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NHL Draft: Caps 2nd Day Picks and Trades

Posted on 27 June 2009 by Ed Frankovic

I was quite surprised at how little activity there was in the Bell Centre in Montreal last night from a trade perspective with the big Chris Pronger trade being the only thing that really happened other than some draft pick swaps. Today’s 2nd day began with what could be another potential big deal as the Calgary Flames traded free agent defenseman Jordan Leopold and a 3rd round pick to Florida for Jay Bouwmeester. The big catch – both players become unrestricted free agents on July 1 so the respective teams have 4 days to get a deal in place otherwise both d-men hit the open market.

The Caps also made a trade today, moving minor league defenseman Sami Lepisto to the Phoenix Coyotes for a 5th round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry draft. Lepisto basically sealed his fate with Washington when he did not play well when called up last December, especially when he was physically pushed around in a game against the Islanders on December 4th. With the emergence of first round draft picks Karl Alzner and John Carlson there really was no room for Lepisto in the Caps organization.

As for the Caps picks on day two, here is a rundown of each pick and some info on each that I’ve seen on the NHL Network today or compiled from the internet:

2nd round, 55th overall – D, Dmitri Orlov:  The 6′, 197 lbs. Orlov played for Novokuznetsk in Russia last season and was ranked #44 by TSN. Former Flames GM and NHL Network analyst Craig Button, who had the Caps taking Orlov in his first round mock draft on TSN, listed Orlov as one of his top 5 remaining players going into day two so this looks to be a very good selection by GM George McPhee. Button re-affirmed that after the Caps took him and says he is a player with skills and is a really good match in Washington.

Here is some scoop on Orlov from International Scouting Services:

“Orlov is a rushing defender with very good offensive skills. He loves to jump in from blue line to make plays. He has been a workhorse for the Russian national teams consistently playing every second shift for the Russian 91 group, and has been very effective. Orlov, who plays his off side has a strong shot and loves to jump into the zone from the weak side to become a potent scoring threat. He loves to rush the puck up ice and has very good inside out moves to get the puck and himself in deep into the offensive zone. Overall, a very hard-nosed player that everyone would love to have on his team.”

3rd round, 85th overall – C, Cody Eakin:  Eakin played for Swift Current in the Western Hockey League last season scoring 24 goals and 24 assists in 54 games. The 5′ 11″, 176 lbs. forward was ranked #53 by TSN. Button called him a dynamic player who is quick and fast who doesn’t back down from anyone. TSN’s Bob McKenzie says he has Darren Helm-like speed (Helm played for the Detroit Red Wings this past season in the Stanley Cup Finals).

Eakin, when interviewed on the NHL network after being selected by the Caps described himself as, “A two-way player and I chip in offensively, maybe a role player, play a strong penalty kill and good in the defensive zone.” When put on the spot and asked how he would describe Alexander Ovechkin in one word Cody replied, “Astonishing.” He seems like a really smart kid and a team type of guy based on that interview and the comments from Button and McKenzie.

Here is what Swift Current coach and GM Dean Chynoweth had to say about him:

“Cody is a tremendous skater and a lot of the things he does come from his skating ability. He’s also ultra-competitive, and where he has a lot of success is getting in on the forecheck and chasing and racing for loose pucks. He also uses his speed a lot with the puck on the entries into the offensive zone. His speed also helps him in the defensive zone by catching guys from behind and creating turnovers in situations where guys who don’t skate as well wouldn’t be able to do. He beats a lot of guys to the outside and that’s because of his skating ability.”

4th round, 115th overall – D, Patrick Wey: The 6′ 2″, 200 lbs. defenseman was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and played for Waterloo in the United States Hockey League (USHL) last season. An NHL Scouting Director recently told me the USHL is the best development league in the States (Carlson played there last season). Wey was an impressive +22 in 58 games with 7 goals and 27 assists as well as 75 PIMs. Wey apparently will attend Boston College next season and I found an interview with him where he described himself:

I think I’m a strong skater with good mobility. I think my vision and hockey sense are also a strong point of mine, and my ability to move the puck and make a good first pass. I’m pretty solid defensively and I think my vision and puck moving helps me generate offense when the puck’s in the offensive zone. I’m not a huge hitter. I’ve always hit guys, but I’ve been working on being able to eliminate guys from the puck with hits. I’ve also worked on my shot, and shooting off the pass. I’ve tried to work on and that, and will continue to work on that in the offseason to get ready for the collegiate level.

5th round, 145th overall – D, Brett Flemming: The 6′, 178 lbs defenseman played for Mississauga in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last season. He had 3 goals, 25 assists, and 89 PIMs in 64 games. Here is a description of Flemming:

Flemming isn’t the biggest defenseman, but he gets the job done. He took a huge step forward this season in St. Mike’s, often pairing with Cameron Gaunce on the top pairing. He is a solid two way defenseman who doesa great job moving and carrying the puck up ice. He runs the powerplay and is a very smart player who picks his spots and reads the play well. Defensively, he does a good job using positioning to keep bigger forwards away from the net, and he’s not afraid to engage in the corners. Just a really smart player whom I have a lot of confidence in. The only negative really is his size at 5’11. At times he’ll play like he wishes he was 6’5, and attempt to play the body, but will then get taken out of position. If he keeps things simple in the defensive end, he’s generally very effective.

6th round, 175th overall – RW, Garrett Mitchell: The 5′ 10″, 180 lbs. tough guy played for the Regina Pats of the WHL last season scoring 10 goals and adding 5 assists in 71 games. He had 140 PIMs. I found the following info on Mitchell:

Strengths: Tremendous competitiveness. Goes to war out on the ice. Loves to drop the gloves.
Weaknesses: No hands – just can’t seem to contribute offensively. Skating is a problem.
Let’s be honest here – this guy is only a prospect because of his desire to compete – that’s it. He doesn’t offer much else, but when you go to battle like this guy does, scouts will take notice.
Summary: You just want this guy to succeed so bad – but there’s not much hope for improvement in the skill level. If he had any size or skated better, you could make a case for him, but with all the negatives (skill, skating, and size) it’s three strikes in n my book. I couldn’t justify arguing for him before the 4th round at earliest, and I suspect he’s gone before then.
Draft Day: Scouts love this guy and my guess is he’s going to go surprisingly high on draft day. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t go top 100.

7th round, 205th overall – LW, Benjamin Casavant: The 6′ 1″, 200 lbs. forward played for Prince Edward Island in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season racking up 39 goals and 41 assists in 68 games. Here is what I found on Casavant:

A rangy forward with good size and a nose for the net, Casavant has the drive and determination to park in front of the opposition’s net and feed off rebounds and deflections. At 6’1 and 210 pounds, he is a hard player to move once he has settled in.  When he is not making the lives of goaltenders miserable, Casavant can inflict punishment along the boards, throwing his weight around and fighting through checks to dig pucks free for his teammates. However, that size comes at a cost and the Quebec native sometimes appears sluggish on his feet, especially later on in games.

These players are all Capitals property now and we’ll start seeing and hearing more about them and from them at development camp which runs from July 13-18 at Kettler Ice Plex in Ballston, Virigina.

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NHL Preview: 2008-09 Eastern Conference Predictions

Posted on 01 October 2008 by Ed Frankovic

NHL Preview: Eastern Conference Predictions

The NHL season will begun this Saturday and Sunday in Europe when the New York Rangers take on the Tampa Bay Lighting in Prague of the Czech Republic and the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Ottawa Senators in Stockholm, Sweden. Official NHL regular season games begin being played in North America next Thursday, October 9th. Tonight I will be giving you my 2008-09 Eastern Conference regular season predictions with some analysis on each team. These standings are by conference and in order of finish. Note that the top teams in each of the 3 divisions are seeded 1, 2, and 3 in their respective conference.

  1. Montreal Canadiens – This team is built for the regular season because of its lack of size but adding tough guy George Laraque (formerly of Pittsburgh) was a great move. They will be very good at home because the Habs will get the last line change so opposing teams will not be able to take advantage of the smaller Montreal forwards with Big George present. Forward Alexei Kovalev had a great season last year and was the team’s MVP. Can he be consistent again this year? Also added forward Alex Tanguay from Calgary in a draft day trade. Biggest question is can goalie Carey Price rebound from a shaky playoff run? Mike Komisarek is a physical defenseman who controls the back line for Montreal. This team is expected to do well so the Montreal fans and media will put pressure on this team. I say they do well in the regular season and then have trouble come April unless moves are made to toughen this team up for the playoffs. The less talented Flyers pushed them around in the second round of the playoffs this past spring winning the series in five games.
  2. Washington Capitals – Cinderella club in the NHL last year earning the title as “the Most Fun” team to watch in the league. MVP Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals last season and Coach Bruce Boudreau went 37-17-7 after he took over for Glen Hanlon. Defensemen Mike Green led the league in goals by defensemen (18) and rushes the puck very well. Big change in net as the Caps lost Cristobal Huet and Olie Kolzig to free agency but GM George McPhee signed goalie Jose Theodore to a two year deal. Theodore is a former league MVP and played well for Colorado last season. This team is young and should continue to improve and there is great team chemistry. Biggest questions are in net and on defense but I see this team getting better as many players experienced their first full season in contention last year and learned a lot about success. I say the learning curve continues and this team will be dangerous next spring, especially if guys like Green, Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, and rookie Karl Alzner continue to mature on defense.
  3. Pittsburgh Penguins – Stanley Cup runner-ups were somewhat raided by free agency losing Marian Hossa to Detroit, Laraque to Montreal, and Ryan Malone to Tampa Bay. Also received bad news this off-season with injuries to top two defensemen Ryan Whitney (foot) and Sergei Gonchar (shoulder) that will see each miss several months of the regular season. Pens do have their core of forwards Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, defensemen Whitney, and goalie Marc Andre-Fleury locked up long term. Next player who is due long term money is forward Jordan Staal. Despite injuries to Whitney and Gonchar this team should win the Atlantic Division but how far they go in the playoffs depends heavily on the recovery of those two.
  4. Boston Bruins – This is another up and coming team. The Bruins play tough, physical hockey and are solid defensively. The big problem is offense but the addition of Michael Ryder, a Coach Claude Julien favorite, and the return of Patrice Bergeron (concussion) should help them score. Add in young guns Chuck Kobasew, Phil Kessel, and power forward Milan Lucic to go with veterans Marc Savard and Marco Sturm and this team should improve offensively. Zdeno Chara will play close to 30 minutes a game on defense and goaltending duties will fall to Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez. Every time someone tries to write Thomas off he comes up big and keeps the #1 goalie job in Beantown. I like this team and think they could do some damage in the playoffs next spring if the offense can develop.
  5. Philadelphia Flyers – Made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season by playing physical and routinely running the opposition’s goaltender. Mike Richards is the straw that stirs the drink on this team and the Flyers locked him up long-term. Jeff Carter is another player who is very valuable to this hockey team. PP specialist and floater Danny Briere had a horrible regular season but started delivering in the playoffs. He is still weak at even strength. Lost forward R.J. Umberger to Columbus due to the salary cap but are hoping that the return of forward Simon Gagne (concussion) will more than make up for his loss. Defense lost Derian Hatcher due to injury and that will hurt but Braydon Coburn showed in the playoffs why he is becoming a top defensemen in the league. Kimmo Timonen is the other top defensemen. In net, it is Martin Biron and he is very inconsistent. Could win Atlantic if Pittsburgh stumbles but then again, without Hatcher and if goaltending doesn’t do well this team could slide right out of the playoffs if they are not careful.
  6. New York Rangers – The Rangers open the season in Prague but a couple of key Czechs from last season are gone as Jaromir Jagr left to play in Russia and Martin Straka will play in the Czech league. Also gone are forwards Brendan Shanahan who is still a free agent and pesky Sean Avery who signed in Dallas over the summer. The best Ranger is goalie Henrik Lundqvist who can carry a team. GM Glen Sather’s big off-season splashes were signing defensemen Wade Redden (from Ottawa) to a huge contract and former Canucks forward Markus Naslund. This is now Chris Drury and Scott Gomez’s team with Jagr gone. Marc Staal is an emerging defenseman and is the younger brother of the Jordan (Pens) and Eric (Hurricanes). Brandon Dubinsky is an up and coming power forward and should see his ice time and production continue to increase.
  7. New Jersey Devils – This team will continue to make the playoffs as long as it has Martin Brodeur but even this great goalie can’t do it all himself. This team needs comeback years from some players who disappeared last season like forward Brian Gionta who scored 48 goals two years ago but only has 47 total in the last two seasons combined and Jamie Langenbrunner. They added excellent skating forward Brian Rolston who has a powerful shot and will likely man the power play for the Devils. Defense, led by Colin White and Paul Martin, is a no name crew that must improve. They will likely make the playoffs but should be first round casualties.
  8. Buffalo Sabres – Signed goalie Ryan Miller to a long term deal giving Sabres fans hope for the future. Up front they have some good young forwards in Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Derek Roy. Forward Maxim Afinogenov has enormous potential but can’t stay healthy missing over 20 games each of the last two seasons. Defense is very suspect and 40 year old Teppo Numminen is hoping to make a comeback after missing all of last season with heart issues. This team is squarely on the bubble but I see them sneaking into the playoffs.
  9. Carolina Hurricanes – It is hard to believe that this team won the Stanley Cup in 2006 because they’ve missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Eric Staal is their best player and the forward is flanked by Rod Brind’Amour, Sergei Samsonov, and Ray Whitney. In goal, Cam Ward is hoping to be more consistent. The team traded forward Erik Cole to Edmonton for defensemen Joni Pitkanen, who has been a huge disappointment in his career so far. This team is just too weak in too many places to make the playoffs or contend with Washington for the division.
  10. Ottawa Senators – The top line of Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza is very good but after forward Mike Fisher on the second line this team has lots of question marks. Can Antoine Vermette improve on the 24 goals he scored last season? Defensively they lost Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros but added Filip Kuba. Chris Phillips anchors the back line. Major distraction Ray Emery is gone so the Sens will rely primarily on Martin Gerber in net with backup help from Alex Auld. GM Bryan Murray hired Craig Hartsburg from Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League to coach the team this year but I can’t see the former NHL’er working magic and getting this team into the postseason.
  11. Tampa Bay Lightning – New ownership, a new coach (Barry “The Mullet” Melrose), and a ton of crazy trades and signings had this team grabbing off-season headlines left and right ala Redskins owner Dan Snyder from NFL off seasons past. Tampa still has Vincent LeCavalier and Martin St. Louis up front but they overpaid for Malone from Pittsburgh and added two “has beens” in Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi. On defense, Dan Boyle was traded to San Jose for Matt Carle and Meszaros was brought in from Ottawa. Best off-season acquisition was first pick in the 2008 NHL draft, Steve Stamkos, who should mature into a very good player eventually. Goaltending will be Mike Smith, acquired from Dallas at last year’s trade deadline, and Olie the Goalie. Smith could go either way and I think Kolzig is done. The new ownership went so far as to say that they will definitely win the Southeast Division prompting Caps Coach Boudreau to state sarcastically that Washington was just hoping to finish second. My take: Melrose is out of touch with the new NHL plus his goaltending is very shaky which will cause this team to miss the playoffs once again.
  12. Florida Panthers – Let’s start with the good: Goalies Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson can win games by themselves. Now the mediocore: lots of name defensemen on this roster including Bryan McCabe (from Toronto), Jay Bouwmeester, Bryan Allen, plus Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard who were acquired in the Olli Jokinen draft weekend trade from Phoenix. Finally the bad: Where are the goals going to come from? Jokinen is gone leaving forwards Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, and Cory Stillman as the primary scorers. Prediction: Bottom feeders.
  13. Toronto Maple Leafs – GM Cliff Fletcher fired Coach Paul Maurice and brought in Ron Wilson, who was fired by San Jose, as head coach. Wilson is a good defensive coach that typically does well in his early years with a team before wearing out his welcome. This team is still a mess and the fan base is hoping to be bad so eventually they can be good by getting top draft picks. Drafting defensemen Luke Schenn with the 5th pick was a good start but he is not NHL ready yet nor should he play at that level at this time. Vesa Toskala is good in net and Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina are back on defense. The Leafs overpaid for former Colorado defensemen Jeff Finger who will see lots of ice time on defense as well. At forward this team is terrible. Jason Blake hopes to rebound from his tough first year in Toronto in which he fought off cancer but after that they are counting on Nik Antropov, Niklas Hagman, Alex Steen, and Alex Ponikarovsky to supply the offense. Fat chance!
  14. New York Islanders – With Charles Wang as owner and Garth Snow as GM this team doesn’t stand a chance of competing. Wang finally figured out that former coach Ted Nolan is a backstabber and let him go. The new coach is Scott Gordon who was the AHL Coach of the Year in Providence last season (Bruins affiliate). On the ice much will depend on the health and goaltending of Rick DiPietro who had hip problems last season and still remains a question mark in that department. The rest of the team is flat out old from defensemen Brendan Witt to forwards Doug Weight, Mike Sillinger, and Bill Guerin. Mike Comrie led the team in scoring last year and he only had 49 points. I don’t see this team being any better or competing for a playoff spot.
  15. Atlanta Thrashers – GM Don Waddell is trying to pull a McPhee by hiring long time minor league coach John Anderson to take over the reigns in Atlanta. Unfortunately the talent is not there in Atlanta like it is in Washington. Ilya Kovalchuk remains one of the top goal scorers in the league but when is he going to be come a leader? At age 25 the time is now for him to step up. Atlanta traded to get 39 year old defensemen Mathieu Schneider from Anaheim and did Ducks GM Brian Burke a huge favor by allowing him to unload salary to clear way for Teemu Selanne. Rookie Zach Bogosian, the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, is very impressive with speed and skill and can really move the puck. He has a bright future but this franchise just seems doomed due to poor management and a general lack of interest in Atlanta. They could very well be the worst team in the league and the goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Johan Hedberg is suspect, at best.

Check back later in the week for the Western Conference preview.

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Harbaugh and Hockey

Posted on 13 September 2008 by Ed Frankovic

Harbaugh Making a Stand?

So I caught some sports news tonight on Comcast and John Harbaugh stormed off from the media to end his daily press conference this afternoon out at 1 Winning Drive. It appears that the constant questions about who is playing and who is hurt are getting to our new head coach. In Harbaugh’s defense he has been consistent in not answering these questions at all and has stated so to members of the media, from what I’ve seen and heard. Personally, I think it is a GREAT decision by Harbaugh to keep mum on injuries and anything pertaining to who is playing where and how much. Giving out that information can hurt your competitive advantage. So I say kudos to Harbaugh for standing his ground and not discussing injuries or playing time or anything strategic ahead of time because it can help the Ravens against their upcoming opponents. I rarely see Bill Belichick discussing injuries and that has worked for New England as well (of course some guy named Brady doesn’t hurt to have on your side either). So as fans of the team are you okay with Harbaugh not discussing these things? Can you live with the lack of information and uncertainty on various players in a football crazed town? I certainly am and have no problem with him drawing a line in the sand with the local press. After all, he is getting paid to win games, not be nice with the media, right Mr. Bisciotti?

Hockey Talk and Season Coming Soon

To all of you hockey starved fans out there, hang in there, training camp starts up next week with the first part of each teams’ camps focused on the rookies and young prospects. The veterans start skating officially later next week (although many Caps are in town skating at Kettler Iceplex daily already, and in case you hadn’t heard Nicklas Backstrom sprained his ankle Thursday and will likely miss at least some of camp). If you have access to the NHL network they are showing many of the NHL rookie games this week each night so tune in to get your first look at some future NHLers. Also, the Caps rookies will be playing the Flyers rookies at 3pm at Kettler Iceplex on Thursday, September 18th. I plan on attending and providing some information on how the young guys are developing as well as any info I can pick up about the big club. The Caps open their regular season Friday, October 10 in Atlanta and are home the next night against the Chicago Blackhawks at 7pm. I expect the Caps to have lots of sellouts this year so get your tickets while you can.

Other hockey tidbits: The Blackhawks have traded former Caps forward Robert Lang to the Montreal Canadiens for a second round draft pick in the 2010 draft…Tampa Bay forward Vincent Lecavalier, who hurt his shoulder in the last Lightning game against the Caps last season, says he will miss the first four Tampa preseason games but will return for the final two games…Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes signed a seven year, $58M deal with the club on Thursday, September 11.

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