Pettersson-mania begins in Vancouver

There’s a lot of ‘first impression’ moments that stand out in Canucks lore over the years. Bure’s incredible showcase against the Jets in his first NHL game. Roberto Luongo’s stellar introduction against the Red Wings at the Joe. But this one is different.

Everyone knew Elias Pettersson was good. He dominated in the SHL as an 18-year-old, something nobody has ever done before. People had him slated as a candidate for the Calder Trophy this year, before he even came to North America for training camp. He dazzled in the pre-season and showed that he belonged. But come October 3rd, it was time to throw all of that out the window and see what this kid is really made of.

And boy did he deliver.

It’s a goal I’ve had on repeat all night. It’s a play that will be infamous in Canucks history, and should be the kickstarter for what should be one heck of a career in the National Hockey League.

Come on.

The great read in his own end to stay and wait for the chip up to him, the awareness of the 2-on-1, the hesitation and of course, the absolute snipe top corner for his first NHL goal, on his first shot, in his first game.

That could’ve been it, and it still would’ve been the buzz all night in Vancouver, but he did it again on the second goal of the game, making a heads up play in front to find Goldobin wide open at the side of the net for his first apple too.

The best part of the night though, was his reaction on the bench after his first goal, with the crowd roaring in Rogers Arena, a buzz in the building that hasn’t been felt since the Sedin’s incredible final game in Vancouver, and prior to that, 2011.

Pettersson finished the night with under 10 minutes of ice time (wyd Green?) and just one shot, but got two points, had some other great chances, and was hounding the puck all night in a 5-2 win for the Canucks.

At this point in the Canucks rebuild, it’s not about the Cup. It’s not about the playoffs. It’s about hope. Will Pettersson do this every night? Definitely not. But the hope is there, there’s a spark in Vancouver that this is a sign of things to come, much like what Canucks fans saw with Brock Boeser last year, and with Bo Horvat years before that. With Quinn Hughes probably making the jump next year, and with Dahlen, Juolevi and Demko still on the way, the future is very bright on the West Coast.

This season is all about development, moving forward, seeing the kids grow; and if opening night was any sign of things to come, this year might not be big in the standings, but huge for the future.

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The NBA is poisoning major sports

This week, the Golden State Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal worth $5.3 million. This comes after the Warriors won 73 games in a season, signed the second best player on the planet the following offseason and cruised to back-to-back NBA titles. There was a phrase going around this postseason that “KD ruined the NBA,” and now it’s safe to say that the Warriors collectively have ruined the NBA.

But that’s just the beginning.

Over in the NHL this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs landed John Tavares, one of the league’s best players for the next seven years. A heartwarming story, as the Mississauga, Ontario product returned home to play with his childhood team he grew up idolizing. The Leafs instantly bounce into Stanley Cup contention, with Vegas already putting them as the favourites to win the cup next year. On the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with this deal. Then you dive into the contract itself. Tavares’ base salary over every season he’s signed with Toronto doesn’t go over $1 million per season. Some players who spend half their season in the minors make more than Tavares will make just off of base salary. The $77 million that Tavares will make comes mostly from signing bonuses every year, handed out straight in cash by the Maple Leafs. For this year of his contract, Tavares will receive $15.25 million, which he actually already received the day he signed with Toronto. Because of his low base salary, Tavares’ cap hit is only $11 million per season, despite getting paid over $16 million a season. While it’s only the first time this has happened in the NHL, it’s a slippery slope that the league will continue to slide down unless the league steps in. With more free agents next off-season, teams will use the method used by the Leafs to take in top-tier players while lowering cap hits.

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And in the NHL (and the other major sports), not all markets are like the Maple Leafs. Most teams across the NHL don’t have this kind of money to throw around in salary bonuses in order to attract these players. The Ottawa Senators would have to sell the barn in order to make an offer like the one the Leafs made to Tavares. Meaning that only the richest teams in the league can afford the top players in the game, even with a salary cap in place. And it all started with the Golden State Warriors.

Granted, the MLB doesn’t have a salary cap, so teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox have been poaching the top talent in baseball for years. But that’s not what we want in major sports, the unfair balance in payrolls and talent on certain teams. To an extent it’s okay, but when some major league players are making more money than the Oakland Athletics are paying out to a whole team, it’s a little ridiculous.

While the NFL hasn’t quite experienced anything like the NBA’s current landscape has, there’s no saying certain players come together to create super-teams in the future and chase championships. The NHL now seems to be heading in that direction, and the MLB has been unbalanced for decades. The NBA is pretty much decided for the next two years, as we await something to change in Golden State.

And that’s not a good thing for sports.

Don’t count Vegas out

If there’s anything we should’ve learned about the Vegas Golden Knights by now, it’s to expect the unexpected. Finishing the season with 51 wins and 109 points in their inaugural campaign, on the backs of some incredible individual seasons from the likes of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and David Perron. But what sticks out most about the Knights system and the key to their success is their defencemen and their puck movement. I’ve never seen a team use so much speed up the middle of the ice all while working the puck around so well, with the defencemen being the anchor to Gerard Gallant’s playbook. It’s something other NHL teams still haven’t caught onto after a full 82 game season, and something the LA Kings will have to adjust to if they want to take down Vegas in the first round.

And that’s the thing, most people do have Vegas going on past the Kings in the first round, but bowing out in the second round. But why? Sure, you look at their roster, the inexperience of their top players, the fact they were basically jumbled together from teams who didn’t consider them vital to their old organizations, but that just fuels the fire that much more. The Knights know people still don’t believe in them. Nobody thinks they can get by Nashville or Winnipeg. But everything dictates that they can, given their unique style of play, a few veteran playoff guys like James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury, and a terrific home record, where opposing teams never seem to string success together at T-Mobile Arena.

After going to a Vegas game back in February, I can’t imagine what the local rallying cry is like on the Vegas strip right about now. It was crazy when the playoffs were still a couple months away, and it must be a full on party down there now. And after all that’s happened with this team and this town over the last 12 months, how could you not pick the Knights to win? It would be a storybook tale for the ages. From the successful ticket drive, to the expansion draft, to the tragic events prior to the first game, to the unbelievable streak at the start of the year, to the goaltending dilemma midway through the year. But Vegas didn’t let any of that get in their way. They stuck to their guns and wound up with 51 wins and a Pacific Division title.

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs finally begin tonight, the two month journey will see tonnes of twists and turns, but I have Vegas hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup when it’s all said and done, because they’ve given me every reason to believe that this is simply their year, and no matter who’s in their way, the Knights will somehow, someway find a solution and cap off a historic season with the most coveted trophy in hockey.

The Curious Case of Eric Staal

It’s February 28th, 2016. Eric Staal is traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the New York Rangers after spending the first 12 years of his career in Raleigh. At the time, it appeared Staal’s career was on the down turn. After a 54-point campaign in 2014-15, Staal had just 10 goals through 63 games the next season, and was subsequently dealt to The Big Apple for a playoff push. In the final year of his contract, Staal scored just 3 goals in the last 20 games of the season, and the Rangers were booted in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins. It was obvious the Rangers wouldn’t re-sign Staal, definitely not close to his previous cap hit of $8.2 million. Staal tested free agency, and signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Wild with a cap hit of $3.5 million per season. It raised some eyebrows at the time, but now the Wild seem like geniuses.

In his first season with the Wild, Staal racked up 28 goals and 65 points in what was a rejuvenating year for the Thunder Bay product. The weird thing is that nobody outside of Minnesota really took notice. Jump to this season, and Staal continues to produce, as he has notched 33 goals and 64 points in 64 games this season, already matching his highest goal total since 2008-2009, nearly a decade ago. Once again, the hockey world has slept on the former Olympic gold medalist and Stanley Cup champion.

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Other than playing the bulk of his career in a small market, there’s not much reason for the hockey world to sleep on Staal. He’s the 2nd overall pick of the most stacked NHL draft in league history back in 2003, he scored 28 points in the 2006 playoffs, leading the Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup, he was a part of the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team that won gold in Vancouer, and was a star in the league from the mid 2000’s all the way up to his final years in Carolina. Part of one of the most successful bloodlines in hockey, Staal has won pretty much everything there is to win in hockey, so maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised when the Wild took a fairly expensive flyer on Staal back in the Summer of 2016.

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The one thing Staal hasn’t done since coming to the Wild, is make noise in the post-season. He was held pointless in the first round series against the Penguins back in 2016, and recorded just one assist for the Wild in their first round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues, which they lost in five games. After the miraculous 2006 run with the Hurricanes, Staal has only seen playoff action three times, the last two being short appearances, with his only decent run besides the 2006 championship coming in 2009, when the Hurricanes lost in the conference finals to the Penguins. With the Wild currently hanging onto the final playoff spot in the Central Division, Minnesota is looking to rely on Staal’s veteran experience to get them into the playoffs, and help them take down the daunting Western Conference.

At 33 years old heading into free agency once again, it would be crazy for the Wild not to re-sign Staal for at least the next couple years, just to see if this crazy resurgence continues.

Connor McDavid is the best hockey player on Earth

For some reason, there’s been discussion lately between Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid for the NHL’s best player. While I appreciate Crosby’s hardware case and the countless iconic goals he’s scored over his career, his time as hockey’s “face of the sport” is now over. With an Art Ross, Hart & Ted Lindsay already under his belt in his first full season in the NHL, McDavid is now poised to become the most dominant player we’ve seen since Wayne Gretzky. His speed, skill and overall hockey IQ puts him in a different league than everyone else.

Now, I get the argument about Crosby still being the top dog. He changed the game when he entered the league back in 2005, much like McDavid is now. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a World Cup of Hockey champion and the winner of multiple individual awards in the NHL over his illustrious career. In terms of legacy, Sidney Crosby is still miles ahead of McDavid. But if we’re talking raw talent at this very moment, there’s nobody better than McDavid. Crosby’s edges, finesse and vision are still elite, and probably the best in all those regards, but McDavid’s speed, and what he can do at top speed, that makes him so deadly. He doesn’t have the best shot, but how he can make space for himself, with or without the puck, is also what makes him so special. While Gretzky’s greatest trait will always be his vision, and Crosby’s will always be his athleticism, McDavid’s killer trait will always be his speed.

We’re only one game into the season, and McDavid proved he’s the best, by scoring a hat-trick on opening night, with his second goal, being absolutely breathtaking.

McDavid topped out at 40 kilometres an hour, as he took the puck up the right wing, made T.J. Brodie look like he was skating in mud, before roofing it on Mike Smith at full speed. It’s goals like these that we’ve simply never seen before, not with this caliber of athletes anyways.  Jaromir Jagr recently said he thinks that McDavid could score 100 goals at some point in his career, and while it sounds crazy, is it really out of the question? Nobody’s come close to Gretzky’s record of 92, and I don’t think anyone ever will, but McDavid might have the best shot at coming close. It appears McDavid will probably be more of a playmaker rather than a straight up scorer through his career, but I could see him cracking 150 points at some point in his career, especially with guys like Leon Draisaitl on his line.

As a Canucks fan, it’s going to be a long 15 years with Connor McDavid in the division, but man what a treat he’s going to be to watch.

The Vancouver Canucks are enticing, but not ready to make the jump

The rebuilding process is never easy, and since 2015-16, the Vancouver Canucks have been learning that lesson the hard way. The Canucks have just 61 wins over the past two seasons, and aren’t on the track to making the playoffs for a very long time. Canucks GM Jim Benning didn’t reinvent the wheel this offseason, but he picked up some intriguing, young players in free agency that might not win the Canucks many games, but will put asses in seats and at least be worth the price of admission, even if the end result isn’t great. Oh, and they got rid of Luca Sbisa, so that’s a win too.

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Up front, the Canucks got some interesting acquisitions through free agency, but nothing that will ultimately bring them out of the basement in the Western Conference. Sam Gagner will be the most exciting to watch of the bunch, and will see some time on the power play as well as the occasional opportunity as a top-6 forward, and should be good for 40 points. Alex Burmistrov was an interesting signing by the Canucks, but he hasn’t showed much promise to this point, and I don’t see him sticking around for very long. Burmistrov’s deal is 1-way, so he’ll need to go through waivers if the Canucks want to send him down to Utica. He gets lost in the fold, but Thomas Vanek will also get an opportunity as a Top-9 forward for the Canucks this year. The 33-year-old signed a 1 year deal with Vancouver for $2 million back in September, and should also get a crack at the power play unity and could even see some Top-6 playing time if an injury occurs or he hits a hot streak. I see Travis Green using Vanek much like Alain Vigneault used to use Chris Higgins; a third line guy who can go anywhere in the line-up on any given night. You add these new acquisitions into the Canucks’ core of the Sedin twins, Horvat, Eriksson, Baertschi and Granlund, and the Canucks have enough to keep themselves out of last place in the West, but not enough to crack the playoffs.

The two most intriguing stories on offence this season will be Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen. Boeser, who has been the most impressive Canuck throughout the pre-season, has been so good that I believe he can get some playing time on the top line with the Sedin twins if he keeps it up, given the Canucks current depth at right wing. Jake Virtanen looks revamped this year, obviously Travis Green got through to him after a very disappointing season last year. While he still has much to prove in the eyes of Canucks fans, but this pre-season has been a great sign for Virtanen’s future.

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On defence, the Canucks have their work cut out for them. Led once again by Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, the Canucks will be looking for consistency defensively from Michael Del Zotto, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher. All three have offensive potential, but have been burned defensively in the past. For Stecher and Del Zotto, they will battle for the spot as power play quarterback, while Tanev, Edler and Gudbranson will be mainstays on the penalty kill unit. The Canucks are missing that #1 defenceman, who they are hoping to have in Olli Juolevi at some point in the future, but if they’re lucky, maybe they’ll have Rasmus Dahlin in the system to be that guy as well.

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In net, the Canucks don’t exactly have a #1 goalie, but rather two fringe starters. Jacob Markstrom will probably be given the reigns off the top due to being the lone returning guy, but Anders Nilsson will also be given many opportunities throughout the season to overthrow Markstrom from the #1 spot. For me personally, I see Thatcher Demko being given a shot this year as well at some point, not as a starter, but he should be given a handful of starts throughout the year to get his feet wet in the NHL. Demko will definitely be the guy in Utica this year, with the goal probably being ready for the NHL call up full-time next year. In terms of how they stack up against the rest of the league, the Canucks’ goaltending will be near the bottom of the NHL, and won’t be able to single-handedly win the Canucks games.

Overall, it’ll probably be more of the same for the Vancouver Canucks this season, another year of no playoffs, but some enticing prospects in Boeser, Virtanen and Demko will keep Canucks fans tuned in for what the future holds.

And Bo Horvat, he’s pretty fun to watch too.

The Ovechkin era in Washington is coming to an end

It’s been quite the run for Alex Ovechkin in Washington D.C. After being taken first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Ovechkin would change the NHL with his explosiveness, size and raw ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Over 12 seasons in Washington, Ovechkin has tallied 558 goals and 1,035 points in 921 games with the Capitals, and is easily the best player in the franchise’s 43 year run. However, there’s something missing in Ovechkin’s long list of accomplishments and awards during his time in the NHL, a Stanley Cup ring. And if there’s no ring in his trophy case by the end of the 2017-18 season, Ovechkin is likely headed elsewhere.

It’s not Ovechkin’s fault, the Capitals have had some of the best teams in recent memory over the past decade, all with the 31 year old Russian at the helm of the team. However, a failure to lead his team deep into the playoffs has left a hole in his legacy, and to this point, it hasn’t been fixed. After taking home the President’s Trophy as the top regular season team for the second consecutive season, the Caps were once again bested by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The two teams have always been compared to one another since the Capitals took Ovechkin in 2004 and the Penguins drafted Crosby in 2005, and to this point, the Penguins have owned the Capitals over the last 12 years. While the Capitals are still a Stanley Cup contender heading into 2017-18, the room for error has vanished. Immediate results are expected from the Capitals this season, and after the blame has fallen on coaches and the front office in the past, it will be coming for the players if it doesn’t work out this season.

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With Ovechkin signed through the 2020-21 season, the Capitals will have a bit of a hard time unloading the Russian superstar given his cap hit is $9.5 million per season. However, If they’re willing to either take on a bad contract for a year or two or find a trade partner who isn’t tight to the cap, a deal is still reachable. Teams like the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets all have enough cap room at the moment to make a deal seamlessly. Plus, Ovechkin is nearing the end of his prime years, and only has 3-4 seasons left of 40-50 goal seasons in him. Throw in the fact that Ovechkin could bolt back to Russia to play in the KHL at any time, and it seems like a given that the Capitals should move Ovechkin if a Stanley Cup isn’t in the picture.

The window is slowly closing for the Washington Capitals, and if they want a decent return for Ovechkin, the deal will have to be before Ovechkin turns 33. After that, with only one year left on his contract, and an aging star, the Capitals won’t be able to re-tool let alone re-build with the pieces they get in return.

To be honest, I can’t see Ovechkin in another NHL uniform, and he could just leave for Russia if the Capitals don’t win a cup in the next year or two, but my gut says his rights will at least be moved for 2018-19, even if he leaves for his home country in the offseason. With the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang nearing, and the NHL currently absent from the event, with Ovechkin’s intentions of playing in the games regardless, it could just throw another wrench into this whole argument.

Either way, whether it’s another NHL team or the KHL, I believe Alex Ovechkin’s time in Washington is nearly finished.

EA Sports NHL needs rival for series revival

Pressure turns coal into diamonds, or at least that’s how the old saying goes. All of the world’s best things have competition. Coke has Pepsi, Sony has Microsoft, Ford has Chevrolet. Everywhere, companies, and people compete against one another to be the best they can be. Without that competition, we get lazy. We take our foot off the gas pedal and stop generating new ideas, original ideas. At that point, it becomes rinse and repeat. For the EA Sports NHL series, this is very much the case.

Believe it or not, there was a time when the EA Sports NHL sector was producing exceptional games. First, you have the early 90’s, with NHL ’94 being the standout game-changer, and one that’s to this day played by sports gamers across the globe. Times changed, and so did the games. Heading into the new millenium, NHL 2002 to 2004 were all fantastic games, for hardcore hockey fans and the general gamer. With wicked soundtracks, limitless creation options, in-depth GM modes, and serious attention to detail with in-game physics and player attributes, these games, NHL 2004 in particular, are absolutely phenomenal.

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Then, along came the NHL 2K series. 2K took the greatest aspects of the EA Sports games and focused on why sports gamers came to adore hockey games. The first part of breaking into the market for 2K, was the price tag. While most console-based video games cost $50 back in the early 2000’s, NHL 2K3 debuted on the Xbox Orginal at just $20 a pop. So, if you’re a big fan of EA Sports, but willing to try something new, why not pick up a copy of 2K just to see what they’re up to. And while the graphics, animations and attention to detail wasn’t quite on the same level as their counterpart, the 2K games were always original. Whether it was the arcade with table hockey, the zamboni mini-games, plus the GM mode features which made EA Sports’ games back in the early 2000’s so good, 2K was onto something. And it shook the EA Sports NHL team.

It didn’t help that NHL 2005 was a major step backwards for EA Sports. With 2004 being a huge hit, NHL 2005 dialed back on the customization and creativity, removing the option to create a player, something that had been a part of NHL games since NHL ’95. The Franchise mode was still serviceable, but nowhere near NHL 2004’s standards. The game heavily promoted the EA Sports World Cup, with countries doing battle, and while it wasn’t terrible, it can’t be the biggest part of your game. The Free-4-All mode was a blast, and really saved the game from being a complete disaster, but it opened the door for NHL 2K to really make a splash. And they did.

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With ESPN sponsoring the game, NHL 2K5 featured a broadcast-style presentation, Bill Clement on play-by-play, and an overall authentic feel, whereas NHL 2005 still wasn’t quite there. And you don’t have to look further than the most recent EA Sports NHL games to see that they’ve learned their lesson about broadcast-style presentation, hence why we get to see Doc Emerick and Eddie Olczyk before every opening face-off.

With EA Sports NHL in a bit of a lull from 2005-2007, it allowed NHL 2K to capitalize and broaden their fan base. I don’t have the facts, but I’d go as far as assuming that there were more copies sold of NHL 2K games than EA Sports NHL games in the span of 2005-2008. And it all came down to creativity, and moving forward rather than staying status quo. This was the peak of NHL 2K games.

It must’ve been somewhere in the early months of 2007 that EA Sports realized they needed to get their asses into gear if they were going to take back their monopoly on hockey video games. The franchise’s saving grace came in the form of NHL 2008, which introduced the skill stick and changed the way we played hockey video games. Previous games had flirted with the concept of using the thumbstick for stickhandling, but EA Sports was the first to include puck protection, dekes and shooting all with one flick of the stick. Add the inclusion of the EASHL in NHL ’09, with an amazing soundtrack, great visuals and an overall superb product, and the EA Sports NHL department regained their supremacy. NHL 2K would have moderate success with 2K10 and 2K11, but discontinued their product after the 2011 release. 2K is still releasing hockey games on mobile, but it appears their run as a console-based developer in the hockey side of things are over. If you’re a wrestling fan, the 2K vs. EA battle on the NHL front feels eerily similar to the WWF/WCW Monday Night Wars in the mid to late 90’s.

With that history lesson, let’s jump to 2017, and look at EA’s last three releases. I’m giving NHL 15 a bit of a free pass given their tight timeline, and the fact they were forced to release a product for the new generation consoles, and it was obviously a rushed project. However, it’s yet to really expand from their leap to next-gen consoles. NHL 16 saw the re-addition of EASHL, but it wasn’t true EASHL. The mode was still missing a lot of key features, some that had been in the game since the mode’s inception in NHL 09. Be A GM / Franchise Mode still doesn’t feel right for some reason, whether they’re getting too in depth or aren’t focusing on the basics, it’s not what it used to be. The relocation options and customization is coming around with NHL 17, but the franchise needs to follow suit with the NBA 2K series and make everything customizable. EA Sports has failed to let their gamers use their full creativity to make something they’ll enjoy. They’re on the right track with NHL 17, now they just need to commit to the idea 100 percent. There’s already been a couple teaser trailers for NHL 18, and to be honest, it looks the exact same as NHL 17 with a couple new dekes. My point is, EA Sports needs a kick in the pants once again. Whether they need some more funding from Electronic Arts or simply more creativity and effort, the series is getting stale.

I’ve owned every NHL game since NHL 99, and I’ve owned every NHL game within the first week of release since NHL 08. I played NHL 11 vigorously, ranked in the Top-100 in HUT for the whole year. I know what it’s like to be invested in a good NHL game, and since NHL 14, I’ve pretty much let my NHL games collect dust for NBA 2K, MLB: The Show and an assortment of other games. GM Connected mode, which was highly regarded as a breakthrough for the franchise, has been discontinued since NHL 14, and while it had it’s flaws, needs to be in the game in this day in age. NHL is notorious for introducing new game modes and features, only to take them away in six years and reintroduce them three or four years later as a “new feature” to draw gamers in.

Whether it’s 2K re-investing in a console-based NHL game, or an outside video game publisher giving the EA Sports crew a run for their money, it needs to happen in order for EA to start churning out good, original material. As of right now, it feels EA looks at what NBA 2K does, and introduces features 2-3 years down the road, for example, the whole relocation feature brought in for NHL 17. For those of you keeping track, NBA 2K introduced that in 2015.

In the end, this is a disgruntled diehard NHL gamer who wants something fresh, something that feels new, and original. It’s time for a wake up call over at EA Sports when it comes to the NHL franchise.

Nolan Patrick will not live up to expectations

Before the hate mail starts crashing into my room, let me say this first. Prospects and draft picks are always unpredictable. Unless you’re LeBron James, Mike Trout or Connor McDavid, there’s always uncertainty when it comes to a young athlete. They can have all the tools, look to be the next big thing, and then when you make the jump to the major leagues, sometimes the stars just don’t align. Thus, there have been plenty of busts in major sports over the last forty years. Greg Oden, Alexandre Daigle, Patrik Stefan, Andrea Bargnani, I could go on and on with busts from baseball and football as well. No matter what sport, the message is still the same, you just never know.

For all I know, I could look like an idiot five years down the road, when Patrick is scoring 35-40 goals a season for the Philadelphia Flyers and leading them to playoff berths alongside Claude Giroux. But as of today, here in 2017, the future doesn’t look bright for the 2nd overall pick.

It pains me to write this, I actually interviewed Nolan’s sister Madison back when I was at broadcast school, and just from how she carried herself, the Patrick’s seem like a pretty awesome family.

The first notable sign being Patrick’s health. After an impressive rookie season scoring 30 goals as a 16-year-old, Patrick scored 41 goals and 102 points with the Brandon Wheat Kings in his sophomore year, leading the Kings to a WHL Championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup. But an injury-plagued season last year left Patrick playing in just 33 games and amassing a modest 46 points in that span. Compared to other draftees, Patrick’s 2016-17 season was nothing to celebrate.

The second point to be made is where the Winnipeg product is going. Philadelphia is loaded with talent up the middle. With Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula, Jori Lehtera and Sean Couturier filling out the top-4 centre spots on the team, it’s hard to picture Patrick playing his natural position when he joins the league. That also bringing up another side note, that some critics are skeptical that Patrick even makes the leap to the NHL his first season. The last 2nd overall pick to not make the jump in his first year? Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who has also under-performed, partly due to injury, since being taken in the draft. The last forward that didn’t make the jump (or, sort of did I guess) was Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres, taken 2nd overall behind Aaron Ekblad in the 2014 draft. Reinhart did play 9 games, the maximum allowed by the league, before being sent back to major junior after recording just one assist. It should also be noted that Reinhart is still trying to find his place in the league, as he finished the 2016-17 campaign with 47 points in 79 games. This is a ‘glass half empty’ guess, but Patrick probably will get his nine games in the NHL this year before returning to Brandon. If he is going to make the leap this year, it definitely will be on the wing, and it’ll probably be in the bottom-6 of the line-up.

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The third and final point, is that the 2017 draft class in general is pretty weak when you compare it to the 2015 and 2016 classes. Even at #1, Nico Hischier didn’t have jaw-dropping stats with the Halifax Mooseheads this year. That aura usually never changes, even if a few players overachieve or don’t live up to the expectations. The 2012 and 2014 draft classes didn’t have a lot of hype behind them, much like 2017, and the aforementioned classes generally speaking followed the script.

Now, Patrick’s game is a bruising, intimidating, power forward-like game, so if his scoring touch does go cold, he’s got a gritty side to him that he can rely on as well, unlike Nail Yakupov, who is a one-dimensional scorer who doesn’t bring much to the table when he’s not putting the puck in the back of the net. Add that in with the identity of the Philadelphia Flyers’ identity and background, and the city of brotherly love might not be such a bad fit for Patrick after all. But will he live up to the expectations of a #2 overall pick? I doubt it.