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Jarome Iginla's best days are behind him, but he'd be willing to waive his no-movement clause to join a club that would give him one last shot at a Stanley Cup.
The constant trade speculation surrounding Colorado Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog pushed the trade status of veteran teammate Jarome Iginla to the sidelines. The Denver Post's Terry Frei reports Avalanche GM Joe Sakic won't reveal his intentions leading up of the March 1 trade deadline, but will continue listening to offers. That includes those that might come in from playoff contenders for Iginla.
Now 39 and reaching the end of his 20-year NHL career, Iginla is willing to waive his no-movement clause to join a club that gives him one last shot at winning the Stanley Cup. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun cites a source claiming the Los Angeles Kings discussed the merits of acquiring the veteran right winger, who played his best seasons for Kings coach Darryl Sutter during their years with the Calgary Flames.
According to LeBrun, Iginla's $5.33-million salary-cap hit could be a sticking point for the Kings. For a possible deal to take place, he believes the Avalanche would have to pick up part of it.
LeBun doubts the Avs are getting many call for Iginla. While he remains a well-respected player and leader, his best days are well behind him. With only seven goals and 15 points in 55 games, he's on track for his worst performance in a non-lockout NHL season since his 13-goal, 32-point sophomore campaign in 1997-98.
A playoff-bound club seeking experienced depth and leadership at right wing could take a chance on Iginla. Perhaps getting away from the moribund Avalanche for one last shot at that long-elusive championship might improve his production. The Avs, however, shouldn't expect to get much in return. At this point, they could be fortunate to receive a third-round pick.
BRIAN BOYLE A SOLID ALTERNATIVE TO MARTIN HANZAL
Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal is frequently mentioned as a possible target for clubs seeking size and two-way skills at center. A more affordable option, however, could be Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Brian Boyle.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports several playoff clubs are interested in the 6-foot-6, 244-pound Boyle. Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli scouted the 32-year-old during a recent Lightning game against the Minnesota Wild. Friedman also said the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs could be among the suitors.
Like Hanzal, Boyle is eligible for UFA status in July. However, he has several advantages over the Coyotes' center.
A versatile checking-line forward, Boyle can play all three forward positions and can even skate on defense when needed. He's not a scorer but is on pace this season to reach 20 goals and he's had a healthier career than the oft-injured Hanzal.
Most importantly, Boyle has considerable recent playoff experience. He reached the Stanley Cup final with the New York Rangers in 2014, returned to the final the following season with the Lightning and helped them reach last year's Eastern Conference finals.
CURTIS LAZAR LIKELY LOOKING FOR TRADE
Trade speculation is growing over young Ottawa Senators center Curtis Lazar. A first-round selection by the Sens (17th overall) in the 2013 NHL draft, he was projected to become a quality two-way forward.
Now in his third NHL season, Lazar's career hasn't unfolded as expected. He tallied 15 points in 67 games as a rookie in 2014-15 and 20 points in 76 games as a sophomore in 2015-16. This season, the 22-year-old played in 30 games with only one assist to show for it.
Lazard was a healthy scratch in several recent contests, prompting some pundits to suggest he could become a trade candidate. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch cites TSN's Darren Dreger saying he wouldn't be surprised if the unhappy young forward asked to be dealt.
Garrioch said the Lazar camp hasn't requested a trade, but will meet with Senators GM Pierre Dorion on Saturday to discuss options for his future. A trade will likely be among them. If Lazar is shopped before the deadline, Garrioch thinks Dorion could seek a high draft pick in return.
That might appear as an unrealistic asking price, but this year's draft isn't a deep one and some clubs could be willing to move their first rounders. Lazar could benefit from a change of scenery and a rival GM could take the gamble.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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Jesse Puljujarvi is starting to find his game at the pro level during his stay in the AHL, and he’s not the first top-10 pick to need some seasoning in the minors before attempting to make an impact in the NHL.
Jesse Puljujarvi’s stay in the NHL dragged on much longer than it should have. There’s not going to be many arguments about that. Drafted fourth overall by the Oilers, he came into the lineup, scored in his first game of the campaign, but was back watching from the press box by the Oilers’ fourth contest. He bounced in and out of the lineup into early January, and it wasn’t until Jan. 9 that Edmonton pulled the trigger and shipped him down to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
The move has been good for Puljujarvi, too.
In his first game with the Condors, Puljujarvi netted an assist. The next game, he added another, followed by a third assist in his third game in the minors. He kept his point streak going with a goal in game No. 4 in the AHL, doubled his goal total with another tally in his fifth game with the Condors and now, 15 games into his tenure in the AHL, Puljujarvi has five goals and 11 points. He’s coming off of a three-game goal streak, and in a recent outing against the Ontario Reign, Puljujarvi set a season-best when he registered six shots on goal. It’s safe to say he’s starting to find his game at the pro level.
While Puljujarvi’s tough time in the NHL may have disappointed some, especially as Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Mitch Marner rip it up in their respective rookie seasons, that the 18-year-old is producing in the AHL is a good sign, and it could be the absolute best thing for his development. At his current pace, Puljujarvi is on pace to finish the season with a respectable 13 goals and 29 points in 39 games in the AHL. And if come next season the Oilers decide Puljujarvi could use a bit more time in the minors, at least they know it won’t hurt his confidence when it comes to his ability to produce.
There’s nothing wrong with spending some time in the AHL, either, as past top 10 picks have proven that sometimes a bit of seasoning in the minors can provide big returns. Here are five top-10 picks who have turned AHL development into success in the NHL:
5. Mikko Rantanen
Rantanen, like Puljujarvi, went straight from the draft to professional hockey. The difference, however, is that it didn’t take nearly as long for the Avalanche to make the decision to demote Rantanen, the 10th pick in 2015, in his rookie season. Six games into his stay with Colorado to start the 2015-16 campaign, he was sent down to the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage and the move paid off.
When he went to the minors, Rantanen was a force. In 52 games, he scored 24 goals and 60 points and finished second in scoring by a rookie despite the fact he took nearly two weeks off to head to the World Junior Championship and captain Finland to a gold medal. Altogether, only eight players of any position, age or status finished with more points than Rantanen.
Rantanen would have been a no-doubter to start the season in Colorado in 2016-17 if he hadn’t injured his ankle, but after a short four-game stint with the Rampage, he was back with the Avalanche. Now 48 games into his rookie campaign, he’s third on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points.
4. William Nylander
There’s an argument to be made — and probably a good one — that Nylander’s stay in the AHL should have ended before this season. However, no one’s about to argue with the results, and the Toronto Marlies were sure glad to have the shifty Swede for close to 100 games over the past two full seasons.
Nylander was taken eighth overall by the Maple Leafs in 2014, and by the middle of 2014-15, he had been loaned to Marlies. Over the course of his first 37 games in the league, Nylander scored 14 goals and 32 points, and when he returned to Toronto for the start of the 2015-16 season, he took his scoring in the AHL to a new level. In 38 games, he registered 18 goals and 45 points. It was enough to earn Nylander a call up by the end of February, and he stuck with the Maple Leafs through to the end of the 2015-16 season.
Now, in his rookie NHL campaign, Nylander has pieced together a 14-goal, 36-point season and is on pace for a 20-goal, 50-point year. It took longer for him to become a full-time NHLer than most would have expected given his AHL production, but Toronto’s patience is paying off.
3. Logan Couture
The Sharks did some nifty maneuvering on draft day in 2007 to climb the draft and grab Couture, but just because they wanted him so badly didn’t mean they were about to rush his development. That’s why, across the 2009-10 season, San Jose had no issue sending him up and down, bouncing him between the NHL and AHL.
By the time the 2009-10 campaign ended, Couture had been recalled by San Jose and subsequently assigned to Worcester, which housed the Sharks’ AHL team, six times. The first recall came on Oct. 25, 2009 and the final time he was brought up was on March 18, 2010. It worked, though. In the AHL, Couture scored 20 goals and 53 points in 42 games, and by the time he became a full-time NHLer in 2010-11, he was ready to contribute.
Couture scored 32 goals and 56 points in his rookie season with the Sharks and he finished second in Calder Trophy voting, only narrowly defeated by Jeff Skinner. Only four players from the 2007 draft have scored more goals and the only players with a greater points per game are Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn.
2. Karl Alzner
Comparing a defensive defenseman to a potentially explosive winger like Puljujarvi isn’t easy, but it’s worth mentioning Alzner this high on the list because he was a fifth overall pick in 2007 who didn’t become a full-time NHLer until 2010. Once he did, though, Alzner became a staple of the Capitals’ back end and one of the most consistent players in the organization.
The road to Washington, however, went directly through Hershey, and Alzner’s time with the Bears wasn’t short. He first suited up in Hershey to start the 2008-09 season, and if you thought Couture’s up-and-down period with the Sharks was a lot, get a load of Alzner’s. From October 2009 to April 2010, Alzner was sent back and forth between the AHL and NHL 11 times. Seven of those came during the 2009-10 campaign, too.
By the time Alzner was finally a full-timer in the big league, he had played more than 100 games in the AHL, scoring four goals and 41 points along the way. But since the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Alzner hasn’t missed a single game in Washington, playing more than 500 games in a row. He’s one of the key cogs on the blueline for a team in position to really take a run at the Stanley Cup.
1. Bobby Ryan
Ryan was never going to get a fair shake in the seasons that immediately followed the draft because no matter how well he played, he wasn’t Sidney Crosby. It couldn’t have been easy going second overall in the 2006 draft behind arguably the best player of the modern era. And the scrutiny surrounding Ryan was even higher when, come the 2007-08 season, Ryan wasn’t able to crack the Ducks roster on a full-time basis.
Ryan started the 2007-08 season in Anaheim, but after four games he was back in the AHL. It would take more than two months for him to get back into the NHL, that stint ended in less than three weeks, and he wasn’t up again until there were only four weeks remaining in the season. The hope was he’d be a full-time NHLer to start the 2008-09 season, but that wasn’t the case to start the year. Instead, he played 14 games in the AHL before getting the call up.
He took off from there, though. Ryan scored 31 goals and 57 points in 64 games to finish second in Calder voting. The next season, he chipped in 35 goals and 64 points and proceeded to notch at least 31 goals in each of the next two seasons.
Ryan’s scoring ability made him the poster child for patient development through the AHL. Between the regular season and playoffs, Ryan played more than 100 games in the Ducks’ farm system, and it paid dividends. His first four full seasons saw him score 131 goals and 249 points in 309 games. Only nine players scored more goals during that four-year span.
While Ryan’s play has since dropped off, there’s no denying that his time in the AHL certainly didn’t hurt his development.
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The Wild have a potential Vezina winner, coach of the year and a workhorse top defenseman, but come the post-season, opponent’s should most fear Minnesota’s depth.
Devan Dubnyk is well on his way to winning the Vezina Trophy and given the Wild have matched their win total from the past season in 25 fewer games, Bruce Boudreau is going to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams Award. He could very well take home the hardware by the time the season ends, too. There’s also going to be talk about Mikko Koivu for the Selke Trophy and Ryan Suter, as always, is going to be part of Norris Trophy discussions.
But with all the solo performances that have made this season an impressive one for the Wild, there’s more to this Minnesota club that the standout performances of single players. Rather, the best thing the Wild have going is their incredible depth, and as the playoffs inch nearer and Minnesota gears up for what looks like it could be a deep run, the way the Wild have been able to win should be striking fear into the hearts of opponents.
As of Friday, the Wild currently have the fourth-highest scoring offense in the league, but that’s a bit of a head scratcher given not a single player has hit the 20-goal plateau. Compare Minnesota’s lineup to that of the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals — the top three offenses in the league, respectively — and you don’t exactly walk away thinking the Wild belong in the conversation. The Penguins boast Crosby and Malkin, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller are leading the way for the Rangers and the Capitals are always lethal with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. On paper, one would likely take all three offenses ahead of Minnesota’s, especially given the Wild’s current top scorer, Mikael Granlund, had maxed out at 44 points before this season.
It’s been that kind of year in Minnesota, however, with just about everyone on the team stepping up under Boudreau. Matter of fact, no team boasts a more spread out offense than the Wild, who have 10 different players to have scored at least 10 goals. That list includes Koivu, Granlund, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart, Eric Staal, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker. The Capitals high-powered offense is the only other group in the league that has as many 10-goal scorers, but the Wild have two more players, Suter and Jared Spurgeon, sitting at eight goals and on pace to hit double digits this season.
One of the things that’s evident is that Bourdeau has found a way to get the most out of players who are right in that prime stage of their development. There’s no better example than Granlund, whose 16-goal, 51-point performance thus far has already seen him set dual career highs. He’s not the only one on pace to reach new heights, however. Coyle’s 44 points are a new career-best, while Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker are all on their way to setting new bests.
And while Granlund is the best example of a guy flourishing under Boudreau, no player is quite as indicative of the way the Wild’s depth has been clicking like Zucker. The 2015-16 season was a frustrating one for Zucker and Wild fans. After coming off a 20-goal campaign in 2014-15, the belief was Minnesota had a goal-scoring star in the making. All the facets of his game were present, but none more than his ability to absolutely burn up the ice when he hit his top speed. And while he’s seen his ice time take a dip under Boudreau — he’s playing roughly a shift or two less per game — Zucker is having the season of his life while playing bottom-six minutes.
Through 57 games, he has 16 goals and 38 points, but only a single point of his has come on the power play and not a single point of his has been scored shorthanded. Instead, he’s been a stud for the Wild at 5-on-5, so much so that he’s in the same league as Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. That sounds bizarre, but it’s true.
Zucker’s managed 14 goals and 37 points while playing five-a-side this season, and the other 500-plus minute players who rank in the top five in scoring are McDavid, Crosby, Brent Burns and Mark Scheifele. That’s a select bunch as all four rank in the top six in league scoring. More impressive yet is that Crosby is the only one of those four others to have a higher points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than Zucker’s 2.86. Of course, no one is about to say Zucker’s in the same overall league as Crosby or McDavid, but when it comes to even strength play this season, the Wild winger is sure producing like it.
The brilliant thing about a player like Zucker playing that way is that he’s exactly the type of weapon a team that has designs on going deep into the post-season needs. Every post-season run has its unsung heroes, and they’re generally players who score a clutch overtime goal or get moved up the lineup in hopes of generating some offense. With the way Zucker has played, chances are he could be exactly that type of player for Minnesota in the playoffs, and if it’s not him, Niederreiter, Haula, Pominville and Stewart have all been proving they can give that added punch.
The post-season can be as much about rolling four lines and getting some mismatches along the way as it is about high-end skill. Given that’s the case, there isn’t a team more well equipped to make an opponent’s bottom six and depth defensemen pay quite as much as the Wild. So, while Dubnyk, Koivu and Suter could be in line for end-of-year award recognition, it’s the depth, led by players such as Zucker, that stands to carry Minnesota towards the real prize they’re chasing.
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Matt Walilko had a playoff game to remember, recording six goals and five assists. It wasn't exactly a once-in-a-lifetime game since he had a 10-point game earlier this year.
In the dying minutes of his Jr. C playoff game Tuesday night, Matt Walilko of the Midland Flyers had his stick broken in two by a slash. A dastardly deed to be sure, but you can kind of see his opponent’s reasoning. It was the probably same thought process Bobby Clarke had when he broke Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle during the 1972 Summit Series.
“The guy was telling me that my stick was way too hot and he had to break it,” Walilko said. “He just axed the stick right in half and said it had too many points in it. We were laughing about it after the game.”
Considering that stick – along with the 17-year-old using it - was responsible for six goals and five assists in a 12-3 rout over the Huntsville Otters, you can understand why the opponent would rather see that one propping up tomato plants than demolishing his team’s playoff hopes. So when his team hits the ice for Game 6 of their playoff series Friday night, Walilko will be using new lumber, but riding the confidence of a once-in-a-lifetime game.
Or was it? Earlier this season, the Grade 12 high school student registered a 10-point game with five goals and five assists en route to scoring 80 points in 39 games and being named rookie of the year in Ontario's Provincial Junior Hockey League. Walilko is just 17, playing in a league where there are players as old as 22. He was easily the youngest player among the league’s top 10 scorers this season and one of only two teenagers. In what should come as no surprise, Walilko’s night vaulted him into the league’s playoff scoring lead with 10 goals and 20 points in five games. “It makes it look like I’ve been lighting it up every night,” Walilko said, “but I only had nine points in four games before that one.”
Back to the game, Walilko attributed his good fortune to being in the right place at the right time. He said a couple of key players were out with injuries and school commitments, so he knew he would have to step up. One of his linemates had seven points in the game and the other linemate had six. Walilko said that, as was the case in his 10-point night earlier this season, he went into the game knowing he was facing the opponent’s backup goalie.
“You kind of do your research, right?” Walilko said. “You see the backup is starting and you try to put a lot of pucks on net.”
What makes the feat even more impressive is that it gave Walilko’s team a 3-2 series lead with a chance to win it in Game 6. The Flyers had dug themselves into a 2-0 hole in the series, but have stormed back and clearly have some momentum on their side, not to mention a confident young man leading the attack.
Which begs the question: What is a young man this good doing playing this far down the junior hockey ladder? Well, Walilko played AAA midget last season in Barrie and rather than play on the third or fourth line for a Jr. B or Jr. A team this season, he thought it would be better for his development if he were a prime time player at a lower level. He has his sights set on earning a scholarship, something he hopes to do in a year or so. Walilko plans to take next season off school and hopes to play next season for the Pembroke Lumber Kings. He plans to write his SATs in the hope of attracting interest from U.S. schools.
Flyers president and GM Gerry Asselin said Walilko is so focused on getting a scholarship that he turned down a chance to practice, and perhaps even play, with the struggling Barrie Colts this season. The Flyers are affiliated with the Colts, who are struggling and in last place this season. Asselin said he recently had a conversation with Colts GM Jason Ford, in which Ford asked him to suggest a couple of players the Colts might have a look at down the stretch. Asselin said when he approached Walilko, he was flatly turned down.
“He’s a smart kid,” Asselin said. “He has his head screwed on right.”
A student at a Catholic high school in Barrie, Walilko said he can’t take all the credit for his success. His personal motto comes from the Bible passage Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“I’ve put it on every stick I’ve bought since I was a young kid,” Walilko said. “I grew up in a religious family and every time I’m on the ice and having a tough time, I’ll just look down at that and kind of re-motivate myself. It kind of applies to me in everything I do, not just hockey.”
Walilko will be looking to continue making a big contribution in the playoffs, but is another double-digit performance in the future?
“I don’t know if any of my backup sticks have that many points in them, but I’ll try.”
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