London Knights sweep OHL championship; look unstoppable

From left: Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner (with Red Tilson Trophy) and Christian Dvorak of London (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Right now, the Brandon Wheat Kings and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are in control of their respective championships in the WHL and QMJHL, with 3-1 series leads over Seattle and Shawinigan. The Wheaties lost yesterday, the Huskies the day before.

The OHL’s London Knights, on the other hand, haven’t lost a hockey game since the first day of April.

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Let’s snuff out three preposterous Auston Matthews rumors before they spiral out of control

Matt Larkin
Matthews

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won the 2016 NHL draft lottery and will pick No. 1 overall for the first time since they nabbed Wendel Clark in 1985. This is good news for the sport, whether you love or hate the Leafs. It’s the equivalent of a high-profile player landing with the New York Knicks in basketball. When the Leafs choose what they hope is their next – and dare I say first – real superstar, fans can decide for themselves if that rookie is a hero or villain. It makes for a fascinating story either way.

Auston Matthews is the player most experts expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to draft June 24. He ranks No. 1 in THN’s Draft Preview, due out in the next couple weeks, and on virtually every other major publication’s prospect list. And yet, rumors have begun flying around social media predicting something other than the Leafs picking Matthews will happen June 24. That smoke is clickbait, and there’s no fire to accompany it. Let’s extinguish three of the more ridiculous theories circulating in the hockey media landscape at the moment. And, yes, I’m aware that merely discussing them makes this piece clickbait about clickbait. Apologies.

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Blackhawks bound for more playoff heartbreak until they can rebuild depth

Jared Clinton
Patrick Kane (Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)

Following Chicago’s Game 7 loss, Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said exiting the post-season in the first round didn’t feel right. And that’s true. As the post-season rolls on without the Blackhawks, something will feel amiss. Chicago has made the Western Conference final in each of the past three seasons, twice taking home the Stanley Cup. They’ve become a staple of playoff hockey, a regular contender seemingly one bounce away from getting back into the winner’s circle.

They didn’t get that bounce in Game 7, though, and Blackhawks fans may have to prepare themselves for earlier summers going forward. Unlike years prior building back to consistent contention is going to take some time.

Before the post-season began, parallels were drawn between this season’s Blackhawks and the team that lost in the first-round in 2011. Both entered the playoffs as defending champions, both entered with high expectations and both were missing key pieces of what made them a contender the year prior. The comparisons will run deeper — and last longer — than this post-season, though.

Following the 2011 exit, which came via a 3-2 loss in Game 7 to the then-rival Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks were forced to say goodbye to Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and — this one is going to hurt today — Troy Brouwer. What followed was a 2011-12 season in which Chicago stumbled again in the first round and were sent packing by the Phoenix Coyotes. And though the team recovered in time for the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, the quick turnaround isn’t going to be as easy to come by this time. Read more

So where exactly do the New York Rangers go from here?

Henrik Lundqvist  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

When the New York Rangers cleaned out their stalls Tuesday morning, defenseman Dan Boyle cursed out a couple of reporters he felt were unfairly critical of him and refused to start his breakup interview until they left the scrum. We’re going to chalk that up to a proud veteran who is going down swinging and will probably look at that incident after second sober thought with regret.

But in a way, Boyle and his rant – which will almost certainly be his last as an NHL player – provide a microcosm of the situation that is facing his soon-to-be-former team. Boyle could have gone quietly into the night or he could have come out with one last flurry. He chose the latter.

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Jesse Puljujarvi and world-killing Finland just did it again

Jesse Puljujarvi (Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Finland has won gold again – get used to it.

Led by superstar 2016 draft prospect Jesse Puljujarvi, the Finns dusted off archrival Sweden in the final of the World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota on Sunday. Puljujarvi scored a hat trick in the 6-1 demolition, while the home-side Americans earned bronze with a 10-3 walloping of a disorganized Canadian squad.

If it sounds like the Finns have been on the podium a lot lately, it’s because they have. This is the third junior-level gold in three years for Suomi, when the 2016 and 2014 world junior titles are added in. So how are they doing it?

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How would the 2015 NHL draft unfold if we did it again today?

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

It’s time to re-do the first round of the 2015 NHL draft using the prospect-progress information a panel of scouts gave us in our annual Future Watch issue. It’s important to note these are the blended opinions of a dozen scouts, directors of player personnel and GMs and in many cases won’t be the same thought processes as individual teams.

We asked these scouts to assess a list of 300 NHL prospects (the top 10s from each of the 30 teams) and to establish their own top 50 list, based on a five to 10-year projection window. Most of the NHL-affiliated players on this list of 300 were from drafts prior to 2015 or free agents. But 84 of them were selected in the 2015 draft.

 

With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can redux the 2015 draft if it were to be held again today. Three players from the 2015 draft made the immediate jump to the NHL. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Carolina’s Noah Hanifin fast-tracked this Future Watch rating exercise. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them one, two and three even though there’s a chance 2015 draftees returned to junior, college or Europe may surpass them in coming seasons.

 

Here’s how the remainder of the first round would play out, based on the scouting committee’s evaluation of their progression so far in 2015-16. Of course, this exercise doesn’t take into consideration individual team preferences. Though we’ll never know for sure publicly, maybe Boston would still take Jake DeBrusk14th overall even though the scouting community at large wouldn’t select him until the second round.

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