All posts by mattschaeffer29

Biggest NFL Rookie Impacts in 2017-18

Myles Garrett

The first overall pick and the most NFL-ready player in the draft, Garrett will finally provide a spark to the most abysmal franchise in football. There is a sense of belief that he will be comparable to Julius Peppers in his prime and that it will not take him long to get there. Garrett will be the guy to help Cleveland orchestrate its first good pass rush in ten years and make the whole defense better by taking pressure off his line mates as well as the secondary. Garrett is going to bolster the whole Cleveland organization that desperately needs to elevate itself back into NFL relevance.

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Leonard Fournette

Tom Coughlin wanted a pure runner when he and the Jags looked towards the NFL Draft, and he got the best one available in2017. Although the LSU product will have a learning curve to his game and will not be able to run defenders over the same way that he did in college, he should still be very effective. Fournette has a hill to climb to see the same success that Ezekiel Elliot saw last season, but it may not be as steep as people are thinking it will be. Fournette will be primarily a first and second down back to start making third downs more manageable for Blake Bortles and company. He needs to ease into the offense before becoming a three-down force. Fournette may struggle early in the season, but look for him finish strong as a solid, reliable back come the end of the season.

Jamal Adams

The man who thinks that dying on the field would be a perfect death will surely leave everything out there on the field. This is the first time in a long span that the New York Jets didn’t completely botch their first round selection. The best safety in the draft fell right into their lap. Adams will be a leader in gang green’s secondary, and will hopefully take the reins as a future defensive captain. Expect Adams to be heavily favored in the defensive rookie of the year running because he is that good, and his team just isn’t.

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Solomon Thomas

Thomas is strong, fast, athletically gifted and quite knowledgeable of the game. Because of the natural differences between the college game and the professional level, there aren’t many rookies who can come straight to the National Football League and seamlessly make an impact. Thomas could very well be one of them, mostly due to his raw ability. The only knock on Thomas’ game is that he is described as, “hot and cold” (SB Nation), referring to his sporadic nature of bringing effort to the game. This will not fly in an NFL locker room full of veterans, so Thomas may require some guidance and motivation in his first few years in the league. If it comes to fruition, Thomas looks poised for an excellent rookie year.

OJ Howard

Howard will enter the NFL having already played in a high volume pro-style offense at Alabama. This is great news for Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter, who loves tight ends who can receive the football. In his two seasons as offensive coordinator in Atlanta, future Hall Of Fame-er Tony Gonzalez hauled in 176 receptions, which shows what can be expected of Howard. His 6’5’’, 240-lb frame is coupled with a 4.51 40-yard dash time, already making him a potential matchup nightmare. He poses a huge issue for defenses because of his ability to run the seam, and he is another huge target in the red zone in addition to Mike Evans.

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Previewing the Entire Las Vegas Golden Knights Roster

364 days after the 31st franchise in NHL history was announced, they finally have their first official roster. The league’s newest expansion franchise drew numerous questions as to how this franchise was going to look. To be quite frank, Adidas did a mediocre job on the jerseys. The logo is clean and sharp looking, but the coloring of the uniforms does not represent the livelihood of the city of Las Vegas. The colors of the home jerseys are rather dull.

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The NHL gave rather generous expansion rules assuring that Vegas would have a competitive team right out of the gate. They selected one player from each team with minimums of three goalies, nine defensemen and 14 forwards.  Vegas also acquired many picks and players in order for them to not select certain players from other teams who had too many players they wanted to protect from being taken. To mirror the Vegas team’s selection process, I will be going over every player from the net out.

Goaltenders:

Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh) – This was an obvious choice for the Golden Knights as they are building from scratch. Why not start with a three-time Stanley Cup champion? The 32-year-old is a great piece for the building franchise and solidifies them in the net.

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Calvin Pickard (Colorado) – The likely backup goaltender is a 25-year-old stud. Look for Calvin to play well and eventually get the starting job in Vegas or elsewhere.

JF Berube (New York Islanders) – Let’s start with saying that Jean Francois Berube has probably the best French Canadian name in the NHL. He would be the third goalie on the depth chart and has now been shipped from Vegas to Chicago. Vegas is still on the hunt for a third goalkeeper.

Defensemen:

Clayton Stoner (Anaheim) – Clayton is a rugged bottom four defenseman who will add character and toughness to this Vegas team.

Colin Miller (Boston) – Colin Miller is a young right-handed shot, who has huge upside offensively. There are still some holes in the youngster’s defensive game, but he has time to develop.

Deryk Engelland (Calgary) – Another rugged, hard to play against defenseman who will protect his teammates. Engelland adds good veteran leadership to a young team looking to grow together.

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Trevor Van Riemsdyk (Chicago) – Traded to Carolina almost immediately after expansion draft.

Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton) – The former 4th overall pick has yet to make a splash in the NHL, already with his third franchise and at the age of 23. Can’t blame Vegas for taking the once-highly regarded defenseman in hopes that he will find revival in his young career.

Brayden McNabb (Los Angeles) – Absolute stud. Watch him take off has a top-pair offensive minded defensemen with his new club, haunting the Kings.

Alexei Emelin (Montreal) – Emelin is a solid top four defenseman and is one of Vegas’ bigger trade chips. He has been traded to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a third round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

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Jon Merrill (New Jersey) – Going to miss Jon. He is just starting to come into his own and figure it out, but still prone to the occasional lapse in the defensive zone.

Jake Bischoff (New York Islanders) – The former 185th pick will probably not be a factor with the big boys and will stay in the AHL.

Marc Methot (Ottawa) – As expected, Methot was selected from Ottawa and was traded to Dallas in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and goaltender Dylan Ferguson.

David Schlemko (San Jose) – Selected and flipped to Montreal for a 2019 fifth-round pick, because the Canadiens needed defensive help.

Jason Garrison (Tampa Bay) – The 32-year-old is a steady bottom four defenseman who has put up 30 points three times, but had major drop offs the last two years. Don’t expect offensive production from Garrison.

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Luca Sbisa (Vancouver) – The only current Italian player in the NHL is a low-end top four defenseman. Look for him to eat up minutes and play solid defensively.

Nate Schmidt (Washington) – A young bottom four defenseman, look for him to come into his own with a new club and with less depth in front of him.

Shea Theodore (Anaheim) – This 21-year-old former first-round pick is a highly skilled two way defenseman with a strong passing game. He can quarterback the powerplay, making him a consistent threat. Look for Shea for years to come as a mainstay on the Golden Knights blue line.

Forwards:

Teemu Pulkkinen (Arizona) – Fringe AHL-NHL player, not going to be a huge factor in the success of Vegas.

William Carrier (Buffalo) – The young lefty forward may have an impact in the future but is a fringe NHL player for now.

Connor Brickley (Carolina) – Career AHL player with 1 stint of 23 games in the NHL.

William Karlsson (Columbus) – Karlsson is a solid bottom-six center who creates plenty of scoring chances with his skating. He needs to improve on his strength in order to crack the top six.

Cody Eakin (Dallas) – Eakin has been a reliable player for the Stars the last few years. If put together with the right line-mates, you can expect 30-40 points out of the center.

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Tomas Nosek (Detroit) – Career AHL-er who is looking to make a splash in the NHL after two underwhelming NHL stints with the Red Wings.

Jonathan Marchessault (Florida) – Jonathan is fresh off of a 30-goal season and is looking to continue is success as one of the main guys for the Vegas forward group. Expect him to head one of the top two lines.

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Reilly Smith (Florida) –Reilly Smith is an extremely productive playmaking forward when healthy. I would love to see Smith team up with Marchessault on a line together after they make the trip to Vegas from Florida together.

Erik Haula (Minnesota) – the restricted free agent has been a productive player for the Wild the last two seasons. Look for him to use his speed and his two-way game to help his new team.

James Neal (Nashville) – The headliner of the forward group. The 29-year old veteran has scored 20 goals in every season he has been in the league. Neal should be the main scoring threat for the Golden Knights.

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Mikhail Grabovski (New York Islanders) – A bottom six winger, Grabovski has had injury issues, including this past season where he failed to make it to the ice all year. He could bounce back for Vegas.

Oscar Lindberg (New York Rangers) – A very good two way center, Lindberg will likely be in the bottom six but he does all of the little things right. He’s not going to overwhelm you with his scoring but he will be a trustworthy contributor.

Pierre-Édouard Bellemare (Philadephia) – An Offensive minded winger who is extremely hard working and strong on the penalty kill. He could do it all in Vegas.

David Perron (St. Louis) – Perron is a pure goal-scorer who can be very streaky. He hasn’t quite put it all together just yet, but he can possibly play with Reilly Smith in efforts to get him the puck.

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Brendan Leipsic (Toronto) – Won’t make an impact right away, needs time to develop.

Nikita Gusev (Tampa Bay) – This former seventh-round pick has in large part proved he can play top six minutes, but has only played professionally in Russia. We will see how he transitions to the smaller ice if and when he comes to North America.

Keegan Kolesar (Columbus) – Gritty, physical two way forward who plays to his strengths and has underrated playmaking ability. We will see how it translates to the pro game along with his strong defensive game.

Alex Tuch (Minnesota) – This 21-year-old had a strong showing in his first professional season in the AHL, netting 37 points in 57 games. He was scoreless in six NHL games, but look for him to get his breakthrough in Vegas and be highly productive going forward.

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Time frame for the Golden Knights to be contenders for the cup: 5-6 years.

Little League Stereotypes from Catcher to Outfield

Baseball was a huge part of my life growing up. Little League Baseball had to be some of the best times of my life, and despite playing little league before things got more serious, there were always kids with whom one could always tell what position they were destined to play. With spring and little league drafts right around the corner, I figured that I would analyze little league stereotypes by position. These interpretations are taken from my experiences growing up in the little league farm system, set at around 8-10 years old before anything gets too serious.

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Pitcher: Pitchers are typically great athletes. In little league, you find yourself on the mound for one of two reasons: you can get the ball over the plate, or you throw extremely hard. Watch out for the guys who throw extremely hard; they often lack accuracy and you can end up taking a shot in the numbers.

Catcher: This kid almost always has ridiculously long hair, for reasons unknown. Can also be the more obese kid who no one really knows where to put because he is far too un-athletic to put in the outfield

First Baseman: This dude is the biggest kid on your team and also happens to be extremely uncoordinated. When hitting, he’s typically in the 4-7 spot, and when he makes contact, the ball tends to fly out really far. However, his strikeout percentage is higher than his batting average.

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Second Baseman: This is the smallest guy on the team. In terms of baseball ability, the man on second usually isn’t too bad but also has the potential for one of those five-error days. This kid would have potential to be a really good player if he was about 5 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier.

Shortstop: Best athlete and overall stud on your team. When he’s not on the baseball field, this is the kid who is out at one of the three other sports he plays and excels at. When he gets older, he is going to be at least a two-sport varsity athlete in high school and have the “hottest girlfriend” while still managing to somehow make honor roll every semester.

Third Baseman: This is the kid who may not be great at fielding but boy does he have an arm. He may be a little on the chubbier side but this kid can also rake. He’s kind of nuts, has a lot of anger issues and is definitely going to the military or into law enforcement where he can get his anger out.

Left Field: This is the kid who kind of just shows up to games because it’s something to do. He’s not really good but he isn’t the worst player either. He has the stigma of the kid who tries to be cool all the time but is going to be a degenerate as he gets older because he doesn’t work hard at anything.

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Center Field: This guy is usually a good athlete but not really a great baseball player. He is one of the funniest kids you will ever meet because his natural skillset will allow him to get away with cracking jokes. The center fielder is usually going to be one of the most liked kids on the team. A lot of the time this guy ends up starring in another sport, like being a soccer player, and a being really good one at that.

Right Field: This guy is a waste of space. He bats last, maybe gets a foul tip or two a season and is almost always on the team just because his parents force him to go outdoors and play baseball. He is scared of the ball and no one understands why because he is never even close to the ball. His parents can also be kind of delusional and request more playing time for who knows what reason when they know their kid already doesn’t want to be there.

How the Rangers Wasted Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist has been a constant bright light in the New York Rangers crease for the last 11 years. He is the 12th goalie ever to reach the 400-win mark, doing it in the fastest span in NHL history. Yet, despite this success, Lundy has only been to one Stanley Cup with nothing to show for it. He is arguably one of the best goaltenders of all time, but there is reason to doubt that he will ever win the cup with the Rangers. Lundqvist has been on a Rangers team capable of winning the Stanley Cup on a pretty regular basis, but his only Stanley Cup Final was a decimation to the LA Kings in 5 games, a team that was clearly more talented. Solid goaltending is one of the hardest constants to find in hockey and the Rangers have a goalie any team would pick to build from the net outwards with.

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Henrik came into the league in 2005-2006 winning 30 games in only 53 appearances. He has a career high of 39 wins in the 2011-2012 only to lose to interstate rivals New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final with Adam Henrique crushing Rangers fans’ hopes with a famous goal. He has a career low in wins during the following lockout shortened season in 2012-2013, with 24, still a relatively high mark. He has been incomparably consistent throughout his career, carrying the Rangers to the playoffs for years. Following the 2016-playoff series against the Penguins, Hank was criticized following the Rangers early exit, yet he was hung out to dry by his easily-overwhelmed and abysmal defense. If the Rangers were going to win that series, Lundqvist would have had to stand on his head game in and game out, which is really too much to ask from any goalie.

Since his 2007 season, Lundqvist has 0.60 Goals Saved Per Game, meaning that for every ten games he plays, he saves 6 goals from going in, which is more than enough to call Lundy a game-altering goaltender. A goalie of similar status, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, is nearly half as effective in this statistical category, really showing Lundy’s game-to-game impact. This speaks volumes about how good of an overall goalie Henrik is, but at the same time exposes how bad the Rangers defense has been in regards to complementing their Swedish Wall.

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Henrik Lundqvist has been a staple of excellence and dominance for more than a decade at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have truly wasted one of the best goaltenders of all time, a near shoe-in as a first ballot hall-of-famer. He will go down in history as the best goaltender to have never won a title.  The good news for Rangers fans is that he is still a Vezina-caliber goalie and probably still has a few good years in him. Perhaps his title chase can be successful yet. As Rangers fans are left with only a few years to admire King Henrik, time is running out for him to solidify his legacy as a winning goalkeeper.

The NJ Devils’ Route to the Playoffs

The New Jersey Devils are a classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and either face can show up on any given week, month, game or period. The Devils are a team who have historically always had a strong defensive identity with skilled players that can tilt the ice and cycle the puck down low on the boards, tiring teams out. This team is no different. The Devils made a power move when they swapped Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall, as the Devils gave up a massive piece of what looked like their future identity. This trade is not a loss, though, as the Devils DESPERATELY needed offense anywhere they could get it and it isn’t so often you come across a player with Taylor Hall’s game-breaking ability. Since the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, the team has not been the same offensively, understandably so with those two players being franchise-altering talents. Through the first half of the season the Devils have had games where they look like a playoff team and an equal amount of games where they look like they belong at the bottom of the standings. As of January 19, they are somehow 3 points out of the second wildcard spot.

Cory Schneider, the Massachusetts native and former Canuck, is an elite goaltender who has proven himself both in the NHL and on the international stage. However, like any other goalie, Schneider has had his ups and downs this season. In a stretch that ran from the middle of November to the middle of December, Schneider was undoubtedly one of the worst goalies in the league, giving up four goals or more in 9 of 13 games in that stretch. The blame cannot all be put on him as the defense certainly wasn’t helping out. In that stretch though, it seemed like he was missing something. That absolute game-breaking steadiness that Devils fans have come to know and love with Schneider following in the footsteps of the greatest goaltender of all time in Marty Brodeur. In the month since, Schneider has settled back in and returned to consistent form. He needs to keep this up and be the Devils’ best player game in and game out for them to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Consistent production is a common characteristic in any great team and this team is the exact opposite of the word consistent. In a November game against Toronto, the Devils had gone down 3-0 after the first period only to dominate the Maple Leafs in the second and third periods to send the game into overtime at 4-4. Even though they eventually won in the shootout, it’s games like these that show the extreme lack in consistency coming out of the boys from Jersey. In order to make the playoffs, the Devils need to start showing more consistency in their game, especially on the road.  In a recent four-game road trip, New Jersey went 3-0-1 and had an impressive come from behind win against the west leading Minnesota Wild, showing some promise in carving out consistent performances. Coming off of this road trip, however, the Devils flopped against the Canadiens and got completely dominated in the first half of a back to back. The next night against the arch-rival Flyers, they controlled play for a majority of the game and saw one of their rising rookies in Miles Wood shine. Wood netted 2 goals and energized his team in a fight against Wayne Simmonds.

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Offense is a facet of the game that the Devils have lacked since Parise and Kovalchuk left. They have struggled to stay out of the bottom five in the league in goals for per game and total goals in the last few seasons. The desperate need for offense was shown when the devils traded for Taylor Hall. Hall is the dynamic, game-breaking, playmaking left wing that the Devils have longed for since their Stanley Cup Final loss against the LA Kings. He led the league in even strength points coming into the season, since the 2013 season. Even with the addition of Hall, emerging youngster Kyle Palmieri, prized rookie Pavel Zacha and veteran sniper Michael Cammaleri, the Devils offense still sputter. The Devils need to work on their net-front presence, second chance opportunities and deflections to create more offense. The Devils are 28th in the league in Goals and Goals for per game, which is not acceptable. Look for them to try to improve that number in the latter half of the season

The Devils could potentially make a splash before the trade deadline and trade some of their draft picks for a quality forward, not only for this year but as a piece for the future. Over the next two drafts, within the first three rounds the Devils have a total of 10 picks to find a top-end player or trade for some offensive help. The team also has an influx of prospects that they can trade to help up front. In a perfect world, the Devils trade wildly inconsistent Jon Merrill while he is actually playing well for depth players that can score.

The Devils need to start taking advantage of their Prudential Center and start grinding out wins at home. To open the season, the Devils were 7-0-2 and were extremely tough to play against at home. On a recent home-stand, they plummeted to 0-2-1. The Devils will play 12 of their next 16 games at home and will need to take advantage of this valuable home-ice advantage to make up for some points. Straying away from complacency while the team is riding this winning streak is extremely important in order to maintain the streak. They need to keep up the intensity and keep playing in desperation. Recently, the Devils lost against the Canadiens by a score of 3-1 at home to start this home game stretch off.

The team has a long second half of the season in front of them and they most likely will not make the playoffs, but if they hope to have a chance, they need to stay persistent. The team is not as bad as their record and has the identity of a team that is downright tough to play against. Look for a surge from Jersey’s team in the next few months. The hope is that they make the playoffs for the first time since the 2012 Stanley Cup against the Kings and ride an underdog story throughout, but how it will play out still remains to be seen.

Watch Out for the Chargers Next Season

After another brutal losing season, Dean Spanos, the owner of the San Diego Chargers announced that the team will moving to Los Angeles. While some call it more of a return to Los Angeles, I wouldn’t go that far. The franchise had only played one season in the Coliseum before shipping off to San Diego for 56 years. Although a majority of the team’s glory has taken place in San Diego under the likes of LaDanian Tomlinson, Dan Fouts and Junior Seau to name a few, this move to LA will see positive results for a few reasons. First, it opens up a huge market to the Chargers who in large part were a small market team. Secondly, the past few years haven’t been anything to brag about, after going 9-7 the first two years under late coach Mike McCoy. The Chargers then went 9-23 the next two seasons and were a dreadful 7-18 in games decided by eight points or fewer in that time.

Philip Rivers did not have a good season on the tail end of this year and struggled in large part with decision making, turnovers and not having his go-to wide out, Keenan Allen for the last 15 games. Even with this much adversity, the Chargers were still a top ten offense. Melvin Gordon proved to be the guy the Chargers thought they were drafting when they took him with their first round pick in 2015, coming up with 3 yards short of 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Next season expect Melvin Gordon to break 1,000 yards with a run heavy offense under Anthony Lynn.

The defense has taken a huge step into turning back to a top-notch force in the NFL. This year, even with injuries, they figured to be tough, standing toe to toe with some of the leagues most prolific offenses. Joey Bosa is as good as advertised, and Melvin Ingram is one of the most well rounded outside linebackers in the league. The linebacker corps feature Denzel Perryman, Manti Te’o and Jatavis Brown who was one of the steals of this year’s draft. Next season when Jason Verrett returns, with the addition of Casey Hayward last free agency and veteran Brandon flowers, the Chargers secondary has potential to be downright suffocating.

The Chargers will make the playoffs in a wild card spot next season and be part of a division that features three playoff teams. While this may be a huge step from a 5-11 season, when healthy, the Chargers are one of the most talented teams in the league. With the addition of offensive minded head coach Anthony Lynn who was formerly the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills, Philip Rivers will not be throwing the ball as much with Anthony Lynn being a run heavy coach. When he does he will have to take care of the ball more. He will have his best receiver back in Keenan Allen, with an emerging deep threat in Tyrell Williams and rising stud tight end, Hunter Henry. With the defense being potentially stifling, the Chargers are going to be arguably one of the toughest teams to play against in the league next year, with a projected record of 11-5. Los Angeles and the StubHub Center will bring a breath of fresh air and new scenery for this Chargers team to flourish once again.