Ramblings: Edler signs; updates on Callahan and Johns; draft day – June 21

by Michael Clifford on June 21, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Edler signs; updates on Callahan and Johns; draft day – June 21

 

We can take another potential free agent off the board as Alex Edler signed a two-year, $12-million extension with Vancouver. The 33-year old blue liner had 34 points in 56 games last year with the Canucks.

Obviously, injuries are the concern. He’s averaged 64 games per season since the 2013 lockout year and has missed at least 12 games in four straight seasons. When he’s on the ice, he can be a decent second-pair guy who is very good on the power play. That’s probably worth $6-million a season on a short-term deal. It’s just a question of whether he can stay on the ice for 75 games.

This also probably holds back some of the kids from having a real extended look at the top PP unit. Until the eventual injury bug, anyway.

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Ryan Callahan has been diagnosed with a degenerative back condition and will be put on LTIR by the Tampa Bay Lightning. I’m not going to speculate on anything further until we get more clarification from him or the team, but that’s $5.8M added to the upper limit of Tampa's cap. 

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Kevin Hayes recently signed a seven-year deal with the Flyers with an average annual value of $7.14M. When the Flyers initially traded for his rights, the guy I brought up as a comparable was Brock Nelson, who had himself recently signed a six-year deal with an AAV of $6M. I said Hayes would get more, and he did.

Philly needed a true 2C and the centre market this summer is thin unless you’re targeting Matt Duchene. It was either Hayes, or trade one of your top prospects and/or young defencemen to do it. A question brought up by Cam in his Ramblings on Wednesday was a good one, which he reiterated in his column on the signing: what does this mean for Nolan Patrick?

To me, this means Patrick is the 3C in Philly for the near-term. Patrick’s first two years in the NHL haven’t been bad, but he’s been about an average NHLer. For a guy in his age-19 and age-20 seasons, that’s fine. But they need him to be better now and this is insurance in case he isn’t. Probably not great news for dynasty owners.

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A couple days ago at The Athletic, Stars beat writer Sean Shapiro got an update on defenceman Stephen Johns. The 27-year old blue liner missed the entire 2018-19 season with lingering concussion issues and when a guy misses an entire season, it really is a big concern.

The good news is he has been skating and, “He feels much better, he looks like himself and he sounds like himself.” There is still no definitive answer on when/if he’ll return, but that there is a positive update such as this can only be a good sign.

Johns, though limited to just 150 regular season games in Dallas for his career, is a good defensive defenceman in the real world, and puts up monster peripherals in the fantasy game. It would be a huge boost to fantasy owners and Stars fans alike were he to return.

There are bridges to cross before we start thinking in those terms, though. First, he needs to get healthy and try to ensure he’s fully recovered. Let’s hope for that and then go from there.

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Well, today is draft day. Technically it’s draft weekend but only the ardent hockey fans and analysts will be focusing beyond Friday night. If you want to read up on guys you’ll be hearing about beyond the first round, be sure to grab up the latest Dobber Hockey Prospects Report! That, my friends, is what we call a shameless plug.

There’s no better time – really, given the date, there’s no other time – to give some draft thoughts. As anyone who has read my Ramblings over the years knows, I’m not a prospect scout. I rely on the expertise of others, like the feature writers in the Dobber Hockey Prospects Report! After reading and researching, I now feel empowered to give extremely amateur, unprofessional opinions on some of these players.

 

Cole Caufield

His height may scare some people, but NHL GMs should be learning their lesson by now: don’t be afraid to draft small players. It’s that line of thinking that let both Johnny Gaudreau and Alex DeBrincat fall as far as they did in the draft, and with it, the Flames and Blackhawks were gifted top-end scorers that they’ll have for a decade. 

The St. Louis Blues winning the Cup, with Boston coming out of the East, is going to make a few people go haywire, pleading for size and toughness or whatever. They will gloss over that Jaden Schwartz, who had 12 goals and 20 points in 26 playoff games, is under 6-feet tall, and that Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, and Matt Grzelcyk are listed under 5’10”. If a player is skilled enough, and can keep up, they’ll stick. It’s that simple.

Caufield, with 72 goals in 64 games for the US National Development Team in 2018-19, certainly seems as he’s good enough. Looking around different rankings and mock drafts, it seems the consensus is that he falls out of the top-10. There are a lot of teams between picks 11-20 that need scoring like Minnesota, Arizona, Montreal, Dallas, and Ottawa. If I’m a GM without a top-10 pick, and a player who scores at historic levels for the USNTDP is available, he puts on my franchise’s jersey without a second thought. Always bet on talent.

 

Victor Soderstrom

I loathe projecting young defencemen. Outside of the truly elite prospects, it’s so hard to figure what they’re going to be. A 30-point second-pair guy? A 40-point top-pair guy? A 60-point superstar? Good in his own end or not? Almost every blue liner has these questions and I’m not convinced scouts have good answers. There’s a reason why forwards are easier to project than defencemen.

Having watched precisely one Team Sweden game at the Under-18 Tournament, I was impressed with the likely first rounder. He didn’t strike me as a guy who will dazzle with end-to-end rushes but more a player who knows how to generate offence by doing the right things. Not to mean “playing the right way” which is often code for “this guy sucks,” but more having patience in looking for the right passing lanes, holding the puck rather than throwing it back to the other team, and skating when he needs to. If a player is not the next Rasmus Dahlin, these are the types of things I look for. It was nice to see.

What he eventually ends up being at the next level, if he makes it consistently at the next level, is another matter entirely. It’s a wide range of production outcomes for guys who know how to generate offence but don’t necessarily have elite skills; Markus Nutivaara has these same skills and has 51 points in 207 career NHL games through his age 22-24 seasons. Roman Josi also has these same skills and had 113 points in 201 games in his age 22-24 seasons. Should he get to the NHL, Soderstrom could be the next Josi, or the next Nutivaara. Not to disparage Nutivaara – making and staying in the NHL is very hard – but it shows what kind of range a player like this has, especially at this age. All the same, I’m excited to see where he lands.

 

Nick Robertson

Thirty-three points in 62 games as a rookie in 2017-18 isn’t world-beating, but doing it on a team that missed the OHL playoffs that finished eighth in their division in scoring? I like it. He followed that up with over a point-per-game this past year, tops on the squad, on a team that as mid-pack in scoring. I still like it.

Not being able to catch any Peterborough games this year, I’m relying purely on scouting, and the one thing that everyone seems to agree upon is that Robertson has good skating and vision. If nothing else, those two attributes can help make everyone else around him more productive offensively. When I think “small winger with good skating skills who can survey the ice” I think about how Mitch Marner was drafted after Dylan Strome back in 2015.

To be clear: I am absolutely not comparing Marner in his draft year to Robertson in his draft year. There is no comparison production-wise. But the bottom-third of the first round, and into the second round, is absolutely where teams should be taking chances on players with these types of skills. Don’t draft role players. Don’t draft character players. Draft guys with the skills necessary to make others better. Robertson has that and I’m intrigued by his landing spot.