A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone, as well as Happy Holidays. The NHL is still dark due to the lockout but hopefully the two sides will settle their differences soon and there will be hockey to watch from January until the end of June in the NHL.
I co-hosted The York Report with Marty York on Tuesday and we interviewed Eric Macramalla, TSN's legal analyst and columnist. We talked about the lockout. You can watch it here. The interview starts about 30 minutes in. Don't forget to read Eric's weekly column on TSN.ca. It's a must read.
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Jeff Taffe –(C) - The 31-year-old center could be a prime candidate for a bottom six job in the NHL as he has played a full season in the AHL, unlike most bottom six players. He has been an excellent playmaker with 23 assists which places him third overall, one helper behind Justin Schultz and Keith Aucoin. Taffe was drafted in the first round in 2000 by the St. Louis Blues but has bounced around a lot in his career as he has played in only 180 regular season games, including just 35 games in the last five years. He is not worth selecting in traditional pools but could be an asset on the ice for a lot of NHL teams.
T.J. Hensick (C) – Hensick has been a major disappointment since signing on with Colorado in 2007 after being a Hobey Baker finalist in 2006-07 when he led Michigan with 23 goals and 69 points in just 41 games. Hensick was drafted in the third round and the Avalanche thought they had a top six forward but he stopped progressing during the 2008-09 season and as a result found himself getting dealt to the St. Louis organization and spending most of his time in the minors. He has nine goals and 27 points in 29 games but 11 of his points came in a four game scoring frenzy in mid-November so it seems that the NHL is still far away for the veteran 27-year-old.
Martin St. Pierre – (C)- St. Pierre is another veteran of the AHL who has been a good scorer this season. The 29-year-old has 12 goals and 26 points for Chicago's minor league affiliate in Rockford. The undrafted St. Pierre has bounced around the minors during his career, managing to get in 38 NHL games with Chicago, Boston and the Ottawa Senators. St. Pierre played the 2010-11 season in Europe but much like his North American career, he also bounced around, playing in Austria, Russia and Finland where he scored 12 times and added 14 assists in 46 games before returning home. He has a chance to play in the NHL this season if the league returns to action because he has remained active while most third and fourth liners have not.
Sean Couturier – (C) – The lone star in this group, Couturier was thought to be a top-two pick as he headed into his draft year of 2011. But a lackluster season, (in comparison to others) dropped Couturier to the eighth spot where the Flyers grabbed him. He shone in training camp with his solid two-way play and spent the entire season in Philadelphia where he made a significant contribution at both ends of the ice. He projects to be a top-two center and is benefitting greatly from the lockout as he is getting plenty of playing time in the AHL. He has eight goals and 26 points thus far. A little known fact is that Couturier was born in Phoenix, Arizona where his dad was playing in the AHL but he did grow up in New Brunswick.
Mike Kostka – (D) – Kostka came through last season as he helped Norfolk win the Calder Cup with six goals and 12 points in the playoffs. He was an unrestricted free agent and ended up signing with his hometown Toronto Marlies squad. Kostka has become a force offensively and has played quite well alongside Jake Gardiner, so much so that Kostka has an opportunity to make the Maple Leafs as a sixth or seventh defenseman when play resumes. He has never played a game in the NHL but at age 27, after scoring five goals and 26 points in only 28 games, the blueliner has given himself a chance for a shot at the big show.