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Vintage Hockey League News

S27 - Toronto Looks To Spezza To Save Season

By Dustin Funk (WHALERS) On Wednesday 19th June 2024 / 4:38am

“We were definitely looking at doing something to shake this team up before it is too late.”

When describing after the trade with the Hartford Whalers, Maple Leaf GM Stephane Trudeau indicated more than once that he was not happy with his club's performance so far this year and before the season slipped away, he felt “compelled to something before it was too late”. In doing something, the club shook up its top lines both offensively and defensively in acquiring Jason Spezza and Derek Forbort, along with Jason Zucker.

For Spezza, this is a homecoming for him. The Toronto native has up until very recently has had some tremendous success around the league. For the Maple Leafs, this is a move that makes a lot of sense, assuming they can fix what has been ailing Spezza the past fourteen months in the VHL, his lack of finishing abilities.

So far this season, Spezza has scored on less than 4% of his shots on goal, a number that is remarkably low for a player with the pedigree of Spezza. Assuming he can even get to career norms in this category, Toronto has just lengthened their roster.

Viewing both roster construction and productivity, things are a bit underwhelming in Toronto. Currently the offense is pretty much exclusively Kyle Turris, who has been doing everything without a true guy to set him up down the middle. Currently Derek Stepan is that guy on the line, but in reality, he is more of a finisher than a passer currently. Having Spezza in that spot should both strengthen the top two lines in Toronto and give Turris some additional help on his line.

Meanwhile in Derek Forbort, the Leafs have picked up one of the better young defensive defensemen in the league. The expectation is that he will be able to replace the minutes lost by the departure of Marco Scandella and anchor down the Leafs penalty killing along with Travis Hamonic on the top unit in the process.  

Finally Jason Zucker comes to the Leafs as a bit of a project for the Leafs, and many expect him to replace Berglund's minutes on the clubs fourth line, repeating a role he had earning in the preseason with Hartford. With Zucker also being 24 years of age, the acquisition of Zucker is more of a long-term play for Toronto, with aspirations of future growth throughout his current four year contract.

If it was a change that was wanted in Toronto by Trudeau and company, a change is what they have created. For a club that had cup aspirations at the start of the year to only be a .500 club at this point is disappointing perhaps this can be the spark in the correct direction they have been looking for.

 

WC: 466

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S27 - Whalers Start Making Changes

By Dustin Funk (WHALERS) On Tuesday 18th June 2024 / 6:10pm

“This is a trade that reeks of desperation!”
“WTF are they thinking, basically gave away Spezza to a division rival.”

“We already couldn’t score, so you trade away a guy that can for a guy that can’t?”
“#FireFunk”

 

If the internet has anything to say about the recent Leafs/Whalers trade, it is one that is horribly one-sided, at least in Hartford and amongst their fan base.  Earlier today, the two teams made a seven player swap that saw Jason Spezza returning home to Toronto, along with Derek Forbert and rookie forward Jason Zucker.  In return, the Whalers are picking up veteran two-way forward James Neil, defenseman Marco Scandella, veteran depth forward Patrick Berglund and a 2nd round pick a few years down the road.  While the internet may not like it, it seems that Whalers GM, Dustin Funk is pleased with the return.

“We need to shake things up here.  Obviously what is happening is not working.  Our key offensive players are not getting the results and really haven't in two years now.  So something needed to change.”

For the Whalers return here, a lot of it will depend on more than the individual results of the three that are arriving today in Connecticut, but how the team as a whole responds to the move.  While it may be depressing for the Whalers fan base, let's not forget that Jason Spezza is one year removed from being a little bit over a half point-per-game and only a goal in the Whalers first thirteen games this year.  Clearly something is broken there. 
For Whaler fans, there is some golden lining here.  James Neal has been just as productive the past two years as Spezza, while being deployed in a similar role.  Neal is also far more advanced defensively and will provide more support in goal prevention and a superior job in wearing down opposing clubs.  Where Neal fits in the Whalers line-up is a current mystery, however do not be shocked if they choose to deploy him in a checking line role versus an offensive role.

In Marco Scandella, the Whalers have basically acquired a more veteran and therefore more advanced version of Derek Forbort, but one with guaranteed club control.  While we may give the edge in pure defensive play to Forbort, Scandella is a far superior puck handler, passer, and plays a more disciplined style of hockey, something those inside the Whaler lockerroom know has been preached early on. 

Finally in Patrick Berglund, the Whalers have once again basically advanced the development curve of the player leaving (Jason Zucker), and brought in more experience and more natural scoring abilities.  If the trend continues to double shift Steven Stamkos, having Berglund on the depth line will give the Whalers a better shot at creating more offense with Stamkos.

The bottom line is the things in Hartford have not gone to plan in a few years now, and things need to be changing.  Status quo is no longer acceptable.  The next question is not if another move is made, but rather when.

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s27 - Young Cowboys Showcase Talents During Preseason [WB1]

By Matt George (SCOUTS) On Monday 17th June 2024 / 5:14am


Coming into the preseason the Scouts had a few questions, one of those questions is how would the young players from the Wyoming Cowboys would fare at the pro level. Several players from the Cowboys were invited to the Scouts preseason camp and player the first three games for the Scouts. Each player showed a level ability and readiness for the VHL, but only two players were selected for graduation - Vladimir Mihalik and Philip Larsen, but part of the reason players were selected was to protect them from the Inter-league Draft. During the preseason, both players showed a level ability to play at the VHL level, in fact, Philip Larsen was the Scouts highest scoring defender and showed he was able to command the powerplay with a high level of offensive IQ and skating ability, and was able to showcase his PP QB skills, to date, in the regular season Larsen has seen limited action but should gain addition playing time as the season progresses. As for Mihalik, he did show an ability to defend, and also showed an ability to play the special teams but excelled on the penalty-kill. Mikalik was able to use his length, height, and weight to overpower opponents.

Other players like Anthony Mantha, Nikita Busev, William Nylander, Chandler Stephenson, Patrik Laine, Nick Scmaltz, and Alexander Burmistrov showed an ability to play at the VHL level, but roster space and goal of advancing development for these players is why they were sent back to Wyoming. Additionally, Petter Granberg, Brandon Gormley, and Paul Ladue showed the talent and understand to fill a role with the Scouts in the future.

Overall, the Scouts development factory looks to prime for future advancement, and this is fantastic news for Scouts fans across the league, as the Scouts enter potential new era for the Scouts.

304

 

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S27 - 5 Best Point Producers (by minutes played) (®)

By Dustin Funk (WHALERS) On Saturday 15th June 2024 / 4:51pm


In my opinion, one of the best measures for offensive production you can have is how many points a player puts up for every twenty minutes they are on the ice.  With this you are able to find a way to account for ice time and usage and even out the playing surface (to a point).  There are caveats, the main one being power play and penalty kill usage swaying that number in one direction or the other.  With that being said, it is as good a stat to gauge offensive production that we currently have.  

With that in mind, let's take a look at the league's top five players in this stat with a minimum of eight games played.

 

  1. Kyle Turris (Toronto) - 1.88p/20

Leading the league is Kyle Turris of Toronto, with twelve goals and eight assists in ten games, good for a p/20 of 1.88.  Currently Turris is the right wing on the club's top line with James Neal and Derek Stepan.  The truly interesting aspect of Turris this season is just how drastic his production is compared to his teammates.  Consider this, we know Turris has twenty points good for tops on the club, while Vincent Trochek is second with nine points.  It is easy to identify Turris as the key reason for the Leafs success.

 

  1. Max Pacioretty (Buffalo) - 1.76p/20

Even though Pacioretty has only played in nine of the twelve games and is currently just about to return to line up from an injury, he is the Sabres leading scorer with nine goals and eight assists.  At points this season, Pacioretty has been skating on the clubs second line with Aleksander Barkov and Vladimir Tarasenko, showcasing the clubs amazing depth.  With Max due to join the roster this week, the Sabres are due for another offensive bump to help them maintain their spot atop the league.

 

  1. Marcus Foligno (Arizona) - 1.70p/20

With Foligno, we have an interesting entry into this list.  Foligno is fifth on his team in scoring, but first in Arizona in points-per-twenty, with eight points in ten games.  Currently, Foligno is the right wing on the Yotes third line with Bo Horvat (whom is also above 1.ppp/20 as well) and Andrei Kostitsyn and gets no time on the power play or penalty kill.  This is just another example showcasing how the Coyotes carry their success year-in year-out with their depth through their lineup.

 

  1. Johnny Gaudreau (Philadelphia) - 1.65p/20

On a team where Alex Ovechkin has been struggling (one goal, six assists), it has been Johnny Gaudreau that has been picking up the slack..  For Gaudreau, he is a player that is taking advantage of his power play time on the first unit with six of his fourteen points coming with the man advantage where he skates with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.  In Philadelphia, the team runs their top power play perhaps the most aggressively in terms of ice time given.  Currently the top power play unit gets about two-thirds of the ice time, giving them ample opportunity to put up the points.  Away from the powerplay, Gaudreau is currently lineup up as the clubs left wing on their third line.  

 

  1. Jacob Silfverberg (Buffalo) - 1.60p/20

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Buffalo has two in the top five, especially when you consider they are the highest scoring team, but perhaps it should be a surprise that it is Silfverberg that falls in fifth here.  On a team with Vlad Tarasenko, Jordan Staal, Dustin Brown and Conner McDavid on the depth chart ahead of him, here lies Jacob.  For Silfverberg, he is currently seventh in team scoring, with nine points in those twelve Sabre games with those names above ahead in total points.  But where Silfverberg has succeeded is generating five-on-five production, where he averages around nine minutes per game so far this season.  Having played on both the third and fourth line, and only now getting a little bit of power play time with Max Pacioretty sidelined (Jacob has zero power play points to date), it is his creation down the lineup that has led him to fifth.

 

As mentioned, there are a lot of variables on this list.  While you can have the leagues top scorer on it (Turris) you can also find a clubs seventh best scorer (Silfverberg).  Perhaps that is why I find this list so interesting.

 

WC: 740

 

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S27 - Detroit Leading the Way Early On (®)

By Dustin Funk (WHALERS) On Friday 14th June 2024 / 9:30pm


While the season is still young, the Detroit Red Wings have seen things break their way all season.  In nine games the Wings have nine wins, or in other words, they have been perfect to start.  Throughout the nine wins, the Wings have doubled their opponents on the scoreboard, scoring thirty-four goals to only seventeen given up, good for a league best seventeen goal differential.  Truely, things are looking good in Detroit.

Leading the way for the Wings is week one MVP candidate, Antti Niemi.  In goal, Niemi has been outstanding, posting a goals against average of 1.84 and a save percentage of .943, both put him second in the league to Bruins goaltender Robin Lehner.  It should also be noted that the Wings have had to use the extra frame to settle things in four of their nine games, where they have won three games in the shootout with the other in overtime.  In those three shootout wins, the Wings have scored a grand total of five goals, meaning that Niemi has been near perfect, saving ten of the twelve attempts he has seen.  In fact, Niemi has been perfect in his last two shootouts, and has gone eight straight shooters now without having let one by.

Outside the crease, depth appears to be the name of the game in Detroit.  As it stands of their previous game against Las Vegas, a 3-1 win, the Wings have spread their top three lines evenly in terms of ice time.  With that in mind, Detroit has been able to spread out their line up and share depth throughout and it is working.  Currently the Wings have four forwards averaging over a point for every twenty minutes played.  Seeing their top two centers in Patrice Bergeron (1.13 ) and Jake Guentzel (1.16) along with Bryan Little (1.06) really is not a shock.  What could be a shock is PA Parenteau (1.07) being the fourth member of that club.  The fourth line winger has been the key driver of what could be the league's best fourth line with Ryan Stoa (.80) and Jarret Stoll (.84).  All told the Wings have only three players (Jokinen, Vrbata, Hyman) that do not have a points per twenty minutes played over .75.
To go on a nine game winning streak, things really need to break in the correct direction.  Detroit is getting upper class production, both from their starting netminder and their depth forwards on the fourth line.  Things are looking great in the Motor City these days.

 

WC: 425

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s27 - Scouts at the Draft (®)

By Matt George (SCOUTS) On Wednesday 12th June 2024 / 7:55pm


Auston Matthews was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the VHL Entry Draft. The Vancouver Canucks selected Matthew Tkachuk second overall. And, with the third overall pick, the Kansas City Scouts selected Patrik Laine. When on the ice, Laine has the tools and ability to become one of the top scoring forwards in the league. Laine has an elite VHL calibre shot and is skilled offensively. Defensively, Laine still has some developing to do. Overall, Laine will be a piece of the next wave of fantastic Scouts forwards, and he along was others could be in Kansas City sooner rather than later.

The Scouts also selected Filip Gustavsson eighteenth overall. With Ilya Sorokin already in the mix with the Scouts, the Scouts selected another potential starting keeper in this draft with Gustavsson. Unlike Sorokin who should push for starts at the VHL level next season, Gustavsson is still a few seasons away from making the jump to the VHL, but once he gets there Gustavsson has the tools to become a starting keeper, but with Sorokin already ahead of him, might to accept a back-up role or request a trade for he wants to become a full-time starter in the VHL.

 In the second round, the Scouts selected Dennis Cholowski. In Cholowski, the Scouts are getting a mobile defender with an offensively-gifted mind. This pick is not the normal type of defender the Scouts would select but the Scouts believe Cholowski can develop defensively and bulk up in size, which should give Cholowski a chance at becoming a top four in the VHL. Otherwise, Cholowski has all the tools to become a gifted powerplay QB.

In the third round, the Scouts opened the round selecting back-to-back, the Scouts took Connor ingram and Libor Hajek. The Scouts selected Rasmus Asplund and Olli Juolevi as well in the third round. In Ingman, the Scouts are getting another goalie with the ability to start, in a few seasons there could be a logjam for top spot or a battle for the back up role. In Hajek, the Scouts are getting a rangy defender with smooth skills, limited offensively but won't hurt the team, and excels at the shutdown part of the game. Has the potential to be a solid bottom four in the VHL. Asplund might take time to get to the show but he has good bottom six skills, he can also play all three forward positions. Finally, Juolevi is an intelligent, puck-moving defender. Potential second-pairing, secondary offensive defender, could become a long-term project for the Scouts.

The Scouts made three more selections in the fourth and final round of the draft. The first player selected was Markus Niemelainen, followed by Mikhail Maltsev, and rounding out their selections with Oskar Steen. Niemelainen projects as a potential shutdown type of defender, tall and rangy but lacks bulk, he will need to get stronger to stick in the VHL. Maltsev is a hard working forward who uses size and smooth skating to control the puck and flow of game. Not highly skilled but will fill a bottom six role. And finally, Steen has a high complete level and can play all three forward positions. Steen projects as a bottom six type of player. Undersized.

Overall, the Scouts came into the draft with three selections and left making more picks than the Scouts expected to make, but this the cupboard has to remain stocked as the Scouts released several talent after making the AHL final, and rostered a majority of the with prospects including Laine and Nylander, who join Mantha, Gusev, and Granberg on the Cowboys.

604

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Top Headlines
2024-Jun-18
Daniel Winnik from Springfield THUNDERBIRDS is back from Exhaustion.
Derek Grant from Fredericton EXPRESS is back from Exhaustion.
Chandler Stephenson from Wyoming COWBOYS is back from Torn Left MCL Injury.
Trade ArrowDerek Forbort (79), Jason Spezza (84), Jason Zucker (74).
Trade ArrowJames Neal (82), Marco Scandella (85), Patrik Berglund (76), Y:32-RND:2-TOR, Y:1-RND:0-.
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Today Pro 3 Star
Star1Tuukka Rask (WHALERS)
Star2Jonathan Toews (BLACKHAWKS)
Star3Ryan Getzlaf (RANGERS)
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Star2Petr Kalus (Muskegon LUMBERJACKS)
Star3Andre Burakovsky (Muskegon LUMBERJACKS)
Top 5 Points
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Max Pacioretty (BUF)
Max Pacioretty
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Kyle Turris (TOR)13-9-22
Joe Pavelski (KCS)9-13-22
Bobby Ryan (STL)9-11-20
Jordan Staal (BUF)8-12-20
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Player NameGP-G
Kyle Turris (TOR)
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Max Pacioretty (BUF)13 - 12
Brent Burns (CGY)16 - 12
Jamie Benn (LAK)17 - 10
Connor McDavid (BUF)17 - 10
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Semyon Varlamov (PHX)
Semyon Varlamov
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Antti Niemi (DET)9 - 0.933
Robin Lehner (BOS)6 - 0.933
Jimmy Howard (NYR)11 - 0.931
Braden Holtby (MTL)6 - 0.922
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Erik Karlsson (BUF)
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Victor Hedman (KCS)5-5-10
Alex Pietrangelo (LAK)4-6-10
Roman Josi (KCS)2-8-10
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Bo Horvat (PHX)
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Chad Johnson82 - 29
Ilya Bryzgalov82 - 35
Rob Zepp82 - 35
Anders Nilsson81 - 25
Richard Bachman81 - 28
Jeff Zatkoff81 - 28
Antero Niittymaki81 - 35
Louis Domingue80 - 24
Nolan Schaefer80 - 35
Joni Pitkanen75 - 32
Kevin Klein75 - 32
Eric Brewer75 - 36
Dmitri Kalinin75 - 36
Anton Volchenkov75 - 33