AP's Coaches Blog; Monkeytown, NHL

To start this post, I want to send my native Florida some love after being hit hard by Hurricane Matthew late last week. Other states and countries were also effected by the storm; places like South Carolina, Georgia, the Bahamas, and Haiti are also in rough shape. Lets get some donations sent their way - click on the link right here to donate to the Red Cross https://donate.redcross.ca/ea-action/action?ea.cli...

The Atlantic Challenge Cup Tournament was held during this past weekend in Moncton, NB (aka Monkeytown). Lots of #xhockeyplayers laced up the boots for this event; lets take a closer look at how each team fared.

- The Male U14 team finished in 2nd place, thanks to phenomenal efforts by #xhockeyplayers Zach Dean and #xhockeygoaltending Evan Martin. Dean was an offensive catalyst, racking up 10 G-notes and 3 apples in 5 games for the NL squad. Evan Martin posted a stellar 2.67 GAA in 3 tournament games in the NL cage, and was often under siege from opposing teams. The NL squad dropped a 4-1 decision to Nova Scotia in the finals; I felt that the Male U14 team had the best opportunity to bring home a gold medal in this tournament, but Nova Scotia has always been the 2003's kryptonite. The presumed line of Dean, Jordan Winter and Ryan Greene accounted for just about all of NL's scoring; in order to win at these tournaments, scoring depth is crucial! All in all, a great showing by the U14's! Congrats boys.

- The Male U15 squad came away with a bronze medal, defeating PEI 6-3 in the consolation match. The win was a strong bounce back for the U15's, as they failed to win a game up until yesterday. Unlike the U14 squad, the U15 scoring was more of a committee approach; no player had more than 4 points, but 11 players found the scoresheet in Moncton. Congrats to #xhockeygoaltending Andrew D'entrement on making the roster!

- The Female U16's showed fairly well in Moncton, destroying PEI by a touchdown in the Bronze Medal game (10-3). #xhockeyalums Shailynn Snow and #xhockeyplayers Abby Newhook led the NL offensive charge with 6 points in 5 games; congrats ladies! RNS Isabella Weist picked up a pair of points in the tournament (good work Iz!), and I am still going on the record for saying that Mackenzie Cahill would have helped this team if she had been selected. That being said, bubble players are always subjective (not blaming selection committee), and in no way am I trying to take away from any of the players who did make the team. However, Mack has exceptional hockey IQ and can play all positions on the ice. She has a bright future in the game, in my opinion.

- When you think of the Female U18 team, you think of #xhockeyalums Maggie Connors. The Princeton commit found the back of the net an astounding 10 times over the weekend - wow! Great job Mags. The U18 team had a great showing on the ice as a group, bringing home a silver medal to the rock.

The National Hockey League kicks off this week, so it's time for yours truly to make some bold predictions

- The Edmonton Oilers have taken great strides to improve their team in the offseason, using a strategy of subtraction rather than addition. The Oil decided to basically give away Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues, and moved Taylor Hall to the Devils for Adam Larssen earlier in the summer. I feel that the subtractions of Hall and Yakupov will help Edmonton immensely; both players were allergic to playing NHL-calibre defence, and the Oilers have plenty of skilled wingers that they can promote to top 6 duty if needed (Jesse Puljujarvi, yup). Bold prediction: if the Oilers get rid of Jordan Eberle and move Puljujarvi to the top line with McDavid, they will compete for a playoff spot in 2016-17!

- The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed Nikita Kucherov, and will win the Stanley Cup in 2016-17. The Bolts almost made it to the Cup finals in 2015-16, only to be knocked out by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals. With a healthy Steven Stamkos, a healthy (Andre) Palat, and a little spark plug by the name of Brayden Point (look out for this kid, folks), the Bolts will win the East and defeat the Nashville Predators...yes, the Nashville Predators... to take home Lord Stanley's mug.

- The Montreal Canadians will bounce back in 2016-17, making the playoffs and potentially threatening the Pens and Lightning atop the Conference. A healthy Carey Price, a new face in Shea Weber and a returning Russian in Alex Radulov will make this team 100% better than last season. I feel that PK Subban's personality was a distraction to the Habs the past few seasons - Weber will only distract the opposition (and by distract, I mean torture).

- Edmonton will (if and only if they trade Eberle) be in the playoff mix, but 2016-17 will be another disappointing season for Canadian hockey fans. Montreal will be a playoff team, but the Senators, Flames, Canucks, Jets and Leafs will all be on the outside looking in come April. The Leafs will have a losing record, but fans won't mind because they will get to watch a super-exciting team this winter. The Leafs only have 1 legit NHL defenceman lining up in October (Morgan Reilly, maybe Zaitsev), which will thwart their playoff chances. The blue shirts will also find out that Frederik Andersen is not the answer between the pipes. You heard it here first, Leaf fans.

- Auston Matthews wins the Calder Trophy hands down in 2016-17. Matthews is a beast who looked like the real deal at the World Cup. Conversely, Mitch Marner takes a little longer to find stardom and will not be a regular contributor for Toronto this year. While Marner laid waste to the OHL last season, he's only about a buck fifty with weights in his pockets and looked very mortal at the World Junior Championships last Christmas. I'm not going to say that Marner doesn't pan out; all I'm saying is Leafs fans will have to be more patient with Marner than Matthews. I said the same thing about Jon Drouin when the Lightning selected him with the 3rd pick in the 2013 draft. Drouin was uber-talented, but was going to have to physically mature to be a star in 'the show'. Don't worry Jon, I drafted you to my fantasy hockey team this year.... please have a breakout season.

Auston Matthews - ROY

Until Next Time,