Author: Joe Yerdon

Brayden Schenn

Hextall says Flyers ‘think there’s more’ to Brayden Schenn’s game


Last season was officially a breakout year for Philadelphia Flyers forward Brayden Schenn. He played all 82 games in Philly and netted 20 goals with 41 points – all career-highs.

Now with some changes happening in Philly with Scott Hartnell off to Columbus and R.J. Umberger re-joining the Flyers, GM Ron Hextall is expecting more from Schenn as Adam Kimelman of shared.

“He’s got a real gift at putting the puck in the net,” Hextall said. “He scored 20 goals, which at this stage of the game that’s a lot of goals. But we still think there’s more there and there’s more growth. I think the biggest thing is the consistency part.”

One place Schenn could find himself next season is on a line with captain Claude Giroux. With Hartnell out of town and Umberger being expected to help out on other lines, that leaves a spot open on Giroux’s left side. While Schenn is a natural center, his offensive game may be just the thing the Flyers need to give them a potent first line attack.

Hextall added that Schenn needs to be more consistent. If that happens and he winds up with Giroux, goals will come in bunches for all of them.

Looking to make the leap: Stefan Elliott

Stefan Elliott

During the 2011-12 season, Stefan Elliott made a name for himself as a 21-year-old with the Colorado Avalanche.

Elliott had offensive abilities from the blue line (four goals and 13 points in 39 games) and seemingly had upside that left them thinking they might have something special. Two seasons later, and just 19 NHL games since then, like the title of the post says, he’ll be looking to make the leap in 2014-15.

What’s hurt Elliott, now 23, is seeing other young defenseman seizing the opportunity when called up. Tyson Barrie, Ryan Wilson and Nick Holden are looking more like sure things to stay on Colorado’s blue line, and only Barrie is his equal in age. While Wilson and Holden are four years older, the Avs’ lack of defensive strength was part of their undoing last season.

With defensemen being counted on to carry and possess the puck more and more in today’s game, Elliott’s work during his rookie season showed he can do just that. As Behind The Net tabulated, his possession numbers were strong over those 39 games in 2011-12. In 18 games the following year, he was equally effective.

Last season, however, he played just one game for the Avs. While he had a bad possession night, he scored a goal in the final regular-season game of the year.

Colorado weren’t exactly darlings of advanced metrics, but if Elliott is given a bit more of a look, he might stand a chance to produce better than guys like Wilson or defensive-defensemen like Nate Guenin and Jan Hejda. Considering how poor the Avs were on defense, giving Elliott a shot to show he’s worth it might be Patrick Roy’s best move.

Not bad: 2015 draft prospect Eichel has three assists vs. Sweden

Jack Eichel

We know there’s not a lot in the way of hockey going on, but the World Junior Evaluation Camp is going on in Lake Placid, NY for Team USA.

Potential 2015 NHL Draft top pick Jack Eichel was a big part of Team USA’s 7-1 win against Sweden. The future Boston University forward had three assists and helped Minnesota Wild 2014 first-round pick Alex Tuch bag a hat trick in the blowout win.

NHL fans haven’t had much of a look at Eichel while all the talk about next year’s draft has focused on Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid. His appearance at the Lake Placid camp is the first real opportunity for fans to get an idea what he’s all about. As he told Adam Kimelman of, he’s anxious to prove he’s right there with McDavid.

“I think it’s in everyone’s competitive nature that they want to go No. 1,” Eichel said. “If I sat here and told you I didn’t want to go No. 1 I’d be lying.”

He may get a couple more chances to prove himself at the WJC Camp with games against Finland and the Czech Republic still to go this week. Expect to hear a lot more about both Eichel and McDavid all season leading up to the 2015 Draft in Sunrise, Florida.


It’s Colorado Avalanche Day at PHT

Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche - Game Five

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The Colorado Avalanche.

For more entries in this series, click here.

Last season’s Colorado Avalanche did something for the City of Denver that hadn’t happened in a while: They brought fun and excitement on ice back to the Rockies.

The Avs were the surprise team in the Western Conference as they beat out the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks to win the Central Division with 112 points. With Patrick Roy behind the bench for his first season in the NHL, he won the Jack Adams Award leading the team to 52 wins. With Joe Sakic running the show in the front office, it felt like the year 2000 all over again.

On the ice, Colorado’s offensive attack was something to behold.

Matt Duchene led the team in scoring with 70 points. Ryan O’Reilly led the team in goals with 28, and captain Gabriel Landeskog was a dual-threat with 26 goals and 65 points. Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon was a revelation scoring 24 goals with 63 points. All told, the Avs had five players with 60 or more points (Paul Stastny was the other). Defenseman Erik Johnson spurred the offense from the blue line with 39 points as well.

In goal, Semyon Varlamov was brilliant on the ice. He finished second in Vezina Trophy voting to Tuukka Rask, but had a .927 save percentage after facing a league-high 2,013 shots and had a 2.70 goals-against average.

Wait, how did a team that do so well allow over 2,000 shots on goal? Oh right… The defense.

The Avs were not darlings of the advanced statistic community for their lack of ability to possess the puck and their great talent at giving up tons of shots. Without Varlamov’s brilliance, things would’ve been much worse. While they had Johnson producing offense, guys like Cory Sarich, Nate Guenin, Nick Holden, Tyson Barrie, Andre Benoit, Ryan Wilson, and Jan Hejda made up a virtual no-name corps that struggled to slow down opponents.

Getting bounced by the Minnesota Wild in seven games in the first round showed off their defense as their Achilles’ Heel for all it was worth. Despite all the offensive and goaltending brilliance, apparently defense still wins championships. Or at the very least a playoff round or two.

Offseason recap

The Avs saw Paul Stastny depart for the St. Louis Blues on a four-year, $28 million deal. On the upside, they got a two-year deal done with O’Reilly after some rather collar-tightening negotiations.

Up front, they added Jarome Iginla on a three-year contract and dealt P.A. Parenteau to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Daniel Briere. A veteran presence amongst the forwards should help out, especially with Iginla still having plenty in the tank after scoring over 30 for Boston last season. They also added Jesse Winchester to help out the bottom-six.

One area they didn’t really address was the defense. The Avs acquired Brad Stuart from the San Jose Sharks and added depth guys in Bruno Gervais and Zach Redmond. Losing Benoit to Buffalo and Matt Hunwick to the New York Rangers won’t hurt them, they haven’t improved the back end.

They’d better hope Varlamov kept his off-ice activities to a minimum in the offseason because it’s shaping up to be another busy year in Denver.

Tomas Hertl will be very important for San Jose next season

Tomas Hertl

When Tomas Hertl showed up last season for the San Jose Sharks, he was a breath of fresh air.

His youthful exuberance and ability to score highlight-reel goals gave the already potent Sharks offense another weapon. A knee injury at the hands (read: knees) of Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown cut his season short, but with 15 goals in 37 games he provided the kind of impact that helps a team feel good about the future.

The Sharks had enough confidence in Hertl’s game to buy out Martin Havlat, move Brent Burns back to defense from forward, and to not really sign anyone to replace either of them up front. While Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture help make up an offensively frightening top-six with the forwards, it’s Hertl who figures to be the key.

Sound crazy? Not so much.

Hertl, while he was in the lineup, spent most of his time on a line with Thornton and Burns and was a dominant possession player (only Thornton and Pavelski were better amongst forwards). Keeping the puck and scoring a bunch of goals makes him invaluable.

With Burns now back on the blue line, Sharks coach Todd McLellan could create a Corsi nightmare for opponents by assembling a top line with Hertl, Thornton, and Pavelski together. Regardless of whether that happens or not, it’s Hertl that makes things happen for Thornton the set-up man.

With the Sharks offensive options thin outside of the top-six, having Hertl recreate what he did last season is vital for balance between the top two lines. If the goals evaporate, opponents will load up against Couture and Marleau’s line. Giving other teams fits defensively is what’s made the Sharks so good in the past and having Hertl pick up where he left off will only help that out further.