Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

Sergei Bobrovsky goes post-to-post for outstanding toe save

Jared Clinton
Sergei Bobrovsky (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

After having outstanding seasons in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the current campaign has been one to forget for Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s been injured, the Blue Jackets have struggled and his numbers — a 2.78 goals-against average and .917 save percentage — are the worst they have been since he left Philadelphia in 2011-12.

However, no matter how bad a season, Bobrovsky may be able to hang his hat on the fact he can still makes saves few goaltenders in the league would dream of. Tuesday night against Anaheim, he made a post-to-post save that’s sure to be on end of season highlight shows. Watch the extension he makes when he slides across his crease and check out just how little of his body he uses to turn aside this Rickard Rakell attempt: Read more

NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.

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Army father returns from duty to surprise son during Blue Jackets game

Jared Clinton
Brayden McDaniel hugs father Haywood. (via NHL/YouTube)

Staff Sergeant Haywood McDaniel has been serving with the United States Army in Cuba for the past year, but made a special return home Sunday night to surprise his son Brayden during the Blue Jackets outing against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The surprise came during the first intermission following a youth hockey game in which Brayden was named the MVP of the game. While sitting on the bench and about to take part in a post-game interview, Brayden turned to his right and saw his dad standing there. Brayden’s jaw dropped before he hopped off the bench to give his father a hug: Read more

Columbus’ Marko Dano breaks ankles with inside-outside deke, sets up tap-in goal

Jared Clinton
Marko Dano (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Injuries have all but derailed Columbus’ 2014-15 season, but there’s still a glimmer of hope in the form of Blue Jackets rookie Marko Dano.

The 20-year-old Dano, drafted 27th overall by Columbus in 2013, has suited up in 23 games, but not once has he looked better than he did Sunday evening when he shook Carolina defender Michal Jordan with a deke that knocked him to the ice.

Midway through the second period, Dano came across the Hurricanes’ blueline and cut to the inside, causing Jordan, who was stride-for-stride with him, to pivot – or at least attempt to. As soon as Jordan made his move to keep position on Dano, the freshman pulled the puck the opposite direction and left Jordan watching. Dano then made a slick backhand pass to set up Scott Hartnell for a game-tying goal: Read more

A letter to myself: Scott Hartnell tells his rookie self to keep his head up – literally

Scott Hartnell (Nhan Chu/Allsport)

(For our Rookie Issue earlier this season, we ask Blue Jackets veteran and NHL fan favorite Scott Hartnell to provide some advice to himself 15 years ago when he entered the league as an 18-year-old rookie with the Nashville Predators. This is what he had to say…)

Hey Buddy:

Wow, that was some hit, wasn’t it? You’ll probably never skate through the neutral zone with your head down when Darren Langdon is on the ice again, right? In case you’re wondering where you are at the moment, you’re in Raleigh, N.C. Actually, you’re in an ambulance and, yeah, that’s your dad riding with you. Way to screw up the Dads’ Trip there, pal. Read more

Watch 11-year-old Jordyn Leopold talk about the letter that brought her dad home

Jared Clinton
Jordyn Leopold (via Minnesota Wild/Wild TV)

The best news item from trade deadline day, and inarguably the most heartwarming, was the story of a letter sent from the daughter of Jordan Leopold to the Wild coaching staff – one that asked if the team could, please, bring her dad back home to Minnesota.

In one of the final moves of the day, the Wild made young Jodryn’s wish come true when they acquired her father from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Justin Falk and a fifth round pick in the upcoming draft. What is now being called “The Letter” surfaced within hours of the trade’s announcement.

On the night her dad played his first game in Minnesota, Wild TV caught up with Jordyn to ask her about how her letter came to be and see what’s next for the 11-year-old. Read more

Newly-acquired Blue Jacket David Clarkson likely out rest of regular season after suffering torn oblique muscle

David Clarkson (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Only three games into his career as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, hard-luck left winger David Clarkson was sidelined 4-to-6 weeks – in other words, more than likely the rest of the regular season – with a torn oblique muscle.

Acquired Feb. 26 from Toronto for severely injured winger Nathan Horton, the 30-year-old Clarkson suffered the injury during his debut game with Columbus two days later and had been playing through the injury until he couldn’t continue during the Jackets’ 5-3 loss to the Capitals Tuesday. Read more