Movements in the world of hockey Sunday:
National Hockey League
NEW YORK RANGERS-Recalled F Dale Weise from Hartford (AHL).
Movements in the world of hockey Sunday:
National Hockey League
NEW YORK RANGERS-Recalled F Dale Weise from Hartford (AHL).
Patrik Laine didn't have much to say about a rivalry with Auston Matthews. Instead he let his stick do the talking in a huge win for Winnipeg.
Shortly after Alexandre Daigle was taken first overall by the Ottawa Senators in 1993, he uttered a line that would haunt him for the entirety of his mediocre NHL career. “I’m glad I got drafted first because no one remembers No. 2,” Daigle said at the time. Chris Pronger - with his Hart and Norris Trophies, Stanley Cup ring, plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame an gap-toothed grin – never let him, or anyone else for that matter, ever forget who went second overall that year. In fact, Pronger had so much fun with it that he brought it up once at the draft a couple of years ago. “Guess who’s eating the sh-- sandwich on that one?” he gloated.
There was no such bravado, either on the draft floor or prior to their first meeting, between the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2016 NHL draft. The modern player is far different in character and comportment that Daigle and Pronger were, which probably explains why Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs is as dull as dishwater and Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, after showing some real promise in the personality department, has been kidnapped and brainwashed into not saying anything substantive by the secret NHL department that handles such matters.
Oh well, we’ll just have to be content with watching their brilliance on the ice, something that was in full display in the Jets' 5-4 overtime win over the Maple Leafs Wednesday night. Matthews was terrific. Laine, though, was otherworldly. Not only did he singlehandedly deliver two points to the Jets with a hat trick that brought them back from the dead, but he also drilled his stake into the ground in the 2016-17 Calder Trophy race.
It was incredible. One week after Matthews opened his career with the greatest offensive display ever by a player making his NHL debut, Laine came right back with a three-goal performance, including the game-winner with 2:20 remaining in overtime. And just to prove you can’t script these things, the goal came exactly six seconds after Matthews was stopped cold on a breakaway by Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson. (The chink in Matthews’ armor so far? Well, the extra frame. He lost his man Kyle Turris on the OT goal in Ottawa last week and his failure to score provided the swing the Jets needed to pot their own overtime winner.)
It wasn’t just that Laine scored three goals in his fourth NHL game, it was how he scored them. All three of them were goalscorer goals, not a cheapie among them. His first was brilliant, corralling a shot from the blueline on the power play, then keeping control of it, spinning around and putting a perfect shot past Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen.
Then on his second, Laine read the fake by teammate Nikolaj Ehlers brilliantly on the power play and, set up along the left side, fired a one-timer that looked an awful lot like Alex Ovechkin or Brett Hull. Take your pick. The Jets had their goaltender pulled and were on a 6-on-4 power play when Laine scored with just 55 seconds left in the game.
And as soon as he gathered up the puck along the boards on the overtime winner, there was no way he was passing it. He knew it, the Leafs knew it and the 15,296 in attendance at the MTS Centre knew it, but no one had the wherewithal to stop it. Laine went high on Andersen and even Laine himself seemed impressed with himself. "I'm kind of bad on two-against-ones from (the other side), so I just decided to shoot and it was a good shot," Laine told Scott Oake of Rogers Sportsnet after the game.
Try as he might, Oake was unable to get Laine to bite on the rivarly after the game. First overall pick gets stopped and the second pick scores at the other end to win the game. Even though he wouldn't say it, there had to be some of Laine that was taking some satisfaction in bettering the guy who was taken one spot ahead of him. "Obviously I'm proud of my team and myself that I scored those important goals and I scored the winning goal," Laine told Oake. "It's just amazing. He played a good game and he couldn't score, so I scored. It goes like that sometimes." Pressed to address the matchup, Laine said: "It was Winnipeg against Toronto, like I've said a couple of times now and it was just awesome to get the two points."
So it's fair to say that from the standpoint of young talent, the NHL is off to a rather promising start this season. Connor McDavid is producing, Matthews had a signature game in his first game in the league and now Laine has made his presence known in dramatic fashion. On a night when the Jets honored their past with Hall of Fame induction banners for Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson - Hull, curiously, declined to participate - they also found out that the future doesn't look too bad as well. If this is a portent of what is to come from these young men, we can hardly wait to see what's next. And that's without Jack Eichel in the picture. And in case you're wondering, the Leafs and Jets play for the second and final time this season Feb. 21 in Toronto. Mark it down on your calendar if you haven't already.
Jimmy Howard stops Rick Nash
The veteran netminder may be fighting for his job again, but he put all his energy in the right direction by baffling the New York Rangers
Small sample size, I know, but the Detroit Red Wings have been one of the worst possession teams in the NHL so far. And yet, thanks to some crack goaltending this week, the team is 2-2. Petr Mrazek shut the door on Ottawa Monday and last night, it was Jimmy Howard's turn to make magic.
And oh, how the veteran did conjure. Check out this highlight package in Detroit's 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers:
Howard made 32 saves in total. Now, you may ask yourself, how did the Rangers get so many freakin' breakaways? Well, that is coach Jeff Blashill's burden right now and probably will be for awhile as the Red Wings adjust to life with an evolving 'D' corps and without Selke master Pavel Datsyuk up front. But for at least one shining night, Howard was the hero. The feisty netminder's career has been marked by ups and downs in Detroit and in recent years, the downs have been winning out. If the Red Wings have any hope of extending their famous playoff streak, both he and Mrazek will have to work as a platoon – because neither could sustain excellence full-time last season and it almost sunk the squad.
The challenge is even greater this season and while you can cheat possession numbers for awhile, the only way to fake it into the playoffs is to get outstanding goaltending all the way through.
Dmitry Orlov hits Matt Duchene
Forget all the saves, goals and perfect passing plays, because Dmitry Orlov has the greatest highlight of the early season after delivering a perfect hip check on Matt Duchene.
Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov is known more for his offensive acumen than his ability to throw his weight around on the back end, but it’s going to be hard to forget Orlov’s physical play after he threw what will likely stand up as the greatest hit of the season.
Mere minutes into Washington’s meeting with the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday, Duchene broke into the Capitals zone while on the penalty kill. Having no room to break to the outside, the Avalanche winger decided his best play would be to try and work back to the inside on Orlov, but Duchene’s attempt at a using his speed to move around Orlov ended with the best clip of the early season.
As Duchene cut to the middle, Orlov dropped his shoulder, lowered his body and launched Duchene into the air, end-over-end. Duchene’s rotation was such that he literally came close to landing back on his skates. This is as must-see as hits get:
The timing from Orlov on the hit couldn’t have been more perfect, especially as he actually has to put on the breaks and swing his body around in order to send Duchene flying. It’s rare to see a player get that much air on any hit, let alone a near-perfect hip check.
Beyond the fact that Duchene did a full flip, the best thing about the check is that Duchene didn’t end up hurt on the play. Because for as great as Orlov’s timing was, a 200-pound man flipping through the air and crashing to the ice isn’t exactly a natural motion.
As one might expect, though, Duchene wasn’t exactly the hit’s biggest fan post-game. He said that he didn’t want to comment on the hit because he’d “say something that might get (him) in trouble,” according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said what we were all thinking, though.
"Good to see that [Duchene] didn’t get hurt or anything like that,” Trotz said, according to CSN’s Tarik El-Bashir. “But that’s a classic one.”
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The Detroit Red Wings first-rounder got a taste of the pros last year and now he's diving all the way in. Learn about him and more top players for the future
Another week, another league jumping into the 2016-17 campaign. This time it’s the AHL and as per usual, there is a ton of young talent to watch for in the world’s second-best league. Once again the Toronto Marlies are flying high, with Kasperi Kapanen earning the league’s first player of the week honors, while Utica will be fun to watch thanks to Troy Stecher, Jordan Subban and even coach Travis Green, the most eligible candidate when an NHL bench boss gets the axe. Now let’s get to the players making noise in the prospect world right now.
Evgeny Svechnikov, RW (Detroit): While Svechnikov had two years in the Quebec League with Cape Breton before turning pro, there is a big lifestyle change when a player jumps from junior to the AHL. But the powerful Russian winger did get in two playoff games with Grand Rapids last season and it gave him a nice sneak peek.
“It helped a lot,” Svechnikov said. “You learn how the guys live their life there, how they play, how they behave.”
Now a full-time member of the Griffins, the rookie has contributed right away, scoring his first AHL goal and putting up eight shots through two games. Thanks to his frame and his hands, Svechnikov has Detroit dreaming of their next great net-front presence. And while he still needs to get quicker, there’s a lot of talent to work with there. And as the right winger grows as a player himself, Svechnikov will also lend an ear to his younger brother: Andrei Svechnikov is a rookie with USHL Muskegon, less than an hour across 1-96 from Grand Rapids.
“It’s exciting, absolutely,” Evgeny said. “Another dream; my brother coming over to play and being closer to me. My mother is coming too, so we’ll see each other a lot. It’s a great time.”
While Andrei is already seen as a potential No. 1 pick in 2018, Evgeny didn’t want to feed the hype machine, preferring that his brother just play his game and let the draft chips fall where they may. But perhaps Andrei will get a shot at the world juniors in a year or two. It certainly helped Evgeny, who took home silver with Russia last year in Finland.
“It’s a great experience playing in the final,” he said. “They had great players on that Finland team. I picked up some – I’m not sure how you say – tough (character-building?) moments, when we scored with seven seconds to go. Those moments, you remember for the rest of your life. It was a great time there.”
And it’s only the beginning for Svechnikov. The Red Wings need stars for the future and he’s got the power forward credentials to be up there one day. For now, he’ll put in the work with the Griffins until his NHL chance comes.
In the Pipeline
Joey Daccord, G (Ottawa): Give it up for Daccord and Arizona State, as the Sun Devils got their first win over a ranked opponent since going Division 1. Daccord backstopped the Devils to victory over Air Force on the weekend, getting Arizona State’s first win of the season in the process.
Anders Bjork, LW (Boston): Bjork has been a demon for Notre Dame so far, topping the conference in offense with 10 points through four games. With quick hands and good instincts, the Bruins pick was also solid for Team USA at the world juniors last year.
Oskar Lindblom, LW (Philadelphia): Two-way threat is once again off to a great start back home in Sweden, posting up eight points in eight games. That’s good for top-15 among all SHLers and Lindblom is doing it from Brynas’ third line.
Tyler Benson, C (Edmonton): Benson slid to the second round of the draft this summer after a raft of injuries limited his impact. Plus, some scouts didn’t like his skating. But the kid has puck smarts and he can clearly put up offense in a hurry, as he did by scoring a hat trick for the Vancouver Giants on the weekend. With eight points in four games, Benson earned WHL player of the week honors.
The OHL’s Kitchener Rangers are off to a great start and since coming back from NHL camps, Toronto pick Jeremy Bracco and Florida prospect Adam Mascherin have done some major damage. The two forwards have combined for 35 points in 14 total games, using their hockey IQ and slick puck moves to baffle the enemy.
2017 Draft Stars
Martin Necas, C – Kometo Brno (Cze.): Scouts are already amped about Necas, who helped the Czech Republic win gold at the summer Ivan Hlinka tourney. An incredible skater with high-end skill and the ability to make a lot of plays, Necas has eight points in 13 games for Kometo, playing against men in the nation’s top league.
Mikey Anderson, D – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL): A two-way defenseman who is dangerous in all situations, Anderson has six points through his first seven games this season, making him one of the top-scoring blueliners in the league. A Minnesota-Duluth commit, he will join older brother Joey Anderson (New Jersey) at the school.
Nikita Popugaev, LW – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): The big winger has been awesome for the Warriors, using an array of quick shots and releases to put up offense. Turnovers can be an issue, but when you’re scoring hat tricks, that can be excused a bit.
Nico Hischier, C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): The highly-skilled Swiss national has settled in nicely with The Herd, posting up 11 points in 11 games. That makes him one of the top rookies in the ‘Q’ and Hischier has proven to be deadly in all situations, including shorthanded.
2018 Draft Star
Ryan Merkley, D – Guelph Storm (OHL): Guelph is still in the OHL basement, but at least there’s hope now with No. 1 overall pick Merkley in the lineup. The crafty offensive defenseman has kicked off his junior career in style with eight points in 10 games.