Penguins’ Dupuis blood clot free, but future remains uncertain

Jared Clinton
Pascal Dupuis

More than seven months after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung, it’s still not a sure thing that Pittsburgh Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis will be able to return to the NHL.

Dupuis, 36, was diagnosed with the blood clot in his lung in November. At that time, the Penguins, along with the team’s medical staff, held a press conference to announce that Dupuis would be out for up to six months, but it’s now looking like it could be even longer, as GM Jim Rutherford was uncertain about Dupuis’ future when speaking with media this week.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jason Mackey, Rutherford announced that while Dupuis is clot free, “there are other things from a medical point of view that have to be looked at.” Read more

Report: Penguins’ AHL coach John Hynes candidate for Devils job

Jared Clinton
John Hynes (via Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins/YouTube)

Former Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma may have inked a deal to become the new bench boss of the Buffalo Sabres, but it appears there may still be a Penguins reunion of sorts in New Jersey.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Devils have trimmed down their list of coaching candidates and GM Ray Shero, the former GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, may have pegged Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coach John Hynes as the leading candidate for the job behind New Jersey’s bench. Read more

Penguins’ defenseman Kris Letang back training after concussion

Jared Clinton
Kris Letang (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Over the course of his career, Kris Letang has had more than his fair share of ailments. And, after a huge check from Shane Doan sidelined Letang with his third documented concussion in the past five seasons, it seemed as if it was going to take a long while for him to get back to full health.

Thankfully, however, news came yesterday from TVA’s Renaud Lavoie that Letang isn’t just ready to begin training again, but that he can start doing so, “with intensity.” That’s good news for the Penguins and even better news for Letang. Read more

Just how important are prospects in building a Stanley Cup winner?

Jonathan Toews (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The weeks before we finished Future Watch 2015 were extremely exciting for the Winnipeg Jets and their fans. They had an elite crop of 21-and-younger talent, including Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Nikolaj Ehlers and Nic Petan, and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made it even better via the Evander Kane trade (see pg. 18).

As we reviewed this year’s cover art in the THN office, I asked: “How excited will Cheveldayoff be when he sees this?”

Senior writer Ken Campbell’s retort: “Excited? Or nervous? Now he has to win.”

It was a provocative thought. Possessing the best young talent in the sport doesn’t mean you’ve won anything yet. A strong Future Watch ranking, as encouraging as it may be to a team and its fans, is just a means to an end. How often does it lead to success in the NHL? And when on average does the result occur?

We researched the correlation between past Future Watch finishes and success in the standings and playoffs, starting with FW 2008. Why 2008? Because fans and media so commonly champion Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles as the ideal development models and 2008 marked one year before Pittsburgh’s first and only Stanley Cup in the Sidney Crosby era.

The Pens finished first in FW 2008 and the year prior. Their crop of 21-and-under NHLers at the time? Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and Tyler Kennedy. Their top in-the-system prospects included Alex Goligoski. They won the Stanley Cup the following season with all six of those players on the roster (though Goligoski played just two playoff games).

The Chicago Blackhawks finished second, seventh and fourth in Future Watch from 2008 to 2010, founded on Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland. Cups arrived in 2010 and 2013, with all three of those players in crucial roles. The Kings in Future Watch from 2009 to 2011? First, first and second. The youth crop and scouting report pretty much mapped out their 2012-2014 mini-dynasty in advance.

The scouting panel doesn’t just project champions, either. Anaheim and St. Louis, perennial standings powerhouses, each spent several seasons in the FW top 10 while they built up the groups of players who help them dominate today.

That said, to rhyme off the success stories is to cherry-pick. What about the teams that regularly top the team rankings and have nothing to show for it in the standings? The Edmonton Oilers obviously come to mind, having spent three years as FW’s top team from 2011 to 2013. Hoarding first-overall draft picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov has yielded no glory in the standings whatsoever, and the franchise remains in the NHL basement, poised for yet another first overall pick. The Arizona Coyotes get a top-three draft slot after another poor year despite finishing no worse than sixth in our rankings from 2008 to 2011.

What, then, separates the successful teams from the failing ones? It’s not enough to stockpile high picks as the Oilers have. Blending low and high picks to create a highly rated farm system, as we’ve seen Arizona and Columbus do via high FW finishes a few years back, doesn’t guarantee success, either. What does, then?

Let’s look at the crop of prospects that made Edmonton a Future Watch power. The group included Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Yakupov, Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Magnus Paajarvi and, most recently, Darnell Nurse. The core that made Columbus a tantalizing fourth overall in 2009? Jakub Voracek, Derick Brassard, Steve Mason, Nikita Filatov, Kris Russell and Maksim Mayorov.
Combined, that’s 14 players. Centers among them? Two.

The top-ranked Penguins in 2008 had Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Kennedy. The Blackhawks had Toews and Bolland. The Kings had Anze Kopitar and Brayden Schenn, with the latter helping them net Mike Richards in a trade. The Blues? Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie (a center at the time) and Lars Eller (used to acquire Jaroslav Halak). Look at all those pivots.

The science isn’t perfect, of course. Anaheim’s rise comes largely from the net out, as young blueliners Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm insulate John Gibson. And the Coyotes sure looked loaded at center a few years ago with Peter Mueller, Kyle Turris and Martin Hanzal as pillars. We can at least say that the most common correlation between Future Watch success and real-world domination is building around do-it-all centers.

At least the Oilers drafted Leon Draisaitl last June and will add Connor McDavid this year. No we’re talkin’.

WALKING THE WALK
What are good years of strong Future Watch finishes if the highly rated prospect crops don’t eventually produce successful team results? The charts below track every franchise’s FW rankings over the past eight editions versus their placement in the NHL standings each of those years.

It puts into perspective how miserable things have been for the Edmonton Oilers. They lead all teams with an average FW rank of 7.00 in the past eight years yet rank dead last in the standings. Teams like Chicago, Washington and Anaheim, meanwhile, have parlayed strong rankings into standings success.

The results also suggest when to anticipate the “sweet spot” of prospects yielding results. The L.A. Kings had four top-five FW finishes starting in 2008 before winning two Cups in three years starting in 2012.

FWRankings

FWStandings

 

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin

This feature appears in the 2015 Draft Preview edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.

Getting to Know: Jim McKenzie

Jim McKenzie (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Status: NHL left wing from 1989-2004 with Hartford, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Anaheim, Washington, New Jersey and Nashville. Currently serves as a pro scout for Florida. Resides in Nashville.

Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 205 pounds

DOB: November 3, 1969 In: Gull Lake, Sask. Read more

Connor McDavid poised to become NHL’s first million-dollar endorsement baby

Ken Campbell
Connor McDavid  (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Perhaps Buffalo is not the ideal venue to celebrate a deal that will effectively make Connor McDavid a millionaire before he even sets foot on an NHL ice surface – might be rubbing it in just a little – but equipment giant CCM has a lot to celebrate next week. So does McDavid.

Next week at the annual NHL draft combine in Buffalo, CCM will announce it has extended its deal with the most hyped prospect since Eric Lindros for another five years. It’s a deal that will give the equipment company two of the most recognizable players in the game. But unlike his last deal with CCM during which he has earned a total of about $250,000 for his three years of junior hockey, it’s believed this one is worth $1 million a year, second only to the $1.4 million per year deal Sidney Crosby has, also with CCM. It’s also the richest endorsement contract ever signed by an NHL rookie, making him the league’s first-ever million-dollar endorsement baby.

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Bylsma and Eichel could be more successful in Buffalo than McDavid and Babcock

Dan Bylsma  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

During an off day in Montreal at the World Junior Championship, Dan Bylsma was asked to comment on some of the players in the tournament. There as a game analyst for the NHL Network, Bylsma begged off, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize any possible future relationships with any of the players who were there.

Well, Bylsma will now have a chance to work with one of the biggest names that was there that day. Jack Eichel, who was the captain of the U.S. team for the tournament, will play his first pro years under Bylsma with the Buffalo Sabres. And this can be special. Very special.

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Report: Sabres have agreement in place to hire Dan Bylsma

Jared Clinton
Dan Bylsma. (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nothing is official yet but reports say former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and the Buffalo Sabres have an agreement in place for him to become the next Sabres coach.

According to the Associated Press, Bylsma met with Sabres management on Wednesday and met with the club again Thursday to discuss their vacant coaching position. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had reported earlier that while the deal was likely, Buffalo would wait until it’s formal to make any concrete announcements.

Thursday afternoon, however, the Associated Press’ John Wawrow reported that the two sides have come to an agreement and Bylsma will, in fact, become the Sabres coach pending compensation to the Penguins.
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