Is it fair to compare the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl to the Kings’ Anze Kopitar?

Ryan Kennedy
Leon Draisaitl (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Player comparisons are fraught with peril, especially when teenagers who have yet to see their first NHL shifts are part of the equation. On top of the age gap, there’s also a hype factor because it’s much more fun to say a smaller skilled player is the next Patrick Kane versus the next Steve Sullivan or David Desharnais, no matter which is most accurate. But when scouts saw Leon Draisaitl play for the Western League’s Prince Albert Raiders this past season, names such as Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar came up. Keep the latter in mind, because there’s more than just one similarity between the stupendous Los Angeles Kings pivot and the growing Raiders teenager.

When the Edmonton Oilers tabbed Draisaitl with the third selection overall at the draft, they made him the highest German pick ever. Not that it was a long list, but Germany has produced a decent amount of NHLers, from Marcel Goc (the former record holder, who went 20th in 2001) to Christian Ehrhoff and Jochen Hecht. But none of those players lacerated the landschaft the way Draisaitl did. As a 15-year-old in Germany, he put up a staggering 97 goals and 192 points in (wait for it) just 29 games. He kept the same six-points-per-game pace up in the playoffs. And keep in mind, that’s not as fun as it sounds when you’re serious about your sport.

“It was never easy,” Draisaitl says. “It’s not easy to get ready for those kinds of games when you know you’re going to score a lot of goals. It’s not easy to concentrate when you know it will be a high-scoring game. I just wanted to get better every game and work hard.”
Read more

Top 10 Art Ross Trophy candidates for 2014-15

John Tavares. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

In the 21 seasons between 1980-81 and 2000-01, a total of three players won the NHL scoring championship. Perhaps you’ve heard of them – Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

In the 12 seasons since then, nine players have won it and nobody has taken home the Art Ross Trophy in successive seasons. We at thn.com predict that trend to continue. And if our crystal ball isn’t defective, there will be another first-time winner this season.

With that in mind, here are our top 10 choices for the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15, in descending order. Read more

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:

Read more

Rumor Roundup: Bruins face excruciating Johnny Boychuk trade decision

Johnny Boychuk and local rescue dog Kona (Steve Babineau/Getty Images)

As NHL training camps open, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks still remain above the $69 million salary cap. Questions persist over how they’ll address the issue.

The Blackhawks must shed more than $2.2 million to become cap compliant before the season begins in October. For months it’s been speculated defenseman Johnny Oduya ($3.38-million cap hit) or fellow blueliner Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) could be moved in a cost-cutting trade.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes Leddy could be odd man out, citing the $3.4 million it’ll take to qualify his rights next summer. He speculates the Blackhawks could prefer keeping the defense pairing of Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson intact for a Stanley Cup run this season.

CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers notes Michal Rozsival ($2.2 million) will also be eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. Given his age (36) and injury history, Myers doesn’t expect much interest in Rozsival from rival teams. Read more

Top 10 trade candidates for 2014-15

Cody Franson. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Martin St-Louis, Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo: these were some of the big names who were traded during the 2013-14 season. Who is in the cross-hairs this season? We look at 10 trade candidates who could move because of their contract situation, or because their team decides it’s time to go in a different direction.

Cody Franson
Franson has signed three consecutive one-year extensions with the Maple Leafs, but this time he’ll be a UFA when his contract expires at the end of this season and, at 27, he’s in prime position to score a big deal. The 6-foot-5, 213-pound blueliner will surely be looking for a real commitment from the team this time and if he doesn’t get it, the Maple Leafs will have to trade him by the deadline. He’s an important part of Toronto’s (bad) defense and an extension would likely make him the second-highest paid player on Toronto’s blueline. But does management believe he’s worth that long-term investment when they’ve already put down on Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner? If not, they’ll be looking to get something for him. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Edmonton Oilers

The Hockey News
The Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 29-44-9

Acquisitions: Mark Fayne, Benoit Pouliot, Keith Aulie, Teddy Purcell, Nikita Nikitin

Departures: Ben Eager, Taylor Fedun, Sam Gagner, Denis Grebeshkov, Anton Belov

Top five fantasy players: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron, Justin Schultz

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: One of these years, it’s all going to come together for Edmonton’s skilled kiddie corps of first-overall picks. For that to happen, the Oilers are going to need warrior-type efforts from the third and fourth lines, as well as more responsible two-way play from the top two lines. Read more

The top 10 players in line for bounce-back seasons

Henrik Sedin and some reporter (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Even the best players in the world can have slumps and it’s not fun when it happens to your favorite. But with every fresh campaign there is hope for renewal and as we approach the 2014-15 installment of NHL hockey, some players may be a little more eager than others, since last season was such a downer.

Here’s a look at 10 players who are primed for bounce-back seasons:

Read more

Rumor Roundup: Would a Boychuk-Yakupov trade solve two problems?

Johnny Boychuk (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins need to shed salary and address their logjam on defense remains a hot topic in this summer’s NHL rumor mill.

Much of the speculation centers on Johnny Boychuk, who will be eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. The 30-year-old blueliner will earn $3.6 million this season, while his cap hit is more than $3.3 million. Brooks Orpik signed a five-year deal this summer with the Washington Capitals worth $5.5-million annually and Boychuk could seek a comparable salary.

If Boychuk becomes a UFA, the Edmonton Oilers could be very interested in his services. He’s an Edmonton native with a strong all-around skill set that would benefit the Oilers’ rebuilding defense corps.

Boychuk, however, told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson his preference is to remain with the Bruins, calling them “my hockey family.” Considering the Bruins remain a legitimate Stanley Cup contender three years after their last championship, his reluctance to leave Boston is understandable. His future with the Bruins, however, will depend upon their cap space beyond this season. Read more