CAROLINA CRISIS: THIS IS BIGGER THAN YOU By Michael...
Popsicle Brothers Special: Ice, Ice Baby
At stake for the 30 clubs is to add missing pieces to form new scoring lines, defensive pairings and mine new talent to protect that valuable real estate between the pipes.
Like its other sports cousins, the hockey draft (which is now seven rounds through all the league’s teams) some gold has been found in later rounds:
Matthew Lombardi (Draft 2000, seventh round, #215 by Edmonton) now with the Calgary Flames;
Petr Prucha (Draft 2002, eighth round, #240 by the New York Rangers – draft was nine rounds then);
Cristobal Huet (Draft 2001, seventh round, #214 by the L.A. Kings) now with the Chicago Blackhawks;
And current Goal Brotha Dustin Byfuglien (2003 Draft, eighth round, selected #245 by the Chicago Black Hawks)…
But in spite of those gentlemen mucking their way to the big club, the NHL seems to get the talent/potential thing right on first sight. Here are some clear examples of when the NHL execs see it, they know it; into the new decade:
2000: Dany Heatley, Justin Williams, Marian Gaborik, Raffi Torres.
2001: Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, R.J. Umberger.
2002: Rick Nash, Alexander Semin, Cam Ward, Jay Bouwmeester.
2003: Marc-Andre Fleury, Dion Phaneuf, Eric Staal, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaff, Mike Richards, Brent Seabrook, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jeff Carter.
2004: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni (we dig you, but you know damn well you were supposed to sit out Game Three) Malkin, Travis Zajac, Mike Green.
2005: Sidney Crosby, Devin Setoguchi, Andrew Coligano, Carey Price.
2006: Johnathan Toews, Jordan Staal, Kyle Okposo, Chris Stewart, Eric Johnson, Phil Kessel.
2007: Patrick Kane, David Perron.
Of course with the glamour spot that is the first round come great financial rewards – and greater expectations.
From all accounts, the first person who will his name called is centre (we’ll do it Canadian style since it’s up in their maison this weekend) John Tavares. A star in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Oshawa Generals and later the London Knights, Tavares has great hockey savvy and exceptional hand/eye coordination.
Tavares, who will be welcomed by the New York Islanders, wore No. 19 while a member of the Canadian National Team in this year’s Junior Championships, won’t be able to don that sweater on Long Island (No. 19 belongs to Bryan Trottier), but I’m sure any number will work for the Islanders, who will have Tavares as another building block for the future along with Goal Brotha Kyle Okposo.
Are You Ready to Raise Some Kane?
While the mix of American, European and minor league selections will make up the newest members of the league, the wild card moving up the charts into everyone’s Top Ten is the smooth skating Goal Brotha-to-be from the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL) centre Evander Kane.
Not Citizen (Kane) not Raising (Kane) not the WWE’s (Kane) or even Big Daddy (Kane), Evander Kane’s talent stands on its own – and he will be able to make his own name, given the right fit with the right team.
Kane, who was named after prize fighter Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield, is the real deal – an adept two – way skater, strong wrist and slap shot and a wicked good stick handler. At six feet and 180 pounds, Kane can still put on a couple pounds and likely play comfortably at 185 – 190 in a few years.
The fact he is a Goal Brotha-In-Waiting may bode well for several American teams looking for a young man who has the potential to make the big club first time out.
Of the teams who may go for a centre off the bat, five teams: Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix (maybe Hamilton, Ontario?) Coyotes and the Ottawa Senators, the Avalanche (at #3), the Thrashers (how about Kane with Ilya Kovalchuk at #4) Kings (with Wayne Simmonds at #5) and Phoenix (with Nigel Dawes at #6) seem to represent the end of how far we see Kane slipping, if we can call it that.
Ottawa would no doubt love to have him drop down to them at #9, but in spite of the fact the Sens’ are still a one-line team, we don’t see them making any aggressive move to trade up to get him.
Taught and encouraged by his father, Kane earned his way to play through his diligence and attention to detail; and sees a lot of what he wants to be in Goal Brotha#1, Calgary Flames’ winger Jarome Iginla, who went in the first round of 1995′s Draft at #11 to the Dallas Stars; how time doth fly…
Tavares’ teammate, centre Nazem Kadri is Canadian born but is of Lebanese descent, so the NHL gets some Middle East flava to savor as well. Kadri has a nice scoring touch and should also be a first round selection.
The first defenceman (remember Canadian flava) selected could go to the Tampa Bay Lightning as Victor Hedman from Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik (Swedish league), a hulking 6’7″ and 235 pounds is good to go; while the first goalie could be Owen Sound’s (OHL) Scott Stacjcer.
Finishing up with NHL News:
The Calgary Flames hired Brent Sutter as head coach as once again Mike Keenan has overstayed his welcome…
Here are the League Award winners for 2009:
Art Ross Trophy – Evgeni Malkin scoring leader – Pittsburgh Penguins
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy – Alexander Ovechkin goals leader – Washington Capitals
Hart Trophy – Alex Ovechkin- Most Valuable Player- Washington Capitals
Jack Adams Award – Claude Julien- Boston Bruins (Coach of the Year)
Jennings Trophy – Tim Thomas/Manny Fernandez fewest goals allowed – Boston Bruins
Vezina Trophy – Tim Thomas – Best Goalie Boston Bruins
Norris Award – Zdeno Chara – Defenseman Boston Bruins
Calder Award – Steve Mason – Columbus Blue Jackets
Selke Award – Pavel Datsyuk – defensive forward- Detroit Red Wings
Lady Byng Award- Pavel Datsyuk – gentlemen- Detroit Red Wings
Lifetime achievement award – Jean Beliveau – Montreal Canadians
NHL First Team:
Tim Thomas – Boston – Goalie
Mike Green – Washington, Zdeno Chara, Boston – Defensemen
Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh – Center
Jarome Iginla- Calgary – Right Wing
Alex Ovechkin – Washington – Left Wing
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, Dan Boyle, San Jose – Defensemen
Pavel Datsyuk- Detroit
Hall Of Fame
Detroit’s Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull (St. Louis Blues/Dallas Stars) two of Brother Gray’s favorite players; and one of mine – New York Ranger defenseman Brian Leetch – will enter the Hall along with former Ranger and L.A. Kings winger Luc Robitaille.
It’s fair to say this is as close to a no – doubt HOF group as could be in any sport. Hull, third all-time in goals scored (741); Yzerman, who spearheaded the Red Wings to begin the standard of excellence in “Hockeytown” that continues with Datsyuk & Lindstrom today.
Leetch was a rock at defense who helped of Ranger fans to sleep peacefully after the 1994 Stanley Cup; and Robitaille, whose 668 goals makes him all – time goal scorer from the left wing.
And the Popsicle Bros. will not front – this is the time where we would love TSN’s coverage to be in the mix feed wise so we can get that extra Maple flava on how Canada’s sport accentuates their positives.
Round One will be televised on Versus, so to the new crop of NHL players, all the best and we look forward to one day seeing you out on Centre Ice!