Casey Ippolito is a contributor to The Hockey News and thn.com. A former film student and creator of the now-defunct hockeycentric.com, the Toronto native recalls cap hits, draft history and handedness the way Raymond Babbitt recites the phone book. He spends his time on Twitter, playing rec league hockey and eating burritos. His initial ties to THN date back to 2008, when he submitted a "Fan Shootout" question to Kyle Wellwood.
When the NHL draftees of 2015 picked up their first video game controllers around the turn of the millennium, the architects of EA Sports NHL were adding a revolutionary detail to the series: recognizable player faces. By today’s standards, the game-faces of the early 2000s looked ridiculous, but still, Lemieux looked like Lemieux, Sakic like Sakic, Pronger like Pronger. It was a start. Today’s budding stars were once wide-eyed, hockey-mad gamer kids, most of whom grew up as avid fans of the NHL series, and many of whom still are. So in addition to the checklist of cliché milestones every future pro daydreams about, the EA NHL generation also dreamed of playing as their authentic virtual selves.
Nigel Nunn helps this dream come true. He’s the digital imaging lead at The Capture Lab, a company that does the head scans for EA’s various sports titles, including FIFA and UFC. Nunn is a road warrior, darting from city to city with a portable camera setup capable of swiftly capturing the raw materials for what will become a nearly photo-realistic game face. As the quality and the volume of recognizable in-game faces has rapidly increased, fan expectations have risen as well. “I have people who find me on Facebook, give me a list of players that aren’t scanned, the clubs that I need to go to still, and give me contact names and addresses for the clubs,” Nunn said. “They know I’m on the road and what I’m up to. It’s really strange.” Read more
Hunter Shinkaruk could be excused for not setting the AHL ablaze during his first season. Having missed most of his final junior term with a torn labrum, he had a ready-made excuse for making a slow transition to pro.
But he wasn’t prepared to indulge that narrative. “To be honest, I don’t really feel like I was too far behind when I went into camp,” Shinkaruk said. “I was fortunate it didn’t really hold me back as much as I thought it would.
The initial plot points in Act I of Shinkaruk’s pro career mirror the beginning of his junior years in Medicine Hat. Before ascending to a 49-goal season and the Tigers’ captaincy, the flashy left winger broke his leg prior to entering the WHL and struggled out of the gate. He watched a few games from the press box but quickly caught up, finishing top-five in team scoring and leaping to 91 points the following year. Read more
The Los Angeles Kings slaughtered the Edmonton Oilers 6-1 last night. Today’s Kings are a powerhouse, while today’s Oilers are a punchline. In 1989, both were model franchises. Almost entirely because of Wayne Gretzky. And today marks the anniversary of No. 99 setting his greatest record of all.
A quarter century ago, Gretzky broke the NHL’s all-time career points record, then held by his idol, Gordie Howe.
Howe had amassed his total of 1,850 thanks to consistency, and more so, longevity. Howe played 1,767 games across five decades, outlasting his peers and retiring at 52. Read more
Having gone to seven games in the three series leading to the Stanley Cup final, Jonathan Quick has been assaulted by numerous rounds of enemy fire in the 2014 playoffs. With 23 games under his belt and two wins away from glory, Quick has already tied Corey Crawford for a spot in the top 10 for most saves in a single post-season. The Kings may finish off the Rangers quickly, but if the Blueshirts hang around, No. 32 between the pipes in L.A. could ascend to the top of this list. Here’s the 10 netminders who’ve turned away the most rubber in a Stanley Cup tournament. Read more
At 24, Drew Doughty has already etched himself quite the legacy. The Max Kaminsky Trophy for the Ontario League’s best defenseman, two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup, and perhaps a second league title on the way. At his current pace, leading the playoffs in defenseman scoring, a Conn Smythe Trophy could be Doughty’s next accolade.
With 17 points so far, Doughty’s playoff point total doesn’t quite crack the top 30 all-time highest-scoring playoff seasons by a defender. But with the potential to play six more games (though he’d surely rather play only three more), Doughty only needs four more points to leapfrog his way into the top 10. There’s a good chance he does, but there’s no chance he cracks the top three. Here’s the five most productive playoff runs by defensemen. Read more
If Martin St-Louis wasn’t fed the puck and given the opportunity to end Game 4 the way he so beautifully did, he couldn’t have complained.
After all, he was robbed by Dustin Tokarski in the waning minutes of the third period when the puck arrived on his stick, practically alone in front. And earlier, he was one-on-one with the Habs goaltender and failed to convert on a breakaway. In a game that featured boatloads of prime scoring chances, No. 26 led the Rangers with five shots, and he didn’t convert until it mattered most. Read more
It’s the new normal of the unrestricted free agency period: there’s not much talent on the market anymore. And the talent that is available? Veterans past their prime, many of whom hit the market after playing out massive deals.
There’s no way all 10 of the athletes on this list get a raise this summer. At least one will, and not surprisingly, it’s the player who’s a twentysomething and not a thirtysomething. However, they’ll all have numerous suitors. The insanity and desperation of GMs during UFA season is a certainty. Here’s the 10 players with the highest cap hits who will be unrestricted free agents on July 1.
10. Andrei Markov — $5.75 million — age 35 (as of July 1)
If you have a few hours to kill, look up Markov’s injury history. Those knees have been through trench warfare. After scoring 64 points in 2008-09, the Mr. Bean lookalike played 45, then seven, then 13 games in the following three seasons. The Canadiens took a major risk by signing Markov to a three-year deal a season after he’d missed all but seven games, but the gamble paid — the Russian rearguard missed just one regular season game over the next two productive seasons. Despite his age and injury history, Markov should cash in with a deal that pays at least $4 million. Hard to see him signing anywhere but Montreal, but that’s how I felt about Sergei Gonchar before he left Pittsburgh for Ottawa as a 36-year-old. Read more
Before the recap, please enjoy the U.S. national anthem, courtesy of Slash. Because it’s 1991. Read more