CHL playoffs and the NCAA Frozen Four tournament kick off this week, so it’s a big time for prospect evaluation. But there is also a lot of change in the air, starting at the University of Wisconsin, where long-time coach Mike Eaves was given his walking papers after two straight disastrous seasons. Recruiting and retention was an issue, as the Badgers could have had Brock Boeser (VAN), Luke Opilka (STL) and Jack Dougherty (NSH) in their lineup this year, but lost all of them. It’s been a rough ride in Madison, but I’m sure Eaves will land on his feet. Elsewhere, Pittsburgh signed scorer Jake Guentzel once his season with Nebraska-Omaha was finished and there’s rampant speculation about another NCAA product’s future plans that I’ll mention below. Let’s take a spin around the world of prospects again:
Following a failed holdout attempt to force a trade prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline, left winger Jonathan Drouin is back with the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate. Drouin, 20, received permission last week from Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to return to the Crunch. He picked up an assist in a 5-2 win over Bridgeport last Friday, marking the first time he’s seen game action in nearly two months.
With the trade deadline passed and Yzerman willing to wait until the off-season to move him, Drouin had no choice but to return to the Crunch. Remaining on the sidelines for the rest of the season would only further damage his reputation and trade value.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have a three-day break before their next game, but that layoff could be even longer for defenseman Dalton Prout.
In a Sunday afternoon tilt between the Blue Jackets and Lightning, Prout earned himself a two-minute minor for roughing and 10-minute misconduct for a punch he delivered to Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov, but that might not have been enough punishment for the 25-year-old rearguard, especially considering Kucherov had to leave the game.
The punch from Prout to Kucherov came in the second period after a scrum that started when Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno knocked down Lightning netminder Ben Bishop. Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Sustr started a scrum with Foligno, Kucherov got involved and Prout came all the way in from the blueline to get into the mix: Read more
So 44 days and 19 games after the Dennis Wideman Affair began, we’re where most observers predicted we would be – with Wideman being hit with a 10-game suspension for abusing an official.
And nobody is particularly happy with this. The NHL, which originally mandated a 20-game suspension that was upheld in an appeal to the commissioner, said in a statement, “We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate.” That’s code for, “Don’t be surprised to see this thing end up in court.”
The NHL season is winding down, with just about four weeks of regular-season games remaining. There is still much to be determined in the standings, but as winter turns to spring it’s hard not to look ahead to the playoffs.
But the end of the season means it’s also time to look back. We at The Hockey News make a lot of predictions during the summer and fall before the season begins. Sometimes they’re solid, sometimes they’re way off.
These are our worst pre-season predictions:
When this season finally draws to a close, the Calgary Flames will likely be in the market for goaltending depth. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are both eligible for UFA status this summer and aren’t expected to be re-signed.
Promising Joni Ortio will get a shot at forming part of the Flames tandem next season, but they’ll still need an experienced NHL starter. Options via the trade market could include Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.
If the Flames look toward free agency, the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis believes San Jose Sharks backup James Reimer could be a good fit. Francis cites the 27-year-old Reimer’s experience as a starting goalie with the Toronto Maple Leafs as reason for the Flames to consider him.
What did Boone Jenner have to do to earn a long-term commitment from GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Columbus Blue Jackets?
He’s 22 years old. He scored 16 goals two seasons ago as a rookie. After a broken hand and stress fracture in his back limited him to just 31 games last season, he’s played every game this year, netting 22 goals, second on the team to Brandon Saad’s 24. Jenner ranks 13th among NHL forwards in hits, and Alex Ovechkin is the only man among the 12 players above Jenner with more goals this season. He delivered three goals and five points in six games in his lone tour of playoff duty with Columbus two springs ago. His 82-game averages: 23 goals and 40 points. Did I mention he’s 22?
Seth Jones has just sat down to dinner in Nashville when his phone rings. It’s Predators GM David Poile on the line. Jones has no idea why he’s being summoned. Little does he know, he’ll board a flight to a new home two hours from now.
Ryan Johansen knows exactly what’s happening when his phone rings in Columbus. So does his girlfriend, Madison. They look at each other. “I think it’s done,” he tells her.
Johansen heads to Nationwide Arena, two blocks from his apartment. Waiting for him are GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the rest of the Columbus Blue Jackets management team. The event every rumor mill, television panel and podcast predicted over the past few months is now a reality. Johansen has been traded.