Hot starts for Horvat and Robertson, Blues lose eight straight: NHL Notebook

Hot starts for Horvat and Robertson, Blues lose eight straight: NHL Notebook

We are just over a month into the NHL season and there are a couple players that have been exceeding expectations and a team that’s playing its way into the Bedard sweepstakes.
Bo Horvat and Jason Robertson have been single handily winning games for the Canucks and Stars. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues are in the midst of their longest regulation losing streak in franchise history.
Bo Horvat
A few months ago Canucks fans were saying this guy isn’t even worth 6M per year. Well, now he’s second in the NHL in goals. With four multi-goal games in his last five he’s now at 12 on the year in just 13 games.
It’s a contract year for the Canucks captain and he’s playing his way out of their price range. His 16 points in 13 games have him on pace to shatter his career high of 61 set back in 2018-19. They chose to lock up JT Miller for seven more years instead of their captain whose two years younger and it looks like they’re going to regret it.
Unless they buy out Oliver Ekman-Larsson or trade one of Tyler Myers or Conor Garland it’s looking like Horvat will be play …

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Author: Scott Ony / The Leafs Nation

Rumours: The Leafs interest in Bear, keeping an eye on the Canucks, and more

Rumours: The Leafs interest in Bear, keeping an eye on the Canucks, and more

The Leafs have been just average enough that it’s time to dust off the weekly rumours column and rosterbate until our very souls are chafed. Yesterday we got the ball rolling with the somewhat (read: very) impractical idea of trading for Jakob Chychrun, and today we’ll shift gears towards a far more practical option.
Ethan Bear to the Leafs?
Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek opined on the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman who has been sitting so far this season. He wants to play, there has been a trade request, and Carolina is actively trying to move him and of course, whenever there is a right shot defenseman the Leafs are bound to be one of the teams that are speculated on.
Bear is a personal favourite of mine. Living in Edmonton, I had a chance to watch him a lot and think he’s been underutilized by the Canes because they are simply too deep on their blueline. If he had stayed in Edmonton, he’d probably be playing in the top four and that means he averages out to being a pretty darn good right shot option on the third pairing.
Friedman makes it clear that the Hurricanes aren’t interested in a lousy return or retaining salary in order to make a Bear trade happen and in fact that waivers might even be more appealing than an AHL grab bag.
The Leafs cou …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Checking in on how the Blue Jays’ 2022 draft picks and undrafted free agent signs are doing so far

It’s been just over a month now since the 2022 MLB draft, so it’s time to look at how each player is doing!

We’ll be going in the order in which they were drafted, starting with the 23rd overall pick, then the 60th overall, and then so on and so forth.
We’ll also be looking at how the undrafted free agents have been doing, as they’ve also put up some interesting numbers.
As most of these players have played with the Dunedin Blue Jays, we’ll be able to look at exit velocity data and pitching velocity. Here’s the database for every single batted ball in play for the 2022 Dunedin Blue Jays.
Brandon Barriera:
The Blue Jays’ first-round draftee has yet to make his professional debut. In fact, it’s unlikely he will make his debut in 2022.  It’s been reported that the 18-year-old lefty will work at the complex in Florida, much like how the Blue Jays’ third-rounder, Ricky Tiedemann did last season.
Hopefully, Barriera is able to rise up the ranks like Tiedemann has done this season.
Josh Kasevich:
The 21-year-old shortstop who was chosen 60th overall was assigned to the Dunedin Blue Jays in Low A. He’s slashing .234/.294/.277 with no homers in 51 plate appearances. Kasevich has avoided strikeouts, as his 7.8 K% is the lowest amongst this group of players, but he’s only walked 5.9% of the time. He has a 69 (nice) wRC+ for the season
Out of all the drafted players that landed in Dunedin, Kasevich has the lowest average exit velocity at 82.55 mph. He has a hard hit percentage of 23.26 (second lowest), and his maximum exit velocity sits at 104.3 mph.
Tucker Toman:
Selected with the 77th overa …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Good Vibes Only: Talking Ourselves Into Yusei Kikuchi Becoming the Bullpen Ace

Let’s just get this out of the way before we begin. Yusei Kikuchi hasn’t been good at all this season.

In fact, I’d say he’s been pretty awful. Over 83.1 innings pitched, he has a 5.18 ERA and 5.90 FIP with a 13.2 BB%. When you factor in his three-year, $36 million contract (in which he makes $16 million in 2022), things haven’t gone right for him in the slightest.
However, not all hope is lost. Time and time again, I see folks ask how Tampa, Baltimore, and many other teams can find random dudes who become bullpen aces. Well, one of the best ways to find these random dudes is by converting failed starters into relievers.
Let’s look at some of the better relievers in baseball. Edwin Diaz? Started as a starter. Jordan Romano? Started as a starter. Liam Hendricks? You guessed it, started as a starter. Josh Hader was also a starter. Even the best closer in MLB history, the only player to be unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame, Mariano Rivera, was a starter.
When Kikuchi pitches out of the pen, will he be anything like any of these guys? More than likely, no. However, let’s discuss Hader as they have some similarities.
Hader made 95 starts over five years in the Orioles, Astros, and Brewers system, before sticking in the majors as a reliever in 2017. He started 14 games in Triple A …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

TLN Prospect #4: Roni Hirvonen makes life difficult for his opponents

Roni Hirvonen is just 20 years old, he’s currently starring for Team Finland at the World Juniors, and yet he already has three seasons of professional hockey under his belt. Maturity has been the name of the game for Hirvonen since his draft year and is a major reason why he became a Liiga regular at just 17 years old.
Coming into the 2021-22 season, Hirvonen was looking to take the next step as a player. While he showed flashes in his DY+1 campaign, particularly at the 2021 World Juniors, he failed to take a notable step offensively and had somewhat stagnated in the Ässät system.
A move to HIFK and a full-time shift to the left wing was just what Roni Hirvonen needed to spark that uptick in performance, bumping him up two spots on the TLN Prospect Rankings and reinforcing the middle-six potential that made him a second-round pick in 2020.
Roni Hirvonen
LW | HIFK (Liiga) | Age: 20 | 5-foot-9 | 172 lbs | Shoots: LAcquired: 2020 Draft, 59th Overall | 2021 Ranking: #6
While beginning his Liiga career with Ässät was a benefit given the ice-time and opportunity to play at the professional level, it showed its negatives in Roni Hirvonen’s DY+1 season. Playing on a team that finished fourth from the bottom of the Liiga standing …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

2022 TLN Prospect Rankings: #10 Ty Voit

It’s easy to forget that we’re just one season removed from the cancellation of the 2020-21 OHL campaign. The long-term impact of the development for the prospects affected has yet to be seen, but we are already beginning to see steals emerge from the 2021 draft in the short term.
In the fifth round in 2021, the Toronto Maple Leafs took a swing on a small, creative winger who had shown promise in his underage season as a potential high-end playmaker in Ty Voit. Ranked as high as the second round by some outlets, Voit fell to the fifth round due largely to his non-existent draft-eligible season.
In selecting Voit, the Maple Leafs were hoping to have found a gem out of unusual circumstances. Returning to action in 2021-22, Voit began to make good on that upside, emerging as one of the elite playmakers in the OHL and proving he should’ve been drafted much earlier than 153rd overall.
Ty Voit’s statement season with Sarnia sees him rise eight spots on the TLN Prospect Rankings to crack the top 10.
Ty Voit
C | Sarnia (OHL) | Age: 19 | 5-foot-10 | 161 lbs | Shoots: RAcquired: 2021 Draft, 153rd Overall | 2021 Ranking: #18
As was the case for most OHLers coming off of an entire year without game action, many didn’t know what to expect …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Juan Soto upsets Julio Rodriguez to win 2022 MLB Home Run Derby

It just wasn’t meant to be.

Despite having a Home Run Derby for the record books, mighty Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez was toppled in the final round by Juan Soto.
The Washington Nationals slugger, meanwhile, showed the world why he’s worth every penny of a $500-million deal smoking 19 home runs in the final round.

JUAN SOTO WINS THE HOME RUN DERBY pic.twitter.com/1CpYTXB2H8
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 19, 2022

As great as the comeback was for Soto, Rodriguez stole the show with a performance for the ages.
The rookie Seattle Mariner blew the doors off the derby cruising through the first two rounds.
Rodriguez bested Texas Ranger Corey Seager in the first round 32 to 24, then blasted another 31 in round two to beat two-time champion Pete Alonso.
Through two rounds, J-Rod totaled 63 home runs becoming the first to ever have two 30-run rounds in the history of the derby. Safe to say he, and his pitcher Franmy Pena, were absolutely dialed in.

Through two rounds, Julio Rodríguez’s 63 total HRs are already third-most in a single #HRDerby
He’s off to the Final Roundpic.twitter.com/p4gvgWXqGu
— ESPN (@espn) July 19, 2022

Come the finals, you could see some fatigue setting in, but Rodriguez still managed to put up 18 dongs. Soto, meanwhile, had a slow start, but turned it on in the end taking it to extra time to hit his 19.
In total, Rodriguez smoked 81 home runs through all three rounds — 10 back of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who in 2019 smoked 91 (!) homers, but lost to Pete Alonso in the finals.
One has to wonder if this whole thing needs to be rejigged considering those performances.
Round one
The derby got started off in a big way as Julio Rodriguez stepped up to the plate mashing 32 dingers right off the top. He topped up  opponent Corey Seager, who st …

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Author: Zach Laing / Blue Jays Nation

B/R grades Raptors’ Otto Porter Jr. signing as a top-five move

B/R grades Raptors’ Otto Porter Jr. signing as a top-five move

The Toronto Raptors are often content just to sit put the early free agent frenzy and allow some of their significant flaws to be fixed by internal development. They didn’t necessarily hold themselves to that philosophical stance this year, as they were out in front of the rest of the competition in the race to […]
B/R grades Raptors’ Otto Porter Jr. signing as a top-five move – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

3 takeaways as Raptors’ Summer League schedule nears end

3 takeaways as Raptors’ Summer League schedule nears end

The Toronto Raptors are just one game away from officially wrapping up their Summer League grind. With star youngsters like Christian Koloko and Dalano Banton on full display on the Las Vegas circuit, many had Toronto’s games circled on their July calendar. Toronto has had mixed results in their first three games, to say the […]
3 takeaways as Raptors’ Summer League schedule nears end – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

The Mark Shapiro Era Draft Retrospective: 2018

Although it feels like just a year ago, it’s been over 4 years since the 2018 draft.

It has to be said that this was the current regime’s most creative draft. They went underslot with their first round pick, just to go overslot with their third rounder.  Those two players also went to the same high school and were seniors at the same time, so this will be a pretty interesting article.
Jordan Groshans:
Selected with the 12th overall pick, the 22-year-old is the first player in this series to currently be on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list. Let’s look over each season of the utility player’s career.
In 2018, he played for the two rookie league teams. He posted a .296/.353/.446 slash line in 207 plate appearances. He hit five homers between the two levels, a rather impressive display of power early in his professional career.
Moving on to 2019, Groshans was promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts in A ball. In 96 plate appearances, he slashed .337/.427/.428 while adding two homers. He had a K% of 21.9 (a career high), but walked 13.5% of the time, which is also a career high). In May, he had an undisclosed left foot injury, which ended his season prematurely.
Much like every single other minor league player, Groshans didn’t participate in the 2020 minor league season, because there wasn’t one. However, Groshans played at the alt site, where he re …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation