Photo Credit: Sergei Belski- USA TODAY Sports
It’s Remembrance Day, sure, but that hasn’t stopped NHL executives from trimming fat from the outside of their rosters.
According to Renaud Lavoie, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes placed a player apiece on the waiver wire.
Waivers: JAKUB NAKLADAL
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) November 11, 2016
As the title alludes, there are two players among the three worthy of consideration. One more so than the other, too. Let’s unpack what each brings and why the Canucks would be wise to place a claim on either.
I’d rate Griffith as the most likely of the three to have a new team on Saturday; similarly, the most likely to be a Canuck in time for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Stars.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Griffith is a player Canucks General Manager Jim Benning should know fairly well. The Bruins selected Griffith in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, a short two seasons before Benning left for the Canucks. The organizational familiarity doesn’t end there, though.
As a member of the London Knights, Griffith crossed paths with Bo Horvat for two seasons. I shan’t claim to have any knowledge of Dale Hunter’s line combos in that time, but one might safely assume the two played with each other from time to time. I’d caution against placing too much emphasis on their history as a check in his favour, but it’s worth noting since the two would be more likely than not to play with each other in the Canucks’ bottom six.
Concerning legitimate hockey reasons, they’re ample enough to believe he can contribute in a meaningful way at the bottom of your lineup. Though last year’s showing as the AHL’s second-leading scorer with 77 points in 57 games jumps out, it’s not the first time he’s flashed high-end offensive talent. In 207 OHL Games, Griffith produced 231 points on a stacked Knights roster.
To date, Griffith’s enjoyed no such success at the NHL level. In 37 games, spent mostly with the Bruins, Griffith has but 11 points to his credit. That’s hardly attributable to a lack of ice-time or premier opportunities. He’s played mostly with Milan Lucic and David Krejci and has little to show for his trouble. Playing mostly with Ben Smith and Matt Martin on the Leafs fourth line, Griffith has no points in three games this season.
In a perfect world, all Griffith would need is ample opportunity and patience to make his mark as a useful bottom-six forward at the NHL level. I’m becoming increasingly skeptical that’s the case, though. He’s 23-years-old, 24 in January, and yet to prove himself anything more than a replacement level winger, short on size.
At the very least, he’s worth a shot. Especially for the Canucks, who will be without Jannik Hansen for the foreseeable future and haven’t many short-term stopgaps that instil confidence. Maybe the third team’s a charm?
Here’s a player who’s flown under everyone’s radar for quite some time. Jakub Nakladal played in four leagues, for six different teams before getting his shot with the Calgary Flames last season. Talk about paying your dues.
Nakladal’s game lends itself well to where the league is going. He’s fast, capable with the puck on his stick and brings size standing at 6’2. Perhaps best of all, he’s a right shot.
While I wouldn’t necessarily label Nakladal as a stalwart defensive defenceman, his ability to keep the puck and transition it quickly from his defensive zone has made him a possession boon in a small sample to date.
Using data collected from the World Cup of Hockey, Nakladal was among the tournament’s best defenceman by controlled exit% with a 50% clip. That was the best mark among Team Czech Republic and 18th among defencemen.
In 30 career games (27 with Calgary and 3 with the Carolina Hurricanes) Nakladal’s scored five points. The Flames weren’t shy about using Nakladal on their power play last season, as Nakladal’s near-fifty minutes with the man advantage can attest. Nakladal doesn’t have the hardest shot, but I’d rate it as at least equal to Philip Larsen’s. Given the Canucks struggles with the man advantage, that’s a theory worth testing. What do they have to lose?
If you’re not sold just yet, here’s Mike Fail of Flames Nation on Nakladal’s emergence in limited ice-time. I’d like to think Fail’s word carries a certain amount of weight. He follows the Flames, and by virtue of that followed Nakladal, much closer than I have.
One of the biggest things that immediately stands out within this quarter-season sample is just how positive his impact has been. Really, virtually in every stat above you get an idea that maybe Nakladal is underused, which to some degree he has been. Be it shot attempts/shots or a positive impact in scoring chance generation, in a third pairing role it shows that he’s cut out for it.
At even strength, Nakaldal is averaging just under 12 minutes a night with 1:22 on average of power play time. To some honest credit, Hartley has attempted to use him in the second PP unit to bump his TOI up a bit. Which is an added perk given he has quite an exceptional shot that should be utilized a lot more.
For argument’s sake, there is a reasonable case to see a bit more even strength ice time. If anything, it’s worth taking the chance with the few remaining games of playing him with Mark Giordano: an obvious upgrade over Engelland as a partner. If the opportunity permits, this is a suitable option to consider exploring this fall.
A person that exists.