Wednesday, April 29, 2015

NJ Devils Prospect Update: 4/30/15

Today, two Devils prospects played, Ryan Kujawinski and John Quenneville.

Kujawinski, the 2013 Devils' 3rd round pick (73rd overall), played center on the second line for the North Bay Battalion (OHL), like he has for the entire season since being traded there. in their game against the Oshawa Generals. This was Game 4 of the OHL semi-final championship. The winner of the series plays the winner of the Erie-Sault Saint Marie series for the OHL championship (Bobby Orr trophy).

Kujawinski  did not find a way onto the scoresheet and was a -1 (he was on the ice for the game-winning goal by was a generic breakdown of coverage in the defensive zone by the entire team. Oshawa did a fantastic job causing all sorts of mayhem) for the night. He saw time on the 2nd powerplay unit and did a good job creating some chances. There was time where he tried to do too much by himself, which resulted in a turnover...which was mentioned by the announcer. He said something along the lines of "and Kujawinski tried to do too much on that play, the Battalion need team play to win this game and series..." This is something that Kujawinski will learn and adapt through. It's not necessarily a bad thing though. If anything, it shows that he does not go down willingly. This happened a decent amount during his time in Kingston if I remember correctly. Again, not a bad thing, since he has some tremendous skills and potential, but that's something the coach will sit him down and talk to him about. OHL doesn't publish shot totals per game by players, so I can't give a number of the shots he produced, unfortunately. With Oshawa winning Game 4, the series is now tied 2-2, with the next game on Friday at 7:00 PM EST is Oshawa.

Despite going scoreless tonight, Kujawinski still has 9 points in 13 playoff games so far.

John Quenneville, the 2014 Devils' 1st round pick (30th overall), also played second line center for his Brandon Wheat Kings as they played against the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL Eastern Conference Final. The winner of the series goes on to play the winner of the Kelowna-Portland series to determine the WHL champion.

Quenneville had a very strong game tonight, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist as the Wheat Kings trounced the Hitmen 8-2. What's more important the the pure numbers Quenneville put up tonight is the timing of them, more specifically his goal with a minute to go in the first period. This ignited the Wheat Kings for the second period, as they scored 5 goals in the frame. Quenneville saw playing time as center on the second-line, played on the second powerplay unit, played time during a 4-on-4 period, and played when Calgary pulled their goalie for the extra skater (6-on-5). Other than that it was a pretty quiet night for J. Quenneville, which is business as usual for him. It's really nice seeing him start to come into his own after a regular season he considered disappointing (47 points in 57 games). He now has 11 points in 11 playoff games, which is tremendous, especially since these are all high-pressure scenarios that he is excelling in. (Quenneville scored 13 points in 9 playoff games for Brandon last year for anybody wondering.)

With the win tonight, the Wheat Kings take a 3-1 series lead over the Hitmen. The next game is Friday at 7:30 PM EST in Brandon where the Wheat Kings hope to eliminate the Hitmen. Did I mention that John Quenneville was the WHL player of the week? Here's the video on the WHL website.

Keep updated on Devils prospects by following me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog.

Thanks for reading!

NJ Devils Prospects Update: 4/29/15

Last night saw two New Jersey Devils prospects, Ryan Kujawinski and John Quenneville, come up big for each of their prospective CHL teams.

John Queneville, second line center for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, and 1st round pick (30th overall) for the Devils, scored the only goal for Brandon as they lost 2-1 in overtime to the Calgary Hitmen.

Goal can be found here, and it starts right around the 0:43 mark. Quenneville is #17 in black. Don't get confused with Peter Quenneville (John's brother), a Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick who wears #15.

Brandon now leads the Calgary Hitmen 2 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference championship of the WHL. The winner of this series goes on to face the winner of the Kelowna-Portland Western Conference Championship series to determine the overall WHL champion. That champion will get to play in the Memorial Cup, which is hosted in Quebec this year. Last year's WHL Champions, and subsequent Memorial Cup champions, the Edmonton Oil Kings, were knocked out of the WHL tournament in the first round by the Brandon Wheat Kings.

John Quenneville now has 9 points (4G 5A) in 10 playoff games this year, including a 5 point game for Brandon in the first game of the series against Calgary, where Quenneville scored 2 goals and 3 assists.

Video of the highlights can be found here. Quenneville is #17 in white.

Ryan Kujawinksi, Devils 2013 3rd round pick (73rd overall), has all the tools to be a successful middle-6 NHL center. He has just struggled with consistency and injuries. Earlier this OHL season, he was traded from the Kingston Frontenacs to the North Bay Battalion to beef up their offensive production as the second line center. He has been nothing but fantastic since joining the Battalion, putting up 36 points (21G 15A) in the 34 games he played for them.

Last night, Kujawinski sealed the deal in Game 4 of the OHL semi-final championship series against the Oshawa General. In OT, Kujawinski scored the game-winning goal.

Kujawinksi is #17 in green.

With this win, the North Bay Battalion now lead the series against the Oshawa Generals 2-1, and the winner of this series plays against the winner of the Erie Otters - Sault Saint Marie "Soo" Greyhounds, where the winner of that will be this year's OHL champion.

This is not Kujawinski's first game-winning OT goal in the playoffs. In the last playoff series the North Bay Battalion had, against the Barrie Colts (team of another Devils prospect, forward Joseph Blandisi), Kujawinski won Game 4 in double-OT to give the Battalion a 3-1 series lead.

Like the video above, Kujawinski is #17 in green

As of last night, Ryan Kujawinski has 9 points (6G 3A) in 12 playoff games for North Bay.

John Quenneville and Ryan Kujawinski were the only Devils prospects in action last night, and are the only two remaining who are still playing their seasons.

Their next games are both tonight (Wednesday 4/29). Kujawinski's North Bay Battalion (OHL) play at 7:00 EST while Quenneville's Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) start at 9:00 EST.

Keep updated on Devils prospects by following me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Potential Overseas UFA's: Artemi Panarin, LW, SKA, KHL.

This is an exciting post for me since Artemi Panarin is my favorite non-NHL prospect in the entire world. 

(I don't own the copyrights to this image)
That's Panarin on the right

So who is he and where did he come from? Artemi (or Artemy, depending how the translation of Cyrillic to English alphabet works, so both are correct, much like Evgeni and Yevgeny are the same as well) Panarin was never drafted by an NHL team, despite being eligible in 2010. 

Panarin is a 5'11", 170 lbs left winger for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. He's been called the "Russian Patrick Kane" in terms of his puck-handling and playmaking skills. Before we let all the horses out of the barn in terms of hype I just want to say that this label puts far too much pressure on him. Not that I think he can live up to that though, within reason.

There was a rumor that was spreading around earlier this year that Panarin and his SKA teammate (and former Arizona Coyote draft pick), Viktor Tikhonov, wanted to come over to the NHL to play. I wasn't sure at the time if I should believe it since SKA has an incredible amount of money and would be a good place for a young 23-year old like Panarin to make his fame and fortune. However, a report was released yesterday that said Panarin was offered to become to second highest paid player on the SKA roster (after Kovalchuk) but declined and is instead coming over to the NHL this offseason when he becomes a free agent on April 30th. Not sure whether Tikhonov will be joining him though.

So now that we know he's coming, although to what team I am not sure (there can be arguments made for each though), let's take a look at the type of player he is. Looking purely at points, Panarin had 62 points (26G 36A) in 54 games (SKA's leading point scorer) for the regular season, and he additionally had 20 points (5G 15A) in 20 playoff games for SKA as they won the KHL championship (Gagarin Cup).

This was all while playing on SKA's second line too, so Panarin didn't even get top-line minutes and was able to put up fantastic numbers. Panarin was a key part in SKA's powerplay too, playing on the first powerplay unit. Panarin usually parked himself in the faceoff circle to the right of the goalie and directed play from there. For anybody who watches the Capitals, just picture where Nicklas Bäckström plays during the Powerplay, just on the opposite faceoff circle.
Bäckström is a pretty good play-style comparison for Panarin on the powerplay, since he hardly shoots unless it's a rebound or he has a solid chance. I'm not purely stat-watching here, but Panarin has 3 times as many assists as he does goals, which I personally like because it means he's not necessarily having his numbers artificially inflated by another more-talented player. The second line of SKA consisted of Artemi Panarin, Vadim Shipachyov and Yevgeni Dadonov (yes the guy that one Youtuber hates), which isn't a line of scrubs at all, but just shows to show how much potential talent Panarin has.

From what I've seen of Panarin's play, I'd say a good playing style comparison for him is that of Jaden Schwartz with more playmaking ability. Both are left wings, about the same size (Schwartz has a few more pounds of muscle though, which can be added on), play a very responsible defensive game, play the game with a lot of heart and physicality with great playmaking abilities.

So let's take a look at some of his recent play from the KHL playoffs. Panarin is wearing #72 for SKA (blue and white main colors)

This goal was from Game 5 of the Gagarin Cup Finals (the last game of the series). While Panarin didn't score the goal, he played a key role in it. His forechecking here was remarkable. Panarin was able to get as assist on this play, and rightfully so, but what this shows me is that Panarin is able to stand up to a high level of physicality. Panarin does an excellent job fending off defenders' checks and creating space for himself to set up a scoring chance.

This goal comes from Game 2 of the Gagarin Cup Finals. It's fairly straight forward, SKA was on the powerplay and Panarin jumps on a rebound to score.

I know these are highlights but they're a great way to see what sort of skill set he has.

Panarin is excellent at gaining the zone through possession (doesn't dump the puck into the zone), and has an excellent wrist shot and backhand. 

Panarin has plenty of international experience as well. He's played for Team Russia at the World Juniors Championship, European Hockey Tour Championship, IIHF championship games. He's currently playing for Team Russia at the European Hockey Tournament. This is a recent goal he scored against Team Sweden (the Youtube uploader didn't allow embedding)

While this is not necessarily a pure talent goal, it's important to show that he can still produce at all sorts of levels of competition.

Panarin is 23 years old, so if an NHL team would sign him to a 2-year ELC. With the cap hit of $900,000 and thee max bonuses of the ELC's being potentially $3.7 million and the fact that Panarin recently turned down a major offer from SKA, it goes to show that Panarin is not really interested in the money right now. He knows if he plays well here he'll get his pay. In the initial rumor that came out, it said Panarin would want to sign with a team that gave him the best opportunity to play Top-6 minutes, maybe even top line minutes, and while the recent report hasn't said anything, I think it would be safe to assume that he will want to sign with the same team as his teammate, Viktor Tikhonov.

So all in all, I really think Panarin will make a significant impact on an NHL team that's willing to take a risk on signing him. He has the skillset to be a top-6 playmaker and a solid piece for any championship team. He has plenty of experience in a championship scenario as well.

I really don't see any potential setbacks, because it's essentially a free prospect, but there is always an adjustment period between going from the big ice of the KHL to the smaller ice of the NHL as well as getting used to the more physical game of the NHL.

I really look forward to seeing what Panarin can do in the NHL, and of course I hope my team signs him. We'll see though. He looks like he really has all the tools to be successful.

Like what you read? Have any comments or suggestions on who to write about? Feel free to let me know and follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more posts.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Potential Overseas UFA's: Joonas Donskoi, winger, Kärpät, Liiga

With the season over for half the teams in the NHL, I'd figure we should take a look at some rumored players from overseas who are looking to come over to North America. Today we'll look at a former Florida Panthers 4th round pick currently playing in the Finnish Liiga: Joonas Donskoi
                                                  (I do not own the copyrights to this image)

Donskoi is a 6'0, 190 lb winger who can play both Right and Left Wing, (although he mainly plays Right Wing) originally selected in the 4th round (99th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers. On June 1, 2012 it was announced that "Donskoi and the Florida Panthers were unable to reach agreement on the coming season...(he) became a free player to move to any NHL club." (Indirect Source)

At first glance, the inability of a fourth round draft pick to reach an agreement with his agent and the NHL team that drafted him really raises some eyebrows. I don't know the entire extent of that story, in fact I know very little. I just know that an agreement was not made and Donskoi only played in North America at one rookie camp for the Panthers organization (2011 rookie camp).

In fact, Donskoi's been playing his entire professional career in Finland, playing for Karpat in the Finnish Liiga (highest professional hockey level in Finland) since he first cracked their roster in the 2009-2010 season. Donskoi is a very good skater and has phenomenal stickhandling / puck ability skills.

Since BlogSpot isn't showing the embedded EliteProspects table I'm trying to bring over, I'll just say what it says on his EliteProspects Page. Karpat is currently in the playoffs right now, but in the 58 regular season games played, Donskoi had 49 points (19G 30A). In 5 playoff games, Donskoi has 7 points (2G 5A).

These are the highlights from yesterday's game for Karpat. Donskoi is wearing number 72 in black. He scores a goal around the 1:30 mark. There's nothing really special about this goal. It comes on the powerplay, and he has positioned himself at the face-off circle to the right of the goalie. The goal is a result of crashing the net on a rebound and burying the second chance. If you watch the rest of the video, you can see Donskoi very active in the offensive zone.

For those wondering about the difference in helmet color, Donskoi is also wearing a gold helmet, which in most European leagues is designated for the team's highest point scorer.

While Donskoi has completely developed as a Liiga-type player, which is very different from the North American game, I think he has the potential to be a Top-9 winger for a few NHL teams. He's only 23 years old, and in my opinion, needs to add a little more muscle. He has made significant improvements in his two-way game, which will be the key to his transition. He may be able to fit in to an offensively-dry NHL team, but would benefit significantly from a year in the AHL as a stepping stone for more two-way and physical play. 

If Donskoi were to sign with a team, it would be an ELC (since he's 23, it would be a two-year ELC according to the CBA). Ideally, a spot for him would be a team where he is not completely relied upon for scoring, as he seems like a strong candidate for secondary scoring. As seen from the video below, he can also fill in as a shootout specialist if need be too. (It's a compilation of his shootout goals and attempts from the 2013-2014 season)

His best shootout move is to do a few forehand-backhand dekes and quickly slide the puck through the five-hole.

Donskoi seems like a solid option depth signing for a team that wants to take a risk on him. At this point, a two year long entry level contract is not much of a risk though. He needs the right kind of team balance to develop properly into a North American style player. Although I just mentioned that the terms of the contract are not a big risk, Donskoi, to me, seems like a player whose style is very risky to play in the NHL, in terms of success.

He's still young though! He's got time to learn, and it really looks like he has all the tools to be a successful as a top-6 NHL winger. Donskoi was drafted 13th overall in the 2010 KHL draft by Avangard Omsk, so he has that option as well. I don't see him staying in the Liiga after this season.

What do you think? Would you want your team to give Joonas Donskoi a look?

Who else should I write about? Be sure to comment or let me know via Twitter. Also don't forget to follow me @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more articles. Thanks for reading!