Tuesday night, Senators goaltender Andrew 'Hamburglar' Hammond made one of the nicest glove saves you'll see all season. And he did it en route to tying the 76-year-old record for most consecutive starts allowing two goals or fewer to begin a career, previously set by Frank 'Mister Zero' Brimsek.
Andrew Hammond's run in goal for the Senators is starting to seem like a feel-good Disney movie.
The man affectionately called the 'Hamburglar' was at it again Tuesday night for the Senators, and he did what he's done best since stepping between the pipes for Ottawa in mid-February. With the Senators on a penalty kill early in the third period, Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey found a wide-open Jordan Staal on the opposite side of the ice. Hainsey fired a pass across to Staal, who then proceeded to settle the puck down before wiring it on goal.
The puck looked destined for the back of the net. Or, at least, it did until Hammond came sliding across for a miraculous glove save:
The save kept the score deadlocked at one apiece, and it also set up for Hammond to tie a 76-year-old record set by Frank Brimsek. With 32 stops in regulation, Hammond kept the Hurricanes to one goal. By doing so, even if he would have been scored on in overtime, Hammond tied the record for most consecutive starts allowing two goals or fewer, previously set by Brimsek in 1938-39.
Eventually, Kyle Turris' ridiculous move on Ryan Murphy would turn into the overtime winner and Hammond picked up his sixth straight win, moving to 11-0-1 since taking over the starting job in Ottawa.
Hammond will likely get the call Thursday against Boston when he looks to take the record from Brimsek and pull the Senators two points closer to catching the Bruins for the final wild-card spot.
Winterhawks center Cody Glass is doing a good job of proving people wrong as he develops into an offensive star in the WHL.
How do you like them apples? Excuse the backwards reference, but Harvard won its first Beanpot title in 24 years Monday night, running over Boston University 6-3 in the classic NCAA showdown. The Crimson are an older bunch, but still had a good dose of NHL talent in their ranks. Elsewhere in the prospect world, the Five Nations tourney in Sweden wrapped up, with Team USA taking first. This was a big win for the National Team Development Program, which had struggled for most of the season beforehand (part of that may have been the high bar set by previous editions led by Clayton Keller, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel). For a look at some of the players involved in those contests and around the hockey world, let’s dive in to this week’s list.
Cody Glass, C – Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Hot tip for anyone facing Glass in the next decade: don’t take him for granted, because he will burn you. With 79 points through 55 games, he’s one of the highest scorers in the WHL and past slights have spurned him on.
“I use motivation as my key,” Glass said. “I got cut from Team Canada (for the summer Ivan Hlinka tourney) so I used that to push through and prove to people that I should have made it. I just keep trying to prove people wrong, starting as an honorable mention (on NHL Central Scouting’s list) and moving up to eighth.”
It’s impossible to ignore the Winnipeg native now and scouts certainly aren’t underestimating him. They love the kid’s combination of playmaking, hockey sense and hands. Still thin, Glass knows he must get stronger – but his 6-foot-2 frame is very projectable.
Portland is in the thick of the wild card race right now thanks to an 8-2 run in the Hawks’ past 10 games. The team lost a lot of veterans to the pros in the summer, but the return of franchise guru Mike Johnston has helped.
“He’s had a huge response coming back from Pittsburgh, especially him being with Crosby and Malkin,” Glass said. “He brought a lot of good skill development. With his system, with the young guys and speed we have, it helps a lot.”
Glass had just 27 points last season, so his ascent has been meteoric. Based on his skills and potential ceiling, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the Mark Scheifele of this draft – a player that goes earlier than expected to a team that really covets him. Funny how the new Scheifele could be a Winnipeg kid who only got to see NHL hockey in town recently with the Jets’ return.
“Everyone was pretty ecstatic when they came back,” Glass said. “Getting to see the NHL back in Winnipeg is awesome.”
And it won’t be long before we see Glass in the NHL, making his point…by piling up points.
In the Pipeline
Alex DeBrincat, RW (Chicago): DeBrincat is wrecking all sorts of Erie Otters records lately, but there’s another milestone coming for the small-but-deadly scorer. DeBrincat is well on pace to hit 50 goals and 100 points in all three of his OHL seasons – quite the rare feat.
Ryan Donato, LW (Boston): The prettiest goal of the Beanpot final came from Donato, who used his slick hands and great elusiveness to bury one for the Crimson. The son of Harvard coach Ted Donato has more than a point per game as a sophomore and the Crimson have won six straight.
Ryan Pulock, D (NY Islanders): The AHL player of the week, Pulock registered six points in four wins – all one-goal games – for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The big blueliner with the rocket shot will almost certainly push for a regular NHL spot in Brooklyn next season.
Brandon Gignac, C (New Jersey): Athletic and skilled, Gignac had the only goal in a great showdown with Halifax on the weekend as his Shawinigan Cataractes maintained their perch atop the QMJHL standings. Gignac has also been great on faceoffs, while tallying 49 points in 45 games.
Steve Michalek, G (Minnesota): Since the calendar flipped over to 2017, Michalek has yet to surrender more than two goals in a game, even in contests where his Iowa Wild were considerably outshot. The rookie AHLer now has one of the highest save percentages in the league at .923.
Josh Norris, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL): The whole NTDP blew the doors off the Five Nations, but Norris definitely led the charge with seven points in four games. That was best among all skaters in the tourney and the University of Michigan commit has been stepping it up lately in general. Norris is a smart, consistent center who skates well and plays in all situations.
Erik Brannstrom, D – HV71 (SHL): The best defenseman at the Five Nations, Brannstrom had four points in four games for the Swedes, creating opportunities nearly every period. Though he’s on the small side, Brannstrom is an incredibly skilled and smart puck-moving defenseman.
Filip Chytil, C – PSG Zlin (Cze.): One of the better Czechs at the Five Nations, Chytil is a strong, two-way center who does all the right things on the ice. That included netting three points in four games for the squad. He plays against men back home right now.
Mick Messner, RW – Madison Capitols (USHL): The USHL’s forward of the week, Messner had four points in three games, scoring or assisting on the overtime winner in all three matches. The University of Wisconsin commit is a smart, hard-working player who beats opponents with his quick hands right now but must iron out his short skating stride at the next level.
2018 Draft Star
Filip Zadina, LW – Dynamo Pardubice (Cze.): Due to his late birthday, the 1999-born Zadina won’t be draft eligible until next season, but he’s showing off incredible skill already. A fast, shifty shooter with a high-end motor, Zadina killed it at the Five Nations, leading the Czechs in scoring with five points and the tournament in goals with four in four games.
In the war to secure talent, agents are going after kids before they even hit their teens. Is it time to curb the chase?
There is a boy playing minor hockey in Toronto you haven’t heard about yet but probably will before too long. Then again, he could be out of hockey in three years or become a marginal player in junior or college hockey. We have chosen to not publish his name. But he’s very, very good. He’s attending an elite hockey academy in Toronto and is thriving a year above his age bracket for one of the top Triple-A organizations in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. He’s big and he’s skilled and he has lots of promise.
He’s also just 12 years old. And his family has been getting calls from player agents. The same agents who represent multimillionaires playing in the NHL have been contacting the parents of a 12-year-old kid. And he’s not the only one. Players, particularly in Canada’s biggest city, have become accustomed to being contacted by agents during their bantam years, (ages 13 and 14) and some of them already have representatives.
“He’s the one people think is ‘The Next One,’” said Anton Thun, a longtime player agent of M-Five Sports, of the player in question. “People think he might be the next Connor McDavid or John Tavares. Numerous agencies have spoken with the family and, quite honestly, we have spoken with the family. We’ve gotten information into his hands to let him know we exist. We’re not going to let other agencies come into our backyard and take the best player.”
Said another agent who requested anonymity, “It’s brutal and it’s getting out of hand. I don’t want to do it, but if I don’t, I’m going to be out of business. Now it’s not about who wins the battle, but who gets there first.”
Whether the NHL Players’ Association, which certifies and regulates player agents, is prepared to do something about it remains to be seen. Setting age restrictions was a hot topic at the NHLPA’s meeting with agents in the summer, and the union has since sent out a missive to agents to determine whether it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. And as the self-appointed pseudo-governing body for agents, it appears the NHLPA is the only institution that can save the agents from themselves on this one.
“The matter of the age restriction regarding recruiting is something that is somewhat on hold while the Hockey Summit discussions regarding draft age, development are ongoing,” said an NHLPA spokesman in an email, referring to the Hockey SENSE meetings that took place this summer, the second of which spent a good chunk of time focused on youth hockey.
As a group, the agents want to have age limits put on them when it comes to contacting prospects. For one, it levels the playing field for everyone. And it also means they can spend their time doing more productive things than chasing bantam players around cold local arenas. And lastly, the agents want this for the same reason Pat LaFontaine and his group are looking into a 19-year-old draft. The longer they give players to develop, the less chance there is for a mistake to be made by everyone involved.
“Back in the 1980s, we recruited 18-year-old kids,” Thun said, “but now I’m being asked to go watch a hockey game where there’s a 13- or 14-year-old kid.”
The only problem is that if one or two rogue agents chase after kids barely in their teens, everyone is forced to do it or risk missing out on the best players. It’s pretty much the same principle that guides the salary cap in the NHL. There’s no age limit on when U.S. college teams can recruit players, and there have been examples of kids barely in their teens committing to programs – albeit making commitments that are not binding when it comes to choosing between major junior hockey and the NCAA. The WHL has a bantam draft, and there is always talk the OHL might follow suit. So young kids are being expected to make monumental decisions, including whether they need an agent or family advisor.
But like so many other things it does well when it comes to dealing with young players, Sweden appears to have come up with a great way of dealing with this problem. There are about 50 agents/recruiters in Sweden, and they have an agreement with the Swedish players’ association that they cannot approach or be approached by any player prior to Jan. 1 of the year he turns 16. That coincides with the first time they have an opportunity to be selected for a national team. Every fall, the country holds its annual TV Puck tournament featuring the best 15-and-under players. That’s basically the first time elite players are identified, and by January, they can make contact with an agent. Agents who directly or indirectly contact players prior to the set date are first warned, then fined, then risk having their licenses revoked.
And the agents are also working with the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation to try to put sanctions in place that penalize players whose (often overaggressive) parents reach out to agents or sign an agreement with one.
“If I get a call from a parent looking for an agent, the first thing I ask, ‘So, you don’t have an agent?’ ”said longtime Sweden-based agent Claes Elefalk of CAA. “The second question is, ‘How old is he?’ And if it’s before Jan. 1 of the year he turns 16, I have to say, ‘Oh, we have a rule that means I need to hang up the phone immediately and you can only call me back the first of January.’ I’m not allowed to even speak for five minutes or send an email or anything. I must say it has been working really well in Sweden.”
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has been chatting with Bruins GM Don Sweeney, but is also following his team on an Eastern road trip as he looks to rebuild his roster.
Since early-December, the Colorado Avalanche have been a fixture in the NHL trade-rumor mill. Mired at the bottom of the overall standings, they need a roster shake-up. GM Joe Sakic could attempt to trade a core player, such as center Matt Duchene or left winger Gabriel Landeskog, in hopes of landing a young, skilled defenseman.
Trade chatter over the past month linked the 24-year-old Landeskog to the Boston Bruins, who need scoring depth at left wing. One rumor had Bruins GM Don Sweeney rejecting Sakic's asking price of a package with promising defenseman Brandon Carlo as the centerpiece.
On Sunday, the Landeskog-to-Boston chatter flared back to life. Fluto Shinzawa of The Boston Globereports Sakic was spotted chatting with Sweeney in the TD Garden press box during the Bruins 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
If the Bruins want Landeskog, Shinzawa believes the price tag is a player, a draft pick and a prospect. Shinzawa thinks Sakic could still insist on Carlo as part of the return.
Terry Frei of The Denver Postreports Sakic was also expected to watch Monday's Beanpot final between Boston University and Harvard. Four Bruins prospects, including promising defenseman Charlie McAvoy, took part in that game.
The Bruins aren't the only team Sakic will follow this week. Frei reports the Avs GM will remain with his club as they swing through Buffalo to meet the Sabres and Carolina to play the Hurricanes. He notes the Hurricanes have considerable depth in young defensemen, including Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Ryan Murphy.
While the Anaheim Ducks aren't on Sakic's current scouting list, they could be another trade possibility for the Avalanche. Eric Stephens of the Orange County Registersuggests Landeskog could be a good fit for the Ducks, who lack scoring punch at left wing. Like the Hurricanes, the Ducks are loaded with young blueliners.
While Cam Fowler was the subject of trade rumors earlier this season, Stephens considers him too valuable to the Ducks playoff hopes. Other options include Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour or Josh Manson.
Duchene, meanwhile, might interest the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. On Saturday, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported there's talk Penguins GM Jim Rutherford could take a run at acquiring the 26-year-old center, who can also skate on the wing. Kypreos' colleague Elliotte Friedman said Rutherford told him he's willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Rutherford's made blockbuster moves before, including his acquisition of winger Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015. That deal, however, took place in the offseason, when he had more salary cap space to work with. With Duchene carrying a $6-million annual cap hit through 2018-19, the Penguins pressed for cap space and the Avs' high asking price, that deal could be almost impossible to pull off by the trade deadline.
Kypreos said the Hurricanes could also be in play for Duchene. Sitting 20th in goals-for per game (2.60) and power-play percentage (17.2), they would benefit from adding a proven 30-goal scorer. Along with their depth in good young defensemen, they also have plenty of cap room to take on Duchene's cap hit.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch also speculates the Hurricanes could pursue Duchene. He also thinks the Nashville Predators could make a push. Like the Hurricanes and Ducks, they have depth in young defensemen to tempt Sakic.
Garrioch reported Senators GM Pierre Dorion admitted having trade discussions with Sakic. While Dorion didn't say if they talked about Duchene or Landeskog, he said a deal wasn't realistic between the two clubs because the Avs sought too much in return.
St. Louis Blue defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk also remains a hot topic of discussion as the March 1 trade deadline approaches.
Earlier rumors about the 28-year-old rearguard claimed he preferred to be dealt to an Eastern Conference team, preferably in the American Northeast. However, Kypreos said Shattenkirk is open to being dealt to an Eastern Canadian team such the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
Garrioch reports the Leafs, Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning have all made pitches for Shattenkirk. He believes the Bruins are the only club with the ability to sign the blueliner to a long-term deal.
Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star, however, doubts the Leafs will get into the Shattenkirk sweepstakes. He cites the cost of re-signing him (at least $6-million annually), the Leafs unwillingness to part with one of their prized young players, and the eventual cost of re-signing young stars such as Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Shinzawa notes the Bruins had interest in Shattenkirk at the 2016 NHL draft. Given their depth in promising young defenders, however, they might not be as keen on him as they once were. The cost of re-signing Shattenkirk could also be a sticking point.
Teams with interest in Shattenkirk apparently prefer a “sign-and-trade” scenario, rather than acquire him as a postseason rental. They don't want to part with assets at the trade deadline for a player who could depart in July for free agency.
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.).
There's still a third of the season to go, and the conditions are right for the Lightning to shock the world and make a run to the playoffs.
It’s just a pair of wins, and they came at home, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have to feel a glimmer of optimism. The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings are never easy outs. Tuesday’s victory was a 5-0 thumping of L.A., a team known for suppressing opponents’ offense.
At the very least, the baby streak reopened the discussion of whether the Lightning can make the playoffs this spring. That shows just how dire things looked last week. Even now, after a four-point surge, they have the NHL’s 25th-best points percentage at .500. So much has gone wrong for the team we picked not just to make the playoffs, but win the Stanley Cup. It started with center Steven Stamkos’ torn meniscus, sustained in November after a sizzling start to his eight-year contract extension. It continued with starting goalie Ben Bishop’s ugly play, then with successor Andrei Vasilevskiy’s sudden slump. Right winger Ryan Callahan’s hip broke down on him, too. The Lightning’s top pair of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman remained rock steady when together, but there was a gap between them and the rest of the D-corps, so coach Jon Cooper has had to split them up to balance out the group.
What started as talk of a “hockey trade” for GM Steve Yzerman to upgrade his blueline devolved into straight-up seller talk. Could he trade Ben Bishop for Kevin Shattenkirk with Tampa bound for a playoff miss? Should an unrestricted free agent like center Brian Boyle become trade bait?
But the pair of wins at least buys Yzerman enough pause to check the standings again. The Lightning are, astoundingly, tied for last in the Eastern Conference in points. The only teams to play more games than their 54 are the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins with 55. Nevertheless, extreme parity puts Tampa just four points back of the Philadelphia Flyers for the second East wild-card berth. And it’s a true four points since they’ve played the same number of games.
The Bolts’ schedule also offers a tremendous chance to control their own destiny. They have a better record against their Atlantic Division neighbors than against any other division this season at 9-5-3, and they’re 6-10-2 against the West, even after beating the Ducks and Kings. Tampa Bay is two games into an eight-game stretch against West teams but finishes the year with 18 of 22 against Eastern foes. Of those 18 games, 13 pit the Bolts against Atlantic rivals. They begin a four-game road trip Friday in Minnesota before playing 15 of their final 24 games at home.
What can Tampa do with its opportunities, though? Believe it or not, coach Cooper’s club displays peripherals not light years away from 2014-15’s and 2015-16’s Lightning, which reached the Stanley Cup and conference finals, respectively. Tampa sits a respectable 11th in 5-on-5 Corsi for the year. It ranked fourth and sixth the two years prior, so the shot attempts trend in the wrong direction, but 11th still reflects a playoff team, not the 25th-best team. The Bolts are seventh in the East in Corsi. They still generate more shot attempts than they allow. The key difference this year: their team save percentage sits 22nd at .904, down from .910 (18th) and .916 (eighth) the previous two seasons. Bishop has struggled mightily in his unrestricted free agent walk year, and Vasilevskiy, gifted a real opportunity to seize the starter’s reins for the long term, has wilted after a stellar start.
Still, both goalies have shown signs of emerging from their funks. Bishop has a .915 SP over his past nine appearances. Hey, mediocre is an improvement over bad. Vasilevskiy has just one win in the calendar year of 2017 across 10 appearances but has a .926 SP in his past six. He also ranks among the league’s best in low- and medium-danger SP, so a bit more help in the back end limiting high-danger chances could turn around Vasilevskiy’s overall numbers dramatically.
The goaltending, combined with a so-so shooting percentage, gives Tampa Bay a PDO of 99.15. That stat combines team save and shooting percentage to create an approximation of luck, and the Bolts rank 23rd in that category. The analytics paint a picture of an above-average hockey club not getting the bounces as opposed to a basement dweller.
The Lightning’s puck luck may not magically change, though. They won’t get a major uptick in shooting skill until Stamkos returns, which won’t happen any earlier than March. If Yzerman wants more scoring, then, he may have to consider becoming a buyer, not a seller, and adding a scorer. The road through the Atlantic is hockey’s easiest relative to the other divisions, so there’s a case to be made Yzerman should just step on the gas. More important than acquiring forward help, though, is landing a top-four defenseman. Is it Shattenkirk? Johnny Oduya? Jacob Trouba? Shoring up the blueline would reduce the grade-A chances in front of Bishop and Vasilevskiy and help their SP numbers keep climbing.
Deciding to go for it with the Lightning not even in a playoff spot carries some risks. It would likely involve holding Bishop past the deadline in his UFA year, as Vasilevskiy has been too inconsistent to anoint as the playoff starter this far in advance. There would still be a strong chance the Lightning, sans-Stamkos, miss the playoffs and then lose Bishop for nothing. But 2016-17 might mark Yzerman’s last year with this particular core. Key forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin are restricted free agents this summer. The Bolts will be pressed up against the salary cap, a la Stan Bowman’s Chicago Blackhawks every year and, like those Hawks teams, may have to shed a few key bodies to remain cap compliant. The expansion draft also threatens to steal a useful player from Yzerman’s NHL roster.
The Canadiens are faltering. The Ottawa Senators haven’t convinced anyone they’re contenders and just got blown out 6-0 at home. The Toronto Maple Leafs are young and defensively leaky. The Bruins just fired their coach. The Atlantic remains very much wide open. If the Bolts can sneak in, armed with a defense upgrade, and get Stamkos back, they could easily start the post-season as a No. 2 or 3 Atlantic seed and wind up favored to reach the Eastern Conference final.
So don’t let the standings deceive you. We have a third of the season to go, and the conditions are right for the Lightning to, ahem, shock the world in the months to come. If nothing else, Yzerman should stand pat a few more weeks. No team has to reveal itself as a seller until deadline day March 1.