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Photo Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Musings: Tavares, Smith, 2018 Draft and Development

Draft week is here. This is one of the best weeks on the NHL calendar. Watching young men see their dream of being drafted realized is awesome. These kids put in so much hard work to have their name called, and many who don’t have their name called will continue to work hard to one day play in the NHL.

Many big trades are made around Draft week now, whether it be the days leading up to the draft, on draft night or a few days after. It is an exciting time in the hockey world, so let’s look at some draft picks, player development and potential moves.

1. I’ve watched a lot of WHL hockey the past four seasons, and I’ve seen many mentioning Ty Smith as an option for the Oilers at #10. He is an option, but not one I’d use. Smith is the best draft eligible defender from the WHL. He is a very smart player and very good offensively, but like most young offensive defenders he needs to improve defensively. He will go in the first round, but I don’t see him as a top-ten pick. The Oilers need this pick to pan out. The player doesn’t have to become a superstar, in fact it is unlikely he will, but I’d take others players before Smith. If one of Oliver Wahlstrom or Vitali Kravstov are available, I’d take them. If Smith was a right-shot defender I might change my mind, but he shoots left, is undersized and not very aggressive as a defender. A WHL forward from the WHL US division texted me this when I asked him his thoughts on Smith: “Really Smart. Good with the puck, and solid passer,” were the pros on Smith. The cons: “When on the cycle it is easy to go against him.”

I think Smith could be a solid NHL player. Craig Button compared him to Ryan Murray, but I wouldn’t take him at #10.

2. Smith is a great story, and I hope his father Wayne gets a lot of appreciation. Wayne raised Ty and his siblings as a single father. Ty left home at 14 to play hockey at an academy, was the first pick in the WHL draft and then played in Spokane for the past three seasons. He has a very calm demeanour and a lot of praise for his father. “He is someone I strive to be. He does a lot in the community. He always has a smile on his face and he treats everyone with respect,” said Ty about his father Wayne. I interviewed Smith today and he discussed his style as a player, moving away from home early, his father and an NHL player who he watched a lot because his billet parents housed this defender a few years earlier. You can listen here. 

3. Wahlstrom is a great shooter. Kravstov has rocketed up draft rankings in the past few months. Mark Edwards and his crew at Hockey Prospect have him ranked #6. He is really creative and is just starting to grow into his frame. He will likely need two more years of development in the KHL (which I’m fine with because he is playing against men), with fewer games and can spend more time in the gym filling out his 6’2″.

4. The key to the Oilers’ #10 pick is ensuring they develop him properly. If he has to spend two more years in junior, or Europe, no problem. They are past the point of needing a young player to come in and dominate offensively. They have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisailt and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to be the offensive catalysts.

5. I don’t believe Claude Julien can win in today’s NHL. I really question if he can promote offence they way it needs to be played in 2018. In 2016/2017 the Bruins scored 2.56 goals/game in their first 55 games and Julien was fired on February 7th. Under new head coach Bruce Cassidy the Bruins scored 91 goals in the final 27 games, 3.31/goal/game. This season the Bruins were sixth in the NHL in goals scored with 268 at 3.26 goals/game.

Meanwhile, Julien was unemployed for a week in February of 2017. The Canadiens hired him on February 14th. At the time the Habs were fifth in the East with 70 points. They had scored the eighth most goals in the NHL, 164 in 58 games (2.82 goal/game), and the Habs allowed 2.55 G/GP. Julien replaced Michel Therrien and in their final 24 games the Habs offence dipped to 2.45 G/GP.

This past season the Habs were 29th in offence with 207 goals. You can argue they don’t have a lot of proven scorers, fair, but when Julien left Boston the Bruins offence exploded, and since coming to Montreal it has gone down.

6. On the weekend the Canadiens traded Alex Galchenyuk to Arizona for Max Domi. GM Marc Bergevin and Julien felt Galchenyuk wasn’t an NHL centre. Galchenyuk’s career path the past two seasons has been interesting to watch. In 2016 he scored 30 goals and 56 points, second on the Habs behind Max Pacioretty (30-34-64). Galchenyuk was 22 years old and many felt he was starting to come into his own.

7. The next season he exploded out of the gate. He had 23 points in his first 24 games, and on December 2nd he was tied for 10th in NHL scoring. Two nights later he injured his knee colliding with Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles. He missed six weeks and when he returned he struggled, like most players coming off an injury, but Therrien moved him to the wing. When Julien came, he did play Galchenyuk at centre for a few games, but he also grew impatient and moved him back to the wing.

8. How does a player go from scoring 30 goals, then being tied for 10th in league scoring for two months, suddenly not become a centre? Galchenyuk has some defensive deficiencies, yes, but he showed he could produce and good coaches work with a player. Maybe Galchenyuk was too stubborn, but part of me believes in this case the coach, and GM, were too stubborn.

9. Before this season Bergevin said this about Galchenyuk: “I’ve been here for six years, I’ve seen Alex every day. Centreman’s a tough position, demanding. I’m sure as we speak today Alex is not able to play that position every day. I don’t need ten more tries. I know he’s not,” said the Canadiens GM.

If he watched him every day for six years, did he not see him in 2015/2016 and then again at the start of the 2016/2017? He was producing very well, but it seems the Canadiens organization was focused more on what he couldn’t do, rather than what he could. He returned from a knee injury, which means he wasn’t in game shape or up to speed, and then struggled upon his return, so the Habs felt it best to erode his confidence even more and play him on the wing. Sixteen months later they traded him for Domi.

10. Domi and Galchenyuk have averaged .60 and .61 points-per-game in thus far in their careers. Galchenyuk has been in the NHL for six seasons, while Domi has only played three. Domi is only one year younger though, and the Habs just signed him to a two-year deal worth $3.15 million while Galchenyuk will make $4.75m. They save some money, and I think Domi’s personality will allow him to enjoy playing in a hockey-mad market. His biggest challenge might come from people comparing him to Galchenyuk.

11. Galchenyuk will get a chance to play C in Arizona. His challenge will be facing centres in the Pacific division like McDavid, Draisaitl, Kopitar,  Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, William Karlsson and Sean Monahan. I’m amazed Montreal gave up on Galchenyuk as a centre as quickly as they did, especially mid-season after coming off an injury. I don’t believe Bergevin and Julien will succeed in today’s NHL

12. John Tavares is a really good player, but I’m a bit surprised the Maple Leafs plan on making a strong push to land him in free agency. I understand he is an Ontario boy, but the Leafs don’t need help selling tickets. They have to re-sign Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander in the next 15 months. Tavares will be looking for $10 million a year for seven years from age 28-34. Matthews, Marner and Nylander will likely six-eight year deals and while Matthews will be looking for $10 million, I don’t see the other two being close. Does it make sense to sign Tavares for seven years when he might only have two or three years of peak production remaining? I could see LA, San Jose and others making a strong pitch for him, but I’d be surprised if he lives up to a $10 million contract. I’m sure the Leafs are thinking they could sign Tavares and then deal one of Marner or Nylander for a defender, and that is probably true, but I’d be leery that Tavares will still be dominant at 31 to 33 years of age.

13. I understand teams will worry about the latter few years of his contract when they arise, rather than worrying about it now, but I do wonder when the NHL will realize there is a very small amount of players who will continue to perform at a high level after 30 years of age. If you pay Tavares $10 million you are expecting him to score more than 70 points, I’d think. The problem is he has only topped 70 points three times — last year with 84, 86 in 2015 and 81 in 2012.

14. I read many comments regarding Drake Caggiula suggesting he should never skate with Connor McDavid because he isn’t a top-six forward. I think those commenters fail to recognize very few teams have six legit top-six players. Many have three or four and the other spots are filled temporarily. Over two seasons Caggiula has played 213 EV minutes with McDavid. In that time McDavid has played 2658 EV minutes, so he has played an 8% of his time with Caggiula. Those freaking out over Caggiula’s playing time with McDavid are getting upset over an extremely small amount of ice time.

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    • Moneyball

      I agree. You and I are not paying the bills and it would be tough to at out a few million to let Tmac walk but I am not sure that the NHL has not passed him by. A lot of his off hand comments like “Coaches just try things to see if they work out”, “I don’t understand corsi and fenwick but if you put a lot of pucks at the goal tender it creates scoring chances” (paraphrased) Really make me wonder if he is the right coach for an NHL team this day and age when the league is so close.
      Looking at the coaching this past year and how the powerplay performed, how the penalty kill performed for 2/3’s of the season really leave a lot to question.
      People like to use Chiarelli as the whipping boy but its tough to justify that when you really look at the coaching this past year.
      Getting Trotz would be a step up that no one could deny and would definitely pay dividends down the road. I’m not sure that the owner is willing to toss away a few million to do this.

  • Jimmer

    Tomas Tatar needs to find his way to Edm. I’m sure there is a deal that won’t cripple us that can get him on the wing with Drai or McD. He is a decent risk.

  • crabman

    @Gregor,

    I think there will be better options at 10 than Smith but wouldn’t be upset if he is who the Oilers take there if McKenzie’s top 9 are all gone. I would prefer to take on the risk of Boqvist for the potential player he could turn into but also think Smith is going to be a heck of a player too.
    I respect Lowtide and he has been pumping Smith’s tires for quite awhile now. Smith had an almost unprecedented offensive season for a WHL defenceman. That says alot. To borrow from your #7 point I think you are, “focused more on what he couldn’t do, rather than what he could.”

    • Jason Gregor

      Me not taking him at #10 doesn’t mean I don’t like him. I just prefer others a bit more. He does many things well, no question, or he wouldn’t be rated in first round. The great part about the draft is it is still a bit of a crap shoot. So much can change in the development of a player before the NHL. Everyone will have players they like a bit more. He has many great qualities which is why I expect he goes in the upper half of the first round. I just like others slightly more.

  • belair

    Don’t judge Ty Smith because of his handedness. Smith is at least two years from breaking into the NHL. Looking at our left handed depth two years from now, it’s not really that impressive. Beyond Caleb Jones, William Lagesson and Dmitri Samorukov, there’s literally nothing in terms of NHL upside.

    I’d almost value a LHD over a RHD in the top ten considering the idea we’re filling that void this summer.

    • Big Nuggets

      so aside from the 4 roster players and 3 prospecta there isn’t another LHD prospect with NHL potential. Have you looked at the depth chart of any other position? Comparatively LHD is well stocked.

  • Drivefastfinishlast

    Anyone else see the NHLrumormill
    Lucic, Nuge and Klefbom for Aho, Skinner, and Faulk.
    Not only does this clear salary but oilers get to good puckmoving, fast, scoring wingers.
    It would suck to loose Nuge but McD and Leon both get true wingers and there would be salary left over to sign another player.

  • OilersGM

    I didn’t think there was a GM in the league that was as stupid as Chiarelli but Bergevin proves me wrong.
    Dumb and dumber…
    And how both organizations still have these two clowns employed shows how smart the upper echelons really are.

    • ziyan94

      Agreed. Chia makes bad deals regularly but they’re not as awful as Bergevin’s.
      Bergevin turned Galchenyuk, Subban and Sergachev into Domi, Weber, and Drouin. After all that they still don’t have their franchise center

  • 18% body fat

    Gregor your love for Caggulia is unbelievable. The data shows he shouldnt play with McDavid, and some one says he shouldnt and you feel you have to jump in and write tidbit about it? If this was a Slep Contract there would be nothing about this. Last week was about his contract, and the people saying that it was an overpay point to the ice time with mcdavid. The other reason the freak out is because the oilers have legitimate skilled right hand wingers to play with him 5 on 5 or the PP. Yet the oilers feel that Caggulias grit is more valuable than a strong right handed shooter.

    Its the philosophy of Grit in his case, over skill (when clearly everything points to the right handed option being better) that drives everyone insane.

    If the caggulia, russel and lucic projects are their idea of what a winning team looks like, be ready for a McDavid trade, because they arent going to win paying guys with no skill.

    He is a 4th line player that brings down the best player in the world.

    • Jason Gregor

      You realize he barely played with McDavid, so using that as argument to why he is overpaid doesn’t make much sense.

      #2. He only played 65 min on the PP. He wasn’t taking icetime from right shot forwards, plus, he scored 3 goals in 65 min. The best PP goal/min ratio on the Oilers this year, but for you that is a negative. That is fine, it just makes little sense to me to complain about a player producing on the PP.

  • 18% body fat

    Wonder who Habs fans feel about the affirmative action plan where they must have a francophone running the team. Good job Bergevin, you are as bad as Chia.

    Hire the best person for the job FFS

  • Drivefastfinishlast

    2018-2019 Oilers
    Skinner-McD-Rattie
    Hoffman-Leon-Aho
    Drake-Strome-Grabner
    JJ-Schaller-Kassian
    Nurse-Larson
    Sekera-Faulk
    Russel-Benning.

    Bear and JP start in the AHL

    • crabman

      after a quick tally and some best guess on UFA and RFA contracts I think it squeeks in under the cap once you add in 7th D, 2 depth forwards and Pouliot’s buy out. Just wondering how you plan on acquiring everyone? not saying impossible just wondering about your thaught process.
      That looks like a pretty crazy ride of a summer for Chiarelli

    • Big Nuggets

      Its an interesting trade idea to Carolina and it would make us better for a season or two. But I still don’t really like it. I’m not sure why because it does make some sense. I guess I’m just not very high on either Faulk or Skinner and I don’t want the Oilers to be on the hook for their next contracts. I only really want the Oilers to add young players and prospects so that they are set up to crush the last 6 years of McDavid’s contract. I’m not for going all out this season, although McDavid is ready to start competing for cups, the rest of the team is not. I think they will have a bounce back this season regardless of adding a scoring winger so I would rather they keep it simple this offseason, let some players bounce back so that we know what we’re working with and hopefully regain some trade value for players like Lucic and Sekera.

    • NickL89

      Interesting moves, I’m all for shaking things up when they haven’t been working but has Rattie really earned a first line spot? I figured that was more of a “give him some confidence and experience” run once the season was lost anyhow. He’s a kid, let’s let him grow a bit before throwing him to the top line wolves. I do like the idea of a cheap top line option but development should come first. Secondly, do we really want Hoffman? How long would that honeymoon period last before he’s another “cancer in the dressing room” that gets run out of town. Innocent or not, we should be wary of anyone who brings that level of pettiness/negativity/childishness to our sacred dressing room. Just a couple thoughts!

  • RexHolez

    point 12. Im real curious to see what Toronto does. I think your’re a little low when you say Tavares and Matthews are looking for 10mil. I think it’s going to be atleast 11 for both of them. And I think Marner will be around 8 if they go long term. Its going to be interesting to see what happens in Toronto

  • A-co

    Hoffmans just got shipped to SJ…unless the defenseman (julius bergman) turns out to be a player looks like Ottawa was happy to get rid of the headache at a discounted price

    • A-co

      Now shipped to Florida for a couple pics…days just getting started where will he be traded next?? How about Lucic to Florida for Hoffman..could that be the next Hoffman trade this morning?

    • camdog

      I was hoping he would stay in San Jose, because some of the taunts coming from the stands would be funny for 4-5 games a year, but would get old pretty quick.