Why the AHL is becoming the new breeding ground for young Euros

Ryan Kennedy
David Pastrnak. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Czech Republic came into the 2015 world juniors with high expectations thanks to its deepest lineup in years. But glory wasn’t to be had.

The Czechs struggled throughout their stay in Toronto, and everything ended with a dispirited quarterfinal loss to a much more game underdog squad from Slovakia. One player who didn’t disappoint, however, was David Pastrnak, the Boston Bruins first-rounder who had been playing in the AHL.

Had his team gone further at the world juniors, Pastrnak would have garnered more consideration for the tourney’s all-star team because of his combination of talent and drive. But even in the midst of the event, he knew his time in the AHL had been valuable so far. “It’s definitely different hockey,” he said. “I try to do my best, but sometimes it doesn’t go well and you feel bad. I have to get better with everything. I’m not satisfied right now.” Read more

Bruins win Matt Beleskey sweepstakes – and trade Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes

Matt Larkin
Matt Beleskey (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins’ wild team turnover continued July 1, as GM Don Sweeney and president Cam Neely snagged the man plenty of insiders pegged as the top free agent forward on the market: Matt Beleskey, formerly of the Anaheim Ducks. Boston also traded wingers with the Florida Panthers, swapping Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes.

Beleskey, 27, is a rugged left winger who cut his teeth in the OHL and and has overachieved of late in the NHL. He earned every one of his 22 goals with hard work, and he’s a perfectly helpful complementary piece, but he’s not a natural scorer.

Sound familiar? Signing Beleskey carried the risk of signing the next David Clarkson. Beleskey has just one 20-goal season to his name. Clarkson had a Stanley Cup final and a 30-goal campaign when he signed his seven-year, $36.75-million contract. But the Beleskey money – five years and $19 million, meaning $3.8 million per – turned out to be fairly reasonable. It’s nowhere near Clarkson territory.

Read more

Bruins’ Maxime Talbot takes to Twitter to squash trade rumor

Jared Clinton
Maxime Talbot (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

In an age of instant communication and social media rumor mills, one single report can sometimes spiral out of control. That’s why Boston Bruins winger Maxime Talbot took it upon himself to make sure he cleared the air when it came to a rumor that he had requested a trade out of Beantown.

The rumor itself began shortly after the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers had swung a deal that saw Boston land checking-line left winger Zac Rinaldo in exchange for a third-round pick.

With Rinaldo coming into the Bruins lineup – he and Talbot can play similar roles, so it was believed that maybe this was the end of the line for the veteran Talbot – the rumor of a requested trade began. Some reports had the rumor beginning on a local Boston radio station and it continued to spread throughout Twitter. Just hours later, though, Talbot made sure to kill the buzz by taking to social media to deny the report. Read more

Bruins continue to baffle hockey world with Zac Rinaldo trade

Ryan Kennedy
Zac Rinaldo (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins are by far the most fascinating team in the NHL right now. If you’re a fan of the venerable franchise, I apologize: car-crash fascinating is a lot different than the good kind. But here we are.

Milan Lucic is gone, yet some of his salary remains. Dougie Hamilton has been traded for assets that may or may not ever play an NHL game. And now, Zac Rinaldo acquired from Philadelphia for a third-round selection in 2017.

Read more

Rumor Roundup: Blues’ Shattenkirk among surprising names in rumor mill

Kevin Shattenkirk (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Among the interesting rumors to emerge prior to the start of the 2015 NHL Draft weekend was the suggestion St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk could be available. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson noted the high payroll being taken up by Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester was behind the Shattenkirk speculation.

At the time, Matheson was wondering if the Blues could trade the 26-year-old Shattenkirk to the Edmonton Oilers for the 16th overall pick. That deal, of course, didn’t materialize, as the Oilers shipped that pick to the New York Islanders as part of a deal for young blueliner Griffin Reinhart. Still, Matheson’s conjecture could raise questions over Shattenkirk’s future with the Blues. Read more

Day 1 a great one for Buffalo, miserable one for Bruins

Dylan Strome, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. – Friday night will go down in history as the night Connor McDavid officially became a card-carrying member of the NHL fraternity and embarked on his career as the savior of the Edmonton Oilers. But that’s not all we’ll remember about the first night of the draft in 2015.

We may all look back at this night 10 years from now and identify it as the precise moment in time when two seismic events occurred. The first one is the ascension of the Buffalo Sabres into respectability. And the second is we may very well point to June 26, 2015 as the day the Boston Bruins began their downward spiral into mediocrity. Or worse.

Read more

Winners and losers after the first round of the draft

Noah Hanifin (photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SUNRISE – The start of the draft went 1-2-3 as expected, but as the first round got deeper, things veered in surprising directions. Who were the winners and losers on the night? I didn’t count Edmonton and Buffalo, since we always knew they’d have a good night. Otherwise, here’s how I saw things go down:

Winners

Carolina

My intel was that Noah Hanifin was not going to fall past Carolina at No. 5 and sure enough, the Canes pounced on the exceptional defenseman when Toronto passed on his services. Hanifin had an amazing second half at Boston College and should he return, he’ll be the cornerstone of the Eagles.

Russians

The first big shock of the draft came when Dallas tabbed right winger Denis Gurianov with the 12th pick. Though the ‘Russian Factor’ may still be a thing for some franchises (Columbus, for example), Stars GM Jim Nill has not been afraid to take Russians who played back home during his tenure. After all, Valeri Nichushkin was his first-ever pick.

“I’m not too worried about him going back to Russia,” Nill said. “He’s going back there next year, we knew that all along. But we’re looking for the best player available three, four years down the road and we’re comfortable that he’s going to come over and play for us.”

Another Russian with KHL ties, goalie Ilya Samsonov, went to Washington. Thanks to Alex Ovechkin, the Caps have been a mecca for talented young Russians for years and in Samsonov the Caps landed the most highly-rated netminder in the draft class.

Add in CHLers Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia) and Evgeny Svechnikov (Detroit) and you have the most Russian first rounders since 2004, when Ovie and Evgeny Malkin headlined the festivities.

The NCAA

The college ranks set a new standard with three first-rounders in the top eight picks thanks to Hanifin, Jack Eichel (Buffalo) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). It was a grand year for NCAA hockey and this first round was the capper. Miami-bound Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) was a nice surprise too, as he was seen as a borderline first-rounder.

Ottawa

The Sens, who already have a great young roster, added a smart, slick-skating defenseman in Thomas Chabot and then a fast two-way/shutdown center in Colin White. Ottawa will be very tough to beat in a couple years if these kids shake out the way they are projected.

Losers

Small Guys

Once again this year, scouts sang the praises of players in the 5-foot-10 range, but couldn’t convince their bosses to pull the trigger early. While I didn’t expect Travis Konecny or Nick Merkley to go in the top 12, I thought one or both would go in the top 20. As it turned out, Konecny went 24th to Philly, while Merkley lasted until No. 30 when Arizona scooped him up.

“Obviously there were only a few guys 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11, and you get nervous about that,” Merkley said. “You just take it as it is and enjoy the moment.”

On the bright side, 5-foot-10 Anthony Beauvillier was a surprise first-rounder when the Islanders traded up to grab him 28th.

Boston

I don’t mean to pile on, but from an outsider’s view, the Bruins panicked tonight. Certainly when they acquired picks from Los Angeles and Calgary, they didn’t intend to use all three of their selections (which came 13, 14 and 15). But no trade emerged and the Bruins took two players they could have gotten later while passing on immense talents still on the board. Why didn’t they grab White, a Massachusetts product, or Kyle Connor, a future No. 1 center? Or, incredibly, Matt Barzal, who slipped to the Isles one pick later?