Tag Archives: 2011 NHL Entry Draft

2018 Offseason Preview: Colorado Avalanche

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Colorado Avalanche and their outlook for the summer.

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The 2017-18 Colorado Avalanche came off of the worst season in the salary cap era with a 43-30-9 record and 95-point performance on the year, finishing 4th in the Central Division and clinching the final wild card spot in the 2018 postseason with a win in their final game of the regular season against the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis entered that game in April, in fact, ahead of the Avs in the standings by a point with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators in the First Round.

Not only did Colorado win, but they completed an unthinkable turnaround.

This, after trading the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Matt Duchene, to the Ottawa Senators as part of a three team trade that saw the Avalanche flip Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators, collecting a large package combined that included rookie defender Samuel Girard.

While one trade alone doesn’t put General Manager Joe Sakic in the hunt for the NHL’s GM of the Year award, the incredible turnaround in on-ice performance led by head coach, Jared Bednar, put Bednar in consideration for the 2017-18 Jack Adams Award.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Sakic currently holds onto the 16th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and two second round picks (Colorado’s own and one from the Predators as part of the Duchene trade).

While the conditional 2018 1st round pick from the Ottawa Senators in the Duchene deal was top-10 protected, the Sens will surrender a 2019 first round pick to the Avalanche instead.

Regardless, Sakic and his scouting crew will have plenty of attractive “best available” talent to choose from in the middle of the first round (namely, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joseph Veleno, Jack McBain, Jared McIsaac and others).

Pending free agents

Colorado has about $22.900 million to spend this summer with Blake Comeau, Matt Nieto and Nail Yakupov as the only current-NHL roster pending free agent forwards.

Comeau, 32, is a pending-UFA that bounced back from 2016-17’s down year (remember when Carl Soderberg had 14 points that season? Carl. Soderberg.), with an average of 30 points in his three seasons in the Mile High city.

He’s been around the league a bit in his career, but he resurfaced as a durable forward on an otherwise young roster, amassing 13-21–34 totals in 79 games played with the Avalanche this season.

Nieto, 25, is a pending-RFA that was claimed off waivers last season by Colorado and had his best season since 2014-15 with the San Jose Sharks, scoring 15 goals and 11 assists (26 points) in 74 games for the Avs in 2017-18.

The biggest difference maker for the Avalanche this offseason is not messing things up. Keeping Nieto isn’t harmful to the team’s future as their younger players come into their own and a small term deal won’t hurt as the younger players gain experience.

In short, there’s nothing for Sakic to lose in building a roster that makes the playoffs for a second consecutive year. Not many expected them to be at the point of playoff contention this season, so any step forward is better than a step backward as Colorado continues to retool for a Cup run (someday).

If there’s one pending-RFA Sakic should have an easy time letting go of, it’s Nail Yakupov.

The 24-year-old 1st overall pick in the 2012 NHL Enty Draft signed a one-year deal with Colorado in attempt to resurrect his career. It did not go as planned, despite scoring often and scoring early in the regular season.

Yakupov produced nine goals and seven assists (16 points) in 58 games with the Avalanche in the regular season and was scratched for their entire 2018 postseason run.

That alone is an indication.

While he almost doubled his offensive production this season compared to his final year with the St. Louis Blues (3-6–9 totals in 40 games in 2016-17), it doesn’t appear he can be part of an NHL lineup with enough consistency.

At best, Yakupov is the one you least expect to score, but then surprises everyone with the occasional goal. At worst, he’s just taking up a roster spot you could be giving to someone else.

Sakic already tried the low-risk, high-reward with Yakupov. It’s best to move on.

On defense, Patrik Nemeth, 26, and Duncan Siemens, 24, are both pending-RFAs.

Nemeth was claimed off waivers early last October from the Dallas Stars and scored his first career NHL goal with Colorado (and then two more) this season. He first broke into the league with Dallas in the 2013-14 season and had 3-12–15 totals in 68 games with the Avs in 2017-18.

He’s a low cost top-6 blueliner on a roster with about 10 NHL caliber defensemen. Whether Nemeth returns or not comes down to how Sakic envisions the roster– with Nikita Zadorov entering a contract year and Tyson Barrie potentially hitting the open market in July 2020– and how Bednar thinks he’s going to play everyone.

The 11th overall pick of the Avalanche in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Siemens scored his first NHL goal and recorded his first career assist in 16 games played. That’s the most he’s played in a season after appearing in his first career game in 2014-15.

There’s nothing holding him back from leaving the organization in search of a place that’ll give him more of a chance, but if he’s comfortable enough in Colorado, that’s fine too. Realistically speaking, he won’t be back with an NHL job in Denver, though.

In goal, the Avalanche have on goaltender under contract for 2018-19 and it’s 30-year-old Semyon Varlamov.

With a $5.900 million cap hit, Varlamov isn’t all that bad– as trade bait. But who would buy an oft-injured goaltender plateauing past his prime?

Injuries once again plagued the veteran starter down the stretch, but his numbers technically improved. Again, it’s an almost automatic technicality coming off of 2016-17, but Varlamov did produce a 2.68 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 51 games this season (which was close to his 2.56 GAA and .921 SV% in 57 games in 2014-15 with Colorado).

His next game will be his 400th career NHL game and if Sakic tosses around the idea of retaining some salary, the Avalanche could possibly find a new home for the goaltender, while seeking a legitimate number one.

Spencer Martin, 23, is a pending-RFA that last played at the NHL level in 2016-17. He is 0-2-1 in his short three game NHL career with a 4.35 GAA and an .865 SV% in the worst season for the franchise since moving to Denver.

Backup goalie, Jonathan Bernier, 29, is a pending-UFA that in 37 games with the Avs this season, amassed a 2.85 GAA and .913 SV% with a 19-13-3 record. That’s down from his 2.50 GAA, .915 SV% and 21-7-4 record in 39 games with the Anaheim Ducks in 2016-17– ignoring the experience along the blueline Anaheim’s defense has over Colorado’s.

The problem with Bernier is that while he’s a backup goaltender, he’s been subpar with average teams. In 2015-16 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bernier was once again relegated to being a backup goalie for the first time since his breakout days behind Jonathan Quick with the Los Angeles Kings.

In 20 fewer games than 2014-15 (his last as a starter, in which he had a 2.87 GAA and .912 SV%), Bernier posted a 12-21-3 record with a 2.88 GAA and .908 SV% in 38 games with Toronto. Yikes.

Could the Avalanche take a stab at trying to acquire pending-RFA Philipp Grubauer from the Washington Capitals?

Sure, but let’s remember, they tried getting a Washington goaltender (in Varlamov) before to be their number one, so there’s no guarantees.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Rocco Grimaldi (UFA), Felix Girard (RFA), Jesse Graham (RFA), Joe Cannata (UFA), Mason Geertsen (RFA), Joe Colborne (UFA), Ryan Graves (RFA), Andrew Hammond (UFA), Reid Petryk (RFA), Trent Vogelhuber (UFA)

Preds survive Colorado comeback; win away from Second Round

 

With a 3-2 victory at Pepsi Center, the Nashville Predators have taken a commanding 3-1 advantage in their First Round series against the Colorado Avalanche.

All three periods had a very distinct character in this tilt. Act One featured the Predators team that many were predicting could win the Stanley Cup during the offseason, followed by a second period that saw both clubs’ emotions boil over. Finally, Colorado mounted an exciting comeback in the third frame that fell just short of forcing overtime.

Let’s tackle them in that order, shall we?

Perhaps the most boring of the three periods was the first, but that is more a compliment to the second and third frames than it’s an insult to the opening 20 minutes.

G Jonathan Bernier in particular experienced a very quick introduction to Game 4, as he took a W Viktor Arvidsson slap shot to the mask only 22 seconds into the match. In fact, the clapper was so forceful that it damaged the cage through which Bernier peers, forcing him to swap his mask for his blank head gear worn at practice while Avalanche Head Equipment Manager Mark Miller made the necessary repairs.

However, Miller was far from the center of attention while he was working, as the Avs unwisely ended up with D Patrik Nemeth (closing hand on puck) and F Carl Soderberg (hi-sticking against C Nick Bonino) both occupying the penalty box at the same time whilst he was working, resulting in a 2:41 Predators power play that included 1:19 of five-on-three action.

It seems that Bernier’s blank mask is his good luck charm when it comes to facing such tough tasks, as the scoreless draw that was on the scoreboard when Nemeth entered the sin bin remained when Soderberg was released. However, for fear of wearing out any positive juju the mask may contain, Bernier swapped out masks once again for his usual duds at the next stoppage of play.

If you’re one to buy into any sort of thing like that, then perhaps you’d think Bernier should have stuck with the white headgear considering First Star of the Game F Filip Forsberg (F Ryan Johansen and Third Star D Mattias Ekholm) scored a wrist shot with 4:27 remaining in the first period to score Nashville’s first game-opening goal of the series.

That being said, I highly doubt Bernier’s mask played too much into Forsberg’s strike, as D Duncan Siemens – playing in only his third-career Stanley Cup Playoff game after being one of Colorado’s first-round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft – was little more than dead weight in his attempt to slow down his opposition. The forward dragged Siemens along as he drove toward Bernier’s crease before patiently depositing his wrister behind the netminder’s left skate.

Due in large part to the extended power play, the Predators dominated the first period in a far stronger fashion than a 1-0 score hints at. Nashville out-shot the Avs 15-8 – nearly doubling the hosts’ offensive offerings.

Inversely, even though the Predators added two more goals in the second frame, it didn’t seem like either team had much of an upper hand on the other in the middle 20 minutes.

That was due in large part to the Predators taking five penalties to Colorado’s three, including a 24-second five-on-three opportunity that effectively amounted to a 3:36 extended power play for the Avalanche.

Just like the Preds, Colorado was unable to convert neither that two-man advantage nor any other second period power play into a goal, which played right into the hands of Nashville. 47 seconds after F Colton Sissons was released from the penalty box (he was guilty of playing the puck with his hand at the face-off dot), he (Forsberg and Ekholm) scored a wrister at the 7:18 mark of the frame to double the Predators’ advantage to two goals.

Just in case Colorado didn’t learn the error of its ways the first time in losing track of penalized players returning to action, F Craig Smith (F Austin Watson) reiterated the lesson with 8:11 remaining in the third period. Having been released from serving RW Ryan Hartman‘s roughing penalty against W Sven Andrighetto only seven seconds before, Smith collected a loose puck at center ice and proceeded to rip a wrister over Bernier’s glove.

Speaking of Hartman, he kind of went berserk at the 9:41 mark of the frame – hence the reason he roped Smith into the box with him to help serve his penalties. Just seconds before the the events leading up to the infractions, Andrighetto borderline speared Smith near his midsection while both were working their ways towards G Pekka Rinne‘s zone. This sent Hartman well over the edge, as he dropped the gloves at the next stoppage of play and pounced on Andrighetto without waiting for the Swiss to agree to fight.

As a result, Hartman was charged with holding the stick and roughing, while Andrighetto only took a roughing penalty to give Colorado the two-minute power play that featured RW Mikko Rantanen getting severely cut below the eye by F Nathan MacKinnon‘s stick (Rantanen returned to play before the end of the frame) and led to Smith’s goal.

To complete our conversation about unruly penalties, it wasn’t only Andrighetto and Hartman allowing their tempers to get the best of them. Ekholm and Second Star LW Gabriel Landeskog were charged with negating penalties with 6:32 remaining in the period (slashing and roughing, respectively), and F Alexander Kerfoot‘s roughing infraction against Rinne held over into the third period.

It’s Kerfoot’s penalty that really made Head Coach Jared Bednar’s reluctant decision to replace Bernier with G Andrew Hammond –  another product of the F Matt Duchene trade, for those keeping track at home – even harder to make. However, it was announced that Bernier suffered a lower-body injury, meaning it was time once again for the Hamburglar to take over the NHL.

If only one period of action is enough evidence (it isn’t), the Avs are no worse off defensively in Game 5 with Hammond than they were with Bernier. After the backup-turned-starter saved 23-of-26 shots faced (.885 save percentage) in the first two frames, the former Senator saved all eight shots that came his way in the final period.

Colorado finally got on the scoreboard at the 5:20 mark of the third period when Landeskog (F Tyson Jost and D Tyson Barrie) buried the lone power play goal of the game, a five-on-three wrister with Hartman and Sissons in the penalty box for charging Soderberg and tripping F J.T. Compher, respectively.

The comeback continued with 8:59 remaining in regulation when Kerfoot (W Matthew Nieto and D Nikita Zadorov) pulled the Avs back within a goal on a wrister. Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette challenged for goalie interference against W Blake Comeau – and likely should have won the challenge considering Comeau’s skate made contact with Rinne before the puck even reached him – but the NHL is the NHL and decided to keep the marker on the board.

Regardless, even though the Avs fired a total of 11 shots at Rinne in the third period, he did not yield the game-tying goal. In all, Rinne saved 31-of-33 shots faced (.939 save percentage) to earn his first road playoff victory since Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in Anaheim on May 20, 2017.

Speaking of road wins, Colorado’s offense cannot afford to fall in another 3-0 hole in Game 5 in Nashville if it wants to extend its postseason any further. After all, the Avs have only won one of the three games in which they scored the first goal.

After a quick plane ride from the Rocky Mountains to the Smokies, Game 5 is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday, April 20 and will take place at Bridgestone Arena. The match can be viewed on NBCSN, SN360 and TVAS.

TRADE: Montreal goes Wild about Mike Reilly

As all the hype surrounding other big name defensemen came and went, the Montreal Canadiens were quietly at work retooling their backend.

The Habs acquired D Mike Reilly from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft (originally from the Washington Capitals) as part of Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline festivities.

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Reilly, 24, has two goals and eight assists (ten points) in 38 games this season for the Wild. Since breaking into the NHL in the 2015-16 season, Reilly has amassed 4-14–18 totals in 84 career games played.

The 6’2″, 195-pound, Chicago, Illinois native has yet to appear in any postseason action. He was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 4th round (98th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

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As a result of the trade Minnesota now has seven picks in the 2019 Draft including two in the 5th round. The Wild have eight picks in the upcoming 2018 Draft this June in Dallas– including three selections in the 3rd round and two in the 5th.

TRADE: Montreal ships Morrow to Winnipeg

After adding some offense earlier in the day on Monday, the Winnipeg Jets added some depth to their blue line.

Defenseman, Joseph Morrow, was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to Winnipeg in exchange for a 4th round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

jetslogoMorrow, 25, has five goals and six assists (11 points) in 38 games for the Habs this season. In the midst of a career year, Morrow’s role as a blue liner has wavered since his days as a hopeful prospect.

In 103 career NHL games between the Canadiens and Boston Bruins, he has 7-13–20 totals.

The 6’0″, 190-pound defenseman signed with Montreal as a free agent in July after spending 2013-17 with the Bruins organization. Before that he was acquired by Boston in the now infamous Tyler Seguin trade with the Dallas Stars on July 4, 2013.

The Edmonton, Alberta native was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1st round (23rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

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Montreal now has ten picks in the 2018 Draft including four in the 2nd round and three in the 5th round.

TRADE: Ottawa deals Nick Shore to the Flames

After being acquired by the Ottawa Senators in the Dion PhaneufMarian Gaborik trade earlier in February, F Nick Shore is on the move again.

This time the Senators sent Shore to the Calgary Flames for a 2019 7th round pick at Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

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Shore, 25, broke into the league in 2014-15 with Los Angeles after being drafted in the 3rd round (82nd overall) by the Kings in 2011. Shore has four goals and 12 assists (16 points in 55 games with Ottawa and Los Angeles this season.

In 227 career NHL games, he has 14-36–50 totals with the Kings and Senators and has a career plus/minus of minus-16. The Denver, Colorado native is currently making $925,000 and is a pending restricted free agent at season’s end.

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Ottawa now has eight picks in the 2019 NHL Draft– including two in the 7th round– as a result of this trade.

TRADE: Lightning bolster a Cup run in blockbuster deal with the Rangers

The Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest splash– excuse me, loudest thunder– at Monday’s trade deadline.

The Bolts acquired D Ryan McDonagh and F J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers in exchange for F Vladislav Namestnikov, F Brett Howden, D Libor Hajek, a 2018 1st round pick and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2019.

If Tampa wins the Cup this season or next season, the 2019 2nd round pick becomes a 1st round pick in 2019.

Unknown-3McDonagh, 28, has two goals and 24 assists (26 points) in 49 games with New York this season.

The now former Rangers captain has 51-187–238 totals in 516 career NHL games– all in a New York uniform.

A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, the 6’1″, 215-pound defenseman broke into the NHL in the 2010-11 season after having previously been a key component in the Scott Gomez trade the Rangers made with the Montreal Canadiens.

In 96 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, McDonagh has 10 goals and 31 assists (41 points). He was originally drafted by the Canadiens in the 1st round (12th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

McDonagh’s contract runs through 2018-19 and carries a $4.700 million cap hit.

Miller, 24, has 13 goals and 27 assists (40 points) in 63 games for the Rangers this season. A native of East Palestine, Ohio, the 6’1″, 218-pound winger has reached the 40-point plateau for consecutive seasons dating back to 2015-16. Last season, Miller put up career numbers in assists (34) and points (56) while tying his career high in goals (22).

He has 72-100–172 totals in 341 career NHL games played with New York since breaking into the league in the 2012-13 season.

In 40 career playoff games, Miller has one goal and 15 assists (16 points).

Originally drafted by the Rangers in the 1st round (15th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Miller is a pending-RFA this July.

downloadNamestnikov, 25, has 20-24–44 totals in 62 games for the Lightning this season. The 5’11”, 180-pound native of Zhukovskiy, Russia is in the midst of the best season in his career and has 53 goals and 70 assists (123 points) in 263 career games with Tampa.

He has one goal and three assists (four points) in 29 career postseason games.

Originally drafted by Tampa in the 1st round (27th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Namestnikov is a pending-RFA at season’s end.

Howden, 19, has yet to appear in an NHL game and was drafted in the 1st round (27th overall) by the Lightning in the 2016 Draft. In 38 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL), Howden has 22 goals and 36 assists (58 points) this season.

The 6’2″, 193-pound center is a native of Calgary, Alberta.

Hajek, 20, has split his time between the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades this season in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He has 11-24–35 totals in 52 games between the Pats and the Blades.

A native of Smrcek, Czech Republic, the 6’2″, 188-pound defenseman was originally drafted in the 2nd round (37th overall) by the Lightning in 2016.

TRADE: Wedgewood and Rieder to L.A., Kuemper to Arizona

On Wednesday, the Arizona Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings completed their first trade with each other since March 9, 2006 (remember the Tim JackmanYanick Lehoux trade, anyone?).

Arizona traded F Tobias Rieder and G Scott Wedgewood to the Kings in exchange for G Darcy Kuemper.

Kuemper signed a two-year contract extension with the Coyotes as part of the transaction and Arizona retained 15% of Rieder’s contract. Rieder is a pending-RFA this offseason.

Unknown-3Rieder, 25, has 51 goals and 60 assists (111 points) in 292 career NHL games– all with the Coyotes. The 5’11”, 188-pound, native of Landshut, Germany was originally drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 4th round (114th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

He had a career-high 37-points in 2015-16 after making his NHL debut in the 2014-15 season. The right-winger had a career-high 16 goals last season with Arizona.

In 58 games this season, Rieder has 8-11–19 totals.

Wedgewood, 25, has a record of 5-9-4 with a 3.45 goals against average and .893 save percentage in 20 games played this season with Arizona. Additionally, he has one shutout this season.

The 6’2″, 195-pound, native of  Brampton, Ontario made his NHL debut in 2015-16 with New Jersey and went 2-1-1 with a 1.24 GAA and .957 SV% in four games played that season. Wedgewood notched his first career shutout with 39 saves at Pittsburgh on March 24, 2016.

He was originally drafted by the Devils in the 3rd round (84th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and has a career 3.05 GAA and .903 SV% in 24 NHL games.

Unknown-3Kuemper, 27, has a 10-1-3 record with a 2.10 GAA and .932 SV% in 19 games this season for Los Angeles. With three shutouts on the year, the 6’5″, 215-pound, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was in his first season with the Kings since signing with the team as a free agent last summer.

He has a career record of 51-35-17 with a 2.52 GAA, .913 SV% and 10 shutouts in 104 NHL games with Los Angeles and the Minnesota Wild. Kuemper spent the previous five seasons with Minnesota and was originally drafted by the Wild in the 6th round (161st overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

TRADE: Bruins acquire Holden from Rangers

It’s not the left-shot defenseman many Bruins fans had been hoping to acquire by the NHL’s Trade Deadline on February 26th, but it’s a defenseman nonetheless.

The Boston Bruins traded D Rob O’Gara and a 2018 3rd round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for D Nick Holden on Tuesday.

Unknown-7Holden, 30, recorded three goals and nine assists (12 points) in 55 games with the Rangers this season. He established career highs in goals (11), assists (23) and points (34) in his first season with New York (last season) in 80 games played. As well, Holden had two goals and two assists in 11 postseason games.

The St. Albert, Alberta native was previously acquired by the Rangers in exchange for a 4th round pick (Petr Kvaca) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in a deal with the Colorado Avalanche on June 26, 2016. He was originally signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 28, 2008 and has appeared in 356 career NHL games– amassing 35-72–107 totals with the Rangers, Avalanche and Blue Jackets.

At 6’4″, 214-pounds, Holden will more than likely slide into a bottom-pair defensive role for Boston as they continue their march down the stretch towards the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Holden will be a healthy scratch until Saturday as Boston is in Edmonton for a Tuesday night tilt.

downloadO’Gara, 24, has yet to record his first career NHL goal in 11 career NHL games (all with Boston). In 43 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) this season, O’Gara had two goals and six assists (eight points) and a plus-five rating.

A native of Massapequa, N.Y., the 6’4″, 207-pound blue liner was selected by the Bruins in the 5th round (151st overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and completed a four-year collegiate career at Yale University from 2012-16. He is the only defenseman in Yale history to be a three-time winner of the John Poinier Award as the team’s Best Defenseman.

O’Gara made his NHL debut with the Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Columbus.

As a result of the trade, the Rangers now have seven picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

October 7 – Day Four – Here comes the Bread Man

One of my favorite days of the hockey calendar is finally upon us: Opening Saturday.

What could possibly be so awesome about this day, you ask? Take a look at today’s schedule. With the exception of the Boston Bruins, every single club is in action today.

The festivities start at 2 p.m. when Colorado visits New Jersey (SN), but the real meat of the day starts at 7 p.m. when seven fixtures (the New York Rangers at Toronto [CBC], Detroit at Ottawa [SN1], Tampa Bay at Florida, Buffalo at the New York Islanders, Nashville at Pittsburgh [NHLN], Montréal at Washington [CITY/TVAS] and Minnesota at Carolina) drop the puck. Dallas at St. Louis joins the mix at 8 p.m., trailed 30 minutes later by Columbus at Chicago and Vegas at Arizona at 9 p.m. A trio of games (Edmonton at Vancouver [CBC], Philadelphia at Anaheim and Winnipeg at Calgary [CITY/SN1]) get the West Coast involved at 10 p.m., followed half an hour later by tonight’s nightcap: Los Angeles at San Jose. All times Eastern.

There’s a compelling reason to watch almost every game. Here are just a few I thought of…

  • New York at Toronto: It’s an Original Six matchup. Do I really need to say more?
  • Tampa Bay at Florida: If you like intrastate rivalries, this is the game for you.
  • Nashville at Pittsburgh: Oh, you know, just a Stanley Cup Finals rematch. No biggie.
  • Montréal at Washington: It’s homecoming for D Karl Alzner!
  • Dallas at St. Louis: Head Coach Ken Hitchcock spent the last six seasons with the Blues. Now, he’s back with his ex in Dallas.
  • Columbus at Chicago: After being traded from the Hawks this offseason, LW Artemi Panarin is so amped for this game.
  • Winnipeg at Calgary: It’s old-timey rivalry night in Alberta.
  • Los Angeles at San Jose: If you like intrastate rivalries that actually matter, this is the game for you.

Like I said, there’s a compelling reason to watch almost every game.

However, this is the “Game of the Day” series, not the “Games of the Day.” I already broke that rule on Opening Day, so I can’t do it again today.

With that in mind, I’m leaning towards making our first visit of the year to the Windy City.

 

That Stanley Cup rematch was tempting, but we’ll let both squads find their form before they tangle in The Music City a month from now.

Of course, no matter how much I sell this game on the superior action between the two squads, there’s two players in particular that will garner all the attention: Columbus’ Panarin and Chicago’s W Brandon Saad.

Saad, originally drafted 43rd-overall by the Blackhawks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is now in his second stint with the team after being traded from Columbus for Panarin, an undrafted Russian that looks like he can solidify the Jackets’ position near the top of the Eastern Conference for the next 10 years – at least.

Both players played vital roles for their now-former teams last season. The Bread Man registered a lowly 31-43-74 effort in 2016-’17 after posting 30-47-77 numbers during his rookie campaign, while Saad managed 24-29-53 totals last season in Columbus.

Based on those numbers alone and considering Saad has never posted more than 53 points in a season in his five full NHL seasons, it’s safe to say that the Blue Jackets won this trade on ice. But, in a league ruled by a salary cap, one of the most important numbers has a dollar sign associated with it. Both players will earn $6 million for every year they’re under contract, but Saad’s four-year deal is two seasons longer than Panarin’s.

Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks’ general manager, is fully aware that Panarin is the superior left wing of the two, but he also knows that because of that very fact, the Russian’s salary is going to skyrocket the day he has the opportunity to test free agency. That’s why he opted to go the more fiscally-responsible option in Saad, an option with which he’s won two Stanley Cups.

All that being said, I still think Columbus won this trade. We’ll have a final answer when we see how much bread Panarin is bringing home in 2019-’20.

If you can manage to take your eyes off those two players, you should witness quite a game between two solid teams. The Blue Jackets shut out the Islanders 5-0 yesterday at Nationwide Arena with goals from LW Sonny Milano, RW Cam Atkinson, D Ryan Murray, D Zach Werenski and F Pierre-Luc Dubois – not to mention a perfect performance by G Sergei Bobrovsky on 29 shots faced.

Of course, even that incredible effort pales in comparison to the Hawks’ annihilation of the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Penguins Thursday. Led by a hat trick from – who would’ve guessed – Saad in his first game back in a red sweater, Chicago exploded to a statement 10-1 victory.

Both clubs enter this game with high confidence and higher aspirations for their seasons. In fact, if we break out the standings tiebreakers, these are the top teams in their respective conferences. I expect a highly competitive game, but am leaning towards Chicago winning due to the Jackets playing last night and having to travel.


The Vegas Golden Knights saw the numbers about franchises making their regular season debuts and told statisticians to shove ’em, as they beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day series.

Who woulda thunk it?

In fact, it wasn’t simply a win by an expansion team, but a come-from-behind victory. With 2:59 remaining in the second period, F Tyler Seguin (F Devin Shore and D John Klingberg) tipped-in a power play to give the Stars the advantage with only 22:59 of action remaining.

Then Third Star of the Game W James Neal happened. Assisted by D Nate Schmidt and D Luca Sbisa, he scored his first goal with 9:33 remaining in regulation to level the game at one goal apiece.

But he wasn’t done. Neal followed up that marker with what proved to be the game-winning goal with 2:44 remaining in regulation. Assisted by former Star C Cody Eakin and D Jason Garrison, Neal dropped to both knees in the slot to elevate his wrist shot to the far post over G Kari Lehtonen, securing the Knights’ first-ever victory.

First Star G Marc-Andre Fleury earned his first victory in a non-Penguins sweater by saving 45-of-46 shots faced (.978 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lehtonen who saved nine-of-11 (.818). Lehtonen replaced starter G Ben Bishop four minutes into the third period after being cut by a shot from W Reilly Smith, forcing him to be pulled and receive medical attention. Bishop had saved all 19 shots he faced before leaving the game.

Road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are off to an impressive start, as they have a three-point advantage on hosts with their 3-1-0 record.

Worst 1st Overall Pick of All-Time?

While scrolling through Instagram on Sunday, I came across some random post someone had made claiming a certain 1st overall pick from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft as being “the biggest bust in NHL Entry Draft history”. Of course, that got me thinking.

Who was/is the bigger bust, Patrik Stefan or Nail Yakupov?

In seven seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and Dallas Stars, Stefan amassed 188 points in his career, while Yakupov has had just 120 points in five seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues.

This offseason, the Colorado Avalanche are taking a shot on Yakupov, who might have reached his last chance to make an impact at the NHL level– if not make something of his career (which might be in jeopardy, as well).

While Stefan had 26.9 points per season compared to Yakupov’s average of 24 points a season, Yakupov’s first NHL season was shortened to just 48 games thanks to the 2012-2013 lockout and has yet to see a full 82-game season without injury or being scratched from the lineup.

Stefan, of course, did have the 2004-2005 season long lockout to overcome, but played in 72 games in his rookie season of 1999-2000 with Atlanta.

For more comparison, Stefan’s rookie campaign witnessed five goals and 20 assists for 25 points and a minus-20 rating in 72 games played. Yakupov, in 48 games, produced 17-14-31 totals with a minus-4 rating.

Of course, there’s always sample size to consider.

Stefan played in 455 career NHL games, while Yakupov has only played in 292 career games thus far.

In points per game, the matchup’s pretty even. Yakupov has 2.43 points per game which is only .01 better than Stefan’s 2.42 points per game.

Then again, Yakupov does have an edge in a little over half the time than Stefan’s points per game ratio.

The fact of the matter is that Stefan cracked an NHL roster on a consistent basis, regardless of the lack of quality star-power in the Thrashers lineup over the years.

Yakupov, while plagued by injury, was often a healthy scratch for the Blues last season and signed with a team that’s coming off the worst season anyone’s seen in the last 20 years.

And that doesn’t even get at the fact that Edmonton had three consecutive years (2010, 2011, 2012) of the 1st overall pick in what should have been prime rebuilding time– fully incorporating Yakupov as part of the solution– before drafting their savior in Connor McDavid in 2015.

Sportsnet/YouTube

The 2016-2017 Avalanche were the worst team in the salary cap era and while they’ve made some improvements to their roster, there’s still nothing to show for the Ryan O’Reilly trade– which is another argument for another time.

Nail Yakupov alone does not make the 2017-2018 Colorado Avalanche that much better.

Most fans will always remember Patrik Stefan for his empty net gaffe that almost cost the Stars a win against the Oilers about a decade ago (Dallas went on to win in a shootout), but at least fans remember something about Stefan, whereas with his career teetering on the edge, Yakupov runs the risk of not being remembered for anything on his way out.

Robert Soderlind/YouTube

Both players have had minimal impact in their careers. Stefan came into the league riding on the waves of an expansion team that wasn’t expected to be great even a year or two out from his draft day. Yakupov joined the Oilers in the midst of high expectations for a perpetual rebuild.

Both were offset due to injuries.

So yes, for now, Yakupov might be the biggest 1st overall bust in the history of the NHL Entry Draft (which dates back to 1963), because of a little thing called perspective. He was supposed to be part of a trifecta of 1st overall picks that would kickstart the Oilers.

But he still has another chance to prove everyone wrong and prolong his career– thanks, in part, to Colorado’s 1-year, $875,000 contract.