If I asked you who the top scorer this season at even strength is, who would you guess?
I bet most people would be surprised to learn that the answer is Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has 36 points at even strength. This is two more than league scoring leader Jakub Voracek, who is second. In terms of total points, Johnson has 45 which places him sixth in the league.
Even strength points is usually a better measure of a player's scoring ability than total points because it removes unequal power play opportunities from point totals. Johnson is a surprise top scorer and as a result did not start the season on the Tampa Bay power play. He is currently fifth in power play ice time in Tampa. He is 50 or 60 minutes of power play ice time behind several of the other top scorers.
The NHL All Star rosters will be announced this weekend. I want to post my teams before this occurs. The game will occur January 25th in Columbus, Ohio. The All Star format is a bit unclear. Both coaches announced in Darryl Sutter of Los Angeles and Peter Laviolette of Nashville coach West Conference teams. I have assumed the game will be East Conference vs. West Conference. That may not be true if the coaches both are from the West Conference. I have also ensured that at least one player is on the rosters per NHL team. The NHL will likely do that as well, however they include a group of six rookies who will only participate in the skills competition and not in the game and a rookie may be the only participant for a given team. I am not interested in using this trick. I have not picked a group of rookies. Thus a rookie who is not in the All Star Game cannot be the only player for a given team.
There are 42 All Star Game roster spots and 30 teams. That leaves 12 players available to be freely selected without account for their team. Five Chicago Blackhawks were voted into the game. This removes four of these slots. We are left with only eight team independent selections. Three are on the West Conference team and five on the East Conference team. As a result, there are players who are better than some of the All Star selections who have been left out of the game.
Here are my rosters:
We are entering All Star season. Yesterday I posted the rosters for the AHL All Star Game. Today I will look at the CHL Top Prospects Game. This game will be played in St Catherines Ontario on January 22nd. This game is played between 40 of the best draft eligible players in the CHL. The teams are divided into Team Cherry and Team Orr and named in honor of Don Cherry and Bobby Orr.
Here are the rosters:
Callum Booth Quebec Remparts
Alexis Loiseau Rimouski Oceanic
The AHL All Star Game will be played in Utica, New York on January 26th. The rosters were announced yesterday.
Here they are:
East Conference AHL All-Stars
Anton Forsberg, Springfield Falcons
Connor Hellebuyck, St. John’s IceCaps
Jeff Zatkoff, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
If the season ended right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs would make the playoffs. They would be eighth seed in the East Conference with a record of 21-19 with three regulation tie points. Given the recent failures of the Toronto organization, that would be a successful year. The logical thing to do when you are having a successful year is to fire your coach... right?
Toronto media had been clamoring for Carlyle's firing. This happens from time to time in the more hockey crazy markets. The media can turn on the coach regardless of whether or not it is warranted. It wasn`t warranted in Toronto. A good GM would be intelligent enough to ignore the media and do the right thing.
The medal round in the World Junior Hockey Championships was played in the last two days. The tournament was played in Montreal and Toronto. Here are the quarterfinal results. The medal round began with semifinals. Sweden met Russia and Canada met Slovakia.
Here are their results:
Russia 4 Sweden 1 - This game was a re-match of their round robin game which Sweden won 3-2. In this game Russia took a lead with two second period goals. Sweden scored midway through the third period but it wasn't enough to get back into the game. Alexander Sharov (undrafted) scored two of the Russian goals. Maxim Mamin (undrafted) had a goal and an assist and Vladimir Bryukvin (undrafted) had two assists. The Swedish goal was scored by Lucas Wallmark (Carolina prospect). Russian goalie Igor Shestyorkin (New York Rangers prospect) was the winning goalie stopping 26 of 27 shots. Linus Soderstrom (New York Islanders prospect) lost with 27 saves on 31 shots. Russia moves to the gold/silver game and Sweden to the bronze/4th game.
In mid-December I picked Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators as the MVP. He was my first non-Sidney Crosby selection for MVP since February of 2013. Since I picked Rinne, his saves percentage has dropped eight points from .937 to .929 and his goals against average has risen by 25 points from 1.75 to 2.00. While I argue he remains the top goalie in the league (in close competition with Carey Price), he is no longer the Hart Trophy leader.
In fact I would argue that there is no player worthy of the Hart Trophy at this point. Rinne and Price have been good goalies but neither is at the level of recent MVP goalies. On defence, Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames has been the league leader. I don't think he plays strong enough defensively to be considered an MVP - at least not as long as he remains below point per game scoring level. At forward, there are several players who are at or near the NHL scoring lead. Those who play the most dominant overall games tend not to be the highest scorers right now.
The World Junior Hockey Championships are underway. They are being played in Toronto and Montreal. Today the single elimination quarterfinals were played between the top four finishers in the two round robin pools which completed on December 31st.
Here are the results:
Russia 3 USA 2 - The Russians took an early lead on a goal by Ivan Barbashev (St Louis Blues prospect) and Alexander Sharov (undrafted) added another goal later in the first period. Anthony DeAngelo (Tampa Bay Lightning prospect) cut the lead in half in the second period. Sergei Tolchinsky (Carolina Hurricane prospect) opened up a two goal lead. The Americans pressed hard for the third period and pulled to within one goal when Zach Werenski (2015 draft eligible) scored. Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers prospect) was the winning goaltender with 39 saves on 41 shots. Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks prospect) was the losing goalie facing 25 shots. Russia moves on to the medal round.
Travis Yost of TSN writes about how the Florida Panthers have surprisingly become a playoff calibre team. He is supposed to be an "analytics" writer with TSN, but he misses the simple reasons that the Panthers have improved. Since last year the Panthers have added a number one goalie and a number one defenceman and they have lost nobody of significance in the process.
Roberto Luongo was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline last year. It cost Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom has spent this season in the AHL and Matthias is a 12 point scoring depth player. Luongo is a very good goalie. He was a popular choice at the beginning of the season for the most improved player because he was out Vancouver where he had been surrounded by negativity. If he produced numbers similar to those in Vancouver it would be seen as an improvement. Luongo is a top level NHL goaltender and he would go a long way toward improving Florida.
The Edmonton Oilers are stuck in last place. They have three fewer points than any other team and three fewer wins than any other team. They have had several years of top draft picks and don't have much of anything to show for it. One problem is they are not able to develop these top prospects. As the World Junior Hockey Championships are underway we see that this is one place players can be developed and the Oilers do not use it. They rush their top prospects directly into the NHL and attempt to develop them there. A team where prospects are developed into NHL players is not an NHL team. It is an AHL team. The Edmonton Oilers have looked more like an AHL team than an NHL one.
The most recent Oiler first round draft pick is Leon Draisaitl. He has struggled in the NHL but nevertheless that is where he is. He has two goals and seven points to go with a -18 +/ rating in 35 games played. He should be playing in the World Junior Championships. He should have been returned to junior. He isn't developing in the NHL. There are no great examples of developed players in Edmonton. Even the players who have shown some success like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are struggling this season. All are scoring at well below point per game level. Nobody is taking a step forward this year.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???