TheLeafsNation Top 25 of 2020 1 RUMOURS A landing spot for Andersen and the asking price for Nylander

Welcome to the yearly wrap up of the top read articles over the last year!

We did it! We finally made it to number one.

The most-read article this year was penned by TLN editor Jon Steitzer who on Aug. 30 wrote about some of the latest rumours surrounding the Leafs.

Elliotte Freidman had wrote a 31 thoughts piece looking at some rumours surrounding Andersen and Nylander.

RUMOURS: A landing spot for Andersen and the asking price for Nylander

Here’s some of what Steitzer wrote:

Speaking of moving on from Andersen, here’s a potential landing spot. Now obviously the Leafs would love to get back their 13th overall pick, and would probably need to take one of the Canes goaltenders for doing so (preferably Mrazek because he’s better), but there are a lot of interesting roster players on the Canes that Leafs should be interested in as well, but I’d assume Pesce and Hamilton are off limits, obviously.

Nylander being worth a legitimate top four right handed defenseman has shades of Hall for Larsson all over it, and in that situation it’s pretty easy to pass on the idea of trading Nylander, even if you aren’t his biggest fan. I think “legit” is meant to imply the Leafs want either a young player already in the top four, or they want a top pairing RHD who might not necessarily be an All-Star. Either way, I think I can appreciate the hesitation on wanting to trade him as giving up a 30 goal scorer for a lackluster RHD for a second straight summer isn’t a good look for the Leafs.

….

The perception about Nylander is that he doesn’t care as much as other players. Maybe that’s true, but if him not caring results in what he produces, I’m fine with him being the way he is. Alex Kovalev had a very productive career with that reputation, and I see no reason why Willy can’t do the same.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

 

 

Heading into Contract Year, Jets F Andrew Copp Focused on Individual Performance Rather Than Role

After being the first team eliminated from last season’s postseason, the Winnipeg Jets have high hopes for this upcoming campaign, but they’ll require every skater to play up to their full potential to ensure a return to the playoffs next summer.

In order to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, the Jets will certainly need to receive quality performances from key role players like Andrew Copp, who’s slated to become a restricted free agent next off-season. Considering the uncertainty regarding the future of the salary cap, which could remain at $81.5 million until league revenue recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’ll be crucial for the 26-year old to perform effectively or he may struggle to earn a long-term contract.

With the 2020-21 campaign shortened to just 56 games, Copp can’t afford a slow start to the season, meaning he’ll need to hit the ground running when training camp opens on Sunday. Following a productive off-season, the 6-foot-1 forward feels extremely confident about his craft and also doesn’t believe the short schedule will impact his ability to produce consistently.

“I feel confident in where my game is at,” Copp discussed. “I feel confident in the work and preparation that I put in [during] the off-season. So I don’t think it’s too different than a normal contract year, you just got to hit the ground running and be ready to go right from the get-go.”

Back before Copp departed for the off-season, he expressed his goal about desiring to compete for the second-line center position in 2021. But with the acquisition of forward Paul Stastny – who was reacquired from the Las Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional 2022 fourth-round pick – the left-hander’s aspirations have now changed and he’s since been focused on being ready to fill in at that spot if needed.

“I’m just trying to improve my game every day and trying to become as valuable as possible for our team,” Copp explained. “So I feel like, obviously with the addition of Paul [Stastny] – he’s a great player [and] a great friend to me – he’s going to be our second-line center to start the year I would assume. But, injuries happen and I want to be prepared to move up in the lineup as I did throughout last year.”

“So I’m just trying to get better every day and trying to prove that I can play higher in the lineup and be as valuable as possible.”

Over 63 games before the league’s shutdown in March, Copp averaged a career-high 17:42 minutes of ice time per game, producing 10 goals, 26 points, 0.16 goals per game, 0.41 points per game, 121 shots on net, 59 hits, 38 takeaways, 27 blocks, and a 53.0% faceoff percentage.

Adding to his resume from the regular season, the former fourth-round selection also added two goals, seven shots on net, five hits, three takeaways, two blocks, along with a 52.0% faceoff percentage through four playoff contests.

Assuming Stastny remains healthy through camp and into the season, it seems Copp will likely return to the third line and be positioned alongside teammates Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton. Looking at the Canadian division, or the “north” division as the NHL refers to it, the Michigan native believes all seven teams will prove to be extremely competitive and is also preparing for every game to be an intense battle throughout the entire season.

“It’s going to be a very competitive division,” Copp detailed. “I think you can look at the teams one through seven and no matter what way it shakes out you won’t be overly surprised. So, every night it’s going to be a battle. There’s great players on each team and players that you’re going to have to be aware of. So, we’re looking forward to the challenge and we’re going to get to know each other pretty well over the next five months.”

Flames sign Connor Zary to entry level contract

On the final day of 2020, the Calgary Flames have signed their 2020 first round pick. Forward Connor Zary has inked an entry level contract with the club. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal is a three year contract that sources indicate carries a $925,000 cap hit per season and includes additional performance bonuses.

Zary, 19, was the 24th overall selection by the Flames back in October – after they traded down twice from 19th overall and gained a pair of third round picks (used to draft Jake Boltmann and Jeremie Poirier).

Earlier today, we outlined why Zary’s camp might wait until the New Year to sign with the Flames. But, as they say, plans changed. While players in Zary’s slot in the NHL Draft usually don’t get performance bonuses included in their deals, for the Flames there was a benefit to doing so.

By signing early, Zary gets his signing bonus now (rather than later), performance bonuses included in his contract (so if he makes the Flames down the road, he could make more than his $832,500 salary), and he gets the possible opportunity to attend Flames camp next month and get some practice reps with some really good players. He’ll reportedly also be eligible to play with the AHL’s Stockton Heat until the WHL season gets going, as the CHL’s transfer agreement with the NHL has been relaxed this season given the pandemic delaying the start of the WHL and OHL campaigns.

From the Flames’ perspective, gaining some flexibility by signing Zary in December was likely deemed worth the potential of shelling out some additional bonuses down the road – if Zary earns his bonuses, it’ll mean he’s made a Matthew Tkachuk-like impact on his ELC, which the Flames would be more than happy to pay extra to get. If Zary isn’t knocking on the door for an NHL gig in 2021-22, then the Flames benefit from a slightly lower cap hit due to his contract potentially sliding twice (and starting to run in 2022-23).

By his deal sliding once (in 2020-21), Zary’s cap hit would be $894,167 for the remainder of his deal. If it slides twice (e.g., also in 2021-22), his cap hit would drop to $863,333, saving the Flames around an additional $31,000 over a full season.

There are trade-offs in every negotiation, and this situation seems like one where both sides were able to find common ground and find a way to benefit.

A product of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, Zary has amassed 73 goals and 182 points over 188 games in the WHL. He was named a first team Western Conference All-Star in 2019-20. He’s currently competing with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship tournament in Edmonton.

Antoine Roussel is 20 months out from knee surgery and will be back to playing his game in 2021

Coming off of the worst offensive season of his career, Antoine Roussel is now set to feature in the Vancouver Canucks’ bottom six as a veteran presence with attention to detail in the defensive zone.

After injuring his knee at the end of the 2018-19 season, Roussel made his return to the Canucks on December 3rd. That was the night that Alex Burrows had his name and number put into the ring of honour. Roussel’s return to the lineup was one of the most heart-warming stories of the 2019-20 season.

During the regular season, Roussel averaged just 11:50 of ice time per game. He was not used for one shorthanded shift all season but did see some time on the second power play unit. His minutes dropped even more when the Canucks got into the playoffs. Through 17 games, Roussel averaged just 7:26 and tallied up eight minor penalties and three 10 minute misconducts for a total of 46 penalty minutes.

Head Coach Travis Green made a decision to not play Roussel late in games and he rarely saw ice in the third periods of games. Through the 17 postseason games, Roussel saw over 10 minutes of ice time only once.

Now Roussel comes into training camp healthy and with a chance to win a spot in the lineup where he can make an impact with more than his mouth.

Antoine Roussel Now

Games Played Goals Assists Points
41 7 6 13

He came out with a bang last season, putting up three goals in his first two games back in December. After a week or so it seemed like Roussel was not quite ready for a return. His previously injured knee seemed to give him problems as the season went on.

Roussel needs to be able to skate at 100% to be an impact bottom six player. He brings a ton of energy to the lineup and if that energy is aimed in the right direction, he can really get under the opponents’ skin and piss them off with his constant chirping.

One of Roussel’s strengths is his versatility. He is able to play on a variety of different lines and similar to a chameleon, he can change his style to fit with the line.

Last season, Roussel’s most consistent line combination featured him, Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette. The trio played 179:04 of 5-on-5 time together and had a positive control of the goal share (9GF-7GA).

In a limited time, there was a lot of success between Zack MacEwen and Roussel. Perhaps with Virtanen graduating to a top six role, it will open up the chance to see a Roussel-Gaudette-MacEwen trio as a bottom six group that can bang on the forecheck and score when the opportunity arises. There’s a ton of different options for Roussel in this Canucks lineup.

Tyler Motte has been used alongside Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter for a majority of his time here in Vancouver but slotting Roussel in to play with Sutter and Beagle may be an option as camp comes to a close. The Canucks liked what they saw from Tyler Motte in the playoffs and could reward him with some middle six time. This would open up the door for the Canucks to have a fourth line of three veteran players who could theoretically slow the game down for Travis Green.

The Best of 2021 Roussel

Games Played Goals Assists Points
56 8 20 28

Getting 25-30 points from Roussel would be a huge boost to the Canucks 5-on-5 offensive output. Even though Roussel was 12th in power play ice time last season, I don’t think he will see as much time this season as the Canucks have some youth options to throw out on the second unit.

In 54 minutes of power play time last season, he only added one goal and a second assist. That was some of the worst power play production out of any Canucks player.

In this best-case situation, I see Roussel playing on a third line with Gaudette along with one of MacEwen or Virtanen. This third line would have three players that all skate with pace and have decent enough hands to score goals at a relatively high rate for a third line.

This scenario also has Roussel being healthy for all 56 games. He battled with his knee injury last season but now has had an extended offseason and should be 100% healthy at training camp, even if he is trying to get out of bag skates:

The Worst of 2021 Roussel

Games Played Goals Assists Points
30 4 7 11

Though we have talked about Roussel’s versatility in the Canucks lineup, that could also be a detriment for his offensive production. There could be a lot of games where Roussel is saddled up with Sutter and Beagle. He could be in the offensive black hole but still make an impact if he is able to boost the energy of that fourth line.

With potential newcomers like Nils Höglander and Jayce Hawryluk, Roussel may just be dropped in the depth charts. The Canucks like what Roussel can bring to the team but there is some momentum in other bottom six wingers like Tyler Motte and Zack MacEwen. If one of Höglander, Hawryluk, Kole Lind or Loui Eriksson makes enough impact at training camp then Roussel could easily be the odd man out of this lineup.

I think he currently sits above these players in Travis Green’s eyes and coming into training camp healthy will help him keep that spot in the lineup, but there is a chance he is not one of the top eight wingers for the Canucks on opening night. That would be a surprise for sure but this year is going to bring a lot of shocking moments.

What else does a successful 2021 for Roussel look like?

Make an impact on special teams: Through the first seven seasons of his career, Roussel was a penalty killer. We’ve all seen the way he plays and it makes a lot of sense that he would be a fit on a team’s shorthanded unit. After a horrendous first year with the Canucks, he only got 25 seconds of penalty kill time in 2019-20. Having Roussel be a contributor on the penalty kill would be added value to his impact on the team as a whole. This would also help limit Tanner Pearson and J.T. Miller’s penalty kill time. Roussel has the smarts and aggressiveness to be a penalty killer. It’s just going to be tough to get that idea back into Travis Green’s head after allowing 11.63 goals per 60 minutes in his first season on the Canucks’ penalty kill. In that 2018-19 season, the on-ice save percentage while shorthanded with Roussel on the ice was 0.771% so it’s only up from there.

Mouthguard: It doesn’t take a genius to see that Roussel impacts the game with his mouth. He loves to get under the opponents’ skin and can create momentum from his chirping. If he is able to find the happy medium of being a pest while also adding momentum to his team with his antics then he will be very effective in the lineup. He will need to tone it down at time because he can’t keep putting the Canucks shorthanded in this short, 56 game season. Roussel had 43 penalty minutes in 41 games and that seems like a decent balance between crossing the line and also impacting the flow of the game. He adds that bite that the Canucks have been missing for years.

What Might Get in the Way?

New Guys: With some wingers like Hawryluk, Höglander, MacEwen and Lind now in the mix it could push Roussel down the lineup and if Green wants to go with Eriksson in a fourth line role over Roussel then he could find himself up in the press box. It’s an outside chance but still very possible to see him be a healthy scratch for some games this season.

ACL Troubles: It’s 2020, so ACL injuries aren’t as bad as they were back in the day. This type of knee injury can still make an impact on how much a player can trust their own body or limit their recovery time as well. The two extended breaks will help Roussel as it has now been over 20 months since the knee injury. He will be back at his best but he is now on the wrong side of 30 and could have lost a step during those 20 months.

Right now there is a bottom six spot for Roussel, if he is able to add penalty killing to his toolbelt then there is even more reason to keep him in the lineup. He will have to have a good showing at camp and that is a likely scenario for a guy who works hard every single time he steps on the ice.

This summer at training camp he was consistently out on the ice late after practice either working on breakaway attempts or sending passes across the slot to snipers like Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. He’s a great teammate and one of the most fun players to deal with off the ice as well. Seeing him and Nate Schmidt chirp it out at training camp will be entertaining, to say the least.

Let’s hope his offensive side takes a step back toward what it was in his first year with the Canucks and his versatility in the lineup helps find him added ice time.

Winding Down

Originally, my plan for today’s post was to recap some of the top stories of the year that Zach Laing has been aggregating over the past month or so, but then when I sat down to write, I decided to pivot. Rather than recapping the recap, I decided I would rather use this time to say thank you to all of you that have been reading and interacting with us throughout these past 12 months. You have no idea how much it means to us.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that 2020 has been the weirdest year I’ve ever experienced. Things actually started out pretty great, we packed a bus full of people for another road trip to Calgary in early January, I went to Mexico late in the month to watch a friend get married, we took an amazing group of citizens for a Nation Vacation down to Vegas in February, and the Oilers looked like they were legitimately turning a corner after the calendar flipped… For me, the first couple of months of the year were actually working out pretty well before the wheels came off. Then, just over a week after we got back from our trip to Vegas, COVID-19 forced us to close Nation HQ, the NHL season was postponed, we all went into the first lockdown, and not a whole lot has really felt very normal ever since.

Yet, despite the oddness of our new reality and total lack of real hockey news to talk about for months on end, we’ve still managed to post hundreds of articles to the site to try and keep everyone entertained while also maintaining some level of normalcy. If even for a few moments, it was important to give people a place to go and feel like things weren’t a total disaster. This job basically turned from our normal duties of reporting on the Oilers to working through an extended creative writing exercise, and that was a real challenge for all of us as we always wanted to make sure that there was content up for people to read if they wanted. Thankfully, your support and willingness to follow us down the rabbit hole on some of the weirder ideas we had to run with meant that the site was able to survive and float through what was basically two separate offseasons in a single year. When I think back on it all, it’s almost unbelievable that we finally made it to New Year’s Eve despite all of the challenges we’ve had to overcome.

In a normal year, we’d be closing out the calendar with an Oilers game day post from Gregor and a Wrap Up shortly after the final buzzer, but instead, I’m here with a quick post to say thank you. Thank you to everyone that continues to read the articles even though we’re still over a week away from the season even starting, and I can’t even begin to come up with the right words to express how much that means to us. You folks are the backbone for the incredible community that surrounds this website, and we’re eternally grateful that we were all able to ride through this shitty puddle of a year together. It may not have been what we wanted or expected, and we may have even disagreed on how things were playing out, but I’m thankful for every minute we’ve shared on this strange trip called life.

From all of us here at Oilersnation, I want to thank all of you for sticking with us this year and I cannot wait for the Oilers to come back so that we can all do what we do best — argue about every single aspect of this team’s existence regardless of how things are going. After the year we’ve all had, the idea of talking about the powerplay and whether or not Dave Tippett has his line combos right seems like the kind of reward that we all deserve, and I’m beaming with excitement that we’re so close to being able to do that again. And even though I know there will still be challenges coming as we head into 2021, it makes life feel a little bit brighter to know that we’re all going to build those bridges together.

Thank you, Nation, and Happy New Year.


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