NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Close To Return

The NHL is close to getting back on the ice.

As the NHL teams are preparing to return to the rink, it is a good time to take a look at what the current Stanley Cup odds are for the top teams.

The league is close to announcing, per reports, that Edmonton and Toronto will be host cities for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are set to begin later this month. The Stanley Cup Playoffs have been put on hold due to coronavirus.

Some of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup include the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights.

As much as teams are looking forward to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a few teams are getting prepared for the NHL Draft, which will take place after the Stanley Cup Playoffs are complete. The NHL held its annual draft lottery last week and a yet-to-be-determined team will end up with the No. 1 pick (the team will be a team eliminated from the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs).

Merrimack has four players hunting to get drafted this summer, including two incoming freshmen (Alex Jefferies and Mark Hillier) as well as two current defensemen (Declan Carlile and Zach Uens).

Here’s a scouting report on the four Merrimack players eligible for this year’s NHL Draft.

Zach Uens (D): Zach is smart with the puck and shows plenty of patience with it. He doesn’t panic nor rush when applied with pressure, which at times got himself into trouble during the game, but more often than not it can lead to him doing something creative. He plays with his head up with and without the puck. On several plays in the game, Zach had his head up while shooting the puck from the point, and was able to aim his shot into more of a pass for a deflection. This nearly created a number of goals, but luck wasn’t going his or his teammates way on this night.

Alex Jefferies (F): Alex is in his draft year and had a lower body injury that gave him some trouble middle of the tournament here. He played through and as usual showed a lot of skill. He can push pace and snap the puck in stride on the cage. His release is quick and his shot looked tough for goalies to read. He stretched the ice without the puck and helped zone entries with his speed but also with crisp, cross-ice passes. He buried the only goal, despite his leg issue to beat Berkshire 1-0. It showed toughness and a desire to help his team win. Would be easy to check out with a rink full of NHL scouts watching but he did not. He helped his team win an important game against a good team. He was kept out of the third game by the staff as the result mattered not so we didn’t see him again. He is a talented, skilled and smart player who is one of the very best in prep hockey.

Mark Hillier (F): The Merrimack commit had a nice weekend as his excellent playmaking ability was on full display in leading his team to the the winners circle on Sunday. The Newfoundland native is quick, athletic and has so much confidence with the puck. Hillier does everything with pace, he moves it, gets open and gets it back in tight or he can make the 20 foot high saucer pass for a breakaway chance as he did so against Rivers a few times. Just an elite puck distributor. Sharp on his edges, can turn on a dime, stops on pucks, throws weight around and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He was F1 on the forecheck on most occasions too. Very skilled but he works for every inch. Had half a dozen helpers or so this weekend and was probably the best playmaker in this tourney. Grade: A

About the Author

Mike McMahon
Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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