Ramblings: Connor McDavid’s second to none, J.T. Miller and other signings and more (July 14)

by Neil Parker on July 14, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Connor McDavid’s second to none, J.T. Miller and other signings and more (July 14)
Connor McDavid - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Connor McDavid's second to none, J.T. Miller, Alan Quine, Cory Conacher, Teemu Pulkinen and more …

 

 

No stats here because a 45-game stretch isn't enough, regardless of how beastly it was, but if I'm in a points-only pool, I'm taking Connor McDavid first overall.

Since the Jaromir Jagr-Mario Lemieux-Wayne Gretzkey, 20-year run of Art Ross Trophies, there have been 11 winners through the past 14 years. It's a year-to-year guessing game.

So, why not swing for the fences?

Please show me the rankings with Joe Thornton, Johnny Gaudreau, Blake Wheeler, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Artemi Panarin finishing among the top-10 scorers this year. 2015-16 seems a bit more volatile, but Jakub Voracek, Jiri Hudler and Nick Foligno also hit the mark two years ago. And during the lockout-shortened season, Eric Staal, Chris Kunitz and Mike Ribeiro were top-10 finishers.

And if you don't consider McDavid's offensive ceiling among the elite (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin, etc.), you weren't paying attention last season and will have a change of heart by November.

In fact, it isn't out of the question to suggest McDavid has the highest ceiling of any player in the league. Barring injury, his floor is as high as anyone's, too. This is basically my reasoning for viewing him as the No. 1 option in points leagues.

Anyone can sustain an injury, and at this point, there is no reason to believe McDavid is injury prone. He fractured his hand in a fight during the 2014-15 season, and he broke his left collarbone last year.

Plus, it's typically not your first-round selection making the difference in points-only setups. But what if McDavid really breaks out and approaches 120 points and brings it home for you?

That's when you take your winnings and buy some memorabilia to always remind of the year you won it all with McDavid's breakout year. Isn't that why we play this silly game in the first place?

 

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J.T. Miller is an interesting subject. I'm bullish on his upside because he looks the part of a solid secondary scorer, and now, he's entering his offensive prime. And I've previously touched on him as a player who could benefit from increased power-play time.

However, when I looked at his even-strength numbers as a top-six player, each of Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider produced better at five-on-five without Miller than with him. Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast were the only players with significant shared time at five-on-five who were the opposite.

A conservative projection would be 45-55 points with 55 being the highest ceiling. He did put that 28-game run together midseason with 22 points last year, which prorates to 64 points over 82 games, but that isn't attainable without a significant jump in ice time at even strength and with the man advantage.

Miller averaged just 15:02 per game with 1:33 of the power-play variety. There should be a bigger slice of the pie next year, but he's also unlikely to receive 18 minutes and a role on the No. 1 power-play unit.

As far as the real-world implications of the contract, it's a bridge deal worth $5.5 million over two seasons for an annual salary cap hit of $2.75 million. Sure, it's a team-friendly deal, but if Miller does break out over the next two years, it could mean he's looking for a huge payday in two years. It's a prove-it deal, and Rick Nash comes off the books the same year as this deal ends for Miller, and Miller's still a restricted free agent.

It appears Miller has a shot to be a go-to player for New York in the future.

 

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Speaking of team-friendly deals, Ty Rattie inked a one-year, one-way, $650,000 contract Wednesday. He'll have a chance to play a swing role with the potential to climb up the depth chart, while a permanent spot as a third-line winger role isn't completely out of the question, either.

He'll battle Landon Ferraro, Scottie Upshall, Dmitrij Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi for a spot. However, paying Rattie the full salary to take his offensive game to the next level in the American Hockey League might also be a possibility. A strong training camp could up his fantasy value significantly, and in a best-case scenario, Rattie lands on a favorable offensive line and never looks back.

This deal should help St. Louis navigate the cap with Jaden Schwartz still looking for a long-term deal. Perhaps, Rattie's willingness to take a short-term contract will be rewarded by the coaching staff, too. He's a player to watch leading into the season.

 

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Alan Quine re-signed a two-year, one-way deal Wednesday. GeneralFanager.com reports the salary at $612,500, but like Rattie, this may be a case where paying full dollar for Quine to play in the AHL is a possibility. At just two NHL games, Quine's not close to waivers, yet.

He flashed some upside during the playoffs lining up with John Tavares, but no one should count on that at any point of the 2015-16 season. Sure, he could, and that would be great, but the New York forward group has plenty of veterans likely ahead of him.

Still, Quine has 109 points through his past 131 games with Bridgeport, so he might not be too far away from full-time duty in Brooklyn.

 

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Teemu Pulkkinen re-signed a one-year, $812,000 contract with Red Wings Wednesday. We've seen the upside, especially his high-end shooting arsenal. He has all the makings of a power-play triggerman, but opportunities have been slim.

Nothing much projects to change in Detroit, either, so Pulkkinen is unlikely to reach his potential with the Red Wings. There are very few seasonal leagues where he's worth a draft pick. Instead, he'll likely see some brief appearances in scoring roles with the potential to stick with solid production, but that sounds like a familiar tune.

Plus, with youngsters Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi pushing for larger roles, the 24-year-old Pulkkinen might be leapfrogged.

 

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In a bit of a puzzler, Cory Concaher signed a one-year, one-way contract worth $575,000. And while Conacher did have his best offensive stretch (29 points through 47 games) of his career with Tampa Bay during the 2012-13 season, and he's certainly offensively capable, there doesn't appear to be a lot of room for him on the roster.

For now, you'll want to take a wait-and-see approach. It shouldn't surprise anyone if he had a nice 10-game stretch and make noise in the daily racket at some point this year, but he's unlikely to be anything more than a fleeting fantasy asset.

 

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Alexander Nylander impressed during development camp, and general manager Tim Murray had this to say about the 18-year-old winger:

“If you asked me, ‘Could you see him going back to junior?’ Yes, there’s a scenario,” Murray said. “If you asked me, ‘Could you see him playing wing with Jack and Sam (Reinhart)?’ I think there’s a scenario. There’s all kinds of scenarios. He can fit into any one of them. He’s just high-end talent, high-end skill. He’s going to be a really good NHL player. It’s a matter of time.”

Nylander would be a low-risk, modest-reward grab in single-season setups this year, but he's got to crack the lineup and stick. Obviously, playing with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart would set him up to succeed nicely. This also highlights the likelihood that Kyle Okposo and Ryan O'Reilly are the cogs on one of the top line, while Eichel and Reinhart skate on a second line, or at least that's how it's envisioned at this point.

Murray also noted the organization needs to add two more defenseman, and it sounded like an NHL-calibre rearguard and a depth piece to play in the AHL were the targets.

 

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Another player who impressed during development camps was Alexandre Fortin. He potted five goals and entered camp with more confidence. Fortin was an undrafted invitee to the camp and is locking to earn a contract. He might have. Dynasty/keeper leaguers should keep tabs on Fortin because Chicago has openings — both currently and in the future.

 

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The Las Vegas franchise named George McPhee as the inaugural general manager. He's experienced, and while many will point to his Filip Forsberg gaff, McPhee will take care of business aptly. It's a solid first move.

 

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Here's a brief rundown of the goalie pecking order in Nashville, according to general manager David Poile.

“I’d say Mazanec certainly deserves the first look," Predators general manager David Poile said recently. "He’s spent four years in the organization, he’s been up here when Pekka (Rinne) went down a couple years ago, (played) 25 games and really played well. He’s had some inconsistencies in his game down in Milwaukee, but in terms of can he do it, should he be able to be that second guy? Absolutely.

"I have no fear if he doesn't do it that Saros can do it. I think Saros is a terrific athlete, terrific young goalie, played excellent this year. Ideally, the way we like to develop players is we'd like him to get more playing time (in Milwaukee), but right now as I look at it, those guys are second guys.”

Let your leaguemates take Mazanec. Saros will be up if there is an injury, and he's the most talented. If Rinne goes down, Mazanec might receive the first crack, but Saros won't be kicked from the crease. Additionally, Saros could win the backup gig outright.

 

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With a replacement needed for Ryan Callahan for the World Cup, hopefully Phil Kessel rises to the occasion and wins it all to continue his 2016 redemption tour. It'll be the perfect setup for his Rocket Richard-Art Ross campaign next year.

 

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This is an excellent read on Jeff O'Neill, and specifically about his quick rise up the TSN totem pole. Talking to a few TSN folks last summer, his generosity and modesty as "just another member of the team" is extremely respected. It's nice to see it recognized and showcased.

 

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Enjoy The Open Championship this weekend, Dobberheads.