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.

UND HOCKEY: Risk, Reward on the Line for Underclassmen Fighting Hawks Going Pro

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Midco Sports Network’s Alex Heinert pointed out that there has been a helluva lot of underclassmen leaving school early and going pro. Who can blame them, honestly– when the next level is calling and money is being thrown your way– why not take it?? You can’t blame them to get the money and go for their dream job when they can before they have some kind of injury that really shelves their potential.

The University of North Dakota have two players leaving early to go onto their professional career. Last week, both Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich signed their pro deals in two nation’s capitals– Wolanin with Ottawa and Gersich with Washington. It’s another year for UND to lose players early. Last season, they lost three players early– Tucker Poolman, Tyson Jost, and Brock Boeser and after their 2015-16 National Championship run, they lost Troy Stetcher, Keaton Thompson, Nick Schmaltz, Luke Johnson, and Paul LaDue to the pros. There’s a reason why University of North Dakota is on the cusp of having 100 players to play in the NHL.

When it comes to someone like Poolman, he really couldn’t do much more with UND. He was NHL-ready and that junior season was the icing on the cake for Poolman to try and repeat as a National Champion. The same could be said for Wolanin, who came into his own during the off-season and transferred it to his junior season, becoming the first defenseman since 1983 to lead UND in scoring for the season. Of course, on a rebuilding team and probably being a key cog in that, there’s going to be a lot of weight on Wolanin’s shoulders– especially given his pedigree being the son of a former NHLer.

Of course– there’s risks involved from leaving college early and not living up to the hype that has been out there right off the bat. That could leave people to wonder if it was worth leaving school early for. That’s something that I wonder when it come to Shane Gersich. Last season, alongside Jost and Boeser; Gersich made his name known with 21 goals and 37 points in 40 games. This season was solid for Gersich, if not frustrating at times. With only five goals and six assists in his first 20 games, you could see Gersich fighting the puck during his struggles. However, new year– new Shane as Gersich finished with eight goals and 10 assists in the second half to have some mojo going into his last games with the Fighting Hawks.

One recent example against the move for Gersich could be his former linemate in Jost, who left the University of North Dakota after his freshman season last year to sign with the Colorado Avalanche (after some alleged heavy/annoying persuading by the Avalanche brass). With only nine goals and 19 points in 59 games this season, you could argue that Jost wasn’t ready for that jump and could have used the time to stay at UND to grow more. Granted, you can’t take injuries into effect when they sign that deal, but it happens and you adapt from it.

Conversely– there’s players who may not look like they’re ready, but surprise plenty of naysayers– like Gersich’s other linemate in Boeser, who was a heavy Calder Trophy favorite with 29 goals (10 on the power play) and 55 points in 62 games until his season-ending back injury this year. Boeser could have probably went pro after his freshman year and winning a National Championship– but he decided to stick around. I’ll say upfront I didn’t think it was best for Boeser to do that, as he didn’t look that great to close out his sophomore season– but I’m glad he proved me wrong on that.

Both Gersich and Wolanin will face some hardships when they get into the big leagues– it happens with most every player, whether they leave early or stay all four years in college. There’s probably going to be questions of if they should have stayed one more year or if they should even be with the team that drafted them. In the end, they made the choice right for them and you have to respect them for it regardless of personal view now or down the road.

Welcome to Boeser Club

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I’ll be the first to say I’m not the biggest Vancouver Canucks fan. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I could never really get into the team for one reason or another and some of their fan base– like most fan bases– are vocally annoying. Yet, there’s one thing that may bring me back to the team…and I’m sure by the title of the post, you’ve figured it out.

It’s Brock Boeser.

Having seen Boeser play at the University of North Dakota, it’s easy to see why this kid is gaining so many fans. He’s got decent speed, his shot is up there with some the NHL’s best, and he’s got some pretty decent hands. While he’s an American on a Canadian team, the NHL can’t really properly market him to the US audience because their marketing team is seemingly inept at that kind of thing.

However, I will say that once Boeser left the University of North Dakota following the double-OT loss to Boston in the NCAA first round,¬† I thought it was a mistake. Boeser was hampered with a wrist injury that limited him to only 32 games and when he came back, he didn’t seem like the dominant force he was before the injury. Boeser would pass up scoring attempts, double clutch on power play opportunities, and looked like he wasn’t comfortable.

I’m man enough to look back and say I was wrong. With 11 goals in 21 games this season– nine of those since November 1st– Boeser has gotten that swagger back in a big way. After four goals in his first nine games at the end of last season, Boeser and his new head coach Travis Green had a discussion after developmental camp which seems to have triggered this scoring onslaught at the end of November.

The rookie race in the NHL through the first two months is anyone’s race. While Clayton Keller and Boeser do have the headlines for their play, you can’t count out Matthew Barzal in Brooklyn, Will Butcher in New Jersey, and Alex DeBrincat in Chicago still waiting for their big major press clippings– there’s plenty of time for any rookie to make their case. That said, I’m all on-board with Boeser if only due to personal interactions at UND.

Not only that– but as the wrestling geek that I am, it’s easy for anyone to play the advocate role for their new favorite client BRRRRROOOOOCCCKKKK BOESER (though UND SID Jayson Hajdu was real advocate those two years at North Dakota). That said, I’ve gone a different route– a little bit of a hotter route for this gimmick. It’s a gimmick that’s almost too sweet to pass up.¬†Therefore, I pitch that those who are on the Brock Boeser bandwagon join up with the Boeser Club.

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Quick and Dirty Sketch by Me

And who knows, once I clean up the logo enough– it’ll be time for them to announce the Calder Winner, BRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOCCCCKKKKK BOESER.

What I’m Looking Out For This Year

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With the pre-season over, what more is there to say that hasn’t been said by talking and typing heads around TV and the internet?? Well….probably not a lot, but that’s fine, it’s fine. I’ll just pile onto some topics because what else would I do?? It’s not like original content can get much hits…but not bitter….not at all.

In any case, here we are– another year older, another team bigger, and all the ish is happening. So, here’s what worth looking forward to this season:

-The Golden Knights are obviously going to be one of the main topics of work. Now, I won’t go with the “Swingers” line because everyone is going with that and I’m not that hacky….yet. However, the thing that I have said is that I’ll get sick of the First that will come from this year, but it’s something understandable. One thing I will be interested in towards the end of the season is how they’re keeping pace with past expansion franchises. Shouldn’t take long (hopefully) for them to past the 1974-75 Washington Capitals– so they’ll have that going for them.

-Goalies being in new places will definitely be a talking point, especially since so many faces switched places. Ben Bishop being Dallas, Mike Smith in Calgary, Brian Elliott in Philadelphia, Steve Mason in Winnipeg– all of them are being touted as the true goalie to stop their woes. In Elliott’s case, he’s #17 in the long line of Flyers goalies to have this title, though he’ll fight Michal Neuvirth for the starting position. While none of them may be the franchise changing goalie, they could be a vast improvement on what the teams had…until they aren’t because goalies are totally replaceable.

-Is there any stopping Connor McDavid?? Sure, it seems like we’ve heard the whole “next one” conversation a lot, but McDavid really has been as good as advertised since coming in. There’s plenty to be happy about in Edmonton, especially since he’s not going to have those World Cup of Hockey games under his belt. If he can command the scoring pace for the league again, the buzzing of this team bringing back the glory days in Edmonton will be hard to block out.

-While it’s great Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick are out there, there’s plenty of Calder candidates out there for this season. Arizona has Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller, the Isles have Josh Ho-Sang and Matt Barzal, former UND players in Brock Boeser (Vancouver) and Tyson Jost (Colorado) could be in consideration. It’s a wide open field and this new wave of young talent is going to be a fun time to watch…only until your team losing becomes unbearable and even this silver lining can help you get over their horrid play.

-It’s the 100th year– not season because the NHL lost one, but it’s the 100th year and it’ll be interesting to see how deep the league goes for this. Of course, they’ll have the outdoor game between Ottawa and Montreal to commemorate the first NHL game, but outside of that– they announced the top 100 players, they’ve been going around with the Centennial Museum on wheels, but you’d have to think there’s got to be more to this year than what we’re seeing…I hope there is. If that’s all there is, then it’s been a bit of a letdown.

There’s some other out there– like the Penguins possible three-peat, what’s going to happen to Alex Ovechkin, who will care about the Olympics when they’re on– but I think those topics will come a bit more to light as the season goes on.

Puck drops tomorrow– strap it and enjoy the ride.