Ryan Kennedy is the associate senior writer and draft/prospect expert at The Hockey News. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all called his house. He lives in Toronto with his wife and kids where he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.
How soon is too soon to sound the alarm bells? Looking around the NHL right now, you’ll see unlikely teams such as Boston and the New York Rangers struggling early, but with such a small sample size, that seems like more of a blip than a pattern.
On the other hand, seeing Colorado with one win in four tries seems a little more harrowing.
Jake Gardiner brings one of the highest risk-reward games to Toronto’s depth chart, but early on in the season, the young defenseman seems to have been usurped by rookie Stuart Percy, who counters with smarts and mobility. On the morning of Toronto’s home tilt against Colorado, the big question was whether Gardiner was going to draw in after he had been scratched for the Leafs’ big win in New York over the Rangers. Coach Randy Carlyle was cagey after the morning skate, saying it was a “coach’s decision” (but you’re the coach!) and that the final answer would come after warm-ups. But one thing is clear: Percy is making it hard for the Leafs to take him out.
With NCAA hockey officially in full swing, there is action aplenty to watch for in the prospect world. Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Erie’s Connor McDavid already seem to have a fantastic game of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better going on, but who else should you be watching this season? Here are some of the other names making noise right now.
The Nashville Predators had been a pretty consistent playoff team, despite the fact the franchise rarely had an elite forward in the lineup. But that dearth of scoring seemed to catch up to them the past two seasons and the Preds found themselves on the outside looking in.
This year, Nashville has a new coach in Peter Laviolette and to outsiders, it seemed like a good choice based on style: Laviolette is known as a coach who can coax goals out of his team. But according to the Predators, they don’t want to get too far away from their bread and butter; the staunch defensive club created by former bench boss Barry Trotz.
When Brock Boeser and his buddies want to unwind in the summer, they go to Cannon River, near his hometown of Burnsville, Minn. It’s a perfect spot for swimming and cliff-jumping and sounds like an idyllic getaway for teenagers, particularly since Boeser’s career as a pro hockey player is looking promising right now.
A potential first-round pick in the 2015 draft, Boeser played at the All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo and before that, was chosen to represent Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in Europe this past August. He and linemate Tom Novak, a longtime friend from summer hockey, were 1-2 in tournament scoring, helping the Americans to a bronze medal. But just as the elite gathering was kicking off, a tragedy rocked Boeser’s world.
Mike Milbury has made a career out of being controversial, from beating a fan with his own shoe during his playing days, to lamenting about the “pansification” of hockey as a broadcaster. And in between, he traded some of the best players in the NHL away from his New York Islanders as GM of the franchise. (cough)
Last night, Milbury remarked on NBC’s broadcast of the Bruins-Flyers game that it was time for fighting to go. “It’s over” was a particularly clear remark on the matter, as he and fellow analyst Keith Jones cited the style of play these days and concussions.
And look, that’s a great corporate line to spew. But I like my hockey with a touch of mayhem and if a man with Milbury’s track record is coming down on one side of an issue, I have no problem going the other way.
No doubt there is evidence that the straight-up enforcer is going through an identity crisis right now; Paul Bissonnette couldn’t find work, nor could Kevin Westgarth or George Parros. But to say fighting should go altogether? We’re not there yet (and I hope we never will be).
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a work in progress, this is obvious. But with young defensemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly starting off the year as a tandem, there is tangible hope to hang your hat on. While both players are mobile, offensively-gifted rearguards, that doesn’t mean they can’t pair up. After all, Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin have made magic in Los Angeles and even if Gardiner and Rielly aren’t on that level, they still represent some of Toronto’s best hope on the back end.
Amazing to think Rielly is only coming into his second NHL season.
With NHL rosters set, we will soon say goodbye to some Hot List favorites. Since as soon as players such as Curtis Lazar in Ottawa and Anthony Duclair of the Rangers make their big-time debuts, they will be considered graduates here. But while those players make their dreams come true, others are still on the path, so let’s take a look at some of the prospects making noise around the world right now.