Ducks look to young forwards for secondary scoring

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We already touched on the high expectations that will be placed on Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf due to their new, big contracts, but even if they both have superb seasons, Anaheim is going to still need some secondary scoring if they want to get very far. That’s especially true when the playoffs start and the importance of depth increases.

Anaheim traded away Bobby Ryan and it remains to be seen if Teemu Selanne will return for another campaign. As things currently stand, the Ducks are hoping that some of their young forwards will help fill that the void. Fortunately they have some very promising players in that regard and we’re going to take a look at some of the ones that could make a difference in 2013-14.

Jakob Silfverberg — Acquired from the Ottawa Senators when they traded Ryan, Silfverberg might find himself starting the season on a line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Silfverberg, 22, was a dominant scorer in the Swedish Elite League and earned comparisons to Alfredsson. After getting a taste of the NHL during the 2012 playoffs, he made a full transition to North American hockey in 2012-13. With the NHL locked out, he started the campaign in the minors and recorded 13 goals and 29 points in 34 games before the players and owners could agree to a new CBA. He played in all 48 of the Senators’ regular season contests, scoring 10 goals and 19 points.

Emerson Etem — Etem destroyed the competition in the WHL with 61 goals and 107 points in 65 games in 2011-12. After that, he made his pro debut last season, but averaged just 11:28 minutes per game with Anaheim. Consequently, he was limited to three goals and 10 points in 39 contests. He didn’t get much more ice time in the playoffs, but he did make his presence known with three goals, two assists, and a plus-four rating in seven games. The 21-year-old will be competing for a larger role with the team out of training camp and is regarded as one of Anaheim’s top prospects.

Peter Holland — Holland has excelled in the AHL, but so far he hasn’t been able to fully establish himself with the Anaheim Ducks. He logged just 11:35 minutes per game in the NHL last season and ended up with five points in 21 NHL contests. With the goal of making the Ducks’ opening game roster in his mind, he attended their recent development camp even though he was under no obligation to due so at the age of 22. Coach Bruce Boudreau was very pleased with that decision and told the Orange County Register that Holland displayed the kind of effort that’s needed.

Kyle Palmieri — Unlike the other players on this list, Palmieri has burned through his entry-level contract, so the Anaheim Ducks inked him to a three-year, $4.4 million deal. It might not be long before that cap hit looks like a steal as Palmieri already took a big step forward last season with 10 goals and 21 points in 42 games. He also contributed in the playoffs with three goals and five points in their seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings. Palmieri, 22, even managed to earn an invitation to America’s Olympic camp, which highlights how highly regarded he is as well as how much his stock has risen.

Huge step? Doctors may find a way to identify CTE in living NHL players

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Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper and TSN’s Rick Westhead pass along what could be a breakthrough Boston University study  – or at least the early stages of a breakthrough – in how concussions/CTE are handled in sports.

The key: after only being able to study brains of deceased athletes, there’s a chance that living athletes with CTE might eventually be identified.

On face value, that’s great news for player health. Hockey, like other contact sports such as football, is no stranger to careers and lives being derailed by brain injuries.

Of course, the NHL and NHLPA would need to cooperate to make the most of potential progress. If you’ve watched hockey long enough, particularly postseason hockey, you know that certain protocols can stand as great concepts met with hesitant execution.

Westhead expounds on such thoughts, and some of his findings aren’t very pretty.

The league is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit regarding concussions, and its actions have been elusive enough that politicians have gone as far as to accuse Gary Bettman and the NHL of being “delusional” about the issue.

Don’t just put this on the league, though.

Players might be hesitant to take such tests if it means that they’ll miss playing time (or even see their careers end). It brings back memories of Peyton Manning willfully sandbagging his baseline concussion test. For better or worse, these guys want to play.

Not great, yet you can also understand the human element.

Of course, it’s crucial to realize that potential breakthroughs from this study could take quite some time to trickle into functional practices, even if leagues and players end up being more willing to comply than expected.

Overall, this is promising news. Hopefully such changes could help athletes during their careers and into retirement.

Sprong continues to impress, just not enough to make Penguins (yet)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins frequently give prospect Daniel Sprong rave reviews, yet it seems like they believe that he still needs some seasoning before making a dent at the NHL level.

Sprong and fellow intriguing forward Zach Aston-Reese headlined a group of 21 players the Penguins demoted to the AHL on Tuesday.

Here is the full list:

Forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Thomas Di Pauli, Adam Johnson, Sam Miletic, Dominik Simon, Colin Smith, Daniel Sprong, Christian Thomas, Freddie Tiffels and Garrett Wilson; defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Frank Corrado, Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman; and goalies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have all been returned to WBS.

Sprong, 20, was the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s been generating solid numbers at the OHL, so it will be interesting to see how he converts that to AHL work. Sprong played 18 regular-season games for the Penguins back in 2015-16, notching two goals.

Sprong discussed that experience with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this summer.

“I played [in the NHL] at 18 for a reason,” Sprong said. “With the shoulder surgery last year, that was kind of a setback. But I’m excited for this year and hopefully I can start the season here.”

That won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll see Sprong in 2018-19 … or maybe sooner?

Aston-Reese, 23, already showed some promise in that regard; he scored eight games in a 10-game audition at the AHL level in 2016-17.

These moves narrow the Penguins’ training camp roster down to 26 players. They have until Oct. 3 to settle on 23.

Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

* – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.

Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

“I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).