Monday, January 11, 2021

Panthers Preview: Noah Juulsen Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

New GM Bill Zito will get a chance to put his stamp on this roster with new Scouting Director Shane Churla, but make no mistake: this roster built by Dale Tallon will the the second one after the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks that head coach Joel Quenneville will lead to Stanley Cup contention for another man.

What makes their odds look good:
The lineup that Tallon was able to put together that makes up this core is solid: captain Aleksander Barkov is one of the premier two-way #1 centers in the NHL and his linemate Jonathan Huberdeau is one of the most underrated forwards in the game; both have surpassed the 90-point mark in this scoring-depleted era; Aaron Ekblad is becoming the elite defender Tallon thought he would be; bad season or not (and it was bad), Sergei Bobrovsky remains the only active two-time Vezina winner and now knows what he has in front of him (and has François Allaire and Roberto Luongo to help fix his game); and there is good, young talent on the depth chart in Owen Tippett, Anton Lundell and Grigori Denisenko up-front, and Spencer Knight is one of the most highly-touted goaltending prospects in the world. All of that talent is not just "very good" but "elite".

Question marks:
Was Bob's season a one-off or the start of a decline? How quickly will Keith Yandle's own decline happen and will it force the team to buy out his contract? Who will back Bob up, Chris Driedger or Samuel Montembeault, and is either one ready to play at least once per week in this condensed schedule?

I've been on the Panthers train for years and like a bad gambler, I'm still looking at those pieces and feeling confident they can pull it together, and I like the gambles on young once-promising prospects Gustav Forsling (24, acquired on the waiver wire yesterday) and Noah Juulsen (23, acquired earlier today via waivers).

Fourth in the Central Division.

Yes, fourth, which is as much an indictment of the Nashville Predators' lack of offense and of the Minnesota Wild's unconvincing rebuild as a testament to the Panthers' (slow and) steady march towards respectability.

Which brings me to Juulsen, a late first-round pick (26th overall in 2015) by the Montréal Canadiens, following a near point-per-game season as a defenseman with the WHL's Everett Silvertips.

Juulsen is not the fastest skater by any means, but he gets where he needs to be in respectable time, is rarely out of a play or out of positiion and is willing to take a hit to make a play that he sees possible. He's very cerebral, a skill that tends to gain value for defensemen between the ages of 25 and 33 but that may show him a tenth of a second late in extreme-pressure situations before that - such as manning the point on the power play and keeping the puck in the zone against two opponents at once. His patience with the puck is appreciated, however.

For now, even though he played his first games as a 20-year-old, he's been hampered by vision and concussion issues from two seperate hits to the head (including a puck to the face) in the same game, so while he still holds first-round pedigree and youth, the focus should be in allowing him to feel comfortable enough to play in a highly-competitive environment again, something that would perhaps be better to learn in the AHL - still a development league, after all - than in the NHL, where some mercenaries play mean.

Here he is sporting the Habs' red (home) uniform on card #RM-J from Upper Deck's 2018-19 Series 2 collection and Rookie Materials sub-set:
It features a matching jersey swatch that the back of the card says "has been certified to The Upper Deck Company as having been worn by the featured player". I wonder how many lawyers were required to write and review that sentence.

Internationally, Juulsen has a silver medal with Team Canada from the World Juniors.

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