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The 2018 draft pick played a defense-focused season.
Shortly before a 6:30 PM puck drop in Manchester, NH, defender Spencer Stastney was announced as a late scratch in what would be the University of Notre Dame’s last game of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
24 hours before that 4-0 loss to the UMass Minutemen, Notre Dame took down Clarkson University in overtime, and Stastney (despite not being recorded on the score sheet) was a big factor, playing critical minutes late in the game and in overtime.
One week before that, Stastney scored the (technically) lone goal of his freshman campaign in South Bend: the game-opener as the Fighting Irish took down the Penn State Nittany Lions for the 2019 Big Ten Championship title.
It was a quiet season for Statsney, who was picked 131st overall last summer by the Nashville Predators from a heralded U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) that included Bode Wilde, Mattias Samuelsson, and K’Andre Miller on defense alone. He finished with one goal and three assists in 39 games played for the Irish but also only committed four minor penalties. He finished 11th in team scoring the season before, with two goals and 28 points in 57 games for the USNTDP, but had an impressive tournament at the U18-World Junior Championships, finishing tied for sixth in team scoring with five points in seven games.
Spencer Stastney’s Career Statistics
I don’t think Stastney’s offensive numbers this year are indicative of his potential. I think his freshman season at Notre Dame was best used playing catch-up on defense. He only recently transitioned to the back-end in the past few seasons and was able to learn from two excellent prospects in Andrew Peeke and Bobby Nardella.
I spent the past couple weeks re-watching some of Stastney’s games from this season and want to highlight some really impressive shifts and skills.
In the clip above—early in the Big 10 title game—Stastney, #24 in white, exhibits excellent positioning. He uses an active stick along the boards and reverts back to a shooting lane between a Penn State player and the net when his partner takes the puck-carrier.
Moments later, Stastney does well to anticipate an opposing player drifting towards the back door. Despite not being overly physical or using an active stick, he maintains good positioning in the slot and is therefore able to clear the puck into the neutral zone.
On his next shift, Stastney pinches well inside the blue line and breaks up a zone entry but makes a curious, ill-advised pass to clear. Despite this, he collects the loose puck and goes end-to-end for a beautiful goal (Note: this is Stastney’s lone credited goal this season. He scored a double overtime winner on Jan. 20, however, that extra frame was played purely for tie-breaking purposes in the standings. The result of the game is recorded as a 2-2 tie).
Despite moments like the goal above, Stastney still played too much of a reserved offensive game this past season. Notice his time and space above for a good skate through the neutral zone. Instead he makes a poor, two-zone pass that results in a turnover.
Later that game, Stastney started gaining more confidence in his offensive zone play noticeable by him hovering lower for better puck support. Above you will notice a good, heads-up activation by #24 that leads to an extended offensive zone possession.
Above, Stastney displays some mildly frustrating defense. He positions himself well in front of the net but doesn’t have his stick in a good position to play the puck or stick-check his opponent if needed. In fact, when the puck makes its way to the net front, Stastney becomes overly-reliant on his hands with his stick flailing elsewhere. But, seconds later, he makes an aggressive attack on a puck up for grabs and is able to deliver a nice pass for a controlled zone exit.
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The above clip shows Stastney late in Notre Dame’s first round match-up with Clarkson shortly after the Irish tied the game at two. He slides well to the back post to cover that floating skater and shows good communication when playing man-coverage along the half-wall. This leads to a turnover that Stastney clears to his teammate.
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Deep into overtime, Stastney finds himself in front of the net and does well to win a rebound. You will noticed a preferred skating trick of his: using his edges to pivot his stance open without committing to a crossover move. He can work on his puck control skills and awareness that deep in the zone, but how often will we see him down there in the future? His awareness and ability to skate in tight corners or to open space will only help his neutral and defensive zone games, too.
Notre Dame will likely return five other defenders next season, but only two of them—Matt Hellickson and Tory Dello—played more than Stastney this past year. Additionally, they will welcome two freshmen on the back end. Stastney will see top-pair minutes at even strength and be given every opportunity to excel during a man-advantage and on the penalty kill.
Sentiments like the following are trite, but I hear often this season Stastney’s teammates gloated about how he is easily the best skater on the team. It shows in the tape above and is complimented well by his disciplined defensive approach.
A complete defensive skill set isn’t there just yet, but you and I have seen flashes of brilliance. Outside of lackluster offensive production, I was impressed with the strides Stastney took defensively and in his transition game. More ice time will only help solidify better decisions, and I anticipate more points will come naturally for a gifted skater and puck handler like #24 in year two in South Bend.
Now for some fun and games. First, use this link to watch Calle Jarnkrok cheating Lindsay Rowley at the Whisper Challenge.
Are You Southern Yet? | NHL.com - “Pekka Rinne, Ryan Ellis, Matt Irwin and several other Preds take a quiz to see if their time in Nashville has made them southerners yet.” I’m disappointed that Pekka and some other long timers did not have higher scores. Also, I so want to see this entire video with all the questions to all the players.
And of course who could be having more fun than these guys. My husband thought Doug was laying down. I kept saying “No, he’s flying!”
There’s no hockey, but this is something fun to happen this June, anyway.
The NHL made the following announcement today:
NEW YORK/TORONTO (June 1, 2019) – This June, in partnership with the You Can Play Project, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and National Hockey League (NHL) joint Hockey Is For Everyoneinitiative will celebrate Pride Month. All 31 NHL Clubs, alumni, and current players will participate in pride events including parades across North America. The League will be participating in 2019 WorldPride – the largest pride parade in the world – in New York City. The month will also feature original programming and storytelling.
“There’s no better way to make young athletes and fans feel safe and welcome than to have their sports idols and the teams they look up to showing this kind of recognition and support. This was the original vision of You Can Play, and our partnership with the NHL and NHLPA has made that something that LGBTQ athletes and allies alike can feel good about,” said Brian Kitts, You Can Play co-founder and president.
Since 2013 the NHL and NHLPA have been partners with the You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization fighting homophobia in sports, reaffirming that the official policy is one of inclusion on the ice, in the locker rooms, and in the stands. Founded in 2012 by Patrick Burke, NHL Senior Director of Player Safety, You Can Play has since generated support from more than 100 professional hockey players who have voiced their support for gay teammates. The partnership was You Can Play’s first with a North American professional sports league.
“I was raised by my mom to treat people the way you want to be treated and that means being inclusive and accepting people for who they are, because I want to be accepted, too,” said Kurtis Gabriel, New Jersey Devils forward. “For me, using Pride Tape is just a small gesture that I hope will go a long way. Anyone can play the game we all love and cherish so much.”
“At parades and events across North America celebrating Pride, the NHL and our partners will be participating to send a message that is clear and unequivocal – hockey is for everyone,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We are immensely proud of the work that members of our NHL and extended hockey families do to make all feel welcome in the world’s greatest game. Furthering inclusiveness is a year-round mission for the NHL and we are excited to highlight some of our efforts during this Pride Month.”
The month will feature original storytelling shared on NHL.com/Pride, NHL Network, and via the NHL and NHLPA’s social channels. Stories will be released throughout the month of June and include:
Patrick and Brian Burke – the tragic loss that led to the creation of the You Can Play Project, and the hope it continues to inspire across the sports world today.
Patrick Farabaugh – the journey of a man who fled one of the world’s most violent cities to create one of the largest gay hockey organizations in the world, the Madison Gay Hockey Association.
Kurtis Gabriel – the story of why an NHL player has committed to using Pride Tape on his stick for the rest of his hockey career, featuring Pride Tape founder Jeff McLean. (Click video above to watch this feature.)
Elliott Govaars – how 15-year old Elliott, who was playing for the Junior Sharks girls hockey team, found a support network with his teammates as he began his transition to becoming a boy, also featuring transgender activist Harrison Browne.
Brock McGillis – one of the only openly gay men in professional hockey will discuss his personal triumphs and struggles with the other openly gay man in professional hockey, Dre Barone.
Fans interested in purchasing Pride Tape or rainbow branded NHL or Club merchandise can visit Shop.NHL.com. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #HockeyIsForEveryone.
The Nashville Predators have not yet announced what they will be doing for Pride Month, but after a February jam-packed with Hockey Is For Everyone activity in Music City, we can hope for another exciting June—even though it won’t bring the other parade we all wanted to see.
We’ll keep you informed as the Preds roll out their plans.
And then, of course, you have Boston, where it’s been [checks notes again] about thirty seconds since the last major sports championship win. Such hardship. At least the fans have edible food to sustain them in their anticipation and dread.
Is Jeff Skinner worth $9M to Sabres? | ProHockeyTalk Comparing Skinner's potential contract to Sidney Crosby's, when Crosby a) signed his when the salary cap was much lower (thus signing for a much higher percentage of the cap) and b) deliberately signed a contract for less than he could have asked for in order to make his cap hit 8.7M/year, to go with his birthdate and his jersey number (I think even Penguins fans agree that Crosby is kind of weird), is...interesting.
The rest of this is pretty solid, though. It’s a good look at what kind of team needs can drive a team to overpay—potentially—for a pending UFA.
NWHL expansion plans in jeopardy, open to talks about “passing the torch” | The Ice Garden The NHL is waiting for the NWHL to fold before they even decide whether or not to step in to fund a women's hockey league, while the NWHL says it is as yet unwilling to quit on the players still relying on it, and the star players aren’t willing to return to the NWHL or any other pro league until it has more money than it is likely to get without establishment support.
So you have a wolf, a goat, a cabbage, and a boat that can only carry two at a time, and you have to get all three across the river, but the wolf will eat the goat and the goat will eat the cabbage if you leave them alone together...
(I think that makes the players the cabbage in this metaphor. Please nobody tell Hilary Knight I said that.)
It’s already unbearably hot, Boston and St. Louis are still playing for the Stanley Cup, and I have no idea what the Predators are going to do this off-season... The dread of summer is just getting started.
NHL players' solutions to replay review controversies | ESPN It’s weird to find myself agreeing with Brad Marchand...but here we are. The league has to go all-in with reviews or get rid of them completely. Whoever determined that only certain plays could be reviewed obviously didn’t realize the chaos it was going to cause or didn’t care. It definitely needs to be overhauled because it’s obviously frustrating everyone.
As a hockey fan, I get what the league is trying to do competing with the spectacles of the NFL and NBA, but as a music fan, I have so many questions.
Who asked for “Country/Trap” music? Was there a meeting? A ballot? An online poll? Why do I feel like all of them would have taken place on the rooftop of Florida Georgia Line’s bar? Does it even have a rooftop bar?
This is how Wikipedia spirals start.
NHL, Ticketmaster announce 10-year partnership extension | NHL Cool, too bad Ticketmaster is the worst. If they’re really going towards mobile ticketing overall what do they need all that extra money in fees for? Handling fees? What are you handling? Are you crawling through the digital space of the World Wide Web personally to make sure my ticket makes it to my phone? How did this $60 ticket suddenly become the same cost as a down payment on a trip to Disney World?
It’s 2019—why are we not calling plays dead or forcing players to go to the bench when they lose their helmets? Additionally, if a player gets his helmet ripped off by another player why is that not a penalty? We’re entering an era where head injuries are becoming harder to overlook because science is advancing and former players are tired of the long-term repercussions being ignored. You would think small changes like simple helmet rules would help that transition go a little more smoothly instead of the league just pretending it’s not happening.
Some bold ideas for the future of hockey in Nashville.
Every now and then, I come out of my humble prospect home and write something truly inflammatory to the Nashville fan base. Kidding, of course; my takes are usually rather tame. But I have put a significant amount of thought into some ideas that this organization can lead by example on and change some of the core operations of the league.
Below I lay out some off-season ideas for the Predators, ranging from smart hockey operations moves to bold and maybe shocking ideas to revamp the NHL. So, let’s dive in.
When I started writing this, the Predators didn’t have an affiliation with any ECHL team. When you read this, you’ll already know that Nashville read my mind and thought, “Hmmm, Eric is usually pretty right—let’s scoop up an ECHL affiliate!”
Nashville has, to say the least, had some trouble with ECHL relationships lately. After a years-long relationship with the Cincinnati Cyclones, they entered into an agreement with the Norfolk Admirals in the summer of 2017. That affiliation was mysteriously terminated just 19 games into the 2017-18 season, and Nashville has been without an official partner since.
This past season, the Predators made do by loaning players to the Atlanta Gladiators (affiliated with the Boston Bruins). Despite the improvements of Zach Magwood and some players on AHL contracts, this move resulted in the failure of all three of their European free agent prospects: Filip Pyrochta, Miroslav Svoboda, and Carl Persson.
Without a proper affiliate, the Predators’ players may not get ice time priority, Predators management has little to no say in hockey operations staffing, and they’re less likely to support a club like Atlanta financially to upgrade facilities and training regimens.
My initial suggestion was for Nashville to affiliate with the independent Greenville Swamp Rabbits—just over five hours away in South Carolina. But instead, they decided to partner with one of the most successful ECHL clubs in recent memory:
#Blades enter affiliation agreement with @PredsNHL, starting with 2019-20 season.
The Florida Everblades (long affiliated with Carolina) have missed the playoffs just one of their 21 seasons and were atop the Eastern Conference this season, but lost to Newfoundland in the conference final.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
It’s obvious the Nashville fan base has a dedicated European following and that there has been frustration over the Predators’ lack of an invite to the NHL Global Series thus far. It’s a shame, but it will happen soon enough. Something the organization can take up in their own right, however, is striking up a European partnership.
If you watched any of the IIHF World Championships this year, you see how intense these crowds are. Having been to a few games in Europe myself, I can tell you it’s an experience unlike any other.
I’m not suggesting the ownership group buy a European club like the Kings have done. But, I can envision a mutually-beneficial partnership by way of:
Fan exchange program
Organizational support and coverage during the Champions Hockey League
North American & European exhibition games
Summer development camps together, etc.
There are plenty of teams that I could imagine in this scenario and provide a neat way for fans to cultivate a better understanding of the game across the pond.
Potential Partner Clubs:
SC Bern - NLA [Switzerland]: Home club of Roman Josi and current NLA champions.
Adler Mannheim - DEL [Germany]: Home of former Predator Marcel Goc and current DEL champions.
Oulun Karpat - Liiga [Finland]: Home club of Pekka Rinne.
KalPa - Liiga [Finland]: Partially owned by Kimmo Timonen.
This one is pretty relevant to some big happenings in Tennessee politics this week. On Friday, Gov. Bill Lee allowed a bill legalizing online sports betting to become law without his signature. Tennessee is now just one of a handful of states with legal sports betting, but the only one with exclusively online legality that isn’t tied to land-based gambling.
Additionally, the bill stipulates that sports books will be required to buy official data from pro leagues to set up shop in the state—a huge win for the NHL.
Also this week, the league signed a partnership with a third sports book, making FanDuel, MGM Resorts, and William Hill official partners of the league.
There has been significant chatter about how this materializes, but I think it’s pretty simple. Ignoring how awful the NHL app is, the best way for this to be accessible to casual and die-hard fans alike is in-game betting on the app. Let’s say Nashville gets a power play: open up your app real quick and throw $5 down on whether they score a power play goal or not (let’s be honest, those will be long-shot odds).
The league has already dipped its toe in these waters in a sense with contests like the Daily Hat Trick, where earlier in the day you can select whether three certain events will happen in the evening’s games. Obviously that’s for a prize and not for money, but it can be a good model.
And there is room for fans to recoup some of the financial benefit here.
On the one hand, it’s great Metro is being relieved of financial responsibility for the organization. On the other hand, there will be an increase in ticket surcharges to offset costs. My suggestion would be for the organization to negotiate with a sports book to provide a discount on league data for a similar surcharge to operate in Bridgestone. It’s probably unlikely the league agrees to that, but alas.
If not, maybe the team and a book can strike an agreement about payouts: the book pays a surcharge redistributed to ticket fees based on how many nights there are with payouts inside or outside certain bargained ranges or based on other qualifications. In exchange, the sports book can operate a betting lounge in-arena for a more holistic betting experience. (Side note: that lounge should hang right next to an e-sports lounge to encourage the next wave of 21st-century sports fandom).
Stuff like this is coming. I anticipate Vegas and New Jersey to be at the forefront, but with a rare victory like this in the Tennessee State Legislature, the Predators should take full advantage.
This has been touched on before, and I think it is coming soon: Nashville would be wise to start organizing preseason games in other Southern cities. This organization has had an incredible hold on the region since the Thrashers left, but things will only get tougher with the Hurricanes’ and Blues’ recent success.
Greg Wyshynski at ESPN dove into this in January and confirmed the organization is looking at a plan along these lines.
Part 2 of my Hockey in Alabama story. I asked fans: "How should the NHL market hockey to the South?" Enlightening stuff here, with lots of @PredsNHL perspective, too. https://t.co/f5B888KTWc
Memphis, Louisville, Little Rock, Huntsville, Birmingham, Atlanta and Augusta could be excellent locales for September hockey in the near future.
I think the name of this section is misleading, and it is tough to actually express empirically how this would work. But the sport is heading this way in more and less explicit ways. For the past several years, there has been rabid discussion about the future of defense: would you rather a shut-down defender or a player scoring a lot, so he’s rarely playing defense? The game is much faster and more fluid today than it’s ever been, and it’s shown in how depth forwards and defenders have evolved over the past couple decades.
I would love to see Nashville take a stab at implementing more five-man strategies than traditional 3F-2D setups. This, of course, starts with abandoning the latter on the man-advantage (something most other teams have already done). But it also includes bringing in the right personnel.
I actually think they have a bit of a head start here with two particular players in Milwaukee: Matt Donovan and Brandon Fortunato. When Donovan was excelling at the beginning of last season, he was skating much more as a “fourth forward” at even strength and not simply pinning himself to the point on the power play.
Again, it’s hard to empirically explain how this will work, but the first steps are power-play adjustments and removing focus from valuing players on their shooting side, size, etc.
F's & D should both learn how to move in the same ways. 6 clips of F's sliding, pivoting, popping off, backpedaling, etc. Not just for D pic.twitter.com/shGjCwwI9z
Big changes are coming in this regard. The American Development Model is implementing position-less coaching as early as the 12U stage. Nashville would be wise to analyze film like what’s shown above and be a front runner in adaption.
Below are three more suggestions I would like to see adopted league-wide.
Playoff Selection Show
2015 NHL All Star Fantasy Draft: Alex Ovechkin Compilation. January 23rd 2015. (HD) - YouTube
This is by no means an original idea of mine, but I think it’s a fantastic one. Everyone has a gripe with the current playoff format and for good reason. So, what’s the solution? Look no further than one of the greatest nights in NHL history: the 2015 NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft.
It was a spectacular evening full of actual personality and mostly-drunk NHL players. I say we adopt that into a playoff selection show. Take the first Sunday after the regular season ends and turn it into a night for television. Each of the 16 qualifying teams will send a couple of players to a studio, and the top seven seeds by points (disregarding division or conference) get to pick their first-round opponent. The league can organize the bracket how they see fit, but the best seven teams get to control their destiny.
Imagine this: a tipsy Roman Josi and P.K. Subban poking fun at Matt Duchene for his country music skills to his face and announcing, “We pick Columbus, because we believe they’re the worst team here.” It gives that team motivation, mixes up the match-ups, provides excellent TV, and gets players engaging with each other. I think it’s foolproof and is an excellent avenue to solve the many qualms with the current format. And who knows what players end up choosing? Maybe they want the hardest match-up first, or a team with weak goaltending, or a team a few hours down the highway. It’s the players’ league, and this gives them ultimate ownership.
[Ed.: There was a strong implication that the NHL got rid of the All-Star Game draft because either the players or the managements were uncomfortable with the format—whether the “get NHL players tipsy on live TV, what could possibly go wrong?” aspect or the overall human-interest factor, which would remain even without alcohol. If so, this one might be a harder sell than the rest—which is a shame, because the mental images Eric has conjured up here are incredible.]
AHL Research & Development
The AHL product is likely as good as it has ever been, and that is fantastic for player development. But the league itself still has a drag on excitement due, in my opinion, to excessive division play. I get that teams are looking to keep travel costs down, and the divisions are set up fairly nicely to combat that. But I think the AHL can provide more.
A few summers ago, the NHL was hosting regular Research & Development camps each summer to explore new suggestions to the game. Sessions like these produced current game mainstays like 3-on-3 overtime:
NHL: 3-on-3 overtime at research and development camp - YouTube
Ideas to change the sport aren’t getting any fewer, so why not better utilize the AHL—a development league—for this? Here’s my suggestion:
Separate current AHL teams into tournament groups of five teams each, dissimilar to their current divisions.
Play the league as a Champions Hockey League-style season. Each group plays a round robin in their group seven times over: 28 games each.
After that point, mix up the groups with the top 15 teams slotted in three of them and the bottom 15 in the other three groups: 28 more games; 56 games each total.
Then, the top 16 teams qualify for a playoff tournament with six-game series and the addition of aggregate scoring like the CHL or UEFA.
Games can be played Thursday through Sunday and be bunched together over the course of the first half of the season for group play.
How does the CHL season work? - YouTube
Additionally, through group play, each set of teams can use those games to test out a rule change the NHL is considering: two-minute majors, eliminating the trapezoid or offsides, changes to the video review problem, starting power plays in the offensive zone, etc.
The playoff tournament can be used to implement the ideas the NHL and AHL deemed successful in group play further.
NHL Draft Lottery
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
I’ll keep this one short and simple: the NHL Draft Lottery should happen an hour before the first round of the draft is scheduled to start. Merge it into the existing draft coverage, mic up some general managers, and let chaos ensue.
The teams down the draft board have to react in real time to selections before them. There’s no legitimate reason the team pick first overall should get nearly two months to prepare. Plus, the current lottery is awful television.