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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bring a Sharpie

That is such a crappy title. I legitimately could not think of any other title that involved a clever way to talk about Patrick Sharp, and I came up with "Bring a Sharpie." Just turn around now. Do you seriously think I have anything of value to say after coming up with that title? No, probably not.

Well if you are still reading, I have been avoiding updating about the trade deadline like the plague. I hate it. Well, I love it, but I also hate it. I cannot stand the never ending supply of rumors and trade scenarios. It is maddening to hear, because they are wrong 99 percent of the time.

But dammit, I can't leave this one alone.

That is Chris Kuc, the Chicago Blackhawks beat writer, a respectable beat writer, for the Chicago Tribune. If it was Eklund, HockeyyInsiderr or however many extra y's and r's that guy tends to have, I could just close down my laptop and carry on with my day without a care in the world. But this one actually kind of means something. I cannot leave this one alone. Because if this happens, it will be awesome.

But could it actually happen?

I initially brushed it off, because no, I don't think it could happen. Here's why.



That's exactly right. As soon as that injury happened, and the Blackhawks learned they were going to be without their best offensive player, the collective understanding was that the Blackhawks got a bit more aggressive in trade talks, specifically looking for a forward along the lines of Antoine Vermette. A lot of teams would just pack it in after losing their best player, but not Chicago. They are still quite easily good enough to make it to the Stanley Cup again, as they seem to make a deep run each and every year. Why would they actively shop for forwards, and still plan on shipping out one of their best offensive forwards? It just doesn't make sense.

Ok, fine. Sharp is having a pretty bad year as far as Sharp goes. The guy has 10 goals and 32 points, which is actually still respectable. What is troubling is that he is scoring on just 5.9 percent of his shots, which is uncharacteristically low for him. In fact, his career average is 11.4 percent. Even worse, he's scoring on just 1.8 percent of his shots at even strength, which is unfathomably low.

But even still, Sharp poses a scoring threat every time he is on the ice. And the fact that he still has 32 points when he is shooting uncharacteristically low is pretty mind-boggling. It just doesn't make sense for the Blackhawks to trade him right now.

The whole reason why they want to trade him is because of his cap hit. Sharp has a $5.9 million cap hit over the next two seasons. The Blackhawks would like to part with him to free up some cap space, especially with the start of the two mega deals with Kane and Jonathan Toews, where each will have a $10.5 million cap hit. That's huge.

But again, that issue wouldn't affect the Blackhawks until next year. It makes so much more sense to just keep him now, and look to deal him at the draft. This is especially true with the Kane injury. If the Blackhawks trade him away, it will essentially look like they are giving up on the season, which is pretty odd. There is just no way they wheel and deal at the deadline and bring in multiple guys that could fill the holes left by Kane and Sharp.

So is there any possible reason why they would trade him at the deadline? Well, maybe.

They may want rid of him for other reasons beyond money.

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy wrote an article on Thursday about the possibility of a Blackhawks locker room confrontation. Two different Chicago-related sports analysts have come out and said that there are plenty of locker room problems within the Blackhawks organization, and one hinted at a possible fist fight in the locker room after the Kane injury. Whether or not that particular rumor is true, this is not the first time there have been rumors of issues within the Chicago locker room. In fact, they may be revolving around Sharp. In Wyshynski's article, he sites The Committed Indian, who had this to say about Sharp after receiving numerous reports from people he claimed could be trusted sources this past Summer.

"There are of-ice issues with Sharp. There may have been a physical altercation with a teammate (and a very important one). Let's just say the image of Sharp as a wholesome family man with his two daughters is not an accurate picture. There may be other problems."

That is an extremely interesting accusation. And we've recently seen instances in sports of guys being traded away from a team simply for being a nuisance. You probably thought that was going to be about this, didn't you?

So maybe they truly do just want rid of him. And there's really no way of knowing whether or not Sharp could potentially be a locker room problem for the Caps. So it's just a risk they'd have to be willing to take. But, I think everyone can collectively admit that's probably a low risk, high reward-type situation.

Via Flickr User calmstorm
So let's say that the Blackhawks decide that the best possible move is to move him at the deadline (which, I still think is insane, unless Sharp is, like, literally stabbing Duncan Keith on a consistent basis or something).

What would they want? 

The Blackhawks would head into this deal with two goals in mind. They would first want to get a player they can still use on the team for a Stanley Cup run, and considering they just traded for Kimmo Timonen and they would be trading away a forward themselves, they will probably want a forward. And secondly, the whole point of trading Sharp in the first place would be to free up money for next season, so ideally that player would either be an upcoming unrestricted  free agent (simply because I don't think the Caps would ship out the restricted player options).

So if we are basing the trade off of that criteria, they would be looking at Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle or Aaron Volpatti.

There is absolutely no way Chicago wants Volpatti. The Capitals don't even want Aaron Volpatti. There is also absolutely no way the Blackhawks would want Jay Beagle. He's just not the player they are looking for.

That leaves Fehr and Ward as the only realistic options.

I don't think the Caps would part with Fehr. He has been one of the most important pieces for the Capitals this year. He's fourth on the team in goals with 17. Plus, he's been playing as a center for the entire year. The Caps desperately need centers, and on top of that, the Blackhawks don't really need a center.

I think Joel Ward is the best option in this instance for both teams. Ward is realistically a third line guy with second line potential. The Blackhawks would be satisfied with Ward as the roster player in that deal. And that would work out nicely for the Capitals because they can quite easily fill that third line right wing spot with any number of guys.

But the Capitals certainly need to sweeten the pot a bit. A straight up Ward for Sharp trade is just not fair for the Blackhawks.

The Capitals could throw in a combination of mid-round draft picks. But that's boring and pretty unpredictable. I'll be the first to admit I have absolutely no idea how general managers find the balance between a current roster player and any number of draft picks. I mean, Sean Bergenheim went for a third round pick. Jaromir Jagr went for a second and third round pick. The Blackhawks traded traded a second and a conditional pick for Timonen. I have absolutely no idea what the going rate of draft picks is for your standard NHL player. I can't find any sort of definitive pattern.

So let's pretend the Capitals need to send a prospect along as well. I first took a look at what exactly the Blackhawks would need as far as prospects go. According to Hockey's Future, the Blackhawks lack an elite goaltending prospect and depth at right wing.

The Capitals have respectable depth at goaltending between Vitek Vanecek and Philipp Grubauer. I think the ideal situation for the Capitals would be to part with either goaltender as opposed to their right wing options. Grubauer is obviously more NHL ready than Vanecek, but overall, Vanecek has the most potential. The Blackhawks may be looking for someone to push Antti Raanta (who has been pretty solid in his few games) and Corey Crawford (who has been average over the course of the season). Or, maybe the Blackhawks pressure the Capitals into parting with a right wing, in which case their best option would be Riley Barber (I would be really, really unhappy about parting with him).

My guess is the Capitals could get away with giving the Blackhawks Ward, a forward prospect like Chandler Stephenson or Stanislav Galiev and a second or third round draft pick. Both sides essentially get what they want in that deal. The Capitals get a the top six scoring threat they desperately need, the Blackhawks get cap relief, a beneficial roster player and a respectable prospect and draft pick. This is, of course, entirely banking on whether or not Sharp chooses to waive his no movement clause, which he has in his contract. It's also worth noting that while the Caps would be bringing on a $5.9 million contract while only shipping away a $3 million contract in this particular instance, Sharps cap hit this year would only be around $1.475 million , so despite being a cap team, this would work.

Do I think it's possible? Yes. Do I think it's likely? Probably not. But this would definitely be a pretty good move for the Capitals. They are not going to win the Stanley Cup if they chase after guys like Antoine Vermette or Curtis Glencross. If they truly want to win this year, they have to go big. And acquiring a guy like Sharp would definitely be a big move.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Capitals Valentines Day

Valentines Day is a day of love and relationships. So, naturally, we need to find the Caps' their perfect Valentines.

I asked random people on Twitter to come up with a Valentines Day matchup for a lucky Capital. Or, they could come up with the Capital who would be the best Valentine.




Overwhelmingly and unsurprisingly, the responses were mostly about Tom Wilson.

Surprisingly, Wilson has been underwhelming this year. When he was selected with the 16th overall pick in 2012, he was fully expected to become a battering ram with the puck, and a guy who can physically will himself to the net and score. He would be Washington's version of Milan Lucic.

He's not, at least not yet. He just can't seem to find that offensive touch that he had in his third year of junior hockey, where he had 23 goals and 58 points in 48 games. He's still getting primarily fourth line minutes, and he has yet to do anything that has been super impressive offensively.

Instead, he's become the irresponsible agitator that just senselessly gets penalties. His latest decision cost the Caps dearly. In by far their worst game of the year against the Philadelphia Flyers, Wilson found himself on the ice on the 6 on 5 as the Caps were down one goal. Why was Wilson on the ice in the final minute of a game down by one, I don't know. But anyways, the puck goes to the corner, and Wilson goes racing after it. What happens? He cross-checks someone in the corner and BAM, he's in the box. Caps on the penalty kill down by one with a minute left. Completely killed all momentum. Wilson found himself understandably scratched the next game.

And did it make a difference? Nope. What team sees a difference whenever their fourth line winger is out of the lineup?

I know, I know, I know. He's only 20 years and 322 days old. He still has plenty of time to develop into the offensive role we hope he can get into. But forgive me when I look at his 125 games, five goals and seven assists, and compare that to Andre Burakovsky's 19 points already this year, and I begin to lose hope.


Hey look! Someone mentioned Liam O'Brien! I miss that guy. He was the feel-good story of the Capitals season this year, the undrafted winger who came into the Capitals on a tryout. He was extremely impressive all through the pre-season, and found himself on the opening night roster. He filled into that fourth line role perfectly as a gritty player who was afraid of no one. He was the one that stepped in to fill in for Wilson while Wilson was repairing his offseason injury.

So, why not bring him back up, and swap Wilson down to Hershey? Look, O'Brien's ceiling is probably an NHL fourth line player. There is nothing wrong with that. But, we look at a guy like Wilson, and his ceiling is a bit higher. We see him more as the second line power forward. So, why not send Wilson down to Hershey so he can play top line minutes on a consistent basis, and bring up O'Brien on the Caps' fourth line? Both players would benefit from this move.

But back to that O'Brien-John Scott relationship. The two would obviously be a perfect pair. O'Brien would need to take the relationship a little slower, considering he's already giving Scott a little tongue action.




Yeah....I guess that would make them a good pair. Bassett is from E.R., American Horror Story, Alias, Olympus Has Fallen, and a bunch of other terrible movies.

Jay Beagle is married, with a kid, so I doubt this matchup would ever work out. But, let's talk more about Beagle, and significantly less about Angela Bassett. In fact, I can almost guarantee Angela Bassett's name will never appear on this blog ever again. Almost.

Beagle has been a dog on fire this year. A hot dog. His 9 goals and 8 assists are already career highs for him. We still have, like, 30 games left! He has been pretty much your ideal fourth liner. A guy who works hard in the corners, and occasionally scores goals.

Beagle is also in his final year under contract. I am certain that there is some in depth analysis on performance compared to a players final year under contract, and I am certain that players play their best hockey in their final year of their contract. Beagle can certainly guarantee himself a pay raise over his $1 million salary. Will it be with the Caps? Possibly. They will definitely want to bring him back for the right price. But there is certainly a team out there that sees Beagle as their third line center,  and will pay him third line center money. If Beagle wishes to enter free agency, he will see a larger sum of money than what the Caps will throw at him, but also don't be surprised if Beagle reaches a contract extension before June 1st.


What is with you guys and Alias actresses?

I have no idea why JerDavids the executive producer thinks that deep down Jack Hillen is a secret agent. I see him more as a third line defenseman filler-inner.

Hillen has played about as acceptable as a third line defenseman can play. He was obviously healthy-scratched on a regular basis at the start of the season, as the Caps favored Nate Schmidt in that role. Hiller will never wow you with anything. Not defensively, not physically, not offensively, nothing. But he is also certainly not absolutely killing the Capitals. He is being out possessed and out shot by his opponents on a regular basis, but I can't think of too many glaring mistakes that have cost the Caps games.

Hillen is a journeyman defenseman. This is his final year under contract. With the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, and the emerging play of Schmidt and hopefully the eventually healthy Dmitry Orlov, there's just no need for Hillen next season. I for one hope he does get signed by someone in the offseason, and I'd like to imagine he will.


Blaine Forsythe is one of my favorite people to make jokes about on the Capitals. He looks like an angry Mr. Clean, Professor X from X-men, and has the personality and emotional stature of a psychopath.

He also helps coach the power play, which has been the Caps' bread and butter for about 250 years. He's once again got them clicking this year, scoring on 23.5 percent of their chances, good for fourth in the league.

But I have one complaint. The only person on this power play that really shoots the puck consistently is Alex Ovechkin. How defenses don't know this and try to stop it every time is beyond me. I can only assume Forsythe is using his telepathic powers to mentally stun the opposing penalty kill.

But seriously, why not have other outlets try to shoot the puck? Could you imagine a power play that had four realistic threats of shooting the puck on a consistent basis instead of just one? Let Green rip some, have Backstrom take them from the half wall. Feed Brouwer more often. Let Johansson carry it into the goal mouth. If they are scoring on 23.5 percent of their power plays by allowing Ovechkin to feed one timers, I can't imagine what would happen if a goalie had to focus on a shot coming from every point of the ice.



Never give up on your dreams.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Trade Talk All Around

Within the past couple of days, there have been quite a few quotes and articles published by significant names in hockey that have suggested that the Capitals are shopping for a top six forward.

This is all a bit odd. Under the previous general manager reign of George McPhee, we rarely, if ever, heard of any sort of trade rumor involving the Capitals. Now, under Brian MacLellan, we've heard quite a few. In my opinion, that could be because of several different reasons. It could be because he's new, and hasn't learned the ins and outs on how to keep things quiet. It could be because he's aggressive, at least more aggressive than McPhee was. Or it could be that he just doesn't care, and if general managers know what he wants, then they will start coming to them. Doesn't really matter anyway.

But, what is interesting, is that Barry Trotz literally just said this about the Caps' needs at the trade deadline, like, two days ago:

“I would tell you all of our needs but I’m not going to because then everybody will know and hold us hostage, so I will not tell you.”

Because if he did, he'd have to kill us all.

I mean, it's not all that shocking that, yes, the Caps need a top six forward. I mean, if delusional fan and po-dunk writer me can blatantly see that this team probably needs a top six forward, than I imagine literally everyone in the Oilers front office can probably see that as well, and that's a team that is driving an entire franchise not just straight into the ground, but all the way to the Earth's mantle (I googled that, it is a part of the Earth).

But who cares about a little coach-general manager differ of philosophy. Let's get to the meat and potatoes.

Who are the Caps actually looking for?

Now, I read a metric shit ton of hockey articles, but I am fully aware that there are probably other musings that I have missed. But, here is the articles I have stumbled across that have mentioned the Caps' and their declassified top secret mission to acquire a top six winger.

From Lyle Richardson of The Hockey News:

"The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson claims the Washington Capitals are “desperate” for a first-line right wing, having tried seven different players at that spot this season. Affordable options could include Buffalo’s Chris Stewart or Drew Stafford and New Jersey’s (Michael) Ryder. Matheson claims Arizona’s Shane Doan is the one they crave but the Coyotes aren’t moving.

Matheson also wonders if Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis called the Capitals to see if they might take back right wing Alexander Semin, who’s been an expensive dud for the Hurricanes. He suggests the ‘Canes pick up part of Semin’s remaining $21 million while offering to take back a contract the Capitals want to shed.


If the Capitals opt to pursue a scoring right winger it won’t be Semin, who proved an expensive headache for former GM George McPhee. Current GM Brian MacLellan was McPhee’s assistant and undoubtedly has no desire for a Semin redux in Washington."


I'm not exactly sure where exactly Matheson got all of that information from, but what I do know is that Matheson has been covering the Oilers since they first became a team, and he does an excellent job in doing so. Plus, everything that the is credited in saying makes sense.

First, Alexander Semin. Semin is having a horrid year with the Hurricanes. He currently has two goals. Two. He's gone from a twenty goal scorer in his Washington days to a $7 million healthy scratch. Do the Hurricanes want rid of him? Of course they do. He's signed until 2018 and he is a shell of his former self. But can he produce on a different team? Yes. He would be an excellent second line option for a contending team. 

 As Matheson suggested, Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis would certainly have to be willing to retain a percentage of the contract (which would be their third, and final possible, retained contract). Ideally, the Hurricanes would say 'sure, we'll take the retain the max amount on Semin's salary,' which is 50%, meaning the Caps would take Semin at $3.5 million a year until 2018. But, I doubt the Hurricanes would be willing to take 50 percent of that contract. I ultimately agree with Matheson's conclusion: MacLellan has no desire to bring back Semin. That ship has sailed.

 The other mentioned players mentioned are all intriguing in different ways. Michael Ryder of the New Jersey Devils is 34, has an expiring contract at $3.5 million, and six goals. I mean, he is worth it if the Caps trade away a late round pick? But if the Caps acquire him, do you seriously sit back and say to yourself 'That was the move. That was the move that puts the Caps over the top. Let's Ryde the Ryder train!' But seriously, if you can find one respectable hockey analyst that talks about Ryder and says that whatever team acquires him at the trade deadline is now a bonafide Cup contender, I will eat a hat. I mean, the Caps are periodically scratching Andre Burakovsky, and we are supposed to believe that Ryder is the solution? Nope.
Photo by Bridget Samuels
Drew Stafford is 29, has an expiring contract at $4 million and has nine goals. He would definitely be a better option than Ryder, but again, in my opinion, acquiring him just does not scream success. He's certainly a good hockey player playing for a bad team, but I just don't see how getting Stafford is a huge benefit for the Capitals. I have absolutely no idea what it would even take to acquire him, but I got to imagine a trade for him would ultimately be underwhelming.

 Chris Stewart is another intriguing player. Stewart is a tenacious power forward with great size and strength. Like Stafford, he only has nine goals, but also like Stafford, he is playing for a historically terrible Buffalo Sabres team. So if you look at the surface of these two players, you'll see that Stafford has actually performed better than Stewart this season. I believe that fits that gritty power forward role that the Capitals are looking for. Again, I have no clue what it would possibly take to acquire a guy like Stewart, but if I had to guess, he probably costs more than Stafford.

 Of the mentioned players by Matheson, Doan is by far the best acquisition of the group, and it's really not all that surprising that of the mentioned players, MacLellan appears to be gunning for Doan the most. Doan is a veteran forward that can still produce, and plays with an attitude. He fits that Trotz mindset, a guy who is just an all around leader on and off the ice. But what surprises me is that the Caps would be willing to acquire Doan when he is also signed through 2016. He'd be a fantastic rental, but he's not really a rental. On top of all of this, the Coyotes have made it clear Doan will not be traded. The tradeist player on the Coyotes is not available. Weird.

 But that's not the only piece that came out and mentioned that Washington would be interested in getting a top six forward. Bob McKenzie's column mentioned an entirely different player:

"It is also true non-playoff teams – Buffalo and Arizona, for example, to name only two – have interest in Kane and don't give a fig he won't be able to play until next season. But where it really gets interesting is there are three current playoff teams – Vancouver, Calgary and to a far lesser extent Washington -- who have legitimate, if varying, levels of interest in Kane as a pre-deadline acquisition.
Yes, it's counter intuitive. A playoff bound team potentially giving up player or players off its roster now for a player who can't play until the fall. But the Canucks, Flames and Capitals have thought about it or would at least like to explore that possibility; Kane intrigues them that much."

Now, it does not make any sense whatsoever for the Winnipeg Jets to trade Evander Kane at the trade deadline. Are they going to trade him? Yes. He has 1 billion percent played his last game as a Jet. But why would they trade an injured Kane at the deadline? When that whole tracksuit/shower thing happened, there had to have been 20 plus teams calling about a trade. He would be an ideal addition for a playoff-bound team. But once he had shoulder surgery, ending his season, many teams dropped out. Why would you force a trade to happen at the deadline, when only five or six teams make you an offer, when you can see 20 or more trades at the draft? It just wouldn't make sense.

 I love that the Caps are trying there, but from the Jets' point of view, it's just not the right move. I would absolutely love to know what they are offering. Kane is signed through 2018, is more than capable of scoring 20 goals, and he's only 23. He would be a force for the Capitals. 

Evander Kane - From his Instagram
But, what would they offer? It is collectively believed that the Jets want a player, prospect, and a pick, but because of this entire saga, others believe the Jets no longer have trade leverage, and might have to settle for a player and a pick. I think that later part is nuts. You're telling me that many teams will be making an offer to the Jets, and the Jets won't have leverage? You're telling me after seeing teams get into absurd bidding wars for players during free agency, Team A won't give the Jets whatever they want so Team B loses out on the Kane sweepstakes? No way. If the Jets want a player, prospect and a pick, they'll get that.

 Here's the offer I would consider making. This can be at the trade deadline or after, though it will almost certainly be after. I would package together Marcus Johansson, either Madison Bowey or Philipp Grubauer, and a pick. I believe that Johansson is the most expendable of the Caps' current players, with guys like Burakovsky and soon to be Jakub Vrana waiting their turn. It would be tough to see either Bowey or Grubauer go, but having Kane come in would be worth it.

 That's all of the trade talk I've seen involving the Caps. They are all intriguing options in their own little unique way. Some beneficial, some "meh" at best. Ultimately, someone will become a new Capital soon. And it will probably be someone who hasn't even been mentioned officially yet. Hell, it will probably be Jaromir Jagr.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mike Green Musings

During the broadcast of last nights Capitals-Flyers game, the Twittersphere erupted in pure sadness when hockey insider and truther Bob McKenzie started talking about Capitals defenseman Mike
Mike Green
Green, who becomes a free agent after this season.

I was at the game. I didn't hear what he said, and I have failed in finding a video to see what exactly he said about Green.

Fortunately, a ton of people happen to tune into "Rivalry Night." So I asked on Twitter what exactly Bob McKenzie said. Justin Trudel saw it, and offered his explanation:


I wanted to clarify:


Like I said, whatever Bob McKenzie says is pretty much the truth. But that doesn't mean it isn't really sad to hear.

Green is a third line defenseman. Green gets paid a lot of money to be a third line defenseman.

In fact, here's how much the Capitals defensemen get paid:


Green is obviously at the top. In fact, Green has the 11th highest cap hit among defensemen, sitting behind Erik Karlsson of Ottawa ($6.5 million) and in front of Brent Seabrook of Chicago ($5.8 million). Every single player in the top ten of that is a top line defenseman.

At the time Green's extension was signed, after the 2011-2012 season, he was coming off a 32 game season where he had just three goals and four assists. The contract represented more of what could be, and not what he had accomplished his last two seasons (in his 2010-2011 season, Green had 49 games, eight goals and 16 assists). This is a guy who was churning out 70 point seasons. In the 2008-2009 and the 2009-2010 season, Green had 149 points. Since he signed that contract extension, the one he is currently in, he has played in 140 games.

Green will never produce that point rate that he accomplished in those two seasons ever again. No one that is still on this team from those seasons will ever accomplish that amount of points ever again. But at the time, he was worth the money simply because he was a pretty good defenseman. He just hasn't played much since that contract.

What I'm saying is, that while it appears to be a pretty crazy contract from the beginning, it really wasn't too bad. But, that's not the point. My point is, do we have a chance at re-signing him.

Do we? I have no idea. Maybe he really loves hanging out with his teammates. Maybe he doesn't. I don't know, I'm not Mike Green. Maybe his wife Courtney loves the DC area and wants to start a family there. Maybe she doesn't. I don't know, I'm not Mike Green's wife.

What I can realistically guess is that Mike Green does love money.

As the Caps stand at this moment, Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti, John Erskine and Jack Hillen are set to become unrestricted free agents. Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nate Schmidt and Braden Holtby are set to become restricted free agents. The cap is currently projected to be at $73 million next season. The Capitals have already spent $49,735,128 in contracts for next year, meaning they will have $23,264,872 to work with (obviously this number could drastically change before the Capitals begin the offseason). Regardless on who they plan on re-signing, (I see six or seven guys, I'll let you guess away) money will be kind of tight. 

I think the only way it is even realistically possible for the Caps to re-sign Green is if he truly wants to stay here, and he's willing to go no more than $6.2 million.

To me, Mike Green benefits the Caps (more on that later), but I don't think he's worth that price. He's only worth that price because it will keep him away from other teams.

I don't see that happening. He'd be insane to not test out free agency. Because while I don't think he's worth much over $6.2 million, some team out there thinks he's worth $7 million.

Think that's not true? Excuse me while I proceed to laugh in your face as I look at every top free agent signing of defensemen since the absurd 13 year, $98 million signing for Ryan Suter. The game has changed. When a team signs a player to a contract, they aren't just giving him money for how much his talents are worth. They are paying him that extra million so they can call him "mine" and wave him off to all the other teams. They are paying an extra million so that the enemy doesn't get him. And Mike Green can command that attention. He and Marc Staal are by far the big UFA defenseman prize this upcoming offseason.

How valuable is Mike Green? Very. J.P. of Japer'sRink showed how awesome he and Dmitry Orlov were last year. And he is still kicking ass this year at possession:


Is he a little sheltered defensively? Yeah, but he is deployed in offensive situations because he is an offensive-minded defenseman. He has 23 points in 35 games this season, well on pace for his highest totals since 2010. He is the top power play guy on the point. As far as I know, there is no way to statically point this out, but if you watch a Caps power play, and you see Green compared to Matt Niskanen and John Carlson (it's far more evident with Carlson), Green dominates out there. He has the ability to put the puck exactly where Ovechkin wants it 99 percent of the time, and Green is not afraid to shoot. He quarterbacks that offense. He makes one of the best power plays that much better with his presence.

I can go on a rant about how Green is the third most valuable player on this team, but I'm like 40 percent sure I've done that in the past. Do I think he should get more ice time? Yes! And I think he could easily prove his value if he did. But, I also don't think Carlson or Niskanen should be demoted. It's just a really odd situation.

I've come to terms with the fact that it is highly unlikely that Green re-signs with the Caps (though I would be pretty happy if he did). So, what exactly should we do with him, and who could possible be his replacement?

There are two options for what we could do with Green. We could trade him at the deadline, or we could just let him walk.

The Caps should not trade him at the deadline.

First of all, he has a modified no trade clause, so while I don't know why exactly it's modified, it's a reasonable guess to say that he can't be traded without his permission in the last year of his contract. But even still, this team is very much a contender in the wide open Eastern Conference. Why on earth would the Caps be willing to trade away such a valuable player on their way to a playoff run? They would only trade him to another contender, definitely in the Western Conference, and no matter who they get in return, it won't be worth it. Trading Green for a bunch of prospects would just hurt the Caps chances, and I don't see any team trading away a $6 million man straight up for Green. It would just hurt both teams. Keeping him allows the Caps to work with their best defensive unit they've had in years, and it gives them a respectable chance in for a playoff run.

So I'd be cool with letting him walk if that were the case. Maybe they could continue feeling him out and seeing if he'd be willing to re-sign. Maybe they can ship his rights to a team for a draft pick, like they did with Tomas Vokoun and Jaroslav Halak, but would a team be willing to do that with a relatively high profile free agent? It has a chance of backfiring. But they don't have to get someone in return. It's really not the end of the world.

But who could possibly replace a guy like Mike Green, a great, puck moving, right-handed defenseman?

If they look towards free agents, the pickings are slim, as I showed you earlier. If they aren't willing to go big on a free agent signing, like they did this past offseason, then they will probably be looking for a $2-$3 million man. I would have said Toronto's Cody Franson at the beginning of the year. He will have gone through three straight one year deals after this season, but he is kicking butt this year as one of Toronto's top defensemen. He's averaging 21:07 minutes a game, second highest on Toronto, and he has 27 points, good for first among defensemen on the Maple Leafs. And even though Toronto is laughably bad, Franson is definitely not the reason:



 I highly doubt he will be available to the Caps. I also would have said Johnny Boychuck, who is also killing it for the Islanders, the Islanders have money to spend, and they are already talking about extending him 

So the options for a third line replacement include a very slim number of decent defensemen. And of the ones that are set to become free agents, there is a solid chance that a good percentage of those will just be extended anyway.

I think the Caps best option is to look from within.

I know Trotz likes left-handed players on the left, and right handed players on the right. I kinda dig that too, but the Caps best defenseman that hasn't played for the Caps yet this year happens to left-handed, and that's Orlov. Contrary to what you may believe, he's not dead. I actually saw him yesterday. He does in fact still have a hand. In fact, it looks like a standard hand. It's not deformed or green or anything. I'm not a doctor, much like I'm not Mike Green or Mike Green's wife, so I have no idea what is going on with him. But hopefully he comes back, especially next year, because the Caps might need him.

If Trotz wants to go with a right-handed defenseman, and he wants to stay consistent with puck movers on the right side, he could go potentially go with Connor Carrick, or even rookie Madison Bowey. When Carrick was up in the NHL, he was compared to Mike Green. I can't remember who it was exactly that made the comparison, though I think it was either Craig Laughlin or Alan May, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, Carrick was terrible when he was in the NHL. But the guy was just 19, playing with a bad coach and sub-par defensive partners. He's doing alright in Hershey this year, with four goals and 16 assists in 36 games. He definitely still has potential to be solid in the NHL, despite poor play as a 19. I can't stress it enough. He was 19. Bowey is probably a bit more promising, though I'm not convinced he is ready for the NHL. Bowey will be 20 next season, and while he has a 60 point season with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL, and has already 33 points in 28 games this year as Kelowna's captain, and was one of Team Canada's top defensemen in the World Junior Tournament earlier this month, producing a goal and three assists in seven games, is Trotz really going to give him time next season? Maybe. Wouldn't surprise me.

Again, my hope is that Green some how extends with the Capitals. The Capitals are awesome, D.C.'s awesome, and Green's awesome. Then again, maybe the Caps don't think he's awesome. At least, Braden Holtby might not:


It's a perfect fit. I don't know what his options are, and I don't know what he's planning, because I'm not a fortune teller. Did you get all that? I'm not Mike Green, I'm not Mike Green's wife, I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a fortune teller.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Game Recap: Caps Vs. Blackhawks (3-2 Win)

To kick off the new year, the Caps had the honor of hosting the Winter Classic. The biggest regular season game of all regular season games didn't disappoint, and the Caps walked into the dugout (yes, a dugout) with a 3-2 win after a late Troy Brouwer heroic.




Positives

Eric Fehr - He is Mr. Winter Classic. The guy has played in two Winter Classics, thankfully both times for the Caps, and has three goals, which makes him the all-time leading goal scorer in Winter Classics, which will win you virtually every bar bet you will ever make. Much like his second goal in his first Winter Classic, Fehr got a clean breakaway, gave a little shoulder fake, and slipped it right by Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. This guy has become one of the Capitals most valuable players. And to think we traded him to make space for a Roman Hamrlik signing. Ok, it wasn't just Roman Hamrlik, but pretend it was because that makes the Caps sound like the bad guy in that situation. I never want to part ways with Eric Fehr ever again...actually no, ask me that again in a couple more years.

Alex Ovechkin - That man played like his hair was on fire. I don't even know if that's the right expression, but even if it's not, Ovechkin was acting like his hair was on fire. He was flying out there. His excitement was so evident the second he took the ice, further cemented when he scored, even further cemented when he hit the post and cross bar, and even more further cemented when Brouwer scored the game winner. That excitement is fun for everyone to watch, and it will get everyone on his team going. More importantly, that excitement and his furious play was able to convince virtually every media member that he has "bought in" to Trotz's system, whatever the hell that means. Oh well, if it took an outdoor game for the media to be convinced at that, at least we won't have to hear about it anymore.

Brooks Orpik - With each game that I get to see him out on the ice, the more I love the signing, which crushes me because it's almost certain that he will drive me insane in his later years with the Capitals. Thank every Hockey God imaginable that he somehow did not get hurt in the previous game against the Islanders, because losing him for an extended period time would have been a disaster. He has played decent hockey of late, and while he's not the best defenseman on the team, he certainly makes this team better. We were able to see glimpses of just how important he is to this team after this game. His team was so happy to have him on the ice, and it was expressed in this video when he was given the Honest Abe award. It was further expressed in his postgame interview, where you could tell he felt so bad for taking Nate Schmidt's spot, and that Schmidt was one of his bros on the team. I don't feel like the Caps have had a veteran defenseman like Orpik in a very long time, and I think he is helping these guys immensely.

The NHL, The Washington Capitals, The Washington Nationals, NBC and the many, many others who helped put on this event - I wasn't actually there, but I could tell that this was one of the better Winter Classic's. The Capitol dome and the "reflecting pool" opening ceremony accompanied by a fly over looked pretty amazing. The stadium looked amazing. The game itself was awesome. Even though I wasn't there, what made it special for me was the camera angles NBC provided, with the birds eye view and everything, it was truly unbelievable to see the game that way. I can't imagine the Winter Classic going any better in the nations capital. Also, I have one suggestion....put that Capitol dome right behind the center field wall in that grassy area!

Negatives

This win put me in far too good of a mood to point out any areas of improvement.

Posession (via hockeystats.ca)


Top Five Corsi Percentage at Even Strength
  • Nicklas Backstrom - 67% (53% offensive zone start)
  • Alex Ovechkin - 66% (60% offensive zone start)
  • Tom Wilson - 64% (83% offensive zone start)
  • Jay Beagle - 63% (58% offensive zone start)
  • Michael Latta - 63% (83% offensive zone start)
Bottom Five Corsi Percentage at Even Strength
  • Joel Ward - 36% (27% offensive zone start)
  • Eric Fehr - 42% (25% offensive zone start)
  • Brooks Laich - 42% (27% offensive zone start)
  • Jason Chimera - 45% (71% offensive zone start)
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov - 45% (50% offensive zone start)


Scoring

Goal - Eric Fehr (11)
- Unassisted

Goal - Alex Ovechkin (18)
- Assist - Mike Green (15), Jack Hillen (3)

Goal - Troy Brouwer (11) (PP)
- Assist - Alex Ovechkin (14), Mike Green (16)

Goaltending

Braden Holtby - 33 saves on 35 shots, .943 save percentage

Quote of the Night



"I think it's just the whole day was unbelievable. This event was outstanding, you know. The atmosphere, on the ice, was like since first second unreal. It's going to be for all our lives, and I'm pretty sure we're going to watch this hockey game and we're gonna enjoy it. So, 100% I think. It is what it is." - Alex Ovechkin.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Game Recap: Caps Vs. Islanders (4-3 OT Loss)

For the vast majority of this game, it didn't seem like the Capitals could get into the game. After two slow periods and a short handed goal, the Caps found themselves down by three with less than a period to go. But with three quick goals, the Caps stormed right back into the game.




Positives

Eric Fehr - This guy is the absolute man. He goes into each game with a can't lose attitude and he pumps out an efficient shift every time he's on the ice. He's scoring goals, and driving possession of the puck. He, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward have banded together to create a line that is extremely fun to watch.

Nicklas Backstrom - Much like Fehr, Backstrom is also the absolute man. He's really picking the right times to shoot the puck. I mean, for his goal tonight, it was pretty obvious that he needed to shoot the puck, but he is picking and choosing really well this season. He's scored on 16.2 percent of his shots this year, just under 5 percent more than he has averaged over the course of his career. Does Backstrom run the risk of slowing down? Certainly. Is his shooting percentage unsustainable? Maybe. But for now, Backstrom is on pace to score 25 goals this season, which would be his second highest output of his career.

Michael Latta - He obviously does not see much ice time (only 8:15 tonight), but when he's out there, he's making the most of his time. Can we reasonable count on him for a goal? No. But, what we can count on from Latta is the fact that he will wear the opposition down. He added three hits tonight to his resume, and one early in the first really sent a message. It was a big hit after Tom Wilson himself was knocked to the ground. Latta answered with an even bigger hit. It's been touched on in the Epix Road To The Winter Classic episodes a couple of times, but Barry Trotz really appreciates physicality, and if you believe what he says, other teams are taking notice that the Caps are a tough team to face. That starts with Latta, who is trying his best to become a shimmer of glee in the Forsberg trade.

Anthony Capuano - Ok, this one has literally nothing to do with the game or the Caps itself, it's more about an interaction I had tonight. Towards the end of the first period, I found myself bored and wishing the Caps would do something a little bit more entertaining. As a result, I had to try to find other forms of entertainment within the game. This is when Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano popped up on the screen. Within this particular shot, Capuano looked particularly Italian. So, I wrote out Italian people that Capuano looked like. I went into detail about how he looked like a Sopranos henchman, and then I tweeted out this:



A little while later, I found this in my mentions:



Yes, that is Jack Capuano's son, Anthony, who plays baseball at the University of Maine, explaining to me that he is, in fact, not a Guido.

Negatives

Top RW - There really isn't any one person to blame for what has become a relatively big issue. It's easy to point the finger at Trotz, but, can you really blame him for trying virtually everything? Wilson has been a bit underwhelming. Chimera was a bit of a stretch. Myself and many others have stated Fehr should be there, but he is seeing success on a different line. I don't know who should be there, but I do know flip-flopping several people over the course of the season and during the game will not work. Ovechkin and Backstrom need a consistent line mate, and the more this plays out, the more I'm starting to believe that someone needs to be brought in to play as a top line right wing. But that's for the trade deadline....

Power Play - This power play has deadened recently. I have no clue what is causing it. If I did, I would be making a lot of money. But, two things have stood out to me within the past couple weeks or so. First, the offensive player that is taking the shot is 95 percent of the time Ovechkin. When you have one person taking the shot, it becomes extremely easy to defend. Backstrom has stepped in from the half boards a little bit more than he did last year, and that helps. Troy Brouwer, or whoever else is situated in front of the net, doesn't seem to be getting the puck as often as last season. Mike Green, or whoever else is at the point on the power play, is not shooting the puck, like, ever. Green, John Carlson or whoever is at the point needs to start shooting the puck more often. Green has a fantastic shot. But he is not utilizing it enough on the power play. He's one of the top offensive defensemen in the league, but he's just not shooting the puck enough on the power play. He just feeds it over to Ovechkin, and while he does score often from that spot, teams will be able to figure that out, if they haven't already. If Green steps up and poses a threat as a shooter, it will just keep the opposing team's penalty kill more honest. This, in my opinion, needs to start.

The Third Line - The third line is not who you think it is. It's not Laich-Fehr-Ward. It's Johansson-Kuznetsov-Brouwer. Look at their times on ice. That's how it has been for quite some time. On top of this, and I wish I took a photo of it, but when I was in the Capitals locker room in their last home game against Ottawa, they have a board with the lines drawn out, and sure enough, 21-16-42 is officially the second line. I have no problem with that. That line is producing, and while it is your prototypical third line, they are succeeding as a second line. However, Johansson, Kuznetsov and Brouwer is not your standard third line, and it is showing. Those guys were practically invisible tonight. I don't think it is necessarily their fault. They were doing well earlier this season, but that was when Andre Burakovsky was centering them, but that's a whole different issue. Can this line see more production if it just plays more? Possibly. But, all I know is that is an average second line, and that is a very ineffective third line.

Orpik Injury - This was devastating to watch. Orpik hard into the boards, and his knee awkwardly bumped into Cal Clutterbuck. Immediately, Orpik was in pain and was down on the ice, holding his knee in the air gingerly. He had to be helped off the ice, and didn't return for the rest of the game. Orpik has become a huge part of this defense. He is the most physical blue liner by far, and is the leader among the young defense. Having him out for an extended period of time would be awful. More will be known on the extent of the injury tomorrow, but it already sounds like some of the Capitals are pretty optimistic 

Posession (via hockeystats.ca)



Top Five Corsi Percentage at Even Strength
  • Michael Latta - 60% (0% offensive zone start)
  • Brooks Laich - 59% (62% offensive zone start)
  • Eric Fehr - 55% (67% offensive zone start)
  • Joel Ward - 55% (50% offensive zone start)
  • Jay Beagle - 53% (67% offensive zone start)


Bottom Five Corsi Percentage at Even Strength
  • Nicklas Backstrom - 33% (36% offensive zone start)
  • Jason Chimera - 35% (50% offensive zone start)
  • Alex Ovechkin - 38% (45% offensive zone start)
  • Tom Wilson - 38% (33% offensive zone start)
  • Brooks Orpik - 39% (45% offensive zone start)


Total Team Corsi - 39%

Scoring

Goal - Eric Fehr (10)
- Assist - Brooks Laich (4), Jack Hillen (2)

Goal - Nicklas Backstrom (12)
- Assist - Alex Ovechkin (13), Mike Green (14)

Goal - Alex Ovechkin (17)
- Assist - Nicklas Backstrom (26)

Goaltending

Braden Holtby - 35 saves on 39 shots, .897 sv%.

Quote of the Night



"First two period were unacceptable. Start of the third, we give up another one. At the end of the day, you could say 'oh yeah, pat ourselves on the back, we got a point when we are down three-nothing' but why are we down three-nothing? We didn't play well enough in the first 40 minutes. That's not the way we played in Pittsburgh, we thought we were fine there. We didn't play that way tonight. We got to play better." - Brooks Laich

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

World Junior Championship 2015 Preview

If you're like me, you are probably extremely excited for the upcoming World Junior Championship. You don't get to see some of these kids play on a regular basis, and they really are the future stars of the NHL. Most are already drafted into the NHL, some won't be drafted until this year's draft, and some won't even be drafted until the 2016 draft.

You know who to watch. You gotta watch the two superstars in Jack Eichel of the United States and Connor McDavid of Canada. The sure thing first and second overall picks in the 2015 draft were both named captains of their squad, and the hockey world will explode with excitement when the two countries square off on Dec. 31st. You probably even know about Auston Matthews, the United States forward who is projected to be the top pick in the 2016 draft.

But, as a Caps fan, who should you really be on the lookout for?

You really can't go wrong if you simply, you know, just watch all the games. But, there are going to be quite a few guys that you will be seeing on a regular basis in the near future within the Metropolitan Division. Let's take a look at some of those guys.

United States

Carolina 

Alex Nedeljkovic, goaltender (Plymouth, OHL). Drafted 2014, Round 2, 37th overall.

Alex Nedeljkovic is probably the backup goaltender on this team behind Boston College and Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko, but he still will more than likely see a game or two. Nedeljkovic is a relatively small for a modern goaltender at just 6'0" and 190 lbs., but he is an extremely athletic goaltender. Prior to his drafted, one scout said he was the most athletic goaltender in the draft, and would have been a first round choice if he was a bit bigger. In his draft year, Nedeljkovic excelled for the Whalers with an outstanding .925 save percentage and a 2.88 goals against average in 61 games. This year, he's not doing as well, posting just a .905 save percentage and a 3.43 goals against average in 26 games. The butterfly goaltender will be relied on should anything happen to Demko.

Columbus 

Sonny Milano, forward (Plymouth, OHL). Drafted 2014, Round 1, 16th overall.


Sonny Milano (Source - Bruce Bennett)
I am a big fan of Sonny Milano. In fact, earlier this year before the draft, I was really hoping the Caps selected Milano. He is an extremely gifted puck handler who can just embarrass you out on the ice. He plays with a very similar style to Patrick Kane. I don't think he will be as successful as Kane, but a talented American puck handler like Milano makes it hard not to compare the two. Milano was committed to play for Boston College this year, but Milano instead went ahead and signed a professional contract with the Blue Jackets, making him ineligible for college hockey. Milano know plays for the Whalers, where he's put up eight goals and 23 assists in 20 games. Milano projects as one of the top forwards for Team USA.

Ryan Collins, defenseman (University of Minnesota). Drafted 2014, Round 2, 47th overall.

Prior to the 2014 draft, I was also a fan of Ryan Collins and, again, I was hoping the Caps would select him in the second round. Collins is a gigantic kid at 6'5", 205 lbs. He is almost entirely a defensive defenseman, with just four assists in 11 games for the University of Minnesota. Collins likely won't be relied on for top minutes on this team, but he has the ability to step in and play a physical game at any given moment. If he does make the roster (one more defenseman will be cut), he can make for a reliable blue liner.

New Jersey Devils

Steve Santini, defenseman (Boston College). Drafted 2013, Round 2, 42nd overall.

Steve Santini may not even be healthy enough to make the roster. He had wrist surgery on Oct. 28th, and has only played in four games this season for Boston College. Santini is one of two returning blue liners for the U.S.'s World Junior team, and will be relied on heavily for leadership. A mobile defenseman with good size, he is an incredibly smart defenseman with a high hockey IQ in his own zone. Santini will make the Devils in no time once his finished with his collegiate career, and he could be a huge part in the Devils future. (Editor's Note: Santini did not make the roster due to his wrist and will not take part in the World Junior Championship)

Miles Wood, forward (Noble and Greenough School, USHS). Drafted 2013, Round 4, 100th overall.

I admittedly don't know too much about Wood. Here's what Hockeys Future had to say about him:

"Wood, the son of long-time NHL forward Randy Wood, is a finesse, skilled player with the prototypical size of a strong power forward. Arguably the best player in the New England prep school league, his skating is his greatest asset but over the years he has learned to use those around him when he has the puck. His playmaking and hockey IQ continues to improve and he should continue to develop as he faces a higher level of competition during his college career."

Wood apparently was supposed to play for Boston College this season, but instead decided to return to Noble and Greenough School. Noble and Greenough has apparently only played one game so far this season, and I don't believe Wood played in that game.

New York Rangers

Brandon Halverson, goaltender (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL). Drafted 2014, Round 4, 59th overall.

With Demko and Nedeljovic in front of him, Halverson is a long shot of seeing any significant amount of time in this tournament. When the Rangers drafted him, he was a backup for the Sault Set. Marie Greyhounds. They liked his size at 6'4", his athletic ability and they way he handles the puck. This year, Halverson has seen a little bit more duty for the Greyhounds. In 24 games, he has a .908 save percentage and a 2.93 goals against average. Is he a bad option for the United States to have in this tournament? No way. But is he better than Demko or Nedeljovic? No. That being said, if Halverson continues to see his game grow and he continues to develop nicely, he could see some time in New York in no time.

The New York Islander, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins do not have an American prospects playing in the World Junior Championship. 

Other Notable American Prospects: Forwards J.T. Compher (Buffalo), Alex Tuch (Minnesota), Chase De Leo (Winnipeg), Jack Eichel (2015 Draft Eligible) and Auston Matthews (2016 Draft Eligible). Defensemen Anthony DeAngelo (Tampa Bay), Noah Hanifin (2015 Draft Eligible) and Ian McCoshen (Florida).




Canada

Columbus

Dillon Heatherington, defenseman (Swift Current, OHL). Drafted 2013, Round 2, 50th overall.

Dillon Heatherington has good size at 6'4" and 205 lbs., but he probably won't be relied on too terribly much. Heatherington is also a ways away from making the Blue Jackets anytime soon. There is simply not too terribly special about the way he plays. He has the size, and he is certainly more of a defensive defenseman, but he's really not all that special. Collins is ahead of Heatherington on the Blue Jackets depth chart, and he has several more defenseman in front of him. For this Canadian team, Heatherington will see some time on what will probably be the second unit penalty kill, but again, he won't wow you.

New York Rangers

Anthony Duclair, forward (New York Rangers). Drafted 2013, Round 3, 80th overall.

If you happened to watch any Rangers games this year, you may have seen Anthony Duclair already play. Duclair was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers during training camp, and was a surprise add to the team. The previous year, with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL, Duclair put up 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games. This season with the Rangers, Duclair has tallied one goal and six assists in 18 games. Duclair is an extremely fast skater, and is more of a shoot first, ask questions later type player. Duclair will be relied on heavily to produce some goals for Canada this year at the tournament.

Philadelphia Flyers

Samuel Morin, defenseman (Rimouski, QMJHL). Drafted 2013, Round 1, 11th overall.


Samuel Morin (Photo - Sarah Mongeau)
Samuel Morin is about to be the ass-hat we all love to hate for the Philadelphia Flyers. The guy is 6'7" and 225 lbs. Good. Lord. He is also tremendously talented. He's an extremely physical player that moves the puck decently well for a big guy, and has a gigantic shot. He doesn't put up amazing offensive numbers, but he does log a ton of ice time for Rimouski Oceanic. Morin is pretty close to playing defense for the gigantic pile of trash that has become the Flyers blue line. Here is what Morin had to say for himself recently:


"They want to be patient with me and that's OK. I think when I'm 25 years old I'm gonna be one of the best D-men in the league."

Ok Morin, slow your roll. You're beginning to sound like a Flyer already. This guy is going to play a huge role for Canada in the upcoming tournament. He will be really fun to watch.

The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins do not have a Canadian prospect playing in the World Junior Championship.

Other Notable Canadians To Watch: Forwards Sam Reinhart (Buffalo), Curtis Lazar (Ottawa), Jake Virtanen (Vancouver Canucks) and Connor McDavid (2015 Draft Eligibility). Defenseman Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg). Goaltender Zach Fucale (Montreal).



Russia

Carolina

Sergey Tolchinsky, forward (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL). Underrated Free Agent Signing

Sergey Tolchinsky was more than likely passed over in the NHL draft because of his size. At just 5'9" and 170 lbs., Tolchinsky didn't project as the next Martin St. Louis (also undrafted) or Johnny Gaudreau (drafted round 4). But Tolchinsky has gotten off to a good start this year in the OHL with the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds. In fact, Tolchinsky is in ninth in the league this year in scoring, with 17 goals and 32 assists in 32 games. Tolchinsky will be expected to be one of the better forwards in what will be a weaker than usual Russian team for the World Junior Championship. Tolchinsky failed to make the Carolina Hurricanes during his second training camp, but if he continues to put up strong offensive numbers and has a strong World Junior tournament, the only thing that may be holding him back is his size.

New York Islanders

Ilya Sorokin, goaltender (Metallurg, KHL). Drafted 2014, Round 3, 78th overall.

It's not immediately clear who will be the primary goaltender for Russia in the World Junior tournament, but Ilya Sorokin has a 52 save effort earlier this month in an exhibition game against Canada. So, it's a comfortable bet in saying that he will more than likely be the starter for Russia. Sorokin is your average size goaltender at 6'2", and has put up decent numbers in the KHL. Sorokin has posted a .906 save percentage and a 3.25 goals against average this season. Sorokin is a few ways down the depth chart for the Islanders when it comes to goaltenders. It will be quite some time before we see Sorokin in an Islanders jersey.

New York Rangers

Pavel Buchnevich, forward (Severstal, KHL). Drafted 2013, Round 3, 75th overall.

Pavel Buchnevich is a pretty fast skater with a solid offensive game. He's already playing professionally in the KHL, and he's playing a respectable game, with 10 goals and 11 assists in 32 games. He is a very fast skater that primarily plays an offensive minded game. This will be Buchnevich's second World Junior tournament. Last year with Russia, Buchnevich tallied two goals and five assists in the seven games, and he will once again be relied on as one of Russian's top forwards. Buchnevich has yet to sign an entry level contract with the Rangers, and he is already pretty low on the prospect depth chart. It will be quite a long time (if ever) until we see Buchnevich in a Ranger uniform.

Igor Shestyorkin, goaltender (SKA Kareliay St. Petersburg, VHL). Drafted 2014, Round 4, 118th overall.

As previously mentioned, Sorokin is the likely starter for Russia. That being said, Shestyorkin has played in seven games for Russia's junior team this year, and has been nothing short of outstanding. He rocks a .948 save percentage and just a 1.38 goals against average. These numbers are very much similar to his VHL, where he has a .943 save percentage and a 1.72 goals against average. Shestyorkin can't seem to crack time in the KHL just yet, where he saw just one game this year. Much like Sorokin, Shestyorkin is far from NHL time for the Rangers.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins do not have a Russian prospect participating in the World Junior Championship.

Other Notable Russian Prospects: Forwards Ivan Barbashev (St. Louis) and Nikolay Goldobin (San Jose). Defenseman Ivan Provorov (2015 Draft Eligible).


Sweden


Carolina

Lucas Wallmark, forward (Lulea, SHL). Drafted 2014, Round 4, 97th overall.


Lucas Wallmark (Photo - Ludwig Thunman)
Lucas Wallmark played for Sweden last year, where they placed second, and Wallmark was an important part of that team. He had three goals and five assists in seven games in the Malmo tournament. He will again be relied on heavily as a top playmaker, especially since Andre Burakovsky will not be available for the tournament. Wallmark has four goals and nine assists in 13 games for Lulea. He is a skilled playmaker that will see a lot of time on Sweden's power play. Wallmark dropped pretty low in this years draft, especially for a player that performed quite well against top junior level competition in the World Junior tournament. His wiry frame isn't quite ready for NHL play just yet, but a few more years of development could do Wallmark well.

New York Islanders

Linus Soderstrom, goaltender (Djurgarden Jr., SuperElit). Drafted 2014, Round 4, 95th overall.

The Swedish goaltending isn't very special, and if this team struggles in the tournament, goaltending will be the reason why. It isn't even quite clear who would play in goal for Sweden. Buffalo's Jonas Johansson was one of the top contenders for the spot, but he was ruled out for the tournament due to illness and was replaced by Fredrik Bergvik, a San Jose Shark's prospect. Now, it's really between Soderstrom and undrafted Samuel Ward. Soderstrom should be the front runner, but he is certainly not Oscar Dansk, who marched Sweden right through the tournament last year. Soderstrom is posting a .909 save percentage and a 2.81 goals against average in 13 games. He's got great size at 6'4", but he is a very, very long way from being NHL ready.

Philadelphia Flyers

Robert Haag, defenseman (Lehigh, AHL). Drafted 2013, Round 2, 41st overall.

Robert Haag is probably one of the closest prospects in the Metropolitan Division to playing in the NHL not named Anthony Duclair. He's already seeing quality time with the Flyers AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Hagg was drafted as a two way defenseman, and he had 11 assists and two goals in 30 games before he was loaned to Sweden for the tournament. He has good size at 6'2", 207 lbs., and will be relied on as one of Sweden's best defenseman on both the penalty kill and power play. Hagg is another returning World Junior player. His experience and leadership will be fantastic for Sweden.

Oskar Lindblom, forward (Brynas, SHL). Drafted 2014, Round 5, 138th overall.

Oskar Lindblom has blossomed into a great late round prospect for the Flyers. He's played 17 games in the Swedish mens league and has four goals and five assists to his name. He is a very strong two way player. Lindblom could see time as a top forward with some of Sweden's best players, and he could be a breakout player for Sweden. He needs to bulk up a bit before he can make the Flyers roster, especially if he wants to continue his two way game and play in the dirty areas. But, Lindblom could be a surprisingly fun player to watch in this tournament.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins do not have a Swedish prospect participating in the World Junior Championship.

Other Notable Swedish Prospects: Forwards William Nylander (Toronto), Jacob de la Rose (Montreal) and Adrian Kempe (Los Angeles).

Finland

Pittsburgh

Kasperi Kapanen, forward (KalPa, Liiga). Drafted 2014, Round 1, 22nd overall.

Everyone was a little shocked to see Kapanen fall as much as he did in the first round. The son of Sami was projected to be a top ten pick, but instead fell all the way to 22nd to the Penguins. His stock was most likely hurt because he didn't take part in Finland's World Junior Championship winning team due to a shoulder injury, and he played for a really bad professional team in Finland. Kapanen is a fast forward who can really play both sides of the ice pretty well. He had a legitimate shot of making the Penguins earlier this year, but they elected to send him back to Finland for a little more development. Kapanen is the forward prospect in a weak prospect pool for the Penguins, and all eyes will be on Kapanen when he takes the ice.

The Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers do not have a Finnish prospect participating in the World Junior Championship.

Other Notable Finnish Prospects: Forwards Artturi Lehkonen (Montreal), Mikko Rantanen (2015 Draft Eligible). Defenseman Julius Honka (Dallas). Goaltender Juuse Saros (Nashville).


Denmark

Columbus

Oliver Bjorkstrand, forward (Portland, WHL). Drafted 2013, Round 3, 89th overall.

Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand are going to provide virtually every bit of offense for Denmark. Bjorkstrand plays a Canadian style game, which has earned him 21 goals and 19 assists in 28 games for the Portland Winterhawks. That puts him well on pace to pass his 109 point effort just last season for the Winterhawks. Bjorkstrand has made frequent appearances for Denmark in the past three years, and while he is one of the better offensive talents that Columbus has to offer, Bjorkstrand just won't be able to supply enough offense to see Denmark succeed in the World Junior Championship.

The Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins do not have a Danish Prospect participating in the World Junior Championship.

Other Notable Danish prospects: Forward Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg).

Czech Republic

The Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins do not have a Czech Republic prospect playing in the World Junior Championship.

Other Notable Czech Republic Prospects: Forwards David Pastrnak (Boston), Pavel Zacha (2015 Draft Eligible) and David Kase (2015 Draft Eligible). Defenseman Dominik Masin (Tampa Bay).

Switzerland

There are no Swiss prospects participating in the World Junior Championship from the Metropolitan Division.

Other Notable Prospects: Forwards Kevin Fiala (Nashville), Noah Rod (San Jose Sharks) and Timo Meier (2015 Draft Eligible). Defenseman Mirco Muller (San Jose Sharks).

Slovakia

There are no Slovakian prospects participating in the World Junior Championship from the Metropolitan Division.

Other Notable Prospects: Forwards Peter Cehlarik (Boston), Matej Paulovic (Dallas), Martin Reway (Montreal).


Germany

There are no German prospects participating in the World Junior Championship from the Metropolitan Division.

There really isn't any notable prospects participating for Germany.

Those are all of the prospects for the other evil teams in the Metropolitan Division. But, there is one super important them that has yet to be included in this massive World Junior Preview, and that's the super awesome Washington Capitals prospects.

Madison Bowey

Madison Bowey should play an important role on this Canadian team. As the only right handed defenseman and an excellent puck mover on a talented team, Bowey should be relied on as a top power play player. Though the two haven't played a game together yet, he and Morrissey are now Kelowna Rocket teammates, and I imagine they will be paired together as either the top defensive pairing or the second defensive pairing. Bowey has eight goals and 25 assists in 28 games this year, and he captains Kewlona for the second straight year. Bowey, in my opinion, had a fairly disappointing training camp earlier this year. He just didn't seem to click as well as everyone had imagined. Bowey is in a rough spot. I think within two years or so he is going to be ready for the NHL. The Caps already have three solid puck moving defensemen in John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Mike Green, and two of those guys are signed long term. Green, however, becomes an unrestricted free agent. Is Bowey the answer as the replacement for Green? If not, and Green is signed long term, where does Bowey fit? And even then...where does Connor Carrick fit in the equation? Bowey may be stuck in a tough spot within this organization. But a good showing at the World Junior Championship will be pleasing to see.

Jakub Vrana


Jakub Vrana (Photo taken by me)
If you're a Caps fan, you need to tune in to the Czech Republic games all through the tournament purely to see Jakub Vrana play. For the most part, we have really only been exposed to his highlight reel plays. But we did get to see him at the development camp and for parts of training camp, and there is no question, he was the most talented prospect that participated in those camps behind only Andre Burakovsky, who has made a relatively strong case to sit firmly in the NHL. Vrana and Pastrnak will lead this talented Czech team offensively. The Czech Republic are projected to do pretty well in this tournament, and that is credited primarily to Vrana. This will be Vrana's second World Junior championship. Last year, Vrana finished with a goal and an assist in five games. After putting up nine goals and seven assists in 23 games for Linkoping, we can expect a whole lot more from Vrana in this tournament. He could sneak in as the player of the tournament if all goes right for the Czech Republic.

Vitek Vanecek

I did not really understand why the Capitals drafted Vitek Vanecek in the second round of this past draft. But this tournament has the chance to be Vanacek's coming out party. He has been excellent this year, playing in the Czech League 2, where he has a .923 save percentage and a 2.27 goals against average in 16 games. If he comes out and becomes a brick wall for the Czech Republic, the Caps all of a sudden won't look so crazy in drafting him relatively early.

Here is a guide for the tournament. Enjoy!

Information obtained from Eliteprospects.com and Hockeysfuture.com. World Junior Rosters have to be officially submitted by Dec. 25th, and only Canada has officially submitted their final roster. Therefore all players listed are simply presumed to be on the final roster. Article will be updated if a player did not make the team.