Rapid Fire: with Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman

The Hockey News
Victor Hedman. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

With Ryan Kennedy

Who was your role model growing up?

Nick Lidstrom was a big role model, but I wouldn’t say we play the same game. I like the way Ray Bourque played. I liked guys who skated with the puck, like Paul Coffey.

Why do you wear No. 77?

That was Ray Bourque. I watched a lot of Colorado growing up, with Peter Forsberg. Joe Sakic gave Bourque the Cup right away, and I thought that was pretty neat. I was No. 41 back home, but that was taken by Mike Smith in Tampa, so No. 77 came to mind pretty quickly.

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Hired Guns: South Korea has loaded up on Canadian hockey talent ahead of hosting the 2018 Olympics

The Hockey News
Matt Dalton, Eric Reagan, Mike Testwuide, and Brock Radunske. (Jo Turner)

BY DAVE HAZZAN

It’s Saturday evening in the Seoul suburb of Anyang, and life is proceeding apace. Couples are canoodling in the cafes, groups of older men are getting drunk at the barbecue restaurants and families are glued to that evening’s episode of I Have a Lover on Korean television.

Yet at Anyang Ice Arena, Goyang High1 have just upset Anyang Halla 4-2, finishing with a shorthanded empty-netter, six seconds before the end of the game. It’s High1’s first win in 10 games and Anyang’s first home loss in 18. It wasn’t supposed to happen his way, and the home fans are incandescent, screaming, booing and slagging off that cross-cultural punching bag, the referee.

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John Chayka will use more than just numbers to try to turn the Coyotes into Cup contenders

Ken Campbell
John Chayka. (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

By the time John Chayka was born in the summer of 1989, David Poile had been a GM in the NHL for seven seasons. Lou Lamoriello was two years into his job as the president and GM of the New Jersey Devils, and Ken Holland was a western Canada scout for the Detroit Red Wings. And Jim Rutherford had already been named the executive of the year – in the OHL.

As the youngest GM in NHL history – the youngest in the history of any professional sport, according to the Arizona Coyotes – Chayka will soon be talking trades and wheeling and dealing with men who were plying their trades since before he was born. How well he does will be a referendum on the analytics industry.

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Rapid Fire: with Blue Jackets left winger Nick Foligno

Nick Foligno and Sergei Bobrovsky. (Getty Images)

With Matt Larkin

Why do you wear No. 71?

It was given to me when I first got to camp in Ottawa (as a Senator). The trainers thought it would be funny, because that’s what number my dad (Mike Foligno) wore. I don’t think they realized I was just was just happy to be there, so I didn’t care what number I was going to wear (laughs).

Whom do you model your game after?

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to model my game after him, but Peter Forsberg, besides my dad, was my idol growing up. He was a guy I was lucky enough to get to know a little bit when my dad was coaching in Colorado, too. He was an outstanding player in terms of how physically he played the game and how good he was, too. He was someone I looked up to big-time.

What was your favorite team growing up?

Usually it was whatever team my dad was playing for or coaching, and it was always the Avalanche after that, because of Peter Forsberg.

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The Top 10 GMs in the NHL

Ryan Kennedy
Steve Yzerman. (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Fantasy drafts consist of choosing players, but what if you had the No. 1 pick in a GM pool? It’s a pretty important position, one we may see Las Vegas filling in the near future. Who is the best of the bunch? We surveyed a cross-section of agents (who deal with GMs and their staffs on a frequent basis) and prominent reporters to get the answer.

The two criteria: (a) best in terms of talent evaluation, trade savvy and salary-cap savvy; and (b) smartest rebuild. That way, we didn’t just get 10 GMs whose teams happen to be doing well. And to continue the theme of constant vigilance, we’ve also included a projection of who each GM’s top center, D-man and goalie will be in three years. Those “Down the Middle” depth chart positions are the most crucial in the NHL. Note that even some of the best GMs have work to do there. You will also find each GM’s most savvy recent move and one he’d probably like to have back.

*NOTE: This feature originally appeared in the June 20 edition of The Hockey News magazine. It has been updated but does not take into account any of the July 1 signings

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Decision Day looms for Kyle Okposo, now the most sought after free agent of 2016

Ken Campbell
Kyle Okposo. (Graig Abel/NHLI  via Getty Images)

Practice has been over for a half an hour, and the dressing room is largely empty. Most of the New York Islanders have already showered and changed into their civvies, strictly adhering to the NHL off-day dress code of sweat pants and backward ball caps. Some are already on their way out of the rink. A lot of them take the Long Island Rail Road home from the team’s practice facility in Syosset, N.Y., and it’s on a schedule. Welcome to the real world, fellas.

As the dressing room empties, Kyle Okposo remains slumped in his stall, still in full equipment, save for the Islanders cap replacing his helmet. His legs are splayed, his fingers intertwined as they rest on his chest. He’s in no rush to move along. In fact, he looks as though he’s getting ready to go out and take another twirl. Perhaps it’s because he has a two-year-old and a newborn at home and realizes the chaos that awaits him. Or it could be that this is where he feels most comfortable. He speaks easily and relaxed, not the least bit ill at ease or scripted. Finally, a member of the training staff stands in front of him with the bin full of practice sweaters, hoping he’ll take the hint. “Oh, sorry,” Okposo says, peeling off his sweater. “I’m kind of in La-La Land here.”

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Auston Matthews: From the Arizona desert to the Center of the Hockey Universe

Ryan Kennedy
Auston Matthews. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Surely, the Matthews residence in Scottsdale, Arizona is a lovely abode. But when Auston Matthews was growing up, he tended not to stay within its walls for very long, even through the Xbox era. That’s because there were always sports to play outdoors. The neighborhood was full of kids up for games of football, soccer and basketball, while organized hockey and baseball went year-round thanks to summer hockey all-star tournaments and Arizona’s perfect ballpark climate.

Auston’s father, Brian, must shoulder some of the blame for this as well, however. A college pitcher who went on to play semi-pro, he loved to challenge his son in the batter’s box. And the right-handed Brian had more than just fastballs in his arsenal against the left-batting Auston. Brian hurled sinkers and filthy stuff fathers don’t typically give sons. “I was throwing everything at him, mixing it up,” Brian said. “He never knew what was coming. But his hand-eye co-ordination was uncanny.”

Auston was a catcher and a hard-hitting one at that. Coaches told him there was more money to be made on the diamond than the ice rink, but the Arizona Kid wasn’t having it. When time constraints forced him to choose between sports at 13, baseball lost out handily. “Auston was a better baseball player than he was a hockey player, but the game wasn’t fast enough for him,” said his mom, Ema. “He needed motion.”

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Scouts sound off on the ins and outs of talent mining

Matt Larkin
(Cartoon by Charlie Teljeur)

We’re only as good as our scouts. In the pages of THN’s Draft Preview, we break down every nugget of relevant info we can find on prospects, from their amateur stats to their bodily measurements, but nothing matters more than our scouting reports.

Scouting is a grind. The NHL’s bird dogs freeze their toes in rinks all over the northern hemisphere studying kids to learn their strengths and weaknesses. But it’s also a passion and an art form. What are the secrets of the trade? What are the most important things to seek in a draft-hopeful kid? And what are the red flags? Is the travel as horrible as it’s rumored to be? We assembled a panel of experts with decades of experience in the business to find out.

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