NHL draft prospect Nick Merkley is making a statement on The Hot List

Nick Merkley (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The CHL-Russia Super Series kicked off in Saskatoon Monday night and the visitors continued their hot streak by winning 3-2 in a shootout over the Western League’s squad. The six-game showdown usually starts in Quebec and goes West, but things are flipped this time and will be interesting to see if that affects the results at all. In other news, top 2015 Swedish prospect Oliver Kylington was loaned out to AIK in the country’s second-tier league, the Allsvenskan, where he will get more playing time. Here’s a look at some of the other youngsters we’re keeping an eye on.

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Hamilton Bulldogs hope to raise $50,000 for fallen soldier’s son

Ken Campbell
Courtesy Hamilton Bulldogs

As people lined four deep through the streets of Hamilton last month to honor one of their own, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s casket was en route from the funeral home to the church in a procession that included Cirillo’s family at the front of it. As that procession made its way past the FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton Bulldogs president Stephen Ostaszewicz was struck by the gravity of it all.

Cirillo was the young man who was killed the morning of Oct. 22 as he stood on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa. The shooting and subsequent attack on Parliament Hill stunned the nation, but it hit the closely knit city of Hamilton particularly hard, something Ostaszewicz witnessed first hand when he saw Cirillo’s five-year old son, Marcus, walking in the procession.

“I watched him march in the procession with his grandmother and his aunt,” Ostaszewicz said. “And a lot of the people here, both on the Global Spectrum side and the team side, were touched by it.” Read more

Once a rugged power forward, Willi Plett still making living with his hands

Jared Clinton
Willi Plett (Steve Babineau/NHLI/Via Getty Images)

When Willi Plett retired from the NHL, he did it on his own terms. In his early 30s at the time, it wasn’t that he was too old or that he couldn’t keep up. And he wasn’t too battered and bruised from playing his hard-nosed style. Rather, Plett didn’t want to continue his career when his heart was no longer in it. Read more

Happy 90th Birthday to you, Johnny Bower

Ken Campbell
Johnny Bower  (Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Johnny Bower lied about his age to get into the army (he said he was older) and to play in the NHL (he said he was younger), but today he’s fully prepared to embrace every one of his 90 years on Earth.

At some point today, the Hall of Famer and former Leaf great will blow out 90 candles on his birthday cake, without much of a problem. He still gets around really well, even straps the blades on occasionally, and approaches life with the same vigor he did 50 years ago when he was helping the Toronto Maple Leafs win Stanley Cups. He’ll mark to occasion in a small private party that will include Nancy, his wife of 66 years, and his children and grandchildren. Then, true to form, Bower will head to the Air Canada Centre to watch the only two NHL teams he ever played for when the New York Rangers visit the Maple Leafs.

“I looked at Nancy and said, ‘Can I go?’ “ Bower said enthusiastically. “And she said, ‘Oh yeah, go and see the game.’ “

Bower is the third-oldest living Leaf behind Howie Meeker, who turned 91 last Tuesday, and 95-year-old Wally Stanowski. But there’s little doubt he’s one of the most popular players ever to wear the uniform. Any Leaf who was on the four Stanley Cup teams in the 1960s is still revered in Toronto and Bower is still a regular at Leaf home games and gets out to a good number of charity events and signings. That’s mostly because he can’t seem to sit still.

“If I stayed home and watched television all the time, I’d be dead in a month,” Bower said. “I’ve got to go out and walk and exercise at home. I can still touch my toes. Up and down, up and down.”

Perhaps one of the factors in Bower’s longevity is that the NHL miles didn’t start piling up for him until later in life. Bower toiled in the minors for years and didn’t play an NHL game until he was almost 30 years old. After one season with the Rangers, he bounced around the minors again and didn’t become a full-time NHLer until the Leafs picked him up when he was 35. By that time, Bower preferred to stay in Cleveland because he was secure with his family and had post-hockey job offers, but he also had a childhood dream of getting his name on the Stanley Cup and the only way that could be fulfilled was for him to play in the NHL.

“I finally decided to go when Mr. Hendy (the GM of the Cleveland Barons in the American League) told me, ‘John, I’ll put it in your contract that if you can’t make it in Toronto, you’re coming back to Cleveland,’ “ Bower said. “Hooray! That’s what I said. I guess I made a pretty good decision.”

Indeed. Bower went on to forge a Hall of Fame career with four Cups and make an indelible mark on the franchise. When the organization conceived its Legends Row statues to salute its past greats, Bower joined Ted Kennedy and Darryl Sittler as the first three to be honored. He was the oldest goaltender to win his first Stanley Cup when he did so in 1962 and is the oldest goalie overall to have his name on the Cup, something he achieved five years later. Even after retiring, Bower has remained remarkably healthy, something he attributes to Nancy.

“Thank God I’ve got a wonderful wife. I wouldn’t trade her for all the tea in China,” Bower said. “We have our ups and downs like everyone else, but we always iron them out before we go to bed. I kiss her goodnight and say, ‘I’m sorry Sweetheart. You were right and I was wrong,’ and I always get a smile.”

As for the age thing, well, that’s just a number. After all, Bower lied about his age for years when he played, thinking that if he told people he was born in 1928 he’d have a longer career in the NHL.

“I was almost 45 years old and still playing in the league, but it caught up to me,” Bower said. “Punch (Leafs GM Imlach) said to me I couldn’t see and I said, ‘I can see, but I don’t want to wear a mask He said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter if you can see or not, you’re not stopping anything anyway,’ and that was it.”

THN Analytics: The statistical argument against fighting

Benjamin Wendorf
edmontonfight

As the debate over fighting continues, it certainly appears that the anti-fighting crowd has gained the upper hand.

While the debate has often been framed around a series of defenses for fighting, including the concepts of providing a boost, deterring harm against a team, and the idea that you’ll lose fans if you phase fighting out of the game, all of these issues can be addressed by looking into statistical evidence. I also think there’s a fourth point that hasn’t really been discussed: the difference between employing a fighter that can’t play the game particularly well, and a regular 4th liner. Let’s take a look at these arguments point-by-point: Read more

American League issues rule change after goaltender’s 2-on-0 antics

Jared Clinton
Leggio Overhead

American League goaltender David Leggio will now forever be remembered for the creation of what we can now call, “The Leggio Rule.”

On Sunday, Nov. 2, in a game in which Leggio’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers took on the visiting Springfield Falcons, a mishandled breakout turned into a shorthanded 2-on-0 attempt for the Falcons. Leggio, ever the quick thinker, took it into his own hands to nullify the attempt: Read more

Blackhawks depth will be challenged as Patrick Sharp goes down with injury

Jared Clinton
Patrick Sharp (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Just when it looked like things were starting to click for the Chicago Blackhawks, it seems as though the team will be without Patrick Sharp for an extended period of time.

On Tuesday night, the Blackhawks went into the Bell Centre, a building in which they hadn’t won in over a decade, and defeated the Canadiens 5-0. The win, however, didn’t come without paying a certain price. Midway through the third period, with the game well in hand for Chicago, Sharp took a seemingly innocuous hit from Alexei Emelin and could not get back to his feet. Read more

New AHL overtime rules letting hockey, not shootouts, decide games

Stu Hackel
Hershey Bears Hockey

Shootouts: Some hate them, others love them. But in recent seasons — with well over half the games that go beyond regulation also going to the skills competition — GMs started lamenting that too few contests were decided by actually playing hockey.

It’s been four years since Red Wings GM Ken Holland first proposed a longer overtime, one that would add a short 3-on-3 session if no one scored in the 4-on-4 OT. But he’s never been able to muster enough support among his fellow GMs for that change. Read more