Matt Larkin

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News. He's been part of the THN team since 2011, but he's been married to hockey since he got beat up for collecting NHL sticker books in the mid-1980s. If you like strong opinions on the game itself, fantasy hockey tips and a hefty dose of pop culture in your readings, he's your man. And yes, the eyebrows are real.

Top 10 non-rental blockbuster trade candidates

Matt Larkin
Jeff Skinner (Gerry Thomas/NHL via Getty Images)

We’re roughly 20 percent through the 2015-16 NHL regular season. Does that mean it’s time to start taking trade scuttlebutt seriously? Maybe. The latest Patrick Marleau chatter out of San Jose suggests as much. The Sharks’ all-time leader in games, goals, assists and points would reportedly accept a trade to three teams.

The Marleau rumor is fascinating because it feels more out of nowhere than, say, an Eric Staal or Cam Ward rumor out of Carolina. The latter two players are unrestricted free agents next summer. They’ll be talked up all year as potential trade deadline rentals.

The UFAs to be are obvious choices as trade candidates, but are there any other Marleaus out there, guys with multiple years left on their contracts who could be dealt? Here are 10 non-rental names to watch in the coming months. Note how many of these players have no-trade or no movement clauses. I don’t put much stock into clauses during trade speculation. Many players who pop up in rumors have reasons to want out of their situations, and being asked to waive a clause tells a player he’s not wanted, often prompting him to comply with a trade (like Scott Hartnell in Philadelphia last summer).

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Meet Nikolaj Ehlers, the fastest hockey player on Earth

Matt Larkin
Nikolaj Ehlers. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Halifax Mooseheads turned every game into their own episode of The Flash the past couple years. Nathan MacKinnon had unbelievable wheels and insane hype following Sidney Crosby’s footsteps out of Cole Harbour, N.S. But the man who succeeded MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin as Halifax’s go-to scoring machine, Nikolaj Ehlers, was arguably even fleeter of foot.

No one could catch Ehlers, a kid so athletic he once suited up for Denmark’s national junior soccer team. He ripped it up for 49 goals and 104 points in 63 games in 2013-14. Last year, he was even better, notching 37 goals and 101 points in just 51 games, with 31 points in 14 playoff games to boot. Representing Denmark at the 2015 World Junior Championship, Ehlers appeared to be in fast-forward at all times, skating circles around many of the planet’s top under-20 players.

But we easily could’ve chalked all the superlatives up to typical elite prospect hype, right? Of course Ehlers lit up the QMJHL. Of course he was the fastest player, right up there with Connor McDavid, at the 2015 WJC. The Winnipeg Jets took Ehlers ninth overall in 2014. He better be lighting up his fellow kids.

All the excited chatter feels more legitimate this year, however, seeing Ehlers skating in NHL rinks as a top-six forward on a playoff-caliber team. His six-foot, 172-pound listing is extremely generous – I’m 5-foot-9 and stand virtually eye to eye with him – but the size deficiency hasn’t hindered his ability to blow away opponents with his speed at the NHL level. Not one bit. He’s as blindingly fast as ever. Even during the rare moments when he coasts, waiting for an outlet pass, he still seems to be zooming past people. Ehlers, 19, might well be the fastest player in the game today.

I decided to tell him this last week – “Nik, I’m pretty sure you’re the fastest player in the world now” – and see how he took it. Is he aware of the physical advantage he has over most of his competition?

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Why Leon Draisaitl is the key to saving Edmonton’s season

Matt Larkin
Leon Draisaitl. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

What an emotional roller coaster we’ve endured since the second period of Edmonton’s victory over the Philadelphia Flyers last night.

Connor McDavid is seriously injured. Connor McDavid has his arm in a sling. Connor McDavid likely has a broken collarbone. The Edmonton Oilers’ season is finished. They have a shot to land Auston Matthews and pick first overall for the fifth time in seven years.

All those thoughts may be valid, sure. It’s not like McDavid’s injury derails the Stanley Cup hopes of a powerhouse team running away with the Pacific Division. Edmonton improved to 5-8-0 with its win last night. It ranks 12th in goals per game, 27th in goals allowed per game, 10th in power play efficiency and 16th in penalty killing. The Oilers are 24th in shots per game and 16th in shots against. They rank 26th in 5-on-5 score adjusted Corsi percentage, a.k.a. puck possession. This team was already trending toward mediocrity at best, so it’s not hyperbole to suggest McDavid’s injury will destroy the Oilers’ playoff hopes, especially if he misses most or all of the season.

But Edmonton still has 69 games to play, and it has shown some positive trends under new coach Todd McLellan. Right winger Jordan Eberle will return from his own injury in a few days. To me, though, what the Oilers do the rest of the year comes down to one young man:

Leon Draisaitl.

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Connor McDavid injures shoulder in brutal collision, leaves with arm in sling

Matt Larkin
Connor McDavid (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

What can we say about Tuesday night in Edmonton? The hockey gods were simply cruel.

Oilers rookie and No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid had been everything we hoped he’d be, looking very much like a generational talent, leading all rookies with 12 points in his first 12 games. Then, during Edmonton’s tilt with Philadelphia, McDavid got tangled up with Flyers blueliners Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning, and disaster struck:

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Suspend them or not: Marc Staal, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Reaves

Ryan Reaves and Anze Kopitar.

It seemed no player in any arena in any game Tuesday night was safe from a questionable hit. Alex Ovechkin, Zac Rinaldo and Anze Kopitar all found themselves on the receiving ends.

First, the Washington Capitals’ Ovie took a spear to the groin from New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal:

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Why Dustin Byfuglien escaped a suspension for the Brendan Gallagher hit

Matt Larkin
Dustin Byfuglien (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Dustin Byfuglien hit on Brendan Gallagher creates a nice opportunity for some education on player safety and how suspensions happen.

The social media assumption after Winnipeg’s Byfuglien appeared to club Montreal’s Gallagher with a high hit Sunday night was that Byfuglien had a lengthy ban from the NHL headed his way. After all, he’d been suspended four games late last season for a crosscheck to the head of New York Rangers center J.T. Miller. Another illegal check to the head would easily place Byfuglien under the repeat offender category according to the collective bargaining agreement and the Department of Player Safety.

The catch here, though, is that none of that history was relevant if Byfuglien’s hit on Gallagher was deemed unworthy of supplemental discipline. And that’s exactly what happened Tuesday after the league’s hearing with Byfuglien. No one can explain the rationale better than the DOPS itself, so here’s the video with player safety director Patrick Burke narrating:

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The 10 most Halloweeny jerseys in hockey (WARNING: nightmare fuel)

Matt Larkin

Halloween is amazing for little kids. Their imaginations are so free that they can become their costumes in their minds. Young adult Halloween is pretty darned fun, too, as we’re smart enough and confident enough to think of cool costumes that represent who we are and what we find interesting.

But remember those awkward early-teen years? When you’d be labelled uncool for trying too hard, for liking Halloween too much, for full-bore trick-or-treating? The goal was to still acquire the candy but to do so with the least possible enthusiasm. Where I grew up, as an Ontario kid, that meant throwing on your shoulder pads, helmet, gloves and jersey and going  “as a hockey player.” Lame, but I did it for a couple years, voice cracking as I stammered out “tr-IICK or treat.”

If only I had access to the hardcore, scary, legitimately Halloweeny hockey uniforms I can find on the Interweb today. Those teen Halloweens would’ve been infinitely better. With that, I proudly present the 10 most Halloweeny jerseys in hockey today. Logos make up a significant portion of the criteria, but the entire sweater experience matters. What constitutes a Halloweeny jersey? Some combination of…

(a) A bold, costumey and/or Halloweeny color scheme
(b) A logo of something one might wear as a costume
(c) Just plain scary
(d) Active team*
(e) Is not a Halloween-themed special jersey, because that’s cheating

Some check off just a couple of those boxes. Others ace all five. Enjoy, and share your own picks in the comment section.

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Was Shawn Horcoff’s hit on Vladimir Tarasenko clean?

Matt Larkin
Horcoff Tarasenko

How many more injuries to star players can the St. Louis Blues take if they want to remain competitive in the cutthroat Central Division?

Patrik Berglund’s shoulder surgery has him out until the New Year. Young gun Robby Fabbri is concussed. Paul Stastny broke his foot. Jaden Schwartz broke his ankle.

And yet, none of those significant injuries holds a candle to the potential dagger the Blues were dealt Thursday night.

In the second period of St. Louis’ home tilt with Anaheim, checking center Shawn Horcoff collided with the Blues’ prized asset, the $7.5-million dollar man: Vladimir Tarasenko. Gulp. The scariest part about the blow is that the impact got Tarasenko high, near the head, and low, knee on knee, all at once.

Thanks to GIF dynamo Stephanie Vail, we have multiple angles of the hit. Here’s one:

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