The Hockey News

2014 NHL Draft Central

The Hockey News
draftcentral

The 2014 NHL Draft is upon us. For pick-by-pick action, check out THN.com’s Draft Central. Who will be picked first overall? Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, or what about Leon Draisaitl?

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25 years ago Mats Sundin was taken first overall at the NHL draft – and it changed the game forever

The Hockey News
Mats Sundin

By Uffe Bodin
The year 1989 was one of great historical significance. In Europe, the Iron Curtain that had been dividing the eastern world from the more modern west since World War II was crumbling; the Berlin Wall, the most obvious symbol of ideological differences, was torn apart in November of that year; and within the Soviet Union, the Communist regime was slowly losing its power. The Cold War wasn’t nearly as chilly anymore.

Even in the NHL, to quote German hard rock band Scorpions’ hit single that tried to capture the spirit of the time, you could sense a “wind of change.” At the 1989 draft at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minn., 41 Europeans were chosen and for the first time one of them was picked first overall. A tall, blond Swede with braces was called to the podium by Quebec Nordiques chief scout Pierre Gauthier. The native of Bromma, outside of Stockholm, went by the name of Mats Sundin. Read more

The Hockey News Awards: Crosby, Chara take home multiple honors

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Crosby-Chara Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In our May 26 “Lists Issue”, we handed out our annual hardware, which differs from the NHL’s offerings that will be revealed tonight in Las Vegas. In case you missed it, here’s who we feel was this season’s best of the best:

Wayne Gretzky Award (MVP): Sidney Crosby
Usually, the Penguins rely on their supporting cast to step up when Crosby is hurt. It was the opposite in 2013-14. He played 80 of 82 games and did so at an elite level.
Runners up: 2. Claude Giroux; 3. Semyon Varlamov; 4. Ryan Getzlaf; 5. Ben Bishop

Mario Lemieux Award (Best Player): Sidney Crosby
A healthy Crosby is the best player of his generation and he didn’t disappoint in a full season, reaching 100 points for the fifth time and winning the scoring title by 17 points.
Runners up: 2. Ryan Getzlaf; 3. Claude Giroux; 4. Patrice Bergeron; 5. Corey Perry

Patrick Roy Award (Best Goalie): Tuukka Rask
Despite concerns about how he’d hold up over an 82-game schedule, all Rask did was finish in the league’s top-five in wins (36), goals-against average (2.04), save percentage (.930) and shutouts (seven).
Runners up: 2. Semyon Varlamov; 3. Ben Bishop; 4. Carey Price; 5. Sergei Bobrovsky Read more

Brett Ritchie hoists Calder Cup. Next stop, Dallas and the NHL?

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Brett Ritchie

By Sean Shapiro
It was like being the new kid at school – if you arrived just in time for exams. With the exception of a morning skate, Brett Ritchie didn’t even have a chance to practice with the American League’s Texas Stars before making his 2014 Calder Cup Playoff debut in Game 6 of the second round against the Grand Rapids Griffins May 18.

Nursing an injured ankle back to health, the second-round pick (Dallas, 44th overall in 2011) missed the Stars’ first eight playoff games and hadn’t played since April 13 against the San Antonio Rampage.

Not knowing how the ankle would hold up or how he’d feel jumping into a playoff series against the defending Calder Cup Champions, Ritchie shook off some early jitters and scored in a 7-1 series-clinching victory. “It’s good, it gives you some confidence around the net,” Ritchie said. “I didn’t feel very comfortable around the net at the start of the game, but for that one (goal) to go in, it kind of bounced me back to where I was before I got hurt.”

Ritchie, recapturing his pre-injury form, provided a much-needed boost for Texas as it battled through a seven-game series with the Toronto Marlies to reach the Calder Cup final and a five-game series against the St. John’s IceCaps to win the AHL title. The Orangeville, Ontario native had 11 points in 13 post-season games, two of which came in Tuesday’s 4-3 Game 5 OT win that clinched the Calder Cup for Texas. Read more

Top five sophomore slumps of 2013-14

Conacher

By Jared Clinton

1. Cory Conacher
C, Buffalo Sabres
Early last season, Conacher was a sneaky favorite for the Calder Trophy. The diminutive forward was turning in an eye-opening offensive campaign in Tampa Bay when, out of the blue, he was dealt to Ottawa in exchange for Ben Bishop. History will not be kind to that trade. The Senators waived Conacher after he failed to show even moments of the brilliance that put him in the conversation for rookie of the year. In 79 games this season, Conacher failed to match the 11 goals he tallied in his lockout-shortened rookie campaign. Read more

Backchecking: Blake Geoffrion

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Blake Geoffrion (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

BY ARI YANOVER

After sustaining a career-ending injury Nov. 9, 2012 while playing for Montreal’s
farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs in the American League, Blake Geoffrion was left with an uncertain future. He spent seven months doing nothing but recovering from a depressed skull fracture, and he couldn’t find a doctor who would give him the green light to resume playing.

But even though he’d hung up the skates, there was still interest. Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen called, offering Geoffrion a scouting position.

It was a way to stay in hockey, a natural instinct for someone who has spent his entire life in the sport. So Geoffrion accepted Kekalainen’s proposal, deciding to try it for a year and see if it was a fit. “I want to be a general manager in the NHL one day,” he’d said upon taking the job. “After doing some research and figuring out how to become a general manager, this is where you started, in scouting.”

Geoffrion spent the year scouting for Columbus, but after seeing how things were run, he felt he didn’t have enough experience. He knew plenty about the hockey side, but the business side was new to him, and he wanted to explore that. Read more

Top 5 ‘under the radar’ NHL players from 2013-14

alexandersteen

By Andrew Heliotis

1. Wayne Simmonds
RW, Philadelphia Flyers

This past season Simmonds hit career highs in all three scoring categories and his 60 points were good enough for a top 50 scoring finish. Simmonds really excelled on the power play, however. Scroll down the special teams list of top goal scorers and it won’t take long to hit his name. Only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and San Jose’s Joe Pavelski finished with more than Simmonds’ 15 power play goals. With 209 shots all season he scored at the same rate as Sidney Crosby and finished with a better shooting percentage than six of the top 10 point-getters of the season.

2. Alexander Steen
LW, St. Louis Blues

Early in 2005-06, two rookies for the Maple Leafs made their team’s scouts look like geniuses. Steen and Kyle Wellwood combined for 90 points and the Toronto faithful began salivating. But 20 games into 2008-09 Steen would forever be an afterthought in Hogtown when he was sent to the St. Louis Blues for Lee Stempniak.  Oh, how things have changed. This season Steen, who built a reputation as a consistently underrated, solid two-way forward, led the Blues in goals (33) and points (62), recorded in just 68 games. Steen’s 0.49 goals per game was seventh in the NHL. Read more