Connor McDavid is ready for his second season; is the captaincy part of it?

Ryan Kennedy
Connor McDavid (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

In a way, Connor McDavid delivered exactly as we thought he would as an NHL rookie: his sublime skill set and hockey mind propelled him to more than a point per game, making him one of Edmonton’s top scorers. But a shoulder injury deprived him of nearly half the season and perhaps the Calder Trophy. So we’ve seen McDavid, but we also know there is more to come. Entering his sophomore campaign, the Oilers phenom is feeling positive about his team’s chances.

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Five sophomores who could be in line for breakout seasons

Robby Fabbri (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)

There’s nothing worse than the dreaded sophomore slump, and there are several players who are going to be fighting against a down year after bursting onto the NHL scene this past season.

Take Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin for example. Each came in with significant amounts of hype — McDavid the phenom, Eichel the Hobey Baker winner and Panarin the Russian standout — and each delivered with stellar performances in their rookie seasons. Because of that, the upcoming campaign is going to be their chance to prove that the 2015-16 season was no fluke and that the production was a sign of things to come.

The same goes for defensive talents such as Colton Parayko and Shayne Gostisbehere. Parayko came in as a relative unknown and turned into a top-four defenseman for the St. Louis Blues and already looks to be a member of the core group that will lead the team forward. As for Gostisbehere, his high-scoring ways made him a sensation and Philadelphia Flyers fans can’t wait to see if he can do it all again.

But there are also several rookies who had good — not great — rookie campaigns and could take a major step forward this coming season. Here are five sophomore players in line for a breakout year in 2016-17: Read more

Edmonton Oilers hold huge advantage over Winnipeg Jets for Heritage Classic alumni game

Wayne Gretzky (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)

When the preliminary rosters were revealed for the Heritage Classic alumni game on Friday, it seemed like the Edmonton Oilers had the decisive edge over their Winnipeg Jets counterparts.

After all, the Oilers oldies are littered with stars from their 1980s heyday when they won four Stanley Cups in five years – and then added another in 1990.

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Wayne Gretzky rookie card sells for $465,000

Wayne Gretzky (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Wayne Gretzky hasn’t played a professional game this century but he’s still finding ways to set new records.

A 1979 O-Pee-Chee Gretzky rookie card sold for $465,000 (U.S.) to an anonymous buyer on Thursday, the Canadian Press reported. The purchase, made via auction at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., was a record for a hockey card.

According to authenticator PSA, the Gretzky card is one of the “most valuable modern-era trading cards in the market.” Although it appears rough around the edges, that’s the intended look of the card. The card is graded Mint 10 and is the “finest known copy.”

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Jets will wear great throwback jerseys at Heritage Classic, alumni rosters unveiled

Jared Clinton
Winnipeg Jets Heritage Classic jersey (via Winnipeg Jets)

Fans in Winnipeg clamored for True North Sports and Entertainment to bring back their beloved Jets and the ownership came through by naming the league’s newest team after the club that departed Manitoba’s capital in the mid-1990s. But with the Heritage Classic coming to Winnipeg in October 2016, the ownership group has gone one step further by bringing the team back in name and style, at least for the outdoor event.

The Jets and Edmonton Oilers officially unveiled their jerseys for the Heritage Classic at an event held in downtown Winnipeg Friday, and the jerseys for both teams will harken back to the heyday of the rivalry between the Jets and Oilers in the 1980s. Read more

Yes, Taylor Hall played his best against bad teams — but so does almost every player in the league

Dominik Luszczyszyn
Taylor Hall. (Getty Images)

The Taylor Hall trade has been controversial since the minute it was announced, and former Oilers teammate Oscar Klefbom has only added to it.

On Sunday, Klefbom made a comment to Ola Winther in an interview for HockeySverige.se that Hall’s best games were never against the best teams, but he was great against the weak ones. Naturally, the hockey community exploded after seeing the comments, forcing Klefbom to immediately back-pedal, saying that he meant everyone struggled against better teams, not just Hall.

The comments have blown over since then, but the question remains: did Hall actually play his best games against weaker teams?

Before answering that we need a way to measure single game performance. Points are fine, but they don’t capture everything and the same goes for Corsi or plus-minus which are heavily team dependent.

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Klefbom says comment about Hall struggling against tough teams was misunderstood

Jared Clinton
Oscar Klefbom (Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom caused a stir Sunday with a comment about now former-Oilers teammate Taylor Hall, but the 23-year-old blueliner said that his critique of Hall’s play against top teams wasn’t specifically targeted at the New Jersey Devils winger.

In an interview with HockeySverige.se’s Ola Winther, Klefbom was asked about the effects the Hall-for-Adam Larsson swap would have on the Oilers. Klefbom said the deal would immediately improve the Oilers’ situation on the back end, and added that while the team will miss what Hall can bring, his best games came against the lesser teams in the league.

“Taylor has been our best player in recent years,” Klefbom told Winther. “But it’s also hard to tell what he has contributed. He never played his best games against the tougher teams, which we really needed it. However, he was fantastic when we met the little inferior teams.”

It didn’t take long for Klefbom’s comments to catch the attention of the hockey world, but Klefbom has since said that his original remark was misunderstood and he meant that everyone — not just Hall — struggled when up against top competition. Read more

Tyson Barrie could be only arbitration case to go the distance

Ken Campbell
Tyson Barrie (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

If the Colorado Avalanche and defenseman Tyson Barrie don’t come to an agreement on a contract before Sunday 3 p.m., Barrie will represent the only one of 25 players in the arbitration process this summer whose case actually went the distance.

A total of 24 players, including Barrie, filed for arbitration, while the Detroit Red Wings took goalie Petr Mrazek to arbitration. The 24 other cases all ended in a contract resolution, the last of which was Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Martin Marincin, who was scheduled to have his hearing Monday. Marincin, however, signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs on Friday worth $1.25 million per season.

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