NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.

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Get married during the season? Not when Conn Smythe ruled the Maple Leafs

Conn Smythe (B Bennett/Getty Images)

If you were a smart player when Conn Smythe ruled Toronto hockey – and he paid your salary – you didn’t mess with the ‘Little Major’ of Maple Leaf Gardens.

Smythe had his rules, and woe to those who chose to break them. One of Conn’s canons had to do with weddings. Get married during the season and – uh-oh – brother you’ll get Zamboni-ed right out of the lineup. Johnny ‘Goose’ McCormack, who just happened to be the Leafs best penalty killer, couldn’t wait and wed Margaret Gordon during the 1950-51 campaign. Alas, the Goose was cooked. Faster than you can say mazel tov, McCormack was sold to Montreal. Read more

Nazem Kadri suspended four games for head hit on Matt Fraser

Jared Clinton
Nazem Kadri (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

Three games after Nazem Kadri got back into the Maple Leafs’ lineup following a three-game disciplinary benching, he’ll be back on the sidelines after receiving a four-game suspension by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

The suspension comes two days after Kadri caught Edmonton Oilers winger Matt Fraser in the head with a blindside check to the head. Fraser, who stayed down following the hit, had to be helped from the ice and did not return to the game. While Fraser has not been officially sidelined, he has been undergoing concussion protocol and may be forced to miss time.

Sitting for four games will mean Kadri will have played in only seven of the Maple Leafs final 11 games of the season, and will have missed seven of their last 16 outings in 2014-15. Read more

Nazem Kadri’s very bad week continues: Leafs center could be suspended after hit on Oilers’ Fraser

Adam Proteau
Nazem Kadri (Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri has had a tough week. First, he runs afoul of Toronto management and is suspended for three games due to off-ice concerns – and on Monday against the Oilers, he elbows Edmonton left winger Matt Fraser in the head and likely will be suspended (this time, by the league) for it.

Kadri was playing his second game after returning from internal discipline last week, and late in Toronto’s road game against the Oilers, Kadri connected with Fraser’s head while making a play for the puck in the Leafs zone: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Thornton, Kadri face off-season uncertainty

Lyle Richardson
Nazem Kadri (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Prior to this season, Joe Thornton‘s future with the San Jose Sharks came under question when GM Doug Wilson stripped him of the captaincy. This followed a summer of speculation over whether the 35-year-old center might be pressured into waiving his no-movement clause.

Scrutiny over Thornton’s relationship with Wilson recently flared up again. The San Jose Mercury News’ David Pollak reports Wilson’s recent remarks to a group of Sharks season-ticket holders suggesting the stress of the captaincy got to Thornton prompted a terse reply from the latter. “He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth,” said Thornton. Read more

Calgary Flames must learn from one-season wonders in Toronto, Colorado

Josh Elliott
Calgary Flames

We’re a few months removed from the NHL holiday break, but the Calgary Flames just encountered two ghosts of Christmas past who can teach them a thing or two about their future.

Those ghosts came in the forms of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche, two teams that have fallen off precipitously after seasons very similar to the one Calgary is enjoying right now.

The Calgary Flames are this season’s statistical outlier, defying expectations and analytics as they battle for a playoff berth in a year many expected them to battle for the top pick instead. They’re getting career performances from several players in their lineup and they’re fighting through injuries thanks to a mix of intangibles like leadership, determination, coaching and pure luck.

But they’d be wise not to get too far ahead of themselves, because fortune’s wheel is not kind to teams like the Flames.
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