Tuesday, June 18, 2019

No Trouba for you...Buffalo

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 6-17-2019

Talk in Sabreland this off season had revolved around adding top-six talent up front and strengthening the blueline and one of the names thrown around as being a possible target for Buffalo was Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba. With the Jets in trouble cap-wise and their relationship with the 25 yr. old Trouba strained, rumors concerning his movement have been in the air dating back to last summer.

Some Sabres fans salivated at the prospect of landing the right-hander in a trade to help solidify the top-four and maybe more importantly, especially for advanced stats fans, giving the club a upgrade over defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who they can't see leave fast enough.

Whelp, that thought's out the window as it  was announced tonight that the NY Rangers have acquired Trouba for a 2019 first round pick (20th-overall) and defenseman Neil Pionk whom the Rangers signed out of Minnestota-Duluth back in 2017. The pick New York sent to Winnipeg was actually the Jets pick to begin with. On February 25 the Rangers sent center Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg for that pick, prospect Brendan Lemieux (who was drafted by Buffalo in 2016) and a conditional 2022 fourth round pick.

As the NY Post pointed out, the circular deal was, "in essence, Lemieux and Trouba for Pionk and six weeks of Hayes."

Where do I sign up for that?

The catch, however, is that the Jets did not allow any team to talk to Trouba and his agent about a possible contract extension beyond 2019-20 when he will become an unrestricted free agent. For the Rangers it was a gamble worth taking as even if they loose him, they'll still get a season out of him or if it's clear he won't re-sign in the Big Apple they can move him at the deadline if they're out of contention in a very tough Eastern Conference.

As for the Sabres, they're preparing for the draft and word has it that Botterill has been working the phones. Buffalo owns two first round picks (Nos. 7 & 31) and are said to be looking to change their roster either with a top-six center or winger or a top-four defenseman. Or both.

What Botterill's working on remains to be seen but we can now take Trouba off the list of possibilities.

Monday, June 17, 2019

2019 NHL Mock Draft--Picks 6-10

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 6-14-2019

The 2019 NHL Draft will be held in Vancouver, B.C. June 21-22

6. Detroit Red Wings--RW, Cole Caufield

Steve Yzerman is back where he belongs, in Detroit, after finding huge success with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts have been an Eastern Conference powerhouse for a number of years due in large part to Yzerman's vision of how he wants them to play and his eye for talent. To Yzerman, talent is talent and it can come in many shapes and sizes and can be found in many countries. At 5'7" 162 lbs. Caufield isn't the biggest of prospects but his USNTDP single season record of 72 goals in 64 games screams for attention. Yzerman's predecessor Ken Holland,who is Edmonton's GM, left the Red Wings with some pretty good pieces to build upon and now the former Detroit captain under Holland takes the helm after bringing his front office talents to the Motor City. Stevie Y's first pick as Wings GM might be the best pure goal scorer in the draft and there's no hesitation on his part. Not a bad way for Yzerman to start his tenure while also continuing the legacy of Hockeytown that began when they drafted him 4th overall sone 35 years ago.

7. Buffalo Sabres--C, Trevor Zegras

One thing that seems to get lost in all of the mocks and rankings and team needs at draft time is the fact that most players drafted outside the top-five or so are at least a year or two away from making the NHL and even further away from having an impact. Sabres director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski told the Athletic, "I think you're talking five to seven years out for these players really to make a huge impact; maybe a little bit sooner if you're picking higher such as [Rasmus] Dahlin last year." In saying that the Sabres take the best player available approach and Zegras is that player. The 6'0" 168 lb. center from sleepy Bedford, NY just outside the City has the skating, puck skills and high hockey IQ that the Sabres are looking for. The Athletics' Corey Pronman said that Zegras' "pure offensive skill" is "the best in the draft class" while Guillaume Lepage at NHL.com said that 'Zegras  is "one of the most complete centers available in the draft because of his speed and skill." The Sabres seem to be smitten by him as well as he was the only prospect they interviewed twice in the whole pre-draft process. Zegras can play either center or wing, another aspect the Sabres really like in their players.

8. Edmonton Oilers--D, Philip Broberg

Is it a surprise to anyone that the Oilers would select a defenseman that has elite skating ability and already has an NHL-ready 6'3" 203 lb. frame? Me neither. Sure there are forwards available like centers Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens but talent-wise Broberg is close to their level, the Oilers forward group will be anchored by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for years to come and they really need to build their blue line. Holland has no problem drafting the big, speedy Swede who's transition game can get the puck where it belongs, in the hands of players like McDavid and Draisaitl.

9. Anaheim Ducks--C, Dylan Cozens

Ducks feel a strong pull to draft a Ryan Getzlaf-type in Kirby Dach but pass on the Saskatoon Blade in favor of another WHL'er. At 6'3" 185 lbs Cozens certainly has the projectable size of a budding power forward and unlike Dach he plays with more of an edge. Cozens also has the skills and skating, plays a 200' game and can play in all situations. Come to think of it, Cozens sounds a bit like Getzlaf too. Either way Anaheim gets themselves a big forward to their liking and Cozens dropping to No 9. pretty much gives them a mistake-free choice.

10. Vancouver Canucks--LW, Matthew Boldy

The 'Nucks hit a home run when they selected center Elias Petterson fifth-overall in 2017 and they also have another first rounder down the middle in Bo Horvat (2013.That duo will be anchoring the Canucks for years to come so enter winger Matthew Boldy in 2019. His pro-ready frame (6'2" 196 lbs.) along with elite hockey sense, very capable skating and a solid skill set makes for a very enticing prospect to add to a forward group that's getting stronger.

2019 NHL Mock Draft--Picks 1-5

Published by hockeybuzz.com., 6-12-2019

The 2019 NHL Draft will be held in Vancouver, B.C. June 21-22

1. New Jersey Devils--C, Jack Hughes

General Managers and Team Presidents are feverishly looking to find the horseshoe that Devils GM Ray Shero has hidden. Actually, it's no real secret as winger Taylor Hall is the lottery shoe. Hall, once with the Edmonton, was the first of three consecutive first-overall picks for the Oilers followed by the incredible luck of winning the McEichel lottery in 2015 for Connor McDavid. Since he's been in New Jersey they've won the lottery twice in three years. In 2017 the Devils moved from fifth-overall to first and selected center Nico Hischier who had a 52-point season and helped Jersey break a five year playoff drought. Shero and Hall are at it again this time moving from No. 3 to No. 1 and although it's a difficult decision, Shero finds it too hard to pass on center Jack Hughes giving him a one-two punch down the middle for years to come. And for 2020 pending free agent Hall? There won't be many places he'll be able to go where he can command a premium and have two elite centers to work with on a team that shouldn't have cap problems for at least a few years down the road when they could be contenders. Then again the possible UFA might be offered an extra premium from another team in need of lottery luck too.

2. NY Rangers--RW, Kaapo Kakko

And you thought Alexander Ovechkin took his Stanley Cup celebration to an extreme? Although he's just about half Ovechkin's age, Kakko (and Team Finland) enjoyed the 2019 IIHF World Championship with a party featuring 50,000 fans and accompanied by Finnish president Sauli Niinistöer. The 18 yr. old then spent the entire length of the NHL Scouting Combine enjoying the moment and the Rangers were still looking for him days later. Rumor had it that Kakko was enjoying the deliciousness of lakka and mesimarja while searching for celebrators willing to take a dip in every water fountain in Finland. One would think the fuzz surrounding that celebration will wear off once the Rangers call his name at No. 2 overall in a couple weeks. Then again, maybe not.

3. Chicago Blackhawks--C, Alex Turcotte

Back in 2007, the Blackhawks finished fifth-last in the league but won the NHL Lottery and moved up the maximum four spots to select future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane No. 1 overall. Although  it might be less satisfying this year while making an even bigger leap from 12th to 3rd overall, getting up to that spot gives them an opportunity to select Chicago native Turcotte, who many feel could eventually replace another future Hall of Famer in Jonathan "Captain Serious" Toews. The choices are many here and the words "perfect fit" might be taboo in many situations but not for the Blackhawks. There's just too much of a highly skilled, two-way game in Turcotte to pass up and after a year or two in college, just like his idol Toews, Turcotte should bring his "sandpaper and silk" (according to USNTDP coach John Wroblewski, via Corey Pronman) to the NHL. 

4. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa)--D, Bowen Byrum

Normally, one would feel bad for a team like Ottawa, who finished last in he league and ended up with the fourth-overall pick in the draft because of the lottery. However, since the Senators traded away a first-rounder in the Matt Duchene deal and chose this to be the year give the Colorado Avalanche the pick, it worked out relatively well as they didn't hand the Avs one of two elite prospects. Could you imagine the Avs adding Hughes or Kakko to a forward group that includes Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Miko Rantenen plus a few emerging star role players? Neither can I and it worked out best for both the Sens and the hockey world. That said, adding the best available player in Byrum to the a stable of younins that's loaded with forwards along with two premier d-prospects, will alter their defense in the near-mid term and allow them to ice a top-notch blueline without tapping into the talent they have up front to acquire players of that caliber. 'Lanche Executive VP and Hockey Hall of Fame Joe Sakic as himself a scary team moving forward.

5. Los Angeles Kings--RW, Vasili Podkolzin

The Kings were big and played a heavy game when they won two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 but they're older and slower and it's time for rebuild or reboot in Los Angeles. The process is underway right now and drafting the boom or bust Podkolzin, who's contracted to play in the KHL the next two seasons, won't harm that process. At 6'1" 190 lbs, the right-winger has room to grow into his frame and become an even stronger powerforward. He's only 17 yrs. old and will be so at the conclusion of this year's draft so some of the negatives thrown his way when it comes to personality and demeanor may be a product of an extremely talented kid who needs to mature a bit. The Washington Capitals asked Podkolzin if he could sing during their interview with him at the NHL Draft Combine last week and methinks he'll be humming Good Vibrations three days before his 18th birthday when he's selected by the Kings.

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Daniel O'Regan

Daniel O'Regan--Forward
DOB:  January 30, 1994 (age, 25)
Draft:  2012 fifth round (138th-overall,) SJS
How acquired:  February 26, 2018 trade with San Jose 
Last contract signed:  July 14, 2018, one-year/two-way, $874,125 base salary
Final year of contract: 2019

2018-19 Stats:  1 game | 0 goals | 0 assists | 0 points | even | 11:56 ATOI

Career NHL Stats: 25 games | 1 goal | 4 assists | 5 points | -4 |  10:14 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  N/A

What we wrote mid-season:  N/A

Impressions on his play this year:  There's not too much to say about O'Regan's one-game call-up for Buffalo as he did nothing worth noting. The 5'10" 180 lb. forward came over in the Evander Kane trade to the San Jose Sharks and has ties to Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel and forward Evan Rodrigues as fellow BU Terriers alum. That trio of Eichel, Rodrigues and O'Regan combined for 182 points in 2014-15 and led the Terriers to the NCAA championship game.

O'Regan has played well in Rochester since the trade with 26 goals and 37 assists in 88 games for the Amerks so it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Sabres organization to keep him in the fold in that role. O'Regan is Group-6 free agent meaning he's a player at least 25 yrs. old who has completed three or more professional seasons and played in less than 80 NHL games. He's free to sign with any team.

Questions moving forward:  Would he be interested in another one-year/two-way contract? Would the Sabres be interested in that?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Some tidbits from Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger's introductory presser

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 6-5-2019

While there were many in Sabreland hoping that today's 10 a.m. press conference would have a twist, like a surprise announcement, what it came down to was it was intended to be, the introduction of Ralph Krueger as Buffalo's new head coach. The 23 minute presser did feature questions about pending unrestricted free agent Jeff Skinner and the conversations between coach and player, but there was no surprise appearance by the Sabres winger nor was there any definitive answer to the question of whether or not Skinner would be signing an extension.

However, there seemed to be some positives on the Skinner negotiation front as Krueger said that he had a "long phone call" with the winger. The new coach said that he was working "on the basis that Jeff Skinner is a Buffalo Sabre" and acknowledged that for him "more than anything, it was about how he [the coach] would like to utilize [Skinner's] skill set and his talent."

Those in attendance, like all fans in Sabreland, were interested in why Kruger felt comfortable with the assumption that Skinner would be a Sabre and he said that it was the "tone in [Skinner's] voice when it came to the past and the future."

"He was comfortable on that line," said Krueger. "I initiated the call in that way, it never went in another direction and Jeff had the opportunity to change direction if he wanted to. It was really just the flow of the conversation that made me feel comfortable.

"I felt he really wanted to be [in Buffalo] and that he was happy to be here."

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Will Borgen

Will Borgen--Defenseman
DOB:  December 19, 1996 (age, 22)
Draft:  2015 fourth round (90th-overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  March 25, 2018;  3yr./$2.775 million ELC ($650,000 base salary)
Final year of contract: 2020-21

2018-19 Stats:  4 games | 0 goals | 0 assists | 0 points | -5 | 16:33 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  4 games | 0 goals | 0 assists | 0 points | -5 | 16:33 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  N/A

What we wrote mid-season:  N/A

Impressions on his play this year:  Borgen's name is often mentioned as a possible replacement for Rasmus Ristolainen should the latter be traded. Having a 22 yr. old step right into an NHL lineup in a top-six role is reaching a bit, especially with a defense that struggled mightily last season. If this were a team like the Nashville Predators with an established defense within an established system, the probability for success on the part of both Borgen and the team would increase greatly.

However, was we and former head coach Phil Housley found out, the Sabres are not the Predators.

There's a lot to like about Borgen. At 6'3" 196 lbs. he's got great size and a frame that can be bulked up. Borgen plays a physical game but he can also add offense, skates well and is in constant motion on the ice. The fourth-rounder really made strides in college and was a force in Rochester this season logging big minutes for a rookie.

What Borgen needs most the next year or two is experience and exposure to high-pressure situations and full-time top-pairing duties, which is something he probably won't find in Buffalo. What he also needs whenever he's ready to make the jump is to have an NHL situation where the coach and the players know what their doing, which was something that didn't happen last season. Rochester will offer the minutes and the stability for further growth and development next season and unless a combination of things happen, that's where Borgen will probably start the season. And that's a good thing.

Questions moving forward:  Can he add a little more bulk to his frame and offense to his game? What does the future hold for Ristolainen? How long will Zach Bogosian's recovery be and will he be ready to suite up in October? What kind of camp will Borgen have? How far along is he on the development curve? How will Ralph Krueger's system affect both Buffalo and Rochester?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Impressions of, and questions concerning--LW, Remi Elie

Remi Elie--Left Wing
DOB:  April 16, 1995 (age, 24)
Draft:  2013 second round (40th-overall,) DAL
How acquired:  Claimed off of waivers October 2, 2019
Last contract signed:  July 3, 2018;  1yr./$735,000 
Final year of contract: 2018-19 (RFA, w/arbitration rights)

2018-19 Stats:  16 games | 0 goals | 1 assists | 1 points | -3 | 10:21 ATOI

Career Stats:  106 games | 7 goals | 15 assists | 22 points | +7 |  11:11 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  N/A

What we wrote mid-season:  Picked up off of waivers from the Dallas Stars, Elie has pretty much been a last resort depth forward allowing the Sabres to keep developing their prospects in Rochester, at least for the first half of the season. Elie's a grinder with some good speed who's pretty good on the puck. At present he's the only Buffalo forward without a goal although he's only played in 10 games thus far.

Impressions on his play this year:  There was nothing Elie did on the ice that would warrant a 16 game stint. Yes, like was mentioned mid-season, he was a place holder while the injured recovered and he helped keep the youngins in Rochester, much to the dismay of many in Sabreland who wanted the likes of C.J. Smith and Victor Olofsson up with the big club.

There's really no doubt that Smith, Olofsson, and Alexander Nylander would have produced more, as evidenced by what they were able to do later in the year when they got the call, and the Sabres could have used some scoring especially post-winning streak. Elie was in the lineup when the streak ended in Tampa and played five games in December. Buffalo went 1-3-1 in those games scoring a total of eight goals.

After being sent to Rochester in February, Elie provided a strong presence for the Amerks with 14 points (8+6) in 25 games but he couldn't help them in the playoffs as they were swept out in the first round.

Questions moving forward:  Are the Sabres interested in re-signing him? Would he go for a two-way contract after being on a one-way last season?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.