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: , 05 2020 10:56:08

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: , 04 2020 22:47:37


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: , 04 2020 13:51:03

The Athletic 90
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: , 29 2020 09:28:02


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: , 29 2020 09:11:49

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: , 28 2020 22:38:48

Vukota, :

With the trade deadline behind us, it is time to look at the top free agents outside the NHL by way of college hockey, major junior and European professionals.

The drafted college prospects are listed not because they have shown an intent to become free agents but because they are seniors or are not seniors but the CBA lets them become free agents if they choose to. Readers should not interpret a drafted college players listing as an indication they will become a free agent this summer.

Ive learned from trying to track free agent prospects the past few years that there will be plenty of guys signed that Ive overlooked, some of whom may even be useful NHL players. Exclusion of certain names that are signed does not mean I dont like the player. In most cases it means there were too many rumors surrounding the player, so I decided to zero in on the guys that stand out to me instead of chasing every lead.

Players who would be 26 years or older as of Sept. 15, 2020, were not included, in line with the Calder eligibility rules, although this was not followed strictly for players I thought could play in the NHL next season.

In terms of the caliber of players, I view Scott Perunovich and Mikhail Grigorenko as being in a group together, and then Wyatt Kalynuk through Alexander Barabanov are the players I think will be NHL players.

1. Scott Perunovich, D, Minnesota-Duluth-NCHC (rights owned by St. Louis)

Among all the drafted prospects, Perunovich is clearly the most talented player that is eligible to become a free agent. I put him No. 51 on my midseason NHL prospect ranking. A two-time NCAA champion in a key role for Duluth, Perunovich has an elite hockey brain, great skill and great mobility. He may not be the tallest defenseman, but he still projects as an NHL player because his hockey IQ and skating make him good enough defensively. Typically, when a top prospect like Perunovich can walk, the buzz around him is significant; and it hasnt been in his case, which makes me guess hes likely to sign with the Blues although I have no direct knowledge one way or the other. He could become a free agent on June 1 if he chose to according to the CBAs Article 8.6 (c) (v). But the Blues told The Athletics Pierre LeBrun that they are confident they will sign him.

2. Mikhail Grigorenko, C, CSKA-KHL

Im getting a sense of déjà vu for some reason. Grigorenko is the top free agent outside the NHL right now. The 25 year old and 12th-overall pick in 2012 by Buffalo was a critical reason why CSKA won a title last season. Hes shown the past few years that he can be very effective at both the KHL and international level. Grigorenko is a highly skilled and intelligent player, and has a very good shot. His ability on the power play is clearly NHL quality due to how many plays he can make. Hes always had the skill and vision, but his first NHL stint didnt work out due to a lack of speed and physicality in his game. I still think his speed is rather average and hes not a great defensive center, but hes been more effective in the middle of the ice and making plays around the net. I think he can still be a middle-six NHL forward next season, but I understand why some may be quite skeptical of that claim.

3. Wyatt Kalynuk, D, Wisconsin-Big 10 (rights owned by Philadelphia)

Kalynuk, a seventh-round pick in 2017, looks like he has a chance to be a great value selection if the Flyers can sign him. Kalynuk is different from your usual late round college selection who is usually too slow or too small. Kalynuk has NHL size and speed. Hes a fantastic skater with a high skill level with a game that should translate. The minor quibble in his game is his decision-making can run you the wrong way at times. Kalynuk is a junior but can become a free agent if he chooses. According to LeBrun, the Flyers believe they will get Kalynuk signed, but he might also potentially stay another year at Wisconsin.

4. Dmitrij Jaskin, RW, Dynamo Moscow-KHL

NHL fans are obviously familiar with Jaskin, who played for seven seasons between the Blues and Capitals. He left for the KHL this season where hes been one of the best player in the league. Jaskin has always been appealing because hes a bulky forward with very soft hands, but hes also never been the quickest forward. Not much has changed on that front, but in his NHL days he was a positive possession player every season, and I can certainly see him be at the least useful for a team next season.

5. David Cotton, LW, Boston College-Hockey East (rights owned by Carolina)

Cotton has been a top player in his conference the past two seasons. He is a big body forward with pretty good skill and sense who makes a lot of plays around the net. The knock on his game has always been his heavy feet, which I dont think has improved a ton. But hes been a top player on a top team this season, he has the skill and he has the work ethic, so theres a lot of reasons to think he could play games but likely wont be a significant player.

6. Josh Dunne, C, Clarkson-ECAC

Dunne is intriguing because hes a 6-foot-4 center with skill and a lot of power. Hes an elite presence in front of the net at the college level with how well he generates chances in the high percentage areas. Hes also very strong on pucks, protects well and plays hard defensively. Hes not all brute strength, though, as he has a good stick and makes plays in open ice. The one concern on his NHL projection is his quickness. His stride is technically OK, but he does lack the kind of speed youd like in an NHL player. I like the sum of the parts, though, and think he could play in the league.

7. Jack Ahcan, D, St. Cloud State-NCHC

Ahcan has been a top defenseman in the NCHC the last few years. This season he was really leaned on by St. Cloud, logging big minutes in all situations. Ahcan is a fun player to watch. Hes full of skill and offensive creativity. Hes a power play quarterback at the pro level due to how well he walks the line, finds seams and improvises with the puck. Hes a good skater. Hes not the elite speedster that youd like at 5-foot-8, but hes got great edges and can evade pressure. Even though hes not big, I think hell defend OK in the pros because he has push back in his game. I understand why a 5-foot-8 defender without huge numbers may not scream NHL player, but I think Ahcan can make it.

8. Nikita Nesterov, D, CSKA-KHL

Nesterov has been one of the best defensemen in the KHL since he left the NHL following the 2017 season. Hes a good player, albeit an unspectacular one. He is an above-average skater, hes got some skill and he moves the puck very well. His playmaking isnt elite, but he can stretch the ice, and he makes a lot of clean exits. He can defend fine due to his mobility and IQ. In the NHL he could be a bottom half of the roster type, close to what he was in his last stint.

9. Alexander Barabanov, RW, SKA-KHL

Barabanov is a three-time member of Russias world championship team, a gold medalists in PyeongChang and has been a top player overseas for years. Ive watched him since he was a teenager and hes gone from a fine skater to a very good skater. Hes always had a very high skill level and his ability to dangle with the puck distinguishes him. Hes undersized, but he competes well and can play around the net. I wouldnt put his IQ at the same tier as his skill, and for that reason Im not sold hes going to put up big numbers in the NHL, but I think he can play in the league.

10. Cedric Pare, C, Rimouski-QMJHL

Pare has been a top scorer in the QMJHL this season and an important part of Rimouskis team. A common argument when discussing Pares season is referencing that Alexis Lafreniere has been his linemate, which is perfectly fair. But hes created a lot of offense in his own right. Hes got a good stick, makes plays and has a big shot. Hes helped Rimouskis power play be effective. And hes a big center, although Id like to see him use his body more. Pare was a sixth-round pick by the Bruins in 2017, who was passed over in large part due to his skating. Its still not a strength but arguably has improved enough to be worth a deal even if still below NHL quality.

11. Niko Ojamaki, RW, Taapara-Liiga

Ojamaki has had a fine year in Liiga playing on a top team, and he got significant minutes last spring in Finlands run to a gold medal at the world championships. Ojamaki is a very slick and creative player. He has the hands and offensive IQ to make high-end plays. The main question on Ojamaki is his skating, which looks at best average and at times below that with a stride Ive seen break down more than youd like, particularly for a sub-six-foot player.

12. Noel Hoefenmayer, D, Ottawa-OHL

Hoefenmayer has been having a huge season in the OHL, where he looks like hell clear 25 goals and 80 points as an overage player. Hes a great puck-mover with the top-end skill and offensive brain to make difficult plays at both ends of the rink. Hoefenmayer also has a bomb from the point and will be able to score at the pro level. He wasnt offered a deal by Arizona, which drafted him in 2017, with scouts pointing to his skating and defensive play as reasons why they question his pro projection. I do like the player but he needs to show he can skate and defend at the pro pace next season.

13. Tanner Laczynski, C, Ohio State-Big 10 (rights owned by Philadelphia)

Laczynski has been a very good college player for the past four seasons at OSU. Hes a very smart two-way center. Hes got the high-end brain to run a power play, and even though he only has seven goals this season, hes got a pretty decent shot. Laczynskis skating is the main thing that will hold him back from possibly being an NHL player as his quickness is very average and he lacks a true separation gear.

14. Jake Christiansen, D, Everett-WHL

Christiansen was signed to a PTO with Stockton earlier this season but didnt stick. Since going back hes been a monster in the WHL, as one of the most productive defensemen offensively in decades. Hes got great offensive sense and an elite shot. His full season pace in the WHL right now is 43 goals as of this writing. His boots are a little heavy. I think hell be able to handle the AHL pace; the NHL will be more of a question, which is why I wouldnt call him a lock to make it despite having other NHL caliber tools.

15. Patrick Harper, LW, Boston University-Hockey East (rights owned by Nashville)

Harper is a talented forward who is a former two-time member of the USA World Junior team. Hes a dynamic player with the puck due to his skill and vision, and he can create a highlight reel moment on any given shift. While he skates well, the concern some scouts have is that hes small and not a true top-level skater for the next level for a player his size, on top of the fact some find him to be a perimeter player. If he gets to Aug. 15, I think someone takes a shot at him just due to how skilled he is.

16. Drew OConnor, C, Dartmouth-ECAC

Just two seasons ago, OConnor was playing in the NCDC for the Boston Jr. Bruins, and now he looks on track to get an NHL contract. OConnor is a 6-foot-3 forward with good hands and a quality skating stride. He competes well and projects to have some two-way value as a pro. I wouldnt call him a true playmaker, but hes got some offense in his game because of his hands and scoring ability. He makes the odd crafty play, but hes more of a goal scorer and has been one of the top shot generators in the NCAA. While he skates well, I wish he would play a little faster at times.

17. Jordan Kawaguchi, LW, North Dakota-NCHC

Kawaguchi is the No. 2 scorer in the nation, sandwiched in between several good drafted players. Hes been a huge part of why North Dakota is arguably the best team in the nation. He plays the game with a lot of skill and offensive creativity. He can make high-end plays and help on a pro power play. I think Kawaguchi is a fine skater, but the reason some scouts question his NHL projection is that hes 5-foot-9 and lacks true NHL quickness in his skating. Despite his size I find he drives the net well and can win some pucks. I think hes got a decent chance to play games, but his physical tools could hold him back. Scouts also think he could go back for his senior season.

18. Artyom Zub, D, SKA-KHL

Zub has been a top-four defenseman for SKA and has been prominent for Russia on the international stage the last few years. Zub is a mobile 6-foot-2 defenseman who can play at both ends of the rink. Despite his 12 goals on the season, I wouldnt call his offensive game high-end. Hes a good outlet passer with above-average hands but isnt going to be a power play guy in the NHL, and his ability to move the puck at the NHL level could be his biggest obstacle.

19. Julius Nattinen, C, JYP-Liiga

Some may remember Nattinen as a second-round pick by Anaheim in 2015. His first go-around in North America didnt go that well. After not producing at a significant level for three straight seasons, hes the clear goal scoring leader in Liiga right now with 29 in 47 games and second in points. He can make plays and finish them, but the main thing thats held him back for years has been his skating. Its arguably improved a little, but not dramatically. On the one hand, you have to respect his season; on the other hand, Im not so sure his second attempt in the AHL would go that much better than his first.

20. Alex-Olivier Voyer, RW, Sherbrooke-QMJHL

Voyer has been a big part of the QMJHLs best team this season in Sherbrooke. Hes a 6-foot-2 forward with power and skill in his game. He has the creativity to make tough offensive plays and shows a high level of hockey sense. He isnt an elite shooter, but he can certainly score goals, and Ive seen some real nice in tight snipes this season. His skating is fine. Its not a strength but I think hell be able to skate at the pro level. I dont know if the speed or skill in his game is high-end enough for the NHL, but I think hes got a punchers chance to make it.

21. Konstantin Okulov, RW, CSKA-KHL

Okulov has been a top forward for CSKA the past two seasons. Hes a very smart offensive player. He makes a lot of plays in the offensive zone because of how well he finds seams and makes tough plays to teammates. He has the skill and the hockey sense to become an NHL forward. I do find him to be a tad of a perimeter player who isnt great without the puck, and his quickness is average, too. I could see him becoming an NHL player, but I dont think its a lock the 25-year-old can play in the league on a full-time basis.

22. Wade Allison, RW, Western Michigan-NCHC (rights owned by Philadelphia)

Allison is a player with a great toolkit. Hes a big forward who can skate, he has a lot of skill and he can score. Hes never really had that big season in college, though, and hes been injured quite often. I do like the player, but a few years ago you would hear from NHL scouts who thought hes a no doubt top-six forward, and now I think hes more of a bubble prospect until he has a lengthy stretch of top performance.

23. Will Lockwood, RW, Michigan-Big 10 (rights owned by Vancouver)

Lockwood has been a good four-year college player, but its fair to say he hasnt taken a major step forward in recent years. Hes a highly skilled puck handler with good speed and can create some offense, especially off the rush. Hes an undersized forward who doesnt make a ton of plays, though, and its hard to see what kind of NHL player that would make. Theres at least enough to his game to sign and see if he improves in the AHL.

24. Brinson Pasichnuk, D, Arizona State

Pasnichuk has been a top scoring defenseman in college the past two seasons. Hes an undersized defenseman but has a lot of tools and is fun to watch. His offensive brain is great. He can run a pro power play due to his vision and he has a hard shot from the point. Hes not that big but he competes well. The one thing that may hold him back from being a for sure NHL player will be that, while hes a good and elusive skater, hes not a top of the line burner, which isnt ideal at his size. In terms of pure talent, getting him as a free agent is worth it; and if you can build up the skating, he could become a player.

25. Alex Limoges, LW, Penn State-Big 10

Limoges co-led college hockey in scoring in 2018-19, but this season he hasnt been quite as dominant for Penn State as a junior. I still like the player, particularly because of his great vision and overall hockey sense. For that reason, I think he has a chance to become an NHL player. Scouts are still wary about his skating translating to the pro level. I think his feet are average, but it will be what holds him back if he doesnt make it.

26. Johnny Walker, RW, Arizona State

Walker has been a top shot generator in college the past two seasons and inside the offensive zone he makes a lot happen. Hes got high-end playmaking and finishing ability. He finds the seams so well as a passer and consistently makes great plays while also having a bullet shot that can score from mid-distance. His skating isnt NHL quality, though. Its pro average at best, but I know scouts who think hell really struggle with the pro pace. I like the offensive tools a lot so I would bet on him.

27. Connor Mackey, D, Minnesota State-WCHA

Mackey has been the No. 1 defenseman for one of the best teams in college. He had contract offers from teams last season but chose to go back for his junior season. Hes a 6-foot-2 defenseman who can move the puck well, has some bulk and physicality to his game, and skates well enough to stay with pros. Its fair to say there is a lack of a wow factor in his game, and I do have mild questions on his offensive upside as he moves to the higher levels, but I could see enough puck-moving skill to play games toward the bottom of a lineup.

28. Hunter Shepard, G, Minnesota-Duluth

Shepard has been Duluths goalie for its back-to-back titles. Hes an extremely quick goalie who can make the tough saves consistently. He tracks pucks very well and tends to make all the right reads in the net. His game can have some extra movement at times, but part of that is just due to how quick he is. His main drawback is his size; he would be a notably undersized goalie for the NHL level. Hes also one of the rare goalies to be named captain of his club.

29. Jere Innala, LW, HPK-Liiga

A lot of the European free agents tend to be on the older side, but Innala is 21, was an important part of HPK winning Liiga last season as a 20-year-old and has had another quality season. Hes a player with the high-end skill to create offense versus pros. Hes a flawed player, though. Hes undersized, hes not great off the puck and, while he skates well, he lacks true top-tier quickness.

30. Timur Bilyalov, G, Kazan-KHL

Bilyalov has been a monster in the KHL this season, with a .944 save percentage. He has a lot of the tools you want in a goalie in having great quickness and great hockey sense. The obvious knock on him is hes 5-foot-10. Ive seen him measured at 5-foot-11, but the issue remains. He knows hes small and plays his angles extremely well, being very aggressive without being caught out of position too much. I think to be an NHL goalie at his size you need Juuse Saros level tools, and Im not sold Bilyalov has that. Also, every time I see a puck go in over his shoulder I wonder how much NHL projection he really has.

31. Mitchell Chaffee, RW, Massachusetts-Hockey East

Chaffee has been an important part of some good UMass teams in recent seasons. Hes a player who does a lot well. Hes got a good stick, can make some plays, he has some power in his game and he can drive the net. Chaffee also competes well off the puck and can penalty kill. His skating is average and Im skeptical hell be a true driver of offense in the pros, but he does have enough skill to put up some points.

32. Matt Kiersted, D, North Dakota-NCHC

Kiersted has been a top player for North Dakota this season and the guy who runs its first power play unit. Hes an excellent puck-mover with the offensive creativity to make tough plays inside the offensive zone, and he can stretch the ice on his exits. Hes been good defensively at the college level, however, given hes not that big or quick, it remains to be seen whether he can do the same versus men.

33. Alexei Melnichuk, G, SKA-KHL

The 21-year-old Melnichuk has taken steps forward this season, getting more than 15 KHL starts for SKA, where hes performed very well. Melnichuk is a very good puck tracker. He stays with the play very well and doesnt often have to scramble in his net. Hes done fine in Russia, but scouts question if he can be a true NHL goalie given hes 6-foot-1 and doesnt have true high-end quickness in the net. His progression is worth noting, but he may be better off staying in Russia and seeing if he can develop further.

34. Marc Michaelis, C, Minnesota State-WCHA

Michaelis has been a top player in the WCHA for the past few seasons and has even played for Germanys national team at times. Hes a bit of an older player though, as hell be 25 at the start of next season. Hes got great vision, and has both good skill and speed. He has talent but with Michaelis my question is whether its enough talent. I wouldnt call his skating or skill truly NHL caliber, so he may just be a minor leaguer.

Players who missed due to age eligibility:

Mathias Brome, LW Orebo-SHL

Fredrik Handemark, C, Malmo-SHL

Malte Stromwall, RW, Sochi-KHL

Gustav Rydahl, LW, Farjestad-SHL

Linden Vey, RW, CSKA-KHL

Of the five of them, Stromwall stands out the most as a bubble prospect due to his great hands and shot, but lacks NHL quickness. I know teams are interested in Rydahl, as well, but I dont see much offensive upside, more physical tools.

: dx135 (, 28 2020 22:43:03), 1



: , 28 2020 21:01:14

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The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads



: , 28 2020 20:30:43



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: , 09 2018 01:04:04

Over the past couple years an exciting new generation of NHL superstars have made names for themselves and collectively taken the league by storm. For a long time it was the usual suspects at the top of every NHL leaderboard, but things are changing quickly in a new era. Some players from the past generation are still hanging around, but their time is coming and theyve had to make room for the next wave. Eight of the top 10 scorers this season are 25 or under, including the entire top five. Ditto for the top two leaders in goals-per-game as well as the top two highest scoring defencemen. The league belongs to the kids, now and going forward.

When thinking about the future of hockey, my mind immediately went to the players in power on the ice whos going to run this league three years from now?

Mostly, itll likely be the same superstars who have already begun to take over the NHL before even entering their prime, mixed together with some young guns turning into elite stars, a few stalwarts not yet ready to relinquish their grasp on the league and some very fresh faces who are beginning their ascent into leagues upper echelon.

Figuring out exactly who slots where is a tall order, especially in a sport and league as unpredictable as this one. I gave it my best shot using my model based on Game Score to project each individual component for the remainder of this season and each season after that individually. That meant adjusting for the passage of time using an age curve, regressing to the mean based on sample size and estimating ice-time and power-play usage spikes. The results are purely empirical and algorithmically-based, but there is some guesswork involved when it comes to future opportunity as well as model biases (towards offence, though that may not be a bad thing with the way the league is trending) to consider. (The only subjective decision in the rankings was ordering defencemen amongst the forwards, otherwise the top 50 list would just be a list of forwards due to their larger overall impact and the higher predictiveness of offence, especially at each position).

The league has arguably never had as much talent as it does now and this couldve easily been a list of 100. That means a lot of great players will be left off as 50 is a tough number to crack, but that doesnt make those players any less special, nor does it put their path to being an actual top 50 player in 2021-22 in jeopardy its simply where they likely to stand given what theyve shown to date. Going forward three years leaves a large margin for error.

Going into the 2021-22 season, these are who will likely be the NHLs top 50 players.

2021-22 age is as of October 1, 2021

Top 50 NHL players

Who else? McDavid is the best player in the world now at age 21 and will remain the best player in the world until further notice. He dominates games with his breakneck speed and puck-handling ability, often at the same time, which sends defenders into a spiral. McDavid is a safe bet for 110 points or more annually, a lofty bar that would take a career year for others, but would likely be regularly within reach for McDavid. That hes doing it all with little help lends further credence to his dominance. When hes on the ice he can make a cellar dweller look like a Cup contender, carrying some of the largest on-ice impacts in the league. This is his league. McDavid is the only current player my model projects to be worth over five wins and hes ahead of the class by a healthy margin. In his prime, he might approach six or seven the skys the limit for him and Im excited to see him reach it.

With the league embracing a need for speed its no wonder that MacKinnon has emerged as an MVP-candidate, with everything beginning to finally click just one year ago. Hes proving last year was no fluke and that hes here to stay as one of the leagues best players. Hes arguably the closest to the McDavids throne right now and this season could spark some debate, as my current projections have the two neck-and-neck, with MacKinnon having a legitimate chance at winning the scoring title thanks to his current sizeable lead. Whether he does or doesnt, MacKinnon will likely remain one of McDavids biggest challengers over the next few seasons as one of three players where 100 points could be the norm, rather than a peak.

Before the season started, I suggested it would only be a matter of time before Matthews is considered next in line after McDavid. Early on that prediction looked prescient with an explosive start from the Leafs franchise center, but an injury and the further emergence of MacKinnon derailed that slightly (though hes back with a vengeance since returning from injury). Matthews is very close though and will only keep narrowing the gap further over the next three seasons, sparking many debates along the way. What really puts him behind MacKinnon (and McDavid) is ice time. Over the past two seasons Matthews is fourth in all-strengths points-per-60 and second when looking at primary points behind MacKinnon and ahead of McDavid in both situations. Those two centers play 22 minutes a night while Matthews sits at 17:40 this season, making up a lot of their perceived difference in value only McDavid rates higher in projected Game Score per 60 at present time. Despite the lower usage, Matthews has scored at over a goal-per-game rate and is on a 135-point pace, tied with Mikko Rantanen for the league lead. That figure likely regresses this season, but more minutes in the future could make him a serious 100-point threat annually like the two players above him and one of two players who could hit 50 goals regularly.

Even before he was getting top-line minutes and big role on the power play, it was obvious Pastrnak had superstar potential. He was an efficient scorer in the minutes he did get making it no surprise at what he could do in a bigger role. This year hes taken that to another level, scoring 19 goals in 27 games and playing at a 91-point pace. He likely wont become as prolific a goal-scorer as Matthews or Patrik Laine, but hes next in line and one of three players with an over 45-goal projection in 2022. Theres many that will be worthy, but for now Pastrnak looks like hell be the games best right winger in three years time.

If you dont think Pastrnak is the leagues best right winger, youre may be arguing a case for Kucherov. For the next two seasons my model still figures Kucherov will be the stronger player, but that changes by 2022 as Pastrnak enters his prime and Kucherov begins to exit his. Kucherov should still be a major player in the year-end scoring race for the next few seasons and by 2022 should still be good for 90-plus points, all while being a winger who can drive play.

The current point-scoring leader sits on the fringe of the top five and thats a scary proposition for the West as the Avalanche are the only team with two top 10 players and are dangerously close to two top-five players. Theres of course some collinearity involved there with two teammates attached at the hip, but whats clear is that Rantanen and MacKinnon have an undeniable chemistry, torching the league over the last calendar year. Their on-ice shooting percentage has been high this season, yes, but while I dont expect Rantanen to finish with 135 points, theres a decent chance he finishes with over 100 after earning 46 in his first 28 games. After the top three on this list, hes next in projected 2022 points with around 97. Rantanens rise has been meteoric, but hes the real deal and doesnt get nearly enough credit for it.

Laine does one thing well, but that one thing is pretty damn important: he fills the net. His 18 goals in November were the most since March 1993 and hes currently on a 64-goal pace. For others that number would be a pipe-dream. For Laine I can buy it, especially now that hes added shot volume to his arsenal with a projected 300-plus total in 2022 to lead the league. Even if he doesnt hit that mark, a 60-goal season feels doable for him going forward and hes projected for 59 in 2022. Like Matthews, Laine doesnt get the same ice-time benefit as his contemporaries and an increase from his current 17:19 (!) to 19 or 20 minutes could do wonders for his totals.

The first defenceman on the list is a player many figured had the potential to be the leagues best defenceman one day even before he was drafted. That day looks like it could be the 2021-22 season based on what Dahlin has shown so far in his brief NHL career. Hes already tilting the ice at an elite rate with a plus-five percent relative Corsi and that figure is only going to get better as he gets more and more acclimated with the NHL game. Hes on pace for 40 points this season, but could see that number skyrocket once he becomes the top dog on a Sabres power play that has potential to be loaded in the coming years. He has 60-point upside while maintaining a strong two-way game a Norris trophy feels likely in his future.

A few years ago when the Finns were thinking about their own future of hockey, they recognized a national crisis formed by a blue collar identity; a country made up of grinders that lacked top-tier skill. Now, the countrys high-end talent pool is the healthiest its ever been and by 2022 could feature three top 10 players in the world more than any other country. Barkov is a workhorse, point-per-game player that sacrifices nothing in his own end, plays big minutes in all situations and does it clean with a projected top five penalty differential. Hes drawn 20 penalties this season to lead the league and hasnt taken a single one yet. As far as complete players go, hes the best going forward and a likely perennial Selke contender.

If not for a generational defenceman entering the league this season, top defenceman honours would likely be going to Jones in three years time. Hes already close now, finishing fourth in Norris voting last season and likely becoming a yearly fixture for that award from here on out. Hes incredible in his own end and found offensive flourish to match last season topping 50 points for the first time in his career with a 57-points. He can do it all and should challenge as the leagues best defenceman until Dahlin is ready to take the throne for himself.



: , 09 2018 00:14:09

sabr ():
Jack Eichel is one of the best centers in the league

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: , 08 2018 23:51:45

Jack Eichel is one of the best centers in the league

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Running and hunting and slashing
and crushing and searching
and seeing and stabbing and shooting
and thrashing and smashing and
burning destroying and killing
and bleeding and pleading then Death



: , 08 2018 23:03:03




: , 08 2018 22:34:26

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: , 08 2018 11:54:57


Running and hunting and slashing
and crushing and searching
and seeing and stabbing and shooting
and thrashing and smashing and
burning destroying and killing
and bleeding and pleading then Death



: , 08 2018 01:45:07

Its still taking time to get used to. Looking at the standings and seeing teams that made a habit of enjoying extended playoff runs every spring occupying the bottom portion of the win column. Was it all that long ago that the Blackhawks and Kings competed in one of the best playoff series of this era?

But the turnover in the NHL right now is in full force. And its only going to be more dramatic as the young talent gap deepens and aging contracts look even worse. It means now teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres are jostling for position to be the next version of those great teams.

In talking about what was to come in Colorado, Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon put it this way: We always say, its a good time to be an Av right now. I feel like we have 10 years, 10 chances to win.

Theyre on the cusp of becoming a power in the West, and the successful signing of William Nylander by the Toronto Maple Leafs only further cemented the notion that Toronto is the Easts future power, something MacKinnon acknowledged.

Theyre an amazing team and all their best players are around our age as well, MacKinnon said. Theyre doing a little better than us right now, but itd be cool to meet them in the final one day.

In helping kick off our Future of the Game package at The Athletic this week, we wanted to see which teams were best poised to be at the top of the standings in three years, the 2021-22 season. To determine these Future Power Rankings, we wanted as much brain power as possible on board. Corey Pronman, Eric Duhatschek, Scott Burnside, Katie Strang, Scott Wheeler, Dom Luszczyszyn and Justin Bourne all joined me as panelists, voting on every team in a number of categories that are crucial to shaping future success.

Here are the four categories in which each NHL team was judged in determining the 2021-22 Future Power Rankings:

Young core (under 25 years old) and prospects All things considered, the young players competing now in the NHL and the emerging prospects are going to go a long way in how competitive you believe every team will be in three years. This category focuses on the NHL players in the lineup under 25 years old and prospects in the pipeline. (Panelists: Craig Custance, Scott Wheeler, Corey Pronman)

Management and coaching This is a tough one because front offices and coaching staffs may look different in three years. And you might love the coach but hate the GM. This category factors all that in when assessing those making personnel decisions and the decisions on the ice. (Panelists: Craig Custance, Katie Strang, Justin Bourne)

Ownership and market Success typically starts at the top and a franchise that has the freedom to spend tends to do better than those with cheap ownership or a questionable market. (Panelists: Craig Custance, Eric Duhatschek, Scott Burnside)

Salary cap situation In evaluating a teams cap situation in three years, we looked at the contracts coming off the books, the upcoming deals that have to be done and those teams that still have bad deals counting against the cap in 2021-22. (Panelists: Craig Custance, Dom Luszczyszyn, Katie Strang)

The methodology: Each panelist was asked to rate the current 31 NHL teams in their category on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best. Because theres nothing to evaluate, Seattle was kept out of this exercise. The three ratings for each team were averaged out for that category. Because a bulk of the success in three years will be driven by young talent, when calculating the total scores, the young core and prospects category was counted twice to determine each teams final rating.

So here it is, your projections for the best teams in 2021-22:

Even with the headaches that come with high-profile contract negotiations, this team is set up to be a Stanley Cup contender for the next several years. They were one of the few franchises to earn perfect 10s from panelists in multiple categories. Theyre stocked with young talent. Theres an ownership that will spend. Its a great hockey market. Theres a strong faith in the duo of Kyle Dubas and Mike Babcock. The only thing keeping this franchise close to the pack is its salary cap situation, one that isnt going to get any easier in three years.

Justin Bourne on giving high marks in Management and Coaching: I just think they have the perfect Yin and Yang with Mike Babcock and Kyle Dubas. Babcock has that old school, work-hard mentality. Kyle is more analytically driven. They balance each other out. The organization is pulling the best parts of both worlds.

The slow build by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to result in a staying power that should make the Jets a Western power for the foreseeable future. The Jets got strong marks across the board, including a 10 from one panelist in the young core and prospects category. Like the Maple Leafs, the big concern from panelists that kept their overall score in the eights was future salary cap space. Assistant GM Larry Simmons worked magic in the past on getting deals done, but the Patrik Laine deal is going to be a monster.

Scott Wheeler on why he especially likes the Jets young talent: The big thing is that, beyond the fact that they drafted incredibly well, theres a lot of young players who are still coming. They just havent really missed. Theyre one of the very few teams that havent missed in recent years and thats on top of the fact they have one of the best young cores in the league, featuring Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. The Leafs, another team with a young core like theirs, just dont have the young players coming.

This team already has a candidate for the best line in hockey. They own Ottawas first-round pick. Nathan MacKinnon has a fantastic contract, and defenseman prospect Cale Makar is still on the way. Hes quietly dominating college hockey, said one amateur scout of Makar. Those guys usually track. This franchise is still filling out its depth, but its headed in the right direction.

Corey Pronman on ranking the young talent slightly lower than other panelists: I look at that team, I think Cale Makar is a really, really good prospect, but I look at the rest of the farm system and its very, very average. The NHL guys are awesome and, while I respect the two elite guys they have in the NHL in Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, as well as someone like Samuel Girard I just dont think the farm system is that deep. Compared to a team like say Buffalo with elite young depth in the NHL plus a good farm, or Florida with great young players in the NHL plus a great farm, leads me to give them a slightly lower rating.

The Bruins are one of the few franchises to win a Stanley Cup in the salary cap era and quickly retool to set themselves up for success in the next several years. This group isnt loaded with as much young talent as some of the other teams at the top of this list, but an improving cap situation in three years, good young talent and an ownership that will spend should keep Boston in contention. Tuukka Rask, David Backes and David Krejci all come off the books following the 2020-21 season, setting this team up to have financial flexibility. And David Pastrnaks contract will look even better.

Scott Burnside on why he rated ownership and market so high: For me, its their staying power. The consistency of ownership is self-evident, but also their relevance in the marketplace. Theyve managed through thick and thin to remain a really important part of maybe one of the greatest sports towns in the world. Its an organization in a very competitive market that has always carved out an important place.

The future is coming early for the Sabres, one of the NHLs hottest teams in the first part of this season. Its been a painful process but Buffalo has all the necessary ingredients to win Stanley Cups a franchise center, a franchise defenseman and an owner who will spend. Panelists were very bullish on the young talent, but theyre not quite as convinced about ownership and the future cap situation, which dropped the Sabres a few slots. In 2021-22, Kyle Okposo will still have two years left on a deal paying him $6 million per season, and theres going to be a huge raise for Rasmus Dahlin between now and then.

Pronman on the Sabres collection of young talent: Its a really good, young group. Are they going to contend this year? No, theyre probably playing a little over their head. Jack Eichel is one of the best centers in the league. Dahlin is quickly turning into a star defenseman. Hes not there yet but youre starting to see flashes. Hes going to be one of the best defensemen in the league in a short period of time. Casey Mittelstadt hasnt kicked it in yet, but he and Tage Thompson are going to be good players. They have good guys in Rochester, too. Theres a lot of reason for optimism in Buffalo.

The Canucks eye for talent in the era of GM Jim Benning gave them a young core and collection of talent that earned a perfect 10 from one of the panelists in that category. Elias Pettersson looks every bit like hell be one of the games next superstars. Questionable contracts that will still be on the books (Loui Eriksson and Jay Beagle, for instance) in three years dinged the Canucks in these rankings, but theres still a lot here to be excited about.

Wheeler on why he likes the Canucks young core: The biggest thing for me on Vancouver is Im higher than most on a lot of their young players. I really like Thatcher Demko, I really like Adam Gaudette. Obviously Pettersson and Brock Boeser are wonderful young players. Jonathan Dahlen is outstanding. Theres just depth in numbers there and a goaltender prospect who projects as a No. 1, which a lot of teams dont have.

They should have Connor McDavid in three years, so theres that. Having the best player in the world on your roster, and one who will be right in his prime, is a competitive advantage. Edmonton drops down the list because of questions surrounding everything else, from management to their future cap situation. Early returns on the Ken Hitchcock hiring are promising, but its too early to project his impact anywhere beyond this season.

Dom Luszczyszyn on why hes concerned about the Oilers future cap space: The fact that they have Milan Lucic still on the cap for as long as they do is a little rich. And they have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins coming up that year for a new deal, so itll be interesting to see what they do there.

The Flames are in this spot because theyre solid across the board. There is good, young talent in Calgary. There still is faith in the direction of GM Brad Treliving and coach Bill Peters. Every year that passes makes the contracts for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan look even better, although James Neal at $5.75 million in his mid-30s in three years is a concern.

Burnside on ranking the ownership/market higher than other panelists: Its just the fact that they havent gone through the wild swings weve seen in other Canadian markets like Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa. Sure they havent had the success fans would hope for, but they really havent hit that rock bottom that lots of other Canadian franchises have.

A spot in the top 10 is a vote of confidence for the rebuilding process orchestrated by GM Jeff Gorton. There were some differences of opinions surrounding the young players the Rangers are building around, but the Rangers received strong marks for their market, management group and a cap situation that is clearing up nicely just in time to spend money to compliment the young players being added to the system.

Katie Strang on giving the management and coaching group high marks: What I like about Jeff Gorton as GM is I feel he has a very clear plan for the years moving forward and that theyve been pretty transparent about what that plan is going to be and very decisive. I think David Quinn is going to have a steep learning curve jumping from collegiate hockey to the NHL, but the fact that hes regarded as a superlative communicator will serve him well, especially coaching a young, rebuilding team.

The Lightning are a Cup contender now and have many of the ingredients to remain on the cusp of championship contention in three years. Like most contending teams, their marks in the prospect category are hurt as prospects and draft picks are shipped off in deals to win now. Theres also going to be severe cap headaches for GM Julien BriseBois in the future. But theres good talent thats still young. Theres a great owner. Theres a management structure and a respected head coach. This has quietly become the NHLs model franchise.

Bourne on giving management high marks even as Steve Yzerman transitions out: When Julien BriseBois was in the AHL, he was running Syracuse and he put together a great squad there. He has great talent to work with now in Tampa. Steve Yzerman is as good as it gets and Jon Cooper is one of the best coaches in the league. Theres not a guy there that gives me any pause. Definitely very high on them.

The Red Wings are working the delicate balance of trying to stay competitive while collecting young talent and burning off bad contracts. This is an important year in that process. For one, it appears that Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Dennis Cholowski are all tracking to be better than initially anticipated from outside observers success reflected in the strong scores for coaching and management. That coach Jeff Blashill is both developing young talent and coaching an overachieving team is also reflected, although its worth noting that neither the coach nor the GM is under contract beyond next season, so it could be a different look in 2021-22. There is good talent but still a real need for more elite talent in the Red Wings organization reflected in the panelists views of the young core. Panelists also downgraded the Red Wings future cap situation in large part because theyll still be paying vets Frans Nielsen, Danny DeKeyser and Justin Abdelkader significant salaries in 2021-22.

Eric Duhatschek on his lower ranking for ownership than other panelists: No matter who you talked to, Mike Ilitch was good for hockey in Detroit. Mike Ilitch did things the right way, he put his trust in his hockey people and it worked and it resurrected a franchise. It seems to me that in the new era, its more corporate. I think it has gone from a model organization to one that is very much like other organizations and not necessarily a bad thing. Im watching the games, Im seeing empty seats where I havent seen empty seats before.

The Flyers may be in transition as they move past former GM Ron Hextall, but this rating suggests that history will be kind to the Hextall era in Philadelphia. There are good, young players contributing and contracts on the books that have the potential to age really well. As expected for a team that fired its GM and has a lame-duck coach, the Flyers were hurt in that category compared to others.

Luszczyszyn on why he rated the Flyers cap situation higher than others: I really like the Shayne Gostisbehere contract ($4.5 million AAV through 2022-23) and Claude Giroux still seems like fair value even though hes going to be 34. Maybe its a bit optimistic. I love the Sean Couturier and Gostisbehere contracts a lot. Thats what skewed it for me.

This seems about right for a team that perpetually seems on the cusp of something good. Theres a bit of everything in Florida. Enticing prospects. A center in Aleksander Barkov on a fantastic contract, and a top pair defenseman in Aaron Ekblad signed to a reasonable deal. Concerns about the management, coaching, ownership and market kept the Panthers out of the top 10.

Pronman on ranking the talent higher than any panelist: I love some of the guys in that system. I think Henrik Borgstrom is a big-time talent. Grigori Denisenko is really talented. Owen Tippett is really talented. I dont know if all three of those guys are going to be impact guys in the NHL. I probably have them in that order, but I think all three of them have the talent to be top-six forwards in the NHL. Barkov is one of the best centers in the NHL. Ekblad, if he wasnt on the same team as Keith Yandle, hed put up more points. I see a lot of forward talent in that organization.

The Golden Knights have developed quickly into a playoff contender but there has always been a longer-term plan in place by GM George McPhee. That said, contracts signed this offseason have eaten away future cap space, and in the 2021-22 season, the Golden Knights will be paying a 37-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury and 33-year-old Max Pacioretty $7 million each. That may be an issue, which was noted by panelists in that category.

Burnside on his strong marks for ownership and market: Whats not to like? Not just the fact that they went to a Stanley Cup final, they hit all the right notes in a community, especially in a very difficult time following the mass shooting. Their instant connection with the community on so many levels has been exemplary. Even if they dont follow up with a strong season on the ice, this is still a Grade A franchise, top to bottom.

The Blue Jackets are a tough team to evaluate because a big part of their future hinges on how the Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky situations play out. But even putting those aside, this is still a playoff-caliber team that is being driven by a lot of really good, young players. If they can parlay their potential free agents into even more future assets, this ranking goes up. Their future cap situation right now is a strength, especially because of the Seth Jones contract but thats an area to watch in large part because of the uncertainty surrounding Panarin and Bobrovsky, along with the need to get defenseman Zach Werenski signed long term.

Pronman on his optimism surrounding the young core: Most of the players on that team are young and winning. Seth Jones is a Norris candidate. Zach Werenski is not that far behind. Pierre-Luc Dubois has proven hes a first-line center in the NHL. And you have Oliver Bjorkstrand and Markus Nutivaara who have emerged as good, young players. All the guys playing minutes on that team are 22 years old. Its a really good young team. If you look down their farm system, there are guys I like but nothing that overwhelms you there. The talent is all on the roster.

For a team that has tried to stay in contention for the past several years, the Blues still managed to build a stockpile of young talent, which is reflected with a strong score in that category. And the Blues did well to resist the temptation to sign veterans from their past playoff successes to long-term contracts that would have been prohibitive in three years. But there are also concerns. Ownership doesnt have the deep pockets other franchises have and GM Doug Armstrong has cycled through coaches in recent years. The lack of clear direction behind the bench hurts the Blues, as noted by panelists in that category.

Wheeler on why he rated the Blues young players so highly: I love Robert Thomas and I love Jordan Kyrou. I think Kyrou is a fabulous prospect and one of the best skaters in the world already. When you can skate like that, I think you can be an impact player at the next level. Thomas projects as a No. 1 center and thats extremely hard to come by these days.

The Canadiens received average scores across the board but got a push up these rankings in large part because of a high score in market and ownership. There are players to like in the Montreal pipeline but there are also contracts that could be a bit onerous in three years. Shea Weber will still have four years remaining on his deal after the 2021-22 season that pays an average of $7.86 million. Hell be 36 in three years. Carey Price will be 34 with four more years left on a deal that averages $10.5 million.

Bourne on why his management and coaching score was higher than other panelists: The biggest thing is I believe Claude Julien is a really good coach. If you believe that Marc Bergevin is a 6 out of 10 as a GM, then, for me, Julien is a 9 out of 10. So you split the difference. The team is probably over performing expectations right now, even though the expectations were low.

Strong ratings for the young core and prospects Carolina drafted could prop up other concerns enough to put the Hurricanes in the top half of the league. Panelists were lukewarm toward the management, coaching, ownership and market, compared to other teams. For a team driven by young talent, there are also cap concerns. Jordan Staal will still have term left on his deal that runs through 2022-23 at $6 million per season. Hell be 33 in 2021-22. On the flip side, Sebastian Aho remains unsigned and his pricetag is only going to go up from here.

Bourne on why he likes Carolina management more than other panelists: This is my analytics bias. I really love (Carolinas vice president of hockey management and strategy) Eric Tulsky; he keeps getting an elevated role there. They seem to keep making smart decisions with personnel and then get submarined by goaltending. Theres a process they have in place. I trust in whatever theyre doing even though I cant see it.

The Predators have long been a draft and development team but there were low marks on that front moving forward for a team very much in its Stanley Cup window right now. Thats typical of teams in win-now mode. The Predators got strong ratings in management, coaching, ownership and market a foundation that should keep this team competitive for a number of years, especially if they keep finding ways to sign key players to team-friendly contracts.

Burnside on why he gave Nashville ownership and market a high rating: To me, Nashville is the standard bearer for all mid to small-sized markets. Especially after their early ownership issues, the current ownership group has brought stability and has given management all the resources they need to build a perennial Stanley Cup contender. And they are much loved in the community and have become a destination franchise for players, something you might not have imagined a decade ago.

For a team that has been in rebuilding mode and skewing younger, youd like to see higher ratings for the young core. Still, with above-average ratings for management and coaching, there appears to be faith in the job coach John Hynes and GM Ray Shero are doing. The Devils future cap situation is an interesting one to watch because there are two pivot points. One will be whether or not they can retain Taylor Hall when his contract expires following 2019-20. The other revolves around goalie Cory Schneider. If his game continues to decline, his $6 million cap hit in 2021-22 will be especially problematic.

Pronman on his concerns about the Devils prospect pool: The Devils should be thankful they won the lottery two years ago and got Nico Hischier. Hes huge for that organization right now. I think hes going to be a star in the league, hes a really talented player. Pavel Zacha, there are questions about what hes going to become and Im skeptical if hell ever be a legitimate top-six forward. Jesper Bratt looks like a hell of a pick and a good NHL player for a long time. I think Jesper Boqvist is a good prospect. Ty Smith and, maybe to a degree, Joey Anderson get you excited, but theres not a ton of star talent in that organization right now. Its Nico and some pretty good guys.

Even as GM John Chayka worked hard to draft impact players and make incremental improvements to the Coyotes, its the usual issues that prevented panelists from getting too excited about the franchise. An average score of 2.3 for ownership and market drove the Coyotes into the bottom third of the league despite above-average scores elsewhere.

Eric Duhatschek on rating the market and ownership poorly: The league has invested so much time and so much effort into making this work. By now it should have been sorted out. It seems to be for sale again. The arena project seems stalled. It hasnt worked at the box office or on the ice for a long time, how long does it take to sort this all out? Gary Bettman has done a very good job of putting out fires in most places; it feels like that one is raging on. If theres a relocation, which they never admit to wanting to do, this is the likeliest candidate and Houston is the likeliest destination.

Despite good scores for the young players and above-average ratings for the duo of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz, the Islanders were weighed down by concerns about the market and future salary cap considerations. The Islanders have a surprising amount of players who will still be under contract in the 2021-22 season, a group that will all be in their 30s in Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, Leo Komarov, Johnny Boychuk, Thomas Hickey and Andrew Ladd. On top of those millions already committed, they still have to get a young superstar signed in Mathew Barzal.

Luszczyszyn on why he rated the Islanders future cap situation so poorly: They have Leo Komarov at $3 million and Cal Clutterbuck at $3.5 million and Josh Bailey at $5 million. They have Johnny Boychuk for $6 million. Why is Scott Mayfield signed for five more years? And they also have Andrew Ladd at $5.5 million, as well. I think a rating of two is generous.

The circle of life in the NHL will continue to weigh the Blackhawks down for the next several years if these projections are accurate. The organization needs more young talent, and contracts that are already questionable now are going to be even worse in three years. By then, Brent Seabrook will be 36 and still have two years remaining on a contract that pays him $6.875 million on average per season. The Duncan Keith contract will no longer be a competitive advantage, as it has been for years. This is going to be a tough stretch for the Blackhawks to navigate.

Pronman on why he rated the Blackhawks young players lower than others: On the NHL team, Alex DeBrincat is a great player. Hes a first-line forward, a goal scorer. That was a great pick. Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini both have stuff to prove still, especially Strome. Hes really talented but he has to show he can do it at the NHL level. You look at their farm system, I think its a fine farm system, I dont think its an amazing farm system. Adam Boqvist has been up and down in London this season. Nicolas Beaudin, hes been good but I havent been blown away by him. I think Dylan Sikura is close to a call-up. Its the same questions I have for other farm systems outside of DeBrincat and maybe Strome and maybe Sikura and maybe Boqvist, where is the star talent? Where are the guys killing it at their respective levels? I dont see that yet.

In three years, captain Jamie Benn is going to be 32 years old with three years remaining on a deal worth $9.5 million per season. The clock is already ticking on that contract. There will also still be a year left on Ben Bishops deal, and hell be in his mid-30s. There should be some urgency to win now in Dallas. GM Jim Nill developed a well-earned reputation as a strong draft and develop guy, but the low scores for the young talent in Dallas suggest theres questions about how effectively its happening right now. The Stars cap situation gets strong marks, in large part because of the flexibility on defense provided by expiring deals and a fantastic John Klingberg contract.

Pronman on his low rating for the Stars prospects and young players: Miro Heiskanen is a huge, huge piece. Hes a hell of a player. Hes going to be playing monster minutes for that team for a long time. Its after Heiskanen when you start asking questions. Where are the impact players in this organization right now? Ive seen a lot of Ty Dellandrea. Hes a nice player, but I have questions if hes going to be a big time NHL player. I give credit for Denis Guryanov, as I came down on him last year, but hes looked good this season. Im still debating if hes going to be a really good NHL player. Hes back on the radar. Val Nichushkin is just OK. The Stars first-round pick Riley Tufte, I havent heard really good things about. Outside of Heiskanen, who is a great player, its hard to get super excited about a lot of the other pieces.

Panelists like the GM and coach tandem in Minnesota. Most like ownership and the market. But concerns about the young talent pool along with the impact of the big contracts on the books push the Wild down these standings. We always knew the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter deals would eventually weigh things down and, in the 2021-22 season, Parise will still have three years left on that deal ($7.54 AAV) as a 37-year-old forward. But the big focus has to be infusing the franchise with more young talent. In the past three drafts, the Wild had a total of two picks in the first two rounds, which has impacted organizational depth.

Duhatschek on why he was harder on ownership than other panelists: Im not as big a fan of Craig Leipold as some people are. There are certain ownership groups that believe they should be further ahead than they are. In a 31-team NHL, what people lose sight of is that you basically win three championships per century. The best you can do as a hockey operations department is put together a production on the ice that can win a championship, to try to make all the right decisions and hope for the best. I think the fact that theres been a transition in the front office, the coach is in trouble those people are doing a good job and theyve been a good team for a long period of time. I just wonder about the impatience of the ownership there. The market seems strong in terms of the support, I just think maybe the ownership could be a little more hands off.

Managing a team as its star players get older and the salaries stay the same age is not an easy task. In three years, it wouldnt be surprising to see the Capitals in the same situation as other recent league powers are finding themselves today. Tough decisions will have to be made around Alex Ovechkin, whose contract expires after the 2020-21 season, and Nicklas Backstrom, whose deal is done after next season. As is the case for most contending teams that sent draft picks and prospects away to win, there isnt a ton coming in the system, as reflected by poor scores there.

Katie Strang on her concerns about the future cap situation: I feel like some of those contracts are not going to age well and that theyre going to have a few onerous deals on the books that are going to make maneuverability difficult. T.J. Oshie, for example, will be 34 years old and still have three years left on a deal paying him $5.75 million per season. Im also not sold on Tom Wilson at that price tag and hell have two years left at $5.17 million. I dont feel like hes proven yet that he knows how to walk that fine line of physicality without being a liability to his own team. Until he proves that, I dont know if hes worth that price.

The Sharks are in the same camp as the team above and below in these rankings. A model franchise for a long time that should expect challenging times ahead. GM Doug Wilson did a nice job taking his foot off the gas at times during the Sharks long run as a playoff team in order to develop more players, and its reflected in strong scores for him and coach Peter DeBoer. In three years, Wilson is going to have a number of players in their 30s with big contracts, like Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Evander Kane and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Theres a decision to be made about Erik Karlsson, but hes a potential fifth. Theyve traded considerable packages built around futures to land Kane and Karlsson, and thats going to take its toll on the system.

Luszczyszyn on why he rated the Sharks future cap situation poorly: It was the massive amount of term to guys who probably wont be very good by the time 2021-22 comes around. Burns is 33 now, Vlasic is 31 and thats 15 million up until forever. Evander Kane, Im not sold on being a $7 million player. Couture is making the same amount as Claude Giroux, is one year younger and is not as good. What really set it off for me is Martin Jones. His contract is pretty terrible and I dont think hes a very good goalie, to be honest.

In three years, Sidney Crosby is going to be 34 years old. Crosbys ability to will himself and his team to great heights is remarkable, but even the best players in the world have to deal with the inevitable decline that comes in the mid-30s. The same goes for the other key parts of the Penguins core, including Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. The Penguins young core and prospects was rated at the bottom of the league by panelists, so it doesnt appear help is on the way.

Wheeler on rating the Penguins prospects poorly: When you trade away first and second-round picks for as long as they have and the draft isnt a focus, its tough. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have done an outstanding job developing prospects, but the Penguins havent had the draft picks, and when they have, they havent drafted particularly well in recent memory.

GM Bob Murray and his group have done a great job hanging on to picks and drafting well, one of the reasons why the Ducks have been perennial playoff contenders for a long time. But questionable marks from the panel in the prospect category suggests its thinning out. The 2021-22 season projects to be a challenging one. A 37-year-old Ryan Kesler will be playing for $6.875 million. The Ducks will have money and term tied up in Adam Henrique, who will be in his 30s. The Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf contracts will be off the books, which is a plus financially, but the franchise will also be tasked with replacing two players who were a big part of a long stretch of success.

Bourne on why he rated the coach and management group higher than other panelists: I really like their GM there (Bob Murray). I think he makes good decisions. They continually have high-end personnel. Im not real high on Randy Carlyle. When youre considering these things you find the middle balance in how much you trust each guy in each group.

This low ranking is all about whats at the top in Ottawa. Panelists recognized that there is good, young talent in Ottawa in the prospects category. But the Senators got crushed with a 1 in ownership and market. Its nearly impossible to win in the NHL without strong ownership setting the tone at the top, and even as the Senators bring in young talent, theres little faith that the right decisions will be made to support that talent.

Luszczyszyn on why he rated Ottawas cap situation poorly despite the Senators having future cap space I just feel like having one player signed in 2021-22 and that player being Bobby Ryan for $7.3 million, it seems not ideal. Especially when your two best players are up for contracts after this year in Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. Considering the long-term outlook for the team, I cant see them re-signing. Theyre going to have a very empty cap situation going forward, but they just have no players in 2022. I think thats not good.

There was a case to be made that the Kings should have had one last gasp playoff run in them with the core of their championship teams. Certainly, that was the thought process in bringing in Ilya Kovalchuk this summer. But it hasnt played out that way at all and the outlook doesnt get any brighter moving forward. Theres debate over the quality of high-end young talent in the system. Panelists rightly have questions about the direction of management and an interim coaching staff. And the future cap situation is bleak. For example, in the 2021-22 season, 37-year-old Dustin Brown will be earning $5.875 million. A 34-year-old Anze Kopitar will still have two years left on his deal at $10 million per season. Goalie Jonathan Quick, who already has trouble staying healthy, will be 35 and earning $5.8 million. Thats a problem.

Wheeler on his low rating for the Kings young core and prospects: There are a couple prospects there that I like. I like Rasmus Kupari, hes had a great year in Finland. Outside that, theyre an aging veteran team and the fact that they dont have more players like Kupari and prospects of that caliber is going to be a real issue for them going forward.

-> The Athletic ? [ : : ]
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(2863) , 09 2011 05:39:05
: Henriot, Vendel