2015 NHL Draft

Wild hope to sign Kirill Kaprizov eventually Bill Guerin
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Guerin, Wild try to stay calm despite challenges in signing Kirill Kaprizov

It’s rarely been simple or straightforward for the Wild to get treasured prospect Kirill Kaprizov to actually join the team. Sadly, for anxious Wild fans, it looks like the waiting game will continue. It’s also unclear how long this will feel like the neverending story.

Ideally, the Wild would be able to sign Kaprizov to a two-year entry level contract. The door would normally be open since his KHL deal expired.

The COVID-19 pause has complicated these eternally complicated matters, though. Such complications have prompted worries that the latest attempts at a Kaprizov deal might eventually fall apart.

To his credit, Wild GM Bill Guerin is trying to take the slow-and-steady approach with Kaprizov.

“I understand the anticipation of Kirill, and him getting signed, but this is just one of those things that’s gonna take a little bit of time,” Guerin told Dan Myers of the Wild website. “Would I have liked this done three weeks ago? Sure, I would have liked this done three years ago. But this is an unusual situation, and had things gone the way they normally would have, without coronavirus, things probably would have been different.”

(Wild fans nodded their heads so hard at the “three years ago” part.)

From fast forward to a pause

In previous seasons, teams have been able to sign prospects after their seasons ended at other levels, injecting talent late in a campaign, or even postseason. This sets up “everyone wins” scenarios. The teams get the boost of talent, while prospects were able to “burn” a year off their entry-level contracts despite limited games played.

Such benefits can sometimes be profoundly noticeable. Chris Kreider gave the Rangers a nice boost during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. As recently as last postseason, Cale Makar became an instant smash-success for the Avalanche.

Under normal circumstances, the Wild would be able to bring Kaprizov in the same way by signing him to a two-year deal that would run through 2020-21. Unfortunately, amid all of the COVID-19 confusion, the NHL paused teams abilities to sign Makar/Kreider-type deals. If that remains, a Kaprizov contract couldn’t kick in until 2020-21.

As the Athletic’s Michael Russo notes (sub required), there’s mild hope that people might be able to change the NHL’s mind on the matter. That hope may not be justified, however, as a source told Russo that there’s “zero chance” the NHL will change its mind.

“To be honest, I don’t know. It doesn’t really look like [he’d be eligible to play this season],” Guerin said to Myers. “But I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth or make a call that hasn’t been finalized. We’re just taking it day-by-day with him and wait.”

Several ways Kaprizov situation could go sour for Wild

This process has already been riddled with headaches.

Almost exactly three years ago, rumors circulated and were later confirmed that Kaprizov signed a three-year deal to stay in the KHL. While there was some hope in bringing Kaprizov to the Wild as early as 2018-19, fans were instead teased with glimpses of his brilliance.

And make no mistake about it, there’s serious evidence that the 23-year-old can live up to the hype. If big numbers in the KHL and international play won’t convince you, these highlights should drop a jaw or two.

Of course, strong work — including 33 goals and 62 points for CSKA Moscow this season — makes it even more appealing to keep Kaprizov from leaving the KHL.

If the Wild can bring Kaprizov over for whatever’s left of 2019-20, then the uncertainty surrounding 2020-21 becomes a problem. What if the league doesn’t open things up until December? That would be a long time for Kaprizov to wait around, especially in the near-certain event that a KHL team can dangle a lucrative offer for next season.

Russo listed some alternative options for Kaprizov and the Wild. Those options range from the dicey prospect of “loaning” Kaprizov to a KHL (or other league) team, just signing him to a two-year deal and getting him to the U.S., or even just waiting a year.

Russo also points out another consideration:

One wrinkle is that once Jan. 1 passes, Kaprizov will be in his 24-year-old year even though he doesn’t turn 24 until April 26. That means he would only be able to sign a one-year entry-level contract, not a two-year deal.

Sheesh, right?

Guerin seemingly handling the Kaprizov situation well for Wild

Again, one can understand if the frustration is mounting.

With that in mind, it’s probably positive that Guerin is fairly fresh to the Wild job. Much of the grumbling happened during Chuck Fletcher’s tenure as GM, so maybe the slate is cleaner now?

Guerin told Myers that he believes Kaprizov is “actually being really smart in taking his time” with this process. Beyond that, Guerin’s been in frequent contact with Kaprizov, and it’s not always been just business. Russo even noted in an April article that Guerin texted Kaprizov happy birthday in Russian when the prospect turned 23.

If it eases any tension (probably not much, but still), the Wild only used a fifth-rounder on  Kaprizov (selecting him 135th overall in 2015). So if this eventually pans out, the Wild might still get a steal.

They just needed to work hard to pull off that heist.

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.

Maple Leafs sign Dermott, who they drafted after trading down

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Draft days really lend themselves to “What if?” scenarios, but that seemingly applied to the Toronto Maple Leafs in particular.

The suddenly analytics-minded franchise traded down twice during the early moments of the 2015 NHL Draft, turning the 24th pick to the 29th pick and 61st, then eventually transformed that 29th into the 34th and 68th selections.

That second move-down happened with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets spotted something even more interesting: Toronto floated a deal to Columbus that would have involved the following before that swap ever happened:

  • Blue Jackets would have received the fourth overall pick.
  • Maple Leafs get choices eight, 34, 38 and 58.

That didn’t happen, yet the Leafs ended up making the 34th pick of the draft anyway by sending the 29th pick to Columbus. That 34th choice ended up being Travis Dermott (pictured), who signed an entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Pension Plan Puppets postulates that Dermott might not have ended up in Toronto’s organization if the Maple Leafs pulled off that exchange of high first-round picks:

Had the trade been made, it would have likely meant the Leafs wouldn’t have moved back later in the first round to select Dermott, and would have instead also had a shot at taking a player such as Travis Konecny, Nick Merkley or Jeremy Roy with their original 24th overall selection.

Really, the hypotheticals can get a little dizzying when you consider the multiple draft picks that actually ended up being involved and the ones that could have been involved. Most obviously, Leafs fans may wonder about various scenarios if they didn’t stick with the fourth pick and land Mitch Marner.

Of course, Marner ended up with Toronto, and so did Dermott. If nothing else, people cannot charge the Maple Leafs with being lazy this summer, and that busy run extends to the draft.

The 18-year-old defenseman scored 45 points in 61 games with the OHL’s Lake Erie Otters in 2014-15.

Here’s that draft day video of Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, which PPP pointed out:

Interesting stuff to ponder during this long hockey summer, right?

NBC to air NHL Draft Lottery on April 18

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The NHL Draft Lottery will take place on Saturday, April 18 just prior to Game 2 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

The lottery will determine the order of selection for the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft for the 14 teams, which did not qualify for the playoffs.

Last summer the NHL announced changes to the lottery format. The changes included adjusting the odds of winning the first overall pick. The 10 highest finishing non-Playoff teams will receive higher (better) odds than they received previously with the four lowest-finishing teams receiving lower (worse) odds.

Here are the odds of winning the Draft Lottery:

source:

The 2015 NHL Draft goes June 26-27 in Sunrise, Florida.

Lawson Crouse: ‘I’m a big power forward’

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When looking at the prospects for the upcoming NHL Draft many have heard of the likes of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – the two topped the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings released this week.

At No. 4, behind Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, is a hulking 6-foot-4, 211-pound forward by the name of Lawson Crouse.

Crouse, who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, was listed at No. 3 on the International Scouting Services latest rankings released earlier this month.

“Everytime he’s out there, you know what he’s giving you,” said Benoit Groulx, who coached Crouse with Team Canada at the recent world junior hockey championship. “You know what he brings to the table. He’s a big body, likes to get involved. Smart player, solid with the puck. He’s solid also on the defensive game.”

The 17-year-old, who was a surprise to even make the Canadian team, spent much of the tournament on the fourth line registering a goal and three points in seven games.

Crouse has 16 goals and 23 points in 31 OHL games this season – a nice increase in production from the 15 goals and 27 points he registered in 63 games during the 2013-14 season.

“I’m a big power forward. I just try and bring it every night,” said Crouse describing his game. “If you want to play in the National Hockey League, I feel that’s what you have to do. I can score, but there are areas of my game that I’m strong at – in the defensive zone and doing the little things.

“That’s something that I focus on. Try and control the little things and do everything else.”

Crouse grew up idolizing current Colorado Avalanche veteran Jarome Iginla, but models his game after a couple of other NHL stars.

“Right now I like to watch Rick Nash and Milan Lucic- trying to find a balance between them both,” he said. “I have the ability to score, but I also have the meanness and ability to play physical like Lucic.”

Given his size, whoever selects Crouse in the first round in June could have an NHL-ready player for the start of next season.

McDavid: ‘There’s always moments of doubt’

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TORONTO – Connor McDavid has an opportunity to help Team Canada capture a gold medal at a world junior hockey championship for the first time since 2009 when the Canadians meet the Russians on Monday.

However, the top rated prospect for June’s NHL Draft admitted following Sunday’s semifinal victory over Slovakia that this opportunity was in doubt.

McDavid suffered a fractured bone in his right hand during a fight in an Ontario Hockey League game on Nov. 11. The initial diagnosis pegged the 17-year-old to miss 5-6 weeks.

At the time of the injury he had 16 goals and 51 points in 18 games.

“I mean there’s always moments of doubt. Even when the doctor said kind of at the beginning it’s going to be close, there’s a couple weeks where you don’t know and then kind of at the end you realize it’s going to be a possibility,” said McDavid. “It was a long, long recovery, but it feels good to be where we are today.”

McDavid had two goals and five assists through the first five games of the tournament.

He added three assists as Canada defeated Slovakia 5-1 Sunday to advance to Monday’s final.

“I think I’ve been getting better each and every game,” he said. “It’s just natural when you’re missing that much time. I’ve never come back from an injury as a hockey player. It’s really hard to explain and it’s weird when you first get back, but I thought it’s been getting better.”

A visit to the doctors early in the recovery process had McDavid hopeful that he’d return in time for the Boxing Day start of the tournament.

“Kind of around the one week mark of the injury, week and a half. I went back for a check up and the doctor said it was already healing faster than he would’ve expected,” said McDavid. “That’s obviously good news. Long, but not as long as it could’ve been.”

McDavid finally returned to action in an exhibition game for Team Canada on Dec. 21 – 39 days after suffering the injury.

“The game feels different, everything happens really fast especially jumping into a world juniors,” said McDavid of the biggest adjustment. “A lot of stuff happens fast. Just the speed of the game, stuff happens fast.”

Monday will likely be McDavid’s one and only shot at a gold medal at the U-20 tournament. He’s eligible to play at both the 2016 world juniors and the 2017 tournament; however, chances are the NHL club, which selects him in June won’t be releasing him.