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.

2015 Draft Preview – St. Louis Blues playing with house money

Matt Larkin
Robbie Fabbri (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues have everything. They’re as deep as any team in the sport at every position, and a few of their best drafted youngsters haven’t even reached the NHL yet. St. Louis’ needs are more about veteran experience than anything they have to nab at the draft table. GM Doug Armstrong thus has the freedom to pick any high-ceiling player who falls to him at any position.

PICKS:
Round 2, pick 56
Round 4, picks 94, 116
Round 5, picks 127, 146
Round 6, pick 176

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The only tangible thing the Blues need is veteran support on defense, depending on what happens with UFAs Barret Jackman and Zbynek Michalek. More than anything, the Blues need intangibles like leadership and Stanley Cup experience. Their 2014-15 roster had no one who’d played in a final, let alone a Cup winner. Pursuing an accomplished UFA like Justin Williams makes sense. Read more

Jarret Stoll’s felony drug charge dismissed, reduced to two misdemeanors

Matt Larkin
Jarret Stoll

Kings center Jarret Stoll’s future brightened drastically Thursday, as his felony cocaine possession charge was dismissed and reduced to two misdemeanors.

Stoll was arrested in April at the Wet Republic pool at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev., for suspicion of possessing cocaine and ecstasy and, earlier this week, received the felony cocaine charge. If convicted, Stoll faced a maximum of four years in a state prison, though he could’ve received a suspended sentence and probation at the discretion of a judge. But the felony charge was dismissed after Stoll pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors.

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Why the Senators win big with Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad contracts

Matt Larkin
Mark Stone

The Ottawa Senators dazzled us with their Cinderella story in the second half of 2014-15. General manager Bryan Murray, however, couldn’t savor the run too long. His off-season to do list was gargantuan. He had to decide on signing Andrew Hammond and figuring out his goaltending situation altogether. Murray had to lock up coach Dave Cameron, too. And, most importantly, Murray had to sort through his collection of high-impact restricted free agents: Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, Alex Chiasson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

So far, so very good, Mr. Murray.

The Sens inked Hammond to a three-year, $4.05-million contract May 20, taking on little risk since the cap hit wasn’t astronomical. Next up was Cameron’s two-year extension, finalized last week, plus an affordable two-year extension for Pageau.

And Thursday marked a legitimate coup for Ottawa. As reported by beat writer and THN Senators correspondent Bruce Garrioch, RFAs Stone and Zibanejad have signed extensions.

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2015 Draft Preview – Prey become Predators for Nashville

Matt Larkin
Kevin Fiala (Getty Images)

GM David Poile and his plucky Nashville Predators bamboozled the league in 2014-15. They were supposed to be an also-ran in hockey’s toughest division but instead enjoyed one of their best seasons in franchise history. They’re stacked in goal and on defense, and a few of their best forward prospects have emerged.

PICKS:
Round 2, pick 55
Round 3, pick 85
Round 4, picks 100, 115
Round 5, pick 145
Round 6, pick 175
Round 7, pick 205

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The James Neal trade didn’t give Nashville the elite sniper it needed. Filip Forsberg bloomed, but he’s more of an all-around scorer than pure shooter. The 2015 free agent class lacks a slam-dunk 30-goal man, so Poile will have to search the trade market if he wants one. Also, what if Mike Ribeiro opts not to re-sign? It would leave Nashville without a No. 1 center.
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2015 Draft Preview – Minnesota Wild must fill in gaps

Matt Larkin
Alex Tuch (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Wild’s immediate future is tough to project after an odd season in which goalie Devan Dubnyk’s freakishly good performance carried them to the playoffs. Did that feel-good story mask a few team needs? The Wild’s good young forwards have blended nicely with their vets, and their blue-chip blueliners have improved, but they still have some flaws to address at the draft and in free agency.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 20
Round 2, pick 50
Round 4, pick 111
Round 6, pick 171
Round 7, picks 201, 204

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
Jonas Brodin has emerged as a defensive pillar, and 2012 first-rounder Mathew Dumba made an impressive jump to full-time NHL duty, but Minny could use a physical, top-four veteran blueliner to take pressure off Ryan Suter. Many of the Wild’s checking forwards are UFAs this summer, so GM Chuck Fletcher must re-sign or replenish bodies for his bottom six. Read more

The 2015 Hockey News Awards: (Insert Carey Price pun here)

Matt Larkin
Carey Price. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

It’s NHL awards season, and we at The Hockey News want to join the party…with a twist.

We’ve voted on similar honors to what the NHL hands out, from the most valuable player to the best goaltender. We’ve renamed the (virtual) hardware, though, and we’ve expanded the trophy case. Hate it when offensive defensemen win the Norris despite mediocre shutdown skills? No problem. We’ve given defensive D-men their own category. Same goes for the MVP-versus-best-player debate. All that and a few other custom categories highlight the 2015 THN awards.

Our system gives five points for a first-place vote, three for second place and one for third place. We only factor in regular-season play. Enjoy, and share your agreements and disagreements in the comment section.

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2015 Draft Preview – Dallas Stars can score, but need to defend

Matt Larkin
Brett Ritchie (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars were supposed to join the NHL’s elite this season. They made the playoffs last year on the strength of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn’s sublime chemistry, and an off-season Jason Spezza trade made them a one-line team no more. Instead, Dallas regressed, missing the playoffs. Its offense remained outstanding, but few teams struggled as much preventing goals.

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2015 Draft Preview – It’s step forward, step backwards for Colorado Avalanche

Matt Larkin
Conner Bleackley (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche endured quite the reality check in 2014-15, vindicating the stat geeks who predicted a massive regression after a “lucky” Central Division title run the year prior. Colorado’s flashy young forwards and great goaltending weren’t enough. A lack of brawn and defensive ability all over the roster proved too much to overcome. The Avs slid from the NHL’s third-best record to out of the playoffs. Their development plan has a long way to go.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 10
Round 2, pick 40
Round 3, pick 71
Round 4, pick 101
Round 6, pick 161
Round 7, pick 191

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
Late-blooming Erik Johnson is a nice story, but this team does not have a bona fide No. 1 defenseman – and perhaps not even a No. 2. The Avs need a stronger two-way presence up the middle, too. They missed Paul Stastny. Some size on the wings would help them sustain a forecheck better. Read more