Jet City Ice helps you make the most of your limited TV hockey time with our picks for the upcoming weekend.
Calgary Flames vs. (not Las) Vegas Golden Knights
When: Sunday, 11/17, 4pm PST
Where: NHL Network
The bums at NBCSN are content to bring you NASCAR, rugby, and “Dr. Ho’s Total Body Relief” all weekend to the exclusion of hockey, so our cable offerings are limited. However, the NHL Network is featuring a rematch of our Game of the Weekend recommendation from a month ago, where you’ll be able to catch two of the hottest scoring touches in the league right now in Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. That pair ranks 1st and 2nd on the Flames, and are tied for 11th in goals in the entire league. Tkachuk’s OT winner against Nashville last month is a sampling of the excitement these two bring to the rink:
The hot hand on the Golden Knights at the moment is Reilly Smith, similarly tied with Tkachuk and Lindholm with 10 goals. He is on pace to more than double his career best annual goal total. The (not Las) Vegas defensive corps is decidedly absent from the stat leader board in pretty much every category, which is surprising given Shea Theodore’s previous performance and robust contract. But netminder Marc-Andre Fleury is holding fast with a tied-for-league-leading 9 wins and a top-10 .920 save percentage (among starting goaltenders). With these two teams neck-and-neck in the standings, there is a fair bit at stake on Sunday afternoon.
Possible Future Seattle Players: We mentioned Sam Bennett before, but there’s a good possibility that who we’re really looking at from the Flames is center Derek Ryan. He’s not a game-maker or game-breaker, but there are several intangibles here that warrant consideration. First, at the time of the draft he’ll have 7 years in the league and over 350 games under his belt. Seattle is going to need that kind of experienced veteran in the locker room. Second, he consistently wins 55% of his face-offs, which doesn’t sound like much, but consistently delivering that level of FOW% sets him apart from most players at his position. Third, he’s from Spokane — thus, not averse to the Pacific Northwest, and maybe would even appreciate a chance to get closer to home. And finally, the team with which he broke into the league was — ta-daaaa! — the Carolina Hurricanes, under none other than GM Ron Francis, who signed him to his first 3 NHL contracts, and who will be pulling the trigger for Seattle on draft day. That factor may actually eclipse all others in whether he gets a look on draft day. Ryan will be a UFA at the end of the 2021 season, and I do expect Francis to be talking to Ryan’s agent the minute the negotiation period opens.
From the Golden Knights, I talked about Tomas Nosek before, and that was a mistake. Why?
As of this writing at least, the Golden Knights are exempt from participating in the expansion draft. So they’re not exposing anybody! I think somebody on our site wrote a piece about that very thing. I can’t quite remember who though…
This is where you all laugh, and laugh, and laugh…
NHL Center Ice/NHL.tv
Dallas Stars vs. Edmonton Oilers
When: Saturday, 11/16, 1:00pm PST
If you think the snipers on the Flames are hot, wait until you get a look at what’s happening in Edmonton. Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and James Neal are all in the top 6 in the NHL in goals — combining for 41 on the year; on top of that Draisaitl and McDavid are now #1 and #2 in points. I had to update all of those numbers after Edmonton shellacked the Avalanche 6-2 on Thursday night, a game which included a hat-trick and 3 assists from McDavid.
The Oilers currently sit on top of the Pacific Division, and that’s not merely a result of the firepower on the front lines. Who-Is-This-Effin’-Guy goaltender Mikko Koskinen, in his second year with Edmonton after a lengthy career in Europe, has pole-vaulted into the top 5 in save percentage and racked up a 7-1-1 record over his first 9 starts. Let it be said that netminder Mike Smith is also doing his best, which at this point in his career is a 6-5-1 record, a 2.58 GAA, and a really wonky haircut…
Dallas, on the other hand, can barely score on an empty net. While Edmonton has 3 players in the top 6 in goals and points, the Stars have just 4 players who have notched more than 4 goals or 9 points all year. Leading the charge (or more accurately, the “mosey”) is Roope Hintz — yes, I had to look him up too — who, in his second year in the NHL, has already matched his scoring total from last season while playing less than a third of the games. So he’s one to keep an eye on. Beyond that it’s very much a team effort, though don’t let the Stars lull you into complacency. When you look inside of Dallas’ 9-8-2 record you notice the fact that the Stars have won 8 out of their last 10. Whatever plagued them for the first 10 games of the season is gone now, and they’ll have Edmonton squarely in their cross-hairs come Saturday. Expect this one to be a shooting gallery.
Possible Future Seattle Players: From Edmonton it’s a no-brainer: defenseman Darnell Nurse. This is a BIG BOY — 6’4”, 221 lbs, and the 7th overall pick in the 2014 entry draft. I’ve been watching this kid since his draft year, and while he took a while to hit his stride in the NHL, defensemen always take longer to mature than forwards, and his development has been steady. Last season he played his 2nd consecutive 82-game season, posting 10 goals and 31 assists. Whether he gets exposed or not depends exclusively on what Edmonton decides to do with the 3 guys ahead of him on the depth chart. But if he’s available, Ron Francis would be foolish not to put him in a Seattle jersey for opening night.
From the Stars, I’ve got my eye on center Jason Dickinson, a young kid who plays bigger than his size, and whose primary talent is pointing his nose towards the net banging home rebounds. He’s a former 1st-round draft pick, good skater, not afraid to go to the dirty areas, wins puck battles, can play both the power play and penalty kill, and despite needing to work on his face-offs he looks like a decent bottom-six forward for Seattle. He’ll be coming off a 2-year, $1.5 million AAV deal with the Stars as a restricted free-agent at the end of the 2020-21 season. I expect Dallas will qualify him; but with the Stars’ stable of high-priced talent, I also expect they will expose him in the expansion draft. We’ll see how he develops this year.