Raw post-Game 1 footage from Phoenix.
Raw post-Game 1 footage from Phoenix.
The Chicago Blackhawks superstar is climbing up the scoring charts again and his ability to beguile goaltenders with his intentions is helping him get there
Don't look now, but Patrick Kane is gunning for another Art Ross Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks superstar has 10 points in his past six games and currently sits just behind Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead.
The Blackhawks just dropped a 3-2 contest to Minnesota (no shame there; the Wild are a heavy outfit), but Kane was a terror, throwing two goals past Vezina favorite Devan Dubnyk. What's most interesting about Kane's attack is how he put the shots past Dubnyk. Here's the first one, which admittedly, probably came with some luck:
OK, Kane's not an evil genius for knuckling one under Dubnyk because the puck was rolling, but let's go to the second goal for a better example of his craftiness:
There we go. Firing a rocket that Dubnyk clearly wasn't prepared for, and doing so amidst a bunch of skates when most shooters would have pulled the puck out of the fray first. Few players are as confident as Kane is with the puck and that's a weapon he uses to exploit goaltenders time and again. Historically, just look back to the most famous goal he ever scored, the overtime Stanley Cup game-winner against Philadelphia – as we've all seen countless times, Kane was basically the only person in the arena who knew the puck had gone in. Interesting side note – Colorado's Matt Duchene once told me that he knew the puck had gone in right away because he had been studying the older Kane and seen the trick once before. But for those of us who aren't elite hockey players, Kane's maneuvers are consistently quite impressive.
In an era where goal-scoring is at a premium, there's a reason why Kane has still been successful and his obfuscation is a big part of it. Same goes for Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews – they're thinking about offense on a different level from mere mortals. On the other end of the spectrum, you still have a couple of elite scorers who can overpower netminders with their shots: Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied in both goals and points, which I believe is a nice bit of cosmic alignment.
Last year, Kane won the scoring crown with 106 points and he was the only NHLer to hit triple digits. Right now, no one is on pace to break 100, though Crosby is in the ballpark if he has a hot second half. Defensive schemes and excellent goaltenders are suppressing offense right now, but at least we still have a few artists like Kane working on the assembly line.
This week on the podcast:
-The latest on the NHL's efforts to play in the Olympics
-What Shane Doan can offer a Cup contender
-Are streaking Capitals the best team in the league?
-Potential breakaway challenge replacements at the All-Star Game
-Was he a Ranger?
[Music: Metz-Headache; Quicksand-Omission]
Martin St-Louis’ journey didn’t start with his name being called at the draft, but that didn’t stop him from reaching great heights in the NHL. This season, these five undrafted players are making their presence felt.
Friday night in Tampa Bay, the Lightning celebrated the career of Martin St-Louis, one of the greatest players in franchise history, by raising his famed No. 26 to the rafters.
For St-Louis, the jersey retirement marked one of the final great moments in a career that had plenty. From Art Ross Trophies to a Stanley Cup victory, St-Louis was one of the greatest players of his generation, hanging up his skates with nearly 400 goals and more than 1,000 points to his name.
Despite having an outstanding career, though, the one thing St-Louis never got to experience was having his name called at the draft. Instead, he played his way through junior hockey in Ontario and Quebec, made some noise with four solid seasons at University of Vermont and earned his shot at the NHL after producing consistently in the minor leagues. Even still, that St-Louis was never selected in the draft is one of the great misses in draft history.
An undrafted player having a career like St-Louis’ is rare, but of the 100-plus players in the league who were skipped over on their respective draft days, a handful are making their presence felt this season. Here are the five undrafted players impressing the most this campaign:
5. Conor Sheary, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sheary landed a deal with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after four seasons with UMass in the NCAA, and few would have pegged him to be the type of impact depth player he has become. However, after a strong, 20-goal, 45-point campaign in 2014-15, Sheary got his shot at the big league and filled in as a fourth-line piece. His real breakout came in the post-season, though.
En route to a Stanley Cup with the Penguins, Sheary netted four goals and 10 points in 23 games, matching his regular season total in roughly half the time, and he has continued to score in his sophomore season. Through 34 games this season, Sheary has 11 goals and 25 points.
4. Jonathan Marchessault, Florida Panthers
One of the best stories early in the campaign was the breakout Marchessault was experiencing as a member of the Panthers. Signed in the off-season to a two-year, $1.5-million deal, Marchessault was brought for his potential to be a contributor in the bottom-six, but he’s been a top-six player for much of the campaign in Florida with 12 goals and 26 points in 37 games.
Marchessault’s path to the NHL had a few more stops than some of the others on this list, too. After finishing his QMJHL career with the Quebec Remparts, Marchessault found a spot with the AHL’s Connecticut Whale and then inked an entry-level deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. After kicking around the AHL for much of the next three seasons, became a part-time NHLer in 2015-16 with the Tampa Bay Lightning before making his mark with the Panthers this season.
3. Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Size was one of the knocks against St-Louis, who’s listed at 5-foot-8, and it was likely one of the major reasons why Krug was overlooked as a defender. At 5-foot-9, he is the league’s most diminutive blueliners, but size hasn’t stopped him from becoming a key part of the Bruins’ back end.
No defender in Beantown has put up even half the points that Krug has this season, who has four goals and 28 points, and he’s worked his way into top-pairing minutes. He’s averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice time per game.
Krug’s big breakout came during the 2012-13 post-season, which saw the Bruins make their way to the Stanley Cup final. He chipped in four goals and six points on that run, and was an every-game NHLer by the time the 2013-14 campaign rolled around.
2. Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers
Zuccarello’s the only player on this list who had the opportunity to play with St-Louis, and the 5-foot-8 Rangers winger definitely picked up a thing or two from a veteran who had made a career as a small man in what is sometimes viewed as a big man’s game.
Unlike others on this list who had to fight their way through the college game and minor leagues to make it to the NHL, Zuccarello managed to find his way to the NHL through the Swedish league. After a couple of outstanding seasons in Norway, Zuccarello landed with MODO in the SHL, but up two great years and inked a deal with the Rangers. He’s been a Blueshirt ever since.
After a career-best 61 points in 2015-16, Zuccarello looks to be on pace to nearly equal that total this season. The shifty playmaker has eight goals and 31 points in 43 games.
1. Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
That Panarin slipped through the draft is incredible given the way he has shown he can handle the big league game, but his career didn’t really take off until the 2013-14 season, so maybe it’s hard to fault scouts for missing on him earlier.
Panarin, who has 17 goals and 42 points in 45 games this season, saw his first pro action all the way back in 2008-09 with the KHL’s Vityaz Chekhov, and he scored at about a half-point per game rate during those early years. A move to SKA St. Petersburg in 2012-13 changed his career, though, as he started to find his scoring touch in a big way. In 108 games with SKA, Panarin scored 46 goals and 103 points, often outshining more recognizable talents on the team, such as Ilya Kovalchuk.
Panarin was scooped up by the Blackhawks ahead of the 2015-16 season on a bonus-laden two-year deal, and the Russian sniper has cashed in big. He met all of his bonuses with an outstanding 30-goal, 77-point rookie season, captured the Calder Trophy and he has continued to tear up the opposition this season.
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Jarome Iginla is expected to waive his no-movement clause for the chance to go to a playoff contender. Could a return to Alberta be in the cards?
As the Colorado Avalanche continue to stumble along, there's growing speculation veteran right winger Jarome Iginla could be dealt in the coming weeks. The 39-year-old is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. While he holds a no-movement clause, he's expressed a willingness to waive it if approached about accepting a trade to a playoff club.
The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek suggests the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, and Calgary Flames as possible suitors. He notes the connection with Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and Iginla from their days with the Bruins, while pointing out the Kings last season acquired Vincent Lecavalier at the tail end of his career.
Duhatschek also suggests the Flames (where Iginla spent nearly 16 seasons) could use his physical presence. As for the Blackhawks, it was reported earlier in the week that they had interest in Iginla as a depth addition.
Given Iginla's Hall of Fame-worthy career, he will undoubtedly attract some interest from playoff-bound clubs leading up to the March 1 trade deadline. He can probably be had for a third- or fourth-round pick.
However, Iginla's no longer the dominant physical scorer he was during most of his career, managing only 10 points in 38 games. Interested parties should keep their expectations low. He's also carrying a $5.33-million annual cap hit, which could prove difficult to move.
WILL CANUCKS MAKE A MOVE FOR PLAYOFF PUSH?
A month ago, the Vancouver Canucks were on the verge of having their playoff hopes crushed. With 24 points in 26 games, they were sixth in the Pacific Division, ahead of only Arizona and Colorado in the Western Conference standings.
Approaching this weekend, however, the Canucks have climbed back into the postseason picture. Though still sixth in the Pacific Division, they had 41 points in 40 games, putting them within reach of a wild-card berth.
This improvement could give rise to talk of the Canucks becoming buyers in the coming weeks to bolster their playoff hopes. NHL insider Pierre LeBrun remains skeptical, telling Vancouver's TSN 1040 he doesn't believe GM Jim Benning is willing to give up futures for a short-term fix. Even if they bring in a rental player, LeBrun doubts that could help the Canucks go deep into the post-season.
Considering how bare the Canucks' prospects cupboard was when Benning took over as GM, it would be very surprising if he starts sacrificing them for a short-sighted playoff run this season. That doesn't mean Benning won't keep an eye on the trade market. Unless he can get a decent player at a bargain-basement price, he'll likely stay the course with his current roster.
COYOTES' HANZAL STILL ON THE MARKET
Earlier this season, Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal was the subject of considerable trade speculation. At one point in late-November, there were reports claiming trade talk involving the 29-year-old was “heating up.”
In recent weeks, however, the Hanzal rumors have largely died down. The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reports Hanzal acknowledges his future remains uncertain, but he hasn't rule out staying in Arizona.
Coyotes GM John Chayka remains open to continuing contract negotiations with Hanzal, but isn't ruling out the possibility of moving the 6-foot-6, 226-pounder before the March 1 trade deadline. Chayka claims he's not engaged in any trade discussions regarding Hanzal and hasn't received a serious offer yet.
Contract term is thought to be the issue. Hanzal seeks a long-term extension, but Chayka probably prefers a shorter deal to make room for his up-and-coming centers. Should Hanzal remain unsigned and healthy, Chayka will start receiving serious trade offers leading up to March 1. While the Coyotes' GM could seek a good young player in return, he'll likely receive offers of draft picks and prospects.
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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