Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Draft Blog: Jordan Papirny Pt.3

-
Earlier this season our radio audience and blog readers were introduced to Brandon Wheat Kings netminder Jordan Papirny. The Edmonton product was an In Studio guest on The Pipeline Show last summer then began writing his draft blog in the fall. Chapter One was released back in September. Chapter Two soon followed in October.

Then, as sometimes happens, the player got too busy, needed to stay focused, and the blogging suddenly stopped. It wasn't hard to figure out why as Papirny began playing more and more. 

As the playoffs began and the wheat Kings advanced past Regina, it finally gave us a chance to watch Papirny live and in person; the goaltender did not start either regular season game at Rexall Place between. It was well worth the wait as the Papirny put on a show despite an endless assault by the Oil Kings. 

Here now is Chapter Three from Jordan Papirny...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tigers' push back not enough - Oil Kings lead 2-0

The Medicine Hat Tigers were  a much better hockey team in game 2 of the WHL's Eastern Conference final and might have caught the Oil Kings a little sleepy on Easter Sunday, but it still wasn't enough to pull even in the series.  Edmonton had enough skill, goaltending and defending to ward off the Tigers in a 3-1 victory at Rexall Place.  

After a scoreless first period that featured chances for both sides, it appeared that Dyson Mayo opened the scoring 34 seconds into the middle frame - which would have been the 5th from the blue line so far in the short series - but the goal was later given to Curtis Lazar, who also scored the series' first goal.  

Later in the period with the Oil Kings down a man after a having 6 players on the ice, Edgars Kulda showed dogged determination and would not be outworked for the puck as he set up Curtis Lazar.  The Senator pick dangled past Marek Langhamer and tucked in his 2nd of the game and 6th of the playoffs for a 2-0 lead.  

But unlike Friday night when Edmonton walked all over the Tigers, Medicine Hat pushed back.  On a power play Chad Butcher zipped home a wicked wrister off the bar and past Tristan Jarry.  That made it 2-1 and the Tigers tested Jarry several more times in the period outshooting Edmonton 15-12, trailing by one heading to the 3rd. 

But that's where Edmonton buttoned things up.  They were tighter in their own end, forced turnovers and putting up 17 shots to the Tigers 7 with Kulda salting it away with and empty net goal.  

There was a little rough stuff near the end as Tyler Lewington and Henrik Samuelsson tried to fight and Jacob Doty taking a slashing penalty with 5 seconds to go, and you should expect that to continue Tuesday night in Medicine Hat. 

The Tigers will have atmosphere and last change on their side and showed on Sunday they can skate with the Oil Kings, but like Prince Albert and Brandon before them they'll need to be much better to get back in the series. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Oil Kings Nearly Perfect in Battle Royal with Brandon

The Edmonton Oil Kings wasted little time establishing their dominance in game one of the battle royal between the Oil Kings and Wheat Kings, and never really gave Brandon a chance to reply en route to a 5-0 win Thursday night at Rexall Place.

Edmonton got the ball rolling thanks to a smart, simple play from Edgars Kulda who chipped and chased down a puck then set up Brett Pollock for the games opening goal just 1:50 in.  35 ticks of the clock later another Oil King import Mads Ellar grabbed a lose puck and slid his first of the playoffs past Brandon tender and Edmonton native Jordan Papirny for a 2-0 lead as the home team outshot the visitors 12-3.

The second period was more of the same as the Oil Kings peppered Papirny with 19 shots, beating him twice on goals from Ashton Sautner and Kulda for a 4-0 40 minute lead.

Henrik Samuelson got off the playoff schnide in the final frame zipping one under the bar to finish out the scoring.  Edmonton tripled the Wheat Kings in shots at 45-15 and went 2-7 on the power play while killing off both Brandon man advantage situations.

It was a truly impressive effort by Edmonton while Brandon will need to regroup or this series won't last long.

Of note, Brandon goalie and Edmonton product Curtis Honey didn't dress.  Head Coach/G.M. Kelly McCrimmon told me after the game Honey was injured in practice recently and isn't available right now. The plan is to call someone up until Honey is ready to return. He did dress in the first round as back up.

Pollock now has 4 goals in 5 playoff games.  Tristan Jarry wasn't busy in the Oil Kings net but did make a couple of point blank saves to preserve the shut out.  Curtis Lazar picked up 2 helpers, but his next goal will tie him for the all time playoff lead in Edmonton.

Game 2 goes Saturday at noon Edmonton time.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

WHL Playoff Predictions

-
Back in September I posted my predictions for both the East and West WHL conferences. 

Looking back now, not too bad; 7 of 8 correct playoff teams in the East including Edmonton, Calgary and Swift Current in their correct seeding. In the West, 6 of 8 playoff teams.

Every year there are a couple teams I badly underestimate and a couple I overestimate. This year I don't think anyone predicted that Lethbridge would implode like they did and I certainly expected better from Kamloops. Tri-City and Prince Albert both made the playoffs but I expected more from both clubs. 

Now it's time for the playoffs so let's get right to the first round predictions...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Draft Blog: Brendan Perlini Pt.2

-
One of the draft eligible players that seems to have some growing buzz around him these days is Niagara IceDogs forward Brendan Perlini. 

We first spoke with Perlini on the October 29th edition of TPS after which I immediately extended the invite to blog with us this year. Brendan quickly agreed and not long after, we received Part 1 of his guest blog series. It was a terrific read bringing us all up to speed on his background in England, his strong family roots within the game and his outlook at the year ahead. 

Today we are happy to bring you the second chapter of the blog written by Brendan Perlini. That comes after the jump. 

I also wanted to direct you to a NHL.com Perlini story written by my friend Aaron Vickers and another from The Hockey Writers, both coming out today.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 Draft Blog: Tanner MacMaster Pt.2

-
We first heard from Camrose Kodiaks forward Tanner MacMaster back in September during the 2013 AJHL Showcase. The talented forward appeared on The Pipeline Show that weekend (Listen Here) and then accepted and offer to blog with us this season. You can read Tanner's first entry to the blog HERE.

Three months have passed and Tanner has put a few more thoughts down for fans to read. The Boston College recruit continues to lead the Kodiaks in scoring having scored 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points through 46 AJHL games this year. 

The second entry to the blog courtesy Tanner MacMaster comes after the jump.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Use'm or Lose'm?

Love them or hate them, the alternate jersey introduced by the Edmonton Oil Kings this year is here to stay. The look has produced both positive and negative response from the fanbase with most opinions coming in at either end of the approval spectrum. 

What will be interesting over the next few years is to see how those fans react should the traditional uniform slowly fade away into history. 

More on that after the jump.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2014 Draft Blog: Brendan Perlini Pt.1

-
Each season we extend a blogging invitation to a select few players entering their NHL Draft year. Frequent visitors to The Pipeline Show know the extensive list of players who have taken us up on the offer over the last half a dozen years. 

This year we have already been introduced to Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Jordan Papirny and forward Tanner MacMaster of the Camrose Kodiaks. 

Today we get the first entry from our guest blogger playing in the Ontario Hockey League. Niagara IceDogs forward Brendan Perlini shares us his back story, one that is definitely one of the more unique paths a NHL-bound player has been on. 

Are you ready? After the jump, the first chapter in the 2013-14 Guest Draft Blog from a sure-fire 1st round pick, in his own words. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

One To Watch: Ottawa Senators

-
I did not purposefully leave the best for last but it is just a coincidence that Ottawa is the final team to come up in the One To Watch series and the Sens have one of my personal favorite prospects. 

While they haven't become established NHL players yet, late picks like Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have increased their value since draft day. Others that had more hype as 18-year-olds such as Robin Lehner, Mike Zibanejad and Cody Ceci still project to be main pieces in the NHL one day so all in all, kudos to the Sens. 

2012 Choice: Mark Stone - His first professional season was OK, I'd hesitate to say it was more than that because I didn't see him play with my own eyes. Judging by his stats line, 15 goals and 38 points in 54 AHL games, Stone's numbers certainly don't wow me but I don't know that big production was expected of him in year one. Last year I wondered if he might stick with the big club out of camp but Sens fans wrote in saying not to expect it and they were right. A fair bar for him to beat this year should be a full season and increased production with improved skating. 

My selection for One to Watch in 2013-14 will come as no surprise and it's after the jump. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

One To Watch: Toronto Maple Leafs

-
I think a person could make a pretty good argument that Toronto's prospect strength comes on the blueline. Perhaps the Buds would agree considering they didn't add to that particular position at the 2013 NHL Draft.

Obviously Morgan Rielly leads the pack of would-be future NHL blueliners and he's proving early on this year that that future could be sooner than some expect. Stu Percy and Matt Finn are fine prospects in their own right and Jesse Blacker provides depth in the organization. 

I'm not selling the organization short at other positions though as there are a number of young players that I have liked through their junior careers and a few that I like even still as pros. 

2012 Choice: Joe Colborne - I figured that last year was going to be the breakthrough season for the former Camrose Kodiak and Denver Pioneer. He overcame a wrist injury that hampered his productivity and confidence and it seemed to me that Colborne was an opportunity away from sticking with the big club. It didn't happen though and the Calgary native eventually found himself playing for the Flames this year and he's having a modicum of success with his third NHL organization. 

My pick for 2013-14 One to Watch with the Leafs comes after the jump.

Friday, November 1, 2013

One To Watch: Montreal Canadiens

-
Excellent drafting has helped Montreal stay competitive in a tough division for most of the last few years. Sure they have had their lottery pick year but for the most part the Habs are picking in the second half of the first round. 

Now the organization is reaping the benefits of that drafting as their last 4 1st round picks are all contributing at the NHL level and deeper picks are finding their way too.  Jarred Tinordi, Alex Galchenyuk, Louis Leblanc and Nathan Beaulieu are the high picks panning out but Brendan Gallagher has had as big of an impact as any of them and he was a 5th round swing for the fence. 

2012 Pick: Mike Cichy - Montreal fans were all over me for singling out the mostly forgotten collegian but it was his decent into relative obscurity that intrigued me. It was his first season playing with Western Michigan after beginning his college career at North Dakota but leaving after his sophomore year. Unfortunately it was a pretty vanilla campaign with the Broncos, 4 goals and 18 points. I believe it's safe to say that unless he has a massive year at WMU this season, Cichy won't be offered a deal in the spring of 2014. 

My pick for One to Watch this year for Habs prospects comes after the jump. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

One To Watch: San Jose Sharks

-
Hockey's Future currently ranks San Jose in the bottom third for prospect depth but I have a feeling the Sharks are laughing about that these days. Tomas Hertl leads the NHL in rookie scoring right now and Matt Nieto is also having a productive first year in the NHL. 

The HF write up is right though when the subject of depth comes up; there isn't much in the Sharks' system. Freddie Hamilton, Sean Kuraly and Rylan Schwartz lead the short list of notables. And then there's the players they took in the 1st round this past June. 

2012 Choice: Sean Kuraly - The freshman had a decent year at Miami although his 12 points was dwarfed by fellow rookie Riley Barber's 39. Already this year Kuraly has 6 points although the RedHawks are only 4 games into the campaign. The former Indiana Ice forward was a dangerous offensive weapon in this final year in that league. 

My selection as One To Watch for San Jose this year comes after the jump. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One To Watch: Buffalo Sabres

-
The bad news for the Buffalo Sabres is that they have a single win in the first ten games of the year and look far from a playoff caliber team. The good news is that this may be a temporary thing as the club has the means to kick off a serious rebuild and quality youth is already on the way. 

Already this year the Sabres have dressed 6 rookies including defenceman Nikita Zadorov who has played just once. Rounding out that group are Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen and the guy who was featured in this write up a year ago. 

2012 Choice: Mark Pysyk - They don't get much more humble or likeable than defenceman Mark Pysyk who I've had the good fortune to get to know over the last 6 years in Edmonton. He made his professional debut last year and played 19 games with the Sabres last year at the end of the shortened season. Pysyk joined me in studio for an hour this past summer and told me that he didn't necessarily expect to make the team out of camp this year but a month in and he's played on the top pairing with veteran Christian Ehrhoff.

My selection as One To Watch for Buffalo this year comes after the jump.

Monday, October 21, 2013

2014 Draft Blog: Jordan Papirny Pt.2

-
Last month we were introduced to Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Jordan Papirny. He introduced himself to us with the first chapter of his 2014 Draft Blog which he's agreed to share with us and our audience over the course of this season. 

If you missed Part I you can find it HERE. And now here is a quick follow up from Jordan Papirny.

One To Watch: Tampa Bay Lightning

-
It probably surprised a lot of people when the Lighting sent 1st round pick Jonathan Drouin back to junior a few weeks ago. I think that it's a positive reflection of where the franchise is though, that a young player as uber-talented as he is, even Drouin couldn't crack this year's roster. That's a good thing. 

It's equally encouraging to see the roster and note a few players who have worked their way into the NHL through the team's AHL development system; another sign that the organization is doing things the right way. Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik and Radko Gudas are prime examples of that type of success. 

2012 Choice: Nikita Kucherov - The talented Russian had a strong season in the QMJHL after overcoming an injury and a trade from the Quebec Remparts to Rouyn-Noranda. It was then pretty poetic that Kucherov's 6-point night eliminated Patrick Roy's Remparts from the playoffs. This year Kucherov is on the farm in Syrachuse and already producing at well over a point per game pace. 

My 2013-14 selection as One To Watch for Tampa Bay comes after the jump.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

One To Watch: Philadelphia Flyers

-
The awful start to the season in Philly is enough for some Flyers fans to start looking closely at the depth of the organization to see if help is on the way. Fortunately there are some interesting players in the system but even the most staunch Flyers supporter would admit the prospect pool isn't as deep in Philadelphia as it is for most NHL teams. 

Rookie Nick Cousins is off to an impressive start on the farm with the Adirondack Phantoms. Ty McGinn and Michael Raffl have already been recalled to the big club. Plus, you could make a pretty good argument that Philly's top prospects are still in junior and college. 

2012 Choice: Anthony Stolarz - I thought last year was an interesting one for Stolarz as he moved from the NAHL to the NCAA. Then things got even more intriguing; Midway through the year the big goalie left Nebraska-Omaha for the London Knights of the OHL and ended up playing well into May as the club reached the Memorial Cup. This year the team hosts the tournament so Stolarz will be getting a done of action once again. 

My selection as One To Watch for Philadelphia in 2013-14 comes after the jump. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

One To Watch: Columbus Blue Jackets

-
A new chapter has begun in Columbus with a new-ish President, a new GM and new expectations after getting so close to making the playoffs last season. John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen have a history of taking a struggling team and turning them around and the Blue Jackets have shown vast improvements over the last two years. 

Some of the depth of the organization has to be credited to former GM Scott Howson and his staff; Under Howson's watch the club drafted names like Boone Jenner, Oscar Dansk, Ryan Johansen, Matt Calvert and John Moore. 

2012 Choice: Oscar Dansk - It wasn't the season that the Swedish goalie nor the Erie Otters were hoping for as Dansk was pretty average in his rookie OHL campaign. His team finished dead last in the Western Conference but this year both Dansk and the Otters are on the rebound. 

My selection for One To Watch in 2013-14 comes after the jump. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2014 Draft Blog: Tanner MacMaster

-
It's become an annual tradition; guest blogs written by a handful of draft eligible players who share their experiences throughout the key season. Some of the names of players who we have recruited and agreed to give us their time in the past include 1st round selections like Mark Pysyk, Jordan Eberle, Joe Colborne, Curtis Lazar, John Moore, Michael Matheson and Brett Connolly.

Last month we heard from Jordan Papirny, goaltender of the Brandon Wheat Kings who was the first member of the 2014 Draft Class to submit a blog entry. 

Today it's Tanner MacMaster's turn, the top ranked player from the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The Calgary native was heard from recently on The Pipeline Show during the 2013 AJHL Showcase event. You can listen to that interview in its entirety here

After the jump, the first blog entry this season from Tanner MacMaster of the Camrose Kodiaks.

Friday, October 11, 2013

One To Watch: Boston Bruins

-
The good news is you've been drafted by an original six team with legendary alumni, a ton of history and recent success as well. The bad news is that you somehow have to crack the roster of a club that has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice in the last three years. 

It's not impossible for a young player to do just that; Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Dougie Hamilton are three examples of players that managed to do it but only undrafted Torey Krug managed to do it out of camp this year and he had last year's playoff performance to help his cause. 

Guys like Carter Camper, Ryan Spooner and Matt Bartkowski have seen spot duty with the Bruins but arguably would have played more had they been in another organization. It's a good problem to have though. 

2012 Choice: Carter Camper - The college standout appeared in 3 games for the Bruins the year previous and I wondered if he'd force his way into more NHL action last year. That didn't happen; he played 57 games in Providence instead, compiling nearly a point per game in that time. Camper is undersized but his numbers at Miami are pretty impressive with 183 points in 156 games. It just might be a case of a guy needing a better opportunity with a thinner organization. 

My selection as One To Watch for the Bruins comes after the jump. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

One To Watch: Dallas Stars

-
The new-look Stars have a couple of rookies on their roster who the club can expect a decent amount of production from this year. Both Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin made the opening night roster and although the Russian has yet to hit the score sheet, the former Boston University Terrier has two goals in as many games. 

Nichushkin is the first Dallas 1st round pick to step right onto the roster since 1983 when Brian Lawton went from high school in Rhode Island to the Minnesota North Stars the next year. Pretty amazing when you think about it. 

2012 Choice: Reilly Smith - The Ohio RedHawk split the shortened year between the NHL and AHL because of the lockout. He got into 37 games with Dallas and managed a modest 9 points as a rookie. This past summer he was packaged with Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow and sent to Boston in the deal that landed Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button. 

My selection as One To Watch for Dallas in 2013-14 comes up after the jump.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One To Watch: Winnipeg Jets

-
I don't think I would suggest Winnipeg has the best crop of prospects but they might have my favourite group of young players. That opinion is largely influenced because of the number of WHL veterans the Jets have drafted and therefore, the number I have seen and dealt with the most. 

I really like the drafting by the Jets the last few years even though I wasn't sure they picked the best player available when they took Mark Scheifele, even that selection is panning out well. 

Eric Comrie, Josh Morrissey, Brendan Kichton, Nic Petan, Jimmy Lodge, JC Lipon - and that's just the class of 2013! Add to that mix Jacob Trouba, Scott Kosmachuk, Juho Olkinuora... there is a ton of talent in the system. 

2012 Choice: Jacob Trouba - Anyone who has heard The Pipeline Show probably knows I'm a massive Trouba booster. I said it before the 2012 draft that he was my top D-man of the class and I hold to that now. I thought he was terrific at the 2012 WJC in Edmonton as an underage player but he was on a completely different level in Russia last year. At Michigan he nearly led the team in scoring as a freshman and this year with the Jets he's already playing nearly 22 minutes a night. S-T-U-D.

My selection for One To Watch for 2013-14 with the Jets comes after the jump.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

One To Watch: Florida Panthers

-
Another club with a lot of prospect depth is Florida who has chosen to add veterans to the roster meaning much of their youth will continue to develop in the minors. Recent additions of Tim Thomas, Scott Gomez, Brad Boyes, Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert mean the likes of Jacob Markstrom, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden and Alex Petrovic won't be as much of a factor this year as expected just a month ago.

Tough break for those young players but down the road they may be the biggest beneficiaries of those signings.

2012 Choice: Rocco Grimaldi - Injured seriously and early in his freshman season, Grimaldi was given a do over and made good on it last year with North Dakota. His 36 points in 40 games was bested only by a pair of seniors so Grimaldi's year has to be considered a major one offensively. He was part of USA's gold medal at the 2013 WJC in Russia going from scape goat to hero over the course of the 10-day event. Grimaldi is poised to have a massive year as a sophomore at North Dakota.  

My 2013-14 selection as One To Watch for Florida comes after the jump. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

One To Watch: Edmonton Oilers

-
Few teams have the prospects depth that the Oilers currently do and expectations are high that the club will eventually climb its way out of the NHL basement and back to contention. 

I had a number of valid players to pick from for this piece as a few prospects have be assigned to Oklahoma City for the first time so all of them have peaked my interest. How will players like Oscar Klefbom, Martin Gernat, David Musil and Travis Ewanyk perform as AHL rookies? Then there are the guys that fans want to see take major steps forward this year like Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Ryan Martindale and Brandon Davidson. Will goaltending improve or become an issue? 

But there are also a number of interesting prospects still playing in junior or college worth following as well and I chose one of those guys today. 

2012 Choice: Dillon Simpson - Another strong season of growth and development at North Dakota for the local product. Simpson picked up 24 points in 42 games and he's not really expected to be an offensive guy moving forward. This year will be his final season at North Dakota and he's also been given the honor of being named captain of the club. As a senior at the age of 21 (not until February!), Simpson is barely older than some of the freshman coming in this year. 

My selection as One to Watch for the Oilers this year comes after the jump.

One To Watch: Nashville Predators

-
It could be quite a while before they are celebrating a Stanley Cup championship in the Music City but that's not to suggest that Nashville is without promising prospects. Beyond rookies Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg, there are a number of players who peak my interest and should have meaningful NHL careers. 

2012 Choice: Brendan Leipsic - What a year for the undersized forward from Winnipeg. His 120-point campaign was equaled only by his linemate as the pair led the entire Canadian Hockey League in scoring. Leipsic is a star at the junior level but the jury is out on whether he'll have the same level of success as a pro. I'm more interested to know what he does this season for an encore; can he lead the CHL in scoring again? Will he force his way onto the Canadian roster for the 2014 WJC in Sweden? Neither will be easy but he's already set the bar high for himself.

My pick as One To Watch for Nashville this year comes up after the jump.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

One To Watch: Anaheim Ducks

-
The once 'Mighty' Ducks of Anaheim will be once again if their impressive pool of prospects reach a modicum of their potential. Depth at all positions should help the Ducks return to the top of their division and keep them up there for the long run. 

John Gibson in net. Shea Theodore, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen for the blue line. The likes of Nic Kerdiles, Devante Smith-Pelly, Antoine Laganiere, Rickard Rackell, Kevin Roy and Peter Holland are all poised to contribute at the top level over the next few years. And so is this year's pick for this series. 

2012 Choice: Nic Kerdiles - What a year it was for the power forward. A ridiculous ruling by the NCAA threatened Kerdiles college career until a season suspension was reduced to about a month. If not for that, we'd be talking about Kerdiles the Kelowna Rocket instead of the Wisconsin Badger who helped turn the program around after he was allowed to start playing. 

My choice as One To Watch for the Anaheim Ducks comes after the jump. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

One To Watch: Phoenix Coyotes

-
The Desert Dogs have several interesting prospects in their system thanks to solid drafting over the last number of years. The organization has shown patience with them; even when a guy like Oliver Ekman-Larsson comes along, an AHL stint isn't out of the ordinary. 

That said, high draft picks like Mark Visentin, Brandon Gormley and Ethan Werek are taking longer than some expected. Meanwhile, Lucas Lessio and Michael Stone start the year with the big club. 

2012 Choice: Henrik Samuelsson - Quite frankly, Samuelsson could have been my pick again for this year because he's heading into a very telling season. Last year he evolved into one of the true power forwards in the WHL that could hurt you physically or on the score board. I wasn't sure if he'd be back from Phoenix right away this year but was returned by the Coyotes shockingly early. He's off to a good start in what will be his final WHL season. 

My 2013-14 selection as One to Watch for Phoneix is after the jump. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

One To Watch: Carolina Hurricanes

-
It's just a personal opinion but I wonder about the Hurricanes, specifically in regard to drafting and player development. Sure they have their hits but it feels to me, and I could be wrong, that they have more than their fair share of misses too. And again, I think drafting and player development are two completely and separate issues but if one lacks, the other will rarely yield positive results.  

The selection of Jeff Skinner deserves a lot of praise but having stepped right into the NHL from Kitchener, the 'Canes can't take credit for developing him to being NHL ready. It's a similar picture with Justin Faulk who appeared in all of 50 AHL games. 

Whereas guys like Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash, Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowmen were that have, so far, failed to reach expectations placed on them. 

2012 Choice: Keegan Lowe - The Edmonton Oil King blueliner took a massive step forward in his development in 2012-13. The years prior he was often partnered with Mark Pysyk and it provided Lowe with a safety net to take risks which often got him in trouble, but not the team thanks to his partner. My question going in to last year was how Lowe would survive without Pysyk covering for him. The results were impressive and somewhat surprising. Lowe elevated his play dramatically, arguably becoming the teams most reliable blueliner. He took on the mantle of leader despite not wearing the 'C' and his production jumped from 3 goals to 15, his points from 23 to 31. 

My 2013-14 pick as One To Watch for Carolina comes after the jump.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

One To Watch: New York Islanders

-
No longer a laughing stock but still earning respect, the New York Islanders have built a pretty decent stable of young players after years of less than mediocre results at the NHL level. The Islanders have prospects on the way at every position so the pieces are there for the once floundering organization to finally right the ship for the long haul. 

GM Garth Snow, a goaltender in his NHL days, selected a pair of NCAA netminders in June - one coming off a fantastic freshman season, the other hoping to make his own mark in college this coming year as a rookie. Stephon Williams was terrific for Minnesota State and Eamon McAdam could become Penn State's starter as the program moves to the Big 10 conference. 

Forwards in the system include Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Taylor Cammarata and Kirill Kabanov. But with the amount of blueliners the Islanders have drafted over the last four years, my pick today shouldn't come as any surprise. 

2012 Choice: Scott Mayfield - The big defenceman had just completed his freshman year at Denver and I wanted to know what steps forward his development would take as a sophomore. This year may prove even more interesting for Mayfield after turning pro last spring. This year Mayfield will play in Bridgeport and hope to adapt quickly as the organization is flush with defencemen on the way.

My selection for Islanders prospect of 2013-14 to be One To Watch comes after the jump. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

One To Watch: Colorado Avalanche

-
We talk a lot about NHL rookies on The Pipeline Show but in Colorado, the guy behind the bench this year is a pretty intriguing freshman. Patrick Roy is the rare coach who was a superstar player who spent time in junior hockey preparing for his return to the NHL. After 8 seasons with the Quebec Remparts, Roy feels he's finally ready to take on the head coach job in Colorado and that is going to make for interesting discussions all year. 

But the One To Watch series doesn't talk about coaches, it's looking at a young guy on the ice coming up the system and the Avalanche certainly have some interesting players on the way.

2012 Choice: Mike Connolly - A very disappointing season for a guy I admittedly held high hopes for. The former Camrose and Duluth standout had a very impressive season as a rookie pro in 2011-12, mostly in San Jose's system but Connolly fell far from that success last year. There was an injury to start the year and by the end of it he'd managed just 9 goals and 23 points in 65 AHL games. This year Connolly is playing in Germany.

My 2013-14 choice as One To Watch for Colorado comes after the jump.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

One To Watch: Vancouver Canucks

-
The Canucks are still considered one of the contending teams in the Western conference but for the first time in a few years there appears to be talented youth on the way. Camp has seen solid performances from recent draftees and it's compelling to see how many, if any, of the prospects at camp earn a spot with the big club. 

2012 Choice: Joe Cannata - The former Merrimack standout played sparingly in the AHL and ECHL last season and received a late season recall to sit on the bench while Cory Schneider was injured. Cannata posted decent numbers in AHL Chicago and oddly enough, pretty forgettable ones with ECHL Kalamazoo. He should see a lot more starting time this year.

My 2013-14 One to Watch for Vancouver comes after the jump.

Friday, September 20, 2013

WHL Preview & Predictions (East)

-
We had our massive WHL Preview show a couple of weeks ago with both Dean Millard and I joined in studio by a couple league broadcasters and on the phone by a third plus a media man in Seattle. Corey Graham or the Oil Kings and Red Deer Rebels voice Cam Moon were kind enough to sit in with us. Then we also spoke with Kamloops Blazers broadcaster Jon Keen and ESPN 710 Seattle's Andy Eide. 

I'll refer you to that show, the archive is RIGHT HERE, as I will not be going as in-depth here in the blog but using this as more of a summary to what we discussed that night. 

After the jump, my predictions for the East conference and the two teams I'm looking at for the conference finals. Plus, having posted my Western conference predictions earlier, I'll also include my WHL Championship final and who I'm selecting as the WHL representative at the 2014 Memorial Cup in London, ON.

WHL Preview & Predictions (West)

-
We had our massive WHL Preview show a couple of weeks ago with both Dean Millard and I joined in studio by a couple league broadcasters and on the phone by a third plus a media man in Seattle. Corey Graham or the Oil Kings and Red Deer Rebels voice Cam Moon were kind enough to sit in with us. Then we also spoke with Kamloops Blazers broadcaster Jon Keen and ESPN 710 Seattle's Andy Eide. 

I'll refer you to that show, the archive is RIGHT HERE, as I will not be going as in-depth here in the blog but using this as more of a summary to what we discussed that night. 

After the jump, my predictions for the West conference and the two teams I'm looking at for the conference finals. 

One To Watch: Los Angeles Kings

-
The recent Stanley Cup champions have built their team around size and skill and added to both of those categories at the 2013 NHL Draft. New additions like 40-goal man Valentin Zykov and 6'7 winger Justin Auger fit the bill not to mention CHL Goaltender of the Year Patrik Bartosak.

L.A.'s NHL depth allows the team the luxury of bringing along their prospects slowly and that's paid off for guys like Slava Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Trevor Lewis, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan. That's good news for guys that are still biding their time on the farm.     

2012 Choice: Martin Jones - The former Calgary Hitmen goalie wasn't drafted but signed after an impressive camp invite. Heading into last year it was feasible that with so many Jonathan Bernier trade rumors going around, a NHL appearance might be in Jones' near future. That didn't happen but he did manage to have arguably his best professional season. He played 56 regular season games and held a 2.53 GAA and 9.19 SV%. 

My Los Angeles prospect pick for One To Watch in 2013-14 comes after the jump. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One To Watch: Washington Capitals

-
The Capitals only had one rookie contribute much at the NHL level last season and that was 25 games from defenceman Tomas Kundratek. The former Medicine Hat Tiger was originally drafted by the New York Rangers but has worn a Caps jersey for all 30 NHL games that he has appeared in. 

Yevgeni Kuznetsov is the top prospect for the Washington Capitals but he's spending another season in the KHL before coming over to this side of the Atlantic. 

There are a number of other quality guys in the system, Tom Wilson and Madison Bowey immediately come to mind, but the franchise isn't as deep as it was a decade ago. That's probably a good thing because it should mean that there is more NHL success so they are drafting later than they had been.

2012 Choice: Braden Holtby - The former Saskatoon Blades keeper established himself as the new starter for the Caps with a strong lockout shortened season. His 23 wins were one off the league high although he managed the total playing far fewer games than the trio of goalies with 24 wins. Holtby is still young but a strong start to the year would make him a viable consideration for the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.

My 2013-14 One To Watch pick for the Capitals comes after the jump. 

One To Watch: St. Louis Blues

-
Solid drafting and patient player development have been keys to the success of the St. Louis Blues in recent years. The team spent its fair share of time at the lower end of the standings but made the most of the down years. The Blues drafted in the top half of the first round four times in five years from 2006-2010 and still have those players on their roster, or the players they received for them via trades. 

Despite picking much later these days, the Blues have still done very well at the draft with a number of their prospects trending upwards. 

2012 Choice: Max Gardiner - I thought Gardiner was an interesting player in an even more interesting situation. The former Golden Gopher was back in the NCAA but with a different program, and a new one at that in Penn State. Gardiner had a good year collecting 21 points in 23 games but only managed 3 goals. I'm guessing more was expected and if so, more will be counted on as he begins his junior season with the Nittany Lions. 

My 2013-14 choice for One To Watch with the Blues comes after the jump.

Monday, September 16, 2013

One To Watch: Calgary Flames

-
It's definitely a new era in Southern Alberta as a number of fan favorite veterans have moved on, Brian Burke has joined the organization and the team has embraced a rebuilding mentality.

With that comes a number of young prospects and new faces to the team and a level of uncertainty. But just because these new players aren't proven doesn't mean they can't get the job done. For the first time in a number of years, the Flames have a number of young prospects in the system for fans to be excited about. Perhaps the rebuild won't take as long as it has for other franchises in different cities.

2012 Choice: Laurent Brossoit - The Edmonton Oil Kings netminder began last season trying to erase the memories of a sub-par Memorial Cup and summer U20 camp performance. For the most part, Brossoit had a very successful year although he was overlooked for Canada's entry at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Russia. The goaltender posted career best numbers with a 2.25 GAA and .917 sv% and was even better in the playoffs. 

My 2013 selection for One To Watch for the Flames comes after the jump. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

One To Watch: Minnesota Wild

-
An intriguing mix of seasoned vets, actual superstars and a smattering of talented youth on the way. The Minnesota Wild should be a team to consider a threat in the very near future although I'm not sure if that's reasonable to say about this season.

Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin are just the tip of the prospect iceberg that Wild fans enjoyed watching last year. There are a number of guys still in college or junior who could impact the NHL roster in the near future including Mario Lucia, Zack Phillips, Tyler Graovac, Adam Gilmour, Carson Soucy and Darcy Kuemper. Of course there is a defenceman on the way as well, more on him in a second. 

2013 Choice: Charlie Coyle - Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Coyle's. My question leading into last season was whether he would be able to produce offensively as a pro. That answer came in the form of 25 AHL points in 47 games and 14 more in 37 NHL contests. 

My selection for One To Watch with the Wild for 2013-14 comes after the jump.

One To Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins

-
"Beau Bennett and a bunch of defencemen". That's how I heard one analyst describe the depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect system recently. While I think that's forgetting Teddy Blueger and some interesting goalies, the statement does hold up for the most part. The blueline appears to be solidified for the Penguins for the foreseeable future. 

Oli Maata, Brian Dumoulin, Simon Despres, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp, Derrick Pouliot... the list is a lengthy one. Oddly enough, it's not a defender I'm going to focus on today. 

2012 Choice: Joe Morrow - The former Portland Winterhawk was a 1st round pick by Pittsburgh in 2011 but the Pens shipped him to Dallas in order to acquire Brendan Morrow at the deadline. At the draft in June, the Stars flipped him to Boston. I spoke at length with Morrow about last season and he was very candid about it all. Despite being part of his third organization in less than 6 months, Morrow is still a high quality prospect. 

My One To Watch for Pittsburgh in 2013-14 is after the jump. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2014 Draft Blog: Jordan Papirny

-
It's become an annual tradition; guest blogs written by a handful of draft eligible players who share their experiences throughout the key season. Some of the names of players who we have recruited and agreed to give us their time in the past include 1st round selections like Mark Pysyk, Jordan Eberle, Joe Colborne, Curtis Lazar, John Moore, Michael Matheson and Brett Connolly. 

This year's first entry come from a goaltender of note from the WHL, Jordan Papirny of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Papirny was a recent guest on the show as part of our IN STUDIO summer series and after meeting him I was compelled to ask if he'd like to take on this project over the season. 

After the jump, the first chapter in the season-long blog written by Brandon netminder Jordan Papirny.

One To Watch: New Jersey Devils

-
From the outside looking in, it feels like New Jersey is midway through a era change. New ownership, the eventual end of Martin Brodeur's fantastic career, the NHL retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk... Only Lou Lamoriello seems like the only constant in New Jersey. 

I still don't agree with the team's decision to use the 2012 1st round pick, 29th overall, knowing they had to forfeit a 1st rounder by 2014. It's not hindsight to suggest it was clear the odds were against the Devils ever picking later than that. Plus, it's not like Stefan Matteau is worth more than the pick they will now be forced to give up in 2014 as a result.

I don't get it but perhaps someone will fill me in on why that isn't horrible asset management. 

2012 Choice: Jon Merrill - The defenceman was looking to put 2011-12 behind him but faced a new challenge; injury. Merrill's season didn't begin until January thanks to a cracked vertebrae. Once he got back in action at Michigan he helped stabilize the club which had struggled mightily for most of the year. Merrill finished the year in the AHL with Albany and had 8 points in 12 games. 

My New Jersey choice for One To Watch in 2013-14 is after the jump.