The Leafs at #5?

Come draft time, barring any trades, the Toronto Maple Leafs will pick 5th in the 2012 NHL Entry draft. However, don’t count on the 5th pick yet because the Leafs do not have a happy relationship with the draft.

They have been known to trade their early draft picks or prospects for old, star players whose level of play has severely declined. Trades like Adam Mair and a second rounder that would turn into Mike Cammalleri to Los Angeles for Aki Berg and Brad Boyes, Alyn McCauley and a first round pick to San Jose for Owen Nolan, goaltending phenom Tuukka Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft and possibly the most infamous; two first round picks that would turn into Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and a second rounder that would turn into Jared Knight to Boston for Phil Kessel. Mention of any of these trades make Leafs fans flinch, and for good reason.

After all these years of mediocrity, the Leafs thought they had something this season. They retained a playoff berth until February the 24th, and were not eliminated for contention until March. But by dropping 22 of their last 29 games this season, a historic collapse occurred and the Leafs fell short of the NHL for a seventh-straight season.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. Before his injury ended his season, left winger Joffrey Lupul was on a point-per game pace and 5th in the league in scoring. Lupul finished the season with 67 points in 66 games, a remarkable total for a Leafs forward. Linemate Phil ‘The Thrill’ Kessel also had a good season, tallying 37 goals and 82 points in 82 games. There is a base to build on. But the Leafs lack a big, number one center. With Tyler Bozak playing on the first line for much of the season and free-agent signing Tim Connolly on the bench, the Buds proved they have no depth at center, and little on the wings after Lupul and Kessel.

That is what they should focus on at the draft.

There will be some great forwards available when they pick 5th. Russian center Alex Galchenyuk will most likely be available to pick. After a season where he recorded 83 points in 68 games with in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, he missed all but two regular season games this year due to a freak injury to his knee. Drafted #1 in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection Draft, he has great hands and projects as a Bobby Ryan or Marian Hossa type forward. If he is still up when Toronto has their pick, look for them to snap him up. 

Filip Forsberg is another great prospect who may be available when the Leafs make their pick. Blending size with talent, at 6’2 and 181 pounds Forsberg is already big and is still growing. He is a high skill player who played in the Swedish Elite League this season, recording only 17 points in 43 games. However, he did lead the national Swedish team with 4 goals in 5 games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the summer against players of his own age. The forward can play a defensive game as well as an offensive game and is known as a two-way player. He would be a great addition to a Toronto team that lacks skill.

These are just two of the forwards that I think the Leafs should take at the 2012 NHL entry draft. If you want to hear any more projections, give me a shout out and I’ll see what I can do!

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NHL Playoffs: Round 2

NHL Playoffs: Round 2.

Here is a second round preview pressed by my friend Thomas.

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Canadian IIHF 2012 World Championship Roster

Just a quick update : I couldn’t find a full roster anywhere so I decided to scrounge around and find the players that have been mentioned in articles about the WC. These are the players that I have found that will be participating in the IIHF World Championship representing Canada. I find it strange that no official team list has been posted considering the team is already playing exhibiton games, but here is a roster that is close to 100% perfect.

Forwards – Andrew Ladd, Jordan Eberle, Evander Kane, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Tavares, Patrick Sharp, Jeff Skinner, Jamie Benn, Ted Purcell, Ryan O’Reilly

Defensemen – Duncan Keith, Dion Phaneuf, P.K. Subban, Luke Schenn, Jay Bouwmeester, Marc Methot

Goalies – Devan Dubnyk, Cam Ward

Head Coach – Brent Sutter

Assistant Coaches – Kirk Muller, Guy Boucher

Just in case anyone is wondering, Canada beat the Swiss in an exhibition game at the WC. Jordan Eberle again proved his worth to Hockey Canada by scoring the tying goal with 0.8 seconds left remaining in regulation, and then won the shootout for the Canadians.

Canada's Jordan Eberle, right, scores with a penalty against Switzerland's goalkeeper Reto Berra, left, during a friendly ice hockey game between Switzerland and Canada in Fribourg, Switzerland, Sunday, April 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Keystone, Peter Schneider)

The Canadians will play another exhibition game on Tuesday against the Swiss. Canada will  then open the tournament Friday against Slovakia.

Remember, this World Championship is very important due the fact that the results of this tournament will help to determine the final rankings and groupings for the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

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The King is a Rock Star Extraordinaire

Classy. Stylish. Confident.. Rock star?

These are all words to that can be used to describe New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The first three are easy to relate to.. but rock star?

Believe it or not, Lundqvist does things other than stopping a ridiculous amount of rubber and rocking stylish designer suits in his spare time. He plays guitar. In a band. With another New York sports star.

Lundqvist is part of a band called “The Noise Upstairs“. Along with tennis icon John McEnroe, the group comprises of drummer Jay Weinberg (son of Max Weinberg, longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band), vocalist Tarah Healy, back-up vocalist John Healy and bassist Jake Siberon. Intrigued? It gets better.

Lundqvist even plays live; he teamed up with his band to play a benefit concert in February. They played at The Canal Room (a music venue in the TriBeCa neighborhood of Manhattan, NYC) on February 22nd.  Ticket sales and funds raised by auction benefited The Garden of Dreams Foundation and scholarships for John McEnroe’s Tennis Academy.

Lundqvist played at the opening of Sean Avery’s sports bar in New York, Warren 77 as well.

Fans of the Ranger may also remember a scene in the HNO 24/7 that featured Lundqvist jamming during a studio session with his band.

Puckstopper by day, rock star by night. Playing hockey in one of the biggest cities in the word obviously affords options to players who want do other than just play hockey. One thing is for certain: Henrik Lundqvist really is the King; the King of rock ‘n roll.

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Awards : The Doug Harvey Award

Okay, I’m not going to lie, I had a lot of fun doing that series about the Olympics. So I figured I should do another series.. but what subject to pick?

The awards! The Norris trophy, the Jack Adams trophy, the Calder trophy.. ect. There are many trophies out there to choose from. So I thought I could give the awards to who I thought should win. I’ll kick off the series by doing the Doug Harvey award for the best defenseman in the league.

The three Norris trophy contenders this year are Erik Karlsson, Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber. I agree with these picks, but I believe one defenseman has proven himself to by a head above the rest.

And the Doug Harvey award goes to.. Shea Weber

Standing at 6’4 and weighing in at 234, Shea Weber is a big fellow. His shot is even bigger, clocking in at over 106 mph. That is over 170 kilometers per hour. Imagine yourself driving down the highway, and all of the sudden you are overtaken by a black piece of rubber going nearly twice as fast as you. That is the speed of Shea Weber’s shot. It’s no wonder goalies cringe when they face his shot.

But other than his shot, what does he have going for him? Well, he tied for first among D-men in goals with 19 while playing 26:09 minutes a night against the opponent’s best players. Despite playing against the best lines in the NHL, he finished as a plus 21, leading his team. He also led the Preds in hits with 177 and finished third among his teammates in blocked shots, with 140. An all out machine, he plays with an edge reminiscent of Scott Stevens and isn’t afraid to mix it up.

Matt Carkner had to stand up for Norris nominee Erik Karlsson in the first round of the 2012 NHL playoffs because Karlsson was being bullied. There is no bullying Weber, unless you want a concussion.

The captain of the Nashville Predators is my Doug Harvey winner this year. Even if this award does not mean anything; the numerous Norris trophies that will soon be overflowing on his mantle will.

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2nd Round Playoff Predictions

After a wild first round where the defending Cup Champions were eliminated and the President’s Trophy winners were sent packing, the second round should be an exciting one. I will make my predictions now, in spite of the fact that the fate of one game has been decided.

Western Conference

#8 Los Angeles Kings vs. #2 St. Louis Blues

Yes, the Los Angeles Kings eliminated the President’s Trophy winners, but the Blues are a whole different type of animal. They play a defensive game in front of All-Star goalie Brian Elliot. They are also a tough team to match up against due to their depth at center and they have a solid back end. If Andy McDonald can keep the magic up (8 points in 5 games), St. Louis in a hard fought, 6 games series.Andy McDonald Andy McDonald #10 of the St. Louis Blues scores a goal against Brian Boucher #33 of the San Jose Sharks at the Scottrade Center on March 12, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Andy McDonald;Brian Boucher

Player to watch: Andy McDonald

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #3 Phoenix Coyotes

This is the series where one game has already taken place; and Phoenix is actually up 1-0. I’ll ignore this, and say that Nashville will come back. Nonetheless,  I think no matter who wins this one it is going to go to 7 games. The teams play the same type of defensive game, and they both have extraordinary goaltenders. Back from the KHL, Preds forward Alexander Radulov recorded 7 points in in the last 9 games of the season and has scored 5 points in 6 games in the playoffs. If he can find his scoring touch and Nashville rolls four lines, Nashville in 7.

Player to watch: Alexander Radulov

Eastern Conference

#7 Washington Capitals vs. #1 New York Rangers

Even without big forward Brian Boyle, the Rangers should be able to pull this one out. The Rangers have a much better backend than the Caps; with players such as Marc Staal and Dan Girardi they additionally have the more physical blue line. And if Slovak Marian Gaborik (41 goals in the regular season) gets going, the Caps have a almost zero chance at success. If Lundqvist is rolling, Gaborik is on top of his game and Ovie is struggling, Rangers in 6.

Player to watch: Henrik Lundqvist

#6 New Jersey Devils vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers

Sorry Devils fans, but the only reason you made it to the second round was because you got to play the Florida Panthers in the first round. After outscoring Pittsburgh 30-26 in just six games, look for Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to bounce back from an awful series (3.89 GAA, .871 SP) where he put on a poor performance. If Claude Giroux can keep scoring at the torrid pace he’s been on thus far in the playoffs and Ilya Bryzgalov can find a way to cover up his five hole, look for the first sweep of the playoffs; Flyers in 4.

Player to watch: Ilya Bryzgalov

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Projected 2014 Canadian Olympic Team : Forwards

For the final post in my series I will name the forwards that I believe should represent Canada in men’s hockey at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The forwards were probably the most difficult to select, due to the problem that chemistry has to be considered as well as skill, hustle, strength, determination and a power to ignore the pressure of winning the gold medal. With all that in mind, I believe strongly in my forward core and I think that my team would succeed at the Olympics. Let’s hope Stevie Y is reading this!

Forwards : Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews, Jordan Eberle, Corey Perry, Tyler Seguin, Rick Nash, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, James Neal, Brad Richards

Explanation: First off, let me start by saying that there are a lot of forwards to choose from for team Canada. They could almost have two competitive teams in the Olympics.

But anyways, to my explanations.

Sidney Crosby is a given on this team. Despite only playing 22 games due to concussion problems this season, he still recorded 37 points. Voted by his peers in the NHL as the best player, he may be known to whine and complain, but his skill set cannot be denied.

Likewise; Steven Stamkos is one of the best players in the game. The only player to reach 60 goals this year, his shot is feared around the league. After watching this video it is easy to tell why he is a shoo-in for the Canadian team.

Ryan Getzlaf is the third line center that every team fears. At 6’4, 224 pounds he is an illustration of the depth that the Canadian team has. Other teams will have huge problems matching up against him, and he plays an effective shutdown role as well.

Claude Giroux’s playoff performance thus far is reminiscent of french Canadians such as Maurice Richard and Mario Lemieux. Giroux has recorded 14 points in 6 games; a throwback to the old NHL. He was no slouch in the regular season either; with 93 points in 77 games he finished third in regular season scoring.

Mike Richards : the penalty kill specialist. Richards can shut down opposing teams as effortlessly as he can skate. After a shocking trade to Los Angeles last summer, he flourished as a shut-down player on the Kings, playing heavy penalty kill minutes.

Jonathan Toews has already hoisted the Stanley Cup and won a gold medal at the Olympics; and he is only 23. With a great career in front of him, Toews played almost at a point-per game pace this year with 57 points in 59 games. Already a great player, Toews will provide much leadership on a Canadian team that will be challenging for the gold medal.

Jordan Eberle is one of the wild cards that I picked. Playing on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wing this year, he scored 76 points. He will also be forever remembered as a clutch Canadian player, scoring a goal to tie the Russians in the World Juniors with only 6 seconds remaining in the game. The Canadians went on to win the game; and Eberle’s place as a Canadian icon was solidified.

Correy Perry is a 50 goal scorer in the NHL. He is also a 3 time 30 goal scorer in the NHL. He will also be a goal scorer again at the Olympics. But another important element that he possesses is his chemistry with Ryan Getzlaf as they play together on a line in Anaheim. At, 6’3, 203 pounds, Perry is also another big body that other teams will have a hard time matching up against.

Tyler Seguin finished second in the league in plus minus with a plus 34 rating. The 2nd overall pick in 2010 has blossomed into a premier playmaker, and with 67 points this year he will only continue to improve.

Rick Nash will be returning after winning a gold medal in 2010 with the team. The Brampton, Ontario native will be 29 when the Olympics roll around. His scoring touch (5 straight 30 goal seasons) will be a bonus for a the a great Canadian team.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins just completed his rookie season, and it may raise a few eyebrows that he is on this list. The 19 year old had an impressive rookie season and has been nominated for the Calder Trophy. By the time 2014 rolls around he will be an NHL All-Star.

James Neal had a terrific season this year, scoring 40 goals riding shotgun to one of the best centers Russians in the world, Evgeni Malkin. He also has time to form chemistry with Crosby as they play on the same team.

Brad Richards was the last choice I made for this team. He is a strong, versatile player who can play point on the powerplay as well as center. With a  Conn Smythe trophy under his belt as the playoff M.V.P. from when he won the Stanley Cup in the 2003-2004 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the ‘other’ Richards will prove useful as a 13th forward.

I hope you enjoyed my series on my projected picks for the 2014 men’s Olympic hockey team that will play in Sochi, Russia!

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