As we get closer to the playoffs, teams will be gearing up with final roster moves in order to set themselves up for a chance at the Stanley Cup. A few prospects have signed, while other players have been called up to fill in for injured teammates. With three quarters of the NHL still in the hunt for a playoff birth, any move could be the difference between playing in April and going home. Who will make the right moves, who will make the wrong moves and which General Managers are stocking their AHL teams with quality prospects are questions we will find out the answers to soon enough. Over the past week of March 23 Ė March 31, here are five moves that stand out in the post-deadline transaction world.
Agreed to a three year entry level contract with prospect C Yannick Riendeau. [3/31]
The 5í10íí southpaw has a bright future on the Boston Bruins. Take a look at his Point Per Game totals, starting with his first draft eligible year.
League Age P GP PPG
QMJHL 18 72 67 1.07
QMJHL 19 49 42 1.16
QMJHL 20 126 64 1.97
Even for the QMJHL, which has a lower quality level of talent than the WHL and OHL, these Point Per Game totals are fairly good. As has been stated in previous columns, the PPG threshold in the Q is usually around 1.17. While he wonít be a superstar, he could a very adequate offensive piece to a blooming Bruins squad in the future. He broke out this season, however it is important to note that he is now facing younger competition. The originally unsigned Free Agent will be one of the Bruins better prospects along with Goalie Tuukka Rask and Centerís Joe Colborne and Brad Marchand.
Agreed to a three year entry level contract with prospect C Jordan Eberle. [3/23]
The 22nd overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft will prove very quickly that this is the right move. The Saskatchewan 18 year old product posted 74 Points in 61 Games on the year for the WHL Regina Pats for a 1.21 Point Per Game total in his first year of draft eligibility. Even in the year prior to his first year of draft eligibility against much older competition he was above the 1 PPG threshold for superstardom in the NHL. We often talk about older prospects artificially inflating their numbers by beating up on younger competition, but itís rare to see the opposite. Only a year out of high school, Eberle has been named to the WHL East First All-Star Team, has received the Doc Seaman Trophy, competed in the 2008 IHF World U18 Championships in Russia and has been selected to Team Canadaís under 20 team for the 2009 World Junior Championships in Ottawa. Eberle is the Oilers best prospect and should be. The only downside to the young forward is that he wonít set any records for Point Per Game totals in the WHL, unless he can match Rob Brownís record of nearly 4 Points Per Game for Kamloops back during the 1986-1987 season. Is he the next Sidney Crosby? No, but he has a great shot at being a perennial all-star.
Los Angeles Kings
Called up C Brian Boyle from the AHL affiliate Manchester Monarchs. [3/28]
Brian will be stepping in for C Jarrett Stoll after the center suffered a groin injury that renders him useless for the remainder of the season. Stoll was the epitome of an iron man, playing in 126 games over the course of two seasons. Carl Ripken, Jr. should be so lucky to have not put together enduring feats in hockey. The 26th overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft played four seasons for Boston College before moving to the AHL. In his first season for Manchester, his sixth draft eligible year, he managed to post 62 Points in 70 Games for a 0.89 PPG average. Heís not heading for superstardom, but heís a decent long term piece as well as a solid fill in for the rest of the season for a team with only a 0.4 % chance of making the postseason. If thereís one team that needs Boyle to be an offensive threat, itís Los Angeles. The Kings rank last in Even Strength Goals For, ESGF, with 101 and have a 25th ranked Bayesian Offensive Rating of 2.66. A better bet for a future star Center is AHL prospect Trevor Lewis, who was the 17th overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. In his first draft eligible year, he averaged 1.34 Points Per Game at the age of 18 in the USHL. He followed up his spectacular season by posting 1.18 Points Per Game for the Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League. Lewis has been struggling for AHL Manchester, but his track record suggests that he should adjust to the level of play. The Kings have begun a youth movement headed by the 2008 second overall pick in Defenseman Drew Doughty. While 6 games is an extremely small sample size for Boyle, he should get a shot next year to prove himself if he can mildly improve in the AHL. Heís already in his peak phase, which is between ages 23 and 26 for forwards, so itís going to be now or never starting next season.
Sent down D Danny Syvret to AHL affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms. [2/28]
Kimmo Timonen fell ill earlier on the 26th of March, which led to Syvretís call up. However, Timonen managed to play despite how he was feeling. The bad news for Syvret is that he has yet to play for a significant amount of time in the NHL as he had to step aside for Timonen at 80 % health to watch the Flyers from the press box. The good news is that he got to take in a free NHL game, which can cost a fortune these days. The Ontario southpaw is the bearer of a lot of criticism because of his lack of size for a defenseman. What many donít seem to get is that size is not as important to becoming a successful NHL player as everyone thinks. Mike OíConnell was only 5í9íí, in comparison to Syvretís 5í11íí, yet he managed to post 439 points over the course of 860 games in his career.
As long as Timonen stays healthy, donít expect anyone to replace him anytime soon. The recipient of a six year, $37.8 million dollar contract in 2007 has contributed a very solid 6.2 goals above what the typical marginal player has contributed on the season for a + 6.2 GVT, with a very impressive +4.2 defensive component GVT. His defensive contributions place him among the top 25 % in the league in this category.
As a general rule, defensemen do not have to achieve the threshold of 1 Point Per Game in their first year of draft eligibility as forwards do. Unlike forwards, defensemen are not brought in for the sole purpose of scoring goals and accumulating points. If a defender can post 0.5 Points Per Game, he will have at least marginal value as a defenseman in the NHL. This is assuming, of course, that the players defensive skill set is adequate. Unfortunately for Syvret, he falls short of this threshold after posting 20 Points in 62 Games for a .332 PPG total for the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs in his first draft eligible year back in 2005.
Syvret will also have a tough competition amongst his fellow defensemen prospects, notably Luca Sbisa, Ryan Parent, Michael Ratchuk and Kevin Marshall, in order to receive the chance for a call up once more. It wonít help his case that the Flyers are an overall good team without any glaring weaknesses.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Recalled G Justin Pogge from the AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies. [2/26]
The 22 year old netminder has put together a ghastly -5.7 GVT over the course of the year, though itís unfair to draw conclusions because of the limited playing time he has gotten in the NHL. Pogge got the opportunity after Toronto filler Martin Gerber received a three game suspension without pay for bumping into referee Mike Leggo. While Denver Broncosí Jay Cutler and Buffalo Billsí Terrell Owens have been known to cause controversy, physical abuse is another matter. This is a move, despite a controversial call, that could leave a black mark on Gerber for the rest of his career. Itís great news for Justin Pogge, who reaps the benefits of Gerberís loss. The Toronto Maple Leafs are clearly lacking a long term solution in the net. Curtis Joseph is already 41 years old and Vesa Toskala has been the NHLís worst goaltender this year, posting an astoundingly bad -26.4 GVT. All of these variables should clear a path for Justin Pogge to emerge as Torontoís goalie in the next year or two. The Alberta native managed a Quality Start, .913 or higher Save Percentage, in a start against Buffalo last Friday night, only to surrender 6 goals the following day to Boston. Pogge will need to put together a solid string of games the next time he is called up in order to stick on the Maple Leaf roster, but one of the gameís top goaltender prospects has the talent to make things work. Expect him to shine next season if he gets the opportunity to fill in for Curtis Joseph. At the very least he should be able to beat out Vesa Toskala.
Andrew Rothstein is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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