Author Archives: Raymond Harrison

The Madness of March 15th: Game-by-Game Recaps from the First Day of Tournament Action

The most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived for sport fans alike. The Madness officially began yesterday and it did not disappoint. In this quick piece I’ll go over the outcome of every game, some of the top performers, and the many reactions on social media. Without further ado, lets jump right in.

10Oklahoma Sooners 78 – 7Rhode Island Rams 83 (OT)

The first game of the day was a nail-biter to the very end. E.C Matthews buried a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in overtime to put the Rams up 5 and they never looked back. Rhode Island shot a cool 39% from deep (11/28) on the afternoon and had 4 different players with double digit scoring totals. Trae Young, the nation’s leading scorer, led the way for the Sooners with 28 points but Rhode Island’s guards pestered him all game forcing Young into 6 sloppy turnovers. This loss marks the 13th defeat in the past 17 games for the Sooners while the Rams have won a March Madness game for the second straight year.

14Wright State Raiders 473Tennessee Volunteers 73 

More like Wrong State, haha, why is nobody laughing? This was the most lopsided game of the day by far. Regardless, this was the most successful season the Raiders have ever had in D1 but they were no match for the high-powered Tennessee team. Lamonte Turner poured in 19 points and dished 9 assists to pace the way for the Volunteers.

13NC-Greensboro Spartans 644Gonzaga Bulldogs 68

This game had legitimate “busted bracket” potential for a while. The score was tied 64-64 before Zach Norvell Jr. drained a go-ahead 3 with just 20.8 left on the clock. The Zags have been labelled as a trendy sleeper pick by some pundits so a loss here would have been an epic disaster. Jonathan Williams was the offensive catalyst for Gonzaga putting up 19 points and 13 boards in a winning effort. The scrappy Spartans held the 9th best offense in the country to just 68 points but they could not close down the stretch.

16Pennsylvania Quakers 601Kansas Jayhawks 76

History was not made on Thursday as it was business as usual in the 1 v. 16 matchup. The Jayhawks faced a 10 point deficit early in the first half but once they grabbed the lead they never surrendered it. Devonte Graham, the Big 12 player of the year, was a beast in this one dropping 29 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists for Kansas. Shockingly, the Kansas starters were responsible for 72 of the 76 points scored in this one which means bench play has to be a cause for concern for the rest of the tournament.

15Iona Gaels 672Duke Blue Devils 89

Another game that was never particularly close. The Blue Devils come into the tournament as one of the odds-on favourites to cut down the nets and they looked like worthy competitors in this match-up. Freshman Marvin Bagley III was his exceptional self with 22 points (on 71% shooting) and 7 rebounds in this one. Grayson Allen (16 points, 9 assists) also successfully managed to have social media talking about his performance instead of a dirty play. This was a good first step for a team looking at much bigger things.

11Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 646Miami Hurricanes 62

This game was a perfect example for why the tournament is called March Madness. After Lonnie Walker IV missed a free throw with 9 seconds left, the Ramblers’ Donte Ingram buried a deep 3 at the buzzer to push Loyola-Chicago onwards. This was their first tournament appearance in 33 years and they did not disappoint as that finish will be etched in the minds of fans for years to come. The end of this game was a bigger adrenaline rush than seeing those three dots pop up after you sent the “you up?” text at 2 A.M.

12South Dakota State Jackrabbits 735Ohio State Buckeyes 81

The upset that never was. Despite the best efforts of Mike Daum (27 points, 6 rebounds) the Buckeyes were too much for South Dakota to handle. The Buckeyes launched a ridiculous 40 3-balls in this contest and had 3 players that topped the 20 point plateau. Keita Bates-Diop had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the 5th seeded Buckeyes who now get to face Gonzaga in the round of 32.

9North Carolina State Wolfpack 838Seton Hall Pirates 94

There were 66 total free throws taken in this high-scoring affair. Khadeen Carrington put up 26 points for the Pirates while Desi Rodriguez also chipped in 20 off of the bench. The game’s leading scorer was Allerik Freeman from NC State who had 36 points and was 6/8 from deep. Seton Hall led wire-to-wire and were able to withstand any runs the Wolfpack had in them. Their formula for success was ball security (only 7 turnovers) and efficiency at the free throw line (31/39).

16Radford Highlanders 611Villanova Wildcats 87

This was basically a shootaround for the top scoring offense in the nation. Villanova dominated this matchup start to finish and shot a ridiculous 59.6% from the field. Every one of the Wildcats starters hit double digits in points as Jalen Brunson led the charge with 16. A dominant debut for one of the favourites in the tournament.

12Davidson Wildcats 735Kentucky Wildcats 78

Wildcat-ception saw Kentucky fail to score a 3-pointer in a game for the first time since 1988, but they still managed to pull out the W. The boys in blue dominated the foul line (26/32 compared to Davidson’s 14/17) which was the biggest difference in an otherwise tight game. Kevin Knox was the game’s leading scorer registering 25 points on the stat sheet while Jon Axel Gudmundsson was Davidson’s top threat with 21 points. Davidson has not won a tournament game since the 2008 Steph Curry run.

14Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 603Texas Tech Raiders 70

This is the first tournament win for Texas Tech since 2005 and they did it mainly on the back of senior guard Keenan Evans. He had 23 points for the Raiders and has seemingly been flying under the radar compared to other star players in the field. The Lumberjacks kept the game close for the majority of the contest but were simply outmatched by the guard play of the Raiders.

11San Diego State Aztecs 656Houston Cougars 67

Rob Gray was arguably the best player on any court during Thursday’s matchups as the senior guard put up 39 points to propel the Cougars to their first tournament win since 1984. Gray laid in the go-ahead bucket with just 1.1 seconds left in the game while San Diego’s buzzer beater heave would not go. If Gray keeps this up for the rest of the tournament the Cougars may be that annual lower seed that sneaks their way into the Elite 8.

9Alabama Crimson Tide 868Virginia Tech Hokies 83

Freshman point guard Collin Sexton was the player of the game for the Crimson Tide in this contest. Down 43-41 at half, Sexton scored 21 of his 25 points in the second stanza to will Alabama to a victory. This game saw 10 lead changes but Alabama was able to roll with the punches before pulling away late. It was another unfortunate loss for Virginia Tech who now only have one tournament win since 1997.

13Buffalo Bulls 894Arizona Wildcats 68

This game didn’t just bust my bracket, it eviscerated it. The Bulls were able to hound Arizona’s bigs all game long while handily winning the 3-ball battle (Bulls were 15/30, Arizona 2/18). This was a colossal failure for Arizona who was pegged as a legitimate Elite 8 contender in large part due to the presence of star freshman Deandre Ayton. He still had 14 points and 13 boards in the loss but the Bulls stingy defense really kept him under wraps. The defensive side of the ball was the biggest difference of the game as Arizona looked absolutely lost on D against the speedy Bulls squad. The Buffalo backcourt dominated with Wes Clark and Jeremy Harris chipping in 25, and 23 points respectively.

11St. Bonaventure Bonnies 626Florida Gators 77

Egor Koulechov, who sounds more like a KGB sleeper agent than a college basketball player, was the focal point of the Gators offense on Thursday night. The lanky Russian import led the game with 20 points on 8/17 shooting. The Bonnies just could not hang in the second half but they should be proud of what they accomplished this season nonetheless. It was the defense that really did it for the Gators as they had 11 steals and forced 18 Bonnies turnovers.

14Montana Grizzlies 473Michigan Wolverines 61

It is unfortunate that this was the last game of the day because I have a feeling it put many viewers to sleep. The Big-10 Champions are able to say they moved on although the win failed to inspire much confidence offensively. Charles Matthews was the hero for the Wolverines as he dropped 12 of his 20 points in the first half while the game was very much up for grabs. The Grizzlies simply just fell apart in the second half getting outscored 30-19 and shooting a paltry 25% from the field (7/28). The Wolverines were one of the hottest team’s coming into the tournament and they managed to survive a poor start to this game. They need to be better against Houston in the next round.

Bench Life NHL Trade Tracker

The trade deadline is one of the most entertaining facets of an NHL season. Keeping up with the deadline almost feels like a full-time job when dealing with rampant speculation and a dizzying amount of deals. For this reason, I will do my best to keep you all informed throughout the week ahead and continue to update this article with insight and analysis on every trade made between now and the deadline at 3 P.M. on February 26th.

February 26th – Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay for Vladislav Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, a 2018 1st round pick, and a conditional 2019 2nd round pick.

Oh boy. The biggest trade of the day was also the last to break and Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls should be shaking in their skates (particularly Boston and Toronto). Steve Yzerman has shown in years past that he is more willing to make a deal than Wayne Brady and he has now made Tampa the heavy favourite to win their second Cup in franchise history. McDonagh has been one of the best defensemen in the league since he broke in during the 2010-11 season. He is a model of consistency on the blueline and gives Tampa a top-four defense core that is perhaps only rivaled by Nashville. Likewise, J.T. Miller is probably salivating at the thought of playing with the elite offensive talent Tampa possesses. Miller is an RFA at the end of the season, has 40 points through 63 games this season, and will be able to replace Namestnikov’s production. Tampa was already considered to be the best team in the league by many analysts and this only further enhances that thought. Considering the fact that McDonagh has another year left on his contract at $4.7 million the Lightning have more pressure than anybody to lift Lord Stanley’s Chalice in the next two seasons.

It is always hard to be deemed a ‘winner’ when you trade away a player of McDonagh’s caliber but I think the Rangers would have been hard pressed to get a better return. Namestnikov is the known commodity and he is currently in the midst of a career season (20 goals and 24 assists in 62 games). While some of the production can be attributed to playing a majority of the year with Stamkos and Kucherov there is no denying the offensive capabilities of the smooth-skating Russian. The only issue with Vladdy is that he will be a RFA at the culmination of the season and is looking forward to a hefty payday. The Rangers are going to be the Lightning’s biggest fan over the next two years because the conditional 2nd rounder becomes a 1st if Tampa lifts hockey’s holy grail before the 2019 draft. The biggest pieces of this deal, and the ones that will go on to prove whether or not this was an astute move when we reflect on it, are Howden and Hajek. Howden is a former 27th overall pick who won gold with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship this year. He has put up 139 points in 96 games over the past two seasons with Moose Jaw in the WHL. He checks in at an imposing 6’2, 194 lbs and instantly joins Lias Andersson at the top of the Rangers forward prospects. Hajek is also in the WHL posting 35 points in 52 games on the back end. He projects to be a shutdown defenseman at the next level with decent mobility and high IQ. Hajek was arguably the biggest piece for the Rangers and adding Lindgren and Hajek to their stable of defense prospects over the past week is a massive coup for the retooling Rags. Again, to reiterate what I said previously, I think the Rangers got the absolute best deal that they could. Jeff Gorton came into the deadline with a clear goal in mind and he did what was best for the franchise. Two teams with two very different mindsets should both be happy with what they accomplished today.

Winner: Obviously, Tampa Bay will reap the benefits in the present but deals like this are impossible to decipher until the exchanged picks and prospects reach the show; however, Tampa will be a big loser if they do not pull through with a Stanley Cup victory.

February 26th – Tomas Tatar to Las Vegas for a 2018 1st round pick, a 2019 2nd round pick, and a 2021 3rd round pick.

One of the biggest trades of the day involved the Red Wings but it was not Mike Green who was on the move. As a Red Wings fan I will speak to how much I love Tomas Tatar. This was his 7th year with the franchise and he was a pleasure to watch the entire time. He is entertaining and dangerous night in, night out, and I think he will fit in fantastic with that Vegas top-six. Tatar is a perennial 20-25 goal scorer and with 16 tallies so far this season it seems likely he’ll reach that mark again. There were whispers about a Tatar trade the past week but it never seemed like it was a guarantee to happen. Vegas has been the best story in the league the entire season and it is admirable that they are cashing in their chips to chase a Stanley Cup. If he plays on that top unit with Karlsson and Marchessault I would pick-up Tatar in fantasy league’s faster than a Tyler Seguin shotgun.

Ken Holland is in a position he has not been accustomed to for the past decade but I think he hit a home-run with this deal. Not only did the Red Wings continue to stock the cupboard with three more upper round draft picks, but they also made the trade without retaining any of Tatar’s $5.3 million salary (which doesn’t expire until 2021-22). As productive as Tats has been with the Wings, a realist would be able to see that those years would be wasted on a bad Detroit team so getting this kind of value is a definite win. I tip my hat to Ken Holland because normally I’m berating every single transaction he makes; however, the only unfortunate thing is that this deal may be enough for Ol’ Kenny to get a contract extension this summer. Regardless, the Red Wings now have seven (assuming Mrazek wins three more games) of the first ninety-three picks in the upcoming draft.

Winner: My sanity for sure.. but I honestly may lean Detroit even though I think Tatar will be awesome in Nevada.

February 26th – Pat Maroon to New Jersey from Edmonton for a 2019 3rd round pick and J.D. Dudek.

After adding Grabner earlier in the week the Devils are doubling down on their surprising playoff position. With possible Hart candidate Taylor Hall leading the charge the Devils are bolstering their forward core around him. Maroon brings a valued net-front presence and physical element to the team and has enjoyed another productive year with the Oilers tallying 14 goals and 16 assists in 57 games. He projects to slot in somewhere in the top-nine. Dudek is an afterthought in this deal. He is a former 6th round pick that has recorded 17 points in 33 games at Boston College. The Oilers did what they could to recoup some value for the pending free agent and a summertime reunion is not out of the question; however, I think Shero has made two fantastic deals to help the Devils late season push.

Winner: New Jersey.

February 26th – Mike Reilly to Montreal from Minnesota for a 2019 5th round pick.

Strange that the Habs moved Morrow only to bring in Reilly when the two seem fairly interchangeable. Reilly has 18 points in 38 games with the Wild this season and is a year younger than the aforementioned Morrow. Reilly also has an extra year on his deal while Morrow’s expires at the end of this season. Low risk move for the Habs with the ability to flip Reilly next year if so inclined.

Winner: Montreal.

February 26th – Nick Shore to Calgary from Ottawa for a 2019 7th round pick.

Depth is the word of the day. Ottawa flips part of the Phaneuf trade for a late round pick while Calgary gets another body to assist in the playoff push.

Winner: Alex Burrows because this means he’ll probably get called back up.

February 26th – Joe Morrow to Winnipeg from Montreal for a 2018 4th round pick.

Winnipeg continues their successful deadline by adding a depth piece on the blueline. The former 23rd overall pick has played 38 games for the Habs this season with mixed returns. Morrow gives the Jets some versatility come playoff time and Montreal did well to get an asset in return.

Winner: The Winnipeg press box, who will become very familiar with Morrow for the rest of the season.

February 26th – Josh Jooris to Pittsburgh from Carolina for Greg McKegg.

I would rather spend an entire week attached at the hip to Pierre McGuire than report on this trade.

Winner: Absolutely no one.

February 26th – Thomas Vanek to Columbus from Vancouver for Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen.

Another trade deadline, another Vanek deal. This season the 34-year-old Austrian winger has done what he always does: sign a one-year contract and produce at a decent level. The equivalent to an NHL escort has 41 points in 61 games this season and the Blue Jackets bit on bringing him in. Last year he was traded from Detroit to Florida at the deadline and was absolutely miserable with the Panthers. Columbus is hoping that trend will be bucked this year. Vancouver really received nothing exciting in return as Motte has never been able to produce at an NHL level. I have to think a 3rd round pick would have been just as good from the Canucks perspective.

Winner: Columbus.

February 26th – Evander Kane to San Jose from Buffalo for a conditional 2019 1st round pick, Dan O’Regan, and a conditional 2020 4th round pick.

The Sharks have struggled to score all season long mainly due to injuries to Thornton and Hertl. They currently sit second in the Pacific Division but with Anaheim and Calgary breathing down their neck they felt obligated to make a splash. Kane has 20 goals this season and plays a physical brand of hockey that should bode well in the Western Conference. I think the Sharks felt that younger players like Meier and Labanc could makeup for the loss of Patrick Marleau but that clearly has not been the case. Kane is an upcoming free agent and could be in for a massive payday if he thrives with the Sharks. For the Sabres, Dan O’Regan actually played with Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues at Boston University. The unfortunate thing is that O’Regan is 24 and has failed to establish himself as a full-time NHLer. Personally, I would be a little disappointed as a Sabres fan for not receiving a younger prospect in return for one of the better rental wingers on the market. He was the rookie of the year in the AHL during the 2016-17 season so one must hope his career does not plateau. It is expected that the 1st round pick is lottery protected and the 4th round pick hinges on whether or not Kane re-signs in San Jose but all in all I am surprised Buffalo did not get more.

Winner: San Jose, and Mike Commodore for predicting this last night.

February 26th – Chris Wagner to New York Islanders from Anaheim Ducks for Jason Chimera. 

A swap of fourth line players on expiring contracts. Isles save around $1.5 million in cap space for the rest of the season perhaps suggesting another move. Wagner is 12 years younger than the veteran Chimera but neither of them have much in the way of offensive ability. A slight financial upgrade for the Islanders.

Winner: New York Islanders.

February 26th – Jordan Maletta to Arizona from Columbus for Ryan Kujawinski.

If you told me you know either of these players before this trade than you are a pathological liar. They are both 22-year-old centers and they have combined for a total of 8 points in 52 AHL games this season. The excitement is palpable.

Winner: EA Sports NHL 18 for creating these players.

February 26th – Brendan Leipsic to Vancouver from Vegas for Philip Holm.

The darling of the AHL is making his way to British Columbia. After scorching the minors with the Marlies the past two seasons (105 points in 111 games) a lot of hockey pundits felt that Leipsic would be an offensive threat in Vegas. While that hasn’t panned out (only 13 points in 44 games) his tantalizing skill has not been used in a scoring role with the Golden Knights. If the Canucks put him on a line with Boeser and Horvat I would be very excited to see what the 23-year-old can accomplish. He has a pest mentality that the Canucks have not seen since the likes of Maxim Lapierre. As for Philip Holm, he is a physical defenseman with a good first pass that is three years older than Leipsic. He had his first taste of the NHL last week against the Golden Knights and is having a solid season in Utica (29 points in 42 games). Both teams felt like they were dealing from a position of strength but I like the Canucks gamble of Leipsic breaking out in Vancouver.

Winner: Vancouver.



February 26th – Paul Stastny (STL retains 50% of salary) to Winnipeg from St. Louis for a 2018 1st round pick, a conditional 2020 4th round pick, and Erik Foley.

After swinging and missing on Brassard and Letestu the Jets grabbed Stastny, a player who nobody really thought was going to be moved today. Stastny solidifies the Jets down the middle and it is hard to argue against them having the best top-nine in the West. He has 40 points in 63 games and has been a consistent two-way presence over the course of his career. Stastny is used to playing with skilled players and the Jets have an abundance of talent up front. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is normally quite reserved on the trade front but this shows the league that the Jets are all in for a cup run. In return St. Louis, who has completely bottomed out over the past month, grabs Foley, a talented young winger playing for Providence in the NCAA. Foley has recorded 34 points in 32 games this season and has continued to get better with each passing year. At the start of the season the Blues looked like one of the best teams in the West and now they are trading off pending free agents. I like the return for the Blues but I think Stastny is a fantastic fit in Winipeg.

Winner: Winnipeg.


February 26th – Ryan Hartman and a 5th round pick to Nashville from Chicago for a 2018 1st round pick, a 4th round pick in 2018, and Victor Ejdsell.

Things are now starting to heat up as Nashville acquires the middle-six winger they were looking for. The pugnacious Hartman has 25 points in 57 games this season and offers a perfect combination of grit and skill that is well suited for playoff hockey. Hartman is only 23 and is a restricted free agent at season’s end. While I expected Chicago to shake things up I must say I am surprised they moved on from Hartman. Ejdsell was an undrafted free agent signing from Sweden and is putting together a good season in the SHL with 30 points in 44 games. The center stands at 6’4 and is a decent add to the organization’s prospect pipeline. Likewise, a first round pick (even though it will probably be 25th+ overall) is a solid get for the ‘Hawks. In what has been a disappointing year for Chicago this looks like great value for a rental.

Winner: Chicago.

February 26th – Ian Cole to Columbus from Ottawa for a 2020 3rd round pick and Nick Moutrey.

The first trade of the day follows the cookie cutter formula for depth defensemen. Ottawa flips Cole after acquiring him three days ago and get a future 3rd rounder and a middling forward prospect in the process. Moutrey, a former 4th round pick, only has 6 points in 22 games for Cleveland in the AHL this season. The Blue Jackets add Cole to an already stingy defense core and one has to wonder whether or not this trade was Jack Johnson insurance. Cole was an integral part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back cup wins and has 13 points in 47 games this season.

Winner: Columbus.

February 25th – Brandon Bollig and Tony Grosenick to Nashville from San Jose for 2018 6th round pick.

This trade is about as exciting as the waiting room in a dental office. Nashville gets a gritty fringe forward and an AHL goalie. San Jose gets to say they did something.

Winner: Brandon Bollig because he might get his second Stanley Cup ring.

February 25th – Pontus Aberg to Edmonton. A 2018 4th round pick to Nashville. Mark Letestu to Columbus.

Another three team trade occurred on Sunday with the Oilers trading Letestu to the Predators before they promptly flipped him to Columbus. The Oilers must be excited to bring Aberg into the fold. He has had a disappointing year offensively with only 8 points in 37 games this season but he was electric in Nashville’s Stanley Cup run last spring. Aberg is lightning quick and definitely has some upside for a team that is weak on the wing. Columbus gains a familiar face in Letestu who has played 233 games for the franchise and will likely become their 4th line center. Letestu is a strong penalty killer and seems to command a great deal of respect in the locker room.

From Nashville’s perspective, Aberg just couldn’t crack the lineup on a regular basis. They figured they may as well get some sort of value for the speedy forward. I also saw Nick Cotsonika speculate on whether Nashville grabbed and flipped Letestu to keep him away from division rival Winnipeg.

Winner: Peter Chiarelli for making a trade that doesn’t burn Twitter to the ground.

February 25th – Tomas Plekanec (MTL retains 50% of salary) and Kyle Baun to Toronto from Montreal for Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev, and a 2018 2nd round pick.

I’m honestly a bit surprised Montreal received this much for a guy who plays in a turtleneck. Rychel and Valiev are both fringe NHLers at this point but the latter has been having a fantastic season on defense for the Marlies in the AHL. They are both young but it became apparent their futures were not in Toronto. As for the Leafs, this trade is reminiscent of the Brian Boyle deal they made at last year’s deadline. They get deeper down the middle with a veteran 4th line center who has playoff experience and can help out on the penalty kill. A low risk move for the Leafs that shores up what was perhaps the only hole in their forward core. With Matthews/Kadri/Bozak/Plekanec at center ice perhaps only the mighty Penguins have better depth.

Winner: Toronto.

February 25th – Rick Nash (NYR retains 50% of salary) to Boston from New York Rangers for Matt Beleskey (BOS retains 50% of salary), Ryan Spooner, Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 1st round pick, and a 2019 7th round pick.

One of the biggest names on the free agent market is shipping up to Boston for a Stanley Cup run. The Bruins received the top-six winger they desired and are hoping Nash can rediscover the scoring touch that made him one of the game’s most feared snipers. The 33-year-old Nash has definitely lost a step with only 28 points in 61 games this year but perhaps he can find some chemistry with David Krejci on the second line. It is a steep price to pay for an aging rental but the Bruins could afford to do it with their deep prospect pool; however, this trade could look really ugly if Nash underperforms during the playoffs (which he tends to do).

On the other side New York received a solid haul in return for the big winger as they continue to clean house and stockpile assets. Beleskey was involved to clear cap space for the Bruins and he will probably be flipped to another team at tomorrow’s deadline. Lindgren is a left-handed defenseman currently playing at Minnesota in the NCAA. He was the Bruins 2nd round pick in 2016 and plays a smart, physical game. The most interesting player in the deal is Ryan Spooner, who has actually out produced Nash on a point per game basis the past three seasons. Spooner only has a year left on his deal and at 26 he has the potential to elevate his game even further. He was consistently inconsistent in Boston, which is why they included him in the deal, but the talent is evident. GM Jeff Norton has done a fantastic job acquiring useful assets over the past few days.

Winner: Rangers.


February 24th – Brandon Davidson to New York Islanders from Edmonton for 2019 3rd round pick.

The price for depth defensemen this year has clearly been set at a 3rd round pick. The Islanders are hoping Davidson can help shore up the worst defensive unit in the league as the Isles have allowed an astronomic 223 goals this season. The 6’2 rearguard has 5 points in 36 games this season. The Oilers recouped decent value for Davidson as they grabbed him off waivers earlier this year from Montreal.

Winner: Edmonton.

February 23rd – Derick Brassard (VGK retains 40% of salary), Vince Dunn, Tobias Lindberg, and a 2018 3rd round pick to Pittsburgh. Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, a 2018 1st round pick, and a 2019 3rd round pick to Ottawa. Ryan Reaves and a 2018 4th round pick to Vegas.

Twitter was in a state of confusion after the original deal was rejected by the NHL yesterday afternoon. Due to salary cap implications a third team had to get involved in the trade and Vegas fit the bill perfectly. The Knights retained 40% of Brassard’s $5 million salary and received Reaves and a pick in return. The abrasive Reaves gives the Knights a physical presence who can slot in on the fourth line during a nasty playoff series. We will always remember the Brassard era in Las Vegas.

Furthermore, The Penguins are poised to make the three-peat a reality as this trade gives them incredible depth down the middle. Eastern Conference defensemen are more terrified than Dustin Byfuglien in the vegan section as the Pens now have Crosby, Malkin/Hornqvist, and Brassard/Kessel playing on three separate lines. Jim Rutherford has been a deadline magician the past two seasons and he seemed to work his magic again here. The Pens also grabbed some extra forward depth with Lindberg and Dunn acting as injury insurance for the rest of the season. Perhaps the best part of it all is that the HBK line can also be revitalized.

Continuing on, I was surprised that the Sens didn’t get Daniel Sprong as part of the trade. If I was a Senators fan I would be trying my very best to cancel Pierre Dorion’s cell plan. Ian Cole is a bottom-pairing defenseman with an expiring contract and the 1st round pick will most likely be 24th overall or lower. The saving grace for this transaction is Gustavsson, who instantly becomes Ottawa’s best goaltending prospect. The lanky Swede has had a great year in the SHL and was named the goaltender of the tournament at the World Juniors. Still, this trade seems to be lacking a bit of substance from an Ottawa standpoint. At least Ian Cole will be able to fill the Karlsson sized hole on the Sens blueline come February 26th.

Winner: Pittsburgh (and NHL’s salary cap accountants).

February 22nd – Michael Grabner to New Jersey from New York for a 2018 2nd round pick and Yegor Rykov.

The first trade EVER between the Rangers and Devils came late Thursday night and surely caught a lot of people off guard. The Devils were never really considered one of the frontrunners for Grabner but he is a fantastic addition for the team that is firmly entrenched in the first wildcard in the Eastern Conference. The Austrian speedster has a knack for scoring goals, as evidenced by his 25 snipes in 59 games this season, and will fit in smoothly with the Devils top-six. As for the Broadway Blueshirts, they got a fantastic return considering Grabner is a UFA at the end of the season. Rykov, a former 5th round pick, has been playing solid hockey for St. Petersburg in the KHL and is considered one of New Jersey’s best defensive prospects. I honestly cannot decipher a winner or loser for this trade due to the fact that each team received exactly what they wanted.

Winner: Participation ribbons for everyone!

February 22nd – Frank Vatrano to Florida from Boston for a 2018 3rd round pick.

Something tells me that this trade is acting as a precursor for a big move from the Bruins. Vatrano was caught in the middle of a sticky situation – he struggled to crack the regular NHL lineup, but he was also ineligible for waivers. Boston feared if they sent him down to the AHL he would be snagged by an opposing team due to the fantastic numbers he put up in Providence in 2015-16. The deft winger recorded 36 goals and 19 assists for the Baby Bruins that season and looked to be a promising forward prospect for Beantown. With only 2 goals in 25 games this season Florida clearly feels that a change of scenery might be just the thing to spark his offensive instincts. A 3rd round pick is a low-risk gamble on a player that might be able to start scoring again in Sunrise.

Winner: Florida.

February 21st – Tobias Rieder and Scott Wedgewood to Los Angeles from Arizona for Darcy Kuemper.

The Kings were looking for a bottom-six scoring winger and they struck a low-risk deal to bring in Rieder. The German forward only has 19 points in 58 games this season but he had averaged almost 36 points for the past two years. Rieder adds a good deal of speed to the team and could play anywhere in the lineup. As for the goalies on the move, Kuemper has been putting up career numbers in Los Angeles this season. He has a 10-1-3 record with a .932 save percentage and a 2.10 goals against average while Wedgewood has posted a 5-9-4 record with a .893 save percentage and a 3.54 goals against average. Kuemper, who signed a two year contract extension with the Coyotes, has clearly been the better goalie this season and will fight with Antti Raanta for the starting job. The Kings have since put Wedgewood on waivers which suggests Jack Campbell will be Quick’s backup down the stretch. I like the return for both teams.

Winner: Los Angeles

February 21st – Jakub Jerabek traded to Washington by Montreal for a 2019 5th round pick.

Hold onto your hats, the Capitals are going CRAZY at the deadline this year. This move is almost identical to the Kempny trade for the Caps (except Marc Bergevin obviously received a lesser return). With rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey on the blueline it is understandable why GM Brian MacLellan would want to have some insurance. The 26-year-old Jerabek can move the puck fairly efficiently and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. The Caps have bolstered their defensive depth with two shrewd acquisitions and now have some decisions to make about which six guys will be on the ice in the playoffs. For Montreal, this trade really doesn’t make much sense (but we have become used to that with this team). They only put Jerabek in the lineup for 25 games this year even though the argument can be made he has played just as good as David Schlemko, Joe Morrow, and Jordie Benn.

Winner: Any GM that trades with Marc Bergevin.

February 20th – Eric Fehr traded to San Jose by Toronto for a 2020 7th round pick.

Toronto gets to shed another contract and now have 48 of the maximum 50 organizational spots filled. This gives them all the flexibility they need to make whatever acquisitions they desire. Fehr has tallied 28 points in 34 games with the San Diego Gulls in the AHL and it looks like he will replace Daniel O’Regan as San Jose’s 4th line center for the playoff push.

Winner: Pierre LeBrun for breaking the trade first.

February 20th – Nick Holden traded to Boston by New York for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 3rd round pick.

This serves as the first deal in what should be a busy week for Rangers GM Jeff Gorton. The Bruins were in the market for a depth defenseman and after kicking tires on Mike Green and Ryan McDonagh it seems that Holden is their guy. Holden is prone to having some lapses in the defensive end but he has averaged almost 20 minutes of ice time for the past four seasons and is a capable penalty killer. The pending UFA has 12 points in 55 games this season. O’Gara is a 24-year-old Yale product that has played a majority of the season with Providence in the AHL. To me, Nick Holden really doesn’t move the needle that much and the 3rd round pick alone would have been enough. Judging from the reaction of Rangers fans on Twitter they will not miss Holden in the slightest.

Winner: New York.

February 19th – Petr Mrazek traded to Philadelphia by Detroit for a conditional 2018 4th round pick and a conditional 2019 3rd round pick.

Petr Mrazek is on his way to the City of Brotherly Love after looking like the goalie of the future in Detroit just two seasons ago. With Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth both sidelined for the next few weeks the Flyers needed to bring in an experienced goalie to keep ahold of their playoff spot. Mrazek has been a model of inconsistency over his NHL career which culminated in Detroit’s decision to leave him unprotected at the expansion draft this past summer. While his talent is unquestionable, you are never sure what Mrazek you are going to get. Will you get the goalie that stops 34/35 shots en route to a spectacular performance or will you get the over-aggressive netminder who lets in a weak wrister from the blueline in the final minutes of a game? Detroit is certainly happy to recoup some assets for the pending RFA who was almost a guarantee to leave this summer but perhaps a change of scenery is all the charismatic Mrazek needs to regain his form. He has been playing better hockey since the start of 2018 and his 8-7-3 record is more indicative of the poor Detroit team in front of him. The Flyers have been one of the league’s better teams since the start of December and they took a chance on a 26-year-old goalie who has shown stretches of dominance in the past. If Mrazek rediscovers the ability he had in 2015-16, the Flyers could be a scary matchup come playoff time.

Winner: Philadelphia.

February 19th – Michal Kempny traded to Washington by Chicago for a 2018 3rd round pick.

After being burned by Kevin Shattenkirk at last year’s deadline the Caps have opted to go for a smaller move this season. The Czech defenseman has appeared in 31 games for the Blackhawks this campaign recording 7 points and a +13 rating. He has decent possession numbers and adds depth to a Caps blueline that lost Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner, and the aforementioned Shattenkirk over the summer. The Caps have their own 2018 3rd round as well as Toronto’s 2018 3rd round pick and the Hawks will receive the higher pick of the two.

Winner: Kempny, for not having to play on that sad Blackhawks defense anymore.

February 15th – Ville Pokka traded to Ottawa by Chicago for Chris DiDomenico.

What a blockbuster. Pokka, a former second round pick, has never played in an NHL game but has been a solid defenseman over the course of four seasons with Rockford in the AHL. The general consensus around the league is that he never received a fair shot in Chicago and he will get that opportunity in Ottawa. DiDomenico has played in six different professional leagues throughout his career and has recorded 10 points in 24 games as a Sen this season. Pokka (23) is six years younger than DiDomenico (29) so I’ll give the Sens the edge solely for that reason.

Winner: Ottawa.

February 15th – Nikita Soshnikov traded to St. Louis by Toronto for a 2019 4th round pick.

When your forward core is as deep as the Pacific Ocean you can afford to make trades like this but I really like the low-risk acquisition by the Blues. Soshnikov has had the misfortune of being hexed by the injury bug throughout his young career and the Leafs were simply too deep on the wing for him to be a regular contributor. Obviously, expectations should be tempered for a player who only has 7 goals in 70 career games but there is no doubt in my mind that Soshnikov should be a bottom-six winger in this league. He has a heavy shot and a snarl to his game that should aid St. Louis in their playoff aspirations. The Leafs were at the organizational 50 contract limit so this trade sets them up to make another deal at the deadline. With young guns Kapanen, Grundstrom, and Johnsson the Leafs could afford to let ‘Sosh’ go but I’m excited to see what he can do with the Blues.

Winner: St. Louis (although the Leafs aren’t a loser).

February 13th – Dion Phaneuf (Ottawa retains 25% of salary) and Nate Thompson traded to Los Angeles by Ottawa for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore.

A trade that would have rocked the hockey world in 2009 is merely a cash transaction in 2018. The stingy Senators were looking to save a buck perhaps thinking about an Erik Karlsson contract negotiation in the near future. A majority of the hockey world seem to believe that the Sens will end up buying out Gaborik at the end of this season which would result in around $7 million in savings compared to the Phaneuf contract. In terms of the actual hockey implications of this trade, Los Angeles gets a solid middle pairing defenseman for their playoff push as well as a dependable utility player in Nate Thompson while the Sens get a quickly depreciating Gaborik and a bottom-six checking forward in Nick Shore. Realistically, this trade offers almost zero benefit to Ottawa on the ice but it looks better in their books. To me, the Kings got a defenseman who can play 18+ minutes a night and has already made an impact with 2 goals in the 3 games he’s played in California.

Winner: Los Angeles.

All-Time Trade Teams: The Tumultuous Transactions for Every NHL Franchise

We are now reaching the stretch run in the NHL season. With over 50 games in the books it is fairly evident what teams are in the upper echelon of the league and which teams will be participating in the ‘Fallin for Dahlin’ sweepstakes. This also gives us an idea of who the buyers and sellers will be at the trade deadline on February 26th. To me, trades are one of the most debate provoking aspects of professional sport. The Pittsburgh Penguins back-to-back championships have been greatly influenced by trades that filled the holes in their lineup and bolstered their depth. While success is nice, for the purpose of this piece I want to look at the trades that have agonized fan bases. I want to see the people that moved onto greener pastures and began tearing the league up. I want to see what draft picks have been traded and turned into superstars and what teams have given up on players far too early in their careers.

I am going to be constructing every team’s best all-time lineup out of players and draft picks the organization has traded. For the purpose of this article I will only be using trades that have happened since 1975. I will also only be using players that were traded at the age of 29 or younger. It is unfair to put Ray Bourque on the Bruins all-time team or Mats Sundin on the Leafs all-time team because those players were moved in the twilight of their careers. I will include the age the player was traded at in brackets beside the name. If it was a draft pick that was traded I will put the overall of the pick in brackets beside the name. In certain cases, there have been picks or players that were traded twice. Those players will show up for the various teams at different ages or the draft pick will show up on multiple teams. I understand that this leads to some overlap but if I confined them to one team it would noticeably shrink the player pool. Likewise, I understand the discrepancies some may have involving draft picks. Who is to say Team A would have picked the same player as Team B with the traded pick? For the purpose of this project we are suspending realism and assuming that the picks were constant for each team. I will also be combining rosters for relocated/defunct teams (e.g. the Hurricanes and Whalers will be combined). Finally, I have provided what I deem to be the most lopsided trade for each franchise (along with honourable mentions). This is completely subjective and I would be happy to hear other opinions. Without further ado, let us jump into the All-Time Traded Teams. Read more

World Junior Prospect Portfolio – Which Young Guns Blossomed in Buffalo?

As we recover from the yuletide turkey coma and the post new year hangover we are left enjoying another holiday tradition: The World Junior Championship. While success in this tournament does not guarantee prosperity at the NHL level it does serve as a great platform for one to boost their draft stock and audition for their NHL team. Nico Hischier is a perfect example of this. He put on a herculean performance for Switzerland at last year’s tournament and went from a fringe top five pick to first overall. Likewise, back in 2013 Johnny Gaudreau proved to the Calgary Flames that they were wise to pick him 104th overall. He dominated the tournament scoring seven goals and was a huge reason why the United States took home the gold medal. He was called up to the Flames later that year and has never looked back, blossoming into an NHL superstar. This year in Buffalo the tournament was packed with high-end talent including several draft eligible players. As the dust settles and the faint sound of ‘Oh Canada’ drones on in the background let us take a look at which players performed on the biggest stage in junior hockey.

Rasmus Dahlin 🇸🇪 – 2018 Draft Eligible

The consensus number one pick coming into the tournament has only further distanced himself from the rest of the pack. While averaging well over 20 minutes of ice-time per game Dahlin chipped in 6 assists and a +7 rating on the Swedish blue line. The hype for the 17-year-old Dahlin is well deserved as he looks to be the best defensive prospect of the decade. He is gifted offensively and routinely makes brilliant solo rushes up the ice. It is remarkable what Dahlin is able to accomplish against stout competition at such a young age. He was one of the biggest reasons the Swedes managed to make it to the final and was rightfully voted Best Defenceman of the World Juniors. Dahlin had a mediocre game in the final against Canada but that should not overshadow what he accomplished throughout the tournament. NHL general managers are salivating at the thought of being able to draft the next great Swedish d-man.

Maksim Sushko 🇧🇾 – Philadelphia Flyers – 2017 4th round pick (#107 overall)

Although the Belarus squad ultimately ended up being relegated it was no fault of team captain Sushko. The Owen Sound Attack forward was easily the best player for Belarus registering 2 goals and 6 assists in 6 tournament games. This showing set a national team record for points in a tournament. The 18-year-old was poised and dangerous offensively for a team that seriously lacked star power. One of Sushko’s most impressive traits is his ability to win puck battles when he is engaged in the game; however, his defensive play needs work due to the fact he can be guilty of puck watching at times. With that being said, Sushko has recorded 26 points in 28 games in the OHL this year and his performance in the tournament has only made Flyers fans more excited about the skilled forward’s potential.

Casey Mittlestadt 🇺🇸– Buffalo Sabres – 2017 1st round pick (8th overall)

The Buffalo draft pick put on a show for the hometown fans (not that there were many) and took home the award for most valuable player. Mittlestadt tied for the tournament lead in points (4 goals 7 assists) and was the most dangerous option up front for the bronze medal winning United States. His creativity and vision with the puck stood out more than a non-alcoholic beer in Johnny Manziel’s fridge. He possesses what very well could be the best hands in the 2017 draft as he makes masterful dekes with relative ease. The outdoor game against Canada was perhaps his best performance as he recorded 3 gorgeous assists and helped fuel the American comeback. Mittlestadt also had the goal of the tournament against Slovakia which can be seen below. Sabres fans must be salivating at the thought of Mittlestadt and Jack Eichel together for the foreseeable future.

Jordan Kyrou 🇨🇦 – St. Louis Blues – 2016 2nd round pick (35th overall)

The slick Sarnia Sting forward had a solid tournament for the gold medal winners and incited several “Hey Baby” chants from the crowd. Kyrou finished with 3 goals and 7 assists in Canada’s 7 games. He showed his playmaking ability in the final when he put a beautiful pass on the tape of Dillon Dube to open the scoring. Kyrou is a deceptively fast skater with a delicate passing touch although he is prone to defensive lapses. He showcased his high-end skill throughout the competition and proved to the St. Louis brass that they struck gold at 35th overall.

Martin Necas 🇨🇿 – Carolina Hurricanes – 2017 1st round pick (12th overall)

It was a tournament to remember for the guy who centered arguably the best line in the competition. The explosive Necas tied for the tournament lead in points with 3 goals and 8 assists in 7 games with his stellar play fuelling the Czechs to a surprising semi-final run. Necas looked exactly like the skilled top 6 center the Hurricanes are desperately craving. His puck-handling ability and subtle agility made him a monster in the offensive zone. Regardless of whether it was at 5-on-5 or on the power play he controlled the pace of the game with the puck on his stick. He is a pass first player as he showcased the vision and hockey sense that will make him dangerous at the NHL level. He still needs to put on some more weight before Hurricanes training camp next year but Necas had one of the most impressive performances in the tournament.

Klim Kostin 🇷🇺 – St. Louis Blues – 2017 1st round pick (31st overall)

Although it was a disappointing finish for the Russian team – who saw their seven-year medal streak come to an end – their top sniper Klim Kostin can leave with his head held high. Kostin battled injury and inconsistency in his draft year resulting in his drop to 31st overall. NHL Central Scouting pegged him as the top international prospect going into the draft and he showed why he was deserving of that title in this tournament. With his 6’3 frame and wicked release Kostin tallied 5 goals and 3 assists in 5 games for the Russians. With such an impressive showing one must wonder if the Blues will call him up in the second half of the season. Pittsburgh traded the Kostin pick to St. Louis in the deal that netted them Ryan Reaves and it is already starting to look like the Pens may live to regret that transaction.

Brady Tkachuk 🇺🇸– 2018 Draft Eligible

It is only a matter of time before Tkachuk becomes synonymous with pest in the thesaurus. With that in mind, it should also be synonymous with hockey sense. The antagonistic Tkachuck put on quite the show for NHL scouts at the 2018 tournament. He played with the competitive fire that his family has become known for and showed off a skill set that would appeal to any organization. When one can look past his malevolent personality it is clear that Tkachuk has NHL calibre vision. He sees the ice as well as any player and brings a certain level of snarl and physicality to a team. He is a responsible forward who logged heavy minutes on the penalty kill becoming the backbone of the United States in tight contests. With his dogged determination to win each and every puck battle Tkachuk certainly looked like an NHL ready prospect. There is no doubt he vaulted himself up the draft rankings with this performance.

Elias Pettersson 🇸🇪 – Vancouver Canucks – 2017 1st round pick (5th overall)

The Canucks had one of the surprises of the 2017 draft when they took the two-way Pettersson at 5th overall. Nobody should be shocked anymore as the slick Swede performed admirably in a silver medal effort. The Sundsvall native tied for the team lead in points with 5 goals and 2 assists while showcasing his dependable play in the defensive zone. Pettersson has a large frame at 6’2 and possesses a cannonading wrist shot. He has a fluid skating stride, crafty one-on-one abilities, and is comfortable with the puck on his stick. Any Canucks fans that were doubting Jim Benning’s choice at 5th overall seem to be ecstatic right now. Pettersson has shown why he projects to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level.

Cale Makar 🇨🇦 – Colorado Avalanche – 2017 1st round pick (4th overall)

It is an impressive feat to be named to the World Junior all-star team as a guy who only played 6:54 in the tournament opener against Finland. The door opened for Makar after an injury to Kale Clague and he ran with this opportunity playing 25:12 in the next game against Slovakia. Makar’s deft passing ability was on display as he routinely hit Canadian forwards in full stride and continuously flashed the offensive instincts that have the Avalanche excited. He was tied for the tournament lead in points by defenseman putting up 3 goals and 5 assists in 7 games. Makar reads the ice well and seemingly always picked the proper times to jump into the rush. His effortless skating gave him some leeway when he did make mistakes but for the most part he was able to effectively get the puck out of his own end. Makar still projects to be a few years away from making the Avs but to play as well as he did is a promising sign for his progression.

Filip Zadina 🇨🇿 – 2018 Draft Eligible

Perhaps no draft eligible player helped boost their stock more than the dynamic Zadina. He had a fantastic tournament for the fourth place Czechs recording 7 goals and 1 assist in their 7 games. Playing on Martin Necas’ wing Zadina was a terror for opposing goalies and made the tournament all-star team. He recorded 4 power play goals in the competition as his quick release, dazzling creativity, and pinpoint accuracy were deadly with the extra man. Zadina is the leading scorer for Halifax in the QMJHL who have been a hot spot for developing international players over the past few years (Nikolaj Ehlers, Martin Frk, Timo Meier, Nico Hischier). This performance has given the electrifying winger a likely chance at being drafted in the top three.

Kieffer Bellows 🇺🇸– New York Islanders – 2016 1st round pick (19th overall)

His father was a renowned sniper who scored 1022 points in 1188 NHL games and the goal scoring gene seems to run in the family. Kieffer broke Jeremy Roenick’s national team record for goals in a tournament by putting up 9 in 7 games. The dominant power forward was quite the force in front of the net using his large frame to his advantage. His physicality and tenacious forechecking wore down opposition defenders and allowed him to work his magic below the dots. He has a hard, accurate shot in his arsenal and is a deceptively fast skater. Bellows showed the Isles that he is the total package and could make the jump in 2018 as the team moves towards a younger core.

Conor Timmins 🇨🇦 – Colorado Avalanche – 2017 2nd round pick (32nd overall)

In a competition that is dominated by high-skill forwards the Thorold product was exceptional on the back-end for Canada. As flawed a stat as +/- is, Timmins was a remarkable +15 only being on the ice for 1 goal against the entire tournament. He was fantastic at both ends of the rink and had a case to be named the Best Defenseman of the World Juniors. He was a force in the gold medal game and capped things off with a beautiful slap pass to Tyler Steenbergen to put Canada ahead. Timmins was poised breaking out of his own zone and Canada seemed to dominate possession when he was on the ice. Timmins is having a solid season for Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL and he will have a shot at making the Avalanche out of training camp next season.

The Rookie Report – Top Ten Freshman in the Calder Trophy Race

I always find the Calder Memorial Trophy to be one of the most intriguing award races throughout the course of an NHL season. Rookie players are volatile and predicting their value at the start of the campaign is incredibly difficult. This is why we see some rookies come straight out of the draft to enjoy immediate success, others develop in the minor leagues until properly seasoned, some are hidden gems from the college ranks or overseas, and some just frankly come out of nowhere. Every hockey player dreams of having their name etched on a trophy that has been won by Barret Jackman (2002-2003) and Andrew Raycroft (2003-2004) so without further ado, let us take a look at the top rookies in the NHL so far this year. Read more

The National Houdini League

The NHL season is a harrowing grind. With a strenuous 82 game schedule spanning
seven months there is a massive amount of hockey yet to be played. With that being said, I am now going to overreact to the first few months of the NHL season and ignore what I just said. Here are some of the biggest surprises in the NHL at the season’s quarter-mark. Read more

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