franchise pieces

NHL Draft prospect watch: 3 franchise pieces outside of Dahlin

There is no doubt that Rasmus Dahlin is going to go to whatever team wins the NHL draft lottery. But that does not mean that other players cannot be good franchise pieces to build around.

There are plenty of players that are wanting to make the NHL, but only a few are actually ready. Depending on what teams they go to there are two to three players that are ready for the NHL right away. The top of the draft is filled with two-way forwards that will eventually make significant impacts in the NHL.

Andrei Svechnikov – Right Wing – Barrie (OHL)

franchise pieces

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Svechnikov is going to be an offensive force in the NHL when he is ready. Andrei can score from anywhere on the ice. His blistering shot comes with sniper-like precision. At 6-2 186 lbs, Svechnikov has the size and strength to be among the NHL’s elite goal scorers.

Scouts have said that his top potential is being a pure goal scorer like Patrik Laine and Alexander Ovechkin. He showed that with his play in the OHL this season. In 44 games he posted an impressive 40 goals but also had 32 assists. That is what will make Svechnikov a unique player in the NHL. He sees the ice clearly and knows how to make the extra pass to get his team a goal.

One thing that makes him so advanced for his age is his ability to create his own shot. Andrei at times can create space with his stick-handling to score, but his ability to move off the puck is incredible. Svechnikov understands how and when to push for space with the puck not on his stick, and it leads to a lot of chances off of set plays and transitions.

If Andrei can hit his full potential, he will easily be one of the most exciting players in the NHL, but to get there, he will have to work on his two-way game. Every player, especially the top-end ones have to play defense a decent amount, and Svechnikov has struggled a bit with it. He is very physical with his body, which is a good thing, but at times it can often get him into trouble. Sometimes he gets over aggressive and over pursues a play or ends up taking a costly penalty. Lucky for him, this fault is something that is easily coached. In his young career, he has already shown signs of improvement defensively; he just is not fully there yet.

Brady Tkachuk – Left Wing – Boston University

The younger brother of Matthew Tkachuk, Brady has all the tools to outshine his brothers NHL career. Tkachuk is 6-3 196 lbs, which is precisely what you look for when selecting a two-way forward. Playing physical, but under control is one thing that sets Tkachuk from the rest of the two-ways in this draft.

Tkachuk uses his size and speed to outclass his opponents physically. Head coach of Boston University David Quinn relied on Tkachuk a lot in penalty killing situations during his time at Boston University, and Tkachuk thrived on the unit. Brady’s defense is undoubtedly ready to compete at the NHL level, and he is sure to help out in that area on whatever team he goes to. Tkachuk’s transition to the NHL will be smoother than most, because of his side and defensive abilities.

Along with his strong defensive abilities, Tkachuk has very soft hands and can navigate through traffic efficiently. Scouts his knowledge of knowing when to dump and chase the puck and when to use his stick-handling to carry the puck in. When dumping the puck, Tkachuk does a great job of putting it in the right spot so that it results in a possession for his team.

There is no doubt that Tkachuk’s awareness is at an NHL level, on both defense and offense. He knows what position to be in at all times and can efficiently execute it at the same time. In 40 games with Boston this season he tallied 23 assists which shows his above-average ability to see the ice and make the right pass.

One of the big knocks on Tkachuk is his shot. Even though his shots carry a decent pace, it is not entirely where it needs to be for the NHL. His accuracy is there at times, but other times it is not there. As he gets older and stronger, the speed problem is sure to be fixed, but if Tkachuk is to become a great offensive player, his accuracy will have to get better.

Filip Zadina – Left Wing – Halifax (QMJHL)

Filip Zadina is a very intriguing prospect. Zadina dazzled at the IIHF World Juniors for the Czech Republic, and he was a for Halifax. Filip has been called the best stick-handler in the draft by some scouts, which is scary if you factor in his blistering speed and quick shot.

The combination of size and speed that Zadina brings is that of some of the NHL’s top playmakers, and it looks like his ceiling is exactly that. At 6-1 192 lbs, Zadina has the body to withstand the physicality of the NHL, and the speed to keep up with it. He can move laterally or vertically, and his stick control is second to none.

At the World Juniors, Filip Zadina was able to showcase some of his stick-handling abilities on a large stage. Zadina tallied seven goals during the tournament; including this fantastic display of stick control and shot accuracy.

In the QMJHL Zadina is a star. In 57 games this season, Zadina scored 44 goals and added 38 assists for a total of 82 points. That adds up to 1.43 points per game, which is an impressive feat in any league. If he can carry this high-level offensive play into the NHL, he will be a star.

Before he gets to that point, he has a few things he will have to work on. Sometimes he can get above himself from a playmaking standpoint, and that leads to him holding the puck for too long. At the junior level he can get away with it, but moving into the NHL the speed and skill of defenders will keep him from being able to hold the puck. Another knock is his defense. It is close to being there, but he still needs to work on it a bit. He has shown flashes of playing defense at a high level, but it has to become more consistent before he reaches the NHL.

Recap

The ultimate prize for every team in the lottery is Rasmus Dahlin. But teams can still get some high-level players in picks one through 10. Svechnikov, Tkachuk and Zadina have all the tools needed to dominate at the next level. They will need to be developed, but if done right they will be great contributors to their teams.

 

Featured image by NHL.com

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Winnipeg moves

Winnipeg moves onto round 2 after beating Minnesota

The Jets are moving on to the second round after beating the Minnesota Wild. Winnipeg moves on to round two of the postseason for the first time in franchise history. The Wild looked to be outclassed entirely throughout this entire series and never really stood a chance against a far superior Jets team.

Connor Hellebuyck

As is the theme with most of these series’, Connor Hellebuyck put out a fantastic series in net. He did have a hiccup in game three when he had to be pulled in a 2-6 loss, but in his other four games, he looked completely in control.

Hellebuyck posted a goals-against average of 1.93 with a .924 save percentage. Connor finishes the series on a high note, posting his first shutout of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Going into a probable series against the Nashville Predators the goaltending for Winnipeg could be the difference maker.

Star of the Series: Dustin Byfuglien

Winnipeg moves

(Photo By: The Athletic)

Byfuglien’s presence was felt on the ice all series long. Dustin looked like a man amongst boys against the Minnesota Wild as he laid countless bone-crunching hits. His 25 hits in this series have him ranked second among all players in the NHL this season, but his dominance does not stop there.

Mark Scheifele and Byfuglien lead the Jets in scoring this series with five points each, with all five of Byfuglien’s points coming from assists.

One thing he will have to work on moving on to round two will be staying out of the box. As the Jets move deeper into the playoffs, the power plays of teams tend to become a lot sharper. Byfuglien will hope to cut his 14 minutes of penalty time to help his team succeed. His physical presence completely changed this series, but he needs to be more under control against better teams.

Looking Ahead

Winnipeg is most likely going to have to take on the Nashville Predators. A team they were 2-3-0 against during the regular season. Nashville’s offense overwhelmed the Jets defense in the regular season, scoring four or more goals in four of the five games they played.

That is where Connor Hellebuyck comes into play. Hellebuyck showed why he is a Vezina candidate against the Wild, but he did have the one bad game. The Predators offense is far superior to that of the Wild’s, and if Hellebuyck is off, even a little, they will exploit it and dominate.

How Far Will the Jets Go?

The Jets have all the tools to go all the way to the Stanley Cup, but the issue for them is that every team left does as well. Winnipeg is going to have to have things go their way to make it.

Every little thing during games matters a lot more. The rest of the postseason lies in how hard coach Paul Maurice can get these guys to play. They will have to win at least one game on the road this next series, so they won’t have a crowd to rely on. The Jets can do it, but they need to be locked in.

Featured image by: TSN

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Ducks can’t avoid Jaws, Sharks advance to round 2

The San Jose Sharks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in game four of the series to complete the sweep. They will take on the Golden Knights in round two. The Sharks advance on the back of a great all-around team series where they got production from all of their core players.

San Jose had complete control of the series from the opening drop of the puck in game one. Anaheim was held to only one lead throughout the entire series. That lead only lasted nine minutes before the Sharks answered with points of their own. The defense of San Jose kept the Ducks offense in check, and goaltender Martin Jones played a significant factor into that.

Martin Jones

Sharks advance

Photo By: Daily Herald

Every year in the postseason there is a goalie that gets hot and shuts a team down. This postseason that goalie was Martin Jones. In four games Jones’ goals against average was an even one goal allowed per game and had a save percentage of .970.

Jones only allowed more than one goal one time throughout the entire series and even was able to post a shutout; something he did only four times throughout the whole regular season. Martin’s play stopped the Anaheim Ducks from grabbing any momentum throughout the entire series and allowed the Sharks offense to play loose and free.

Playing The Knights

Going into round two Jones will be going up against a goaltender that is even hotter than he is in Marc-Andre Fleury. This matchup will be arguably the most entertaining one to watch in round two.

Expect the same story from this series. Low scoring games and lots of physical play. The only difference is, both teams are most likely looking at a series going longer than just four games.

Both teams match up fairly evenly with each other. The Sharks are more star-powered, but the Golden Knights are very fundamentally sound.

In four games against Vegas, this season the Sharks are 1-2-1, but only one game was decided by more than one goal, and two of the games went to overtime. The deciding factor in those four games was the Golden Knights special teams. In the Knights three wins against San Jose, they recorded three powerplay goals and one shorthanded goal. Look for the Sharks to try and fix these issues for their upcoming series.

Game Breaker: Evander Kane

At the trade deadline, the San Jose Sharks acquired Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres, and he made a tremendous impact in the Sharks first series versus Anaheim.

In game one Kane opened the series scoring with two goals within six minutes of each other. Those two goals helped propel the Sharks to a 3-0 win allowing them to flip the home-ice advantage in their favor.

In game three Kane was able to get one goal, and an assist that helped San Jose take down the Ducks 8-1 in what was most likely the end of the Ducks hopes at a series win.

Evander’s strong series is precisely why the Sharks acquired him for their playoff push. The Kings struggled mightily against the Golden Knights defense. San Jose is hoping that Evander Kane can help crack the code of their defense.

If the Sharks can take-down the Golden Knights in round two, Kane is most likely going to need to put out a solid series.

How Far Can They Go?

The Sharks look like a very strong contender to be the Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup. They play defense first, then offense and that is a proven winning formula in the playoffs. San Jose is also getting very elite goaltending. Something only one other team in the Western Conference is getting.

If the Sharks can get through the Golden Knights and the other conference teams keep beating up on each other. There is no reason why they can’t make another run at the cup. The experience is there, but they have to make it happen.

 

Featured image by: World News Insider

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Golden Knights sweep the Los Angeles Kings

Yep, you heard that right. The Vegas Golden Knights are the first team moving on to the second round after sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in their first-round matchup. Each game was very hard-fought and tight until the end, as every game was decided by only one goal; including a double-overtime game in game two.

Star Of The Series: Marc-Andre Fleury

golden knights sweep

(Photo By: Sharon Herald)

The star of the series very easily could have been the opposing goaltender Jonathan Quick, but Fleury had to make his fair share of game-saving saves as well.

In round one Fleury put up awe-inspiring numbers. Fleury sported an incredible .65 goals against average along with a .970 save percentage. Both numbers are good for first in the NHL postseason so far.

Fleury’s best performance came in game four when he was able to stop all 31 of the Los Angeles Kings shots to help the Golden Knights secure a one to nothing victory on the way to the teams first ever playoff series win.

Who Is Next?

The Golden Knights will be facing the winner of the Anaheim Ducks versus San Jose Sharks series. Currently, the Sharks hold a three game to none lead over the Ducks and have dominated in each of those games.

San Jose is carrying a goaltender that is playing just as good as Fleury, but the Sharks also have the offense to match.

If these two teams are to meet in the second round, it is undoubtedly going to be an exciting series. The Golden Knights were underdogs versus the Kings as many of the experts across the nation picked them to lose to Los Angeles in the first round.

Resiliency

Vegas has shown that they are not going to back down from a fight. Beating the Kings was no easy task, let alone sweeping them. Riding the back of Marc-Andre Fleury this team has all the tools to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

The Knights proved in this series that they are for real and it is time the hockey world takes note. Their regular season run was not a fluke; it is what they are. It is going to take a lot to stop Vegas, and I am not sure that any team has the tools to take them down in a seven-game series.

 

Featured image by USA Today

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breakout season

Series outlook: Lightning look to continue their breakout season

The Tampa Bay Lightning have won their first division title since the 2003-04 season when they won the Stanley Cup. Tampa will be looking to have that same success this season, but first, they will have to defeat a New Jersey team that is on the rise.

New Jersey finished last season with 70 points and the number one pick in the NHL draft, but this season the team has looked like a top tier team all season long, and now they find themselves in the postseason for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The Devils are going to have to play some of their best hockey if they want to beat a very deep Tampa Bay Lightning squad.

Nikita Kucherov Taking Over

breakout season

(Photo by: NHL.com

Nikita Kucherov had a spectacular season for the Lightning, and he will be looking to keep it going for them in the postseason. 100 points this season was a career high for Kucherov, and now he will have his first chance at the playoffs since 2016.

Kucherov has appeared in 45 different playoff games in his career. In those games, he has found some success and has a career total of 42 points off of 22 goals and 20 assists. When he has been on the ice, the Lightning have been very productive, and it shows in his career playoff plus/minus of +20.

Nikita appeared in 12 games against the Devils in his entire career, and he has had some success against them. Kucherov has 14 career points against New Jersey including a two-point performance earlier this season.

The Lightning have a solid scoring presence, but Nikita Kucherov will have to play at a high level if the Lightning are going to make a run this postseason. The Eastern Conference is loaded with talent, and Tampa Bay has shown signs of weakness this last month.

From Zero To Hero Taylor Hall

For the New Jersey Devils, the play of Taylor Hall has had a massive impact on their push to the playoffs. Hall went on an incredible point streak in the middle of the season that ultimately ended at a remarkable 26 games.

Hall’s play since the new year began has been extraordinary. Taylor finished the season with 57 points in just 40 games; ranking him third behind only Connor McDavid and Evgeni Malkin. Hall had a great run to end the season, but his play this postseason will be the ultimate deciding factor in how successful this season is.

Head To Head

 

breakout season

(Photo By: CBS New York)

New Jersey has the season series on their side. In three meetings against the Lightning, this season the Devils have won all three of them. Two of the three games were played in New Jersey, and one of the games did end in a shutout.

The Lightning had the highest scoring offense in the 2017-18 season, and their defense plays very well as a team. The Devils do not have the stats to back them, but they have played up to their competition a lot of the time this season. New Jersey is sure to bring their best effort against a very good Tampa squad.

The playoffs are obviously a different beast than the regular season, but the Devils do have favorable matchups with the Lightning, and it could lead to this series being one of the most interesting of the first round.

Series Prediction:

This series, like many others, is going to be a very entertaining one to watch. I do like the matchups the Devils have over the Lightning. New Jersey has the strength and has proven they can hang with the Lightning on three different occasions this season.

I believe this series will need all seven games to be decided with game seven being determined by a coin flip, but I think that the Devils will come through in the end and upset the number one seeded Tampa Bay Lightning.

Devils win the series 4-3

lucky this postseason

Series outlook: Vegas looks to get lucky this postseason

The Golden Knights have broken all expansion barriers and winning a playoff series is the next obstacle in their way. The Kings will be a very tough opponent for Vegas, and this series is sure to be one of the best ones of the first round. Like all playoff series’ in the NHL, the Knights will have to be a bit lucky this postseason to win.

Vegas Playing As A Team

What has made Vegas work, is their ability to work as one unit. Vegas does not have star power on the offensive or defensive end, but they all work very well together as a unit. The Knights had seven players score more than 40 points during the 2017-18 season which was among the top numbers in the league. For the Golden Knights to win in the postseason, it will be critical for them to stick to this formula.

Team Defense

Vegas plays excellent team defense. Their defensemen have done a great job all season of swarming the puck and forcing bad decisions. The Knights finished the season with the second highest takeaway total in the entire NHL. They also had a great takeaway to giveaway ratio at 1.1.

The Golden Knights were able to keep the goaltender relatively clean this season, and when you have a goalie the caliber of Fleury, it makes it very easy to win games. Because of this Andre-Fleury was able to have one of the best even-strength save percentages in the entire NHL with a ..931. He has this save percentage on the 10th least shot attempts in the whole NHL.

William Karlsson

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports)

Even though the Knights don’t have a superstar the one player you would pick to be the leader is William Karlsson. Karlsson’s career-high 78 points led the Golden Knights, and his 43 goals had him ranked third in the entire NHL.

Karlsson did have success against the Kings this season in the four games he appeared. Karlsson tallied three goals and one assist, along with a plus/minus rating of +3. The Knights are 2-1-1 in those games. If William Karlsson can continue to play well, the Golden Knights will have a very good chance at beating the Kings this series.

Kings Lockdown Defense

Like many of the Pacific division teams, the Kings play physical defense that results in low scoring battles. Los Angeles finished the season with a 2.43 goals against average which was good for the lowest total in the NHL.
Penalty Kill

The Kings had an incredibly good penalty kill in the 2017-18 season. They finished first in the NHL with an 85 percent success rate. The Kings are a team that doesn’t take too many penalties, but when they do they kill them very efficiently.

Vegas’ power play ranks ninth in the NHL so the Kings penalty kill will be put to the test, The Kings will have their hands full with Vegas’ power play, but holding them to five on five play will be their best shot.

Anze Kopitar

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Kopitar dominated the offensive side of the ice for the Kings this season. Anze finished the season with 92 points and the next closest player on the Kings had 61. Kopitar was consistently the best player on the ice and he proved it by being a force on the offensive end. In four games against the Knights this season Anze tallied two goals and three assists. If he can play at a high level against the Knights, this series could shift in LA’s favor.

Series Prediction

The Golden Knights have a good chance at winning this series, and it is because they match up very well. The Kings have a very good penalty kill, but when they play five on five, they tend to struggle. Vegas has had a balanced attack all season, and it is what will separate them from the Kings in this one.

If the Kings are going to take this one they are going to have to have to steal a win in the first game. I believe the momentum will be too strong to overcome if the Kings allow Vegas to win game one. The Kings have a very strong at home, but the Knights are a good road team that has good chance to neutralize Los Angeles’ strengths.

I like the Knights to win this series, but it will not come easy. This series will take a lot of both teams and will most likely go to seven games.

Vegas wins the series: 4-3

Featured image by USA Today

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Battle for Pennsylvania

Series outlook: A battle for Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia square off in what will be a battle for Pennsylvania. This will be the first hump for the Penguins to overcome on their way to a potential three-peat. For the Flyers This is the Flyers first postseason appearance since the 2015-16 season, and they will be looking to get out of the first round for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they lost in the Conference Semifinals.

Pittsburgh Production From Everywhere

Battle for Pennsylvania

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

There is no denying that the Penguins have a star-powered lineup that is unmatched by any other team. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Phil Kessel lead the way for a Penguins offense that has played very well in 2018.

Since January 1st the Penguins offense ranks first in goals per game with a 3.83 goals per game average. Evgeni Malkin leads the scoring charge for the Penguins while on this scoring tear in the new year. Malkin is second in the NHL in points in that time frame with 62 and has been in serious Hart Trophy considerations as of late.

Along with the immense production from Malkin, Crosby and Kessel have tallied in their share of points as well; each scored more than 50 since January 1st.

Penguins Power Play

The Penguins power play during the 2017-18 season was the best in the league at 26.2 percent. The Flyers are a team that does not commit a lot of penalties, but when they do they have trouble defending them. Pittsburgh will be looking to exploit this aspect of the Flyers game by using their size and speed to draw more penalties. The Penguins power play against the Flyers penalty kill unit will play a significant role in how this series plays out.

Flyers Defense To Offense

Philadelphia has a unique situation where their defense is as capable of scoring as their offense. The defensive scoring attack is led by Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Provorov led all defensemen in the NHL this season with 17 goals, and Gostisbehere tallied an impressive 65 points this season.

The defense of the Flyers could play a very deciding role in this series. Pittsburgh is a team that has shown weakness on the defensive side of the ice. The Pens were one of two teams in the NHL to score three or more goals per game while at the same time allowing three goals per game.

The Flyers defense will demand respect from the Penguins defensemen and in turn that will create space for scorers like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. This is a winnable series for Philly as long as they play it from the defense out. Once they start forcing things on offense the star power from the Penguins offense will eat them alive.

Claude Giroux For Hart?

battle for Pennsylvania

(Photo By: Kate Frese)

Claude Giroux was one of the many surprise candidates for the Hart that emerged this season. Giroux posted his career high for points with 102 and was a driving factor as to why the Flyers are in the postseason.

Claude has seen success against the Penguins this season and had four points in his four games against Pittsburgh this season. He has been especially good at home this season, and the Flyers will need that same dominance in the playoffs if they want to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

Giroux’s splits between home and away are very telling. At home, this season Giroux has 57 points in 41 games and a plus/minus rating of +30. When compared to his 45 points in 41 games and a plus/minus of -2 on the road it is clear that the production is not there on the road.

Philly does not have the luxury of dropping home games against Pittsburgh in this series. They also are going to have to find a way to steal at least one game on the road. Claude Giroux will be a deciding factor in how far this team goes.

Series Prediction

In what will be a battle for Pennsylvania I expect the Penguins to walk out on top. Pittsburgh has been the hotter team as of late, and they are especially good on home ice. The Pens are 30-9-2 when playing at home this season.

If the Flyers are going to win this series, they are going to have to steal one game on the road and then exploit the Pens terrible road record. The Flyers have been about even in both so it could happen, but I believe the Penguins will win this series.

 

Penguins win the series 4-2.

Featured image by Kate Free

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Jets look to fly past

Series outlook: Jets look to fly past Minnesota

This series is looking like it will be one of the most lopsided matchups of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Wild lost defensemen Ryan Suter before the end of the regular season, thinning an already thin defensive unit in Minnesota. The Winnipeg Jets are a team that plays fast and physical, but they do not have experience on their side.

Connor Hellebuyck Dominating In Net

Connor Hellebuyck was one of the best goalies in the entire NHL for the 2017-18 season. Since the new year began, Hellebuyck has been one of, if not the best goalie in the whole NHL. Since January 1st Hellebuyck had a 23-7-4 record with a .924 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average.

Hellebuyck has made it incredibly hard for opponents to score and in turn, it has put the Winnipeg Jets on a different level. The Jets finished the season with the fifth lowest goals against average in the entire NHL, and a lot of it is due to the play of Connor Hellebuyck.

Jets Milestone Season

The 2017-18 season for the Winnipeg Jets is the best in their history to date, and it is not close. Their 114 points are the highest total they have ever had, and now the team looks forward to trying to get out of the west. Winnipeg has never made it passed the Conference Quarterfinals, and they have not been in the postseason since the 2014-15 season.

Patrik Laine’s Goal Scoring

jets look to fly past

(Photo By: (AOP))

Patrik Laine’s goal scoring in the 2017-18 season was an incredible thing to watch. At just 19-years old Laine finished second in the NHL with 44 goals. Laine is the first European born player to score more than 40 goals before he turned 20.

Patrik has established himself as one of the best goal scorers in the entire NHL, and he is only getting better. Laine now will have the opportunity to develop his playoff abilities. No playoff series is easy, but the matchup against the Minnesota Wild will make the transition a bit easier. Laine has played well against the Wild, but not his best. In four games against Minnesota, this season Laine has two goals and zero assists, but he has a plus/minus of +2.

If Laine gets hot in the postseason, the Winnipeg Jets will be an incredibly scary team to watch. They have the goaltending that can carry on its own, but they also have an offense that can score at will. This series will be a fun test to see just how good this team is.

The Wild Underdogs

It is clear that the Wild are significant underdogs against the Winnipeg Jets in this series. If Minnesota wants to win this series, they are most likely going to have to play some of the best hockey they have played all year. Winnipeg has had the Wild’s number so far this season as they hold a 3-1-0 record against them this season.

It Starts With Dubnyk

Even though the Wild are underdogs, the Predators were in the same situation as Minnesota was last year. If the Wild want to shock the hockey world and upset the Winnipeg Jets, it is going to start with goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

Strong goaltending wins in the playoffs and Dubnyk has shown he can be that, but he is going to have to outplay one of the best goalies in the NHL. Dubnyk’s numbers in the 2017-18 season were about average for all goalies. He finished the season 35-16-7 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average. Of course, if the Wild are going to make a run, these numbers are going to have to be better, but he has shown he can play like that.

The Fountain Of Youth: Featuring Eric Staal

Jets look to fly past

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Eric Staal returned to his old ways this season and the Minnesota Wild are reaping the rewards. Staal’s 76 points this season are his highest total since 2010-2011. Staal was in the hunt for the Maurice Richard Trophy late in the year, and his surprise goal scoring has caught the entire NHL off guard.

Staal has shown he can carry this Minnesota team and going into a massive series against the Jets he may be called upon to do just that. Eric scored multiple points in 17 different games this season, but none of them came against the Jets, in fact, Staal has only scored one point in his four games against Winnipeg this season.

The Wild are going to need production from Staal if they are going to steal this series from the hopeful Jets. The Wild are going to need a lot of things to go their way, but they definitely should not be counted out of this series.

Series Prediction

This series is going to be a lot closer than people think. The Wild are a beaten up team, but they do play with a lot of heart. I expect Devan Dubnyk to rise to the occasion and play some of the best hockey he has ever played.

Ultimately I do not think it will be enough. The Jets are a speedy and physical team, and even if Dubnyk plays well, they will wear down the Minnesota skaters. This series will be done in six, maybe seven games, but the Jets will take down the Wild in the end.

 

Jets win the series: 4-2

Featured image by CBS Sports

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Columbus Blue Jackets playoffs

Crunch time! How far can Columbus go?

It is the crucial time of the season where teams begin to solidify themselves from the pack, and the Blue Jackets are doing just that. But just how far can Columbus go?

The Blue Jackets are currently on a 10-game winning streak, and in that time frame, they have beaten playoff-bound teams such as Boston, Vegas, Colorado, San Jose and Florida. At the beginning of the month, the Blue Jackets were considered to be a bubble team, but now with seven games remaining, they rank third in the Metropolitan Division and are very much in play for the division title.

High level of play

Since March 4, no team has been able to compete with the Blue Jackets. The boys in blue have by far been the best team in the NHL during this winning streak. On this run, they have the most goals for in the NHL with 42 while allowing just 22.

The most impressive part about all of this is that they are doing it at even strength. A lot of times, winning streaks are fueled by good power plays and red-hot goaltending, but the Blue Jackets are genuinely just beating other teams at their best. Of their 42 goals on this run, 36 of them have come at even strength, and they even have a short-handed goal as well.

Columbus is going in night in and night out and are beating teams at their best on the offensive end. But the party doesn’t stop there for the Jackets. Head coach John Tortorella has his team playing very sound defensively down the stretch.

Columbus Blue Jackets playoffs

(Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Through these 10 games, Columbus leads the NHL in blocked shots and rank third in takeaways. They are doing a fantastic job of turning solid defense into offense, and in turn, it has led to the miraculous run. But this couldn’t happen without a little star power.

Artemi Panarin

Before this streak began, Artemi Panarin had just 53 points on the season. Fast forward a few weeks, and now he sits at 69 points. Panarin has scored in nine of the 10 games on this winning streak for Columbus, including four multipoint games.

Panarin has been the fuel to the offensive fire at even strength. His seven even-strength goals since March 4 rank first in the NHL, and his nine assists have him tied for seventh in the NHL.

Panarin is averaging 1.6 points per game on this run. If he continues playing at this level, he is likely to topple his career high in points. After spending his first two seasons in Chicago, Panarin has thrived in Columbus. Every Blue Jackets fan will be hoping for it to continue.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Bobrovsky will be the ultimate decider in just how far this Blue Jackets team will go. He has been the definition of excellence in net on this run for Columbus. He is 7-0-0 with a .940 save percentage and a 1.86 goals against average.

At home, Bobrovsky has been world class. He is sporting a 4-0-0 record along with a .959 save percentage and a 1.25 goals against average. If he can play anywhere close to these levels in the playoffs, the Blue Jackets have an excellent chance at making a run.

How far can Columbus go?

Columbus Blue Jackets playoffs

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Columbus has all the tools to make an intense run in the postseason. They have gotten significant contributions from Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin recently, and the rest of the team is on fire offensively. Time will tell whether or not this surge in play continues in the postseason, but there is no telling why it won’t.

The Blue Jackets are asserting themselves as one of the top teams in the NHL, but Columbus will just have to keep playing their game in order to win. As long as they do not commit foolish turnovers and penalties, they will have a very good chance.

They have proven they can win, but now they need to do it in the playoffs. After a disappointing end to last season, the Blue Jackets are hungry for postseason hockey.

 

Featured image by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

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redrafting

Why redrafting the NHL would be very intriguing


Most teams in the NHL would never be onboard for a redraft of the entire NHL. But, it is still something cool for fans to look at hypothetically. Entire league redrafts have usually been associated with the NFL. The idea behind them is to break up dynasties in the league, such as the New England Patriots. Although the NHL hasn’t had any Patriot-esque dynasties recently, there’s franchises that have experienced FAR more success than many others. Teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers have made the post-season the last 11, nine, and seven seasons, respectively. A total of only four teams have won the last eight Stanley Cups.

redrafting

Photo from turningleft.net

An NHL redraft would give several teams a chance to retool their entire roster. For example, the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, and Arizona Coyotes all own growing post-season droughts. Carolina’s drought has reached eight seasons, Buffalo six, and Arizona five. All three team’s droughts are very likely to continue at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

 

 

 

Here are some things to consider if this hypothetical idea were ever to come to fruition:

Determining the draft order


One of the most important parts of this hypothetical is how the NHL would determine the order of which the teams would get to draft. Although the 31st pick in the redraft of the NHL would still result in an extremely talented player, the number one overall pick is significantly better.

The team with the top pick gets the choice of how they get to rebuild their roster. They can choose the best player from whichever position on the ice they like. The 31st pick may not have the choice to draft based on position. With a pick that far down they may just take the best player available.

redrafting

Photo from dailyherald.com

The NHL must determine how to order the redraft. The best way to do that would be to measure the success of each franchise over the last 15 seasons. Then, reward the least successful team with the first overall pick, and the 31st overall pick to the most successful.

The Penguins and Blackhawks have three Cup wins over the last 15 seasons, with the Penguins winning the last two. Pittsburgh would receive the 31st pick, and Chicago the 30th. The Kings have two in the last 15 seasons, giving them the 30th pick.

On the opposite end of the spectrum it would be tougher to decide which team gets the first overall pick because there are several franchises that have never won a Stanley Cup, let alone in the last 15 seasons.

For this we could look at the least amount of playoff appearances, longest post-season droughts, and total regular season losses over the last 15 seasons to work out who gets the first pick.

Which position would be most important?


Redrafting the NHL would essentially be one giant fantasy hockey draft for General Managers and team owners. They would need to decide which positions they would tackle first in the draft.

Would GMs and owners want to target young, talented forwards such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel? Or would they want to target cornerstone defensive players such as Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban or Brent Burns that can quarterback the offense on the backend and also run the power-play?

But, GMs and owners can’t forget about the guys that backstop the team, the goaltenders. It can be argued that Henrik Lundqvist has been the key to the Rangers’ seven consecutive playoff appearances. Furthermore, you can argue that Jonathan Quick was the most important piece of the Los Angeles Kings roster in 2012 and 2014 when they won Stanley Cup.

Teams could permitted to keep one player


Allowing teams to keep one player would be similar to a fantasy hockey keeper league. In keeper fantasy leagues, owners are allowed to keep a set number of players at the end of the season. They then start the next season with the players that they kept at the end of last season. Heading into the draft, the team already has a few players on the roster. This allows them to focus on other positions because they already have a piece or two in place that they don’t need to draft.

redrafting

Connor McDavid with Wayne Gretzky. Photo from NHL.com

If this were instituted into the redrafting theory, franchises should be permitted to keep one player if they choose to. This would allow the team to already have a top player of a specific position on their roster so they could draft different positions earlier on. For example, the Edmonton Oilers would likely keep their star forward, Connor McDavid. He’s only 21 years old and easily resembles all-time greats of the sport such as Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby.

Teams would need to pay to keep this player, so the method of how would need to be solidified by the NHL. A great way to do this would to institute a standard, league-wide contract that the kept player would sign to keep them on the roster, similar to an NFL franchise tag. But, this contract’s length and price should be equal no matter the position of the player that is kept. For example, whether the kept player is a forward, defenseman, or a goaltender, the keeper contract standard should be set somewhere around four years, $10 million per season.

Other teams could choose to keep a franchise cornerstone defenseman or goaltender if they don’t feel that they have star talent at the forward position that is worth the $10 million per season contract. Or, if a team feels that they don’t have any player at any position worth $10 million per season, they could choose to not keep any players heading into the redraft and save the money heading into the season.

Ratings, attendance and jersey sales could skyrocket


The first few seasons following the NHL redraft would be electric to watch. All kinds of superstars playing in new cities, with new jerseys, and new players at their sides.

Fans would flock to arenas and televisions to watch their newly rebuilt franchise fight to be the first to win a Stanley Cup following the redraft. There’d be no telling which teams would come out on top. No matter if a team looks good on paper, it’s all about the chemistry on the ice between the players. Teams like the New York Islanders, Arizona Coyotes, and the Carolina Hurricanes would love to see this. These three are among the teams that struggle to fill their arena on game nights. With all new rosters, each team has the potential to be the best in the league. Every arena in the league would be packed all season long.

Plus, jersey sales would go through the roof. Most players, except for those kept on the roster, would be playing for a different team. Fans wouldn’t hesitate to buy their new superstar’s jersey as soon as the draft concluded.

 

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