The Sleeper Behind Owen Power
Ottawa native Brandt Clarke impresses The Maven. The Devils make a brilliant move. Who's the next hire for TNT? Luke Richardson extended in Montreal
THE SLEEPER BEHIND OWEN POWER
Now that the consensus has Buffalo picking the behemoth Owen Power first in the Draft -- doesn't mean the consensus is right -- you have to wonder about the least-discussed sleeper.
It certainly isn't defenseman Luke Hughes.
My Heavens, the kid brother of Quinn and Jack Hughes has reaped more publicity in the past year than both his bros, combined.
Which is not to say that Luke doesn't deserve nor should he be resented for same. It's just that there are other young stickhandlers with more talent and less coverage.
The one I like best is Ottawa native Brandt Clarke whose brother, Graeme, is a Devils product.
While Luke Hughes has a sibling already the face of the Devils it does not in any way mean that g.m. Tom Fitzgerald will want to add another family member just because he likes the name Hughes.
Fitz could favor Brandt Clark -- assuming he's still available for the fourth pick -- for some other very good reasons. Namely:
1. Right hand shot. Most draft available backliners shoot left. A righty shooter is a rarity and coveted by any team; assuming, of course, the prospect has other gifts; which Clark has in abundance.
2. Talent: Brandt has top hands, a veteran's poise with the puck and seeing-all-rink-eyes. That's in the Gretzky mold.
3. Size. Clark isn't oversized like Power but 6-2, 190 is just about right in terms of height and weight these days.
4. Experience: During the Pandemic, Brandt hustled over to Slovakia and played against men; and did so with poise.
5. Confidence: Just talk to him and you'll know what I mean.
Neither agent nor family would dare put the knock on the lad; that's a given but I happen to like what Clarke's trainer, Tony Greco, has to say:
"He's got fire in him," Greco insists. "He's a perfectionist who doesn't believe in failure. But he does live and breathe the dream."
Don't ask me whether he'll be second, third or fourth pick nor who'll select this guy. But, if it was me, I'd grab him secure in the knowledge that this is a good one.
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: SMART, STRONG MOVE BY DEVILS
THE JIVE; New Jersey's g.m. Tom Fitzgerald knew he had to bolster the teams defense and has made a key move. He acquired big Ryan Graves from Colorado for Mikhail Maltsev and the Devils second round pick in the upcoming draft.
Graves will be in the NJ Top 4 D-men and will bolster the team's penalty kill. He's also a plus in the plus-minus department. A-1 move!
HEADLINE: WHO'S NEXT HIRE FOR TNT'S 'INSIDE THE NHL?'
THE JIVE: Turner already has the prize, Wayne Gretzky, locked up as super-duper analyst. But more hockey hires are in order including a host for "Inside The NHL." The New York Post's oft-correct Andrew Marchand suggests that NBC's Liam McHugh is a possibility and, frankly, I like that choice. Liam knows The Game, is smooth as silk and has the knack of extracting the best from his dais buddies. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for some network to put John (The Rouser) Tortorella back to work. Or does Torts lead the First Coach Fired line?
HEADLINE: BERGEVIN DOES RIGHT BY HIS WINNER
THE JIVE: Now that Duke Ducharme has been richly rewarded for making like Mandrake The Magician, the Habs boss Marc Bergevin wasted no time honoring the man who did so well pinch-coaching for The Duke. Hence, Luke Richardson got a three-year deal to remain as Durcharme's aide de camp. But we know in advance that another march to the Final cannot happen for the Habs. Not without Shea Weber out all season. All signs are that the Captain's multiple wounds will not allow a return for 2021. Except that if any player can overrule the medics, Weber is the man.
HEADLINE: THE MOST COVETED THIRD-STRINGER
THE JIVE: It's always refreshing to know that neither Auston (The Moustache) Matthews nor Mitch Marner are not dominating the Toronto headlines on any given day. That's why the "Thank You" prize goes to Zach Hyman. He's got to be the most coveted Maple Leafs third-stringer since Joe (Duke of Paducah) Klukay helped Conn Smythe's Torontos to four Stanley Cups in five seasons (1947-51). The general feeling is that the Leafs only full-time Jewish ace will look elsewhere for his paycheck since every team but the New York Americans seems interested in Zachary. The insightful "Insiders"-- start with Darren Dreger -- are forecasting that many teams are interested in Hyman. His deal could exceed $5 million a year and for who knows how long. Face it, well-rounded, gritty competitors don't show up every season. Joe Klukay proved that point!
HEADLINE: THREE INTRIGUING CHARACTERS
THE JIVE: I don't know about you but as we move closer to the Draft and eventual Free Agent Frenzy, a few players arrest my attention. That's mostly because they've never fully fulfilled their potential.
Right now I'm thinking about Patrick Laine, Sam Bennett and Jeff Skinner. Each has a different issue -- or three -- that causes concern. Yet, to a man, there's a ton of talent there for some team to extract. Laine needs out of Columbus, Bennett should be re-signed by Florida and as for Skinner, hmmmmm. That $9 million contract would even scare off the Rangers. That said, now that Jeff has lifted his no-trade label, he should wind up somewhere east, west, north or south.
HEADLINE: KEITH YANDLE BOUGHT OUT
THE JIVE: Keith Yandle's time in Florida has come to an end after the Panthers bought out the remaining two years of his contract. In five seasons with the Panthers, Yandle played in all 371 possible games, scored 30 goals, and added 201 assists. He will be a coveted free agent this summer.