Archive for Hockey

NHL Prospect Report: Is John Gibson Primed To Emerge As An Elite Goaltender?

by Ray Kuhn

John Gibson is a talented young goaltender and there is no disputing that the 22-year old is going to end his career having made multiple All-Star teams. What is surprising is that he made his first All Star game appearance this season.

Entering the season he had two small tastes of NHL experience. In 2013 he barely had time to get adjusted to life in the NHL as he played in three games, wining all of them while allowing a total of four goals. Last year his work was a little more extensive, 23 games (compiled a 13-8 record with a 2.60 GAA and a .914 save percentage), but not enough to disqualify him from being eligible for the Calder Trophy this season.

While it was hard to argue with his success, the Ducks still planned on taking it slow with their young net minder. With that in mind they signed Anton Khudobin to back-up Frederick Anderson. All Gibson did was start the year off with success in the AHL, posting a 7-4-1 record with a 2.63 GAA and .917 save percentage. It took Anderson to have the flu for Gibson to once again make his return to the NHL. Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Can The Coyotes’ Louis Domingue Continue To Thrive?

by Ray Kuhn

Where did Louis Domingue come from? After spending five years in the QMJHL to limited acclaim hehas been bouncing around the ECHL and AHL since 2012. The now 23-year old goaltender has not garnered much attention, and he also has not done much to stand out.

The Arizona Coyotes have surprised many observers this season as their young players have propelled them right into the playoff race. It’s the timing and acceleration in development that some of them have shown is what has caught observers off guard.

For example, no one could have predicted we would be talking about Domingue. Quite frankly he was on no one’s radar as last season he appeared in just 20 AHL games with moderate success (2.68 GAA and .908 save percentage). In fact he has never been much more than an average goaltender. Derek Neumeier said this about him this week for the Hockey Writers (click here for the article): Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Has The Time Come To Dub Jonathan Drouin A Bust?

by Ray Kuhn

What is going on with Jonathan Drouin? It seems that each day all we hear about drama or rhetoric about the 20-year old winger, though none of it has to do with his performance on the ice.

Then again if we were talking about what he has done thus far in his NHL career the tone wouldn’t be much better. To call Drouin a disappointment in his 89 games with the Lightning would be an understatement, but it is way too early to fully judge him.

Without recounting too much of the back and forth going between Drouin, his agent and the Lightning, the forward is currently suspended. He has refused to report to his AHL team for fear of getting injured while Tampa Bay works on a deal for him. I would expect to see him moved by the trading deadline, but it might not come sooner as the team works to maximize their return for the talented winger with multiple teams interested. Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Could Pavel Zacha Emerge As An Elite Option?

by Ray Kuhn

Talent and experience are two different things and the OHL is vastly different than the NHL. It is for that reason that the prudent thing for the Devils to do was to send Pavel Zacha back to his junior’s team after a pre-season cup of coffee (the 18-year old had one assist over four preseason games). Last season he showed that he has talent, as he scored 16 goals and added 18 assists in 37 games in the OHL.

Had Zacha made the Devils it is likely he would not have even been a top-nine forward and playing time would be difficult to come by. Yes he was the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft, and at 6’3’ and 210 pounds he also has the size to be an NHL contributor, but it is too soon to expect a standout performance. Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Will Matthew Tkachuck Follow In His Father’s Footsteps?

by Ray Kuhn

About a month ago we took a look Auston Matthews, who is still on a clear path to be the number one overall pick this June. He is dominating the competition in Switzerland, so it should not be surprising that he was the leading scorer for Team USA. However he was not the only American with 11 points during the seven game tournament. Matthew Tkachuck also deserves some serious attention, and not just because his father is former NHL great Keith Tkachuck (538 career goals, 1,065 points). Although there are certainly some similarities in their game, which Mike Morreale took a look at:

“He looked like his old man out there,” U.S. national junior coach Ron Wilson said. “He has a nose for the net and fights and claws to get there; he’s tenacious, just like his dad.”

Jim Johannson, who serves as general manager for the U.S. national junior team, agreed. Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Is Mackenzie Blackwood The “Goalie of the Future” In New Jersey?

by Ray Kuhn

Even while Martin Brodeur was still tending net for the Devils they were searching for his successor. Now in his third year in New Jersey, Cory Schneider has done a very good job but they are still searching for that long term stud. It is very possible that it could ultimately be Mackenzie Blackwood.

Blackwood, who was the Devils second round pick this past summer, was signed this week to his entry-level contract. Entering the draft Central Scouting had him ranked as the top North American goaltender so the expectations are certainly there.

Currently in his third year in the OHL he has had an interesting campaign. Prior to Tuesday’s game in the World Junior tournament he hadn’t played in a regular season game in 25 days thanks to an eight game suspension for a slashing penalty. Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Will Michael Nylander, The AHL Scoring Leader, Soon Make An Impact?

by Ray Kuhn

As the highest professional level of North American hockey outside of the NHL the AHL serves as both a developmental league and also a taxi squad for the parent organization. That means the level of competition is often older than you would expect and top prospects often take a direct route from Juniors to the NHL. For the young players that do play in the AHL, their opponents often have NHL experience but it is not the same level of talent they might be used to. So while AHL performances do have some weight, they have to be graded accordingly.

So far this season the AHL scoring leader is Michael Nylander, who was Toronto’s first round pick in 2014. He is just 19 years old, but he is certainly holding his own with 14 goals and 20 assists in 27 games. That begs the question as to what Nylander’s NHL outlook is. Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Is The Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere The Next Great Defenseman?

by Ray Kuhn

There is more to being a good defenseman than simply being strong on the defensive end. This is especially true when you factor in power play action and the new 3-on-3 overtime rules.  This is where Shayne Gostisbehere comes into play. No one in history has reached three overtime goals quicker in their career than the former third round pick, and he is name off the radar that we should be aware of.

Players with offensive ability are common place but there is a difference, especially for defenseman, between having that ability and being able to apply it in game situations. We are dealing with a very small sample size for Gostisbehere, just 15 career games through Wednesday, but it already appears that he has that offensive touch. Following his third overtime goal on Tuesday, teammate Jakub Voracek had this to say (click here for the article): Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Looking At The Likely 2016 First Overall Pick, Auston Matthews

by Ray Kuhn

Two days… That is all that kept Auston Matthews from being eligible for this past summer’s draft, though this is truly par for the course as there is really nothing normal about the likely first overall pick this June.

For starters he was born in Arizona, which is not exactly the hot bed of hockey. That caused Matthews to be on the lookout early on in his career for higher levels of competition, and it is one of the things that has shaped the center’s career.

Last season, when he should have been establishing a resume to compete with Connor McDavid to be the first overall pick, Matthews merely put up 117 points while playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program. He also netted 20 goals and added 28 assists in just 24 games for the under-18 team. At this point we know he is talented, can generate results and lives up to high pressure situations. Read more

NHL Prospect Report: Is Now The Rime For Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck To Emerge?

by Ray Kuhn

Opportunity. Yes it is a cliché, but every young player needs it. Of course there has to be talent, tools and proven production as without that, said opportunity will never come. Connor Hellebuyck has proved that he has the talent and, with the injury to Ondrej Pavelec that will likely sideline the Winnipeg goaltender until January, he has opportunity.

Prior to being sidelined Pavelec was struggling and it wasn’t clear that he would be the long term answer for Winnipeg. Behind Pavelec is another young goalie in Michael Huchinson, who has failed to deliver much in the way of results. To be fair the Jets as a team aren’t exactly loaded with talent, but neither goaltender has done much to distinguish themselves as a long term solution.

Hellebuyck, on the other hand, is a different story. Read more