Ramblings: Re-Drafting 2003, The Jets PP, Byfield vs Stützle & Time to Steal Kyle Connor (April 22nd)

Cam Robinson

2020-04-21

Some unsurprising news out of the WHL on Tuesday saw presumptive first-overall pick, and the first-ever Western League exceptional status player, Connor Bedard signed with the Regina Pats.

The WHL Draft officially kicks off on Wednesday, but the Pats aren’t wasting any time locking up the future superstar. I’ve spoken about Bedard in a previous Ramblings as well as a look at him when he was first granted the status. But I’ll reiterate now. This kid has all the makings of a franchise player.

Shame we have to wait three years to draft him in our fantasy leagues. Time to start loading up on 2023 first-rounders!

 

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I think now is the time to pry  Kyle Connor away from his owner. We're about to head into that magical fourth season and his progression has been as steady and impressive as can be. Yet for some reason, I feel like his perceived value remains lower than his actual impact. 

The perfect recipe for a potential buy-low. 

His shot rate is up amongst the league-leaders, sitting 10th overall at the time of shutdown. But here's where it gets really interesting. Of those top 10 shooters, only Brady Tkachuk has more shots from the high-danger area.

Connor's 91 shots from within 15 feet of the net are second in the league and speak to his ability to get into the home plate area with possession as he's not a prototypical 'netfront' guy. He's just a player who knows how to nose his way into opportunities.

With the minutes – both at even-strength and on the PP already secured, the mid-high teens’ conversion rate established, and the juicy QoT, there's little reason to believe he won't up his goals, points, and shot rates once again next season.

I'm calling for a career-best season in 2020-21.

 

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Sticking with the Jets for a moment, don't forget about a couple of their young Finns in Kristian Vesailanen and Sami Niku

I know there were some who figured Vesailainen a potential early star, but don't let the 'disappointing' first two seasons in North America sway you away from some nice upside. He's a power forward who will turn 21 this June. He may take a bit more time, but he remains the type of talent who can occupy a top-six job and produce some across-the-board numbers. 

Meanwhile, Niku already has an AHL Defender of the Year award under his belt as well as a swath of NHL games to acclimate.

The Jets are a team with a ton of moving pieces this summer. Josh Morrissey's new contract kicks in. They need to add or resign three defenders – with a focus on the right side, they need a back-up netminder and only have eight forwards under contract for 2020-21 and beyond. And they'll have around 15 million to do it.

You know what that means. Cheap talent will be at an absolute premium. Insert Niku and Vesalainen. 

If I'm a betting man, I'd say we see Niku occupying the right side on the bottom two pairs at even-strength and working PP2 consistently. I want to say he has the goods to replace Neal Pionk on the top unit (assuming they don't bring in a new piece to try and replace Byfuglien), but the Jets like having a lefty up there to offer duel one-time options with Laine working the right point. 

So while it’s unlikely either young player hits gold next year, they could certainly find themselves as full-time NHLers and nose around for more minutes as they go.

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Our Director of European Scouting at DobberProspects, Jokke Nevalainen is out there dropping truth bombs. 

Marko is the brother of former Flames star netminder, Miikka Kiprusoff. Crazy to think he's more heralded Kiprusoff brother back home.

 

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Sabres top prospect, Dylan Cozens was named the WHL Eastern Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday. The 19-year-old should be expected to break camp with Buffalo next season. There’s nothing left for him to accomplish in junior and he’ll be too young for the AHL.

I’d love to see the team slide him in on the second line next to a vet like Marcus Johansson and either Jeff Skinner or Victor Goalofsson. Cozens is a natural center but likely ends up on the right-wing for a while to begin his career.

 

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As a long-suffering Canucks fan, this hurt my soul to read. But it's also a terrific look at one of the most dominant squads in NHL history. 

 

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For some reason, we’ve seen the NHL Draft public rankings world fall in love with Tim Stützle and apparently out of love with Quinton Byfield. Many are attributing this to Stutzle’s better WJC performance or a simple falling into the ‘groupthink’ mantra.

I may not be the best person to hammer this home as I’m the only public figure with Byfield at #1, but there are very few reasons to consider the German ahead of the big Canadian. Here’s why:

Stützle is a terrific talent. He’s a player I was pumping up before it was hip. He owns terrific acceleration and shiftiness in-flight. It allows him to be menacing while in transition – something that NHL teams love. I, too, love it. He has good puck skills, good vision, quick hands, and a nice shot.

He plays a style very reminiscent of Nikolaj Ehlers.

But he’s also played his entire draft-eligible season on the wing and struggles to get into the middle of the ice to attack. Instead, he relies on burning wide and creating his chances by either cutting in or going around the net. Those opportunities will be less available in the NHL. He sure looks like a winger to me.

Meanwhile, Byfield was left on the bench for much of the WJC. Not all that surprising for the youngest player on the team. The same thing happened to Alexis Lafreniere a year earlier when he was a U18 at the event. But if you watch Byfield in junior, you can see the potential oozing from his game.

He’s 6’5 but skates at an excellent level. He’s not shifty like Stützle or Lafreniere but controls the puck and his body more in the vein of Leon Draisaitl or Evgeni Malkin. His shot and vision are rated higher. His balance and agility below. His potential is incredible.

If you’re looking to bet on the upside of a player at the top of the draft, I’m taking the horse of a centre over the dynamic skating winger 10 times out of 10.

That includes fantasy drafts. We’ll let the dust settle on who goes to which organization before locking in the fantasy rankings – as we know, opportunity and QoT play a huge role, but I cannot fathom putting Byfield (or Lafreniere, or Marco Rossi) behind Stützle.

It sucks that I need to be the one squashing the Stutzle hype as an OG supporter of the 6’1 180lb forward. But these are the times we’re living in.

 

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Speaking of draft rankings, we held our scouting meetings for EliteProspects last week and released our updated list. Unfortunately, it’s for subscribers only, but take a gander if you can.

 

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Keep an eye out for Marat. He’s rising on boards this spring and for good reason. He’s a fun player!

 

 

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We'll continue the re-drafting series since, well, I have fun with it and you're all stuck reading me every week (please keep reading, we love and appreciate you).

This time it's the big dog. The class of classes. Widely considered the deepest crop in the last 30-odd years. The mountainous 2003 group. 

This collection of players will host a bevy of Hall of Fame entrants when the dust finally settles. The nice thing about re-ranking this group compared to the 2017 class I did last week is that the majority of the '03s are either wrapped up or in their twilight years. The major awards have been won. The team successes have been achieved. Now we just need to determine who did it best. 

 

Here is a link to their counting stats

1st Overall (PIT) – Patrice Bergeron (45th)

2nd Overall (CAR) – Ryan Getzlaf (19th)

3rd Overall (FLA) – Eric Staal (2nd) 

4th Overall (CBJ) – Shea Weber (49th) 

5th Overall (BUF) – Brent Burns (20th) 

6th Overall (SJ) – M.A. Fleury (1st)

7th Overall (NAS) – Ryan Suter (7th)

8th Overall (ATL) – Corey Perry (28th)

9th Overall (CGY) – Joe Pavelski (205th) 

10th Overall (MON) – Zach Parise (17th)

 

I'll be frank, this was brutal. I mean, we're leaving a ton of points and hardware off the table here. No Ryan Kesler, Thomas Vanek, Dustin Byfuglien. Corey Crawford and Jeff Carter's dozens of Cups are left on the sideline. Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seabrook, and Biz Nasty are left watching. Okay, maybe Biz belongs elsewhere.

On top of just picking the 10, finding spots for them was equally difficult. I landed on Bergeron at the top because, in my mind, he's nearly the perfect player. He literally does everything right with and without the puck. He's a God-level two-way player. 

Ranking Fleury was difficult too. He hasn't been a crazy elite guy, but his performances in the playoffs are unquestioned. I even considered him at #2. 

How would you rank this draft? 

 

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@Hockey_Robinson

 

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency CGY Players
25.7% SAM BENNETT DILLON DUBE MILAN LUCIC
24.9% MIKAEL BACKLUND ANDREW MANGIAPANE MATTHEW TKACHUK
23.3% JOHNNY GAUDREAU ELIAS LINDHOLM SEAN MONAHAN

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