The Hot List: Banned in Minnesota, thriving in Vancouver

Vancouver's Alec Baer  (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

With NCAA hockey officially in full swing, there is action aplenty to watch for in the prospect world. Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Erie’s Connor McDavid already seem to have a fantastic game of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better going on, but who else should you be watching this season? Here are some of the other names making noise right now.

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Budding Swede Ludwig Bystrom headlines The Hot List

Ludwig Bystrom (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

With NHL rosters set, we will soon say goodbye to some Hot List favorites. Since as soon as players such as Curtis Lazar in Ottawa and Anthony Duclair of the Rangers make their big-time debuts, they will be considered graduates here. But while those players make their dreams come true, others are still on the path, so let’s take a look at some of the prospects making noise around the world right now.

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Guess what happens when Nathan MacKinnon races an Olympic speed skater

Ryan Kennedy
Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon is a fast dude. He has already made countless defensemen look silly with his skating prowess and promises to do more of the same in his sophomore season, but just how fast is he?

In a video produced by CCM (MacKinnon endorses their line of Tacks skates and wears them in the clip), the Avs pivot takes on Canadian Olympic speed skater Charles Hamelin, who has two golds and a silver medal to his name. The result? See for yourself:

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Fancy stats: Is Colorado playing with fire?

Ryan Kennedy
Avs hero Semyon Varlamov (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy has proven that throughout his career, from winning the Stanley Cup as a rookie goaltender to winning the Jack Adams Award as a rookie NHL bench boss last season (and let’s not forget all those overtime games he won en route to the 1993 Cup).

But with Roy and Avalanche GM Joe Sakic coming out against advanced stats in a recent article by Nick Cotsonika, could it be that the golden boys are about to get tarnished?

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The top 10 goalies most likely to have a down year

Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

No one has ever understood goaltenders. From Hall of Fame puker Glenn Hall to wall-kicking Josh Harding, they’re a breed apart and considering the dangerous occupation they chose, perhaps they can be forgiven for their eccentricities. Recently, it’s been very difficult to figure out who will dominate the Vezina Trophy race. But with some help from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, here’s a look at 10 goalies who might have down years. Quality Starts percentage refers to games in which a goalie had a .917 save percentage when facing more than 20 shots (.885 when facing 20 shots or less). Vollman averaged out the past three seasons to get his results.

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The top 10 fighters to watch this season

Brian McGrattan and Patrick Bordeleau (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you like a good scrap, you might find yourself a bit under siege lately in the hockey world. Regulations are tightening up, though the powers-that-be still maintain that organic fights, rather than staged bouts, are still part of the game. And even though enforcers such as Paul Bissonnette and Colton Orr appear to have uphill battles in returning to the NHL this season, there are still plenty of scrappers to watch. With a shout-out to hockeyfights.com as a research tool, here are the best:

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10 RFAs who missed training camp and how their disputes were resolved

Jamie Benn (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Ryan Johansen’s contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets are…contentious. Yesterday started with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen drawing a line in the sand by insinuating the start of training camp as a cut off point. Later on, team president John Davidson took aim at Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt by saying the numbers he was throwing out made no sense and were embarrassing.

This sounds like it could be one of the bigger RFA battles the NHL has had in recent years, but there’s still a little time before training camps open. And it’s not like it would be the first time a player has missed the start of training camp with a contract dispute.

It actually used to happen a lot more in the NHL. In the 1990s, it was a regular, yearly thing most teams would have to deal with at one point or another. The only great leverage an RFA without arbitration rights has is to stay home and make the team sweat. It maybe doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the Johansen situation is hardly unique to the NHL today. Heck, Torey Krug, Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Eakin are going through their own, less-publicized negotiations right now too.

We take a look at some of the more recent RFAs who missed all or a portion of training camp over a contract dispute and what the outcome was. We didn’t want to look too far back at every situation because market conditions have changed, especially when looking back past the 2004-05 lockout. Anything before then is basically no influence on Johansen’s situation. Just don’t call these guys holdouts.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Prior to last season, Stepan missed 16 days of training camp before settling on a bridge deal with the Rangers. Stepan ended up signing a two-year deal that has a $3.075 million salary cap charge. Read more

Semyon Varlamov’s controversial t-shirt another instance of NHLers running from their own convictions

Adam Proteau
Semyon Varlamov (Instagram)

T-shirts are like opinions: everyone thinks theirs is the best until they bring them out into the sunlight to be judged by everyone else. Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov probably thought so when he wore a shirt in Denver this weekend featuring Russian president Vladimir Putin and the phrase “Crimea Is Ours” on it.

Almost immediately, Varlamov pulled the picture off his Instagram account, because people were laying into him for condoning a contentious political development that’s far from settled. But he really has nobody to blame for himself for whatever blowback has come (and will come) his way.

Consider this paragraph the standard disclaimer for all you staunch libertarians out there currently typing up an impassioned “hey pal, he’s got the right to wear whatever shirt he wants!” email, comment or tweet on your word processing machine. Nobody’s suggesting Varlamov doesn’t have the right to send whatever message he pleases – and that goes for whether he’s wearing that message on his chest or if he followed the lead of people renting airplanes to fly banners over football stadiums this past weekend. We live in a free and open society and people are welcome to express opinions they believe in.

But, just as Tim Thomas found out a couple of years ago, making public statements on controversial issues carries with it a responsibility to defend your stance and to be judged by people in return. Read more