by Ray Kuhn
There isn’t a direct correlation between a player winning the Hobey Baker award and having success in the NHL, but it is certainly a good start. At the very least it means that Jimmy Vesey has a track record of success and we should expect some level of production out of him next season.
After being drafted by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the 2012 draft Vesey chose not to sign. With four years having past he is now eligible to be a free agent, and there aren’t many times to be a free agent than after you won the award for being the best player in the NCAA.
While you can’t argue with Vesey’s success last season, 24 goals and 46 points in 33 games, there were better players in the NCAA. You could easily make the argument that he had a better junior season, 32 goals and 26 assists in 37 games, but the Hobey Baker award generally goes to an upper-classmen. Read more
by Ray Kuhn
It has been one heck of a season for Jonathan Drouin, filled with drama. Despite how talented he is the Tampa Bay Lightning have not gotten nearly the value they expected from their 20-year old winger. That is slated to change though. Where this ultimately leads is still left to be determined, but Tampa Bay needs Drouin and for the benefit of his future Drouin needs to put what has already transpired this season behind him.
With Steven Stamkos sidelined for the foreseeable future, and potentially leaving as a free agent at the end of the season, the time is now for Drouin to step up.
Tampa Bay has just one regular season game left after Thursday, and entering action they were in second place in the Atlantic Division with 95 points. This is a critical postseason and they need the offense that Drouin is capable of. He proved it as he scored a third period goal on Thursday night in his return. Read more
by Ray Kuhn
Entering play on Wednesday the Chicago Blackhawks had seven games left in their regular season. A large reason why they appear ready to continue on into June is a rookie who flew under the radar entering this season, the likely Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin.
Let’s be fair, Panarin did have the good fortune to join a pretty successful team. It makes your job in adjusting to the NHL a little easier when you get to share the ice with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes. However, we should also not discount the job he has done in keeping up with his teammates.
Entering the season, there were no questions about Panarin’s talent coming over from Russia, but his ability to have sustained success was questioned by the Hockey News in their pre-season scouting report (click here to view). Read more
by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Talk about coming out of nowhere. Mike Condon wasn’t expected to play much of a role for the Montreal Canadians this season, but instead an injury to Carey Price early on in the season forced Condon to play an intricate role.
Coming up through the amateur ranks Condon wasn’t exactly a goaltender in demand. After spending four seasons playing college hockey with Princeton, he appeared in 24 games his senior season putting up a 2.48 GAA along with a .923 save percentage. He then bounced around the ECHL and AHL for the next two seasons before settling for 48 games with Hamilton (the Canadians affiliate) last year. He went 23-19-6 with 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage, and it still wasn’t enough to truly raise his profile.
He did receive an invite to Montreal’s training camp this past summer, and he worked hard enough to earn the backup job. Little did anyone know at the time that Condon would have already appeared in 49 games this season. Entering the season, this was the scouting report from the Hockey News (click here to view it in its entirety): Read more
by Ray Kuhn
Each season there are players who manage to fly under the radar as it is just too difficult for each player to receive the recognition they deserve. Players can be overshadowed for a number of reasons as well, and one of the bigger ones is teammates with a higher profile (especially on losing teams).
This brings us to Sam Reinhart.
Reinhart was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres last season, coincidentally the same spot where they selected Jack Eichel this past summer. Unlike Reinhart, who spent 47 games in the WHL last season and three in the AHL (along with nine in the NHL), Eichel immediately has made his presence felt. He arrived with greater expectations than Reinhart and he had received the majority of the attention, until recently. Read more
by Ray Kuhn
The New York Islanders are in the midst of a playoff race. As they shoot for home ice advantage and look to ready themselves for the NHL’s annual spring test of endurance, they could use some help along the blue line. So then why has Ryan Pulock been a non-factor?
It is not for lack of pedigree as he was the 15th overall pick in 2013. Prior to being drafted he spent three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, scoring eight goals with 34 assists in 63 games in his first season. He followed that up with 33 goals and 72 assists in 132 games over the next two seasons, leading to the Islanders spending a first round pick on him.
Prior to the draft opinions were all over the place. He was consistently considered a first round pick, he was just projected to go anywhere between five and 30. In the WHL Pulock didn’t have the best supporting cast, and this was said about him leading up to the draft (click here for the article): Read more
by Ray Kuhn
If Calvin Pickard wasn’t a name on your radar you are forgiven. The 23-year old goaltender was drafted in the second round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2010 and has since managed to fly under the radar. A large reason is because he was viewed as more of an organizational depth option than anything else. While he had NHL potential, he wasn’t viewed as a transformational player.
However, after the struggles Seymon Varlamov has been having, Pickard is now being counted on to help lead the Avalanche to the playoffs. Pickard spent four seasons in the WHL, to moderate success, before spending the next two years in the AHL. He has subsequently split his last two seasons between the AHL and the NHL with the Avalanche, but this is the first time Colorado is truly counting on him as a solution. Read more
by Ray Kuhn
It has not been an easy rookie season for Jack Eichel. He was drafted second overall this past summer by the Buffalo Sabres and did not have nearly as much attention as Connor McDavid (who was selected first). While observers certainly know who Eichel is, he has managed to go under the radar.
There are multiple reasons as to why, and the first one is that Eichel plays for the Sabres. Being selected out of Boston College is another reason why he didn’t receive as much publicity (since he didn’t play in Juniors). We know all about McDavid, but Eichel has also had to compete against rookies such as Dylan Larkin and Artemi Panarin who are a part of successful, veteran teams, Eichel has not been surrounded by much talent to begin his NHL career (other than Ryan O’Reilly, who is currently injured).
Eichel didn’t exactly come out of the gates scoring this season as he managed 14 points in his first 32 games. However, over his last 28 games he has certainly found his groove with 27 points. On the season he has 17 goals and 24 assists and has managed to become a consistent offensive threat. Read more
by Ray Kuhn
We kicked off our hockey coverage with Connor McDavid and rightfully so. The first overall pick had a few minor bumps and growing pains early in the season, but that is to be expected for an 18-year old rookie and it is difficult to find much to criticize the rookie for over his 13 games prior to breaking his clavicle. The time missed might make it tough for him to win the Calder Trophy, but he is still in the Top-10 among rookies in scoring. It is clear that he is a special player, the problem is that he is stuck in Edmonton on a team that is still struggling to rebuild.
Entering play on Thursday McDavid has 25 points (nine goals and 16 assists) in 21 games. Since his return he has scored in six of his eight games, with multiple points in four of them, tallying four goals and nine assists. In his first game back he had a goal and two assists and had a career night (for now) against the Maple Leafs a recently with two goals and three assists. Read more
by Ray Kuhn
Two teams let Joe Blandisi go without even a contract and the entire NHL passed on him. It seems like their loss is the New Jersey Devils’ gain.
Blandisi was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche with the 164th pick in the 2012 draft and they left him in the OHL without a contract. When he was still unsigned he went undrafted in 2014 and made it through a Buffalo Sabres tryout camp without a contract. The Devils jumped in and signed Blandisi to a contract last January while he was in the midst of a career season with the Barrie Colts of the OHL.
The forward spent four seasons in the OHL, between 2011 and 2015, and in 246 games he scored 108 goals and 136 assists coming in just shy of a point per game. However the majority of that production (52 goals and 60 assists in 68 games) came last season. Read more