Connor McDavid’s astonishing junior hockey career is close to its conclusion, but it feels like every night he plays, the Erie Otters superstar is setting some type of new record in the Ontario Hockey League. That was true Tuesday night when McDavid scored an empty-net goal in the second round of the OHL playoffs to help sweep the London Knights and give the 18-year-old an amazing 14 points in four games, establishing a new franchise mark for points in a post-season series.
The Frozen Four is in the books and it was a classic, with Providence College winning its first-ever hockey title over Boston University. But the season still might not be over for Terriers frosh Jack Eichel, as he and Nashville pick Jimmy Vesey of Harvard were expected to play for Team USA at the World Championship in Switzerland. Meanwhile, we’re getting very close to the world under-18s as well in the Czech Republic. With CHL playoffs still going strong, let’s cruise around the prospect world once again.
The draft lottery is five days away and, just in case there were any teams still doubting the supreme, near ludicrous skill of Connor McDavid, he made yet another other-worldly play Sunday night in the third game of the OHL’s Western Conference semi-final.
Early in the third period, with McDavid’s Erie Otters already up 1-0 over the London Knights, the 18-year-old phenom took the puck behind the net with a check draped all over him. Without even turning his head, McDavid smacked the puck back between his legs to teammate Nick Betz who had an open net and all the time in the world: Read more
David Levin is going to open a whole lot of eyes when he suits up for the Sudbury Wolves next season. The Ontario League franchise announced today that the skilled right winger with the Toronto-based Don Mills Flyers would be their top choice, first overall, in Saturday’s OHL draft. Levin’s a pretty good prospect, but he’s certainly the best to ever come out of Israel.
Ron Francis accomplished a lot as a player. He won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he played in four All-Star Games, and he lined his trophy case with a Selke, three Lady Byngs and a King Clancy. He hit the 100-point mark three times. He’s a top-five scorer in NHL history. ‘Ronnie Franchise’ also did some marvellous things captaining the Carolina Hurricanes in the twilight of his career, sporting a classy swirl of grey in his hair. His 77 points in 2001-02 were the second most all-time by a 38-year-old. He was hockey’s answer to Cal Ripken Jr.
But even someone as decorated as Francis had to realize he inherited a boat full of holes when he took over as Carolina Hurricanes GM last April. The Canes had missed the playoffs five straight seasons. They didn’t have a single prospect outside the NHL ranked in Future Watch 2014′s top 75. Captain Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward, two prime components of their 2006 Cup-winning team, were shells of their old selves. Alexander Semin wasn’t justifying the contract extension that paid him $7 million annually.
At the THN office, we couldn’t have been more bearish on the Canes entering 2014-15. We weren’t confident each of their top six forwards would bounce back and, more importantly, we felt they had one of the NHL’s weakest bluelines behind stalwarts Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera. Things looked bleak for Francis’ Canes, and that’s how they turned out. Carolina has stumbled to its worst points percentage since 2002-03. Semin has somehow gotten worse. Eric and Jordan Staal combined have produced less than what Eric used to singlehandedly.
So it would be forgivable, then, to catch Francis in an ornery mood when it’s time to discuss what went wrong this year. That simply isn’t the case, though. Francis is downright upbeat, and he makes an interesting case as to why his team isn’t nearly as hopeless as it may seem on paper.
With Central Scouting releasing its final rankings Wednesday, it seemed like a good time to weigh in on the 2015 draft again myself. But this will be the third installment of four for me. Not only do we still have championships to be decided in all North American development circuits, but there is also the world under-18s approaching this month, which often impact final rankings.
And finally, since THN’s Draft Preview edition is closing in a month, I have been honing the magazine’s top 100 list with the input of NHL scouts and executives, giving me some fascinating insights into their drafting philosophies.
So take this list as an estimation of what will happen on draft day, not a ranking of my personal faves or anything like that. I recognize that I’m courting peril here, since every team values players differently, but I feel it’s the most educational approach for fans.
One of the biggest X-factors here is potential. Some players are universally loved, while others have qualities that give them a higher draft ceiling (size, for example), but also possess flaws that will warn off a number of NHL teams (such as compete level). So who goes first in the rankings? This is a challenge and the answer won’t be known until the picks are made in Florida. But I will try nonetheless.
And since goalies get drafted later these days, I have included my top three, with the admission that the actual slot they get picked in is beyond me.
Here we go:
The CHL playoffs are getting intense already, with Cape Breton pushing the Memorial host Quebec Remparts to a seventh game in the first round, thanks to an overtime victory in Game 6. Some fantastic individual performances have already been logged and with the Frozen Four this week and the world under-18s on the horizon, things will only get crazier. So let’s take a look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
After being drafted in the first round, fourth overall by the Calgary Flames in last year’s draft, Sam Bennett’s season was derailed by a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 59 regular season games.
The injury, said Bennett at the time, dated back to the year prior. He fought through the injury in order to try to make the Flames out of training camp, but eventually the pain from the torn labrum was enough that Bennett required surgery.
Now, after a 15-game stint back in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs, Bennett is finally getting his crack at the NHL. The Flames announced Friday afternoon that they have recalled Bennett from the OHL, and while the exact date of his debut is not known, it appears he could make his NHL debut as soon as Saturday in the Battle of Alberta when Calgary takes on the Edmonton Oilers. Read more