Friday, April 27, 2012

Round 2: NHL Playoff Predictions

I didn't have a ton of success on my picks in round one of the NHL playoffs, only going 3 for 8.  The three that I picked correctly were the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues all winning.  Not exactly a shining record.

Either way, I'll go ahead and make my picks for the second round.  Here they are:

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles - Blues in 6. It's really too bad that these two teams have to meet up in round two, considering they are my two favorite teams remaining in the 2012 postseason.  Either way, I see the Blues as a team that is simply too big, strong and balanced for the Kings.  Los Angeles was impressive and the Blues don't have a ton of experience, so I wouldn't be shocked to see LA do better than I give them credit for with this prediction.

Nashville vs. Phoenix - Predators in 7. Both teams were pretty impressive in the first round, knocking off challenging opponents in Detroit and Chicago.  Unfortunately this matchup is not exactly a headliner and I might have a hard time finding any reason to watch it. Either way, I like the Preds in this one as their top end talent is better than the Coyotes. Should be a good series if you enjoy great coaching and solid goaltending.

Washington vs. New York - Rangers in 6. I was really impressed with the play of Braden Holtby in round one for Washington as they knocked off the Bruins. With that being said, I think the Rangers will really take some valuable lessons out of their first round win over Ottawa and should take out the Caps without a ton of difficulty here. Regardless of the outcome, this could very well end up as the most entertaining 2nd round series.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia - Flyers in 5.  The Flyers were the most impressive team in that opening round.  It sure was impressive to see what they could do once they got even mediocre goaltending.  I'm not sold on the depth of the Devils both up front and on the blueline and the current Marty Brodeur won't be good enough to slow down Giroux and the gang.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 NHL Playoffs - First Round Predictions

I threw these out there on Twitter yesterday afternoon and didn't get much feedback, but I figured I would also post them here just to give more people a chance to read them. Here they are for round 1, very short and to the point:

Vancouver vs. LA - Canucks in 5. Canucks are just too deep and too balanced. Quick needs to steal atleast a few if the Kings have any hope. Offensive struggles could show their ugly head again during the playoffs for the Kings, too.

St. Louis vs. San Jose - Blues in 6. I love the Blues size, depth and versatility. I think we'll see them make it to atleast the West Finals, even with Brian Elliott apparently suffering a minor injury currently.

Phoenix vs. Chicago - Hawks in 7. Goaltending is the big question mark here. Not sold on either team's starter so team experience wins out and Chicago takes this series.

Nashville vs. Detroit - Wings in 7. Nashville seems to be the popular choice, but I'm not sold. Still lack that extra gear on offense and the Wings have the experience. With that being said, goaltending is risky for the Wings.

New York vs. Ottawa
- Rangers in 6. Ottawa has the offense to stay in it, but the Rangers have the better goalie, the grit and the size.

Boston vs. Washington
- Bruins in 6. I like the Bruins to atleast make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but I think Washington wins a couple of games. The Caps goaltending problems are exactly that, at the most important time of the year.

Florida vs. New Jersey - Devils in 6. Happy to see the Panthers back in, but I don't think they have the experience or talent to stay long. NJ's big horses up front have no trouble finding the back of the net.

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia - Penguins in 7. Easily the best series as these teams will beat the snot out of each other. Malkin/Crosby the difference as the Penguins skill and grit combination wins out. Also think Flyers inconsistent goaltending will show up from time to time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Quick 2012 Mock Draft

With all the buzz tonight regarding the 2012 NHL Draft lottery, I figured I would throw together a quick mock for what I think might happen in this year's top 14.

I really can't believe that Edmonton is picking 1st overall for the third straight year. If this isn't the kick in the pants they need to turn around that franchise, then I don't know what will.

The following picks are made assuming their will be no trades, which I actually find unlikely. An interesting trade was proposed by Kyle Dubas, the GM of the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL. It was #1 overall to Toronto, with Edmonton getting #5 overall and Luke Schenn. Interesting suggestion and something that might be more realistic than some expect. Anyway, here are my top 14 picks for the teams who missed the NHL postseason.

1. Edmonton Oilers - Nail Yakupov FW - Edmonton simply can't pass up the top player in the draft. He's a dynamic scorer and has the most value going forward. Realistically, he could be dealt, but he gets taken by Edmonton for the sake of this mock.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets - Ryan Murray D - Hands down the top defender available for the NHL draft in 2012. He's great in all three zones, can play on the PP and PK and is also likely NHL ready for a team who plays with the proper structure. He's the guy they target.

3. Montreal Canadiens - Mikhail Grigorenko FW - In my view, he's clearly the 2nd best player in the draft. He fits a need for the Canadiens as they need skill and size down the middle. Plays junior in Quebec and that adds to the allure here. An easy selection 3rd overall for the Habs.

4. New York Islanders - Alex Galchenyuk FW - The Isles aren't afraid to take risks. This kid fits the bill as he's battled injuries all season. He'll eventually be their #2 center behind Tavares, with Ryan Strome sliding in as a winger, not a center, in their future top 6.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs - Filip Forsberg FW - The Leafs like size and they need more skill. Forsberg fits the bill here. Has played C in the past, but might translate better as a winger for his career. Either way he's too good of a player to pass up here for Toronto.

6. Anaheim Ducks - Jacob Trouba D - He's got good size and is a solid two way blueliner. Might look pretty darn good in the future as a partner with Cam Fowler with the Ducks. Could also see them look towards Griffin Reinhart here.

7. Minnesota Wild - Mathew Dumba D - A few weeks ago when the Wild looked to have a top 3 pick, I slated Ryan Murray to end up there. They need D, they need a future PP QB. That guy is Mathew Dumba. He won't be rushed to the NHL and has good leadership qualities and is a high-skilled player to get at #7.

8. Carolina Hurricanes - Teuvo Teravainen FW - Canes have a ton of good young talent in their system on the blueline and they also love Finns. They get a good one here as they add a shifty and dynamic offensive player.

9. Winnipeg Jets - Griffin Reinhart D - Jets have some nice pieces going forward up front, but can use another big blueliner. They add a solid two-way guy in Reinhart here, a player who might look mighty fine on a pairing with Zach Bogosian down the line.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning - Morgan Rielly D - The Lighting add an elite puck moving defenceman by grabbing Moose Jaw defender Morgan Rielly. He'll fit in well with their transition game, despite missing almost all this season with injury.

11. Washington Capitals - Brendan Gaunce FW - The Capitals take a character player in Gaunce with the 11th pick. Might not have the highest offensive upside, but he's a true warrior who could end up like a Brooks Laich-type of player.

12. Buffalo Sabres - Cody Ceci D - Not many players have risen like Ceci has over the last little while. Sabres continue to stockpile nice blueliners to go along with Myers and McNabb by adding Ceci.

13. Dallas Stars - Radek Faksa FW - Talented center who has a ton of value as a two way player. Stars could likely use a nice young blueliner, but instead take the best player available at 13th, adding Faksa to their mix.

14. Calgary Flames - Colton Sissons FW - Might be considered off the board by some, but I could see this happening. Sissons might just be that guy that fills a leadership role in Calgary in 3 years when Iggy is no longer there. He's a big power forward with leadership abilities. Calgary also considers guys like Sebastian Collberg and Zemgus Grigensons here.

Comments here or on Twitter would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Officially On The Radar: Derrick Pouliot

The WHL has become famous for producing high end defenceman and the 2012 NHL Draft is once again a prime example of that.

Anywhere from 5-7 WHL blueliners could be taken in the first round. Among those is Portland Winterhawks defenceman Derrick Pouliot.

When compared to the other defenceman in the draft, Pouliot might have the most offensive potential going forward. He's a great skater with good feet, good edges and the ability to play a high tempo transition game. He might not be as strong of a skater as either Morgan Rielly or Ryan Murray, but he's still well above average.

Not only that, but he's a sublime passer of the puck. He is hands down the top passer of any of the defensive crop for the 2012 draft. In fact, he finished 2nd in the entire WHL in regards to assists for a defenceman with 48. With 11 goals to go along with the assists, he finished with 59 points in 72 games.

The biggest concerns around Pouliot's game continue to be his play away from the puck and his play in his own zone. It's definitely not a huge concern for me going forward as young players, especially defenceman, usually need to learn to play in their own end of the rink. He's a fine enough skater that he won't have trouble defending speed, but he will also need to continue to get bigger and stronger to match up against larger opposition.

As far as a player comparison, I think Brian Campbell would be a pretty good one.

I eventually see him being a solid top 3 defenceman on an NHL club, while quarterbacking a top powerplay unit. Many NHL teams will definitely have interest in Pouliot and I expect him to go somewhere around 15th-20th overall in the NHL draft come June, putting him firmly On The Radar.

7 WHL Players Named To Team Canada For U-18's

There were few surprises among the players named to Team Canada for the World Under 18's that take place in the Czech Republic later this month. Canada is in such a position of strength, due to the talent pool they can access for an event like this. So, the lack of surprises shouldn't really be too surprising, so to speak.

Here is how the roster shapes up:

# Player S/C Ht. Wt. Birthdate Hometown/Country Team/Organization
1 Spencer Martin L 6'2 190 06/09/1995 Oakville, Ont. Mississauga St. Michael's (OHL)
29 Brandon Whitney L 6'5 191 05/11/1994 Centreville, N.S. Victoriaville (QMJHL)
30 Matt Murray L 6'4 162 05/25/1994 Thunder Bay, Ont. Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
2 Darnell Nurse L 6'4 180 02/04/1995 Hamilton, Ont. Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
5 Damon Severson R 6'2 198 8/7/1994 Melville, Sask. Kelowna (WHL)
6 Josh Morrissey L 6'0 184 03/28/1995 Calgary, Alta. Prince Albert (WHL)
7 Warren Steele L 6'0 187 05/16/1994 Williamsburg, Ont. Kingston (OHL)
24 Mathew Dumba R 6'0 183 07/25/1994 Calgary, Alta. Red Deer (WHL)
27 Adam Pelech L 6'2 210 08/18/1994 Toronto, Ont. Erie (OHL)
9 Anthony Mantha L 6'3 178 09/16/1994 Longueuil, Que. Val-d'Or (QMJHL)
10 Brendan Gaunce L 6'2 212 03/25/1994 Markham, Ont. Belleville (OHL)
11 Branden Troock R 6'2 174 03/20/1994 Edmonton, Alta. Seattle (WHL)
12 Kerby Rychel L 6'1 200 10/07/1994 Tecumseh, Ont. Windsor (OHL)
14 Scott Kosmachuk R 5'11 185 01/24/1994 Toronto, Ont. Guelph (OHL)
15 Mike Winther L 5'11 170 7/9/94 Trochu, Alta. Prince Albert (WHL)
18 Gemel Smith L 5'11 161 04/16/1994 Toronto, Ont. Owen Sound (OHL)
19 Troy Bourke L 5'10 180 3/30/94 Onoway, Alta. Prince George (WHL)
21 Scott Laughton L 6'0 178 05/30/1994 Oakville, Ont. Oshawa (OHL)
23 Sam Reinhart R 6'1 177 11/06/1995 West Vancouver, B.C. Kootenay (WHL)
25 William Carrier L 6'0 205 12/20/94 Pierrefonds, Que. Cape Breton (QMJHL)
Jesse Wallin , Head Coach Saskatoon, Sask. Red Deer (WHL)
Gord Dwyer , Assistant Coach Dalhousie, N.B. P.E.I. (QMJHL)
Todd Gill , Assistant Coach Brockville, Ont. Kingston (OHL)

As the title states, the list includes 7 WHL players. The biggest strength for the WHL group is on the blueline as it's headlined by Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels, a guy I would expect to be named as the captain of the squad. Also on the blueline are Damon Severson of the Kelowna Rockets and Josh Morrissey of the Prince Albert Raiders.

Up front, the WHL guys are headlined by another member of the Raiders, Mike Winther. Winther could find his name called in round one of the NHL draft this coming June after putting together a very solid campaign. The other WHL forwards named to the squad are Branden Troock of the Seattle Thunderbirds, Troy Bourke of the Prince George Cougars and Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice.

I would say there were five guys that would have been on the bubble from the WHL, in my opinion. Those guys that never had their name called were Coda Gordon of the Swift Current Broncos, Ryan Olsen of the Saskatoon Blades, Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants, Chris Driedger of the Calgary Hitmen and Steven Hodges of the Victoria Royals. I'm sure all five were discussed as possible candidates. With that being said, Hockey Canada basically has the ability to hand pick specific guys for specific roles and in the end, it's a very tough team to crack.

Another interesting thing to point out is that it's a very young group heading to the event for Canada, atleast in regards to the NHL draft. For the WHL players going, Morrissey isn't draft eligible until the 2013 draft, while Sam Reinhart isn't even draft eligible until 2014. They are both fantastic players as I think Morrissey has a shot at being a mid-first rounder next year and Reinhart is a WHL rookie of the year candidate this season and will likely be a top 10 pick (at worst) in 2014.

It's a fun tournament to follow every year and I think the WHL can once again be proud of the crop that they are sending. It's also a testament to the WHL's draft eligible depth for 2012 as guys like Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly and Derrick Pouliot all can't take part because of the WHL playoffs. All three of those guys are sure-fire 1st round picks this year.

For more information on the event, you can visit Hockey Canada's website. The event kicks off for Canada with a preliminary game against Denmark one week from today, on April 12th.