Sami Vatanen

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Adam Henrique finding new life on West Coast

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Remember when Adam Henrique scored 30 goals one season?

He does. His fans do. And the Anaheim Ducks would love for that to be a memory of their own in the near future.

The good news Henrique, who was traded to the Ducks from the New Jersey Devils for Sami Vatanen 10 days ago — and all involved for that matter — is that he’s rekindled that penchant for putting pucks past goalies in his new threads.

Henrique scored for the third time in five games on Friday since joining the Ducks and now has six points in that span. That puts him one goal shy of the four he scored in the first 24 games of the season with the Devils. Prior to joining the Ducks, Henrique had one goal in his previous 15 games.

Evidently, the change of pace has helped.

(Perhaps Matt Duchene in Ottawa should take a few notes.)

Indeed, Henrique, 27, has found new life on a line with Corey Perry and Rickard Rakell. The battered Ducks envisioned some adding scoring when they slotted Henrique on the top line in Anaheim and he’s since delivered.

The move has had added benefits as well, including getting Perry going.

Perry has missed a playmaker like Ryan Getzlaf in the middle. Getzlaf has been limited to six games this season due to two separate injuries.

Perry has found some good chemistry with Henrique, managing to score twice in as many games last week, with Henrique playing a part in both tallies. Perry has also returned the favour, assisting on two of Henrique’s three markers.

It’s a good sign for the Ducks, who might be getting healthy soon to boot.

God knows they need it. Even with the offensive boost, the Ducks have still only managed two wins out of their past 10 games.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Blues season-ticket holder suits up as emergency goalie

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A big blow for the Vancouver Canucks, as Bo Horvat will miss up to six weeks because of a lower-body injury. (Canucks Army)

• The Penguins called up Frank Corrado from the minors because they were forced to put Justin Schultz on IR. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

• Dave Lozo argues that the NHL needs a “super team” like the NBA has with the Golden State Warriors. With John Tavares, Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson about to hit free agency over the next couple of years, it’s entirely possible that those three can join forces. (Vice)

• The Tampa Bay Lightning have been really good this season, but are they even better than we realize? (TSN.ca)

J.T. Brown, Alex Ovechkin, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin are all proof that the NHL is definitely political. (Sporting News)

Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are huge reasons for Winnipeg’s strong start to the 2017-18 season. (NHL.com)

• From top to bottom, things are pretty tight in the Metropolitan Division. Believe it or not, there’s only 11 points separating first and last place. (elitesportsny.com)

• The Calgary Flames definitely miss Kris Versteeg on and off the ice. Whether it’s the things he does during games or his ability to be the team deejay in the locker room, they can’t wait for him to be back. (Calgary Herald)

• The Hockey News compares Capitals forward Tom Wilson to a bully in 1980’s teen movies. (The Hockey News)

• Many expect the Sabres to trade pending free agent Evander Kane, but what would Buffalo’s salary cap situation look like if they signed him to an extension? Diebytheblade.com has the answer.

• Things have been rocky for Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith lately. Not only did he finish minus-4 in a game earlier this week, he’s also failed to score in 42 consecutive games. (Chicago Sun-Times)

• Devils blue liner Steve Santini had been struggling this season, but the acquisition of Sami Vatanen has allowed him to slide into a more comfortable spot on the depth chart. (NJDab.com)

• Here’s an awesome story about a Blues season-ticket holder that became the team’s emergency goalie last night. (The Score)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Ray Shero’s redemption in New Jersey

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When Ray Shero was hired by the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2006 he was taking over a team that, even though it had fallen on hard times and had been one of the worst in the league, was on the verge of a breakthrough thanks to a series of top draft picks that brought them a couple of franchise changing players (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin). Even though the team at the time was lousy, he was still inheriting a pretty decent situation just based on the young talent that was already in place.

In only a couple of years Shero had helped complement those young superstars with a team that would go play in two Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, winning the latter in a thrilling seven-game series. He made some shrewd trades, found some value in free agency, and built a powerhouse team.

In the years after that Stanley Cup win, however, he seemed to lose a lot of that touch. There was too much loyalty to players that the Penguins had won with, too many draft picks were traded for short-term rentals that didn’t pan out and the Penguins quickly became a team that had a handful of superstars and no depth to speak of. The magic that he seemed to have early in his tenure seemed to be gone as nearly every move ended up backfiring in a huge way.

After one too many early postseason exits it eventually ended up costing Shero his job following the 2013-14 season.

It did not take him long to land on his feet with the New Jersey Devils replacing long-time general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Now in his third year running the Devils the team finds itself near the top of the Metropolitan Division looking to end what has become a five-year postseason drought.

It’s not only a potentially big development for the Devils, it’s also been a bit of a redemption story for Shero in the way he has rebuild the team from the ground up in a significant way thanks to some major moves.

The situation that Shero inherited in New Jersey couldn’t have been more different than the one he inherited in Pittsburgh.

With the Penguins, the most important pieces were already in place. It was a young team with huge potential where success seemed like it was destined. It wasn’t a matter of if the team would become a championship contender, it was simply a matter of when. Expectations were immediately through the roof (that sort of situation creates an entirely different kind of pressure).

With the Devils, expectations were pretty much at zero.

The Devils had become a bad team. The All-Stars that helped lead the team to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final were gone. It was an older roster that had no impact players, no young building blocks, and nothing to really build around. It was going to take a significant overhaul to get things back on track.

An overhaul is exactly what has happened.

After trading Adam Henrique to the Anaheim Ducks this past week for defenseman Sami Vatanen, the only players that remain on the Devils roster today from the 2014-15 season (the year before Shero arrived) are Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, Damon Severson, and goaltenders Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid.

That’s it.

The remainder of the roster has been completely rebuilt through some pretty significant trades that have had a significant impact on changing the short-and long-term outlook of the team.

Since being hired in New Jersey Shero has added Kyle Palmieri, Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson and now Vatanen to the roster while only giving up Henrique, Adam Larsson, Joseph Blandisi, two second-round picks and two third-round picks.

That is a huge gain for the Devils from a production standpoint.

Palmieri has become a 25-goal, 50-point winger with the Devils the past two years and is scoring at that same pace this season when he has been healthy. Johansson, based on his track record in Washington, can offer similar production. Injuries have forced each of them to miss 12 games this season, making the Devils’ start even more impressive.

Hall is one of the NHL’s best left wingers and is currently on track for his best season in the NHL. Vatanen has had a brutal start to the season, but has a history of being a strong top-four defenseman that can provide some much-needed offense from the back end.

Those are significant additions, and while there is always a risk in giving up that many draft picks, second and third rounders tend to be lottery tickets, while all four players the Devils received in return are going to be around for quite some time.

Beyond those additions the most encouraging development for the Devils might be the fact they actually have some young players that are making a significant impact.

Three of their top-four scorers are currently age 23 or younger, including a pair of 19-year-olds.

They had a stroke of luck in the draft lottery this past season when they won the draft lottery and the No. 1 overall pick, landing them Nico Hischier (currently the team’s second-leading scorer).

Jesper Bratt, a sixth-round pick by the Devils in 2016, has also made an immediate impact while NCAA free agent defenseman Will Butcher has stepped right into the lineup and is the team’s top scoring blueliner.

Of the NHL’s top-10 rookie point producers, three of them are Devils all added to the organization by Shero in the past year.

Before Shero’s arrival in New Jersey the Devils had grown stale, even by Devils standards. They weren’t just the same old boring Devils that didn’t score goals, didn’t play an exciting brand of hockey, and didn’t have any star power, they also weren’t doing any of the winning that made all of that tolerable for their fans.

They desperately needed rebuilt and in a pretty drastic way.

A few big trades, a couple ping pong balls to bounce their way, and an almost completely new roster has put them back on the right track and in a pretty strong position to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Fantasy hockey impact of the Henrique – Vatanen trade

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Keep this good stuff up, NHL GMs.

Ears perked up on Thursday, as the Anaheim Ducks landed Adam Henrique (and other stuff) from the New Jersey Devils for Sami Vatanen (plus some nicknacks) in another intriguing trade. One can only hope this means that we’ll see more interesting moves sprinkled throughout 2017-18, rather than having to beg for trimmings during the trade deadline alone.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the fantasy hockey implications of this move. Apologies to Joseph Blandisi for a lack of attention here, but honestly, his fantasy impact will most likely be … well, the first five letters of his last name.

Sami Vatanen – As much as I love how the Devils are redesigning their team, I’m not so sure what to make about Vatanen from a W-L record standpoint. In other words, the “reality” part is tougher.

It seems like I’m not alone in having some mild doubts about this, but for more on the real-world implications of the move, check out Sean Leahy’s analysis of the trade.

From a fantasy perspective, this is a slam-dunk for the Devils and Vatanen’s value, though. It will be intriguing to see how Vatanen’s arrival impacts the value of Will Butcher, who has been averaging three minutes per night on the Devils’ power play. Will New Jersey opt for a three-forward, two-defensemen setup or go with league trends and lean 4F-1D?

Either way, the Devils suddenly have more balance, and continue to nudge themselves up the ranks of the NHL’s most entertaining teams (because their strengths and weaknesses lineup so blissfully). Vatanen’s had some struggles in the past couple seasons, but he’s a two-time 30+ point scorer despite never playing more than 71 games in a single regular season.

I’ll leave the add/drop analysis to PHT’s Joey Alfieri, as far as where Vatanen might fit in your lineup. There’s little doubt in my mind that Vatanen is more valuable today than he was as a member of the Ducks, even though he was given reasonable opportunities to succeed in Anaheim.

At the absolute minimum, the Devils get that much more fun to watch.

Adam Henrique – This wasn’t one of those Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson-type steals for Devils GM Ray Shero, or even a more Ducks-centric deal where New Jersey nabs Kyle Palmieri for a bargain rate.

Instead, this was a very sensible move where two teams gave up surplus pieces to fit glaring needs.

In the case of Henrique, the Ducks get a sorely needed center – probably their top center for quite some time, as Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf both deal with serious issues – who’s also cheap at $4M. For a budget-conscious contender, this makes a lot of sense.

So, what kind of player is Henrique? That might be a question many are asking, considering that he’s been part of a Devils team that’s been under the radar for some time.

Henrique brings some impressive mid-level goal-scoring to the table. While he’s been weak in that area this season (just four goals on 49 SOG for an unusually low 8.2 shooting percentage), his career shooting percentage is a lofty 15. He’s hit 30 goals once and also had 25 and 20-goal seasons.

Eventually, you’d expect the returns of Kesler and Getzlaf to push him down the lineup, but it’s worth noting that Henrique can probably move to the wing when that happens.

It’s not as if a fantasy owner wants long-term results if they’re adding Henrique; you’re not really slotting a keeper league spot for him, right? This would be about short-term returns in most instances, and the bigger question is just “How depleted is this Ducks offense?” Along with Kesler and Getzlaf having serious issues, the Ducks also have Ondrej Kase, Jakob Silfverberg, and Rickard Rakell on the shelf. Let’s not forget Patrick Eaves‘ frightening health issues, either.

That opens the door for Henrique opportunities, but it’s worth mentioning that he probably won’t be carried by red-hot wingers. The results could be modest for would-be fantasy owners.

Who gains from Vatanen’s departure?

It will be interesting to see which Ducks defensemen get a boost from Vatanen being traded away, too.

So far in 2017-18, Cam Fowler was the only Anaheim blueliner who averaged more PP time per game than Vatanen. That said, Brandon Montour (2:41 per night) wasn’t far behind Vatanen’s average of 2:48 per game, and Hampus Lindholm got his fair share of reps, too, at 2:16 per evening.

Between power-play time and even-strength minutes – Vatanen averaged 21:06 minutes of total ice time per game, third among Ducks skaters and defensemen – there are some nice opportunities for Lindholm, Montour, and Josh Manson to take bigger roles.

The Ducks are transitioning from such a deep defense that people have to fight for ice time to something a little more stable, what with Vatanen and Shea Theodore out of the mix. Personally, I’m especially intrigued by what this might mean for Lindholm and Manson, two of the Ducks’ most interesting blueliners.

Again, it’s wise to check in on Alfieri’s add/drops post for more immediate advice on Monday, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Devils-Ducks trade fallout; John Scott’s acting debut

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• How Sami Vatanen helps the New Jersey Devils. [Pucks and Pitchforks]

• Are the Anaheim Ducks a better team after Thursday’s big trade? [Anaheim Calling]

• Appearing on WFAN in New York, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman once again reiterated his faith that the Islanders will end up with a new arena near Belmont Park. [Islanders Insight]

• Is the hole too deep for the Edmonton Oilers to dig out of? [Oilers Nation]

• A look at what’s behind Joe Thornton’s recent offensive flourish. [CSN Bay Area]

• John Scott talks life after hockey and his acting debut on CBS’ “S.W.A.T.” Thursday night. [ESPN]

• A good read on how just how fast hockey players have become. [TSN]

• Remember the days when goaltending was a weak link with the Winnipeg Jets? [Arctic Ice Hockey]

Nathan Walker, the first Australian-born player in the NHL, has been waived by the Capitals.  [Washington Post]

• Patience has saved Dave Hakstol’s job…for now. [Inquirer]

• It’s good to see the old Anze Kopitar back on the ice. [NHL.com]

• Good Long Island boy Charlie McAvoy is handling everything thrown his way. [Bruins Daily]

• A tough start hasn’t caused Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill to stray from his plan. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

Carey Price is healthy and the Montreal Canadiens are winning, but there is still work to be done. [Sporting News]

• Here are the details for the latest NHL 18 update. [Operation Sports]

• When an anthem singer in the Czech Republic failed to show up for a game, the referee stepped forward and grabbed the mic. [Scouting the Refs]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.