Posted on: September 28, 2011 9:20 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 9:26 pm
By: Adam Gretz
It remains to be seen whether or not Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft, will spend the entire season with the Edmonton Oilers or eventually be sent back to the Western Hockey League to play with the Red Deer Rebels.
Based on his preseason performance to this point it's going to be awfully difficult for Edmonton to not give him an opportunity to prove he belongs at the NHL level on a full-time basis.
During Edmonton's 3-2 win over Phoenix on Tuesday night he had a hand in every Oilers goal, scoring his first of the preseason and adding an assist on a pair of Taylor Hall goals, pushing his team-leading (preseason) point total to six in four games.
A few thoughts and observations on his performance to date:
1) In the four games that Nugent-Hopkins has appeared in the Oilers have scored 10 goals as a team -- and he has had a hand in six of them, scoring one and assisting on five. He has also developed what appears to be nice chemistry with Hall, the Oilers' No. 1 overall pick from a season ago, recording an assist on every goal that Hall has scored in the preseason.
No other player on the team has more than three assists, while some of the ones Nugent-Hopkins has been credited with have been rather impressive, including this helper on a goal scored by Jordan Eberle last week against the Vancouver Canucks.
2) You're probably saying those numbers are nice, but it's still just the preseason and preseason numbers can be pretty worthless. And you wouldn't be entirely wrong. After all, a lot of these games feature rosters that are loaded with minor leaguers and pluggers that will be riding the bus in the AHL and ECHL in a couple of weeks. That highlight reel assist to Eberle against the Canucks that is mentioned above, for example, came on a power play with players like Aaron Volpatti and Nolan Baumgartner on the ice against him, with Manny Legace -- since released by the Canucks -- in the crease. Who you play against matters, and he's probably going to be facing a much higher level of competition during the regular season when the games actually mean something in the standings.
That said, his best game of the preseason came on Tuesday night against Phoenix, against a lineup that was pretty close to what the Coyotes will be running out there on a nightly basis. Mike Smith played the entire game in goal, while his points came with players like Shane Doan, Keith Yandle, Derek Morris and Daymond Langkow on the ice against him, so he's just not padding his preseason numbers against guys that won't be in the NHL this season. His best game, offensively, came on the night where he played against what was probably the toughest competition he's seen yet. And that's impressive.
3) There are still some legitimate questions that need to be asked about whether or not he's ready for a full season of NHL action. His size will be talked about quite a bit (and while he would be one of the smallest players in the NHL, he wouldn't be the smallest), as well as the added responsibilities that come with being a top center in the NHL, including defensive play and having to win faceoffs, which will include some growing pains, but the potential offensive upside might be too much for an Edmonton team that finished 27th in scoring last season to pass up.
As I pointed out last month it would seem be a mild upset if he's not on the Oilers roster this season, at least based on recent forwards that have been taken No. 1 overall. Going back to 1997 the only forward taken in the top spot to not appear in the NHL in his draft year was Alex Ovechkin, and that was because his draft year happened to be the lost season that was the NHL lockout.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 7:41 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 7:41 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Training camps are set to begin next week and Marty Turco is still without a team. I wrote about Turco's situation, as well as a few other veteran goaltenders that were still looking for work, back in July and wondered where (or if) players like him could still fit in, seeing as how nearly every team in the league appeared to be set in the crease.
Now that we're into September, not much has changed, and Turco is still searching for a club.
To this point we haven't really heard much about Turco's plans, whether he intends to keep playing or if he will simply call it a career and announce his retirement. That changed on Tuesday when he spoke to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago and confirmed that he still wants to, and thinks he still can, play in the NHL this season, and isn't quite ready to move into the broadcasting booth or any other post-hockey endeavor.
Turco's hopes probably reside on a training camp injury or underwhelming performance either by a rookie or other veteran. "I want to play some more," Turco said. "I still think I can play in this league. I'm not ready for plans after hockey just yet."And that's probably what it's going to take -- an injury or underwhelming performance by a goaltender that's considered a question mark headed into the season. Every team in the NHL has at least two goaltenders signed to an NHL contract for the upcoming season, and in recent weeks veterans like Ray Emery (Chicago) and Manny Legace (Vancouver) have accepted tryout contracts with no guarantees, and in the case of Legace, a seemingly slim chance of sticking with the NHL club.
Turco signed with the Chicago Blackhawks late last summer after the club walked away from Antti Niemi's arbitration ruling. He opened the season as the starter, struggled, and appeared in just 29 games, the second lowest number of his career (the lowest was his rookie season as a member of the Dallas Stars). By the middle of the season rookie Corey Crawford had taken over as the No. 1 goalie with the Blackhawks and not only held that spot through the playoffs, but also managed to get a three-year contract extension as a result of his promising play.
The one team that might stand out as a possible destination for Turco -- and this is nothing more than a guess at this point -- is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Steve Mason is entering his fourth season in the NHL and has regressed a bit from his standout rookie season, while the only player behind him on the NHL roster is 25-year-old Mark Dekanich, a minor league standout in the Nashville Predators organization that has appeared in just one NHL game. If things go poorly with that situation a player like Turco might be an option as a stop-gap.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 3, 2011 10:24 am
Edited on: September 3, 2011 10:25 am
By: Adam Gretz
Veteran goaltender Manny Legace is going to get an opportunity to return to the NHL during training camp, even if it seems liike a bit of a long shot.
Legace was invited to the Vancouver Canucks training camp on a tryout basis according to Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily, where the goaltender was quoted as saying that he was set on looking for a club in Europe to join before getting the call from the Canucks while he was on the golf course this week.
The 38-year-old Legace has spent parts of 11 years in the NHL with the Kings, Red Wings, Blues and Hurricanes, getting the win in 187 games and recording a .907 save percentage. He last played in the NHL during the 2009-10 season with Carolina, joining the team in November and appearing in 28 games.
After getting a tryout with the New York Islanders in training camp last year -- where he was released -- Legace played in Germany with the Iserlohn Roosters and finished the season with a 17-22-0 record and a .917 save percentage.
His chances of making the Canucks seem small at this point, even as a backup, as Vancouver already has Roberto Luongo cemented in as the starter, and Cory Schneider seemingly locked in as his backup. In his first full season in the NHL last season Schneider finished with a .929 save percentage, and was even called on to start a couple of playoff games when Luongo and the Canucks were struggling in the early rounds.
Unless there's a significant roster move involving one of the two goalies already on the NHL roster (and that doesn't seem likely at this point) there simply isn't an opening with Vancouver. His best chance might be to impress another team's scouting department and front office enough with his Vancouver tryout that another team looks into acquiring him if things don't work out with the Canucks.
Photo: Getty Images