On the draft…
My excitement over the selection of Cristoval “Boo” Nieves in the second round of the June draft has been growing steadily. Nieves has always been a great passer and skater; the reports that he was fully engaged and very physical at prospect development camp have only boosted his stock. Nieves is going to the perfect place for his development, the University of Michigan.
Here’s why you can’t really trust what you hear about European prospects. Calle Andersson, the Rangers’ fourth-round selection, has been called both a sublime skater and an awful skater by multiple credible scouting outlets. So which is it? I can’t say, I don’t get to watch much Swedish Elite League hockey, and neither do most scouting services. We’ll just have to wait and see.
I’m not a fan of the Brady Skjei/Ryan McDonagh comparison. I get it, they’re both great skaters and play defense. But it’s not fair to compare the 28th pick to a guy that is going to be an All-Star in his second full professional season and may be a Norris Trophy candidate before long. It’s extremely rare for a late first-round pick to make a McDonagh-like impact in the NHL and even though the Rangers have proven to be tremendous talent evaluators, they should be very pleased if Skjei turns into a solid second-pairing blueliner.
Other offseason thoughts…
Being greedy, but how much of a slam-dunk would this offseason be if the Rangers were able to ink Justin Schultz?
Minnesota dealt out a whopping $196 million to get Ryan Suter and Zach Parise signed on and though both players will draw most of the attention thanks to their contracts, there are bigger reasons to be excited for Wild fans. Even before those two players were on board, Minnesota was poised to be a team on the rise. Arguably the top prospect in the game, Mikael Granlund, who has been honing his game in Finland, will finally join the team in the NHL this season and appears poised for stardom. Following him is a prospect pipeline that is the envy of the league including top-ranked youngsters Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin, who could be in the league in the next 18 months or so, as well as Matt Dumba, Johan Larsson, Zack Phillips and Mario Lucia. The Wild are set in goal with Niklas Backstrom under contract for one more season and backup Josh Harding, who outperformed Backstrom last year, prepared to assume the starting role for the next three seasons after Backstrom leaves. Minnesota’s rise will take time, but the additions of Suter and Parise provide an excellent backbone for the rest of the group to grow around.
Pat Leonard of the Daily News had a pretty good breakdown of the Shane Doan situation on Wednesday. Leonard explained that the Rangers remain in the hunt thanks to Doan’s ties to the Rangers’ coaching staff, but that Pittsburgh and Vancouver also remain leading contenders to land Doan’s services. Apparently Doan’s wife grew up near Vancouver, the couple already owns a summer home in British Columbia and Doan even owns a portion of the local WHL team, the Kamloops Blazers. If Doan is going to leave Phoenix, it seems to me like going somewhere for his family and personal interests would be in character. I don’t doubt that teams have offered Doan four years and annual salaries above $7 million, but everything we’ve learned about Doan over the years suggests that the contract won’t be his biggest concern. Obviously money talks, but I think Doan wants to play for a contender that offers him some level of comfort. To me, that brings the sweepstakes down to Vancouver and New York, but I think the Canucks have the edge.
I’m unfortunately totally convinced that there will be an NHL lockout. The owners have once again made a mess of things and need to be saved from themselves, so they’re asking for enormous concessions that the players don’t want to give up. Eventually the players will cave in many areas as always happens, but I did find it encouraging that some media have mentioned that a lockout won’t last past the end of November or early December because the league wouldn’t want to risk losing the revenue stream of the magnitude of the Winter Classic. If that’s true, I wonder if the players may come out of this better than expected by being patient for a couple of months.
I’m a little puzzled as to why there’s been so little news on the Bobby Ryan front lately. A month ago it seemed like Ryan and the Anaheim Ducks were on the verge of a very messy divorce. Ryan had publicly expressed his anger with the organization and announced his expectation to be traded, while the Ducks had made a point of listening to trade offers for the 25-year-old at two different junctions over the last 12 months. But since the tension reached its peak, we really haven’t heard a word. It makes sense that Anaheim would want to see the Rick Nash sweepstakes play out to drive Ryan’s price up, but the rumor mill has been surprisingly quiet lately after a silly period at the end of June. Perhaps there’s more going on behind the scenes than we realize, but it now seems reasonably likely that Ryan will suit up for the Ducks to start the season, whenever that comes.
Make sure you read Columbus Dispatch Blue Jackets beat reporter Aaron Portzline’s “61 Thoughts” on the departed #61, Rick Nash.
One story from the draft that left TSN’s Pierre McGuire drooling but maybe didn’t get enough attention nationally was the stockpiling of stud defensive prospects by Pittsburgh. The Penguins have long relied upon Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin while blatantly ignoring some lineup holes that might cripple other teams. The emergence of James Neal has filled one of those gaps on the wing and Pittsburgh attempted to make sure the other, defensive depth, isn’t a problem for the next decade with a weekend that refilled its pipeline to the gills. The Penguins added Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin to a group that already included Simon Despres, Scott Harrington and Joe Morrow. Literally all six of those guys have excellent chances to be impact NHL defensemen. Of course they’ve got a long way to go, but the Penguins could be poised to have a back end capable of matching their feared trio of forwards.
I’ve found it very amusing that in the wake of Nashville matching the Flyers’ offer sheet to Shea Weber, Philadelphia fans have been harassing the team’s beat writers on Twitter about the possibility of signing Michael Del Zotto to an offer sheet. Inquiring fans are consistently assured that the Rangers would match any offer.