Prospect Need to Know: Jack LaFontaine is a hidden draft gem in net

Jack LaFontaine (photo courtesy of the NAHL)

The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau released its latest Watch List today for the 2016 draft and there have been a bunch of movers. This is not surprising, since the early September edition was largely speculative and now the prospects actually have a good sample size of games under their belts, but it is interesting to monitor nonetheless. Also, as I first reported the other day, top 2016 prospect Auston Matthews will return to the ice for Zurich tomorrow in a Swiss Cup game against Ambri-Piotta. Here’s a look at what else is going on in the prospect world:

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Guy Boucher eyes NHL return after firing from Swiss team

Jared Clinton
Guy Boucher (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher has found himself out of a job in Switzerland one week after stating it would be his final season coaching for SC Bern.

SC Bern announced Wednesday that Boucher, who joined the club in January 2014, has been relieved of his duties as head coach and has been replaced by Lars Leuenberger. Bern had lost four straight games and sat in ninth place in the Swiss NLA.

“The Board of Directors of [SC Bern] has…concluded that a continuation of the collaboration with Guy Boucher is not promising,” a team statement read. “The decision to separate from [Boucher] has nothing to do with his announcement to leave the SCB in spring.” Read more

Guy Boucher coaching final season in Switzerland, returning to North America in 2016

Jared Clinton
Guy Boucher (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

When the Toronto Maple Leafs had a coaching vacancy this off-season, one name mentioned often was Guy Boucher.

Boucher, 44, spent three seasons as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning before being let go late in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Boucher landed on his feet by the next campaign, as he was hired on by SC Bern in Switzerland’s National League A near the end of their campaign.

Boucher told TSN’s David Naylor in the off-season that he would consider a return to an NHL coaching gig if he found the “right situation.” Read more

Chad Johnson makes diving, desperation save to rob Nikita Kucherov

Jared Clinton
Nikita Kucherov (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Buffalo Sabres are still waiting for goaltender Robin Lehner to return to the lineup, but Chad Johnson’s Superman impression Tuesday night is going to help ease that pain.

In the second frame of the Sabres’ outing against Tampa Bay, Johnson absolutely robbed Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov. After the puck was curled around the net by Alex Killorn and Kucherov found himself open to the side of the net, Johnson dove back in front, reached out and snagged Kucherov’s shot with his glove: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Return of Duncan Keith doesn’t deter Blackhawks from seeking D-man

Lyle Richardson
Duncan Keith (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks will soon be welcoming back defensemen Duncan Keith and Michal Roszsival from injured reserve. Keith’s been sidelined since Oct. 19 by knee surgery, while Rozsival’s still recovering from a gruesome ankle injury suffered during last spring’s playoffs.

While the Blackhawks won six of their last 10 without Keith and Rozsival, they began this week 14th overall in goals-against per game. The imminent return of two key blueliners, however, apparently isn’t stopping management from pursuing additional defensive depth.

The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc and Chris Hines cite a source claiming the Blackhawks are pushing hard to acquire a blueliner. This isn’t a recent search, as the duo note the club’s interest in bolstering their defense dates back to before Keith’s surgery.

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Lightning lose ‘extremely valuable’ Ondrej Palat 3-5 weeks to lower-body injury

Jared Clinton
Ondrej Palat (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat was injured Saturday night, and the diagnosis isn’t good for the Lightning or their 24-year-old left winger.

During a net-front scramble in the second period, Palat got tangled up with Minnesota Wild winger Nino Niederreiter. As the puck bounced to the side of the net, Niederreiter fell on top of Palat’s leg, which bent awkwardly and left him writhing on the ice: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Lightning look to move contracts to re-sign Stamkos

Lyle Richardson
Steven Stamkos. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning could be working on a deal to free up salary-cap room to re-sign captain Steven Stamkos. That’s the suggestion from Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune, reporting the Lightning could try moving defenseman Matt Carle.

Erlendsson notes Carle, a healthy scratch for Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, was the subject of trade rumors for the past two weeks. The 31-year-old blueliner is the Lightning’s highest-paid defenseman ($5.5-million annual cap hit), with a contract that runs through 2017-18 and contains a modified no-trade clause.

The problem, however, could be finding some takers. In 12 games, Carle had no points and is minus-1. That performance won’t exactly have teams beating down GM Steve Yzerman’s door.

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Rumor Roundup: Ducks’ struggles could lead to coaching change, or trades

Lyle Richardson
Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederick Andersen

After coming to within one game of reaching the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, the Anaheim Ducks are off to one of their worst starts in franchise history. With a record of 1-5-2 following a 1-0 loss on Monday to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Ducks managed only six goals in those eight games. During that stretch, usually reliable scoring stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry combined for only two assists.

As the Ducks’ struggles continue, there’s growing speculation head coach Bruce Boudreau is in danger of losing his job. Trade rumors have also sprung up. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, speaking with Edmonton’s 630 CHED radio on Friday, raised the possibility of Ducks GM Bob Murray shopping goaltender Frederik Andersen.

Friedman believes they have to give promising John Gibson playing time at some point. Unlike Gibson, Andersen isn’t under a long-term contract. The 26-year-old netminder becomes a restricted free agent in July with arbitration rights. He’ll undoubtedly seek a substantial raise over his current $1.3 million salary.

Following the loss to the Blackhawks, Andersen was winless in six games. However, he also posted up a .940 save percentage and 1.71 goals-against average. Clearly, he’s not the reason behind the Ducks’ slump.

While there are undoubtedly teams with goaltending issues who’d love to land Andersen (hello there, Calgary Flames), trading him would be an extreme measure by the Ducks this early in the season. A coaching change seems a more likely course of action.

The recent speculation linking Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos to the Calgary Flames serves as a reminder of his uncertain future. While Lightning GM Steve Yzerman claimed last June that re-signing the 25-year-old Stamkos was his top priority, the expense of doing so could have long-term repercussions for their payroll.

One reason behind the delay could be due to Yzerman attempting to clear salary-cap room for Stamkos’ hefty raise. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports the Lightning GM is believed to be shopping defenseman Matt Carle, who carries a $5.5-million annual cap hit through 2017-18.

Carle had no points through his first nine games, but ranked second among Lightning defenders in blocked shots and fourth in average ice time (18:12). His cap hit is difficult to move at this point in the season, while his modified no-trade clause limits potential trade destinations.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins are reportedly in the market for a top-four defenseman. Given their limited cap space, however, Carle is beyond their price range. The Lightning must either take back a salaried player or absorb part of Carle’s cap hit, which defeats the purpose of moving him in the first place.

Speaking of the Bruins, their 0-3-0 record in the first week of this season stirred up rumors claiming they were gauging the trade value of key players like defenseman Zdeno Chara and pesky winger Brad Marchand. But after going 3-0-1 during their latest road trip, the speculation has subsided.

Management had been silent about the Chara and Marchand rumor chatter. However, team president Cam Neely recently told a Boston radio station there’s no truth to the speculation.

Trading the 39-year-old Chara, who has two more season remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $6.917 million, is a pipe dream during the season. Even if the Bruins were trying to move him and found a club willing to take on his cap hit, the big blueliner carries a full no-movement clause.

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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