GM: Chris Patton (only GM in team’s history)
Last season: 1st overall; Cup winner for the second year in a row (defeated Edinburgh, London, Minsk and then Berlin)
Ins and Outs (Season 5 to Season 6)
Out: Alexander Ovechkin (trade), Cody Hodgson (trade), Mathieu Perreault (trade), Lars Eller (waivers), Keith Aulie (free agent)
In: Evander Kane (trade), Nardo Nagtzaam (trade), Johan Larsson (draft), Jesper Fast (draft), Julius Nattinen (draft), Dennis Rasmussen (trade)
In Place (Key players signed past Season 6)
1. Can the Giants be stopped? Of course they can be prevented from winning their third Cup in a row. Anything can happen and it often does in sports, but Belfast will be among the top teams in the league again this year because they aren’t even remotely close to being old yet. It won’t be easy for Belfast to make it three in a row because Berlin – which came within a whisker of beating them last season – as well as Paris, Minsk and Moscow will be keeping the Giants in their sights all year long. But what will really dent Belfast’s momentum is rising salary costs. Their young superstars used to play for relative peanuts. Now, they are multi-millionaires and a couple of them might have to trade in their Giants sweaters to allow the team to stay under the cap. Alexander Ovechkin, the team’s top left wing, had to be part of a trade with the other Irish club in order to unload Cody Hodgson, the 80OV, 26-year-old fourth-line center who earned $3.5 million. It will take more creative managing by Chris Patton to keep the big ball rolling past Season 6 because P.K. Subban, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ondrej Palat will be in line for salary bumps a year from now.
2. What is Belfast’s greatest strength? It is often said the best defense is a good offense, and in Belfast’s case that’s true. Their potent and deep forward units helped make them one of the league’s highest scoring teams. Paris and Lisbon actually scored more often last season. But Belfast also had the third best defensive numbers in the EURO, due in large part to goalie Jonathan Quick. But some of that credit has to go to the forwards too. When you had names like Crosby, Ovechkin, Neal … down to Duchene, Tarasenko and Moulson on the third line, you find that opposing forecheckers aren’t as aggressive and defensemen don’t pinch as often. Four Giants were 30-goal scorers last season and surprisingly, second-line Nazem Kadri led everyone on the champion team in points with 83. Linemate Ondrej Palat was third with 80 points. Belfast’s goals per game average has improved from 2.33 in Season 1 to 3.79 in Season 5 and the Giants’ goals against average has improved every season, going from 3.67 to 2.54 in those five years.
3. What about the defense corps? Again, having a goalie like Quick is essential to keeping the goals against average down, but the Giants’ six defensemen are nearly as good as the forwards. The group is led by a top four that offer strong defense and good puck-moving ability. P.K. Subban, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Justin Faulk and Victor Hedman work well together and all are in the 24-27 age group and Type 2 contracts, meaning they could stay together for several more seasons if the salary cap will allow. The third pair of fighter Micki Dupont and Cody Franson contribute too. Dupont, for example, scored 10 points in last season’s 20 playoff games. The defensemen were as durable as they come. Hedman missed just 3 games due to injury and the other five didn’t miss any games.
Season Place PTS PP % PK % SPG SAPG GPG GAPG PIM
Season 5 1 129 20.7 86.4 32.55 27.71 3.79 2.54 11.99
Season 4 3 108 16.7 85.1 32.99 28.99 3.60 2.74 12.63
Season 3 19 76 20.2 82.9 30.17 31.26 3.20 3.41 11.18
Season 2 20 72 15.6 79.1 29.17 33.04 3.20 3.61 12.57
Season 1 21 61 10.1 77.9 23.85 37.40 2.33 3.67 10.29
Top Draft picks
Season 1: Cory Schneider, G, current age 30. Games played: 230; Save Pct. 90.6
Season 2: Tony Martensson, C, age 30. GP 324, Pts 227, -3
Season 3: Nathan MacKinnon, RW, age 21. GP 162, Pts 119, +42
Season 4: Ondrej Palat, LW, age 24. GP 164, Pts 139, +75
Season 5: Vladislav Kamenev, W, age 19.
Season 6: Jacob Larsson, D, age 18.
Season 1 (picks without years listed are from initial draft)
Traded Round 12 pick (used to draft Sami Salo) and Round 24 pick (Douglas Murray) to Bern for Round 10 pick (Devan Dubnyk)
Traded Round 11 pick (Roman Josi) and Round 15 pick (Andrej Sekera) to Minsk for Round 10 pick (Mikael Granlund)
Traded 2013 Round 1 pick (Vadim Shipachyov) to Athens for Nazem Kadri and Round 2 pick (lost track of this one; might have been Brendan Pirlini in 2014)
Traded Rick Nash to Stockholm for Mikko Lehtonen and 2014 Round 1 pick (Jonathan Drouin) *Not 100 percent positive about the pick or if there was another part to the trade, but pretty sure.
Traded Tony Martensson, Olivier Roland, Ondrej Pavelec and Adam Larsson to Edinburgh for James Neal and Oliver Ekman-Larsson * one trade missing that occurred around here
Traded Tony Martensson, Olivier Roland, Ondrej Pavelec and Adam Larsson to Edinburgh for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and James Neal
Traded Filip Forsberg and Cory Schneider to Munich for Jonathan Quick
Traded Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Drouin and 2016 Round 1 pick (Ville Vahalahti) to Copenhagen for Alexander Ovechkin
Traded 2016 Round 3 pick (Evgeny Solomonov) to Bratislava for 2017 Round 3 pick (Julius Nattinen)
Traded Devan Dubnyk to Zurich for 2019 Round 3 pick
Traded 2017 Round 1 pick (Lawson Crouse) to Bern for Cam Talbot
Traded Mathieu Perreault to Copenhagen for Dennis Rasmussen
Traded Alexander Ovechkin and Cody Hodgson to Dublin for Evander Kane and nardo Nagtzaam
After Season 6 started
Traded Rob Fabbri and 2019 Round 3 pick (formerly Zurich’s) to Milan for Mikko Rantanen
Traded Sidney Crosby, Mikko Rantanen, 2018 Round 1 pick and 2018 Round 2 pick to Edinburgh for Claude Giroux
Traded Nazem Kadri, Vladislav Kamenev and 2020 Round 1 pick to Geneva for Sergei Mozyakin
Lost Mattias Tedenby (waivers)