Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

The 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15

Joe Pavelski (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

As much as a story like the resurgent New York Islanders or the Andrew Hammond-led Ottawa Senators pleases us, there will always be teams or players that fail to meet expectations.

Be it simply a down year or a minor – or major, when it comes to a team – injury, no NHL season goes by without teams and players facing their fair share of difficulties. If they respond positively, they’re heralded for their efforts. But, if things go sideways in a hurry, we’re left wondering how exactly our predictions could have been so wrong.

And these are the predictions that were the farthest off — the teams and players still making us wonder how prognostications could have been so misguided. These are the 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15:

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Rumor Roundup: Stars, Flyers and Senators buzz

Kari Lehtonen (Getty Images)

Since last season, the Dallas Stars’ fortunes have risen or fallen based upon the goaltending of Kari Lehtonen. In 2013-14, Lehtonen’s solid performance (33-20-10, 2.41 GAA, .919 SP) was instrumental in the Stars reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The 31-year-old’s struggles this season (30-14-10, 2.87 GAA, .906 SP) put the club’s playoff hopes on thin ice.

It’s also prompted some questions over Lehtonen’s future in Dallas. There’s been speculation Stars GM Jim Nill could consider finding a more reliable starter, but replacing his current one (who’s earning $5.9 million annually for three more seasons) won’t be easy. Lehtonen also has a partial no-trade clause. Read more

Canucks honor life and legacy of late coach Pat Quinn in touching pre-game ceremony

Adam Proteau
The late Pat Quinn's wife Sandra, daughters Kalli and Val and granddaughter Kate Rydland join Canucks president Trevor Linden, team owner Francesco Aquilini and Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson as a street is named in Quinn's honor. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before their game against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks celebrated the life of former coach and GM Pat Quinn.

Quinn, who passed away Nov. 23 in Vancouver at age 71, played a major role for both teams at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, and had a street named in his honor prior to the showdown between the Flyers and Canucks; he was represented at Tuesday’s ceremony by his wife, Sandra, daughters Val and Kalli, and granddaughter Kate Rydland. Quinn was also honored by the appearance of former teammates, players he coached and those with whom he worked, including former Flyers legend and GM Bob Clarke, longtime assistant coach Rick Ley, and retired Canucks stars Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure: Read more

Prospect Hot List: Hunting for Hobey in Denver

Joey LaLeggia (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The playoffs are almost upon us in major junior, while the NCAA conference tournaments are in full swing. Since some teams have already been eliminated, early signing season has begun too, with Brandon Montour leaving UMass for Anaheim and Ben Hutton ending his career in Maine to ink a deal with Vancouver. More are sure to come, but until then, here’s a look around the world of prospects.

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Ottawa sensation Andrew Hammond gets a hamburger salute from adoring fan

Adam Proteau
Sens goalie Andrew Hammond holds up a hamburger thrown onto the ice after his shootout win over the Flyers. (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Senators goalie Andrew Hammond continued his tremendous play Sunday night with a 2-1 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers – and one of his adoring fans in Ottawa paid tribute to the man known as “The Hamburglar” by throwing a hamburger onto the ice at Canadian Tire Centre.

The 27-year-old Hammond, who improved his record this season to 10-0-1 with the win over Philly, stopped 27 of 28 Flyers shots in regulation and overtime, then shut out the trio of Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and captain Claude Giroux in the shootout to keep the Sens within five points of the Boston Bruins for the final wild card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. For his hard work, an Ottawa fan saluted him with a reference to his now legendary nickname: Read more

Top five feel-good goalie stories this NHL season

Devan Dubnyk

The NHL spotlight shines hotter for goaltenders than it does any other position player in the league, and while that pressure can be a burden, it can also produce some incredible feel-good stories.

Setting aside the typical injuries and starter/backup drama we see every season, there’ve been some pretty amazing goalie stories this year. Here are five goalies who you can’t help but feel happy for.
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