Monday Mailbag First impressions

Welcome, Nation, to another edition of the award-winning Monday Mailbag! The pre-season is already a week old, the roster is being whittled down, and we’re starting to see slivers of the new season peaking out of its wrapper. Once again, the mailbag is here to help you kill off a few minutes of company time and try to answer all of the things that you’ve always been wondering about. How’s that for an early week gift? As always, this feature depends on you so please send me your questions by email or Twitter for next week and I’ll try to sneak you in. Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful week and please enjoy the free learning opportunity.

1) Chandler asks – Who has stood out to you (positively or negatively) through this first week of the preseason?

Jason Gregor:

Patrick Russell has been better than I expected. We’ll see what he does in the second week of preseason when the quality of opposition increases. What has stood out the most of me is how different Tippett has them playing. He wants more puck possession through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. They aren’t dumping it in when no one is chasing. Also engaging the defence. He and D coach Jim Playfair have them joining the rush more often, and if the defender is the late man coming in they want him to go to the top of the circles before pivoting and skating backwards to the blueline. I think being more aggressive will help them. It will likely lead to a few errors early in the season as players still adapt.

Robin Brownlee:

Liked Stuart Skinner before he was re-assigned. Same for Samorukov. Jurco looks like a player. Patrick Russell has impressed. It’s obvious Bouchard is coming along very nicely. The question is if he’s ready (and has a spot to play) now. Benson was underwhelming.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I really think that this team is better with Evan Bouchard in the lineup but at the same time, I don’t think he makes this team. He is really close but I think Holland wants him in the minors for a little bit. Koskinen has been pretty meh, but that’s a problem they can’t really solve. They just have to wait and hope either he or Smith improves. Benning hasn’t looked great, Persson has been better than I was expecting, and Jurco has been surprisingly effective.

Christian Pagnani:

I thought Marody played well, which is sort of surprising to see him sent down so early. James Neal looks solid and at the very least, more useful than Milan Lucic.

Chris the Former Intern:

Sheldon Skinner looked good to me, and I’ve liked how Gagner and Neal looked out there as well. Negatively, Koskinen looked like the Koskinen we don’t want him to be.


I liked the way Tomas Jurco has played so far. I don’t put much stock into preseason results, especially the first week, but I thought Jurco looks good as a bottom-six option so far.

2) Clay asks – What does everyone think about the rate at which the Oilers are releasing their players? To me, I’d rather make more cuts early, I feel there are some players that hang around unnecessarily and I wonder why the coaches don’t just get down closer to what the roster will look like when the season starts.

Jason Gregor:

They played four preseason games in five days. You want them playing vets more in meaningless games? I see no reason to do it. They are down to 30 players with a week to go. And I suspect you will see a few more cuts early next week. Nothing wrong with when they have released players.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see anything out of the ordinary. Fine balance to get a look at everybody and pick the team at the same time. Also, remember that Holland and this coaching staff (except Gulutzan) are getting their first looks at these players.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think the coaches would rather have the roster cut down quickly as well. The fact that things aren’t moving quickly speaks to how tight some battles are. The Oilers having some key players that aren’t healthy as well, which is keeping some people around. You want to see the final lineup as quickly as possible but I don’t think it’s an issue that the Oilers are taking their time with some of these decisions.

Christian Pagnani:

I think this was asked before the cuts on Friday morning, so the Oilers kind of agreed with you with just 33 players left. Three of those are injured players, too.

Chris the Former Intern:

Yeah, I am surprised by how long they are holding on to a few guys. However, it’s probably a good development-strategy to keep these kids for as long as possible.


I know this was asked before the cuts that happened on Friday but I think that the pre-season is mostly set up to evaluate guys that are on the cusp of making it. Frankly, I wouldn’t want the vets to get hurt in these meaningless games so I don’t mind having guys like Leon only playing in a game or two.

3) Jesse asks – With a week of pre-season in the books, who has the lead for the fourth spot at centre alongside McDavid, RNH, and Sheahan?

Jason Gregor:

It is Haas or Cave. I’d say Cave is ahead, Tippett even said he was, but did admit that was expected as Haas needs some time to adjust. Haas did tell me that he would play in the AHL until November 1st if he needs more time to get used to the smaller ice.

Robin Brownlee:

I think we might see Haas there, but Cave has been very good so far. Coin flip.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Well, I liked what Cooper Marody brought to the table, but he didn’t make it. I believe it’s down to Cave and Haas and whichever one isn’t the fourth line centre will end up being an extra forward. I will say that it is possible that they just try to run one of Khaira or Gagner as a centre but I think it’s unlikely.

Christian Pagnani:

I’m guessing Haas. I would have gone with Marody but he’s on the way to Bakersfield.

Chris the Former Intern:

I’m pretty torn right now on the 4C spot and can’t really decide who I want to be there. If I had to guess, Markus Granlund.


I’m going to guess Colby Cave because none of the other options have been overly impressive. I think Gaetan Haas will get a long look, but I don’t necessarily know that he’s earned it either.

Apr 6, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) guards his net against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Paul asks – With the Oilers starting their season in just over a week, what’s the biggest question that remains unanswered with this hockey team?

Jason Gregor:

Can they limit goals against? It is a combination of their goaltending and defence being good enough.

Robin Brownlee:

Goaltending. We haven’t seen Mike Smith yet and Koskinen had one bad outing and one that was OK.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The biggest question is: will their goaltending be good enough? Everyone is crapping on it because of a rough start to the preseason by Koskinen, but I’m waiting until the regular season to give an answer to the question. We also haven’t seen Mike Smith yet. Goaltending will make or break their season so it’s clearly the biggest question mark.

Christian Pagnani:

Can Koskinen give you ~40 games of average goaltending?

Chris the Former Intern:

I’d say our goaltending. Koskinen and Smith are both wildcards right now, and we won’t know how they’re going to turn out until the season actually begins.


Is this goalie tandem good enough?

5) Stephen asks – How much stock do you put into pre-season performances?

Jason Gregor:

The Oilers were 6-2 and 6-1 the past two years. They finished 23rd and 25th in the regular season. I don’t put much stock into it at all.

Robin Brownlee:

Some, but most of that comes later in pre-season when the line-ups are closer to what they’ll be when the season starts. I look more at the instincts and hockey smarts a player shows and where they might fit than results in terms of points etc. Marody, for example, had some points, but didn’t look like he could keep up. We’ve seen players in the past who’ve put up some points against weak line-ups and then fade as the competition gets tougher.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

If I had to put it on a scale of 1-10, I would say I’m at a 5. It matters because it determines which players will start the season with the team but after years and years of watching the Oilers dominate the preseason then fall flat on their faces in the regular season, I don’t read much into the wins and losses. Just focus on a few individuals and don’t worry about much else.

Christian Pagnani:

Not much. Remember Ty Rattie and Kailer Yamamoto lighting it up last season? Or Anton Lander a few years back? Preseason is nice. It’s great to have hockey back but it’s easy to blow things out of proportion from a really small sample size. You can’t completely write it off, but it’s not as important as people make it out to be.

Chris the Former Intern:

Not a ton. The Oilers are always successful in the offseason and look how it works out for us. Also, a ton of guys are pacing themselves during pre season games.


Basically none. We’ve seen our fair share of preseason champs that have had that success not translate in the regular season so I don’t think much about it. I mean, Anton Lander led the preseason in points one year and where’s he at?

5 Key Reasons Why Cruising is Perfect for Solo Travelers

Exploring the world solo offers enjoyments you’d otherwise miss out on.

Solo travel is on the rise. Over the past few years, people have begun booking more trips for one. When the world has so much to offer, it’s no surprise why travelers are going out by themselves.

You can see what the hype’s all about yourself with a vacation of your own. Here are 5 key reasons why cruising is perfect for solo travelers.

1. You’ll Meet Other Travelers

Being a solo traveler means you’ll have the opportunity to meet other travelers and possibly make a few friends along the way. When you’re on a cruise, you’re never alone. You can choose to socialize with other travelers or hang out by yourself.

By the time you dock, you might have made a friend that can help you see things differently.

2. Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone

Traveling solo pushes you out of your comfort zone. You’re forced to meet new people, go sightseeing by yourself, and other things you may not do with loved ones around. Being on your own in a new place can be exhilarating.

These things can result in you learning to trust yourself more.

3. You Can Explore More Places on Your List

When you’re with other travelers, each one of you likely has your own list of places you want to visit at different ports. Sharing this trip with others may force you to sacrifice a few places due to other people in your party. By the end of a shared journey, you may find yourself wishing you could go back to see the skipped places on your list.

Travel solo and you won’t have to miss a thing.

4. It’s Affordable

Traveling solo on a cruise can be affordable. You have the ability to save on smaller rooms and food. When you dock, you don’t have to worry about paying admission to visit other travelers’ picks, and you can be as cheap as you want without suffering judgment.

If you’re looking for an affordable adventure then fun, tropical Caribbean cruises are the way to go.

5. You’ll Feel More Spontaneous

Traveling solo gives you the ability to change plans on a whim. You’ll feel more spontaneous when you explore a random beach you hadn’t known about previously. Or, make international friends at different ports.

Traveling solo is the perfect excuse to break free and explore a different side of you. Trust yourself to get out of your comfort zone and do something spontaneous, while you still can.

Enjoy Your Travels

Traveling solo offers experiences and benefits that exploring with other travelers wouldn’t. Now that you know why you should choose a cruise for your solo travels, it’s time to book. The sooner you make your reservation, the sooner you’ll be exploring the world all on your own.

You can explore our site to discover the latest news and more.

The post 5 Key Reasons Why Cruising is Perfect for Solo Travelers appeared first on Daily Faceoff.

Atlantic Review Floridas big off-season makes the division deeper

Welcome to The Leafs Nation’s 2019 Atlantic Review in which we take a team-by-team look at the other seven teams in the Atlantic Division. Today, we have the most exciting thing to come out of Fort Lauderdale since Blockbuster, the Florida Panthers. 

The Florida Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final back during their third season in the league. That could change this year.

Given how deep the Atlantic Division is, I obviously wouldn’t guarantee a Florida Panthers playoff series victory in 2020, but, at the very least, they really should be in the mix this year. For a franchise desperate for some kind of on-ice success, that’s good enough.

The Panthers actually looked to be headed in the right direction a few years ago. They won the Atlantic Division for the second time in franchise history in 2015-16 with a young core of players in Alex Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad drafted during their bad years coupled with great veteran performances from Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo.

The wheels fell off in the following seasons. Florida dove head-first into an analytics renaissance in the 2016 off-season, promoting Tom Rowe to the general manager position while shoving Dale Tallon into a nothing role. Rowe fired Gerard Gallant after a slow start and the team left him literally on the side of the road where he had to find his own taxi. Rowe took control of the bench himself, couldn’t remedy the situation, and the Panthers pulled out of the experiment at the end of the season, putting Tallon back in charge.

Back behind the saddle, Tallon led the Panthers into the 2017 expansion draft. He made the puzzling decision to allow the Vegas Golden Knights to take Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, two diamonds in the rough found by the computer boys behind the scenes. He said that defence wins championships, opting to hang on to defenders like Alex Petrovic instead.

Florida would go on to be a middling team over the next two seasons, failing to crack the playoffs in a competitive Eastern Conference. Still, the Panthers didn’t blow it up and ultimately decided to go all-in this off-season in order to finally make the team relevant.

What did they do this off-season?

Notable additions: Sergei Bobrovsky, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman, Noel Acciari, 

Notable subtractions: Roberto Luongo, James Reimer, Riley Sheahan, Jamie McGinn, Troy Brouwer. 

As I said, the Panthers went all-in this off-season.

The first key addition was made before the season ended when Tallon made a handshake agreement to hire his old buddy from his Chicago days, Joel Quenneville. Coach Q was fired by the Blackhawks early in 2018-19 and immediately became the most coveted free agent in the NHL. He’ll bring legitimacy behind the bench that the Panthers haven’t had since they dumped Gallant on the side of the road.

Speaking of coveted free agents, the Panthers made an effort to lure both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky from Columbus to Florida. They struck out on Panarin but did sign Bobrovsky to one of the biggest contracts handed out to a goalie in NHL history. This was massive because Florida’s goaltending tandem of Roberto Luongo, who retired in the off-season, and James Reimer, who got moved as a cap dump, were horrendous last season.

Missing out on Panarin was unfortunate, but Florida also added some depth to their roster, signing middle-six sniper Brett Connolly, checking forward Noel Acciari, and shutdown defender Anton Stralman in free agency.

All the pieces are there for Florida to finally be a good team for years to come. Now all they need to do is execute.

How does this affect the Leafs?

Unlike the first three teams I talked about in this series, this actually means something to the Leafs. In the previous couple of seasons, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto were really the only three good teams in the Atlantic Division. Florida’s big off-season brings them right into that mix, making the division a lot less predictable.

The Panthers weren’t an awful team last season. They finished with 86 points in the standings and easily could have competed for a playoff spot with better goaltending. Florida ranked ninth in the league in goals for but finished 28th in goals against, which was ultimately their demise. With the addition of Bobrovsky, assuming he can stay healthy all season, that goals-against total should be much, much better.

The other key, of course, is Quenneville. We saw last season how big of a difference going from a mediocre coach to an elite coach can make on a team. Barry Trotz joined the Islanders and turned a very underwhelming group into a team that swept the Penguins in the first round. A new structure added by a Hall of Fame coach coupled with good goaltending from Bobrovsky could easily result in the Panthers having a 2019 Islander-style jump in the standings.

I wouldn’t say Florida is quite in the same tier as the Big Three in the Atlantic, but them being good makes things a little more urgent. Rather than the entire season just being an 82-game competition with Boston for home-ice advantage between No. 2 and 3 seeds in the division, the Leafs will have a strong Panthers team on their heels. I mean, honestly, maybe a surge from the Panthers is what finally pushes the Leafs away from a first-round date with the Bruins.

It feels weird to imagine a world in which the Florida Panthers are a legitimate playoff contender, but here we are.

JN Gameday Jets Preseason Continues With Calgary Flames In Town

The Winnipeg Jets are an even 1-1-1 early on in the preseason after their overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night. Not that preseason wins and losses matter a great deal, but it would be preferred if we didn’t see the Jets lose games like they did on Friday the same way they did a handful of games last season: Late third period lead given up and ultimately a loss in overtime.

The Jets have four more preseason games left which will be done over the next seven days starting tonight at home to the Calgary Flames. Calgary is 2-1-1 in the preseason, having suffered a 6-2 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Friday.

Again, not that preseason results matter, but Flames fans would prefer if their team didn’t lose that badly to the Oilers.

At any rate, here are your lineups and lines for tonight’s game…

Expect Brossoit to go the distance tonight in net barring any injury. Mikhail Berdin is likely headed to Manitoba Moose camp after tonight and will get his season prep work in there.

As for Calgary, we at least know who is going to Winnipeg and who is staying behind…

And if you’re interested in seeing what the Flames have been up to during camp and how their roster is shaping up, Ryan Pike has a good breakdown of some of the training camp battles the Flames have had.

Looking at the roster spot races midway through pre-season

As for the Jets, three things worth watching for tonight:

1 – A disciplined mind and a perfect PK

Last season the Jets were 22nd in the NHL last season on the penalty kill (79.20%), had the ninth most power play opportunities against (250) and were fifth highest in the league with 9.3 penalty minutes per game. In three games this preseason the Jets are six for six on the penalty kill which is encouraging on two fronts. One of course being that the Jets haven’t given up a power play goal, but the other being that the Jets haven’t given up much in the way of penalties early on. These are two trends we’d love to see continue tonight and into the regular season.

2 – Reunited and it feels so right?

55 and 26 are back together again it would seem based on the morning rushes. The first game they played together – the win over Minnesota this past Wednesday – saw them on separate lines, so we’ll try not to read too much into this, but it will be hard not to. At the very least, Ehlers – who one could argue was in mid-season form on Friday night against the Blues – going with the Scheifele/Wheeler line should prove some interesting watching. Maybe Ehlers can pick up some tips on how to drive a line so that when the time comes, Ehlers can help drive a line with Patrik Laine on it.

3 – Top pairing Heinola

The player that’s grabbed most of the attention and turned the most heads on the ice would easily be defenseman Ville Heinola. He’s now in his third game of the preseason and his second being pair with Dmitri Kulikov. I don’t know if I would keep my hopes up that he makes the Jets coming out of training camp, but at the very least he’s established that he’s likely more NHL ready than anyone thought and has given Paul Maurice more than enough reason to keep him around beyond the first round of cuts (which will likely come after the game tonight)

It feels more than likely that the Jets would rather look outside of the organization to bring in some defensive help with Dustin Byfuligen being absent, but Heinola has at least demonstrated that he wouldn’t be a bad “Plan B” if that’s what the Jets had to go with.

Pre-FGD Heading to Winnipeg 6pm MT,

The Calgary Flames head into the back half of their exhibition schedule tonight when they head to scenic Winnipeg, Manitoba – which has an airport – to visit the Winnipeg Jets. It’ll be a lean Flames group against an NHL-heavy Jets squad, which should hopefully make evaluation a bit easier for the Flames.

The game starts at 6 p.m. MT and can be see on the Flames’ social media outlets (Facebook has the best picture quality) and heard on Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

The game group didn’t skate this morning, but we have groups via the team:

  • Goalies Cam Talbot and Artyom Zagidulin
  • Defensemen TJ Brodie, Michael Stone, Rinat Valiev, Alexander Yelesin, Andrew MacDonald, Robert Hamilton and Oliver Kylington
  • Forwards Tobias Rieder, Devante Smith-Pelly, Austin Czarnik, Byron Froese, Glenn Gawdin, Alexander Grenier, Jakob Pelletier, Justin Kirkland, Buddy Robinson, Adam Ruzicka, Ryan Lomberg, Eetu Tuulola, Andrew Mangiapane and Alan Quine

Given that Talbot has yet to start a game and Zagidulin started in Victoria, expect Talbot to start and Zagidulin to potentially come into the game in relief.

The Jets

Jets lines for this evening, via The Athletic’s Ken Wiebe:



Laurent Brossoit starts, backed up by Mikhail Berdin.

Prospect fans like myself will be keeping an eye on Heinola and Vesalainen, who are just excellent hockey players.


On Saturday at Winsport, Flames head coach Bill Peters provided some insight into how the team’s balancing individual player evaluation with team-level results. When asked about the importance of game management – after the team allowed games to slip away late against Vancouver and Edmonton – here’s what Peters had to say:

It’s a funny time of year. Guys are trying to make plays, guys are trying to stand out so guys hold onto pucks too long, turn them over, and they look bad. They think they’re doing themselves a favour, but they’re not, right? So game management at the individual time of year is tough, but game management I think against Winnipeg at home on Tuesday will be important.

What to watch

This could be the last kick at the can for a lot of fringe bodies for the Flames, as Monday is a day off that will likely see a swath of tweeners assigned to Stockton. Who can make an impression? Can Jakob Pelletier stand out (a) among a Flames roster barren of star power and (b) playing against a Jets squad featuring many actual NHL players?

Vancouver Canucks Training Camp Day Three, Part Three Zack MacEwen, Richard Bachman, amp Jalen Chatfield

Vancouver Cancuks Training Camp


In the first two installments of this training camp series, I broke down my conversations with Justin Bailey, Tyler Graovac, Francis Perron, Guillaume Brisebois, Lukas Jasek, Kole Lind, and Jonah Gadjovich.

Part One

Part Two

Today, I will share my conversations with Zack MacEwen, Richard Bachman, and Jalen Chatfield.

Zack MacEwen

TheBigFella has been mentioned by many in and around the Vancouver Canucks organization as a bright star in terms of player development and how things work well in Utica. He is entering the third and final year of his entry-level deal with the team, so I figured I’d ask him if this camp has been any different for him than his previous ones, and if so, what the biggest differences were for him this time around.

“I think it’s confidence and knowing what to expect a bit more. Knowing the guys a bit better, being more comfortable around the guys. Getting that taste last year was good too. It gave me some things to work on over the summer, so you know, it’s time to implement that and try to keep implementing the things that you need to work on when the preseason games start. It’s exciting and fun to get going right now.”

Speaking of that offseason training, for the second summer in a row, Zack trained with Olympic Gold Medalist bobsledder Eli MacEachern. I asked Zack how that training went and if the goal was to improve his explosiveness again.

“Yeah, exactly. He’s really good for improving that foot speed and explosiveness. He’s helped a lot of guys do that and a lot of guys have cranked up their game. I’m excited for this year after the summer that I’ve had.”

To my eye, Zack looks bigger but leaner. I asked if that was something that he was working toward as well.

“Yeah, I’d say that comes with a little more quickness than I had last year. I worked on my agility a lot this summer as well.”

This interview was conducted as Zack was heading out for his first preseason game in Calgary, so I kept the questions to a minimum for him, but I had to ask him about his new niece. The smile that came across his face was something to behold. If there is one thing that I have gotten to know about Zack MacEwen, it is that family is as important as it gets for this young man.

“Oh yeah! It’s awesome being an uncle! Little Phia is pretty cute and it’s awesome. They’re living in Halifax, so I got to see her quite a bit over the summer. It’s great…It’s awesome to see my brother so happy too!”

I mean…as if this little Canucks fan isn’t melting your heart right now. Welcome, Phia!

Richard Bachman

Richard Bachman had a bit of a tough go last season. He had a rough outing in his one NHL game with Vancouver before his season came to an end after just nine games with the Utica Comets. That was due to an Achilles’ injury that shut him down and had him momentarily questioning his future. I asked the Comets veteran netminder if it was tough to suffer such a serious injury at this stage of his career.

“Yeah, definitely. It’s an emotional injury. Especially with my age and just the severity of it. You don’t know how your body is going to respond, so when it happened, it was definitely an emotional time. You know, it puts a lot of different thoughts in your head, but for me, I just took it as an opportunity to try and come back a little bit stronger, and clean up other areas of my body that have been hurting for a couple of years. You just work hard and hope for the best.”

Bachman did a great job in helping Thatcher Demko make the adjustment to the pro level, and with the Comets likely to see a four-way battle in the net, I asked him how he felt going into this camp.

“Yeah, it’s a little bit of a different look than we’ve had in the past, but for me, especially coming off of this injury, and really in any year, for me, I just want to prove that I can still play and still compete at a really high level and win hockey games.

I think in order to do that, it’s just been a day-to-day mentality here through camp and we’ll take it day-to-day once we get down there…but you know, you want to see the young kids do well too. I’ve been in the organization for a long time and you want the best for everyone, but at the same time, I have to be a little bit selfish and take it day-to-day and try to compete and win a job.”

The last thing that I spoke with Bachman about is how the younger players mention him as a leader on the team and I asked how it is that he helps the young guys make the adjustment to the pro level.

“Yeah, I think some of it is just by your everyday actions – your preparation, your mentality in games, your emotional control. There’s a lot of different things you can do by just showing it without even saying much.

I think there’s a lot of things…especially, you see it a little bit more now in the NHL because it’s a younger league than it used to be, but especially in the American Hockey League, you have guys coming right out of junior that are 18-19-years-old. It’s not just at the rink that you’re helping them out. It’s every day, figuring out how to take care of themselves away from the rink. We try to help them with that too…to help them make a smooth transition to pro hockey.”

Bachman played later that day and handed the Calgary Flames a 3-2 overtime loss on the back of a 36-save effort. It was nice to see the veteran back up his words with a solid effort and showing that he’s still got some gas left in the tank.

Jalen Chatfield

Last on my list for the final day of camp was defenceman Jalen Chatfield. Jalen missed more games than he played last year, thanks to a broken foot that sidelined him for a good chunk of the season. Before his injury, Chatfield formed one half of the Comets top pairing on the blueline with Olli Juolevi.

I asked Jalen how this camp felt compared to previous camps for him.

“I’m just a little bit older, I guess. I know the guys a little bit better and know what the coaches expect in the organization. You just get a little more comfortable as the years go on…you get older and just more proven as a player too. You get more comfortable.”

As mentioned above, Jalen’s season was shortened by a broken foot. I asked him how he managed to keep his head in the game while he was out of commission.

“It was a blessing in disguise for me. I know I missed a lot of hockey, and you never want to do that. That was the most hockey that I’ve ever missed in my career. You know, it helped me sit back and I was able to watch all of the practices and I watched a lot of NHL hockey. You know, the staff down here got me clips of players that I wanted to watch and it helped me look at a different perspective of the game and helped my knowledge of it a little more.”

As skating is one of the biggest strengths in Jalen’s game, I wondered if he was worried about that broken foot affecting the way he will be able to play going forward.

“I guess you never know when you break your foot. I mean, it was my first broken bone, but since I’ve been back, 100%, it hasn’t affected my skating. I’ve still got the speed and I think I’ve still got the power and everything.”

Players are often given a to-do list of sorts by the coaching staff at the end of the season. It’s usually a list of things that the team would like to see improvement in. I asked Jalen if the coaching staff had anything specific for him to work on this offseason.

“No, to be honest, no, not really too much. I mean, they know I work hard and I’m committed to my game and getting better. The coaches down there knew I put in a lot of work when I was hurt and coming back from the injury, I put in extra time on the ice. They knew I was going to go into the summer with the same attitude and that’s what I did.”

Chatfield’s name was one mentioned by Canucks GM Jim Benning as a player that the team was looking to get a look at in the NHL last season before the broken foot shut him down and stymied a call-up. I asked Jalen if that was a bitter pill for him, or if he took it as motivation for this year.

“Well, yeah, I mean, I’ve always had that drive and everybody wants to make the NHL. I think being hurt is something that you’ve got to go through in your hockey career. It’s just adversity and I’ve faced it throughout my career. It’s just another thing for me to get over. Hopefully, I can keep impressing them and keep playing my game and get some games up, (with the Canucks).”

Jalen was able to jump right into a prime penalty-killing role with the Comets in his rookie season and that continued for him last year. I asked him how he was able to look so comfortable as a rookie penalty killer.

“It’s nothing new to me. I mean, I’m pretty sure we had the best penalty kill in OHL history…maybe in the CHL. My first three years in Windsor, I played top PK minutes every year. It was good experience for me to get that time. When I jumped up to the pro level, not much changed. I mean, you still want to play the same way, you still want to block shots, you want to clear pucks. You want to have a good stick out there and help prevent goals because you know, the penalty kill and power play can change games, for sure.”

Jalen played 18 games with Olli Juolevi last season and so far in camp this year, he has seen the bulk of his time with Ashton Sautner. Juolevi and Sautner play very different games, so I asked Jalen how he handles the challenge of being paired with players who have different styles.

“I mean, you make it work with everybody. You’ve got to build chemistry. They’re both great guys off the ice and they’re both my friends. I’m close with both of them. Whenever I get a chance to play with either of them, the best thing is just clicking together. 

You’re not really worried about what kind of player you’re playing with. You know you’re going to be playing with whoever the coaches want and you make it work. I think last year that’s what a lot of us tried to do. You know, guys were changing a lot, we had a lot of call-ups, so you’ve just got to be ready with who you’re playing with…help each other out, talk a lot, talk to each other about what you want to do, what kind of plays…you find that chemistry and definitely build your D pair to be stronger.”

My last question for Jalen was about the leadership role that Jaime Sifers has played for the last two seasons and if he thinks that is a role that he can help fill now that the veteran has retired.

“Yeah, I guess I’m a veteran, but I don’t know if I’m going to be one of the oldest guys on the backend. We’ve still got some older guys. I’ve got a few years under my belt in the pro leagues. I wore the C in Windsor and I thought I showed a lot of maturity there. I took a lot of guys under my wing. 

I know how it is to jump to the pros. It can be that the way the coaches want you to play is different than what you’re used to. A lot of these guys come from one team, one type of system, one coach. So it’s all about adjustment, helping those guys adjust better is going to make them better players and it’s going to help our team win games…and that’s what we want.”

Travis Green is often quoted as saying that he wants “players that he can win with” and Jalen Chatfield strikes me as just that kind of player. Not unlike Zack MacEwen, he just gets it. This will be a big year for Chatfield. I will not be the least bit surprised if he makes his NHL debut this season and has a solid showing when he does. He might not be the sexiest prospect in terms of high offensive production, but he brings more than a few attributes that coaches generally love. Time will tell if Jalen will have a successful NHL career, but I will not be betting against him just yet.

Until next time.



Three things to watch for in the Red Wings fourth preseason game

Three games down. Five to go.

That’s basically what the preseason feels like at this point. Just a count down until opening night. Most of the prospects have gotten a couple of looks, and the NHL regulars really don’t need more than two games. Some other NHL teams have already started to waive players down to the minors. Look out for Detroit to start being more active on that front in the coming days.

Lineups for the Wings have not been announced yet, but we know for a fact Dylan Larkin will make his preseason debut.

On Pittsburgh’s end, they are resting their big guns. They’ll be deploying bottom of the lineup players and prospects for today. Casey DeSmith will start the game for them.

Here are three thoughts as we approach the half way point of the exhibition games.

1. Who will be on Dylan Larkin’s line

Not just for tonight, but for the remainder of preseason I’ll be pondering this question when Larkin breaks into the lineup. I’m curious to see if head coach Jeff Blashill plays Larkin with his regular line of Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, or if he opts to play him with some prospects.

For guys like Evgeny Svechnikov or Filip Zadina, getting some reps in with Larkin would be a huge boost to their confidence. Weather it be in part by getting the experience of playing with a high-end NHL center, or the extra scoring chances/goals/points they’ll register automatically, added confidence for those two wingers would go along way.

On the flip side, you have to think Larkin is looking to take it easy prior to opening night, and just get his feet moving in these games. Having to start the engine a little early to help out some other guys might not be in his best interests. Then again, if he is the true leader we see him as, he won’t think twice, and bring his A-game versus the Penguins.

It’ll be interesting to see what direction the coaching staff goes.

2. Who has the upper hand for the final forward spot

The way I see it, there is one remaining forward spot for a prospect on the opening night roster. The team is expected to go with 13 forwards, and 12 are currently occupied. The main competition is between Michael Rasmussen, Svechnikov, and Zadina. Joe Veleno was also in the mix, but I think he has been passed over in the preseason. However, a year in Grand Rapids can’t hurt the development of the former QMJHL star.

If I had to rank the above in terms of their play in the preseason, I would go

  1. Michael Rasmussen
  2. Evgeny Svechnikov
  3. Filip Zadina

I was splitting hairs between Svechnikov and Zadina, but I feel Rasmussen has had the best preseason out of all of them. Obviously, there are other factors to consider, such as development and things of that nature. Jumping to conclusions after three preseason games is never a good idea, nevertheless, this is their last opportunity to influence the coaching staff’s final decision. Tonight’s game versus the Pens, as well as the remaining games of the preseason will mean a lot.

3. Who has the upper hand for the final defense spot

The same logic goes here as it did the forwards, except now there is possibly more than one spot open. Currently, seven defensemen are slated to make the Wings, but the health of many of them are always questionable. So even if one prospect nabs the final spot, chances are more space will open up during the season.

The top candidates include Oliwer Kaski, Dennis Cholowski, Moritz Seider, and Joe Hicketts. Like the same exercise we did for the forwards, here is how I would rank their preseaons:

  1. Dennis Cholowski
  2. Moritz Seider
  3. Oliwer Kaski
  4. Joe Hicketts

Unfortunately for Hicketts, it looks like he will once again be beaten out. In the case of Seider, being just 18 years old, I think he’d be better suited to play in the AHL for the season. That leaves us with Cholowski and Kaski, and in my opinion, Cholowski is the clear front-runner. I thought Cholowski was excellent in the first game against Chicago, and really left his mark on this race. I would have him start the season with the Wings, this time with a much longer leash.

The roster, patience, and what lies ahead

The Edmonton Oilers are one step closer to their opening day roster, says radio man Bob Stauffer. It comes at a time when the team has only three preseason matchup left ahead of their Oct. 2 opener against the Vancouver Canucks.

The Oilers tweeted some forward lines from a Sunday morning skate in Kelowna, and Stauffer says he thinks it’s close to what the team will run opening day, barring injury.

The lines aren’t far off from what many expected, and it’s a great sign for Edmonton Oilers fans. I was quite impressed with the demotions earlier this week when Ken Holland and co. sent guys like Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody back to Bakersfield.

Holland is known as someone who typically overripens players — something the Oilers of the past decade have never done. Peter Chiarelli did a good job drafting during his time in Edmonton and now we have the ability to truly let some prospects continue developing.

While I have been high on Evan Bouchard through camp, it wouldn’t surprise me now to see him in Bakersfield. Holland has said if a young player is going to be in Edmonton, they’re going to be in the lineup and not sitting in the press box.

It’s a small thing, but it makes lots of sense. Young players need to play, so let them play whether it’s in Edmonton, or in Bakersfield.

Back to the lines, I think Holland had a bit of an underrated summer when we look at the way things are shaping up. Yes, going out and getting some “bigger names” would’ve been a great addition to the team, but Edmonton is cap-strapped this season and doing so would’ve cost assets I don’t think the team was willing to part with.

Instead, what Holland did is bring in some bodies who will likely be able to contribute more in the bottom-six than what the team had last year. By bringing in guys like Tomas Jurco, Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan, Markus Granlund, Gaetan Haas, and Joakim Nygard on one-year deals, he forced competition out of that group to be able to bring something to the roster.

Looking through to next offseason, I would expect Holland to look at making some larger changes to the roster through the trade market and through free agency.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

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