Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Doan Officially Retires

I was trying to save a lot of the retirement posts for players that helped hockey pool teams win money, but over the past seasons on, Shane Doan had not figured on a money winning team.  Nevertheless, even though Doan couldn't figure into one of the 248 forward slots that would have been taken up at the end of the regular season for a money team, he still had himself quite the career.

Between the original iteration of the Winnipeg Jets and thusly, the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes, Doan played in 1,540 games for the franchise and has all the franchise records in scoring, picking up 402 goals and 570 assists for 972 points.

The last of the original Winnipeg Jets played in 21 seasons in the NHL, winning a couple of individual awards over his career, playing in a couple of All-Star Games as well.  Doan has been known to be the consummate professional throughout his career and your prototypical leader, it's a real shame that he is one of those players never to win the Stanley Cup.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Handing Out Camp Invites (Aug 29)

An interesting invite to the Colorado camp is defenseman Jared Cowen, a guy that had all kinds of upside to his game in his youth, while in the Ottawa system, but his career being derailed by injury in the last few seasons.

Cowen was the 9th overall selection in the 2009 draft, but he hasn't seen an NHL game since the midway point of the 2016 season and was bought out by the Maple Leafs ahead of the 2017 season, left to be an unrestricted free agent since then.

His best season was back in the 2014 campaign, where he played in 68 games and picked up 15 points.  The Avalanche have plenty of bubble spots on their blueline, which makes this move rather interesting, especially if he's 100% healthy from his hip problems.

The Florida Panthers also handed out an intriguing invite on Tuesday, bringing former Panther Brandon Pirri back to the fold for training camp.  Pirri has been one of those players seemingly on the cusp of being a pool worthy player, taken a few times in the hockey pool draft, but never quite got there.

There was already some word that he had a deal in place for a team in Europe this summer, but obviously, his priority is to play in the NHL and there is no better spot to tryout than back in Florida, where they have a ton of bubble players on their projected roster.  If Pirri can somehow get himself onto the team as a full time player and he can play more than 61 games in a season, he has a chance at being a late round pick in the pool draft or better yet, a mid-season pick-up.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Handing Out Camp Invites (Aug 28)

The Los Angeles Kings have reached out to 36-year old defenseman Chris Lee, a veteran of the KHL of the last four seasons, offering him a camp tryout for this September.  Lee's name came front and centre over the off-season, when he was included on Canada's World Championship team, which won silver this year, losing to Sweden in the gold medal game.

In the KHL, Lee had 65 points in 60 games with Magnitogorsk in the regular season and then another 21 points in 18 games in the playoffs.  He'll at least get a long look and if that fails, then he'll likely head back to Russia, where he has been pretty darn good.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Top Prospect Signings (Aug 27)

After completing his four years at the University of Denver, taking home a national championship and winning the Hobey Baker Trophy last season, defenseman Will Butcher had also opted for unrestricted free agency, instead of signing with his NHL drafted team, the Colorado Avalanche. Instead, Butcher has opted to go to New Jersey, quite the opposite of what happened with forward Alex Kerfoot earlier this week.

The scouting reports on this kid mostly centre around his offensive upside, as he is a bit undersized, but has some pretty quick feet, gets the puck to the net and can quarterback a power play.  The jury is still out as to whether or not he's NHL-ready right off the hop, but with the Devils lack of depth on their blueline, Butcher will get a long look at training camp and he'll work to unseat someone already in a projected spot.

Butcher's decision makes it back-to-back years where the Hobey Baker winner opted for unrestricted free agency after his NCAA career, with last summer's move for Jimmy Vesey, heading to the Rangers instead of the Predators.

Leafs Re-Sign Brown

A late Saturday afternoon/evening signing saw the Toronto Maple Leafs bring forward Connor Brown back into the fold with a 3-year, $6.3 million deal.

Brown exploded onto the scene with the other rookies in the Toronto lineup last season and together, they formed a very dynamic squad that found their way into the playoffs and restored the faith of the Maple Leafs fan base.

In 82 games played last season, the 23-year old had a 20-goal season, finishing with 36 points, well inside the pool worthiness conversation at 156th among all forwards in scoring.

He, along with his other younger teammates, will be under the microscope, carrying much larger expectations for the 2018 season and for the most part, this group is certainly well-equipped to do just that.  Adding some more veteran help for a mentorship role, should help guide these kids through the rough patches.

Player Pos 17/18 Proj Rookie
Auston Matthews F 75 N
Frederik Andersen G 75 N
Nazem Kadri F 60 N
James Van Riemsdyk F 60 N
William Nylander F 55 N
Mitchell Marner F 55 N
Patrick Marleau F 50 N
Tyler Bozak F 50 N
Jake Gardiner D 40 N
Leo Komarov F 35 N
Kasperi Kapanen F 35 N
Morgan Rielly D 35 N
Nikita Zaitsev D 30 N
Connor Brown F 30 N
Curtis McElhinney G 25 N
Zach Hyman F 20 N
Dominic Moore F 20 N
Josh Leivo F 20 N
Eric Fehr F 15 N
Ron Hainsey D 15 N
Matt Martin F 10 N
Martin Marincin D 10 N
Connor Carrick D 10 N

Brown is now preparing for his second full season with the big club in Toronto and it's that sophomore season, which I will harp on and on about, that figures largely for some of these Toronto players this year.  I figure it will be somewhat of a down season for Brown, but it won't be awful, while the Hockey News believes that it will be back to the 36-point range for the forward, keeping him well within range for a selection in this year's draft.  This year for the Leafs will hinge greatly on the shoulders of these kids and the rabid market that is Toronto could also hinder some of that development.

Cap-wise, the Leafs have really been working the abacus' and calculators hard to make sure they all fit within the league guidelines.  The Nathan Horton/Joffrey Lupul injuries are the biggest reason for the extra work.  If my math serves me properly, I have a Leafs roster with 25 players, including the two injured players, using only Lupul's help on the LTIR, leaving the team with just over $450,000 in available cap space.  The Leafs could still open Horton's $5.3 million, if needed, but that would really handcuff this team moving forward.  I suspect that the Leafs are done for the summer and they'll head to camp as is.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

2018 Pool Projections: Top 5 Defenses

Only one of the big money teams appeared in the top five in defensemen scoring in the 2017 draft pool, so maybe I'm putting a little too much onus on this, but I wanted to see what the top five bluelines looked like, using my projections for the coming season.

I have just pulled the top seven on my projected rosters to have a quick peek at and there is a ton of talent between these five squads and I think this is what makes them very dangerous this season.

Nashville Proj Tampa Bay Proj Pittsburgh Proj Columbus Proj Winnipeg Proj
P.K. Subban 55 Victor Hedman 70 Kris Letang 50 Seth Jones 45 Dustin Byfuglien 55
Roman Josi 55 Anton Stralman 30 Justin Schultz 50 Zach Werenski 35 Jacob Trouba 35
Ryan Ellis 40 Mikhail Sergachev 30 Matt Hunwick 25 David Savard 30 Tyler Myers 30
Mattias Ekholm 25 Dan Girardi 15 Olli Maatta 20 Jack Johnson 25 Toby Enstrom 20
Matt Irwin 15 Andrej Sustr 15 Ian Cole 20 Ryan Murray 25 Dmitry Kulikov 20
Alexei Emelin 10 Jake Dotchin 15 Brian Dumoulin 15 Markus Nutivaara 10 Joshua Morrissey 20
Yannick Weber 10 Braydon Coburn 10 Derrick Pouliot 10 Scott Harrington 5 Ben Chiarot 10

If we learned anything in last season's playoffs, the Nashville Predators defense carried their squad all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and it is scoring by committee there.  The top five on their blueline are all returning and all ready to contribute and a guy like Matt Irwin could be a decent sleeper, especially if he can find some more minutes beyond those first four.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have one of the better all around defenders in the league in Victor Hedman and this could be his season for a real shot at the Norris Trophy, assuming he can put together a big 70-point (or so) season.  They also get to add one of the top blueline prospects in the NHL in Mikhail Sergachev, who they acquired in a trade from the Canadiens this summer and he can certainly make this squad and produce.

The Cup champs are somewhat of a curious addition, given the injury prone nature of Kris Letang, but that is taken into account with his season's projection of 50 points.  The real lynch pin now of this blueline is Justin Schultz and he's the guy that could really make his way up the list, if used appropriately.  The addition of Matt Hunwick appears to be a good one, after a good season in Toronto.

Seth Jones is developing into one of the league's best defensemen and he's being trailed by sophomore sensation Zach Werenski, as the Columbus Blue Jackets are continuing to trend upwards in the standings and their playoff prowess.  I think you'll find a few gems in Columbus that will give your team decent support this season, because you'll certainly need it.

Finally, the Jets are another one of those teams that are building up quite the blueline and they have added a big bomber in Dmitry Kulikov, certainly making their already daunting lineup that much stronger.  Winnipeg certainly has a lot of potential at the back end, the likes of Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey are guys that could move beyond their projections and into real worthiness in the 2018 season.

Dale B., our pool winner last season, saw his team rank 9th among the 25 teams in the pool in defensemen scoring, as his team found a pretty good balance between all three positions, ranking 6th in forwards and 7th in goalies.  These guys may not be overly important, but your pool team should still be decent at the position, if you intend to win any money this year.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Handing Out Camp Invites (Aug 25)

Jay McClement is not the first tryout invite posted this summer, but he is the first that has garnered the interest on the blog.  McClement played in 65 games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes and has just agreed to a camp tryout invite with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he could probably sign a league minimum deal and be a pretty serviceable depth player for this club.

The Penguins have a number of bubble players on their current projected roster and depending on how the camp goes, McClement could find his way through.  It's somewhat doubtful that he'll be pool worthy, but it looks good on him, joining a dynamic Penguins club for training camp.

Fringe Signings (Aug 25)

The New Jersey Devils announced on Friday afternoon that they had signed unrestricted free agent forward Drew Stafford to a 1-year, $800,000 deal.

The 31-year old spent the 2017 season between the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins, playing in 58 games, scoring 8 goals and registering 21 points, ranking him 258th among all forwards in scoring for the year.  Expectations were certainly higher for the winger, who has been mired with inconsistency in his career, which has seen him move around quite a bit in recent years.  It also didn't help that injuries caught up to the winger last season, missing 24 games to a lower-body injury, an upper-body and a bout of the flu.

The Devils should offer him a reasonable opportunity to get his game back to pool worthy levels, but it's pretty tough to see where he'll fit in right off the hop, so the early projections I have for him are at the 30-point level, but there's certainly some upside with more ice-time.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Top Prospect Signings (Aug 24)

The Colorado Avalanche won the services of forward Alex Kerfoot on Wednesday, signing the Harvard University product to a 2-year entry-level deal.  Kerfoot was a 2012 draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, but found his way into unrestricted free agency after his 4-year term was done at school and went unsigned with the Devils.

His career numbers at the NCAA level were certainly impressive, 123 points in 121 games, and he'll be offered the opportunity to jump right in at the NHL level with the Avalanche, which was likely the kicker in him choosing to go to Denver, rather than a few other NHL cities that were vying for his services.

It will certainly be interesting to see how and where he could fit in with the club, as the competition for spots is starting to look tight.  Of course, the trade rumours surrounding the Avalanche may open up a spot or two, but until that happens, we'll maybe hold off on some early projections.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Hockey News Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide 2017-18

Was I wrong to doubt the Hockey News last year? Perhaps. But then where's the fun of doing your own projections, right?  The call on Connor McDavid being the top dog was pretty darn close, given that the publication said 95 points and he reached an even 100 points by the end of the year.   The Hockey Pool's numbers also suggested that Braden Holtby was going to be the top dog at 106 points... and well, he was the top dog at 102 points in my hockey pool scoring rankings.

Does that mean I'm going to give up and not go along with my own projections?  Hell no.  There's no fun in just taking someone else's numbers out of a book... is there?  Don't forget to have a peek at my projections, just in case you're wondering.

The pool guide has done a pretty decent job of putting together a good list of players this year, 693, by my count, so that would look pretty good on the 200 forwards, 100 defense and 50 goalies we'd be taking if the pool was 25 teams again.  And based on a 25-team pool, like we had last season, let's do some basic comparisons.

My 5-point range of scoring saw McDavid on top at the 105-point range, while the Hockey News suggests that he's in for a huge year, posting 112 points, far and away the best player of the bunch.  I went so far to add a few goalies in the 100-point range, Cam Talbot, Devan Dubnyk and Tuukka Rask, but the Hockey News didn't have any more.

The projections for the 1st round in their publication, the top 25 players, rounds out at 76 points, which is 25 players on the nose.  I do think there is a little room for movement, given that lots can happen in any given season and my 75-point range does have 34 potential players that could be 1st rounders, including Brent Burns, Corey Crawford, Pekka Rinne, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Brad Marchand, Auston Matthews, Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin.  Teams are going to want and edge in the pool somewhere and if they can find it this early, they are already better off.

Nevertheless, let's have a look at their top 10's, see if they are in line with your thinking.  Patrick  Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Sidney Crosby, Mark Scheifele, Leon Draisaitl, Jamie Benn, Jack Eichel, John Tavares and Nicklas Backstrom all round out that group behind McDavid and it's really looking like the youth movement is on, according to the publication.

On defense, there are no real surprises here: Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Rasmus Ristolainen, Dustin Byfuglien, John Klingberg, Dougie Hamilton, Roman Josi, Duncan Keith and P.K. Subban are your top ten.  With both Eichel and Ristolainen playing prominent roles on their respective lists, the Sabres are slowly creeping their way back into relevance, aren't they?

Talbot, Rask and Dubnyk were among my top 10, also figuring into theirs as well, while Braden Holtby, Matt Murray, Carey Price, Frederik Andersen, Jake Allen, Mike Smith and Sergei Bobrovsky round out their top 10.  Very notable in this list is the Flames' Smith, who finally may have found himself that spot that he can finally put some real points together this year.

One thing I did like about this year's Hockey News numbers, they included a starter and a backup for all 31 teams, which is certainly helpful.  I think there was only one disagreement in all 31 teams and that was I thought Jeff Zatkoff would be the guy over Darcy Kuemper for the back-up job in Los Angeles.  That one really could go either way.  Granted, if something changes, the blog will reflect those changes, while print is still print.

How about the rookie class?  We're both in agreement, Nolan Patrick is the one to watch this year and it's going to be a good race.  Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser, Joel Eriksson Ek and Nico Hischier are all hovering around where I have them in my projections, so there could be something to this race yet.  Also in the rookie top ten, Tyson Jost, Matthew Barzal, Josh Ho-Sang, Charlie McAvoy and Zach Senyshyn.

The faith in the Florida Panthers and their off-season acquisitions seems to be rather thin, only banking points on Evgeny Dadonov, suggesting that he'll be a pretty good pick-up this year, and skipping over the likes of Henrik Haapala or Juho Lammikko, a pair of Finns looking to push through this year.  I thought this was a notable point, especially since the Panthers were such a hard team to predict this summer.

We're just over a month away from draft day and the numbers are slowly beginning to creep out.  I would say build your own thorough list, that way you don't leave players that you're really looking for behind, but if you're only going to buy a guide leading up to draft day, this would be the one I'd suggest more often than not.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Beauchemin Returns to Anaheim

The Anaheim Ducks are bringing back a familiar face to the 2018 season, signing unrestricted free agent defenseman Francois Beauchemin to a 1-year deal.  The early reports suggest that the 37-year old will have a $1 million salary and he'll also be in line for another $500,000 in performance bonuses in his 35+ deal.

The veteran defenseman spent the last couple of seasons with the struggling Colorado Avalanche, unable to provide a calming presence on that young team and the last year of his 3-year deal was bought out this summer, sending him to free agency.

Last season, Beauchemin played in 81 games, scoring 5 goals and 18 points, which was good enough for 92nd among all defensemen in hockey pool scoring, having him just inside the pool worthiness conversation in last year's contest.

The Ducks last had the veteran back in the 2015 season, when he finished with 11 goals and 23 points, playing in 64 games that year, before he headed for unrestricted agency that year.

Player Pos 17/18 Proj Rookie
Ryan Getzlaf F 70 N
John Gibson G 65 N
Corey Perry F 55 N
Ryan Kesler F 55 N
Rickard Rakell F 55 N
Jakob Silfverberg F 50 N
Patrick Eaves F 45 N
Ryan Miller G 40 N
Cam Fowler D 40 N
Andrew Cogliano F 30 N
Antoine Vermette F 30 N
Nick Ritchie F 30 N
Ondrej Kase F 25 N
Hampus Lindholm D 25 N
Sami Vatanen D 25 N
Logan Shaw F 20 N
Brandon Montour D 20 N
Josh Manson D 20 N
Francois Beauchemin D 20 N
Korbinian Holzer D 10 N
Jared Boll F 5 N
Chris Wagner F 5 N
Corey Tropp F 5 N
Jacob Larsson D 5 Y

The gains are quite big for the Ducks, who were looking to go into the regular season with a pretty young blueline, especially with Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen on the shelf to start the year.  Beauchemin should be able to provide that good veteran presence on a very competitive team already, a team that has a good veteran presence, up front more than anything.  Still, this is a pretty good move, which may take down the numbers of one of those young players, but the inclusion on a good Anaheim team suggests to me that he'll continue to be a pool worthy player.

The Ducks are in really good shape against the salary cap ceiling, still sitting with about $7.1 million in unused cap space with a very good projected roster.  Now, that projected roster doesn't quite take into account the injuries to Lindholm and Vatanen, which likely means a couple of those young players are still to be added, while those two are on the IR, but they are still pretty comfortable in their situation.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fringe Signings (Aug 17)

The Buffalo Sabres re-signed their last remaining restricted free agent, forward Zemgus Girgensons, offering up a 2-year, $3.2 million deal on Thursday.

The Latvian forward has been somewhat of a disappointment in recent seasons, only posting 18 points in 2016 and 16 points in 2017, so the negotiations were not really going to end up in his favour, in theory.  A $1.6 million cap hit is the promise of better times to come, but he's really hard to bet on, hence his projection for the coming season is only at the 20-point range.  If the 23-year old can get his game together, the Sabres will obviously be a far more dangerous team, but he's got to be prepared to bring his A-game this year.

Off-Season Injury Notes (Aug 17)

The New Jersey Devils announced that forward Travis Zajac will miss the next 4-to-6 months after undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral muscle.  The timeline suggests that the winger could return between December and February, missing nearly half the season or more.

This means his overall projections are going to drop and they have been dropped down from the 45-point range to the 15-point range, well out of worthiness range and to be good enough for the draft.  This will also mean more ice-time for someone else, possibly giving more opportunity to a top prospect like John Quenneville or Michael McLeod.  How the Devils decide to fill that void will certainly have an effect on the overall projections, come draft day.

2018 Pool Projections: Rookies

The mini-game wheel didn't stop on the rookie pool last season, much to the chagrin of Scott's team, which was dominated by rookies and would have clearly walked away with the title, but there's always a chance that the wheel could stop on it this season and it would be a whole new ball game.

By far, one of the most difficult things to do in these projection posts is predict which rookies are going to earn a spot with their NHL club and then figure out how many points they are going to push for in the season.  This hasn't exactly been my forte in the last couple of seasons, but here I am again, pulling out the rookies for a third post of it's kind, giving it my best go.

The entry draft this summer wasn't exactly full of hype, but the top two kids certainly will have a shot with their new teams and personally, I like Nolan Patrick's chances of a better season in Philadelphia than Nico Hischier in New Jersey.  I wouldn't necessarily say that it will be the telling point for either player's careers, but Patrick is my favourite today for the Calder Trophy.

Still, I think the biggest competition for the top rookie will come from the drafts of previous summers, as some top prospects were showcased at the end of last season and figured out what it was going to take to have a full-time job in the NHL.  There were also a few that got that look at the beginning of last season and went back to junior to work on the little things that would get them the longer look in training camp.  These are the kids we could be most excited for and we should be in for a fun season.

Let's just have ourselves a quick reminder of what qualifies a player as a rookie... "To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in more than 25 NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie."

Player Pos 17/18 Proj Team
Nolan Patrick F 60 PHI
Clayton Keller F 50 ARI
Brock Boeser F 45 VAN
Pierre-Luc Dubois F 45 CBJ
Joel Eriksson Ek F 45 MIN
Nico Hischier F 45 NJD
Dylan Strome F 45 ARI
Charles McAvoy D 40 BOS
Joshua Ho-Sang F 35 NYI
Alexander Nylander F 35 BUF
Christian Fischer F 30 ARI
Henrik Haapala F 30 FLA
John Quenneville F 30 NJD
Mikhail Sergachev D 30 TAM
Jake DeBrusk F 25 BOS
Julien Gauthier F 25 CAR
Yanni Gourde F 25 TAM
Jayce Hawryluk F 25 FLA
Miro Heiskanen D 25 DAL
Tyson Jost F 25 COL
Michael McLeod F 25 NJD
J.T. Compher F 20 COL
Frederick Gaudreau F 20 NAS
Julius Honka D 20 DAL
Olli Juolevi D 20 VAN
Adrian Kempe F 20 LOS
Danny O'Regan F 20 SAN
Juuse Saros G 20 NAS
Alex Tuch F 20 VGK
Mike Vecchione F 20 PHI
Tyler Bertuzzi F 15 DET
Madison Bowey D 15 WAS
Gabriel Carlsson D 15 CBJ
Thomas Chabot D 15 OTT
Remi Elie F 15 DAL
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson F 15 BOS
Anton Forsberg G 15 CHI
Mark Jankowski F 15 CAL
Cristoval Nieves F 15 NYR
Gemel Smith F 15 DAL
Blake Speers F 15 NJD
Evgeny Svechnikov F 15 DET
Jakub Vrana F 15 WAS
Matthew Barzal F 10 NYI
Laurent Brossoit G 10 EDM
Peter Cehlarik F 10 BOS
Markus Hannikainen F 10 CBJ
John Hayden F 10 CHI
Charles Hudon F 10 MTL
Tristan Jarry G 10 PIT
Sean Kuraly F 10 BOS
Oliver Kylington D 10 CAL
Juho Lammikko F 10 FLA
Jacob Larsson D 10 ANA
Travis Sanheim D 10 PHI
Dominik Simon F 10 PIT
Pontus Aberg F 5 NAS
Rasmus Andersson D 5 CAL
Josh Archibald F 5 PIT
Nicholas Baptiste F 5 BUF
Riley Barber F 5 WAS
Christoph Bertschy F 5 MIN
Trevor Carrick D 5 CAR
Greg Chase F 5 EDM
Blake Coleman F 5 NJD
Kyle Connor F 5 WPG
Michael Dal Colle F 5 NYI
Kurtis Gabriel F 5 MIN
A.J. Greer F 5 COL
Ben Harpur D 5 OTT
Luke Kunin F 5 MIN
Anton Lindholm D 5 COL
Ian McCoshen D 5 FLA
Sonny Milano F 5 CBJ
Andrei Mironov D 5 COL
Gustav Olofsson D 5 MIN
Ryan Pulock D 5 NYI
Chaz Reddekopp D 5 LOS
Robbie Russo D 5 DET
Jan Rutta D 5 CHI
Jordan Schmaltz D 5 STL
Duncan Siemens D 5 COL
Marcus Sorensen F 5 SAN
Daniel Sprong F 5 PIT
Adam Tambellini F 5 NYR
Sergey Tolchinsky F 5 CAR
Lucas Wallmark F 5 CAR
Colin White F 5 OTT
Valentin Zykov F 5 CAR

By my count, 254 rookies appeared in at least one game in the NHL last season, but only 15 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goalies were considered to be pool worthy among the 25 teams in my draft.  Currently, I am showing nine forwards, five defensemen and only one goalie to do the same in my projections, but your guesses are likely just as good as mine.

Oilers & Draisaitl Finally Come to Terms

The biggest of all the free agents has finally settled down and signed his new deal on Wednesday. The Edmonton Oilers and forward Leon Draisaitl have finally put pen to paper on an 8-year, $68 million deal, giving him an $8.5 million cap hit in each of those seasons, starting with this one, the 2018 season coming up.

The 21-year old broke out in a big way in the 2017 season, finishing the year with 29 goals and 77 points, playing in all 82 games with the Oilers.  That was good enough for 14th overall in pool scoring, 8th among all forwards and all things being equal, there's a fine chance that he should be up there again.

The signing, which may have taken a little longer to get done than most Oilers fans would have liked, gives the team a 1-2 punch with Connor McDavid, which rivals those of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks, if not surpasses both currently.  Along with goaltender Cam Talbot, these three are going to be very hot commodities at the hockey pool draft next month, as you can see with the updated projections table below.

Player Pos 17/18 Proj Rookie
Connor McDavid F 105 N
Cam Talbot G 100 N
Leon Draisaitl F 75 N
Milan Lucic F 55 N
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins F 50 N
Jussi Jokinen F 45 N
Jesse Puljujarvi F 45 N
Patrick Maroon F 40 N
Oscar Klefbom D 40 N
Ryan Strome F 35 N
Mark Letestu F 30 N
Adam Larsson D 25 N
Kris Russell D 25 N
Andrej Sekera D 25 N
Zack Kassian F 20 N
Darnell Nurse D 20 N
Drake Caggiula F 15 N
Anton Slepyshev F 15 N
Matthew Benning D 10 N
Laurent Brossoit G 10 Y
Iiro Pakarinen F 5 N
Jujhar Khaira F 5 N
Mark Fayne D 5 N
Eric Gryba D 5 N
Greg Chase F 5 Y

The initial projections pretty well included Draisaitl's numbers, so there were no major changes to the overall table above.  The Oilers are going to be a formidable force in the Pacific Division this season and their playoff loss should only drive them a little bit harder to the overall successes.  Nevertheless, the Oilers will be a popular team, come draft day and I would imagine that some players may get over-valued or taken too high, so do be careful about some of these guys, especially past the top three.

The Oilers cap number isn't very concerning for the 2018 season, as I'm still showing $8.7 million in unused cap space after the Draisaitl signing yesterday.  The 2019 season, however, it gets to be awfully dicey, when McDavid's contract kicks in and they start have to tinkering with their depth, much like the Blackhawks or the Penguins do right now.  Next summer's free agents include Patrick Maroon and Darnell Nurse and the Oilers won't have a lot of extra dough for those two, when it all boils down.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cullen Goes Wild Again

It might have been really easy for Matt Cullen to hang up the ol' hockey skates, but the 40-year old, despite being a part of back-to-back Stanley Cup winning teams in Pittsburgh... isn't done yet.  Cullen, 40, will return to Minnesota to play for the Wild once again and continue on his career for at least one more season.

Cullen and the Wild agreed on a 1-year deal, which carries a $1 million salary and since it's a 35+ deal, it also carries upwards of $700,000 in bonuses.

The veteran forward should be a very good addition to this team, from a leadership perspective, already joining a team with the likes of Mikko KoivuEric Staal and Zach Parise. which will be a huge benefit to the kids, like Joel Eriksson Ek and maybe Luke Kunin as well.

Last season with the Penguins, Cullen appeared in 72 games, scored 13 goals and 31 points and was still a serviceable player for a hockey pool team at 189th among all forwards.  This season, he may not be quite as productive, given his age and the comparison of offenses between Pittsburgh and Minnesota.  Still, at the cost of this deal, it's a pretty good one for the Wild.

Player Pos 17/18 Proj Rookie
Devan Dubnyk G 100 N
Mikael Granlund F 65 N
Eric Staal F 55 N
Mikko Koivu F 55 N
Nino Niederreiter F 55 N
Zach Parise F 55 N
Charlie Coyle F 50 N
Joel Eriksson Ek F 45 Y
Ryan Suter D 45 N
Jason Zucker F 40 N
Jared Spurgeon D 35 N
Matt Dumba D 35 N
Tyler Ennis F 30 N
Matt Cullen F 25 N
Jonas Brodin D 25 N
Chris Stewart F 20 N
Alex Stalock G 15 N
Kyle Quincey D 15 N
Ryan Murphy D 15 N
Mike Reilly D 10 N
Cal O'Reilly F 5 N
Christoph Bertschy F 5 Y
Landon Ferraro F 5 N
Luke Kunin F 5 Y

With the addition of Cullen to the Wild lineup, that likely means one of the younger, less experienced players gets taken down a notch and there could be a definite rotation of players in the bottom six, dropping Luke Kunin into the rotation, pending his camp performance.  Cullen is just outside the worthiness projections early on, but he'll definitely be a player to keep an eye on, as mid-season injuries could stack up and you may need help from somewhere.

With Cullen now under contract and inserted into the projected 23-man lineup, I am showing the Wild with only about $1.6 million in unused space.  They still have a restricted free agent in Marcus Foligno to sign, but with Cullen now in tow, the absolute need for Foligno in the lineup is lessened and the Wild's negotiation platform is that much more solid.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2018 Pool Projections

I'm entirely sure what compels me to publish my own numbers, but I do.  I guess, with the amount of work that I put into the hockey pool, there is a certain level of sharing that needs to be done.  A lot of people come to the hockey pool draft with the magazines and they like to fly by the seat of their pants, but when you want to run a draft with 25 people and do it under four hours, then you have to do your best and be prepared to the point of only taking a few seconds to get it all done.

Nevertheless, I have prepared all 31 teams, given it a lot of thought, done a little bit of math and by no means are these numbers in concrete.  We still have another few weeks until training camp opens, we still have a number of free agents left to add to team pages and once training camp opens, there could be some young players that see their stock rise.

When you comb through all 31 teams, each logo below is a link to their own page, you will notice that I have some designations of being a 1st round pick in the draft to just being pool worthy.  This year, I am basing my findings on a 25-team draft, just like we had last season, so the top 25 players (and ties) are considered to be 1st round picks, which takes us to the 75-point range.  The top 200 forwards are considered pool worthy and that is 35-points and ties, the defense is the top 100, so 20 points and ties, while the goalies range in the top 50, which is 20 points and ties.

This is all based on my scoring system: 1 point for a goal/assist, 2 points for a win/shutout.  I also like to base my numbers on 5-point ranges, because arbitrarily giving odd numbers just seems crazy, you can certainly be happy with ranges, kind of picking and choosing where you think you're going to see players.

Okay, so after all of that, enjoy the projections!  Maybe there are some tidbits in there that might help you win your pool.