Hockey News and Discussions
Preseason is always one of my favorite times of the year. There are so many storylines that develop in these camps and it is a chance for young players (especially ones who aren’t known by casual fans to make a name for themselves. Here are some things to keep an eye on:
2018 Draft Class Makes Its Mark:
While seemingly every draft produces some of the top young players the following season, the 2018 draft really stands out when you realize just how many players will be debuting in their team’s season opener. Here are the confirmed players to keep your eyes on this year:
Rasmus Dahlin-1st Overall Pick (Buffalo)
Andrei Svechnikov-2nd Overall Pick (Carolina)
Jesperi Kotkaniemi-3rd Overall Pick (Montreal)
Brady Tkachuk-4th Overall Pick (Ottawa)
The following players are still fighting for spots as of writing this. We will have to see if they make the roster. Definitely something to look for in team announcements over the next few days:
Barrett Hayton-5th Overall Pick (Arizona)
Evan Bouchard-10 Overall Pick (Edmonton)
Isac Lundestrom-23rd Overall Pick (Anaheim)
Revenge of the 2017 Draft Class Standouts:
Last season, only the top two players in the 2017 draft class made a meaningful impact throughout the entire season (not just preseason or March call-ups): Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick.
Now, 3rd Overall Pick Miro Heiskanen (Dallas), 5th Overall Pick Elias Pettersson (Vancouver), 8th Overall Pick Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo), 12th Overall Pick Martin Necas (Carolina), 21st Overall Pick Filip Chytil (New York Rangers), 41st Overall Pick Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Los Angeles), 47th Overall Pick Alex Formenton (Ottawa), and 50th Overall Pick Maxime Comtois (Anaheim) are poised to play major roles on their respective teams. Ask any hockey fan and the consensus is that the race for the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) will come down to Pettersson or Dahlin.
TEAMS RELYING ON YOUTH:
Carolina Hurricanes Go Young
The new look ‘Canes are definitely something to keep your eye on.
On September 28, 2018, Carolina beat an almost full strength Capitals team 5-4 in overtime. While that doesn’t seem noteworthy at first glace, the new line of:
Warren Foegele, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen
combined for 8 points in the victory. Together, they finished with 3 goals, +8, 11 shots on goal, and 12 for 20 in the faceoff circle. Aho (usually at left wing, but now at center) went 10/16 in faceoffs. Foegele also has 7 points in this preseason.
Talented young forwards like Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Valentin Zykov, Lucas Wallmark, and Phil DiGiuseppe will provide additional depth on offense.
Is that a playoff team? Not at first glance. But the ‘Canes have a fast, talented group that will be easy to build upon going forward, especially when center Victor Rask returns from injury.
Rebuilt Buffalo Sabres
If you only have time to follow one other team this season, this is probably the one. In preseason, the Sabres are getting significant production from Rasmus Dahlin, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Alex Nylander, Tage Thompson, Casey Mittelstadt, Jeff Skinner, and Vladimir Sobotka.
With a core like that, I expect the Sabres to improve significantly from their performances in years past. Right now, they have the makings for a Cup contender.
2 elite centers: Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt
Number one d-man: Rasmus Dahlin
Strong 2nd d-man: Rasmus Ristolainen
Reliable wing depth: Nylander, Reinhart, Skinner, Thompson
Keep an eye on that core!
Edmonton Looking to Return to the Playoffs
The Oilers have a new line comprised of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, and Ty Rattie. Rattie and McDavid are currently leading all skaters in points in this preseason, scoring 11 and 9, respectively. Jesse Puljajarvi and Kailer Yamamoto have also played very well so far. If they can continue to progress this season, the Oilers just might be returning to the playoffs.
The other exciting story out of Edmonton is their defense core.
With the top 4 already seemingly set:
defensemen Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear (both right handed shots) will be fighting to stay in the top 6 on the right side. Meanwhile, the left side is a three-way competition between Jakub Jerabek, Jason Garrison, and Kris Russell.
Bouchard, who is +7 with 3 points in 3 games is looking to stick around for the season.
Ottawa Hoping for Success from Their Youth Movement
With the departures of Mike Hoffman, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, and Derick Brassard, as while as the pending free agency of Matt Duchene and Mark Stone, the Senators are hoping that some new blood will jumpstart the team. They will need it, too, as Ottawa does not have its 1st Round Draft Pick this year.
The Sens, who are currently 1-4 in preseason, are hoping for a turnaround. Alex Formenton has shown flashes of elite potential, Thomas Chabot and Cody Ceci are going to play expanded roles on the blueline, and Brady Tkachuk and Colin White are confirmed to have made the team.
With Tkachuk penciled into the top 6, and Formenton currently playing 3rd line left wing, the Sens will be expecting a lot from their young stars. Christian Jaros and Max Lajoie have also played really well this preseason and looking to stay around for the long haul.
Boston Bruins Looking to Integrate Their Young Stars
Lastly, but certainly not least, the Bruins will be relying on plenty of new players to continue their push for a Stanley Cup. Unlike the other teams on this list, Boston is in win now mode, but are using their treasure chest of young players to get the job done.
The major threat to Dahlin or Pettersson in the race for Rookie of the Year is Boston’s Ryan Donato. Donato, who produced 9 points in 12 games last year and 2 points in 3 games this preseason will look to continue his success in his first 82-game campaign.
Boston’s preseason standouts have also been young prospects: Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic, and Anders Bjork to name a few, while Zach Senyshyn and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson will be available for call-ups. With Donato already viewed as the 3rd line left wing, and the top two lines essentially set, each prospect will have to give their best showing if they want to stick around on the big club.
Former 1st rounder Urho Vaakanainen (defense) is also looking to make the cut, as he has logged over 44 minutes of ice time in the last two preseason games.
Regardless if any of these players make the final cut, Donato will certainly be the major addition, especially after the breakout success of Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen last season.
*preseason stats from CBSSports.com and theScore