Utica Comets unveil green and blue third jersey for 2015-16

Jared Clinton
Utica Comets 2015-16 third jersey. (via Utica Comets)

After an incredibly successful 2014-15 campaign, the Utica Comets aren’t afraid to hit the ice with a bold, new look.

In time for the 2015-16 season, the Utica Comets have unveiled a brand new third jersey, one which is a departure from the club’s Vancouver Canucks-style look. In a YouTube video posted to the team’s website Wednesday, the club unveiled their new third jersey for the upcoming campaign — a green, blue and white beauty that looks more like Hartford Whalers colors than it does Canucks. Read more

Which Canadian team will reign supreme in 2015-16?

Canadiens stars Carey Price and P.K. Subban. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

While there’s no award given for finishing as the best Canadian team in the NHL, it’s always a point of pride for the seven clubs north of the border.

In 2014-15, the Montreal Canadiens were practically carried by the incredible play of Carey Price, finishing atop the Atlantic Division and just three points back of capturing the Presidents’ Trophy. In addition to leading the charge in the Atlantic, though, the Canadiens also ended the campaign as the best Canadian club in the league — and, it just so happened, as the Canadian team with the best shot at capturing Canada’s first Stanley Cup since 1993.

Montreal has made some interesting additions to the lineup this off-season by acquiring struggling sniper Alexander Semin, grinder Zack Kassian and defenseman Mark Barberio. The trade deadline additions of Brian Flynn, Devante Smith-Pelly, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn will also get a full season in Montreal this time around. But in 2015-16, does Montreal finish atop the heap of Canadian teams again or does another club unseat them as the country’s best club? Read more

Sami Salo officially announces retirement, needs another wrist surgery

Sami Salo (Scott Audette/Getty Images)

In early July, rumors surfaced that Sami Salo had played his final game in the NHL. Now, the 40-year-old defenseman has confirmed those rumors, adding that his nagging wrist injury is what has cost him a final season.

Salo last played in the 2013-14 season with Tampa Bay, but missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He again missed time during the Lightning’s four-game defeat at the hands of the Canadiens that season, missing the final two games of Montreal’s series sweep.

Salo confirmed to Ilta-Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, that he could no longer play in the NHL. “Hand is what it is,” Salo said. “(I am) no longer able to play. Not hockey, not tennis. At least not as a professional.” Read more

How slow and steady won the race for Canucks prospect Cole Cassels

Oshawa's Cole Cassels  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Kelowna’s Leon Draisaitl was the Memorial Cup MVP, but in two games (plus a minute and a half of overtime), the Edmonton Oilers prospect didn’t have a single point against the Oshawa Generals, who raised the major junior trophy thanks to a 2-1 overtime win over the Rockets. Instant hero Anthony Cirelli, a 2015 draft prospect, scored both goals in the final, but Cole Cassels was the embodiment of a Generals squad that grinded, smothered and physically punished teams all year long.

Cassels, taken 85th overall by Vancouver in 2013, helped suffocate Connor McDavid in the OHL final, holding the Erie Otters phenom to one point in the first two games of Oshawa’s five-game series triumph. Oh, and Cassels wasn’t on the ice for that power play assist.

A premier two-way center who also packs a physical wallop, Cassels was a revelation for the Generals.

“He’s the guy that makes our team go,” said coach D.J. Smith. “Offensively, defensively, penalty kill, power play; he’s the first guy on the ice for every situation and he’s the last guy on at the end of the game. He’s the heartbeat of this team.” Read more

The five best goaltending prospects in the world

(Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Championships can be won and lost between the pipes, and every season it seems a new goaltender emerges to take a top job or push a longtime starter for the No. 1 role.

It has been more than a decade since the Pittsburgh Penguins made Marc-Andre Fleury the first overall pick, but that doesn’t mean late-round selections and goaltenders taken outside of the draft’s opening round haven’t developed into blue chip prospects and the goaltending futures for their respective clubs. In Vancouver, there might be a 1A and 1B developing before either actually ends up as an NHL starter.

There are several goaltenders who could be taking the reins for their clubs in the next several seasons. Here are the five best goaltending prospects in the world, as ranked by our 2015 Future Watch edition: Read more

Why Brandon Sutter’s extension will be a good thing for the Canucks

Jared Clinton
BSutter

Every team has a transition period. For the Vancouver Canucks, that period has already begun, but it will hit full swing when Daniel and Henrik Sedin decide to call it quits.

Hence the acquisition of Brandon Sutter, who Tuesday signed a five-year, $21.875 million extension that will keep him in Vancouver until the 2020-21 season.

By acquiring Sutter, the Canucks set up to have someone slot into the second-line center role while Bo Horvat’s game develops in his sophomore season. By signing Sutter to a five-year extension, they made sure Horvat will have the backup he needs until he eventually vaults Sutter. When the Sedins retire, or should they be traded, the Canucks will need to have a plan in place for the team’s future. Sutter represents an important part of that plan.

The cost seems like an overpayment to some — $4.375 million is no small amount of money and a significant raise for Sutter, who will earn $3.3 million in 2015-16 — but considering the centers in the league who make a similar wage, it’s more than fair value for the 26-year-old pivot. Read more

Watch huge hit knock Canucks prospect Jared McCann out of World Junior showcase game

Jared McCann hit by Nikita Zhuldikov (via Streamable)

The 2016 World Junior Championship doesn’t begin until late December, but the rivalry between Canada and Russia has already been turned up a notch.

In a World Junior Showcase game played Monday evening in Calgary, Team Canada took on Russia at the four-game exhibition. Early in the second period, shortly after a goal by Joe Hicketts to put Canada up 2-1, Canadian defenseman Jeremy Roy sent a pass up ice to Jared McCann at center ice. McCann turned to receive the pass and didn’t see Russian defenseman Nikita Zhuldikov coming to throw a hit. The result was a massive check: Read more

Matthew Tkachuk and the boys of summer headline The Hot List

Matthew Tkachuk. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

A Hot List in the middle of summer? Why not? There’s plenty of prospects on the ice right now, what with Canada hosting teams in Calgary and Team USA defending home ice in Lake Placid. From world junior prep to Ivan Hlinka tryouts for Canada’s under-18s, there are some important viewings going on right now for the international squads, so let’s take a look at some of the kids who are standing out so far. Players are listed with their presumed 2015-16 squads.

Matthew Tkachuk, LW – London Knights (OHL)

The exciting thing about Tkachuk is that his star will continue to rise as he continues to grow. Already 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Tkachuk showed off his numerous skills in USA White’s 10-4 destruction of Sweden. In fact, Tkachuk had a hat trick in the game.

“I consider myself a power forward and I mix in some skill, too,” Tkachuk said. “My best attribute is my hockey IQ. I use that to get me where I want to be, get to pucks and get around the net, where I am most of the time.”

The son of former NHL great Keith Tkachuk, Matthew has a big hockey family. Jimmy and Kevin Hayes are cousins, while Casey Fitzgerald, his teammate last year with the U.S. National Team Development Program, is a second cousin. Playing for the NTDP seemed like the best career move.

“I just knew it was the best decision for me,” he said. “Seeing all the guys who have moved forward to the NHL – Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Ryan Kesler – all those good players went there.”

Tkachuk was almost headed to Notre Dame for this season, but signed on with the powerhouse Knights, instead. He’ll go from riding shotgun with top 2016 prospect Auston Matthews at the NTDP to playing with a bevy of huge talents in London such as Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner. This will be a big development year and Tkachuk already has a role model picked out.

“I watch a lot of James van Riemsdyk,” he said. “I try to play exactly like he does. I’m a pretty big guy, I like to be around the net and I try to mix in some skill.”

Tkachuk wants to work on his quickness, but with such a fast mind, he’s already a handful for opponents. Draft eligible in 2016.

Mitch Marner, RW – London Knights (OHL)

The patience with the puck and the vision to find his man are two aspects of Marner’s game that are so fun to watch – unless you’re an opposing team. The Knights star displayed that in Canada’s 4-1 world junior camp win over Russia on Monday and there’s no reason to suspect the points machine will slow down anytime soon. Drafted fourth overall by Toronto in 2015.

Mikko Rantanen, RW – TPS Turku (Fin.)

Thanks to an out clause in his Finnish contract, Rantanen could come to North America this season and I think he has a shot at the NHL. USA Blue found that out the hard way in Lake Placid as the big, gifted winger thrashed the Yanks for three assists in a 10-3 stomping on Monday. Drafted 10th overall by Colorado in 2015.

Dante Fabbro, D – Penticton Vees (BCHL)

One of two Vees to watch this season alongside center Tyson Jost, Fabbro is a smart, skilled blueliner who doesn’t mind jumping in the rush. His rocket shot netted him a goal for Canada Red in his second under-18 camp game and he had an assist in the other. Fabbro is currently looking at NCAA options. Draft eligible in 2016.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, RW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

The talented winger would have been a great candidate for the list thanks to his overtime winner for Canada White’s second win over Canada Red at the under-18 camp, but there’s more to Dubois. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder goes to the net, protects the puck and has great playmaking vision. Draft eligible in 2016.

Brock Boeser, RW – University of North Dakota (NCHC)

As I’ve been telling anyone who listens, scoring in the USHL is tough and Boeser was one of the best with Waterloo. Thanks to his hard shot, Sweden learned that the hard way in Lake Placid as the UND recruit threw up a hat trick in a 10-4 devastation of the Tre Kroner. Drafted 23rd overall by Vancouver in 2015.

Carter Hart, G – Everett Silvertips (WHL)

Though Hart doesn’t have ideal NHL size at six-feet tall, the netminder makes up for it with his athleticism and great post-to-post movement. A breakout underage star for the Tips last season, he’s been solid for Canada Red’s under-18 squad so far. Draft eligible in 2016.

Sonny Milano, LW – Flint Firebirds (OHL)

One of the most experienced players at Team USA’s camp, Milano makes his name by dazzling in the offensive zone. Those sick hands and quick feet helped him notch two goals in USA White’s 5-2 win over Finland. Drafted 16th overall by Columbus in 2014.

Julius Nattinen, C – JYP (Fin.)

A big, talented pivot who impressed scouts last season by adding some nice bite to his game, Nattinen had two goals in Finland’s 10-3 bombing of USA Blue. He’ll take on a bigger role with JYP’s top squad in 2015-16, where his puck control skills will be welcome. Drafted 59th overall by Anaheim in 2015.

Rasmus Asplund, C – Farjestad (SHL)

Asplund began to turn heads last season and has brought up comparisons to Henrik Zetterberg thanks to his all-around game. Though he is playing wing for Sweden in Lake Placid, Asplund is good on faceoffs and is dangerous on both special teams. He has two goals and three points through two games. Draft eligible in 2016.