Giving props to the Flyers surprise leading scorer, the Maple Leafs' all-star snubs, and other stray thoughts from the first quarter of the season.
If Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Austin Matthews is to play in the NHL All-Star Game this season, he will have to make it as a write-in candidate, even though he was the top pick in the 2016 draft. That’s right, Matthews didn’t make the cut amongst players chosen by the league to be on the ballot. Interestingly enough, Patrick Laine, who was chosen second overall by the Winnipeg Jets, is on the ballot. Fans can choose between 32 players to represent the Atlantic Division including Maple Leafs teammates Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Rielly. There are 120 names on the ballot.
Speaking of Maple Leafs rookies, Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander are among the team’s most productive players, but all are minus-3. Toronto has a very impressive rookie corps which includes Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov. But only Brown is a plus player at plus-3.
Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who has never produced a 40-goal season, dipped to just 26 goals last season. He salvaged his year with 10 goals in 24 playoff games while helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. This season Kessel had six goal in Pittsburgh’s first 24 games and was on pace for a 21-goal season. To his credit, Kessel was leading the Penguins with 16 assists. Even when he was lighting the lamp, Kessel was always an underrated passer.
Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers has taken his game to the next level. He has always been a solid contributor, but now he is tied for the lead in Flyers scoring with 11 goals and 22 points in 25 games. Simmonds, who is 28 and in his ninth NHL season, scored a career-best 31 goals in 2013-14. He is on pace for 36 goals this season. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, the lanky right winger is one of those players that could have played in any era of the NHL.
Things were looking up in Arizona last season when rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair burst on the scene with impressive seasons. Domi had 18 goals and 52 points in 81 games while Duclair had 20 goals and 44 points in 80 games. For the Coyotes to continue to make progress they need both Domi and Duclair to take their games to the next level. It hasn’t happened thus far and Arizona is tied with the Colorado Avalance for last place. Domi has four goals and 15 points while Duclair has just one goal and four points. Speaking about his own sophomore, Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings GM said once young players gain a measure of success in the NHL, they attract the attention of the opposition who studies their game and comes up with a plan to stop them. It is up to the player, Holland said, to make adjustments in his game to get back to being productive.
Joe Colborne of the Avalanche opened the season scoring a hat trick in the first game of the season, a 6-5 win over the Dallas Stars, and hasn’t scored a goal since. Colborne is not the only underachiever on the struggling Avalanche. Leading scored Nathan MacKinnon has just five goals and 15 points while veteran Jarome Iginla has three goals and five points, each in 21 games. This helps to explain why the Avalanche sits at the bottom of the league. Three years ago Colorado finished third overall and appeared to be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Then they slipped to 21st the past two seasons and look like a solid bet to finish 30th this season. Something’s gotta give soon.
Scotty Bowman is one of the most important figures in hockey history. Bowman, 83, has been a part of 14 Stanley Cup champions, has the most coaching victories in NHL history and was appropriately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. Now Bowman’s son Stan is carving out a Hall of Fame career of his own. Having constructed three Stanley Cup champions in the past seven seasons as GM of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bowman keeps his team in contention mainly because he has masterfully stick-handled around the challenges of dealing with a salary cap. Time and time again Bowman has been forced to move players from a championship roster and replace them in cost-cutting measures. And yet his Blackhawks remain a Cup contender, challenging the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers for top spot through the first quarter of the season.
Sidney Crosby’s run atop Forbes’ list of the NHL’s highest-paid players has ended as Jonathan Toews has taken top spot. Crosby still remains the league’s endorsement king, though.
Along with announcing their franchise valuations each season, Forbes has taken to putting together a list of the 10 players earning the most in each given campaign, and this year’s list sees four fresh faces and, for the first time, not a single player under $10-million in projected earnings.
The 2016-17 projections also feature a change on the top of the list.
For years, Sidney Crosby has been the face of the NHL and he was paid as such, too. For each of the past three seasons, Crosby has been among the highest paid players, earning $12-million per year. That was a big help when it came to finding himself at the very top of the Forbes’ list, but the reasons for his security in top spot go beyond his massive NHL paycheck.
Crosby has expansive endorsement portfolio, and, even though he finds himself in second place this year, he’s making almost a third of his money from endorsements. Crosby is one of the faces of Tim Hortons’ NHL campaigns alongside Nathan MacKinnon, as well as earning endorsement dollars from CCM and Gatorade. All told, Forbes estimated his non-hockey earnings to be somewhere in the $4.5-million range.
A dip in salary to $10.9 million, however, sees Crosby now second in overall earnings to Jonathan Toews.
Toews, the Blackhawks captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion, is tied with Patrick Kane as the second-highest salaried player in the league with $13.8-million salary. What helps Toews bump himself up to first on the list, though, is his estimated $2.2 million in endorsements. Canadians get a healthy dose of Toews on any given night they’re watching hockey, seeing him pop up in ads for Canadian Tire every few breaks. Toews also has deals with Bauer, Hallmark, and Chevrolet in Chicago, according to Forbes.
And rounding out the top three, and keeping the trio in the top three spots unchanged, is Kane. His monstrous salary has helped him stick around at the top of the list. Kane also is set to earn a reported $1 million in endorsements, including a deal with Bauer that often sees him featured in highlight-reel videos.
The only change in the entire top-five is the addition of Anze Kopitar, and the Los Angeles Kings pivot has his massive new contract to thank for coming in at No. 4. Kopitar is the highest-salaried player in the league right now, making $14-million in the first year of his eight-year, $80-million deal with the Kings, but he’ll slowly slip down the ladder. Next season he’ll be down to “just” $13 million, $12 million in 2018-19, $11 million in 2019-20 and then $30 million spread over the next four years.
For the second consecutive year, Alex Ovechkin is in fifth spot. His $10-million salary almost seems pedestrian at this point, but his $4 million in endorsements is anything but. In fact, he’s the second-highest endorsement earner in the league, behind only Crosby. Ovechkin arguably has the more interesting endorsements, too. Bauer, Nike, Coca-Cola, Upper Deck, Fanatics and a Russian bank all have Ovechkin on board, according to Forbes, and that’s leaving out his role as one of the faces of a Russian mobile strategy game.
The bottom half of the list has the bulk of the fresh faces, with P.K. Subban, Ryan O’Reilly and Steven Stamkos all making their way into Forbes’ Top 10 this year. Subban’s $11-million salary and off-ice work has him in sixth spot, which was previously occupied by now-10th Henrik Lundqvist, while O’Reilly and Stamkos fall in eighth and ninth, respectively. Rounding out the list is Shea Weber, who fell from fourth to seventh because of a $2-million drop in his salary.
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Tony Bruns stopped 98 of the 110 shots he faced in a high school game
Morris/Benson Storm goaltender Tony Bruns faced 110 shots across 51 minutes of play and turned aside 98 shots. Bruns didn’t come even close to picking up the victory, but he did earn himself a pair of records.
Sam LoPresti holds an NHL record that is unlikely to ever be broken. On March 4, 1941, LoPresti, playing for the Chicago Black Hawks, stopped 80 shots in a 3-2 regulation loss to the Boston Bruins.
The thing about the record that’s hardest to fathom is exactly how a goaltender could face 83 shots against across 60 minutes, even with the most mismatched of teams. That’s more than one shot per minute, and there certainly had to be at least some lulls in the Bruins’ attack, right? Or at least enough time with the puck in the Boston zone that the Black Hawks could pot two goals of their own?
With that in mind, try and wrap your head around how on earth Minnesota high school netminder Tony Bruns, who plays for the Morris/Benson Storm, could have possibly made 98 saves on 110 shots in a 51-minute game on Nov. 26.
That’s nearly 2.2 shots per minute by the opposing Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato Dragons in what was a 12-0 drubbing of Morris/Benson, and a game that would no doubt have been much worse if not for Bruns’ spectacular play.
“I was a little surprised,” Bruns told the Minneapolis Star Tribune Minnesota Hockey Hub’s Loren Nelson. “My whole career I’ve had a lot of shots, but never that many. I thought it was just like any other game.”
Bruns allowed just five goals against on 45 shots in the first period, surrendered only two goals on 41 shots in the second, but the dam broke in the third as he was beaten five times on 24 shots in the third. Morris/Benson posted only six shots to their opponents’ 110.
Bruns’ heavy workload is a bit easier to explain when you understand the situation Morris/Benson is working with. The Storm has 12 players on their roster, Bruns included, and three of the players are “new to hockey,” according to Nelson. Four players listed on the roster are considered both a forward and defenseman. It’s not a team that’s heading for the state tournament or prepared to play against top competition, so, as one could imagine, it has actually been quite the norm for Bruns, the team’s only goaltender, to see so many shots.
In fact, Nelson reported three other outings in which Bruns made at least 60 saves, dating back to November 2014, and almost one year to the day earlier against Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, Bruns stopped 75 shots in a 12-0 loss. Bruns’ outstanding 98-stop game is far and away the busiest he’s ever been, though. And it goes beyond a mind-blowing statistic.
Nelson reported that the previous state record was held by two goaltenders, River Lakes’ Spencer Theis in 2008 and Moose Lake Area’s Gage Mohelsky in 2012, who had made 76 stops in a regulation outing. The national record, Nelson reported, was held by Flint Northern’s Jamey Ramsey, who made 84 stops in a single game back in 1987 in Michigan. Those records now belong to Bruns.
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If the Coyotes don't start improving, they could start selling assets like Martin Hanzal, or even youngster Anthony Duclair.
Entering December, the Arizona Coyotes remain mired near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Their lack of improvement continues to stoke speculation that they could make a move or two.
Much of the talk earlier this season focused upon center Martin Hanzal. The 6-foot-6, 226-pounder is slated for unrestricted free agency next summer, sparking talk the Coyotes could move him if he's unsigned by the March 1 trade deadline.
In recent weeks, however, sophomore right winger Anthony Duclair rose to the fore in Coyotes trade chatter. Nearly two weeks ago, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported the 21 year old could be available, though he expected the Coyotes would seek “a pretty penny” in return.
Duclair enjoyed a 20-goal, 44-point performance as a rookie in 2015-16. This season, however, he's struggled to score, tallying only four points in 21 games.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports the Coyotes aren't shopping Duclair, but are listening to offers. Dreger believes they could move him if they get a significant return, such as a good young center. He also said Duclair's name popped up briefly back in June.
Despite Duclair's struggles this season, it seems unlikely the Coyotes want to move him. Still, it's worthwhile to at least listen to what's being offered by other clubs. Whether one of them is willing to meet the Coyotes' price remains to be seen.
SPOONER'S PLAY MAKES NEW DEAL UNLIKELY
The ongoing struggles of Boston Bruins left winger Ryan Spooner continues to make him a subject of interest in the rumor mill. Earlier this week, the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa suggested the 24-year-old's poor performance this season could hurt his chances of re-signing with the Bruins next summer.
After netting 49 points in 2015-16, Spooner has eight points in 22 games this season. That puts him on pace for only 29 points.
CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty observes Spooner was relegated to fourth-line duty in several recent games. He speculates the young forward's difficulties this season could be tied to playing on the wing, rather than his preferred position at center.
Spooner won't unseat Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as the Bruins' top-two centers. It's worth noting he played largely on the wing last season, too.
Should Spooner fail to improve, Haggerty wonders if he might become part of a package deal to bring the Bruins a mobile defenseman A rival club could take that gamble on Spooner, but the Bruins could be forced to bundle him with a high draft pick and perhaps a top prospect to land a skilled puck-moving blueliner.
MAPLE LEAFS EXPECTED TO MOVE HOLLAND
Recent Toronto Maple Leafs speculation centers upon which of their young wingers they might trade for a top-pairing defenseman. Meanwhile, they're expected to part ways with center Peter Holland.
The Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby reports Holland's agent, Joe Resnick, said Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello intends to trade his client. Lamoriello also decided the 25 year old wouldn't accompany the club on its current road trip.
TSN's Darren Dreger said there's limited interest in Holland. He also believes the center could be placed on waivers.
Holland spent the past two seasons on the Leafs' checking lines, tallying 25 points in 2014-15 and 27 points last season. At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, he's a big, versatile forward who can skate at center or on the wing. With the Leafs bringing in younger talent this season, Holland's been a healthy scratch for all but eight games.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggests the Arizona Coyotes as a possible destination for Holland. With center Brad Richardson sidelined indefinitely with a broken leg, they're in need of size and experience down the middle.
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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