PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The Penguins signed forward Paul Thompson to a two-year, entry level contract on Monday.
Thompson, the 2010-11 Hockey East Player of the Year while at New Hampshire, led the league with 52 points this season. He scored 28 goals, and led the No. 11 Wildcats to the NCAA Regional Finals, where they lost to No. 9 Notre Dame 2-1 on Sunday.
In four seasons with New Hampshire, Thompson had 57 goals, 55 assists and 112 points.
The Oilers are very likely bound for the playoffs for the first time in a decade, and former No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be crucial to their success.
Without a doubt, the resurgence of the Edmonton Oilers this year is being driven by Connor McDavid. The sophomore phenom is in position to win the Art Ross or the Hart or both, while his team is firmly locked in a playoff position for the first time in more than a decade.
I feel at this point we're past talking about if the Oilers will make the post-season and can move on to what they will do once they arrive there. Because as great as McDavid has been for the offense, the Oilers will need balance. And that’s where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes in.
Remember the Nuge? He’s not exactly obscure, being a No. 1 overall pick overall. But like fellow Edmonton lifer and linemate Jordan Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins has toiled in Alberta for years without playoff hockey. That’s about to change and for a player who has largely been out of the limelight for some time, Nugent-Hopkins will be crucial to Edmonton’s long-term success this season.
Right now, Nugent-Hopkins is below his usual career offensive clip, but the Oilers are also winning a lot more and have a healthy McDavid in the lineup ahead of him.
“Every team in the league has two or three scoring lines now, it seems,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Obviously Connor’s a great player and I want to produce offensively as well, but I have to be a 200-foot player and grow my defensive game.”
Nugent-Hopkins is a decent possession player and is better on faceoffs than McDavid, though neither is great. The Nuge can take on tough defensive assignments and that will be important going forward, unless the Oilers bolster their forward corps with a trade for another responsible center.
It’s interesting to see where Nugent-Hopkins is at this point in his career. He was the top prospect in the 2011 draft, though it wasn’t a fever year in that regards – while Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog were also thought of highly, the best players to date from that class are probably Johnny Gaudreau (104th overall), Nikita Kucherov (58th) and Mark Scheifele (seventh).
Nugent-Hopkins was seen as a slight player with incredible vision who may have needed one more year of junior before hitting the big time, but he bucked those predictions and went straight to Edmonton, earning All-Rookie Team honors in the process.
Unfortunately, in the center’s six NHL seasons, he has already had six coaches with the Oilers. That’s one of several factors that have kept Edmonton out of the playoff picture and undoubtedly hurt the development of some players (Nail Yakupov comes to mind). But with Todd McLellan now in his second year with the squad, Edmonton has a coach who has seen a fair share of playoff games and owns a Stanley Cup ring from his days as an assistant coach in Detroit.
“He’s been great,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “He’s definitely an experienced guy, being in San Jose for a lot of years. He brought that to us – we were a younger team and we still are. He keeps us accountable and definitely teaches us, so it’s good.”
The next step will be the most fun and the most daunting. All of a sudden, there are expectations for the Oilers outside of Northern Alberta. We all want to see how this team will handle playoff hockey and while McDavid is the head, he can’t be expected to go it alone. Cam Talbot must be great in net and the defense will have to hold up. If Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle can be that secondary scoring threat while also playing sound 200-foot hockey, the Oilers will be more than just a nice story in the post-season.
The Canucks forward took a deflected Nikita Tryamkin shot to the back of the head.
Bo Horvat won’t let a few stitches to his head slow him down.
The Canucks forward took a deflected Nikita Tryamkin shot to the back of the head late in the first period of Friday’s 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
Horvat briefly left the game, but did return.
"I would assume he was forced out by the (concussion) spotter," said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins postgame. "I would think maybe our medical staff. Whenever you see something like that, you'll check it out, especially if he was bleeding too.
"I think they would want to take a look at him. They took a look at him and he was fine."
Horvat returned to the game in the second period and played another 12:19 over the final 40 minutes.
On Saturday, the team tweeted out a picture of the damage to the back of Horvat’s head, which includes multiple stitches.
“It’s a little sore to touch and put the helmet on right now, but we’re working on getting a little bit of a bigger helmet for my head — if that’s possible — but I’m ready to go,” Horvat told The Province.
“He threw the puck to Trammer (Tryamkin) and by the time I saw it coming high, I just wanted to get out of the way and turned and it nailed me in the back of my head.”
The 21-year-old is expected to be available to the Canucks on Sunday when Vancouver opens a three-game road trip in Chicago.
“I didn’t feel anything with concussion symptoms and I knew I would be back in and playing today,” said Horvat. “And if you can’t get up for a game here — especially with the (U.S.) national anthem — then you shouldn’t be here. We need this one.”
Horvat leads the Canucks with 13 goals and is tied with captain Henrik Sedin for the team lead in points (30) while averaging 17:41 a night in ice time in 47 games this season.
Tom Pyatt scored the shootout winner for Ottawa in a 3-2 win over the Leafs.
Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher is not a fan of the shootouts despite his team’s come from behind victory in the skills competition on Saturday night.
Mike Hoffman tied the game 2-2 with 1:11 remaining in regulation. After a scoreless overtime, Tom Pyatt scored the shootout winner in the fourth round.
“I never watch shootouts. I never have," Boucher said per Sportsnet's Luke Fox. "Two reasons. One: I hate it. I think it's a team game and it should be decided with team play, but I understand the game has to end.
"The other thing: I got in the habit of not looking. Makes no difference if I look or not, so I let the guys do their thing. I used to get involved and talk to the guys, 'You could do this and that'. Now I stay out of the way."
The loss drops the Leafs to 1-6 in shootouts this season. Mitch Marner was the only Leaf to beat Mike Condon in the shootout. The Sens starter stopped Auston Matthews and James van Riemsdyk for the win.
“I don't know. Maybe the other goalies are good,” Mike Babcock said of his team’s struggles in the shootout. “Maybe we're not any good at it. We work on it every single pregame skate.
“It's just something we'll have to get better at obviously because we've left points – I think we're 1-6 or something aren't we? So we'll just keep working on it like we do as a special team.”
The game-winner came on the first career shootout attempt for Pyatt.
“He did a deke and I don't know how it went through there but he snuck it back in,” said Frederik Andersen of the goal. “He made a great move.”
The Blues face a tough decision with pending UFA defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk -- keep him and try to make a playoff run, or trade him at the deadline.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was the subject last summer of considerable trade speculation. For weeks, there was talk that Blues GM Doug Armstrong was shopping the 27-year-old rearguard, who's eligible this July for unrestricted free agency.
Armstrong apparently set a expensive asking price for the puck-moving blueliner: From the Boston Bruins, both of their first-round picks in the 2016 draft plus right winger David Pastrnak. The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, spurned Armstrong's request for promising left winger Dylan Larkin.
Unable to find any takers, Armstrong opted to retain Shattenkirk for this season. The trade chatter eventually faded. But with the March 1 trade deadline less than six weeks away, the rumors are resurfacing.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wonders if Armstrong might shop Shattenkirk as a rental player to a playoff contender and use the cap savings to address other roster issues. With the Blues carrying Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko as right-shooting defenders, Friedman feels they've got sufficient depth to handle that move.
By peddling Shattenkirk to a playoff contender, the club getting him gets a boost while he bolsters his value in this summer's free-agent market. Friedman acknowledges Armstrong's previous high asking price, but wonders if he might lower it and use the cap savings to bring in something that helps the Blues now.
The Edmonton Oilers were linked to Shattenkirk last summer, but it's believed he was reluctant to go there. Friedman wonders if he'll reconsider joining them in a short-term situation.
TSN's Frank Seravalli also ponders the possibility of Shattenkirk becoming a playoff rental. He notes the Blues aren't as strong as they once were. With the Oilers in playoff position and considered buyers at the trade deadline for the first time in years, Seravalli proposes offering up a conditional first-round pick to the Blues.
Seravalli's colleague Darren Dreger suggests a “trade and extend” scenario could boost Shattenkirk's trade value. In other words, he gets dealt and signs a contract extension with his new club.
Dreger said the Blues defender is willing to consider several options. Among them, the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and even his former club, the Colorado Avalanche.
Of those on Dreger's list, all but the Sharks and Ducks need a top-four defenseman. San Jose is already solid on the right side with Brent Burns and Justin Braun. Anaheim's overstocked with good young defenseman and need scoring depth at left wing.
Pierre LeBrun believes the Blues could entertain offers for Shattenkirk. However, that doesn't mean they're keen to move him.
Trading a pending UFA would be an uncharacteristic move by Armstrong. He usually retains those players to help his club in the post-season, despite the likelihood of losing them for nothing to free agency in the summer.
Still, trading Shattenkirk before the deadline could be worthwhile to bolster a weakness elsewhere. While not as strong as in recent years, the Blues remain a playoff club. A significant move that addresses their weak points could improve their championship hopes.
If Armstrong moves Shattenkirk to a contender for a high draft pick, he could bundle that pick with a prospect and attempt to pry a quality player from a non-playoff club.
The Blues must improve at center, where the depth drops noticeably beyond Paul Stastny. If Armstrong wants a rental player, he could pursue Martin Hanzal of the Arizona Coyotes. If his preference is someone with term on his contract, Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche could be an option.
With goaltender Jake Allen struggling of late, perhaps Armstrong could use the freed-up cap room to bring in a reliable starter. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a playoff team, but they could attempt to move Marc-Andre Fleury to protect Matt Murray in June's expansion draft.
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.).