NHL Notebook: NHL Central Scouting releases final 2023 ranks, can Connor Hellebuyck help the Winnipeg Jets beat the Vegas Golden Knights, and more

Photo credit:Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
NHL Central Scouting has released its final rankings for the 2023 NHL draft — not that it matters a whole lot to the Edmonton Oilers who are without a first round pick this year.
Nonetheless, to the surprise of nobody, it’s Connor Bedard atop the rankings. Here’s what Central Scouting’s vice president Dan Marr had to say of him:
“Connor Bedard is one of those unique, elite talents who belongs in the same category as other generational talents before him such as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. He has been in the spotlight for the past three years and during that time he has risen to impact and impress on every occasion while often being the youngest member of the team. He is an exceptional young man on and off the ice and has constantly shown all season long that he is the No. 1 prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft.”
But he’s not the only interesting prospect in the draft, as Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis opined Tuesday.
Adam Fantilli, Will Smith, Matthew Wood and Ryan Leonard finish out the top five in North America, while Matvei Michkov, Dalibor Dvorsky, Eduard Sale and David Reinbacher close out the international side.
Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Carson Bjarnason is the top-ranked North American goaltender, leading Michael Hrabal, Trey Augustine, Scott Ratzlaff and Jacob Fowler. Internationally, Alexander Hellnemo holds the top spot again ahead of Juka Jatkola, Ian Blomquist, Noa Vali and Lukas Matecha.
Of note, Damian Clara, ranked sixth among international goaltenders, could become the first Italian-born player drafted into the NHL this year.
Brooks Bandits forward Hudson Malinoski (No. 65) is the highest-ranked second-year eligible skater in North America, while Frolunda’s Isac Born (No. 40) holds the honor among international skaters.
Daily Faceoff will release it’s latest NHL Draft rankings on Wednesday ahead of the 2023 U-18 World Hockey Championship in Switzerland.

Is Hellebuyck the Jets’ X-Factor?

Oilers fans know Connor Hellebuyck all-too-well. After all, he slammed the door on the Oilers in the 2021 playoffs going 4-0 with a .950 save percentage.
And now, the Jets are looking to him once again to do the same against the Vegas Golden Knights. On Tuesday’s edition of Daily Faceoff Live, Frank Seravalli and Mike McKenna talked about Hellebuyck:
Seravalli: Four more series kick off tonight, Mike, in night two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and one of them is a trendy upset pick. The Winnipeg Jets, the 8-seed, going up against the 1-seed in the West, the Vegas Golden Knights. What do you make of this matchup? Are you on the Jets train, in terms of giving them a shot to beat the Golden Knights in Round 1?
McKenna: Well, I’m a huge fan of Connor Hellebuyck, and everybody thinks that could easily be the big factor in this series, and it could. Connor Hellebuyck’s got a .921 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he’s had a great season. For me, Frank, he should be one of the top five players up for the Hart in terms of how important he is for his team in Winnipeg. But, Vegas just has found ways to win all season long. The Jets have found ways to lose and be bad for long stretches. So, if you’re just hinging this on Hellebuyck, I don’t like it. Now, here’s the thing: Vegas, they don’t have a great power play, but they will have Mark Stone back for the power play. It’ll be better with him.
Where will this series be won? It’s going to be the neutral zone, because Vegas is one of the NHL’s better rush teams. Winnipeg isn’t great [with] giving up rush chances and with Hellebuyck’s lateral movement being his only weakness, that’s one thing that Vegas may be able to exploit. Vegas was 3–0–0 against Winnipeg in the regular season — now, it’s also been four months since they’ve played, Frank.

Who are potential GM candidates in Calgary?

With Brad Treliving out in Calgary, the focus has turned towards who his replacement could be.
And over at Flamesnation, Robert Munnich took a look at who that could be. Here are a few of his suggestions:

Craig Conroy

Conroy has been in the Flames front office since 2011 when he was hired at the special assistant to then-GM Jay Feaster. The Flames have been grooming Conroy for this type of position for years.
Conroy potentially has a leg up on his competition as he knows the Flames organization and the city inside and out. He has been through the ups and downs this franchise has faced dating back to his time as a player.
He knows what’s right with the organization. And he knows what’s wrong. Most importantly, he can learn from some of the mistakes that were made by Treliving.
Conroy should and will get a long look for the GM opening.

Brad Pascall

Pascall has been running the Flames AHL team in Stockton and now Calgary since 2014 and has done a quality job. The Flames farm system has graduated many players and coaches to the NHL level. All of Pascall’s work has culminated into a first-place finish in the AHL this season with the Wranglers.
Pascall worked at Hockey Canada for a number of years as their vice-president of hockey operations where he helped oversee all men’s national teams.
Pascall has had a lot of success in the game and has paid his dues. He should be equally looked at as a candidate for the GM’s job as Conroy will be.

Mike Futa

Futa worked in the Los Angeles Kings organization for 13 seasons first as their director of amateur scouting and then as their VP of hockey operations and assistant GM.
He was a major part of the front office team that helped build those excellent Kings teams that won two Stanley Cups. Futa is currently working for the Carolina Hurricanes in an advisory role.
Futa also has a working relationship with Sutter as they worked together in LA for five seasons.
Eric Tulsky
If the Flames want someone who is progressive and inventive, look no further than Carolina Hurricanes assistant GM, Eric Tulsky. He is one of the brightest minds in the NHL from a data and analytics perspective.
He has been a key member of one of the best run franchises in the NHL right now. The Hurricanes are known for their ability to be efficient with their salary cap. Have great asset management. And finding diamonds in the rough when it comes to free agents.
If it were up to me, he would be the guy I would try to hire.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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