28-In-28: Cougars or Kittens?by SICHL Insider | August 10, 2015, 10:03 PM ET
Next up the Cougars of Stockholm! Hottest product from Sweden since IKEA introduced the HEMNES dresser drawer sets! Let's take a look at the team Tom has going into 2015/2016!
Lots of cash in the bank for Tom's Cougars. He has stashed away a little more than $53.5 Million! That either buys you a lot of Swedish meatballs and lots of ketchup, even the fancy Dijon ketchups, or some pretty good free agents if needed.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Only six possible UFAs to contend with, but only one that has to be signed in Eric Staal. Staal was picked up last season at the deadline in exchange for Scotty Hartnell. Staal will figure into the top 6 and be counted on to provide offence and leadership.
Restricted Free Agents:
Ten players are eligible RFAs this offseason and most of them will need to be signed as most figure into the pro teams 2015/2016 plans. Players like Jeff Skinner, Cal Clutterbuck, Luke Schenn, Brenden Dillon, Cody Franson and Justin Schultz. The most important RFA for the Cougars is Derick Brassard another guy that will most likely play key top 6 minutes.
I like the young up and coming defenseman on this team. The obvious work of solid drafting! Guys like Brodin, Klefbom and Mike Matheson. I would like to see Tom deal a few younger chips to bring in a big anchor for the top pairing, but I am not Tom and Tom isn't looking to speed up this building process.
"The Cougars are a team on the rise and should return to the playoffs, but wonít compete for the cup for at least 3 more seasons. I wonít make any moves that could slow the re-build. But wonít hesitate to trade aging veterans to continue the re-build, even if those moves harm the teamís chances at the playoffs." said Tom via chat last week.
He is a pretty patient GM!
Offense looks playoff contender worthy with the development to Tarasenko and Brassard and also includes players like Staal, Skinner, Smith-Pelly and Vermette. Still could use more higher end talent, trade or free agency coud help that.
The weakest position and the one requiring the most attention is in net. I don't think Steve Mason will give the Cougars the goaltending he did last season. Anders Lindback will play the backup role once again and their third stinger has left the SICHL for the KHL Russian league! Possibility Tom looks to upgrade here in the offseason. Good goaltending wins cups!
In the System:
Top 3 prospects include:
1. Michael Dal Colle - Talented playmaker who can generate plenty of offense from the wing. Great hockey sense with the scoring touch and a great release. Dal Colle was drafted in 2014 with Stockholm's #6 pick. Solid draft choice Tom! Put up 93 pts with Oshawa last season. There is a possibility he could see SICHL action next season.
2. Oscar Klefbom - This product of Sweden is considered a big shutdown defenseman with upside! Plays with a physical edge as well. A great combo of size, speed and skill. Should play a role in Stockholm this season on defense. Part of a pretty good up and coming blueline.
3. Michael Matheson - Another quality guy on the backend with upside. Very mobile top-flight offensive defenseman. Matheson has speed to burn and is a strong puckhandler. Couple of seasons more development required. Matheson was drafted early in the 2nd round in 2012.
Tom has 4 picks in the SICHL draft with the most important being his 1st and 2nd round picks. His 1st should be the 17th overall pick and he could get a player like Kyle Connor, Colin White, Evegny Svechnikov, Travis Konecny or Matt Barzal.
Tom was also pleased with the depth in this organization and with his drafting skills, "I have garnered the reputation for trading away my team's draft picks. Despite that reputation the Cougars will ice an opening day line-up that features 10 Cougar draft picks. Derrick Brassard, Steve Mason, Matt Belesky, Colton Scevior, Marco Scandella, Vlad Tarasenko, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jonas Brodin, Alex Barkov and Andeij Nestrasil."
Not bad work indeed and more young prospects on the rise!
I had a chance to get another opinion on the state of the Cougars tonight and that GM said "The Cougars are an interesting team to look at. On one hand they have a good young D core but all the forwards are expiring UFAs. Who will Tom keep? The good news is they have some young forwards ready to step into big roles. Still, Tom is going to have to spend some of that cash in UFA, otherwise I'm not too afraid of that roster!"
Haha, we'll soon see just how good this team is. In the World Conference, I think they can finish anywhere between 6-8 with the current lineup!
I suspect Tom will make some offseason noise, but it may be more of a whisper than a scream.