Category: NHL (page 1 of 13)

Seattle NHL expansion approved by Board of Governors

seattle becomes 32nd team; will begin play in 2021-22 season

By Dan Rosen – NHL.com

Seattle is home to the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

The NHL Board of Governors voted Tuesday to approve the expansion application from the NHL Seattle group to bring the yet-to-be-named team into the League for the start of the 2021-22 season.

In addition, the Board of Governors approved a realignment package that calls for the Arizona Coyotes to move into the Central Division, making way for the new Seattle team to play in the Pacific Division.

There are eight teams in the Pacific Division, including the Coyotes. There are seven teams in the Central Division.

The Coyotes will remain in the Pacific Division until Seattle enters the League.

Seattle’s ownership group, led by David Bonderman, private equity CEO, will pay a $650 million expansion fee, $150 million more than Bill Foley and his group paid to bring the Vegas Golden Knights into the NHL for the 2017-18 season.

The Seattle team will play at Seattle Center Arena, the former KeyArena which is scheduled to undergo a privately financed $700 million renovation. The project was waiting for NHL approval of the expansion team before it could begin. The capacity for an NHL game at KeyArena will be about 17,400.

KeyArena opened in 1962 and was the home of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics from 1967-78 and 1985-2008 prior to them relocating to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

The ownership group is also scheduled to pay approximately $75 million to build a 180,000-square foot practice facility with three ice sheets in Northgate, a shopping area in the northern part of the city.

The arena and training facility are scheduled to be completed in advance of the start of the 2021-22 season.

The Seattle ownership group was hopeful to have the 2020-21 season be its inaugural season, but beginning in the 2021-22 season allows for completion of arena renovations.

Seattle will follow follow the same rules for the 2021 Expansion Draft as Vegas did in 2017, but Vegas will be exempt.

The NHL authorized the Seattle ownership group to file an application for an expansion team at the Board of Governors meeting in Manalapan, Florida a year ago.

A season-ticket deposit drive was held March 1, securing 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes and 32,000 in the first 31 hours. There is a waiting list of about 10,000 names.

The NHL Seattle group presented its plan for the franchise the Board’s Executive Committee at its meeting in New York City on Oct. 2. The committee gave a report in the Board meeting Tuesday prior to the vote.

Although Seattle has never had an NHL team, the Seattle Metropolitans, who played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-24, won the Stanley Cup in 1917, defeating the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association 3-1 in a best-of-5 series.

World Cup in 2020 being discussed by NHL, NHLPA

By Dan Rosen – NHL.com

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association are having regular discussions about staging a World Cup of Hockey in 2020, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Monday.

Daly, though, said the caveat to having a World Cup in the fall of 2020 is the need for labor certainty at that time, which is part of the ongoing discussions with the NHLPA.

“Our position is we don’t want to hold it if there is labor uncertainty,” Daly said. “We really need labor certainty to play it. It didn’t work so well in 2004 when we tried that.”

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021-22 season, but the League and the NHLPA each can trigger a reopening of CBA negotiations in September of 2019, which could lead to the expiry of the current CBA following the 2019-20 season.

Daly said the NHL and NHLPA need to reach an agreement by the end of January at the latest to either waive their CBA reopener rights in September 2019 or push the deadline back if they want to have enough time to plan and execute a World Cup in 2020.

“That’s the issue, when are you getting too close to really be able to pull it off the way it should be pulled off,” Daly said. “I think that’s the timeframe. If you go past the end of January, I think it would be very difficult to plan and execute a World Cup of Hockey in 2020.”

The NHLPA does not share the NHL’s view that there must be labor certainty in the fall of 2020 to stage a World Cup at that time, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said.

Fehr mentioned that he doesn’t think tying the potential marketing, promotion and branding opportunities a World Cup presents to collective bargaining is necessary.

“That said, I understand the sensitivity, I understand the timing from their standpoint and if there is a way that we can get all that done, certainly we’ll try,” Fehr said.

The League and the NHLPA are talking about changing the World Cup format for 2020 to make it a multi-city tournament that would feature eight national teams.

The World Cup of Hockey 2016 was played in Toronto and featured six national teams as well as two mixed teams, Team North America and Team Europe. Team North America was made up of the best players 23 years old or younger from the United States and Canada. Team Europe was made up of the top players from the European countries that were not already represented in the World Cup (Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Russia). Canada defeated Team Europe in two games to win the gold medal.

“I’d say our preliminary discussions would be leaning toward eight national teams as opposed to those two teams, but we had a lot of success with those two teams,” Daly said. “So, I wouldn’t rule it out, I just would say it’s probably not the favorite right now.”

Daly said the NHL is also interested in staging an international event similar to golf’s Ryder Cup, but that’s part of a larger international schedule it still hopes to work out with the NHLPA.

“A lot of that is dependent on having a long-term relationship through the Collective Bargaining Agreement, so we’ll see how that plays out,” Daly said.

Daly said the League’s position on its players participating in the Olympics has not changed.

The NHL did not send players to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics after participating in the previous five Winter Games. There is no current agreement for NHL players to attend the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“There’s nothing new on the subject,” Daly said. “You’ve heard what our owners’ position is on the subject. We know the players very much are in support of participating in the Olympics. We’re going to have discussions between now and then and we’ll see where it goes.”

From the WJAC to the NHL

Tyson Jost (Canada West, 2014-2015

By Jason La Rose – Hockey Canada

The puck dropped Wednesday night to kick off the 2018-19 National Hockey League season, and it did so with 70 alumni of the World Junior A Challenge earning spots on rosters across the league.

The United States led the way with 19 alumni in the NHL, followed by Russia (12), Canada West (12), Canada East (11), Sweden (eight), the Czech Republic (five), Denmark (two) and Switzerland (one).

The Canada West and United States contingents both included players who won gold at the World Junior A Challenge; 25 players in all – eight Canadians and 17 Americans – stood atop the podium, with U.S. forwards Craig Smith (2007 and 2008) and Kyle Connor (2013 and 2014) to only players to hoist the trophy twice.

The list of alumni also included eight players who earned MVP honours – Kyle Turris (2006), Scott Mayfield (2010), Devin Shore (2011), Vinnie Hinostroza (2012), Nick Schmaltz (2013), Nikolaj Ehlers (2014), Tyson Jost (2015) and Andrei Svechnikov (2016) – and 14 WJAC all-stars.

Twenty-eight of the NHL’s 31 teams had at least one alumnus on their 23-man roster, led by the Colorado Avalanche with five; Boston, Columbus, Detroit, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Washington had four each.

In addition to the 70 who cracked the rosters, five alumni started the season on the injured list with the respective teams, and may or may not join the NHL roster once they’re deemed healthy.

WORLD JUNIOR A CHALLENGE ALUMNI ON SEASON-OPENING NHL ROSTERS

Oliver Bjorkstrand – Columbus Blue Jackets (Denmark, 2014)
Brock Boeser – Vancouver Canucks (United States, 2014)
Drake Caggiula – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2011)
Dennis Cholowski – Detroit Red Wings (Canada West, 2015)
Kyle Connor – Winnipeg Jets (United States – 2013-2014)
Austin Czarnik – Calgary Flames (United States, 2010)
Evgeni Dadonov – Florida Panthers (Russia, 2006)
Jacob de la Rose (injured) – Montreal Canadiens (Sweden, 2011)
Casey DeSmith – Pittsburgh Penguins (United States, 2010)
Nic Dowd – Washington Capitals (United States, 2009)
Sheldon Dries – Colorado Avalanche (United States, 2012)
Ryan Dzingel – Ottawa Senators (United States, 2010)
Nikolaj Ehlers – Winnipeg Jets (Denmark, 2014)
Jesper Fast – New York Rangers (Sweden, 2009)
Tanner Fritz – New York Islanders (Canada West, 2008-2009)
Derek Grant – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Vinnie Hinostroza – Arizona Coyotes (United States, 2011-2012)
Ben Hutton – Vancouver Canucks (Canada East, 2011)
Zach Hyman – Toronto Maple Leafs (Canada East, 2010)
Calle Jarnkrok – Nashville Predators (Sweden, 2009)     
Nick Jensen – Detroit Red Wings (United States, 2009)
Luke Johnson – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2012)
Tyson Jost – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2014-2015)
Vladislav Kamenev (injured) – Colorado Avalanche (Russia, 2013)
David Kampf – Chicago Blackhawks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Ondrej Kase (injured) – Anaheim Ducks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Alexander Kerfoot – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Jujhar Khaira – Edmonton Oilers (Canada West, 2011)
Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2010)
Dean Kukan – Columbus Blue Jackets (Switzerland, 2010-2012)
Dmitry Kulikov – Buffalo Sabres (Russia, 2007)
Sean Kuraly – Boston Bruins (United States, 2011)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Johan Larsson (injured) – Buffalo Sabres (Sweden, 2009)
Elias Lindholm – Calgary Flames (Sweden, 2011)
Hampus Lindholm – Anaheim Ducks (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Mayfield – New York Islanders (United States, 2010)
John Moore – Boston Bruins (United States, 2008)
Vladislav Namestnikov – New York Rangers (Russia, 2009)
Riley Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets (Canada West, 2006)
Patrik Nemeth – Colorado Avalanche (Sweden, 2009)
Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars (Russia, 2011)
Joakim Nordström – Boston Bruins (Sweden, 2009-2010)
Dmitry Orlov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Colton Parayko – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2011)
David Pastrnak – Boston Bruins (Czech Republic, 2012)
Matthew Peca – Montreal Canadiens (Canada East, 2010)
Neal Pionk – New York Rangers (United States, 2013)
Mike Reilly – Montreal Canadiens (United States, 2011)
Evan Rodrigues – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Joakim Ryan – San Jose Sharks (Sweden, 2010)
Justin Schultz – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Jordan Schmaltz – St. Louis Blues (United States, 2010-2011)
Nick Schmaltz – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2013)
Jaden Schwartz – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2008)
Devin Shore – Dallas Stars (Canada East, 2011)
Dominik Simon – Pittsburgh Penguins (Czech Republic, 2011)
Jaccob Slavin – Carolina Hurricanes (United States, 2012)
Brendan Smith – New York Rangers (Canada East, 2006)
Craig Smith – Nashville Predators (United States, 2007-2008)
Reilly Smith – Vegas Golden Knights (Canada East, 2008)
Libor Sulak – Detroit Red Wings (Czech Republic, 2011)
Troy Stecher – Vancouver Canucks (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Andrei Svechnikov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2016)
Evgeny Svechnikov (injured) – Detroit Red Wings (Russia, 2013)
Cam Talbot – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2006)
Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues (Russia, 2008)
Kyle Turris – Nashville Predators (Canada West, 2006)
Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2011)
Mikhail Vorobyov – Philadelphia Flyers (Russia, 2014)
Jakub Vrana – Washington Capitals (Czech Republic, 2012)
MacKenzie Weegar – Florida Panthers (Canada East, 2011)
Alexander Wennberg – Columbus Blue Jackets (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Wilson – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Valentin Zykov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2011)

Hughes, projected No. 1 pick at 2019 NHL Draft, happy with USA Hockey

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By Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com

Jack Hughes, projected by many as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, never wavered in his decision to continue his playing career at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program this season.

Hughes (5-foot-10, 166 pounds), a center, had 116 points (40 goals, 76 assists) with the U-17 and U-18 NTDP teams last season, one point shy of tying Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews for the single-season point record (117) set during his U-18 season in 2014-15. Hughes had 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) in 36 games for the U-18.

“I just felt like the NTDP was the best spot for my development,” Hughes said. “I love my teammates, my coaches, the resources and love being able to put on the USA jersey. I tell everyone no one trains as hard as us at the NTDP. We’re working out in-season, skating four times a week, and playing games on top of that.”

Hughes, 17, had the option of joining his brother, defenseman Quintin Hughes, at the University of Michigan. Quintin Hughes, 18, selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round (No. 7) of the 2018 NHL Draft, decided Saturday to return to Michigan for his sophomore season.

“I knew the NTDP was a great spot, and Michigan was a great spot as well,” Jack Hughes said. “Quinn had really good success there and anytime I have a chance to play with Quinn it’s really appealing. I took that into consideration, but I think the NTDP was the best spot.”

Jack and Quintin are representing the United States at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week at Sandman Centre. The first round of cuts by USA Hockey is scheduled for Wednesday.

“I talked to him a bit before I made my decision to go back [to Michigan],” Quintin Hughes said. “Michigan worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it would ultimately work for him. If you’re a good enough player, no matter where you go, you’ll find your way.”

United States general manager John Vanbiesbrouck wasn’t surprised by Jack’s decision.

“He saw his bother go through a process and is content working on his game and developing as a player,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “There’s a great opportunity for him moving forward wearing the red, white and blue. We hope we keep him into it for a long time.”

Kannok Leipert excited about making history at NHL draft

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By Greg Harder – Regina Leader-Post

Alex Kannok Leipert, who was born in Thailand but lives in Regina, is the latest player from the Regina area to be drafted by the Washington Capitals.

It’s believed that the 17-year-old defenceman became the first Thai-born player to be selected in the NHL draft when he was chosen by the Washington Capitals, who traded up to pick him in the sixth round (161st overall).

It’s quite an accomplishment for the youngster, who gravitated to hockey after he moved to Regina at age five.

“I saw something (online) saying I was the first one,” said Kannok Leipert, a member of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. “I’ve asked around a little bit but I haven’t heard anything (suggesting otherwise). It’s pretty cool. If I didn’t move to Canada it wouldn’t be this way.

“The outpouring of support has been unreal. I just want to thank everyone who has helped get me to this position.”

Although Thailand is not a traditional hockey market, the sport has grown in popularity over the past few years. It now features at least two competitive leagues as well as a national men’s team and women’s team that compete in lower level international competitions like the Asian Games.

“They’re starting to pick up hockey a lot so it’s pretty cool,” said Kannok Leipert, who visits family in Thailand every couple of years. “I went and practised with their international team last summer. It’s getting pretty big there now. They’re starting to put up rinks and things like that.”

Kannok Leipert has built an impressive resume of his own.

He served as captain of the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians when they won a provincial title in 2017 and finished fourth at the Telus Cup national championship. That same year, Kannok Leipert was named the top defenceman in the Saskatchewan midget AAA league and a first team all-star.

He joined the WHL’s Giants last season and enjoyed a strong rookie campaign, recording five goals and 21 points in 60 games.

“I thought the season went well and I was hoping for the best,” said Kannok Leipert, who noted that the Capitals showed “the most interest by far” prior to the draft. “I came to the realization that if it didn’t happen it would be Ok but if it happened it would be awesome. I just waited to see and it was a nice surprise.”

It wasn’t a surprise to Pat Canadians head coach Darrin McKechnie, who had been approached about Kannok Leipert by Capitals assistant GM Ross Mahoney and scout Darrell Baumgartner. Both men are based in Regina and have a history of drafting local players, including Garrett Mitchell, Connor Hobbs, Colby Williams and Chandler Stephenson.

“They got a good one (in Kannok Leipert),” noted McKechnie. “I talked to them a couple of times. They liked him early in the year so I was so excited that he could be a Washington draft pick.”

McKechnie can’t say enough good things about Kannok Leipert, calling him a natural leader and “a terrific young man.” He also believes there’s potential for him to enjoy a long pro career.

“He really works hard at his game,” said McKechnie, a former coach and player with the WHL’s Regina Pats. “He treats everybody so well and he leads by example. All the great qualities that you want in a young man and a hockey player, he’s got it. I think before his junior career is done he’ll be a captain. He’s just that type of kid. If he wants to put in the work, I think the NHL is there for him.”

Why Jack Hughes is the No. 1-ranked 2019 NHL draft prospect

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By Chris Peters – ESPN

The 2019 NHL draft is shaping up to be as exciting as this year’s, at least at the top of the draft. The hockey world is already salivating over 17-year-old American phenom Jack Hughes after his jaw-dropping performance in leading Team USA to the title at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November. Since then, he has been lighting up scoreboards and generating headlines across the world for his superior skill and skating.

Part of a family with deep roots in the game, with both parents playing at a reasonably high level and a pair of brothers who make for great training partners and competitors, Hughes has been preparing for this moment his whole life. After Jim and Ellen Hughes’ eldest son, Quinn Hughes, went No. 7 overall to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, the spotlight will begin shining more brightly on their middle son.

“He has the most pure skill of any player I’ve seen for 2019,” one Western Conference scout said of Jack Hughes.

The skill and skating abilities Hughes possesses have been a big reason that his size comes up so much later in the conversation with scouts. Should Hughes go No. 1, he would be the smallest top pick since Patrick Kane was selected in 2007. Hughes was most recently listed at 5-foot-10, 161 pounds. Kane was listed at 5-10, 171 pounds in his draft profile. There’s no doubt Hughes needs to bulk up a bit, but there are a lot of reasons the size factor will be a minimal one come draft day next summer.

Hughes’ 16-year-old season is essentially unprecedented for an American player. At USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, he put up 116 points — just one point shy of Auston Matthewsprogram record. The big difference is Matthews did it when he was a year older. The previous high-water mark for a U17 player at the NTDP was 82 points set by Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller. That’s a 34-point difference from what Hughes did. Last I checked, both of those guys are pretty good NHL players.

Looking back through the years, there just haven’t been that many American teenagers who have had a season this astonishing from a production standpoint this young at a level this high. For reference, Mike Modano, the second American to go No. 1 overall, had 62 points in 70 games in his first WHL season at 16, and that was in 1987. Kane, at the same age at the NTDP, had 70 points in 63 games, but 40 of those contests were in the North American Hockey League, a Tier II Junior A league in the United States. Hughes appeared in 27 games in the Tier I USHL this season and spent half the season playing up with the U.S. national U18 team in the USHL, against colleges and U18 international teams.

To find recent, closer comparables to what Hughes did this season, the U17 OHL seasons of Connor McDavid (99 points in 56 games) and Steven Stamkos (92 points in 63 games) might be good starting points.

One of the more incredible stats from his 2017-18 season is that Hughes had 54 points against USHL competition, averaging two points per game. He led all USHL rookies and ranked 12th in league scoring despite playing only 27 games of a 60-game season.

Even more jaw-dropping, among U17 players who appeared in at least 20 games in the USHL’s long history, none averaged better than 1.45 points per game. This year’s No. 2 pick, Andrei Svechnikov, averaged 1.21 points per game in 48 games vs. the USHL in 2016-17. Matthews averaged one point per game in 20 USHL appearances as a U17. This league is traditionally difficult to score in, and Hughes obliterated it as a 16-year-old.

The Orlando-born forward also led two major international tournaments in scoring this year. He had 15 points in six games as the U.S. won the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, a tournament that boasts many of the NHL’s top players as alumni. Only Colin White, an Ottawa Senators first-rounder, had more points than Hughes in that tournament’s history. Some guy named Ilya Kovalchuk ranks third behind Hughes. Then he closed out his season with 12 points in seven games at the IIHF World Men’s U18 Championship, becoming the first under-ager to lead that tournament in scoring since 15-year-old McDavid did it in 2013.

Hughes is expected to return to the national team development program next season despite overtures from the Ontario Hockey League and flirtation with accelerating his schooling to attend college a year early, a la Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski. No player has gone directly from the NTDP to the NHL, but Hughes will probably have a chance at becoming the first. Each of the past four Americans selected first overall in the NHL draft — Rick DiPietro, Erik Johnson, Kane and Matthews — each played at the NTDP for two seasons before going on to college, junior or pro. Hughes will be part of a team many scouts consider one of the best the NTDP has ever produced, which is really saying something given that program’s star-studded alumni roll. There could be as many as six or seven first-round picks off of that team in 2019.

John Wroblewski, head coach of the team featuring most of the top Americans from the 2001 birth year, noted that having so many high-caliber players has created excellent competition in practices on top of the advanced competition the team plays throughout its season. So what has Wroblewski noticed as a separating factor for one of his prized pupils?

“When you’re at ice level and you watch his glide — compared to everyone else, he’s just moving so much faster,” Wroblewski said. “The game slows down in his mind.”

As the game continues to speed up, Hughes looks built for that brand of hockey. He will be scrutinized like all top picks are. He’ll have some competition along the way, perhaps even from some of his own NTDP teammates. But based on what we saw this season, considering the lack of precedent for what Hughes accomplished, it appears the next great American star has arrived.

Winners and losers from Day 1 of the NHL Draft

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By Hannah Stuart – thescore.com

The NHL draft kicked off Friday night with a touching tribute to the Humboldt Broncos. Team president Kevin Garinger accepted the 2018 E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence, given annually to the prospect “who best exemplifies the commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism as selected by NHL Central Scouting,” on behalf of the Broncos team.

After tears were wiped away, things got weird.

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka went off the board and took Barrett Hayton of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds fifth overall. The league’s other 30 GMs seemingly took that as permission to do whatever they pleased, and the resulting chaos left quite a bit of confusion in its wake.

Joe Veleno, the first player to obtain exceptional status and play in the QMJHL at age 15, fell to the Detroit Red Wings at 30th overall (he’d been ranked consistently in the top 10 by many for most of the season). Bode Wilde and Serron Noel fell out of the first round entirely. Suffice to say no one could’ve predicted exactly how the 2018 first round played out.

Here are our winners and losers after Day 1.

Winners

Washington Capitals: Before the draft began, the Capitals traded Brooks Orpik and Philipp Grubauer to the Avalanche for Colorado’s second-rounder at 47th overall. The trade dumps Orpik’s cap hit and leaves Washington room to sign pending unrestricted free-agent defenseman John Carlson, which is expected to happen over the weekend. That’s great news for a team that wants to try to win a second straight Stanley Cup.

Colorado Avalanche (conditionally): According to Joe Sakic, the Avalanche intend to either trade or buy out Orpik. If that happens, they got Grubauer for a second-round pick and that trade, one for one, looks good for them, too.

Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Dahlin is a literal game-changer for the franchise. Yow.

Detroit Red Wings: Boy, things are looking up for Red Wings general manager Ken Holland after last year’s forgettable draft. Taking Michael Rasmussen when several better players were still on the board was widely criticized. He didn’t make that mistake this year. Filip Zadina fell to sixth overall, and Holland practically swan-dove onto the stage to select him. Later, Veleno fell to 30th, and you can bet Holland didn’t miss there, either. A great first day for him and Detroit.

New York Islanders: With back-to-back picks at 11 and 12, the Islanders selected Oliver Wahlstrom (who should not have fallen to 11th) and Noah Dobson (who probably shouldn’t have dropped to 12th). Take a minute and imagine Wahlstrom playing with Mat Barzal.

Ryan Merkley: Lots of pre-draft chatter had Merkley’s boom-or-bust style and reports of attitude problems knocking him out of the first round. The San Jose Sharks took a chance on him at 21st overall, and if he turns into the player his ceiling suggests he could be, the Sharks will reap major benefits.

Losers

Arizona Coyotes: John Chayka knows what he’s doing in a lot of situations, but taking center Barrett Hayton at fifth overall was a head-scratcher. While Hayton is a solid player, he’s not a game-breaking, top-10 talent. Who knows, though, a few years down the road, we could be proven wrong.

Ottawa Senators: Let’s make one thing clear: the Senators aren’t on this list because they drafted Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk, while not the best player available at fourth overall, is a very good player. But it feels like by choosing to keep this year’s pick, with the uncertainty surrounding Erik Karlsson and with chances being good the Senators are worse next year, Ottawa’s sealed its fate. Next year’s first-round pick goes to the Avalanche, and the Senators are really going to regret it if that pick somehow turns into Jack Hughes. Colorado sure hopes it does.

Philadelphia Flyers: This one is a maybe, because their first pick at 14th overall, Joel Farabee, is a fantastic player. But their second pick is suspect. Jay O’Brien would be a good mid-second-round pick, but the Flyers grabbed him at 19. While no one outside the draft floor knows the chatter that took place, surely O’Brien wasn’t such a hot commodity that the Flyers couldn’t trade down and still get him.

Woo hoping to make history at 2018 Draft

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By Mike G. Morreale NHL.com

Jett Woo of Moose Jaw in the Western Hockey League could become the second player of Chinese descent to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.

Woo, 17, is a right-shot defenseman listed at No. 28 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2018 NHL Draft. He was born and trained in Winnipeg; his father, Larry, is of Chinese descent and his mother, Dolly, is of German ancestry.

Jett has spent a lot of time learning about his Chinese grandparents and said he hopes to have an opportunity someday to play an NHL game in China. The Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames will play in the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games Sept. 15-19 in Shenzen and Beijing.

“The way that hockey is shaping up, really anyone, anywhere, can play right now if you stick with it and work hard enough,” said Woo, who said he’s never been to China. “It’s something that’s really cool and I’m really proud to be playing hockey, proud to be of Chinese descent. Having those two things so close to me is something I really cherish and am thankful for.”

Woo would be the second player of Chinese descent selected in the NHL Draft; the New York Islanders picked Lawrenceville School defenseman Andong Song in the sixth round (No. 172) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Woo said he recalls spending time with his grandparents at their house in Winnipeg, learning about their culture and their cuisine. Woo’s grandparents were born in Canton, China and owned a small restaurant chain in Winnipeg called Marigold. His grandfather has since passed away.

“My dad’s whole side is Chinese so growing up we’d spend days at my grandparents’ house eating Chinese food,” Woo said. “We actually owned a chain of restaurants and were either eating there or getting takeout.”

Even though Woo is looking to break new ground in the NHL, he is considered a throwback-type hockey player.

“If you don’t have your head up, look out,” John Williams of NHL Central Scouting said. “He reminds me of former St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman. He usually gets one or two big hits every night, but his skill level has improved this season. He has a good shot, makes plays, and his skating has gotten considerably better.”

Woo (6-foot, 205 pounds) had 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 44 games, and had three points (two goals, one assist) in 14 WHL playoff games.

He’s become a fan favorite in his three seasons with Moose Jaw, and fans at Mosaic Place, Moose Jaw’s arena, serenade him with a loud “Woo,” reminiscent of professional wrestler Ric Flair, after big hits.

“It’s neat to hear those chants,” he said. “I have to give credit to my parents for having the name. It’s cool to have the attention around that and to see different reactions when you go to different places. But to have people chanting your name … it’s a lot of fun.”

Larry Woo played forward for Victoria and Swift Current in the WHL and then for four seasons for the University of Manitoba. Larry and Dolly named Jett, the oldest of their three children, after Chinese film star Jet Li.

“I’m not exactly sure if my dad is a big fan of Jet Li … he might be,” Woo said. “I know that’s where my name came from. I know my grandparents liked the name. With dad having the opportunity to come to Winnipeg and then ending up going to Hollywood, it all ended up working well for him.”

Larry Woo played Park Kim in the movie “Goon” in 2011, and its sequel, “Goon: Last of the Enforcers,” in 2017.

“Dad was probably one of the biggest influences I had in hockey,” Jett said. “He was the one driving me to the rink and was my coach growing up, so he had a lot of say on the bench or on the long rides home. He and my mom were there for me. I’m always looking for them for advice and having that extra person to lean on.”

Woo wears No. 4 to honor Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, and said he’s also a big fan of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber because of his intimidating presence.

“I feel having that extra grit kind of helps me in the game,” he said. “I always bring it back to Shea Weber. One time I watched a game of his and a player was coming down on his side but cut across to the other defenseman and I think it was because he didn’t want to take Shea Weber 1-on-1. That’s something I want to bring to the game; be that guy that opponents are scared to play against.

“I take pride in making defense a priority whether that be competing for every puck or being the first guy at the net boxing out, or making a good first-pass up ice. That, along with playing physical, smart and deciding whether to have stick on puck or to go right at the guy and have body-on-body contact, are the things I feel I do well.”

At long last, Ovechkin and Capitals are Stanley Cup champs

Greg Beacham The Associated Press

Alex Ovechkin put both hands to his head and screamed while he left the bench and skated into the thick of the Washington Capitals’ joyous celebration.

And right before Ovechkin hoisted the Stanley Cup, the Washington captain put both hands on his head again in a gesture of disbelieving ecstasy.

You can believe it, Ovi. So can the Washington fans whose championship drought is finally over.

After striving through 13 of his franchise’s 43 seasons, the Russian superstar and the long-suffering Capitals are sitting on top of hockey for the very first time.

“It doesn’t matter what happened before,” Ovechkin said through his gap-toothed grin. “We just won it.”

Lars Eller scored the tiebreaking goal with 7:37 to play, and the Capitals claimed their first NHL title with a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Ovechkin capped his playoff MVP campaign with an early power-play goal, and Devante Smith-Pelly tied it with a full-stretch goal midway through the final period of the Capitals’ fourth consecutive victory over the Golden Knights.

“We did it,” said Ovechkin, whose 15 playoff goals set a franchise record. “That’s all that matters. Look at the smiles on my teammates. This is something you’ll never forget. This moment, I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable.”

Vegas’ incredible expansion season finally ended, and so did the Capitals’ wait for a title since their debut in 1974. But after so many years of crushing disappointment for a team with a lengthy history of postseason failure, these Caps confidently won their fourth consecutive closeout game with a tenacious third-period comeback in Vegas.

Ovechkin and his teammates are Washington’s first championship hockey team — and their city’s first champion in a major pro sport since the Redskins won the Super Bowl in early 1992.

“It doesn’t come easy,” said goalie Braden Holtby, who made 28 saves while outplaying three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury in the opposite net one final time. “It took years. Years of heartbreak. Years of breaking things down and trying again, breaking things down and trying again, and this group never gave up. And we finally did it.”

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Alex Ovechkin (8) and his Washington Capitals teammates celebrate
after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 to win their first Stanley Cup.

After Ovechkin accepted the Conn Smythe Trophy, he received the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Ovechkin shouted “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” before skating away and hoisting the prize over his head for a victory lap in front of thousands of red-clad fans.

When a succession of teammates finally got the Cup back to Ovi, he handed it to Ted Leonsis, the Caps’ owner since 1999.

“I’m so happy for the group that has gone through the misery,” said Washington coach Barry Trotz, a first-time champ in his 19th season behind an NHL bench and a potential free agent without a contract for next season.

The Caps couldn’t win a Cup without a little late weirdness, however: The game clock stopped working on the T-Mobile Arena scoreboards during the final minutes, and the Capitals angrily protested while they played on. Vegas never got close to a tying goal despite both teams getting an extra chance to rest while the officials checked on the timing. The clock finally hit zeros, allowing the Caps to storm the ice behind their net for a frenzied celebration.

Reilly Smith scored a go-ahead goal late in the second period for the Golden Knights, who won seven of their first eight home playoff games before dropping the last two.

“When you get this close to the Cup, it’s hard,” Fleury said. “Doesn’t happen too often. It’s very disappointing.”

The defeat ended the storybook inaugural season of the Golden Knights, who became the NHL’s 31st franchise last fall and immediately launched into arguably the greatest debut in modern pro sports history. Few expected the division title they delivered, and fewer still thought Vegas could challenge for a championship.

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Alex Ovechkin is congratulated by Vegas goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury.

Nate Schmidt and David Perron also scored deflection goals for Vegas in the second period, but Fleury’s 29 saves included a stopped puck that dropped underneath him where Eller could sweep it home for the Cup-winning goal.

“It means everything,” Eller said. “You couldn’t write the story better. If you’re going to win on the road, I couldn’t imagine a better place to do it.”

Forward T.J. Oshie spent a moment in the celebration looking up for his father, Tim, who he said was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“He doesn’t remember a lot of stuff, but he’s going to remember this,” Oshie said. “I’ve never seen a team come together like we did here. I’ve never seen the commitment from start to finish like we had here.”

Washington’s win was its 10th on the road in this postseason, tying the NHL playoff record and illustrating the superior toughness of this team. While past editions of the Caps created their team’s reputation for postseason flops in part by losing five playoff series in which they had won three of the first four games, Ovechkin’s latest group promptly closed out all four of its series this year on the very first try.

The Caps also came back from series deficits in all four rounds and clinched all four series on the road.

The remarkable Golden Knights hadn’t lost four consecutive games in their entire inaugural season before the Caps rolled them.

“It’s going to be a tough couple days,” Vegas defenceman Deryk Engelland said. “You never want it to end like this.”

The Capitals had thousands of fans in the Vegas crowd and a building full of supporters watching back home along with countless thousands outside in the crowded D.C. streets. They got a barn-burner of a finale befitting this thrilling series, with wild shifts of momentum before that bizarre clock incident that didn’t appear to affect the outcome much.

The Capitals’ triumph also adds another chapter to a stretch of sweet relief for long-suffering, loyal sports fans across North America. The NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in February, and baseball’s Houston Astros won their first World Series last November.

First-time titles are all the rage, and Ovechkin and the Caps have paid their dues for this one.

Ovechkin, who turns 33 later this year, has been among the most exciting and productive players in his sport since joining the Caps in 2005. Yet for all of his goal-scoring prowess and athletic swagger, the Great Eight had never won an Olympic gold medal or a Stanley Cup title.

But after becoming the fifth player in the last quarter-century to score at least 15 goals in a postseason, Ovechkin is a champion at last. He also became the first Russian captain to raise the Cup in NHL history.

The title is also validation for Holtby, who has spent his entire NHL career in Washington. After several seasons of being measured unfavorably against Fleury and other goaltending greats despite his 2016 Vezina Trophy, the Saskatchewan native also has his long-sought ring — and his unbelievable stick save on Alex Tuch in Game 2 will ring forever in Caps history.

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Washington’s Devante Smith-Pelly acrobatically scores in the
third period of Game 5 on Thursday.

Ovechkin put the Caps up 2-1 in the crazy second period of Game 5 when he set up in his customary spot in the left faceoff circle and put Nicklas Backstrom’s cross-ice pass into a sliver of open net. But after Perron tied it with a deflection goal while falling into Holtby’s net, Smith scored into an open net after Ovechkin went to the penalty box for tripping.

Washington pressed early in the third, but didn’t connect until Brooks Orpik flung the puck at the net against the run of play. Smith-Pelly barely controlled the puck and stretched out to fling it toward the net while falling face-forward, and it slipped inside Fleury’s post for the veteran forward’s seventh goal of the postseason — matching his total from the entire regular season.

“I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a little kid,” Smith-Pelly said. “The team, with so much change, you didn’t know what to expect. We knew we could do something special, and we did.”

Moments later, the Knights struggled to keep up with the Caps’ puck movement and left Brett Connolly open for a shot. Fleury stopped it, but the puck fell to the ice underneath him — and Eller fought off Luca Sbisa and slapped the puck into the net for the game winner.

Final 2018 Draft rankings: these go to 120

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By Ryan Kennedy – The Hockey News

Our prospect expert goes deep on the class of 2018. Naturally, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is on the top of the pile, but what happens after that?

Releasing my final rankings for a draft is always difficult. The list grows organically throughout the season, building as more players catch my eye and put themselves on the radars of NHL teams. There is always the temptation to tinker up until the last second and even then, I wonder: should I wait a little longer, in case new information or buzz comes out about a particular player?

This season, it’s defenseman Noah Dobson, who is coming off a Memorial Cup championship with Acadie-Bathurst, where he played incredibly well. Should he get a bump, while the rest of his competition watched on TV? And what happens when I get a peek at the lists of other draft pundits? Peer pressure is real, my friends.

In the end, I have stood pat. The ensuing rankings follow THN’s Draft Preview (on sale now!) and if you want more information on the top 100 picks, I highly recommend the purchase. I reference it constantly once it comes out and I love seeing it in the hands of scouts and other writers at the combine and the draft itself. The rankings are basically Best Player Available; consider this a conservative forecast of what will happen, should no crazy trades upend things.

As a web bonus, I’ve added another 20 picks again this year. These are kids that just missed the cut, or simply slot in as mid-rounders. As for the sleepers and dark horses, stay tuned: I will have another blog on my faves in the coming week. Other than that, things are pretty straightforward. The section to really keep an eye on would be late first round/early second round, as that tends to be the most chaotic. Some teams go safe, some take risks, so you’ll see a mix of said players in the 25-40 range. They’re all pretty close anyway.

Goalies are another theme to watch. Because netminders are so hard to forecast, their actual slots don’t always reflect their talent. So you’re going to see goalies higher on this list than they might be taken because otherwise there wouldn’t be many of them here. Judge the goalies against themselves; obviously my surer things are highest on the list.

With all that in mind, let’s get to the fun part. With the first pick in the 2018 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres are proud to select…

 

1. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (SHL): The no-brainer pick. Dahlin has franchise defenseman potential and his combination of size, speed, smarts and skill check off all the boxes. Enjoy him, Sabres fans.  

2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL): No slouch himself, Svechnikov’s abbreviated season (due to injury and international play) in Barrie showed off a ton of upside. He’s a big-bodied sniper who goes to the net.

3. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston U. (Hockey East): The third and fourth picks are a coin flip, but Tkachuk is just too pro to ignore. He’s got size, nastiness, talent and you can trust him when the game’s on the line.  

4. Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax (QMJHL): Another fantastic winger, Zadina has game-breaking qualities and proved it at the world juniors. His scoring power and energy are impossible not to enjoy.

5. Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (Swe.): He doesn’t have the size of Dahlin, but he does have the mobility, smarts and puck skills. Boqvist can also take care of his own end, making him a great investment.  

6. Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan (BigTen): There is so much talent in Hughes’ game. He can hang on to the puck like few others and his skating is elite. He won’t be in college much longer, that’s for sure.

7. Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL): In a pack of slick skaters, Bouchard brings other tools. He’s big, he’s got a great shot and may be the best passer in the entire draft class.

8. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, U.S. NTDP (USHL): When it comes to scoring, Wahlstrom is elite. He’s already got an NHL shot and he’s a student of the game. Watch for him at Boston College next year.

9. Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): The potential in the big puckmover became even more apparent at the Memorial Cup, where Dobson soared. The sky is the limit with this kid.

10. Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL): Another mobile defenseman, Smith doesn’t have a ton of size, but it rarely seems to matter. Plays against top lines and defends better than many of his peers in this draft class.

11. Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)  

12. Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

13. Joel Farabee, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL)

14. Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (SHL)   

15. Bode Wilde, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)  

16. Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL)   

17. Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)   

18. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Fin.)    

19. Akil Thomas, RW, Niagara (OHL)

20. Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)

21. Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)  

22. Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko (Rus.)

23. Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Swe.)

24. Vitali Kravtsov, LW, Traktor (KHL)

25. Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Fin.)   

26. K’Andre Miller, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)   

27. Martin Kaut, RW, Dynamo Pardubice (Cze.)

28. Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo (SHL)   

29. Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)   

30. Sampo Ranta, LW, Sioux City (USHL)   

31. Mattias Samuelsson, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)

32. Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph (OHL)  

33. Benoit-Olivier Groulx, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)   

34. Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax (QMJHL)  

35. Scott Perunovich, D, Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC)  

36. Jonatan Berggren, C, Skelleftea (SHL)

37. Jakub Lauko, C, Pirati Chomutov (Cze.)

38. Filip Johansson, D, Leksand (Swe.)   

39. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D, Okotoks (AJHL)   

40. Adam Ginning, D, Linkoping (Swe.)

41. Jonny Tychonick, D, Penticton (BCHL)  

42. Nicolas Beaudin, D, Drummondville (QMJHL)   

43. Filip Hallander, C, Timra (Swe.)

44. Liam Foudy, C, London (OHL)   

45. Calen Addison, D, Lethbridge (WHL)

46. Allan McShane, C, Oshawa (OHL)   

47. Jesse Ylonen, RW, Espoo (Fin.)   

48. Jack Drury, C, Waterloo (USHL)   

49. Jakub Skarek, G, Dukla Jihlava (Cze.)  

50. Justus Annunen, G, Karpat Oulu (Fin.)  

51. Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea (Swe.)

52. Blake McLaughlin, C, Chicago (USHL)   

53. Alexander Khovanov, C, Moncton (QMJHL)

54. Alexander Alexeyev, D, Red Deer (WHL)

55. Slava Demin, D, Wenatchee (BCHL)

56. Albin Eriksson, LW, Skelleftea (SHL)

57. Dmitri Zavgorodny, C, Rimouski (QMJHL)  

58. Kevin Bahl, D, Ottawa (OHL)  

59. Olof Lindbom, G, Djurgarden (Swe.)

60. Jack McBain, C, Toronto (OJHL)   

61. Jay O’Brien, C, Thayer (Mass. HS)  

62. Alexis Gravel, G, Halifax (QMJHL)

63. Curtis Douglas, C, Windsor (OHL)

64. Matej Pekar, C, Muskegon (USHL)

65. Kirill Marchenko, LW, Yugra (KHL)

66. Cam Hillis, C, Guelph (OHL)

67. Sean Durzi, D, Owen Sound (OHL)

68. Axel Andersson, D, Djurgarden (Swe.)

69. Riley Sutter, RW, Everett (WHL)

70. Anderson MacDonald, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)  

71. Egor Sokolov, RW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

72. Jordan Harris, D, Kimball-Union (NH. HS)

73. Olivier Rodrigue, G, Drummondville (QMJHL)

74. Eric Florchuk, C, Saskatoon (WHL)

75. Oscar Back, C, Farjestad (Swe.)

76. Luke Burzan, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

77. David Gustafsson, C, HV71 (SHL)

78. Jan Jenik, C, Liberec (Cze.)

79. Philipp Kurashev, C, Quebec (QMJHL)

80. Jachym Kondelik, C, Muskegon (USHL)

81. Logan Hutsko, RW, Boston College (Hockey East)

82. Jared Moe, G, Waterloo (USHL)

83. Gabriel Fortier, C, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

84. Keegan Karki, G, Muskegon (USHL)

85. Tyler Madden, C, Tri-City (USHL)

86. Blade Jenkins, C, Saginaw (OHL)

87. Alec Regula, D, London (OHL)

88. Joey Keane, D, Barrie (OHL)

89. Jake Wise, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)

90. Xavier Bouchard, D, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

91. Cole Fonstad, C, Prince Albert (WHL)

92. Vladislav Kotkov, RW, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

93. Niklas Nordgren, RW, HIFK (Fin.)

94. Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup, LW, Fargo (USHL)

95. Milos Roman, C, Vancouver (WHL)

96. Lukas Dostal, G, Kometa Brno (Cze.)

97. Curtis Hall, C, Youngstown (USHL)

98. Kevin Mandolese, G, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

99. Jake Pivonka, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)

100. Ryan O’Reilly, RW, Madison (USHL)

101. Luke Henman, C, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)

102. Akira Schmid, G, Langnau (Swi.)

103. Martin Fehervary, D, HV71 (Swe.)

104. Jack Perbix, C, Elk River (Minn. HS)

105. Declan Chisholm, D, Peterborough (OHL)

106. Alexander Romanov, D, CSKA (Rus.)

107. Arttu Nevasaari, RW, Karpat (Fin.)

108. Ruslan Iskhakov, RW, CSKA (Rus.)

109. Adam McCormick, D, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

110. Nico Gross, D, Oshawa (OHL)

111. Ivan Morozov, C, Yugra (Rus.)

112. Giovanni Vallati, D, Kitchener (OHL)

113. Angus Crookshank, LW, Langley (BCHL)

114. Samuel Fagemo, LW, Frolunda (Swe.)

115. Jack Jensen, C, Eden Prairie (Minn. HS)

116. Lenni Killinen, RW, Espoo United (Fin.)

117. Mitchell Hoelscher, C, Ottawa (OHL)

118. Yegor Zamula, D, Calgary (WHL)

119. Jacob Ingham, G, Mississauga (OHL)

120. Mathias Emilio Pettersen, C, Muskegon (USHL)

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