2012 NHL Mock Draft: 6/15/12

As of 6/15/12 Mock Draft:

1. Image – Nail Yakupov, LW, Sarnia (OHL)

Skinny: Most skilled and offensively gifted player in Draft. Oilers become offensive powerhouse.

2. Image – Mikhail Grigorenko, RW, Quebec (QMJHL)

Skinny: Brings size and a lot of skill to Columbus, will develop nicely with Johansen.

3. Image – Filip Forsberg, LW, Leksands (SWE)

Skinny: Winger that will bring a lot of skill to a depleted forward prospect pool for Montreal.

4. Image – Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)

Skinny: Big and strong defenseman, will be centerpiece to the Islanders youth on defense.

5. Image – Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL)

Skinny: Explosive offensive player that fills Toronto’s need for a #1 center.

6. Image – Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)

Skinny: Punishing defenseman with offensive capabilities, will develop into a stud on the blue line.

7. Image – Jacob Trouba, D, USA U-18 (USHL)

Skinny: High offensive capabilities and isn’t afraid to be gritty.

8. Image – Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL)

Skinny: Big and has a lot of skill, has adapted well to North American hockey.

9. Image – Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FIN)

Skinny: Explosive skater, high offensive capabilities, Finnish league Rookie of the Year.

10. Image – Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Skinny: Offensively gifted, smooth skater, sees the ice well.

11. Image (via COL) – Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL)

Skinny: Big and strong, sees the game well.

12. Image – Thomas Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL)

Skinny: Talented power forward with scoring touch, gritty edge to his game.

13. Image – Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL)

Skinny: Offensively gifted and sees the ice very well, high hockey IQ.

14. Image – Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)

Skinny: Strong offensive ability, plays well in own end; great first pass.

15. Image – Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)

Skinny: Strong, reliable defenseman, great in shutdown situations. Will complement Karlsson well.

16. Image – Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR.)

Skinny: Offensively gifted, great speed, acceleration, and agility.

17. Image – Stefan Matteau, C, USA U-18 (USHL)

Skinny: Offensive touch, has a gritty edge to his game.

18. Image – Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa (KHL)

Skinny: Athletic and reads the play phenomenally, is destined to be a starter in this league.

19. Image (via DET) – Tomas Hertl, C, Slavia (CZREP)

Skinny: Strong offensive ability and great athleticism.

20. Image – Matthew Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)

Skinny: Good on both sides of puck, great shutdown defenseman.

21. Image (via NSH) – Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL)

Skinny: Big, strong center who can dominate in the corners; strong two-way presence.

22. Image – Pontus Aberg, LW, Djugardens (SWE)

Skinny: Skilled Swede performed well against men as a teenager in SEL.

23. Image – Mark Jankowski, C, Stanstead College (HIGH-QC)

Skinny: High offensive talent, gifted scorer; 53 goals and 94 points, plus-51.

24. Image – Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL)

Skinny: Balanced defenseman, high offensive capabilities.

25. Image – Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)

Skinny: Poised, smart with the puck, and smooth skater.

26. Image – Colton Sissons, C, Kelowna (WHL)

Skinny: Two-way presence with skill, will play his heart out for Vancouver.

27. Image – Tanner Pearson, LW, Barrie (OHL)

Skinny: Late bloomer in the OHL, pure goal scorer.

28. Image – Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18 (USHL)

Skinny: Big defenseman who’s smooth on his skates.

29. Image – Martin Frk, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)

Skinny: Big winger with great shot, just needs to develop his skating ability.

30. Image – Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL)

Skinny: Developing an offensive upside along with strong defensive capabilities.

2012 NHL Top 50 Free Agents List

1. Image Zach Parise, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: By far the most skilled and all-around player in this year’s UFA crop, will have many interested teams.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

2. Image Ryan Suter, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Big ticket defenseman this year, 2012 All-Star, will find a lot of potential suitors.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

3. Image Dennis Wideman, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: 2012 All-Star, played superb hockey for the Capitals this season.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

4. Image PA Parenteau, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Skilled winger than can put up good numbers (18 G, 49 A, 67 P) when surrounded with talent.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

5. Image Shane Doan, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran winger put up good numbers in 2012, plays an all-around game. Unlikely to leave the desert, however.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImage

6. Image Ray Whitney, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Spectacular 2012 season, was 13th in Points (77) and 6th in Assists (53).

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImageImage

7. Image Bryce Salvador, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Solid defensive defenseman, came alive in Playoffs finishing 10th in Points overall and 2nd among defensemen with 14.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImageImage

8. Image Alexander Semin, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Skilled winger, has shown to be a star at times in this league but has motivation issues.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

9. Image Matt Carle, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Two-way defenseman, plays a smart game and is serviceable on the PP and PK.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImageImage

10. Image Teemu Selanne, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran winger can still produce, unlikely to leave Anaheim though. Retirement also a possibility.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImage

11. Image Jason Garrison, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Great breakout season in 2012, would be a great Powerplay QB for potential suitors.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImageImage

12. Image Hal Gill, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Big defenseman, adds a big stay-at-home presence on the blue line.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

13. Image Olli Jokinen, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran center put up good numbers in 2012, could be a good option as a middle 6 guy for teams.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

14. Image Jaromir Jagr, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Revived himself in the NHL in 2012, rumored to be re-signing with Philly very soon though.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

15. Image Jarret Stoll, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Defensive minded centerman, one of the best faceoff guys in the league. Great on the PK and has Cup experience.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImageImage

16. Image Carlo Colaiacovo, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Solid two-way defenseman, can play both PP and PK.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

17. Image Jiri Hudler, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Offensive minded winger, can provide offense on the 2nd or 3rd line.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

18. Image Kyle Wellwood, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Mid-aged center could be a good fit on a team’s 2nd or 3rd line.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

19. Image Josh Harding, G, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Has played in the shadow of Backstrom his whole career, could find his opportunity to become a starter through Free Agency.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

20. Image Filip Kuba, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Offensive defenseman can be serviceable as a Powerplay QB.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

21. Image Steve Sullivan, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Good 2nd or 3rd line winger, plays a smart style of hockey.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

22. Image Sami Salo, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran defenseman that can play in all situations.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

23. Image Andrei Kostitsyn, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Winger that brings skill, showed a lack of focus during Playoffs though.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

24. Image Daymond Langkow, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Two-way center, could play a big part on 3rd line and Penalty Kill.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

25. Image Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Big winger that plays a responsible two-way game, perfect for 2nd or 3rd line.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

26. Image Brad Stuart, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Defensive defenseman that can add veteran stability to a blue line.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

27. Image Dustin Penner, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Power forward with cup winning experience, good 2nd or 3rd line player.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

28. Image Ryan Smyth, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran winger with still some hockey left in the tank, unlikely to leave Edmonton.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImage

29. Image Petr Sykora, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran winger who revived himself from obscurity last season with 20 goals, not likely to leave New Jersey, might retire.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImage

30. Image Pavel Kubina, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran defenseman could make a very good Powerplay QB for some teams.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

31. Image Paul Gaustad, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Grinding center would fill a 3rd or 4th line role and plays Penalty Kill.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

32. Image Joe Corvo, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran offensive defenseman that plays Powerplay.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

33. Image Brad Boyes, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Skilled forward that can fill a 2nd line winger role and play Powerplay.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

34. Image Jonas Gustavsson, G, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Serviceable backup goaltender, has likely run his course in Toronto.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

35. Image Shane O’Brien, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Stay-at-home defenseman, plays Penalty Kill.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImageImage

36. Image Sheldon Souray, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran defenseman with a bomb from the point, plays PP and PK.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

37. Image Jason Arnott, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran center with experience in the Cup Finals, asset for contending teams.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

38. Image Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran winger with leadership, has won 2 Stanley Cups.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

39. Image Dominic Moore, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Two-way defenseman who is great on the Penalty Kill.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

40. Image Scott Hannan, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Defensive defenseman with experience in the league, plays Penalty Kill.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

41. Image Jason Blake, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Aging winger with still a lot of skill left in his game.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

42. Image Michal Rozsival, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Veteran defenseman that can play in all areas of the game.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

43. Image Brandon Prust, RW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: 3rd or 4th Line grinder, phenomenal Penalty Killer.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

44. Image Barret Jackman, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Defensive defenseman with a strong shot from the point.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

45. Image Brett Clark, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Defensive defenseman, big shot blocker.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

46. Image Travis Moen, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Grinding left winger, valuable on the 3rd line and Penalty Kill.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

47. Image Matt Gilroy, D, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Offensive defenseman with a very unique skill set.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

48. Image Johan Hedberg, G, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Reliable backup, was very good in 2012 when called upon early in season. Retirement a possibility.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

49. Image Ryan Carter, C, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Grinding centerman that showed his worth in the 2012 Playoffs.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

50. Image Mike Knuble, LW, 2011-12 Team: Image

Skinny: Had an abysmal 2012 campaign, but before that was a consistent 20 goal scorer.

Speculated Interested Teams: ImageImageImage

For future articles from Holmes On NHL Hockey be sure to follow me on Twitter @H_On_NHLHockey.

2012 NHL Mock Draft: 5/10/12

As of 5/10/12 Mock Draft:

1. image – Nail Yakupov, LW, Sarnia (OHL)
Skinny: Easily the best player in the Draft, Edmonton gets a huge piece to build around.
2. image – Mikhail Grigorenko, RW, Quebec (QMJHL)
Skinny: Incredibly skilled Russian winger will look great alongside Johansen next season.
3. image – Filip Forsberg, LW, Leksands (SWE)
Skinny: Skilled Swedish winger that will replenish the Habs’ forward prospect pool.
4. image – Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
Skinny: Best defenseman available, Isles get the defender they need to build around on the blue line.
5. image – Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL)
Skinny: Sees the game well and undeniable offensive ability, Leafs get the center they need.
6. image – Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)
Skinny: Stud defenseman that Anaheim needs, will blossom in Anaheim’s system.
7. image – Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Skinny: Strong two-way defenseman, will look great with Brodin in a couple seasons.
8. image – Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL)
Skinny: Czech center adds plenty of skill to Carolina’s lineup.
9. image – Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FIN)
Skinny: Explosive skater, great offensive abilities, discussed as possible #1 at times.
10. image – Jacob Trouba, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
Skinny: Blossomed in the USA Hockey system, will replenish Tampa’s defensive depth.
11. image (via COL) – Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL)
Skinny: Fantastic defenseman, should be in Top 10 if not for positional needs.
12. image – Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL)
Skinny: Strong two-way game makes him an incredible asset on Buffalo’s offense.
13. image – Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL)
Skinny: High hockey IQ, sees the game very well in both zones.
14. image – Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)
Skinny: Solid defenseman to begin a defensive retool around in Calgary.
15. image – Matthew Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)
Skinny: Great defenseman to put alongside Erik Karlsson in the future.
16. image – Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda HC (SWE)
Skinny: Skilled Swedish winger, was discussed in Top 10 for most of season.
17. image – Pontus Aberg, LW, Djugardens (SWE)
Skinny: Offensively strong, could develop into a strong asset in Florida’s Top 6.
18. image – Tomas Hertl, C, Slavia (CZREP)
Skinny: San Jose reinvigorates their offensive prospect pool with Czech center Hertl.
19. image – Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa (KHL)
Skinny: The goaltender Chicago needs in their system, will develop into a strong goalie.
20. image (via DET) – Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
Skinny: Subban gives the Lightning the type of goaltending prospect they need in their system.
21. image – Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL)
Skinny: Offensive defenseman that will bring puck moving ability to Boston’s blue line.
22. image – Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
Skinny: Skjei has developed well in the US system, should experience continued growth in Philly’s system.
23. image (via NSH) – Stefan Matteau, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
Skinny: Hockey smart center could develop into a good player for Buffalo’s offense.
24. image – Daniil Zharkov, LW, Belleville (OHL)
Skinny: Pittsburgh adds offensive skill to the wing position with Zharkov.
25. image – Thomas Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
Skinny: Strong winger fits in well with St. Louis’ style of play.
26. image – Colton Sissons, C, Kelowna (OHL)
Skinny: Vancouver makes up for the loss of Hodgson by adding a center to their system.
27. image (via LA) – Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)
Skinny: Strong two-way defenseman out of the London Knights, should fit well in Columbus’ organization.
28. image – Martin Frk, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
Skinny: Unique skill set and size makes him an asset in New Jersey’s system.
29. image – Nicholas Kerdiles, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
Skinny: Phoenix brings a much needed forward into their prospect pool.
30. image – Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle Jr. (SWE-JR)
Skinny: New York adds a defensive prospect alongside McIlrath and fellow Swede Erixon.

2012 NHL Mock Draft: 4/18/12

As of 4/18/12 Mock Draft:

1. image – Nail Yakupov, LW, Sarnia (OHL)
2. image – Mikhail Grigorenko, RW, Quebec (QMJHL)
3. image – Filip Forsberg, LW, Leksands (SWE)
4. image – Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
5. image – Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL)
6. image – Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)
7. image – Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
8. image – Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL)
9. image – Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FIN)
10. image – Jacob Trouba, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
11. image (via COL) – Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL)
12. image – Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL)
13. image – Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL)
14. image – Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)
15. image – Matthew Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)
16. image – Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda HC (SWE)
17. image – Pontus Aberg, LW, Djugardens (SWE)
18. image (via LA) – Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL)
19. image – Tomas Hertl, C, Slavia (CZREP)
20. image – Colton Sissons, C, Kelowna (OHL)
21. image – Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa (KHL)
22. image – Martin Frk, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
23. image (via DET) – Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
24. image – Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)
25. image – Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
26. image (via NSH) – Daniil Zharkov, LW, Belleville (OHL)
27. image – Thomas Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
28. image – Stefan Matteau, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
29. image – Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle Jr. (SWE-JR)
30. image – Nicholas Kerdiles, C, USA U-18 (USHL)

Playoff Race and Analysis: 4/1/12

With the 2011-12 NHL Season dwindling down to just a precious few games, the Playoffs are starting to finally take shape. However, with 3 or so games left, bubble teams will be fighting tooth and nail to either secure their Playoff spot or jump into one, with a heated battle for the final Playoff spot in both conferences. Here are the up to minute Standings:

Eastern Conference:
1. X – New York Rangers * – 107 Pts, 3 GR
2. X – Boston Bruins * –  98 Pts, 3 GR
3. Florida Panthers * – 91 Pts, 3 GR
4. X – Pittsburgh Penguins – 102 Pts, 3 GR
5. X – Philadelphia Flyers – 101 Pts, 3 GR
6. X – New Jersey Devils – 96 Pts, 3 GR
7. X – Ottawa Senators – 92 Pts, 3 GR
8. Washington Capitals – 88 Pts, 3 GR
——————————————————–
9. Buffalo Sabres – 86 Pts, 3 GR

Western Conference:
1. Y – Vancouver Canucks * – 107 Pts, 3 GR
2. Y – St. Louis Blues * – 106 Pts, 3 GR
3. Los Angeles Kings * – 91 Pts, 3 GR
4. X – Detroit Red Wings – 99 Pts, 3 GR
5. X – Nashville Predators – 98 Pts, 3 GR
6. X – Chicago Blackhawks – 98 Pts, 2 GR
7. Phoenix Coyotes – 91 Pts, 3 GR
8. San Jose Sharks – 90 Pts, 3 GR
——————————————————–
9. Dallas Stars – 89 Pts, 3 GR

By far the most interesting part of this set-up is the Playoff battle between the four Pacific Division teams. Not only are they battling for the final two Playoff spots, but also for home-ice in the Playoffs gained with the 3rd seed. With the Sharks and Stars facing off at the end of the season, these standings probably won’t shake out until the very final day of the season. With that said, I think it’s highly unlikely that any of the Coyotes, Sharks, or Stars dethrone the surging Kings, as the Kings have been playing the best and most consistent hockey lately out of the four teams. The Kings will miss Jeff Carter down the stretch, but with good performances from Jonathan Quick and company, the Kings shouldn’t have a hard time holding on to Pacific Division.

Now let’s take a look at the current Playoff matchups:

Eastern Conference:

8. image v
1. image

Skinny: Familiar foes in the Playoffs in recent years, only this time it’s the Rangers atop the Eastern Conference. The Capitals have been playing decent hockey recently, going a win here, a loss there for a while now, while the Rangers after a recent slide have seemingly gotten back into a groove. However, the Caps are just getting All-star center Nicklas Backstrom back from injury, which could end up making a large impact on their performance. Even so, the Rangers goaltending and defensive structure should have no problem knocking off the once-mighty Capitals.

Prediction: Rangers in 5

7. image v
2. image

Skinny: Two Northeast Division teams go at it in the 7 v 2 match-up: the Boston Bruins, the returning Stanley Cup Champions, and the Ottawa Senators, the Eastern Conference’s Cinderella story. Many people had the Senators missing the Playoffs entirely, even finishing as low as the Bottom 5 in the league, and here they are in the Playoffs having clinched a spot today in a dominant win over the New York Islanders. The Bruins, however, are no surprise to anyone being where they are. Boston looks poised for another Cup run, having knocked off their mid-season funk, and should be able to knock off the Senators with their superior defense and all-around experience.

Prediction: Bruins in 6

6. image v
3. image

Skinny: Here we have another surprise team, the Florida Panthers, coming in at the 3rd seed, a place nobody thought they would end up. Their adversaries, the New Jersey Devils, punch their ticket to the Playoffs for the 20th time in the past 22 seasons in the 6th seed. The two teams split the season series 2 wins a piece this season, putting together a good set of 4 games. Both of these teams boast prominent top lines, New Jersey boasting Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Travis Zajac and Florida with Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann. Where these two teams differentiate is in their offensive depth and defense. The Devils have a stacked Top 9 in their offense and four solid offensive lines, as well as a better overall defensive roster and structure. Both of these factors will lead to New Jersey moving on in this series.

Prediction: Devils in 6

5. image v
4. image

Skinny: The Battle of Pennsylvania is alive and well and will be as heated as ever this season. The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have both already punched their tickets for the post-season and seem to be on a collision course for each other in Round 1, and boy will this be a series to watch. As seen in Sunday’s clash between these two teams in Pittsburgh, this is one of the greatest rivalries in the league, and both teams will be fighting tooth and nail to put an end to their hated rivals’ season. The Flyers have gotten the better of the Penguins this season, but the Penguins have the recent Playoff success against the Flyers. This will be the closest of the eight Round 1 series, but I see the Penguins taking this with raw power from Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby and clutch goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury.

Prediction: Penguins in 7

Western Conference:

8. image v
1. image

Skinny: The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks met last year in the Western Conference Finals, but as it stands now they will have to settle their differences in Round 1 this season. Vancouver is looking poised to capture a 2nd straight President’s Trophy while the Sharks are still fighting for their Playoff lives. San Jose still has their big players in Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle, added in with offseason acquisitions Brent Burns and Martin Havlat, while Vancouver’s roster looks very similar to last year’s, adding only David Booth and Zack Kassian. That being said, the Canucks offensive depth will smother the Sharks, making short work of this series.

Prediction: Canucks in 4

7. image v
2. image

Skinny: Here we have the up-and-down Phoenix Coyotes and the goaltending juggernauts, the St. Louis Blues. The Coyotes have had a very unpredictable season, having unparalleled hot streaks and then bouts with cold streaks, ultimately seating them in the thick of the Western Conference Playoff race. St. Louis, after some early season struggles and a coaching change, has been a dominant team in the NHL this season. St. Louis already has their division locked up, let alone a Playoff spot, and is assured to fall no lower than 2nd, and while their season is on cruise control before the Playoffs, Phoenix is fighting for their lives along with the rest of the Pacific Division. Come Playoff time this series will really come down to one thing: goaltending, and St. Louis boasts the best goaltending duo in the league. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott should make quick work of the Coyotes, surging the Blues further into the Playoffs.

Prediction: Blues in 5

6. image v
3. image

Skinny: This match-up boasts the 6th seeded Chicago Blackhawks versus the 3rd seeded Los Angeles Kings. Chicago, fighting off mid-season struggles, has returned to their elite form of play, and Los Angeles has been one of the hottest teams in the league recently. This match-up should feature an elite offensive battle, with Chicago putting players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa against Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter, however Los Angeles has had difficulty utilizing their top guns this year, finishing near the bottom of the league in goals scored. So, when this battle comes to the defensive side of the puck, it’s clear who has the advantage: Chicago. Chicago boasts one of the best defensemen in the league in Duncan Keith, with a supporting cast of Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, which should lead to the eventual victory for the Blackhawks.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

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Skinny: One of my favorite match-ups this post-season features the Nashville Predators against the Detroit Red Wings. This series will be an absolute grudge match as this match-up features two elite teams that typically play at elite levels come Playoff time. Both teams have great defenses and stellar goaltending, with players like Shae Weber and Pekka Rinne on Nashville’s side and Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard on Detroit’s side. Neither side has an absolute potent offense but offenses that get the job done and score timely goals. The only things that differentiate these two teams are star power and experience. Detroit has two bonafide offensive stars in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and nearly everyone on Detroit’s roster has won a Stanley Cup. These two things will lead to Detroit just barely edging out Nashville in a terrific Playoff series.

Prediction: Red Wings in 7

The NHL Playoffs start April 11th, so be sure to tune in for some of the best hockey you’ll see all year, as every single team will be fighting to the death to step closer to the coveted Stanley Cup.

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NHL Trade Deadline: Weekend Games set Tempo

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As this weekend passes, teams have made their final evaluations of their teams’ abilities before the deadline. Teams will be looking to their most recent set of games and decide what needs to be added or removed, and desperation to make the Playoffs will fuel deadline aggression in a few choice teams. As teams like Toronto, Washington, and Colorado try to remain in the Playoff race in their respective conferences, their desperation to make key acquisitions may be significantly increased.

Before we get to what we can expect on deadline day, let’s recap deals that were struck over the weekend. In Florida, the Panthers made two additions that they hope will help them secure the Southeast Division title. On Friday, the Panthers acquired veteran center Jerred Smithson from Nashville for a 6th Round Pick in 2012. Smithson is a player that can chip in a few goals on the 3rd and 4th line and can make an impact on the defensive side of the puck and on the penalty kill. The Panthers’ second acquisition was made purely for offense. The Panthers acquired from the New York Rangers left winger Wojtek Wolski for minor-league defenseman Mike Vernace and a 3rd Round Pick in 2013. Wolski is a player that brings skill to the Panthers lineup and will be used in a top-6 role. Wolski is also spectacular in the shootout, where Florida hopes he will help them pick up some critical points. Now we shift our attention to New Jersey, where a long-awaited deal was finally conceived. On Friday night, during a game against the Vancouver Canucks, the Devils acquired veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for defenseman Kurtis Foster, right winger Nick Palmieri, left winger Stephane Veilleux, Washington’s 2nd Round Pick in 2012, and a Conditional Pick in 2013 (if the Devils reach the Conference Finals, Minnesota receives a 2013 3rd Round Pick from New Jersey). Zidlicky is a player that will bring puck-moving ability to New Jersey’s defense, something that is desperately needed in New Jersey. With defenseman Henrik Tallinder potentially shelled for the season will blood clot issues, this could become a key acquisition if New Jersey is going to go far in the playoffs this year. Our final deal is a minor one that comes between Ottawa and St.Louis. On Sunday, Ottawa acquired young goaltender Ben Bishop from St.Louis in exhange for a 2nd Round Pick in 2013. Bishop has been referred to as the best goaltender in the AHL, and still young, Bishop could mold into a very good pickup for the Ottawa Senators in the future.

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Now to the task at hand: Monday’s 3 PM EST Trade Deadline. One team to keep your eye on on Monday’s deadline is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Will Toronto’s recent slide, they have fallen out of the 8th and final Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, being overtaken by the Winnipeg Jets. Toronto’s 4-2 loss to Washington on Saturday night marked their 4th straight loss and dropped the Maple Leafs to 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. Following the loss, Toronto General Manager Brian Burke said the following, “Until I have 20 guys that are as devoted to winning as I am, i’m going to keep sending guys on planes.” This is clear that Toronto is planning on making some sort of splash on deadline day, whether that splash comes in the form of landing the big fish in the market, Rick Nash, or another player of less notoriety, such as a Steve Ott. Toronto is focused on the now and wants to push for making the playoffs, so going to into full sell-and-rebuild mode does not make much sense. Toronto is likely only going to make moves that they feel make the team better now, and not in the future.

Another team to keep your eye on would be the Washington Capitals. The Capitals currently in 9th place, only one point behind the Winnipeg Jets for final Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With goals against being Washington’s key concern, look for Washington to make a move for a big, shutdown defenseman. A name that I would expect the Capitals to be hot after would be Carolina’s Bryan Allen, as contract talks between Carolina and Allen have seemingly fizzled out. Colorado is another team that may be active in an attempt to vault themselves in to the Playoffs. Colorado only sits 2 points behind the Dallas Stars for 8th and final Playoff spot in the Western Conference. Colorado will likely be a buyer for some key role players, and their high end talent is already taken care of. I would expect Colorado to be after players like Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad, Columbus’ Samuel Pahlsson, and maybe even the Islanders Brian Rolston. Finally, you may want to keep your eye on New Jersey. With their loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon, New Jersey has lost two straight going into to Monday’s deadline. In these two games against Tampa Bay and Vancouver, New Jersey has only been able to muster a total of 4 goals. Because of this, New Jersey’s pursuit of Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown may heat up, as New Jersey may be more desperate to add some more scoring ability to their forward lineup. However, with Brown adding a hat-trick in Los Angeles’ recent game against Chicago, the Kings may be less likely to move him as they make a Playoff push. This may leave New Jersey searching for alternatives, such as Montreal’s Andrei Kostitsyn or Dallas’ Steve Ott.

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This year’s Trade Deadline contains a plethora of talent still available, and as teams desperation to make the Playoffs and as well as go deep in the Playoffs increases, activity may only increase as we grow minutes closer to the 3 PM deadline. Team’s have likely already made their decisions on whether or not they will be buyers or sellers, but whether they find the offers they like is an entirely different subject.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @H_On_NHLHockey for future blog posts as well as up to minute updates on activity during Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline!

NHL Trade Deadline: Kings Active

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We are now just less than a week from the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline, and things are starting to really heat up in this year’s Trade Market, particularly in Los Angeles. The Kings are especially aggressive this season, and for good reason too. Los Angeles was expected to challenge for the Pacific Division Championship with the rival San Jose Sharks, but currently the Kings sit in 10th in the Western Conference with 66 points. The 8th place team, the Dallas Stars, have 66 points as well, but they take the 8th seed due to the amount of wins they have. With Los Angeles anxious to make the playoffs, things have significantly heated up on Los Angeles’ trade wire.

Thursday night saw 2012’s first big Trade Deadline deal go down, as Blue Jackets’ center Jeff Carter was shipped to Los Angeles for defenseman Jack Johnson and a condition 1st Round Pick. The condition on the 1st is if the Kings make the Playoffs, it is a 2012 pick; If the Kings miss the Playoffs, it is a 2013 pick. This deal comes directly from the fact that Los Angeles is dead last in goals scored this year in the NHL, Jeff Carter is a player that will pack much more power in to Los Angeles’ Top 6. I would expect that Carter will be put on the wing with fellow-former Flyers Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. Playing on the same line in 2008-09 with Mike Richards, Carter put up 46 goals and 84 points. Los Angeles’ hope is that re-uniting this duo will spark their offense and vault them in to the Playoff picture in the West. This trade revolved around two players, Carter and Johnson, that have both seemingly lost their game, but perhaps with new surroundings and a fresh start, these players can return to their former selves.

Now with newly acquired Jeff Carter in the fold in Los Angeles, the availability of Kings right winger and captain Dustin Brown has seemingly been significantly raised. Friday morning, rumor was a large influx of teams have increased their interest in the Kings’ skilled power forward. These teams included Boston, Buffalo, Edmonton, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Vancouver, with Boston and New Jersey reportedly being the most aggressive in their pursuit of Brown. Brown is probably the 2nd biggest player on the market now, behind Columbus’ Rick Nash. For teams that feel Columbus’ price for Nash is set too high, Brown could be a less expensive alternative. With Brown still having two more years on his contract, which has him making $3.175 M each year, the Kings will likely be looking for a decent to good prospect, a roster player, and either a 1st or 2nd Round Pick. Dustin Brown would be an incredible asset for any team that’s looking to either make a cup run or a push to the playoffs and the pursuit of Brown will likely only heat up as the weekend continues.

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Be sure to keep your eye on right wing market as the deadline grows nearer and nearer. If either Brown or Nash is dealt soon, disappointed suitors will likely quickly focus their attention on other right wingers on the trade market in 2012. The next big deal to go down this deadline will likely set off a powder keg of deals, as it seems teams are waiting to pull the trigger based on the outcome of other deals, most notably the Rick Nash deal.

For the latest hockey scoop and future blog posts by Holmes on NHL Hockey, be sure to follow me on Twitter @H_On_NHLHockey.