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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Benoit Groulx takes page from Sochi and ‘tic-tac-tao’ to lead Canada to gold

Zach Fuchale, Madison Bowey, Eric Comrie  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

As it turns out, we may never learn what Curtis Lazar looks like without a smile on his face. This one, you would think, will last a pretty long time.

Shedding five years of ignominy for your country will tend to do that to a guy, particularly one as optimistic as Lazar. The kid who came into Canada’s camp late, was named captain and provided much of the spark for the Canadian team was talking about filling his junior resume with a gold medal, which came when Canada defeated Russia 5-4 in yet another classic game between these two hockey superpowers. Read more

Canadian gold: a little swagger didn’t hurt this squad

Max Domi celebrates (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The stereotypical Canadian hockey player is humble, sometimes to a fault. But this year’s edition of the world junior team wanted to be different, going way back to the summer: They wanted to bring some swagger back to a program that had not won gold since 2009 and now, they have done it.

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Canada takes WJC gold in another epic clash with Russia

Fans and Team Canada players celebrate Connor McDavid's goal Monday at Air Canada Centre. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Canada is golden at the World Junior Championship for the first time in six years, but its road to the championship was hardly paved with gold in the final game.

There were speed bumps along the way, a whole bunch of them, but Canada prevailed in the gold medal game by a score of 5-4. But not without first almost imploding after taking a 5-1 lead midway through the second period. In what looked like shades of 2011, Canada allowed the Russians back in the game when the visiting team scored twice in 32 seconds and three times in 3:16 to narrow the gap to 5-4 after two periods. Read more