Thomas Hickey told Rich Hammond today, “I want to make this team really bad.” I laughed out loud. Kids today, gotta love them. He of course meant he badly wants to make this team. The question I ask is this – if not now, when? Hickey was a 2007 draft pick. He is on the last season of his contract. While “defensemen take longer” (a cliché made for Hickey), at some point you have to decide if this kid is good enough to make the big club or is he, to quote Surly from today, trade bait? On the depth chart, I put him behind Muzzin in development. Hickey seems above average in every area of his game. I struggle to find any weaknesses but I also find little that stands out about him. This is the problem with Hickey. He is the compact sedan of our defensive depth. Economical and gets you from point A to point B, but if you’re going win a race, pick up chicks or run over Ducks’ fans, you need speed, style or size to go with it.
Jake Muzzin. A smooth skater, good acceleration, he can hit, he can take a hit, plays with an edge and has a quiet dirtiness / mean streak to him that I can see yearning to come out. At the rookie camp, he was a man among boys. Today, he fit right in with the professionals. For Jake, this is his spot to lose but watch out for Voynov, because he is coming on strong. Jake is equal or better than Hickey in every area of the game. He comes with some big club experience (an intangible you must not underestimate with our coach) and he, with Matt Greene, give us size and a physical edge in our 5 and 6 defensive spots while Alec Martinez takes the top 4 spot. All of this assumes He Who Must Not Be Paid holds out. If he does, it may be, at this point, a coin toss between Muzzin and Voynov as to who makes the team, although there is still plenty of camp and two exhibition games left.
Vitaly Voynov can skate, if not flat-out fly. I saw that today with my own eyes. He has a great shot, with an unusually short wind up. I keep asking myself whether he is good enough defensively? I didn’t watch him as closely as I wanted to today but, from what I saw, he looked pretty not bad. I asked myself whether the fact he is an offensive defenseman, an asset we have plenty of, gives him a reasonable chance to make the team? But I then come back to, “what the hell is He Who Must Not Be Paid? Isn’t he an offensive defenseman?” If you had asked me a few days ago, I would have told you Voynov wasn’t going to make the team. Ask me today and I am not so sure. I think he may be neck and neck with Jake Muzzin as of this minute.
“Does Kozun do anything you don’t like?” Surly asked me today. “No…I love him” I answered. Brandon Kozun is ready. He is the fastest forward on the team and may be the fastest overall. His first step, mid-range and top speed are orgasmic. He can score from anywhere, as he showed during the first rookie game. That snipe top-shelf from the bottom left circle left grease on the cross-bar for 20 minutes. He plays to his strengths. You don’t see him hanging out passively along the boards waiting for the play to come to him. Brandon goes after the puck when it is loose and, when it’s on his stick, it’s either on net or fired tape to tape to a teammate. Kozun will score 20 goals if he makes the team as the third line right wing. “You’re freaking crazy, Scribe” you yell back? Bet me. The problem is, will he make it? There is so much competition for that 3rd line right wing spot and, unless Terry’s enthusiasm matches mine, Kozun may find himself in Manchester where he may tear AHL goalies apart.