MLHS’ Anthony Petrielli joined Sportsnet Tonight on Saturday to discuss Zach Hyman’s big season, what his next contract extension might look like, and Travis Dermott’s big opportunity on the top pairing with Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly on the shelf.
On Hyman’s amazing season to date:
The crazy part is that he missed the start of the season. He missed training camp because of offseason surgery. You never really know — look at Travis Dermott, who has struggled in his return, and we last season with Nylander, who wasn’t even hurt and missed camp because of his contract. The fact that Hyman was able to not only just completely plow through that but also that his confidence has grown… He just does so many things right.
I was kind of wondering, “What is this guy worth on the open market today? If he was a free agent this summer, what is he worth?” He is not JVR in front of the net per se, but the way he pulled that rebound in, he said in the intermission after he was trying to go five hole. That was craft the way he just kind of created himself an offensive role. He went from not being able to take passes from Matthews and Nylander in his rookie season to now he has been able to figure out ways to make himself useful offensively, particularly in the slot, where he gets all his work done.
And he’s strong. He is a strong guy. He can keep pucks alive. I think he does everything he did before, except now he is a little bit more confident handling the puck and he is just a little bit older and strong. He is in his physical prime now, right?
On what Hyman’s next contract (UFA in 2021) might look like:
For four and a quarter, I would probably sign that on the line now because I think he is a first-unit PK guy, a second-unit power-play guy, and he is a legitimate top-six forward right now. Any higher than that, though, and I’d have to see what he does next year. He is definitely having a career year at the moment and is shooting 20% or something — a high number, which is great, but if next year he throws up 25-30 goals, you’re not even going to get him for four, right? He is going to be pushing six if he was to be that productive. If he pushes 30 goals, that’s [definitely] over five.
On William Nylander’s goal-scoring this year and how his contract looks 14 months later:
Going back to that through-the-legs goal, what was honestly most impressive about it — and it’s something people have been on him for the last few years — is that he won a few battles below the goal line to keep that puck alive in the first place. Before it rung around and then made its way back to him, he won a few battles in the first place or else it would’ve been a clear. Even the Tavares goal against Tampa, he also won a battle to keep the puck in, which created some space for Tavares, who had an unbelievable finish — that backhand was incredible.
He missed training camp last year, but his goal totals didn’t really match what you watching with him. He has a great shot. Why doesn’t he score more goals? It is nice to see him a little bit more comfortable as a goal scorer and trying different things and different shots. I’ve even seen him take a few slap shots off the rush — not that he has really scored off of it, but he is just kind of diversifying his shot profile, plus his ability to start winning some of those battles.
If he is a 30-goal scorer, that is a good contract in 2020 and beyond in the NHL. That’s just the reality.
On Travis Dermott’s opportunity to play top-pairing minutes with the injuries:
I don’t think he is the full-time top pairing guy yet, but it is nice to kind of see him thrown into the fire. I think he was languishing a little bit on the bottom pairing. It was kind of like, “What is this guy’s purpose on the team?” Now you have no choice. You have to play a lot and you have to play well.
He is not someone that is getting on the power play anymore. A few years ago, if we were having this conversation, we all would’ve thought in a few years, he is going to be on a power play and manning a unit. Instead, Rasmus Sandin is coming in and quarterbacking one and Tyson Barrie is with the top unit. I think there has probably been a mixed bag in terms of his role and purpose on the team. I don’t want to call it a baptism by fire because it’s not his first year in the league, but I think he just passed 150 games. That is not a lot of games, and he has been hurt every year, unfortunately, including this one. It has been hard for him to settle in, but he is kind of one of those players I hope they don’t give up on. I could understand if they had to include him to upgrade the roster, but to date, we haven’t really seen him settle in and establish himself. This is a really good opportunity for him to do that.
They did have a pretty good game against Florida. There was a point when he got hit from behind and everyone held their breath a little bit further — another one? — but good for him. He is combative on the ice and he battles. He is obviously a little small, so he has had to kind of figure that out at times. But I think he can play. This is a great opportunity for him.