The next great two-way center? Colin White headlines The Hot List

Team USA's Colin White (Photo courtesy of Tom Sorensen/USA Hockey)

It was a glorious weekend of Michigan hockey for me, as I took a road trip to Ann Arbor to take in games featuring the National Team Development Program (NTDP) and University of Michigan. The NTDP got two wins over United States League opponents while the Wolverines capped off a weekend sweep of American International on Saturday. All three games gave me a great look at some top prospects and here are a few of them below, plus more kids we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day.

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Top five teams getting points from players making $1M or less

Jonathan Drouin, Johnny Gaudreau and Jason Garrison

In a salary capped NHL where every dollar spent on a superstar is one not spent on roster depth, it can be easy not to notice the rookies and journeymen making $1 million or less at the bottom of the pay scale. But those players can play a crucial role in their team’s success, supplying the offense of a much more expensive player while making pennies on the dollar.

Every general manager is working with the same salary range, but the savvy ones have found ways to acquire cheap secondary scorers who are more than worth their annual salary.

Oftentimes these bargains take the form of phenomenal rookies on entry-level deals, but other times they’re former stars taking a one-year deal to prove their worth, or career journeymen who are steady but unspectacular.

A look at the top teams getting points from their bargain players shows it’s not just the rebuilding teams who are buying points on a budget.

And in most cases, one spectacular scorer on an entry-level deal is not enough to elevate his team onto this list. For instance, Vladimir Tarasenko has 10 goals and 21 points for the St. Louis Blues on a contract that pays him $900,000 in base salary, but there are no other significant players on entry-level deals playing with him. The next-highest scorer on his team making six figures is Joakim Lindstrom and his three goals.

Los Angeles is buoyed by Tyler Toffoli (eight goals, 18 points on a $685,000 salary) and Tanner Pearson (seven goals, 10 points and $775,500 this year), along with million-dollar-man Jake Muzzin and his one goal and seven points. But the Kings haven’t used many young players beyond those three, and so they don’t have the production to crack the top five.

Here’s a look at the five teams getting the most point production out of their players making $1 million or less in salary this year.

Note that this is based on what players are making this year – not on their cap hits, which can be much higher than $1 million for entry-level players with bonuses in their contracts.
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Rumor Roundup: Colorado’s struggles could result in shake up for Avalanche core

Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche are currently struggling to recapture last season’s 52-win, 112-point performance. Entering this week, the Avs have won only four games while their 13 points in 16 games left them near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

It was a matter of time until their early difficulties sparked some trade speculation. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports it’s believed Avalanche GM Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy could shake things up if the club fails to get its act together soon. Read more

Take a look inside some of hockey’s finest fan caves

Jeff Libonati

Hockey fans are a special breed. So special, in fact, we dedicated an entire issue, appropriately dubbed the Fan Issue, entirely to the hockey fan. Be it cheering (or jeering) habits, your fantastic fan stories, or a little bit about the players you love the most, we wanted to give you the issue you’ve always wanted.

In return, we asked for one small thing: pictures of your fan cave – the place you go, decked out with all your favorite gear, to watch your team 82 times during the regular season as they work towards chasing hockey’s ultimate prize.

We received a number of submissions, but below you can find our favorites: Read more

Who’s for real – the Flames or the Predators?

Adam Proteau
Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Calgary and Nashville have some things in common: they’re the epicenters of their country’s country music scene; they’ve had Terry Crisp, Olli Jokinen and a defenseman named Suter working for their respective NHL team; and those two organizations currently are shocking the hockey world by being tied for third place in the Western Conference.

The expectations for the Flames and Predators were considerably different coming into the 2014-15 campaign: the latter made a slew of veteran additions on the ice and behind the bench in the hope of getting back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, while the former was in full-on rebuild mode. But with both off to such a strong start, the natural question is: which of the two will be ahead of the other in the standings by the end of the season?

My answer: the Predators. And here’s why.

For one thing, Norris Trophy-nominated defenseman Shea Weber. For another thing, Vezina Trophy-nominated goalie Pekka Rinne. Nothing personal against Mark Giordano or Jonas Hiller, both of whom are enjoying all-star-caliber seasons for the Flames, but neither Calgary player has elevated his game to be considered among the best of the very best. Until Giordano and Hiller demonstrate consistency at that level, it’s fair to give the benefit of the doubt to the team that has the two better players on its roster. 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

Calgary Flames’ bewildering run reminiscent of last season’s Avalanche

Jared Clinton
Johnny Gaudreau and Joe Colborne of the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Last season, the Colorado Avalanche went on an impeccable run. They won early, they won often, and they shocked pundits around the world by finishing atop the Central Division.

The entire time, however, the wild ride was clouded by statistical anomalies that said their pace couldn’t be maintained. With those anomalies now coming to roost – Colorado has lost 11 games this season – eyes have shifted the next great surprise: the Calgary Flames. Read more

Meet the Calgary Flames’ secret off-ice weapon

Ronnie Shuker
Ryan_Van_Asten

Talk about moving from the penthouse to the basement. And it’s not like Ryan van Asten was kicked out. This summer, he gave up all that Stanley Cup glory and great weather in Los Angeles to come to Calgary and take over a major fixer-upper in one of the most frigid climates on the NHL map.

Now, before you go thinking ‘What the f-bomb was he thinking?’ van Asten did have very good reasons for leaving sunny southern California after three seasons as the Kings’ strength and conditioning coach.

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