As we pause briefly from the Stanley Cup playoffs, let’s turn our eyes over to Europe for a second, where the World Championship is down to four teams. Canada plays the Czech Republic in one semifinal, while Russia and the United States renew hostilities on the other side of the bracket.
If Canada hopes to move on, they’ll have to stop an ageless icon. Meanwhile, the Russians will have their hands full with a powerful teenager.
Major junior playoffs have reached the final series, while the AHL post-season is well into the second round. An incredibly exciting 2014-15 campaign is nearing its end, so I’m opening up the Hot List a bit to younger prospects. Like those that came before them, they are the players you’ll want to know and that we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
The Oshawa Generals knew they had a tall task on their hands. Facing Erie in the OHL final, the Gens had to figure out a way to stop Otters superstar Connor McDavid, who came into Game 1 with a dizzying 42 points in 15 playoff games. At the end of the night, McDavid had been on the ice for more goals-against than goals-for and the Gens thrilled their fans with a 4-1 win.
If Game 1 was any indication, this series will be fought in both the trenches and the war rooms. Oshawa’s strategy for battening down McDavid was to have Vancouver Canucks prospect Cole Cassels on against the consensus No. 1 pick overall in the NHL draft this summer as much as possible.
One of the most vexing problems regarding the Memorial Cup is that the host teams haven’t been earning their spots lately. London, Shawinigan and Saskatoon all “backed in” to the CHL classic after bombing out early in their respective league playoffs.
So here’s a shout-out to the Quebec League, which already has its two bids sewn up this year thanks to a couple of elite teams who did what they were supposed to do.
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.
Thursday evening the NHL continued its week of rolling out the finalists for the major awards, as Calgary Flames left winger Johnny Gaudreau, Florida Panthers blueliner Aaron Ekblad and Ottawa Senators right winger Mark Stone were named finalists for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Late-season pushes by Gaudreau and Stone to shoot up through the rookie scoring race were enough to get them nods for the end-of-season hardware, while Ekblad’s stellar and often times outstanding play on the blueline for the Panthers had him as close to a lock for a nomination as a player could get. Surprisingly absent from the finalists, however, is Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg, who for much of the season led the scoring race and appeared to have the trophy wrapped up by the all-star break. Read more
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.