AHL life isn’t so bad really

OK so this isn’t going to be me opining about whether I am Team Owners or Team Players in this whole, stupid affair. I sympathize with the players and I think they’re getting boned over by guys that can’t figure out how to do math and want a do-over.

No, this is more about what I’ve seen from the NHL guys who were exiled to the AHL because of the petty fighting.

The guys that are there are kids. At the oldest, they’re 22 or 23 but in the case of guys like Sean Couturier, he’s 19 and spending his time in a league that he’s probably too good for. What I saw from him the other night in Glens Falls in a loss to Rochester was a guy trying too hard to do everything.

He’s got a pair of linemates who are likely better off in the AHL and won’t see much, if any, time in the NHL. Still, through all that, Couturier managed to get two assists. He was on fire for the whole game and showed the tenaciousness we saw from him against Pittsburgh. He was the guy that made Evgeni Malkin lose his cool again, only in the AHL against a handful of other NHL guys.

The crazy part is, the AHL is still a very good league. With all things being normal it might be the second best league in the world, yet guys like Couturier, Adam Henrique, Chris Kreider, and Adam Larsson have to be there because that’s how it works when you’re on your entry-level deal.

And the time they spend there? It’s going to make them monsters. Just think of the guys in Oklahoma City. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz, and maybe eventually Taylor Hall as well.

Amazing.

So much talent there that should be getting showcased in the NHL… But it’s not. Instead of playing in New York City, Boston, or Los Angeles these young stars are getting their kicks in Rochester, Worcester, and Abbotsford.

That’s not how it should be, but whenever the players and owners decide to be grownups about this whole CBA thing, those kids are going to come back to the NHL a lot stronger and a lot better off because of it. If you thought you saw great things out of these kids last year, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Even better still, if you’re near an AHL city you can see them play on the cheap and show what they’re all about. We could sit and dwell about how it sucks something awful that we’re not seeing them in the NHL, but you could just look on the bright side of life and see them play in their own brand of barnstorming tour.

Thoughts from RPI’s exhibition

There was plenty to like and plenty to pick apart from RPI’s 6-2 win over Acadia. It can always be misleading to judge what you see out of a team in an exhibition game against inferior talent, but I’ll give it a whirl anyway.

— The sophomores looked a bit more grown up (duh). Notably Matt Neal and Jacob Laliberte had fun games. Creative with the puck, no seemingly dumb plays, and helped push the offense. RPI needs that badly.

— I knew going into the season goaltending was going to be fascinating to watch and the exhibition left me thinking freshman Jason Kasdorf (pictured) and sophomore Scott Diebold are going to make senior Bryce Merriam a resident of the bench more often than not this year.

— Yes, I know that’s potentially a dumb thought to have after each guy got 20 minutes of action but my feeling is that Merriam’s leash is going to be really short this year.

— I dig Milos Bubela. If I was still doing photoshops, there’d be one of Mike Myers as Linda Richman yelling about her favorite bubbelah being Bubela. I like puns.

— I think Mark McGowan is going to have a nice year. He’s shaping up to be a solid all-around player and the goal he scored sure looked pretty. Granted the Acadia goalie was playing too deep in his net and he reacted late, but still.

— The defense is going to be fascinating to watch. Pat Koudys is gone, Nick Bailen is still awesome, and Curtis Leonard is just solid all around. Freshman Phil Hampton makes me curious. He showed a good shot from the point and seemed to just be involved in the play a bunch.

— Bo Dolan still looked like a freshman. He’s a third pair guy but I’d like to buy him some confidence.

— Of the freshmen (and there’s a bunch) I think Mike Zalewski and Mark Miller are going to be insta-helpers. Zalewski’s size and skill should help him evolve into a solid scorer while Miller seems to have the makings of a good checking line type player.

Obviously this is a really small sample size to judge from, but there’s reason to keep your head up if you’re an RPI fan. The team is crazy young though so there’s going to be mistakes and missteps along the way.

Teams are going to play tighter defensively and be a bit faster than Acadia was so they won’t get to skate circles around everyone. Add in the ECAC being a mostly trap-and-bore league and it makes for a hell of a grind. If they don’t get worn down and overly frustrated by the league schedule this could wind up being a very fun team to watch.

Descend into the madness of my ECAC preseason picks

It”s’ a time honored tradition in college sports: the preseason poll. While both USCHO and USA Today (with the coaches) will have their own college hockey Top 20, the poll I actually vote in is the only one I care to talk about — The ECAC preseason media poll and all-conference team.

You see, I can explain to you my thoughts (or total lack thereof) when it comes to how I see things shaking out in the conference and since this is my site, that’s how things roll around here. While I’m good at keeping up on things in college hockey, my life is consumed with professional hockey which means I get a sort of slanted view of what goes on.

That means I’m reading way more of Ken Schott at The Gazette for Union stuff and Ed Weaver at the Troy Record on RPI. I also have many friends and other folks who are either Cornell alums or REALLY big fans, so I hear enough about the Big Red to make me want to vomit out of my ears. Other schools… fall by the way side.

Enough rambling, here’s how I ranked everyone out on my ballot:

  1. Cornell
  2. Union
  3. Harvard
  4. Quinnipiac
  5. Dartmouth
  6. Yale
  7. St. Lawrence
  8. Rensselaer
  9. Clarkson
  10. Princeton
  11. Colgate
  12. Brown

It’s not really a surprise considering the top two teams as they were the top two last year. Union loses a handful of really good players while Cornell just keeps plugging right along. Hang on though, when you get a look at my all-conference ballot you’ll probably wonder what the hell my glitch is.

  • G: Troy Grosenick – Union
  • D: Shayne Gostisbehere – Union
  • D: Danny Biega – Harvard
  • F: Daniel Carr – Union
  • F: Kellen Jones – Quinnipiac
  • F: Kenny Agostino – Yale

Yes, three Union players and none from Cornell yet I have Cornell taking the conference. Why? I think Cornell is a deeper, more dedicated-to-their-system team. Every year no matter how much turnover there is in their roster, Cornell sits in the top four of the ECAC. It might not be the greatest hockey to watch in what is the second-weakest conference in the NCAAs, but that brand of consistency is rare.

These top two teams are also the only ones I’ve got any confidence at all in saying they’ll finish there. They were the conference’s only tournament teams last year and barring upsets in the tournament, it could be that way again.

As for 3-12… Honestly, I might as well draw names from a hat but I figured I’d give it a shot to place them where I think they’ll go. Reasons? Here goes nothing.

Harvard: Why not third? They tied so many games last year it kept them afloat. They lose some forward talent with Alex Killorn graduated but that’s it.

Quinnipiac: Lots of good forward talent here and I think that’ll be good enough to keep them in business all year. I’m a big fan of Kellen and Connor Jones with Matthew Peca assisting them both. Eric Hartzell is a quietly very solid goalie.

Dartmouth: Every year I expect better things from the Big Green and they keep letting me down. Yet here I am again. I’m a sucker. Lots of questions abound here, especially in goal (Cab Morris?). Brandon McNally was huge in conference last year, could be primed for a breakout second season.

Yale: It’s tough to pick against Keith Allain’s team as there’s still a lot of talent there, but things are lacking a bit now. Brian O’Neill was a huge player for them. Thankfully they’ve got an older Kenny Agostino to pick things up. Antoine Laganiere is a pure sniper. Goaltending was OK, but has to be better.

St. Lawrence: Loads of young scorers here but questions persist elsewhere. How they do without master tactician head coach Joe Marsh (retirement) will dictate where they finish.

Rensselaer: Seth Appert’s young team has loads and loads of potential and could be a team that winds up higher than where I’ve got them. It all depends on how well second-year guys Ryan Haggerty, Jacob Laliberte, Zach Schroeder, and Mark McGowan grow up and how well the host of new guys fit in. (Homer hopes: Last year’s kids turn into stud scorers and this year’s frosh blend in seamlessly – fingers crossed)

Clarkson: It’s nice to greatly dislike this team again with Casey Jones as the head coach now that George Roll is kickstarting the D-III program at Nazareth. They’re back to playing boring hockey and they’re very hate-able again. RPI beating them in the playoffs last year won’t sit well but they need better talent.

Princeton: So this is what happens when a good coach goes elsewhere. Things fall off for a bit. Or maybe they won’t and they’ll surprise. Who knows?!

Colgate: I’ll make this one easy – Austin Smith is gone. Coach Don Vaughn will figure out another way to pester the conference though.

Brown: It’s the annual tradition of picking Brown to finish last. Some things just never change.

Look who’s back

“Hey players, spin the wheel, make the deal… OR ELSE!

It’s only been eight years since the last NHL work stoppage and hey, look at that, we’re about to have another one.

The last lockout got me my fire back to write. I started blogging, mostly to vent about everything that was good and stupid about what the NHL and NHLPA did in 2004 to help kill a season and then come back to win the fans over with false promises and “rule changes” that were just the same rules they had already and made sure to call them. Well, for a year or two anyhow.

Now we’re back at what seems like square one all over again, only this time it’s on the owners for being belligerent. After all, how else do you explain locking out the players for using the system they killed a year to get implemented? You can’t explain it, it doesn’t make sense.

Problem now is it’s all a PR game. The players want to make sure they don’t look bad in front of the fans and the owners just want their damn money back that they willingly forked over to the players. Does it sound like I’ve taken a side here? I guess it does.

In the meantime, I’ll be making sure to spend more time in Albany and Glens Falls to see displaced NHL players with AHL options. That means really good things for all the teams in the AHL as there’s a ton of talented players headed that way. Will it pay off in better attendance in some places? It’d be nice.

You won’t be lacking in hockey options, kids, there’s plenty to be had. AHL, ECHL, NCAA, CHL… They’re all there waiting for your (renewed?) support. The NHL will survive one way or another, it just depends on how big of a black eye it ends up wearing when it’s all said and done.

Random thoughts at a random time

With a few days off from writing for the Peacock, I’ve got a few things bouncing around my brain.

— Folks are starting to fret about labor issues disrupting the start of the season. It’s a healthy thing to worry about but the juxtaposition between “fan worries” and “colleague worries” is so different.

Fans are worried they won’t have hockey to watch and get worked up about. Colleagues are worried, in some cases, that they won’t have something to help them collect a paycheck. These are the sorts of things the league and players don’t keep in mind.

Yes, players won’t get paid if there’s a lockout, but when they do get back to work they’re making a pretty penny (even if their salaries do get rolled back). For writers, freelancers especially, that’s not how it works and it sucks. Big time. I know both sides won’t think about these things, but for the sake of sanity let’s hope they keep the kvetching to a minimum.

A while back I got into a bit of a Twitter row with my pal Bruce Arthur of The National Post when I stupidly didn’t think of the big picture in these matters (this was in a discussion of the NBA lockout at the time). I get it and, as usual, Bruce was right.

— I feel for Scott Howson. He’s a good guy, a nice guy, but that doesn’t always make you good at your job. That said, he did what he had to do in dealing Rick Nash and while I think he had a better offer on the table from the Rangers at the deadline (one which he said “no” to), he did well in getting what he did from New York now.

He gambled on teams being eager to pay up big to get a superstar once free agency, he gambled (mostly) wrong. Dubinsky is a nice player, as is Anisimov, but Tim Erixon (he of the curious karma) is the guy who can help maybe make this deal a push when we look back on it in years.

Then again, Nash could re-discover he’s a superstar on Broadway and become a Manhattan folk hero and Columbus fans will never hear the end of it no matter what. Hooray fun!

All that aside, read up on Aaron Portzline’s 61 thoughts on the Nash deal is a must-read. Suffice to say, there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

Science interlude: HOLY CRAP, THERE’S WATER IN SPACE

— Alexander Semin is a freaking lightning rod of controversy. “No way! Really?!” you say sarcastically. “Shut up, it’s my website,” I say back to you.

People love him (mostly Caps fans), people hate him (hockey old timers and other Caps fans) but they guy is stupid talented. I hope he takes this opportunity in Carolina and uses it to prove to everyone what he’s capable of. If he pulls a Zherdev and decides to be moody, that will be massively disappointing.

– Favorite idea of the weekend? Derek Zona’s thought to deal Jordan Eberle for P.K. Subban. The thinking here is Eberle’s value (and image) has never been higher while Subban is massively under-appreciated in Montreal. Couldn’t agree more with that line of thought.

Of course, that also means Steve Tambellini would never have the cojones to try and do it. Life is forever a pipe dream in Edmonton.

— Zona is also sky-high on Oliver Ekman-Larsson. File that under: Duh.

— I’m loving the beach volleyball at the Olympics. It’s the least fuddy-duddy sport of the Games, and me saying “fuddy-duddy” practically makes me one as it is. It’s like I NARC’d on myself.

— Love it that Teemu Selanne is back for another year. Now if we can just get Daniel Alfredsson to do the same, that’d be great. It’s still a huge bummer Nicklas Lidstrom decided to hang it up, but after talking with Aaron Ward during the Stanley Cup finals (he’s the guy that broke the news after all) it sounds like Lidstrom had his mind made up for a while.

— I’ll try to do these more often. I got inspired reading Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback and while I know he gets plenty of grief, I enjoy how personable he makes his columns. He takes you into team camps, he gets you inside to let you know what’s going on and hey, you’ll get some coffee and beer talk too. Put me down for a few of the latter.

(all photos courtesy of AP – they’ll probably yell at me now)

Finally

For the few years I was scribbling nonsense on the Internet before I landed over at NBCSports.com’s ProHockeyTalk, every June would turn into a soap box for me to sound off on why Adam Oates belonged in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His case was always easy to make. No, really, it was super easy to make.

Now? Now he’s a Hockey Hall of Famer.

The fight is over and a childhood hero is enshrined for eternity. Bias accepted here, there’s never been a doubt as to Oates’ career being Hall-worthy.

I am as happy as a hockey fan can be. The complaining, the indignant stat-prattling, the case-making, the whining about it all… It’s over. I don’t have to crow about an open-and-shut case anymore.

There’s no need to talk about the injustice of it all and continue alternating between banging my head against the wall and shouting from the mountain tops. Adam Oates: Hall of Famer.

Back in late September during the preseason, I wanted to interview Oates about being snubbed by the Hall. With him being the Devils assistant coach and it also being the team’s first preseason game of the year, the Hall was the last thing on his mind. All business, all the time. That’s part of what got the Washington Capitals to hire Oates as their head coach today on top of it all.

It feels a bit silly to feel as happy for what someone else accomplished, but that’s part of being a fan, right? Embracing those that helped bring the love of the game to you. Oates is the key figure on my personal “Mount Rushmore” of hockey. Oates, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Teemu Selanne. There are plenty other players I have a great appreciation for, but those four? They turned hockey from something I watched and enjoyed into something I obsess over and love dearly, maybe a bit too much if you ask some of my friends.

But Oates? He was the guy who sparked it all for me. Seeing a guy like that play live in person when you’re a kid leaves an impression on you. Seeing him win your favorite local team a championship hammers it home even more. Watching him excel as a professional for nearly 20 years is icing on the cake.

Adam Oates is a Hockey Hall of Famer. What a great day.

 

So long UAH hockey; Now let’s point some fingers

After two years of trying to fight the good fight, Alabama-Huntsville hockey will be no more after this season.

Oh sure, interim school president and Alabama education hitman Malcolm Stopera will say that moving UAH hockey from Division I down to club level isn’t a big deal because there’ll still be hockey at UAH in some form, but this a needless killing and one that leaves a lot of blood on a lot of different hands in the college hockey world. The Alabama education system can justify their decision citing costs all they want to, but college hockey on the whole should feel sick about this as should the UAH leadership.

This wasn’t just one new conference coming to rise and writing UAH’s death warrant, this was a total failure on the part of college hockey world to help out a weakened brother. This is the fault of a hired gun brought into the UAH leadership to make the big decision and get the hell out of town as fast as possible.

This was a hired hit and one that the leaders of the CCHA, WCHA, NCHC, and Big 10 all helped bring about.

The CCHA’s failure to throw UAH a bone years ago when they added now-soon-to-depart Nebraska-Omaha to the conference was the first, and most deadly, shot across the bow for the Chargers. Tom Anastos and his group of ignorant conference leaders, who got their own come-uppances when the Big 10 Conference was formed, helped provide the example of how to ruin a school’s program. By leaving UAH to be independents, a team without a conference to call home, they left them to perish.

Here’s to hoping that Anastos, now the Michigan State head coach, can live with his decision. Of course, he comes out smelling like a dead rose through all of this mess after ditching the CCHA to coach Sparty who is conveniently ditching the CCHA themselves for the Big 10. Convenient, eh?

The conference realignment jumble, confusing in its own right in seeing the WCHA and CCHA try to save face after the Big 10 was formed and then seeing their own plans shot to pieces when the NCHC was created putting a final bullet in the CCHA and turning the WCHA into a conference filled with also-rans. Neither the NCHC nor the soon-to-be brand new WCHA even cast a glance toward UAH for membership.

Rather than help out UAH, the NCHC waited to see if Notre Dame would join their elitist hockey party only to be spurned in favor of Hockey East. An Irish middle finger is a middle finger nonetheless. The WCHA took on fellow death bed program Bowling Green in their scramble to put something that resembled a conference together. Did they call UAH though? No friggin’ way.

Instead, they ignored UAH. They let them sit around as an independent left to wither away and die without the help of a conference to call home and a conference schedule to give them a host of home dates. Take a look at UAH’s schedule for this, their now final season. The last games they play in Huntsville are in late February against the US National Development Team. Games like that are an exhibition meant to show the school off to guys they could potentially recruit.

Oops.

Instead, they’re going out at home with a whimper after a schedule that sees them play on the road in games they had to beg and plead for to play anyhow. This is what the college hockey landscape turned into – one that saw schools turn on each other to save their own skin and left the weakest of the litter out to starve.

Now these Chargers are being put down while a bunch of different hands are pushing off pulling the trigger on everyone else.

It’s sad. It’s sad and disgusting to see things play out this way for the south’s lone outpost for college hockey; A program that rose up from the lower levels of college hockey to become the little school in Dixie that could. They’ve made the NCAA Tournament, they’ve put the scare into top seeds (just ask Notre Dame about what they think of UAH).

Community and student support (both in showing up and financially) didn’t matter to the state of Alabama. All this was for them was a bottom line move, a correction of the books. College hockey, meanwhile, looks the other way while another one of their own dies. A family of 58 is now a family of 57 and there won’t be a single team that will care. The fans of college hockey all care and they’ll make it known at the Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida in April. It’s a bitter pill to swallow that it’s UAH playing the role of the host school, holding the celebration for the crowning of a new champion.

A disgusting end to UAH’s Division-I status concludes with a party on their grave.  While I doubt that Portera gives half a crap about his choice to demote the program, I wonder if the heads of these conferences that all had a hand in this slow killing can accept losing a team in an outpost where hockey is growing in a sport that needs a higher profile, not one that sees it let its hurting brothers die.

A long overdue update and a “thank you”

I figured it was high time that I gave you my most loyal of followers here the update as to what’s going to happen with this site. As you may or may not know by now, I’ve moved up in the hockey writing world accepting a position as the lead writer/editor at Pro Hockey Talk on NBCSports.com. This means that I’m spending my days and evenings making sure we’ve got all the news and opinions on what’s going on in the NHL updated on our site to make sure we all stay informed.

It’s a very exciting time for me, personally, as this opportunity has come up rather suddenly, but it’s one I’ve accepted with great eagerness for what it can mean as far as a career goes. As you all may or may not know, this humble little site here based on poking fun at just about everything hockey related as well as appreciating all things that have come from college hockey has been a labor of joy. I got my start with this on my own on a Blogger.com set up, deviated into the “semi-professional” ranks for a short while with my home on Fox Sports 980’s website for a short while and after being laid off by Clear Channel, I went full time into the world in the basement where all sports bloggers come from.

Coincidentally enough, after starting this fancy-pants looking page here with my own domain a year ago (nearly to the date) is when I was offered and accepted the spot with NBC Sports. To say that things have been a whirlwind of different emotions over the last year would be to downplay things tremendously. It’s been straight up bat-shit crazy.

I want you all to know that this site here is not going to go away nor will it fade off into oblivion. I like the stuff that I’ve done here too much to let it all go to waste and disappear into the ether. Updates here are going to be extremely sparse. If you’ve had this page bookmarked and checked back on occasion you’ve noticed that things were already sparse here as it was. Expect that to continue.

What will happen here is going to involve me putting away my nasty snark and saving those bullets for NBC. Hey, come on, that’s what they’re paying me for. Thankfully the Internet is still free so if you want to keep up with that, you can still find me rather easily. Instead, I’ll use this page to post my thoughts, photos and random musings about following college hockey. Next season, I will be a full-fledged RPI Engineers season ticket holder. I may or may not get to pop on WRPI radio now and again to call some games, but for the most part, I’ll be a loudmouthed, heckling idiot sitting on the north side of Houston Field House with some of my best friends both in the real sense and in the “fan” sense.

If you’ve become a fan of the Photoshops, those will be extremely rare and may only occur when I’m inspired. As it is, I think I killed all of your will with the Twilight-themed one anyhow. If you stayed with me through that, God bless your sadistic hearts, I owe you a beer.

I also owe all of you my most heartfelt thanks for encouraging me to keep at this, for enjoying whatever it is I was doing here at any time and just continuing to have fun with what is ultimately a game for grown up kids. Being a guy that just writes about said game doesn’t really make me much of anything in the big picture of things, but I am blessed and flattered and humbled to have the opportunity.

For now though, this isn’t a good-bye by any stretch of the imagination, but this site is on hiatus in the meantime. You’ll hear back from me again come September or if there’s RPI news to be had before then. But expect September. If you’ve enjoyed what I do here, come join me over at Pro Hockey Talk and stay awhile, I plan on sticking around there for a good, long time…. At least until they don’t want to have me anymore.

2010 NHL Draft: The worst mock draft in history

Are you ready for the NHL Draft?! Come on! GET EXCITED! There might be four or five guys that play in the NHL next season taken in the first round!

Yes, the NHL Draft is a different beast than the NFL and even the NBA drafts in that the vast majority of guys taken won’t see any action in the NHL next year. Hell, most of them you won’t be able to see unless you’re an avid watcher of the CHL or NCAA hockey. Yeah, there’ll be a handful of Europeans taken as well, some even play in the KHL but there’s no one in North America really paying attention to that.

In the spirit of keeping up with the fun and games on the Internet I managed to come up with the world’s worst mock draft ever conceived. When I wrote this up on Saturday night/Sunday morning for part of our thought process over at Pro Hockey Talk, I really didn’t read up on a lot of these guys. As the week wore on I learned more about the players and the teams and what they need so I’m already really embarrassed by a few of these picks and that’s while I’ll share them with you as they are.  I’m here for the LOLZ after all.

I’ll add my comments with the selections as well to help spice this up a bit for you. Just reading names is weak sauce, this isn’t a police blotter after all. I already made it clear this wasn’t like the NFL Draft.

1. Edmonton Oilers – Tyler Seguin – C – Plymouth (OHL)
Everyone else is saying that Hall will be the man here, and I like to live a contrarian lifestyle

2. Boston Bruins-  Taylor Hall – C – Windsor (OHL)
This is the guy the Bruins want to get and they’ll get him because, apparently, the Oilers are dumb. Hint: You can’t lose with either guy.

3. Florida Panthers – Cam Fowler – D – Windsor (OHL)
He’s an American defenseman with all the skills. You could see any one of Fowler, Gudbranson or Gormley go here. It’ll probably be Gudbranson just because I picked someone else.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets – Erik Gudbranson – D – Kingston (OHL)
Same deal here although there’s an outside chance Columbus trades this pick for a veteran player and picks. Gudbranson is the guy they’d like to get.

5. New York Islanders – Brandon Gormley – D – Moncton (QMJHL)
Given how things are shaking out, I’ll be stunned if the Isles stay at this spot. They could stand to get a scoring forward prospect but if they stay here Gormley or Connolly could be it.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning – Nino Niederreiter – LW – Portland (WHL)
His nickname is “El Nino” and he’s Swiss. He could end up on the Lightning. Write your own nonsensical weather joke for this one.

7. Carolina Hurricanes – Brett Connolly – RW – Prince George (WHL)
He likely could’ve been a top 5 pick had he not suffered a tough leg injury. As it is, he’ll have to settle for being just outside the top 5. Tough life. If he falls this far, Carolina will be thankful.

8. Atlanta Thrashers – Jeff Skinner – C – Kitchener (OHL)
He’s a goal scoring freak although some folks worry about his skating speed. Given the numbers he put up in Kitchener this past season (64 games, 50 goals, 40 assists) it’s really tough to argue. Atlanta will be happy to have him.

9. Minnesota Wild – Nick Bjugstad – C – Blaine HS (MN)
He was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey and the Wild could stand to do something good to make the home fans not want to start a lynch mob, especially after dealing last year’s first round pick (Minnesota Golden Gopher Nick Leddy) to the Blackhawks for Cam Barker.

10. New York Rangers – Alex Burmistrov – C – Barrie (WHL)
The Rangers sure could use a skilled center in their system, couldn’t they? If Burmistrov falls this far even Glen Sather can’t screw this one up.

11. Dallas Stars – Derek Forbort – D – USA Under-18
This is almost a unanimous selection across all drafts and from what I’ve heard from folks on the inside (I do have SOME connections) Forbort is the guy they really want to get at 11. I figure they’ll get their man.

12.  Anaheim Ducks – Austin Watson – RW – Peterborough (OHL)
So here’s the first pick where I really screwed the pooch. The Ducks could stand to use some centers in their system. Badly. If Watson gets picked by Anaheim I’ll fall on the floor. Twice.

13.  Phoenix Coyotes – Mikael Granlund – LW – Helsinki
The Coyotes love them some Scandinavian players (Sami Lepisto, Mikkel Boedker) and Granlund would help fill the team coffers at left wing. It also helps that the kid has some slick skills on offense. Done and done.

14.  St. Louis Blues – Emerson Etem – C – Medicine Hat (WHL)
He’s a California kid and the fans will go nuts for him. The Blues could use some more solid talent up the middle and Etem is capable of fulfilling those hopes as he’s impressed people quite a bit lately. The Blues would do well to get him.

15.  Boston Bruins – Dylan McIlrath – D – Moose Jaw (WHL)
So this pick now belongs to the Florida Panthers thanks to the Nathan Horton trade and if they take Gudbranson early, they’re not taking a defenseman here. If they hang on to the pick at all that is. Rumors are swirling that they’ll deal this pick to collect more goodies. Still McIlrath has an awesome name, is a huge physical defenseman and he played in Moose Jaw. What else could you possibly need?

16.  Ottawa Senators – Jack Campbell – G – USNTDP
He’s America’s hero in goal. He won the gold medal for the WJC team over Canada. That’s good. He turned down a commitment to Michigan to play in the OHL. That’s bad. Still, he’s the best goalie in the draft and Ottawa could really use a prospect in goal at this point. Brian Elliott and Mike Brodeur won’t be around forever, nor should they be.

17.  Colorado Avalanche – Jon Merrill – D – USNTDP
So the Avs could use some defensemen after hitting the jackpot on Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly in last year’s draft. Merrill’s talent is outstanding but he’s got a bit of an attitude problem. Locking him up for five minutes in the room with Adam Foote should straighten him out.

18.  Nashville Predators – Ryan Johansen – C – Portland (WHL)
If Johansen falls this far in the draft, I’ll eat my hat. This was a total mistake on my part. Nashville, however, is praying that I am a psychic as Johansen is ranked behind Tyler Seguin as the best true center prospect in the draft (Taylor Hall is viewed more as a winger than not).

19.  Los Angeles Kings – Vladimir Tasarenko – RW – Novosibirsk
A very talented Russian winger playing in Los Angeles. Where have I heard this one before and is it something we’ll see again during free agency? Alexander Frolov has had a nice career in LA and perhaps Ilya Kovalchuk could be headed there next. Tasarenko, however, is KHL committed so a team picking him has to be content to wait a bit before having him, maybe, come to the NHL.

20.  Pitttsburgh Penguins – Quinton Howden – LW – Moose Jaw (WHL)
A quick, two-way winger that can score goals. The question is: What could the Penguins really make great use of while they’ve got Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Well then, glad I settled that. The Pens could go for a winger or defense at this pick here though. Going defenseman wouldn’t be shocking in any way at all. In other words, I probably punted this choice.

21.  Detroit Red Wings – Tyler Pitlick – C – MSU-Mankato (NCAA)
All right, so he’s listed as being a Mankato State player as that’s where he was this past season. Truth is, he’s headed to the WHL next year to “better prepare for the rigors of professional hockey.”  What the fuck ever, Tyler.  Still, kid is talented. He’s probably not getting picked by Detroit though. Oops to me.

22.  Phoenix Coyotes – Mark Pysyk – D – Edmonton (WHL)
He’s a steady two-way defenseman. Nothing mind-blowing, but also doesn’t have many deficiencies. Sounds perfect for the Coyotes system doesn’t it? I thought so too. Obvious pick is obvious.

23.  Buffalo Sabres – Riley Sheahan – C – Notre Dame (NCAA)
Given how other things are likely to shake out, I can’t see Sheahan lasting this long but in my pool of madness, the Fighting Irish forward will get to do his thing someday for the Sabres and he’d make for a nice fit there.

24.  Atlanta Thrashers – Jarred Tinordi – D – USNTDP
This pick now belongs to the Chicago Blackhawks thanks to the Dustin Byfuglien trade. He’s big, he’s bruising, he’s former NHL defenseman Mark Tinordi’s son and he’ll (likely) be playing at Notre Dame next season. If he’s anything like his old man, he’ll have a long and serviceable career. Fun side note: His brother Matt is going to be a freshman at RPI this year so expect to hear about him here.

25.  Vancouver Canucks – Brock Nelson – C – Warroad HS (MN)
Consider this one a failure on my part. The Canucks are more than likely aiming for a defenseman here, but Brock Nelson, who is headed to the University of North Dakota next season, is a big and bad mofo. 6’3″ 205 and he’s 17. Yikes. He’s been moving up on draft boards of late so if he does end up being this far down in the first I’ll be surprised. Also, how great is the name Brock Nelson? It’s a modern day Big McLargehuge.

26.  Washington Capitals – John McFarland – LW – Sudbury (OHL)
The Caps have a wealth of riches and adding fast winger with a nice wrist shot that occasionally fights sounds ideal for a team that lacks that kind of edge up front. The Caps can draft a guy like this and be content to have him develop as their minor leagues are rather full at the moment. Nice problem to have.

27.  Montreal Canadiens – Jaden Schwartz – C – Tri-City (USHL)
He was the USHL’s leading scorer and he’s 5’10” so he doesn’t break the Habs’ height barrier for forwards. It’s a match made in Munchkin Land. Also, he’s committed to playing at Colorado College next year. He’s already won me over for wanting to play in college.

28.  San Jose Sharks – Calvin Pickard – G – Seattle (WHL)
The Sharks don’t need a whole lot of stuff in their organization but goaltending is a severe deficiency throughout and Pickard is one of the best you can get. Seems like a no-brainer to me but Doug Wilson is one shifty mofo as a GM.

29.  Anaheim Ducks – Beau Bennett – RW – Penticton (BCHL)
You don’t really see a lot of BCHL kids go so early but Bennett is pretty impressive and moving up lists late. He’s also another California kid so expect a huge ovation should he fall to the Ducks… Which he may not do as the Kings could be a landing spot for him earlier in the round.

30.  Chicago Blackhawks – Evgeny Kuznetsov – C – Chelyabinsk
What does a team that just won the Stanley Cup need more of? Great talent. Kuznetsov won’t be in North America this year but word from Yahoo’s Dmitri Chesnokov is that he’s set to come to North America next year to compete for a job be it in the NHL or AHL. That’s the right attitude to have as it seems there’s a great fear of Russians throughout the draft worried that they’ll stay in Russia and never come over. Jeez guys, didn’t the wall come down 20 years ago? Let’s chill out.

The NHL and Twilight Unify For True Horror

You brought this one on yourself NHL. Just remember that this is your fault because you shared this information with the world via Twitter.

A few top prospects and current players will attend the LA red carpet premiere of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse on 6/24. Details on Tuesday.

Stunned. First you get Jonathan Toews on a music awards show to hang out with Miley Cyrus and now this. God help us all. If I catch Sidney Crosby hanging out with Lindsay Lohan, I’m quitting the business.

I get who they’re marketing to and they’re looking to cash in on a ridiculously insane obsession a popular series of movies and tag-along with the hype in the off-season. But are these fans the type we want to invite into the NHL Asylum of Psychos?

Actually… After reading that, they sound like the perfect kind of crazies to send to Philadelphia wearing opposing team gear and saying awful things about Chris Pronger.

I said on Twitter shortly after that announcement that the NHL is going to get a load of mocking Photoshops done to celebrate this kind of horrifying news and who am I to let the people down? Enjoy.