August 11, 2020

Pucks On The 'Net

New York Rangers Win Draft Lottery

The New York Rangers won the rights to the first overall draft pick this off season, courtesy of the wacky draft lottery. The Rangers will most assuredly select Alexis Lafreniere with that pick. He is the clear cut best prospect in a deep draft. I don't pretend to know all the prospects that well, but I would say he is the best prospect since Auston Matthews.

The Rangers already have some nice young pieces in Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren and Igor Sheshterkin, and Lafreniere moves right to the top of that list. He might immediately become their second best player after Artemi Panarin.

Of course Panarin and Lafreniere both play left wing. So does long time Ranger Chris Krieder. Don't forget Brendan Lemieux, too. He's too good for the 4th line. Finding ice time for all these guys will be interesting to watch. 

Panthers Fire Dale Tallon

The Florida Panthers announced they will be looking for a new general manager. No surprise here. Yes Dale Tallon has acquired a lot of great young players, but his team continues to go nowhere. The Panthers have made the playoffs just three times in Tallon's ten years at the helm, and haven't won a playoff series since 1996. 

The new GM will have some nice pieces to work with. It is eerily similar to when Tallon got the boot in Chicago. He acquired a bunch of great young talent but never really got anywhere. Tallon got the boot, and new GM Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville molded the pieces into what passes as a modern Stanley Cup dynasty. Quenneville is already in place in Florida. Could history repeat itself?

Future of Development Hockey

At least Tallon won't have to figure out all the logistics involved of junior, college, minor league and international hockey leagues futures. 

Do these leagues, who all cancelled their seasons outright, start in September or October, before the NHL's next season debut in December? If so are players committed to their teams and unable to play in the NHL? 

Take Lafreniere for example. Presumably the Rangers would have him play three seasons in junior and then join the team in December, but normally he wouldn't be allowed to do so. He could sign in Europe. There are rumors of NHL players, most notably Joe Thornton, doing that if they can secure out clauses to return to the NHL.

Euro leagues will likely offer those out clauses. Will junior teams match? If the AHL can't go, will NHL teams and agents be looking to land them in Europe? You bet they don't want to waste precious development time for many of these top young talents. And what happens with all these college kids, who might not have a proper school year let alone a hockey season.

I'm sure someone much smarter than I is working on all these situations as we speak.

Bob McKenzie Retires

Bob McKenzie, the original hockey insider announced he is retiring. Well, sort of. Semi-retirement he calls it. He'll still appear now and again in the future, such as at the draft and World Juniors, two of his most passionate hockey subjects. 

I've been reading McKenzie since the 1980s when he was editor of The Hockey News. By 2000 he was a regular on TSN. He was the one guy who I always took his word as gospel. Over the years that list grew a little bit (Darren Dreger, Eliotte Friedman, John Shannon...I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two more) but McKenzie was always the gold standard. 

Hockey was lucky to have him. And lucky to still have him. I'm hoping he returns to some writing projects.

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