Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-16-2017
The New Jersey Devils found some serious luck when the
vaulted from the fifth-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft all the way up to No.
1. Although the Philadelphia Flyers
trounced them on the luck-scale by going from 13th-overal to No. 2, the Devils got the pick of the litter and selected center Nico Hischier from Halifax of the QMJHL with the top pick.
Hischier shot up the draft with a 38-goal, 86 point season for the Mooseheads during the regular season (57 games.) Dennis MacInnis of International Scouting Services told The New York Times prior to the draft that he'd "seen guys go from the 20s to the top 10, but I don't really recall the last time we had a guy go from 20s to contending for No. 1." With most expecting the Devils to take Nolan Patrick first overall, MacInnis has now seen something that's never happened before.
The 6'1" 176 lb. Hischier is described a "worth the price of admission," by Dan Marr, Director NHL Central Scouting. Marr continued in his predraft profile of Hischier as a player that "has a high skill level. But what's most impressive is the way he competes, his drive and work ethic. He is a player who is first on the forecheck forcing a turnover and when the play transitions, he's the first player back. He's in that category as a special player."
Sabres fans will get to see Hischier in a pro-style setting as he and the rest of New Jersey's prospects hit the HarborCenter ice in Buffalo for the 3rd Annual Prospects Challenge. The event is from Friday, September 8 to Tuesday, September 12 in a round-robin format. Buffalo takes on New Jersey in the headliner at 7 p.m. that Friday. The afternoon game pits the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins.
This will be the third year that New Jersey and Boston will be at the event while the Penguins are first-time participants.
There are plenty of Pittsburgh ties when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres, which includes new GM Jason Botterill and new AGM, Randy Sexton so it's good that they were able to lure the Pens to Buffalo for the Challenge.
Although the Penguins won't have a Hischier attending the tournament we could see NCAA Scoring Champion Zach Aston-Reese (2017, FA) plus two 2017 draft picks in defensemen Zachary Lauzon (51st-overall) and Clayton Phillips (93rd.)
Boston, meanwhile, touts defensemen Charlie McAvoy (2016, 14th) and Jeremy Lauzon (2015, 52nd) plus 2015 75th overall pick, goalie Daniel Vladar.
Rosters should be announced early September.
Our friend Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com/Sabres.com have us his projections for Buffalo's Prospect Challenge roster which includes names like Alexander Nylander, Cliff Pu, Brendan Guhle and Jonas Johansson. He's also quick to point out that players in college and overseas will be either playing games or in camp at that time of year.
Some of the Sabres' most intriguing prospects will not at the Challenge including centers Rasmus Asplund (2016, 33rd) and Casey Mittelstadt (2017, eighth) who were both forces in the recently completed Sabres Development Camp. College defensemen Will Borgen and Casey Fitzgerald will not be attending nor will goalie Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen. Luukkonen had a stellar D-Camp and his progress is one worth watching.
I couldn't help but think this after reading that former Sabres bench boss Ted Nolan was headed to Poland to coach the National Team there. Nolan had two stints with the Sabres, and I have the utmost respect for what he was able to do in Buffalo. And from all accounts, he's been even better off the ice.
Nolan's style is rather simple when it comes to hockey--work hard and give it all you've got. It's a rather old notion that kind of got lost in this new world of analytics which reminded me of the beginnings of World War II when the Polish Calvary tried to fight Nazi tanks and armored vehicles while on horseback. Those were some brave and noble soldiers, but the end result wasn't very pretty.
Then again, a systematic coach like Dan Bylsma probably would've have the tanks strictly follow his plan even if it meant ending up at the bottom of lake or river while on their way to Warsaw.
Dom Luszczyszyn of The Hockey News had an interesting article a couple of days ago entitled, Star power in the NHL: Which teams have it, and how much does it take to win the Cup? With superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to the last two Stanley Cups, along with superstars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith leading the Chicago Blackhawks to three of the previous six Cups, it makes for good conversation.
Luszczszyn used a recent FiveThirtyEight NBA piece as a basis and came up with a way "to figure out how good a player needs to be to fit championship criteria." He tabbed the five top players on each of the last Cup Championship teams dating back to 2008. Using that info he established five tiers from "year-end award candidates" down to "very good players who are borderline stars in the right environment" giving him star tiers.
He then doled out points for each player landing in a certain tier and added up the top-seven players ranked by star tier to come away with a team ranking.
Like all analytics it does have quirks, like the Winnipeg Jets being ranked second overall lead by Blake Wheeler amongst the top-10 overall, but it does have the Nashville Predators (1st,) Penguins (3rd,) Washington Capitals (4th) and Blackhawks (7th) in star power.
The Buffalo Sabres come in at No. 23 in Luszczszyn's star power ranking with no player in the top "year-end awards candidates" tier but two in the next one--"elite players, among the best at their position." Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly are behind the likes of Malkin, Marc Schiefele (WPG,) Joe Pavelski (SJS,) Max Pacioretty (MTL,) and Alexander Ovechkin (WSH.)
Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo made the final, "very good plyaers who are borderline stars in the right environment" fifth tier while Evander Kane never made it on the list.
For those interested, Connor McDavid (EDM,) Nikita Kucherov (TBL,) Crosby, Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and Brad Marchand (BOS) were the top-five players.