The first things we took into consideration were detailed heavily in the first few paragraphs of the article. The one thing we forgot to mention? The new head coach, Mike Babcock – he’s going to make different roster decisions than Brad Larsen did.
Babcock has made no secret of the fact that he wants a 200-ft player on each line. For this reason, the only issue I see with our lineup prediction is on the team’s second line. All three of Kent Johnson, Jack Roslovic, and Patrick Laine are offensive weapons, who have been brought to question for their defensive zone play. With that said, Laine has shown a willingness and surprising aptitude when called upon, so I think this line could work.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are glaring omissions from our prediction. There weren’t really any “easy” cuts amongst the forwards for me, but the two that stood out right away were Emil Bemstrom and Cole Sillinger. Bemstrom didn’t even make last year’s team out of camp; then struggled to produce even when placed in a top line role alongside Johnny Gaudreau. They can risk sending him down because it’s likely he’ll clear waivers – but if he doesn’t, I don’t think losing him changes this team’s direction too much.
Sillinger is still on his ELC and has not yet hit the required number of NHL games played to require waivers. So, I think he’ll start the year in Cleveland. If he plays well and proves he’s ready to move back up, that could spell doom for Roslovic by the time we get to the trade deadline next season.
The most difficult cut I see in this scenario is Liam Foudy. The 2018 first round pick has struggled with the adjustment to the NHL so far, and I really think it’s down to him, Eric Robinson, Dmitry Voronkov, and Justin Danforth to battle for the last three jobs up front this fall. Robinson is probably Foudy’s most direct competition; he’s a proven NHL guy who can kill penalties, so I think his job is pretty safe until someone shows they can take it.
One alternate theory: that someone may be Voronkov, who could bring a ton of grit and mash to the fourth line. If he beats out Robinson for that left wing spot, he can also play center in spot duty – and wind up under the wing of one of the best fourth line centers in the league, Sean Kuraly. If this is the case, I think the team is even more likely to opt for Danforth on the other side, to take on the speedy/PK role and provide some depth scoring. Regardless what happens around him, I don’t see the team sending Voronkov down for too long, as he can opt to return to the KHL. They didn’t sign him to allow him to go back to Russia.
All of this, combined with the contracts held by Robinson and Olivier, is the long-winded way of saying that Foudy is likely the odd man out. The team could look to deal him for whatever asset they can get in return – or risk sending him through waivers. I think there’s a pretty good chance he gets claimed as he’s still young and showed he might still have it towards the end of last season.
They could always keep Foudy around as the #13/14 forward and look to deal away Robinson, who could have a little more value on the trade market because of his resume. However this shakes down, the one player that I think is relatively safe in the discussion: Mathieu Olivier. They want to have a guy like that around for when the games start getting tough.