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.
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.
Nino Niederreiter: Besides having one of the NHL’s best name, the Wild forward has shown up at the World Cup. Niederreiter has skated around 13 minutes a game for Team Europe. The 24 year-old has averaged 20 goals the past two seasons in Minnesota. I like his effort, his upside, and his contract. He’s an RFA next June so Las Vegas might have leverage. The former #5 pick overall is also known to step up in the playoffs. Nino has 17 points in 29 postseason games. Those numbers would make a certain eager Creator I know smile.
Luca Sbisa: A couple of World Cup DNP’s for Sbisa so far. Not very impressive. However, the rare Italian-born NHL’er is a rock of a defenseman. Sbisa averages a career 18 minutes of TOI. Strong enough to take on the body in the defensive zone, but doesn’t always protect the puck. Also, Sbisa is injury prone. His rumored upper body injury has kept him limited in the World Cup. Sibs would be low-risk for Vegas playing on a $3 million expiring contract. He’s played most of his career in the Pacific division, which is also a positive. Plus he’s Italian. If Sbisa gets selected, I’ll personally buy his first Cugino’s Italian sub.
Team North America
Matt Murray: Would you be shocked if the Penguins went back to MAF? Marc-Andre Fleury is still the more experienced goaltender, he’s very talented, and has a limited NMC. Exposing Murray might be the direction Pittsburgh is forced to go, assuming they don’t trade him first. And now to the overreacting. Team North America’s goalie really hasn’t played that well. Murray has given up five goals in two games, with a 3.15 GAA. Coach Todd McLellan has now leaned on John Gibson in net. Murray had an historic Stanley Cup run, but he may still need time to develop. The Creator shouldn’t have a problem letting him grow in Las Vegas. Between Murray and Hagelin, Pittsburgh will be forced to lose one valuable asset.