Canucks’ Virtanen scores most painful goal of the year, directs slapshot in with his face

Jared Clinton
Jake Virtanen (via Streamable)

Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen’s stat-line Thursday was an interesting one: he registered one goal, two assists and a few stitches after deflecting a puck into the Edmonton net with his face.

With the Canucks up 3-2 and on the power play in pre-season action, the puck was worked back to the blueline where Yannick Weber unleashed a shot that was deflected on its way towards the goal. The puck’s trajectory changed, glanced off of Virtanen’s face and dropped into the net behind Oilers netminder Cam Talbot.

Virtanen’s tally — which the NHL listed as his via deflection — left him bloodied, but he was able to skate off under his own power and even gave the Edmonton crowd a wave as he headed for the dressing room: Read more

Top 5 underrated and overrated players of 2014-15

Jori Lehtera (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

At one point or another in nearly every NHLers career, he will be either overvalued or undervalued. One great year can lead to big money contracts and pundits gushing about their ability and a down year can lead to cries that they’ve lost their scoring touch and should be sent to the minors.

At certain points over the course of a campaign, there are a number of players who will fall into either the underrated and overrated category, but there are a select few who stand out at the end of a season as the players who have been given far too little — or too much — credit. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Hiller could be odd man out in Flames crease

Jonas Hiller turns aside Bo Horvat (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames entered training camp carrying three goaltenders in Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and promising Joni Ortio. At some point, they’ll have to address this potential log jam between the pipes.

Should the 24-year-old Ortio have a strong training camp, the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis speculates Hiller could become the odd man out. Despite winning 26 games last season, the Swiss netminder was often inconsistent. The 33-year-old is entering the final year of his two-year contract carrying a cap hit of $4.5 million.

Ramo, meanwhile, is on a one-year, $3.8 million deal. Ortio is carrying an affordable $600K salary this season, but he can’t be demoted without first passing through waivers. Given his potential, a rival club is sure to pluck him off the wire. Read more

Jacob Markstrom is finally ready for prime time. For real this time. Really

The Hockey News
Jacob Markstrom (Lindsay Mogle/Utica Comets)

By John Pitarresi

Jacob Markstrom has come a long, long way in his hockey career. But not in the favorable sense you’d expect from that sort of expression.

He came to North America from Gavle, Sweden as a 20-year-old and the No. 2 NHL prospect worldwide as judged in THN’s Future Watch 2010. He’s played in the northeast (Rochester, and now Utica), he’s played in the southeast (Florida), he’s played in the southwest (San Antonio) and he’s played in the northwest (Vancouver).

Yes, Markstrom has come a long way – geographically speaking.

It wasn’t supposed to take this long for Markstrom to make a name for himself. Read more

THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Vancouver Canucks

The Hockey News
Sedins (Getty Images)

2014-15 Record: 49-29-5 (101 pts.)

THN’s Prediction: 6th, Pacific Division

What To Expect: It’s never fun losing to the underdog, as the Canucks did when they fell to the Flames in the first round in April. GM Jim Benning didn’t take kindly to the defeat. He revamped his front office, replacing his VP of hockey operations, assistant GM and director of player personnel. Benning then overhauled his roster, expelling Kevin Bieksa, Eddie Lack, Zack Kassian and Nick Bonino. But the Canucks didn’t sufficiently replace the departed talent, as only Brandon Sutter, Brandon Prust and Matt Bartkowski were added.

Benning says the team will remain competitive, but the roster has been downgraded and must again be carried by the Sedin twins, who turn 35 this year. The Canucks, who were the Pacific Division’s second seed with 101 points, will take a tumble. Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 13 – Utica Comets

Jared Clinton
Utica Comets logo (via SportsLogos/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

The Utica Comets were so close to capturing their first Calder Cup in just their second season in upstate New York, but they were run over in five games by the mighty Manchester Monarchs. So where do the Comets go from here?

During this off-season, Utica has lost both of its starting goaltenders from 2013-14 — Jacob Markstrom will be in Vancouver, Joacim Eriksson left for Europe — and both of its top scorers. Cal O’Reilly, who led the team with 61 points, is off to Buffalo and Brandon DeFazio landed a deal with Boston. Coming in this year, though, the Comets have snagged Blair Jones, who notched 9 goals, 21 points in 33 AHL games in 2014-15. That’s a nice addition for the club.

Plus, there’s always the youth talent to consider. Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Cole Cassels, Dane Fox and Alexandre Grenier are all a year older. For Cassels and Fox, this will be their first taste of the AHL, but they’ve got the ability to contribute enough to replace the losses the Comets have suffered.

But that still leaves the goaltending issue. In 2014-15, Markstrom was nothing short of incredible, posting a 1.88 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. It’s tough to find a goaltender to replace that kind of puck-stopping in the AHL, but Richard Bachman will have to give it a shot. This past season Bachman posted a 2.38 GAA and .918 SP, but maybe he sees a bump from the quality of players in front of him in Utica. If the Comets want to get back to the Calder Cup final, Bachman might be the key. Read more

Lucic says it would be a dream come true to play for hometown Canucks. Could it happen?

Jared Clinton

Newly acquired Los Angeles Kings left winger Milan Lucic is about to embark on his first professional season outside of a Boston Bruins uniform, but he might already have his sights set on a third professional home come 2016-17.

In a recent interview with TSN 1410, Lucic, a Vancouver native, was asked about whether or not he’d ever come to his hometown to suit up for the Canucks, and Lucic didn’t write off the possibility of him skating alongside some of the same players he watched his then-Bruins defeat in the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

“I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen moving on,” Lucic told TSN 1410. “I mean I have one year left on my contract, and there’s a possibility that I can hit the [unrestricted free agent] market. It’s obviously something that’s been a dream of mine since I’ve been a kid, is to play in your hometown and play for the Canucks, but right now the main focus is going down to L.A. and trying to make the most of that.” Read more