Sunday, June 30, 2019

Of the trade for Colin Miller, plus who to watch 3-on-3 this morning

Published by, 6-29-2019

Much to the relief of many in Sabreland, Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill made a move yesterday when he acquired right-handed defenseman Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights for a 2021 second round pick (acquired from St. Louis and a 2022 fifth rounder. The well-traveled Miller was drafted in the fifth round (151st-overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings and won a Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs in 2015 before being traded to the Boston Bruins that off-season. Miller played two seasons in the Bruins organization and was left exposed in the 2017 expansion draft where Vegas picked him up.

The Golden Knights took the league by storm becoming the first team in league history to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season and they came to within an overtime goal in a controversial Game-7 to advancing in this year's playoffs. The by-product of this immediate success, as well as smart, yet expensive, front office moves, has been cap-issues this off season and Vegas has been forced to makes some tough decisions. The cap itself came in a bit lower than anticipated and the Golden Knights have been over it all off season. They traded Erik Haula and his $2.75 million hit earlier in the week and moved Miller's $3.875 million AAV to Buffalo yet are still about $900K over the cap with five roster spots to fill, according to CapFriendly.

Miller's acquisition adds more depth to the Sabres top-six on defense. Last season Vegas head coach Gerrard Gallant had him on the top-paring while Nate Schmidt was serving a 20-game suspension for violating the league's PED policy and was eventually dropped down the depth chart. Miller also served some time in Gallant's doghouse including a press box stint for Game-1 of the San Jose Sharks series but it looks as if he'll be in at least a solid 4/5 role for Buffalo dependent upon how these next few months shake out.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

2019 Sabres Development Camp player breakdown and schedule

Published by, 6-26-2019

The Sabres head into their 2019 Development Camp with 40 players set to hit the ice at Harborcenter for three days of workouts and skills sessions before bringing it to a close on Saturday with the annual French Connection 3-on-3 tournament. 

An array of youngins from draft picks to free agents to camp invitees with the eldest being Andrew Oglevie, who was signed out of the University of Notre Dame is the oldest with a February, 1995 birthdate. Jonas Johansson and Victor Olofsson are also 23 yrs. old and were a part of Buffalo's 2014 draft class and are a part of Buffalo's longer development curve. On the opposite end of the spectrum are members from the 2019 Draft class. Some, like center Dylan Cozens, hit the pros in a year or two, others we may see five years from now as a part of the Sabres stretching out their prospect pool, and some may not make it at all. 

Development camp is all about seeing individual progression amongst the youngins, seeing how they've developed physically, mentally and skills-wise along with how they stack up against their peers. Although the fun part of the four days comes with the 3-on-3 tournament, it's more about finding out what they need to be working on this summer and into the future. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What would you do if Sabres GM Jason Botterill made minimal moves?

Published by, 6-25-2019

If Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill went into next season with virtually the same lineup that got him to 26th in the NHL last season, one would expect the collective psyche of Sabre fans to be a blown gasket. The Peace Bridge Authorities would be on high alert for fans wanting to jump from the bridge. Ace hardware and big-box DYI stores would run out of tiki torches and pitchforks while police in and around KeyBank Center would be on the lookout for any and all potential signs of trouble.
Yeah, it would be bad. Maybe not as bad as described above save for social media and various chat-rooms. The furor there would be fueled by the rage and angst of a pertetually afflicted Buffalo sports-base venting mushroom clouds of anger and blame directed at anyone and everyone even remotely associated with the organization. Hell, it might even include Rip Simonick, Brian "Spinner" Spencer or Taro Tsujimoto as well as the entire fictitious Tokyo Katanas hockey club. 
Yes, Sabres fans, after eight playoff-less seasons centered around a tank-induced suffering, it really is that bad but it's on the upswing. Ever so slowly. Two team presidents, three general managers and six coaches later, Buffalo's hockey club has shown signs that it may be lifting itself off of the canvas, but there's a long way to go before they begin to smell respectability
For the 2019 off seasons, anything less than at least a top-six forward or a top-four defenseman (preferably both) would mean utter failure to most in Sabreland and one might strongly believe that GM Jason Botterill is aware of his teams holes and is trying to address them, albeit in his own methodical and calculated way. Buffalo is in need of a No. 2 center, a top-six winger and a top-four defenseman, preferably one who can play at least 70 games and not look as if he's fresh from Junior-A playing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

If given the choice Sabreland, Duchene or Malkin?

Published by, 6-24-2019

The Buffalo Sabres are in need of a No. 2 center. Yes, we know, they had one but it seems as if said No. 2 was never going rediscover his love of the game in Buffalo and he ended up finding it in a fairy tale ending with the Blues. C'est la vie.

Buffalo GM Jason Botterill thought he had a stop-gap No. 2 in Patrik Berglund but that blew up in his face but luckily he also lost his love for playing North American Hockey and walked away from the three-plus remaining years on his contract, or over $12 million. Actually it was a bit deeper than that as Berglund was fighting his own demons and opted for mental health over money. Berglund's issues are nothing to take lightly and he deserves nothing but best wishes in his battle.

That said, the Sabres did get lucky in that his $3.85 million cap hit is off the books giving Buffalo some added flexibility this year and beyond. What they do with that flexibility is still up in the air but that extra cushion may come in handy this year as the 2018-19 NHL cap-ceiling came in at about $1.5 million under recent estimates. Botterill may use that extra cushion to sign a free agent, he may trade for a player with a large salary or he has the ability take on a high-dollar, albatross contract from another team for a more desirable player.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Filling out the Sabres 2019 NHL Draft, Day-2

Published by, 6-23-2019

The Buffalo Sabres were set up for a few long bouts of inactivity yesterday on Day-2 of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver. Buffalo selected 31st on day-one and wouldn't be selecting again until pick-67 after trading their second rounder to the Carolina Hurricanes as part of the Jeff Skinner deal (for posterity, the 'Canes selected goalie Pyoter Kochetkov with the 36th pick.) The Sabres would also have long wait between their own pick in the third round and a late pick in the fourth round (via the Evander Kane to SJS trade) as they had dealt their own to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the deal for Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick.

Buffalo had also traded away their fifth-rounder to Detroit in the Scott Wilson deal and weren't set to draft until the 6th round but used two of their three sixth-rounder (plus their own seventh-round pick) to move up in the fourth and to acquire a fifth rounder.

When all was said and done the Sabres used six picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, two on the first day and four yesterday.

Buffalo selected center Dylan Cozens with the seventh-overall pick on Friday and ended Day-1 of the draft by taking defenseman Ryan Johnson 31st-overall. Of the 12 picks (six each year) general manager Jason Botterill has made since taking over in 2017, seven have been on defensemen and three have been centers so it's not surprising that he added to those counts on Day-1.

Botterill took goalie Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen and winger Linus Weissbach in 2017 but went strictly defense and center last year. On Day-2 yesterday he added to those positions selecting a goalie in the third round followed by three consecutive picks on the wing.

With the 67th pick of the draft Buffalo drafted goalie Erik Portillo who was draft-eligible last year as a 17 yr. old but went undrafted. Portillo is a native of Sweden who struggled in his initial draft year but came on strong in 2018-19 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .931 save percentage for Frolunda of Sweden's Super Elit junior circuit. The huge 6'6" 209 lb. Portillo adds to the Sabres depth in net but is a "longer-term project," according to Botterill, as he'll be headed to the USHL (Dubuque Fighting Saints) next season before heading to the University of Michigan the following year.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Botterill picks Cozens and Johnson and NHL Draft, builds around Eichel and Dahlin

Published by, 6-22-2019

While those of us in Sabreland may have been screaming for Buffalo to draft an elite-playmaker like Trevor Zegras or a pure goal-scorer in the diminutive Cole Caufield with the seventh-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, general manger Jason Botterill went in a little different direction by drafting center Dylan Cozens. Although his skill-set lacks the dynamics of the other two, Cozens has the traits the Sabres are looking for in a future top-six player. His skating is exceptional, he has a high compete level, he has great size, plays a 200' game and does his scoring 5v5 which has been a focus of Botterill's since he took the Sabres GM position (see Jeff Skinner.)

As fans it’s pretty easy to get caught up in immediate needs of a bottom-feeding team at the draft and as we look at the Sabres they need certain things right now, like scoring. And, as is often the case, we the fanbase of a team that hasn't made the playoffs in eight seasons scoff at patience while forgetting that players drafted outside the top-three or so usually take while to incubate and most won't hope to have an impact for at least a few years. Although it doesn't offer immediate relief, Sabres fans should take solace in, and be reminded of, the fact that they have two premier pieces in place and that the future holds great promise if Botterill builds this thing properly.

Buffalo's window is just beginning to open again after it was shut on the fingers some two years ago. Coming out of the tank years and taking a couple steps back from where they want to be is going to take some time regardless of how quickly we want it. Yes, we know, the clock is ticking on Jack Eichel's contract and a three-year build into (hopefully) a Stanley Cup contender means that half of it will have been wasted. However, should everything fall into place in the latter part of his contract, methinks Eichel will have no problem leading the parade down Delaware Avenue after captaining Buffalo’s first Cup-winning team.

That’s the dream and as we found out with the previous general manager there are no short-cuts, as a host of Cup-winning teams this decade have proven.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sabres news, notes and items of interest on NHL Draft day, 2019

Published by, 6-21-2019

Housley hired by the Arizona Coyotes

Phil Housley's time in Buffalo was a train wreck with the final four-plus months of his tenure being an utter disaster. Housley's Sabres went 58-84-22 during his two seasons as Buffalo's head coach and he had a 10-game winning streak to his credit but other than that the team took a huge step backward.

The Sabres were the worst team in the league from November 29, the end of their streak, until the end of the season managing only 40 points in 57 games (16-33-8.) They went from first in the entire NHL to a 26th place finish and within that downward spiral they failed to win consecutive games from December 13 until the final two games of the season. Buffalo was also shut out three games in a row (for a franchise record 199:58) for the second consecutive season, the first NHL team since 1929 to have that dubious distinction.

The month of March was a particularly bad month as the Sabres went 2-12-2 with a pair of seven-game losing streaks with the latter stretching one game into April. In both instances Buffalo was threatening to do what no other team in NHL history had done--have a 10-game winning streak and 10-game losing streak in the same season.

Those are just the overall numbers. The fallout from Housley's tenure can be found in players like Patrik Berglund, who walked away from the game and over $12 million while in Buffalo. Berglund came over from St. Louis in the Ryan O'Reilly trade.

O'Reilly infamously said after the 2017-18 season (Housley's first as head coach) that he "lost his lover for the game at times" that season and was traded to the Blues. What followed was a remarkable run by St. Louis buoyed by  the type of play O'Reilly was originally traded for. The Blues won  their first-ever Stanley Cup with O'Reilly winning the Conn Smythe and he added to his mantle of awards with the Selke Trophy.

Some coaches are better off as assistants and right now it looks as if Housley is that type of coach. He'll be doing in Arizona what he did for the Nashville Predators--activating the defense to become a force on the ice.

Too bad we wasted two seasons finding out that he wasn't a head coach.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Draft weekend is a good time for trades, here's a look at some names out there

Today marks the lead-in day to the NHL Draft as general managers meet to discuss various league issues before hitting the stage in what might be the second-most popular draft amongst the big-four major North American pro sports. The season finished, the NHL Awards ceremony was last night and scouting departments are putting the final touches on their list and all that's left to do is hit the floor and make your selections.

Pending, of course, whatever deals might be made between teams.

GM's burn up the phone lines leading up to this week and today in Vancouver they'll all have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with parties of interest regarding possible deals. Sure, they'll discuss issues like video review, etc. but one area of focus involves deals discussed over the phone, or even those that begin this day. The Buffalo Sabres have been in the rumor mill on many fronts for a while now and it seems as if they'll be active during a potentially busy trade weekend. 

We've all heard the rumors and all have our opinions on what the Sabres should or should not do and we've all heard from Buffalo GM Jason Botterill that he's looking to add talent to the team. Just what that talent will look like and the cost of attaining that is still up in the air, but it's safe to say that we'll here something involving the Sabres in the next two or three days. It might be a deal that involves moving up or down in the draft or it might be some kind of blockbuster, but whatever the deal may be it will illicit strong opinions from a fan-base dying for a winner.

Having said that, fans can get over-emotional as their impatience rises to high levels. Just because the fan in all of us wants something now doesn't necessarily mean it will happen no matter how well it might be backed up by stats, sound capology or opinion. Botterill is the GM of the Buffalo Sabres and it's his responsibility to structure the organization as he sees fit. What he's looking at is an obviously flawed team, with a new head coach that will be playing in a tough division and an even tougher conference. Botterill is under some pressure to do something, but the general consensus is that the high-point of prognostications would center on just making the playoffs. There is no need for the Sabres to mortgage the future for a rental-type piece at a high cost.

What we're in the middle of is...

The Process.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

2019 NHL Mock Draft--Picks 22-31

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

22. Los Angeles Kings--C, Philip Tomasino

Los Angeles gets a little lucky and have Tomasino drop to them at No. 22 and it's just what the doctor ordered. The 6'0" 180 lb. center has good size, something that will never go out of style with the Kings but he also has speed, plays a 200' game with pace and is a very hard worker. Fits right into what GM Rob Blake is looking for. 

23. NY Islanders--RW, Bobby Brink

Back in 2014 the Isles used the 28th-overall selection to snag RW, Josh Ho-Sang who elicited strong opinions from both ends of the spectrum on his draft worthiness. Five years later the Islanders select another right wing in the lower portion of the first round. With size no longer that big of an issue league-wide, drafting a 5'8" 163 lb. player is more common place than it once was and the Isles get themselves a slippery David Pastrnak-type of player in Brink who scored 68 points (35+33) in 43 USHL games.

24. Nashville Predators--LW, Nicholas Robertson

With their pipeline still well stocked on defense, the Preds add the dynamic Robertson to their prospect pool. Although small at 5'9" 161 lbs. Robertson tops off his high skill level with a large dose of compete in all three zones. The Arcadia, California native opted to play junior in the OHL and had himself a solid season with 55 points (27+28) in 57 games as a 17 yr. old and he won't turn 18 until September 11, 2001. Yes, that 9-11.

25. Washington Capitals--D, Ville Heinola

The Caps pluck Heinola from Finland where he had a solid introduction to the Finnish elite league with 14 points (2+12) in 34 games. Heinola is another of those heady defensemen coming out of Sweden and Finland who possess great puck-moving skills and excellent skating ability, traits that could put him in a top-four role with proper seasoning.

26. Calgary Flames--D, Tobias Bjornfot

The Flames need defenders in the pipeline and it's getting to the point in the draft where there's not much left in the first round. Make no mistake as Bjornfot isn't that much of a reach as ISS has him at No.27 while McKeen's has him ranked as the 19th best prospect in the draft, seventh amongst defensemen. Expectations were very high for him as a 16 yr. old but he dropped after struggling a bit at the next levels. However, Bjornfot has good size at 6'0" 193 lbs. and has a skill package that includes excellent mobility within a solid two-way game that keeps him in the first rounds with projections as a possible top-four NHL defender.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning--D, Alex Vlasic

The Lighting learned a little from getting swept in the first round of the playoffs this year. No, they're not going to throw their entire system out the window but they do realize they need a little more of an edge to their game and add that by drafting the 6'6" 198 lb. Vlasic. The Boston University commit will use the next couple of years to fill out his huge frame and work on a skill-set of decent offensive qualities that will allow him to contribute offensively when he hits the next level.

28. Carolina Hurricanes--LW, Nils Hoglander

Although the name may drum up visions of a powerforward on the wing, or a guitarist for some European rock band, Hoglander is a speedy and highly-skilled forward that the 'Canes are looking for. And after his career is over he can start his own restaurant chain in Carolina. Who wouldn't want to eat at Hoglander Barbeque?

29. Anaheim Ducks--RW, Samuel Poulin

The Ducks have a well balanced prospect pool with players set to hit the bigs with more frequency beginning in 2019-20, and that would include d-prospect Brendan Guhle who came from the Sabres (along with this pick) in the Brandon Montour trade. As with Cozens selected ninth overall in this mock, Poulin has size although his skill isn't quite up to that of Cozens. However, Anaheim does get a  smart, competitive player with an NHL frame who showed he could carry a huge weight for his team while also showing some nice year-over-year progression.

30. Boston Bruins--D, Ryan Johnson

Much to the dismay of those in Sabreland and elsewhere in the NHL, the Bruins remain competitive while continually filling their prospect pool with quality and that doesn't change with the addition of Johnson. Sure, the loss to St. Louis in the Stanley Cup Finals was a bit embarrassing and extended the city's championship drought to over 140 days leaving the chowdaheads grimacing (boo hoo,) but they'll always have the opportunity for another championship as long as Tom Brady's in the NFL. As for the B's, Johnson is a good, all-around, puck-moving, two-way d-man who won't replace Zdeno Chara, but could be one of those pieces that makes for a strong defense by committee.

31. Buffalo Sabres--LW, Jakob Pelletier

Odds are that the Sabres will use this pick in a trade for immediate help but if they don't, they have plenty of options and a real good skater like Pelletier who's both smart and competitive fits in rather nicely for what they want. It doesn't hurt that he had a solid season in the Q with 89 points (39+50) in 65 games for Moncton either. The Sabres need scoring and they'll either add some now by trading this pick for immediate help or they'll draft someone here who'll need a couple years of development and Pelletier isn't a bad choice for the latter. 

2019 NHL Mock Draft--Picks 11-21

Published by, 6-18-2019

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

11. Philadelphia Flyers--C, Kirby Dach

Dach has a lot of the traits that the Flyers like, he has the size (6'4" 198 lbs.) and has a strong skill-set attached to a somewhat physical game. And he dropped to Philadelphia at No. 11. The Fly-boys just traded for the rights to C, Kevin Hayes and his addition makes them even deeper down the middle. With the best defenders already gone and the second tier of forwards near it's end, Philly ends up taking the best player available, which isn't really a bad thing as the can let Dach develop into the all-around center he could potentially be. And just in time as three years from now Claude Giroux will be 34 yrs. old and Sean Couturier will be closing in on 30.

12. Minnesota Wild--C, Peyton Krebs

God knows what they're doing in Minnesota and with the way the draft unfolds they end up taking a great prospect in Krebs but not without some reservation. The highly touted Krebs is on the smallish side at 5'11" 181 lbs. but has a lot of skill, is highly competitive and has a very high hockey IQ. All of that should have made him a top-10 pick this year but he ends up at the bottom of his tier due to an Achilles tear. According to a Scott Cruikshank tweet, Krebs was cut by another players skate and underwent surgery for a partial tear. A full recovery is expected with no time-frame for his return. Although it's not the end of the world, it sure puts a damper on his draft stock.

13. Florida Panthers--D, Cam York

The Cats are in a good spot for drafting 13th. They could add to their stable of forwards by selecting C, Alex Newhook or pick one of two defensemen who project out to be solid blueliners. They choose the latter and go with York. Although he's definitely small for a defenseman, York's skills, especially as a powerplay quarterback allows for plenty of upside. You really can't blame new Panthers GM Dale Tallon for going that route as he was left loaded with prospects up front beginning with RW, Owen Tippett (2017, 10th-overall,) C, Henrik Borgstrom (2016, 23rd) and LW, Grigori Denisenko (2018, 15th.) There's also a strong possibility that they might add Artemi Panarin on a long-term deal. Florida is packed with forwards and is looking for capable defensemen yet I never hear Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen mentioned in Panthers rumors. Perhaps they should start.

14. Arizona Coyotes--C, Alex Newhook

For many Newhook is taken right about where he should be in this draft and the 'Yotes are happy to bring him aboard. Arizona GM John Chayka has been piecing together his roster for the past three years and he's got a couple of great cornerstones in Oliver-Ekman Larsson and Clayton Keller and he jumps at the opportunity to land Newhook who's an extremely gifted skater with high-end skill and an impressive hockey IQ. The 'Yotes have made progress lately finishing 9th in the Western Conference with 86 points which represented a nice jump from the 70 points they snared in each of the prior two season. However,  as a team with the second-longest playoff drought behind the Buffalo Sabres at seven seasons, Chayka needs to start making some waves. Newhook won't help the cause this season, but perhaps in a few years he will. If Chayka is still around.

15. Montreal Canadiens--C, Ryan Suzuki

Les Habitants have a nice stable of prospects including top goalie prospect, Cayden Primeau and they can do what most teams do, pick the best player available. The player they choose also happens to be the brother of Nick Suzuki who was drafted 13th-overall by the Vegas Golden Knight at the 2017 NHL Draft. Both Suzuki's are incredible playmakers and both have plenty of smarts. At 6'0" 172 lbs, the younger Suzuki has some room to grow into his frame and he skates much better than his older brother. Although the Habs have been moving away from their Smurf years, they'll take high-end skill and excellent skating, but would prefer it on a bigger frame, Ryan Suzuki fits that mold rather well.

16. Colorado Avalanche--G, Spencer Knight

About the only thing better for the Colorado Avalanche in this draft would have been to land in the top-two via the NHL Draft Lottery. It didn't happen but they still got a helluva player picking No. 4 overall. With that being said, their own draft pick becomes a bonus pick and they can use it on the clear-cut, best goalie in the draft. It seem as if the 'Lanche have been struggling in net since the end of Patrick Roy's reign but it's only a matter of time before the full-time goaltending duties are handed over to Knight. The pick comes at a bit of a price because there are some very good skaters on the board, but Joe Sakic finds it too hard to resist plucking a goalie prospect that immediately goes to the top of a rather deep goalie depth-chart.

17. Vegas Golden Knights--D, Thomas Harley

The Golden Knights could really use an influx of talent on the blueline and they opt for the OHL's Harley instead of a player like Kailev whom has all the skills but lacks compete and pace that has been a hallmark of Golden Knights hockey ever since their inception. Harely is big and mobile, has a wide wingspan and plays a strong two-way game. He can start the transition from the back-end with a good breakout pass and also has played big minutes. The cool part about Vegas is that they really don't need high-end defensemen to be effective in head coach Gerard Gallant's system. Sure, anyone would want a Rasmus Dahlin but when you make the playoffs and/or make a long playoff run, this is where you'll be picking so having a strong system like Vegas has makes a huge difference.

18. Dallas Stars--D, Victor Soderstrom

As with every draft there's a little run on defenseman and we see that here with the Stars taking Soderstrom. Dallas has a lot of forwards in their prospect pool but watched 18 yr. old defenseman Miro Heiskanen make the jump and play 82 NHL games last season. Soderstrom fills a need in the pool but isn't a reach. Soderstrom pulled in at No. 3 in Central Scouting's Final rankings for International skaters but is he a reach or is he a steal at No. 18? There's no doubt he can skate and made the jump to the Swedish Hockey League last season as a 17 yr. old. Soderstrom has all the traits of a modern Swedish defenseman like exceptional skating, high hockey IQ and is a pretty smooth player. However he is on the smallish side at 5'11" 178 lbs., therefore the conundrum.

19. Ottawa Senators--D, Moritz Seider

The Senators have been a mess ever since a long playoff run in 2017 that gave them the false impression that they were much closer to Cup-contention than they really were. Credit to them for moving on from players like Erik Karlsson who wasn't going to re-sign in Ottawa and Matt Duchene, whom they gave up a first round pick for, which ended up being fourth-overall in the draft this year, while getting this pick and a top prospect in return. Center Josh Norris, who came over in the Karlsson trade, and defenseman Erik Brannstrom came in the Duchene deal, top their prospect pool so all was not lost. The Sens are at No. 19 and add another solid defensive prospect in Seider who projects as a defensive-minded, shutdown blueliner with big size (6'4" 198 lbs.) and an impressive wingspan.

20. Winnipeg Jets--C/RW, Raphael Lavoie

The Jets went circular in the Jacob Trouba trade in that they traded this first-rounder (among other pieces) to the NY Rangers for center Kevin Hayes at the NHL trade deadline then got it back when they traded Trouba there last night. Winnipeg needed to do what needed to be done and with the pick they get themselves a center with Western Conference size and enough skill to possibly put him in a scorer's role. There are many on the fence as to whether this will happen but he showed enough in his draft year for the Jets to think he will fit in their system and reach his potential. Hayes has had a solid career with highs of 25 goals and has had point totals that averaged in the low-mid 40's. Lavoie might not reach those levels but could come close in the right system.

21.  Pittsburgh Penguins--LW, Arthur Kaliyev

Pittsburgh's prospect pool has been decimated in the Sidney Crosby/Cup contender era but hey, they've won three so it was well worth it. However, there comes a time when a team needs to start adding assets instead of trading them away and it may be time for them to start doing that. The Pens have not had a first round pick the past four year and no matter how good their scouting staff is at finding gems, eventually it levels off and a team needs first-round talent. Luckily for Pittsburgh some bona fide talent dropped to them at No. 21. Kaliyev scored 51 goals as a 17 yr. old in the OHL and he joins the likes of Alex Debrincat, Steven Stamkos and Jeff Skinner in that regard. He's got a wicked shot and has the hockey IQ to be a helluva playmaker (51 assists last year as well.) What he doesn't have is consistency in the drive/compete department leading Corey Proman to write of him, "Kaliyev can often look like he's not going that hard and will have long stretches of indifference." Ouch!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

No Trouba for you...Buffalo

Published by, 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, 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 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, 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 and hockey