Ramblings: HOCKEY TIME – Guentzel, Konecny, Robertson, Mikheyev, & Zibanejad (July 29)
For the first time in five months, I'm on Ramblings' duty and there is ACTUAL HOCKEY PLAYING. I think I may cry. Normally, our trio of Editors and Dobber manage the offseason writing pretty well. We mix in some Bubble Week stuff, look at the kids, try to project, predict, and dive into our bag of tricks to come up with intriguing content. It's not easy, but we get by.
It felt like the never-ending offseason.
Even though the tilts on Tuesday evening were friendly exhibitions, my enthusiasm was high. The first game of the evening bore witness to the battle of Pennsylvania (in the Toronto bubble).
The Penguins' top six looked juiced all the way back up with a healthy Jake Guentzel back and patrolling the top line with Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary. That left Geno Malkin to play between Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker.
Sheary scored the first post-pause tally off of a sweet feed from Guentzel.
Call me crazy, but I think we see an even better Guentzel next season. This despite him playing at a 40-goal, 80-point pace over the past 120 contests. He's a top-10 goal scorer in the world playing next to Crosby. And now he's entering into that prime 240-plus career game zone where true breakouts often follow.
The top PP unit for the Pens was unsurprising upfront with Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist joining 71 and 87. However, on the point, it wasn't Kris Letang working the puck around, but Justin Schultz. If you haven't already drafted your playoff pools, you may want to watch this situation very closely.
They could put me out on the point on PP1 and I'd find a secondary apple or three. Whoever it is, that's who you want in the pool.
Konecny was spot on for the fourth year breakout this past season – working on a 75-point pace at the time of shutdown. We're just scratching the surface with him too.
Sonny Milano signed up for two seasons with the Ducks at 1.7MM per. The 24-year-old was acquired for Devin Shore earlier in the year and was pretty darn good down the stretch. His five points in nine games while seeing under 14 minutes were strong. His seeing a bunch of ice next to Ryan Getzlaf was even better.
It hasn't been an easy road for the former first-round pick, but he's in a spot now where the club needs to give young, talented players opportunities to see if anyone has 'it'. Getting the second year on the deal indicates the staff appreciated his production and could be in line for some more PP opportunities next season.
The Habs and Maple Leafs took part in the second matchup of the night on Tuesday. There was one player in particular that I was anxious to see this summer – Nick Robertson.
#Leafs lines in warmup at Montreal:
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) July 28, 2020
The 53rd overall selection from the 2019 draft had an all-world season in the OHL this past year. His 55 goals in 46 games led all CHL skaters, and that wasn't all. His proclivity for finishing landed him amongst some historic types.
Fun fact: Nick Robertson’s 1.20 goals-per-game this season was the most we’ve seen from a U19 OHLer in the last 28 years.
He trails only Eric Lindros (1.24) for most ever in OHL history. https://t.co/b3Wanb1PTm
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) March 31, 2020
I've been steadfast in my belief in Robertson (whom I had sitting 23rd on my final board ahead of the draft) and in my belief that he has the goods to suit up for the Leafs this summer and next season in an impactful role. TO desperately needs cheap, effective talent and this kid is by far the best bet they have to do it.
Another Fun Fact: If Robertson was born 5 days later – instead of being born 12 weeks premature, he’d have been on pace to top Patrick Kane’s mark of 62 goals – the most we’ve seen from a draft-eligible OHL player in 20 years
Instead, Toronto stole him in the late 2nd round.
Robertson grabbed a secondary assist in just 10:14 of ice. He saw some time on the second power-play unit. He was driving play as well.
Nick Robertson had an 86% expected goal share at even strength tonight 👀
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) July 29, 2020
Up on L2, Ilya Mikheylev is skating alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Word around the campfire was that the Russian winger looked incredible in phase 3 scrimmages. Normally, we wouldn't give an ounce of credit to a summer scrimmage, but this is a strange situation. The 25-year-old hasn't played since late December after sustaining a nasty wrist cut that needed tendon and artery repairs.
This guy is absolutely my darkhorse for a playoff breakout. Sure, he doesn't see PP1 time, but he's the type of player that is likely overlooked in drafts but plays with all-world talents and can stir the drink.
Whether or not TO can even get into the true dance or not is still a big question. But if they find a way to go on a run, I expect Mikheylev to be a big reason why.
Oh, and it took him just 33 seconds to tally in his first competitive action back. Not a bad start.
Welcome back, @Souperman65! 🍜
Ilya Mikheyev scores just 33 seconds into his first game since December 27. pic.twitter.com/M0e7RJSxGO
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 29, 2020
I think Nick Suzuki might be for real (he’s definitely for real)
Nick Suzuki with the moves and he feeds Tomas Tatar for a Habs goal. pic.twitter.com/T3E9Pc8nS4
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) July 29, 2020
Antoine Roussel was on Sportsnet650 radio on Tuesday and gave the Wild some bulletin board material. “At every important position, we have the best player.”
Here’s the thing, he’s absolutely right. I know the Wild have some suffocating neutral zone defense and defenders who can break pressure well on dump-ins, but I picked the Canucks to take that series in four games for our Expert’s Picks. The only reason I didn’t go for the sweep is that it’s so damn hard to sweep.
It sure appears that Edmonton Oilers are deadset on making Philip Broberg a thing this summer. They’re feeding the most-recent eighth overall selection every opportunity to step in a be a player for them. However, I must say, this is a guy who saw sheltered, third-pairing minutes in the SHL during the year, and continues to make puzzling decisions on a regular basis.
I can’t tell if the Oilers’ blueline is just that bad, or if the team has an agenda to make sure he’s rushed into a situation he’s not ready for – a classic Edmonton move.
Either way, I remain a doubter of his overall impact and on the fantasy spectrum in the short term. He could become a useful talent for Oilers in a specific role. And potentially in multicat leagues. But I wouldn’t be racing to grab him.
I’m going to end with this: Mika Zibanejad is not a regression candidate. He’s a locked-in superstar. It’s just that most of the hockey world doesn’t fully know it yet.
They will soon.
No data at this moment.