If you look at the cap space Bryan Murray has to manage around for the rest of this un-eventful off-season, it’s clear no more moves will be made unless somebody is shipped out for a prospect or draft pick. With training camp coming, the real battle up front should be to centre Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon and the third line.
Click “Continue Reading” to find out who should win the third-line centre job on Opening Night, either Jesse Winchester or Zack Smith.
The war is between two people who play very similar styles of play. Jesse Winchester, the undrafted forward out of Colgate was seen as a premier coup for Murray two years ago, but now is nothing more than a depth player. Winchester does the little things right, he forechecks hard, creates space for his line-mates, and is excellent on the boards. A poor man’s Peter Schaefer (is that even possible?) in my opinion. Zack Smith is all that and more. He’s young, fast, and a tough cookie. He stands up for the team and can fight the best of the best in the league.
Both are major assets on special team, specifically the penalty kill. Jesse has had more time in a Cory Clouston system than Zack has had, but you can argue that Smith also played under Triple C in Binghamton. Zack has the upper hand for me because he’s faster and cheaper for management. However, I can see both fighting ’till the last minute for the job.
Winchie has scored 5 goals and 31 points in his career during two seasons. Although being injury-riddled last season including one at camp, I see more opportunities for him on this team than he would get on any other team, basically meaning there is no market for Jesse.
Lunchpail Zack has a knack for big-time plays, including this one below which started off his young career in terms of production:
So who will start on October 8th against the Buffalo Sabres? Well, it’s hard to tell now, but I truly believe Cloo Cloo believes more in Smith than Winchester, especially after a great playoffs he had last season. If there’s one thing we know, watch out ’cause either of these two should have a break-out season.