A chaotic first round, Rangers trade Georgiev to Avalanche, add six players at NHL Draft including Adam Sykora, will face Lightning on Opening Night, schedule criticism and a suggestion

Three Months Away: On October 11th, the Rangers and Lightning will face off again in the season opener. The 2022-23 NHL schedule was released on Wednesday.

The last three days have breezed by. It certainly was busy for all 32 teams. The league released the schedule for 2022-23 on Wednesday. Then held the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday and Friday.

As Hasan already covered in his Devils post on them going for Slovak defenseman Simon Nemec at number two last night, the first round didn’t disappoint.

Expected top pick Shane Wright fell to the Kraken at number four while the Canadiens surprised their confused fans by making history by taking Slovakian Juraj Slafkovsky number one overall.

The boos were a bit much. I felt bad for the kid who became the highest Slovak player ever going at the top spot. Give credit to ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan. She broke the news about the Habs meeting with Slafkovsky for 20 minutes. It was obvious he was going number one. A scoring wing who adds size, we’ll see what he can bring.

Once that happened, I knew that the dominoes would fall. Already boasting Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier at center, the Devils weren’t taking Wright. I wonder if they tried to trade down with Arizona. We’ll never know. They predictably grabbed Nemec at two where he and Luke Hughes will anchor their blue line for the rest of the decade.

As soon as Nemec went, you knew the Coyotes had a great choice between Wright and top rated American Logan Cooley. They liked Cooley more and made him the third pick. He was thrilled.

That left Wright for the Kraken to select at four. He said he’ll have a chip on his shoulder. You know it’ll be a motivator. A 1-2 punch of Matty Beniers and Shane Wright sounds good for Seattle.

The Flyers took American scoring forward Cutter Gauthier fifth. The Blue Jackets then made it official by grabbing Czech defenseman David Jiricek sixth where he’ll team up with Zach Werenski to anchor the blue line.

The biggest surprise was the hometown Canadiens making a three team deal with the Islanders and Blackhawks. First, they dealt defenseman Alex Romanov and a fourth round pick to the Islanders for their first round pick. Then, they moved that pick with a third round pick to Chicago in exchange for Kirby Dach.

A former third pick in 2019, the 21-year old Dach will now call Montreal his new home. He had been rumored to be traded. It finally happened. It looks like the Habs plan to have Dach center the second line with possibly Slafkovsky joining him. They have Nick Suzuki as their number one pivot playing with Cole Caufield.

The Islanders got stronger by adding the physical Romanov, who hits everything and blocks shots. It was surprising that the Canadiens dealt him. He should help the Isles, who got younger and tougher on the back end.

As for the Blackhawks, their plan is obvious. After they traded Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa for a first, second and third round pick in what many felt was not a good return for the two-time 40-goal scorer, they moved on from Dach to take centers Kevin Korchinski and Frank Nazar.

The Hawks also traded for Leafs backup goalie Petr Mrazek. That allowed them to add a third first round pick due to absorbing his contract. He has a cap hit of $3.8 million through 2024. They only coughed up a second for the veteran.

Once they trade restricted free agent center Dylan Strome, who the Rangers should be trying for, they’ll be as bad as possible. What must Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews be thinking?

The Blackhawks are in full tank mode for consensus 2023 top pick Connor Bedard. A franchise player. Matvei Michkov is also in that draft. If it works, they will be set up well for the future.

There were other deals made over the last 24 hours. But none were bigger than what the Canadiens and Blackhawks did. It’ll be interesting to follow both Original Six clubs. Obviously, Montreal got better. Chicago didn’t. Who knows if Kane will get moved. Time will tell. Ditto for Toews. The remaining pieces of their three Stanley Cups.

Before the chaos, the Rangers made it official. They finally moved on from Alex Georgiev. Chris Drury was able to move the 26-year old goalie to the Avalanche for a third round, fifth round and third round pick next year. It was a good return for a player who had wanted out for a while.

Obviously, it gives Georgiev a great opportunity. He goes from being a little used backup behind Igor Shestyorkin to possibly becoming the new starter for the defending champs. That’s a home run for him. He’ll have competition from veteran backup Pavel Francouz. A popular goalie with Colorado fans.

A restricted free agent, Georgiev will be signed by GM Joe Sakic. In a revealing interview with Emily Kaplan, he said that he liked having both Georgiev and Francouz. That spells the end for Darcy Kuemper, who did deliver for the Avalanche as the winning goalie on a great Stanley Cup championship team. He will now be available for other teams like Edmonton to chase.

Georgiev was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers. After going undrafted, the Bulgarian developed well under the expert tutelage of Benoit Allaire.

His best work came in 2018-19 and ’19-20. He won 14 games with a 2.91 GAA and .914 save percentage in ’18-19. Then posted a career best 17 victories with a 3.04 GAA and .910 save percentage in ’19-20.

The turning point actually came during that same Covid interrupted season. That’s when the Rangers discovered what they had in Shestyorkin. An injury prevented him from starting the first two games of the Qualifying Round against Carolina.

Rather than turn to Georgiev, who had a better season, David Quinn went with Henrik Lundqvist instead. That really upset Georgiev. He didn’t play the third game with Shestyorkin back for what turned into a three-game humiliation against the Hurricanes.

The second turning point was after giving up a goal in an overtime loss to the Pens on the road, he got into it with Tony DeAngelo. Not taking kindly to DeAngelo’s words on not stopping the puck following a miscommunication, he punched the polarizing defenseman.

That incident led to the dismissal of DeAngelo. A better player than Georgiev. Due to how that was butchered by Jeff Gorton and John Davidson, they got nothing for him. He was instead bought out last year. By that point, Gorton and JD were gone along with Quinn.

It was Drury who handled the buyout. There was no way to repair the relationship between the team and the player. Even if they hired a new Team President and GM along with Gerard Gallant as head coach, it didn’t matter. They cut their losses.

DeAngelo caught on with the Hurricanes where he again had a good offensive season. Similar to ’19-20, he was very productive while partnering with Jaccob Slavin on the top pair. But after making only a million on a one-year deal, he priced himself out. Carolina traded the signing rights to DeAngelo to the Flyers for picks. Yes. He is going to be watched closely by John Tortorella. Yikes.

As for Georgiev, he never recovered from that mishap. He wasn’t as consistent in net the remainder of ’20-21 and ’21-22. The numbers were worse this past year. He posted a 2.92 GAA and career low .898 save percentage in 33 games.

He still won 15 games highlighted by a 44 save shutout over Carolina on 3/20. Arguably the best game of his five-year career. When he plays more, he is a better goalie. That was proven when Shestyorkin went down for a mini-stretch. Obviously, starts were few and far between.

Even though we knew this day was coming, I’d like to thank Georgiev. Despite some of the ridiculous criticism from irrational fans who are an embarrassment to the Rangers, he was a professional. He handled this past season well. Never complained.

Even though you could see the frustration after allowing bad goals during tough starts, Georgiev still stayed focused. It’s games like the one in Raleigh and his mastery at Toronto and against the Islanders that I’ll remember.

Best of luck to Georgie in Colorado. I hope he proves himself and takes the job and runs with it. Just imagine. Picture it’s mid-June next year. On one end is Georgiev for the Avalanche. On the other, it’s Igor. It’s Game Seven. All for the Cup. That’s a dream scenario as long as the Rangers win.

Aside from Georgiev relocating from the bright lights and big city to the Rocky Mountains, nothing major happened. It’s status quo for the Rangers, who made six selections today.

The one that stands out is second round pick Adam Sykora. He was the first player they selected with the 63rd pick. A forward who was ranked higher on some boards, the 17-year old Sykora is supposed to be a hard-working player who forechecks and defends well.

Some experts even thought he could’ve gone late in the first round. One of the youngest players in the draft, he was a week away from being eligible for 2023. A left shot who can find seams, Sykora had some success at the Worlds this year for Slovakia.

Not the biggest in stature, he has good speed and isn’t shy about driving the net. He was listed as one of the best draft values. Sounds promising.

You can read a lot more about Sykora here. Plenty to like. Even though I kidded our Devils buddy Robert Kraze Davis, no relation to Petr Sykora. But his Dad Roman did play professionally in Slovakia.

A round later, they took Bryce McConnell-Barker at number 97. A left center, the 18-year old from London, Ontario played for the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL. He led all Hounds rookies with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points in 68 games. He added a goal and four helpers in 10 postseason contests.

McConnell-Barker sounds like a good player with a high IQ who has the capability to produce more. Based off this old writeup a few months ago, he could be a two-way player with good hockey sense. He fell to the third round due to inconsistency.

In Round Four, the Rangers went with Noah Laba at pick 111. The USHL product has spent the last two seasons with the Lincoln Stars. In 50 games during ’21-22, he tallied 39 points (15-24-39) and racked up 115 penalty minutes. Laba scored a goal in seven playoff games for the Stars.

He will attend Colorado College this Fall. A good school that’s developed players. He did move up the ranks this past year. He definitely sounds tough. There isn’t a lot to go on. Let’s leave it at that.

In the fifth round, the Rangers took two players two picks apart. At 159, they grabbed 20-year old overager Victor Mancini. Often referred to as Vittorio Mancini, he once played for Frolunda on the second pair. The only defenseman they selected, he sounds like a defensive D who can use his 6-3, 216 pound frame.

Mancini just completed his freshman year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. In 38 contests, he had five assists. Maybe they think he’s a late riser. We’ll see.

Two picks later, they took left wing Maxim Barbashev. If the name sounds familiar, it should be. Older brother Ivan Barbashev has turned into a good scoring forward for the Blues. At number 161, it’s never a bad idea to draft a younger brother of a good NHL player.

Barbashev totaled 21 goals and 31 assists for 52 points in 69 games for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. He added 78 penalty minutes. If you go off what this LA Kings blog had to say about him, he sounds like a sleeper who could one day make it. At the very least, I like this pick.

The final selection of Day Two was overager Zakary Karpa. A 20-year old center who spent time in the USHL before going 6-6-12 in his first year with Harvard in the ECAC, he was ranked 199 among North American skaters in Central Scouting.

Before I conclude the draft part, I wanted to note the very nice tributes they had prior to the start of the NHL Draft. Even though he was booed per usual, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league held a moment of silence for Bryan Marchment.

He was a tough hard-nosed physical defenseman who you loved if he was on your side. Seeing new San Jose GM Mike Grier pay tribute by eulogizing his former teammate who worked in the Sharks organization, was the highlight of the first round for me. Congrats to Grier on making history as the first ever black NHL GM.

RIP Bryan Marchment (1969-2022). 😢 🙏🏿 💜😢Condolences go out to the Marchment family.

Bettman also had the son of Guy Lafleur up on stage joined by the daughter of Mike Bossy. Excellent tributes by both on their father’s legacies. This was a nice touch. Class personified by the league.

Finally, the NHL released the official schedule for the upcoming season. The Rangers start at MSG when they play host to the Lightning in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Final on October 11th. That will be part of a doubleheader to kick-off 2022-23.

They will then travel to face the Wild on Oct. 13 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I like the fact our team begins the season with two litmus tests right away. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Rangers will play their first three games over four days. That includes the first of 16 back-to-backs at Minnesota and Winnipeg on Oct. 14. They will play 26 weekend games including nine at home.

They will see Ryan McDonagh in Nashville on November 12. That’s a Saturday night. It’ll be strange to see Mac in a Preds jersey. He visits MSG on March 19.

From the MSG press release, the longest homestand is five games between 3/14-21 with games against the Caps, Pens (twice), Predators and Hurricanes.

Most interesting, they’ll see the Penguins three times over a seven-day period. That’ll start in Pittsburgh March 12. Then there’ll be two straight home games on 3/16 and 3/18 at The Garden. The schedule makers also have a home-and-home with Carolina 3/21 at MSG and 3/23 in Raleigh.

While I like this part of the schedule, it remains puzzling that the Rangers only face the Islanders three times. All early in the first two months. They are October 26th at Elmont, Nov. 8 at MSG and December 22 at home.

I concur with Larry Brooks on the ridiculous nature of the schedule that doesn’t emphasize divisional play enough. Something Hasan also alluded to. What’s the point of having a divisional playoff format if you’re only seeing your closest rivals 3-4 times a year?

My solution to this is to increase divisional play and minimize the other divisions and Conference.

Play your own division six times. That’s seven teams. That would total 42 games. That leaves 40 for the rest. Play the other division in your conference twice. Home/Road. That’s eight opponents totaling 16 games.

That would leave 24 games for the opposite Conference. You can still play at least half the competition twice. The remaining eight once. Split it up. Home and road.

It would work. Of course, the biggest problem with scheduling is what each arena has booked in advance. MSG is always busy. Between the Knicks, Billy Joel and other concerts, that makes it tough. It’s the same for two sport venues like Staples Center.

If they continue to emphasize divisional playoff format the first two rounds, then the number of games between close rivals has to increase. It makes no sense.

That’ll wrap it up. I hope you enjoyed this longer breakdown. I’ll be doing more of them to cover what happens this summer.

Now, it’s onto July 13th. That’s still five days away. Hopefully as we hit the weekend, we’ll learn a lot more about where potential free agents are moving. That includes Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome.

Follow me at our official Twitter account BattleOfHudson. Peace.


About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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