Sunday, June 28, 2009

Turning over some new Leafs

Here are some players to get excited about for Leafs fans. For the first time in years, the cupboard is not bare. There is a lot of potential in the system added by Fletcher and Burkey in the last year, and some of the guys JFJ picked. Here are my highlighted favourite Leaf prospects, and young players (Forwards only):

1. Jiri Tlusty, LW, 21 - Has got a bit of time in the NHL, the slowly developping Tlusty could be poised to make that big move. He was player of the month in the AHL in January and posted some big stats with the Marlies, posting 66 points in 66 games, a lot of them coming in the latter half of the season where Tlusty really heated up.

2. Nik Kulemin, RW, 22 - Pretty good shooter scored 15 goals in his rookie season with the Leafs. 31 pts is not a bad rookie campaign, and that was with a few dry spells and a brief stint in the minors. Kulemin could build on his rookie year and develop into a solid top 6 forward.

3. Nazem Kadri, C, 18 - Lots of skill, good hands, plays tough even though he doesn't have tremendous size (6 ft. 170). Kadri was not a pick I was thrilled about at the draft 7th overall, but the more I read about him and watch the highlights, the more my mind is at ease. 78 pts in 56 games in the OHL is pretty damn good. He could definitely develop into a top 6 forward and most importantly he plays a strong two-way game.

4. Mikhail Stefanovich, C, 20 - 4th round pick by the great Cliff Fletcher at last years draft, could be a huge steal. Stefanovich posted a wopping 49 goals in 56 games and 76 points. He's a big body and a sniper. Signed to an entry level deal he could see playing time with the Leafs as soon as next season.

5. Kenny Ryan, RW, 18 - 2nd round pick 5oth overall by Burkey. American kid is 6'0 and 205 lbs. Plays with an edge. His favourite player as a kid was Darren McCarty. When asked who he'd rather have dinner with between Obama, Maria Sharapova or Sean Avery, he said Avery. When asked what he would choose if he could be anything for a day, he said "soldier at war". Ryan is known for playing mean and playing a strong two-way game. Any wonder he was drafted by Brian Burke?

6. Victor Stalberg, LW, 23 - Nominated for the Hobey Baker Award this past season in NCAA for University of Vermont, Stalberg was considered a top 10 player in college hockey. Drafted a few years ago, he's considered to be one of only a few good picks by JFJ. At 6'3" 210 lbs, Stalberg combines size and strength posting 24 goals and 22 assists in 39 games. Burke likes his two way game and awarded Stalberg with an entry level deal and is likely to see at least some time with the big club next season.

7. Tyler Bozak, C, 23 - The highly sought after, undrafted, UFA was like getting a free 2nd round pick when Burke signed him a few month's ago. He would have already been up with the Leafs if not for an injury. 6' 170 lbs, not overwealming in size, but posted 23 pts in 19 games with the University of Denver and impressed every GM in the NHL with his two-way abilities.

8. Robert Slaney, LW, 21 - Another undrafted UFA signed by Burke recently, this guy was kind of under the radar. I have high hopes for him. Slaney is a late bloomer, in his first season in the QMJHL he posted just 7 pts in 57 games, then in his draft year he posted 25 pts, then in '08 he posted 55 pts and last year as an overager he scored a wopping 81 pts in 63 games. This is a guy who just keeps improving and at 6'2" 205 lbs, and averaging well over a penalty minute per game he seems like a real Brian Burke type of player.

9. Johnny Mitchell, C, 24 - John was a late developer, coming off his rookie season he can't really be considered too young anymore. I don't see him as a guy who can be a star but definitely a solid 3rd line centre. He needs to work on the defensive side of his game but has all the tools to remain a regular in the NHL. Size, speed, hands, Johnny's got it. I'd like to see him learn under Ron Wilson and become a good two-way player, maybe be like a John Madden for us.

10. Christian Hanson, C, 23 - At 6'3" 210 lbs, Hanson is a big body and he uses his size. No wonder he's the 3rd undrafted UFA on this list, 2nd out of NCAA. Hanson had 16 goals and 15 assists in 37 games with Notre Dame and played in the Leafs last 5 games, where he didn't look out of place. His size was used well and he didn't look nervous although skating was a problem. Still he scored 1 goal and 1 assist and had 1 minor penalty in his 5 games. Barring a bad training camp I would expect Hanson to keep his roster spot for next season.

11. Chris DiDomenico, C, 20 - Chris is a small player which could hold him back (6ft. 170 lbs) Height not an issue but he'll need to fill out a bit. Still he posted 59 pts in 51 games in the QMJHL last year, and before injuries had an incredible 35 pts in 15 playoff games! In fact in his last two seasons his playoff totals combine for 54 pts in 29 games. And this is a guy who is basically point per game regular season. Talk about stepping it up! He also played on a line with Esposito and Tavares at the WJC's. He looks really skilled, if he bulks up he could be a top line forward potentially.

12. Greg Scott, RW, 21 - Greg was an undrafted free agent signed last summer by Cliff Fletcher. Greg is 6' 180 lbs, and has posted 75 and 76 pts in each of his last two seasons in the WHL, averaging over a point per game in each season. Greg needs to play with men and a move to the AHL Marlies next year will be a big test. If he can continue to excel at that level he could earn a callup with the big club.

13. Dale Mitchell, RW, 20 - 68 pts in 66 games with Windsor of the OHL, and 29 pts in 20 playoff games including a hat trick in the finals. Mitchell had an awesome playoff for the Spitfires. He looks like he could be a star if not for his 5'9" height. Still he's beefy at 205 lbs. Could be a wild card to make the big club in the next couple of seasons.

14. Jamie Devane, LW, 18 - Mississauga native is a huge fighter. He's 6'4, 215 lbs, and he loves to fight. When I went to one site right after he was picked by Burke in the 3rd round to look up info on him, there was no bio just video's of him fighting. He scored at a point every 4 games rate, and supposedly plays a strong positional game. I see him as an enforcer with this team in the future, but maybe he could develop into an enforcer who plays solid positional hockey and can be a regular in the line up and contribute like what Domi once was for Toronto.

15. Jimmy Hayes, RW, 19 - Huge Jimmy Hayes is 6'5, 210 lbs. Once considered a great two-way prospect, he dropped from a projected top 10 pick in his draft year (2008) and slipped late into the 2nd round where Fletcher took him for Toronto. Jimmy is a big physical defensive forward who managed just 8 goals and 5 assists in 36 games with Boston College (11th on his team in scoring). Jimmy seems to be a prospect on the decline and may amount to nothing but don't be fooled - He is skilled and he is big! If he can harness his talent and size he could still develop into an NHL'er although I see him more as a big 3rd line type of shut down forward. But if you look at Brian Burke's mold for a team (top 6 - bottom 6) he could be a perfect fit in the system.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mock Draft

Let's see how well I do: (*Updated after the draft)

1. NYI - John Tavares CORRECT
2. TBay - Victor Hedman CORRECT
3. Avs - Matt Duchene CORRECT
4. Atla - Evander Kane CORRECT
5. LA - Brayden Schenn CORRECT
6. Phx - Jared Cowan WRONG (9)
7. Tor - Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson WRONG (10)
8. Dal - Nazim Kadri CLOSE (7)
9. Ott - Scott Glennie CLOSE (8)
10. Edm - Ryan Ellis CLOSE (11)
11. Nas - Oliver Ekman-Larsson WRONG (6)
12. Min - John Moore WRONG (21)
13. Buf - Dimitri Kulikov FLIPPED (14)
14. Fla - Zack Kassian FLIPPED (13)
15. Ana - Jordan Schroeder WRONG (22)
16. CBJ - David Rundblad CLOSE (17)
17. St.L - Dylan Olsen WRONG (28)
18. Mont - Louie Leblanc CORRECT!
19. NYR - Chris Kreider CORRECT!
20. Cal - Simon Despres WRONG (30)
21. Phi -Matt Hackett WRONG (77)
22. Van -Jacob Josefsson CLOSE (20)
23. NJ - Stefan Elliot WRONG (49)
24. Was - Calvin DeHaan WRGON (12!)
25. Bos -Carter Ashton WRONG (29)
26. NYI - Peter Holland WRONG (15)
27. Car -Tayler Doherty WRONG (58)
28. Chi -Landon Ferraro WRONG (32)
29. Det - Tomas Tatar WRONG (60th, but was drafted by Detroit!)
30. Pit -Richard Panik WRONG (52)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trade Block

The Following players are speculated to be on the trade block:

**Add in:
Dany Heatley, Ottawa - 5 years left @ $7.5 million, Heatley has asked Ottawa for a trade. I'm starting the Heatley for Marleau rumour right now.

Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, San Jose - The most recent rumours on the internet are that the Sharks could move one of Thornton and Marleau. GM Wilson said that 'Thornton and Boyle' are his only untouchables, which leaves speculation about Marleau. I could write a lot of names down from the Sharks but no other specifics have popped up (except Cheechoo). But GM Wilson said changes will come after what he calls their most dissapointing playoffs yet.

Phil Kessel, Boston - RFA. Apparently he's looking for a multi year $5 million deal. Boston is thinking more along the lines of $3.75 million which is what Krejci got. If Kessel's side won't budge he could be moved.

Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay - Don't know if you've heard but he might be on the block. He's been in a lot of trade rumours, most common destinations have been Montreal and LA. The Kings are rumored to be offering up 21 year old d-man Jack Johnson. I imagine they'd have to throw in a little more with that. But these rumours could be true, especially if Tampa drafts Tavares at the #2 spot and decides to go with JT and Stamkos as their centres.

JS Giguere, Anaheim - Makes sense. With the rise of Jonas Hiller, the Ducks might feel that they don't necessarily need the $6 million starter.

Marco Sturm, Boston - missed last year with injuries. The Bruins did pretty great without him. With Thomas' new contract, Kreijci's raise, Phil Kessel still without a contract, Sturm's $3.5 million cap hit could save some space.

Nathan Horton, Florida - I don't know why but his name has popped up all year. Earns $4 million If you believe where there's smoke there's fire then he could move. I remember lots of rumours all last year about Jokinen and Cammalleri and sure enough both were moved on draft day, so who knows.

Alex Frolov, Los Angelas - Here's another guy, like Horton. I don't see the reasoning but his name has been persistant in trade rumours, so watch out for this one as the Kings continue to shuffle their line up that has already dealt big names Visnovski, Cammalleri, and O'Sullivan within the last year. Frolov makes $4 million, but is a $2.9 cap hit, one year left on his deal and has been a pretty solid scorer for the Kings. Maybe they figure he's going to want way too much after this season, or fear he's going to test UFA waters next summer. Could be involved in a Lecavalier trade too as LA is heavily rumoured to be involved there. Jack Johnson's name is also in the Vinny rumours, but he's not on the block.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota - Going onto year two of a 5 year deal that pays him a little over $4 million per season (cap hit). Chuck Fletcher made comments about making some changes and Bouchard's name has come up, but I think the price would be steep.

Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators - These reports have all been denied by Ottawa. Given their struggles I'm not too surprised, but don't forget they were on a tear at the end of last season, I think Heatley and Spezza will stay put.

Scott Gomez, New York Rangers - Any intelligent fan reading this knows he's overpaid and that the Rangers are most likely stuck with him. Gomez to LA rumours have been floating around recently (If LA can't land Lecavalier or Gaborik). I would imagine the Kings would want New York to take back Handzus and his $4 million in a deal for Gomez.

Daniel Briere, Philadelphia - His name has been off and on in rumours for a while. He'll probably stay put, but you never know. Philly is not a team with a ton of cap space and they played well without Briere. If they could move his $6.5 million salary for a young, affordable player/prospect and use the cap space to get better in other area's then maybe they will.

Josh Harding, Minnesota - Like I've stated in previous posts on my blog, Harding is an RFA and will want more money then Minnesota will be willing to spend on a back up, considering Backstrom's extension. He could be a great pick up, or not, we'll see but I'd like to see him get a chance as a starter somewhere.

Ben Eager, Chicago - With so many RFA's, goaltending situation to take
care of, and lots of guys due for raises, speculation is that this RFA could be
moved depending on his salary demands.

Wade Redden, New York Rangers - Uhhh, good luck. Redden's outrageoud $6.5 million contract won't go anywhere but I recently read somewhere that they could move him to the minors this season to free up room to land a big name in this summers free agency. Sorry to sound so down on the Rangers but they'll probably end up moving Redden down and then giving a big contract to a guy like Gionta or something, and overpay again then be in real trouble next year as a player who is sent down can only be taken off the books for one season, unless they are on LTIR.

Tomas Kaberle, Toronto - According to rumours he has been offered along with the 7th overall pick to Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders for either of their top picks (1st or 2nd overall). Could take a bit more to land those picks, but Kaberle is a good player and would help Tampa's team a lot.

Derek Boogaard, Minnesota - Ya, love him! Boogie man is on the block, his name has been in the paper and on the internet. So what's the price you pay for a top end enforcer? I'm really curious.

Frantisek Kaberle, Carolina - Not sure there will be interest for the
vet d-man. He did clear waivers last year and makes $2.2 million. But maybe a
team with cap space could acquire him and move up the draft, doing Carolina a
favour for the salary.

Brent Sopel, Chicago - Same deal as F.Kaberle. $2.33 million cap hit.

Dan Cleary, $2.8 million/
Tomas Holmstrom, $2.25 million/
Kris Draper, $1.6 million/
Brad Stuart, $3.5 million
- The thinking here is *if* Hossa is re-signed by Detroit to a big money deal, they'll have to move a peice or two to start freeing up some room and give up one or two of these players, then replace them with younger, cheaper players to fill those roles. Draper and Holmstrom haven't been mentioned as much as Cleary and Stuart because of Red Wing loyalty to the two guys who have been there forever (ditto Maltby but he earns under $1 mil so why trade him?)

Mike Fisher, Ottawa - $4.2 million checking centre could be moved to free up cap space for more scoring. There's a belief out there that Ottawa will try to bring in some secondary scoring in free agency with someone like Gaborik or bringing back Havlatt. Moving Mike Fisher to make the room could be a good change for the Sens.

Benoit Pouliot, Minnesota - The Wild might be getting tired of waiting for the former 4th overall pick. He had huge potential but hasn't made a dent in the NHL yet. I would compare any deal being made involving Pouliot with Gilbert Brule of Columbus last year. Brule was also a slumping prospect with high expectations and he was flipped to Edmonton for immediate help in Raffi Torres. If Minnesota could get a Torres calibre player they'd probably move Pouliot.

Okay, that's it for now. I'll keep looking for more and I'm sure more rumours will surface after the Cup final and leading up to the draft.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leafs offseason Dream Make-over

There's all kinds of arm-chair GM's like myself putting together some Leafs dream teams on the internet so I'll throw in as well. This is not very realistic so just enjoy it. Tell me if you think any of these trades is really unreasonable:

1. Tomas Kaberle, Nik Hagman, Chris DiDomenico, 1st rounder (2010)
For Vincent Lecavalier.
Suppose Tampa decides to use their pick and take Tavares, go with him and Stamkos down the middle and move Vinny to save some $ right now and change the face of the team. This is a thick package which could be tough to match. Next.

2. Pavel Kubina, Alex Ponikarovsky, 1st rounder (2009)
For Joe Thornton
Overpaying for him? I think despite Wilson's comments, Joe Thornton is in play and a fat package like that is hard to say no to. Poni posted 61 pts this season, Kubina would replace 39 year old Rob Blake and the 7th overall pick is hard to turn down.

3. Jason Blake, Justin Pogge
For JS Giguere, 4th round pick
This is a legit rumour out there that Anaheim would deal Jiggy and a pick so they can save some $. They would want a goalie and a forward back. Done.

4. Vesa Toskala
To Colorado for their 2nd rounder (2009), 33rd overall.

Waivers/Demote To Minors/Trade for picks if possible
Lee Stempniak
Jamal Mayers
Jeff Finger (don't try to trade, just send him down, he's on a 2-way contract but his salary would come off the cap)

1. Jay Bouwmeester - 12 years, $78 million. $6.5 million cap hit, front load it

2. Mats Sundin - 1 year, $750K

3. Brad May - 1 year, $700K

4. Jonas Gustavsson - 3 year entry level (with bonuses, $2 mil cap hit approx.)

5. Noah Welch - 3 years, $2.7 million. $0.9 million cap hit

Mikhail Grabovski - 4 years, $8.4 million ($2.1 cap hit)
Ryan Hollweg - 2 years, $1.2 million ($600K per) 2-way deal only, or walk.
Jeremy Williams - let him walk


Grabovski - Lecavalier 'A' - Kulemin
Stajan - Thornton - Tlusty
Stalberg - Sundin 'C' - Bozak
Hanson - J.Mitchell - May 'A' X - Hollweg, Stefanovich, D.Mitchell

Bouwmeester - Van Ryn
White - Schenn
Frogren - Stralman X - Oreskovich, Welch, Harrison


With that kind of strength down the middle and improved play by the younger support players this is a playoff team and a good team going forward. They'd fit under the cap, with the Raycroft and Tucker buyouts this would be a $53 million team roughly. A legit top line winger, or top 6 forward may have to be added before the deadline but I like it. How crazy are those trades? Let me know cuz I actually believe they are reasonable.