Tepid Take: 2019 NHL Draft Fallout

The 2019 NHL Draft weekend has come and gone and what a weekend it was, huh?? Personally, it’s my 16th Draft and third working for the University of North Dakota. For those stories about Shane Pinto, Harrison Blaisdell, Judd Caulfield, and Brad Berry’s reaction— go to those links in the name.

Shockingly– there was more that went on. I know. So, here’s a rundown of that from me…with the most tepid of takes.

First, you can’t really talk about what happened after before you talk about the salary cap being set at $81.5M, which was a bit of a lower figure than many people thought it would be. Luckily, having it happen before the draft gave teams the time to scrambled to see what they can get done. Which…some did.

Toronto was the first to make a salary dump– which they needed to do anyway if they wanted to re-sign Mitch Marner to a big money deal. They unloaded the Patrick Marleau contract to Carolina, along with both swapping picks. Marleau’s contract has a year left and with the uncertainty of Justin Williams’ future– it’ll provide a veteran presence with this team– just in case they needed it coming off of last year’s wonderful run.

With that move, it effectively took the Maple Leafs out of the running for PK Subban; which was actually a possible destination for the Nashville defenseman….well, ex-Nashville defenseman.

Subban was moved to the New Jersey Devils for prospects and picks going to Nashville– which probably moved the Predators in the running for Matt Duchene. But to Subban– this is the second trade he’s been through, which is odd for a guy that is considered one of the premier defensemen in the league. Three years left on the contract for Subban and the Devils needing some experience back there seems like a good fit.but as much as he wants a Stanley Cup in New Jersey– it could be quite and uphill struggle to get that.

As for the Draft itself, it was a Draft that USA Hockey won’t soon forget. Seventeen players from the US National Development Program were selected and 59 US players were picked overall. It’s a huge boost to the program in itself and really shows how much the USA program is evolving and catching up to their Canadian counterparts, who had 63 players picked overall.

Overall, players jumped, players fell, the Draft is usually something you can’t tell will pan out until five years down the line and they graduate where they’re from and maybe make it to “The Show” in that time frame.

Vancouver was fun overall, personally. It’s the first re-run for me and I didn’t have my running buddies with me all the time and didn’t have a Dufferin experience– but overall it was a good time.

Next up for the NHL, it’s the free agency talking period leading into the free agency period and everyone forgetting they own a calendar and asking if it’s October yet.

On the Topic Of Second-Screen Viewing

As the St. Louis Blues closed out their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, the NBC machine rolled on with all the stock lines that Mike Emrick has compiled through his years of broadcast and recycle them for this moment. Pierre McGuire talked to a player and told him to have fun. Eddie Olczyk was probably looking at the race form for the track tomorrow. Then when their NBC slotted time was up, they all left and let the NBCSN crew take it from there.

That’s when I thought…why are they just now getting a bigger chance on the biggest stage for their sport?? It seems like they had to be put in some position post-game to warrant getting shipped out there and all of that. There’s times in Jeremy Roenick’s interviewing that you prayed for Pierre to come back and talk to these guys– because he knows how to and JR really doesn’t.

It also makes me wonder if there’s a chance that NBC and NBCSN can team up for possible clinching games to have a two-screen experience and an alternate to their regular coverage that people would want to see. Granted, that would maybe hurt ratings by splitting them, but ratings are in actuality a scheme created by boxing and wrestling to make something bigger than it actually is and in the end– it means nothing. I mean, hell– NBCSN was showing tape-delayed Monster Jam episodes which, I’m sure has an audience, but they’ll still be watching at midnight and beyond for that stuff or during one of the many replays they’ll have.

The second-screen thing for a championship has been done before by NBC and NBCSN for NASCAR’s final race of the year in Homestead. The main network had the usual race broadcast with the regular broadcasting crew, whereas NBCSN had the in-car cameras for each of the Championship 4 contenders, more in-car audio, and alternate commentators to give another side of the spectrum.

Granted, the two sports are different animals, but you have to look at the possibility of alternate camera work, alternate broadcasters, or even a possible “Watch Along” thing where there’s people brought in to comment over the game, as if you were in a bar setting. It’s something that maybe by that time– people are sick of Doc, Eddie, and Pierre, maybe people would like a different take, maybe people want another option, and– like me– maybe people cut the cord and have a crappy antenna and live in the middle of nowhere so they can’t get local channels unless they get YouTube TV….or something.

Yet, what better way to create a buzz for your broadcast than to have different viewing options for the biggest games?? Sportsnet has like 190 different channels that they could do the same thing with different people. There’s plenty of talking heads that can be there to fill the void of the dead spaces, so what’s the issue with having an alternative to the original?? Some people may like the traditional way better, whereas you could hook some new people onto the alternate voices, as well. Variety can be good and having options is great, too. Couldn’t hurt to try.

Bruich Leads Drafted Group of Black Bears for 2019

Another NAHL Draft has come and gone and the Maryland Black Bears come out of it like every other team– with plenty of promise and upside to be had. With eight forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies picked, the Black Bears look ahead with a nice mix of youth and experience to their selections.

However, their first pick at fourth overall could be a solid cornerstone for the team next season, as power forward Aden Bruich got selected out of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 16U organization. Only just turning 17 in March, the 6’3, 220 power forward could be what the Black Bears need in terms of grit and grind to counterbalance scoring. The Clarkson University commit put up 28 goals and 43 points across the Tier-1 Elite League and 16U Midgets. If he can get his size to translate into the NAHL style of play, it could be a huge boost to the scoring of the Black Bears. Even in his Twitter old Twitter bio he said he plays a North/South, heavy, physical game. Coming off a National Championship doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s how the rest of the Draft shook down:

3rd Round: Hampus Rydqvist (Frolunda 20U) 7g, 15pts in 44 games
3rd Round: Zachary Borgiel (Leamington, GOJHL) 2.25 GAA, .924 Sv% in 28gms
4th Round: Aidan McDowell (The Hun School, USHS-Prep) 12g, 27pts in 23 gms
5th Round: Samuel Mojzis (HC Slovan Bratislava 20U) 29g, 53pts in 45 gms
6th Round: Liam Ovington (NJ Avalanche 18U, T1EHL) 4g, 10pts in 27gms
7th Round: Brayden Stannard (Oakland 16U) 15g, 44pts in 69 gms
8th Round: Andrew Remer (Ottawa, CCHL) 8g, 25pts in 57 gms
9th Round: Philip Ekberg (Conneicut, NCDC) 14g, 31pts in 50gms
10th Round: Jack Quinn (Northfield-Mount Hermon, USHS-Prep) 19g, 41pts in 40gms
11th Round: Trevor Adams (Salmon Arm, BCHL) 17g, 41pts in 55gms
12th Round: Kyle Peters (Virtua 18U, AYHL) 8g, 26pts in 21gms
13th Round: Aaron Dickstein (Milwaukee, NA3HL) 2.93 GAA, .905 Sv% in 44gms

A couple of things to note from this draft:

-Hampus Rydqvist and Aaron Dickstein are 20 years old this year, making it their last year to be eligible to play. We’ll see if they make the team out of camp; which I think Rydqvist would be a better bet to make it as a right-shot defenseman with higher level experience. Dickstein will have to fight Anthony Del Tufo, Andrew Takacs, and maybe David Tomeo to get some crease time– same goes for Borgiel, though Borgiel does have some NAHL experience with Brookings (now St. Cloud) and Muskegon in 2017-18.

-Along with Bruich, there are two other D1 commits picked in this draft. Brayden Stannard is commit to Nebraska-Omaha and Trevor Adams is a commit to Air Force. Stannard was also picked by the Green Bay Gamblers late in the USHL Draft this off-season.

-Aiden McDowell is an alum of the Mercer Chiefs system, one of the Black Bears affiliated teams. With 29 points in 24 games last year in the 18U program, his scoring touch could prove valuable with the big club this coming season.

It was a solid draft from GM Clint Mylymok and AGM Jason Deskins. We’ll see what the future hold for these players, as open camp for the Black Bears starts in less than two weeks (June 14th) with main camp being held July 17th, all at the Den at Piney Orchard.

Black Bears Gearing Up for Second Draft

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

It’s been a minute since we talked about the Maryland Black Bears here, but it’s a good time. This afternoon is the NAHL Draft, which means the season starts anew and we’re all at a clean slate. With a new assistant GM and head scout Jason Deskins , head coach and GM Clint Mylymok and the Black Bears look to be much more prepared for this draft than they were a year ago when they we’re a very fresh team.

There have been changes, however, from this team last season. Luke Mountain was selected in Phase II of the USHL Draft by the Lincoln Stars and if he carried over his hot streak from the end of last season, then he’ll be up in the USHL next year. Also, Luc Salem was traded to the Topeka Pilots for a tender contract. Salem had 21 points in 54 games and was relied on heavily after Quinn Warmuth was traded to Minot.

Speaking of tender contracts, all the slots in Maryland are full and here’s who’s got them:

G: Andrew Takacs
G: Ben Fritsinger
D: Anthony Mollica
D: Jack Hillman
D: Bryden Sinclair
D: Nick Hauck
F: Jude Kurtas
F: Bobby Batten
F: Reid Leibold
F: Finn McLain
F: Logan Kittleson
F: Brett Reed
F: Joey Petronack
F: Ethan Heidepriem

Many should be familiar with Takacs, Kurtas, and Batten– as they did play in some games with the Black Bears; so people know what to expect out of them. The Minnesota pipeline continues with Reed, Kittleson, Fritsinger, and Hauck; while McLain has DMV roots growing up in Woodbridge, VA; with some Canadian flair in Sinclair and Heidepriem. Should be interesting to see how they all fit into the team this coming season– especially Hillman, who has USHL experience from last season with the Omaha Lancers. Hillman looks like a stay-at-home defenseman, which is something that could be nice for the Black Bears when shoring up the Black Bears end.

Last season’s draft was the first for the Black Bears and they did have some solid pick-ups from the draft who contributed with the team last season. Seven draft picks from last season played at least a game for the Black Bears, with Kobe Keller playing the least at three games before going back to Ontario to play for the Soo Eagles. Keller, Mountain, Salem, Marek Wazny, Thomas Jarman, Patrick Choi, and Max Borst all made an impact coming out of that first draft, which helped with it being a young team and a team looking for players to step up right off the hop.

The Black Bears will slot in at the 4th spot overall this year, as the two expansion teams in Maine and New Mexico will pick first and second respectively, while the Brook–errrr… St. Cloud Blizzard will pick third. The fourth pick has yielded some solid picks, but also very risky ones. In 2018, Chippewa picked defenseman Sam Miller– but he played in the USHL all of 2018-19; in 2017, Amarillo picked Marko Sturma, who was then moved to Northeast and has tandemed with David Fessenden in his last two seasons. Defenseman Frank Sullivan was picked in the four-spot in 2016 and played one year with Janesville before going to D3 college, while in 2015 Casey Jerry was picked by Minnesota after time with Cedar Rapids in the USHL and some time in Austin in the NAHL, as Jerry then moved to Canisius for his college hockey. To wrap up a five-year plan, the 2014 fourth pick was Kenny Hausinger– who was a part of the Skipjacks HC team who played out of Piney Orchard– but Hausinger wouldn’t play for Odessa, as he would go to the USHL.

There’s some room to have a stellar player at the fourth-spot or someone who goes elsewhere in the league or up to the USHL overall. It’s a tough spot to be in, as the Black Bears know from their first overall pick in Steve Agriogianis never suiting up for the team and moving to the USHL with Lincoln. We’ll see what the afternoon brings and hope we’ll get a solid pack of Black Bears coming into next season.

Minor League Hot Dish: Cups Held Hostage, Seattle Looking For Locations

I’ll start this off by saying the first I heard of this was from Justin Cohn of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. He kind of laid the ground work of it all for me and then the ball rolled from there. But if you decided to step away from Twitter and hockey for the summer, you’ve missed the fun of the Colorado Eagles, the ECHL, and the Kelly Cup.

High-speed low-down is that the Eagles won back-to-back Kelly Cups in the ECHL before leaving like they were CM Punk in 2011 at Money in the Bank– but in this instance, they didn’t return the Cup weeks later, they still have it in their possession. They said they had dates to set-up a return to the ECHL, but nothing came from it. However, the Eagles say it’s safe and in pristine condition. The ECHL said they never came forward with it and had to make another one because of the Eagles’ hostage situation of the championship.

Let this be a lesson to the ECHL and others that there’s a reason that Phil Pritchard is the Keeper of the Cup and has eyes on it at all times…ALL TIMES. Are the Eagles being asses about it?? Sure, but at the same time– what league just gives their prized possession to a team, especially one that is moving up next year– and doesn’t have a chaperone with it during the time with the team??

If nothing else, it has created a nice little buzz for the league during their Final, while also allowing the ability to have this made into some little documentary about what happened by ESPN.


Meanwhile, even though they are a couple years away, the Seattle Your-Name-Heres are looking at affiliation locations for their AHL squad. It seems to have come down to a couple of interesting choices among the finalist.

First, you have Boise, Idaho which currently houses the ECHL’s Boise Steelheads. The Steelheads have been a successful WCHL and ECHL team, playing to a nearly sold-out house on average each year. The question is when it comes to the ownership group thinks that the AHL cost structure will work better for them and if the AHL in general will be a good move for them and their fan base. You could argue that a move up is always a good choice for the legacy of the team– but there’s times it just doesn’t work out; hello Utah Grizzlies.

The second option is a wild one and it’s Palm Springs, California. It’s wild because there’s not many places to play right now unless the city build a new venue. There’s been talk of an indoor venue via the Coachella Sports and Entertainment Stadium Authority that could open by 2021, but there hasn’t been much movement there. Plus, it could be a harder sell for an arena that has little to no background in hockey. While it would be cool and I’m sure my co-host of “In the Draft” Wilson would be able to get to more hockey games– I don’t know if it’ll be the best fit when trying to make a successful team.

Given the options, Boise would probably be my choice because you’ve got a built in fan base there, though you’d be cutting off a rather successful affiliation with the Dallas Stars. Not only that, but the ECHL would have to really wonder what to do with the Utah Grizzlies being way the hell and gone from every other competition.

Tippett Becomes Eighth Coach in Past Decade for Oilers

For the life of me, I don’t know what Dave Tippett is doing. The former Arizona Coyotes’ head coach is now the current Edmonton Oilers head coach, leaving the adviser role he had with the new Seattle Your-Name-Heres and moving into a spot that could be one of the hottest seats in the NHL.

There has to be some respect for him to take on the challenge rather than laying back easy and waiting for the Seattle team to talk. And let’s be honest, with the way teams are with coaches in the recent past– he still could be the first coach of the Seattle team. Yet, you have to think that he got that itch again and the wait would be too much for him– so Edmonton it is.

There’s no doubt to have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the line-up, it’s give the team a fighter’s chance at making the playoffs. However, the biggest deal is…well, everyone outside of those two is the big worry. That albatross of the Milan Lucic contract looms heavy, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is constantly in the rumor mill, the defense and goaltending is suspect at best– so there’s work to be done.

Granted, the whispers of the possibility that Mike Smith is going to Edmonton to follow his buddy Tippett doesn’t bode well long-term for the Oilers; but it hasn’t been stable in net since Bill Ranford left. The defense has plenty of potential, but there comes a time where potential is overdone and disappointment/anger/hatred comes into play– if it’s not already there in Edmonton.

For me, this almost seems like an older version of Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan from a few years back for Edmonton. I know the whole problem with the Oilers before was the old-boys club being in charge and the thought with Chiarelli and McLellan was they ditched that moniker. Now, with Craig MacTavish finally gone and Paul Coffey being let go it; could be a real new start for Ken Holland, Tippett, and crew– but Kevin Lowe is still hanging around– so who knows.

It’s a pivotal time for the Oilers. You have to think the time is ticking to get Connor McDavid to be happy with where he’s at. Hell, his name is already being murmured when it comes to being moved if things don’t get better soon. His no-move clause starts in 2022-23, so there’s three seasons to get it right or else he may want his way out of Edmonton. The question is whether or not Tippett is the guy to spark the team around McDavid and Draisaitl or if it’ll be the third coach for the Oilers to have two great assets, but can’t get to the playoffs due to the team around them.

On the Topic Of the Wild and Jason Zucker

You’ve got to feel bad for Jason Zucker. First, he was on his way to Calgary before the deal fell through at the last second. Now, he’s the center of deals that didn’t happen and aren’t going to happen. It seems that Zucker is the new guy perpetually on the trade block until someone actually feels the need to have Zucker on their roster.

According to Michael Russo of The Athletic, Zucker’s name was in the middle of trade proposals for Phil Kessel, Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik, Christian Dvorak, Jonathan Marchessault, and Brock Boeser. The first and last being very laughable that they would have been considered with reports saying Vancouver laughed at Paul Fenton and hung up the phone.

Look, Zucker is a solid player with three-straight 20-goal seasons– but you can’t think he’d be an equal return for the likes of Boeser and Kessel especially. And maybe, it’s the system that he’s in that’s not really bringing the best out of him like when he was a Denver University or playing with the US Development Program. That said, it’s less a Zucker issue and more of an issue of what is wrong as a whole with the Wild.

It’s almost as if they need to blow the team completely up from top to bottom and start fresh. It’s not a new coach or new GM situation– that’s been done and the team still seems to be spinning their wheels; a deadly happening for a team in the Central Division. Paul Fenton needs to make moves, but trying to attract any kind of big name players are futile because those players don’t want to go there because of the lack of playmakers around them– as was the reported case with Kessel vetoing the deal to Minnesota.

This is a team that, for some reason, doesn’t move forward. Since that gonzo run in 2003, they’ve made it to the playoffs eight times in the last 15 seasons and have only made it out of the first round twice to lose to the Blackhawks both times. With their core getting older, you have to wonder how many chances Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin will be given in a bigger role and how much they’ll be able to step up in that role. There’s plenty of potential in both of them, don’t get me wrong, but will they be able to thrive in the Wild system and given a chance to show off their style of play.

For someone like Zucker, you have to wonder how much this is going to affect his psyche and what he might do in the future with this team. He’s a professional and probably gets that this game is a business, thus why he protected his own by getting a modified no-trade in his contract for ten teams NOT to be traded to and this could be Fenton doing his due-diligence to see what they could get…but he’s taking the whole “you never know if you don’t ask” credo too far. This could be another Matt Duchene in Colorado situation for Zucker and the Wild– which, if true, could be damning for the Wild and extremely positive for Zucker.

2019 Playoffs: Stanley Cup Final

The Final is upon us and it’s like it’s 1970 all over again.

BOSTON BRUINS vs. ST. LOUIS BLUES
PREDICTION: Blues in 7
REASON: Look, the Blues look like they have been on a mission. It’s a battle of depth, it’s a battle of goaltending, but when all is said and done– I think the Blues are more of a team than the Blues– but not by a lot. The first lines match-up well, goaltending, but I like the heart of the Blues more than anything else and I think they’ll be more hungry than the Bruins to get this storybook ending they deserve and the city deserves.

Regicide Happens in Manchester; Monarchs Cease Operations

Photo via Manchester Monarchs Twitter

With the Manchester Monarchs folding up shop, it can looked at either one of two ways. One way is that it’s a failure of ownership to adjust to the changing landscape of entertainment and couldn’t maintain an audience. Another way is that a league change wasn’t received well and the only form of protest fans knew was to not show up.

For me, it’s combination of both because the ownership couldn’t handle was what going on and people in the community couldn’t find themselves to put money towards a team that didn’t seem to be getting better. Not only that, but dropping down to a lower-league, though there’s talent in that league, didn’t sit well with fans who were coming off their first and only Calder Cup in the AHL, only to see that team move west to Ontario.

There is some kind of bitterness I could understand with a team moving down a level of play. Some people were very happy with their AHL standing and the move to the ECHL was one that could be represented as a shot at the community not being good enough rather than a logistical thing for the LA Kings to bring their affiliate closer. What they may not have realized is that the team they were getting had been on a four-season streak of 40-plus wins. It was all about status.

Attendance dropped by 1,000 people in that first season and never rebounded. That said, the last few years in the AHL were middling at best given outside influence in life and money being tight everywhere. Regardless, the drastic drop could have been due to the league change, but the team charging the same price for the team they did in a higher level– I don’t have that access to the books.

Plus, it’s not like this team was horrible– they put together over 37 wins each season they were there, made the playoffs each of the four seasons, and had plenty of things going for them in terms of prospects just starting out so people could get in on the ground floor. But it wasn’t the AHL.

In comparison, the other teams who were moved out east found some kind of success in the move– Adirondack has grown by almost 1,000 people a game in those four seasons, though they hit a downturn when they moved to ECHL. Norfolk had plenty of rumors about their future with the declining attendance, but have gotten back to over 3,500 fans a game for a non-playoff team; but also dealt with a drastic hit from the move and ownership quarrels.

Yet, how were they able to survive and keep on going despite the move and other rumors and shake-ups?? Was it understanding the market better and adjusting?? Was it the fans actually really trying to give it an honest shot at a lower level?? How come Manchester didn’t do what was needed to survive??

To say that “ECHL hockey is not viable in Manchester” is a giant cop-out and a shot to the community of Manchester who actually supported the Monarchs through it all. On top of that, it seems that the ECHL gets painted badly due to the fact that a team that was so successful in attendance a league higher couldn’t make it a league below. Probably not many people thinking that if they’re following along, but from the far outside it could look bad overall for the league to be not looked as exciting enough for a former AHL championship city to be a viable area for ECHL hockey.

In the end, maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder. One place that maybe prospective Manchester hockey revivalist could look towards is Worcester. The AHL Sharks were a team that had its ups and down, but had a decent showing before they moved out west to become the Barracuda. After two seasons offs, the ECHL Railers came into town and have topped the 4,000-plus a night their first two seasons. That’s an ownership group who did their homework, looked at the area, and adjust accordingly to be successful off the ice, with the on-ice product learning the ropes of the ECHL and hovering the .500 mark.

Manchester can be a good hockey town. History has shown us that. It’s just a matter of the fans not feeling entitled to just having the AHL and the ownership group being smarter with the product they are trying to sell to the area.

2019 Playoffs: Conference Finals

Went 1 of 4 last round– batting a total of 25% on the playoffs, so here goes a whole lot of nothing.

BOSTON vs. CAROLINA
Prediction: Carolina in 7
Reason: I’ve been low on Carolina, but they’ve done great. They’ve also got a longer layoff, which would be great this time of the year, especially with the injuries they’ve encountered recently. Even if Petr Mrazek is done, Curtis McElhinney has been stellar, while Sebastian Aho is starting to really turn to form with Justin Williams there. That said, Tuukka Rask has looked better than ever and could very well carry the Bruins onward.

SAN JOSE vs. ST. LOUIS
Prediction: San Jose in 7
Reason: They’ve gone seven the past two series, why not a third?? Martin Jones has really turned it around for the most part, while Joe Pavelski coming back could very well give them the jolt they may have needed. The defense may need to tighten up a bit, while Jordan Binnington could be their toughest foe goalie yet. Also, Jaden Schwartz has been stellar and David Perron could be the thorn in the side needed to maybe rustle the Sharks’ jimmies.