Hey mate, Australian prospect Nathan Walker signs NHL contract

Brian Costello
Hershey Bears Hockey

It’s just a matter of time before the first Australian drafted by an NHL team gets a chance to play in the big league. Nathan Walker was selected 89th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2014 draft and Friday signed a three-year entry-level contract.

“He’s probably still a couple of years away, but he’s on the right track,” said Capitals director, amateur scouting Ross Mahoney. “He’s one determined guy, I’ll tell you that. He’s had an incredible journey so far.”

Walker, 20, was born in Cardiff, Wales, and was two when his family moved to Sydney, Australia. Though hockey is a bottom rung sport in Australia, Walker became fascinated with the game at the age of six watching Hollywood movies Mystery, Alaska and The Mighty Ducks.

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Who wants to marry Alex Ovechkin? Not Maria Kirilenko

The Canadian Press
Maria Kirilenko and Alex Ovechkin (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

Another sports power couple’s engagement is off.

Two months after golfer Rory McIlroy broke off his engagement to Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko says she has called off her planned wedding to three-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.

The two had been together since 2011 and became engaged in December 2012.

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Which franchise will be the next to win its first-ever Stanley Cup?

Wild-Blues

We recently sorted out our Yearbook predictions for 2014-15, which included projected standings and which team will win the Stanley Cup. Without giving it away, our anticipated winner has been to the promised land before. Which mathematically, should not be surprising. Only 12 of the NHL’s 30 teams have never won the league title and it’s hard to say who will be next. When the Los Angeles Kings won their first Cup in 2012, they broke a streak of futility that had stretched back to 1968 when the team originally entered the league. The following teams would like to join them:

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NHL logo rankings No. 28: Washington Capitals

Rory Boylen
capslogo

It’s Day 3 of our NHL logo rankings, so we introduce a look we slotted in at No. 28: The Washington Capitals.

The reason this one didn’t get much love is because it’s less a logo than it is just the team’s name being spelled out. The “T” in Capitals forms a hockey stick that has a red puck next to it and the three stars along the top are an addition to the original look. The red, white and blue colors are representative of the capital city of the USA, but other than that, it’s just “Washington Capitals” in italics. Not much to it.

Past Capitals logos have included an eagle and the Washington Capitol, though they were never embraced and the color scheme changed with them. But you figure there would be a lot of options for any potential new look for Alex Ovechkin’s team. Think you can do a better job coming up with a logo for Washington? Now’s your chance.

Like we have with Carolina and Colorado, we’re inviting you to redesign the Washington Capitals logo. Use whichever color combination you want and submit your new look to editorial@thehockeynews.com. At the end of our logo ranking release, we will run our favorite redesigns from all 30 teams.

(All logos below are from Chris Creamer’s website.)

HISTORY OF THE CAPITALS LOGO
In the beginning, the Capitals logo represented the truly awful. In its first season in the NHL, Washington’s 21 points was about half the amount their expansion brothers, the Kansas City Scouts, accumulated. Washington’s .131 points percentage is still the worst in NHL history and in the era of the salary cap floor, it’s hard to imagine a team ever being that bad again.

The first Washington logo was very basic, straightforward and the colors popped. There are some obvious differences between the first Caps logo and the current “throwback” look. The slant of the letters goes to the left instead of the right, there are no stars above “Washington,” the stick is red, the puck is blue and the font is more plain. The Capitals used this logo from their inception in 1974-75 until the 1995-96 season.

washingtonlogo1

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The NHL’s weakest division? Um, “congratulations”, Metro

Marc-Andre Fleury

When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.

I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.

So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.

So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more

Three playoff teams who could miss in 2014-15, and three non-playoff teams who could get in

Datsyuk nailed

If only the puck bounced this way or that way. If only Wade Dubielewicz hadn’t stood on his head in a random shootout performance on the last day of the season. Making or missing the playoffs often comes down to a few chance occurrences. It’s thus reasonable to forecast a few teams falling on the reverse side of the coin a year later. Toronto, Ottawa, Washington, Vancouver and the Islanders swapped spots with Philadelphia, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Colorado this past season.

Here are three 2014-15 candidates to slide from in the big dance to out – and three to slide from out to in.

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Rumor Roundup: Are the Maple Leafs done making moves?

nazemkadri

Toronto Maple Leafs fans hoping for their club to make a big splash in this summer’s trade market are likely to be disappointed. The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno believes the rest of the summer will be a quiet one for the Leafs.

DiManno speculates the “small-beer” moves made by Leafs GM Dave Nonis – signing Stephane Robidas and Mike Santorelli via free agency, swapping Carl Gunnarsson for Roman Polak, bringing back Leo Komarov and Matt Frattin – could be his only significant ones this off-season. She also claims no one’s calling about Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf or unhappy backup goalie James Reimer, and she rejected talk of Martin Brodeur signing with the Leafs as mere rumor.

If DiManno is correct, that also means center Nazem Kadri and defenseman Jake Gardiner – fixtures in last season’s trade rumor mill – will also return with the Leafs for 2014-15. That means the only Leaf facing an uncertain future is defenseman Cody Franson, who (along with Reimer) was among 20 NHL players to file for salary arbitration. Nonis reportedly offered up Franson to the Montreal Canadiens in a failed bid to acquire Josh Gorges, who nixed that move. Read more