For all the hockey fans who haven't had their team profiled on 24/7: I am so sorry. You're missing out.
This season's edition features my beloved Rangers and hated hometown Flyers (it's a long story - okay, maybe not that long), and just like last year, it's must-see TV. Of course, it can also be painful TV; images of both Sean Couturier's cranial injury and John Tortorella's gnarly fingernails will haunt my dreams tonight.
And now, a series of questions, or maybe just observations mostly in question form:
How much of Ilya My husky, she basically is a hot girl" Bryzgalov's act is for real, and how much is hamming it up for the cameras?
Was anyone else totally blindsided by John Tortorella's apparently intimate friendship with a small child with cerebral palsy? Heartwarming, but that makes the Rangers a suspicious 2-for-2 in extraordinary acts of charity.
Even though I love that this has the Rangers in it, how is it somehow not as good as last year's? Is it because of the lack of barbecue sauce on the coaches' faces?
Hey, Philadelphia: Doesn't Brian Boyle look like a way taller version of Cole Hamels?
Did Peter Laviolette stick it to that ref or what? It was truly interesting to hear the way he went after the official, particularly considering how he seems to never yell at his team, even when they lose. Of course, it's easy not to get overly worked up at your team when you just had a seven-game winning streak.
John Tortorella, on the other hand, really can whip himself into a frenzied state almost on command. It's like he spends the entirety of every period just getting angrier and angrier until he can just let it out all at once. It's a wonder to watch.
Brandon Pirri, C, CHI - Ready to stand up and take notice? The '09 second-rounder out of Rochester Polytechnic, whose first pro season last year resulted in an average-looking 43 points for AHL Rockford, has broken out this year, adding some size that's resulted in him ripping off 31 points in 28 games and already exceeding last season's goal total. His two NHL games - one back in October, one Wednesday - have resulted in a pair of assists, and Pirri saw a serious amount of ice Wednesday, skating 16:37 with some power-play time. Just 20 years old, he's already an accomplished playmaker and has shown the ability to become more of a finisher as well.
Evgenii Dadonov, RW, FLA - Do I have to keep talking about Dadonov, who's taken Nikita Filatov's title of Most Disappointing Russian? No? Okay, I won't then.
Michal Repik, RW, FLA - Almost 23 years old - he'll celebrate on New Year's Eve - the former second rounder (40th overall in '07) has 60 games of NHL experience under his belt, but has produced just 15 points in that time. He's shown flashes of potential, putting up 49, 53 and 45 points in his last three AHL seasons, but the Czech winger hasn't been able to move beyond that level. He has 14 points in 22 games for San Antonio this year and is scoreless in five games with Florida.
Anders Nilsson, G, NYI - With Al Montoya's concussion, it's Nilsson that gets the call this time rather than Kevin Poulin, very possibly because the Isles felt bad about the way Poulin has been bounced up and down recently. The 21-year-old Swede was a third-round pick in '09 and has played 12 games this year for AHL Bridgeport, posting a .902 save percentage and 3.16 GAA. He also made a start and a relief appearance for the Isles earlier this year, allowing a total of eight goals on 53 shots. Not a lot to see here from a fantasy perspective, as Nilsson has great size at 6-5, but is still more of a long-term project.
Jordan Caron - Down last week went Caron, and now he's up again. He picked up a point in two games in his short minor-league stint. Another guy who's seen too many mentions in this column.
Riley Nash, C, CAR - The Oilers selected Nash - no relation to Rick - with the 21st overall pick in '07, and at least they got paid off for it, dealing him to Carolina for a pick they used on promising defense prospect Martin Marincin. It's been tougher sledding for him in the Carolina system, where Nash put up just 32 points in 79 games last year and is looking at a horrible nine in 31 this year, not to mention a minus-8 rating. He - and the ‘Canes - had to expect more when he skipped out on his final year of eligibility at Cornell after putting up consistent production at around a point per game for three seasons. It's telling, though, that he never had a big breakout. Nash somehow skated 13:02 in his NHL debut Wednesday without showing up on the scoresheet in any way.
Benn Ferriero, RW, SJ - After producing at a point-per-game pace over 20 contests with AHL Worcester, the former seventh-round pick (all the way back in '06!) was called back up by San Jose this week and scored a goal in his 13:40 of ice time Wednesday against the Lightning. Sixty-two games of NHL experience have produced just 16 points, but there's potential for more from the one-time Boston College standout, who's been a consistently reliable - if not spectacular - scorer in the minors. The 24-year-old has got a total of two goals in five games with the Sharks.
Marcus Foligno, LW, BUF - Foligno really only gets mentioned here because he just got called up and played against the Senators and his brother Nick. A big kid at 20 years old, 6-3 and 227, Foligno's not a great talent, but he does have some goal-scoring ability (he's got 10 in 28 AHL games this year) and could develop into quite a bruiser.
Jonathan Blum, D, NAS - Blum's trip to the AHL went reasonably well, as he played three games there and had a two-goal effort in the middle contest. Now he's back! The high-upside defenseman skated nearly 19 minutes Tuesday against Washington, including more than two minutes of power-play time. He didn't record a point and went minus-1, but he did put a couple shots on goal, delivered a couple hits and blocked three shots.
Tim Erixon, D, NYR - Down and up went Erixon, as the Rangers' blue line has been rocked by injuries, creating room for him again. He played less than 10 minutes in Tuesday's win over the Devils - not much of an impact, but he looked solid, not making any mistakes defensively. That's a start. The former first-round pick and son of former Ranger Jan Erixon has been awful productive in the AHL, racking up 12 points in 14 games.
Jeremy Morin, LW, CHI - Just 20 years old, Morin is in his second stint with Chicago, as he saw nine games in the big leagues last year, putting up two goals and an assist. His AHL production hasn't been spectacular - he has an acceptable, but not wonderful 15 points in 23 games with Rockford this year, following a 22-game, 12-point effort last season - but he was a 47-goal scorer in the OHL just two years ago and has the cachet of being a second-round pick in '09. Morin's a scrappy player who's willing to grind it out in the corner and mix it up with his fists. Think of him as a potential Ryan Malone type - he can provide some offense, but needs opportunities to be created by more talented teammates. Like Malone, Morin is known for his nose for the net, but isn't the fastest skater.
Eric Tangradi, C, PIT - Tangradi's been a notch above his usual thing in the AHL this year, producing 20 points evenly split between goals and assists over 24 games. He made only a two-game appearance in this call-up to the Pens, going scoreless despite plenty of time on the power play. Tangradi's main attribute is his size, and at 22 years old, the Philadelphia native can still be forgiven for not quite yet knowing how to use it at the NHL level.
Magnus Paajarvi, LW, EDM - The Oilers finally tired of Paajarvi's ineffectiveness, shipping him off to AHL Oklahoma City to find his offensive game again after he managed just three points in 25 games with Edmonton this year. A decrease in production is understandable with the Oilers healthier up front this year, but this is a little ridiculous, and fantasy owners who drafted him hoping for an improvement on last year's 34-point rookie campaign have been sorely disappointed. So far, no good in the AHL, as he's scoreless in three contests.
Matt Irwin, D, SJ - The undrafted free agent didn't see any ice time with the Sharks between being called up and shipped back down, but the just-turned-24 B.C. native has played his way into the team's thoughts on the blue line this year, as he has seven goals and nine assists in 23 games with AHL Worcester. Modestly productive at UMass Amherst, he did show offensive upside once upon a time in his pre-college days playing for the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL.
Tomas Tatar, LW, DET - Tatar has carried last year's improvement (57 points in 70 AHL games) over to this season, as he's managed eight goals and 16 assists through 29 contests with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He's been especially hot of late, tallying 18 of those points in his last 16 games. The 21-year-old, a second-round pick in '09, was recalled only on an emergency basis and didn't play with the Wings this past week. He did play nine games with Detroit last year, scoring a goal in his NHL debut.
Calvin de Haan, D, NYI - The 20-year-old blue-liner made his NHL debut Dec. 15, skating 13:01 and going plus-1 with a couple shots and a couple hits. So far, he hasn't found playmaking to be nearly as easy in the pros as it was in juniors, as he has just eight points in 24 games for AHL Bridgeport. He put up a total of 135 points (but only 19 goals) in 157 games with Oshawa of the OHL over the last three seasons, which should give you a pretty solid picture of where his offensive strengths lie. He's a guy who can move the puck on the power play and make the outlet pass, but doesn't have a big shot.
Kevin Poulin, G, NYI - Up and down went Poulin, who got into one whole game, stopping 26 of 29. He's played twice and lost twice since returning to Bridgeport - one five-goal disaster and one impressive 37-save performance.
Carl Klingberg, LW, WPG - The former second-round pick (in, you guessed it, '09) saw only fourth-line ice time in his six scoreless games with Winnipeg, but he's been productive at the AHL level this year, scoring 10 goals and adding eight assists in 21 games. This won't be the last you hear of the 20-year-old Swede, who's got the size and speed to be successful as a checking forward who can grind out some offense.
Matt Hacket, G, MIN - Hackett was made expendable by the return of Josh Harding from IR. He only got into two games with the Wild, but played extremely well, stopping 76 of 78 shots and winning both. His return to the minors has gone less swimmingly - after playing well and winning his first game back, he's given up a total of eight goals in his last two games and lost both.
The Future to Come
Every week in this space, I'll feature one college player and one junior player who are making their mark.
This week's college prospect is senior Austin Smith of Colgate, because I can only ignore a player for so long before he forces me to talk about him. A fifth-round pick by the Stars way back in '07, Smith is leading the nation in goals, having put home 18 pucks in 17 games. His 28 points are second-best among college skaters. This is a shocking breakout season for Smith, who exceeded a point per game two years ago, tallying 16 goals and 25 assists in 36 games, but fell back to just 31 points in 41 games last season after undergoing hip surgery. As an added bonus, Smith is ridiculously undersized at 5-10, 165, and isn't known for being a guy with flashy offensive moves, although you may not be surprised to learn that he's got a nice shot. I tell you what, though - that mustache has got to add another pound at least.
Our junior prospect of the week is Kevin Roy, an 18-year-old forward who's been crushing the USHL this year, leading the league in goals (20) and points (38) in just 25 games. The USHL isn't generally a destination for Quebec natives like Roy; in fact, there are only three Canadians on Roy's team, the Lincoln Stars. In Roy, we have a kid with pure puck skills - in fact, he has since he was 13 years old - and he's dominated offensively to such a ridiculous degree that he has as many points as the No. 2 and No. 3 scorers on his team combined. Reports are that his defensive play leaves something to be desired, and he's still undersized at 5-10, 170, but he's got a few years of college ahead of him and should add a little more height and a good amount more muscle by the time he makes it to the NHL - if he makes it to the NHL. I don't often feature prospects in American juniors here, but Roy has the potential to make a long-term impact for whatever team selects him in the 2012 draft. That kind of high-end skill doesn't come along every day. Watch him work through traffic and score, starting at about the 0:40 mark.
Something to ask? Something to say? Prospects you're dying to hear about? You can contact me here.