My latest for DefendingBigD - a year in review look at the Dallas Stars.

 

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Happy holidays to everyone – these are my final ramblings before Christmas. I am looking forward to a few days of unplugging and watching some WJC hockey.

 

Speaking of WJC hockey – here is a great read on the tournament from Katie Baker on Grantland.

 

And here are my top 10 things to look forward to at this year’s WJC.

 

This has been another great year – the lockout has killed much of the positive momentum at DobberHockey, but I am confident we can get it back once hockey returns. We have our strongest team of writers yet, and the community we have is unrivaled in terms of passion and knowledge.

 

I will have a 2012 year in review up at some point in the next week, looking at 10 of the biggest moments/news stories in the world of hockey (with a particular focus on fantasy hockey).

 

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My latest for the PlayNow Sports Blog - a look at the world of European hockey over the past week.

 

If and when the NHL does return, the players who have been over in Europe will likely have an advantage out of the gate – less rust, less cobwebs to shake off. However, as the season progresses, they may be more susceptible to fatigue and injury compared to the players who have remained in North America playing shinny and working out. The proposed 48-game season is going to be very intense, and health will play an even bigger factor in a team’s success than it usually does.

 

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Montreal prospect Charles Hudon is injured and has to sit out the remainder of the WJC. Canada has called in Chicago prospect Mark McNeill to replace him.

 

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Sticking with Montreal, forward Rene Bourque is now officially locked out after being declared fit to play. He had hernia surgery in the summer and had been receiving full salary payments up to this point.

 

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Colorado 2010 1st round pick Joey Hishon hasn’t played hockey in well over a year (since the 2011 Memorial Cup) due to a concussion. What is the latest on his recovery?

 

Hishon still has not been cleared to play. But he is with the Lake Erie Monsters on a regular basis now and is skating. Billington says it’s still a “day by day” thing. Really, I don’t want to read anything more into it than that.


Nobody should say whether anything is positive or negative regarding Hishon’s condition. Well, I guess it can be classified as positive that he’s on skates and apparently feeling OK. But beyond that, nobody knows still when the talented forward will play again.


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From that same article, here are some updates from Craig Billington (Colorado’s VP of player development) on several other Colorado prospects currently in the AHL with Lake Erie.

 

STEFAN ELLIOTT: “Stats don’t always tell the whole story. I think Stefan has played really well the past few weeks. I saw him last night and I thought he played well. He had a slow start. The American Hockey League is a very good level of hockey and very challenging. He’s still learning. I think he’s on the right side of the curve if you will. It’s going to work out just fine. He’s a good evaluator of his own play. He’ll keep learning.


TYSON BARRIE: “It’s going well. He’s a dynamic, creative defenseman who has very good hockey sense. Very focused. Ahead of a lot of players in terms of what he knows he has to do away from the rink.”


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According to this report, Buffalo 2012 1st round pick Mikhail Grigorenko is going to spend the entire season in the QMJHL, regardless of whether the lockout ends or not.

 

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The DobberHockey community has an interesting discussion going on over on the forums regarding the 1994-95 lockout-shortened NHL season. Here are some of the more interesting points raised:

 

From LawMan:

 

Backup Goalies. All backups should see slightly more action but those who are more platoon guys could see close to 50% and have the chance to steal a starting job with the hot hand. Edmonton, Colorado, St. Louis, Islanders (a mess), Ottawa, Philly, come to mind as teams to watch their goalie situation.


Band-aid Boys. High-risk high-reward. On the one hand they only need to make it 50 games to play the whole season, on the other hand if they get that injury they usually do, a 10 game loss is 20% of the season. Also, guys who have offseason surgery (Gaborik, Kesler, Quick) are looking at playing the whole season, adjust any early guides accordingly.


Players currently playing elsewhere. I would love to see an analysis on how players who played elsewhere during the 1994 lockout did in that season, the KHL didn't exist and I'm not sure how many did play elsewhere. I'd expect those playing to come out hot, they're in game shape. However, at the end of a 50 game NHL season these guys will be on game 80, while the rest  will be on game 50, as a result I see those playing elsewhere coming out hot but burning-out near the end of the season. I see big burnout with young guys making the jump from junior, or worse the NCAA.


Perfect example is Justin Schultz, he played 40-45 games last year, if the NHL season starts, in his last week of the NHL season he'll be on game 80+, against better, stronger players who have played 50 which will likely lead to a drop in production.


I'd say those playing elsewhere are net positive in roto where all points matter equally and net negative in head-2-head as they may fade during the fantasy playoffs.


I agree with all three points. Backup goaltenders are going to be very valuable.

 

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You know Seth Jones is a big deal to American hockey when he is getting profiled by the New York Times.

 

Jones, a 6-foot-4 defenseman with slick skating and puck-possession skills, seems to have a can’t-miss label sewn onto his hockey sweater. He will help lead the United States team at the world junior championships in Russia next week, even though he is the youngest player on the roster. He was on the team for last year’s tournament as a 17-year-old, but an injury sidelined him just before it started.


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Peoria (St. Louis) put up five goals on Charlotte (Carolina) on Thursday night in the AHL (the two teams played each other on Friday night as well, but that game was still going on when I wrote these ramblings). AHL star TJ Hensick had two points – he has been unable to translate his game to the NHL and looks destined to be a “tweener” player (too good for the AHL, not quite good enough for the NHL).

 

Zack Boychuk had a monster game for Charlotte – one goal, two assists, seven SOG. Boychuk needs to have a big season, as he had been passed over on the depth chart in Carolina by many other young forwards. He hadn’t really taken any steps forward with his development over the past few years, but he has been pretty solid this year.

 

Another former 1st round pick who has struggled since turning pro, Bobby Sanguinetti, also had a big game for Charlotte. The former Rangers prospect had two goals and six SOG from the back end. However, he is in tough to see any sort of NHL minutes with Carolina’s defense, unless a number of injuries occur at the same time.

 

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The ECHL's Alaska Aces are dominating the league this season, thanks in large part to the fact that they have four NHL players on their roster. (Does Scott Gomez still count as an NHL player?)

 

“It’s a pretty stacked lineup,” Aces head coach Rob Murray said in a telephone interview. “I think as an opposing coach, it’s pretty daunting to go against these guys. I guess you could complain about it, but the rules are the rules. There’s nothing stopping us from doing it. We’re taking advantage of that opportunity.”

 

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Some highlights from a recent KHL game:

 

 

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An impressive individual performance (hat tip to Puck Daddy for finding this one):

 

 

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A WJC preview for Team USA:

 

 

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