Jet City Ice helps you make the most of your limited TV hockey time with our picks for the upcoming weekend.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings
When: Saturday, 10/12, 4pm PT
Where: NHL Network
The Maple Leafs boast arguably the most talented trio of young stars in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Add to that longtime Islanders’ legend and newly-minted Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, a revised blue line, and eye-popping goaltending from Frederik Andersen, and the Maple Leafs can clobber you on any given night. Or get clobbered, as we saw in last night’s 7-3 shellacking at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. There’s no telling which Leafs team will show up on any given night.
In Detroit you can see a team celebrating it’s 10th annual “rebuilding year,” but in the early going at least, they appear to be showing some results. There is a lot of promise in two local boys, center Dylan Larkin and defenseman Danny DeKeyser, but you still see the remnants of the glory days in aging forward Valtteri Filppula and the past-past-their prime goaltending tandem of Jonathan Bernier and Jimmy Howard. The listed team average age of 28 is misleading, as fully 12 of the Wings’ 23-man roster is 25 or younger, so you have a hungry but still inexperienced team that may jump up and bite you if you turn your back for a second.
Possible Future Seattle Players: From the Leafs, pay attention to Trevor Moore, a plucky left winger from Thousand Oaks, CA. It’s unlikely Toronto will be able to protect him, and his soft hands and play-making skills will like garner attention from Seattle GM Ron Francis.
It’s harder to predict with Detroit, who as of this moment only has 3 players under contract beyond 2020-21. But tuck the name Madison Bowey in the back of your head. He’s a reliable stay-at-home defenseman at a reasonable price, and keeps a respectable plus-minus even on a terrible team.
NHL Center Ice/NHL.tv
Calgary Flames vs. (not Las) Vegas Golden Knights
When: Saturday, 10/12, 7pm PT
Might as well kick off the season with a meeting between two of our future Pacific Division rivals. Calgary is off to its typical middling start; with a 2-1-1 record they have coaxed 5 points out of 4 games, on the strength of a blistering +1 goal differential. Looking up and down the roster you can see why Flames fans have hope this year, led by youngsters like Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau who are sending Flames jersey sales into the stratosphere. The defense also now starts to draw more attention after a breakout 74-point season from defenseman (!) Mark Giordano, an otherwise unremarkable presence on the Calgary blue line for more than a dozen seasons. But as always the question mark is between the pipes, with the tandem of Cam Talbot and David Rittich splitting duties until one or the other of them makes a case to be the de facto starter.
(not Las) Vegas is similarly uninspiring in their 2-1-0 start, but a +6 goal differential hints at the offensive juggernaut lurking beneath the surface. One questions the wisdom of George McFee, signing six forwards to multi-year deals at over $5 million apiece, topping off with the preposterously overpaid Mark Stone at a wallet-busting $9.5 million AAV. Stone for his part, however, is already earning his kibble — posting 6 points in his first 3 games. But the Golden Knights’ fate hangs, yet again, on the performance of their cornerstone player, the streaky yet frequently capable goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. If Fleury shows up and the Golden Knights’ offense is firing on all cylinders, the score sheet is going to weight 14 pounds.
Possible Future Seattle Players: Out of Calgary, we’re probably talking about Sam Bennett. He’ll be a restricted free agent coming into the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, but there’s little doubt the Flames will qualify him. He’s a reliable two-way forward posting 25 points a season, can play center or either wing, kills penalties, and has good size. That kind of flexibility is what GM Ron Francis is going to be looking for.
From Vegas, keep an eye on Tomas Nosek — all 6’3″ and 210 lbs. of him. He put up impressive numbers in Europe before the Red Wings signed him as an undrafted free agent. His point production wavered a bit in the AHL, and he has yet to hit his stride in the big leagues. But if he does, that’s somebody Seattle might want to consider; and with McPhee blowing his wad on so many pricey forwards, I’d wager he’s a player (not Las) Vegas will be forced to expose.