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Sochi 2014-Projected Rosters

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Hamhuis2

Through 18 games this 2015/2016 NHL season, the Vancouver Canucks currently sit 3rd in the Pacific Division with a record of 7-6-5 (19 points, good for 15th in the League). This blog will detail both team and individual aspects of this Canucks team as they’ve been through the first quarter(ish) of the season, resulting in me giving them a letter grade (from A+ to F) for both the team overall, as well as each individual player. In the first section of this blog, I will be focusing on the Canucks team stats, to analyze how they actually match up against their peers league wide

The Canucks currently have a GF/GP of 2.83 and a GA/GP of 2.56, which is actually pretty solid considering their very average record so far. The goals are coming (9th in the League), and the goals against is pretty mediocre (14th in the League), so their record should be better, right?

Wrong. The Canucks have lost 10 one goal games this season, including 5 in overtime. While their goals against isn't terrible, the timing of the goals is. They've given up 22 goals in either 3rd periods or overtime (43.1% of total goals against), 3rd worst in the league only behind CAR(46.9%)  and CBJ(43.5%).

The Canucks are also being let down on special teams. Their powerplay ranks 23rd in the League at 15.8%, and their penalty kill is 20th at 79.2%. Furthermore, they've given up 3 shorthand goals already, good for 3rd most in the league. Taking a look at PP and PK time, the Canucks have the 14th most PP time in the league, and the 22nd most PK time in the league. These stats tell us that the special teams should be benefiting them, since they are more times on the powerplay than they are shorthanded when directly compared to their peers. However, due to the poor conversion rate of their PP and PK, the Canucks special teams are actually hurting their chances of winning games when compared to their normal 5-on-5 play.

Face-offs have also been an area of concern for the Canucks. Overall, they win 49.3% of their draws, ranking 21st in the league. Looking more specifically, at even strength they win 49.4% of their draws (21st in the League), 61.9% of their draws when on the PP (5th in the League), and 40.2% of their draws when on the PK (27th in the league) Overall, they’re not fantastic, but not terrible either, however based on the stats, it’s pretty clear that they are struggling hard when shorthanded. This results in less puck possession for the team while shorthanded, and ultimately leads to more goals against.

In total, I would give the Canucks a “C-”. The even-strength play indicates a slightly higher grade, however the special teams and face-off driven possession, combined with the untimeliness of goals against really hurts them, and ultimately drags them down a few ratings.

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In this next section of this blog, I will be rating the Canucks players individually, going in order from best to worst, separating them by position. These ratings take into account production, as well as expectations put on the players based on their salary, age, and playing time.

Forwards

Jannik Hansen: A

Hansen has produced at a great offensive clip with 11 points in 18 games and is also a relentless checker who can play in all roles. In my mind, he’s the one of the best 3rd liners in the league.

Daniel Sedin: B+

Daniel has 16 points in 18 games, leading the team in points. Although the Twins aren’t as dominant every night they were a few years ago, they still produce at a high level.

Henrik Sedin: B+

Henrik has 13 points in 18 games, which is an alright offensive pace. He’s probably expected to produce a bit more based on his salary, but he’s still the straw that stirs the drink for the Canucks offense, and definitely could have had a few more assists. His line is not the one to complain too much about.

Jared McCann: B+

McCann made the team unexpectedly as a 19 year old rookie, and has performed exceptionally. He has 7 points in 16 games, and his 5 goals co-lead the team. He seems to be improving his defensive game as well as he learns the system and adjusts to NHL pace, and looks to be a future lock for the top-6.

Alex Burrows: B

Burrows is a consistent, hardworking, and tenacious player. He has 9 points in 18 games, and is steady at both ends of the rink. While he may not put up the numbers he did in his prime, he is still a solid contributor who can play anywhere in the lineup.

Brandon Sutter: B

Many people scrutinized Canucks GM Jim Benning for his trade to bring Sutter over from Pittsburgh, however, he has shown to be a good fit for the team. He has excelled defensively, and gives the Canucks a good matchup player besides Horvat, who may become overwhelmed at the age of 20. Sutter has also produced solid offence with 8 points in 16 games, and is another guy who can play up and down the lineup.

Chris Higgins: B-

Higgins is hard to judge, as he has missed most of the year with injury. Since returning however, he has a couple of goals, and has been relatively solid defensively. He currently has 2 points (both goals) in 6 games.

Brandon Prust: B-

Prust has exceeded expectations so far this season. While he’s currently out with injury, he was a solid player on the 4th line, and was doing well killing penalties. While not the fastest or flashiest player, he is effective, and has a respectable point total with 5 points (all assists) in 9 games. His toughness is also much appreciated.

Adam Cracknell: B-

Cracknell is another 4th liner who has exceeded expectations early this season. He has been solid defensively, and has scored some timely goals, with 2 goals and 3 points in 12 games. He is a very hard working player that gives it his all every shift.

Bo Horvat: C+

Horvat had high expectations put on him coming into this season, and they were probably unrealistic. After a strong rookie year, including a dynamic improvement in the second half of last season and postseason, Horvat has been given a much more significant role on the team this year. That being said, he’s only 20, so the tougher matchups have resulted in some mistakes playing against better players, as well as some slightly disappointing offence, having 6 points in 18 games. Still, Horvat is a resilient player, and has been getting his chances. I expect him to improve as the season goes on, much like last season.

Jake Virtanen: C+

Jake is a tough player to figure out. Physically, he has been great. He is physical, fast, and chippy. That being said, sometimes he doesn’t look too tenacious, and his effort level seems to vary from game to game. He is a young player, so inconsistency is expected, however it would be nice to see a bit more offense from him. Again, like Horvat, he’s getting his chances, but unlike Horvat, his defensive game isn’t too polished, so he doesn’t have the luxury of not being able to produce for long. He has 4 points in 14 games, and is expected to improve as the season goes on.

Derek Dorsett: C+

Doresett has played alright, but his new contract is pretty tough to justify. Tangibles are a hard specify the value of, and while he is a mentor and leader on the team, he needs to show a bit more on the ice as well to live up to his contract, with just 4 points in 18 games so far this year.

Sven Baertchi: C+

After lighting up the AHL last season, Baertchi hasn’t had too much of an impact at the NHL level this season. While he’s putting up a good point pace with 7 points in 15 games, he hasn’t played like a difference maker, and he has been pretty soft on the puck, especially near the boards. He still plays too much of a perimeter game, but does show promise.

Radim Vrbata: C

Vrbata has lost most of his confidence this season, and has no puck luck. He has been getting chances as well, but has been uncharacteristically not been finishing. This includes missing a few seemingly open nets, and simply just missing the net. I expect that once he gets a couple of goals (goes on a bit of a hot streak), he’ll be fine for the rest of the year. He has 3 goals and 7 points in 18 games, and needs to pick up the pace if the Canucks have any hope of making the playoffs.

 

Defence

Chris Tanev: B+

Chris Tanev has (quite easily) been the best defenceman for the Canucks this season. Offense has never been his strong suit, and he has 4 points in 17 games. Defensively however, he has been very solid, and he really been relied upon in all situations.

Ben Hutton: B+

Ben Hutton has really exploded as a blooming young star this season. While may fans didn’t really know about this NCAA gem (I had him ranked #7 for Canucks prospects in my July 2014 blog entry), he came in, made the team, and has just produced. His 8 points in 18 games are 2nd amongst Canucks defenders, and his defensive game is better than expected. His skating, smarts, and on-ice awareness may allow him to become a top pair defender in the future.

Alex Edler: B-

Edler had a great start to the season, and his 8 points in 17 games are very solid. The past 5ish games however, Edler (along with the rest of the defence) has looked a bit lost out there, causing giveaways and scoring chances for the other team. Furthermore, his mobility hasn’t looked very good, so he could be playing hurt.

Dan Hamhuis: C+

Speaking of giveaways and lack of mobility, Hamhuis has looked uncharacteristically poor this season. Hamhuis is still very good in his own zone, but his transition game has been subpar, and his offensive awareness is near non-existent. Again, like Edler, I thought he started the year pretty solid, but he has been playing with a revolving door of sketchy partners, and he may be playing injured. With just 2 points in 15 games, he needs to be better.

Mark Bartkowski: C+

Bartkowski is a great skater, in fact, one of the best skating defenceman I have ever seen suit up for the Canucks. However, that’s almost all that he can contribute. While he tries to play a rugged game, he is ineffective at it, and often gets out muscled in the corners or in front of the net. Also, his defensive coverage is spotty, and he is often left chasing the play. His transition game is fantastic, and his skating is much needed, but don’t expect him to be creative and create offense out of that skating ability (5 points in 17 games). He has a role on this team, but currently, he is playing  a bit out of his depth in the top-4.

Luca Sbisa: C+

Sbisa has played quite well this season, proving a needed physical presence, and looking more confident. He has limited the amount of giveaways he has compared to last season, and may still have the promise to eventually be a top-4 defenceman, when playing with a solid partner who can cover for his occasional poor pinches and giveaways. He has just played 11 games, putting up 4 points, and is currently injured, making way for this next player in the lineup.

Yannick Weber: C

Weber looked great last season in my opinion, but lost a lot of confidence and looked overwhelmed in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Weber has taken his poor pay from the playoffs and brought it to this season. For an “offensive defenceman”, he has just 2 points in 12 games, and has been poor defensively. He’s not dynamic enough offensively to be poor defensively, and with the poor play of other defenceman, his errors are sticking out even more.

Goalies

Ryan Miller: B-

Miller had a hot start to the season, but has cooled down quickly. While the defence hasn’t helped him out much lately, he needs to be better, and can’t give up weak goals at poor times in a game.

Jacob Markstrom: B-

Markstrom has been solid, but really it is too early to judge with such a small sample size.

Richard Bachman: C+

He was a solid fill-in goalie, but with Markstrom back now, he should get some starter time in the AHL.

 

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This final section of the blog will take a look at the player stat projections over a full 82 game pace, as well as my expectation for the players. I will also project our GF/GP and GA/GP over an 82 game season, compare it to past seasons and summarize the results.

Skater

Current Points (GP…G-A-P)

Projected Points (GP…G-A-P)

Expected Points (GP…G-A-P)

D. Sedin

18GP…5-11-16

82GP…23-50-73

82GP…23-52-75

H. Sedin

18GP…5-8-13

82GP…23-36-59

82GP…18-55-73

J. Hansen

18GP…5-6-11

82GP…23-27-50

82GP…16-19-37

A. Burrows

18GP…4-5-9

82GP…18-23-41

82GP…19-25-44

A. Edler

17GP…4-4-8

82GP…19-19-38

82GP….12-25-37

B. Sutter

16GP…4-4-8

82GP…20-20-40

82GP…18-15-33

B. Hutton

18GP…0-8-8

82GP…0-38-38

82GP….3-33-36

R. Vrbata

18GP…3-4-7

82GP…14-18-32

82GP….21-30-51

S. Baertschi

15GP…2-5-7

82GP…11-27-38

82GP…13-23-36

J. McCann

16GP…5-2-7

82GP…26-11-37

82GP…19-15-34

B. Horvat

18GP…2-4-6

82GP…9-18-27

82GP…16-20-36

B. Prust

9GP…0-5-5

82GP…0-46-46

82GP…5-18-23

M. Bartkowski

17GP…2-3-5

82GP….10-14-24

82GP…3-24-27

D. Dorsett

18GP…2-2-4

82GP…9-9-18

82GP…7-15-23

L. Sbisa

11GP…1-3-4

82GP…7-22-29

82GP…3-24-27

C. Tanev

17GP…1-3-4

82GP…5-14-19

82GP…3-17-20

J. Virtanen

14GP…1-3-4

82GP…6-18-24

82GP…9-15-24

A. Cracknell

12GP…2-1-3

82GP…14-7-21

82GP…6-10-16

D. Hamhuis

15GP…0-2-2

82GP…0-11-11

82GP…1-18-19

C. Higgins

6GP…2-0-2

82GP…27-0-27

82GP…14-23-37

Y. Weber

12G…0-2-2

82GP…0-14-14

82GP…6-23-29

 

Projected total goals: 264

Expected total goals: 235

 

#1 for 2014/2015

#9 for 2014/2015

 

#1 for 2013/2014

#8 for 2013/2014

 

#2 for 2012/2013*

#7 for 2012/2013*

 

#2 for 2011/2012

#8 for 2011/2012

 

#1 for 2010/2011

#11 for 2010/2011

 

           

As you can see from the data above, the Canucks are “projected” to have 264 goals (using pure extrapolation). This is, of course, unreasonable, and would be either #1 or #2 in the league over the past 5 seasons. If this was the case, they should have a much better record, because their goals against is not that poor as to counteract this. With my “expected” totals (looking at the game in a vacuum where there are no injuries), the Canucks finish the season with 235 goals. This would put them in the #7-11 range for the past 5 seasons, which I feel is much more realistic, and perhaps even a bit optimistic.

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Overall, the Canucks are scoring enough goals, but their defence has been subpar at best. If they want to have a serious chance of making the playoffs, the defence and goaltending has to be better, and they must maintain a GF/GP of around 2.8.

Please feel free to provide feedback on my article, and don’t forget to answer the poll questions! What do you think the Canucks need to improve this season, and where should they look to bring about these improvements?

 Thanks!

 

Hamhuis2

To open up this blog post, let's review some of the top prospects available in this draft. The following is my ranking of the top-60 players available in the draft this year. Picks are ordered in terms of rankings of player ability/projections in my opinion, not necessarily taking into account team need.

NHL 2015 Draft Rankings

1st round

1.) Connor McDavid ©- Elite speed, agility, acceleration, hands, and hockey sense. This kid is a future superstar and could be the new face of the NHL. NHL projection: Generational #1 center. NHL style comparable: Crosby

2.) Jack Eichel ©- Another generational talent, Eichel possesses an impressive blend of speed, smarts, and power, which will make him one of the best in the league very quickly. NHL projection: Generational #1 center. NHL style comparable: Getzlaf

3.) Noah Hanafin (D)- Smooth skating Hanafin is an exceptional player at both ends of the rink, and isn’t afraid to play the body when need be. His skating and quick stick make him the best overall defenceman in this draft. NHL projection: Two-way #1 defenceman. NHL style comparable: Doughty

4.) Mitch Marner (C/RW)- Highly skilled, very elusive, and elite vision make Marner project Marner to be a high end offensive threat at the NHL level. While he is slightly undersized, his skills are too much to pass on early in the draft. NHL projection: 1st line elite scoring winger. NHL style comparable: P. Kane

5.) Dylan Strome ©- Big, offensive, responsible centers seem to always be in high demand, but are very rarely traded due to their high value on the market. Strome has all of the makings of a future #1 center, and could be a force to deal with. NHL projection: Two-way 1st line center. NHL style comparable: Eric Staal.

6.) Ivan Provorov (D)- Great speed, great offensive instincts, not afraid of playing physical, and very responsible in the defensive zone, Provorov excels in nearly every aspect of the game, and projects to be a top pairing defenceman in the near future. NHL projection: #1-#2 two-way defenceman. NHL style comparable: Niklas Kronwall

7.) Zach Werenski (D)-Much like the dmen slated to go ahead of him, Werenski possess elite skating ability and high-end offensive awareness. He goes hard in the corners, and is solid physically. With a little more work in the defensive zone, he could be NHL ready fairly quickly. NHL projection: #1-#2 two-way defenceman. NHL style comparable: Jack Johnson

8.) Mikko Rantanen (RW/C)- One of the most complete players in the draft, Rantanen has improved his footspeed over the past year and is a hulking winger who is tough to contain and has great playmaking abilities. NHL projection: 1st line playmaking winger with size. NHL style comparable: Jakub Voracek

9.) Matthew Barzal ©- A highly competitive player, Barzal can play in any situation and thrive. He has elite offensive vision, as well as good skating. If he can put health concerns behind him, he could be very good NHL player. NHL projection: 1B two-way center who can play all situations. NHL style comparable: Nicklas Backstrom


10.) Lawson Crouse (LW)- A big, complete player, Crouse is an exceptional two-way player and a great forechecker. Although his offensive numbers leave much to be desired, he has the potential to be a top two-way guy in the league. NHL projection: Top-6 two-way winger. NHL style comparable: Rick Nash

11.) Pavel Zacha (C/LW)- Another big body, Zacha also possess fantastic speed and great hands. Although inconsistent, Zacha has the potential to be a high-end powerforward in the NHL. NHL projection: Top-6 power winger. NHL style comparable: Alex Ovechkin.

12.) Kyle Connor ©- Speedy, skilled, and dependable. These are the traits that make Connor such a valuable draft choice, and what could make him an impact player in the NHL. Connor excels in all situations, and will only get better as he adds some weight to his frame. NHL projection: 1B two-way center who can play in all situations. NHL style comparable: Claude Giroux

13.) Timo Meier (RW/C)- Perhaps the best pure sniper in the draft, Meier plays a heavy game and is responsible in his own end as well. NHL projection: Top-6 goal scoring forward. NHL style comparable: James Neal

14.) Jakub Zboril (D)- A dependable player, Zboril can play in any situation, and isn’t afraid to mix it up physically. While maybe not a powerplay quarterback, he certainly has all of the skills to play on the PP, and can be a rock on the PK. NHL projection: #2-3 two-way defenceman. NHL style comparable: Dan Hamhuis.

15.) Travis Konecny (C/RW)- A competitor, Konecny is a tenacious player who plays bigger than his smaller stature indicates. Build very solidly, Konecny also possess great speed and good hands that will enable him to succeed in the NHL. NHL projection: Top-6 two-way forward. NHL style comparable: Brendan Gallagher/Zach Parise hybrid

16.) Colin White (RW/C)- A solid, two-way player, White is a pretty good bet to be an NHL player, but it’s yet to see where he will fit. He is great defensively, probably the best in the draft, however, he needs to work on his skating a bit, as well as develop his offensive skills. NHL projection: Top-6 two-way forward. NHL style comparable: Ryan Callahan.

17.) Evgeny Svechnikov (LW)- A speedy, skilled, big bodied player, Svechnikov only falls this far in the draft due to his “Russian factor”. Great in the offensive end, Svechnikov could use some work on his defensive game, as well as use his size a bit better. NHL projection: Top-6 sniper with size. NHL style comparable: Max Pacioretty

18.) Nick Merkley (RW/C)- Although a bit on the small side, Merkley is a fierce competitor, and is solid on his skates. He sees the ice very well, and has the ability to change the pace of a game to match his own. NHL projection: Top-6 playmaking winger. NHL style comparable: T.J. Oshie/ Jordan Eberle

19.) Thomas Chabot (D)- Smooth skating, offensive defenceman with a great first pass and good shot, Chabot could fill the role of a PMD in the NHL. He should work on his defensive zone coverage, as well as being more physical, however he has shown improvement in these areas. NHL projection: #3-#4 offensive/two-way defenceman. NHL style comparable: Marek Zidlicky

20.) Joel Eriksson Ek ©- A solid, two-way center who is great in the dot, Eriksson Ek should continue to work on his puck skills. He is a tireless worker, and should be an NHL player, it’s just a question of whether that will be in a 2nd or 3rd line role. NHL projection: Top-6/9 two-way center. NHL style comparable: Derrick Brassard

21.) Paul Bittner (LW)- Bittner plays a gritty game, has a good shot, and is very good at using his size to protect the puck. His skating isn’t the greatest, and he needs to work on his consistency, but he has all of the physical tools to be a good NHLer. NHL projection: Top-6/9 big goalscoring winger. NHL style comparable: Scott Hartnell

22.) Denis Guryanov (RW)- Guryanov has explosive speed, great size, and a heavy shot. Will drop due to his “Russian Factor”, but any team that gets him will be getting a potential star. NHL projection: Top-6 speedy power winger. NHL style comparable: Chris Kreider.

23.) Brock Boeser (RW)- A very versatile player, Boeser is a strong player on his skates, and can beat you in a number of different ways. He has the size to play a big game, a great shot to score from anywhere, and is creative enough to beat guys one on one. NHL projection: Top-6 sniper with size. NHL style comparable: Kyle Okposo

24.) Oliver Kylington (D)- Fantastic skating ability, but leaves more to be desired in other areas of his game. He has great vision and puck skills, but is unpredictable, and needs work in the defensive end. High potential due to his skating, but high chance of busting due to other factors. NHL projection: #2-#6 offensive defenceman. NHL style comparable: Tobias Enstrom/Erik Karlsson

25.) Jansen Harkins ©- Solid two-way forward, is very good defensively and has solid offensive ability. Not a flashy player, but uses his teammates well and is a character guy. NHL projection: Top-6/9 two-way center. NHL style comparable: Bryan Little

26.) Jeremy Roy (D)- Offensively gifted and great skater, Roy can be a good PMD at the next level. I have him rated lower on the board due to questions about his defensive game, but if he can overcome those he can be a high-end defenceman in the NHL. NHL projection: #2-6 offensive defenceman. NHL style comparable: Dan Boyle/Kris Letang

27.) Daniel Sprong (RW)- Sprong is a very creative player with high-end offensive skills and great speed. He does have some attitude concerns, and he needs work in the defensive end, but his offensive abilities may be elite. NHL projection: Top-6 scoring winger. NHL style comparable: Alex Semin

28.) Anthony Beauvillier (LW)- Although small, Beauviller plays a feisty game, has good offensive skills, and has a good two-way game. NHL projection: Top-6 undersized two-way forward. NHL style comparable: Jaden Schwartz.

29.) Jake Debrusk (LW)- Smart player who is great around the net. Goes to the hard areas and works hard. Could improve his skating and size and become more consistent. NHL projection: Top-6 goal scorer. NHL style comparable: Patric Hornqvist.

30.) Jacob Larsson(D)- Steady, two-way defender, Larsson really excels in the defensive end, and is a very good skater. Although not overly big, Larsson can play in a shutdown role, as well as be a good puck distributor. He plays a safe game which should translate well to the next level. NHL projection: #3-4 two-way defender. NHL style comparable: Jay Bouwmeester.

2nd round

31.) Ilya Samsonov (G)
32.) Brandon Carlo (D)
33.) Gabriel Carlsson (D)
34.) Vince Dunn (D)
35.) Jack Roslovic ©
36.) Jeremy Bracco (RW)
37.) Noah Juulsen (D)
38.) Mitchell Vande Sompel (D)
39.) Zach Senyshyn (RW)
40.) Nicholas Meloche (D)
41.) Ryan Pilon (D)
42.) Jonas Siegenthaler (D)
43.) Alexander Dergachev ©
44.) Rasmus Andersson (D)
45.) Thomas Novak ©
46.) Filip Chlapik ©
47.) Travis Dermott (D)
48.) Dennis Yan (LW)
49.) Mackenzie Blackwood (G)
50.) Graham Knott (LW)
51.) Austin Wagner (LW)
52.) Christian Fischer (RW)
53.) Matthew Spencer (D)
54.) Callum Booth (G)
55.) Nikita Korostelev (RW)
56.) Roope Hintz (LW)
57.) Gabriel Gagne (RW)
58.) Jordan Greenway (LW)
59.) Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson ©
60.) Ryan Gropp (LW)


What the Canucks should look for this draft

For this section, I will be exploring what I feel the Canucks should be looking to accomplish this draft. Although it is likely that trades might happen (Lack, Bieksa, etc.), they are difficult to predict, and thus I will not try to do so.

HOWEVER, I will assume that the Canucks will have a 2nd round pick available for them to use, and for arguments sake I will put it at #53.

With offensive prospects such as Baertschi, Virtanen, Mccann, Shinkaruk, Cassels, Gaunce, Grenier, and Jensen in the system, as well as young NHL forwards like Horvat and Kenins, and a young potentially elite goalie coming up in Demko, it’s time for the Canucks to turn their attention to the backend. While their are some good prospects, including Corrado, Clendenning, Tryamkin, and Hutton, none of these players project to be much more than #4 guys on a good team. Most Stanley Cup winning teams have a legitimate #1 defenceman, and while their may not be a surefire one in the Canucks range of draft, there still are some very good ones available.

My preferred defenceman for #23 (in order of preference)

The Big 3 (These guys are almost guaranteed to be gone by the Canucks #23 selection. They have a high likelyhood of being top-pairing defencemen in the NHL)

Noah Hanafin (will be gone by our pick)
Ivan Provorov (will be gone by our pick)
Zach Werenski (will be gone by our pick)

The Safe 2 (These guys have a strong likelihood of becoming top-4 NHL defencemen, and have a shot at being top-pairing guys).

Jakub Zboril (unlikely to be around by our pick)
Thomas Chabot (may be around for our pick)

The Risky 2 (These guys are elite in some aspects, but have some major deficiencies that keep them lower in the draft)

Oliver Kylington (may be around for our pick)
Jeremy Roy (may be around for our pick)

The Swedish 2 (These guys are fairly safe picks, but may not have the upside some of the previous defencemen have)

Jacob Larsson (should be around for our pick)
Gabriel Carlsson (should be around for our pick)

The Best of the Rest (These guys still have top-4 or better upside, but are not ranked quite as highly as the previous players)

Brandon Carlo (should be around for our pick)
Vince Dunn (should be around for our pick)
Noah Juulsen (should be around for our pick)

I would be happy with any of these defenceman I’ve listed above, in the order that I’ve listed them. The rest of the defencemen on my top-60 list I would not take with a 1st round pick, however, if we got a 2nd I would take one of them. In my personal opinion, I really like Rasmus Andersson and Nicholas Meloche.

Other than defencemen, I think the Canucks should consider taking a RW with their 1st, depending on who’s on the board. With only Virtanen at this point projecting to be a top-6 RW in the NHL (sorry Jensen), the Canucks could use another scorer on that side.

For RW’s, I would take the following (in this order)

Travis Konecny (should be gone by our pick)
Nick Merkley (may be around for our pick)
Brock Boeser (should be around for our pick)
Denis Guryanov (should be around for our pick)

In my opinion, I really like the versatility and creativity of a player like Boeser (most likely to be around for our pick). I also think he has some untapped offensive potential, and has an outside shot of being a top line forward, with limited risk in him being at least a top-6.

In conclusion

Overall, the Canucks need to address the defence in this draft. There are many good, potential top-4 defencemen, and the Canucks need to take one of them in the first two rounds. Depending on who’s available, it may be better to take a player like Boeser in the first and try and grab a player like Dunn or Juulsen in the 2nd, but again, it depends on who is still left on the board when the Canucks pick.

Either way, it should be an exciting draft!

Let me know who you guys think the Canucks are taking, and/or who you want the Canucks to take!
Hope you enjoyed the analysis!

Hamhuis2

The NHL 2014 Entry draft is finished, and much to the disappointment of some fans, the Canucks did not trade up for the 1st overall pick. That being said, having dealt Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks, the Canucks ended up holding the #6 and #24 overall picks. With these picks, the Canucks drafted speedy powerforward Jake Virtanen and solid two-way center Jared Mccann.

This blog entry will focus on ranking the Canucks current prospects, including the ones just drafted, as well as providing a brief insight on how and when these prospects will make an impact in the NHL. I will finish off the post by providing my projected Canucks lineup for the upcoming years.

REMEMBER, THIS IS JUST MY OPINION BASED ON RESEARCH THAT I HAVE CONDUCTED.

To start things off, let's rank the Canucks top 10 prospects

#1: Bo Horvat

Despite having the #6 pick in 2014, Bo Horvat is still considered as the Canucks top prospect. While other prospects may have a higher ceiling than Horvat, Bo is as much as a sure thing as you can get. He is already a great defensive center, and his offensive abilities seem to be developing nicely.

Career Projection (in his prime):

55 points (70 point career high)

Potential Captain

High end PKer

Horvat projects to be a #2 center in the NHL. His high end potential is a Patrice Bergeon comparable, while his low end is a Jared Stoll comparable. He will most likely end up being close to a player such as Ryan O'Reilly. ETA: 2014/2015 (9 games), 2015/2016 full time.

#2: Jake Virtanen

The new kid, Jake Virtanen, comes in at #2 on this list. Jake is exactly what the Canucks need, a fast sniper with a physical edge. Jake has higher end potential than Horvat, how ever, there are some concerns over his playmaking ability. People are concerned about his 26 assists, let me remind you that Jeff Carter only had 4 more in his draft year, while posting less goals.While he is almost guaranteed to be an NHLer due to his incredible athletic ability, we will need to wait to see if it will be on the 1st line, or the 3rd.

Career Projection (in his prime):

65 points (75 points career high)

Potential Captain

Top-20 goal scorer

Virtanen projects to be a #1/2 goal scoring power winger in the NHL. While some people think that his hockey IQ (or lack of) will limit him to be a 3rd line winger, others believe that his offensive abilities, combined with a playmaking line mate, will allow him to flourish as a top line player. Virtanen's high end upside is a Jeff Carter comparable, while his low end is a Jason Chimera. He will most likely end up being a Blake Wheeler calibre player (smaller, but faster). ETA: 2016/2017 season.

#3 Hunter Shinkaruk

Hunter Shinkaruk may be the prospect that excites me the most. In my opinion, he has the highest offensive upside of any of our prospects. His game is dynamic, from skating to shooting, he is a very gifted offensive player. What impresses me the most about him however is his compete level. He isn't tiny, but he's not big either. For a guy of his size, he is quite aggressive on the ice. He has heart and passion, which will do him well in his goal to make the NHL.

Career Projection (in his prime):

65 points (80 points career high)

Top-20 goal scorer

Shinkaruk projects to be a #1/2 speedy winger with great hands and sniping ability. While he has elite offensive skills, his size and injury concerns could hinder his ability to make it to the NHL. It's either top-6 forward or bust for him. The good thing is, so far, it looks like he is set to make the NHL in the near future. His high end potential is a Zach Parise type player. His low end is a bust. Most likely, he will end up to be a Jeff Skinner type player. ETA: 2015/2016 season.

#4 Jared Mccann

Mccann is another exciting prospect. Mccann already possesses solid defensive abilities, and has on just started to touch on his offensive abilities. Mccann is the type of player who is good now, and has the potential to be great.

Career Projection (in his prime):

50 points (60 points career high)

Top PKer

Mccann projects to be a #2 center in the NHL. He has the potential to be creative, two-way player, he just needs to put it all together. His high end potential is a Logan Couture type player, while is low end is a Brandon Sutter type player. Most likely, he will end up to be a Valteri Filppula type player. ETA: 2016/2017.

#5: Nicklas Jensen

Jensen has all the tools to be a good NHLer. He's already shown flashes of brilliance at both the AHL and NHL level. He has nice hands, good speed and size, and a knack for the net, he just needs to work on his consistency.

Career Projections (in his prime):

50 points (60 points career high)

Top-40 goals

Jensen projects to be a #2 winger in the NHL. His blend of speed, size, and sniping ability make him a rare player, however he will need to work on using his size better in order to reach his max potential. His high end potential is a James Neal (not playing with Malkin). His low end potential is Michael Ryder. Most likely, he will turn out to be a Jussi Jokinen type player. ETA 2014/2015.

#6 Frank Corrado

Corrado is our best defensive prospect...for now (you will see with #7). Corrado is very mobile and sound defensively. He still has untapped offensive potential, and could work on his physical game. Overall, he is a very good two-way defender.

Career Projection (in his prime):

30 points (40 points career high)

Top PKer

2nd Unit PP

Frankie projects to be a #3/4 d man in the NHL. He is a very safe player, and can provide a steadying presence for his partner. At his best, Corrado could be a Paul Martin type player. At his worst, Corrado could be a Ben Lovejoy type defender. Overall, Corrado will probably end up being a Kevin Bieksa type player, assuming his physicality picks up a bit. ETA 2014/2015.

#7 Ben Hutton

Big Ben comes in at #7, but could climb up much higher in the near future. I believe he has the most potential of any of our D prospects, but is harder to compare to other prospects (such as Corrado) who have CHL, AHL, and NHL experience. Hutton is a nice 6'3 200lbs, and is a good skater. With the right development, he could be a very good NHL defender.

Career projection (in his prime):

40 points (45 career high)

Top PP

2nd Unit PK

Top-10 goals by defencemen

Hutton projects to be a #3/4 defender at the NHL level for now. However, if he builds on his great season from 2013/2014, he could project to be a #2/#3 guy. He is a very dynamic player, who is good at just about everything. He has the potential to be a PP quarterback in the NHL, while still being solid defensively. His high end potential is a Jack Johnson type player, while his low end is a Jakub Kindl type player. He will likely become a John Carlson type player. ETA 2016/2017.

#8 Brendan Guance

Gaunce is a big, rugged player. He plays a very heavy game, and excels in a shutdown role. Although he doesn't possess high end speed, his first few steps are explosive, and very underrated.

Career projection (in his prime):

40 points (50 career high)

Top PK

2nd Unit PP

Gaunce is a solid all around player who will be a solid NHLer. While he could be a 2nd line center, I think he projects more to be a high end #3 center in the NHL. His size and strength will help him match up well against more offensive forwards, while his offensive instincts and heavy shot will allow him to put up good point totals. His high end potential is a Patrik Berglund type player, and his low end potential is a Kyle Chipchura type player. Most likely, he will end up as a Kyle Brodziak type player. ETA 2015/2016.

#9 Thatcher Demko

Demko is another player that I believe will shortly shoot up this list. He possesses everything to be a very good NHL player in the future; size, drive, and a good development program. Demko has all the tools, and if he keeps improving a bit every year, the kid could be a star.

Career projection (in his prime):

0.920 SV % (Vezina nomination career high)

2.20 GAA

35 wins

I believe in Thatcher Demko because I believe in the Boston College Development program. I've be lucky to watch a number of this games over this past year (unfortunately none live), and Thatch has impressed me. He is already a big guy, and seems to be always in good position. He just brings that calming presence to a team that is vitally important in a good goalie. Overall, Demko projects to be a very good NHL #1 goalie one day, with borderline elite potential. At his highest ceiling, Demko could become a Cory Schneider type goalie. At his worst, Demko could be a Anders Lindback type player. Realistically, I can see Demko becoming a Ben Bishop type goalie. ETA 2018/2019.

#10 Cole Cassels

Cole is a very interesting player. He seems to have a high compete level, and sees the ice very well. He is also incredibly versatile. With the great season he had in 2013/2014, he has made it up to the #10 spot on my list.

Career projection (in his prime)

40 points (50 career high)

2nd Unit PK

2nd Unit PP

Cassels reminds me a lot of Chris Higgins, if Higgy played center. He is good in all things, and works hard every night. I like that he plays with a bit of an edge as well, as it makes him very versatile in either a top-6 or a top-9 role. He could be a perfect #7 forward. At his high end, he could be a Frans Nielsen type player, and at his low end, he could be a Dominic Moore type player. Most likely, he ends up as a Derrick Brassard type player. ETA 2016/2017.

That concludes my top-10 prospect rankings, feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments section below. Now, I will give my projected Canucks lineup for the next few years.

2014/2015:

Sedins-Vbrata

Burrows-Bonino-Kassian

Higgins-Horvat/Mattias-Vey

Mattias/Sesito-Richardson-Hansen/Dorsett

Hamhuis-Bieksa

Edler-Tanev

Sbisa-Stanton

Corrado

Miller

Lack

Hamhuis2

Well, the NHL regular season is winding down, and the Canucks currently sit 20th overall in the league. While there are still 10 games to play, the Canucks are not going to make the playoffs this year. There are too many teams ahead of us with games in hand, and our quality of competition is too great.

That being said, this isn't a bad thing. Many fans, myself included, believe that it's time to get younger and start bringing in young players who can lead the next generation of Canuck players. What better way to do this than through the draft?

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These are the current standings, looking only at the bottom 15 teams in the league:

16.) Phoenix: GP=71 PTS=79

17.) Washington: GP=72 PTS=79

18.) Columbus: GP=71 PTS=78

19.) Dallas: GP=70 PTS=77

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20.) Vancouver: GP=72 PTS=74

21.) New Jersey: GP=71 PTS=73

22.) Winnipeg: GP=72 PTS=73

23.) Carolina: GP=71 PTS=71

24.) Nashville: GP=71 PTS=70

25.) Ottawa: GP=70 PTS 69 (1st round pick owned by Anaheim).

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26.) Calgary: GP=71 PTS=65

27.) NYI: GP=71 PTS=63

28.) Florida: GP=71 PTS=60

29.) Edmonton: GP=72 PTS=59

30.) Buffalo: GP=70 PTS=48

I've divided these teams into 3 groups. These groups represent the range in where I believe these teams will finish overall by the end of the year.

Looking specifically at the Canucks, I believe they will finish somewhere in the 20-25th range, which would land us the 6-11th overall pick. To make a more educated guess on where the Canucks will finish, let's examine the quality of competition for all the teams in our group (20-25).

Vancouver(20th) plays: Buffalo(30th), Minnesota(12th), Colorado X2(7th), Anaheim X2(4th), NYR(13th), L.A.(8th), Calgary(26th), Edmonton(29th). I predict they finish 4-4-2 leaving them with 84 points.

New Jersey(21st) plays: Toronto(14th), Phoenix(16th), NYI X2 (27th), Florida(28th), Buffalo(30th), Washington(17th), Carolina(23rd) Calgary(26th), Ottawa(25th), Boston(1st). I predict they finish 6-3-2 leaving them with 87 points.

Winnipeg(22nd) plays: Dallas(19th), San Jose(3rd), L.A.(8th), Anaheim(4th), Phoenix(16th), Pittsburgh(5th), Toronto(14th), Minnesota(12th), Boston(1st), Calgary(26th). I predict they will finish 3-5-2 leaving them with 81 points.

Carolina(23rd) plays: NYI(27th), Florida(28th), Columbus(18th), Ottawa(25th), Pittsburgh(5th), Dallas(19th), New Jersey(21st), NYR(13th), Washington(17th), Detroit(15th), Philadelphia(11th). I predict they will finish 3-6-2 leaving them with 79 points.

Nashville(24th) plays: Chicago X2(6th), Colorado(7th), Buffalo(30th), Dallas X2(19th), Washington(17th), Anaheim(4th), San Jose(3rd), Phoenix(16th), Minnesota(12th). I predict they will finish 4-4-3 leaving them with 81 points.

Ottawa(25th) plays: Tampa Bay(9th), Florida(28th), Chicago(6th), Calgary(26th), Carolina(23rd), Montreal(10th), NYI X2(27th), NYR(13th), New Jersey(21st), Toronto(14th), Pittsburgh(5th). I predict they will finish 2-5-5 leaving them with 78 points.

Therefore, our bracket by the end of the season will likely look something like this:

20.) New Jersey: GP=82 PTS=87

21.) Vancouver: GP=82 PTS=84

22.) Winnipeg: GP=82 PTS=81

23.) Nashville: GP=82 PTS=81

24.) Carolina: GP=82 PTS=79

25.) Ottawa: GP=82 PTS 78

NOT taking draft lottery into account, the Canucks would finish with the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

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So lets take a look at the top 15 prospects in this years draft class (data based on mock drafts, pre-draft rankings, etc. Rankings are my interpretation of the data. Sources provided at the bottom):

#1- Aaron Ekblad

#2- Sam Reinhart

#3- Sam Bennett

#4- Michael Del Colle

#5- Leon Draisaitl

#6- Brendan Perlini

#7- William Nylander

#8- Nikolaj Ehlers

#9- Haydn Fleury

#10- Jake Virtanen

#11- Nick Ritchie

#12- Kasperi Kapanen

#13- Jared McCann

#14- Alex Tuch

#15- Joshua Ho-Sang

http://www.mynhldraft.com/2014-nhl-draft-prospect-rankings/

Outside of the top-5 prospects, there are no real guaranteed stars. However, you have many big bodies with skill (Perlini, Ritchie, etc.), some gritty snipers (Virtanen, McCann), and some riskier players with high-end skill (Nylander, Ehlers, Ho-Sang).

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Finally, it's time for my NHL 2014 Mock Entry Draft. Since this article has a greater focus on the Canucks, I will only be going through the first 15 selections. The draft lottery will not be taken into account, and I will give a brief analysis for each pick (best player available, team needs, etc.).

#1- The Buffalo Sabres draft Sam Reinhart. Although they have many centers in their organization, many of them such as Grigerenko and Ennis can play wing. They pass up on Myers because they believe that Myers can still develop to be that big franchise d man.

#2- The Edmonton Oilers draft Aaron Ekblad. Finally, the Oilers luck out and grab the big, two-way defender. This guy is a complete d man, and will help the Oilers both now and in the future. Ekblad, Nurse, Schultz, and Klefbom should develop into a nice top-4 for the Oilers to complement their abundance of skilled forwards.

#3- The Florida Panthers draft Sam Bennett. You want versatility? Then you draft Bennett. He's probably the most complete player in the draft, and can play both wing and center. He will provide solid offensive production for the Panthers as well as play well in the defensive end. He is most definitely NHL ready.

#4- The New York Islanders draft Michael Del Colle. Now this could be scary. You put someone as big and skilled as Del Colle is alongside someone with the creativity of Tavares, and you could have the next deadliest duo in the NHL.

#5- The Calgary Flames draft Leon Draisaitl. Yes, the Flames don't go off the board on this one (for once). Draisaitl by all accounts is an absolute gem. He is strong on the puck, powerful in front of the net, and relentless on the forecheck. He's got great offensive abilities, coupled with a solid two-way game. The future in Calgary is starting to look alright with Monahan, Draisaitl, and Baertschi leading the way offensively.

#6- The Anaheim Ducks (pick from Ottawa) draft William Nylander. While Nylander is a bit of a risk due to his lack of size and his invisibility in the defensive zone, there is no doubt he is one of the most skilled players in this draft. Size matters less if you're fast and shifty, which Nylander is, and defensive awareness can be taught. The Ducks have many sizeable wingers, it's time for them to add a smaller, but more skilled piece.

#7- The Carolina Hurricanes draft Brendan Perlini. Perlini is a solid player with no real flaws in his game. He's big, strong, and can dominate the offensive zone. That being said, he's risen the draft rankings pretty quickly, so be I'd be wary. However, it's hard to pass up on a guy as big and skilled as him, so the Hurricanes grab him to compliment strong playmaking prospect Lindholm. However, Perlini, as with most power forwards, could be a ways away from NHL action. They could work very well together in 2-4 years.

#8- The Nashville Predators draft Kasperi Kapanen. Well, the Predators love their two-way players, and Kapanen is just that. While he might not put up the best offensive numbers in the draft, he is a very reliable player at both ends of the ice. Don't get me wrong, he still will probably be a 50-60 point player in the NHL, just don't expect the 70-80 points you might get out of the previously drafted forwards.

#9- The Winnipeg Jets draft Nick Ritchie. This pick is not at all about picking the best player available, but rather one who fits an organizations needs. Instead of telling you why they do pick Ritchie (I could go on and on about his size and skill), I will tell you why they don't pick alternative players. They pass on Fleury because they are set with young d men, they pass on Virtanen because they have a similar player in Evander Kane, and they pass on Ehjers because they already have a smaller skilled player in Petan. With all this in mind, Ritchie becomes the most sensible player for the Jets to pick, as he has tremendous upside, and size that is needed in the West.

#10- The Vancouver Canucks draft Jake Virtanen. The Canucks get lucky and draft the Vancouver native. Not only is he from B.C., but he's exactly what the Canucks need. He's fast, average-large sized, and skilled. He also probably has a top-3 wrist shot in his draft class, and is a prolific goal scorer, as well as playing with grit. A Canucks future featuring Horvat, Virtanen, Shinkaruk, Kassian, Jensen, and Gaunce/Cassels up from is one I'd love to live in.

#11- The New Jersey Devils draft Alex Tuch. Tuch is another big skilled forward. The Devils usually like to make safer selections, and Tuch would be the perfect choice in this position to take over for Jagr in the future.

#12- The Dallas Stars draft Haydn Fleury. With the dominance of the Stars top line this year, they take the opportunity to bolster their blue line. Fleury is a great two-way d man would should be able to anchor their blue line for years.

#13- The Columbus Bluejackets draft Nikolaj Ehlers. The Danish phenom falls all the way to 13th due to concerns over his size. The Bluejackets are more than happy to take him however, and who could blame them? This kid has amazing hands and speed, and could very well turn out to be the most explosive offensive player in the draft. While he is a bit of a risk, the reward is far worth it.

#14- The Washington Capitals draft Ivan Barbashev. The Capitals go outside of the top-15 (I had him ranked 16th) and grab the Russian Barbashev. Barbashev is the perfect fit in Washinton, as he plays a very complete, physical game, while still being able to provide solid offensive production. One of the best two-way players in the draft, the Caps grab their future 2nd line center, and yet another Russian.

#15- The Phoenix Coyotes draft Jared McCann. The Coyotes choose to take the safer option in McCann over Ho-Sang. McCann, while maybe not possessing the same upside as Ho-Sang, is still a very solid prospect. Phoenix, with so many young d-men in the system, take a solid forward in the 15th slot.

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Finally, let's look at the Canucks future after this draft.

Our young prospects in the system all of sudden (with the last two drafts) look very promising:

Shinkaruk-Horvat-Virtanen

Jensen-Gaunce-Kassian (Jensen plays both wings, can play 1RW)

Archibald-Cassels-Grenier

Corrado-Tanev

Subban-Stanton

Anderson-Tommernes

Our top-6 would be set assuming they pan out, with 2C being our weakest slot. Cassels might be able to help in that regard, as I see him becoming a Higgins type player, while Gaunce as a Stoll type player.

in the next draft, assuming we are not a high pick (for McDavid), we definitely need to focus on grabbing a d man, as while our forwards will be solid, our defensive prospects need bolstering.

Furthermore if we end up trading Kesler or/and Edler at the draft this year I would expect a 1st round pick (15-25th) coming back in any package. If we take Detroit for example, we could get the 16th overall pick and draft someone like McKeown for example, which would help bolster our defensive prospects.

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If you read the entire thing, congratulations and thank you, I know it was a bit of a long read! I appreciate any and all feedback, and also let me know how your 2014 NHL draft would go, and who you have the Canucks picking! Thanks!

Hamhuis2

With only a few months to go before the 2014 Winter Olympics, I'd like to share some of my thoughts about everyone's favourite event...hockey!

(Note, Olympic rosters consist of 25 men, however I only included this number for Canada, as the rest are pretty obsolete).

THE ELITE: These teams have the best chance at medaling, any one of them could win gold.

TEAM CANADA SOCHI 2014 (Projected)

Stamkos-Crosby-St. Louis

Duchene-Tavares-Nash

Perry-Getzlaf-E. Staal

Bergeron-Toews-Couture

(M. Richards, Benn)

Weber-Doughty

Keith-Seabrook

Pietrangelo-Subban

(Hamhuis, Letang)

Luongo

Price

Crawford

To start off with, let's take a look at Canada's potential roster. There are a few notable additions to this team compared to 2010 (Stamkos being the big one), as well as a few big name players that I felt will not be there this time around (Thornton, etc.)

The biggest additions to this new Canadian squad will be adding top sniper Stamkos and the crafty St. Louis to the team. Stamkos, who has developed into one of the deadliest pure scorers in the NHL, is a lock to make this team. So why not play him with the best player in the world? Through in Marty St. Louis, who has continued to prove doubters wrong throughout his career, even at his age, and you have a speedy first line with a lot of fire power.

Rick Nash, if healthy, will also be a lock to make the team. I have him flanking Tavares and Duchene on the 2nd line. Tavares has more than earned his spot, and while his skating isn't the greatest, he is simply too good to leave off this team. Duchene has also earned himself a spot on this team with his great play so far this season, taking what I had early pegged as Claude Giroux's spot.

The 3rd line should look pretty familiar, with a good mix of big, two-way players that should add some bite. These 3 are all returnees.

The 4th line should be the shutdown line for the Canadians. Toews may very well move up the center depth chart, but right now I have him centring Bergeron and Couture. Couture could switch with Mike Richards, as both are very defensively sound, but I started Couture due to him being slightly more mobile.

On defence, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, and Duncan Keith are your 4 locks. I believe the remaining spots are still very much up for grabs. It would not surprise me at all if players were picked based on chemistry from the NHL, such as Bouwmeester(Pietrangelo), Hamhuis(Weber), and Seabrook(Keith). I also believe that only one of Subban and Letang will start in the top-6, however we may both.

In net, reigning gold medal winner Roberto Luongo will start. Carey Price will back him up after starting the season well, and cup winner Corey Crawford narrowly edges out Mike Smith to grab the 3rd and final spot.

Players to watch: Jamie Benn could very well play himself onto the team with a good start this season with Dallas. He's as motivated as anyone after getting the snub for the summer camp. Taylor Hall is another player who could crack the team if he plays at a high level after returning from injury. His speed is a huge asset. You can also never rule out Giroux, although he has started extremely poorly this season. Vlasic has also had a very good start on defence, but I see him as a long shot still. Hamhuis, after starting poorly, is back to his usual self, and depending on how they see him fitting with Weber, still has a decent shot of cracking the top-8. Mike Smith and Jonathan Bernier could also play themselves into contention.

TEAM USA SOCHI 2014 (Projected)

Kane-Kesler-Parise

Ryan-Pavelski-Kessel

VanRiemsdyk-Stepan-Pacioretty

Brown-Backes-Callahan

McDonough-Suter

Shattenkirk-J.Johnson

Yandle-Martin

Quick

Howard

Schneider

The strong first line from 2010 returns in 2014, hungrier than ever to win gold. With Kesler back to playing at a high level, this line looks as solid as ever.

The second line for the States features two goal scoring wingers in Kessel and Ryan, who should be complimented nicely by the playmaking/two-way abilities of Pavelski.

JVR starts on this line, however you may see him with Kessel at times. This line features an underrated playmaker in Stepan playing between two hulking beasts. This line should be money near the net.

The final line for the USA is a killer for any team they have to play. Featuring 3 captains, and 3 of the grittiest players in the NHL, this line will wear teams down and will be down right hard to play against. Their effectiveness may be slightly less on Olympic sized ice than it would be at home, but they still will provide to be a pain in the butt for other teams.

On d, we have McDonough and Suter forming the top pairing. These two are by far their two most complete d men, and should be one of the top shutdown pairs in the tourney.

The second pairing features two more offensive minded players, however they both are pretty decent in their own end, and their mobility should help them on the big ice.

The final pairing is a classic pairing of an offensive d man with a defensive d man. Mobility seems to be a trend on the US blue line, and again, both guys are talented skaters.

In net, the big story is that Ryan Miller will not return after an MVP performance in 2010. Jonathan Quick is the obvious choice for #1, while Howard has played well the last few years and has earned the job as back up. Schneider will start as 3rd string in order to build his experience for 2018, when he should have a bigger role at the age of 31.

Players to watch: Paul Statsny could play himself onto the team. He was good in 2010, and has started this season very well. On defence, a player like Byfuglien could have a shot, despite his mobility issues on big ice. Seth Jones might also get a look as a depth guy for experience. In net, Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson could easily battle their way into the top-3.

TEAM SWEDEN SOCHI 2014 (Projected)

D.Sedin-H.Sedin-Erikkson

Zetterberg-Backstrom-Landeskog

Hornqvist-Berglund-Steen

Alfredsson(not invited)-Johansson-Franzen

Karlsson-Kronwall

Ekman-Larsson-Hedman

Edler-Hjalmarsson

Lunqvist

Fasth

Gustavsson

The Swedes boast an elite top line with some of the best puck possession players on the planet.

Their second line is a good mix of scoring, playmaking, and two-way play.

The third line is a very good two-way line, a mix of under the radar players. This line could be deadly , and it wouldn't surprise me if it became one of the top lines in the tourney.

With is play early this season, I can't see the Swedes leaving Alfie off of their roster. (Although since they left him off the summer roster, they may want to pass the torch), he's just been too good to leave off. Throw in a good young center and the Mule, and you got a pretty good line.

The Swedish defence is an incredibly skilled, young, and mobile group. Karlsson and Kronwall should form a great top pairing, as their styles seem to be perfect complements.

OEL and Hedman are very similar to the top pairing, however slightly less skilled in their respective attributes.

The third pairing, like all of Sweden's pairings, also features one mainly offensive guy paired with a shutdown d man.

In net, they don't have much depth behind Lunqvist, but when you're as good as the King, they shouldn't need it. Although Lunqvist started the year slow, he has been improving with every game and is still very much an elite goaltender.

Players to watch: Up front, look for Hagelin to make a push. On D, they Swedes have a multitude of options, including players such an Enstrom and Brodin. In net, Enroth may push for the press box job.

TEAM RUSSIA SOCHI 2014 (Projected)

Kovalchuk-Datsyuk-Ovechkin

Semin-Malkin-Radulov

Tarasenko-Anisimov-Yakupov

Kulemin-Kokrev-Kuznetzov

Markov-Emelin

Voynov-Tyutin

Gonchar-Volchekov

Bobrovsky

Nabokov

Varlamov

What can you say about the Russians? On paper, their elite level skill is rivalled only by the Canadians. Their top line is absolutely dynamite, and should get them a lot of goals, assuming Kovalchuk has stayed in shape!

Their second line is nothing to scoff at either. Semin has improved his defensive game, and he is no longer completely useless in that regard. He is also still amazing offensively. Malkin is a world class player, and add Radulov in the mix, and this line has a lot of firepower as well.

Their third line is a trio of young players. These guys could be the future of Russian hockey, and all have great speed and strength.

The fourth line is an interesting mix of guys, but there is no doubt that, like all of the Russian lines, their is goal scoring potential here as well.

On defence, while there are no elite names, there are some solid options. Markov we be the leader back there, and Emelin should provide some much needed defensive stability.

Voynov has really taken some big strides the past few years as well, and playing him with a solid guy in Tyutin should help him.

The final pairing may be old, but their is still some gas left in the tank for these veterans. They seem to have complementary playing styles.

In net, they've got two young guys and a vet in Nabakov. Although Bobrovsky played very well last year, there goaltending is still a question mark.

Players to watch: Up front, we could see a few players from the KHL fill some spots. Same goes for the defence. In net, it would not surprise me to see Bryzgalov suit up, depending on how soon he gets into competitive play and what goes on with Varlamov.

THE REST OF THE BEST: I won't say too much on these next few teams, I believe that they do have a chance at medaling, however I would say they are more unlikely than the elite teams.

TEAM FINLAND SOCHI 2014 (Projected)

Selanne-M. Koivu-O. Jokinen

Grandlund-S. Koivu-Filpula

J. Jokinen-Rutuu-Korpikovski

Bergenheim-Barkov-Leino

Salo-Timonen

Pitkenen-Lydman

Lepitso-Vaananen

Rinne

Rask

Niemi

Finland has a good group of forwards, with no real elite players but tons of depth. You could see some younger players fill some of the veterans shoes. They are a bit shaky on defence, but appear to have a decent (if not ancient) top-4. In net, they are probably the best team in the world.

TEAM SLOVAKIA SOCHI 2014 (Projected)

Gaborik-Kopecky-Marian Hossa

Satan-Handzus-Tatar

Palffy-Stumpel-Panik

Marcel Hossa-Danao-Radivojevic

Chara-Visnovsky

Meszaros-Sekera

Jurcina-Baranka

Halak

Budaj

Janus

The Slovaks are an interesting team. They have some very high end forwards, but virtually no skilled depth that they can rely on. On defence, they actually have a solid top-4 although the skill level really drops off on the bottom pairing. Any d with Chara will be pretty decent. In net, Halak can be inconsistent at times, but overall he is a good goaltender.

TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC SOCHI 2014 (Projected)

Jagr-Krejci-Elias

Vrbrata-Plekanec-Voracek

Fleischmann-Hudler-M.Michalek

Erat-Hanzal-Hertl

Z.Michalek-Zidlicky

Hedja-Klesla

Polak-Kindl

Vokoun

Pavelec

Neuvirth

The Czechs are another very good team that could fly under the radar in these Olympics. Although I put them in the 2nd tier, I would say that they could find themselves into the Elite group before long. They have a very deep group of skilled forwards, a good mix of younger players and vets. On defence, all of their guys are NHL caliber d men, which is more than can be said for a number of teams. In net, they have three guys who all can be very good, but all suffer from inconstant play.

NOTE: SWITZERLAND should be included in the 2nd tier teams, although I omitted them as a feel I don't have enough knowledge on their players to write a proper article judging them.

Final thoughts: Their are a lot of skilled teams competing in these Olympics, and no doubt the style of play will be different due to the larger ice surface. While Canada has the best overall team, I feel that the Russians have the best pure skill, while the United States will have the hardest working team/grittiest team. Sweden should also boast the most mobile, and most offensive blue line in the tournament.

My picks for the medals are: Gold-Canada, Silver-Sweden Bronze-Russia

I feel that although Canada has not had much success on large ice in the past, they have a good mix of players who can out skill you, out score you, and shut you down. They're just too good overall. Sweden also has a good "overall" team. While they might not be the "best" at any one thing, they are elite in all aspects. Their skating, particularly at the backend, as well as their goaltending, should help them make the finals this time around. Finally, I have the Russians beating out the United States for the Bronze. At home, the Russians should be motivated, and although I feel that their backend and goaltending are not strong enough to make the finals, their offensive fire power will carry them to a medal.

Teams such as Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Switzerland are also very strong teams, and could end up challenging for medals as well.

I hope you guys enjoyed the read, even though it was pretty lengthy. This is my first blog entry, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated! I hope to add some more entries closer to the Olympics, when the final rosters are released, so stay tuned for those. Thanks, -H2

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