Thriving, Endangered, Extinct: Diagnosing what killed the Detroit Tigers

The goal was simple: win at all costs.

But they didn’t.

After years of division titles, MVP awards, Cy Youngs, and countless All Star Game selections, the Detroit Tigers are, right on cue, feeling the repercussions of going all-in to win a title for aging owner Mike Ilitch.

Now that the core of the team that won four straight division titles from 2011 through 2014 has been broken up, the Tigers are on the inevitable downslide that was expected to happen after years of winning.

Except they didn’t win.

Well, they won, but never achieved the ultimate goal. Ilitch’s death in January punctuated an era that, in the long run, will be considered a failure.

Now, we are left with a carcass of a baseball team, wondering what could have been.

The four division titles, five playoff appearances and two American League pennants since 2006 look nice, and provided some fun memories for Tigers fans along the way, but there will always be an empty feeling for Detroiters looking back at these years.

When did the downfall begin? Tough to say.

It’s easy to look back on an October night in Boston, where one Joaquin Benoit changeup to David Ortiz reversed Detroit’s path from likely World Series winner to dead meat in 2013.

From there, the Tigers went on to win just one more playoff game, losing to the Red Sox in six and getting swept by the Orioles the following year before tumbling all the way to the division’s cellar in 2015.

It was a quick death, but it was far from painless.

Heading into the 2013 offseason, Detroit still had assembled a team that looked capable of winning a ring the following year. But after veteran manager Jim Leyland hung up his cleats, the Tigers went in a completely new direction.

They hired a manager with zero coaching experience in professional baseball. Not just in the Major Leagues. Not just zero managerial experience.

Zero. Coaching. Experience.

Unless you want to count managing Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

Sure, Brad Ausmus was a successful big league catcher like most managers, but right off the bat, his hiring raised plenty of question marks.

For an organization apparently set on winning now at all costs, hiring an inexperienced manager made little sense. But did this hiring signal a change in direction? Were the Tigers finally going to give a little thought to the future instead of throwing all of their eggs into the basket of the present?

Well, not exactly. They made a highly-criticized trade soon after, sending starting pitcher Doug Fister to Washington for Steve Lombardozzi, Robbie Ray and Ian Krol.

Sending away Fister left a void that is, in a sense, still waiting to be filled. Detroit got some good young talent in return, but any thoughts of prepping for the future were wiped away when Lombardozzi was flipped for ancient shortstop Alex Gonzalez…who was released almost immediately after.

Also before the 2014 season, the Tigers locked up slugger Miguel Cabrera for 10 more years – a contract which will pay Cabrera $32 million in his age 40 season.

Not exactly setting up a great future.

The Tigers needed some bullpen help (surprise!), so they traded highly-regarded prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel for Joakim Soria – a steady closer whose best days were clearly behind him.

Knebel is now an All Star closer himself, for what it’s worth.

Soon after, at the 2014 trade deadline in the heat of a pennant race, the Tigers went for it again.

Detroit dished out two everyday players in center fielder Austin Jackson and young starter Drew Smyly, along with top prospect Willy Adames, for 2012 Cy Young winner David Price.

Price was, and is to this day, a guy who puts up impressive numbers but disappoints when it matters. He has never won a postseason start and holds a 5.54 ERA in October.

Well, it didn’t work out in Detroit and he was dealt away for a modest prospect package a year later.

But let’s back it up a bit.

After the 2014 season, the Tigers elected to let ace pitcher Max Scherzer pack his bags.

Unlike Price, Scherzer had experienced postseason success in his career and showed no signs of slowing down any time soon. He’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball today, in the midst of his third Cy Young-caliber season with the Washington Nationals.

But the “win-at-all costs” Tigers couldn’t afford him. Not after inking Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez and others to absolutely ludicrous deals.

Then again, they didn’t have an issue signing Jordan Zimmermann, who is clearly a tier or two lower than Scherzer as far as starting pitchers go, to a contract worth about $22 million per year just one offseason later.

Oh, and then $13.5 million more to Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe.

Basically, it comes down to inconsistency. Not the inconsistency that the offense or back end of the pitching rotation has experienced in recent years, but inconsistency in the front office to pick a direction and stick with it.

Inconsistency and, to quote the charming but historically inaccurate baseball flick Moneyball, “an imperfect understanding of where wins come from”.

Take a look at the past five World Series champs: 2012 Giants, 2013 Red Sox, 2014 Giants, 2015 Royals, 2016 Cubs.

A few things they all had in common: role players, unsung heroes, ridiculously strong bullpens and, perhaps most importantly, ridiculously strong bonds in the clubhouse.

Everyone in the big leagues can play baseball. Not everyone can play together. Watch some of this year’s contenders like Houston, Cleveland or Los Angeles. Hell, try to remember what it was like in the Tigers’ clubhouse five years ago.

High fives, special handshakes, pranks, jokes, smiles, dancing. Everywhere you look.

It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see that the atmosphere in the Detroit dugout has taken a complete 180.

Jose Iglesias is there thinking to himself about what flashy play he’s going to make next inning.

Miguel Cabrera has a dejected look on his face as he hobbles back after a disappointing at-bat.

Victor Martinez is angry about Comerica Park “robbing” him of what he thought should have been a home run.

The front office has neglected to acknowledge the importance of two of these essential elements of winning teams in recent years: clubhouse chemistry and clutch performers.

Here are a couple of examples.

 

Cameron Maybin

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Maybin was brought back last season to fill a hole in center field. He missed the first month and a half of the season due to injury while Detroit hovered around the .500 mark.

However, his return provided a fresh breath of life into a team desperately in need of a spark. He was the perfect medicine to Detroit’s ailment, getting timely hits while also lightening up the clubhouse atmosphere.

Maybin’s bright smile was visible from all around the ballpark and his antics during exciting moments amped his teammates up.

Thanks in major part to Maybin’s contributions, the Tigers remained in the playoff race up until the season’s final week.

He was dealt to the Angels in the offseason because the Tigers were not willing to pay him $9 million. He currently leads the American League in stolen bases and the Angels are surprisingly hanging around in the playoff picture, even without slugger Mike Trout in the lineup.

 

Torii Hunter

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Everyone in baseball knows how great of a guy Torii Hunter is, and Tigers fans got a brief taste in 2013 and 2014.

Hunter led some of the team’s victory dances and champagne celebrations and also chipped in on the field, racking up a numerous amount of late-inning hits in close games despite being near the end of his career.

Detroit did not re-sign Hunter for the 2015, as he finished up his career where it began in Minnesota. The Tigers dropped from first to last in the division while the Twins enjoyed a 13-game improvement (and then dropped off the face of the earth the following year after Hunter’s retirement).

The Tigers instead opted to replace Hunter in the outfield with Anthony Gose, who was acquired in exchange for current Blue Jays starting second baseman Devon Travis.

Gose did not exactly have the positive impact Hunter did, eventually getting sent to Double-A due to his poor performance, alienating reporters due to his negativity, and converting to a pitcher in a last-ditch attempt to salvage his career.

 

Delmon Young

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Maybe Delmon Young isn’t as likable of a human being as Maybin and Hunter, but he was unfairly tossed to the curb after providing two years of October magic in the Motor City.

Young mashed five home runs for the Tigers in the 2011 postseason, including three in a five-game series win over the Yankees in the ALDS.

He followed up by winning the ALCS MVP award in 2012, batting .353 and driving in six runs during Detroit’s four-game sweep of the Yankees en route to another World Series appearance. Despite muteness from pretty much the rest of the lineup in the fall classic, Young made up for his below-average defense by hitting a .357 clip against the Giants.

With no room left on the roster the following year as Young’s glove would likely relegate him to a DH spot already occupied by Victor Martinez, he was let go.

Young suited up for Tampa Bay in the 2013 playoffs, unsurprisingly lifting a solo homer in the Rays’ Wild Card Game win over the Indians.

In 2014, the Tigers looked primed to tie their ALDS series against the Baltimore Orioles, taking a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth.

The Orioles made it 6-4 and then took the lead for good on a three-run double later in the inning. The batter? Delmon Young.

 

An imperfect understanding of where wins come from.

 

Overspending on players who fill up the stats sheet has been proven time and time again to fail. Building through the system, trusting the process, and bringing in core pieces who gel together neatly and contribute when called upon is the way to create champions.

If the Tigers were so focused on winning at all costs, why did they hire Brad Ausmus and say goodbye to Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Cameron Maybin, Torii Hunter and Delmon Young, among others?

If they made those moves with the future in mind, why did they make the David Price trade? Why did they make the overreaches of the century in the Alfredo Simon and Joakim Soria trades, among others?

Now all that’s left is a carcass. And what do you do with a carcass on your lawn? Let it rot? Nope.

Move it.

The trade deadline is July 31.

My 2017 MLB All Star Rosters

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With voting ending last night, let’s take a look at what Sunday night’s roster reveal SHOULD (but probably won’t) look like.

Each team will consist of 13 pitchers and 21 position players, giving each team 34 players.

Remember, some players still may be snubbed because of the league’s rule that requires at least one player from each club to make the team.

Also, injured players who will still be on the disabled list, like Mike Trout and Trea Turner, will not be included.

 

American League

Starters

C Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
1B Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays
2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
3B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
SS Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
OF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
OF George Springer, Houston Astros
OF Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox
DH Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays

Reserves

C Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
C Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
1B Logan Morrison, Tampa Bay Rays
1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
2B Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
2B Robinson Canó, Seattle Mariners
2B Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
3B Miguel Sanó, Minnesota Twins
3B Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
SS Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
OF Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics
OF Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees

Pitchers

SP Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
SP Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
SP Lance McCullers Jr., Houston Astros
SP Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins
SP Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
SP Luis Severino, New York Yankees
SP Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians
SP Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
SP Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
RP Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
RP Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians
RP Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
RP Chris Devenski, Houston Astros

 

National League

Starters

C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
2B Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
3B Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
SS Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
OF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
DH Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Reserves

C Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves
C J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins
1B Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
1B Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies
2B Yangervis Solarte, San Diego Padres
3B Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
3B Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
SS Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
OF Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
OF Jay Bruce, New York Mets
OF Aaron Altherr, Philadelphia Phillies

Pitchers

SP Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
SP Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
SP Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks
SP Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates
SP Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
SP Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers
RP Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs
RP Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
RP Cory Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers
RP Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh Pirates
RP Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies
RP Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks

2017 NHL Draft: Ranking each team’s draft

With the 2017 NHL Entry Draft now complete, we will have to wait a few years to really see how each team’s selections pan out. However, it’s always fun to look at first impressions.

There are a few ways to rank drafts. One could take each team’s draft position into account, giving all clubs an equal chance of getting a good mark regardless of how many picks they own and which round the picks are in, or one could look at the overall quality of players acquired.

For the purposes of this article, both will be taken into account. The most important question to be answered will be: which teams most improved their future chances over the weekend?

 

Everett Silvertips vs Portland Winterhawks
EVERETT, WASHINGTON – SEPTEMBER 18: (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

1. Vegas Golden Knights

C Cody Glass (6), C Nick Suzuki (13), D Erik Brannstrom (15), D Nic Hague (34), C Jake Leschyshyn (62), RW Jonas Rondbjerg (65), G Maksim Zhukov (96), C Lucas Elvenes (127), LW Jonathan Dugan (142), C Nick Campoli (142), G Jiri Patera (161), C Ben Jones (189)

Hockey’s newest team went with both quantity AND quality, absolutely nailing their three first-round selections and following up with solid picks throughout the draft. Suzuki and Brannstrom both could have gone in the top 10, Nic Hague could have certainly been a first-rounder and Jake Leschyshyn showed a lot of promise in Regina this season. This is the right way to start off an expansion franchise.

 

Brandon Wheat Kings v Kelowna Rockets
KELOWNA, CANADA – OCTOBER 25: Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings shoots on net during warm up against the Kelowna Rockets on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

2. Philadelphia Flyers

C Nolan Patrick (2), C Morgan Frost (27), LW Isaac Ratcliffe (35), G Kirill Ustimenko (80), LW Matthew Strome (106), RW Maksim Sushko (107), LW Noah Cates (137), RW Olle Lycksell (168), D Wyatt Kalynuk (196)

Philadelphia had the easiest pick in this year’s draft as the New Jersey Devils left Nolan Patrick on the board for the Flyers at No. 2. Patrick will make an immediate impact in a Flyers uniform, but Frost and the big, physical Ratcliffe brighten the future quite a bit as well. Add in a potential first-rounder Matthew Strome dropping all the way to round four and some good late scoops in Maksim Sushko and Noah Cates, and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic in the City of Brotherly Love.

 

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3. Vancouver Canucks

C Elias Pettersson (5), RW Kole Lind (33), LW Jonah Gadjovich (55), G Michael DiPietro (64), D Jack Rathbone (95), D Kristoffer Gunnarsson (135), RW Petrus Palmu (181), D Matt Brassard (188)

Vancouver has some rough yeas coming up in the near future, but the Canucks built a solid base for rebuilding in this year’s draft. Each of their first five picks have quite a bit of upside, particularly Kole Lind, who looks like a steal in the second round.

 

 

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4. Los Angeles Kings

C Gabriel Vilardi (11), C Jaret Anderson-Dolan (41), G Matt Villalta (72), D Mikey Anderson (103), D Markus Phillips (118), D Cole Hults (134), C Drake Rymsha (138)

Hardly anyone would’ve believed that Vilardi, a potential top-three pick, would’ve been on the board for the Kings at pick No. 11. Nevertheless, he dropped (probably due to his skating ability) and Los Angeles didn’t miss its chance to snare a potential star. The Kings followed up with a great second-round pick in Jaret Anderson-Dolan, two solid late defensemen in Anderson and Phillips and a potential late-round steal in the talented Drake Rymsha.

 

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5. Montreal Canadiens

C Ryan Poehling (25), D Josh Brook (56), C Joni Ikonen (58), D Scott Walford (68), D Cale Fleury (87), D Jarret Tyszka (149), G Cayden Primeau (199)

The Habs picked a potential No. 1 center late in the first round in Ryan Poehling and followed up with two solid second-round selections in underrated defenseman Josh Brook and center Joni Ikonen. Fleury and Tyszka were also two high-value selections for the blue line late in the draft.

 

 

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6. Arizona Coyotes

D P.O. Joseph (23), D Filip Westerlund (44), RW Mackenzie Entwistle (69), C Nate Schnarr (75), D Cameron Crotty (82), D Noel Hoefenmayer (108), D Michael Karow (126), C Tyler Steenbergen (128), RW Erik Walli Walterholm (190)

It’s been a weird few days for the Coyotes. Firing a few important staff members, including coach Dave Tippett, while trading for Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson, raised some eyebrows for a team in a rebuild. Still, it was a pretty solid draft for the Yotes. Lots of their selections (notably Joseph, Entwistle, Crotty and Hoefenmayer) have extremely high ceilings even if they do come with a bit of risk. Steenbergen was a late-round steal while Westerlund and Schnarr could play big roles in the future as well.

 

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7. Carolina Hurricanes

C Martin Necas (12), C Eetu Luostarinen (42), D Luke Martin (52), C Morgan Geekie (67), RW Stelio Mattheos (73), G Eetu Makiniemi (104), D Brendan De Jong (166), D Ville Rasanen (197)

This has to be the first time a team has drafted two Eetus, right?

Luostarinen may have been a reach in the second round, but Martin Necas may end up being one of the best players in the draft. He will take some work, but he’s a legitimate top five talent and a ridiculously smart hockey player. Also, Martin, Geekie and Mattheos were outstanding selections.

 

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8. Florida Panthers

RW Owen Tippett (10), C Aleksi Heponiemi (40), D Max Gildon (66), D Tyler Inamoto (133), RW Sebastian Repo (184)

Tippett, who could’ve easily been a top-five pick, may turn out to be the best pick of the draft. The Panthers, who severely lack youth and skill on the right wing side, were gifted a dream scenario when the ultra-talented Mississauga Steelhead was still on the board at No. 10. To follow up, Florida selected a good center in Heponiemi and made some interesting late defensive picks, taking both Gildon and Inamoto from the USA NTDP.

 

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9. Dallas Stars

D Miro Heiskanen (3), G Jake Oettinger (26), LW Jason Robertson (39), C Liam Hawel (101), C Jacob Peterson (132), RW Brett Davis (163), G Dylan Ferguson (194)

Heiskanen could be the best defenseman to come out of this year’s draft, and Oettinger definitely looks like the best goaltender. That’s the right way to navigate the first round.

 

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10. New York Rangers

C Lias Andersson (7), C Filip Chytil (21), D Brandon Crawley (123), D Calle Sjalin (145), C Dominik Lakatos (157), C Morgan Barron (174), C Patrik Virta (207)

Andersson may have been a slight reach at No. 7, but he’s still an outstanding player that will be a top-six center if everything plays out right. So will Chytil, who looks like he could have what it takes to be an even better player than Andersson.

 

11. Nashville Predators

RW Eeli Tolvanen (30), LW Grant Mismash (61), D David Farrance (92), G Tomas Vomacka (154), C Pavel Koltygin (176), D Jacob Paquette (216)

Nashville fans who miss Shea Weber’s shot will absolutely love Tolvanen, who was expected to go as high as the top 10 yet inexplicably fell all the way to pick No. 30. The Preds followed up with another steal in the second round by nabbing Mismash from the USA NTDP, and then picked his talented defensive teammate David Farrance in the third.

 

12. Colorado Avalanche

D Cale Makar (4), D Conor Timmins (32), RW Nick Henry (94), G Petr Kvaca (114), C Igor Shvyrev (125), RW Denis Smirnov (156), D Nick Lievermann (187)

The Makar pick was an interesting one, as he won’t make an impact in Denver any time soon while making the long transition from the AJHL to the NHL, but he still has a ton of upside. The Avs opted for another defenseman in Timmins and then selected Nick Henry, a high-scoring winger from the Regina Pats.

 

13. Anaheim Ducks

LW Maxime Comtois (50), C Antoine Morand (60), C Jack Badini (91), RW Kyle Olson (122), G Olle Eriksson Ek (153)

For not having a first round pick, the Ducks hit it out of the park. Comtois looked like a lottery pick before struggling this season, but the potential is still there if developed correctly. Morand’s smarts and skills could have pushed him into the first round, but he was still on the board for Anaheim late in the second. Olson and Eriksson Ek could also become good value picks if their development goes as planned.

 

14. Calgary Flames

D Juuso Valimaki (16), C Adam Ruzicka (109), RW Zack Fischer (140), RW D’Artagnan Joly (171), LW Filip Sveningsson (202)

Valimaki was a great pick as a two-way defenseman who could see NHL action pretty soon. The Flames also added another defenseman, Travis Hamonic, via a trade with the New York Islanders. Hamonic was well worth waiting until the fourth round to pick again, and the Flames made the most out of their selection by taking Sarnia’s Adam Ruzicka.

 

15. St. Louis Blues

C Robert Thomas (20), LW Klim Kostin (31), RW Alexey Toropchenko (113), D David Noel (130), D Trenton Bourque (175), D Anton Andersson (206)

The Blues made the most of their two first-round picks by taking Thomas and Kostin. Thomas has incredible hockey sense and Kostin, who dropped because of injury issues this season and concerns about maybe staying in Russia, is a potential top-10 talent. St. Louis also was able to add an established winger, trading for Brayden Schenn from Philadelphia.

 

16. New Jersey Devils

C Nico Hischier (1), C Jesper Boqvist (36), LW Fabian Zetterlund (63), D Reilly Walsh (81), LW Nikita A. Popugaev (98), G Gilles Senn (129), RW Marian Studenic (143), C Aarne Talvitie (160), D Jocktan Chainey (191), D Yegor Zaitsev (205), D Matthew Hellickson (214)

Time will tell if New Jersey made the right pick by taking Hischier over Nolan Patrick, but as of now, it certainly looks like a safe pick. Popugaev was a nice high-ceiling addition as well, falling all the way to the fourth round despite being projected to be a potential first-rounder.

 

17. Minnesota Wild

RW Ivan Lodnia (85), C Mason Shaw (97), C Bryce Misley (116), D Jacob Golden (147), C Andrei Svetlakov (178), RW Nick Swaney (209)

Minnesota didn’t pick until the final third of the third round, but made two great selections with Ivan Lodnia at No. 85 and Mason Shaw in the fourth round. Talk about doing a lot with a little.

 

18. Tampa Bay Lightning

D Callan Foote (14), RW Alexander Volkov (48), C Alexei Lipanov (76), D Nicklaus Perbix (D), C Cole Guttman (180), C Samuel Walker (200)

Callan Foote is mature beyond his years in terms of hockey IQ and ability, and he will become one of the top defensemen out of this year’s class. Steve Yzerman made another nice pick in the third round, taking talented Russian goal-scorer Alexei Lipanov.

 

19. Buffalo Sabres

C Casey Mittelstadt (8), C Marcus Davidsson (37), G Ukko-Pekka Luukonen (54), D Oskari Laaksonen (89), D Jacob Bryson (99), LW Linus Weissbach (192)

Mittelstadt’s work ethic questions may wind up haunting the Sabres after using the No. 8 overall pick on him, but he still has a ton of potential to tap into. Davidsson has the potential to someday be a middle-six center and was a solid second-round choice, and Luukkonen gives Buffalo’s system another young stud between the pipes.

 

20. Detroit Red Wings

C Michael Rasmussen (9), D Gustav Lindstrom (38), D Kasper Kotkansalo (71), RW Lane Zablocki (79), C Zach Gallant (83), G Keith Petruzzelli (88), D Malte Setkov (100), D Cole Fraser (131), RW John Adams (162), D Reilly Webb (164), C Brady Gilmour (193)

The Rasmussen pick may not have been Detroit’s best move with Martin Necas and Gabriel Vilardi still on the board, and Gustav Lindstrom seems like a major reach in the second round, but time will tell if Ken Holland & Co. made the right decisions. Detroit made a handful of good picks in the third round, taking playmaker Zach Gallant as well as adding Keith Petruzzelli to a system a bit devoid of keepers.

 

21. Ottawa Senators

C Shane Bowers (28), LW Alex Formenton (47), C Drake Batherson (121), G Jordan Hollett (183)

The Senators only had four picks in this year’s draft, but they were able to get quality despite the lack of quantity. Bowers is a low-risk player with a good hockey mind, and Formenton has a ton of potential.

 

22. Chicago Blackhawks

D Henri Jokiharju (29), D Ian Mitchell (57), RW Andrei Altybarmakyan (70), C Evan Barratt (90), C Tim Soderlund (112), D Roope Laavainen (119), LW Parker Foo (144), D Jakub Galvas (150), D Joshua Ess (215)

This year’s draft host had a ton of storylines surrounding it as the Blackhawks traded away Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin and re-acquired Brandon Saad. As far as the draft went, Chicago did fairly well. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are two talented young defensemen while centers Barratt and Soderlund have some upside as well.

 

23. San Jose Sharks

C Josh Norris (19), D Mario Ferraro (49), C Scott Reedy (102), RW Jacob McGrew (159), C Sasha Chmelevski (185), LW Ivan Checkhovich (212)

Norris could’ve been a slight reach at No. 19, but his USA NTDP teammate Scott Reedy was a bargain at 102. Chmelevski was also a good offensive-minded pick while Ferraro, the only defenseman selected by the Sharks, is a smart player who with a great attitude who can be a leader off the ice.

 

24. Edmonton Oilers

RW Kailer Yamamoto (22), G Stuart Skinner (78), D Dmitri Samorukov (84), RW Ostap Safin (115), RW Kirill Maksimov (146), C Skyler Brind’Amour (177), D Philip Kemp (208)

Yamamoto could be the league’s next Johnny Gaudreau or Tyler Johnson: a little guy with huge offensive upside. Skinner was a smart pick as the Oilers could use another goalie in the system, and Safin has quite a high ceiling for a fourth-rounder.

 

25. Boston Bruins

D Urho Vaakanainen (18), C Jack Studnicka (53), G Jeremy Swayman (111), C Cedric Pare (173), D Victor Berglund (195), D Daniel Bukac (204)

Vaakanainen will look good on Boston’s blue line next to Charlie McAvoy someday, and Jack Studnicka was a smart pick in the middle of the second round. But, other than their early picks, the Bruins did not open a ton of eyes in the draft this year.

 

26. Winnipeg Jets

LW Kristian Vesalainen (24), D Dylan Samberg (43), D Johnathan Kovacevic (74), C Santeri Virtanen (105), D Leon Gawanke (136), G Arvid Holm (167), LW Skyler McKenzie (198), D Croix Evingson (211)

There’s a lot to like about the Vesalainen pick, but Samberg is a huge risk given his low level of competition at Hermantown High School.

 

27. Toronto Maple Leafs

D Timothy Liljegren (17), D Eemli Rasanen (59), G Ian Scott (110), LW Vladislav Kara (124), D Fedor Gordeev (141), C Ryan McGregor (172), D Ryan O’Connell (203)

If Liljegren shows that he is the player he was last season, the Leafs move up at least 10 spots on this list. He was the right pick at No. 17 given his high lottery-pick ceiling, but a young team like Toronto may have been better off had a player with a higher floor like Juuso Valimaki been available. The rest of the Leafs’ draft leaves a lot to be desired, although Rasanen has the ability to grow into a fine NHL defenseman as well.

 

28. New York Islanders

D Robin Salo (46), D Benjamin Miragaes (77), D Sebastian Aho (139), LW Arnaud Durandeau (165), LW Logan Cockerill (201)

Salo wasn’t a terrible pick, but the story of the Islanders’ draft centered around trades, not draft choices. They lost their first pick after cutting a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights (which worked out as losing Mikhail Grabovski shouldn’t hurt too badly), acquired Jordan Eberle straight up for Ryan Strome and then netted a plethora of future picks in return for Travis Hamonic.

 

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

C Alexandre Texier (45), G Daniil Tarasov (86), C Emil Bemstrom (117), LW Kale Howarth (148), RW Jonathan Davidsson (170), RW Carson Meyer (179), D Robbie Stucker (210)

Lots of analysts like French center Texier, but like the Islanders, Columbus’s draft day was highlighted by a trade. Artemi Panarin is now a Blue Jacket, which should make Ohioans pretty excited.

 

30. Pittsburgh Penguins

D Zachary Lauzon (51), D Clayton Phillips (93), LW Jan Drozg (152), C Linus Oland (155), D Antti Palojarvi (186), D William Reilly (217)

If anyone could afford to have a lackluster draft, it was Pittsburgh. The defending back-to-back champs didn’t make any eye-opening selections despite having some big names still on the board at No. 51 and No. 93.

 

31. Washington Capitals

D Tobias Geisser (120), D Sebastian Walfridsson (151), D Benton Maass (182), LW Kristian Roykas Marthinsen (213)

When a team has only four picks, the first of which coming in the fourth round, it’s tough to to anything notable. The Capitals did, however, draft some players with interesting names. So there’s that.

2017 NHL Mock Draft: Part Four

Friday night’s shocking draft lottery results give us a much clearer – yet much different – picture of what will happen at June’s NHL Entry Draft.

This will be my first draft with the authentic draft order (through the lottery teams), and I will be acting as if I am each team’s GM at the time of the pick.

Also, the end of the round will be based on what I see happening throughout the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And one final catch – for the first time in my mock drafts, this will be a two-rounder. Let’s get to it!

 

Brandon Wheat Kings v Kelowna Rockets
KELOWNA, CANADA – OCTOBER 25: Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings shoots on net during warm up against the Kelowna Rockets on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

1. New Jersey Devils – Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

After winning the lottery, the Devils will choose between Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier. Patrick is a slightly bigger and better player at this point, so if I were GM Ray Shero, this is the way I would go.

 

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2. Philadelphia Flyers – Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

The Flyers jumped up a whopping 11 spots thanks to the draft lottery, and get the easiest pick to make. With Patrick off the board, Hischier is the easy choice here.

 

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3. Dallas Stars – Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finland)

Taking a center here would create too much of a logjam for Dallas up the middle, so going with a defenseman would be the best choice. The Stars will have their choice among Heiskanen, Timothy Liljegren, Cale Makar and others, but Heiskanen has the most upside.

 

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4. Colorado Avalanche – Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Colorado finished with the NHL’s worst record since the 2000 Atlanta Thrashers, and things got worse when the Avs didn’t get a top-three pick. Trading down for more assets could be smart for a team in turmoil, but if they stay at No. 4, Vilardi is the right pick. He’s a big center who plays a strong, complete game.

 

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5. Vancouver Canucks – Casey Mittlestadt, C, Eden Prarie HS (Minnesota)

The Canucks could go in a variety of directions here, but taking a big-time center would build a solid 1-2 punch up the middle with Bo Horvat. Mittlestadt is the best center available at this point.

 

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6. Vegas Golden Knights – Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Tippett gives the Golden Knights a flashy goal-scoring machine who will make all sorts of highlight reels. A good way to bring some spice to an expansion team.

 

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7. Arizona Coyotes – Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech Republic)

Arizona is deep as can be on the wings and also has a pretty solid group of defensemen in the pipeline. An impact center would be the perfect fit, and Necas is certainly the way to go. He is a skilled two-way force who is excellent in the faceoff dot and can help out anywhere on the ice.

 

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8. Buffalo Sabres – Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle BK (Sweden)

The Sabres could go in a variety of directions with this pick, but an aging blue line seems like it needs to be addressed. Liljegren’s offensive game has all sorts of upside, which would fit in well in Buffalo.

 

Everett Silvertips vs Portland Winterhawks
EVERETT, WASHINGTON – SEPTEMBER 18: (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

9. Detroit Red Wings – Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

A high-octane center like Glass is what Detroit could use most right now. If he is still on the board, the Red Wings should take a flyer on this goal-scoring machine, as they do not have much depth at the center position in their pipeline.

 

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10. Florida Panthers – Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

This seems like a perfect fit. Tolvanen is an incredible finisher and the Panthers need a right wing – any right wing – in their system.

 

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11. Los Angeles Kings – Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

There are some good centers on the board here, and Los Angeles should go with the one who can be the biggest game-breaker in Suzuki. He can also slide over to the wing if needed.

 

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12. Carolina Hurricanes – Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Sure he may only be 5’7, but Yamamoto gives the Hurricanes a dynamic offensive weapon off the wing. With some young depth at center and on the blue line, this seems like the right direction for Carolina to go.

 

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13. Winnipeg Jets – Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

With so much talent up front, the Jets should take a defenseman. If Makar falls this far, he is a perfect fit, as he can generate all sorts of offense. In the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season, Makar is well-above a point-per-game player.

 

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14. Tampa Bay Lightning – Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

There aren’t any glaring needs for the Lightning, but getting a good young defenseman would be a boost to the system. Foote has tremendous hockey sense, and is probably the best defenseman (possibly the best player) on the board at this point.

 

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15. New York Islanders – Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Rasmussen is a big, strong centerman with an offensive touch. He’s the best player on the board and also fits New York’s needs.

 

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16. Calgary Flames – Klim Kostin, LW, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)

Kostin has dropped a bit because of his injury issues this year, but he is a big body with a scoring touch that can play both wings.

 

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17. Toronto Maple Leafs – Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

The perfect fit for Toronto. Valimaki is a defensive-minded rearguard that is excellent in his own zone.

 

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18. Boston Bruins – Lias Andersson, C, HV 71 (Sweden)

Andersson plays with an edge and has performed well with pros in Sweden. The best-available strategy is never a bad choice, especially for a team with a fair amount of youth like Boston.

 

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19. San Jose Sharks – Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Robertson is a points-producing machine lately, and he could certainly draw the attention from a Sharks team that needs some young scorers on the left wing side.

 

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20. St. Louis Blues – Elias Pettersson, C, Timra IK (Sweden) 

Pettersson knows how to create plays and can contribute in a number of ways offensively. He would be a nice addition up the middle during the Blues’ reboot on the fly.

 

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21. New York Rangers – Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Hague is a big, physical defenseman who likes to throw the body in his zone and also has been working on his scoring game.

 

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22. Montreal Canadiens -Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCAA)

A scoring center would fit nicely with the Canadiens, and if Pettersson is still on the board, this pick shouldn’t take much thinking.

 

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23. Anaheim Ducks – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Anaheim just misses out on the next tier of centers with Petterson and Poehling coming off of the board, but Anderson-Dolan is a scoring machine and a decent consolation prize.

 

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24. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) – Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Arizona’s most pressing need is goaltending, but with four top goaltenders in this draft and no clear No. 1, the Coyotes can wait to pick a keeper until the next round. Instead, they should deepen their defensive group with the cool and composed Timmins.

 

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25. Columbus Blue Jackets – Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)

This pick just keeps seeming like it’s meant to happen. Ratcliffe is a physical left winger who stands nearly 6’6 – exactly what the Blue Jackets need.

 

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26. Chicago Blackhawks – Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Most of Chicago’s youth is up front, so going with defense is a smart move for the Blackhawks. Jokiharju gets to the puck in his own zone and excels at starting rushes with his breakout passes.

 

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27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington) – Kole Lind, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

The Blues go with another center here, and a high-scoring one at that. He can also slide over to the wing if need be.

 

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28. Ottawa Senators – Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

Comtois’s production showed an alarming drop this year, but as a big, physical player who can skate smoothly, he still has quite a bit of projection.

 

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29. Edmonton Oilers – Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYK (Finland)

As the Oilers transform into one of the league’s better teams, a shutdown defenseman is still needed. Vaakanainen won’t produce a ton of offense, but he is as good as anyone in this draft in his own zone.

 

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30. Nashville Predators – Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

Bowers is a high-floor center who could slot in nicely in the middle six of Nashville’s forward group some day.

 

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31. Pittsburgh Penguins – Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown PEI Islanders (QMJHL)

The Penguins have some aging going on back on defense, and Joseph is a young spark plug who they could use in the near future.

 

END OF ROUND ONE

 

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32. Colorado Avalanche – Kristian Vesalainen, LW, HPK (Sweden)

Vesalainen’s stock has dropped a little in the past few months, but he could be NHL-ready by next season since he’s been skating with pros in Sweden. He should be able to make Colorado’s roster given its extreme lack of depth everywhere.

 

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33. Vancouver Canucks – Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (Sweden)

After going center in the first round, the Canucks take the best defenseman available in Brannstrom. He is a good skater who is solid in his own zone, and his offensive game should improve given his hockey IQ.

 

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34. Vegas Golden Knights – Matthew Strome, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

The Golden Knights go with a guy from a hockey family who can add a bit of sandpaper to go along with his scoring ability. Strome should pair nicely on a line with Owen Tippett in the future.

 

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35. Arizona Coyotes – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, HPK (Finland)

The Coyotes get their goalie here. Luukkonen has faced pro talent in Finland and has a slight edge over Michael Dipietro and Jake Oettinger as the best keeper in this draft.

 

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36. New Jersey Devils – Mason Shaw, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

New Jersey goes all-out on offense after taking Patrick in the first round. Shaw is undersized, but he puts up points like it’s nobody’s business. Size isn’t stopping players like Johnny Gaudreau, Mitch Marner or Tyler Johnson. Why should it stop Shaw?

 

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37. Buffalo Sabres – Alexei Lipanov, C, Balashikha (Russia)

Lipanov may come off the board before this, but if he’s available, Buffalo has to scoop him up. Sure, the Sabres could use some more depth on the wings, but Lipanov’s offensive versatility is too good to pass up.

 

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38. Detroit Red Wings – Morgan Geekie, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Geekie is big and physical but also has a scoring touch, putting up 90 points in 72 games with Tri-City in the WHL this year. He’s a great fit with Detroit.

 

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39. Dallas Stars – Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (NCAA)

The Stars’ goaltending issues have been long-documented, and drafting a goaltender won’t solve them right now, but there is no top keeper in the system. The Stars should take a flyer on the big Oettinger, who put up impressive numbers at Boston University this year.

 

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40. Florida Panthers – Nick Henry, RW, Regina Pats (WHL)

Florida has to go right wing again, and here they take an offensive juggernaut in Henry. He averaged more than a point per game in the WHL this season.

 

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41. Los Angeles Kings – Nikita A. Popugaev, LW, Prince George Cougars (WHL)

The Kings would love to take a player like Popugaev here. He’s big, standing at nearly 6’6, but he moves incredibly well for his size.

 

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42. Carolina Hurricanes – Aleksei Heponiemi, C, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

Size is the knock on Heponiemi, who stands at about 5’9, but he’s the best center on the board for Carolina. The Hurricanes are deep throughout their pipeline, but the center position could use some help. Heponiemi is a high-octane player who can create plays and finish them.

 

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43. Winnipeg Jets – Lukas Elvenes, RW, Rogle BK (Finland)

Winnipeg could shore up its right wing position, and Elvenes would be a nice fit. He has silky smooth hands and good skating ability.

 

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44. Philadelphia Flyers – Jonah Gadjovich, LW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Gadjovich’s numbers may have benefitted a bit from Nick Suzuki’s offensive talent, but Gadjovich is still well over a point-per-game player this year. Philadelphia would like a wing to go with Nico Hischier, and Gadjovich is the best one available.

 

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45. Tampa Bay Lightning – Alex Formenton, LW, London Knights (OHL)

Formenton is a speedy left winger who would throws a little bit of sandpaper into his game.

 

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46. New York Islanders – MacKenzie Entwistle, RW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

Grabbing Entwistle here is a reach, so trading down may be a good option, but the Islanders could use a strong right winger like him.

 

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47. Ottawa Senators (from Calgary) – Antoine Morand, C, Acadia-Bathurst (QMJHL)

Morand is a finisher, and he racked up a ton of points around the net in the QMJHL this year.

 

Sudbury Wolves v London Knights
LONDON, ON – OCTOBER 9: of the Sudbury Wolves skates against the London Knights during an OHL game at Budweiser Gardens on October 9, 2015 in London, Ontario, Canada. The Knights defeated the Wolves 6-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

48. Tampa Bay Lightning (from Toronto) – Robert Thomas, C, London Knights (OHL)

If the Bolts just took Formenton three picks ago, why not go for his pass-first teammate Robert Thomas? There could already be some good built-in chemistry.

 

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49. New Jersey Devils (from Boston) – Markus Phillips, D, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Now the Devils should go for a defenseman with Patrick and Shaw coming in. Phillips is arguably the best one available, and he can create some offense from the blue line as well.

 

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50. Toronto Maple Leafs (from San Jose) – Luke Martin, D, Michigan (NCAA)

Martin is a sizable defenseman who is smart and physical in his own zone.

 

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51. St. Louis Blues – David Farrance, D, USA NTDP

Farrance is small, but he has quite a bit of offensive awareness and will be able to hone his craft at Boston University next year.

 

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52. Carolina Hurricanes (from NYR) – Adam Ruzicka, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

After taking two small forwards, the Hurricanes go for a bigger one with Ruzicka.

 

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53. Montreal Canadiens – Morgan Frost, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Frost is a two-way forward who can make an impact no matter where he is on the ice.

 

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54. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim) – Antoine Crete-Belzile, D, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)

A defenseman with offensive upside, Crete-Belzile scored goals in more than half of his QMJHL games this season.

 

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55. Buffalo Sabres (from Minnesota) – Tyler Steenbergen, LW, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

Steenbergen is one of the WHL’s top scorers and can be a good third-line finisher if put next to good enough playmakers.

 

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56. Columbus Blue Jackets – Dylan Samberg, D, Hermantown HS (Minnesota)

Samberg is the top defenseman from the Minnesota high school ranks, and he can play a two-way game that he will work on next year at the University of Minnesota at Duluth.

 

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57. Chicago Blackhawks – Ivan Lodnia, LW, Erie Otters (OHL)

Lodnia’s Erie teammate and Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat has torn up the OHL this season. It may not be a bad choice for the Blackhawks to try to work the two Otters in together through their system.

 

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58. Montreal Canadiens (from Washington) – Ostap Safin, RW, Praha HC Sparta (Czech Republic)

Safin is a huge 6’4 winger who skates well. He fits the new Montreal profile of size and physicality well.

 

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59. Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) – Michael Dipietro, G, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Dipietro could be the top goalie in this class, but I have him just a cut behind Luukkonen and Oettinger. Another goaltending prospect could benefit the Ducks.

 

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60. Boston Bruins (from Edmonton) – Josh Norris, C, USA NTDP

Norris could use some fine-tuning to his game, but he is a big, physical center that fits Boston’s profile.

 

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61. Nashville Predators – Stelio Mattheos, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Nolan Patrick’s teammate possesses tremendous offensive upside and could be a steal if taken this late in the draft.

 

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62. Carolina Hurricanes (from Pittsburgh) – Noel Hoefenmayer, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Hoefenmayer has a lot of offensive skill, but needs some work in his own zone. He is a great fit with Carolina because the Canes’ depth on the blue line can allow him to marinate in the system as long as he needs.

 

 

Who Would Have Won the 2005 Stanley Cup?

Stanley_Cup_Season_2004-05Here in 2017, we just enjoyed a fantastic first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, just like any other year.

Except 2005.

Twelve years after the NHL cancelled its entire season due to the inability of the league and the players’ union to come to an agreement, one question remains: who would have won the Stanley Cup had the 2005 season been played?

For the purposes of this article, we will assume that the salary cap was not yet implemented for the 2004-05 season, instead coming into play in 2005-06 like in real life.

Here are how the divisional standings may have played out, with each team’s 2004 and 2006 point totals, respectively, in parentheses next to their names.

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. Philadelphia Flyers (101, 101)
  2. New Jersey Devils (100, 101)
  3. New York Rangers (69, 100)
  4. New York Islanders (91, 78)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins (58, 58)

The Flyers do not have Peter Forsberg as he stays with the Avalanche, but they can keep 2004 leading scorer Mark Recchi, among others. They edge out the Devils for the division while the Rangers get a huge lift from having Jaromir Jagr for a full season.

Northeast Division

  1. Ottawa Senators (102, 113)
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs (103, 90)
  3. Buffalo Sabres (85, 110)
  4. Montreal Canadiens (93, 93)
  5. Boston Bruins (104, 74)

Despite still having Joe Thornton on the roster, the Bruins fall mightily from their first-place perch in 2004. Zdeno Chara has not yet been acquired, and Andrew Raycroft plays like the real Andrew Raycroft.

Chara, meanwhile, plays with newly-acquired Dany Heatley on the first-place Senators (this never happened in real life), who also nab the top seed in the East.

Buffalo is on the way up and Toronto is on the way down, but it still takes one more year for Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek to arrive, so the Sabres don’t leapfrog the Leafs just yet.

 

Southeast Division

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning (106, 92)
  2. Carolina Hurricanes (76, 112)
  3. Atlanta Thrashers (78, 90)
  4. Florida Panthers (75, 85)
  5. Washington Capitals (59, 70)

Oddly enough, 2005 is sandwiched between years in which Southeast Division teams (Tampa Bay, Carolina) won Stanley Cups. The Bolts still win the division in ’05, though. Carolina started off the 2006 season on a cold note and Eric Staal, while effective, is not yet the elite player he was that season.

 

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. Detroit Red Wings (109, 124)
  2. Nashville Predators (91, 106)
  3. St. Louis Blues (91, 57)
  4. Columbus Blue Jackets (62, 74)
  5. Chicago Blackhawks (59, 65)

The Red Wings won the President’s Trophy in both 2004 and 2006, so it’s safe to predict they would have in 2005 as well – especially with Brendan Shanahan still in the lineup.

St. Louis experienced an extreme drop from 2004 to 2006, but Al MacInnis has not retired yet while Pavol Demitra and Chris Pronger still wear the note for one more year.

 

Northwest Division

  1. Calgary Flames (94, 103)
  2. Colorado Avalanche (100, 95)
  3. Vancouver Canucks (101, 92)
  4. Edmonton Oilers (89, 95)
  5. Minnesota Wild (83, 84)

After a surprise Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2004, the Flames win the division in 2005. Colorado begins its decline without Patrick Roy, but still has a respectable season, keeping Peter Forsberg for one final year before the salary cap forces him out.

 

Pacific Division

  1. San Jose Sharks (104, 99)
  2. Dallas Stars (97, 112)
  3. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (76, 98)
  4. Los Angeles Kings (81, 89)
  5. Phoenix Coyotes (68, 81)

The Sharks don’t have Joe Thornton yet, but it’s okay. San Jose won the division and went to the Conference Final without him in 2004, who’s to say they wouldn’t have done the same in 2005?

Also, Anaheim gets Teemu Selanne back. He adds a jolt to the offense as the Ducks are about to become one of the NHL’s elite in a handful of years.

 

Eastern Conference Playoff Lineup (*division winner)

  1. Ottawa Senators*
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning*
  3. Philadelphia Flyers*
  4. New Jersey Devils
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs
  6. Buffalo Sabres
  7. Carolina Hurricanes
  8. New York Rangers

 

Western Conference Playoff Lineup (*division winner)

  1. Detroit Red Wings*
  2. San Jose Sharks*
  3. Calgary Flames*
  4. Dallas Stars
  5. Colorado Avalanche
  6. Nashville Predators
  7. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
  8. Vancouver Canucks

 

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

1. Ottawa Senators over 8. New York Rangers in 5 games
2. Tampa Bay Lightning over 7. Carolina Hurricanes in 6 games
3. Philadelphia Flyers over 6. Buffalo Sabres in 6 games
4. New Jersey Devils over 5. Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 games

We get an exciting matchup between the defending Stanley Cup champs and the eventual 2006 champs, but the Hurricanes do not discover the playoff juggernaut that is Cam Ward until the following spring.

Also, Martin Brodeur and Eddie Belfour square off in an interesting series.

 

Western Conference Quarterfinals

1. Detroit Red Wings over 4. Vancouver Canucks in 4 games
7. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim over 2. San Jose Sharks in 7 games
3. Calgary Flames over 6. Nashville Predators in 6 games
4. Dallas Stars over 5. Colorado Avalanche in 6 games

The Mighty Ducks savor their role as underdogs again and San Jose suffers the first of what will become many memorable early playoff exits.

 

Eastern Conference Semifinals

1. Ottawa Senators over 4. New Jersey Devils in 6 games
3. Philadelphia Flyers over 2. Tampa Bay Lightning in 6 games

Dominik Hasek’s team is too strong offensively to fall to Martin Brodeur and the Devils while the Flyers knock off the defending champs.

 

Western Conference Semifinals

1. Detroit Red Wings over 7. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 6 games
4. Dallas Stars over 3. Calgary Flames in 7 games

Detroit avenges its 2003 loss to Anaheim two years later, beating the Mighty Ducks in six in a tough battle. Dallas upsets the Flames in seven.

 

Eastern Conference Final

1. Ottawa Senators over 3. Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games

Philadelphia fails to make the Stanley Cup Final again as the Senators prove to be just too strong all around.

 

Western Conference Final

4. Dallas Stars over 1. Detroit Red Wings in 6 games

Marty Turco’s struggles against Detroit during his career have been well-documented, but give him the edge here with Manny Legace tending the net in Hockeytown.

 

2005 Stanley Cup Final

Mike Modano leads Dallas to its third Stanley Cup Final appearance in seven seasons as the Stars look for their second-ever Stanley Cup. It won’t happen, as a loaded Senators team proves to be too much to handle, winning the Stanley Cup at home in Game 5. Daniel Alfredsson wins the Conn Smythe as part of a formidable core with Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara and Dominik Hasek.

2017 NHL Mock Draft: Version Three

The playoffs are in full swing, but for 15 teams, all eyes are on June 23 – the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Those 15 teams will get a little clearer picture on where they will be picking on April 29, when the draft lottery is conducted. For now, though, we will use a randomized draft order from tankathon.com’s(http://www.tankathon.com/nhl) simulator.

Also, I did not post my playoff predictions on this page, but if you pay close attention, you’ll get a sneak peek at how I think things are going to play out…

 

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KELOWNA, CANADA – OCTOBER 25: Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings shoots on net during warm up against the Kelowna Rockets on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

1. New Jersey Devils – Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

New Jersey wins the lottery in this simulation despite having the fifth-best odds. Nolan Patrick has to go first in this draft – he may not be the same caliber as Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, but he has what it takes to be a franchise center.

 

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2. Vancouver Canucks – Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle BK (Sweden)

Vancouver passes up on some blue-chip centers and addresses its needs, taking the draft’s top defenseman in Liljegren. While his defensive game has some work to do, Liljegren has the ability to create plenty of offense from the blue line, which is the exact type of player the Canucks’ system is lacking.

 

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3. Carolina Hurricanes – Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Despite having some talent at the center position, the Hurricanes, who move up eight spots in this simulation, cannot pass up a talent like Hischier.

 

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4. Colorado Avalanche – Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

After finishing with the worst record of any NHL team since 2000, Colorado’s luck doesn’t get any better as the Avs lose out on a top-three pick. Luckily, a top-three talent is still on the board in Vilardi. He is the exact type of player Colorado needs, possessing brilliant game-managing skills and talent worthy of an NHL roster spot right now.

 

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5. Vegas Golden Knights – Casey Mittlestadt, C, Eden Prairie HS (Minnesota)

Without any knowledge yet of Vegas’s roster other than minor leaguer Reid Duke, let’s just assume the Golden Knights take the best available player. At this point, it’s a tough decision between Mittlestadt and Mississauga winger Owen Tippett, but Mittlestadt’s offensive prowess at center gives him the edge.

 

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6. Arizona Coyotes – Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Not much debate here, the talented winger Tippett (no relation to Arizona head coach Dave Tippett) is the easy pick.

 

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7. Buffalo Sabres – Michael Rasmussen, C,  Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Rasmussen is a big power forward who skates well and can wreak havoc in front of the net. A big asset to have at center.

 

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8. Detroit Red Wings – Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech Republic)

Necas is one of those players who has a nose for the net and attracts the puck like a magnet. The Red Wings could go in a number of directions here after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990, but Necas is an offensive spark plug who could fill the top-six center position that Dylan Larkin was once expected to.

 

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9. Dallas Stars – Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Too easy. Dallas could use a young, two-way defenseman, and Foote is a solid, well-rounded blueliner with a hockey pedigree and stunning smarts.

 

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10. Florida Panthers – Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

Florida has basically zero depth at the right wing position, so it would be smart to address their lack of depth early in this draft. Tolvanen has a shot reminiscent of Patrik Laine’s, and would look great with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov setting him up.

 

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EVERETT, WASHINGTON – SEPTEMBER 18: (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

11. Los Angeles Kings – Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

It’s not 2014 anymore. The Kings missed the playoffs, fired their coach and GM, and have one of the worst prospect pools in the NHL. They cannot take a high-risk player here, but everyone in this group of the draft seems to carry a little bit of risk. The high-scoring Glass is probably the best choice if the Kings don’t trade this pick.

 

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12. Winnipeg Jets – Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

A defenseman would make a lot of sense for the Jets here and Hague is the best on the board. He is well-rounded and can log minutes in any situation.

 

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13. Philadelphia Flyers – Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

He’s small, but pound-for-pound, Yamamoto is one of the best players in this draft. He is extremely smart and skilled in the offensive zone and is the type of winger the Flyers could use in their system.

 

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14. Tampa Bay Lightning – Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Tampa can take a risk here having a pretty good team and system that simply had terrible luck with injuries this season. Makar was an offensive machine in the AJHL this year, but there are concerns about whether his game will translate to higher-level play.

 

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15. New York Islanders – Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finland)

Another best-player-available situation, and the Islanders should go with Heiskanen if he’s available. He adds to a fairly deep group of defensemen and although a little undersized, Heiskanen has plenty of smarts and puck-moving ability.

 

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16. Nashville Predators – Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Nashville would like a high-scoring center, and Suzuki fits the profile perfectly. He’s incredibly talented in the offensive zone with keen awareness and the ability to find the net consistently.

 

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17. Calgary Flames – Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

A well-rounded defenseman, Valimaki is a little small but incredibly effective on both sides of the puck.

 

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18. Toronto Maple Leafs – Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYK (Finland)

The Maple Leafs are going to continue to trend upwards, but they could use another shutdown defenseman. That’s where Vaakanainen comes in, as he has elite defensive awareness and can help suffocate opposing offenses.

 

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19. Boston Bruins – Klim Kostin, LW, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)

Boston would like a forward here and preferably one with a high offensive upside. Kostin is a risk, but he could become a significant offensive threat, especially if his struggles this year turn out to be the result of just a shoulder injury.

 

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20. Ottawa Senators – Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

A little more depth at wing would be helpful for Ottawa, and Comtois is a high-risk, high-reward prospect that the Sens can afford to take a flyer on.

 

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21. San Jose Sharks – Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Robertson has lit up the scoreboard late in the OHL season and in the playoffs, racking up 18 points in 11 postseason games thus far and shooting up the draft boards. San Jose will reach for him due to its need of a left winger, but he could definitely pay off.

 

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22. St. Louis Blues – Lias Andersson, C, HV 71 (Sweden)

A late-season breakout has Andersson looking like a good pick, especially this late in the draft. The Blues would gladly take one of the three left wingers just mentioned, but Andersson would be a good addition also.

 

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23. New York Rangers – Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (NCAA)

The Rangers at some point have to come to the realization that Henrik Lundqvist won’t be an elite goalie forever. Oettinger is a great choice to fill in whenever the King decides to hang ’em up.

 

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24. Anaheim Ducks – Elias Pettersson, C, Timra IK (Sweden)

Pettersson’s lack of production as of late is a bit concerning, but he is not a one-dimensional player. He does plenty of things right all around the ice and can still make a positive impact even if the points don’t pile up like expected.

 

25. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, HPK (Finland)

In case Louis Domingue can’t become a consistent No. 1 goalie, the Coyotes have to think about the keeper position and how it effect their future. They took a winger earlier in the round, so Arizona can safely address what is probably its weakest position in terms of prospects.

 

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26. Columbus Blue Jackets – Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)

Ratcliffe is a big power forward with some offensive ability, which could go a long way for a team that lacks a little size up front.

 

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27. Pittsburgh Penguins – Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland (WHL)

Pittsburgh is a little thin on young defensemen in the system, and Jokiharju is one of the best overall players on the board at this point.

 

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28. Edmonton Oilers – Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL)

Bowers may not be a superstar-caliber player, but he should be a consistent producer all over on the ice. He would also be a good leader in the locker room for Edmonton’s young group.

 

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29. Washington Capitals – Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Frolunda (Sweden)

Vesalainen is a player who is already skating with pros in Sweden and could make an NHL roster earlier than many of the picks in this year’s draft pool. He would fit well with Washington, who needs some young depth on the left wing side.

 

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30. Montreal Canadiens – Kole Lind, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Lind has been an offensive machine this season, which is exactly what the Canadiens need out of a young center. This is a perfect fit, but it is a very real possibility that Lind doesn’t fall this far.

 

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31. Chicago Blackhawks – Ivan Lodnia, LW, Erie Otters (OHL)

The Blackhawks just seem to be able to make a star out of anyone, and the somewhat small Lodnia could become a star in the Windy City. Even better, he could be some day be playing next to his Erie teammate Alexander DeBrincat, who has been absolutely dominating the OHL.

Westgate MLB Odds: Ten over/unders that are sure things this year

Vegas’s Westgate Superbook has just released its over/under win totals for the 2017 season, which is right around the corner. Plenty of the odds seem dead on, but here are the 10 you should put your money on if you feel inclined to do so.

 

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Baltimore Orioles (79.5) – Over

The Orioles were a playoff team last season and despite losing catcher Matt Wieters, could be a playoff team once again.

Baltimore boasts a powerful lineup with sluggers like Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and potential MVP candidate Manny Machado. The starting rotation is once again a weak spot, but a dominant bullpen helps quell the pain.

At the very least, the Orioles should certainly finish at or above the .500 mark, which is all they need to do in order for you to win an over bet.

 

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Detroit Tigers (83.5) – Over

The Tigers won 86 games last year and made next to no changes to this year’s roster. Although they didn’t improve on paper, they should have full seasons out of J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos, who both missed significant time on the disabled list last year, as well as improvements from pitchers Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann.

A playoff berth may be tough to come by, but 84 wins should be expected out of this talented squad.

 

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Los Angeles Dodgers (94.5) – Under

The Dodgers are still a World Series contender this season, but expecting them to win 95 games could be a little far-fetched.

Yes, having Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill for a full season helps, but the rest of the rotation’s depth is questionable.

Most importantly, Los Angeles will have more competition in the National League West this year. The Giants, as always, will contend, but Colorado and Arizona look like they could surprise some people and sneak into the race.

Expect at 90-93 win season, but not 95.

 

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Miami Marlins (76.5) – Over

The Jose Fernandez tragedy is something the Marlins will have weighing heavily on their shoulders all year. But sometimes in the wake of tragedy in the city or even the organization itself, sports teams put on their best shows (see 2013 Boston Red Sox, 1998 Detroit Red Wings, Brett Favre’s performance after his father’s death, etc.)

But that’s not the only reason to expect the Marlins could hit the .500 mark this year.

Justin Bour, Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton – one big third of Miami’s lineup – missed a combined 198 games last season.

The Marlin offense will be better, and even without Fernandez, the pitching rotation is pretty deep.

 

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Milwaukee Brewers (69.5) – Under

Milwaukee probably has the inside track to the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft as the Brewers can be expected to finish with a pretty dismal record this season.

To lose this bet, the Brewers would have to be a 70-win team. Yet, their ace is Junior Guerra (although he’s not terrible) and their first baseman, Eric Thames, has not played a MLB game since 2012.

 

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Minnesota Twins (75.5) – Under

I get that the Twins are a young team with some potential coming up through the pipeline, but in order to win this bet, they would need to make at least a 17-game improvement on last year’s 59-103 mark.

It’s fine to expect breakout seasons from youngsters like Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano, but pitching is a dark spot and there are still plenty of questions surrounding the offense regardless of how these three youngsters perform.

 

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Pittsburgh Pirates (82.5) – Over

There will be some growing pains, but youth could help carry this Pirates team into the playoff race.

Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow could made significant impacts on the pitching staff, especially if ace Gerrit Cole regains his old form.

At the plate, Josh Bell will add some pop and Gregory Polanco has a full year under his belt.

Don’t expect this team to hover as closely to the .500 mark as the oddsmakers think it will.

 

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San Diego Padres (67.5) – Under

The worst team in baseball normally gets around 63 wins – 65 at best. In order to lose this bet, the Padres (who will likely be this year’s last place finisher) would have to win 68 games.

If you believe San Diego, who plays in an incredibly tough division and boasts pretty much nothing except an above average first baseman in Wil Myers, will finish with baseball’s worst record, take the under here.

 

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Seattle Mariners (85.5) – Over

All Seattle needs to do in order to win this bet is to finish at or above their 86-win record from last season.

It seems likely, as this is a team poised to improve and play October baseball for the first time in 16 years thanks to a plethora of new additions.

Of those additions, Jarrod Dyson and Jean Segura will be able to scratch out some runs due to their speed and starting pitcher Drew Smyly adds more depth to the Seattle rotation. Things are looking up in the Pacific Northwest.

 

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Texas Rangers (84.5) – Under

Not saying Texas finishes under .500, but winning 85 games may be tough. The Rangers squeezed out some incredibly lucky wins last season, not paying for many of their mistakes and instead snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

This year, expect a regression to the mean. Especially since Texas did nothing to improve the bullpen and the back end of the rotation is still thin. Also, some of the big bats in the lineup are getting a bit stale (i.e. Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Gomez, Mike Napoli). Is Adrian Beltre next?