If you hadn’t been beaten over the head with the news already, the top prospect in the NHL draft this year is Connor McDavid of the Ontario League’s Erie Otters. But will the stellar center’s team win the title? He’ll have to do a lot, since there’s no guarantee left winger Andre Burakowsky will be back in town – the Swede could go to the Washington Capitals or even the American League. Similarly, Kingston may get Sam Bennett back, but he might end up in Calgary, while Darnell Nurse could be in Edmonton. But even without Nurse, the Soo Greyhounds will be strong. I surveyed a group of experts to find out how strong, then added a player to watch on each team.
The excitement is palpable. Even before the 2014 draft had taken place, folks were already talking about 2015, when phenom centers Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel would be eligible for selection. But it goes far beyond those two pivots – there is also Noah Hanifin and Oliver Kylington on the back end to consider, plus a host of skilled forwards and burly power forwards. Here’s my initial take on the top 30 picks for 2015:
Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News. I was tasked with getting ‘Stammer’ on the phone for the article, which also included interviews with teammates, family and others who know the captain.
And as it happens, Stamkos has impeccable timing that stretches far beyond his goal-scoring prowess. The day Stamkos was supposed to call me, he was given my office number and my cell phone number, since I would be commuting home at one point. In Toronto, the subway line is almost entirely underground, with only a handful of stops offering daylight – and therefore, cell phone signal. Just as my train pulled into one such stop, my phone rang. I pulled one earbud out and with my iPod still blaring into the other side of my head, answered the phone as I jumped onto the station platform. It was Stamkos.
Last season, the Western League’s Edmonton Oil Kings toppled Guelph of the Ontario League to win the Memorial Cup. Can the Oil Kings get back on top, despite losing a bunch of players and coach Derek Laxdal? Their old foes from Portland are still dangerous, while some new names are rising up, too. I consulted with a crew of experts from the region to put together power rankings for the league, then added one name to know for each team:
The shootout is one of the most controversial aspects of today’s hockey game and I get the feeling its approval rating continues to dwindle. On top of the people who always hated it, you have a new faction of folks who are bored of the spectacle. Thankfully, 3-on-3 overtime can save us all.
The championship game of the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan pitted Columbus against Dallas, with the Blue Jacket kids skating off to victory on an overtime goal scored by Josh Anderson during 3-on-3 play. Here’s part two of my filing on how the big games did, this time concentrating on Columbus, Dallas, Carolina and Detroit. I am not including Anthony Mantha of the Red Wings since he missed the last game with knee soreness and I only saw part of his prior game.
The annual Traverse City prospects tournament is in the books for another year and this time, Columbus came out on top despite losing 2014 first-rounder Sonny Milano in the first game.
Despite boasting some of the biggest names in the tournament, the Sabres ended up dead-last, losing to the Blues in their final match to go winless overall. Coach Chadd Cassidy believes bad starts doomed the squad and the fairly young group just couldn’t get over the pressure once they got down.
But how did the individuals fare at the tourney? Here are my thoughts on players from the first four teams. Since games were staggered between two rinks, I saw more of some squads than others and the amount of reports reflects that.
If you’re a fan of the possibility of 3-on-3 overtime in the NHL, pay close attention to the United States League this fall. The NHL will be.
The junior developmental loop is experimenting with the format during its pre-season contests; any games tied after regulation will go directly to five minutes of 3-on-3 play. Further, any game played during the USHL’s “Fall Classic” week (it began yesterday and runs through Sept. 20) will automatically go to 3-on-3 overtime regardless of the score.
Since the USHL is such a prolific producer of prospects – it had 35 players/alum selected in the 2014 NHL draft – big brother will indeed be watching.