Prospect Need to Know: Max Lajoie has stepped up in Swift Current

Max Lajoie (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Boston College won its 20th Beanpot tournament in 64 years last night, with Minnesota prospect Alex Tuch firing a seeing-eye shot in overtime for the only goal in a 1-0 overtime win over archrival Boston University. On the international scene, two Five Nations tournaments kick off this week – Finland hosts the under-18s and the U.S. hosts the under-17s. Needless to say, these will be marquee events and a lot of good evaluations will come from there. Here’s a look at some of the other kids making noise in the prospect world right now:

Read more

Jury in civil suit awards Semyon Varlamov $126,000 in damages

Jared Clinton
Semyon Varlamov.(Getty Images)

Colorado Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov has been awarded $126,000 in damages by a jury following a trial in Denver District Court.

The civil suit was brought against Varlamov in October 2014 by his ex-girlfriend Evgeniya Vavrinyuk after domestic violence charges against the goaltender were dropped.

As part of the suit, Vavrinyuk alleged that Varlamov had “kicked, pummeled and dragged her by her hair following a Halloween party with the team in 2013,” according to The Denver Post. She also stated that Varlamov had abused her previously. Read more

Avalanche lose Brad Stuart ‘long-term’ after back surgery, could miss rest of season

Jared Clinton
Brad Stuart (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Given Colorado’s defensive depth, Avalanche GM Joe Sakic was already likely looking at potential options on the blueline, but his team’s need for defensive help may be more desperate than he thought as it appears Colorado will be without Brad Stuart for the foreseeable future.

The Avalanche announced Stuart has undergone back surgery and will be out of the lineup long-term. What exactly “long-term” means is up for debate, but coach Patrick Roy wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Stuart misses the remainder of the season. Already, the Avalanche have been without the 36-year-old defenseman since Nov. 10, and he has missed all but six games this season with back injures. Read more

Youngsters dazzle at the AHL’s All-Star skills competition

Eric Comrie (Photo by Graig Abel Collection/Getty Images)

While John Scott was being carried on the shoulders of his all-star teammates in Nashville (I can see the reports now: Joe Pavelski, day-to-day, hernia. Brent Burns, day-to-day, hernia…), the American League’s finest were having their skills competition at their all-star festivities in Syracuse. And there were some pretty nice performances for fans of a couple NHL franchises.

Read more

Canadiens’ Subban and Sharks’ Burns display breakaway flair

Brent Burns (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The breakaway challenge at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition was designed to get players to show off some personality, have a little fun and display some niffy moves.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, San Jose Sharks blueliner Brent Burns, Nashville Predators left winger James Neal and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene got the memo.

Subban won the fan-driven Twitter vote after he put on a No. 68 Florida Panthers jersey, a long-flowing mullet-esque wig and an old-school Jofa helmet. He completed his homage to future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr by giving the Jagr salute after he tucked a chance by Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.

His first attempt wasn’t too shabby either as he bounced the puck on his stick, kicked the disc behind his back and eventually batted it towards Rinne.

Burns’ most hilarious attempt came after he put on a mask of Star Wars character Chewbacca – a reference to his unruly facial hair. Burns skated in, ripped a slapshot past New Jersey Devils netminder Cory Schneider and raised his arms much like Chewie.

Neal got a little help from country music star Dierks Bentley, an appropriate linemate since the event was in the Music City. Neal set up Bentley on a 2-on-0 rush.

For his part, Duchene probably had the prettiest try. He cradled the puck back and forth with one hand on his stick. He also scored with one hand on his stick, using a between-the-legs move.

Stars, Kings, Panthers headline best of 2014-15 non-playoff teams

Tyler Seguin rises to fourth in the rankings. (Getty Images)

The NHL All-Star weekend mostly gives players and teams a reprieve from the rigors of a long, tough season.

But as soon as it ends Sunday evening, it’s back to reality.

That signals crunch time, especially for teams that were on the outside of the playoff picture last April.

Each team has between 29 and 35 games remaining – those at the top of the standings are probably feeling pretty confident about a return to the post-season, while those on the outside know the margin for error is minute.

Here’s a quick look at the non-playoff teams from 2014-15 that have greater than a 50 percent chance making the dance, courtesy of sportsclubstats.com. It’s worth noting that the first four on this list are in the top six overall in terms of likelihood of making the playoffs.

Dallas Stars – 31-14-5, 99.8 percent
Led by the dynamic all-star duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, the Stars are near locks to continue playing after the regular season ends. While they’ve cooled off since winning 19 of their first 24 games by the end of November, they remain second in the Central Division. The Stars are three points behind Chicago, but with three games in hand. They are the league’s highest-scoring team with 160 goals for.

Los Angeles Kings – 30-16-3, 99.6 percent
The 2014 Stanley Cup champions were squeezed out of the playoffs last season, allowing the Calgary Flames to sneak in as the Pacific Division’s third season. They’re not taking any chances in 2015-16. Darryl Sutter’s crew has been the class of the division for the entire way. Backed by a league-high 56 percent Corsi, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, Los Angeles holds a seven-point lead over second place San Jose.

Florida Panthers – 29-15-5, 99.1 percent
Only twice since the turn of the century has Florida reached the playoffs – in 2000 and 2012. Barring a massive late-season collapse, there will be one more appearance to add to that list. Buoyed by a recent 12-game winning streak, the Panthers sit atop the Atlantic Division with a five-point lead on their intrastate rivals, the 2015 Stanley Cup finalist Tampa Bay Lightning.

San Jose Sharks – 26-18-4, 94.2 percent
The Sharks missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003. That led to a coaching change. Peter DeBoer came in. Todd McLellan went out. The Sharks also have a new starting goaltender. They acquired Martin Jones in the hours before the NHL draft. The former Calgary Hitmen goalie is 23-13-3 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Boston Bruins – 26-18-5, 80.9 percent
Coach Claude Julien was said to be on the hot seat after the Bruins missed the playoffs last season. However, he survived and has guided Boston to the fourth seed in the Atlantic Division at the break. They’re holding down the first wild card position with a three-point advantage on Pittsburgh and New Jersey.

Colorado Avalanche – 27-22-3, 61.4 percent
Patrick Roy was the beneficiary of Semyon Varlamov’s .927 save percentage as well as some good luck when he had to pull him early in 2013-14. But the bubble burst and the Avalanche tumbled from first to last in the Central Division. Colorado won five of its final six games heading into the All-Star Game and sits fourth in the division. The first wild card spot is in the Avs’ possession, too.

AHL to stream All-Star Challenge for free — here are five players to watch

Mikko Rantanen (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Fans will be watching Nashville this weekend as the some of the world’s greatest players gather for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, but hockey fans looking to watch some great up-and-coming talent can tune into AHL’s skills competition Sunday and All-Star Challenge Monday.

The events, which will in large part mirror those of the NHL, will give fans the opportunity to see talents who could be breaking into the big league in a few season’s time. Best of all, there’s no reason not to be able to watch the game, either, as Canada’s Sportsnet and 25 regional networks in the United States will be carrying both Sunday’s skills competition and the mini-tournament Monday evening. And for fans without access, the league is offering a free stream of the All-Star Challenge. By going to AHLLive.com Monday evening, fans can access the broadcasts by entering in ‘ASC2016’ as a promotional code.

Unlike the NHL, which has gone full 3-on-3 for its All-Star Game, the AHL has decided to change the format up to increase action at the tail-end of the games. Four teams — one from each the Atlantic, North, Central and Pacific divisions — will play a six-game round-robin. Games will last nine minutes with play switching from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 at the midway mark of each game. The top two teams when round robin play concludes will square off in the final — a six-minute, 3-on-3 game.

The AHL all-star weekend has, in the past, featured players such as Patrice Bergeron, Logan Couture, Tyler Johnson, Gustav Nyquist, Tuukka Rask, Cory Schneider, Patrick Sharp and P.K. Subban, so if you need more reason to watch, it could be your chance at watching a few future NHL all-stars before they make their climb to the NHL. Read more

The Colorado Avalanche are in a perilous spot right now

Ryan Kennedy
Gabriel Landeskog (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

You would think that heading into the All-Star break in a playoff position would be enviable, but let’s look at precisely where the Colorado Avalanche are right now: smack in the middle of the most dangerous division in the league, the Central. Nashville is one point back with two games in hand, while Minnesota is two points back with three games in hand.

So how does GM Joe Sakic approach the trade deadline, which is basically a month away?

Read more