Ryan Scott, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Ryan Scott, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
What can Vegas Golden Knight fans expect from their Year 1 roster? If they're lucky, they might end up with a player who makes an impact like these guys did.
Now that Las Vegas’ new NHL team has a name and a logo, hockey fans everywhere have begun speculating what their expansion roster will look like.
Historically, initial NHL expansion rosters have not been much to look at. They are usually pieces off the scrap heap that the rest of the league doesn’t want. However, there is usually a player that fans can gravitate to and be the “man” in that city, at least for a short time.
With that in mind, here’s an objective look at the best player from each modern-day expansion-team roster.
Pat Falloon, 1991-92 San Jose Sharks
Pat Falloon is most known as the answer to the trivia question: Who was drafted after Eric Lindros in the 1991 NHL draft? In that context, Falloon didn’t amount to much when you compare him to Hall of Famers Lindros, Scott Niedermayer, and Peter Forsberg who were all taken in the top six in that draft.
However, at the time, Falloon was the symbol of promise for the brand new Sharks. Coming right out of junior to the NHL, Falloon played in 79 games leading San Jose in goals (25) and points (59). At 19, everyone expected him to only get better. That didn’t happen as both those totals ended up being career highs.
Brian Bradley, 1992-93 Tampa Bay Lighting
Tampa Bay owner/GM Phil Esposito had no illusions about the quality of players he would be getting in the expansion draft. When he was asked if there are any superstars on the board he responded, “Are you blind?"
That’s what makes Brian Bradley’s first season as a member of the Lightning so surprising. Prior to being the 36th player drafted in the 1992 expansion draft, the 28-year-old center had been in the NHL for six years, splitting time with the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, and Toronto Maple Leafs, and never scoring more than 19 goals and 48 points.
In the Lightning’s inaugural season, Bradley took the NHL by storm by scoring 42 goals and 86 points. The following season, he scored 24 goals and 64 points, a step back but still better than anything he had done previous to getting to Tampa Bay.
Sylvain Turgeon, 1992-93 Ottawa Senators
It’s hard to find the best player on a 10 win team, but Turgeon was the closest to it in Ottawa’s return to the NHL. Turgeon had spent nine years in the league as a promising player with the Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, and Montreal Canadiens.
Turgeon was a known commodity in Ottawa having come over from the Habs, he was third in Calder Trophy voting in his first year in Hartford, and had all-star team votes in 1986 and 1990. In what wound up being the twilight of his career, Turgeon led the Senators with 25 goals and 104 penalty minutes in that first year and played two more seasons before retiring in 1995.
John Vanbiesbrouck, 1993-94 Florida Panthers
Prior to being drafted first overall in the 1993 NHL expansion draft, Vanbiesbrouck had already established himself as one of the top goalies in the NHL. Within his nine full seasons with the New York Rangers, he had a record of 200-177-47, with a Vezina Trophy and a first-team all-star nod in 1986.
When he was exposed to the Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, he was easily the best player available. In the inaugural Panthers season, Vanbiesbrouck posted a 21-25-11 record with .924 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average. That was good enough for him to be named a second-team all-star and was one of the Panthers representatives in the 1994 All-Star Game.
Guy Hebert, 1993-94 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
The Ducks, who were “mighty” at the time, were competitive in their first NHL season due to in large part to goalie Guy Hebert. Hebert, an eighth round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues in 1987, only played in a handful of games in St. Louis behind Curtis Joseph before he was exposed in the expansion draft.
When the Panthers took Vanbiesbrouck, Hebert was snapped up by the Mighty Ducks with the second pick. It was thanks to his play in the inaugural season that the Ducks finished just out of the playoffs, ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and the Edmonton Oilers. He set career highs in wins with 20 and GAA at 2.83.
Hebert became Anaheim’s first franchise goalie stayed there for eight of his 10 years in the NHL.
Sergei Krivokrasov, 1998-99 Nashville Predators
There were other players on Nashville who had more points that Krivokrasov that season, but this 24-year-old right winger was someone they were hoping to build around. Drafted 12th overall by the Blackhawks in the 1992 NHL draft, Krivokrasov never scored more than 13 goals.
With the Predators thinking maybe a change of scenery could help, they made a deal with the Blackhawks to acquire him for future considerations. In that first year in Nashville, the Predators looked like geniuses. Krivokrasov led the team in goals with 25 in 67 games and was the team’s representative at the 1999 All-Star Game. However, he reverted back to his old ways the following season only scoring nine goals in 63 games before the Predators traded him to the Flames.
Andrew Brunette, 1999-00 Atlanta Thrashers
In Atlanta’s second coming in the NHL, everyone was excited about first overall draft pick Patrik Stefan. However, as the 19-year-old was still getting his feet wet in the NHL, it was Andrew Brunette who took the scoring mantle for the Thrashers. Brunette led the team in both goals (23) and points (50).
Brunette’s development into an everyday NHL regular was one of the lone bright spots in Atlanta as they went onto a league worst 14-61-7 record with 39 points. They finished 15 points behind the next worst Lightning.
Manny Fernandez, 2000-01 Minnesota Wild
Just like it was in Atlanta the year before, Minnesota was looking forward to an 18-year-old Marian Gaborik to develop. While he put up 18 goals to tie for team lead, the key cog in Minnesota’s return to the NHL was goaltender Manny Fernandez.
Fernandez made the Wild respectable, making sure they were in most games they played. He posted a 19-17-4 record with a decent 2.24 GAA and .924 save percentage in the 42 games that he played that season. He helped the Wild finish ahead of established teams like Anaheim, Florida, Tampa Bay, and the New York Islanders that season with 68 points.
Geoff Sanderson, 2000-01 Columbus Blue Jackets
Sanderson was already a known goal scorer through his 10 years in the NHL prior to being taken in the 2000 expansion draft by Columbus. He had reached the 40-goal plateau twice 1993 and 1994 in his time in Hartford and helped the Buffalo Sabres reach the Stanley Cup final in 1999.
So when Sanderson came to the Blue Jackets, he was easily their top goal scoring option. With that he scored 30 goals and 56 points in that first year and was veteran voice on the team until he was given a chance to play in the playoffs again by being dealt to the Vancouver Canucks in 2004.
According to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, Jonathan Toews hasn’t progressed in his recovery from a back injury and will be kept off the ice for “a few days.”
Sunday’s absence from the Blackhawks’ lineup marked the sixth-straight contest in which Jonathan Toews was on the shelf with a back injury, and it sure doesn’t sound as though he’s going to be back in time for the midweek tilt against the Arizona Coyotes.
Ahead of the meeting with the Winnipeg Jets Sunday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the back injury that Toews, 28, has been dealing with since late-November isn’t getting any better, and Quenneville went as far to say that Toews will be kept out of practice for the next several days.
"We’ll keep him off the ice," Quenneville said, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine. "He was out there for a little bit this morning there and we’ll keep him off for a few days and get a better assessment the middle of the week or so."
Toews’ injury came in the second period of the Blackhawks’ Nov. 23 meeting with the San Jose Sharks. Toews was battling for the puck alongside the boards with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski and was knocked to the ice. As he fell, he seemed to twist his body. Toews remained on the ice for a short while, but didn’t return to the contest once leaving the ice following the fall:
At the time, Quenneville said the hope was that Toews’ injury wasn’t anything serious or that would keep him out long-term, but it’s getting perilously close to being an ailment that has become both serious and long-term.
It’s not as if Chicago hasn’t managed without Toews — they’re 3-2-1 without No. 19 in the lineup — but it’s been abundantly clear how much the Blackhawks miss him.
Outside of the trio of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, the line juggling has been consistent from Quenneville and the offense has slowed significantly. Chicago was averaging three goals per game in the early part of the campaign, but have only been able to muster 1.83 per game in the six games that Toews has been sidelined. Toews’s four goals and 12 points weren’t dominant offensive totals, sure, but his ability with the puck makes him a threat each time he’s on the ice.
None of this is to mention the impact defensively that losing Toews, one of the best two-way pivots in the league, has on the Blackhawks.
If Toews is out of Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes, as it appears he will be, his seven-game absence the third-longest of his career.
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Craig Cunningham’s recovery is progressing but “there's a lot more progression and healing to be done,” according to friend and former teammate Milan Lucic, who visited Cunningham recently.
Tucson captain Craig Cunningham has remained in the thoughts of the hockey community since the moment he collapsed on the ice ahead of an AHL contest between the Roadrunners and Manitoba Moose on Nov. 19, but information regarding the health of the 26-year-old has been sparse.
The Arizona Coyotes, the parent club of the Roadrunners, have updated Cunningham’s status from time to time, often saying only that there has been little or no change, which is to say that Cunningham remains in critical but stable condition.
However, a promising update has come along regarding Cunningham from his friend and former teammate, Milan Lucic. The Oilers winger, who played with Cunningham with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants and again as a member of the Boston Bruins, said he couldn’t get into too much detail, but offered some positive news.
"The good news is he's progressed a lot from the state he was in last weekend," Lucic said, according to NHL.com’s Jerry Brown. "He's heading in the right direction, but obviously there's a lot more progression and healing to be done.”
Even with the good news, though, Brown reported that Cunningham “has not regained consciousness since collapsing.”
No cause for the collapse has been given by either the Coyotes or Roadrunners, but Tucson GM Doug Soetaert told the Arizona Daily Star on Nov. 21 that Cunningham was “critically ill.”
Cunningham was a fourth-round pick, 97th overall, of the Bruins in 2010, and has played 63 NHL games over the past several seasons. He was acquired by the Coyotes via waivers in 2014-15, finishing the season by playing 19 games with the Coyotes and recording one goal and four points. He skated in 10 games with the Coyotes in 2015-16, picking up an assist.
Cunningham was named the captain of the Springfield Falcons, then the Coyotes affiliate, in 2015-16 and had arguably the best AHL season of his career, posting 22 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He held on to the captaincy with the newly minted Roadrunners this season and had four goals and 13 points in 11 games.
The Roadrunners postponed two additional games following Cunningham’s hospitalization, but returned to action this past Saturday.
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The Canadiens will be without Alex Galchenyuk for Wednesday’s tilt with the Blues, but no update on a timeline for his return is expected until the team returns to Montreal later this week.
Despite what has been a mediocre stretch of play over their past 10 games, the Montreal Canadiens haven’t had much, or really anything, to complain about. Only five teams have scored more goals, only five have allowed fewer and the Canadiens’ 17-6-2 record has them sitting atop the NHL’s standings.
It’s not all sunshine in Montreal anymore, though.
In Sunday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings, the Canadiens lost leading scorer, Alex Galchenyuk, to a lower-body injury which appeared to come when he collided with Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
The knock came as Galchenyuk was skating through the middle of the ice and bumped legs with Kopitar, who himself was cutting into the slot area. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but Galchenyuk skated to the bench flexing his right leg and the ailment was enough to put Galchenyuk out of the remainder of the contest.
There was no immediate update on Galchenyuk, 22, following the game, but word came down from the Canadiens Monday afternoon that the center will be out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, and the team said further updates would be coming later in the week once he can be evaluated by team doctors in Montreal.
With the way Galchenyuk has been playing, it’s a brutal loss for the Canadiens.
Through 25 games, Galchenyuk was on pace to have hands down the best season of his career. Already with nine goals and 23 points, he was on pace to set match his career high of 30 goals and blow his previous-best point total out of the water with 76 points this campaign. Galchenyuk had also formed a fairly formidable tandem alongside off-season acquisition Alex Radulov, and the duo had combined on the score sheet for 12 goals this season.
But it isn’t just that Galchenyuk was having an impact on the score sheet that will make his loss hurt.
For much of the first few seasons of his career, fans in Montreal clamoured for the talented youngster to be used down the middle. He had spent much of his first few years on the wing despite being drafted as a center. During the 2015-16 campaign, coach Michel Therrien started to test Galchenyuk as a pivot, and he had more than proven that he was capable of carrying the load as a second-line center this year.
In that sense, Galchenyuk gave the Canadiens a solid one-two punch down the middle for the first time in a few seasons.
The current concern is that Galchenyuk has suffered another injury to the same knee he hurt before turning pro. He missed all but two games after undergoing knee surgery on his right knee ahead of the 2011-12 OHL season.
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