Once again, Team USA has won the world under-18s thanks to a roster made up almost entirely of NTDP kids. Though one interesting takeaway from the tourney was goaltending. The Americans went with underager Evan Sarthou of WHL Tri-City, while Canada had a tandem of underagers in Moose Jaw’s Zach Sawchenko and Saginaw’s Evan Cormier. Sure, 2015 looks like a thin goalie draft, but this was a pretty interesting trend. With that point behind us, let’s look at some of the other prospects making noise in the hockey world right now.
Spoiler alert: The Buffalo Sabres will win tonight’s NHL draft lottery with the numbers 11, 5, 6 and 7. Your trusty correspondent knows this because he went to this really cool website that simulates the NHL draft lottery and it told him so.
Then he did it 99 more times because, like a certain potato chip, you can’t do it only once. The website, http://nhllotterysimulator.com/#/official, took on a new life on Friday when the NHL made public the lottery number combinations for each of the 14 teams in the event. Suddenly, fans everywhere could, with the click of a keyboard, determine where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will end up next season. Read more
It’s amazing how things will change by Saturday night. Connor McDavid will know which NHL team he will belong to. The McDavid parents will know in which city their son’s adult life will begin to unfold and flourish. Vendors will go crazy preparing McDavid jerseys, signs and apparel.
(And make no mistake, McDavid will be the first overall selection in the June 26-27 NHL draft in Sunrise, Florida. There will be zero drama with that pick.)
The NHL’s draft lottery will be televised Saturday night at 8 pm. The proceedings will begin about 7:30, but the drawing of lottery balls will take place about a half hour later. McDavid’s most likely destination is a city other than Buffalo, but Buffalo has the best odds of all the 14 non-playoff teams. Here’s how it works.
Columbus fans won’t get to see a home playoff game this month, but they did get to witness a franchise record-tying point streak in the Blue Jackets’ last home game of the season.
The Jackets dropped the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 in Columbus Friday to extend their current streak to 12 games (11-0-1), while improving their awful home record to 19-20-2 to end the year.
Watching the NHL’s action play out Thursday night was kind of like covering a political election and seeing the polls come in and herald a new leader for a new era. In one polling station, you had the Boston Bruins – the league’s top regular-season team last year – falling to the Florida Panthers and putting their playoff fate in the hands of the surging Ottawa Senators and wobbly Pittsburgh Penguins (who, like the Bruins, won a Stanley Cup not too long ago); In another station, you saw the Calgary Flames hold off the desperate Los Angeles Kings and register a 3-1 win, eliminating the defending Cup champions from the post-season and securing a playoff berth for the Winnipeg Jets.
Change was everywhere, and more change could be coming. Depending on what happens Friday and Saturday, the Eastern Conference playoff picture could have three teams (the Sens, Capitals and Islanders) who weren’t in the 2014 post-season, and the Western Conference will have four teams (Vancouver, Nashville, Calgary and Winnipeg) in this year’s playoffs who weren’t there last year. A 43.75 percent playoff turnover rate is one thing, but it’s not just the fact there are potentially seven new post-season teams this year that’s so intriguing; it’s the great distance teams are falling that has NHL executives clenching their teeth and always worrying about what’s ahead. Read more
Entering play Wednesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets had players miss 499 games this season, according to Man Games Lost. As they took the ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the counter officially turned over to the half-millenium mark, which is the most of any team in the NHL this season.
But even in a 5-0 victory over Toronto, and in the midst of one of the hottest — yet ultimately ill-timed — streaks of the season in which the Blue Jackets have gone 13-1-1 in their last 15 games, yet another injury struck. This time, it was to Cam Atkinson, one of the few players who has been able to suit up for 70-plus games for Columbus this year.
As the Blue Jackets leapt over the bench to go congratulate goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky on his shutout, the skate of teammate Alex Wennberg sliced Atkinson’s wrist, reported the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline. The clip below shows when the injury occurred, but, thankfully, does not show the severity: Read more
Leading up to the recent NHL trade deadline, the biggest rumor making the rounds claimed the Detroit Red Wings were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. While trade talks between the two clubs ultimately fell through, speculation persists suggesting the Wings could revisit their interest in the 29-year-old Phaneuf during the off-season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes Red Wings director of pro scouting Mark Howe took in a recent game between the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. As the Wings completed their respective season series with both clubs weeks ago, Friedman facetiously wondered which player Howe was scouting.
If the Wings remain keen to land Phaneuf, they must ensure not to use up too much cap space for future use. They currently have over $53 million invested in their 2015-16 cap payroll, but Friedman points out they have several key players to re-sign. Notables include Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith this summer, plus Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Petr Mrazek in 2016.
Phaneuf has another six seasons at $7-million annually remaining on his contract. If the Wings want him, they must convince the Leafs to pick up part of his salary or accept a toxic contract in return like center Stephen Weiss, who has three years at $4.9-million per season left on his deal.
BLUE JACKETS WANT TO BOLSTER BLUELINE
The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t have fond memories of 2014-15. Having reached the playoffs last year for only the second time in franchise history, the Jackets followed up by finishing well out of contention this season.
Injuries were largely to blame. As of Apr. 7, Man Games Lost indicates the Jackets led the league in man games lost to injury with 499. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, defensmen Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray along with forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert were among the notables to miss considerable time.
While the Jackets front office expressed disappointment in how the season unfolded, they don’t intend on a major roster shakeup this summer. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports team president John Davidson said management will try to improve the lineup, “but we’re not going to tear it down to improve it.”
Prior to Davidson’s comments, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said he’d like to add more depth to his blueline. Given the amount of players the Jackets have under contract next season and with the prospects within their system, Kekalainen said he wants to ensure his club has enough defensive depth going forward.
With over $61 million already invested in cap payroll for 2015-16 and all his core players under contract, Kekalainen has some room to add an experienced and affordable blueliner via free agency. St. Louis’ Zbynek Michalek and Barret Jackman, Detroit’s Marek Zidlicky, Chicago’s Johnny Oduya, Montreal’s Jeff Petry and perhaps Nashville’s Cody Franson could be among the options.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but don’t tell goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky that. Monday night he made a pad to rob New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi of a game-tying goal with less than a minute left, and it was a beauty.
With the Rangers pressing and their net empty, Girardi pinched down and found himself stationed right in from of the Blue Jackets’ net. The puck was worked back to the Rangers blueline and was fired on goal while on edge, causing it to flutter down to the stick of Derick Brassard. Brassard then made a no-look pass between his legs and onto Girardi’s tape, and then Girardi was absolutely robbed by Bobrovsky’s left pad: Read more