Ramblings: Updates on Toffoli and Ferland; Notes on Dach, Kotkaniemi, and Keller; JOFA line – August 6

Michael Clifford


Jesse Puljujarvi is heading back to Finland for next year. He has signed a one-year deal with Karpat of the Finnish Elite League. According to the press release, there is an out clause for the NHL, but who knows when the next NHL regular season will be. They're hoping for December.

Pulju had 53 points in 56 games for Karpat this year, leading the first-place team in scoring. By all accounts, he's really found his game and I fully expect him to be back in the NHL soon. Maybe it's not the 2020-21 season, but hopefully the year after.


Before the play-ins started, I talked about how to treat young players for playoff pools and daily leagues. The premise was that players had what amounted to a full off-season between the regular season's pause and the start of playoffs. Not only that, but we'd only be about a month away from training camps opening up in a normal year, at which point we'd consider guys like Makar/Brothers Hughes/Kakko second-year players, Elias Pettersson and Anthony Cirelli as third-year players, and so on. I treated these playoffs as if they were the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

To that end, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Kirby Dach have been incredibly impressive, to my eyes. I point out those two because Kotkaniemi struggled in his second year in the NHL, eventually leading to a demotion to the AHL, while Dach was seeing his ice time decline as we approached the pause. Well, heading into Wednesday's action, Kotkaniemi had scored two of Montreal's four goals while leading all playoff players (like, the entire league) in expected goal share at 5-on-5. On Dach's side, he averaged nearly 19 minutes a game in Chicago's first two contests, skating on the top PP unit, sometimes skating with Patrick Kane at even strength, and posting three assists.

About the same could be said of Clayton Keller. He's looked like a different player in the first three games than he did in the regular season. When I look at him, I see the upside of Kyle Connor. It's a matter of getting him the supporting cast and his own development staying on an upward trajectory. We'll see. I'll be buying when draft season rolls around… well, whenever the next season is set to get underway.

I don't want to draw sweeping conclusions based off two games, but how these guys perform in these play-ins (and possibly beyond) will weigh on me as we prepare for the next regular season. These aren't the same players they were in February or March.

Tyler Toffoli, who missed Game 2 for Vancouver, may not be available in Game 3 either. They have enough scoring to get by but he really rounds out their top-6 forward mix. The sooner they can get him back in the lineup, the much better off all their forwards will be.

Elliotte Friedman is also reporting that Micheal Ferland is leaving the bubble due to injury. We obviously have no further information at the moment. With his concussion history, there's always cause for concern.


The Florida Panthers have stayed alive in their play-ins with a 3-2 win against the New York Islanders on Wednesday afternoon. Jordan Eberle scored a goalie late with the goalie pulled but the Islanders just couldn't find the equalizer. Game 4 goes sometime Friday.

This was more a typical Islanders affair, as there were just 44 combined shots from the two teams after averaging nearly 60 over the course of the first two contests. Maybe that's to be expected on a back-to-back following such a long layoff, but this was New York's game to win. Sometimes, the puck just doesn't bounce your way.

I want to note that Devon Toews skated on both power-play units, though he largely remained on the second. Toews managed over 20 minutes in ice time, and if he can keep that level while playing on at least one of the power-play units, he's a name to remember deeper in drafts next year. I like his puck-moving skills and his decision-making.

Anthony Beauvillier played nearly 18 minutes in this game, finishing third among the team's forwards in ice time. His game just keeps improving with each passing year and he should be ready for this level of deployment in 2020-21. I'm just salivating at top line, top PP minutes alongside Barzal.

One injury note: Jonathan Huberdeau missed some shifts in the second half of the third period. The good news is coach Joel Quenneville isn't worried about Huberdeau's injury status, according to Renaud Lavoie. He should be good to go for the next game, just keep an eye out for updates, however scarce they may be.


Nashville's JOFA line of Johansen-Forsberg-Arvidsson has looked superb so far these playoffs, combining for four goals through the team's first two games, with a 72 percent shot share and 65 percent expected goal share, and 64 percent actual goal share, all at 5-on-5. That's important for the team as they had been great for years but were mediocre in 2019-20. The depth needs to be figured out, but no team is dangerous if the top line is mediocre.

I bring them up because they had a fantastic game (again) on Wednesday against Arizona. They were absolutely flying the entire first period, seemingly held off the scoreboard only by royal decree.

This goal from Conor Garland. W H E W:



That goal put the Coyotes ahead 2-1 in the third period, a lead the Coyotes wouldn't relinquish. The 4-1 victory put them up 2-1 in the series and put Nashville on the brink of elimination.

Sometimes, you just need to tip your cap to the opposing goalie. The Predators controlled nearly the entire game, put up nearly 40 shots, were nearly a full goal higher by expected goals, and lost by three. Take a bow, Darcy Kuemper.


I'm going to be honest and say I missed a good chunk of the Boston/Tampa Bay game, but it was a pretty even game from what I saw, until the last 10 minutes anyway. The Bolts eventually took the game over, and a late Tyler Johnson goal secured a 3-2 win.

Steven Stamkos was again not in the Tampa Bay lineup again, but the team is now 2-0 in their round robin. It hasn't affected the outcomes yet.

One thing I would love to see: Stamkos on a line with Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman. A top-9 that would look something like this:




Just putting that out into the universe.


Both Ben Bishop and John Klingberg were scratched from Dallas's lineup on Wednesday. As usual, we got the "unfit to play" from the team. We don't know if they're injured or not; it could just be a chance to get Thomas Harley – who made his NHL debut, by the way – and Anton Khudobin some action. But we just don't know why.

Anyway, if they were hoping for a spark, Harley played three minutes in the first and they were down 2-0 after 20 .

The story for Dallas was the same as the first game. They had spurts where they showed dominance, but they were only spurts, and the opponent largely carried the play. It was an overwhelming 4-0 win with, as the broadcast pointed out, three goals scored by summer acquisitions: Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, and Vladislav Namestnikov. Cale Makar scored the other, a game-winning tally with the man advantage.

Namestnikov was moved to the top line with Burakovsky moved down to the third. Colorado seemed alright.


Montreal took Game 3 from Pittsburgh 4-3 to take a 2-1 series lead, putting Pittsburgh on the brink of elimination. This was a more even game than the first two, with the Habs only being outshot 33-31. But a snipe from Jeff Petry in the third period gave the Candiens a lead they would not relinquish.

Pittsburgh may have a decision to make in net. Matt Murry didn't look particularly strong and Tristan Jarry has shown he's capable. Jack Johnson had another poor game, but I thought Jonathan Drouin had by far his best game of the series. Set his goal aside, he was more engaged in battles and simply looked faster on the puck. If he can keep improving, that only helps Montreal's chances.


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