It always seems so strange. Another year in the books and a few weeks (months) of saying and writing the previous date. That’s only amplified by the end of a decade where so much has occurred. And we’ve seen a great deal happen in the NHL over the course of the 2010s.

 

We’ve said good-bye to one of the greatest tarps of all-time with the demise of the Atlanta Thrashers. We’ve said hello to one of the greatest talents of all-time in Connor McDavid. Jaromir Jagr played until his 88th* birthday and now sits second all-time with 1921 career points. Alex Ovechkin has continued his torrid scoring pace and is knocking on the top-10 for all-time goals. 99’s 894 is in his sights.

 

Just five teams have walked away immortal at the conclusion of the season but you know 26 (and soon to be 27) others are coming with all they’ve got to get their mitts on the Cup. 

 

I hope the decade has been happy and healthy for you all. Be safe out there and be kind to each other. 

 

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We’ll begin with some seriously shitty news. Jake Guentzel has undergone shoulder surgery and is out for the next 4-6 months. Aka, his season is all but kaputz. The 25-year-old was doing what he does – making and finishing plays. After popping 40 goals a season ago, Guentzel was on pace to match that mark and push for 90-points. He's been the 12th most productive forward this calendar year.

 

Its a damn shame.

 

With Jake-n-Bake on the shelf, the Penguins are completely gutted on the wing. Now, I haven’t forgotten that Bryan Rust is miraculously playing at a 105-point pace. And he now becomes the top winger option on a team with a red-hot Evgeni Malkin and a soon-to-be returning Sidney Crosby. But he loses his most common winger-mate and his metrics have long been due for serious regression. Forgive me if Rust’s early-season magic doesn’t keep me warm at night as an owner of both Sid and Geno.

 

 


The club simply must be kicking the tires on any potential top-six trade option. Tyler Toffoli and Chris Kreider are likely at the top of that wish list but there are other most cost-effective options out there as well. Sven Baertschi and Nikolay Goldobin are crushing the AHL in Vancouver’s system. Ottawa has JG Pageau, Vladdy Namestnikov, and Anthony Duclair all in need of new deals next summer. 

 

The team has Andrew Agozzino putting nearly a point-per-game up in the AHL. Sam Miletic has done well in his first 80 pro games. Jared McCann could live on the wing when Crosby returns and likely presents the best replication of Guentzel’s style of play. 

 

There are options, but this is a massive blow to the Pens and to fantasy rosters. 

 

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Here's a look at the hottest players heading into 2020. Spoiler alert, Jonathan Huberdeau had 16 points in six games coming into Tuesday night but failed to hit the scoresheet. Now he has a paltry 16 points in seven games like some kind of loser. 

 

 

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A couple of interesting players to watch: 

William Nylander – 10 points in his last six games but also 18 points in 18 games since Sheldon Keefe was hired. He's enjoying the new bench boss.

 

Nikita Gusev – Nine points in his last seven games and 16 in 20 second-quarter games. Looks like the damnation of him was a touch early. Not like he was experiencing change in all facets of his life to begin the year or anything. 

 

Chris Kreider – 11 points in his last 10 as he gears up to move at the deadline to a contender. He's one of these guys that it could be smart to buy a bit earlier on for cheaper and hope he lands in a primo spot on a good team down the stretch. 

 

John Klingberg – Six points in his last five games as he tried to desperately save what was appearing to be a dreadful season in the middle of his prime.

 

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Checking in with the most wonderful yearly event, the World Junior Hockey Championships closed Round Robin play in Tuesday and the quarter-finals are all set

 

Despite being shellacked by the Russians a few days ago, Canada took the top spot in the Pool of Death. Sweden ran the table once again and have now won 52 straight preliminary games – just an insane record. The Americans, Russians, Finns, Czechs, Slovaks and Swiss round out the remaining spots in the final eight. 

 

Quarter-Finals

Canada v. Slovakia

Sweden v. Czechia

Russia v. Switzerland

USA v. Finland 

 

 

Trevor Zegras has been making a name for himself by leading the tournament in points and doing so in dramatic fashion. All nine of his assists have been primary. There have been spinning backhanders, deep sauce and nifty shifties. He’s been deployed very limitedly only furthering the impressive total. Zegras was the ninth overall pick last June to Anaheim and is a sublime playmaker – arguably the best in the 2019 class. He's posted a point-per-game as a freshman so far this year in the NCAA.

 

 

The kid is serious. 

 

Meanwhile, Nils Hoglander has stolen many of the clips this holiday season. His Michigan Goal in game one has been supplemented by a Michigan feint and then on Tuesday a new look to the move where he saw the defender approaching with a downward hammer chop and the netminder flying his wings up to cover the top portion of the net. The Canucks prospect realizes this and instead flips the puck over the nets to the slot area – keeping in mind to release before his stick went over the crossbar-level. 

 

 

It didn’t lead to a goal but it led to more ‘oohs and ahhs’. The 40th overall selection from 2019 has been good in the SHL this season but excellent at this year’s WJHC. He sits tied for second in points with seven in four games. He’s been clear that he wants to cross the pond and make the Canucks next season. An ambitious goal but one that could be doable. I’m thinking more like 2021-22 but we’re talking about a player who should firmly be on your keeper league radar.

 

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I'd like to once again reiterate how good Igor Shestyorkin is. He's destroying the AHL as a first-timer. He's 14-4-3 with a .931 save percentage and three shutouts. He's top-five in every metric. 

He's coming and he's going to be a good one.  


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How bad is the Erik Karlsson deal looking for the Sharks these days? Well, quite bad. Just like the majority of things going on in the Shark Tank these days. The NorCal squad's core is old and quickly slowing. They're capped out and will pay Karlsson, Brent Burns, M-A Vlasic, Logan Couture, Evander Kane, and Martin Jones a combined 47.25M per season through 2023-24. 

 

Which brings us back to the 2020 first-rounder the sent to Ottawa in order to acquire Karlsson. That pick – which is unprotected is tracking to be in the top 10 and with a little lottery luck, could pull a top-3 selection. In one of the most exciting top-10s in recent memory. 

 

 

Conversely, the Sens have been the laughing stock of the league for the back-half of the decade. And they're bad right now. But they could quickly start to turn things around here. Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk are already core pieces. They'll add two top-10 selections this year that should be infused into their lineup within two seasons. 

The turnaround is coming. As long as they can find a real netminder.

 

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The Best of 2019

 

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I’m @Hockey_Robinson and this is 2020.