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 SEASON PREVIEW, 2018-19

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Morganwigge
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PostSubject: SEASON PREVIEW, 2018-19   Mon Oct 01, 2018 10:08 am



With the 26th FHL season set to commence on Wednesday, October 3rd, award-winning Morganwigge (he won a pie eating contest in high school) once again breaks down the haves and have nots of all 12 FHL teams.
Note: take all that is posted below with a grain of salt as Morganwigge spends more time eating pie than he does following hockey.


BADGER BOB
GM: John Chester
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 3
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: 1st Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-D G-F  D-G  F-F  D-F  F-F  |  G-F D-F
Overview
From the get-go, GM Chester made it clear that he liked his 2017-18 FHL Cup winning team, using his first four picks to acquire players that wore a Badger Bob jersey during the team’s championship run. Blake Wheeler was selected with the 12th overall pick, followed by defenseman Victor Hedman. The next two picks were used to acquire goaltender John Gibson and Badger Bob stalwart Eric Staal. Round three fortified the defense and goalie spots, Matt Dumba and Tuukka Rask donning the yellow and black duds of Badger Bob. Round 4 would find GM Chester thinking forward, signing Jakub Voracek and Jonathan Huberdeau to seven month contracts.
Why Badger Bob will win the FHL Cup
At 27 years of age Victor Hedman is hitting his prime. With an average of 16.5 goals and 67.5 points over the past two seasons, the suddenly durable Hedman will see an up-tick in points and will compete for defensive scoring lead. Blake Wheeler potted 91 points last year while playing for a good team. He’ll deposit even more while playing for a very good team. As the clear-cut starter for Cup-contending teams, Gibson and Rask form a formidable duo and will combine for 75 wins. Matt Dumba was one of the better defenders over the final half of last season, the 24 year-old finishing with 14 goals and 50 points. Dumba won’t start slow this year, the rising stars numbers landing in 20 goal, 65 point territory.
Why they won’t
Ironically one of the reasons why Badger Bob won the FHL Cup in 2017-18 will be the reason they won’t win the FHL Cup in 2018-19. Eric Staal netted 42 goals last year, depositing an off the charts 17.4% of his shots. With a career shooting percentage of 10.6%, the number of goals scored will drop significantly - that and the NHL graybeard will soon be 34 years-old. You don’t win FHL Cups by wasting second round picks on fortuitous fading stars. The deeper you venture into the forward slot the slimmer the pickings; Huberdeau, Schwartz and Gourde producing nary a bead of sweat on the forehead of any of the league’s general managers. With a career average of 31.8 points per season, lightweight defender Jake Gardiner was fortunate to net 52 points last year. Taking a backseat to rising star Morgan Rielly, Gardiner’s stock (and numbers) will plummet during the new season.

BLULINERS
GM: Ken Hamilton
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 25
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 4
LAUGHING BAGS: 1
LAST SEASON: 2nd Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-G D-D F-F F-G F-D D-G  |  F-F F-F  
Overview
The Bluliners were gifted the first overall pick and wasted no time in signing Connor McDavid, arguably the best player to roam the ice since the days of Gretzky and Lemieux. Hamilton’s second pick was used to secure the services of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Bluliners past success the result of a good defense, Hamilton quickly turned his attention to the blueline, selecting rearguards P.K. Subban and Tyson Barrie in the second round. Two forwards would land in the team’s lap in Round 3, Filip Forsberg and Vincent Trocheck welcomed into the Bluliners fold. The 4th round would see the acquisitions of forward Evander Kane and backstop Mike Smith.
Why the Bluliners will win the FHL Cup
During the off-season Connor McDavid said he was going to shoot more, stating he wanted to score more goals. Last year - when not wanting to shoot more - McDavid scored 41 goals (and a league-best 108 points). Still only 21 years of age, McDavid’s numbers will soar, a 50 goal/120 point season all but guaranteed. Evander Kane sprung to life after being traded to the San Jose Sharks, netting 9 goals in 17 games. Over a full season that equates to a Rocket Richard trophy-contending 43 goals. Point-consistent P.K. Subban and bonus point-hog Tyson Barrie will combine for 120. Just entering his prime and playing for a new contract, 30 year-old Sergei Bobrovsky will lead the league in wins; both a 45 victory campaign and Vezina-contending season a virtual lock.
Why they won’t
Filip Forsberg is the team’s second best forward; a player who netted a paltry 26 goals last year. The novelty of being traded to the Sharks will wear off and Evander Kane will once again become a liability, his off-ice antics taking priority over his on-ice performance. Patrice Bergeron is old and has a bad back. Bad back + old does not = anything good. His status with his Columbus Blue Jackets team serving as a distraction, the historically fragile Bobrovsky will flounder. When he does, Mike Smith and Cory Schneider will be asked to shoulder the load. At 36 years of age, Mike Smith's sloping shoulders can’t support anything. Cory Schneider meanwhile is coming off a 17 win season. Do you want to place your Cup-hopes in the hands of a slouching geriatric and a 17 win goaltender?  I didn’t think so.

BOULDER FLYERS
GM: Paul Morgan
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 22
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 3
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: 3rd Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-F  D-G  G-D  F-F  F-G  D-F  |  D-F  F-F  
Overview
Happy with their draft last year, the Boulder Flyers followed the same script this year, drafting two forwards, two defensemen and two goaltenders with their first six picks. At the conclusion of the third round GM Morgan was standing on the stage next to Auston Matthews, Mark Scheifele, Kris Letting, Martin Jones, Matt Murray and Zach Werenski. In round four Morgan would solidify this forward crew, guiding Sean Monahan and Mitchell Marner into the Boulder Flyers stable.
Why the Boulder Flyers will win the FHL Cup
Auston Matthews was very good even without the support of a star teammate. His numbers will soar with star John Tavares now paving the way. One of the hottest forwards of the final months of last season, Marner’s numbers will also leave the atmosphere as he now skates on a line with Tavares. Budding superstar Mark Scheifele will hit the 100 point mark for the first time in his career while a healthy Kris Letang will net 70 points. The Flyers trio of goaltenders will lead the league in scoring, Martin Jones, Matt Murray and Corey Crawford providing the foundation on which GM Morgan will construct his 4th FHL championship.
Why they won’t
No team has ever won the FHL Cup with a less than stellar defense, and when Letang goes down - and he will - the Flyers will be hanging their Cup-hopes on Zach Werenski, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Montour. Werenski has injury issues and no track record. McAvoy and Montour are not only unproven, neither has scored more than 32 points in a season. Matt Murray wasn’t good last year and he won’t be good this year. Corey Crawford - still not fully recovered from a season-ending concussion - backstops a still bad Blackhawks team (translated: will suck).

CENTRAL RED ARMY
GM: Tom Buker
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 2
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: 4th Place
DRAFT PICKS: D-F F-G D-F G-F F-G F-D  | F-F D-D  
Overview
After falling just outside the money (4th place) in each of his two years in the league, the GM Buker is determined to skate away with a bag of cash in 2018-19. His first move may have ensured just that, the Central Red Army GM tapping the services of  multi-FHL Cup winner Erik Karlsson with the 3rd overall pick in the first round. Two forwards would follow, Brad Marchand and Phil Kessel joining Karlsson on the stage. The next two picks bolstered the defense and goaltending slots, Braden Holtby and Torey Krug inked by GM Buker. A forward and a goalie were next, Leon Draisaitl and Ben Bishop enlisting in the Army.
Why the Central Red Army will win the FHL Cup
Erik Karlsson and FHL championships walk hand-in-hand. It didn’t happen last year as the peerless defender was still recovering from off-season surgery. That’s no longer the case and a fit Karlsson will lead all defensemen in scoring while flirting with an 85 point season. Phil Kessel is coming off the best year of his career, the in-prime 30 year-old sure to equal or exceed the 92 points he pocketed in 2017-18. After a down year, Leon Draisaitl will return to form, the Connor McDavid sidekick a sure bet to log 85 points. Braden Holtby will lead all goaltenders in wins while Torey Krug will bust through the 59 point personal-best ceiling he established last year.
Why they won’t
Erik Karlsson has stated he’s now 100% but the 28 year-old is still skating with pig tendons stitched into his ankle. No player can be deemed 100% with foreign body parts, as such, the once untouchable rearguard will post mere mortal numbers. Phil Kessel is good but last year was a fluke, the chunky winger falling back into 70 point land. Braden Holtby wasn’t especially good during long stretches last year. With no motivation with a Stanley Cup now stuffed into his back pocket, Holtby will drift toward the middle of the pack. When Holtby’s game ventures south, Ben Bishop will be asked to step it up - which he will do until the fragile netminder is once again injured. When Bishop goes down, the Central Red Army, for the third time in three seasons, will march out of the money.

CONCUSSION JUNCTION
GM: Brendan Smalley
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 0
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: Did Not Play
DRAFT PICKS: F-F D-G F-D G-F F-D F-D  |  F-F  F-F
Overview
With no track record, no one knew what to expect when first-year GM Brendan Smalley stepped to the microphone. Sixteen picks later the Concussion Junction boss had assembled a well-balanced team. The balance took shape early when Smalley selected two forwards a defenseman and a goaltender with his first four picks. Forwards Sidney Crosby and Taylor Hall were the first to pull a Junction jersey over their head. They were followed by defender Drew Doughty and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The next two rounds would net the same balance of players - two forwards, a defender and a backstop - Ilya Kovalchuk, Ryan Ellis, Henrik Lundqvist and Teuvo Teravainen welcomed into Smalley’s lair.
Why Concussion Junction will win the FHL Cup
Full of promise but never delivering, Taylor Hall finally pulled the ripcord on his impending Hall of Fame career, netting 39 goals and 93 points. Those numbers will venture north in 2018-19, the now confident 26 year-old set to eclipse the 100 point plateau for the first time in his career. Sidney Crosby is money, the 31 year-old sure to eclipse the 89 points he collected in each of the past two seasons. Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the NHL for just one reason- to score goals. Nothing else interests the Russian sniper. Kovalchuk will do just that for his Concussion Junction team, plans already being drawn-up for a 40 goal season. Goal scoring-wise, few defenders do it better than Ryan Ellis, the 27 year-old primed for a 20 goal campaign. Marc-Andre Fleury will play a ton and win a ton, the veteran backstop poised for a 40 win season.
Why they won’t
Ilya Kovalchuk hasn’t played in the smaller-rinked NHL since 2013. If the tighter checking doesn’t derail him, Kovalchuk’s wonky 35 year-old legs will; the third round draft pick a lock to post sixth round numbers. Sidney Crosby isn’t fading fast but he’s fading, the prodding Penguin no longer able to keep pace with the league’s best players. Teuvo Teravainen was drafted early. Players drafted early are supposed to post Cup-worthy numbers. Teravainen netted 64 points last year. Cup-worthy? Negative. On paper Marc-Andre Fleury and Henrik Lundqvist look like a formidable duo. They’re not. Injured often, Marc-Andre Fleury played only 46 games last year. The brittle backstop will play even fewer games this year. Lundqvist is 36 years of age. 36 year-old bourbon is good; 36 year-old goaltenders are not.

ICE CATS
GM: Steve Cutshall
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 22
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
LAUGHING BAGS: 1
LAST SEASON: 5th Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-F G-D D-F F-F D-F G-F  |  F-D G-F  
Overview
After loading-up on goalies in the first round last year, GM Cutshall decided to travel the forward route, signing John Tavares and Nathan MacKinnon in the opening frame. The Ice Cats then went fishing for a goaltender, two defensemen and a forward, reeling-in the likes of Connor Hellebuyck, Seth Jones, Dougie Hamilton and Sebastian Aho. Round four was used to bolster the forward position, GM Cutshall handing an Ice Cats sweater to Jonathan Marchessault and J.T. Miller.
Why the Ice Cats will win the FHL Cup
With virtually no support, John Tavares has been one of the best players in the NHL; his job to make the players around him better. Now playing for the well-stocked Toronto Maple Leafs, the 28 year-old will finally be unleashed - Connor McDavid being the only player standing between Tavares and the Art Ross Trophy. Nathan MacKinnon is only 23 years-old. As a 22 year-old he ripped 39 goals and collected 97 points (translated: holy hell). His game still untapped, MacKinnon will steamroll the 100 point barrier in 2018-19. Despite falling to injury in the preseason, Seth Jones will return with a vengeance, sure to improve on the 16 goals and 57 points he collected last season. Connor Hellebuyck will start and win most of the Winnipeg Jets games. He won a league-best 44 games last year. He’ll win even more this year.
Why they won’t
Jonathan Marchessault and J.T. Miller will have to play a significant role if the Ice Cats are to win the FHL Cup. Jonathan Marchessault and J.T. Miller are not significant players. Dougie Hamilton was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes during the off-season - the Hurricanes being the black hole of the NHL. Hamilton will disappear, as will his numbers. With Seth Jones shelved, Hamilton won’t be getting any help early. By the time Jones gets up to speed the Ice Cats will be too far gone. While every FHL team would like to employ the services of Connor Hellebuyck, no team wants the Ice Cats other goaltender; Jacob Markstrom striking fear into the heart of only one man (a neurotic guy in Missouri who was born with an innate fear of anyone named Jacob Markstrom).

ICE HOGS
GM: Steve Henry
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 13
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: 7th Place
DRAFT PICKS: G-F D-F G-D F-D F-F D-D  |  F-F F-F  
Overview
If the FHL completely eliminated the goaltender position GM Henry would still draft a goaltender in the first round. The veteran GM has been doing it for years; he can’t help himself.  Such was the case this year, the Hog boss selecting Andrei Vasilevskiy with his first pick; the 10th overall selection in the opening round. Two forwards, a defenseman and yes, another goaltender would follow; the gate to the pig pen opened for Patrik Laine, Shayne Gostisbehere, Anze Kopitar and Devan Dubnyk. Ivan Provorov would be the next player summoned to the stage, the young defenseman followed by Rickard Rakell and Morgan Rielly.
Why the Ice Hogs will win the FHL Cup
The NHL hasn’t seen a 60 goal scorer since Steven Stamkos pocketed as many during the 2011-12 season. That will change in 2018-19 as Patrik Laine, still only 20 years-old, will become a member of the exclusive 60 goal club. Anze Kopitar carded a career-best 92 points last year. Still a primetime player at 31 years of age - and skating for an improved Kings team - Kopitar will flirt with a 100 point campaign. Andrei Vasilevskiy won 42 games last year. As the workhorse of his potent Tampa Bay Lightning team, the youngster will win even more games this year. Shayne Gostisbehere (65) and Ivan Provorov (41) combined for 106 points last season. Gostisbehere will maintain his Cup-worthy pace while Provorov’s numbers will expand, the still only 21 year-old joining his teammate as a rare 60-point defender. As quarterback of what could be the best powerplay in the NHL, the Leafs Morgan Rielly will also be nibbling on a 60 point season.
Why they won’t
Prior to last years 92 point effort, Anze Kopitar netted 52, 74 and 64 points. A betting man would not place money on Kopitar equaling his numbers from last year. That betting man is smart. Kopitar won’t. Joe Pavelski was drafted with the hope that he would return to his 30+ goal days. At 34 years of age, Pavelski’s 30+ goal days are long gone. “No worries” you say as the Hogs have a 40 goal scorer in Anders Lee. With John Tavares now skating for another team, all the numbers planted on Long Island are going to shrivel and die. Lee won’t see 30 goals, yet alone 40. Andrei Vasilevskiy and Devan Dubnyk combine to a form a thick wall in front of the Ice Hogs net. That wall, while thick, has absolutely no insulation - the Hogs failing to draft a backup netminder. When either Vasilevskiy or Dubnyk gets carted to the shelf the wall will crumble, as will the Hogs.

MISCONDUCTS
GM: Dave Smalley
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 23
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2
LAUGHING BAGS: 1
LAST SEASON: 8th Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-F  F-D  F-D  G-G  D-F  D-F  |  F-G  D-F  
Overview
The Misconducts placed a good chunk of their money on centers and wingers, four of GM Smalley’s first five picks used to acquire forwards. Sniper extraordinaire Alexander Ovechkin was plucked first, followed by Steven Stamkos, the last NHLer to rip 60 goals. David Pastrnak would join his goal scoring teammates in the second round. Defender John Carlson broke the forward trend when Smalley uttered his name late in the second round. The Misconducts jumped back on the forward track in the third round, Vladimir Tarasenko entering the Misconducts fray. The next three picks enhanced the defense and goaltending slots, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Cam Talbot and Jake Allen tossed into the Misconducts pot.
Why the Misconducts will win the FHL Cup
No other team can compete with the firepower of the Misconducts. Ovechkin will net 45 goals, Stamkos 40, Pastrnak 40 and Tarasenko 45. Do the math. That’s a lot of goals and a lot of points. Wait, can't forget about Jeff Skinner. Now skating on a line with Jack Eichel, Skinner will score 40 goals too. John Carlson will meet or exceed all expectations - those expectations being a season like last when the underrated rearguard notched 15 goals and 68 points. For the third time defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will top the 20 goal mark while goaltenders Cam Talbot and Jake Allen will play a ton and win a ton.
Why they won’t
If NHL players got better with age then Marcel Dionne would still be recording 50 goal seasons. He’s not. Dionne no longer skates and he’s fat. Alexander Ovechkin is 33 years old. His better days are behind him. His FHL Cup winning days are behind him. Cam Talbot was bad last year, the Edmonton backstop winning just 31 games after securing 42 wins the year prior. His Oilers team is worse this year. Cam Talbot will also be worse. Ultimately the Misconducts Swiss cheese defense will derail their Cup hopes. John Carlson is overrated. Carlson notched 68 points last season. The seven seasons before Carlson recorded 37, 32, 22, 37, 55, 39 and 37 points. Even Steve Chiasson was better than Carlson (translated: Carlson blows).  Speaking of overrated, look no further than Oliver Ekman-Larsson. How does 39 and 42 points sound? - The numbers Ekman-Larsson posted the past two seasons. (hint: it doesn’t sound like the noise made by someone who hoists the FHL Cup).

POLAR BEARS
GM: Mike Elya
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 8
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: 11th Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-F D-D D-G G-F F-F F-F  |  F-F D-G
Overview
Knowing the importance of a sturdy blueline, the Polar Bears were intent on departing the draft with a strong defense; three of their first five picks being defensemen. First however GM Elya addressed the forward slot, acquiring Nikita Kucherov and Claude Giroux in the first round. A rush of defenseman then followed, Dustin Byfuglien, Alex Pietrangelo and Keith Yandle plucked from the draft day pool. With no one yet called upon to protect the Polar Bears net, GM Elya tipped his cap toward Antti Raanta and Carter Hutton. Sean Couturier was next, the 25 year-old selected with the Bears final pick in the fourth round.
Why the Polar Bears will win the FHL Cup
Few if any forwards in the league are more dangerous than Nikita Kucherov, the shoot-first-ask-questions-later 25 year-old a lock to score 45 goals. Claude Giroux was healthy last year and it showed, the crafty, hard-working center finishing with 102 points. Giroux is healthy again this year; his numbers will be the same. Dustin Byfuglien and Alex Pietrangelo will combine for 35 goals and 120 points. Keith Yandle typically flies under the radar but that won’t happen this year. Skating for an improved Florida Panthers team, Yandle will surpass the 56 points he scored last year. Save percentage-wise. Antti Raanta and Carter Hutton were the best in the NHL, the duo stopping a league-leading .931 and .930 percent of the pucks they faced. Those numbers didn’t conjure up a lot of wins last year; they will this year.
Why they won’t
Claude Giroux is good but he’s not 102 points good - he’ll return to his typical self in 2018-19. Beyond Giroux and Kucherov, the pickings are slim. In the four years prior to last years 76 point effort, Sean Couturier (didn’t) enjoy seasons of 39, 37, 39 and 34 points. He’s not that good. When three of your first five picks are defenseman you should have a intimidating defense. The Polar Bears defense is far from intimidating. At 33 years of age, Dustin Byfuglien is no spring chicken. That and he netted a measly 45 points last year. Alex Pietrangelo potted a career-best 54 points last year. Even if he does the same this year (he won’t) the numbers are run-of-the-mill. Keith Yandle will return to his 5th round-worthy ways (he was drafted in the 3rd round). While Antti Raanta and Carter Hutton deflect a large percentage of shots that they face, the team in front of them can’t put the puck in the net. While the two will statistically shine they won’t win many games. Not winning many games means not scoring a lot of points. Not scoring a lot of points means not winning the FHL Cup.

SC COBRAS
GM: Mike Murphy
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 3
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
LAUGHING BAGS: 1
LAST SEASON: 12th Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-G F-D G-F D-F D-F F-G  |  F-D F-F
Overview
Last year was not kind to the SC Cobras as they were strapped with the Laughing Bag - the FHL booby prize for finishing dead last. Determined to make the wrongs right, GM Murphy opted for balance, the 4th year GM drafting three forwards, two defensemen and two goalies with his first seven picks. Evgeni Malkin and Pekka Rinne would enter through the first round door, followed by second rounders Artemi Panarin and Roman Josi. The third and fourth round would welcome the likes of Jonathan Quick, William Karlsson, Mikhail Sergachev and Logan Couture.
Why the SC Cobras will win the FHL Cup
Crosby Scmosby, Evgeni Malkin is the best player in a Pittsburgh Penguins uniform, the Russian transplant potting 42 goals and 98 points last year. This year the 32 year-old will top the 100 point mark for the fourth time in his career. Artemi Panarin is playing for a new contract. Last year when he wasn’t motivated (i.e. not playing for a new contract), the shifty 26 year-old collected 82 points. Motivated, those numbers will rise. His elite game now comfortable in Vegas, William Karlsson will notch another 43 goals. Roman Josi has averaged 54.5 points over the past four seasons. Now in his prime at 28 years of age, the Swiss defenseman will collect 60 points for the second time in his career. Talent-wise, they don’t get any better than Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick, the pair a lock to win 40 games each.
Why they won’t
Q. Prior to last year, how many fantasy hockey nerds knew of William Karlsson? A. None. Q. Why? A. Because he scored  9 and 6 goals in the two years prior to his lucky-shot season. Last year Karlsson scored on 23.4% of his shots. History (and common sense) tells you that won’t happen again. Evgeni Malkin was healthy last year - playing a robust 78 games. Evgeni is injury prone. He won’t play 78 games, nor score as many points this year. Beyond Roman Josi the defensive slot is microscopically thin. Mikhail Sergachev is a young defenseman who wants to be good; Mark Giordano is an old defenseman who used to be good. Speaking of old, they don’t make them much older than Pekka Rinne. Even if the soon to be 36 year-old remains healthy (don’t bet on it) he won’t play a ton of games, as such, points generated from the cage of the SC Cobras will be few and far between.

VEGAS VIPERS
GM: Lawrence Miller
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 3
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: 9th Place
DRAFT PICKS: F-F G-F F-F F-F F-F F-D  |  D-G D-D  
Overview
History has proven that you have to have a good defense to win the FHL Cup. A great defense, even better. “To hell with that” said GM Miller, the fourth year GM opting for mostly forwards - not acquiring a defender until his second pick in the 6th round. Ten of the Vipers first eleven picks were forwards, GM Miller first rolling the dice on Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The second round saw Frederik Anderson and Johnny Gaudreau joining the rat pack. The Vipers next seven picks were all forwards; Aleksander Barkov, Mikko Rantanen, Max Pacioretty, Alexander Radulov, Kyle Connor, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mike Hoffman all walking to the stage - all looking left and right while walking, wondering “where in the hell are our defenseman.”
Why the Vegas Vipers will win the FHL Cup
The Vipers will have no trouble generating points from the forward position. Even if one of the highly drafted puckslingers goes belly-up, another forward is poised to take over. As such the Vipers will lead all 12 FHL teams in forward points. Even though the defensive position was entirely an afterthought, there are plenty of points to be had. After netting just 32 points last year, Duncan Keith was ignored by every GM, acquired by the Vipers in the 7th round. Averaging 50.5 points in the four years prior to last years hiccup, Keith will prove to be a draft day steal. Sami Vatanen will also be labeled “draft day steal” at seasons end, the offense-minded blueliner finally locating his game in New Jersey. Between the pipes, the Magnificent Anderson’s (sic) will be magnificent, Frederik and Craig combining for 70 wins.
Why they won’t
When you spend so many early picks on forwards you figure you’d exit with a team full of Gretzky’s, Yzerman’s, Bossey’s and Kurri’s. Not the case here as none of the Viper forwards are especially intimidating. They’ll be good, for sure, but the lack of sledgehammer talent won’t be enough to fill the huge holes on defense. Duncan Keith is 35 years old. Old defenseman don’t score many points. Sami Vatanen isn’t old but he’s not that good. Young defenseman who aren’t good don’t score many points either. Their numbers combined, the Magnificent Andersons won’t be magnificent. Backstopping the Maple Leafs, Frederik will captain a fairly large ship; a ship that will ultimately be torpedoed by the porous play of grandpa Craig.

WILD DUCKS
GM: Scott Collard
YEARS IN LEAGUE: 24
FHL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 8
LAUGHING BAGS: 0
LAST SEASON: 6th Place
DRAFT PICKS: D-F D-F F-F F-G D-F G-G  |  F-F D-F
Overview
Few if any GM’s place a greater emphasis on the defensive position than GM Collard, the 8-time FHL Cup champions spending two of his first three picks on a defenseman. Brent Burns was the first to pull a Wild Ducks jersey over his head, the veteran rearguard selected with the second overall pick in the first round. Patrick Kane would follow Burns to the stage. The two first rounders were then joined by a defenseman, four forwards and a goalie; John Klingberg, Jack Eichel, Mathew Barzal, Evgeny Kuznetzov, Nicklas Backstrom and Carey Price all handed a “Wild Ducks: How to win the FHL Cup” pamphlet.
Why the Wild Ducks  will win the FHL Cup
With Erik Karlsson now seated next to Brent Burns on the powerplay, the Sharks “goals scored” total will skyrocket. Lot of goals means lots of points for Brent Burns, the greased-elbowed puck-launcher a sure bet to net 25 goals and 70 points. John Klingberg will continue to elevate his game, the bonus point hog - just 26 years old - a lock for 70 points. Jack Eichel will finally steer clear of the shelf, a fat number of games played resulting in a fat number of points. Mathew Barzel will announce to the entire hockey world “I don’t need no stinking John Tavares,” the lightning-fast center to match or exceed the 85 points he tallied last year. Talent-wise, Carey Price is as good as they come; as such the typically rubber-pelted netminder will log a lot of minutes, stop a lot of pucks and corral a lot of points.
Why they won’t
Despite being just 29 years of age, Patrick Kane’s best days are behind him. Potting just 76 points last year - and once again playing for a bad team - the less than all-in winger will struggle to collect 70 points. Jack Eichel will get hurt. Hardly a prediction because that’s what he does best. Eichel’s points per game average will be high; his games played number will be low. Without John Tavares distracting the opposition, Matthew Barzal will be skating with a huge bullseye on his back. As such, his numbers will plummet. Brent Burns is on the back nine of his career. Last year Burns scored just 12 goals. This year Burns will score less. Good news: Carey Price is a damn good goaltender. Bad news: Carey Price is injury prone and plays for a crap team. More bad news: Semyon Varalamov - the Wild Ducks second goaltender - is injury prone and plays for a could be crap team (translated: lots of “looking for a goalie” emails coming to an inbox near you).
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