The Olympic break was nice for most of the NHL’s rookies, but now it’s crunch time and the kids have to beware of the dreaded Wall. That’s when the grind of their first-ever 82 game season becomes a factor and while the Calder race appears to be all but sewn up right now, everyone is going to want to finish strong nonetheless.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
He just broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for consecutive games with a point by an 18-year-old (13), so yeah, things are going pretty good for Nate Dogg. Not only that, but his last one wasn’t a cheapy: he set up the game-winner in overtime versus Detroit. MacKinnon has a stranglehold on the rookie scoring title with 51 points in 63 games, putting him top-30 among all NHLers, too.
San Jose and Pittsburgh had a classic tilt last night as two of the best teams in the NHL duked it out. The Sharks won 5-3, thanks in part to Patrick Marleau‘s shorthanded goal, which saw the veteran undress Evgeni Malkin while Sidney Crosby looked on.
As Rory Boylen pointed out already, the Flyers and Capitals are in the midst of a blood feud right now, but that doesn’t mean the games are devoid of skill. Check out the move Flyers captain Claude Giroux pulled on Braden Holtby to open the scoring last night.
The dust has settled and in a deal that would have seemed laughable just a couple months ago, Martin St-Louis is a member of the New York Rangers. On the flipside, it’s only a little less shocking that his fellow NHL captain, Ryan Callahan, is now a member of the Lightning.
There’s no doubt both franchises got very good players – one more skilled, the other more well-rounded – and while Callahan was having a contract flap with Rangers GM Glen Sather, the shade thrown over St-Louis lately is impossible to ignore.
Given how this season has spun out for the New York Islanders, it was no surprise that GM Garth Snow was going to be a seller at the trade deadline. And getting two decent picks (a second-rounder in 2015 and a third-rounder this summer) in return for a defenseman eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer is pretty good.
But at the end of the day, the Islanders blueline is still a man down…again.
A lack of retention on Long Island has killed New York in the Garth Snow era and Andrew MacDonald is the latest escapee. In Philadelphia, he’ll be reunited with Mark Streit, who was dealt to the Metropolitan Division rival at the 2013 draft. With the way MacDonald has grown, a top four of him, Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky and the emerging Travis Hamonic would be pretty decent right now, especially with youngsters Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan growing into their roles as well.
The NHL trade deadline is tomorrow, which means a flurry of future draft slots and prospects themselves will likely move around the league. Whether teams are more willing to give up first and second round picks for 2014 rather than 2015 (which is seen as a stronger draft headlined by Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel) will be something to watch. In the meantime, watch out for these names – they could be coming to your favorite NHL team in a few years.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Gird yourself if Ehlers is coming down the wing against your favorite team anytime soon. The Danish phenom has put up back-to-back hat tricks, plus an assist in each of those contests, to push his points total to 91 with 43 goals through 57 games.
“It’s been a great season so far,” Ehlers said. “I definitely do not regret coming over and it’s not just the hockey, but the city of Halifax, too.”
Born in Denmark, Ehlers is the son of a hockey coach who moved the whole family to Switzerland when Nikolaj was 11 years old. That helped the burgeoning winger turn into the prospect he is today.
It’s an all-Olympian highlight today: Anze Kopitar with the neat dish to Los Angeles teammate Jeff Carter, who puts a quick one past Peter Budaj of the Canadiens.
Raffi Torres worked an excellent give-and-go with Joe Pavelski on this clinically perfect San Jose goal against New Jersey.