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.

The off season has barely begun, and yet we’re under a year from Brent Burns becoming an unrestricted free agent. While he has easily had the best years of his career from a production standpoint in San Jose the team hasn’t won anything, and is unlikely to be better two years from now than it was this spring. Burns may well decide to move on, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing for him.

If you look at the team you have two players from the 1996 draft who have never won, and are nearing the end of their careers. Joe Thornton is a far better competitor than people give him credit for, and he was a point a game in the regular season last year. But at 36 years old that almost has to be counted as a fluke given that it was his best production since the 2009-10 season. Perhaps even more gratifying for fans of the future hall of famer is that Thornton stayed very nearly at that pace through the playoffs. Patrick Marleau will be 37 when hockey starts up this fall. His production numbers have been sliding for years, and it is very unlikely he’s anything but a 3rd line winger and maybe powerplay specialist in two years, assuming he is still playing.

That leaves the teams other stars, and Brent Burns should he decide to stay, as the team’s foundation. Logan Couture proved he lives up to the hype by being productive all through the playoffs and into the Stanley Cup Finals. Then there’s the newly minted 33 year old Joe Pavelski, who aside from sensational faceoff prowess in the finals was a no show. One point in six games. Is he going to be better and more productive at 35 and 37 in the playoffs than he is now?

If you go further down the roster to guys who can be expected to be around in two years, you get Joonas Donskoi and Tomas Hertl, two young forwards with a lot of upside who haven’t yet peaked. But no one sees these two as franchise cornerstones the way Thornton and Marleau were viewed, or even at the level of Couture and Pavelski.

So maybe Brent Burns does what is in his own best interest and moves on. Perhaps the best model for him to follow would be the one Marian Hossa used several years ago. Like Burns he was in his prime and he and the Atlanta Thrashers weren’t going to get a deal done. He was traded to a contender for some serviceable players, picks, and prospects. Then the next year he signed with a different contender before finding his long term home in Chicago.

It’s hard to imagine any team not throwing a bid at his agent if Burns does hit free agency. In all likelihood, his rights even as late as the draft next year would fetch a respectable return. We know when he moved from Minnesota to California he had to give up his herptoculture, maybe he wants to take it up again, or play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Perhaps he thinks together him and Ovechkin can raise the Cup. Whatever he decides, there are a lot of reasons not to stay in San Jose.

Mika Zibanejad has been traded from the Ottawa Senators to the New York Rangers in exchange for Derick Brassard.

One could look at the pure offensive numbers and decide that trade just doesn’t make sense. Brassard has averaged more goals over the last three seasons, he plays more physically, and has garnered a wealth of playoff experience.

A deeper look may give a more compelling answer.

Zibanejad is:

  • Several years younger
  • Larger
  • Right shot
  • A bit over $2.25m cheaper this season
  • An RFA after this year
  • Slightly better at faceoffs
  • Productive on the penalty kill

Brassard is:

  • A better faceoff playoff man
  • More productive in the post season
  • Cost surety for this and two more season for the budget Senators
  • A left shot
  • Better on the powerplay

When you come right down to it the two are very similar in goals, points, zone starts vs zone finishes (despite Zibanejad playing more PK), PDO, the on-ice Corsi favors Zibanejad slightly, but the biggest difference after money, term, and age seems to be the penalties drawn and taken per 60. Zibanejad takes less penalties, and draws more than twice as many as well. I don’t discount the handedness, and youth, but from the Ranger’s perspective they seem to be a big factor, along with cash. Maybe they have something else in the works?

From the Ottawa standpoint, the trade may just be about adding veteran leadership and playoff experience. The difficulty in getting free agents to sign in Ottawa, Chris Kelly being the exception that proves the rule, is almost certainly a major factor as well. The Senators have shed an almost certain doubling (or more) of Zibanejad’s current salary and get to put a similar guy on the roster who is from not so very far away in Hull where he was born, if he likes playing at home, they may well be able to extend him at the end of his current contract.

Is this a “hockey trade”, not likely. Is this a bad trade for what either team needs over the next two seasons; equally unlikely.

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.

The Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes has been the most interesting off ice story in hockey for almost a year. His choice not to sign with the rising Nashville Predators his irked some, and left others salivating in the hopes that he would play in their favorite franchise. The rumor and fantasy mills have focused on three seeming front runners, The Toronto Maple Leafs where he has a brother in the system and a father on the staff, the Buffalo Sabres who have his rights currently, and of course his home town Boston Bruins.

New Jersey shouldn’t be overlooked when evaluating where he might want to end up. One of the things that is most striking about his choice not to go to Nashville is that the narrative all along has been that he wanted to choose his own destiny, and forge his own career. While some might see this as a fit of pique, I think it shows an understanding of the NHL and what it takes to succeed; skill fit, wit, and chemistry.

If he goes to Toronto, he gets to play in a hockey mad city that lives half an atom outside the skin of its resident avatars of the state religion. It’s a pressure cooker, its intrusive, and it has no history of success in his life time. The current leadership aside, the head coach isn’t used to building teams, the current general manager is used to being the whole show, and the team President is best known in his post playing days as the Dean of Discipline to the NHL. One might very successfully make the case that’s a potentially if not inherently volatile mix at the top of the organization. Should he sign there he will be making it harder for his own brother to get a shot at the NHL. Yes, it is quite unlikely they would both be aimed at the same position, but there are only so many slots on the roster. There is also the specter of nepotism that will hang over him if he does land there, no matter how good he is.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are pretty much a non starter not because he wouldn’t want to play with Phil Kessel, Malkin, Crosby and Letang, but because from a cap perspective its comes pretty close to attempting to scale Everest in flip flops and a loin cloth. In order for him to get into the top six, they likely need to move a well known, expensive player. Chris Kunitz is well known, well respected and thirty six years old with only this season under contract. Pascal Dupuis’s contract is potentially trade able, but they would likely have to give up a good piece to go with it. After that is the question of moving either Carl Hagelin or Conor Sheary, financially Hagelin being moved makes the most sense, talent wise, and long term cap implications are debatable.

While many would list the Boston Bruins as the default choice, there are issues there too. Playing in your hometown is an enormous amount of pressure with zero down time, summer isn’t safe to be home, after a bad game everyone is upset, after a win everyone wants to buy you a drink, and everyone knows someone who knows you. Add to that the Bruins have coach with (an overblown) reputation for being tough on young players, one of the top ten left wings in the game in Brad Marchand, and the fact that the team desperately needs defense good enough to be paid well, and Vesey is probably not a priority to the Bruins. Another factor might be how many current local boys are in the system. I’m sure he’s friends with some, rivalries or worse, that started in early childhood can be hard to leave behind.

And then there is Buffalo. The Sabres have quite a bit of impressive young talent. Including Evander Kane, a left wing who has scored 30 goals in the NHL at a young age, plays physically, and is locked into a top six position, unless a coach is feeling like moving on to warmer pastures. They also have veteran Matt Moulson, another left wing, a three time 30 goal scorer who has had a down couple of years but can almost certainly be expected to be a big part of the leadership group both on and off the ice. The scrappy utility forward Tyler Ennis will hold onto a top 9 position one way or another as well. It is unlikely Vesey considers his chances of being more of an impact player in season one than Evander Kane, and a healthy, motivated Matt Moulson is nothing to sneeze at, which exclusive of Ennis, and other prospects makes his chances at significant minutes slim.

What does New Jersey offer?

  • They are close enough to home to be a short flight,  and manageable train or car ride for himself, friends, and family.
  • A big enough city to have night life and amenities.
  • Far enough down the media frenzy food chain to have breathing space.
  • High end team mates like Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique.
  • A team that is without him better than the Leafs and Sabres
  • Highly respected veteran leaders like Cammelleri, Zajac, and Fiddler
  • Less competition for dollars against the cap in the mid term future.

In short, for a lot of reasons the New Jersey Devils might just be team he lands with. They aren’t the sexy pick, the easy pick, or the one what might just let him ride coattails to an early career Stanley Cup, but they have a lot of things none of the other teams have. Realistically, the Devils could have won a half dozen of the games they lost in regulation last year. With 96 points, and just three of the wins coming in regulation, they would have beaten out the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card spot last spring.

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