Losing Whalers, gaining U.S. NTDP an upgrade for Plymouth

Jack Eichel  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

There have been a lot of proposed names bandied about for Flint’s new Ontario League team that will hit the ice next season. I’m kind of partial to Hurricanes. After all, that’s what the team was named the last time Peter Karmanos played a key role in a city losing its Whalers.

The Plymouth Whalers, who began their life as the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors in 1989, then became the Detroit Jr. Wings, then became the Detroit Whalers and have been in Plymouth since 1997, were sold today to a group that plans to move the team to Flint in time for next season. The purchase still has to be approved by the OHL, which is expected to do so at its next board of governors meeting Feb. 2. Read more

Portland’s powerful Paul Bittner leads off The Hot List

Paul Bittner (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The United States League holds its Top Prospects Game in Dubuque tonight, with draft dandies such as Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser and Tom Novak leading the charge. And with the world juniors in the books, it’s interesting to look back at the CHL and see which players upped their games with extra responsibility and opportunity. So that’s part of what we’re doing this week in our weekly look at prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL some day.

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Soo Greyhounds rookie GM swings for the fences with blockbusters

Nick Ritchie (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

More than two decades ago, with his team sitting on top of the NHL standings, New York Rangers GM Neil Smith made three blockbuster trades on deadline day that moved three core players out and brought four veterans into the fold.

“And how did that all work out?” asked Kyle Raftis, the first-year GM of the Ontario League’s Soo Greyhounds.

Like Smith did in 1994, Raftis has a team that’s in first place. Like Smith, Raftis saw that his team was good, but probably not good enough to win a championship. And like Smith, Raftis swung for the fences at the trade deadline. Read more

2015 NHL Draft rankings: McDavid still rules the roost

Connor McDavid (Richard Wolowicz/HHOF Images)

The World Junior Championship is a big part of the prospect calendar, but not the be-all end-all when it comes to the draft. Because the tournament tends to favor 19-year-olds, you can’t fault a 17-year-old for being left on the sidelines. Sure, it’s a checkmark if they make it and thrive, but you can see how nationality and even position can make it an unlevel playing field.

Below you will find my second run at a top-30 ranking for the 2015 NHL draft. There is a good deal of change from the first installment, though at the top much remains the same, since I’m conservative that way. You will also notice no goaltenders have been included. Frankly, it’s been a tough year to gauge netminders and when you see Zach Fucale and Thatcher Demko drop to the second round in recent years, you get a little gun-shy. With that in mind, here’s what I came up with:

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The Hot List: Pavel Zacha and other prospects from the world juniors

Pavel Zacha (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

Another world junior tournament is in the books and it was a dandy, with Canada holding off the Russians 5-4 in the gold medal game. Next year, the holiday classic shifts over to Finland, where the host nation will hope to rebound from a sub-par outing in 2014. There was a ton of talent in Montreal and Toronto, so here’s a wrap of some players that caught my eye. As always, only prospects who have yet to play an NHL game were eligible.

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Russian defenseman Paigin throws stick into crowd, hits fan after gold medal game

Jared Clinton
(Josh Epstein/Instagram)

Following Russia’s 5-4 defeat in the World Junior Championship gold medal game, Russian defenseman Ziat Paigin threw his stick into the crowd and it struck a fan.

A Canadian fan in attendance, Josh Epstein, caught the stick-throwing incident on camera after the game and posted it to Instagram. In addition, a fan in the lower bowl of the Air Canada Center caught the act on tape. If you watch the video, you can see Paigin throw his stick on the left hand side shortly after the Canadian team begins to celebrate: Read more

Still McDavid over Eichel for No. 1…and other World Junior leftovers

Denis Godla (left) and Martin Reway  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

It was awfully nice of the Toronto Maple Leafs to hold off on firing their coach until Tuesday, and your trusty correspondent means that in all sincerity. The Maple Leafs probably knew they wanted to fire Randy Carlyle on Monday, but held off the gong show and allowed the best teenagers in the world to have the stage all to themselves without turning it into a gong show. Good on them for doing that.

The day after the night before, here are some final thoughts that never made their way from the notebook:

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