The big stories in the prospect world lately have been college related. Specifically, players changing their minds about where they want to go. Brock Boeser was headed to Wisconsin, but the 2015 prospect has re-opened matters. And Notre Dame has been bit twice in the past couple days, first by Matthew Tkachuk (2016) and now by Brent Gates (2015). Will these talented players end up in major junior, or just elsewhere on the college scene? We’ll keep you posted, but for now let’s look at some of the other kids making noise in the hockey world right now.
When I think of Pat Quinn, I harken back to the dark days of February, 1999. Quinn was just months into his tenure as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and I was equally green as the Maple Leafs beat reporter with The Toronto Star covering him.
I had found out not long before that my father was dying of cancer. Word somehow got to Quinn and one day during a post-practice scrum when I think he could see I was smiling on the outside and dying on the inside and was being cajoled by my colleagues, he pulled me into him with his big right arm and held me close for just a second. He never mentioned a word of it ever again, and neither did I. Read more
William ‘Willie’ Nylander was a polarizing draft choice for the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 8 overall last June. Some, myself included, praised the pick because of Nylander’s high ceiling. Others slammed the Leafs for grabbing King Joffrey on skates, a slick-stickhandling boy-man whose body would not hold up the NHL level. That latter group likely wanted a Nick Ritchie type at No. 8.
So far, score one for the Nylander backers.
Yes, the fact he returned to the Swedish League to re-sign with Modo suggested he was far from NHL-ready. He flashed skill but didn’t show enough strength to play for the Leafs, and they didn’t want to tempt themselves by keeping him with the American League’s Marlies, from which they could easily rush him to the big club. But he’s been nothing short of spectacular in the SHL, where his primary goal was to bulk up. A tweet from Domenic Galamini suggested Nylander’s 14 points through 10 games as an 18-year-old put him in elite company. Digging through the SHL’s complete records reveals that Nylander averages more points per game than anyone in Swedish League history during an age-18 season. He’s at 1.4, and the next closest finished at 1.00, meaning he’ll challenge for the record even if he regresses.
Yost Arena in Ann Arbor can be a fun place to play. With nine minutes to go before the game starts, the fans at the University of Michigan rink begin to sing the Canadian national anthem, even though only three Canucks are in the lineup that night. They even have a Maize and Blue-colored Canadian flag. The locals had a Texas flag when Chris Brown (now with Washington) skated there and New York Rangers speedster Carl Hagelin got a Swedish flag. Hagelin, who captained the Wolverines in his junior year, made such an impact that the team all signed that flag for him and the pep band learned Sweden’s anthem for his final game.
But with success comes attrition and after making the NCAA tournament for more than two decades without missing, the Wolverines have been left at home the past two seasons. If they hope to return to the promised land, they’re going to do it with youth.
A popular notion is the impact of Quebec on goaltending has diminished significantly. That’s not true, not at all. After all, almost a third of NHL teams – eight to be exact – employ Quebec-born goaltending coaches. The shocking, and blasphemous if you’re from La Belle Province, fact is that total represents double the number of goalies from Quebec who are actually playing in the NHL.
Not including Martin Brodeur, who may or may not find NHL employment, the NHL’s Quebec goaltending fraternity could easily hold its meetings in a Mini Cooper. There was a time, when Patrick Roy made goaltending cool and the position attracted the province’s best athletes, when half the league had a starter or backup goalie from Quebec on its roster. Of the 60 possible goaltenders in the NHL in 2014-15, that number will have likely dwindled to four: Chicago’s Corey Crawford, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier and Florida’s Roberto Luongo.
OK, so there’s a very good chance that Connor McDavid will be available to Canada for the world juniors this December: McPocalypse Now has been averted. The timeline for healing his broken hand is five to six weeks and the world juniors start in six weeks. So what can we expect from the gifted center?
If Connor McDavid’s broken finger goes the distance and he’s out of action for six weeks, Hockey Canada is willing to wait and will save a spot for him on the Canadian team for the World Junior Championship.
The Erie Otters announced Wednesday night that McDavid suffered a fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his right hand – which basically means he broke his pinky finger – and is expected to be out of the lineup between five and six weeks. Six weeks from Wednesday is Dec. 24 and Canada opens its WJC schedule against Slovakia in Montreal Dec. 26.
Teams must finalize their 22-man rosters by 24 hours before their first game of the tournament, but an enormous factor working in McDavid’s favor is that teams are also allowed to keep one extra roster spot open that they can fill at any point in the tournament, and that player can play in any game provided he is added to the roster three hours before the game.
McDavid will be at camp when it opens Dec. 11 and by that time he will have been out of the lineup four weeks. Hockey Canada will monitor McDavid’s progress, but it’s clear it will keep the light on for McDavid as long as there is hope he can play at some point in the tournament. Even if he can’t participate in the final selection camp or any of the exhibition games, McDavid will be on the team if he’s healthy.
“We have a lot of good hockey players in Canada,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national teams for Hockey Canada. “But Connor is a very special player. We want a 100 per cent Connor McDavid in the lineup and we’ll do anything to make that happen.”
Hockey Canada has dealt with injury issues before, so this is not a unique situation for the World Junior team. Salmond said it’s too early to tell, but he hinted Canada would be prepared to go with McDavid even if he is not 100 percent healthy. If he misses the entire camp and the exhibition games, it means McDavid will be hitting the ground running, exposing himself to an incredibly high level of competition after sitting idle for six weeks. But that’s clearly a situation Hockey Canada is willing to endure for a player who was on a 170-point pace with the Erie Otters before he was injured.
“We’ll have to see how his stickhandling and puckhandling will look,” Salmond said, “but he’s such a special player, if he can come in and play, I can’t think of a situation where he wouldn’t be put in our lineup.”
Salmond said he was with World Junior coach Benoit Groulx and head scout Ryan Jankowski at the Subway Super Series game in Brandon Tuesday night when he learned of McDavid’s injury and called it a “double whammy” because the Western League team also lost the game. But he said after everyone processed the situation and spoke with the Otters, they feel confident McDavid will be able to play.
“I think that would be the best Christmas present for Canadian hockey fans,” Salmond said, “and for us.”
The hypocrites have taken over the asylum.
Connor McDavid gets hurt in a fight and there’s a groundswell of finger-waving, tongue-cluckers wondering why the most talented player in junior hockey is trading knuckle sandwiches with someone he should be battling on NHL 15.
Seriously? This is exactly what we want. Minus the broken/fractured/bruised metacarpal, of course.