Torts, Duclair, Dupuis and Hamburgler all mark firsts tonight

Anthony Duclair (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins get to see what they’ve been missing, the New York Rangers get to see what might have been, the Ottawa Senators get to see their feel-good story from last season and the Columbus Blue Jackets get to see how their new world will look as the NHL marks a hosts of firsts tonight.

* The one that will be the most compelling is John Tortorella’s first game behind the Blue Jackets bench when they visit the Minnesota Wild. A season that started with such high hopes has evolved into a disaster in a hurry. Should the Blue Jackets lose in Tortorella’s debut tonight, they’d be owners of the worst start in the NHL in more than 70 years. Tortorella obviously will not have a chance to put his stamp on the team in time for this game, but motivation should not be a problem for them. Teams often receive an early bump from a coaching change and that’s exactly what the Blue Jackets are seeking with
Tortorella behind the bench.

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Top five 2014-15 AHL scorers that made NHL rosters to start 2015-16

Teemu Pulkkinen (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Player development in the AHL seems to have a more important impact on the NHL each year. According to the AHL’s Guide & Record Book, 88 percent of current NHL players are AHL alumni.

This season is no exception, with 24 AHL players having made their NHL debuts already, less than two weeks into the new campaign.

Here, we feature the top five AHL scorers from 2014-15 that made NHL rosters to start 2015-16.

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Futures mailbag: Daniel Sprong’s value, 2016’s top goalie and more

Ryan Kennedy
Daniel Sprong (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Say, do you like rookies? Because so far it looks like we’re in for a great Calder Trophy race and it won’t necessarily be a Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel show. Max Domi, Mattias Janmark and Artemi Panarin have all been doing big things, while another frosh – Pittsburgh’s Daniel Sprong – just got his first NHL goal. He’s the subject of one of our questions this week and as always, you can submit your prospect and draft-related queries to me on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy, using the hashtag #thnfutures. Let’s get to it.

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Rumor Roundup: Veterans among potential trade chips for Oilers, Senators

Chris Neil (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch published his list of potential free agents to watch in 2015-16. Among the usual suspects like Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, Garrioch included Edmonton Oilers right wing Teddy Purcell and Ottawa Senators winger Chris Neil.

With the Oilers and Senators rebuilding with young players, Garrioch doubts there’s room for Purcell and Neil on their respective clubs after this season. Purcell, 30, is earning $4.5 million this season. The 36-year-old Neil has a salary-cap hit of $1.9 million, for 2015-16, though in actual salary he’ll collect $1.5 million. Unlike Purcell, Neil has a modified no-trade clause that gives him control over where he can be dealt.

Garrioch claims if Neil hadn’t broken his thumb last season, there’s a “good chance” he would’ve wound up with the Nashville Predators. He feels Neil’s low salary is a reason why teams are still calling about him. His experience and toughness are also likely factors.

Purcell enjoyed several seasons of offensive success with the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a career-best 65-point effort in 2011-12. Acquired by the Oilers in June 2014, he struggled in Edmonton last season, tallying only 12 goals and 34 points in 82 games.

Even if Purcell regains his offensive touch this season, the Oilers depth in talented young forwards likely means he doesn’t have a future in Edmonton. If they’re out of playoff contention by the New Year, expect his name to surface in the rumor mill.

Performance will also be a factor for Neil. He’s at an age where his physical style takes almost as much of a toll upon him as it does on his opponents. Should he end up losing playing time to his younger teammates, Neil could hit the trade block before the December trade freeze.


Several notable NHL veterans recently cleared waivers and were demoted. Among them were Edmonton Oilers defenseman Nikita Nikitin and goaltender Ben Scrivens, Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Andrew MacDonald and Calgary Flames winger Mason Raymond.

They all carried significant salaries. Nikitin and Scrivens’ combined cap hits are $6.8 million, MacDonald’s $5 million and Raymond $3.15 million. Their teams only get $950K each in cap relief, so that’s a lot of money riding the buses in the minors this season.

The Oilers and Flyers are paying for the sins of their previous management. Nikitin and Scrivens are both eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency, so there’s a chance at some point one or both could end up on the trade block. MacDonald and Raymond, however, still have term remaining on their contracts, making it difficult to shop them.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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What can Curtis Lazar and the Senators do for an encore?

Ryan Kennedy
Ottawa's Curtis Lazar  (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators had an incredibly good second half last season. With surprise starter Andrew Hammond on fire and replacement coach Dave Cameron giving the team’s young core a huge boost in confidence, the Sens went 23-4-4 to end out the season, landing themselves a shocking playoff spot and providing game competition for Montreal in the first round.

But that’s all in the past now. A clean sheet of ice awaits Ottawa in 2015-16 and the Sens have learned from last year’s less-than-ideal process.

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Senators GM Murray: Suspended prospect Wikstrand can ‘go back and be a grocery clerk’

Jared Clinton
Mikael Wikstrand (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The regular season hasn’t even started and Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray already has an early contender for quote of the year.

Friday afternoon, Ottawa officially suspended defensive prospect Mikael Wikstrand, who left Ottawa Thursday evening without informing the organization in order to return to his home in Sweden. In addressing the media Friday, Murray was asked to comment on the situation regarding Wikstrand.

“I told him he could go back and be a grocery clerk or play in the beer leagues,” Murray said. “But he could not play (professional) hockey in any shape or form if he doesn’t play for the Ottawa organization.” Read more

Futures mailbag: Which 2015 draft picks are going straight to the show?

Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Welcome back to my mailbag, where all manner of questions on prospects and the draft are answered. If you have something you want to know about, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and hashtag it #thnfutures. You might see the question here in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, let’s get to the latest round of inquiries, the first of which is very timely:

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Rumor Roundup: Hiller could be odd man out in Flames crease

Jonas Hiller turns aside Bo Horvat (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames entered training camp carrying three goaltenders in Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and promising Joni Ortio. At some point, they’ll have to address this potential log jam between the pipes.

Should the 24-year-old Ortio have a strong training camp, the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis speculates Hiller could become the odd man out. Despite winning 26 games last season, the Swiss netminder was often inconsistent. The 33-year-old is entering the final year of his two-year contract carrying a cap hit of $4.5 million.

Ramo, meanwhile, is on a one-year, $3.8 million deal. Ortio is carrying an affordable $600K salary this season, but he can’t be demoted without first passing through waivers. Given his potential, a rival club is sure to pluck him off the wire. Read more