The voting isn't quite over, but it looks very much like Tampa Bay's big three is going to be enough to push them through to the finals, where they'll join the Oilers (who were dominant in victory) and les Canadiens (who faced much more difficult competition). Today, we're looking for one more finalist to join them, as the Winnipeg Jets (Arctic Ice Hockey), St. Louis Blues (Lazy Blogging Community), and Washington Capitals (Japers' Rink) take on the seeded Colorado Avalanche (Lazy Blogging Community). So far the seeded teams are three for three, but the Avalanche have definitely got some pretty heavy competition.
I've once again highlighted the player that I like the best in each group, and I've got a feeling that this one might be somewhat controversial. I've picked the Blues three times, but I think a reasonable case could be made for eight of their players. Then again, it seems possible to me that others might give Colorado all of the top four and maybe even another guy further down the list. Should be interesting.
Why should Colorado win? I think the top four is really strong, and even though I haven't picked many of their depth guys beyond that, I think you could probably make a decent case for everyone with the exception of Tyson Barrie. But it really is the top end that I think makes the difference. Anyone who complained about my taking Lindholm over Eberle will probably cry bloody murder at my taking MacKinnon over Pietrangelo, but I expect Nathan MacKinnon to be an elite center in the NHL, and I'll generally take the elite center over the elite defenseman.
Why should St. Louis win? I have them finishing a very close second in this heat, and it's mostly because, aside from Paajarvi (who's a pretty good NHL player already), they don't finish last. In fact, as I said above, you can make a case that everyone on their list should win the slot. Basically, if you prefer Pietrangelo to MacKinnon, you're probably voting for the Blues.
Why should Winnipeg win? I could see the Jets getting votes if people believe in the potential of these prospects. Nicolas Petan put up incredible offense during his draft year and Josh Morrissey was extremely impressive at both ends of the ice. Jacob Trouba may be one of the best defensive prospects in the world and Evander Kane may become a regular on Derek's annual list of power forwards. Zach Bogosian is a top pairing defender and Mark Scheifele could become a top line center. I think there are still too many "ifs" here, but there's a not-too-squinty version of the future where this group winds up being the best of the bunch five years down the line.
Why should Washington win? There are some nice players here, but they really shouldn't. Even a bright spot like Evgeny Kuznetsov, who I'd have second on their list, may never end up playing for them. I mean... he says he's coming over, but given how long he's been there and how hard the KHL is pushing to compete with the NHL for Russia's best players, it's not hard to imagine him staying in Russia. But either way, the Capitals just don't have the horses to win this.