2018 NHL Draft Grades

                The NHL draft concluded last weekend with many fresh faces to look forward to in the coming years. If anyone followed my wonderful first round mock draft, I managed to get the first overall pick right. . . and nothing else. I guess I’ll chalk it up to talent. Now that I’ve bombed that, I’m going to give every NHL team a draft grade based on how they drafted this past weekend. For organizational purposes, I’ll go by division.

Eastern Conference- Atlantic division

Tampa Bay Lightning- B

With no first-round pick after their trade before the deadline, the Lightning still had a solid draft. They grabbed winger Gabriel Fortier with their first pick and then picked up two defensemen in rounds 3-4. My favorite pick was the two goaltenders. It’s never a bad thing to have more goaltenders and always multiple developing but two in one draft may be a little excessive. Fortier can become a solid role player for the Lightning in a few years.

Boston Bruins- B+

Also without a first round pick, the Bruins made the most of what they had. Taking Axel Andersson in the second round was a great pick to potentially step in when Chara retires. Lauko could be a potential steal in the third round and Curtis Hall is a prototypical Bruins forward at 6’2, 200, looking to lay down the hammer to keep opponents in check.

Toronto Maple Leafs- C

The Leafs picked up Rasmus Sandin at the end of the first round where most people thought he would have been gone. He’s a great prospect on the back end and will develop into a top four defenseman for the Leafs in the coming years. The rest of the prospects are work in progress players, which is of course to be expected. It seems though that we may never see the rest of the crows from this class.

Florida Panthers- D-

Serron Noel, really? Somebody had to take him I suppose, but we may never see him in a Panthers uniform. There is so much development for Noel to actually become a hockey player, it doesn’t seem likely he becomes an NHL caliber player. However, he is HUGE, which I love. He would be considered a tree. I am intrigued to see what will happen with Justin Schutz, the Panthers sixth round pick. He’s a sleeper that we’ll see in the league by 2020. #BoldPrediction ?

Detroit Red Wings- A+

I am an avid Blackhawks fan and grew up on the Hawks/Wings rivalry so for me to give them an A goes against everything I’ve ever stood for. However, the Red Wings knocked it clean out of the park this year. Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren and Jared McIssac could all play in year one. I expect to at least see Zadina and Veleno and both will produce. Jesper Eliasson could be starting in five years. Look out NHL, here comes the Red Wings, back to prominence.

Montreal Canadiens- A-

Well, they drafted the best pure center in the draft with the third pick. That was a great decision. Kotkaniemi will make a solid, if not great, center for years to come. Allan McShane (drafted #97 overall) will develop into a solid center in a few years. The Habs won’t be contending in the next couple of years, but this was a solid draft haul. They addressed their needs and that’s what the draft is for.

Ottawa Senators- C+

The Senators are currently in shambles and the recovery process starts with Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk can come in and play immediately if needed, but otherwise they could have made better selections. Tychonick has potential to see NHL action and maybe Kevin Mandolese (goaltender, #157 overall) will become the goalie of the future with the right coaching. Nothing jumped off the page though and the Senators are trending down rather then up.

Buffalo Sabres- B

Nobody likes to waste talent more than the Buffalo Sabres have in the last five years, but maybe with this draft class they can begin to turn things around. Both Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson will find their way into the NHL sooner rather than later, giving the Sabres an instant upgrade on the back end. Rasmus Ristolainen can’t do everything back there. The Sabres need help everywhere but they only drafted one non-defensive player. Bad move Buffalo, bad move.

Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals- B+

It was a solid draft for the Capitals. With an electric offense they made the perfect selection by going defense with their first two picks. Alexander Alexeyev is a big body and so is Martin Fehervary and with a little development, they’ll be able to fit right in in Washington. Kody Clark and Riley Sutter have promising futures and Mitchell Gibson could find himself as a potential backup in a few years.

Pittsburgh Penguins- B+

The Penguins had a mere four selections in the 2018 NHL draft and they made the most of them. Calen Addison has strong offensive upside and fits the stereotypical mold of modern day NHL defenseman. Filip Hallander was a steal at #58 overall. Both players could have found themselves in the first round and the Pens got them in the second. Justin Almeida and Liam Gorman are project players but provide intrigue for the future of the organization.

Philadelphia Flyers- C+

The Flyers had a decent draft and addressed their needs, but I feel that they could have picked a lot better than they did. Jay O’ Brien was a huge reach, especially with bigger and better players still available. Adam Ginning might be my favorite pick from their draft. He’s a big, physical player with a defensive edge to his game. John St. Ivany and Wyatte Wylie could develop into solid defensemen in the future but nothing stood out to me.  Joel Farabee will be a solid player when he adds some weight.

Columbus Blue Jackets- C

The Jackets could have gotten way more value at #18. Foudy will be a solid player, but they could have went elsewhere for the same effect. With some coaching and training, Kirill Marchenko could be the best pick from this draft for the Jackets.

New Jersey Devils- B

To be honest I may have underrated this draft for the Devils. I almost love it. The Taylor Hall show may get some help with Nico Hischier having a full year under his belt, but it’s still something that will prove tough for the second year center. Taylor Hall can do it all, I was just hoping for an offensive guy to take some of the weight off. That being said, I LOVE the Ty Smith pick. They do need help defensively and they got it. They followed it up with another defenseman and a goalie before finally taking center Yegor Sharangovich in the fifth round.

Carolina Hurricanes- A-

Oh sure, go get the top scorer in the draft. Great choice! Seriously though, great pick. Follow it up with more offense, more offense and more offense. I can’t say they missed at all here. Jack Drury will become a solid center given time to develop. Luke Henman and Lenni Killinen have the potential to crack the lineup in the coming years and Jacob Kucharski could be around for Andrei Svechnikov’s prime. If only they could find a goalie *ahem* Callum Booth *ahem*.

New York Islanders- A+

Top grade goes to the Isles. At 11 and 12 they drafted Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson, respectively. You have got to be kidding me. How did this happen. Both weren’t supposed to be there by then and they were. Those two picks alone give you an A. Both can start this season and make a solid impact. Follow it up with Bode Wilde who will probably start this year. Getting a goalie for the future and depth picks, the Islanders dominated this draft.

New York Rangers- F+

You went with Vitali Kravstov with Oliver Wahlstrom on the board. Terrible. Love the K’Andre Miller pick and that’s the ONLY reason you got the plus in the F+ rating. He has great upside and could become a stud in a few years. That’s it. The rest of the Rangers draft was questionable at best. A second-round goalie and then Nico Gross? Why did you even bother to show up to the draft?

Western Conference- Central Division

Nashville Predators- C

The Predators took a step back this year, between trades during the season and a draft day trade, they didn’t pick until the fourth round. They did get some potential value. Jachym Kondelik is a massive man and could be a future role player. Spencer Stastney was considered by Predator scouts as a “sleeper” and way undervalued. Only time will tell how he pans out. The Preds did what they could with what they were given and saved for next year, I expect bigger things in 2019.

Winnipeg Jets- B

The Jets were another team with no first round pick in this years draft (they traded it away for Paul Stastny) and they made the most of it. They picked up two forwards, David Gustafsson and Nathan Smith, that are very intriguing picks. When contracts hit the fan for Winnipeg, we may see these guys forced to step up into the big league. The two defensemen could see limited action at some point in their careers and goaltender Jared Moe has a cool enough name to get a courtesy start sometime in his career.

Minnesota Wild- B+

I’m actually excited about the Wild’s draft choices this year. Filip Johansson will become a quality starter for the Wild as early as this year. Jack McBain is by far my favorite pick. He’ll be the fourth line center this year and an immediate upgrade. The Wild took five centers total this year, which speaks to where their needs lie. In the fifth round, they picked up another defenseman, Simon Johansson. Could we potentially see a Johansson/Johansson line? A guy can dream, can’t he?

Colorado Avalanche- C+

Overall, I enjoyed Colorado’s selections. However, they could have done a lot better. I can’t really agree with Martin Kaut at 16. They could have traded back to the end of the first round or maybe even second and got him still. They followed it up with goaltender Justus Annunen. I think he has the potential to become a great starting goaltender, but he was taken a little too high for my liking. Sampo Ranta may be able to find his way into the NHL and Taylor Weiss may see third line action in the future, but there wasn’t much that had me applauding this draft class.

St Louis Blues- B-

I like the Dominik Bokk pick. I think he’ll turn into a quality starter and occasional miracle worker for the Blues. If Scott Perunovich could turn into a solid player if he adds a little weight to his frame. Joel Hofer in the fourth round could develop into a solid backup in the future. Tyler Tucker can turn into a huge steal for the Blues if he can develop his game and be more disciplined.

Dallas Stars- B+

The hometown team made quite a few quality picks for their fans. Ty Dellandrea could see action this year. Albin Eriksson is a big human being who has no problem being physical. With a little bit of discipline, he could be the grinder for the Stars in the coming years. Adam Mascherin has great potential as an offensive force. They drafted Curtis Douglas who may not even be human. Standing at 6’8 and 248 pounds, the man is an absolute tank. I can only hope that we’ll have the luxury of watching him steamroll people someday.

Chicago Blackhawks- B

I liked Chicago’s draft. Stan Bowman and Co. always do a fantastic job with the draft. That being said, I would have LOVED to see Evan Bouchard with the eighth pick instead of Adam Boqvist, Boqvist will be a great addition to the Hawks in 2020, but Bouchard would have been a great addition now. Nicholas Beaduin was another solid pick at 27 and Jake Wise has potential. Niklas Nordgren has great offensive upside and could be in the lineup in a few years and goaltender Alex Gravel is a project but could develop into a fringe starter at some point.

Pacific Division

Las Vegas Golden Knights- B

The potential is all there for Vegas. A stellar draft in their first ever draft, I’m excited to see where Ivan Morozov will fit in once his contract in Russia is up. They added a lot of quality prospects that will help them in future. Slava Demin and Paul Cotter could become starters in the future with some polishing and Brandon Kruse has potential. Good first draft for Vegas

Anaheim Ducks- B

Two centers to start the draft? Not a bad idea actually. Isac Lundestrom is an intriguing pick and Benoit-Olivier Grouix could be an unidentified flying object in a few years. Blake McLaughlin had potential to become a starter in a few years and you can ever have too many goalies. Lukas Dostal was the clear cut number one goalie prospect in this year’s draft. The rest may not exist in the NHL, but the Ducks picked some solid guys for the future.

San Jose Sharks- C

Five selections for the sharks. Two solid picks, three not so great. I’m not high on Ryan Merkley, I think he won’t be much of a player in the NHL UNLESS he makes the switch to winger in the NHL. I like the Linus Karlsson pick, he can develop into a solid NHL player. Jasper Weatherby seems like a fun pick for the Sharks. He has the size to play in the NHL, now he needs some grooming to get his skill there. They drafted a goalie that the world will never see and John Leonard won’t see playing time either.

Los Angeles Kings- B+

The Kings needed to get some help in getting younger and getting some offensive talent and they got it. Rasmus Kupari was a great pick and they were fortunate enough to get Akil Thomas in the second round. Those two guys can make an impact year one and the Kings needed it. After falling flat against the Knights, a little infusion of Kupari and Thomas will go a long way. David Hrenak may be ready to see NHL action by the time Jonathan Quick calls it a career. They only get a B+ instead of an A- because they picked a second goalie that will never see a game.

Calgary Flames- D

Their first pick in the draft was in the fourth round. They had a total of five selections in the draft. Maybe Martin Pospisil comes in and beats people into submission? He can be a potential third line guy in the NHL and the Flames could use any and all help they can get. Past Pospisil, I see NOBODY. If they get really lucky, Milos Roman could make an impact in five years? This draft isn’t what it could have been for the Flames. Yet again, they went for broke last year and it really backfired. Trending down.

Edmonton Oilers- A

Evan Bouchard is my boy and I hope to see him do really well. He’ll make an impact in Edmonton this year. They followed it up by getting Ryan McLeod, who I had pegged as a first round pick. Goaltender Olivier Rodrigue was a stretch, but he may just pan out. Bouchard and McLeod fill major needs and that should help Connor McDavid sleep easy at night knowing he won’t be the only one making plays in Alberta.

Vancouver Canucks- A-

Quinn Hughes was a perfect pick for the Canucks and he’ll be a great addition to the team. Jett Woo will be another solid blueliner for the Canucks if he can stay healthy. He’s more of a defensive defenseman but pair him with Hughes and you have your bases covered. Tyler Madden has the potential to become a bottom six player in the NHL, but that all starts with bulking up. The rest of the Canucks picks leave a lot to be desired. They aimed for potential and they got plenty of that.

Arizona Coyotes- C-

The fifth pick saw Barrett Hayton get his name called. That’s almost as rich as the Cleveland Browns taking Baker Mayfield first overall instead of anyone else. Anyway, Hayton is a major risk, major reward pick. With how many better players there were, I have a tough time justifying it. Kevin Bahl could turn out to be a solid defenseman, but why defense? The second round had plenty of offensive talent and the Coyotes need it. After that, they kept trading back to get bodies. That strategy doesn’t generally pan out in the NHL. Sorry Arizona, you tried.

 

It amazes me that the NHL draft shook out the way it did, but you never know what’s going to happen come draft day. The obvious winners of the draft were the Red Wings, Islanders, Canadiens and Oilers. The losers of the draft were the Panthers, Rangers, Coyotes and Flames. Clearly we won’t know who the real winners and losers are until the season begins, but for now all we can do is speculate.

Full First Round NHL Draft Predictions

With the NHL draft coming up, I’ve been putting up my predictions for the first round of the NHL draft and how it will shake out. This week, I’ve compiled all my predictions into one article, so you can check them all out in one place! In case you missed it, there are currently seven teams without a first round pick this year. They are the Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Las Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators. So here you have it, the whole kit and kaboodle, the grand poohbah of the first round, the final product, an entire first round mock draft for tonight’s NHL draft!

1.      Buffalo Sabres- D Rasmus Dahlin

With the Buffalo Sabres holding the first pick in the NHL draft, they must must must select Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin is a surefire starter in today’s NHL with the unique ability to score and solid defense, nobody can’t quite compare to the Swedish D man. Expect him to be next to the other Sabres star defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to start the 2018-2019 season.

2.      Carolina Hurricanes- C/LW Brady Tkachuk

Did I just pick Brady Tkachuk to go second overall? I did. Let me tell you why. Lineage. The Tkachuk family has produced nothing but outstanding players for the NHL and Brady will be no different. He has no problem going toe to toe with the big guys and is a very well-balanced player. He can do it all and he has the drive to succeed.  Ultimately, the Hurricanes could go any way with this pick because they need a lot of help but Tkachuk is my bet to make the most immediate impact and become a cornerstone of a soft rebuild for the Canes.

3.      Montreal Canadiens- RW Andrei Svechnikov

The Canadiens have Carey Price. Minus the goaltender spot, the Canadiens need help all over the ice. The biggest issue I see for the Canadiens is goal scoring. They averaged an abysmal 2.52 goals per game average, best for 29th in the league. Svechnikov would be a plug and play starter for the Canadiens. He’s a natural goal scorer that can move the puck well and would be an instant boost to an otherwise terrible offensive team.

4.      Ottawa Senators- D Quinton Hughes

Boy did Ottawa fall off the wagon this season. They need help everywhere on the ice and this guy will do it for them. He’s an offensive minded defenseman with the ability to take the puck away. He plays a very fluid game and will immediately contribute to the offensive and defensive ends for the Senators. He may not be in the lineup day one, but he’ll get his shot sometime this season.

5.      Arizona Coyotes- LW Filip Zadina

The defense in Arizona isn’t as bad as you may think. They need a starting goaltender and maybe one more defenseman, but their glaring need comes in the form of a true goal scorer. The Coyotes last year were a group of rag tag players that were never able to put together a set of games. In comes Zadina, a goal scorer that doesn’t need anyone’s help to score. He would immediately start for the Coyotes and give them a true scoring threat.

6.      Detroit Red Wings- C Jasperi Kotkaniemi

The Wings will need to replace their aging players and what better way than drafting the number one center in the draft this year?

7.      Vancouver Canucks- D Adam Boqvist

I’m 99% sure that if Boqvist is available at this point in the draft, the Canucks will have to take him. He’s a great skater and provides a great offensive presence for a team that averaged 2.66 goals per game in 2017-2018. A boost on the offensive end from a defenseman will help bolster the Canucks roster immediately.

8.      Chicago Blackhawks- D Evan Bouchard

One thing that killed the Blackhawks in 2017-2018 was inconsistency. Evan Bouchard will be able to play day one for the Hawks and provide consistency (minus some rookie growing pains) to the abysmal defense the Hawks had last year. I expect that Bouchard will pair very nicely with Duncan Keith as Chicago’s top line pairing.

9.       New York Rangers- C/RW Oliver Wahlstrom

New York had a firesale before the trade deadline and will look to build through the draft in hope to make a respectable team while they still have the king in net. Wahlstrom will be able to make an immediate impact for the Rangers, providing depth and a big body that will anchor the Rangers even past the king’s time. It’s amazing that Wahlstrom falls to the ninth pick but here we are!

10.  Edmonton Oilers- LW Joel Farabee

The Oilers need someone to help Cam Talbot out because playing 50+ games a season rarely works out well, but they won’t find that guy in this draft. They also need to find players other than Connor McDavid. With cap space tight because of his RIDICULOUS contract (not to say he doesn’t deserve it), the Oilers need a young guy to come in and step up. In comes Joel Farabee. What makes Farabee exciting is he has the quickness and agility to skate around guys. He’s undersized at 5-11 and 162 lbs, but with a little bit of a bulk up and some playing time, he could become this year’s Alex DeBrincat.

11. New York Islanders- C Joseph Veleno

The Islanders have back to back picks to start their draft, so they could go with two starting caliber players if they so choose. Veleno, in my opinion, is deemed a high risk, high reward pick. Although he is one of the top players in this year’s draft, nobody really knows what to expect from him. His defensive play is fantastic and he is mature beyond his years, but his biggest knock is his lack of creativity when it comes to scoring goals. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. . . right?

            12. New York Islanders- D Bode Wilde

The Isles addressed the center position and now they need a true number one defender for their team. In comes Wilde, who has a huge upside. We may not see him right away, but he has the size (6,2, 195) and skill to become quite the addition in 2019 for the Islanders.

                13. Dallas Stars- D Noah Dobson

The Stars need help defensively more than they do offensively and with an aging group of guys, Dobson is a no-brainer. Right up there with the likes of Quinn Hughes, Adam Boqvist and Evan Bouchard, Dobson will be able to make an immediate impact for the Stars and help to replace some of the older defensemen the Stars have. If he adds 10/20 lbs, he can be a force to be reckoned with on the back end for the Stars for many years to come.

                14. Philadelphia Flyers- D Ty Smith

No Barrett Hayton here, no way. The Flyers already have a gajillion centers on their roster and they could benefit from having a defenseman outside of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov. Not to say their back end is bad, but they could definitely improve from Johnny Oduya.

                15. Florida Panthers- C Barrett Hayton

The Panthers need some help offensively. Just last year, Jamoir Jagr was one of their top point getters. Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck can’t do everything. Hayton could immediately fit in as a third/fourth line center and offer some stability for the Panthers lower half. After losing Jonathan Marchessault and Jamoir Jagr in the same offseason, they need to replenish.

16. Colorado Avalanche- D Rasmus Sandin

Currently the Av’s are a potential playoff team every year. With the insane amount of talent they have on the front end mixed with having the youngest roster in the NHL, the only place they can go is up. However, they need someone that is going to grow with the team defensively. They have some young talent, but Erik Johnson isn’t getting any younger and give it a few years and they’ll need all the help they can get. Sandin could step in as early as next year and become part of the prime years of the Avalanche’s rise to glory.

                17. New Jersey Devils- C/LW Issac Lundestrom

The Devils need help both defensively and offensively, but I decided to go offense here. The Devils had the Taylor Hall show last year, but this year, they’ll add to their firepower of the future by taking Lundestrom.

                18. Columbus Blue Jackets- C Rasmus Kupari

A hidden gem, Kupari will need some help to grow, but he also can absolutely rip shots from anywhere on the ice. Imagine the Jackets having another sniper next to Panarin. Anyone remember the Kane/Panarin saga in Chicago and how glorious it was? The Jackets find their combo with Kupari.

                19. Philadelphia Flyers- W Domink Bokk

Do you remember how I said the Flyers had five billion centers? Yeah, me too. It was five picks ago. Here, they take a winger, because why not add some serious offensive upside to an aging core group of guys. Bokk wouldn’t play this season but give him a few years and he has a chance to be a remarkable talent. The Flyers will need that once their aging core of players take the down turn of their careers. In steps Bokk, ready after a few year of polishing at the lower levels.

                20. Los Angeles Kings- C/RW Jonatan Berggren

The Kings somehow find their way into the playoffs almost every year for some obscene reason. This year, however, they were blown up by a much younger, faster and overall better Las Vegas Golden Knights team. The Kings need to get younger. . . a lot younger. Much like the Blackhawks last year, the Kings are going to have to ALMOST start from scratch. Berggren may not be ready right this second but give him a year or two and start selling guys for way above market value (like the Hawks and Hartman) and the Kings could find themselves with a quick turnaround with Berggren paving the way for the future.

                21. San Jose Sharks- C Ty Dellandrea

The biggest issue for the Sharks right now is getting younger. They were one of the oldest teams in the NHL this past season at 27.9 years old average. Dellandrea would help the Sharks when Joe Thorton finally decides to call it quits. The Sharks made the playoffs and were successful, but to get over the hump they need somebody like Dellandrea waiting in the wings to take over.

22. Ottawa Senators- C Ryan McLeod

After the Sens took their defenseman of the future with the fourth overall pick, they double down and pick up another potential day one starter. McLeod has the size and the maturity to develop into a top line guy in a couple of years. He may not be the fastest skater out there, but he makes his own offense and can command a powerplay with the puck on his stick. McLeod can come in and make a much needed impact for the Senators.

                23. Anaheim Ducks- D Ryan Merkley

The Ducks were a hard pick for me. They could go in any direction honestly. Here, I chose Merkley for them. The Ducks just need to get younger and surround themselves with players for the future. With an average age of 28 years old, the Ducks are the fourth oldest team in the NHL. The Ducks have a lot of needs on the back end of their roster and in comes Merkley. Now, here’s the kicker. The ducks will switch Merkley from defense to winger at the NHL level. He still needs to add weight to even think about playing in the NHL, but a young, fast and agile guy that can rack up the points would be a welcomed addition to a Ducks team that got rolled in the playoffs.

                24. Minnesota Wild- D Jett Woo

The Wild get mighty lucky that Woo made it all the way to 24. Woo is not known for his scoring and that’s okay. His strength lies in his defensive play, which he has been touted for throughout his young career. He plays smart too, which is an immense help to his draft stock. The Wild may not use Woo in this upcoming season, but he will be able to crack the lineup in a few years.

                25. Toronto Maple Leafs- D Jared McIssac

The Maple Leafs offensive talent is solid; therefore a defenseman is a no brainer. They take the 6’1, 194 lbs McIssac. He is a raw talent but he’s currently tearing it up with the Halifax Moosheads in the QMJHL. Las season, he compiled 47 total points. He would help to make the offense even better than they already are and with another year in the minors, McIssac can become a steady presence on the blue line for years to come.

                26. New York Rangers- D K’Andre Miller

Miller is huge. What better way to replace Ryan McDonagh then with Miller. Miller may not see the ice for a few years as he needs to polish his game, but he is a behemoth of a human being (6’4 205lbs.) and can be a driving force on the blue line for the Rangers in the coming years.

                27. Chicago Blackhawks- C Allan McShane

Yes, the Hawks need help defensively but with Henri Jokiharju and eighth pick Evan Bouchard more than likely cracking the lineup, the Hawks need a third or fourth line center that can make an impact. They could have went with Akil Thomas here, but McShane is a natural scorer and can also setup his teammates. He constantly skates with his head up and is always looking to make a pass before taking a shot. My favorite part about McShane is his skating ability. He is constantly moving in the offensive zone and getting to the net. The Hawks desperately need a net-front presence and McShane can be that guy.

                28. New York Rangers- C Akil Thomas

Thomas has a knack for making plays and scoring. He needs to work on keeping himself moving in the offensive zone, but he’s not afraid to get into the dirty areas and pick up those inglorious garbage goals. He can make an immediate impact for the Rangers as a third line guy.

                29. St. Louis Blues- C Jack McBain

McBain will be attending Boston College in 2018/2019, but that shouldn’t deter the Blues from taking a swing at the big center. At 6’3 and 196 lbs, McBain has the potential to become a top line center in a few seasons. Depending on how desperate the Blues are to succeed this season, McBain may get some playing time this year.

                30. Detroit Red Wings- D Niles Lundkvist

The Red Wings back end is atrocious. They have no real standout defensemen on their roster. Lundkvist isn’t going to be playing in the NHL this season but with the Wings still looking for an identity, he has a few years to develop into their defenseman of the future. He needs to add weight to be a factor in the NHL but he displays great movement in the offensive zone and could become an effective powerplay quarterback at the NHL level.

                31. Washington Capitals- D Mattias Samuelsson

The Capitals won the Stanley Cup and subsequently lost their head coach due to contract issues. It’s a wonder if they’ll try to sign him back on with a better contract or if somebody else will snatch him up. With that aside, the Caps take Samuelsson. They won’t see him this season but he will definitely be able to take over for Brooks Orpik when he calls it a career or leaves the team. He will also be able to give Christian Djoos a run for his money.  Having somebody like Samuelsson in the wings will help the Caps build for the future to be a perennial playoff team like they already are.

 

There you have it, all my picks for the first round of the 2018 NHL draft. Maybe I missed a few guys that could sneak their way into the first round, but that will remain to be seen. For now, I am confident I made some great choices and I think I’ll be more accurate than not.

2018 NHL draft prediction picks 11-21

                Last week I dove into my choices for the top 10 picks of the 2018 NHL draft. While some of you may have been surprised about Brady Tkachuk going second overall or Oliver Wahlstrom dropping all the way ninth, things may get even stranger for the next 10 picks of the draft. This week, I’m taking aim at picks 11-21.

 

            11. New York Islanders- C Joseph Veleno

The Islanders have back to back picks to start their draft, so they could go with two starting caliber players if they so choose. Veleno, in my opinion, is deemed a high risk, high reward pick. Although he is one of the top players in this year’s draft, nobody really knows what to expect from him. His defensive play is fantastic and he is mature beyond his years, but his biggest knock is his lack of creativity when it comes to scoring goals. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. . . right?

            12. New York Islanders- D Bode Wilde

The Isles addressed the center position and now they need a true number one defender for their team. In comes Wilde, who has a huge upside. We may not see him right away but he has the size (6,2, 195) and skill to become quite the addition in 2020 for the Islanders.

                13. Dallas Stars- D Noah Dobson

The Stars need help defensively more than they do offensively and with an aging group of guys Dobson is a no-brainer. Right up there with the likes of Quinn Hughes, Adam Boqvist and Evan Bouchard, Dobson will be able to make an immediate impact for the Stars and help to replace some of the older defensemen the Stars have. If he adds 10/20 lbs, he can be a force to be reckoned with on the back end for the Stars for many years to come.

                14. Philadelphia Flyers- D Ty Smith

No Barrett Hayton here, no way. The Flyers already have a gajillion centers on their roster and they could benefit from having a defenseman outside of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov. Not to say their back end is bad, but they could definitely improve from Johnny Oduya.

                15. Florida Panthers- C Barrett Hayton

The Panthers need some help offensively. Just last year, Jamoir Jagr was their leading point getter. Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck can’t do everything. Hayton could immediately fit in as a third/fourth line center and offer some stability for the Panthers lower half. After losing Jonathan Marchessault and Jamoir Jagr in the same offseason, they need to replenish.

16. Colorado Avalanche- D Rasmus Sandin

Currently the Av’s are a potential playoff team every year. With the insane amount of talent they have on the front end mixed with having one of the youngest rosters in the NHL, the only place they can go is up. However, they need someone that is going to grow with the team defensively. They have some young talent but Erik Johnson isn’t getting any younger and give it a few years and they’ll need all the help they can get. Sandin could step in as early as next year and become part of the prime years of the Avalanche’s rise tog lory.

                17. New Jersey Devils- C/LW Issac Lundestrom

The Devils need help both defensively and offensively, but I decided to go offense here. The Devils had the Taylor Hall show last yearm but this year, they’ll add to their firepower of the future by taking Lundestrom.

                18. Columbus Blue Jackets- C Rasmus Kupari

A hidden gem maybe Kupari needs some help absolutely, but he also can absolutely rip shots from anywhere on the ice. Imagine the Jackets having another sniper next to Panarin. Anyone remember the Kane/Panarin saga in Chicago and how glorious it was? The Jackets find their combo with Kupari.

                19. Philadelphia Flyers- W Domink Bokk

Do you remember how I said the Flyers had five billion centers? Yeah, me too. It was five picks ago. Here, they take a winger, because why not add some serious offensive upside to an aging core group of guys. Bokk wouldn’t play this season but give him a few years and he has a chance to be a remarkable talent. The Flyers will need that once their aging core of players take the down turn of their careers. In steps Bokk, ready after a few year of polishing at the lower levels.

                20. Los Angeles Kings- C/RW Jonatan Berggren

The Kings somehow find their way into the playoffs every year for some obscene reason. This year, however, they were blown up by a much younger, faster and overall better Las Vegas Golden Knights team. The Kings need to get younger. . . a lot younger. Much like the Blackhawks last year, the Kings are going to have to ALMOST start from scratch. Berggren may not be ready right this second but give him a year or two and start selling guys for way above market value (like the Hawks and Hartman) and the Kings could find themselves with a quick turnaround with Berggren paving the way for the future.

                21. San Jose Sharks- C Ty Dellandrea

The biggest issue for the Sharks right now is getting younger. They were one of the oldest teams in the NHL this past season at 27.9 years old average. Dellandrea would help the Sharks when Joe Thorton finally decides to call it quits. The Sharks made the playoffs and were successful, but to get over the hump they need somebody like Dellandrea waiting in the wings to take over.

 

                There you have it, picks 11-21 for the 2018 NHL draft. Next week we’ll cover the rest of the first round. For now, chomp at the bit waiting for the grand finale of the Chin Bin’s 2018 NHL draft picks.

Draft predictions for the 2018 NHL draft, picks 1-10

                Since the Stanley Cup playoffs are officially over and the Washington Capitals have their first Stanley Cup championship in team history, everybody can now focus on the upcoming NHL draft. The draft will take place in Dallas, Texas this year on Friday June 22 and Saturday June 23. With so many stories buzzing around about prospects and whose going to go where, I’d like to take my shot at the first ten picks of the NHL draft. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

1.      Buffalo Sabres- D Rasmus Dahlin

With the Buffalo Sabres holding the first pick in the NHL draft, they must must must select Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin is a surefire starter in todays NHL with the unique ability to score and solid defense, nobody can’t quite compare to the Swedish D man. Expect him to be next to the other Sabres star defensemen, Rasmus Ristolainen to start the 2018-2019 season.

2.      Carolina Hurricanes- C/LW Brady Tkachuk

Did I just pick Brady Tkachuk to go second overall? I did. Let me tell you why. Lineage. The Tkachuk family has produced nothing but outstanding players for the NHL and Brady will be no different. He has no problem going toe to toe with the big guys and is a very well balanced player. He can do it all and he has the drive to succeed.  Ultimately, the Hurricanes could go any way with this pick because they need a lot of help but Tkachuk is my bet to make the most immediate impact and become a cornerstone of a soft rebuild for the Canes.

3.      Montreal Canadiens- RW Andrei Svechnikov

The Canadiens have Carey Price. Minus the goaltender spot, the Canadiens need help all over the ice. The biggest issue I see for the Canadiens is goal scoring. They averaged an abysmal 2.52 goals per game average, best for 29th in the league. Svechnikov would be a plug and play starter for the Canadiens. He’s a natural goal scorer that can move the puck well and would be an instant boost to an otherwise terrible offensive team.

4.      Ottawa Senators- D Quinton Hughes

Boy did Ottawa fall off the wagon this season. They need help everywhere on the ice and this guy will do it for them. HE’s an offensive minded defenseman with the ability to take the puck away. He plays a very fluid game and will immediately contribute to the offensive and defensive ends for the Senators. He may not be in the lineup day one but he’ll get his shot sometime this season.

5.      Arizona Coyotes- LW Filip Zadina

The defense in Arizona isn’t as bad as you may think. They need a starting goaltender and maybe one more defenseman, but their glaring need comes in the form of a true goal scorer. The Coyotes last year were a group of rag tag players that were never able to put together a set of games. In comes Zadina, a goal scorer that doesn’t need anyone’s help to score. He would immediately start for the Coyotes and give them a true scoring threat.

6.      Detroit Red Wings- C Jasperi Kotkaniemi

The Wings will need to replace their aging players and what better way than drafting the number one center in the draft this year?

7.      Vancouver Canucks- D Adam Boqvist

I’m 99% sure that if Boqvist is available at this point in the draft, the Canucks will have to take him. He’s a great skater and provides a great offensive presence for a team that averaged 2.66 goals per game in 2017-2018. A boost on the offensive end from a defenseman will help bolster the Canucks roster immediately.

8.      Chicago Blackhawks- D Evan Bouchard

One thing that killed the Blackhawks in 2017-2018 was inconsistency. Evan Bouchard will be able to play day one for the Hawks and provide consistency (minus some rookie growing pains) to the abysmal defense the Hawks had last year. I expect that Bouchard will pair very nicely with Duncan Keith as Chicago’s top line pairing.

9.       New York Rangers- C/RW Oliver Wahlstrom

New York had a firesale before the trade deadline and will look to build through the draft in hope to make a respectable team while they still have the king in net. Wahlstrom will be able to make an immediate impact for the Rangers, providing depth and a big body that will anchor the Rangers even past the kings time. It’s amazing that Wahlstrom falls to the ninth pick but here we are!

10.  Edmonton Oilers- LW Joel Farabee

The Oilers need someone to help Cam Talbot out because playing 50+ games a season rarely works out well, but they won’t find that guy in this draft. They also need to find players other than Connor McDavid. With cap space tight because of his RDICULOUS contract (not to say he doesn’t deserve it), the Oilers need a young guy to come in and step up. In comes Joel Farabee. What makes Farabee exciting is he has the quickness and agility to skate around guys. He’s undersized at 5-11 and 162 lbs, but with a little bit of a bulk up and some playing time, he could become this year’s Alex DeBrincat.

                There you have it. The first 10 picks in the NHL draft. Next week, the Chin Bin will take a look at picks 11-21.

The Future is looking bright for the White Sox

                The Chicago White Sox are currently working through a rebuild and to no one’s surprise they’re 12 games back in the AL central division with a record of 17-36. At first glance, one would simply assume that the Sox are just a bad team; however, they have a lot to be optimistic about. Let’s start with the obvious, Yoan Moncada.

                Moncada came over in a trade with the Boston Red Sox that sent ace pitcher Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Moncada and three other prospects. Moncada alone gives any Sox fan hope for the future. This season, Moncada currently has a .745 OPS (On base percentage + slugging percentage), 20 RBIs and seven home runs. Although his stats don’t jump off the page, Moncada has played well. He has all the tools to become an absolute star in the MLB in the coming years. With a full year under his belt after this season he will no doubt gain valuable experience that will help him become a perennial all-star player.

                One of the biggest issues this season for the White Sox is their pitching staff. Led by opening day starter James Shields, the starting rotation and bullpen need some serious work. Shields has started 12 games this season and posted a 4.48 ERA with a win/loss record of 1-6. Now, if you look over to the North side and the Chicago Cubs, starting pitcher Yu Darvish isn’t much better statistically. That doesn’t mean much though, the bottom line for the White Sox is their pitching staff needs to be a lot better. They have some interesting prospects down in the minors like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease, but they will all be at least another year off, if not two to three.

                One positive twist that could be said of the pitching staff is they’re very young and can only get better as they continue to get starts at the major league level. Aside from James Shields (36) and Hector Sanitago (30), the White Sox current starting pitching staff are 25 years old or under. With time and experience and the exciting names floating around in the minors, the White Sox have the base for a very respectable pitching staff in the years to come.

                Currently looking at the Sox and where they are in the standings leaves a lot to be desired, however, the future of the Chicago White Sox may be the most optimistic in all of baseball. Give it a few years Sox fans and we’ll have ourselves a competitive team that everyone in Chicago will be proud of for years to come.

Five Three's Stanley Cup Final Predictions

Since the Stanley Cup Finals are finally coming down to Lord Stanley’s series, Five Three Sports has taken the time to predict how it will play out! Will Las Vegas get it’s first Stanley Cup in its inaugural season or will the Washington Capitals finally take one home for the nation’s capital. Our experts analyze and break down who will win and why.

 

Ethan’s Pick

Knights in 6

The Knights will win. The Caps will not win. That is my analysis.

 

Blaise’s Pick

Caps in 7

There is a reason expansion teams do not regularly make the playoffs or make the conference championship or win a Stanley Cup. Because they do not have the talent to do so. They all run out of steam one day.

The Knights are clearly talented, but not as talented as the Capitals who have household names even causal hockey fans know. It was fun while it lasted but all good things must come to an end.

 

Jake’s Pick

Knights in 7

Who would have predicted a Golden Knights/Capitals Final?? Absolutely no one. Actually Bryce Harper predicted it on twitter about a year ago. Well Bryce, you called it. The Capitals are undoubtedly the more talented team, but as my partner Blaise clearly doesn’t understand (it’s okay Blaise, I will teach you one day) is that depth matters almost as much as talent, and the Knights have nothing but that. They don’t have a superstar, or really a star for that matter, just a bunch of solid players. They go four lines deep, and all four lines are great. In fact, the game winning goal in the WCF was scored by Ryan Reaves, a fourth line guy. Although the Capitals don’t have the depth, they do Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie and Kuznetsov. They also have Braden Holtby who has been playing well in net. The Knights have the better goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury who should be the Conn Smythe trophy winner if they win the cup. This will go seven games, and Vegas should get ready to party even harder than they already do.

 

Christian’s Pick

Knights in 5

I have doubted the Golden Knights every step of the way in their quest for the cup. I suppose it’s about time for me jump on board and hope for the best. I can’t see the Capitals winning, nobody has been able to keep up with the Knights, not even the Jets. The Caps will have much the same problem’s the Jets did and the Knights will simply suffocate Ovi and the Caps, keeping the ever elusive cup away from one of the best to ever play the game.

There you have it, the Stanley Cup Final prediction from Five Three Sports! For Capitals fans, they better hope that Blaise is right in choosing the Capitals to win. Are you ready for the best series in hockey?!

An Open letter for Roger "Raj" Goodell

Dear Mr. Roger "Raj" Goodell,

 

I’d like to formally put it out there that you are terrible. Throughout your time as commissioner of the NFL, it seems that you have only found ways to make it worse. Your time in charge of the league has been mired in controversy, and you have failed to adequately handle the problem with concussions, domestic violence among players and National Anthem protests.

 

Unfortunately for everyone else, fans, players and coaches alike, that means football has focused on getting more viewers and not improving the actual game. The reason for this letter, Raj, as I will refer to you as from now on, is to inform you that you’re not cutting it as commisioner.

 

I’m going to highlight a few things that really get under my skin.

 

We can start with the infamous change to the catch rule. Why on God’s green earth did you make a rule that made the game more confusing to call? We’ll never know and can only hope the rule is returned to its former glory. Since the catch rule change, both regular season and playoff games alike have been negatively altered by this rule. Look no further than any Dez caught it post on the internet.

 

Then we’ll follow it up with my favorite part, your contract extension. In 2017, you signed a five-year 200 million dollar contract extension. I can not sit here and say you deserve even half of that. You make the sport worse, with frivolous rule changes and head scratching moves. You are bringing a decline to viewership, and you think you deserve anything near 40 million dollars a season? I’d give you a dollar; a single dollar because you constantly fail to improve the game or correctly handle controversies.

 

Finally, with a stroke of good luck, you fixed the catch rule, although that remains to be seen. What did you do after that? You made a rule that said you can not use your head to tackle. I acknowledge this rule was made to improve player safety, but is the wrong way to go about it. If the player leads with the crown of his helmet, give him a penalty. The rule leaves too much grey area to be misinterpreted—much like your previous catch rule.

 

To say that you can not lead with your helmet makes it impossible to determine what is and is not legal. It is going to be the most confusing rule to date and the calls are going to ruin games—much like the catch rule that has been a black mark on the NFL since its implementation.

 

The biggest issue I have had with you is your most recent efforts to “fix” the national anthem protests. First, it seems you have ZERO understanding of what the protests are about. You refuse to listen when anyone tries to tell you why they are protesting. It is absurd. Then comes the rule that was just approved last week.

Now, if a player intends to protest police brutality, racism, equality, etc, they can’t? If they protest during the national anthem, it is a fine to the team. What kind of sick joke is that?

 

While I appreciate allowing players to stand in the locker room and wait during the anthem, that’s the way it was pre 9/11. But changing the rule because you believe it’s disrespectful to the flag is a complete misconception. When it comes down to it, this rule limits a freedom of expression. You also have yet to find a proper way to police players who beat their significant others.

 

You are taking away players freedom’s and limiting ways they can express yourself so you can push your own agenda. Athletes have been protesting as long as sports have been around such as the 1968 Olympics where athletes raised their fists on the podium.

 

Overall Raj, I believe you have made the NFL worse and will continue to do so for the sake of your profit and your benefit, no matter what it costs the fans or the players and coaches. I’m waiting for Vince McMahon’s football league and I hope you soon resign.

 

Sincerely,

Christian Peshek

What would you trade Brent Seabrook for?

                If any of you “Bork Drivers” tune into my weekly articles, this one will hopefully hold a special place in your heart for many years to come. If you read that first line and immediately wondered what in the “heck” I may be talking about, I’ll clue you in. If you know Five Three Sports, you know that we have dueling podcasts. One of them is known as the Fog Bowl podcast, featuring Ethan Anderson and Jake Barrett. The other podcast features Blaise Mesa and I. We run the Sports Bark podcast. Now, a few weeks ago we gave our loyal followers a name, the “Bork Drivers”. See, now if you go back a few weeks and tune in, you can find how we came up with it and why it works.

                For this article, I want to go out on a limb and cross platforms to give our podcast some love. At the end of every week, we give a quick sports related complaint and why we feel that way. For those that don’t know, every week, I have a habit of complaining about the same thing, the Chicago Blackhawks Brent Seabrook. I attempt to trade Brent Seabrook for a whole list of different inanimate objects.

Now, some of you may be asking why I am choosing to write about it. Well, for one, I was hoping that I could get some of you involved in the conversation. Two, I think a little more push and we can find a coaching spot or assistant spot for him so he stays in Chicago for those that love him but also allow a better player to be on the ice for half the price. So, I’m taking a look back at some of those objects and hopefully, that’ll give you guys some great ideas for more!

The first week that I complained about good old Brent, I attempted to trade him for a jumbo jet. Now, in retrospect, a jumbo jet would cost WAY more than the entirety of Seabrook’s contract, but who knows, maybe another team would be willing to make a $56 million dollar down payment on a jet for the Hawks and take Seabrook off our hands. The world may never find out, but I’d like to think it’s possible.

The second week I really dropped Seabrook’s value off a cliff. A jumbo jet was too much, so I figured, why not a tire iron? A tire iron has some good value, considering it can help fix tires. Imagine that Blackhawks bus gets a flat or the potential jumbo jet gets a flat. Or, even better, one of the players could get a flat on the way to the stadium. Said tire iron would be there, so dependable and almost stoic, much like the younger Seabrook was. Trading an old, washed up Seabrook for a younger version of himself sound’s like a fantastic idea! Plus, the tire iron would never see the ice, which would make it impossible for it to cause us to lose games. Sounds like a win win to me.

Week three I decided that maybe another form of currency should be involved. How about food? That week, I attempted to get rid of Seabrook for a sack of potatoes. Potatoes, delicious, versatile potatoes. There’s so many things you can make with just one potato, imagine what you could do with a whole sack of them! French fries, baked potatoes, potato chips, cheesy potatoes; the list goes on and on. A full team can focus on the game, a hungry team would be easily distracted and that could cost them the game.

All these objects would help the team in one way or another and ultimately, more than Seabrook did last year. I can’t speak for everyone and when it’s all said and done, Brent is probably a nice guy, but he should probably hang up the skates at this point. Unfortunately, none of these things could happen simply because he has a no-trade clause in his contract. No luck for a jet, a tire iron nor a sack of potatoes. Sorry boys, but we may be in some trouble until the day Seabrook calls it quits.

If any of you Bork Drivers or anybody reading this would like to join in and tell me what you would like to trade Brent Seabrook for, tag Five Three Sports in a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or simply comment on this article’s post. The best comment will be featured on next week’s Sports Bark podcast!

Back to Blackhawks, a quick guide for who to look for next season!

Hawks talk.png

                As we all know, the Chicago Blackhawks missed the playoffs this season after the worst season of the Joel Quenneville era. The Hawks were marred by aging players, injuries and lack of experience all year round. If not for Corey Crawford playing the best hockey of his life until he got injured, the Hawks would have come out as the worst team in the NHL. No defense, bad goaltending and an offense that couldn’t put up points when it needed and the Hawks had a recipe for disaster. Although the outcome of this year’s Chicago Blackhawks was bleak, there’s still reason for Hawks fans to be excited for next year.

                The Rockford Ice Hogs, who happen to be steamrolling teams in the AHL playoffs, are the Blackhawks AHL affiliate team. If you have been following the team during their immaculate playoff run, you can find some great things. For one, all of these players can be called up by the Hawks next season and can fill out the bottom half of the roster. Plus, at the rate they’re going, it’s definitely something Hawks fans can get excited about.

                This week, I’m taking a look at who will make their way to the NHL next season to play for the best franchise in hockey. We’ll leave out the obvious players who already have a starting role or have played significant time already to keep it interesting.

                Goaltender Collin Delia is the first man up on this list. I’m not saying he’s perfect, and yes, we saw him play a few games towards the tail end of last season for the Blackhawks, but nobody has any idea what’s going on with Corey Crawford and the trio of Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass and JF Berube don’t seem ready to handle the NHL.

In comes Delia, an interesting prospect for the Blackhawks. The 23-year-old goaltender is tearing up the AHL playoffs. Not only has he not lost in seven playoff appearances for the Ice Hogs, he has also managed a phenomenal .948 save percentage and a 1.64 goals against average according to theahl.com. It’s worth noting that Delia started the 2017-2018 season with the Ice Hogs, where he appeared in 28 games with a .900 save percentage and a 2.72 goals against average. He was then whisked away to the ECHL, where he played for the Indy Fuel. His stats weren’t as good, posting a .887 save percentage and a 4.12 goals against average according to hockeydb.com.

Although he wasn’t at this best in the ECHL, Delia has a chance to crack the Hawks lineup with a little more coaching. His confidence heading into the 2018-2019 NHL season should be high too, after performing so well in the AHL playoffs.

The next player up on the list is Matthew Highmore. Highmore showed up in nine games for the Blackhawks at the tail end of the season. One of the first call ups for the Hawks, Highmore flashed potential that should get Hawks fans excited. A natural goal scorer with some wheels, Highmore could bring a much-needed boost to the Blackhawks bottom six next season. In 64 games in the regular season for the Ice Hogs, Highmore tallied 24 goals and 19 assists and in his seven playoff games, he’s managed a pair of goals and a pair of assists alongside a +4 rating according to theahl.com. Although none of those numbers jump of the page, he’s one of the upcoming players for the Hawks that can undoubtedly make an impact next season. If not for an injury in the March 18th game against the St. Louis Blues, Highmore would have likely finished out the season with the Hawks.

                The last player on the list this week is Henri Jokiharju. I’ve talked about him during the season and the impact he can bring to the Hawks, but I’m bringing him up again. He’s slightly undersized at six feet tall and 187 lbs, but the talent and upside are all there. Think the next Duncan Keith kind of defensemen for the Blackhawks. With a little bit of coaching and some NHL experience, Jokiharju has the potential to become a top 4 defensemen in the NHL. The Hawks desperately need someone to step up on defense, with everybody except for Duncan Keith sitting out at least one game due to terrible, inconsistent play.

Jokiharju has spent the better part of the last two seasons playing for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, where he has been hands down the best defensemen. Last season alone, in 63 games, Jokiharju tallied 12 goals and 59 assists and an obscene +47 rating according to eliteprospects.com. He has also spent time on his national team, Finland. One other thing to note about Jokiharju is he’s only 18 years of age. He’s young and already making a huge impact in the WHL that will hopefully translate to success in the NHL starting next season.

With all these young players possibly making an impact next season in the NHL, the Hawks have the potential to make a big turnaround. With another solid draft, a stacked farm system and adding a few key pieces in free agency, the Hawks could find themselves back into the playoffs before you know it. For now, if you’re jonesing to watch some exciting hockey, take a look into the AHL playoffs, immerse yourself in the potential of future Blackhawks and get excited for a wild ride in 2018-2019!

NHL Conference Final Playoff picks

The NHL conference finals are set and there are only four teams remaining. The Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. What a playoff’s it has been so far and we’re excited for more! Here’s Five Three’s picks for the conference finals.

Eastern Conference Finals- Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals

Blaise’s Pick: Lightning in six

The Capitals have never proven themselves to be a playoff powerhouse, and this deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs I can not trust them. The Lightning have a better offense, a better defense and a few years ago, they made it to the Stanley Cup Championship—where they lost to the Hawks.

Ethan’s Pick: Lightning in six

The Caps finally have found their way into the conference finals after an 18 year absence. They have been playing with an edge all postseason, but the Lightning are the best team here. They’re faster, have the better goalie and have proven themselves in the postseason before. This one will be close early, but the Caps cave and the Lighting advance.

Christian’s Pick: Lightning in five

The Lightning are too damn good to let Ovi and the Caps make it to the finals. This may as well be the Lightning’s year.

 

Western Conference finals- Las Vegas Golden Knights v Winnipeg Jets

Blaise’s Pick: Golden Knights in seven

The Golden Knights have been sitting and waiting for their opponent and are riding a wave of a emotion similar to the 1998 Chicago Fire.

Ethan’s Pick: Jets in seven

I have been a doubter of the Jets for awhile now, but they have me wrong once again! The series will be very interesting because both teams can light it up and score in a hurry. While the Knights have the better goaltender, the Jets have looked solid all year and they can light you up and shut you down like it’s nothing. This one will be close, but I’m rolling with the guys from Winnipeg.

Christian’s Pick: Jets in six

The Jet’s are the strongest team in the East by a long shot. A Tampa/Winnipeg matchup in the finals will be perfect!

 

The Five Three sports crew has made their mistakes this postseason, but what’s that saying? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Post Draft NFL Standings Predictions

                Two weeks ago, the Chin Bin predicted pre-draft standings for all 32 NFL teams. With a week away from the grind, the Chin Bin is now back and ready to give you a post-draft prediction of the NFL standings and who will come out on top. Not only will I predict the records for all 32 NFL teams after the NFL draft, I’ll also predict my playoff picks and who will come out on top next year. It’s never too early to predict what can happen this season!

For those who are avid NHL fans and love the Chin Bin’s take on the NHL, don’t worry, we’ll get back to that next week!

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7

There seems to be a lot of unneeded drama at Steelers camp post draft. With third round draft choice Mason Rudolph coming into the fray, tension seems to be on the rise in Pittsburgh. They still win the division, but they’ll take one more loss than originally anticipated.

Baltimore Ravens 8-8

I think the Ravens stay where I originally predicted, though the tension between Flacco and management after they took a QB in the first round doesn’t bode well for the Ravens. Hopefully, the defense bails out a hot and cold offense to give the Steelers a run for their money.

Cleveland Browns 6-10

Overall, the Browns had a solid draft and of course, they took the highest risk QB they could with Baker Mayfield. That is a typical Cleveland move and we can only hope that he doesn’t see the field this year.

Cincinnati Bengals 3-13

I’m making the Bengals one game worse. Honestly, who is running things in Cincy this year, a six year old? They managed to draft nothing and come away seemingly worse after their draft.

AFC East

New England Patriots 10-6

The Patriots stay right at the lukewarm 10-6 I had them all before the draft, however, they found their replacement for Dion Lewis and had a standard Patriots draft it seems. Again, the Pats have a terrible division, so they’ll come out on top.

Buffalo Bills 6-10

Buffalo took their QB of the future with their first pick by selecting Josh Allen and they also got the second best LB in the draft by getting Tremaine Edwards. Everything seems to be pointing to the future for the Bills, as they’ll have to wait to see Allen develop. The turnover at the cornerback spot will cause come defensive issues.

NY Jets 6-10

The Jets will come to a close tied with the Bills for second in the AFC East. It’s a wonder how long Luke McCown will hold down the starting job with first round pick and consensus “Best QB” in the draft Sam Darnold waiting in the wings. The rest of the Jets draft filled some needs but wasn’t as impressive as it could have been.

Miami Dolphins 0-16

The Dolphins drafted as if they knew they were going to lose every game this season. It’ll be interesting to see how Minkah Fitzpatrick gets used on defense, as he’s one of the most electric defensive players in this year’s draft. If there were forty games this season, the Dolphins would lose all of them. Don’t worry fin fans, when Ryan Tannehill gets injured again, you have the one two punch of Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty waiting to take over.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars 10-6

The Jaguars added another defensive line piece that will make their defense even more stacked than it already is, but I still think Blake Bortles is going to be an issue. They stay right where they were at because of the defense.

Houston Texans 10-6

I still have it as a tie for first in the South because Deshaun Watson will be electric. The Texans had a solid draft for not having a pick until the third round, but they still need some improvements if they’re going to get past Jacksonville.

Tennessee Titans 7-9

The Titans new offensive scheme to fit Marcus Mariota will help in the long run, just not this season. There will be some growing pains before they can right this ship, but they made great picks with the four they had in this year’s draft, focusing on a defense that really needed some help.

Indianapolis Colts 5-11

Quentin Nelson is a great first round pick and will be elite in the NFL. The Colts did what they could and came away with a solid draft, but that leaves a lot of inexperience which means a lot of mistakes. The Colts still have Andrew Luck, so they can expect to win some games if he stays healthy, but they’re going to need another year or two to really get going.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers 12-4

Who’s going to come out and beat the Chargers this year from the AFC west? It seems that the Chargers have been handed the keys to the AFC this year and only they can stand in their way from the super bowl.

Denver Broncos 9-7

What a turnaround a draft makes? Although they don’t improve too much, the pick of Bradley Chubb who will be paired with Von Miller is scary. Adding a huge target in Cortland Sutton will be helpful for Cake Keenum.

Oakland Raiders 8-8

I don’t think the Raiders did enough in their draft to really make much of an impact this season. They found the eventual replacement for Donald Penn and gave Derek Carr some new targets via free agency, but year one in Gruden’s scheme with the players they currently have is going to be a year filled with growing pains.

Kansas City Chiefs 6-10

I brought the Chiefs down a peg here only because they didn’t address their needs. The aging defense who lost a lot of players didn’t get fixed and young Patrick Mahomes will make his mistakes as a “rookie”.

 

AFC PLAYOFF PREDICTION

Division winners: Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars and Chargers

Wild card: Texans, Broncos

The usual suspects make it into the playoffs with the “new-comer” Chargers in the front of the pack. The Texans may be able to knock out one of the top seeds, but ultimately, it willz come down to Jacksonville and Los Angeles, which Los Angeles will win as Bortles throws a costly interception to end the game.

NFS East

Philadelphia Eagles 13-3

They got better in the offseason and addressed “needs” in the draft, it’s going to be another great year for the Eagles.

Washington Redskins 9-7

The Redskins managed to have an average draft. Derrius Guice is a runningback that can finally be more than just some guy for the Redskins. They manage to go just above even and have a shot at a wild card spot. . . not.

New York Giants 7-9

The Giants stay right where they’re at. Yes, they got Saquon Barkley and a potential starter in Will Hernandez, but its still the Giants who probably need another year after the Ben McAdoo fiasco.

Dallas Cowboys 4-12

Boy did the Cowboys take a tumble. Everyone knows how to beat Dak now and Zeke will be losing his nerve with nine in the box every play. The Cowboys draft wasn’t great and they have too many issues to be a competitive team this year. Will Jason Garrett finally get fired? #FireJerry

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings 11-5

The Minnesota Vikings draft left a lot to be desired. Yes, they picked up one of the top corners in the draft, but he comes with some off the field issues which means we won’t see him but 10 plays in year one. They’ll still be a shut down defense and still have a solid offense, but I feel they could have had a more productive draft.

Chicago Bears 9-7

I’ll leave the Bears at 9-7 only because they had a solid draft. They found their perennial pro bowl linebacker of the future in Roquan Smith. They picked up some depth at offensive line with James Daniels and gave Mitch Trubisky another weapon by drafting Anthony Miller.

Green Bay Packers 7-9

The Packers end up right back where they were last season. They figured out the cornerback conundrum by drafting two of the top corners available, but that will come with growing pains and Josh Jackson looks like he’s going to need time to truly develop. Equanimeous St. Brown dropped all the way to the 6th round, which means the pack got a steal at WR, but a storm is a brewing up at Lambeau and it’s only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down.

Detroit Lions 6-10

Congratulations Detroit, you got what you wanted. A solid draft and the ability to run the ball. . . hopefully. You wasted Megatron’s career and before you know it, you’ll have wasted Stafford’s career too.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints 13-3

The Saints addressed needs in the draft and will easily make the playoffs again this year. If only Alvin stays healthy this time.

Atlanta Falcons 11-5

Stay right where you’re at Atlanta. You paid Matty Ice what?! Quarterbacks get paid WAYYY too much these days. Not the point though. The draft was solid for the Falcons and they’ll make the playoffs on a wild card basis.

Carolina Panthers 7-9

The problem is Cam, not the rest of your team. Good job getting him a receiver, but the Panthers are going to need to hire a motivational coach to follow Cam around in case anyone calls him a name.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10

Jameis Winston is not a franchise quarterback and although Vita Vea is going to be awesome, it was a bad pick. The Bucs have so many needs and they picked the one place where they wouldn’t fill any need. The rest of their draft was great, but the Bucs are going to need a year or two to get rolling, oh, and a new QB.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams 15-1

Good luck stopping them. That is all.

San Francisco 49ers 11-5

A Turnaround and a spot in the playoffs, that’s quite the story for Jimmy G and co. they drafted well, they hit free agency hard and they will come out of it a team ready to compete. They won’t beat the likes of the Rams or Eagles, but they’ll come close.

Arizona Cardinals 5-11

I like some of what the Cardinals did in the draft, but you’re going to end up with Josh Rosen too soon. With Bradford likely to get injured again (because he always does) and Glennon not really being an option, Rosen will have to come in and try to play against the bad ass defenses of the NFC. It’s a recipe for disaster but David Johnson will still win some games for the Cards.

Seattle Seahawks 3-13

It’s an all out free for all in Seattle and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Russell Wilson may as well play baseball for the Yankees for a few years, at least until his Seahawks contract expires and he can sign somewhere else. Legion of. . . doomed?

 

NFC PLAYOFF PREDICTION

NFC division winners: Eagles, Vikings, Saints and Rams

Wild card: 49ers, Falcons

The Rams are a year wiser and better than they were last year, so are the Eagles. The Saints are still one of the best in the NFC and the Vikings are a solid team. Whoever plays the Vikings in the first round will have the best chance at an upset. The Eagles will take on the Rams in the NFC championship and the Rams will come away with it this year. Sorry Eagles, you’re one and done.

 

SUPER BOWL

It’s the battle of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Rams vs Los Angeles Chargers. There will be riots, looting and everything else that could possibly happen before this game. In the end, Log Angeles wins. Both their teams are in the super bowl, so no matter who wins, it’ll be a reason for LA to celebrate. I’m taking the Rams this year. The Chargers fall short because nobody can stop the Rams. I mean nobody.

2nd round of the playoffs, more predictions! Just in time!

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                The NHL playoffs head into the second round tonight and the teams and rivalries become even more heated. While everyone likes to focus on the NFL draft, which also starts today, our writers hold no bias and take their picks for the second round!

Western Conference

Winnipeg Jets v Nashville Predators

Ethan’s Pick: Preds in 7

The Jets are flying high right now and they have a very explosive offense; however, goaltending matters and the Predators have the best goaltender in the West in Pekka Rinne. They also have who should be the Norris Trophy winner in P.K Subban. The Jets will make this one tough, but the Preds use their great defense and goaltending to get the win.

Jake’s Pick: Preds in 7

Nashville does a lot well and throws catfish on the ice. I don’t think I could name a Winnipeg player.

Christian’s Pick: Jets in 6

I know I said Colorado would win in seven and if they had Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlarmov they would have had a much better shot. The Jets are a physical team and they’ll wear down the Predators.

San Jose Sharks v Las Vegas Golden Knights

Ethan’s Pick: Knights in 7

Both teams come in after sweeping their first round opponents so they are both very well rested and have shown little weakness thus far. The Knights have the better goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, are younger and faster and have home ice advantage. Don't count out those old guys from San Jose though, they can flat out play and have plenty of experience. This one goes the distance, but I’m taking the guys from Vegas to move on.

Jake’s Pick: Sharks in 6

 San Jose has experience and Vegas is new to the league. There is NO WAY they get to the next round.

Christian’s Pick: Knights in 5

Although I think the Sharks are a good team, they simply don’t stand a chance against the Knights. The depleted Ducks were no match for the Sharks but the Knights will be overwhelming.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins V Tampa Bay Lightning

Ethan’s Pick: Bruins in 7

The Lightning come into the series with more rest and more talent. In the postseason, what matters the most is goaltending. The Bruins have a great goalie in Tukka Rask. Andrei Vasilevskiy is no joke either but I’m going to roll with Rask, Krejci and the Bruins

Jake’s Pick: Lightning in 5

Tampa Bay is the best team in the playoffs because they score a lot of goals. Tom Brady dropped a pass in the super bowl, Nick Foles didn’t.

Christian’s Pick: Lightning in 6

The Lightning have the upper hand and better players. I would never totally count out the Bruins but they looked like they had a tough time handling Toronto and Tamps is much better than Toronto.

Washington Capitals V Pittsburgh Penguins

Ethan’s Pick: Penguins in 6

Ahhh yes, it is time for that yearly playoff matchup between the Caps and the Pens. This one should be as fun, maybe even more fun than the rest, as the Caps seem to be playing with an edge and the Pens are going for the three-peat. Ovechkin has been a beast so far this postseason, but the Penguins have a psychological hold over the Caps, not mention the best player in all of hockey. I’m taking Sidney Crosby and the crew to once again beat the Capitals.

Jake’s Pick: Capitals in 4

The Pens getting the Caps is disgusting, the league is trying to help Pittsburgh win. The Penguins are a very dirty and ugly team that should not have beaten the Flyers. Get that #3elieve hashtag out of here. Little known fact, THE EAGLES WON THE SUPER BOWL.

Christian’s Pick: Penguins in 6

We have all seen this storyline one too many times. The Capitals come in winning four straight in round one and they look dominant, however, they’re no match for Sid the kid and the Penguins. When these two teams square off, Pittsburgh always finds a way.

 

            When it’s all said and done, the playoffs are unpredictable and nobody knows what will happen! That’s what makes the playoffs the playoffs.

2018 NFL season Predictions

                The Chin Bin is taking a detour this week, as the first round of the NHL playoffs is in full swing. While were in between playoff prediction articles, we’ll take a look at a different sport altogether. As is sometimes said, it’s never too early for predictions and mock drafts. I’ll take a look at all 32 NFL teams and where they’ll end up this year in the standings. We’ll go division by division and break it down as to why I chose each teams individual record.

AFC North

Pittsburgh- 10-6

The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing with fire this year with Le’veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger. The defense has their core in place and AB is always a threat no matter who throws to him, so there still is some optimism but unless they draft like champions next week, the Steelers won’t be as good as they have been in recent years.

Baltimore Ravens 8-8

It seems that Joe Flacco is determined to be mediocre at best for the remainder of his career. Another year of the Ozzie Newsome regime will produce much the same result as it has the last several seasons.

Cleveland Browns 6-10

From zero wins to six in a season for a Browns team that is awful every year is quite the leap, but with the offseason moves the Browns have made and a hopefully successful draft this year, the Browns will find themselves out of the basement for the first time since 2010.

Cincinnati Bengals 4-12

Rejoice, Bengals fans, you guys have managed to go from bad to worse. At this point, a full on rebuild seems like the right move and all hope is lost this season. Way to find a way to waste AJ Green’s talent.

AFC East

New England Patriots 10-6

Yes, the Patriots still have TB12. He’s going to be 41. He will still play like Tom Brady, but his supporting cast and the team around him will be different than the team that got them to the super bowl. The reign of NFL’s top team is coming to a close, this year they’ll fall short of the super bowl. One of the positives for the Pats is the rest of their division is awful, so barring a miracle, they’ll be at the top of the division yet again.

Buffalo Bills 7-9

The Bills still have a shot, but they’ve shipped out a few key players and lost their starting quarterback from last year by their own doing, I might add. They get the luck of playing against their awful division, minus the Patriots, so they’ll be just under .500 this year.

New York Jets 6-10

The Jets pick up one more win than last year, but they’re in rebuild mode and they won’t be much better this year.

Miami Dolphins 0-16

I’m calling it. The Dolphins are in some serious trouble this year. Luckily, they have Adam Gase. That’s about the only positive. They hired Dowell Loggains to be their OC this year. So, every team can gameplan for a run, run, pass offense every series. Good luck. Dolphins are the new Browns.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars 10-6

Blake Bortles lost all of his receivers this year. He can’t carry this offense and with 10 in the box, Leonard Fournette will have a hard time finding any holes to run through. The reason they win the division is because of their defense. The defense will carry this team into the playoffs again and maybe all the way to the championship.

Houston Texans 10-6

A tie for first? I guess so. The Deshaun Watson show is in full effect and everybody is eating it up! The defense takes a slight step back this year but if Deshaun stays healthy, it’s an interesting year for the AFC South.

Tennessee Titans 8-8

Well, they had one lucky year and made it to the playoffs, but this year, with a new head coach, they have some growing pains and don’t make it back.

Indianapolis Colts 7-9

This record only makes sense if Andrew Luck comes back and works some magic. The Colts need some major help all over the field and Andrew Luck or not, they’ll be in the basement this year.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers 12-4

Phillip Rivers isn’t getting any younger, but he has quite the core of guys around him. Finally, the Chargers are able to put together a full season and make it to the playoffs, maybe even the super bowl.

Oakland Raiders 9-7

The Oakland Raiders turn their woes around, as they shipped out some problem players and hired Jon Gruden, who is known for being a football guru. They’ll make the wild card because of great coaching and Derek Carr having a resurgent year.

Kansas City Chiefs 8-8

The AFC west takes a step back as a whole division this year. The Chiefs have an unproven QB in Patrick Mahomes, and there will be some growing pains for the Chiefs. They miss the postseason altogether and wish they had Alex Smith for one more year.

Denver Broncos 7-9

 Denver gets their QB of the future but with a lack of options, they’re forced to start him right away. There are some serious growing pains for the offense and the defense can’t carry them all the way. 7-9 is a generous prediction.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles 13-3

They got better in the offseason. That’s scary. They have two starting caliber quarterbacks and a great coaching staff. Oh Boy.

Washington Redskins 8-8

They’ve lost their franchise quarterback and a ton of pieces on defense. However, they picked up Alex Smith and will make the most of him being their franchise quarterback. They don’t have all the pieces in place to make a postseason run but they won’t fail miserably.

New York Giants 7-9

The Giants make quite the turnaround by drafting well and Eli has a season to remember. The Manning era is coming to a close and the G-men fall just short of the postseason.

Dallas Cowboys 6-10

Dak Prescott was exposed last year in the absence of Ezekiel Elliot. Teams will learn how to exploit that and put 8 in the box for Zeke to deal with all game. The Cowboys fall short and leave fans disappointed again. #FireJerry?

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NFC North

Minnesota Vikings 11-5

The division got better this year and Kirk Cousins is going to be under pressure to perform all season. The Vikings still win the division and make a run in the playoffs.

Chicago Bears 9-7

The Bears take year one with Matt Nagy and a ton of toys for Mitch Trubisky and make it a fun season to watch for Bears fans. Maybe they get lucky and get a spot in the playoffs, either way, its an exciting year for the Monster of the Midway.

Green Bay Packers 6-10

The Packers got worse. Aaron Rodgers makes miracles happen, but even he can’t carry this team. Things are uneasy in GB.

Detroit Lions 5-11

Matthew Stafford is the only reason the Lions make it anywhere and this year is not his year. The Lions never get off the ground and fins themselves finishing the season in the NFC North cellar

NFC South

New Orleans Saints 13-3

Another great season, another great run. If Alvin Kamara doesn’t get hurt, the NFL is in for a treat from the Saints this season. I see a super bowl run for Drew Brees final season.

Atlanta Falcons 11-5

They make it back to the postseason behind the offense in its second year under Steve Sarkisian and the defense gets a makeover. Look out, they might play spoiler to a high-profile Saints team like the Vikings did last year.

Carolina Panthers 8-8

The Panthers take a step back this year and miss the playoffs. Super Cam has more mood swings and poutiness than a toddler when things start going south in Carolina.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10

Believe it or not, I think the Bucs improve this year, despite only winning one more game than last year. Jameis Winston isn’t the QB of the future though and until Tampa realizes that, they won’t improve.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams 15-1

Good luck stopping them. That is all.

San Francisco 49ers 11-5

Talk about a turnaround. The Niners address their defensive needs in the draft and Jimmy G picks up where he left off last season, winning. The Niners make it to the postseason in a story of the year.

Arizona Cardinals 4-12

Sam Bradford gets injured. Mike Glennon is not a starter and David Johnson has nowhere to go with 9 in the box every play. Ugly season for a team that needs a lot of help. Sorry Larry.

Seattle Seahawks 3-13

They have the honors of being the worst team in the NFC this season. After a tumultuous offseason and too many players leaving, Pete Carroll see’s his last season as the Seahawks head coach. Russell Wilson can only do so much when he gets no help.

No Hawks, but more PLAYOFFS!

With the Chicago Blackhawks officially beginning their offseason last Saturday, the news has fallen silent. That doesn’t mean though, that there is no more hockey. For the first time since 2007-2008, the Blackhawks are not participating in the NHL playoffs. In the NHL playoffs this year, things seem more obscure than ever.

Teams like the Las Vegas Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, made the playoffs by a landslide, nearly taking home the President’s trophy in the process. The Colorado Avalanche executed one of the biggest single season turnaround’s in NHL history to make it to the big dance, finally earning a spot in a do or die game against the St. Louis Blues for the final spot in the Western Conference. This week, we take a look at some of the biggest stories of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Let’s start with the obvious, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. In their first season, they were expected to be at the bottom of the league, being an expansion team that would take years to become a legitimate contender in today’s NHL. The Golden Knights were the complete opposite of that. Not only did the Golden Knights survive an early injury bug to their goaltenders, but they defied the odds and won the Pacific division with a total of 109 points.

The Golden Knights entered the playoffs looking to make a statement and they sure did. Only Vegas could make an opening ceremony quite as theatrical as they did, with a golden knight beating up an "evildoer" holding a Los Angeles Kings flag. On top of that, longtime player and now analyst Jeremy Roenick sounded the horn to lead the Golden Knights onto the ice. A spectacle among modern hockey traditions, we can expect theatrics for every year following this season that may even be more grand than this year.

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                The Columbus Blue Jackets also had a magical season, going on a tear in the later stages of the season, ripping off 10 straight wins in March and winning 13 out of their last 17 games to end the season and taking the first wild card spot in Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets aren’t in their inaugural season, however they are led by ex-Blackhawk Aretmi Panarin, who proved to the world that he can be a superstar, and one of the best goaltenders in the game in Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets have the excitement surrounding them that the Blackhawks did in 2009-2010, when you could physically feel that the Hawks were going to win. It will be exciting to see how the Blue Jackets fair as the playoffs heat up.

                The biggest story of last seasons offseason was the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have a chance to get a third cup in as many years. The last time a team won at least three cups in a row was 1980-1983, when the New York Islanders won four straight. It would be quite the feat for the Penguins, as they have also had the extra strain of dealing with salary cap issues in todays NHL. The Pens have made it work with some brilliant roster moves and long-term signings, and they’ve had a great farm system and scouting to bring in complimentary players to keep themselves competitive every year.

Maybe the most amazing part of this potential three-peat is the goaltending, where an unknown and unproven Matt Murray came into the NHL playoffs in 2016 and won with the Penguins as a rookie. In year two, due to the NHL's odd rookie rules, Murray was considered a rookie again. He led the Penguins to another Stanley Cup win, becoming the first player in NHL history to win back to back Stanley cups as a starting rookie goaltender. Now in his first official non-rookie season, Matt Murray is back into the playoffs and the Pens are determined to make it three in a row.

With so many different stories surrounding this years NHL playoffs, it makes for a truly different experience than in prior years. A lot of younger, faster teams are making it to the playoffs as the NHL shifts to smaller, shiftier squads with higher scoring potential. Although the Blackhawks aren’t in it, there are still plenty of exciting games to watch and a reason to be excited for this year’s playoffs. Who will come away with the cup this year? Only time will tell.

NHL playoff predictions

            As the NHL regular season closed on Sunday night, all eyes shifted to the playoffs. So many matchups, so little time. Five Three Sports breaks down each matchup and picks the winners.

Western Conference

Nashville v Colorado

Christian

Colorado emotionally rode into the playoffs with a decisive 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Expect the Avalanche to ride the emotional wave and take a surprising series win over the heavily favored Predators.

Avalanche win 4-3

Ethan/Blaise

The president trophy winners face a tough first round matchup against Nathan Mackinnon and that Av’s. But goaltending matters the most in the postseason, and Pekka Rinne is the best goalie in the West. They also have a really good defense to counter the Avalanches quickness and craftiness.

Since our experts chose the same outcome, I have paired them together for this series.

Predators win 4-2

Winnipeg v Minnesota

Christian

Minnesota is on the fritz even going into the playoffs, Winnipeg is riding high.

Winnipeg win 4-1

Ethan

The Jets have had a great year but are very overrated. Yes, they have a goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck, but depth also plays a role in the postseason. There first two lines are good but from there it's a huge drop off. The Wild will make it tough for the Jets with their toughness and desire to win. They also have Devan Dubnyk in net, who is one of the best in the league.

 

Wild win 4-3

 

Blaise

The Jets have lost one game in their last 10 and ripped off five straight wins. Oddsshark also has the Jets as a top 5 offense and defense in the entire league. The Jets also rank second to the Lightning in goal differential on the season.

Winnipeg win 4-1

 

Vegas v Los Angeles

Christian

Vegas falls in the first round. The miracle of the expansions teams run is quickly shut down by a much more experienced Los Angeles Kings team.

Kings win 4-0

Ethan

The Kings are back, well sort of. They have power and are a fundamentally good all-around team, however, they don’t have as much talent as their prior Stanley Cup squads. The Golden Knights don’t care if they’re a new team, they’re going for it all. The Knights have everything it takes to make a deep run in the postseason.

Knights win 4-1

Blaise

Maybe the excitement of March Madness is still alive and well, but the Golden Knights are the Cinderella story that keeps being written. On top of their dominate 109 point season, the Knights lit the lamp 272 times, or the fourth most in the league.

Knights win 4-2

Anaheim v San Jose

Christian

Two beat up team’s head into a bruising playoff matchup. A tough, well fought series that goes the distance, Sharks squeak it out in seven.

Sharks win 4-3

Ethan

The Ducks come in flying high, but this doesn't feel like the Anaheim teams of recent years. The Sharks are an older team with a lot of skill. In the battle of the elders, the Sharks come out victorious.

Sharks win 4-3

Blaise

Even though the Ducks tallied one more point than the Sharks all season, they played better on the ice. The Ducks scored more goals and allowed less goals than their first round counter-parts.

Ducks win 4-3

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay v New Jersey

Christian

Taylor Hall is the end all be all for New Jersey this season and if Tampa can shut him down, they should win quick.

Tampa Bay win 4-1

Ethan

Taylor Hall is my pick to win the Hart Trophy and the Devils have overachieved all year long. They could be dangerous during the postseason, but they run into the favorites to win it all. The Lighting have more speed, more stars, much better goaltending and way more playoff experience.

Tampa Bay win 4-2

Blaise

I’m always a fan of a potent offense, and the Lightning rank No. 1 in scoring. When the Lightning take to the ice they will be matched up against a sub-par defense, according to Oddsshark. Tampa Bay has put up the second most point in the season for a reason, and come playoff time they’ll prove why.

Tampa Bay win 4-1

 

Boston v Toronto

Christian

Boston is coming into the post season with a full head of steam and a close to healthy team, but Toronto is a high scoring team. Although young, the Leafs have plenty to put the Bruins away in round one.

Toronto win 4-3

Ethan

The Leafs are young, fast and very skilled. Auston Matthews is a superstar and could lead the Leafs to the second round, however, Boston has good size, strength and solid defenders to make this a good series. Boston also has the thing that matters the most in the playoffs, goaltending. Tuukka Rask has been unreal all year long and he will continue to be in the postseason.

Boston wins 4-3

Blaise

The Bruins and Maple Leafs are two well matched teams who both enter the playoffs lukewarm. In their last 10 games, each team won five games, and both put up about the same amount of goals. However, the Bruins kept their opponents out of the net more often than the Maple leafs did. It’ll be close but the Maple Leafs defense will be just enough for a series win.

Toronto win 4-3

Washington v Columbus

Christian

Another series gone wrong for the Caps. Their playoff troubles continue, this time, it’s a little earlier than expected.

Columbus win 4-2

Ethan

While the Caps will most likely choke, they should be able to breeze through this one. The Blue Jackets do have a good goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky, but they don’t have the stars and scoring to keep up with the Caps.

Washington win 4-0

Blaise

Each league has a team that is good in the regular season, but bad in the playoffs. In baseball it’s the Nationals, in basketball it’s the Raptors and in hockey it’s the Capitals. Even though the Caps are coming into the playoffs red-hot they will scuffle in the playoffs once again.

Columbus win 4-2

Pittsburgh v Philadelphia

Christian

The playoff series turns out to be much like the season series, with the Penguins easily sliding by the unpredictable Flyers. Claude Giroux’s impressing season is over too soon.

Pittsburgh win 4-0

Ethan

The Flyers just squeaked into the playoffs, and face a really tough series right off the bat. Philly has good young players, but with claude Giroux at the end of his prime and Wayne Simmons being good not great, they don’t have that superstar to push them pass the 2x-defending champs.

Pittsburgh win 4-1

Blaise

The Penguins are the reigning champs and one of the best teams in the league. Whether they go all the way again or not remains to be seen, but they are too talented for a first round exit. But I do expect the Flyers to put up a fight.

Pittsburgh win 4-2

Hawks finish season with lowest point total since 2006-2007

                Well that was a week to forget. The Chicago Blackhawks ended the season getting eaten alive by the Winnipeg Jets. They did have the last laugh, however, being a helping hand in stopping the St. Louis Blues from making the playoffs by taking one out of two games in the home and home series. The Hawks finished their season with a 33-39-10 record, totaling 76 points in the Central division. That point total was the worst the Blackhawks have had since the 2006-2007 season. Even in the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, the Hawks tallied 77 points, and would go on to win the Stanley Cup. Needless to say, it was a down year for the Hawks, much worse than anyone predicted at the beginning of the year.

 via @NHLBlackhawks twitter

via @NHLBlackhawks twitter

                As much as this season was a disappointment for the Hawks, a few moves could put the Hawks right back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race next year.

                The Blackhawks have already announced that GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville will return for the 2018-2019 NHL season, which is good. Overall, the Hawks have had one bad playoff series in 2016-2017 and one bad season since Bowman and Quenneville took over. It would be absurd to get rid of the two guys who helped coach and build the Hawks to three Stanley Cups over 10 seasons. Not to mention that out of those ten seasons, the Hawks only missed the playoffs twice, 2007-2008 and this season. To get rid of either of them would cause chaos in Chicago and a very disappointed fan base.

                The first glaring hole the Hawks have to address this offseason would be the defense. Brent Seabrook had the worst season of his career, mustering only 26 points and a minus 3 rating. He’ll be 33 in a few weeks and at this point, he’s not going to get any better. On the downturn of his career, Seabrook is owed a 4.5 million dollar base salary for the 2018-2019 season plus a 4.5 million dollar signing bonus and an overall cap hit of 6.875 million dollars. The hope is that the Blackhawks will rework his contract simply because Seabs doesn’t deserve it. That money could be spent to help the team in other spots. Expect a completely different back end for the Hawks in 2018-2019.

                We can speculate that Keith will be back as a top line D man, as he has been for his entire Chicago career. We can also expect that Brent Seabrook and Connor Murphy make it back next season, as both are under contract. Past that, the rest of the defensemen may be in the AHL next year or on another team.

The Hawks recently resigned Erik Gustaffson, so expect him to play some games next year or be a bottom four D man for the Hawks. Jordan Osterle may be back as a 7th D man and we can expect Jan Rutta to be back in some capacity. However, the Hawks also have Henri Jokiharju, who is likely to see playing time in 2018-2019. Jokiharju put up impressive numbers for the Portland Winterhawks this season, notching 12 goals, 59 assists and a plus 47 rating overall. Maybe the most exciting Hawks prospect, hopefully he’ll be able to come in and make a big impact for the Hawks for many years to come. Lastly, we can expect the Hawks to take a look at free agency, maybe Calvin De Haan, who would offer a physical presence the Hawks lacked all season.

The front end looks a little bit more enticing next season for the Hawks, although they could still use some help. Obviously, Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane will be back and more than likely we’ll see Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov, but past that nobody is “safe” so to speak.

                Patrick Sharp announced his retirement last week and Marian Hossa is a question mark to return.  Anthony Duclair is going to be a restricted free agent, so the Hawks could sign him to a new contract or match an offer, or simply ship him out if they feel they get a fair deal for him. Brandon Saad is under contract through the 2020-2021 season, though he could be potential trade bait in the offseason.

                All in all, the front end could use some energy, some physicality and a refresh. The offense lacked a net-front presence most of the season, and its safe to say they will try to find some big, physical guys to fill that role so their skill players can put it in the net. A guy like John Hayden should se an uptick in playing time next year and the Hawks could find some physical players in free agency this offseason to help.

                The last piece of the puzzle for the Blackhawks is finding a goaltender, if not two. With starting goalie Corey Crawford’s health unknown and Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass and J.F Berube not playing up to any standard, the Hawks need a solid backup, much like Scott Darling was before he was traded to Carolina for a third-round pick. All signs point to Crawford returning, but will he return to form next season or will we see a different goaltender all together? It remains to be seen how it will shape up, but it’s never to early to start looking around the league.

                Overall, the Hawks don’t need a total rebuild, they need to find an identity, a physical presence and a defense. As the post season goes into full swing, we’ll start taking a look at the Blackhawks farm system, prospects in the 2018 NHL draft and potential free agents that the Hawks could target. A season to forget, but hopefully the Hawks make some good moves in the offseason and come back to playoff form next season!

               

One more week until the offseason, the Hawks look to the future

                The Chicago Blackhawks season is coming to a close and as we come down to the final week of the season, we’ll take a look back to see how the year went and we’ll also look forward to the offseason and take a glimpse at what may lie ahead. Let’s start with a quick recap of the week.

                The Hawks played three games this week, winning only one in a bizarre game to say the least. Collin Delia, a young goalie that was called up from the Rockford Ice Hogs, got his first start against the Winnipeg Jets. Delia went out early in the third and was replaced by emergency backup goalie Scott Foster. Foster has become a fan favorite since that night, stopping all seven of the Jets shots he faced, helping the Hawks 6-2 victory.

                The other two games for the Hawks weren’t as favorable, as they lost in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Monday night and were annihilated by the Colorado Avalanche 5-0 on Friday night.

                In the last few weeks, the Hawks have made a myriad of moves to take a look at some of their prospects down in the minors. Players like Victor Ejdsell, who was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators and Andreas Martinsen have seen NHL action before. However, new on the scene were exciting prospects like Matthew Highmore, Dylan Sikura, Collin Delia and Blake Hillman. Although one or two of these players may see more permanent action next year, it’s customary for an NHL team with no shot at the playoffs to give these younger guys experience at the NHL level.

 Blake Hillman in his NHL debut  Via @NHLBlackhawks twitter

Blake Hillman in his NHL debut

Via @NHLBlackhawks twitter

                One specific player to take a look at would be Andreas Martinsen, who is a big physical body that the Hawks need in their relatively undersized lineup. The Hawks this year showed some promise out of the gate, but it was clear throughout the season that they lacked a true physical presence (among other things). Artem Anisimov was the only player for most of the season that was able to be that guy, at least In front of the net. However, once Martinsen came in, he provided a spark on his very first shift. He’s a bruiser who can stand in to fight or he can be the guy in front of the net to screen the goalie.

                Another player to hopefully have a more prominent role next year would be John Hayden. We’ve seen Hayden before so we know what he can bring to the table. Although not the most talented goal scorer, he is willing to be a physical presence for the Hawks and stymie the opposition in the defensive zone. Expect the Hawks to take a look at these two to help fill out the bottom six of their roster next year.

                Looking back at the year, disappointing would be quite the understatement. Projections for the Hawks were high, with many saying they would be a top team in the NHL again, as they had been for so many years. They ended up being the complete opposite. Goaltender Corey Crawford was the only reason the Hawks weren’t in the basement throughout the entire season, as he bailed them out night in and night out. He was able to mask an abysmal defense and the streakiest Hawks offense since Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane were drafted.

At every turn, things didn’t pan out for the Hawks. Losing Crawford was the final dagger, but the problems really started in the offseason. After trading away Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson for Brandon Saad and Connor Murphy respectively, the Hawks lost one of their top point producers and arguably their best defensemen. Add to that Marian Hossa, who was unable to play and may never again due to a skin condition and the Hawks were a recipe for disaster from the start.

                                With one more week until the offseason begins, the Hawks will continue to look at their young players who will fight for a roster spot next year and into the future. Next week, we’ll take a look at the Hawks final week and break down a recipe for offseason success that could bring the Hawks back into playoff contention next year. The Hawks will finish off the season twice against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday and Friday and finish on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Blackhawks win for first time in almost two weeks

                The Chicago Blackhawks had another disappointing week; however, they finally were able to get their first win in almost two weeks. It seems that the Hawks expectations have been lowered dramatically in the last few weeks, where fans are no longer expecting wins, they’re just expecting the Hawks to show any signs of improvement.

                The first game of the week, the Hawks were steamrolled by the Colorado Avalanche, who are currently fighting for a playoff spot. The 5-1 loss was sad, after the Hawks played a solid first period, they gave up five goals total in periods two and three to fall by a final score of 5-1. The player of the game would have to go to Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlarmov, who stopped 44/45 shots on the night. With the 5-1 loss, the Blackhawks were officially eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since the 2007/2008 season.

                On a positive note, the Hawks brought up Andreas Martinsen from the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. In his first shift, he made his presence felt when he threw a clean check and knocked Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov out of the game for a short time.

                The Hawks followed up the 5-1 loss with a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, which featured terrible goaltending from Hawks goaltender Jean Francois Berube. Berube managed to make 14 saves on 18 shots before he was pulled by coach Joel Quenneville in favor of Anton Forsberg. The highlight of the Blackhawks night was again Andreas Martinsen, who crushed Canucks winger Brendan Leipsic, which was followed by a fight instigated by Derrick Pouliot. It was good to see a physical presence on the Hawks, who have been lacking one most of the season.

                The Hawks finished off their week on Saturday against the New York Islanders, who they topped 3-1. The Hawks had a rare good second period, where they notched two goals. The Islanders would pull within one in the third, but the Hawks were able to bury an empty net goal to stay ahead. Forsberg made 31 out of 32 stops on the night, which is a better performance than we’ve seen in weeks it seems.

                Believe it or not, the last time the Blackhawks recorded a shutout this season was November 4 of 2017, when they beat the Minnesota Wild 2-0. The only other shutout the Hawks recorded this season was the game before that, on November 1, when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0.

                The Blackhawks will take on the San Jose Sharks, the Winnipeg Jets and the Colorado Avalanche this week before they finish off their last week of the season against the St Louis Blues twice and the Jets once more. All signs are pointing to the offseason, as we can only hope to see some big moves from the Blackhawks this year. With an increase in cap space, the Hawks will hopefully address glaring defensive holes, goaltending issues and finding some physicality and ferocity in their game.

Hawks lose out on the week, looking forward to the offseason

The Chicago Blackhawks had a rough week to put it lightly. They played three games throughout the week, taking on the Winnipeg Jets, the Buffalo Sabres and finishing the week against the St. Louis Blues. Overall, it wasn’t the worst week we’ve seen from the Blackhawks. Against the Jets, they simply had no chance. With the talent that the Jets have on their roster, the Hawks couldn’t contain them. Against the Sabres, a much more evenly matched team, they held their own but would ultimately fall in the third period. The Blues game was an intense game, with Alex DeBrincat getting his third hat trick of his rookie season.

The Jets game was over seemingly before it even began, with the Hawks losing the game early. A great start for the Hawks, they made it a 1-0 game 11 seconds in on a goal from Brandon Saad. For the first four minutes of the game, the Hawks seemed like they would hold their own against the Jets again, but they quickly fell apart. The Jets scored three goals in the next six minutes to take a 3-1 lead. Anton Forsberg got the start for the Hawks, but after the first three goals, which he allowed on six shots, he was pulled in favor of Jean-Francois Berube. The Hawks never recovered from the early onslaught, eventually falling by a final of 6-2.

Game number two on the week featured a matchup against a much more equally skilled opponent, the Buffalo Sabres. The game was evenly matched throughout, with the Hawks and Sabres being tied for most of the game. The most notable play of the game was a goal from Hawks captain Jonathon Toews, who took a shot, hacked his rebound away from Sabres goalie Chad Johnson and then knocked the puck out of mid-air into the net. That play would give the Hawks a 3-2 lead early in the third. They would hold that lead for two minutes until the Sabres would score a goal of their own to make it 3-3. The next goal would come with just under two minutes to play, when Nick Baptiste redirected a shot from the point to give the Sabres a 4-3 lead.  The Sabres would add an empty net goal and the Hawks would lose by a final of 5-3.

 

The third and final game of the week was a tight game for the Blackhawks. The story for the night was rookie winger Alex DeBrincat, who notched his third hat trick on the season, his third goal being the game winner for the Hawks. They took a 2-0 lead in the first period only to lose it in the second on a pair of power play goals for the Blues. However, the Hawks came away ahead again, with David Kampf scoring with 1.4 seconds left on the clock. St Louis would tie the game until the 3:12 mark of the third period, where DeBrincat buried his third goal of the night to give the Hawks a 4-3 lead. Almost two minutes later, the Blues would tie it again to make it 4-4. The Hawks would go on to lose in overtime, 5-4. Patrick Berglund blasted the puck at Berube, who flat out missed it.

The Hawks week wasn’t the worst we’ve seen but it also wasn’t the best. There were some good things to take away and some things that we know they need to improve on. The Hawks play three games next week. They’ll take on the Colorado Avalanche, the dreaded Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders. Hopefully, we see the Hawks continue to improve and show some positive signs while they head into the offseason.

The Hawks still need help

The theme of the week for the Chicago Blackhawks has been failure to finish games. In each of the games this week, they’ve either been neck and neck with amazing goaltending keeping them in it, or they fall apart late and don’t recover. Let’s take a look.

Tuesday, the Hawks took on the Colorado Avalanche, a team that is currently third in the wild card standings, which is one spot outside the playoffs. Goaltender Jean Francois Berube had a great game, stopping 33 out of 34 shots, leading the Hawks to a 2-1 victory. Johnathon Toews and Erik Gustafsson each tallied a goal. It was a good win for the Hawks, as they were led by Berube, who played almost like injured goaltender Corey Crawford in his absence. What was the most surprising was the trio from the Avalanche, Nathan Mackinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, who the Hawks held to only one goal. Although the Hawks don’t have a chance at the playoffs, they still have some fight left in them.

Thursday, the Hawks took on the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes roster features four ex-Blackhawks. Starting with Scott Darling, who was the netminder for the Canes on Thursday. He stopped 22 out of 24 shots on the night and looked comfortable at the United Center, where he spent three seasons behind Corey Crawford. The other ex-Hawks include Teuvo Teravainen, Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Joakim Nordstrom. Teravainen notched an assist on the night but the other two were left off the score sheet. Behind a solid performance from Darling, the Hawks fell by a final score of 3-2. The Hawks were able to take an early lead which Carolina was able to tie up shortly after, but the Hawks would get a goal form Patrick Sharp and make it 2-1 lead at the end of the period. After that, the Hawks fell flat, unable to muster any more offense.

 

The Hawks then had back to back games against the Boston Bruins. Game one on Saturday was a high scoring affair, with neither team having a goalie it seemed. Tukka Rask started in net for the Bruins, stopping only 23 out of 27 shots. Berube got the start for the Blackhawks and he played well for the first two periods, holding the Bruins to three goals. However, the meltdown happened in the third, where Berube and the Hawks gave up four goals, absolutely tanking and throwing the game away in the process. The Hawks would lose by a final score of 7-4.

Game two was the exact opposite for the teams, with a total of four goals, two of which came with less than two minutes left. The turning point of the game was a high sticking penalty that Bruins captain Zdeno Chara took with less than four minutes left in the game. The high stick drew blood which made it a four minute power play for the Hawks. Patrick Kane came up huge in a way only Patrick Kane can, setting himself up and rocketing a shot past goaltender Anton Khudobin, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead late. Brent Seabrook blasted one past Khudobin a minute later to make it 3-1 Hawks, and that’s how the game would end. A 3-1 win for the Hawks after a game that had superb goaltending from both goaltenders was a tough and much-needed win.

Overall, the Hawks took two out of four games on the week, and although they didn’t play very well, they managed to squeak out a couple of victories. They need to learn how to stay in games and play entire games if they’re ever going to right this shaky ship. The Hawks have three games coming up against the Winnipeg Jets, the Buffalo Sabres and the St Louis Blues. We can only hope to see some consistency this week throughout the three phases.