The WHL’s Kelowna Rockets are coming off a championship season that saw the powerhouse go all the way to the Memorial Cup final, losing to Oshawa in heartbreaking overtime. But 2015-16 offers a clean sheet of ice for the Rockets and they’re kicking things off with a bang, celebrating the franchise’s 25th anniversary with special jerseys.
After a week off for vacation, the mailbag returns in full force. The volume of questions is beginning to get fatter and that’s awesome, so keep them coming by hitting me up on Twitter with the hashtag #thnfutures. If your question isn’t answered this week, check back next time. Let’s get to it!
The one thing I’ll always remember about Alexander Burmistrov during his Barrie Colts days is how skinny he looked. He was a perfect example of a prospect who had great tools; you just had to forecast what he would look like once a couple years in the weight room kicked in.
But the Atlanta Thrashers needed talent right away and the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft went straight to the NHL, where he survived and contributed. Then the team moved to Winnipeg, where all the good vibes of NHL-starved Manitoba fans couldn’t push an underdeveloped squad into the post-season under coach Claude Noel. And Burmistrov certainly didn’t thrive under the conditions, either.
So the lanky young Russian returned to his homeland, playing two years in the KHL for Ak Bars Kazan, his local squad.
Now he’s back.
It’s not often that two teams unveil new logos on the same day, but Tuesday both the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads and AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins debuted brand new primary marks.
Trouble for the Steelheads is there’s a clearcut winner and it’s certainly not the OHL club. While the new Mississauga crest stays true to what the club has worn over the past three seasons, it’s not enough of a departure to really even feel like a new logo. All the updated features are ones that were included previously, and the only thing removed was the Steelheads word mark.
Previously, the logo had the trout leaping across the top of the Steelheads name, with a small bar underneath reading “Mississauga.” The ‘A’ of the Steelheads word mark contained a maple leaf as a nod to Canada. The updated logo dropped the Steelheads name and placed Mississauga in a rounded border with a maple leaf after the city. Read more
Though it’s named for a Czechoslovakian player, make no mistake: the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament has historically belonged to Canada.
That was once again the case on Saturday, as Canada’s latest under-18 squad dropped Sweden 7-3 in the championship game. It was Canada’s eighth straight win at the tournament, and its 20th championship in the tournament’s 25-year history.
Kelowna’s Leon Draisaitl was the Memorial Cup MVP, but in two games (plus a minute and a half of overtime), the Edmonton Oilers prospect didn’t have a single point against the Oshawa Generals, who raised the major junior trophy thanks to a 2-1 overtime win over the Rockets. Instant hero Anthony Cirelli, a 2015 draft prospect, scored both goals in the final, but Cole Cassels was the embodiment of a Generals squad that grinded, smothered and physically punished teams all year long.
Cassels, taken 85th overall by Vancouver in 2013, helped suffocate Connor McDavid in the OHL final, holding the Erie Otters phenom to one point in the first two games of Oshawa’s five-game series triumph. Oh, and Cassels wasn’t on the ice for that power play assist.
A premier two-way center who also packs a physical wallop, Cassels was a revelation for the Generals.
“He’s the guy that makes our team go,” said coach D.J. Smith. “Offensively, defensively, penalty kill, power play; he’s the first guy on the ice for every situation and he’s the last guy on at the end of the game. He’s the heartbeat of this team.” Read more
Thanks to summer world junior camps, prospects have been in the spotlight this week and for some, that meant reinforcing decisions on where they will play next season. Calgary’s Brandon Hickey says he’s going back to Boston University, Leafs pick Jeremy Bracco confirmed his commitment to Boston College and Zach Werenski is indeed headed back to Michigan. And speaking of Werenski, he’s part of our first mailbag question this week. As always, if you have a draft or prospect-related question, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy, using the hashtag #thnfutures with your question.
Let’s get to it.
Which of the first round 2015 defensemen has the biggest upside? And who is closest to being in the lineup?
– Tomas Djupsjobacka (@tdjupsjo)
In terms of upside, I’d go with either Carolina’s Noah Hanifin or Columbus’ Zach Werenski. Both have great size and skating ability, plus they can play in all situations. If you had asked me right after the draft who was closest to being in the lineup, I would have said Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov, since he has the hockey IQ and physical edge to compete right away. But then Carolina signed Hanifin to his entry-level deal, ending his Boston College career after one stellar campaign. Perhaps he goes to the AHL this season, but given Carolina’s lack of depth on the back end, Hanifin may end up being the answer to both questions (Provorov also has more competition in Philly).
Very curious about your opinion on Sean Day’s development in Mississauga
– Alex Sloan (@Alex_Sloan)
Funny how that question became a flashpoint this week, what with Day missing the cut for Canada’s under-18 Ivan Hlinka squad. But I can also expand on the defenseman’s trajectory here. I think Day has been good so far in Mississauga, but this will be a huge year for him – and not just because he’s up for the draft. Conditioning was reportedly a factor in his national team cut, so that should be a priority. The Steelheads are also growing around him, so I need to see good offensive numbers, but also improvement in his own end. With his natural physical gifts, Day has great potential as an NHLer, if he can harness it and become a student of the game.
Which five NHL teams do you feel are in the best position when it comes to prospects and which five are in the worst position?
– Keenan Clarry (@KeenanClarry)
Here’s my best:
Edmonton – The high end of Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse vaults the Oilers to the top since McDavid is such a sure thing. I’m also a big William Lagesson fan.
Buffalo – Jack Eichel is the Sabres’ McDavid equivalent, plus you have Sam Reinhart, Justin Bailey and some nice long-term catches in Will Borgen and Christopher Brown.
Winnipeg – The deepest pool. Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, Kyle Connor, Erik Foley…it’s almost unfair at this point.
Arizona – Another great assembly with Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Max Letunov, Brendan Perlini and Nick Merkley,
Anaheim – Already a great team, the Ducks have reinforcements ready in Nick Ritchie, Nic Kerdiles, Shea Theodore and Kevin Roy, plus longer-term gems such as Julius Nattinen and Jacob Larsson.
And my worst, with the caveat that some of these teams are in a win-now window and have therefore sacrificed prospects:
San Jose – Timo Meier and Nikolay Goldobin are solid, but not much depth behind them.
Pittsburgh – Derrick Pouliot used to be surrounded; now he’s one of the last elite prospects in the pipeline.
New Jersey – Pavel Zacha will help, but there isn’t much more scoring coming otherwise.
Toronto – Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington have all really helped the Leafs’ outlook recently in this category, but they were thin before.
New York Rangers – Just don’t have the critical mass of prospects since they’re in their Stanley Cup window right now. Adam Tambellini and Pavel Buchnevich are good, though.
It’s been three years since he was drafted, but what can we expect from Scott Laughton?
– Vincent Mongrain (@vincentM10)
If the Flyers move out Vincent Lecavalier, Laughton is in a great position to make an impact on Philadelphia’s third line – which may not sound impressive for a first-rounder, but it’s a good role because Laughton can handle the responsibility. With Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier ahead of him, Laughton won’t be getting the big assignments in the early parts of his career anyway, but he can be a solid contributor and a two-way player.