Prospect Need to Know: Meet Sweden’s top 2016 NHL draft hopeful

Rasmus Asplund  (Photo by Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

The CHL Top Prospects Game runs this Thursday in Vancouver and it will be a strange year for the showdown. To begin with, three of the top four prospects in the NHL draft aren’t even eligible to participate – Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi all play in Europe. On top of that, hometown hero Tyler Benson of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants will miss the contest due to a lingering injury, so his captaincy of Team Cherry has been ceded to top defenseman Jakob Chychrun instead. The other bad news out west is that Red Deer center Conner Bleackley (Colorado) will miss six weeks with a fractured kneecap. The Rebels host the Memorial Cup, so at least his season’s not finished. Let’s get to the rest of the prospect world:

 

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Pekka Rinne’s below average play is hurting the Predators

Dominik Luszczyszyn
Pekka Rinne. (Joanthan Daniel/Getty Images)

Just under five minutes into Thursday night’s Nashville-Winnipeg contest, it seemed like it would be another one of those games for Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. You could hardly blame him for the goal against – a breakaway at the hands of Nikolaj Ehlers – but he hasn’t exactly made those saves lately either.

Fortunately for Nashville, he was spotless after that, stopping 26 of 27 shots faced in the win. It’s a game the Predators will need to see more of from Rinne if they want to get back into the playoff race. The team currently sits one point out of a playoff spot, despite being the second best possession team in the league and the best by expected goals (which accounts for the quality of those chances). While there’s been some scoring troubles, most of the blame for the team’s struggles can be placed squarely on Rinne’s shoulders.

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Rumor Roundup: Struggling Predators looking for even more offensive help

Ryan Johansen (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Over two weeks ago, the Nashville Predators surprised the hockey world by shipping promising young defenseman Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen. While the 23-year-old Johansen had seven points in his first six games with the Preds, they’re still struggling to win games.

Since acquiring Johansen, the Predators enter their Jan. 21 tilt against the Winnipeg Jets with only one win in their last six games. They also fell out of a playoff berth, as offensive depth remains an issue.

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THN.com Roundtable: Which bubble teams will make, or miss, the playoffs?

Matt Duchene and Shea Weber. (Getty Images)

The NHL standings are very close. The league has rarely seen the kind of parity being displayed so far this season. More than halfway through the season you can count on one hand the number of teams that are already out of playoff contention.

While teams like the Capitals and Kings start to run away with their divisions, there are a number of teams stuck right in the middle, right on the crowded playoff bubble.

As the all-star break approaches, here are our picks for playoff bubble teams that will be in or out of the playoffs come April.

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How a wacky Finnish pastime helped shape Pekka Rinne into a human highlight reel

Matt Larkin
Pekka Rinne. (Joanthan Daniel/Getty Images)

Ever heard of Pesapallo? Pekka Rinne recommends YouTubing it. It’s Finland’s version of baseball, and it’s delightfully bananas to watch as a newcomer.

The pitcher stands about a foot from the batter and tosses the ball straight up, so it clears a one-meter minimum above his head. The pitcher quickly bails out of the way so the batter can take a violent swing. The batter runs the bases in a zigzag pattern before looping back for a sprint to home. It’s about 100 years old, and it’s a fast, furious game. It would eat someone with Babe Ruth’s body type alive. It requires speed, agility, athleticism and catching ability. Or, in other words, all the skills Rinne possesses.

He played Pesapallo into his teens, and it molded him into one of the world’s quickest, most athletic goaltenders. That and years of mimicking the movements of his favorites, from Miikka Kiprusoff to Dominik Hasek. Rinne couldn’t watch live NHL games growing up in Kempele, Finland, but would excitedly devour highlight packages aired every Saturday morning.

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NHL risks conspiracy theories, grievance with John Scott fiasco

John Scott (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

If the NHL wants to touch off the mother of all conspiracy theories, it will do the wrong thing and prevent John Scott from playing in the All-Star Game. But the NHL, as usual, doesn’t seem terribly concerned with optics. Because if it had, it would have announced the moment that Scott was traded to the Montreal Canadiens and sent to the minors that his spot as captain of the Pacific Division team in the All-Star Game was secure.

Instead, it issued this wishy-washy statement: “The league is evaluating how this trade impacts the Pacific Division roster.” When reached by thn.com Friday afternoon and asked whether he’d be playing in the game, Scott said, “I have no idea.” But if the league believes it has an out now that Scott is no longer playing for a team in the Pacific Division, that stretches the bounds of credulity. And that’s saying something when you consider it’s the NHL we’re talking about here.

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Canadiens deal Jarred Tinordi to Coyotes for John Scott, Victor Bartley

John Scott (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators have teamed up for a rare three-way trade that sees at least four players on the move.

In a series of trades Friday afternoon, the Canadiens have acquired Pacific Division All-Star Game captain John Scott and defenseman Victor Bartley from the Coyotes in exchange for defenseman, and 2010 first-round pick, Jarred Tinordi as well as winger Stefan Fournier. In the deal, the Predators have picked up defenseman Stefan Elliott, himself a 2009 second-rounder.

The breakdown goes as follows, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. First, Nashville and Arizona swapped defensemen, as Bartley headed to the Coyotes and Elliott to the Predators. Once that deal was complete, the Canadiens sent Tinordi and Fournier the desert in exchange for Scott and Bartley.

First thing’s first, though: what does this mean for the All-Star Game? Read more

Predators’ Weber, Josi go ‘undercover’ to interview fans about All-Star Game

Jared Clinton
Shea Weber and Roman Josi (via Nashville Predators)

Nashville’s Shea Weber and Roman Josi are one of the best defensive pairings in the entire NHL. But when it comes to going undercover, Weber and Josi’s game could definitely use some work.

Using the names of assistant athletic trainers Jeff Biddle and DJ Amadio, the Predators took to the street to interview fans about their favorite Nashville players, the upcoming All-Star Game and if anyone believed that Josi could really — seriously — outdo Weber in the hardest shot competition: Read more