select the one we think is best for the Toronto Maple Leafs”

 

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Dubas emphasizes the importance of making their second 1st round pick (Nashville) count.

 

We have to make a good pick and hit on that one and that’s where our focus has been. We know it’s going to be in the mid-20s. That’s where myself and Mark Hunter have been spending a lot of our time is tracking those players that are in that range and making sure we find a player that fits our identity of where we’re going as an organization and we’re certain is going to be a guy that has a chance to come in and be a big time player for us, either forward, defence or goaltender. That we’re confident that can be not just someone that is a safe pick that we know that will play low in our lineup but a really good player. I think if you look at the organizations now that are able to find real good players late in the first and that’s what we want to become. Having that pick is a great opportunity for us.

 

As a Leafs fan, those are refreshing words to hear.

 

Over the last few drafts, there has been no shortage of great picks made between the 20-30th picks (where the Nashville pick is likely to end up) including David Pastrnak (2014), Marko Dano (2013) and Olli Maatta (2012), among others.

 

LEAFS COACH WATCH: Sault Ste. Marie bench boss Sheldon Keefe was just awared OHL Coach of the Year honours and with his ties to Dubas, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get consideration for one of the Toronto coaching openings. Just speculating.

 

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While I remain focused on the major junior season and their playoffs, I’ve found time to take in some NHL playoff action and wow, I’m not disappointed one bit. After tuning into the Jets – Ducks game Monday night, I have to confess that I am not sure I’ve ever witnessed such an amazing atmosphere and I’ve been to some spectacular events including the 2015 World Juniors, Big House Winter Classic (Wings vs Leafs) and Memorial Cup action. I would’ve paid big bucks to be at the game. Hopefully Winnipeg can squeak out a win so the series comes back to the MTS Centre. The fans deserve it!

 

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Check out my first NHL Mock Draft. It wasn’t easy…not at all. A few points about the Top 10…

 

Arizona’s 3rd overall pick dictates a lot and they could go a number of ways. They need a big centre (which hurts after the lottery screwed them out of Jack Eichel) so Dylan Strome makes sense. However, top pairing defenders don’t grow on trees either so Noah Hanifin makes sense as well. The ‘Yotes are better with defensemen than they are forwards though. Lastly, Mitch Marner (another option) has shown elite level chemistry with Christian Dvorak (Arizona prospect) and is very familiar playing with Max Domi at times as well. As I said, Arizona can’t really go wrong with any of these three but it changes how the rest of the Top 10 falls into place.

 

The Leafs have been heavily speculated to want Toronto pivot Dylan Strome and that makes sense as a big centerman but I’ve been told not to count out the Leafs having Mitch Marner ranked ahead of Strome. Plus, Mark Hunter is very familiar with the Marner, who can also play centre.

 

The Hurricanes and Devils hold the next defining top 10 pick as their selections could derail some plans from teams following them. Does Lou go the expected Lawson Crouse or finally add skill into the Devils’ lineup in Matt Barzal? Maybe he combines some size and skill and opts for Zacha.

 

Mathew Barzal hasn’t spent as much time in the top 10 due to a lengthy injury but he’s flying high at the World U18 Championships in Switzerland showing to be the dynamic playmaking pivot that many pegged him to be last season. Barzal and Zacha are the two wildcard forwards for me and I think both will be targeted high.

 

Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski are top defenders who will force their way into the top 10 as well but guessing where and when is difficult. Columbus likely wants to strengthen their blue line so look there.

 

In the end, some of these tremendous talents are going to fall outside of the Top 10 simply because there aren’t enough spots. McDavid, Eichel, Strome, Hanifin, Marner, Provorov, Barzal, Zacha, Crouse, Werenski …that’s 10 …but Mikko Rantanen, Timo Meier, Kyle Connor are also worthy Top 10s. Teams picking 11-20 are going to get some great talent.

 

Cody Nickolet gives his version of a mock draft too. I like it as well.

 

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Want a sleeper for your keeper leagues? Well, you’ll have to act fast to cash in on his “sleeper” tag because he won’t be for much longer.

 

Anywho…pick up Columbus prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand. He’s been a standout in every game I’ve watched leaving everything on the ice. He’s got no glaring weakness and that’ll ensure that he makes the NHL soon…as early as next season. Seriously, he could be in the Calder race for 2015-16. You can thank me later.

 

Bjorkstrand has racked up 10 goals and 18 points in 11 playoff games with Portland as the Winterhawks make ANOTHER post-season run. As good as he is on the ice, executives rave about his character too so he’s an easy kid to cheer for.

 

Bjorkstrand won the WHL regular season scoring title with 63 goals and 118 points including 78P over his final 31 games. Ya…he’s good.

 

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Guess what team has another late round steal on the way? You guessed it – Detroit. With their 7th round selection in 2014, the Red Wings’ selected Axel Holmstrom, a powerful gritty skilled forward with a great name. After posting 10 goals and 20 points in 44 regular season games with Skelleftea, Holmstrom has went bonkers racking up 16 points in 13 playoff contests setting an SHL rookie record in the playoffs, surpassing Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

 

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Many junior players have graduated over the past week and made their debuts with AHL clubs. My boy, Robby Fabbri (STL) has four points in three games and will be a stud soon. Oilers Kyle Platzer is impressing with two snipes and three points in four games with Oklahoma City. Guelph Storm’s Jason Dickinson (Dallas Stars) has registered three helpers in only two games with Texas. Red Wings agitator prospect Tyler Bertuzzi scored his first professional goal with Grand Rapids and has appeared in two games. Hurricanes’ 2014 1st rounder Haydn Fleury has one goal with the Checkers in one game (he had six with Red Deer this season). Sam Reinhart (Sabres) has a trio of assists with Rochester in as many games. Knights’ standout (and a player I have big hopes for…sooner than later) Christian Dvorak has one goal and two points with Portland in two games.

 

Not from the CHL this season but Nikolay Goldobin has three goals and five points in nine games with Worcester and is a player I like to crack the Sharks lineup next season with a chance to make an impact.

 

Sabres’ prospect Daniel Catenacci has quieted down since being a once highly touted prospect but he has recorded five goals and 10 points with the Rochester Americans.

 

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The Marlies capped off an outstanding second half push (36-16-9 after starting 4-14-0) to launch themselves into the Calder Cup Playoffs (including seven straight wins to finish 7th) but more importantly, it was the young and up-and-comers who led the way. Connor Brown (leading AHL rookie scorer with 61P in 76 games), William Nylander (14G 32P in 37 games) and Brendan Leipsic (54P in 74 games) really pushed this team forward over the final stretch.

 

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The AHL Calder Cup Playoffs begin tonight (Wednesday)! Follow the action!

 

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If you’re interested in following the 2015 U18 IIHF World Championships, mentioned above, then check out some of the game’s highlights.

 

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Sam Bennett has been a beast as a late callup for the Flames. It’s going to be great watching former Marlboros teammates, Bennett and McDavid, go head to head in the “Battle of Alberta”. Bennett scored his first NHL goal the other day:

 

 

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Oliver Bjorkstrand sets Portland franchise record scoring a goal in 12 straight games:

 

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Cool video. If you’re not a Leafs fan, turn away.

 

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Thanks for reading,

@RossyYoungblood (Brendan Ross)