This week on The Journey get in an depth look at Jake Allen and Brock Nelson
Jake Allen – G
Entering the second year of a two year contract
Rights: St. Louis Blues
Drafted in the second round (34th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Level Draft
From the Pads Out
Jake Allen is the type of goaltender who is just plain good. Sure there are likely many stories of early mornings and extra gym work but really, when you look at the journey he has had and is on, he is just good.
You could see if from his first years breaking into the QMJHL with the former St. John Fog Devils. Sure he was sort of middle of the road on the stat sheet as he played second fiddle in his rookie year. Still, in 30 games he went 9-8-4 with a .905 save percentage and what is really impressive about his season that year is the stint he had with Canada’s under-18 team where he went 6-1 with a 1.43 goals against and .948 SV%. Oh yeah, he had two shutouts, too. The ride continued from there and included a (junior) career that featured QMJHL Best Goaltender and CHL Goaltender of the Year accolades in 2009-10. He also won a silver medal with Canada at the World Junior Championships.
When Allen joined the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Peoria for the 2010-11 season he shared time with Ben Bishop (now of the Tampa Bay Lightning). He managed a .917 SV and six shutouts in the regular season and started three of four playoff games for the Rivermen. The following season Bishop was traded and Allen took the lead in the Peoria crease. The team struggled however and missed the playoffs. Allen finished with a respectable .915 SV% and one shutout in 38 games. During the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs the Blues used Allen as a “timeout option” and replaced Brian Elliott with the rookie for a whopping 1:07 of play to avoid burning their actual timeout during game five against the Kings. The New Brunswick native never saw a shot.
In 2012-13 the world saw young Allen get his shot as Blues starter Jaroslav Halak went down to injury. Allen shone bright in his debut going 8-1-0 in his first nine games and finishing his 15 game stint with a 9-4 record and a .905 SV%, not bad for a 22-year-old kid. I’m sure everyone remembers his highlight-reel save shown below.
Last season Allen played the entire year in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves. In 52 games he has a 2.03 GAA and a .928 SV%. He finished as a First Team All-Star, was named the AHL’s Top Goaltender and led the league in Wins, Shutouts, Minutes Played, GAA and SV%. It was also the first year of a new two year contract that carried the unique feature of the first year being two-way but going to one-way in the second year. When Ryan Miller was left to walk away the writing was on the wall, Jake will be with the big club come October.
With Elliott coming off a decent season and carrying the veteran luggage, he will assume the starters role for the upcoming campaign. There is three years remaining on his new deal and that should take him well into a battle with the youngster for minutes. I look for Allen to wrestle the starter’s job away from Elliott before then however. Whether it is this year or next, he is the future of the Blues crease and with the team being poised for a Cup run at any moment, the future is bright if you own this kid in your fantasy league.
The chances are slim that you have a shot at finding him as a free agent in keeper leagues. At this point you will have to make a move for him. I wouldn’t shy away from doing that, though, if your league allots you the flexibility. You will get him at his lowest right now. Once the ball starts rolling on his NHL career he will be one of the hardest goaltenders to obtain. With the strength of the team in front of him, Allen will have every opportunity to grow into a star sooner than later. There just may be enough people out there that think Elliott has a strangle hold on the crease for the foreseeable future, though. If you are fortunate enough to have such person in your league, strike while the iron is hot.
If you are in a one year league Jake is still a good option simply because of the strength of the club in front of him. If Elliott should suffer any kind of extended injury Allen’s stock will skyrocket. If you snagged him for insurance at the get-go you will be laughing.
Brock Nelson – C/W
Entering final year of Entry Level Contract
Rights: NY Islanders
Drafted in the first round (30th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Possibly one of the more underrated players in the NHL, it won’t be long before you are hearing Brock Nelson’s name in sentences with the top players in the league. From the start it was evident that there was something special in him as a player. How many high school hockey players score 95 points including 53 goals with a plus-55 in 31 games?
As a freshman at North Dakota, Nelson notched 21 points in 42 games as the Fighting Sioux rumbled to a championship season. He followed that up by leading the team in scoring with 28 goals and 47 points in his sophomore year before signing a three year entry level contract with the Islanders in April and appearing in four games to end the year for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. He had no points in a limited role.
In his first full Pro season Nelson lead the Sound Tigers in scoring with 52 points (25 goals) in 66 games. It was the last he would see of the minors as he cracked the Isles main roster out of camp and spent most of the season on the left wing of the second line. He posted 26 points in 72 games as a rookie.
Nelson has size and speed and knows how to use them. The move to the wing may end up being the best thing that has ever happened to the youngster. With an open hole on John Tavares’ left side Nelson could slide in and fill it admirably if given the shot. He’s big at 6-3 and although he is still filling out his frame he could add an element to the line that, coupled with his skill, should be deadly. He will have to battle others for the chance to line up next to JT but Nelson has all the tools to be the option that Isles fans have been looking to trades and free agency to find.
Nelson can likely still be had in most leagues as the Isles are certainly not a hot spot to find scoring options. The team is loaded with young talent ready to emerge though and you need to get on top of this player before he’s gone. Keen poolies may have seen him coming when he left college but for the most part you should be able to sneak in and steal Nelson without much risk. He will see even more playing time this year. He gets power play opportunities and is reliable in his own end nullifying a plus/minus risk. Going into his contract year with the Isles improved goaltending and what looks to be a build up to a coming out party, it could be a very good year to be a Brock Nelson owner.
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