The IIHF World Championship gets underway in just a few weeks and USA Hockey has announced the first group of players that will be suiting up for them. GM Chris Drury released 17 names that will be taking part, including captain Patrick Kane. The group is an impressive list of NHL stars that could very well bring home the country’s first gold medal at the tournament in nearly 60 years. The roster so far is as follows:
The ping pong balls have been drawn and the first 15 picks of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft are set. The league conducted its annual Draft Lottery tonight and the big winners were the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks. The Devils, with an 11.5% chance of winning the No. 1 overall selection, did just that and astoundingly will have their pick of the class for the second time in three years. New Jersey won the draft lottery in 2017 and selected Nico Hischier and will have the chance to add another elite talent this year. This continues the almost comical lottery luck that has followed Taylor Hall in his career, moving from Edmonton to New Jersey. The Rangers held a 7.8% chance of moving up to the second overall pick and in this specific draft class were very lucky as well, as their consolation prize will be the second of two elite players at the top of the draft board. This will also be the first time in the modern draft era that New York selects within the first three picks. The Blackhawks may have a more difficult choice facing them at No. 3, but aren’t complaining after jumping from No. 12 into the top three, a move that had just a 3% chance of happening. Chicago has been a dynastic franchise this decade and will look to return to greatness by adding one of the draft’s top talents. Altogether, these three teams all moving up in this order was a result that had just a 0.027% chance of occurring.
Following the lottery results, the odds for which were set by the final league standings for non-playoff teams, the first half of the first round will play out as follows:
- New Jersey Devils
- New York Rangers
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa Senators)
- Los Angeles Kings
- Detroit Red Wings
- Buffalo Sabres
- Edmonton Oilers
- Anaheim Ducks
- Vancouver Canucks
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Minnesota Wild
- Florida Panthers
- Arizona Coyotes
- Montreal Canadiens
The biggest loser of the night has to be the Colorado Avalanche, who fall out of the top three spots despite having a 49.4% chance of winning at least one of the those picks. This is the second time in just three years that Colorado has entered the lottery with the best odds at No. 1, only see three teams win the lottery and pass them up. In 2017, it was again the Devils who stole their top pick. After swindling the Ottawa Senators, it seemed the Avs were destined to cash in, but instead end up with the worst-case scenario. The Los Angeles Kings also have to be unhappy with the results, as the team slides from their second-to-last finish to the fifth overall pick. The Kings desperately could have used an injection of elite young talent next season and may not end up with an immediate contributor at No. 5. While they didn’t have the best of odds, the Vancouver Canucks are undoubtedly still disappointed in missing out on an opportunity to pair Jack Hughes with older brother Quinn Hughes, the team’s first-round pick in 2018 who already made a splash in his first few pro games down the stretch, or to at least make a top-three selection in front of the home crowd.
The younger Hughes, who was actually in attendance at tonight’s lottery event, has of course long been considered the likely top pick this spring and should start getting used to the idea of playing in New Jersey. The U.S. National Team center is considered a high-end play-maker already and turned down a scholarship to the University of Michigan earlier this season, knowing that he could be an impact player immediately in the NHL. As for the fit with the Devils, Hischier has already climbed atop the depth chart at center, but New Jersey will soon be able to boast amazing youth and depth down the middle with the addition of Hughes. Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko has pressured Hughes to be the top pick this year, but many still see him as a close second. The Rangers won’t mind, as Kakko is an extraordinary offensive talent who will score goals and throw his body around right away in the NHL. Kakko could become a major star in the New York market with his flashy goal-scoring ability and will certainly have the opportunity to play a major role right away. At third overall, there are many options for the Blackhawks, but the early expectation based on organizational depth would be a skilled forward like Vasili Podkolzin or Alex Turcotte. Chicago already has several promising young defensemen in the pipeline and can now add an elite forward to their growing young core of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Brendan Perlini. Now relegated to the No. 4 pick, the Avalanche will still undoubtedly get a strong player, just as they did two years ago with Cale Makar, if not an immediate contributor in the top remaining prospect on their board. A player like big Canadian center Dylan Cozens would fit in nicely with what Colorado is building.
Now that the order is set, the next step is the draft itself. Everyone may have their projections, but only the day of will reveal the actual futures of these teams and players. This year’s draft is set to take place in Vancouver beginning on June 21st, a day that New Jersey, New York, and Chicago are now much more excited for. Stay tuned.
With the signing earlier today of former Chicago Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz to a seven-year, $40.95MM contract extension, The Athletic’s Scott Powers (subscription required) wonders what kind of extensions might forwards Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome earn, as both will be eligible to sign new deals on July 1.
DeBrincat, who is in the second year of his three-year, entry-level contract, has already tallied 68 goals in two years, including a 40-goal campaign this season. With those numbers, Powers writes that the Blackhawks are most likely going to get DeBrincat to eventually sign a six-year deal, likely heading into the $8MM AAV-range, pointing out that a seven or eight-year deal is unlikely since a six-year deal will leave him looking for a third contract at age 27, the perfect age for a long-term extension. If he can continue posting 30-to-40 goal seasons, DeBrincat could be in line for double digit cap hits in the future.
As for Strome, the team may be better off waiting for another year to lock up the young forward. Strome has played well in Chicago with 14 goals and 45 points in 53 games, but both sides would be better off to wait another year for more proof that he deserves a big contract extension. Plus, it would be wise if Chicago doesn’t have two big contracts handed out in the same year, which could get expensive, possibly between $13-15MM combined.
- The Athletic’s Adam Vingan reports that the Nashville Predators have activated defenseman Dan Hamhuis from injured reserve. The veteran blue liner has been out with a leg injury since February 23rd, but it finally ready to return. The team’s third-pair defender has played 53 games this season for the Predators and will now partner up with rookie Dante Fabbro, who is expected to make his debut Saturday against Columbus. The Predators also announced they have assigned Troy Grosenick to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL.
- SportsDay’s Matthew DeFranks reports that the Dallas Stars will be without goaltender Ben Bishop on Saturday and likely longer, as he is considered to be day-to-day. The 32-year-old Bishop has been a key reason why Dallas has been playing so well as they fight to hold onto their wildcard spot. Bishop has a 2.03 GAA and a .933 save percentage so far this year and may even be a Vezina Trophy finalist at this rate. NHL.com’s Mike Heika writes that he suffered a lower-body injury while going down into the butterfly in the Stars’ last game. DeFranks also adds that Mats Zuccarello and Justin Dowling are about three days away from returning to the lineup.
- The Athletic’s Michael Russo (subscription required) writes that the Minnesota Wild are expected to be one of the most active teams in trying to sign St. Cloud State defenseman Jimmy Schuldt in the next few days. Schuldt finished his four-year college career Friday night, posting 38 career goals. Russo reports that the Wild hope to sign the four-year blue liner by burning the first year of his deal this season and allowing him to play in the NHL for the team’s final few games.
Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2018-19 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $74,008,045 (under the $79.5MM Upper Limit)
F Nick Schmaltz (one year, $925K)
F Dylan Sikura (one year, $925K)
F Dominik Kahun (two years, $925K)
F David Kampf (one year, $925K)
F Victor Ejdsell (one year, $834K)
F Alex DeBrincat (two years, $778K)
The team has a number of quality youngsters who will eventually cost them a good deal of money. However, the team has high expectations for Schmaltz, who had a breakout season and was one of the few bright spots in Chicago during a dismal season. Schmaltz, in his second year, scored 21 goals and added 52 points and is expected to be the team’s No. 2 center for a number of years in the future. The only key issue that Schmaltz continues to work on is his struggles in the face-off circle as he had just a 40.1 percent faceoff winning percentage last year, which is horrible.
The team’s other major bright spot was the play of DeBrincat. The 20-year-old made the team and then tallied 28 goals in his rookie campaign and looks to be another solid scorer for Chicago to work with in the top-six. The team hopes for a similar season from Sikura, who the team signed out of Northeastern University, where he posted 58 goals over four seasons there. The 23-year-old winger looks to have a solid chance of joining DeBrincat in the top six this season.
Two other interesting names, who could make an impact with the team are Ejdsell and Kahun. Ejdsell, who the team acquired in the Ryan Hartman trade at the deadline, has an opportunity to beat out Sikura for a top-six spot if he has a good training camp, while Kahun, signed to a two-year deal out of Germany, is another candidate to make the team and contribute immediately.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
While the Blackhawks offseason was relatively quiet, the team did make a splash in the goaltending market after the team went for much of the season last year without their starting goaltender. Because of their lack of depth, the team added Ward to help fill the backup role, who could also take over starting duties if needed. The 35-year-old Ward played 43 games for Carolina a year ago and posted a .906 save percentage along with two shutouts. While those numbers aren’t great, they are better than the goalies they carried a season ago.
The team also brought in some grit, bringing back Kruger as well as signing 38-year-old Kunitz. Both should fill significant roles in the bottom-six and hopefully boost the production of those lines. Kruger struggled since leaving Chicago. He posted just one goal and five assists in 48 games last season and was demoted to the AHL for 19 games. However, in the offseason, Kruger admitted he played the entire season with a hernia, which is what affected his play. Now, fully healthy, Kruger might be able to bounce back. Both are solid one-year options.
The 28-year-old Rutta showed some solid signs of progress in his rookie campaign. He averaged 19:15 of ATOI, scoring six goals and 20 points, as well as having a (minus) one plus/minus ratio. Another season could boost his production as a top-four defenseman.
Two Years Remaining
The Blackhawks success will likely fall on Crawford, who missed most of the season last year with concussion-like symptoms and the 33-year-old netminder has already indicated that he likely won’t be ready for training camp and could miss part of the season next year.
With those issues, there isn’t necessarily a guarantee that he will bounce back and put up similar numbers from his 2015-16 season when he put up a .919 save percentage in 55 games. His numbers were actually even better in the 2017-18 season before he was injured, posting a .929 save percentage to go with two shutouts in 28 games.
Chicago will rely on Gustafsson and Murphy to help man their defense. Both will need to improve quite a bit to improve their weakened defense. Gustafsson showed some promise after being recalled late in the season from Rockford of the AHL and he posted 16 points in 35 games. The defensive-minded Murphy, who came over in the Niklas Hjalmarsson trade was solid, if not unspectacular on defense. Both will be needed if the team wants to return to the playoffs next year.Read more
The Chicago Blackhawks have come a long way over the last few years as the franchise has been forced to look for ways to develop young talent as their NHL club sits overloaded in bloated, unmovable contracts. Regardless, the team has done a solid job of integrating talent, including several key additions last year, most especially from Alex DeBrincat and the team was rewarded with a 28 goal season.
With the team’s development camp completed, The Athletic’s Scott Powers (subscription required) ranks all 59 of Chicago’s prospects, which he defines as players who have played less than 82 NHL games and haven’t clinched a full-time role with the team yet. One area the team has focused on has been signing collegiate undrafted free agents and Powers’ top prospect is Northeastern University signee Dylan Sikura, who signed with the team on March 25. The 23-year-old winger completed four years at Northeastern, posting 43 goals in the final two seasons and added three assists in five late-season games with the Blackhawks. The scribe expects Sikura to establish himself immediately in the team’s top-six and be a permanent fixture for a long time.
- While not yet lumped in with likes of Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane saw his numbers decline a bit this past season, which the 30-year-old star has taken note of, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Jimmy Greenfield and Shannon Ryan. Kane played a full season, posting solid numbers with 27 goals and 76 points, but those numbers pale in comparison to the 34 goals and 89 points in 2016-17 or the 46 goals and 106 points in 2015-16. In fact, Kane failed to post a point a game for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Regardless, Kane has worked hard since the World Championships (after being named MVP) and has focused his training on lateral movement, speed and explosiveness. “The way players train now it’s unbelievable the amount of preparation and work that goes into an offseason,” Kane said. “But you’re definitely going to see results.”
- Although St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen had said in April that he doesn’t intend to change his offseason training regimen after another turbulent season, the 27-year-old goaltender recently admitted that he has made some changes to his training this summer, according to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic (subscription required). Allen, who has seen his numbers get worse every year since he posted a 2.28 GAA in 37 games in 2014-15, to the point in which he had a 2.75 GAA last season, refused to admit what changes he’s made to his routine this year. “I’m not going to get into it too much, but there’s definitely a different mantra for me this summer,” Allen said. “It’s not wrapped around a specific time (of the season) or moment, but I’m really taking a lot of responsibility this summer for improving those things. I’m definitely trying a new approach this summer, and to be honest, things have actually been going really well — better than I thought I was going to take it, because I’m a pretty laid-back guy.”
After undergoing two hip surgeries a year ago, veteran forward Ryan Callahan has been a key player for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. While his defensive skills and penalty killing have been critical for the Lightning, he also contributed a goal and an assist Saturday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. What’s amazing, writes The Athletic’s Joe Smith (subscription required), is that Callahan admits that he thought he would need season-ending surgery back in December when he suffered a serious shoulder injury.
The 33-year-old collided with Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson in a Dec. 14 against the Arizona Coyotes in which the two players got tangled and Callahan’s shoulder vaulted into the boards. He lost three weeks of his season, rehabbing the injury, but returned in early January. Despite re-injuring the shoulder in March, he has not let up and continues to throw his body around for the Lightning in the playoffs.
“There’s no question the last three years have been tough for me,” Callahan said. “I think, for me, I appreciate this even more, especially being in the league for 12 years now too. You realize you don’t get this chance and this opportunity very often. I appreciate it and I realize how hard it is to win. And I’m trying to take advantage of it.”
- Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette writes that Montreal Canadiens scout Sean Burke, who served as co-general manager with Martin Brodeur, for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships this week, has no idea what his next step will be. Burke, who has served as a scout for Canadiens’ head coach Marc Bergevin, said he might like to return as a scout, but will wait to see if he gets a better offer. “(Marc) Bergevin has been great with me in allowing me to do both roles and gain experience here as well. So we’ll see what’s down the road, but like everybody in this business you’re looking to get better and I’ve been fortunate to work with great people,” Burke said.
- In his most recent podcast, TSN’s Bob McKenzie talks about Florida Panthers prospect Adam Mascherin, who says he will not sign with the team and has indicated he wants to re-enter the 2018 draft. The Panthers’ 2016 second-round pick claims to have been treated poorly by the Panthers and claims to not have been offered an entry-level deal. McKenzie says the Panthers have offered him an entry-level deal, a lucrative one that compares to that of the one that the Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat signed. He chose not to sign, because he “wasn’t feeling the love.” McKenzie adds that Mascherin is playing a dangerous game if he re-enters the draft as most players who re-enter get drafted lower and get lesser contracts.
2017-18 wasn’t a success for the Chicago Blackhawks. For a team that registered 109 points in the previous season, anything short of Stanley Cup contention would seem disappointing. Disappointment may have been the nicest way of expressing how fans felt after the season began and the team immediately, obviously, wasn’t the same beast that had finished first in the Western Conference in 2016-17.
Maybe that should have been expected after an offseason saw incredible turnover to the roster, with Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Brian Campbell, Marcus Kruger, Scott Darling and several others fail to return for a variety of reasons. But, with familiar faces like Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp back in town, there was hope that they could maintain their Stanley Cup window.
It wasn’t to be, as Chicago recorded just 76 points and failed to even be in the playoff race for much of the season. Saad failed to record 20 goals, Jonathan Toews registered the worst offensive season of his career, and Corey Crawford struggled through injury.
Disappointing, to say the least.
But, with all of those negatives sticking out there may be some who have overlooked the positives from this season’s edition of the Chicago Blackhawks. Alex DeBrincat burst onto the scene with 28 goals an 52 points as a rookie, just a year after he was cut from the US World Junior team. His knack for finding open ice didn’t disappear at the NHL level, and the 20-year old winger looks like he should have several 30-goal seasons in his career.
Jordan Oesterle went from NHL cast-off to 20-minute defenseman overnight, and looks like a legitimate top-4 player for the coming years. He’ll cost the Blackhawks just $650K next season, an incredible value for a player that they’ll rely on heavily.
That brings us to Nick Schmaltz, who proved he could be an offensive contributor in the NHL with 52 points, and is the key to much of the Blackhawks success going forward. Players like Schmaltz, who were selected relatively high by Chicago in recent years, must start paying off if they’re to get back to their championship level.
Toews, Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith aren’t getting any younger, and their contracts will continue to be tough to build around. There aren’t any free agent saviors coming to Chicago without further complicating their salary structure, perhaps to the point where it is untenable. No, the team must find success through internal development, and it looks like that is starting to happen.
The team traded Ryan Hartman, their top pick from 2013, for another first-round selection this season and prospect Victor Ejdsell. That likely won’t be happening with Schmaltz (the top selection from 2014) or DeBrincat (2016), or with Henri Jokiharju (2017) who could be a key to the whole thing. Jokiharju has developed wonderfully so far in the WHL, where he recorded 71 points in 63 games this year for the Portland Winterhawks and could be a real difference-maker on the NHL blue line in short order.
Chicago holds eight picks in this year’s draft, and they must use them to bring more talent into the system. The only way Toews, Kane and others get back to the level of success they’re used to, is if internal options take another step forward.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
USA Hockey announced their initial 2018 national roster for the upcoming 2018 IIHF Men’s World Championships on May 4-20 in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark, headlined by Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.
Kane, who announced he’d play this summer after his Blackhawks season ended with no trip to the playoffs, represented the U.S. twice in both the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games, leading the U.S. to a silver medal in 2010, was named the captain of this team back on April 9. He will be joined by four others with World Championship experience, including Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin, New York Islanders forward Anders Lee, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy and the Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau.
The one interesting roster note is the addition of 18-year-old Quinn Hughes, who is considered to be a likely top-10 pick in the upcoming NHL draft. The full roster can be found below:
The NHL released the names of the 2018 Calder Trophy nominees as the New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, Vancouver Canucks’ Brock Boeser and the Arizona Coyotes’ Clayton Keller were named as the league’s top rookies. The award will be voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association with the winners to be announced on June 20 in Las Vegas.
In a year in which there were a large amount of talented rookies, several good players didn’t get nominated, including the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Yanni Gourde, Boston Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy, New Jersey Devils’ Nico Hischier, Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat and Winnipeg Jets’ Kyle Connor.
Barzal is the likely hands down winner after putting up a great rookie year with 22 goals and 83 points, centering the Islanders’ second line for most of the season. He was the only rookie to average more than a point per game (1.04) and had three five-point performances throughout the season. His emergence could lessen the blow if teammate John Tavares opts to leave via free agency as Barzal could easily take over as the team’s franchise player.
Boeser’s chances are slimmer after only playing in 62 games when he was lost for the season with a back injury. However, in that time, he put up 29 goals, 55 points and was named MVP of the 2018 All-Star Game. He should be a constant presence along with Bo Horvat with the young core of forwards that are coming in as the team’s rebuilding project begins to come to fruition.
Keller led all rookies in ice time (18:05) and put up 23 goals and 42 assists in his freshman campaign and also led the team in goals, assists and points. He provides the franchise with another core piece as the Coyotes begin to build their team back to contending status.
NBC Sports’ Sean Leahy was the first to report the news.
The Tomas Tatar trade seems so far to be a big win for the Detroit Red Wings writes the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James. Dealt at the deadline for Vegas’ 2018 1st rounder, a 2019 second rounder and a 2021 third rounder, Tatar is a healthy scratch for the Golden Knights as they made quick work of Los Angeles. St. James believes Tatar will see time again in the playoffs, but she cites this trade as one in a series where the Red Wings got the better of another team. St. James points out that the Brendan Smith trade a year prior with the Rangers is now considered a heist with the Wings picking up a 2017 third round pick, and Ottawa’s 2018 second round pick, which will be the 33rd overall pick. Smith, meanwhile, had a tumultuous season with the Blueshirts that saw healthy scratches, a demotion, and a fight in practice–all of this occurring after signing a four-year, $17.4MM deal. Petr Mrazek was flipped for a conditional 2018 fourth round pick that is now a third rounder along with a conditional 2019 third round pick should Mrazek re-sign with the Flyers. Not a bad haul for players who haven’t really lived up to their end of the bargain for their new teams.
- The Athletic’s Scott Powers reviews Blackhawks rookie Alex DeBrincat’s season, and the marks are unsurprisingly positive. Powers writes (subscription required) that the Hawks’s first year forward was hoping to just make it out of camp with the team, but 52 points (28 of them coming as goals) was certainly more than anyone could have envisioned. The future is bright for a Hawks squad that missed the playoffs and saw a lot go wrong this season. DeBrincat’s performance is a silver lining, Powers reports, and the 20-year-old had one of the best rookie performances in Blackhawks history. Powers adds that the goal totals could be higher next season should DeBrincat see more time on the powerplay. Last season, he logged the sixth most minutes when the Hawks were on the man advantage, a metric that should certainly rise given his propensity to find the back of the net.
- The USA Today’s Kevin Allen gives five reasons why the Vegas Golden Knights are suddenly one of the trendy picks to win the Stanley Cup in their first season. A raucous home ice advantage is one of the reasons Allen believes the Golden Knights are finding success. But Allen cites the chip on the shoulders of players and staff who were spurned by a previous organization as one of the main reasons for Vegas’ success. Allen writes that such an attitude gave the players a “passion and purpose” and has carried onto the playoffs, making the Golden Knights a dangerous opponent.