The playoffs are almost upon us in major junior, while the NCAA conference tournaments are in full swing. Since some teams have already been eliminated, early signing season has begun too, with Brandon Montour leaving UMass for Anaheim and Ben Hutton ending his career in Maine to ink a deal with Vancouver. More are sure to come, but until then, here’s a look around the world of prospects.
During one of the off-days at the World Junior Championship, the way the camera lights were pointed, Auston Matthews of Team USA was literally standing in the shadow of Jack Eichel.
Don’t count on that lasting much longer. The Great American NHL Draft Hope of 2015™ (Eichel) and The Great American NHL Draft Hope of 2016™ (Matthews) were roommates at the WJC, a tournament that began what those at USA Hockey hope will be a long, championship-filled relationship. Read more
By the time the 2016 draft ends, the New York Rangers will have gone four straight years without a first-round pick. But when you have Glen Sather’s recent track record when it comes to first-rounders, you could argue the Rangers are far better off with the established players they have in their lineup than uncertain prospects.
And really, when you can bring in an NHL-ready player such as Kevin Hayes into your lineup, who needs a first-round pick? Hayes likely won’t receive final-three consideration for the Calder Trophy – although with the sagging fortunes of Filip Forsberg and the rising ones of guys such as Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Hayes, perhaps it’s time for a Calder race reboot – but you could argue that he should win the award as the best free agent signing of the summer of 2014. Read more
It has been reported that Artemi Panarin has his sights set on the NHL next season. If his overtime goal in the first game of SKA St. Petersburg’s second round series against Dynamo Moscow is any indication of his talent level, don’t be surprised when teams fight for his services.
Less than a minute into overtime, St. Petersburg’s Panarin got the puck deep in the left wing corner. After spinning on his backhand towards the boards, he deftly slipped the puck under the stick of the Moscow defenseman Mat Robinson, turning him inside out. As Robinson gave chase, Panarin moved right into the slot and, with four defenders in the vicinity, fired a wristshot past Dynamo goaltender Alexander Lazushin: Read more
I have learned not to doubt the Los Angeles Kings.
A few years back, I was at an Oshawa Generals game and a fan asked me if Andy Andreoff had any shot at getting drafted. Considering that Andreoff had already been passed over twice, I told him that anything was possible, but privately, Andreoff hadn’t really been on my radar.
Sure enough, the Kings picked up the gritty left winger in the third round that summer (the 2011 draft) and Andreoff has already played 13 games for the squad this season.
This past summer, I was standing with another reporter at the draft in Philadelphia, marvelling at the bizarre order in which the Kings were picking – taking certain kids way earlier than expected, leaving higher-rated kids to the end. But I’m not going to second-guess GM Dean Lombardi and his crew, which is headed by Mike Futa, VP of hockey operations and director of player personnel, and director of amateur scouting Mark Yanetti because they clearly know what they’re doing.
Eventually, a time will come when the Detroit Red Wings don’t have a list of prospects that make other teams envious. Until that day, feel free to watch this goal by Andreas Athanasiou on a loop because it’s unbelievable.
Not only does Athanasiou send one Charlotte Checkers’ defenders stick into the third row, he then rockets ahead with the puck, toe drags past the check of Mike Cornell and then follows it all up by popping Drew MacIntyre‘s water bottle off the top of the net with a slick backhand. See it for yourself: Read more
It’s getting down to crunch time in the prospect world, as the most wonderful time of year is upon us. College hockey has already entered the conference playoff stage while major junior is down to jockeying for berths in the post-season. The high schoolers in Minnesota are already finished and the story of the winners is pretty compelling. Meet the captain of that squad, plus nine other NHL prospects making noise in our weekly round-up.
The first-ever National Independent School Invitational Championship is happening now, just north of Toronto. Hosted by St. Andrew’s College and Upper Canada College, the 10-team challenge brings together a lot of prep programs that are familiar with each other, but organizers hope this shindig will also increase the level of exposure these hockey teams receive.
While New England prep schools have long been known for hockey excellence, programs such as St. Andrew’s and Stanstead College in Quebec are just beginning to rise up. St. Andrew’s boasts Carolina Hurricanes third-rounder Warren Foegele as an alum, while Stanstead produced Calgary Flames first-rounder Mark Jankowski.