Women’s star Amanda Kessel returns after nearly two year bout with concussion

Jared Clinton
Amanda Kessel (Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Amanda Kessel’s battle with post-concussion symptoms nearly robbed her of her final year of NCAA eligbility, but University of Minnesota Gophers coach Brad Frost announced Wednesday that the 24-year-old sniper will be making her triumphant return after all.

Kessel, regarded as one of the best women’s players in the world, has missed the past two seasons of NCAA action for vastly different reasons. She redshirted the 2013-14 campaign to train with Team USA’s women’s team ahead of the Sochi Olympics, but a concussion put her tournament in jeopardy. She returned for the Olympics and led Team USA in scoring, but the post-concussion symptoms forced her to redshirt again in 2014-15 and, as of last July, were thought to have claimed her final college season.

“After her missing last year and the severity of the concussions last year, we had a feeling that she was not going to be able to play for us unless things turned around,” Frost told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in July. “We’ve had some discussions with Amanda and myself, but really, it’s never even gotten to the point where hockey is something she would do with us again.”

Well, it appears it’s gotten to that point. Not only is Kessel coming back, but she may be ready to get back in the lineup as soon as Friday against the University of North Dakota. Read more

Prospect Need to Know: Alex DeBrincat can score anytime, anywhere

Alex DeBrincat (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The CHL Top Prospects Game and AHL All-Star weekend are both in the rearview mirror for the season, while the Beanpot tournament in Boston is now half-over. Boston College and Boston U. will duel for the city’s trophy, with Northeastern and Harvard in the consolation game. In other development news, the Los Angeles Kings have partnered with the United States League to put on a Pacific Region Showcase at the NHL team’s practice facility in El Segundo. It takes place in late March and will feature players from the 2000, 2001 and 2002 age groups. These are exciting times for the growth of the game. Let’s get caught up in the world of prospects.

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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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Carolina’s rookie defensemen are growing up fast

Ryan Kennedy
Noah Hanifin (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Carolina Hurricanes may not make the playoffs this season, but take a look at their blueline and there’s a lot to be excited for in the near future. Justin Faulk is already the best player on the team, while prospects such as Haydn Fleury, Trevor Carrick and Roland McKeown are on their way. In the middle, you have NHL rookies Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin, all of whom are contributing well beyond their experience. It must be fun to project what this ‘D’ corps will be like in three years and in fact, that’s exactly what the Canes are doing.

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Prospect Need to Know: Jeremy Lauzon has Rouyn-Noranda flying

Jeremy Lauzon (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

It’s home stretch time in the CHL as trade deadlines have passed and all the newbies are settling in to their new uniforms. In 2016 draft news, the NHL’s Central Scouting bureau released its mid-term rankings and not surprisingly, Auston Matthews topped the European skaters list (because he’s playing in Switzerland). Team USA linemate Matthew Tkachuk of OHL London was tops amongst North American skaters, while Filip Gustavsson (Lulea) and Carter Hart (Everett) lead the goalies. Here’s a look at some of the other prospects making noise right now:

 

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Matthew Hutchinson, NCAA defenseman and volunteer firefighter, murdered in New York

Jared Clinton
Matthew Hutchinson (via KW Photography/Twitter)

The hockey world is mourning the loss of Matthew Hutchinson, a defenseman who was playing this season with the NCAA Div. III SUNY-Geneseo Knights.

Hutchinson, 24, was one of two victims of a murder-suicide at a house near the campus of SUNY-Geneseo, which is just south of Rochester, N.Y. Hutchinson and 21-year-old Kelsey Annese were stabbed to death, and police believe the murders occurred while both were asleep.

The Canadian Press reported investigators in the case believe 24-year-old Colin Kingston acted alone in murdering both Hutchinson and Annese. Police said Kingston was distraught over a breakup between he and Annese and used a “large knife” to stab Hutchinson and Annese. According to The Canadian Press, Kingston called his father before killing himself. His father notified police. Read more

Jack Eichel is having an absolute blast in Buffalo

Ryan Kennedy
Buffalo's Jack Eichel (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jack Eichel’s pre-game routine is already down pat. He goes to the same restaurant every time and always with veteran center David Legwand. Usually captain Josh Gorges is there and often other teammates, too. They shoot the breeze, load up on the good kind of calories and then prepare for the night’s festivities at First Niagara Center.

When the game is finished, he heads back to Matt Moulson’s house, where Eichel has been living with the experienced left winger and his family. Laundry and cooking are taken care of, so for the most part, Eichel can just focus on hockey. And with 13 points in his past 15 games, it’s working.

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Top 30 draft rankings for 2016: Laine and Puljujarvi ride golden wave

Patrik Laine (#29) and Jesse Puljujarvi (photo by Heikki Saukkomaa/AFP/Getty Images)

The world juniors in Finland were almost unprecedented in terms of draft influence. Four of the six tournament all-stars (as chosen by the media) were 2016 prospects: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Olli Juolevi and overall MVP Jesse Puljujarvi. The kids aren’t supposed to dominate like that, but here we are. With Alexander Nylander and Matthew Tkachuk also having strong tournaments, the big question around the campfire right now is where to slot defenseman Jakob Chychrun.

The OHL Sarnia star did not make Team Canada, but he’s the only defenseman in the top echelon right now – though Juolevi is seriously threatening that. One exec I spoke with believes Chychrun is in a positional class by himself, while another team scout told me Juolevi is pushing his way into the conversation.

So what happens on draft day? Top D-men are hard to find, but those elite forwards are awfully tempting. Since we’re nowhere near knowing which teams will be selecting early, I’m keeping things conservative, as I generally do. Here’s a look at my current top-30:

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