Matt Larkin

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News. He's been part of the THN team since 2011, but he's been married to hockey since he got beat up for collecting NHL sticker books in the mid-1980s. If you like strong opinions on the game itself, fantasy hockey tips and a hefty dose of pop culture in your readings, he's your man. And yes, the eyebrows are real.

Future Watch 2015: the NHL’s top 10 falling prospects

Matt Larkin
Stefan Matteau. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, I outlined the top rising prospects in THN Future Watch 2015, our ultimate prospect ranking publication. To recap the process:

Scouts from every NHL team rank their organizations’ top 10 prospects. That generates a pool of 300 players. A panel of about 15 (the number varies slightly by year) head scouts and GMs uses that 300-player list to create a top 50. Votes are assembled to create an aggregate top 50, and the panel also ranks each franchise’s prospect pools.

Which players have plummeted among our top 75 – or out of it – based on last year’s ranking? Here’s a look at Future Watch’s top fallers. Keep in mind anyone ranked last year who graduated to full-time NHL duty doesn’t count as a “faller.”

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Future Watch 2015: the NHL’s top 10 rising prospects

Matt Larkin
Quebec's Anthony Duclair  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Future Watch, our annual prospect-bonanza publication, is hitting newsstands right about…now. Inside that special edition, scouts from every NHL team rank their organization’s top 10 prospects. That generates a pool of 300 players. A panel of about 15 (the number varies slightly by year) head scouts and GMs uses that 300-player list to create a top 50. Votes are assembled to create an aggregate top 50, and the panel also ranks each franchise’s prospect pools.

Which players have skyrocketed among our top 75 based on last year’s rankings? Here’s a look at Future Watch’s top risers. Keep in mind anyone ranked last year who graduated to full-time NHL duty doesn’t count as a “riser,” nor do players drafted in 2014 who debuted on the list this year.

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Fantasy hockey: NHL trade deadline risers and fallers

Matt Larkin
Keith Yandle. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Time to take a deep breath after several weeks worth of stunning NHL trades. We’ve seen Evander Kane, David Clarkson (!), Jaromir Jagr and Keith Yandle change teams, just to name a few players.

Real-life GMs can rest until the draft. Fantasy GMs? No way. Now’s the time to capitalize on altered player values as a result of the trade flurry. Some players’ situations improve in their new environments and others’ take a downturn. The guys to dig deep for are those whose values change by association. A new linemate or ‘D’ partner can work wonders.

Here’s a look at some risers, fallers and changes to keeper-league stocks in hockey pools.

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How the Arizona Coyotes transformed their future in a hurry

Matt Larkin
Anthony Duclair, newest member of the Coyotes organization. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Don’t sleep on them Desert Dogs.

The Buffalo Sabres sure have held our attention this year, plummeting into the standings abyss in an unofficial push to win the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes. The Edmonton Oilers tire fire has populated plenty of headlines in Canada, as has the Toronto Maple Leafs’ shift toward a full rebuild.

But these Arizona Coyotes, I’ll tell ya. They struggle to fill their own building, so it’s no wonder they get lost in the noise. Yet in a span of 24 hours, they’ve set themselves on quite the path toward a bright future.

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The leftovers: how Jonathan Bernier and the remaining Maple Leafs cope with a rebuild

Matt Larkin
Jonathan Bernier.  (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s often a disconnect between rumor and result as the NHL trade deadline approaches. No so with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the month of February. Name the rumored departure and it’s happened so far like clockwork. Unrestricted free agents-to-be Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik were supposed to go, and they did. Early. No dillydallying from GM Dave Nonis. Off they went for picks, a prospect and warm bodies Zach Sill and Olli Jokinen.

The moves signalled the beginning of a rebuild but not a demolition of the team’s core just yet. It was obvious Nonis would ship out the UFAs to ensure he got something with his team way out of playoff contention.

Then came the David Clarkson bombshell. Essentially buying out Clarkson’s contract by acquiring the injured Nathan Horton, who doesn’t count against the cap, sent a message to the rest of the team: Toronto truly wants to shake up its nucleus. The operation is broke and needs fixing.

Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier played arguably his best game of the season Thursday night, turning away 47 Philadelphia Flyer shots in a 3-2 victory, and it was all the more impressive considering he and his teammates learned of the Clarkson news shortly before game time.

The team called a meeting and Clarkson wasn’t there. Bernier said he and the players knew something was up at that point.

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THN mock deadline trades: Yandle, Green and Petry

Matt Larkin
Keith Yandle. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We take a second crack at mock NHL trade deadline moves, this time shifting to the blueline. Defenseman trades are interesting because they involve such a premium position. It can lead to overpays. Stay-at-home Douglas Murray netted two second-round picks in 2013. Andrew MacDonald? A second- and third-rounder in 2014. Offense-minded D-men, especially those with manageable contracts and an additional year on their deals, can haul in more still. Jay Bouwmeester got Calgary a first-round pick when it sent him to St. Louis in 2013. Marek Zidlicky alone brought three skaters and two picks to Minnesota in 2012.

What, then, of sought-after Keith Yandle, Mike Green and Jeff Petry? Yandle has boom potential with a year left on his deal. Green and Petry make for handy rentals as pending unrestricted free agents. Here are some mock trades to consider.

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THN mock deadline trades: Jagr, Lupul and Vermette

Matt Larkin
Jaromir Jagr (Getty Images)

Better rush to get this blog up before every name in the headline above finds a new team.

The writing on the wall is pretty much in perma-Sharpie for right winger Jaromir Jagr and center Antoine Vermette. Left winger Joffrey Lupul has a decent shot at changing addresses before March 2′s trade deadline, too, assuming the Toronto Maple Leafs eat some of his $5.25-million cap hit.

Admit it: one of the funnest things to do this time of year is speculate on deals and propose some of your own. Let’s take a crack at it in this space with a few plausible swaps for each on-the-block player.

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Smith-Pelly/Sekac trade: risky for Ducks, safe for Canadiens. Who wins?

Matt Larkin
Jiri Sekac.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The trade deadline marks a time of buyers and sellers, of lopsided deals helping one side in the short term and the other down the road.

That’s why Tuesday’s swap between the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens feels odd. They rank second and first in their respective conferences and completed a true “hockey trade,” with right winger Devante Smith-Pelly, 22, going to Montreal for left winger Jiri Sekac, 22. Both players have one year remaining on their deals, Smith-Pelly at $800,000 and Sekac at $925,000, before becoming restricted free agents. They were born four days apart in 1992.

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