The first three days of the NHL season are in the books and while I’m not prepared to hand out any major awards or declare the Stanley Cup a given to anyone, there’s been some fun stuff to watch.

The Los Angeles Kings are so thin at forward that even when Marion Gaborik gets back on the ice it is still quite likely that Dwight King and Trevor Lewis will see top six minutes. Good guys, honest players they are, the core of an offense they should not be.

Did someone hide Jonathan Toews’ prescription strength discipline? He’s had a couple iffy penalties, and fight just two games into the season. I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going on here, but this looks more like the rattled guy Seabrook felt the need to comfort in the penalty box back in 2013 than ice cold muscle and sinew of the franchise people depend on.

A Patrice Bergeron deficient Boston Bruins squad is nothing the Causeway faithful have had cause to look forward to int he last twelve seasons, but in their first game of the season, fans were exposed to just that. The play wasn’t just iffy in the first half of the game, it looked like a scramble of eight year olds in their own end. They did right the ship and win, but only because of the extraordinary efforts of Marchand, Backes, Pastrnak. A quick look will tell you six forwards were held to one shot or less, including David Krejci the highest paid player on the team.

Auston Matthews put on a very memorable show, there are a couple things worth keeping in mind. First, the only notable defensive defenseman on the Senators is Phanuef, and he was only on the ice for one goal against. And two, a lot of the players who have had very memorable debuts  have gone on to be not very much. Matthews has talent, drive, and passable size, but no one knows what the future will bring.

It’s clearly October, Edmonton is at the top of the standings, where they will likely stay for two or even three more games.

Pay no attention to the rumors that Joe Thornton’s beard has acquired it’s own agent, and is looking to be traded.

The NHL schedulers have conspired to keep the Vancouver Canucks out of the loss column for as long as possible, on this the fourth day of the season they will play their first game.

The Arizona Coyotes who are a team to watch this season have an exciting mix of young stars up front, and what may be the most under rated top four on their blueline in the NHL.

Even knowing that he’s spent the bulk of his career in markets with less assertive media than places like Toronto, Boston, New York or Chicogo, I don’t know how James Neal escapes a well earned reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the NHL. Head shots, slew foots, and more are a routine part of his game. Sure players like Shaw and Marchand are annoying, but they are looking to keep people off their game not off the roster.

The announcement has been made and it has done no more than tell us what we already knew; The Bruins brass have further messed up the blueline. Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, and Charlie Jacobs failed to address a serious concern at the time Kevan Miller was resigned, and for months on both sides of that curious moment.

While no one can fault the heart, work ethic, commitment to the team, or pure bloody minded perseverance of Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. You just can’t do that. We’ve seen both of them time, and time again come back from injuries earned putting themselves on the line for team and logo. You can’t question them for that, you just can’t do that.

What you can question is the need to keep both of them. They are just about the same guy. They are both physical, fit, imposing when they need to be, defensive first and second and a great example of “toughing it out” for the locker room. But on twenty NHL teams either of them is a bottom pairing guy, and any team that has both of them playing semi-regularly isn’t a playoff team. You can’t have two guys who will never top 8 goals and 30 points. You just can’t do that.

Today they took one of the most dynamic scorers in the AHL last year and threw him away. Seth Griffith is a smooth skater, a slick passer, and a bonafide goal scorer. They put him on waivers. You just can’t do that. You just can’t excuse that. They have been weak at right wing since the departure of Phil Kessel, they had one who two preseasons ago showed great chemistry with dynamic duo Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They not only flushed talent, they flushed chemistry. You just can’t do that. Seriously, Reilly Smith has likely been the best fit at right wing for the team since Kessel left.

Over the summer, they look oodles of talent on defense get away. When goaltending and defense are what kept you out of the NHL playoffs; you just can’t do that. Tukka Rask isn’t going to get enough better to carry this team into the third week of April. David Backes is more a Boston Bruin before his first game in the jersey than hundreds of jamokes and jobbers who have wandered down Causeway and been forgotten by everyone except the people they got fired. I don’t think anyone can even complain about the contract except for that fact that they could have used that money and cap space to acquire an upgrade or two in their greatest weakness.

I respect the hell out of the player Don Sweeney was. He was hard working, he used his body and brain to the best of his ability to play a long time for a guy with a limited offensive toolkit, and a lack of championship pedigree. He was a great guy to watch play. But I’m not sure he is the right man in the right job now.

There are a lot of people who should be happy in the wake of the latest “best on best” tourney. The players, coaches, and fans of  Canada shouldn’t lead any well drawn list, especially as they were outplayed for both final games.

The Columbus Blue Jackets should be very happy to see Bobrovsky healthy and looking to be near his peak.

The New York Islanders should be thrilled to get Seidenberg at a good rate, who even if he never plays a shift will be a steadying impact in a locker room that saw a lot of turnover.

The Boston Bruins, most obviously for the performances of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but also for their captain Zdeno Chara who while he didn’t look ten years younger, was still skating, passing, and shooting better than the first three months of last season. If that translates to just three additional wins over that same time they can make the post season.

Fans, coaches, players, and management of the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton Oilers who saw their players; Nino Niederreiter, Tobias Rieder, and Leon Draisaitl go through a complete playoff like run with multiple Stanley Cup champion team mates like Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and more and see how they prepare before a game and compose themselves through the good and the bad in game.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, because Milan Michalek had himself a great tournament turning in a point per game over the three games. If the young players are going to make the leap into the playoffs and winning once they get there they need veterans who know how its done.

It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how the various players respond to their World Cup performance. The American players will hopefully return to the ice upset, focused, and maybe a little bit ticked off. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a vexed Patrick Kane. Last season saw him rack up 46 goals if he comes in a bit hot under the collar can number 88 hit sixty goals? Can Dustin Byfugelin and hit 30 goals or turn himself into the juggernaut defensively he is offensively? Can newly minted captain Blake Wheeler pilot the Jets back to the post season?

What about those Finns? Teuvo Teravainen has had a double header of dejection, first he was exiled from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Carolina Blackhawks, and then they washout of the Cup. The Canes finished ten points out of the playoffs last year, and it can be argued the Red Wings and Flyers aren’t as good as they were last year, is Teravainen enough to raise the Carolina Hurricanes back to a real threat?

With the number of Minnesota Wild players at the World Cup, why aren’t they better?

The two elder goalie prospects in the Boston Bruins system have both matured nicely, and are contributing to the organization. They don’t however play the same style.

On the goalie scale there are two extremes on the continuum of employing theoretically pure position and its opposite number pure reaction goalies. While every goalie is a mix of the two extremes some lean more toward one end than the other. Both require a certain level of athleticism and ability to read the game. A frequent position for the positional goalies is that they have a superior ability to predict where the avenues opposing players will attack down are, and be in position to make shots from that angle low probability shots. For the other side, most of them show more athleticism, and tend to be flashier.

Zane McIntyre on the scale of Tim Thomas to Henrik Lundqvist does trend heavily towards the Lundqvist end, although he may actually move faster. Like most of the upright goalies he’s got very good lateral movement when  down on his knees. He stays square to shooter, is solid with the stick and blocker as well as the glove and appears unflappable.

If I were to compare Malcolm Subban to any goalie, it wouldn’t be Tim Thomas, although he does trend further in that direction than McIntyre, I’d compare him more to Martin Brodeur. In particular he tracks the puck when down well enough to bring his feet into making saves even when flat on his stomach.

On ice, Subban is the more flamboyant, if not to the point of a certain recently acquired Nashville Predator. McIntyre is quick, collected and doesn’t waste any motion and doesn’t look unbalanced on the rare occasions it takes more than two tries to smother or clear a puck. Subban has had three years pro already, and topped off in his second season at a.921 sv% over 35 games. In 31 games McIntyre played over his rookie season, struggling with the transition from college to pros but pulling it together for a final month with a .940 sv%. It’ll be a while longer before we can say definitively which is the better netminder, but the two both look to have respectable upside.

Some of the best remaining talent in the RFA pool is still unsigned. Some of them may have plans to travel and just aren’t doing business related things right now. Others are deep in training and wanting to justify a better contract by arriving at camp at a better level of fitness than before. For others, maybe management of their teams thinks they can out wait the players and get them to sign on the teams terms.

Nikita Kucharev is three years into his NHL career and has proven himself in both the regular and post season. In the last two seasons he’s averaged 29.5 points and 65.5 points in the regular season playing a bit over 18 minutes last year, and putting up over a point per game in his last playoff run just this spring. He is arbitration eligible, and if there is or was a case for anyone getting an offer sheet in this crop of RFA’s, it should be him.

Some would argue Johnny Gaudreau is the top talent in the RFA class not Kucharev, and it isn’t a clear cut choice. “Johnny Hockey” averages slightly more points per game, and is playing with largely less teammates. He does however play more time at almost 20 minutes per game. In his one playoff run, he did put up strong numbers at 4-5-9 over 11 games. Small, slight, and hard to contain, its hard to imagine he’s going to have anything but a large impact on the game for years to come. Like Kucharev he is arbitration eligible.

The Buffalo Sabres have been busy stocking the shelves with UFAs and trade pieces, not to mention the odd draft pick or two. What they haven’t done is sign Rasmus Ristolainen, a defenseman who has they found use for nearly 26 minutes a night. Not yet playoff tested, but last season his points total doubled from the previous year. The 21 year old Finnish defender was tops on the team in shorthanded time on ice, tops for defensemen in powerplay time on ice, and first overall in time on ice for the team by five hundred minutes. In all that ice time he racked up half a point a game on a pretty awful team. This year with a bolstered forward group, he has a genuine shot at sixty points if they get him resigned.

Jacob Trouba is often overlooked in the NHL landscape. Being on the Jets lineup is not an easy thing for a defenseman playing in front of a porous goaltending tandem. Trouba was second on the team in total ice time, and shorthanded time on ice. To go with that he had a strong PDO, led the team in blocked shots, finished more shifts in the offensive zone than he started there, and was just a bit behind the team leader (Tyler Myers) in on ice save percentage.

Hampus Lindholm is one of the best unknown talents in the game. If he played further east he’d be better known, and appreciated. The smooth skating Swede has been part of the wolf pack of talented young defensemen residing on the Anaheim blueline. He led the defense in games played, time on ice, and even strength TOI. If the Ducks don’t sign him they won’t be as damaged by his loss as the Jets would be without Trouba or the Sabres without Ristalienen, but they are very, very unlikely to be better.

Negotiations have been announced between the Brad Marchand camp and the Boston Bruins. This is great, Marchand is a big part of the team and the first major piece to come up for contract at a time where the puck was undoubtedly on Sweeney’s stick the whole time. The Loui Eriksson situation could arguably have been resolved prior to Sweeney taking the helm, but even that wasn’t as big a deal as Marchand.

Brad Marchand love him or hate him is a home grown talent taken in the third round who bootstrapped his way into the NHL and made himself a better player with the help of the coaches and training staff. More than that he’s effective at everything they ask of him, he scores, he defends well enough if he didn’t play with Bergeron he’d get Selke buzz, he has both speed and agility, he’s very strong for a player his size. He’s been remarkably durable, and it shows in the playoffs when he performs on the biggest stage in the hockey world.

I’m not sure how he gets overlooked so much, but heknow  was an integral part of that Stanley Cup win. Despite playing a shut down roll against several of the top ten offenses of the year in that post season, he outscored every other winger on the roster. 11 goals is something even Patrick Kane hasn’t topped in the playoffs. That’s heady company to keep.

As importantly, the Marchand and Bergeron pairing has not only been a foundation of the team’s stability for half a decade, it has been highly productive. Claude Julien (or a successor) can point at those two and say; that’s the way good linemates work together, anticipating, covering each other, and never getting stale. Possibly even more important to a coach like Julien is their ability to carry seemingly any winger to at least an appearance of average competence. Best of all from his perspective is the knowledge he can put the two of them on the ice in any situation and know he’s made a smart choice.

Marchand will enter the season at 28 years old. The math on an eight year deal says he’d start the final season of the deal at 36 years old. He’s unlikely to be scoring 30+ goals that year, and even  25 is a bit difficult to credit. On the other hand a deal that long makes him less attractive to being grabbed in the expansion draft should he be unprotected. I can’t see him failing to hit 30 goals at least three times in the next five years, and will be surprised if one of the next two years isn’t a forty goal season.

For all he does on the ice, his lack of trouble making off the ice is nearly as important. He takes part in his share of community work, he is by all counts I’ve seen polite to fans. He’s given no real reason not to be resigned expeditiously. Another notable factor on Marchand is that he hasn’t had a contract dispute with the team before. That means by nearly any count the failure to get to a contract quickly falls into the lap of Don Sweeney and the rest of the Boston Bruins management team.

If Sweeney doesn’t get Marchand locked up quickly, and to at least a four year deal, he will likely be the first domino in chain of failure. Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak are due contracts next year, and Spooner is arbitration and offer sheet eligible, and let’s not forget that Alex Khoklachev has chosen to vacate the organization for what he deems management issues. When you add in a high percentage of college players who if they see the organization as unstable or hostile to players might choose “The Vesey Route” and hockey fans could be on the verge of witnessing a very messy meltdown.

Don Sweeney does not have the name recognition of his Tampa Bay counterpart, nor is Marchand quite as highly regarded. But his opposite number also doesn’t work in an environment quite as charged as the Boston market. Sweeney has more pressure from ownership, aging players, his former teammate and direct superior, fans, media, and probably his mom to win now two straight years of failure to make the playoffs even for the undoubtedly noble cause of building the team right, are considered too much. A third or fourth year would likely drop ticket and merchandise sales into the toilet. A Marchand-less roster is a lesser roster, and a resume generating event.

This is a list of the players who displayed the best and most attributes at this development camp. Depending on how the categories are weighted, the list could easily be different with two or three players sliding off the list, and others moving up or down. This is not a list of what I think their NHL impact

Broadly speaking the categories I looked for included:

  • Athleticism, particularly endurance.
  • Agility: lateral motion and turning ability
  • Speed
  • Shot
  • Performance in drills
  • Performance in 3vs3 scrimmage and other simulated play
  • Effort

A couple honorable mentions who all improved day after day:

  • Ryan Lindgren, one of the youngest players at camp and by Friday was certainly performing better than a couple of defenseman who have been through camp before.
  • Trent Frederic, another of this year’s draft class. another of the US National Development team members who looks to have some solid upside.

#10

Sean Kuraly

Working the net front

In some ways landing at the bottom of a ranking list is worse than missing it. Kuraly wasn’t bad at anything. He also didn’t thrive at anything, except standing in front of the net and holding off defenders. As one of the oldest skaters at camp, and one of the few to be signed to a contract, he might well have been told to simply stay healthy because no one earns a roster spot in July.

#9

Oskar Steen

Steen Strides By

He didn’t show a lot of offensive flair, but when he did score it clearly wasn’t a fluke. He’s a terrier out on the ice, boundless energy, and no fear. He received the hardest hit of the week from Brandon Carlo on Tuesday or Wednesday, and when he was playing 3 on 3 with Wiley Sherman and Matt Grzelcyk, he went to the boards and took the puck from the (larger) opposing player.

#8

Cameron Hughes, this guy can skate, he’s got a good shot, he’s a solid passer, and he can handle the puck at speed.

#7

Charlie McAvoy

The reason he’s not higher on the list than the other defenseman is as much a matter of positioning during game play and my weighting of the factors listed above as anything else. There wasn’t anything bad about his work at camp, it just wasn’t as polished. I wonder what he’ll look like at next years camp with another year of building strength and endurance at Boston University.

#6

Jesse Gabrielle

Hard Earned Stretch

The first two things that will stick out to you after watching the Moosomin Saskatchewan native play are that he’s speedy, and happy to shoot the puck. Beyond that he’s a good puck handler, dropped back to defend in play, and passes well.

#5

Ryan Donato

I think some day, NHL coaches are going to like this guy. He’s not particularly flashy, but he does all the things he’s supposed to and did so consistently in drills and play. It wasn’t just skill that set him apart from certain players who spend the academic year around Comm Ave, it was consistency and effort.

#4

Danton Heinen

There’s a lot to like here, good speed, good passing, very agile, and a strong passer. Not much in the way of downside, except maybe size and even that’s not a huge concern with the way he skates. I think the bigger factors on if he makes the Boston roster this fall will be which side he ends up playing, and endurance.

#3

Wiley Sherman

Sherman Goes Low

After you get done gawking at Sherman’s size, pay attention to his everything else. He skates well, he was one of the few players who never looked tired on the ice, and he’s got a pretty nice wrist shot. Defensively he uses his stick well, doesn’t get caught up in chasing when he can simply deny access to the high percentage areas, and he uses all his tools fluidly.

#2

Anders Bjork

Anders Attacks

If there is a single player that went through the more challenging drills with more agility, and deftness not named Grzelcyk than Bjork I must have missed them. Even more striking is that he did them with more speed than anyone including the Terrier’s Alum. Bjork has finished two seasons at Notre Dame, the latter at a point per game, Bruins and Bjork fans should be hoping that when he’s done at school there’s an open contract and roster spot to slide him into somewhere in Providence or Boston.

#1

Dan Vladar

Constant Vigilance

I did consider putting someone else in this slot, but not very hard or for very long. Vladar was the best player on the ice all week. I started watching when camp opened on Tuesday, and spent the week looking for a hole in his game. It wasn’t his glove, it wasn’t his positioning, it wasn’t getting back up off the ice, I can’t fault his blocker and stick side combination, and he didn’t lose pucks in his feet. Another thing I didn’t see (and bear in mind no one was ripping off slapshots) was rebounds. Everything fell within a foot of his body and was smothered quickly, assuming it didn’t land in his glove.

Another development camp has come and gone. The prospects will by now all have had their exit interviews and been told what they need to work on.

Jeremy Louzon had his best day of camp today showing off his best puck handling and shooting to date.

Charlie McAvoy, the kid’s got wheels and when he uses them, he’s capable of leaving most players behind.

Ryan Fitzgerald had nice precise passing, and good skating in play.

Stephen Dhillon should be happy with the week he had, not only did he improve as the week went on, he drew raves from the crowd making a high end post to post save, and on a separate play was left naked with an on coming 3 vs 0 and gave them nothing to shoot at.

Ryan Lindgren had a very pretty goal against Malcolm Subban at a time in play when Subban was clearly trying to stop every puck.

Cameron Hughes showed quite well in play with speed, showed off nice hands all week, and while I can’t say he slacked off in drills, he shined more in play.

Dan Vladar came out of the net to handle the puck and made me cross off another potential hole in his game.

Oskar Steen, after doing well in the drills all week, I think what I liked most about him, aside from never looking tired, and not quitting on plays is that there isn’t a single stretch of ice he failed to use during play.

Jake Debrusk had a really nifty goal during play that drew audience appreciation and left the goaltender a bit disgusted.

Tomorrow you’ll see the top ten post of prospects based on camp performance, and soon a break down in the style differences between goalie prospects Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban, don’t forget you can find me on Twitter @PuckSage, on Google+, and Facebook with purely the posts and my page.

Day three showed more of the separation between the top prospects and everyone else. After camp I’ll go through my notes and put together a top ten list for all the gentleman at camp. I will not however be including three players; Matt Grzelcyk because he is enough better than any of the younger skates that it just isn’t useful to compare him. Likewise, it’s pretty clear Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban were told basically take repetitions so we can talk to the younger goalies, stay healthy, work on tracking the puck and stay healthy.

Emil Johansson has a shot worth taking note of, and is more than happy to play physically against whoever is in reach, and he does so with more discipline than some of the young defenseman I’ve seen at this camp.

2016 Development Camp

Sean Kuraly, deft at all the puck handling and skating drills.

Drill instruction

Jeremy Lauzon, has looked better each day, performed the drills well.

Sean McCavoy showed he can take pucks in his skates and get them to his stick in one move at least once.

Kuraly working the net front

Wiley Sherman keeps showing me more, he was making tight turns in about the same space on top of everything I’ve already said about him. During the one on one drills, when defending he was the only defender in either session

Cameron Hughes warmed up and got through the most difficult drills flawlessly.

Anders Bjork not only went through the drills with notable skill, he did it a faster speed than anyone else.

Ryan Lindgren looked best during the one on one drills, and looked solid against the better forwards.

Staying Focuced

Brandon Carlo has me convinced he’s almost certainly going to get quite a few more penalty minutes than points with the physicality and intensity he’s displayed in camp.

Ryan Donato looks to be in the top third of the forwards overall, but hasn’t been spectacular at anyone thing, or bad at anything at all.

Kuraly breaks out