Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
As he heads towards unrestricted free agency and the biggest contract of his career, Karri Ramo is saying all the right things. The question is will he get intercepted along the way by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving.
Ramo isn’t the top goalie slated to become a UFA July 1 — that distinction belongs to Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk — but he will be in demand if he doesn’t come to contract terms with the Flames. And the Wild have made every indication they intend to re-sign Dubnyk, which will play in favor of Ramo if he’s still unsigned July 1. Read more
Pending unrestricted free agents goalies Devan Dubnyk, Andrew Hammond and Karri Ramo raised their stock immensely this season. They’ll be much sought after on the open market come July 1. Chances are, however, they won’t make it to the open market if their existing teams are wise about things. Here’s a quick analysis of how the goaltending carousel will look this free agent season. Most teams are set between the pipes, but by my count five teams will need to lock down a starting goalie, while another seven teams will need backups. Read more
It’s amazing how things will change by Saturday night. Connor McDavid will know which NHL team he will belong to. The McDavid parents will know in which city their son’s adult life will begin to unfold and flourish. Vendors will go crazy preparing McDavid jerseys, signs and apparel.
(And make no mistake, McDavid will be the first overall selection in the June 26-27 NHL draft in Sunrise, Florida. There will be zero drama with that pick.)
The NHL’s draft lottery will be televised Saturday night at 8 pm. The proceedings will begin about 7:30, but the drawing of lottery balls will take place about a half hour later. McDavid’s most likely destination is a city other than Buffalo, but Buffalo has the best odds of all the 14 non-playoff teams. Here’s how it works.
The fact there are a surprisingly low number of teams looking for a berth in the post-season – realistically, only 18 teams are battling for 16 spots – means there’s a good chance we’ll see some Tanking Lite™ to joining Tanking™ the final two weeks of the regular season.
Florida (4.4 percent according to sportsclubstats.com), Dallas (1.0 percent) and San Jose (0.9 percent) are mathematically still alive to make the playoffs, but those numbers will dwindle to zero in short order. That means we pretty much know right now 12 of the 14 teams that will miss the playoffs.
We already know Buffalo, Arizona and Edmonton are in snail race for 30th place and the best odds (20 percent) to win the draft lottery and the right to select generational talent Connor McDavid. And we already know the 30th place will have a 100 percent chance or winding up with McDavid or Jack Eichel, the other future franchise player.
We also know the 2015 draft is a deep one. Besides these two projected superstars, there are a half dozen others who would be in the conversation for first or second overall any other average draft year. Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Ivan Provorov. Throw in Zach Werenski and Matt Barzal. So getting a pick in the top six or eight will be pretty special.
The Calder Trophy is surely the most prized and special of NHL awards. If you plan on winning the trophy, you have to be spectacular at a young age and pretty lights-out right off the hop. And no matter how dominant you were in capturing the Calder, young man, you’ll never be able to win it again.
There have been a lot of exceptional freshman seasons over the years. Three first-year NHLers were so good, they won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. Wayne Gretzky, Nels Stewart and Herb Gardiner are the centerpieces of our all-time all-rookie team, because, quite frankly, you can’t do any better as a rookie than also being named best player in the league. Read more
The first time I crossed paths with Matthew Wuest came in the summer of 2001 when the hockey world was in a quiet zone. It was mid-August and most hockey executives, players, even the staff at THN were enjoying vacations and outdoor patios.
Just a few weeks earlier, we had closed the pages on our annual Yearbook. By the middle of the month, it was on newsstands and in mailboxes. In short order, an email came to me from firstname.lastname@example.org. It was just about the most respectful, well-written complaint letter I’ve ever received. Matthew Wuest concisely explained who he was – a passionate fan of hockey who ran a site which monitored the progress of Detroit prospects – then diplomatically transitioned into a polite, but well-grounded complaint. He wasn’t so sure 19-year-old Swedish center prospect Par Backer should be ranked ahead of 23-year-old Russian pivot Pavel Datsyuk. They were sixth and eighth on the Red Wings’ top 10. And while he’s mentioning it, Datsyuk should probably be ahead of Jesse Wallin and Stefan Liv as well.
The email then delved into the attributes of said players and was written with such clarity and authority that I wrote Matthew back and explained the process of THN having to rely on the opinions of scouts to establish rankings for prospects we haven’t seen. We had a series of back-and-forths in the ensuing weeks and I came to learn Matthew was a 22-year-old university graduate with a computer science and journalism degree. He was passionate about both and keen to get started in the industry.
Let’s re-do the first round of the 2014 NHL draft using the information a panel of scouts provided in our annual Future Watch issue. Keep in mind, these are the blended opinions of 13 scouts, directors of player personnel or GMs and in many cases won’t jive with the thought processes of individual teams.
We asked these scouts to assess a list of 300 NHL prospects (the top 10s from each of the 30 teams) and to establish their own top 50 list, based on a five to 10-year projection window. Most of the NHL-affiliated players on this list of 300 were from drafts prior to 2014 or free agents. But about 70 of them were selected in the 2014 draft.
With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can re-order the 2014 draft if it were to be held again today. Two players from the 2014 draft made the immediate jump to the NHL. Florida’s Aaron Ekblad and Boston’s David Pastrnak fast-tracked this Future Watch rating exercise. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them one and two even though we know that 2014 draftees returned to junior, college or Europe could surpass them in coming seasons.
Here’s how the remainder of the first round would play out, based on the scouting committee’s evaluation of their progression so far in 2014-15. Of course, this exercise doesn’t take into consideration individual team preferences. Though we’ll never know for sure publicly, maybe Carolina would still take Haydn Fleury seventh overall even though the scouting community at large wouldn’t select him until midway through the first round.
The Hockey News has been publishing a special issue dedicated to NHL prospects since the late 1980s. What began as an “In The System” theme issue gave way to Future Watch in 1992. Our first top 50 list of prospects – compiled by canvassing a panel of scouts – appeared in Future Watch 1994 with Paul Kariya as the No. 1 prospect. The following season – 20 years ago – Ed Jovanovski was the chosen one. The headline read:
NHL’s premier prospect no ordinary Jovanovski
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, here’s how that winter, 1995 cover story by Ken Campbell read: