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.

Passing the Torch – Life After Taylor Hall


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By Mike Meyer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

Dallas Stars Writer

St. Louis Blues Writer

 

What will life be like in Oil Country after the departure of Taylor Hall? That is a question that many figured would not have been asked for several years to come. Alas, here we are in 2016 asking the very question. Taylor Hall, the number one overall draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Since signing his first entry level contract with the Oilers, Hall has gone on to play in 381 games, netting 132 goals, and tallying a whopping 328 points. With Hall in the lineup, the Oilers have been able to grow accustomed to 0.86 points per game from just one skater each time he laced up those skates. The question now grows, who will take up the ice time and how will those points to accounted for with Hall gone?

 

The obvious answer right now that comes to mind would of course be Connor McJesus …err McDavid. With his rookie season looking at 48 points in 45 games (limited due to a broken clavicle) the Oilers hope that McDavid can produce even remotely to his 1.067 points per game consistently (so does his agent and future contract extension). Even if he dips below the point per game pace, as a sophomore, I think he will be more than making up for several players point production for seasons to come. Is it too much to expect for 80+ points from McDavid? 90? 100? Right now, the sky is the limit, and the NHL is his for the taking. *queue ‘Jump Around’ in 3…2…1…*

 

But that’s the easy way out. Let’s dig a little deeper. Who else is going to be looked at under the microscope just a little bit tougher now that Hall is out of the picture? Who else is going to feel the weight on their shoulders? I would first assume that, at the very least, 3 players who have a combined salary of $18 million per season will be on the first line. The likes of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and newcomer Milan Lucic are going to be added to this short list and held accountable each night by head coach, Todd McLellan, GM Peter Chiarelli and the rest of Oilers management. Now, by removing Hall and bringing in Lucic, the team has finally added an extra bit of grit to their squad. Something this team has desperately needed in their Top 6 for the last several years. But even this is still not deep enough. If your top guys can’t score, who else is going to win you the games? We’ve all seen it before. Kane can’t always be counted on to score each night. Tarasenko won’t always score that game winning goal. And certainly you can’t always hope that point production trends will stay the same season after season. Right Duchene? Winning is going to take a full team effort from this squad. Scoring from every line and from each of these guys will help project this team to the next level and in to the playoffs. So who else do you look to call on throughout this season?

 

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Patrick Maroon

The magic man for the Anaheim Ducks during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs certainly made his name known after registering 11 points in 16 games. However, Patrick only managed 13 points in 56 games to follow up his playoff performance, and certainly signaled for his inevitable trade. After his ice time was decreased and he was demoted to fourth line minutes at times, Maroon would be traded to the Oilers. He seemed once again to find his scoring touch as he managed 14 points in 16 games to finish out the season. It’s unlikely that he will be able to manage 0.875 points per game consistently throughout the 2016-17 season, but hey, that would certainly be welcomed. Oilers fans would rejoice if he kept up a 70+ point pace throughout this upcoming season.

 

Leon Draisaitl

Draisaitl was in all sense and purposes connected to the hip with Hall this past season. Leon first joined the team in 2014 seeing 37 NHL games. However, he only managed only 2 goals and 9 points during that timeframe. The team elected to send him back to the WHL to play for the Kelowna Rockets and to get more training and seasoning under his belt. There he would make a much larger impact scoring 19 goals and 53 points in 32 games. After certainly cementing his spot on the lineup after his AHL call up this past season, Draisaitl scored 19 goals and 51 points throughout 72 games. All of Edmonton must wonder now, will he continue to grow and shine with Taylor Hall out of the picture? Or will he struggle and repeat his 0.28 point per game pace from 2014-15? With the roster makeup currently, he is looking like the 3rd best center on the squad, behind McDavid and Nuge. He may not get the chance to shine automatically and will likely have to earn his ice time via the power play or force Nugent-Hopkins down or even out of the lineup entirely.

 

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Nail Yakupov

What more is there left to say about Nail Yakupov? Why am I even wasting time writing on this guy? Oilers fans are already showing that they’re ready to sell him for a few pucks and call it a win for removing his $2.5 million cap hit off the books. Figured at least then they might have better luck at scoring goals if they shot the puck themselves. For those who need a little bit of background on Nail and why we’re so harsh on this guy, let’s take a moment and we can try and figure out what went wrong.

 

Nail hails from Nizhnekamsk, Russia. To help fast track his journey to the NHL, Nail joined the OHL in the 2010 Import Draft and was selected by the Sarnia Sting, second overall. Yakupov would go on to play 107 games between 2010-2012 for Sarnia, registering 80 goals and 170 total points. Quick math breakdown, that’s a 1.59 points per game pace. Quick comparison time… from 2012-2015, McDavid registered 188 points in 167 games, for a 1.13 point per game pace in the very same OHL while playing with the Erie Otters. Okay, back to Yakupov. In 2012 he was drafted first overall by the Oilers. He returned to Russia to play in the KHL during the lockout recording 18 points in 22 games. Once the lockout ended, Yakupov returned and scored 31 points in 48 games. All was good in the world. Great rookie season for this kid and now it’s time to see what he can do with more training and a full NHL season under his belt. This guy is going places. *Buzzer* WRONG! But thanks for playing. Nail has gone on to play 204 more games since that rookie season with the Edmonton Oilers. 204 games in three seasons, and an underwhelming 80 points have been registered with his name attached to them. Even if Yakupov had not grown as a player, leveled off and maintained his point pace, he should still have at this time 131.75 registered points. So what happened? Certainly switching coaches can have an impact on a player, let alone having four different coaches since 2012. That can mess with a guy. But wait, that didn’t seem to slow down Hall or any other player to the degree that it has for Nail. So it must be something else. His shooting percentages have certainly decreased, despite his shot attempts projecting up each season before decreasing this past season.

 

 

Despite his shooting percentage decreasing each season, the percentage of shots making it to the net is actually steadily increasing from 50% his rookie season to just over 57% last year. Can it be that Nail is just a creature of habit and goalies are getting used to where he shoots and he is being nullified on his attempts? Is his accuracy decreasing so he’s not hitting his mark? He might not be converting right now in Edmonton but it certainly draws the question that with perhaps new coaching and a new environment, could he get back to his point pace that he set up from his rookie season or even better? Nail has a lot to prove this upcoming season. With Hall out of this lineup, it just might mean an extra chance to prove he still has got what it takes to earn a spot in the lineup. Even if it means shooting less and starting to pass more, Yakupov has got to figure it out for 2016.

 

Zack Kassian

The power forward style playing, substance abusing, right winger. Kassian has struggled to declare himself a consistent NHL player since making his first appearance in the NHL back in 2011. In 6 seasons since then, he has only managed to play in 234 games. Now, Kassian will not be able to take over Hall’s points. That much is obvious. However, Kassian can at the very least declare himself a consistent NHL player. Being able to go out each shift and helping defend against the opposition, limit down on the dumb penalties and making a name for himself along the boards will certainly help his cause. Who’s to say the Oilers can’t use the 6’3″ 213 pound forward to lay a few more shots on net to have someone ready for the rebound, or even be the rebound guy? He can take a note from Ryan Reaves who has certainly taken away his style of a grinder / fighter, has become a bit more tame in his attempts to help offensively for the Blues and earn a spot in the lineup each night. This goes along with the whole mindset of all rolling four lines and forcing the head coach to give him ice time. Kassian can be an anchor on the fourth line and lead by the example says everyone in this lineup should be held accountable every shift.

 

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Jesse Puljujarvi*

Ah the Wild Card choice. There’s always one. So why is Jesse even in this conversation to take over for Taylor when he hasn’t even made his NHL debut yet? I’m glad you asked. When Puljujarvi was taken fourth overall at this year’s draft over defenseman and fellow Finland countryman Olli Joulevi, Chiarelli made a unspoken statement to this group. He believes Jesse can be an upgrade to this group of forwards more than what is already there. The choice would not add to his defensive core that many expected him to go toward, but would ultimately force Hall out of the picture to New Jersey in order to get the upgrade to his defense via Adam Larsson. The big question is, will Puljujarvi be able to live up to the hype of a fourth overall draft choice? Will he mirror the 39 points in 71 regular season games he has played in Liiga or will he mirror the 36 in 27 international games played?

Blackhawks in Penny-Pinching Mode


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By Bobby Bauders

Senior Writer/Editor

 

The Chicago Blackhawks are once again in penny-pinching mode for the upcoming season. General Manager Stan Bowman has done a truly magical job  keeping Chicago under the cap ceiling, and will once again face challenges ahead.

 

This penny-pinching is obvious when he traded Andrew Shaw to the Montreal Canadiens and the subsequent signing of Jordin Tootoo. Many saw Tootoo’s signing as Bowman’s cheaper replacement for Shaw. Well, it’s cheaper for sure. Tootoo signed 1 year deal worth $0.750M a year. And his stats reflect the cheaper option mentality.

 

Last year, the 33-year-old scored 4 goals and 9 points in 66 games with the New Jersey Devils compared to Shaw’s 14 goals and 34 points in 78 games with the Hawks.

 

Shaw was an excellent bottom-six forward who was very in-your-face. That’s what Tootoo’s role will be with Chicago. They just need him to be an enforcer, something Tootoo will have no problem doing.

 

After all, Chicago is in no need of any extra scoring; led by Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Artemi Panarin. Panarin is what introduces the source of this money saving.

 

After Panarin’s  phenomenal season, he’s going to want to get paid when his contract is up. When is his contract up? Next offseason. Panarin becomes an RFA on July 1, 2017, and the Blackhawks could struggle to pay him.

 

Chicago currently has about $2M in cap space. Brian Campbell is expected to retire which will open up $1.5M in space, but depending on how much Panarin demands, that may not be enough. Bowman also needs to think about Richard Panik who also becomes an RFA next July.

 

Chicago will need to start thinking of Marian Hossa’s contract. The 37-year-old has 5 years left on his $5.275M AAV deal. Hossa certainly isn’t putting up the stats for a $5M  salary. Last season, he only posted 13 goals. The days of his 30 goal seasons are past him. Moving Hossa’s contract becomes tricky with his No Movement Clause. Unless he waives it, the Hawks are stuck with his contract for the next 5 years unless they buy him out in a couple year. They’ll need to find a replacement obviously, but in the grand scheme of things, a buyout may turn out to be the best option with the salary cap.

Metro Division Draft Day: Team Needs


By Bobby Bauders

Senior Writer/Editor

 

We’ll have four team needs stories highlighting the draft needs of the teams in every division. Written on June 23rd, any trades that happened after this story was written will not be mentioned in this story, therefore some draft spots may be outdated.

 

Our Updated Mock Draft

 

Carolina Hurricanes:

1st Round Picks: 2

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 9

Carolina currently needs offensive prospects in my opinion. All of their  offensive prospects are average excluding Victor Rask and Teuvo Teravainen. Their defensive crops are excellent with Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, and Ryan Murphy.

 

At 13th, Carolina has a wide variety of offensive players to choose from. If they’re available of course, those include Tyson Jost, Kieffer Bellows, Max Jones, Luke Kunin, and Michael McLeod. All of which would greatly improve Carolina’s prospect pool.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 5

With the acquisition of Seth Jones, Columbus looks set on defense. Selecting Jesse Puljujarvi and Tage Thompson in the 2nd Round could help that.

Unless Columbus trades the 3rd overall pick, which they have gotten impressive offers for, they’ll be selecting Puljujarvi.

 

New Jersey Devils:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 9

 

New Jersey is in the same boat as Carolina. They have a fairly young, productive defense. They just need that high end scoring forward to get their offense rolling.

 

Sitting at number 11 they have a lot of control. Lots of forwards everywhere at this point in the draft. Their goal will be to get either Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, or Kieffer Bellows.

 

New York Islanders:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 0

Total Draft Picks: 5

The New York Islanders are set down the middle, and they have a decent, young defense. They should look at wingers in the draft.

 

With the 19th overall pick, The Isles should hope that Riley Tufte, Max Jones, or Julien Gauthier are available because they’d be fantastic in Brooklyn.

 

New York Rangers:

1st Round Picks: 0

2dn Round Picks: 0

Total Draft Picks: 6

What a mess the Rangers have become. Can’t really say much about the Rangers because they’ve traded their 1st and 2nd Round Picks.

 

What they need is a new General Manager. Jeff Gorton has been proving he’s not fit to be running a front office. They acquired Keith Yandle from the Coyotes, and one of the assets moved in that trade was this year’s 1st Round Pick. Well, Yandle is no longer on the team and Arizona hasn’t even used the pick yet. Rangers management has been downright embarrassing for at least 4 straight years.

 

Philadelphia Flyers:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 2

Total Draft Picks: 10

The Flyers have a fairly young offensive core. Other than Shayne Gostisbehere, their defense needs help.

 

Expect Philly to select Dante Fabbro. He’s a defenseman with amazing offensive ability, like that of Gostisbehere. He once out up 78 points in 58 games. Incredible. Any team would be lucky to have that talent.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins:

1st Round Picks: 0

2nd Round Picks: 2

Total Draft Picks: 5

Pittsburgh just won the Stanley Cup, so they’re needs aren’t exactly dire. Although, an extra defensive prospect or 2 never hurts.

 

Currently sitting at the 55th and 61st picks, Pittsburgh may be able to draft Ryan Lindgren. This would be a decent pickup for Pittsburgh. He’s a defenseman that knows how to put up points, at one point posting 88 in Bantam.

 

Washington Capitals:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 0

Total Draft Picks: 6

Washington has needed an in your face scorer since they lost Joel Ward and Eric Fehr.They could get that at the 26th pick.

 

If the Caps are lucky enough, they could land German Rubstov. He’s in your face and let’s you know he’s on the ice, and he scores points, earning 26 points in 28 games with the U-18 Team Russia. He’ll have to work on his size to fill his role, but that shouldn’t be a problem in development. Tage Thomposon would also be excellent, standing at 6’5”.