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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Alexander Mitchell (D)
From: Bradford Bulldogs
To: Bradford Bulldogs
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Niks Trapans (G)
From: Blackburn Hawks
To: Blackburn Hawks
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Jiri Tupy (F)
From: Piráti Chomutov
To: Piráti Chomutov
Information: Try-out successful
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Viktor Lang (D)
From: Piráti Chomutov
To: Piráti Chomutov
Information: Try-out successful
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Euan McLaughlin (D)
From: Paisley Pirates
To: Paisley Pirates
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Francesco Valorz (F)
From: Pergine
To: Pergine
Information: 1 year
Source: Link

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Position: LW

Age: 22 (will be 23 on Oct. 1)

Physical: Height: 5’10” / 178 cm, Weight: 192 lbs / 87 kg

TLN Top-20 Ranking From Last Year: 7

Draft Information: 2015 5th round, 125th overall

Dmytro Timashov is part of the embodiment of a new era in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey. The 2015 draft that he came from was the first one where the Leafs really started to take bigger gamble on the skill level of players, and focus more on their ceiling as compared to their size and if they can “handle the NHL game”.

While many have praised that draft to be a great one, we are now four years later and have really only seen Mitch Marner and Travis Dermott see any NHL time out of that group, and only Timashov, Jeremy Bracco, and Jesper Lindgren remain in the Leafs system. While it still looks better than the 2016 and 2017 drafts, it’s far from the prospect overhaul we once thought.

Almost at the age of 23, this season is a crucial one for Timashov, as his time to develop is running out, and his body of work to this point shows there’s still a chance, but the odds are not in his favour.

Why Is He In This Tier?

When Timashov was drafted in 2015, he was coming off a season in the QMJHL which saw him put up 71 assists and  90 points in 66 games with the Quebec Ramparts, and followed that up with 85 points in 57 games between Quebec and the Shawinigan Cataractes in his draft +1 year.

This skill at the junior level was why he always had been looked at with such upside. While there was a chance he might bottom out as nothing more than an AHLer, he also had the potential to be a skilled NHL forward.

And that’s why he sits here today. By the time the season starts, he will be 23, and will probably only have a year or two left before he hits his prime, and it is looking more and more likely that he bottoms out as an AHLer than be a skilled NHL forward.

That’s not to say he’s completely done for however. He’s coming off a 49 point season in the AHL (and an even stronger performance in the playoffs), and has become a more reliable piece on the Marlies. In fact, Andreas Johnsson saw similar production at his age 22 season with the Marlies, and he’s become a key piece to the Leafs just two years later, so all hope is not lost. But, the clock is ticking.

Scouting Report

Coming off his high-scoring seasons in the QMJHL, Timashov showed that he had the potential to be a good play-making winger at the NHL level. While the QMJHL has historically been a higher scoring league than the WHL and OHL, Timashov tied for 11th in scoring in his draft year (with current San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier, mind you), so that alone makes him not a bad bet to use a 5th round pick on.

But there’s more to the story than that. According to a 2014 scouting report of him on Elite Prospects, he was described as “an agile winger with very good puckhandling skills” and “a dangerous player who will wow audiences with his speed and creativity”. Long story short, he had flashes that made for a good bet at the time.

But, this isn’t about what Timashov was like when he was drafted, we care about what he’s like now. Corey Pronman of the Athletic described him in his Leafs prospect ranking article, pointing out his “skill and hockey sense” as something that stands out to him, but also notes that “he’s small and not that good of a skater”.

His skating is a cause for concern at this point, especially since the league has shifted to a fast-skating game, but if he makes up for it in hockey sense and skill, there’s still a chance he can make it.

And he has showcased that from time to time, such as this penalty shot goal against Charlotte in an elimination game, where he pulls off the Kucherov no shot move.

Best-Case/Worst-Case Scenario

At this point, Timashov’s best and worst case scenario’s are pretty clear, and it’s very likely we find out what happens by this time next year.

His best-case scenario would be something like the aforementioned Johnsson, and we see him absolutely dominate the AHL and getting a chance in the NHL, and showcasing himself as a solid middle six option. However, the one issue there is that Johnsson had an opportunity due to the lack of forward depth beyond the NHL roster, while this year the Leafs have about ten forwards that wouldn’t be in the top nine that you could look at as bottom six NHL forwards, and likely ahead of Timashov on the depth chart. Basically, he’ll have to really wow in the AHL to get a shot.

The worst case scenario is basically that he sees a similar fate to fellow 2015 draftee Andrew Nielsen, and he doesn’t have much of a future beyond the AHL and is shipped out for a minimal return, or he just happens to be kept on the Marlies to help keep that team competitive.

If I was a betting man, I’d be more likely to think that the worst case scenario is more likely to happen, but it’s far from a certainty.

Outlook

In case I haven’t made it clear already, this season is due or die for Timashov. Most NHL forwards hit their prime in their early to mid 20s, and at age 23, that’s exactly what Timashov is reaching.

Up to this point, he’s seen a slow, but steady development, and his next step is to either dominate the AHL or show that he can play in the NHL, and that potential is certainly there, and he needs to do it now if he has any hope of having a future in the NHL.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s very likely that we will know if Timashov truly is an NHL player by the end of this season, and it’s up to him to show us which answer it is.

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Earlier in the week we unveiled our overall ranking of the Top Ten Winnipeg Jets as of this moment heading into the 2019-2020 season.

Here, we’re going to go over the individual voting and see how each member of the JetsNation staff ranked their top ten along with some comments about their list.

Most of the voting went as you’d think, but there were a few surprises in some of the lists which made for some interesting final results including a clean sweep for Mark Scheifele at number one while players like Dustin Byfuglien and Connor Hellebuyck were left off of a list or two.


Alec B’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Josh Morrissey
3 – Blake Wheeler
4 – Dustin Byfuglien
5 – Kyle Connor
6 – Connor Hellebuyck
7 – Patrik Laine
8 – Nik Ehlers
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Andrew Copp

Josh Morrissey is one of the most underrated players in the league. If he continues to progress the way he has, especially with the opportunity he is going to get this season in the absence of Trouba and Myers, I believe he will be a dark horse Norris candidate this season. Laine and Ehlers should be higher on this list, but they are still too inconsistent in their play. I hate to leave Little off of the list, as I feel the biggest reason for negative opinions about him is his contract.


Zee’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Josh Morrissey
3 – Kyle Connor
4 – Nik Ehlers
5 – Patrik Laine
6 – Blake Wheeler
7 – Connor Hellebuyck
8 – Jack Roslovic
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Mathieu Perreault

I think Scheifele is pretty much undisputed at the top of this list. Morrissey is a beast and one of the few defensemen I’m not worried about going into the season. Connor, Ehlers and Laine have the potential to take this team to the next level if they play to the ability we know they’re capable of. Wheeler could be higher but I’m not confidant that he will bounce back to what we’ve seen from him. Hellebuyck will be a big reason the team is successful if he can manage to pull himself out of the league average goaltending of last season. At this point, its Roslovic’s time to prove that he has the ability to move up higher and I really hope he does.


Cody B’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Blake Wheeler
3 – Josh Morrissey
4 – Dustin Byfuglien
5 – Connor Hellebuyck
6 – Kyle Connor
7 – Patrik Laine
8 – Nik Ehlers
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Bryan Little

Looking at this moment and not in two or three years, I still feel like Scheifele and Wheeler are the top two overall players I like Morrisey’s all around game compared to Byfuglien. I feel at this moment Connor, Laine, and Ehlers are all very close.


Eric M’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Josh Morrissey
3 – Connor Hellebuyck
4 – Blake Wheeler
5 – Kyle Connor
6 – Patrik Laine
7 – Dustin Byfuglien
8 – Nike Ehlers
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Andrew Copp

Laine is my biggest question mark; I think he could potentially be much higher on my list. Down the stretch last season, we saw a very much improved Laine, his all-around game coming together by leaps and bounds. If he continues to refine his game on even the current pace he was, and can maintain the early season scoring magic of last year, Laine could very easily silence all the doubters. I’m sure as sunshine not willing to throw in the towel on him, and anyone thinking he is bogging the team down in any manner is in my opinion patently ridiculous.

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Adam Ruzicka is an interesting project. There’s no doubt that he has talent, which is why he ended up eighth on the FlamesNation Top 20 prospect list.

However, he didn’t always show that in junior, and there’s a lot of questions about his game – specifically his motivation. He didn’t even make all the ballots of FlamesNation writers. Now, having signed his entry-level contract and making the jump to pro hockey this season, the question will be: what do the Calgary Flames have in Ruzicka?

How did we get here?

A product of Bratislava, Slovakia, Ruzicka bounced between youth leagues in the Czech Republic and Slovakia before eventually coming to North America to play for the Sarnia Sting. He was a member of the Sting when he was drafted in the fourth round by the Flames, going 109th in 2017.

It seemed as though the 6’4″, 203 lb. centreman was going to finish his junior career with Sarnia, as he started last season with them. It also seemed as though his junior career was going to end with a bit of a thud, as he was producing at an all right blip but not enough to warrant any excitement as a prospect.

Then, everything changed with a trade to Sudbury. The home of the Big Nickel lit a spark in Ruzicka, and he truly went on a tear with the Wolves, scoring on average nearly a goal-per-game.

The hope is that another new locale will be good for Ruzicka, as he’s expected to contribute in his season for Stockton.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

There’s a lot to look at with the last two years of Ruzicka.

SEASON TEAM GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS POINTS
2017-18 SARNIA STING 63 36 36 72
2018-19 SARNIA STING 35 11 26 37
2018-19 SUDBURY WOLVES 30 24 17 41

When he’s engaged, Ruzicka can score goals. That’s a very appealing prospect in, well, a prospect. He got the majority of goals in Sarnia through the first part of his 2017-18 season, before cooling off and never really looking the same.

After that, the Sting never got the same kind of production out of him. During his final 83 games with Sarnia, Ruzicka managed 82 points. Certainly, nothing to sneeze at, but not the potential that the 27 points in his first 15 games showed.

That kind of potential was realized in Sudbury, where the numbers speak for themselves. He saw more ice time, he didn’t rely on power play production as much, and scored a bunch. He even had a four-goal game close to the end, something Joe Thornton can only aspire to.

It’ll be interesting to see the player that shows up in California. Ruzicka in a way had a very similar season to Stockton last year, with the only difference being that it wasn’t too late for the Slovak by the time he figured it out. This year, both the player and the team need the whole year to matter.

Those in the know 

Even though he dazzled with the Wolves, Sudbury Star beat reporter Ben Leeson thinks that Ruzicka still needs to work on a couple of things to really stand out as a pro.

While he is by no means a poor skater, he’d ben even more effective with his skill, size and strength if he had just a little more speed to separate himself from defenders. Though he was Sudbury’s leading scorer in the playoffs, adding another gear would have made him even more effective against a team like Ottawa, one of the fastest in the league overall, and could certainly serve him well as a pro.

Brock Otten, of the OHL Prospects blog, echoes those sentiments and questions what a full season could and should look like for Ruzicka.

Ruzicka, as has always been the case, will need to find the motivation and drive to be a consistent factor when eh doesn’t have the puck on his stick. As mentioned, this took great strides in Sudbury, but a half a season does not do enough enough to completely wipe out these concerns. At the pro level, he is going to be asked to use his size retrieve loose pucks and play with more urgency below the hash marks. He will not be able to rely on his size to gain positional advantage in the slot or near the crease and he’s going to have to increase his intensity level to be better playing through traffic. I also think that Ruzicka will need to continue to improving his first few strides for the pro game. He’s not a poor skater, especially for a big kid, but becoming more explosive will be a requirement if he wants to be a top 6 center at the NHL level.

On the horizon

Ruzicka will go from the top-line centre in Sudbury to a player with lesser responsibility to start in Stockton. He’ll have to find the motivation to respond appropriately, but he’ll have three years to show the Flames that he has that next step.

With a lack of high-end prospects (especially centres) standing in his way, the main obstacle that Ruzicka will have to overcome really is himself. If he finds those extra gears that Leeson and Otten mentioned, he might find himself in Calgary sooner than later.

Previously

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The @Derick Brassard era in Edmonton was short-lived. Former Oiler Georges Laraque came on Twitter and said the Oilers had inked the veteran centre to a one-year deal, but it was a false alarm and he ended up signing with the New York Islanders instead.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal. It would have been nice for the Oilers to grab a decent buy-low, reclamation project like Brassard, but they aren’t missing out on that much. What it does suggest, as Dusty Nielson discussed the other day on Inside The Nation, is that Ken Holland is most likely still interested in adding depth down the middle.

As of right now, a glaring hole when putting together the Oilers’ lineup for 2019-20 is the team’s third-line centre. The team is set with @Connor McDavid, @Leon Draisaitl, and @Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as options for the top-six, and @Colby Cave, @Kyle Brodziak, and @Jujhar Khaira are fine options for the fourth line, but the third line is a bit of a mystery.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SATURDAY EDITION question. Who should the Oilers to flank the third line? Is there an internal option for the third-line centre role? Or does Holland need to go out and make an addition to shore up the position?

There are a handful of darts to throw against the board already part of the organization who could fill the third-line centre role.

Kyle Brodziak was once the quintessential third-line centre, capable of shutting down the other team’s top forwards while also chipping in offensively. That isn’t the case anymore. Brodziak looked like he was toast last season and might end up on waivers before the season.

Colby Cave was claimed on waivers in the middle of the season last year. He’s a good skater who can thrive in a checking role, but he brings virtually zero offence to the table. Cave is best suited as a fourth-line centre.

Jujhar Khaira has gone back and forth from centre to the wing over the past couple of years. He scored 11 goals in what appeared to be a breakout season in 2017-18 but regressed down to just three goals in an injury-riddled 2018-19. There’s a lot of potential there but asking Khaira to take on the third-centre gig is a big ask.

Gaetan Haas was an interesting off-season addition from the Swiss League. Haas put up good offensive numbers in Switzerland but he’s also been praised for his excellent two-way game. It’s hard to project how European free agents will perform in the NHL, but Haas is an option.

@Cooper Marody had an excellent season in the AHL last year and could force his way onto the NHL roster this fall if he plays incredibly well. Still, given his age, Marody has a big hill to climb to crack the team out of camp.

Another option is rolling McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins as the team’s three centres. I really doubt this happens as McDavid and Draisaitl have become such a powerful duo on the top line.

The only really interesting option left on the free agent market is Brian Boyle. I’ve liked the idea of adding Boyle all summer. He’s known as a great leader and personality, he can take on heavy minutes in the defensive zone, and he can also produce offence. Boyle scored 18 goals last year between New Jersey and Nashville, seven of which came on the power play.

There’s always the possibility of a trade. We don’t often see trades at this time of year, but given the strange RFA landscape, anything can happen. Perhaps Holland can turn Jesse Puljujarvi into a good third-line centre.

Given Edmonton’s internal options, I would guess the team throws all of those aforementioned darts at the board to see what works. Maybe Khaira can take a step forward, maybe Haas hits the ground running in North America, or maybe Marody steals the spot. If none of these options work out, we could see Holland make a mid-season deal to shore up the position similar to the David Desharnais addition in 2017.

What say you, Nation? Who do you think is the best option for the Oilers’ third-line centre? 

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Alexander Mitchell (D)
From: Bradford Bulldogs
To: Bradford Bulldogs
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Niks Trapans (G)
From: Blackburn Hawks
To: Blackburn Hawks
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Jiri Tupy (F)
From: Piráti Chomutov
To: Piráti Chomutov
Information: Try-out successful
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Viktor Lang (D)
From: Piráti Chomutov
To: Piráti Chomutov
Information: Try-out successful
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Euan McLaughlin (D)
From: Paisley Pirates
To: Paisley Pirates
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 08/25/2019
Player: Francesco Valorz (F)
From: Pergine
To: Pergine
Information: 1 year
Source: Link

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Position: LW

Age: 22 (will be 23 on Oct. 1)

Physical: Height: 5’10” / 178 cm, Weight: 192 lbs / 87 kg

TLN Top-20 Ranking From Last Year: 7

Draft Information: 2015 5th round, 125th overall

Dmytro Timashov is part of the embodiment of a new era in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey. The 2015 draft that he came from was the first one where the Leafs really started to take bigger gamble on the skill level of players, and focus more on their ceiling as compared to their size and if they can “handle the NHL game”.

While many have praised that draft to be a great one, we are now four years later and have really only seen Mitch Marner and Travis Dermott see any NHL time out of that group, and only Timashov, Jeremy Bracco, and Jesper Lindgren remain in the Leafs system. While it still looks better than the 2016 and 2017 drafts, it’s far from the prospect overhaul we once thought.

Almost at the age of 23, this season is a crucial one for Timashov, as his time to develop is running out, and his body of work to this point shows there’s still a chance, but the odds are not in his favour.

Why Is He In This Tier?

When Timashov was drafted in 2015, he was coming off a season in the QMJHL which saw him put up 71 assists and  90 points in 66 games with the Quebec Ramparts, and followed that up with 85 points in 57 games between Quebec and the Shawinigan Cataractes in his draft +1 year.

This skill at the junior level was why he always had been looked at with such upside. While there was a chance he might bottom out as nothing more than an AHLer, he also had the potential to be a skilled NHL forward.

And that’s why he sits here today. By the time the season starts, he will be 23, and will probably only have a year or two left before he hits his prime, and it is looking more and more likely that he bottoms out as an AHLer than be a skilled NHL forward.

That’s not to say he’s completely done for however. He’s coming off a 49 point season in the AHL (and an even stronger performance in the playoffs), and has become a more reliable piece on the Marlies. In fact, Andreas Johnsson saw similar production at his age 22 season with the Marlies, and he’s become a key piece to the Leafs just two years later, so all hope is not lost. But, the clock is ticking.

Scouting Report

Coming off his high-scoring seasons in the QMJHL, Timashov showed that he had the potential to be a good play-making winger at the NHL level. While the QMJHL has historically been a higher scoring league than the WHL and OHL, Timashov tied for 11th in scoring in his draft year (with current San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier, mind you), so that alone makes him not a bad bet to use a 5th round pick on.

But there’s more to the story than that. According to a 2014 scouting report of him on Elite Prospects, he was described as “an agile winger with very good puckhandling skills” and “a dangerous player who will wow audiences with his speed and creativity”. Long story short, he had flashes that made for a good bet at the time.

But, this isn’t about what Timashov was like when he was drafted, we care about what he’s like now. Corey Pronman of the Athletic described him in his Leafs prospect ranking article, pointing out his “skill and hockey sense” as something that stands out to him, but also notes that “he’s small and not that good of a skater”.

His skating is a cause for concern at this point, especially since the league has shifted to a fast-skating game, but if he makes up for it in hockey sense and skill, there’s still a chance he can make it.

And he has showcased that from time to time, such as this penalty shot goal against Charlotte in an elimination game, where he pulls off the Kucherov no shot move.

Best-Case/Worst-Case Scenario

At this point, Timashov’s best and worst case scenario’s are pretty clear, and it’s very likely we find out what happens by this time next year.

His best-case scenario would be something like the aforementioned Johnsson, and we see him absolutely dominate the AHL and getting a chance in the NHL, and showcasing himself as a solid middle six option. However, the one issue there is that Johnsson had an opportunity due to the lack of forward depth beyond the NHL roster, while this year the Leafs have about ten forwards that wouldn’t be in the top nine that you could look at as bottom six NHL forwards, and likely ahead of Timashov on the depth chart. Basically, he’ll have to really wow in the AHL to get a shot.

The worst case scenario is basically that he sees a similar fate to fellow 2015 draftee Andrew Nielsen, and he doesn’t have much of a future beyond the AHL and is shipped out for a minimal return, or he just happens to be kept on the Marlies to help keep that team competitive.

If I was a betting man, I’d be more likely to think that the worst case scenario is more likely to happen, but it’s far from a certainty.

Outlook

In case I haven’t made it clear already, this season is due or die for Timashov. Most NHL forwards hit their prime in their early to mid 20s, and at age 23, that’s exactly what Timashov is reaching.

Up to this point, he’s seen a slow, but steady development, and his next step is to either dominate the AHL or show that he can play in the NHL, and that potential is certainly there, and he needs to do it now if he has any hope of having a future in the NHL.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s very likely that we will know if Timashov truly is an NHL player by the end of this season, and it’s up to him to show us which answer it is.

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Earlier in the week we unveiled our overall ranking of the Top Ten Winnipeg Jets as of this moment heading into the 2019-2020 season.

Here, we’re going to go over the individual voting and see how each member of the JetsNation staff ranked their top ten along with some comments about their list.

Most of the voting went as you’d think, but there were a few surprises in some of the lists which made for some interesting final results including a clean sweep for Mark Scheifele at number one while players like Dustin Byfuglien and Connor Hellebuyck were left off of a list or two.


Alec B’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Josh Morrissey
3 – Blake Wheeler
4 – Dustin Byfuglien
5 – Kyle Connor
6 – Connor Hellebuyck
7 – Patrik Laine
8 – Nik Ehlers
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Andrew Copp

Josh Morrissey is one of the most underrated players in the league. If he continues to progress the way he has, especially with the opportunity he is going to get this season in the absence of Trouba and Myers, I believe he will be a dark horse Norris candidate this season. Laine and Ehlers should be higher on this list, but they are still too inconsistent in their play. I hate to leave Little off of the list, as I feel the biggest reason for negative opinions about him is his contract.


Zee’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Josh Morrissey
3 – Kyle Connor
4 – Nik Ehlers
5 – Patrik Laine
6 – Blake Wheeler
7 – Connor Hellebuyck
8 – Jack Roslovic
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Mathieu Perreault

I think Scheifele is pretty much undisputed at the top of this list. Morrissey is a beast and one of the few defensemen I’m not worried about going into the season. Connor, Ehlers and Laine have the potential to take this team to the next level if they play to the ability we know they’re capable of. Wheeler could be higher but I’m not confidant that he will bounce back to what we’ve seen from him. Hellebuyck will be a big reason the team is successful if he can manage to pull himself out of the league average goaltending of last season. At this point, its Roslovic’s time to prove that he has the ability to move up higher and I really hope he does.


Cody B’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Blake Wheeler
3 – Josh Morrissey
4 – Dustin Byfuglien
5 – Connor Hellebuyck
6 – Kyle Connor
7 – Patrik Laine
8 – Nik Ehlers
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Bryan Little

Looking at this moment and not in two or three years, I still feel like Scheifele and Wheeler are the top two overall players I like Morrisey’s all around game compared to Byfuglien. I feel at this moment Connor, Laine, and Ehlers are all very close.


Eric M’s Top Ten

1 – Mark Scheifele
2 – Josh Morrissey
3 – Connor Hellebuyck
4 – Blake Wheeler
5 – Kyle Connor
6 – Patrik Laine
7 – Dustin Byfuglien
8 – Nike Ehlers
9 – Adam Lowry
10 – Andrew Copp

Laine is my biggest question mark; I think he could potentially be much higher on my list. Down the stretch last season, we saw a very much improved Laine, his all-around game coming together by leaps and bounds. If he continues to refine his game on even the current pace he was, and can maintain the early season scoring magic of last year, Laine could very easily silence all the doubters. I’m sure as sunshine not willing to throw in the towel on him, and anyone thinking he is bogging the team down in any manner is in my opinion patently ridiculous.

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Adam Ruzicka is an interesting project. There’s no doubt that he has talent, which is why he ended up eighth on the FlamesNation Top 20 prospect list.

However, he didn’t always show that in junior, and there’s a lot of questions about his game – specifically his motivation. He didn’t even make all the ballots of FlamesNation writers. Now, having signed his entry-level contract and making the jump to pro hockey this season, the question will be: what do the Calgary Flames have in Ruzicka?

How did we get here?

A product of Bratislava, Slovakia, Ruzicka bounced between youth leagues in the Czech Republic and Slovakia before eventually coming to North America to play for the Sarnia Sting. He was a member of the Sting when he was drafted in the fourth round by the Flames, going 109th in 2017.

It seemed as though the 6’4″, 203 lb. centreman was going to finish his junior career with Sarnia, as he started last season with them. It also seemed as though his junior career was going to end with a bit of a thud, as he was producing at an all right blip but not enough to warrant any excitement as a prospect.

Then, everything changed with a trade to Sudbury. The home of the Big Nickel lit a spark in Ruzicka, and he truly went on a tear with the Wolves, scoring on average nearly a goal-per-game.

The hope is that another new locale will be good for Ruzicka, as he’s expected to contribute in his season for Stockton.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

There’s a lot to look at with the last two years of Ruzicka.

SEASON TEAM GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS POINTS
2017-18 SARNIA STING 63 36 36 72
2018-19 SARNIA STING 35 11 26 37
2018-19 SUDBURY WOLVES 30 24 17 41

When he’s engaged, Ruzicka can score goals. That’s a very appealing prospect in, well, a prospect. He got the majority of goals in Sarnia through the first part of his 2017-18 season, before cooling off and never really looking the same.

After that, the Sting never got the same kind of production out of him. During his final 83 games with Sarnia, Ruzicka managed 82 points. Certainly, nothing to sneeze at, but not the potential that the 27 points in his first 15 games showed.

That kind of potential was realized in Sudbury, where the numbers speak for themselves. He saw more ice time, he didn’t rely on power play production as much, and scored a bunch. He even had a four-goal game close to the end, something Joe Thornton can only aspire to.

It’ll be interesting to see the player that shows up in California. Ruzicka in a way had a very similar season to Stockton last year, with the only difference being that it wasn’t too late for the Slovak by the time he figured it out. This year, both the player and the team need the whole year to matter.

Those in the know 

Even though he dazzled with the Wolves, Sudbury Star beat reporter Ben Leeson thinks that Ruzicka still needs to work on a couple of things to really stand out as a pro.

While he is by no means a poor skater, he’d ben even more effective with his skill, size and strength if he had just a little more speed to separate himself from defenders. Though he was Sudbury’s leading scorer in the playoffs, adding another gear would have made him even more effective against a team like Ottawa, one of the fastest in the league overall, and could certainly serve him well as a pro.

Brock Otten, of the OHL Prospects blog, echoes those sentiments and questions what a full season could and should look like for Ruzicka.

Ruzicka, as has always been the case, will need to find the motivation and drive to be a consistent factor when eh doesn’t have the puck on his stick. As mentioned, this took great strides in Sudbury, but a half a season does not do enough enough to completely wipe out these concerns. At the pro level, he is going to be asked to use his size retrieve loose pucks and play with more urgency below the hash marks. He will not be able to rely on his size to gain positional advantage in the slot or near the crease and he’s going to have to increase his intensity level to be better playing through traffic. I also think that Ruzicka will need to continue to improving his first few strides for the pro game. He’s not a poor skater, especially for a big kid, but becoming more explosive will be a requirement if he wants to be a top 6 center at the NHL level.

On the horizon

Ruzicka will go from the top-line centre in Sudbury to a player with lesser responsibility to start in Stockton. He’ll have to find the motivation to respond appropriately, but he’ll have three years to show the Flames that he has that next step.

With a lack of high-end prospects (especially centres) standing in his way, the main obstacle that Ruzicka will have to overcome really is himself. If he finds those extra gears that Leeson and Otten mentioned, he might find himself in Calgary sooner than later.

Previously

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The @Derick Brassard era in Edmonton was short-lived. Former Oiler Georges Laraque came on Twitter and said the Oilers had inked the veteran centre to a one-year deal, but it was a false alarm and he ended up signing with the New York Islanders instead.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal. It would have been nice for the Oilers to grab a decent buy-low, reclamation project like Brassard, but they aren’t missing out on that much. What it does suggest, as Dusty Nielson discussed the other day on Inside The Nation, is that Ken Holland is most likely still interested in adding depth down the middle.

As of right now, a glaring hole when putting together the Oilers’ lineup for 2019-20 is the team’s third-line centre. The team is set with @Connor McDavid, @Leon Draisaitl, and @Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as options for the top-six, and @Colby Cave, @Kyle Brodziak, and @Jujhar Khaira are fine options for the fourth line, but the third line is a bit of a mystery.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SATURDAY EDITION question. Who should the Oilers to flank the third line? Is there an internal option for the third-line centre role? Or does Holland need to go out and make an addition to shore up the position?

There are a handful of darts to throw against the board already part of the organization who could fill the third-line centre role.

Kyle Brodziak was once the quintessential third-line centre, capable of shutting down the other team’s top forwards while also chipping in offensively. That isn’t the case anymore. Brodziak looked like he was toast last season and might end up on waivers before the season.

Colby Cave was claimed on waivers in the middle of the season last year. He’s a good skater who can thrive in a checking role, but he brings virtually zero offence to the table. Cave is best suited as a fourth-line centre.

Jujhar Khaira has gone back and forth from centre to the wing over the past couple of years. He scored 11 goals in what appeared to be a breakout season in 2017-18 but regressed down to just three goals in an injury-riddled 2018-19. There’s a lot of potential there but asking Khaira to take on the third-centre gig is a big ask.

Gaetan Haas was an interesting off-season addition from the Swiss League. Haas put up good offensive numbers in Switzerland but he’s also been praised for his excellent two-way game. It’s hard to project how European free agents will perform in the NHL, but Haas is an option.

@Cooper Marody had an excellent season in the AHL last year and could force his way onto the NHL roster this fall if he plays incredibly well. Still, given his age, Marody has a big hill to climb to crack the team out of camp.

Another option is rolling McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins as the team’s three centres. I really doubt this happens as McDavid and Draisaitl have become such a powerful duo on the top line.

The only really interesting option left on the free agent market is Brian Boyle. I’ve liked the idea of adding Boyle all summer. He’s known as a great leader and personality, he can take on heavy minutes in the defensive zone, and he can also produce offence. Boyle scored 18 goals last year between New Jersey and Nashville, seven of which came on the power play.

There’s always the possibility of a trade. We don’t often see trades at this time of year, but given the strange RFA landscape, anything can happen. Perhaps Holland can turn Jesse Puljujarvi into a good third-line centre.

Given Edmonton’s internal options, I would guess the team throws all of those aforementioned darts at the board to see what works. Maybe Khaira can take a step forward, maybe Haas hits the ground running in North America, or maybe Marody steals the spot. If none of these options work out, we could see Holland make a mid-season deal to shore up the position similar to the David Desharnais addition in 2017.

What say you, Nation? Who do you think is the best option for the Oilers’ third-line centre? 


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