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Category: Personnel (Page 2 of 5)

When It Comes To Draft Risk, Center > Defenseman

Over the last few weeks I’ve highlighted the top defenseman Timothy Liljegren and a top three forward Nico Hischier. Either prospect would be a great start for Vegas. Stud defenseman like Liljegren don’t come around often. In fact, 2012 was the last draft multiple defenseman were selected in the top five. Crazy enough, eight rookie blueliners were picked in the top ten that year. (Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumba, Derrick Pouliot, Jacob Trouba, Slater Koekkoek)

All this draft chat had me thinking about McPhee’s strategy. Who would the Golden Knights draft between the highest rated defenseman, or a top three center? commenter James made a strong point about a few somewhat recent drafts. Drew Doughty selected second could easily have jumped over Steven Stamkos. Same with the 2009 draft with John Tavares and Victor Hedman. Of course, all four organizations feel incredibly satisfied with their selections. I will always lean towards a top-rated center over a defenseman. As important as goaltending and defense is, NHL offense comes at a premium. However, if a talent like Doughty comes up my decision wouldn’t be tough.

Drafting a center in the Top-5 of the NHL Entry Draft has been almost ridiculously successful for NHL clubs over the past 10-15 years. There will always be a few misses, like Alex Galchenyuk in 2012 or Kyle Turris in 2007, but just about every other one during the past 13 years has had major impact. Take a look at the centers drafted early from 2003-2016.

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2017 Prospect Spotlight – Nico Hischier

In the latest 2017 NHL mock draft by, the Vegas Golden Knights are slated to draft Nico Hischier. A 17 year-old forward who’s been dubbed the Swiss Connor McDavid. Do I have your attention now? Really, scouts are gushing over Hischier’s size, skill, and maturity. He’s an A-Rated skater by NHL Central Scouting, and currently ranks third among 2017 prospects. Some believe Hischier has the potential to be the best Swiss player that ever lived.

The right-handed, 6’1, 175lbs Center consistently lights the lamp for the Halifax Mooseheads. In 31 games this year, Hischier has an impressive 23 goals and 25 assists. The rookie Moosehead even broke a club record with six points in one game. Former Moosehead players Jonathan Drouin, Brad Marchand, Nathan MacKinnon and Jakub Voracek never scored three goals, and had three assists in the same game. Watch him score his hat trick, he puts himself in proper position on all three goals. Great ice awareness. On top of his scoring touch, the Swiss forward is highly proficient with the puck. Scouts evaluate Hischier’s puck control as high as any other 2017 prospect. On top of puck control, his defense is also highly rated. The rookie Moosehead’s overall play receives nothing but praise.

He can beat you in so many ways. He can beat you with faceoffs, he can beat you with defensive play. He’s really, really proud of his defense, he can beat you with his work ethic, his intensity, his skill, he can beat you on the rush. He can beat you on the power play, he can beat you on the PK. He’s a really complete player. I compare him a lot to Henrik Zetterberg when he was in his prime. When you were playing against him he was always efficient in every area of the game. -Andre Tourigny, Halifax Mooseheads Head Coach

Holy smokes, Henrik Zetterberg. Vegas would be ecstatic with that type of talent.

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Backup To Vegas: Antti Raanta

Backups, like Rodney Dangerfield, get no respect. Although, Las Vegas fans shouldn’t disregard backup goaltenders. Chances are one of the NHL’s secondary netminders will play a much bigger role for the Golden Knights. Which brings me to a series focusing on potential VGK goaltenders. We’ve heard many scenarios surrounding certain NHL teams, Pittsburgh and Tampa being two of them. Let’s start with a situation involving a high profile name, and a backup that’s been dominating recently. Off to New York!

The shutout machine from Madison Square Garden is not who you think. While Henrik Lundqvist rests his old bones, backup Antti Raanta is playing like a number one. The 27 year-old Fin created a two-headed monster for the New York Rangers. Raanta is 8-1 with an outstanding 1.52 GAA, and he’s a backup. In ten starts, Hank’s backup let in less goals than Jimmy Howard, Thomas Greiss, Calvin Pickard and Andrei Vasilevskiy. All goaltenders who are expected to be left unprotected. Raanta’s a brick wall, stopping 62 of 63 shots over the past three games. An insane run that makes Alain Vigneault look a genius for benching his all-world goaltender. With a healthy Lundqvist sitting, Raanta allows New York a chance to keep their number one fresh. Which some believe has been a problem for Handsome Hank in the postseason.

In Finland, Raanta was an elite goaltender in the Liiga, the Finnish Elite League. His team won the championship in 2013 and he was named league and postseason MVP. After his award-winning season he signed as an undrafted free agent with Chicago. Battling it out with Scott Darling as Corey Crawford‘s backup, the Fin was traded to New York in 2015. Coming in clearly as a backup, Raanta has now created a sports radio type goaltending controversy. Vigneault slightly hinted towards one after Raanta’s third straight start.

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2017 Prospect Spotlight – Timothy Liljegren

When it comes to the 2017 NHL amateur draft we’ve really only heard one name at the top, Nolan Patrick. Names like Maxime Comtois and Kristian Vesalainen have come up as possible candidates for the Golden Knights, but we’ve already crowned Patrick as the prized jewel of next June’s draft. However, TSN’s Craig Button wrote an article last week about Swedish prospect Timothy Liljegren as a possible number one. Since Patrick has only skated in 10 games this season for the Brandon Wheat Kings, other options are starting to creep into the picture. The 6’2″ defenseman is described as smooth and mature. Liljegren the number one rated blue liner, could be a future player Vegas fans root for. Although, the ping pong balls have to fall our way.

What makes Liljegren a top talent is his maturity and effective play in high competition. The 17 year-old Swede is currently playing in the Swedish Elite league for Rögle BK. There’s not much footage on him available, and he’s been sidelined with mono, but most believe he’s ready for the big stage in North America, so we’ll have to take their word for it. Lately, the NHL has showcased its young talent sooner than later. McJesus, Jack Terrier Eichel, Papi Matthews and Patrick ‘Laine’s Better’ all made a pro-roster their first year.

Are Nolan Patrick and Liljegren prospects ready for the NHL? Neither are rated like McDavid, Eichel and Matthews were, yet Patrick and Liljegren are still considered franchise players. If the Golden Knights are lucky enough to draft either, fans should be very excited. I couldn’t imagine Vegas rushing draft picks to the big club, so fans might wait a year or two. George McPhee has already discussed developing his prospects. With that in mind, McPhee will probably plan on expansion and free agency for his 2017 roster. As we’ve discussed already, playoffs are not the Golden Knights main concern out of the gate. Building for the future is hopefully what this organization is planning. A big, two-way defenseman like Liljegren would be top priority to the organization.

As a talent evaluator, Button is well respected around domestic and international hockey. He’s had success projecting a prospects impact in the past. Even with limited playing time for both, they’re in Button’s top two draft slots. What does that say for the rest of the top ten? If he’s convinced there are two highly skilled prospects then Vegas fans should be very optimistic. Look out if Patrick or Liljegren end up with the Golden Knights. The Pacific teams won’t be winning as much as they’re expecting on the Strip.

Beyond Analytics; Three Other Areas McPhee Should Be Focused On

If you listened to this week’s podcast then you heard me geeking out on advanced statistics. For instance, we talked how SF20/SA20 is a more accurate way to measure a player’s overall impact on the ice. Or how 5v5close can help coaches decide what players to trust in tight situations. Numbers like SF20/SA20, PDO, and 5v5close should help scouting departments as much as, if not more, than +/- rating, SOG, and TOI. However, you can’t measure all hockey skills by advanced statistics. Superstars and third line players are all important when it comes to situational hockey. Here are a few effective skill sets the Golden Knights will look to add in June.

Players with speed are important to competing teams for many reasons. The more obvious are odd-man rushes, chasing down pucks, and keeping defenders at bay. More importantly fast players create scoring chances some of which you can’t measure. Andrew Cogliano may not show up on the box score but his nightly impact is felt. Cogliano is one of the NHL’s faster players, and his ability to move the puck from the defensive to offensive zone is invaluable. The time it takes the former Wolverine to receive a pass and skate it to safety is much faster than the average defenseman. Cogliano may already be off the ice before Anaheim scores but his zone speed had as much impact as the shooter. Same goes for many second or third line speedsters. Whatever team creates the most scoring chances usually ends up winning.

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Expansion Preparations Coming In Many Forms

The future of the Vancouver Canucks is not looking so bright. With a 36-year-old starting goalie, a pair of 36-year-old twins, and three other key contributors over 30, that 4-5-1 start is a bit ominous.

The middle is no place to be. -Ray Ferraro, TSN Analyst

The former Hartford Whaler was adamant that the Vancouver Canucks should give in and start completely over. Ferraro doesn’t believe a team scoring under two goals a game can, or will, turn it around. So he suggested the Canucks move on from two underperforming defenseman Alex Biega, and Philip Larsen. However, it is believed that Vancouver management will hold on to Biega specifically for expansion considerations.

Because he’s [Biega] under contract for next year, and because you can get him up to the games played threshold, they prefer to expose him.” – Matt Sekeres, TSN

It makes sense and would be a smart move by the Canucks knowing they’ll have to be ultra careful on whom to expose. The franchise is obviously heading for a rebuild and cannot give anything of value to Las Vegas. Not that the Knights are expecting to strike it rich from Vancouver’s unprotected list.

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Evander Kane Cleared Of Charges, Worth A Look In Vegas?

A few months ago a conversation on Twitter about Evander Kane got pretty animated. Some people posted that Las Vegas could never take on Kane if he was left unprotected by Buffalo. I couldn’t believe a talent like the Sabres power forward was being passed over by so many arm-chair GMs. We’re talking about a rare talent that’s physical, can score, and has solid puck possession skills. (C’mon, tell me those corresponding links don’t fit the double entendres perfectly) Not many players have all three attributes… we’re back to talking about hockey.

Now to be fair, the people against Kane don’t deny his capability, what scares them is his off-ice behavior. He’s no role model. Kane has never been convicted but he’s been twice investigated for criminal behavior. Late last year Buffalo cops dropped charges for sexual assault. Now, a New York judge dismissed charges against Kane for a reported physical incident at a Buffalo bar. And let’s be serious, the name of the bar was Bottoms Up. A bar in Buffalo, NY named Bottoms Up has seen plenty of physical incidents.

Understandably, the two investigations listed above don’t make Kane look like a good guy. In fact that same New York judge called him out as being, “arrogant, boorish, and surly.” (Kind of reminds me of this guy actually) He also told Kane to make sure he keeps his nose clean for six months, something the power forward needs to do if he wants to stay in the NHL anyways. It’s tough to make the case for the 25 year-old forward with his off-ice behavior.

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World Cup Of Expansion Players: Part II

Let’s try this again. Before the World Cup started I gave you a few players to keep an eye out for. Unfortunately, I kind of whiffed on a few, especially Justin Abdelkader. I don’t know why I thought he’d have a good tournament. The early rugged, gritty style by the US was perfect for Abdelkader. The Former MSU Spartan had a -2 rating, and four shots in two games. I may be unfairly picking on the Detroit winger because the rest of the squad was just as bad. On the other hand, Sweden’s Jakob Silfverberg is tied for third on the team in shots. Also, Silver’s picking up ice time on Sweden’s powerful penalty killing line. Nice production from a Swede that could end up in Las Vegas.

Let’s go another round and examine a few more players that could be targeted by GM George McPhee.

Team Sweden

Carl Hagelin: Speed, speed, and more speed. That’s what Hagelin’s game is all about. Speed and his sick flow. Optical tracking data ranked the Swede the fastest skater in the NHL at a top speed of 23MPH. He’s had up and down seasons, but it really has to do with what system in which he’s playing. Coming off of a Cup, Hagelin perfectly fit the Penguins style of play, particularly in the postseason. The HBK line was a major difference for Pittsburgh. The speed and pressure from Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel caught defenses flat footed. Hagelin’s breakout speed helped the Pens beat more physical teams like the Capitals. The speedy Swede is a very talented player, but can get lost for more than a few games a year. The Penguins could expose Hagelin and his $4 million dollar price tag. He may go a week without a point, but speed costs money. Used correctly, the Michigan Wolverine could bring offensive excitement to Las Vegas.

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The World Cup of Expansion Players

The Expansion Draft may be 284 days away but it’s time for GM Geroge McPhee and company to get to work. Well, they probably have been for a month and a half, but you get my point. With the World Cup about to officially begin (stupid fake games) let’s take a look at a few players Las Vegas could be scouting.

Team USA

Jack Johnson: A high pick that never really panned out in LA or Columbus. He’s a 29-year-old, left-handed defenseman that averages 24 minutes of ice time. Johnson needs a change of scenery, or a big 2016-17 season. He’s owed $5 million a year for the next two and is a UFA at the end of Vegas’ first season in 2018. Unless they are looking for an expiring contract, Las Vegas would need a positive year from Johnson to feel good about selecting him. Hopefully, he’ll clean up his -16 plus/minus.

Justin Abdelkader: What is it with mediocre players with terrible contracts? Abdelkader’ deal is 7 year/$30 million and doesn’t run out until 2022-23 (we should have a Cup or two by then). The Red Wing isn’t a bad player, in fact he’s had back to back 40 point seasons. He’s 29 years-old, but he’s on the books for six more seasons. If the left wing continues to score 20 goals a season than possibly Las Vegas takes a chance on his $4.25 cap hit.

Team Sweden

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The Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes: Does It Have Any Impact On Vegas?

He’s all the rage in the NHL world right now. The 23-year-old reigning Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey is on the open market, and he’s got a hold of NHL front offices everywhere by the balls. Since he’s yet to officially begin his NHL career, there’s a cap on the contract size Vesey can sign, so instead of money, the Vesey sweepstakes is about location, opportunity, and potential.

Here in Vegas, we believe we’ve got all three of those aspects on lockdown. There’s no better place in the world than Las Vegas, the team doesn’t even have a player yet so opportunity is there for everyone, and the rules of the Expansion Draft have many believing Las Vegas has the potential to be a playoff contender quickly. So why no choose Las Vegas, young Mr. Vesey?

Oh that’s right… cause Vegas can’t sign a player until next year. Damn! I hate calendars!

Ok, fine, so let’s move on to the impact Vesey may have on Vegas with whatever team he decides to choose. We’ve been preaching since the moment Las Vegas expansion became a reality that every move in the league will have at least some impact on the Expansion Draft. And they all will, except for this one.

Vesey will be exempt from selection by Las Vegas in the Expansion Draft because he has yet to play a season in the NHL. He’s probably going to go somewhere that gives him an opportunity to play at the NHL level this year, but even if he logs 82 games, he still won’t have to be protected from the Expansion Draft. The best we can hope for is that he pushes a guy off the top two forward lines of a good team and that player becomes expendable, and even that’s a reach.

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