Today’s daily post offers a couple random player notes:
Phil Di Giuseppe: What I like most about his game is that he skates well enough to play at NHL pace. He has at least 2 scoring points from being up on the rush at Jeff Skinner speed. How many times in the recent past have we watched Jeff Skinner cross the blue line 1v1 or worse? Just having another body there to force the defense to sort things out buys Jeff Skinner just enough space. That is exactly what happened on the goal against the Flyers where Di Giuseppe made a simple pass to Skinner and then crossed with him. The cross created just enough of a diversion and space for Jeff Skinner to walk to the middle of the ice and beat the goalie. I am not sure if Di Giuseppe sticks on Skinner’s line, but I am encouraged by the fact that his skating ability is at least NHL possible. I think this is where Terry misses. Terry was a good AHL player with scoring ability but just has not been able to translate it to the NHL, and I think primary reason is the skating/speed.
Eric Staal: I continue to think that he is playing pretty well overall despite the modest point totals. He is playing like a power forward more than at any time in recent history going to the front of the net and winning and keeping pucks behind the net. He just does not seem to have the skating burst that he once had that enabled him to beat people or carve quick paths to the net for grade A scoring chances that he finished at a high rate. Right now, he is playing a good version of blue collar/hard-working hockey. I think with his size and decent hands is enough to net him 45-55 points. My big question is whether that is his ceiling at 30+ years old or if he can again find a higher gear. That is a huge question as relates to his next contract. As a pretty good veteran center with 55-point scoring capability, Staal is probably worth $5-5.5M on the open market. Maybe someone even pays $6M for his experience and leadership and is not crazy. But that scoring level just is not worth $7-8M/year.
The next few months could be telling. Eric Staal has had some of his best runs in the second half of the season. Is he just gearing up for a big second half that boosts his scoring total north of 60 points? Or is Eric Staal really only a 50ish-point player at this stage of his career?
Noah Hanifin: Watching him assume a regular role on the first power play unit has been interesting. He has quickly settled into the role of primary puck carrier up the ice with the responsibility of gaining controlled entry into the offensive zone. He has looked incredibly good in this role surpassing what the Canes were getting from veterans. An area for improvement that jumps out is his shot. His 1-timer is more of a short snap shot right now, and he usually prefers to receive the puck and shoot a more accurate wrist shot. With his size and strength, a slap shot with more heat should be within reach with some work.
Jeff Skinner: Per my recap after the Pens win, I continue to really like Jeff Skinner’s game right now. The eye-popping scoring run is the headline obviously, but I think the more significant measure of his development continues to be his play in the games when he does not score. The scoring is not new. During good times and bad, Skinner has always had the ability to score goals in bunches when he was hot. The thing that made him a scorer and not an all-around player was his inability to be at least a break even player when he was not scoring. So as much as I enjoy the goal scoring, the more important measure of his game is how he plays on the ‘quiet’ nights. He continues to get good marks in this regard which is incredibly encouraging.