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What To Know Before The Draft

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The 2015 NHL entry draft is just days away, and the Florida Panthers have the privilege of playing host to one of the most anticipated drafts since Sidney Crosby was selected first overall by Pittsburgh in 2005. Another superstar is about to emerge, with center Connor McDavid being touted as the obvious first choice by the Edmonton Oilers. Of course, as most people know, there is a lot more to the draft than just young men realizing their lifelong dream. The following is everything fans need to know to prepare themselves for the festivities that will take place on Friday and Saturday.

The Top 30

First, let’s talk about the prospects. McDavid is already a household name, but what about the other 29 prospects that could hear their names called in the first round? Here is the complete list of the top 30 North American skaters available:

draft rank

To see the full list of skaters and goaltenders from North America and Europe, click here.

Round 1 Draft Order

round1order

Trade Bait

Kessel

One of the most exciting parts of any draft day are the trades. Every year at least one team pulls the trigger on a blockbuster deal in hopes to improve their team. Last year it was Anaheim who bolstered their lineup on draft day by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver. His contributions helped his new team reach the Western Conference finals before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Fast forward to this weekend’s draft and there are plenty of big names available for the taking. The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to unload their two biggest stars, Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, while the Chicago Blackhawks need to shed salary, and they may look to do so by trading Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell. Other names being mentioned in trade talks include Cam Talbot (NYR), Milan Lucic (BOS), and Eric Staal (CAR). TSN has compiled an entire list of players that are rumored to be up for grabs this weekend, which can be seen here.

Schedule of Events

Finally, the Florida Panthers are doing their best to provide a fantastic weekend for everyone attending the 2015 NHL entry draft. From autograph signings to trading card shows there will be something for everyone on Friday and Saturday. For the entire schedule of events just look below.

DraftSchedule

For any other questions about the draft fans can refer to draft central, a web portal created by the Florida Panthers. Round one of the 2015 National Hockey League entry draft takes place this Friday, June 26th, at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

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Players To Watch – Quarterfinals

Each series in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs is full of star power and skilled players, so it is difficult sometimes to choose just one to focus on. Luckily for all of our followers we are here to assist with that problem. Below is one player from each of the 16 teams participating in this year’s National Hockey League playoffs that we feel should garner some extra attention.

Eastern Conference

Marian Gaborik VS Craig Anderson

Gaborik: The success of the New York Rangers had a lot to do with the fact that Marian Gaborik recorded 41 goals and 76 points this season. The right winger was clutch for the majority of the year and the Rangers are going to need him to continue performing the same way if they want to make a long run in this year’s playoffs. There are concerns over Gaborik’s post-season play, especially since he hasn’t recorded more than 5 points in the playoffs since 2003 when he was a member of the Minnesota Wild. Will the New York forward help the Rangers reach their goal of winning the Stanley Cup or will he continue struggling when it matters?

Anderson: The Ottawa netminder was having a good season until he lost a fight with a piece of chicken and a kitchen knife, causing him to miss four weeks. Everyone in Canada’s capital worried that the loss of Anderson would cause the Senators to miss the playoffs all together. Luckily for the Sens, and their fans, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner stepped in and did an admirable job at holding the fort until “Andy” was ready to return. Now that the freak injury is out of the way the pressure of the playoffs now sits atop the starting goaltenders shoulders. Anderson has only been involved in one playoff series when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche and things did not turn out so well, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. Will a more offensively powered team help the Ottawa goaltender win his first playoff series or will the Rangers prove to be too tough of an opponent?

Tim Thomas VS Braden Holtby

Thomas: We might as well warn everyone now that this article is going to be full of goalies, and the next one that should be watched is Tim Thomas. The Boston netminder had a good regular season, posting 35 wins, a 2.36 GAA, and a .920 save percentage. While his numbers look good #30 definitely had his struggles during the year, especially after the White House incident. There was even one point when Tuukka Rask stole the starting job from Thomas until the Finnish goaltender went down with injury, putting Timmy back in the starting role and forcing Boston to sign Marty Turco. Tim Thomas played well down the stretch but there has to be questions surrounding his play and even his focus, especially since the Bruins will be in President Obama’s backyard when they play the Capitals at the Verizon Center during the quarterfinals.

Holtby: The Washington Capitals had a lot of issues during the 2011-2012 NHL season but none were worse than their problems in net. Their goaltenders, much like their entire team, struggled for the majority of the season until the last month or so, but then the injury bug hit. First Tomas Vokoun went down with a groin injury on March 28th, forcing Michal Neuvirth into the starting role. The young netminder played well until he was injured in the game against the Florida Panthers on April 5th after Marco Sturm accidentally fell on his leg. With both of Washington’s starting goalies out it is now up to youngster Braden Holtby to step in and stay strong until one of the two injured goaltenders return. There is no telling when that might be so it is up to Holtby, who has played in only 21 NHL regular season games, to stay strong in net and help the Capitals advance to the semifinals, which is no easy task against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

Stephen Weiss VS Zach Parise

Weiss: It has been 12 long year’s since the Florida Panthers last made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Stephen Weiss has been around almost the entire time. The now 29 year old center began his career with the Panthers during the 2001-2002 season, two years after Florida was swept by, guess who, the New Jersey Devils. #9 has seen many of his friends and former teammates move on from the Cats and find success in the post-season, including Nathan Horton and Greg Campbell, who both won the Stanley Cup last year with the Boston Bruins. Weiss always stayed loyal to the Panthers, even when GM Dale Tallon gave him the option to leave if he wanted to. The Toronto, Ontario native told Tallon that he wanted to see this thing through and have success in Florida. He didn’t have to wait long. Stephen Weiss will finally get his first taste of the post-season and many fans have one major question on their minds; can Stephen play to the level required to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs?

Parise: There is little doubt that Zach Parise knows how to perform in clutch situations. If anyone needs evidence just go look up his tying goal in the gold medal game against team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics. The reason Parise is a player to watch in the series against the Florida Panthers is because no one else in the media has talked about him. It seems all of the knowledgeable hockey analysts only want to talk about Kovalchuk, Elias, and Brodeur. Nobody can fool us because we know that the New Jersey left winger can be more dangerous than anyone else on the team when he is on his game. If Parise plays to the level he is capable of the Devils will definitely give the Panthers trouble in the quarterfinals.

Sidney Crosby VS Ilya Bryzgalov

Crosby: We are just as tired of hearing about Sidney Crosby as everyone else but he is a player that needs to be watched in this years Stanley Cup playoffs. It has been two years since #87 has played in the post-season because of concussion issues but he finally seems healthy and ready to lead the Penguins through a long playoff run. That’s only if he can survive a first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. There is so much bad blood between these two clubs that we honestly would not be surprised if the Flyers took a couple of runs at Sid the kid during the best of seven series. If that happens expect Crosby and the Penguins to get frustrated and retaliate, which is exactly what Philadelphia wants. Will the Pittsburgh center be able to keep his cool against a tough Flyers team or will the broad street bullies get inside Sidney’s head?

Bryzgalov: The master of the universe definitely had a problem being the master of his crease for the majority of the season, but thankfully for the Flyers going silent with the media and focusing on his game changed all that. Bryzgalov’s play was nothing short of outstanding during the last two months of the regular season, especially in March when he broke the Flyers franchise record for the longest shutout streak. The one thing fans in Philadelphia need to worry about now is the fact that the Russian goaltender has never really been that good in the playoffs. Does that have to do with the teams that played in front of him or is Ilya just a good regular season goalie? We will have the answer to that question soon enough.

Western Conference

Roberto Luongo VS Jeff Carter

Loungo: If the Canucks make it to the finals again and lose who would be surprised if their fans broke into the locker room and personally kicked Roberto Luongo out of Vancouver? Here is a better question, should the Nucks start Cory Schneider? Well it seems the organization does not think so since they already announced that Luongo will be the #1 goaltender for at least the first game against the LA Kings. We would have to imagine that the Canucks have “Lu” on a very short leash and if he struggles early they will not think twice about sticking Schneider between the pipes. How great would it personally be though for the 6 foot 3 goaltender to shut down the Kings and silence his critics. We will all just have to watch and see if that happens, or see if Cory Schneider can steal Luongo’s spotlight.

Carter: Poor Jeff Carter. First he is traded out of Philadelphia for partying too hard, then he is shipped out of Columbus because that relationship didn’t work, and now he is stuck on a playoff team in Los Angeles with his drinking buddy Mike Richards. Life must suck for the former 30 goal scorer. In all seriousness the Kings went out and picked up Carter to help out their struggling, underachieving offense. In 16 games with LA the big center from London, Ontario registered just 6 goals before going down with a bone bruise in his right foot. Carter claims he is ready to go when the puck drops on game one against the Canucks tonight at 10:30 PM EST. Is #77 really 100% or is he rushing back into the lineup because it’s the playoffs?

Brian Elliott VS Patrick Marleau

Elliott: If anyone predicted that Brian Elliott, the Ottawa outcast, would finish the season with the best goals against average and save percentage in the league they should win an award. Elliott’s play helped the St. Louis Blues earn the second best record in the Western Conference and their first Central Division championship since 2000. Jaroslav Halak will be getting the start in game one though because the Canadian born goaltender went down with a “very minor” injury on April 5th. We expect to see Elliott before the conclusion of the Blues/Sharks series so that is why he is one of our players to watch.

Marleau: It seems like Marleau is targeted every year during the regular season and the playoffs, and why not? There is nothing wrong with expecting one of the longest tendered Sharks to elevate his play and help lead his team on a long playoff run. The San Jose left winger played well during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, leading his team to the Western Conference finals, but it just was not enough. Patrick Marleau is once again being called upon by his team to produce but in a different situation. San Jose will begin the post-season in 7th place in the West without home ice advantage for the first time since 2007. Can number 12 answer the call or will St. Louis force the Sharks to make a quick exit from the 2012 NHL playoffs?

Mike Smith VS Patrick Kane

Smith: Hey look, it’s another goaltender! When the Phoenix Coyotes announced that Mike Smith would be the #1 goalie many believed that their post-season days were numbered. Smith silenced the critics by putting together a fantastic season and leading Phoenix to their first ever divisional championship. The issue with the Kingston, Ontario born netminder is that he has only played a total of three playoff games when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Smith will have to prove to his teammates, critics, and fans that he can carry his excellent regular season play into the post-season.

Kane: For the majority of the regular season Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville did not know what position to stick Patrick Kane at. Number 88 played on the wing, then center, went back to the wing, and finished the season in the middle. The reason for all the positional change? Coach Quenneville wanted to get the 2007 1st overall draft choice to play to the level he did in the 2009-2010 season. While Kane finished with the lowest point total in his young career the Hawks are hopeful that the playoffs will help wake him up. Quite frankly Chicago needs Pat Kane to  play like he has in the past if they want to have the same success they did in 2010 when they won Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Shea Weber VS Nicklas Lidstrom

Weber: The Nashville Predators have gone all in for the 2012 Stanley Cup finals, and a big reason for that is Shea Weber. The Predators captain is on his way to becoming a restricted free agent on July 1st and Nashville wants to do everything in their power to persuade him to stay. The 6’4″ defenseman is not the only important player on the roster that is heading to the free agent market. Ryan Suter, the Preds other top D-man, will become a UFA on the first day of July. As the captain of the Predators it is up to Weber to keep his fellow teammates calm and lead them to their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. Can Shea Weber help his club live up to the expectations created by those in the hockey world or will Nashville fail to make a long post-season run and look drastically different next season?

Lidstrom: The captain on the other side of this series is one of the best defensemen to ever play in the National Hockey League. Nicklas Lidstrom has played in 20 consecutive year’s of playoff hockey, all with the Detroit Red Wings, and has won four Stanley Cups. The future hall of famer is a key part to the Wings success in the post-season, which makes him an obvious player to watch during the quarterfinals and beyond (if Detroit can get by the Predators). There is a very real possibility that this is the final year Nicklas Lidstrom plays in the NHL, so he will want to do everything he can to help the Red Wings win the Cup.

Once the quarterfinals are finished we will select more players to watch from the clubs that advance to round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Please keep checking back with Sunshine State Hockey for full coverage of the 2012 National Hockey League post-season.

Fantasy Hockey Update

Sunday, October 16th marked the end of the first week in Fantasy Hockey, and what an exciting week it has been! Some surprises emerged whether it be from starting out strong or slow offensively, putting on a goaltending clinic, or letting just about every shot faced fly in. I’m here to point out some of the “stars” from the first week as well as some of the disappointments, and to provide a list of players to consider trading for at some point.

Trending Upward:

1. Phil Kessel TOR – (5g 3a 8pts +7): Kessel is my pick for the top player trending upward this past week. Strong goaltending caused Toronto to post a 3-0-0 record during the first week which usually results in confidence from forwards. If it keeps up look for Kessel to have a career season.

2. John Tavares NYI – (5g 3a 8pts): Tavares posted back to back 4 point nights last week along with his first hat trick of the season. The Islanders are starting out strong and again look for the forwards to feed off of this and raise the intensity of their play.

3. Joffrey Lupul TOR – (3g 2a 5pts): Lupul is benefiting from the strong play of Kessel as seen in his numbers. You can expect to see a career season from him if it keeps up. Keep an eye on him!

4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins EDM – (4g 0a 4pts): This years first overall pick has made the decision tough on the coaching staff on whether to send him back to juniors after the first 9 games. Strong play along with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle has boosted his value greatly this past week and I expect good things from him. How can you turn down a kid who scored a hat trick in just his third NHL game?

Notable players to watch this week: Kris Versteeg FLA – 3GP 1G 2A 3PT, Marc-Andre Bergeron TBL – 5GP 2G 3A 5PT, James Neal PIT – 6GP 5G 1A 6PT, Thomas Vanek BUF – 4GP 3G 4A 7PT, Al Montoya NYI – 2-1 1.35GAA .953S%, James Reimer Tor – 3-0 2.49GAA .917S%

Trending Downward:

1. Dwayne Roloson TBL – (3GP 1-1-1 5.09GAA .858S%): Roloson is off to a shaky start and it’s apparent in the Lightning’s record, look for Mathieu Garon to get more starts in an attempt to shake things up.

2. David Booth FLA – (3GP 0G 1A 1P -3): Booth is a surprise on this list as he was expected to be among Florida top forwards this season, but his slow start is proving otherwise.

3. Steven Stamkos TBL – (5GP 2G 1A 3PT): The leading goal scorer in the NHL the past two season is off to a slow start like the rest of his team, and unless something drastic is done to shake the team up he may not break out of the “slump” this week.

Players to look out for in the coming weeks:

Taylor Hall EDM – Top line is gaining momentum and he looks to benefit from it.

Anaheim’s Top Line – Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan all started out slow but look for all three of these players to heat up.

Rick Nash CBJ – With Jeff Carter out for possibly a few weeks look for Nash to step up and help his team turn around from one of it’s worst starts in history.

Sidney Crosby PIT – Nobody knows the timetable on Crosby’s return but he was cleared for contact this past week which only means he’s one step closer to that day, so watch out for his return and be ready to have him in your lineup!

Fantasy Hockey Season is Upon Us!

Crosovi

First off I’d like to say hello to all of the readers since this is my first article I’m writing for SSH. I’d like to thank Marc for allowing me the chance to write and possibly improve on my skills for the future. That being said let’s get to this shall we?

The NHL season is approaching fast, and with that Fantasy leagues all over are beginning to open up. As you notice to the right we have a list of names that will be participating in the first ever Sunshine State Hockey League. I wrote another article on Fantasy Hockey a few weeks ago for www.litterboxcats.com but I was looking to dive further into fantasy hockey in this article to give a few tips to, in some ways, level the playing field. Obviously since I’m participating myself I won’t give away too many of my secrets or “sleeper picks” but I hope this helps those of you who may not have a lot of experience when it comes to drafting your very own fantasy team. For those of you who don’t know a “sleeper pick” is basically a selection where you take a player who may not have done well in past seasons which gives him a low ranking, but he’s due for a breakout season. An example of this would be Michael Grabner for the Islanders last season, I don’t think anyone could have predicted he would score 34 goals.

As I’ve told people in the past, there are no loyalties in fantasy hockey. Sure there’s always one or two players who are our personal favorites that play for the home team but that doesn’t mean Stephen Weiss should be taken first overall. As much fun as I’m sure we’re all going to have in the SSHL I know that everyone will have even more fun when they’re doing well. A good strategy I’ve noticed that works well is taking an offensive player with your first two picks, however there are a few exceptions to this rule. If it comes to your second pick and there is an offensive player you’re not too sure about, such as him being injury prone or the fact that he was traded to a bad team, then by all means select a goaltender. Their stat categories do count toward your overall points too after all.

Now obviously in just about any league the first three or four picks can be predicted. They could be in no particular order: Steven Stamkos, Daniel Sedin, Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. The big question out of these four obviously would be Crosby. I’m sure we can all agree that if healthy he is one of the best in the league at what he does. Concussions knocked him out of play last season (no pun intended) and it’s still been a question as to when he’ll be ready to return, but I assure you that once he does he won’t be a wasted pick. After these picks it becomes really a matter of preference. Henrik Sedin has always been strong like his brother and there is also last years leading scorer Corey Perry. However in the early to middle of the first round some of you may want to consider Bobby Ryan, it’s always been said that he’s more skilled than Perry and the odds of Perry repeating his performance last season aren’t very high. Someone has to pick up the slack for this right? Ryan is expected to have a breakout year, he hit a cold streak last season where he only had 4 goals in a 30 game span yet still scored 34 on the season.

Moving into the bottom half of the first round and top half of the second sometimes leads to some uncertainty, and as I stated above if you’re not certain on your pick then by all means grab a goaltender. Luongo despite his playoff woes often proves to be a solid pick for the position in fantasy leagues, and one of our favorites Tomas Vokoun looks to have a “breakout” year as he’s now playing with Washington, so consider him for this pick as well. A big question mark leads us to the Stanley Cup defending Boston Bruins and Tim Thomas. He’s yet another year older and could face the dreaded “Stanley Cup Hangover”, so take some caution while drafting him. It’s safe to say that Thomas will slide down the ranking a little here so don’t jump the gun and draft him early. Another good thing to look at in these spots would be a defenseman. Shea Weber seems to be the top ranked D-man in the fantasy world and rightfully so, the guy does put up monster numbers. Let’s also not forget Big Buff being one of the top ranked defenseman.

Stammer

Let us move on to later picks as the next few rounds are basically self-explanatory. (you’ll see what I mean once the draft begins and those rounds come up, a lot of the players are so close in stats and equally as good you should have no problem selecting a ‘good’ pick. Basically you can’t go wrong!) As I said going with offense is one of the best strategies you can take, so you may in the later rounds find yourself lacking good defensive picks that are going to get you numbers. Look to draft someone like Tobias Enstrom from Winnipeg somewhere around round eight, he finished with 51 points last season. John-Michael Liles was recently traded to Toronto, he was a 46 point getter last year on a “bad” Colorado team. Cam Fowler the rookie from Anaheim scored 40 points last season and will be playing with Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan again this year. As you may not have noticed these are my later round “sleeper picks” I told you about earlier. That’s right, I’m giving away my own secrets!

Also make sure not to forget that in these late rounds we’ll need to fill in bench slots for replacements encase someone in your regular lineup is injured or just happens to have an off night (I’ll explain this shortly). A good late round pick you can snatch up is the previously mentioned Grabner who is very skilled and could possibly repeat his 30 goal season from last year. Clarke MacArthur from Toronto should also be available in the later rounds, this guy scored 21 goals last season and had 61 points, not too shabby! Also sticking with the Leafs would be Nikolai Kulemin (30 goals 57 points). Some of you may ask “what about the rookies?” unless you know for sure they’ll be playing this season, steer clear of them. Gabriel Landeskog for Colorado and Adam Larsson from New Jersey are almost sure picks to start the year with their respective clubs, so if you want to take the risk on them by all means feel free to but wait until round 12 or later.

So I’ve had a few name drops as far as later round ‘sleeper picks’ and have given you guys some of my secrets, I did this to hopefully give everyone an equal chance in the league. Obviously I’m no expert or else I’d be working for Central Scouting, and even then they’re not right all the time. By no means do I expect everyone to take my advice, I just simply offer it to help out. Now getting back to some tips, the most important thing to stress when taking fantasy leagues serious is SET YOUR ROSTERS! At any given time you could have most of your regular lineup sitting because their team doesn’t play that night. This is why we have reserves to swap in if their team happens to be playing on such a night because this basically ensures you the maximum amount of points you could potentially earn in the season. This is also why you want to be sure not to take both Theodore and Clemmenson as your only two goaltenders. If one is playing the other won’t be, and if Florida isn’t playing neither of them will be, so try to select two goaltenders, preferably starters, from two different teams. Also, if you have a player who is injured and will be out for an extended period of time (months or possibly the season) don’t hesitate to drop him and pick up a replacement from the free agent list.

I’m hoping this article helps some of you when it comes to your drafts and Fantasy Leagues. Hockey is my passion, I live for it and to a lesser extent fantasy hockey, I don’t ever play for money, I do it for fun so writing this wasn’t intended to make me sound like some type of cut throat ‘player’. If my team flops and I come in last place (it’s happened before) I don’t get upset or act like a sore loser so I apologize in advance if it came off as such while you read this. I look forward to this season and hope we all have a great time playing together! By the way one last prediction for you guys, Florida with 93 points this season, let’s get back to those playoffs!

playoffs!