This month, I take a look at Kessel’s improved play, a forgotten Jet, Edmonton’s goalie of the future, and more.
1. It is too early to get a really solid read on what kind of player Alex Burmistrov may become, but he possesses several traits that are unique for a rookie or sophomore in the NHL. He’s an incredibly slippery player (a word often used to describe a player’s ability to avoid a check and to hold on to the puck, has a lot to do with poise and patience), and he’s quite polished already in the defensive zone. He has a Datsyuk-like ability to make multiple defenders look foolish in a single shift. Until the Jets improve through development and roster acquisitions, he likely won’t take that next step forward offensively. However, he is a name that often gets overlooked in conversations regarding young forwards with immense offensive upside.
2. It is still early into October, but I wonder how many Mike Smith stinkers it is going to take for Don Maloney to start calling around for a goaltender (like Cory Schneider, perhaps)?
3. Luke Adam is off to a terrific start for the Sabres. For now, he’s pushed Derek Roy down the depth chart and is centering Vanek and Pominville on the top line. Adam is a slow skater and isn’t an overly flashy player, which allowed him to fly under the radar for the past few years (he isn’t exactly chopped liver, coming off of a tremendous junior career and a recently won AHL Rookie of the Year award).
I never got to see Adam play at the junior level, but seeing him now (and during his time in the AHL) you can see how and why he has been able to make such a quick transition – his hockey sense. Many times players dominate lower levels of competition with a singular physical asset (speed, shot, size, strength), but against competition who are just as fast, big, and strong, this comparative advantage is minimized or even negated. Adam is big and strong, but it is his positioning and awareness that allows him to make and finish plays in the offensive zone.
4. Carey Price is going to win a lot of games for the Habs this year that they may not deserve (especially if the defensive injuries continue to mount). The pressure he was under last season after the Halak trade was immense. This summer he didn't face as much external motivation or criticism, but he looks to have taken another big step forward with his play. Cool as a cucumber sums him up.
5. I make no bones about not being a Phil Kessel fan, but he arguably played his best game as a pro on Saturday against Ottawa. I realize the Senators aren’t exactly a measuring stick this year, but Kessel was more involved physically and in terms of compete level (cliche hockey term, I know) than I have seen from him before. He was all over the score sheet (three goals and an assist). If he can play like that more often, he’ll be a lock for 40 goals. There are few players in the league who have that ability to score on every single shot they take, but Kessel is one. His release is one of the best in the league.
6. This is a make-or-break season for Cal O’Reilly in Nashville. The slick pivot has the skills to be a top six center at the NHL level, but the Predators have lots of depth up the middle (no real standouts, but many solid second or third line types). O’Reilly has been one of the best playmakers at the AHL level over the past few years, and he needs to seize the opportunity being given to him right now. Check out