The Hockey News

For Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, world juniors will be a home away from home

William Nylander (Jana Chytilova/HHOF-IIHF Images)

By Uffe Bodin

As he left Toronto in disappointment in September, William Nylander knew he would return sooner rather than later. Not to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs but to compete for the Swedish junior national team at the World Junior Championship.

Since Canada won’t be playing in Toronto during the round-robin, the Leafs’ first-round pick from last summer will get his fair share of the spotlight. And that’s fine.

“It’s a huge advantage for me to have gone through training camp the way I did this fall”, Nylander said. “Now I know how the hype thing works. In training camp, I felt I was able to focus on my hockey, and I didn’t let the other stuff become a distraction. It won’t be now, either.” Read more

Big smile and a nose for the net – meet the next Teemu Selanne

The Hockey News
Jesse Puljujarvi

By Panu Markkanen

Let me give you five attributes of a Finnish hockey player and you let me know, who I’m thinking about: 1) He is big. 2) He shoots from the right. 3) He loves scoring goals. 4) He smiles always. 5) He has not retired from the NHL.

The fifth attribute was mandatory, otherwise everyone would have said: “Teemu Selanne”. No. We are talking about the next Finnish goal-scoring machine. A guy from the North: 16-year-old Jesse Puljujarvi. The youngest member of Team Finland’s squad in the World Juniors and definitely the hottest prospect Finland – and perhaps all of Europe – has to offer in the 2016 draft.

Puljujarvi has already dominated U18 and U20 junior leagues in Finland. This season he made his debut in Finnish’s SM-Liiga and scored his first professional goal in his third game. His club, Oulun Karpat, is the reigning champion and a hot candidate to win back-to-back titles, which has occasionally led to Puljujarvi’s demotion to Finland’s Mestis, the second level league, where he has scored a point per game this fall.

“Games in Liiga have been pretty good for me,” Puljujarvi told The Hockey News. “The main reason for my time in Mestis is purely to get the possibility to play with men and get a lot of time on the ice. It’s only been a good thing. I’ve been able to measure myself.”

Finland has not traditionally been the leading country in producing the best goal scorers. Unselfishness has always been a virtue in the Finnish game. Puljujarvi is in this way an eagerly awaited exception in this dark country of fourth-line-forwards.

He has an excellent shot and he handles the puck well. He is 6´3” and his hunger for goals seems endless.

“Perhaps it comes from the times when I played in my home town Tornio,” Puljujarvi said. “At that time I could do almost everything on the ice and I scored then a lot. Scoring is absolutely the best thing in hockey. Of course there are also a lot other things I try to do on the ice, but I always try to score. I still wouldn’t call it an obsession or something like that…”

And of course he mentioned a certain ex-player who is 28 years his senior.

“Of course Teemu has been an idol for me. It was great to see him scoring in his later years. It proved how tough a guy he is,” Puljujarvi said.

Five Finnish players have played in U20 World Championships at 16 before Puljujarvi, and the list is convincing: Reijo Ruotsalainen (2 Stanley Cups), Janne Niinimaa (741 regular season games in NHL), Mikael Granlund (Minnesota), Olli Maatta (Pittsburgh) and Aleksander Barkov (Florida).

“Picking him is pretty obvious for me,” says Finnish coach Hannu Jortikka, who has coached U20’s in four different decades. “I’ve rarely seen any kid so sound-minded as Jesse.”

And Puljujarvi is ready for the challenge of being the next in a short list of 16-year-old Finns to take on the world’s brightest junior stars.

“This is a big thing for me to get to show, what I can do already in this age. Definitely biggest and greatest thing for me so far. And the venues are not the smallest villages either,” Puljujarvi says.

Finally, about that smile. Where does it come from?

“I just like to smile. I feel like laughing all the time.”

Smiling and laughter spread joy and happiness around. Teemu Selanne did it with his smile and scoring touch. Jesse Puljujarvi will definitely make at least one person to smile in the near future: The GM who gets to draft him in 2016.

Panu Markkanen is sports journalist from Finland. He has been covering Finnish and international hockey since 2002. He’s currently a reporter for the Finnish TV-channel Nelonen Pro and as a columnist for a Finnish hockey portal

THN oral history: the 2005 Canadian world junior team, a.k.a. the greatest of all-time

The Hockey News
Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Mike Richards and Danny Syvret were part of a stacked 2005 Canada squad. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Hungry for redemption. Fed by the greatest draft class ever. Boosted by the lockout. A perfect storm created the best world junior team in history. Ten years later, they share their story.

With Ken Campbell & Matt Larkin

The night is always 
darkest just before the dawn, and Canada’s greatest anguish on the World Junior Championship stage came one year before its greatest triumph. Flash back to Helsinki, Finland, 2004. Canada desperately wanted to be crowned hockey’s best under-20 nation after six long years in the cold. Since a five-year run of golds that ended in 1997, the Canadians had finished eighth, second, third, third, second and second, with each heartbreak worse than the last. They blew a 2-1 lead to Russia on Canadian ice to lose the 2003 final. Then, in Helsinki, the nightmare continued. Canada led upstart U.S. 3-1 entering the third period of the gold medal game. The U.S. stormed back to tie it and, with less than five minutes remaining in a 3-3 contest, Canada goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s clearing attempt bounced off teammate Braydon Coburn and into his own net. The Americans won their first world juniors ever. Canada’s drought reached seven years.

BRAYDON COBURN, D: With Marc-Andre, it was just unlucky, I don’t even know how to explain it. It was just one of those things that happened.

SIDNEY CROSBY, LW: You dream about playing for that team as a kid and winning gold, and to be up two goals going into the third, you think you’re in pretty good shape. All of a sudden, things turn quickly and you’re disappointed. You don’t know if you’ll get an opportunity to do it again.

BRENT SEABROOK, D: It was fast. Once it started rolling downhill, it kept rolling, but you’ve got to give the Americans a lot of credit. They had a great team that year. Once they smelled blood, they kept going, but it’s a tough one to lose.

NIGEL DAWES, LW: We really couldn’t believe what just happened and the way it happened. It took a bit of time to honestly get over it. We were at a loss for words and very disappointed with the way it went.

BLAIR MACKASEY, HOCKEY CANADA HEAD SCOUT: It’s funny how the loss will stay with you a lot longer than the wins do. I remember someone congratulating me on winning two gold medals in a row at the juniors (in 2005 and 2006). The first thing out of my mouth was, “Yeah, but it should have been three.” I remember (Hockey Canada president) Bob Nicholson saying to me, “Get over it.” But I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.

COBURN: It’s heartbreaking. It’s the world juniors, it’s the pinnacle of junior hockey, and it’s a tough pill to swallow, but one of the things you learn in hockey right away is you move past those things. So it was a good thing for us returning guys that we got another crack at it, and I feel sorry for the guys who didn’t.

Read more

CWHL All-Star Game roundtable: History, rivalry, and the growing women’s game

The Hockey News
CWHL Roundtable Featured

By Namish Modi

All-Star Games may not be the most exciting event on the calendar anymore, but for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), this one will be one to remember.

On Saturday at the Air Canada Centre, the first All-Star Game in the league’s short five-year history was played. The exhibition game, which had several Olympians playing in it, was played in front of a crowd of 6,850 people.

The two teams, Team White and Team Red, were selected by captains Jessica Campbell and Charline Labonte on Friday night, fantasy draft style. Each captain picked five players to their team while the rest of the squads were filled up by the “throwing the sticks” format. Team Red’s Rebecca Johnston scored the winning goal in a 3-2 come back victory, while Team White’s Natalie Spooner scored the first goal in CWHL All-Star Game history. Following the game, the 42 all-stars took part in a light-hearted skills showcase, which consisted of a breakaway challenge and fastest skater competition. Read more

Oilers took step forward in process, but Eakins a victim of results-oriented business

The Hockey News
Taylor Hall (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Dom Luszczyszyn

With due process, the results will come. For the Edmonton Oilers, the results have been long overdue and Dallas Eakins lost his job on Monday because of it.

The NHL is a results-oriented business – it always has been – so when a team wins three of its last 22 games, someone’s getting fired. But if the goal is long-term success, then the process should be the number one priority. Improve the little things that lead to wins and eventually they will come. Read more

Jakub Voracek becoming the star scouts thought he could be

The Hockey News
Jakub Voracek

By Dom Luszczyszyn

Jakub Voracek’s ascent to the top of the scoring race has been one of this season’s biggest surprises, but even without the gaudy totals, he’s quietly emerged as one of the league’s most dominant forwards over the past three seasons.

With 34 points, Voracek sits third in the league behind Tyler Seguin and Sidney Crosby and has 84 points in his last 82 games. A point-per-game season and career highs across the board is obviously not out of the question for Voracek, especially considering the chemistry he’s shown with one of the game’s best point producers, Claude Giroux. He’s got great hockey IQ and vision to go along with great playmaking ability, but the rate he’s scoring at now, a 102 point pace, likely won’t continue. Read more

Dallas rookie John Klingberg making it all look so easy

The Hockey News
John Klingberg (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By Namish Modi

P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson and Ryan Suter all have something in common. Several things, actually. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, they are all Norris Trophy finalists or winners and very rich star defensemen in the NHL.

But none of them had the start to their career John Klingberg has had. After being recalled from the Texas Stars Nov.10, the Dallas rookie blueliner has been nothing short of brilliant with nine points in his first 14 games including eight in his first eight. Read more

If Los Angeles doesn’t right the ship it could spell an early off-season

The Hockey News
St. Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings

By Dom Luszczyszyn

There’s something unusually wrong with the Los Angeles Kings this season. That they’ve won only 13 of their first 25 games (three less than last season) should tip you off and watching them play only confirms it.

Since swapping Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson in 2012, no team has had the puck on their collective sticks more than the Kings. Puck possession has been their calling card and they’ve played more games than any other team as a result, collecting two Stanley Cups in the process.

This season, that’s all changed. The Kings have been downright average generating only 50.9 percent of the shot attempts during 5-on-5 play. It gets worse when the game is close as the Kings drop to 47.5 percent of shot attempts, good for 23rd in the league. That’s a far cry from last year’s league leading mark of 57.2 and it’s the biggest drop for any team this season. Read more