This week’s column is much more upbeat than week’s past. I’ll highlight one of hockey’s best stories unfolding in Toronto, as well as our first big trade before the deadline.
My other takes involve two top prospects and my favorite goalie mask I’ve ever seen.
1. Jack Campbell’s Insane RunThe biggest story over the past week has been that of Maple Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell. The 29-year-old started the year as Frederik Andersen’s backup in net. Since Andersen has gone down with an injury, Campbell is 11-0-0 in 10 starts as of Sunday afternoon. That includes a .934 sv%, a 1.88 GAA, and two shutouts.
Campbell’s play has taken the league by storm. It’s not too often a 29-year-old that’s played only 75 career games and has spent time in the ECHL is the top goalie on the league’s most popular team. Campbell hasn’t just won the hearts of Maple Leafs’ fans, he’s won over the hearts of his teammates. You can see how emotional he gets when talking about them here.
Jack Campbell gets emotional as he looks up at the jumbotron and sees how happy his teammates are for his 10 straight wins pic.twitter.com/c44hUYd6o1
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 8, 2021
Campbell is exactly what Toronto needs right now. The Leafs are trying to win a Stanley Cup, and Andersen getting injured in the middle of the season isn’t ideal. I’m not sure what the team will do when Andersen returns from his injury, but now they know they have two goalies capable of playing at a high level come playoff time.
If Campbell is in net for a Leafs’ Stanley Cup victory, I don’t think anyone in North America can fathom what that would do to his legacy. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Campbell become a deity for a new religion in the Toronto area.
2. Islanders Make Big Moves
Last week, the New York Islanders made the biggest splash as the trade deadline approaches, acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac via trade from the New Jersey Devils. The Islanders shipped A.J. Greer, Mason Jobst, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick to the Devils in exchange.
This season, Palmieri has scored nine goals and added another nine assists in 37 games. That’s good for a 0.49 PPG which is under his career 0.60 PPG. As for Zajac, who just received his silver stick for playing his 1,000th career game, all with New Jersey, he’s scored seven goals and added another 11 assists in 34 games this season.. That’s good for a 0.53 PPG which is right in line with his career 0.54 PPG.
This is obviously a win-now move for Lou Lamoriello, the President of Hockey Operations on Long Island. Having these two forwards on the roster will make the Islanders even deeper than they already are. Both players are physical and can score, which is increasingly more difficult in the playoffs as the games slow down and become more physical. Depth is key.
The more I think about it, the more I love this trade for New York. Both Palmieri and Zajac slot in on the third line. They make the Islanders incredibly deep with physical and skilled forwards. My only worry is that the Islanders don’t have a lot of top-tier talent at the top. That being said, the Isles took the Stanley Cup champion Lightning to Game 6 of last year’s Conference Finals. They play a certain way and it works for them. Let’s not forget they’re currently tied with the Capitals for first place in MassMutual East as of Sunday afternoon.
As for New Jersey, well, they’re in seventh in the MassMutual East, ahead of only the lowly Sabres. Getting picks for two players that are on the wrong side of 30-years-old is good. This is a move they didn’t have any choice but to make. They’re sellers and they sold. They’ll be rooting for the Islanders the rest of the way and hope they make the Cup Finals, which will turn that conditional fourth-round pick into a third-round pick.
3. Caufield Signs with Montreal
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One of the most tantalizing prospects in hockey has officially turned pro. Cole Caufield has left the University of Wisconsin after two years and has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens. Not hours after I wrote this was Caufield named this year’s Hobey Baker award winner and has already scored three goals and added an assist in his first two games with Montreal’s AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.
Goal Caufield pic.twitter.com/FqvkviDMKG
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) April 10, 2021
Caufield was an uber-hyped prospect coming out of the USNTDP but his small size, 5’7,” scared away many teams. Caufield proved the doubters wrong again as he tore it up at Wisconsin. In two years, he played in 67 games, scoring 49 goals, and tallied 39 assists. Here is his list of accomplishments in college:
- NCAA (B1G) All-Rookie Team
- NCAA (B1G) First All-Star Team
- NCAA (B1G) Rookie of the Year
- NCAA (B1G) Scoring Champion (24)
- NCAA (B1G) All-Tournament Team
- NCAA (B1G) First All-Star Team
- NCAA (B1G) Player of the Year
- NCAA (B1G) Regular Season Champion
- NCAA (B1G) Scoring Champion (43)
- NCAA Top Collegiate Player (Hobey Baker Award) Finalist
- NCAA Hobey Baker Award Winner
- U20 WJC Gold Medal
Not too bad. Obviously, he’ll have to prove himself in the AHL and NHL. But, I know I’m excited to see one of the more highly touted American prospects break in with an original six team.
4. Zegras Swaps Positions
The Ducks will transition Trevor Zegras to the center position. He will begin in San Diego (AHL) before an expected return to Anaheim in the near future.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) April 5, 2021
The Anaheim Ducks have announced that they have sent down top prospect Trevor Zegras so he can transition to the center position. After winning the gold medal for Team USA in the offseason, Zegras started the season in the AHL with the San Diego Gulls before being promoted to the Ducks. The Ducks then released this statement that Zegras would be sent back down to San Diego to transition to center.
This is one of the weirder press releases I’ve seen. First, most clubs don’t announce position changes so formally; they just do it. The only position change I can even remember being talked about when it happened was when the Blackhawks attempted to make Patrick Kane a center years ago. This struck me as very weird.
I do understand that the Ducks want to make their plans with Zegras clear. He is their top prospect and people want to see him playing in the NHL.
I wish the Ducks would just keep him up. What do they have to lose? They’re last in the Honda West division and Zegras gets eyeballs on screens. I wouldn’t be shocked if he wasn’t the Ducks’ most recognizable player to most fans. Other than John Gibson and Troy Terry, not many other Ducks’ players come to mind.
Regardless, I hope the Ducks bring Zegras up soon. Without him, they’re not worth watching this season.
5. Aaron Dell is a Maggot
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One of my best friends sent me this photo. If you look closely, you can see Slipknot’s logo on the back of Aaron Dell’s mask. Goalie masks are the best because they’re the only place hockey players can show a little bit of their personality on the ice. For Dell, he wanted to honor Slipknot.
I didn’t know Dell was a maggot, which is what Slipknot affectionately calls their fans. I am also a maggot. I was able to see Slipknot in Chicago in the summer of 2019. They put on an amazing show. Here’s a photo of me at that show.
I didn’t know much about Dell before today, but I know I’m one of his new biggest fans. ■