Last week's trade of former Predators' captain Jason Arnott had the Nashville hockey scene abuzz, and with good reason. As the shock wore off, however, fans were left wondering - just who the heck is Matt Halischuk, anyway?
After the jump, I hope to answer that question (with help from a Devils blogger) and examine whether or not he may have a spot on the 2010-11 edition of the Nashville Predators.
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Lets check in with the good folks at Hockey's Future, where you can find information on just about every prospect you could imagine:
Standing at only 5'11, 173 lbs, Halischuk's small stature likely caused many teams to shy away from drafting him. What he lacks in size, he more than makes up for with energy and hard work. He's a good skater and as evidenced by his 33 goals last season, has good hands and is more than adept at putting the puck in the net. He's also a stalwart on the penalty kill.
With the size issue, also comes the strength issue and that is something Halischuk will likely have to battle for his entire career. While today's NHL is geared more towards speed and skill, you still need to have enough strength to not get pushed around.
Now, here's SB Nation's New Jersey Devils' blogger John Fischer from In Lou We Trust on Halischuk:
From preseason and the 20 games I saw of Matt Halischuk last season, I got a sense that he's a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-
none winger. He looked OK going forward in preseason, and he wasn't bad in a fourth line role in New Jersey to start the season. However, I can't really pinpoint anything he does particularly well. Given that he got an extended audition in New Jersey alone tells me that he's on the cusp of breaking through into the NHL. Halischuk does have talent. It's just that his skating, shooting, hockey sense at both ends, etc. is decent; but none of it that is obviously exceptional. He's not even particularly large; though he could stand to get some more muscle. This isn't to say he'll be bad, just that he'll likely pan out as a bottom six forward, perhaps into a decent checking line winger. This would fall in line with what got him more attention after being drafted by NJ in the fourth round: his performance at the WJCs with Canada as a checking forward.
Where does he fit?
So it sounds as if there might be something in Halischuk worth taking a look at, be it for depth or perhaps penalty killing. The question then becomes, though - is there a place for him? Lets have a look at the Predators' depth chart at wing:
I can see Halischuk getting a look-see in the preseason, obviously, and perhaps a trial period later on, but every player in front of him (excluding Spaling and O'Reilly) are established NHL veterans. If he were to impress, there's a chance that Halischuk could lay claim to the 4th line winger position alongside Jordin Tootoo, but I have my doubts as to whether or not he could be more effective than Nick Spaling at this stage in their careers.
In the end, though defensive acumen and penalty killing ability may eventually say otherwise, it seems as if David Poile acquired Matt Halischuk as a bit of a throw-in in the Jason Arnott trade. The trade, netting also a 2011 2nd round pick, was to shed the former captain's salary, and it accomplished that. Taking into consideration the number of players who have already seen time in a Preds' sweater and under Barry Trotz, it appears doubtful that Halischuk will be anywhere other than Milwaukee or the Bridgestone Arena press box in 2010-11. What do you think?