James O'Brien

Cape Breton Screaming Eagles v Gatineau Olympiques

Get to know a draft pick — Evgeny Svechnikov

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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Evgeny Svechnikov (C/LW)

Height: 6’2 Weight: 199 Shoots: Left

Team: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

Country: Russia

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 17 among North American Skaters

What kind of player is he?

Evgeny Svechnikov spent the season in North America for the explicit reason of proving that he can adapt enough to become an NHL player.

There’s a lot to like about the young forward’s game, as he combines above-average size with a dangerous shot, solid skating ability and serious offensive instincts.

All of that showed in a nice season in the QMJHL, as he was second on the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (great name) with 32 goals and 78 points in 55 games. The 18-year-old also managed seven points in as many QMJHL playoff games and is seasoned in international play to boot.

Scouts seem to believe that his time in North America is already paying off, as his defensive work seemed to improve during the second half of the 2014-15 season, as you may notice from this NHL.com profile.

Svechnikov’s final Central Scouting grade rose to 17th among North American skaters after a midterm mark of 21, so it seems like he’s climbing in the eyes of many.

Seidel says:

“Svechnikov may give some teams pause because of his Russian citizenship, but his upside should convince them he’s worth the risk. We’ve always thought he’d be more useful playing center and, halfway through Cape Breton’s 2014-15 season, that change was made — with phenomenal results. Svechnikov creates offense with his soft hands, size and strength and when his team doesn’t have the puck, he’s shown a commitment to making sure it stays out of his net. He had an excellent year with the Screaming Eagles and always maintained he came to North America to get ready for the NHL. That should make the team that selects him quite happy as big, offensive centers with an ability to defend are hard to find.”

NHL comparable: Alex Killorn

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Attention agents: Coyotes are at least $18M from cap floor

2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7
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For many NHL teams, the most relevant salary cap news for 2015-16 is that the ceiling will be $71.4 million. In the case of the Arizona Coyotes, it may be a strenuous race to the floor.

The floor is set at $52.8 million, which means the Coyotes will need to spend more than $18 million to get there.

(General Fanager has their cap spending at a slightly lower level, but let’s stick with “more than $18 million” to keep things simple.)

Whatever the exact amount may be, this development generated a slew of jokes from those hoping their teams would shed unwanted salaries. Just looking at the replies to that Five for Howling tweet, here are some “friendly suggestions.”

Anyway, you get the point, but there are a few things to consider.

For one thing, the Coyotes have a ton of players they can re-sign.

Granted, some of them might not be worth retaining, like maybe Martin Erat. Still, the likes of Mikkel Boedker should eat up space, and the Coyotes may want to pay extra for a backup in case embattled starter Mike Smith isn’t a pretty good goalie after all.

On the other hand, Oliver Ekman-Larsson ranks among those who are concerned that the Coyotes’ latest off-the-ice saga may hurt their standing in the eyes of many free agents. That, along with a surplus of available draft picks, could indeed mean that Arizona GM Don Maloney may prefer to call up teams suffering from cap crunches.

Long story short: it may be silly too dream too big here, but go ahead and make your Cam Ward/Mike Richards/etc. jokes as needed. A long summer is coming, after all.

Get to know a draft pick — Mathew Barzal

2015 NHL Combine
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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Mathew Barzal (C)

Height: 5’11 Weight: 175 Shoots: Right

Team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 11 among North American Skaters

What kind of player is he?

Skill and speed are two things that come highly valued in today’s NHL, and Barzal boasts both.

The playmaking forward is also a “student of the game,” as this Sportsnet piece attests; he watches hours of NHL video of skaters he hopes to emulate, from Patrick Kane to Pavel Datsyuk.

Of course, NHL teams have to worry a bit about how his skating ability – generally believed to be among the best in the field – may be affected by a knee injury he suffered while “horsing around” in November. As NHL.com reports, he spent much of his many interviews insisting that his knee has healed, but such issues may stand as a red flag for certain scouts and executives.

Barzal’s stock may have taken a hit, yet his dangerous offensive abilities argue that he could be a steal if he does slip down the board a bit. Really, falling ever so slightly in the first round may be the best thing for his development, as it seems like he could add a little weight to his frame.

Seidel says:

“Following a tremendous rookie campaign with WHL Seattle, Barzal came into his draft year looking like a surefire top-10 pick. Injuries, though, hampered his sophomore season, though he did finish the year off with a fantastic performance at the U-18 World Championship with Team Canada. Barzal is a slick offensive player with tremendous vision; along with his offensive skill set, he’s shown an ability to play hard consistently and battle physically. In the scouting world, we love to see kids play well at the end of the year — based on his effort at the U-18s in Switzerland, he will be highly coveted.”NHL comparable: Kyle Turris/Mike Ribeiro

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Red Wings announce assistant coaches, including Chelios and Granato

New Jersey Devils v Toronto Maple Leafs
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The Detroit Red Wings announced new head coach Jeff Blashill’s assistants on Tuesday, and you may notice some familiar names.

Tony Granato, Pat Ferschweiler, Chris Chelios (pictured) and Dave Noel-Bernier will be in the mix, while Jim Bedard returns as goalie coach.

The Red Wings noted that Granato and Ferschweiler will be behind the bench with Blashill while Noel-Bernier serves as a video coach; the team merely said that Granato “will have an increased role.”

MLive.com’s Ansar Khan provides a little more insight: it sounds like Chelios will (logically) work with defensemen.

This all continues a changing of the guard in the Red Wings organization, as Blashill jumps to the NHL level to replace Mike Babcock. Former Edmonton Oilers interim head coach (and experienced AHL bench boss) Todd Nelson is at the helm in Grand Rapids, too.

The 2015-16 season may present some uncomfortable changes, yet the Red Wings still seem to be in some capable hands.

Wilson: Sharks will ‘explore everything’ to improve

San Jose Sharks Name Peter Deboer Head Coach
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After all the turmoil of the last 12 months, Doug Wilson remains as GM of the San Jose Sharks. Many would agree that changing head coaches should just be the beginning of his work this offseason.

Whether it be trades, free agents acquisitions or moving around in the draft, it sounds like the situation is pretty flexible for the Sharks during during what Wilson described as “probably the most important part of the transition process that we’ve gone through the last year.”

“We’re putting this team in a position to bounce back and be very competitive come September,” Wilson said during a pre-draft address, according to CSNBayArea.com. “Will we explore everything? Yeah, we will.”

Exploring everything could mean giving up cap space to improve and it also may mean handing over a high draft pick.

The Sharks actually have a lot of both.

General Fanager estimates their cap space at $17.3 million, and while they need to re-sign or replace Antti Niemi, the Sharks could conceivably make a big splash in free agency or exploit another team’s cap crunch this summer. Wilson has also done an impressive job collecting draft assets, as San Jose boasts 17 selections in the next two drafts.

The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle provides some interesting insight into Wilson’s possible aims:

While San Jose’s most immediate need appears to be a starting goalie, they’re also interested in adding on the blueline. That could come through free agency, as there’s a solid crop of defencemen available that includes François Beauchemin, Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, Johnny Oduya, Andrej Sekera, Cody Franson and Mike Green.

Sure, it had to sting to miss the playoffs in 2014-15, and it’s possible that the team’s dysfunction may continue. That said, this team could make a dramatic push if Wilson’s on his game during (another) pivotal offseason.