Devils vs. Panthers Recap


By Sam Rabin

New Jersey Devils Writer

 

Devils head coach John Hynes hosted a very “old school” style of practice on Thursday in which he punished his players with 5 full laps around the ice for every penalty the team took during their scrimmage. Hynes did not like what he saw on Wednesday against the Islanders, in which his team committed 9 minor penalties en route to a 4-3 loss. Early reviews suggest that this harsh style of practice worked, as his team was largely able to stay out of the box against the Florida Panthers tonight at West Point. Unfortunately, that is one of the few positives to take from tonight as the Devils submitted a sloppy performance and had little to show for the extra 5 on 5 time their discipline granted.
The top line tonight was centred by rookie forward Pavel Zacha who was granted a chance to play with Taylor Hall and Devante Smith-Pelly due to Adam Henrique’s currently undisclosed illness. While both Zacha and Hall have looked promising in earlier pre season games, there was a noticeable lack of chemistry between the two as they both seemed to be fighting for the same areas of the ice. It can safely be assumed that Adam Henrique will be placed back on the top line upon his return. Another forward of note is 2015 3rd round draft pick Blake Speers, who has unexpectedly made it to the final round of cuts and has made a strong case for himself throughout the preseason. Though he remains pointless, he showed some great speed and hands as he attempted to set up his line mates tonight. There remains one more cut to be made and Hynes has said he hasent yet decided if it will be a forward or defensemen. Speers will likely be the final cut due to his eligibility to go back to his Jr team, but his extended time with the Devils likely puts him on the fast track to a permanent roster spot for next season.
On the defensive side, rookies Yohann Auvitu and Stephen Santini were given a final chance to impress the coaching staff before final cuts are made. While Santini was a favorite to make the team prior to the pre season, Auvitu has made a strong case for himself with 6 assists in 4 games while playing an effective quarterback role on the power play, something the Devils have missed since trading Marek Zidlicky back in the 2014-15 season. As this will be Santini’s first pro year after finishing his 3 years at Boston College, Auvitu(who has played the last 4 seasons in the Finnish Elite League) will likely start the season in the big club while Santini gains more experience in Albany.
The Devils started the game well as captain Andy Greene got the team on the board 4 minutes in by finishing a nice pass to the slot by Kyle Palmieri. Jaromir Jagr quickly tied the game by deflecting Johnathan Marcessault’s wrist shot on the power play. The Panthers went on to score 3 additional unanswered goals from Ekblad, Scievior and Trocheck before the end of the 2nd period, despite being outshot by the Devils for the majority of the game. Trochecks’s goal was the result of a mistake by Goaltender Cory Schneider as he turned the puck over to the Panthers forward while attempting to play the puck from behind the net. This continues a run of poor pre season form for Schneider which he insists will be corrected by the start of the regular season. Mike Cammilleri was able to get one back for the Devils on the power play midway through the third off of a pass from Auvitu, which ended up being the game’s final goal.
John Hynes will look to correct some of the mistakes made tonight and demand more of an effort from his team despite the games lack of importance. Defenseman Damon Severson was noticeablely hesitant to finish his checks which will hurt the team mid season. The Devils will look to avenge this loss at their regular season opener at the BB&T center on October 13th.

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MacKenzie Named 9th Captain in Franchise History


By Shawn Spatz

Florida Panthers Writer

 

Derek MacKenzie, who donned the “C” last night in the Panthers’ preseason finale at West Point, was officially name captain tonight. Even though many thought Aaron Ekblad might be named captain, especially following the Edmonton Oilers naming Conner McDavid the youngest captain in NHL history, coach Gerard Gallant said he would not let that affect his decision.  MacKenzie, fresh off a 2-year extension, has worn the A for the club and sees a lot of his time on the penalty kill and 4th line. Mackenzie led the team’s centers in faceoff percentage, and was among the team leaders for short-handed time on ice, blocked shots, and short handed hits. His leadership and ability to do the dirty work, including occasionally dropping the gloves, gave coach Gerard Gallant the ability to name Mackenzie captain. Jussi Jokinen and Ekblad will be the alternates.

The Quest for Bish


By Kyle Sandulli
The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a lot of questions that needed answers this off season. There were UFAs aplenty and hockey legend Steve Yzerman has been implementing his Yzer-plan to the highest degree of efficiency. The contract Yzerman worked out with Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were nothing short of miraculous – but there are still troubles plaguing the team.
Enter Ben Bishop. Two-time Vezina trophy finalist. Extreme athlete. Very tall. Probably loves dogs. At the end of the 2016-2017 season, he will become an UFA – and that spells trouble. Many speculated he would be traded during this off season to create more cap space for other contracts – such as Nikita Kucherov’s pending contract as he remains a RFA. But Bishop’s trade didn’t happen – he still remains with the team, ready to start alongside his backup Andrei Vasilevskiy. The fact that Bishop wasn’t traded creates a complicated situation for the Tampa Bay Lightning, mainly that they won’t be able to afford everyone for the 2017-2018 season (and don’t even get me started about the expansion draft). Kucherov is going to demand a hefty raise, and it is likely someone will have to be traded to make room for his new found riches.
Yet, even with a potential trade up and coming, the salary cap isn’t going away. The Lightning will still have a cap problem, and Bishop will still need a raise come the season’s end. So what is the solution? Andrei Vasilevskiy looked great in net when Big Ben was injured during Game 1 against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps Yzerman is hoping Vasilevskiy will step up to the challenge and fill some (very) big shoes for the team, and when he is good and ready, Bishop will be phenomenal trade fodder. If Vasy can’t step up to the challenge, though, Tampa will run into some issues as the trade deadline approaches on March 1st. Someone will have to go, be it Bishop, or someone we’d all rather not see leave, like Tyler Johnson.
At the end of the day, Bishop’s upcoming contract will cause problems, and that’s something we need to worry about in the future as an organization. But I think we can all agree that we’re very glad Matt Carle’s contract was bought out.

Bruins Extend Marchand to 8 Years


By Rob Finney

Boston Bruins Writer

 

The Bruins have extended forward Brad Marchand to an 8yr, $49M extension; for an AAV of $6.125M. Marchand scored a career high 37 goals last season, adding 23 assists for 60pts.

 

This is a massive steal for the Bruins, as everyone, including myself, expected 63 to make seven million per. Instead, Christmas comes early for the B’s and Marchand is made a Bruin for life at an extremely team-friendly deal.

 

Speaking of team-friendly deals, Bergeron and Marchand, one of the league’s best duos, make less than $13M combined.

 

Sweeney makes himself look great here, but the Bruins still lack a top-4, and a top-2 defenseman if they want to be legitimately competitive and be cup contenders.

 

In other words, Sweeney must take advantage of this contract and find a real defenseman. Till then, preseason for the B’s start tonight vs the Blue Jackets, and the NHL season is right around the corner.

Trouba Requests Trade From Jets


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By Sie Nicole

Staff Writer

 

Jacob Trouba has requested a trade from the Winnipeg Jets and will not be attending their training camp this week. Trouba is currently a restricted free agent. The 22 year old former first round pick has been in negotiations since May to depart from the Jets, as revealed in a statement from his agent.

 

The statement also states that Trouba isn’t seeking a larger paycheck, but rather, a larger on-ice role.

 

There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

 

To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

 

Trouba is coming off a rough year with the Jets. Being partnered with Mark Stuart found him as a bottom D-pair and his play suffered. Trouba consistently performed better with any other pairing, notably performing well with Dustin Byfuglien, but still found himself partnered with the aging Stuart. He also spent this month as the seventh defenseman for the World Cup of Hockey’s Team North America, playing two games after Aaron Ekblad was injured.

 

As a young right handed defenseman, he’s a hot commodity and should have no problem finding ample opportunity for a larger role elsewhere. As such, the price for Trouba will be hefty. The Jets are likely going to being looking for a left side defenseman in exchange, and that’s just the starting price.

 

No stranger to trade rumors, Trouba was reportedly being shopped at the trade deadline, with teams including Detroit and Boston expressing interest. Being a former Wolverine and Rochester native makes him very appealing to Detroit, a team with five Michiganders currently on their roster and issues with their blueline. The Bruins are fairly desperate for elite defenseman and that puts all of the leverage in Winnipeg’s hand. A too-high asking price may have prevented a move between the two last season.

 

Other teams in the mix could be Edmonton, whose defense is notably weak, resulting in the trade that moved winger Taylor Hall to New Jersey in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson. Anaheim could also see some cap relief in trading for Trouba, moving a veteran contract in the process.
Trouba tallied 23 goals and 49 assists in 211 games with Winnipeg.

Bruins Sign Dominic Moore


By Rob Finney
Boston Bruins Writer
The Bruins have signed C Dominic Moore to a 1yr, $900,000 contract; with a $100,000 bonus if he plays 42 games, and the Bruins make the playoffs. Moore has played 11 seasons in the NHL, gathering 765GP and 245pts.
I don’t believe this means they’re trading a center, as Moore is a 4th line center, and couldn’t replace Ryan Spooner or David Krejci’s spot in the lineup. The Bruins still desperately need defense, but it seems as though they’re more and more willing to move into training camp with their current roster.

Who has the Brighter Future: Sabres or Leafs?


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By Chris Chilelli

Buffalo Sabres Writer

 

Who Has the Brighter Future?
When your team is consistently near or at the bottom of the standings the only thing people can talk about is how promising the team’s future is. Several teams that have been preaching future over the years are the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes. The purpose of this article is to look at the futures of the Sabres and Leafs.
Being a Sabres fan, I have a tough time believing that anyone has a brighter future than my team. They have an ownership group that is willing to spend to the cap, a management team that isn’t afraid to make the bold move, and the players and prospects that can make it all come together. The Leafs also have an insanely bright future, which will make for an awesome rivalry for years to come. So let’s dive in and take a look at the futures of each club.
I am going to start with the goalie situations for each teams, but that isn’t limited to who will be playing in net for the big clubs at this time, but also who is in the pipeline. The Sabres are hoping that Robin Lehner will be able to carry the load for them this season, something that he wasn’t able to do last year after an ankle sprain limited him to just 21 games played. He was fantastic when he played, he finished the season with a .924 save percentage. He showed flashed when he was out there that he was worth the steep price Buffalo paid to acquire him. After that Buffalo has Anders Nilsson, who is relatively young and unproven. The Sabres gave up a 5th round pick to acquire him, and they are hoping that he will come in and be the backup this season. In terms of prospects the Sabres are loaded between the pipes. That starts with Linus Ullmark, who played his first season in North America last year, and was brought in to play games with the Sabres. He impressed many in his time with Buffalo, but had a bit of a roller coaster ride in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. With Buffalo he posted an 8-10-2 record, .913 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average. With the Amerks he was 10-16 with a .902, he will be back with Rochester again next year, and the thinking is with a full summer to work on his game he will come back better than he played last season. Having a full Summer will help him too, as last year he had double hip surgery which kept him out right up until training camp. Two of the Sabres other top goalie prospects were college hockey standouts last year in Jason Kasdorf and Cal Petersen. Kasdorf posted a .931 save percentage in his senior year at RPI and Petersen posted a .927 last season with Notre Dame. Buffalo looks good in goal in both the present and the future, but goalies are tough to judge, so we will see how they pan out.
The Maple Leafs have struggled to find a constant between the pipes for years now, but they finally might have it right with Frederik Andersen. Andersen played in split time with the Ducks the past few season, but the Leafs are hoping that the investment they have made in him will pay dividends for them. Andersen has been a solid goalie over his NHL career, last year he finished with a .919 save percentage behind a far superior defensive unit in Anaheim, but he is a for sure upgrade for Toronto. There has been a rumor floating around the past few days that Jhonas Enroth is going to sign with the Leafs, and it is my opinion that this is a bad signing. Sure, Enroth posted a .922 save percentage last year, but that was behind the Los Angeles Kings’ stellar defense. Just a year before that he was at a .903 with Buffalo. If you want to argue that is because the Sabres were so bad, then what would you say to the .906 he posted with the Dallas Stars after he was traded there? I will admit that I can be proven wrong, but I think Enroth is a below average backup in this league, and his size is going to hurt him with the new rules for goalie gear. After that, the Leafs have Garret Sparks, who was absolutely atrocious for the Leafs last year. There is no other adjective that could adequately describe his play last year, he was just brutal. The Leafs lack real skill at the position, and are hoping that Andersen is the answer now and in the future.
The next discussion will be on defense. The Sabres have a solid group at the NHL level, highlighted by Rasmus Ristolainen and now second-year Sabre, Jake McCabe. The Sabres also have Dmitry Kulikov on the back-end and Zach Bogosian, both have offensive upside and a good physical style of play. Buffalo also has a few high-end prospects that have Sabre fans excited about the future of the club. The big three in terms of defensive prospects for Buffalo are Casey Nelson, Brendan Guhle and Will Borgen. Nelson was an undrafted college free agent who impressed Sabres brass in his seven games with the team last season. Guhle was viewed as the Sabres top prospect by many before the team had a stellar draft in 2016, but now he is a top-five prospect, and has a real chance to make the team out of camp this year. Borgen really made a name for himself last year after being a fifth round pick in the 2015 draft. The Sabres could really use another left shot defenseman to help further elevate Ristolainen’s game, but at the moment they have a solid core that can be built upon.
Toronto has a very impressive stable of young defenseman as well, highlighted by future star, Morgan Rielly. Another solid young player on that blueline is Jake Gardiner, and although he is no Rielly, he will be a good player in his own right. They have young players in the pipeline such as Connor Carrick, Nikita Zaitsev, and Stuart Percy. The Leafs are said to lack top end talent on the back end, but that should change over time as they focus on building their team. It could be argued that Buffalo is further along in the rebuild process and that is why they have a better defensive stable as well, but another argument could be that Buffalo has just been able to draft better, which is a specialty of GM Tim Murray.
The forward conversation is the most exciting to me, and might be the closest contest of them all. In Buffalo, they are absolutely loaded down the middle, so much so that they have had to move talent to the wing. Looking at the center situation in Buffalo you will see Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly on the top two lines. These are two young players with star written all over them, Eichel finished last year, his rookie season, with a team leading 24 goals and 56 points and O’Reilly had a career high in points last season with 60. Then you add in Sam Reinhart, who was second on the team in goals during his rookie year with 23. Then you factor in Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis and even Zemgus Girgensons and you see that Buffalo has a great stable of forwards at the NHL level. When it comes to prospects, Buffalo isn’t as strong as the Leafs, simply because all of their offensive prospects are making actual impacts at the NHL level. But players like Alex Nylander, Rasmus Asplund, Justin Bailey and Hudson Fasching show that Buffalo still has plenty of firepower yet to make it to the NHL.
Toronto has great players on offense as well capped off with number one pick Auston Matthews. Other players like Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, and James van Riemsdyk are other players at the NHL level making an impact. Prospects such as William Nylander and Mitchell Marner show that there is some top-end talent down on the farm for Toronto. But all in all I still feel that Buffalo has the better offensive unit than Toronto.
Both organizations have groups in place that will make this an exciting, skilled rivalry for years to come. I know I can’t wait to see how it plays out starting in the 2016-17 season.