Author Archives: The NHL Files

2017 NHL Mock Draft: Edition II (May 2017)

2017 NHL Mock Draft: Edition II (May)

*Order of last four picks not yet determined 

The 2017 NHL Draft has gotten an unfair shake. Just because it pales in comparison to the high level talent of the 2015 and 2016 drafts, it should not be looked upon as a throwaway draft. 

At the top, Nolan and Nico are two very, very good players. They are not on the same stature as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, but that is not a slight by any means at the two young players. Rather, it serves as a testament to how brilliant and unique McDavid and Matthews are. 

Making a mock draft for this year is incredibly difficult. After the first two picks, it is a total guessing game. There are players that could go as high as the top ten or as low as the bottom five of the first round. From pick five and onward, the draft is a cluster of talent that has not separated enough to make an accurate read. 

Furthermore, the expansion draft plays a large role in this entry draft. Many first round picks may be in play, specifically dealt for players who may be otherwise exposed by his current team. There is no way to predict who and which picks go where, so rather a probability of a pick being traded was added here. 

So, without further ado, here is a 2017 NHL Mock (Entry) Draft: 

1. New Jersey: Nico Hischier (F)

Chance pick is traded: very low 

Analysis: Personally, I believe New Jersey is one of the few teams that fits Nolan Patrick better than Nico Nischier, however I still think they go with Hischier. The dynamic Swiss forward, who made his name primarily at the 2016 World Juniors, will add a necessary speed to the middle of New Jersey’s lineup. 

2. Philadelphia: Nolan Patrick (F)

Chance pick is traded: very low 

Analysis: The Flyers were the big winners of the draft, moving up over ten spots to the #2 selection. No matter who falls, be it Patrick or Hischier, the Flyers are getting a fantastic player. Patrick has had injury concerns, but this is not the first time a top prospect has had these concerns. Patrick should find a home nicely in the middle six of Philadelphia for the upcoming years. 

3. Dallas: Casey Mittlestadt (F)

Chance pick is traded: high 

Analysis: Rumors are already swirling that Dallas is looking to trade the #3 pick, which in all reality makes sense. Aside from Heiskanen, all the top prospects in the drafts are centers. That does not fill a need for Dallas, even though it’s a bad idea to draft based on immediate team need (see Dubois and Columbus in 2016). Dallas moving this pick would surely be down a few spots for Heiskanen, Makar, or Liljegren, or for an NHL-ready defenseman. A trade with this pick could come before the expansion draft as well if a team cannot protect a high-end defender. Options include Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Sami Vatanen, Jacob Trouba, and Olli Maatta among others. 

4. Colorado: Miro Heiskanen (D)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: The Avalanche got hit hard by the draft lottery, but it may not all be for naught. If three centers go in the top three, which is highly likely depending the teams selecting there, Miro Heiskanen could fall right into Joe Sakic’s (or Kyle Dubas’) lap. The Finnish defenseman shined at the Under-18 Championships. 

5. Vancouver: Gabriel Vilardi (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The Canucks are picking at #5 for the second straight year and are expected to keep their draft pick. Vilardi is an above-average sized center that can do it all. 

6. Vegas: Cody Glass (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: For Vegas’ first ever selection in an NHL draft, a lot of factors will be put into place. The primary one is the expansion draft which will take place a few days prior to the entry draft. How the team shakes out will have a large impact on who Vegas decided to take on June 23. But, judging off of projections, they will likely need forwards instead of defenseman. Glass averaged just under 1.5 points per game for the Portland Winterhawks last season and would be a welcomed addition to Vegas’ center pipeline.  

7. Arizona: Cale Makar (D)

Chance pick is traded: low

Analysis: After a few years of drafting forwards high (Strome and Keller), it appears it is time that Arizona takes a (much needed) defenseman in the top-ten. Makar, a right-handed defenseman, still needs time to round out his defensive game, however he is strong offensively. Despite the growing pains that would be involved, Makar would be a great investment for John Chayka. 

8. Buffalo: Timothy Liljegren (D)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Liljegren was once slated to be a top-two pick with Nolan Patrick in this year’s draft, however he has fallen out of favor for multiple reasons. One of the main causes is that early in the season, he underwent a case of mono which took him out of action for a few weeks. Due to inactivity, his strength and conditioning dropped off and may have scared some teams away. Liljegren, though, still remains an enticing defenseman for the top-ten. As a good puck mover, he could slide in to Buffalo’s defensive core within three years. He would provide a lot of help for a seriously depleted group. 

9. Detroit: Nicolas Hague (D)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The Red Wings took place in the lottery for the first time in a quarter of a century this year and wound up with the ninth overall selection. They have a bunch of options available, as the draft board gets pretty clustered at this point. Hague, 6’5/216, is a big and bruising defenseman. Adding an elite prospect from early in the draft is something out of the ordinary for Detroit, but it will be highly difficult to screw up this pick — Hague or not. 

10. Florida: Michael Rasmussen (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium

Analysis: Florida flopped this year under new management, so Dave Tallon and company are back at the helm. Rasmussen is a typical forward for this group, as he possesses size and a scoring touch. His 5v5 scoring has been put into question, but it is unlikely that that alone will turn teams away. 

11. Los Angeles: Elias Pettersson (F)

Chance pick is traded: low

Analysis: The Kings need to get younger and quicker, and the 11th overall selection helps them do just that. Pettersson can play all facets of the game and would a slot in nicely behind Anze Kopitar and/or Jeff Carter in the future. 

12. Carolina: Owen Tippett (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The dynamic scoring winger Tippett is exactly what Carolina needs up front. Few players in this draft can match Tippett’s natural scoring ability, as he potted 44 goals in 60 games this season for the Mississauga Steelheads. 

13. Winnipeg: Callan Foote (F)

Chance pick is traded: low

Analysis: An assist machine in the WHL, Foote, son of Adam, is slated to go high in the draft this year. The offensive nature of Foote’s game may not translate completely to the NHL, but regardless he is slated to be a NHL mainstay and solid two-way guy. The addition of Foote would complement the strong forward prospect core of Winnipeg nicely. 

14. Tampa Bay: Nick Suzuki (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Although his smaller stature may deter teams away, Suzuki is one of the most complete players in the draft. He can play on all special teams and excels at even strength as well. 

15. New York (I): Eeli Tolvanen (F) 

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Tolvanen, coming out of the USHL, has above-average shot and offensive instincts for his age. His defensive game needs work, but it is nothing that cannot be rounded out. The Isles have had some good picks in the mid-first round in the past, but whether they keep the pick remains to be seen. 

16. Calgary: Kristian Vesalainen (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Veslainen is a young and large forward that broke out this past season in Finland. His all around ability will help bolster Calgary’s subpar forward pipeline. 

17. Toronto: Juuso Valimaki (D) 

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Valimaki was above point-per-game this past season for Tri-City in the WHL. Toronto may trade this pick before the expansion draft (hello, Anaheim), but if they keep it, Valimaki is a good addition to their farm system. 

18. Boston: Kailer Yamamoto (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Yamamoto dropping to this spot would be a blessing to Boston. Although a dynamic scoring forward, he strays from the Big Bad Bruins model as he sits at 5’9/160. 

19. San Jose: Shane Bowers (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Bowers is good at a lot of things but not overly great at one thing. Not that that’s a bad notion. He’s a nice center for San Jose to cope for when Joe Thornton eventually leaves or retires. 

20. St. Louis: Martin Necas (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Necas has a lot of ability to slide up and down the draft board. He could go as high as the top-ten or slide down to near this position with St. Louis. The Czech center is brilliant offensively and brings to the table exactly what the Blues need. 

21. New York (R): Connor Timmins (D) 

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: A bit of a jump for Timmins, however he would be a good addition to the Rangers defensive core. He could make an immediate impact if Staal, Girardi, and/or Holden need to be replaced. 

22. Edmonton: Robert Thomas (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Edmonton is picking outside of the first 14 in a long time in this draft. Thomas is a do-it-all kind of guy. 

23. Arizona (via MIN): Erik Brannstrom (D)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Arizona could move this pick for immediate help, but Brannstrom is a safe bet if they keep it. A quick and offensive defenseman, he’d add to their blueline prospects nicely. 

24. Columbus: Klim Kostin (F) 

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: From the KHL, Kostin brings skill and talent to the ice every single night. Columbus isn’t afraid to pick Russians, either. But the questions that begs is: when is he planning to come (if at all) to North America? 

25. Montreal: Ryan Poehling (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Similar to Robert Thomas, the 6’2 Poehling can play in all areas of the rink. Being a natural center helps Montreal as well. 

26. Chicago: Lias Andersson (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Although not immediately ready for the NHL, Andersson has a high ceiling. His defensive game stands out, but he can put up a good amount of points as well. 

27. St. Louis (via WSH): Pierre-Oliver Joseph (D)

Chance pick is traded: high 

Analysis: It is likely that Doug Armstrong moves this pick for offensive help before the expansion draft. However, for purposes of this mock draft, if he keeps it Joseph is a solid bet. He broke out in the QMJHL this season with 39 points in 63 games.

28. Ottawa: Uhro Vaakanainen (D)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The smooth-skating Finnish defenseman has the ability to play on all special teams and in all 5v5 situations. 

29. Dallas (via ANA): Isaac Ratcliffe (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Dallas got this pick from Anaheim in the Patrick Eaves trade. Ratcliffe is a big power forward listed at 6’6/195. He potted 28 goals in 67 games with OHL’s Guelph this past year. 

30. Nashville: Kole Lind (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Lind has the potential to be a good penalty killer and middle-six scorer in the future. Nashville could go with a more dynamic presence here though. 

31. Pittsburgh: Maxime Comtois (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Comtois is an energy player who brings a lot of offense to the table. He’s the type of guy that could be able to slot into Pittsburgh’s lineup sooner rather than later. 

Other notable names that could go in Round 1: Jonah Gadjovich (F), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (F), Grant Mismash (F), Jake Oettinger (G), Nikita Popugaev (F), Morgan Frost (F), Dylan Samberg (D), Jason Robertson (F)

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

It’s time to consider Erik Karlsson as a top-three player in the world with Crosby and McDavid 

Erik Karlsson has sat atop the NHL’s defensive food chain for multiple years now and the 2017 NHL playoffs are not the first instance of his brilliance. Rather, this year’s playoffs have acted as a magnifying glass to show off Karlsson’s raw and dynamic talent. Karlsson should be considered a top-three player in the NHL, and this year’s playoffs is the perfect opportunity for the hockey world to realize this fact. 

Gone are, or should be, the days of the old school mentality that in order to be a good defenseman, you need to block shots and be anchored down in the defensive zone. Karlsson is the quintessential model of the break in this trend. Ottawa’s run to the Eastern Conference Final has finally pitted a spotlight on Karlsson and his genius as a defender, and furthermore has augmented the fact that he should be considered amongst the league’s best with Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. 

Erik Karlsson has notoriously been regarded as a poor defensive player by the media. He does not play the stereotypical role of a defenseman who blocks shots and lays the body on his opponents. Instead, Karlsson uses his stick and speed to strip the puck from the players he is defending in order to transition the play in the reverse direction. 

Karlsson is not the Norris Trophy winner that Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and Zdeno Chara were. He is a new, hybrid breed of a defenseman. He exemplifies all the NHL has become over the past half a decade — quick and smart. Defenseman who stay trapped in their own end were once regarded as heroes and the best in the league. But now, those players, such as Dan Girardi, Brooks Orpik, and Kris Russell, now carry a stigma with them. The ideology has shifted from “good defensively” to “poor analytically”. Karlsson’s game is the new best in the NHL and he himself is the best at doing it. He was once regarded as an inadequate defenseman because people never saw him playing defense. He rarely has to even skate backwards. Karlsson’s game had evolved five years before the rest of the NHL followed suit, and everyone is now just catching on. 

Karlsson has been as good as it gets for the past three years and beyond. As the classic HERO Chart from Own the Puck shows, Karlsson is at the top of his game in virtually every category: 

His ice time skyrockets to absurd numbers, so the data is not a result of a small sample size. This past regular season, Karlsson averaged 26:50 time on ice per game. This was only behind three players, those being Dustin Byfuglien, Drew Doughty, and Ryan Suter. Oh, and Karlsson outscored the nearest of those three (Byfuglien) by 19 points in three less games. 

Karlsson is averaging over two full minutes more of ice time in the playoffs. In the 13 games that the Senators have played, Karlsson has an average time on ice of 29:04. He is out there for every other shift and for half the game in some instances. It is a feat of human endurance that is rarely seen in the game today. Along with this, just to show how preposterous this whole situation is, Karlsson has two hairline fractures in his foot. Karlsson mentioned this himself after Round One, which is rare given the NHL’s unwritten injury protocol. Even if he were to usually mentioned something, it would have likely been limited to a “lower-body injury”. 

“It’s something that’s done with. I just felt like getting it out of the way instead of having it keep lingering on,” Karlsson said. “I’m not much for secrets.”

Karlsson’s admittance to the injury is a refreshing change to the usual ambiguity of the league today, even if it was just to clear the air with the media. It also makes watching what Karlsson is doing on the ice even more spectacular. He’s still the fastest and most agile guy out there on any given night despite the injury. 

WATCH: Karlsson shows insane agility and sets up Brassard for goal

The brilliance of Erik Karlsson this season also comes in an odd scenario, that being with Guy Boucher as coach. There was a lot of speculation prior to the season as to how Boucher and Karlsson would mix, but so far it has worked out to perfection. Boucher, a noted trap-playing and defensive-oriented coach, lets Karlsson play to his ability and freely. Karlsson is not bound to any constraints or to any system under Boucher. It is a symbiotic relationship that has provided considerable benefits for both coach and player. 

Boucher has a clear admiration for Karlsson and the way he plays. He publicly praises Karlsson on the regular, especially towards the end of the season when he was dealing with a multitude of injuries. 

“To see where this guy is right now, to see him this year throughout the year, he has put the building blocks one on top of the other to become the player he is now and the man that he is now. I’m really fortunate to have lived it and seen it. Everybody benefits from it,” Boucher told The National Post.

Karlsson’s run in the 2017 playoffs has truly proven to the hockey world that he should not only be considered among the best in the world, but the elite. Karlsson needs to be considered as a person who sits atop the food chain of the NHL with Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. No three players are more dominant at what they do in the game than these three men. 

When it is all said and done, Erik Karlsson will be looked back on as a revolutionary for the game. His model of play has already paved the way for many defensemen who have entered the league after him, and it will continue to be a prime example for those moving forward. Being able to watch Karlsson in his prime is a privilege that should be marveled in and not skewed by a preconceived and old-school media bias. 

It is hard to believe it took this long, but Erik Karlsson is finally getting the praise he deserves. Let’s not let that notion change anytime soon. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

April showers bring May flowers: who has the best chance of coming back in Round 2?

As the hockey season moves from April to May, the playing field shrinks. Currently eight teams remain, but soon enough the group will whittle down to four.

As of now, Pittsburgh, Washington, Ottawa, New York (Rangers), St. Louis, Nashville, Edmonton, and Anaheim remain. For these series, Pittsburgh leads Washington 2-0, Ottawa leads New York 2-0, Nashville leads St. Louis 2-1, and Edmonton leads Anaheim 2-1. Each of these are far from over, however the odds have begun to shift to the favor of one team per series. But the questions that begs is who, of the teams currently down in a series, has the best chance of making a comeback and advancing to the Conference Finals?

For me, it’s the New York Rangers. Although their defense, with the likes of Holden, Staal, and Girardi, is shaky, their lightning quick offense and superstar goalie could be enough to propel them on a run past Ottawa.

The Rangers and Senators have been locked in a back-and-forth series through the first two games. In Game 1, Erik Karlsson scored the game winner from the goal line with 4:11 left in regulation. Game 2 was a barn burner that resulted in a 6-5 Senators win in double overtime. The games cannot be defined as anomalies by any means, but regardless the series is not over by any stretch of the imagination.

To win the series, the Rangers need Henrik Lundqvist to go into Conn Smythe form. His save percentage in the series so far is .888, but not all of that can be attributed to him. The defensive core in front of him is less than ideal, but that is the Rangers mantra. They need Lundqvist to bail them out, which is something he did not do in Game 2.

In terms of the other teams, this is not to say that they do not have a chance to come back in the series. Each team is in the second round for a reason.

Anaheim is a rigid, experienced team that needs to take advantage of that fact against Edmonton. But, Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot are unbelievable players capable of turning a series in an instant (which they have done already). 

St. Louis is in the same category as Anaheim to a sense, but Nashville is playing great right now. The series against the Blues has not come as easy as the series against Chicago did, but it is hard to bet against the Predators currently. They are using their fast paced tactics to their advantage perfectly. 

Lastly, Washington has fallen into a deep hole with Pittsburgh once again. It’s hard to go against the Penguins right now given Washington’s history in the second round and against Pittsburgh in general. If they can overcome this challenge, it’s hard to argue against the fact that they will win the Cup. But it’s one hurdle at a time for Alex Ovechkin at company. 

Of the teams down currently, who do you think has the best chance of moving on to the second round?

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

The outcome of the NHL draft lottery complicates roster decisions for Hextall, Nill 

The NHL draft lottery has come and gone for yet another year. This time around, however, it was quite controversial and unexpected amongst many fans and league management alike. 

Colorado, Vancouver, and Arizona, who were the three worst teams in the league, all do not have top-three picks this year. Instead, New Jersey moved up from 5 to 1, Philadelphia moved up from 13 to 2, and Dallas moved up from 8 to 3. 

The NHL lottery system is designed to prevent tanking, and that is exactly what it did last night. Colorado, Arizona, and Vancouver were all trying to ice competitive teams at the start of the season, but it did not work out. It just so happened that these three teams became casualties of a system that was put in place after the Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel draft. 

As for who won the lottery, it will have a significant impact on certain players being on the market come draft day. The top prospects in the draft — Patrick, Hischier, and Mittlestadt — happen to all be centers. 

To be fair, New Jersey does not so much fit into this category as well as Philadelphia and Dallas do. The Devils need a bonafide center desperately as they lack star power down the middle. Whichever road they go of the three aforementioned prospects, they will be in good shape. Adding one of them to Taylor Hall (and potentially Ilya Kovalchuk) puts them in a solid place moving forward with their rebuild. 

As for Philadelphia and Dallas, things are not as simple. Both teams already had a logjam of centers heading into this offseason and the outcome of the draft lottery does not make it any easier. Albeit, Hextall and Nill likely aren’t complaining. 

For the Flyers, down the middle they previously had Giroux, Filppula, Couturier, with a combination of other players including Bellemare, Vecchione, Cousins, and Weal playing on the fourth line. Along with the group of previously mentioned fourth liners, Boyd Gordon and Scott Laughton can also play in that role. Travis Konecny is a natural center as well but saw a large majority of his time on the wing last season and will likely continue to see so moving forward. 

In the end, the Flyers have some choices to make over the summer if they want to bring one of Patrick, Hischier, or Middlestadt on to the team next season. 

The player that could be in limbo throughout this whole situation is Sean Couturier. The 24-year-old center was already in trade speculation following the Filppula acquisition at the trade deadline, but now things are even more complicated. Couturier posted 14 goals and 34 points in 66 games last season and is more regarded as a defensive center. 

A handful of teams would love to get their hands on Couturier. It would be a tough sell for the Flyers and Hextall, but they made be forced into a move due to the outcome of the draft lottery. Regardless, the price on Couturier would not be cheap. 

In fairness, however, the Flyers could keep one of Hischier/Patrick/Mittlestadt or Couturier on the fourth line and work things out from there. Or, they could return their second overall pick to Juniors/the USHL. The latter is a lot more unlikely but not out of the question. 

The Dallas Stars are in a similar situation. The original plan heading into next season, according to Stars reporter Mike Heika, was to have Seguin, Spezza, and Faksa play at center. Devin Shore or Mark McNeill could fill in at fourth line center. 

This plan leaves out Cody Eakin, who Heika speculated could be traded before the expansion draft. Much like Couturier, Eakin is a defensive oriented middle-six center that a lot of teams would have serious interest in. 

Moving forward after the expansion draft, a lot of questions need to be answered for the Stars. They did not want to drop Radek Faksa down the depth chart for Cody Eakin, but will they think the same way for a bonafide center prospect? Only time will tell, but it is certainly up in the air. 

This situation with Dallas may unfold differently than people expect. Due to their already quality center core, they could look to trade down in the draft. A team like Colorado, Las Vegas or Vancouver would definitely be interested in one of Patrick, Hischier, or Mittlestadt. 

The Stars could go the root of taking a defenseman too. Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen are both slated to go in or near the top-five of the draft. 

Also set to go high are Gabriel Vilardi and Michael Rasmussen, both of whom play center. 

There will rightfully be a lot of speculation in the upcoming months on behalf of the teams selecting within the top-three in June. The stunning outcome of the draft lottery has changed the outlook of the league and will show its true effects very soon. 

Stay tuned for more draft coverage coming soon. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

NHL Playoff Prediction: Western Conference Round 1

Eastern Conference prediction can be found here.

(C1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (WC2) Nasvhille Predators

The Blackhawks finished atop the Western Conference once again and drew the Predators in the first round. A lot of Chicago’s success this season came from young players, like Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz, finally breaking through. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin were dominant yet again, and Jonathan Toews picked up his game near the end of the year.

The Predators main concern has to be goaltending. Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are not a bad tandem, but Rinne especially has not been as good in recent years as he was in the past.

Much like Washington, it’s hard to bet against Chicago early on in the playoffs.

Verdict: Chicago in 6

(C2) Minnesota Wild vs. (C3) St. Louis Blues 

For the second time in three years, the Wild and Blues will be facing off in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Wild won the series 4-2 the last time around.

The Wild are much better this year than they were two years ago and the Blues are much worse. The goaltending for the Blues is a specific concern, as they do not have a stable 1/2 tandem anymore with Brian Elliott gone.

A key factor, in my opinion, for this series is Zach Parise and Eric Staal. If the two veterans can step up for Minnesota, they’ll experience success in a big way.

Verdict: Minnesota in 6

(P1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC1) Calgary Flames 

This is the most interesting first round matchup this season. The Ducks only had a halfway decent season under Randy Carlyle, despite the fact that they finished first in their division.

As for the Flames, they’re a pesky squad. Matthew Tkachuk has proved, in just one season, to be one of the best pests in the league. Brian Elliott has also proved to be a good backbone in net that the Flames, something they have not had in a few years.

Verdict: Flames in 6

(P2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (P3) San Jose Sharks

Lead by Connor McDavid, and for the first time since 2006, the Oilers are back in the playoffs. The resurgence of the Oilers has been remarkable to watch. McDavid, Draisaitl, and Talbot have been nothing short of spectacular this season.

For the Sharks, they’re coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance in which they lost to the Penguins. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are coming into unrestricted free agency this summer and time is running out for both of them.

In terms of the series, this should be an exciting one. It’s hard to find two hungrier teams for a deep playoff run than the Oilers and Sharks. Connor McDavid shifting into a second gear is a scary thought as well, at least for the rest of the NHL.

Verdict: Sharks in 7

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

NHL Playoff Prediction: Eastern Conference Round 1

The NHL playoffs are upon us and the guessing game can now begin. The NHL playoffs usually come with plenty of excitement and surprises, so many times it can prove difficult to predict what will happen. Regardless, here’s a go at it.

Read the rest of this entry

The fight for the final NHL playoff spot will come down to the last weekend 

Heading into the final weekend of the NHL season, fifteen out of the sixteen playoff teams have been determined. The last spot remaining is in the Eastern Conference and has come down to the Maple Leafs, Islanders, and Lightning. 

With a shootout win over Boston on Thursday night, the Ottawa Senators locked up their playoff hopes. On that same night, both the Islanders and Lightning won in regulation while the Maple Leafs lost in regulation. The young Toronto team now finds themselves in a precarious situation, however they do control their own destiny. 

All three teams currently sit with 80 games played. Toronto has 93 points, whereas Tampa Bay and New York each have 90. In terms of ROW (regulation plus overtime wins), the denoted first tie breaker in the NHL, Toronto has 38, the Islanders have 37, and Tampa Bay has 36. 

For scheduling, Toronto has definitely been dealt the worst hand on the surface. They play Columbus and Pittsburgh over the final three days of the season. However, both of those teams have already punched their ticket to the playoffs and already have their seeding (second and third place in the Metropolitan Division respectively) locked down. The Penguins and Blue Jackets technically have nothing to play for heading into the final weekend, so it is possible that they will rest their star players and starting goalies. But, the argument could be made that the Penguins and Blue Jackets want to win in order to pass the Blackhawks in points, in the case that one of those teams meets up with Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final. 

The Islanders and Lightning each play a team in the playoffs and a team outside of the playoffs in their final two games. For the Islanders it is going to be New Jersey and Ottawa, and for Tampa Bay it is going to be Montreal and Buffalo. 

In order for Toronto to fall out of a playoff position, they have to lose their final two games in regulation and either the Islanders or Tampa Bay need to win their final two games. If Toronto loses one game in overtime or a shootout and loses the other in regulation, only the Islanders can overtake them if they win both of their games in regulation. Two overtime or shootout losses by Toronto would put them into the playoffs. 

There are still a lot of moving parts and a lot can change over the course of the next 72 hours. Tampa Bay plays tomorrow, Friday night, in Montreal. A loss of any kind and they will be eliminated from playoff contention. 

Although there is not as much as usual, the end of the NHL season will have some drama to keep an eye on. Toronto has their fate in their own hands, but New York and Tampa Bay remain knocking at the door. 

Keep up with our Twitter for updates on the playoff race. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

Mock NHL Expansion Draft – Edition II (Vegas Golden Knights) 

Mock Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft: Edition 2 Read the rest of this entry

Three winners and three losers from the 2017 NHL trade deadline 

The 2017 NHL trade deadline has come and gone. Quite frankly, it was pretty boring this year. No big or surprising names were moved. However, there was certainly enough action to determine winners or losers of the past few days.

Read the rest of this entry

The Ultimate Guide to the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline: Eastern Conference Edition

The Ultimate Guide to the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline: Eastern Conference Edition

Read the rest of this entry

A match made in heaven? Colorado could have a perfect trading partner for Duchene 

Not much has been going right for the Colorado Avalanche this season, however they do have the chance to do now what other teams sometimes dream of: start over.

Read the rest of this entry

Trade Possibility: Tyler Johnson 

Despite Steven Stamkos’ long-term injury at the start of the season, few picked the Tampa Bay Lightning to miss the playoffs. They’ve gone through this before without their captain multiple times — when he broke his leg and when he suffered from blood clots.

Read the rest of this entry