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 NHL has a busy schedule this evening with 11 games on tap, including an all-important battle in the Metropolitan Division. The Pittsburgh Penguins will welcome in the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game that could finish with the two part of a three-way tie with the Carolina Hurricanes at 79 points. Columbus pushed all their chips to the middle at the trade deadline by acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid, but are still at risk of missing the playoffs altogether. As teams prepare for tonight’s action, we’ll be here keeping track of all the minor moves.
- The San Jose Sharks have recalled Dylan Gambrell from the minor leagues as several players deal with the flu. Gambrell has been up and down several times this season, but is dominating in his first year of minor league action. In 39 games for the San Jose Barracuda, the former University of Denver standout has 38 points. The Sharks are in action against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.
- The Boston Bruins have recalled Karson Kuhlman under emergency conditions, giving the team an extra option for tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers. Kuhlman made his NHL debut earlier this season and has two points in four games overall.
- With Dylan Larkin missing tonight’s game against the New York Rangers, the Detroit Red Wings have recalled Christoffer Ehn from the minor leagues. The 22-year old center is up under emergency conditions, meaning he’ll likely go back down when Larkin is able to return to action.
The Detroit Red Wings pulled off a big overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday, but suffered an even bigger loss when star center Dylan Larkin had to leave the game in overtime while trying to chase Mitch Marner. He was doubled over and appeared to hurt his rib cage.
Fox Sports John Keating reports that coach Jeff Blashill said that Larkin will miss one to two weeks with a strained oblique muscle, although the team is hoping he will only miss one week. He has already been ruled out for tonight’s game against Ottawa. Andreas Athanasiou is expected to replace Larkin at center on that line.
Larkin has been a key player for the struggling Red Wings. He is having a career-year as he already has 22 goals, just one shy of his career-high and is close to being a point-per game player.
- In a mailbag article, The Athletic’s Joe Smith writes that Tampa Bay Lightning soon-to-be restricted free agent Brayden Point has made it quite clear that he wants to remain in Tampa Bay for a long time and the scribe suggests that the team might be best offering a five-year deal which might be the perfect compromise between a bridge deal and an eight-year pact. Both sides have agreed to put off contract talks until the summer. With 30 points goals and 65 points already in 51 games, the 22-year-old should receive quite a bump in pay when signing his new deal.
- Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to get their new acquisitions Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann into their game Friday by giving them a police escort from the airport to the game, the Florida Panthers didn’t do the same thing. The Panthers, who acquired Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, three draft picks and future cap room from Pittsburgh earlier in the day Friday, opted to go without the pair Friday and are expected to have the two in the lineup Saturday against Vegas, according to Sun Sentinel’s Wells Dusenbury “I didn’t find out [about the trade] until about 11 [am],” Boughner said. “We were planning on having a different lineup in there tonight and so we built the lineup with what we had and unfortunately [Brassard and Sheahan] couldn’t get in for the game.”
- The Ottawa Senators continue to be without goaltender Mike Condon, who the team placed on waivers on Oct. 31 who had and still is trying to come back from a hip injury, according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. The veteran goaltender cleared waivers, but has appeared in just one game for the Belleville Senators in all that time. Condon has recently started skating and working out in Ottawa, but there remains no timetable for his return. The hope is that he can make a return to the ice for Belleville March. The team acquired goaltender Anders Nilsson to be their backup goaltender on Jan. 2, who has fared well in eight appearances for Ottawa with a .922 save percentage, meaning that Condon will have a tough time getting back into the goaltending rotation, barring injury.
Back in December, it was reported that the Detroit Red Wings were seeking a first-round pick as part of any return for impending free agent goalie Jimmy Howard. Howard had been enjoying a hot start to the season and looked like the top keeper on the trade market, but a first-rounder still seemed like a chance. Since then, Howard has continued to play well, but the market has changed. Teams continue to drop out of the playoff race earlier than usual, with some contenders also proclaiming a lack of interest in the rental market, creating a strong buyer’s market. The situations surrounding other impending free agent goalies like Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovksy, Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Calgary’s Mike Smith, and Edmonton’s Cam Talbot have also continued to deteriorate and Howard no longer seems to be the clear cut top starter on the market. Statistically, he is still the best option to this point in the season, but the lofty goal of a first-round return seems less likely than ever.
Don’t tell that to Red Wings GM Ken Holland. Ansar Khan of MLive.com reiterates that the team is holding out for a first-round pick for Howard and would rather continue negotiating an extension with their longtime netminder than trade him away for anything less. However, Khan now adds that forward Gustav Nyquist is being given the exact same treatment. Despite Detroit’s struggles this season – the team is currently sixth in the Atlantic Division and 13 points out of an Eastern Conference wild card spot – Howard has played very well while backup Jonathan Bernier has faltered and Nyquist has been the team’s second-best forward behind Dylan Larkin by a wide margin over the rest of the team. The Red Wings certainly have plenty of reason to want to retain both players moving forward, hence the high asking price to give up on those aspirations.
However, a first-round pick for Nyquist may not be so outlandish. With 40 points on the year, Nyquist is tied for fifth among impending free agent forwards. Of those around him, San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski is not going anywhere and Columbus Blue Jackets star Artemi Panarin seems unlikely to move as well. Both the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres would prefer to re-sign Mark Stone and Jeff Skinner respectively as well. This means that Nyquist could potentially be one of the top rental forwards available alongside the likes of Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Kevin Hayes, and Micheal Ferland. Such a label could be enough to garner a first-rounder for the Red Wings, if they’re still willing to move him. At this point, it seems more likely that Detroit extends both Nyquist and Howard than trades both, but as long as the team stays open to moving them at the right price, the fluctuating market could always change those plans.
The NHL has already announced the initial ten-man All-Star rosters for each of the four divisions, but new this year is an additional fan ballot to add an eleventh and final member to each squad. The “Last Man In” ballot, an idea invented by Major League Baseball, pits one skater from each team in each division against one another for a chance to participate in All-Star festivities. Fans will decide, with online voting opening tomorrow and lasting until midnight ET on January 10, which of the following players will get the final nod:
F Nicklas Backstrom (WSH)
F Kyle Palmieri (NJD)
F Anders Lee (NYI)
F Jakub Voracek (PHI)
F Teuvo Teravainen (CAR)
F Nick Foligno (CLB)
F Mats Zuccarello (NYR)
D Kris Letang (PIT)
Due to the limits on selections by team, both in the initial rosters and the “Last Man In” vote, there are several star players who cannot be saved by fan voting this year. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner, the No. 6-ranked scorer in the league, highlights the snub group, which also includes Calgary Flames forwards Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk, Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, and Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. Other odd omissions, not necessarily forced by the format, are Columbus’ Artemi Panarin, Nashville’s Ryan Johansen, and Montreal’s Max Domi and Jeff Petry. However, the new final vote option does largely do a good job of giving each team and their fan base one last chance to get a deserving player into the All-Star game.
The NHL Department of Player Safety reviewed the film from last night’s Detroit Red Wings-Colorado Avalanche contest and confirmed, as many already have, that Wings’ forward Tyler Bertuzzi was indeed guilty of a cheap shot on Avs’ veteran Matt Calvert. Bertuzzi sat for his hearing with Player Safety earlier today and this evening they have announced a two-game suspension for the big winger.
What makes this situation unique is that Bertuzzi was not even on the ice when the “unsportsmanlike conduct” occurred. As Player Safety’s descriptive video shows, Calvert received a hit by Detroit defenseman Mike Green in front of the Red Wings’ bench in the third period. Calvert’s stick, while still in his grip, fell into the laps of the seated Red Wings and several, although primarily Bertuzzi, hold the stick, preventing Calvert from jumping back into the play. When Calvert attempts to jar his stick loose by shoving it toward Bertuzzi, a scrum begins in which Dylan Larkin grabs Calvert and holds him in front of the bench. Bertuzzi took this opportunity to deliver several punches, including a final bare fist punch to Calvert’s head. Player Safety admits that defensive altercations on the bench are common, but Bertuzzi’s actions “rise to the level of supplemental discipline” as roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct, to put it kindly. They were convinced of the “intentional nature of the punch and the force with which it was delivered”, believing this is “not a reactionary or defensive play in any way.” Player Safety determined that a two-game suspension was fitting for Bertuzzi, although this is a stain on the player’s reputation that will last far longer.
Although this is Bertuzzi’s first suspension and a penalty was not even called, the cheap nature of the punch to a defenseless player being held by another teammate is bad optics to say the least. Bertuzzi has avoided discipline thus far in his career, but moving forward may struggle to hide from the looming shadow of his uncle’s legacy. Todd Bertuzzi, a good hockey player and tough competitor, will forever be remembered instead for his role as the on-ice assailant of Steve Moore in a 2004 match-up between the Vancouver Canucks and ironically the Avalanche. Bertuzzi hit Moore in the back of the head and drove him into the ice. Moore suffered career-ending neck and head injuries from the hit. Bertuzzi was suspended for 13 games, but was also served with criminal and civil charges. Bertuzzi was never able to escape the disdain that many fans felt and still feel towards him and his nephew, Tyler, would be better served to clean up his game as soon as possible to avoid drawing any further comparisons to his notorious relative.
If you watched the Detroit Red Wings-Colorado Avalanche game last night, you may have thought that you were seeing a game from the past, as the two long-time rivals had physical battle after battle all night long. That tension erupted after a Mike Green hit on Matt Calvert that sent him up against the Detroit bench, at which point several Red Wings players not on the ice got involved by holding Calvert’s stick and grabbing him.
During the scrum, Tyler Bertuzzi appeared to deliver a bare-knuckle punch to Calvert as Dylan Larkin held him down, and will now receive a hearing with the Department of Player Safety. Bertuzzi could very well receive a suspension for the incident, which was not penalized during the game.
A last minute scratch on Saturday has many people worrying that Boston Bruins forward David Backes might have a more serious problem when they look back to a hit that Backes took a shoulder to the head in Thursday’s game against Edmonton from defenseman Matt Benning in the first shift of the game. He was checked for a concussion and cleared to return, but only skated 6:28 during the game.
While the 34-year-old participated in Saturday’s morning skate, there are many concerned that Backes, who has suffered numerous concussions over the course of his career, has another, according to Matt Porter of The Boston Globe. Head coach Bruce Cassidy said he was “absolutely” worried about Backes.
“We’ll list it as an upper-body injury,” Cassidy said. “I think we all saw the hit. You want to be cautious, first of all. This is a player’s health, that left at the end of last year with a concussion.”
- The Montreal Canadiens got a great game out of 18-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi despite losing to Ottawa Saturday. The third-overall pick in this year’s draft is starting to show his skills and while he only has three points in seven games so far, he is clearly making a positive impact on the Canadiens, according to The Athletic’s Marc Dumont (subscription required). Throw in the fact that Kotkaniemi has made fewer than a half dozen mistakes on the ice, Montreal has a big piece in place for the future.
- Another player receiving quite a bit of praise is Detroit Red Wings defenseman Dennis Cholowski. The 20-year-old has received a big opportunity with injuries to Mike Green, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Danny DeKeyser, and has taken advantage of it, according to Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James. The 2016 first-round pick has shown off smooth skating and on-ice intelligence and has shown an offensive instinct, posting two goals and five point in six minutes. Dylan Larkin believes that Cholowski is a big piece to their future. “His head is always up and he’s always there to make passes and get it in the forwards’ hands,” Larkin said of Cholowski. “He reminds me a lot of Zach Werenski in that sense, where their posture with the puck is almost if you’re forechecking him, you don’t know what he is going to do because he’s got his head up and his feet are moving. It’s awesome having him back there.”
Through four games this season, young Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett has just one point. He has yet to score a goal and has taken just six shots. He is seeing just over ten minutes of ice time per game, down more than four minutes from his career average. Bennett is currently on pace for just over 20 points on the year. It seems like a disappointing start and perhaps just an aberration for the 2014 fourth overall pick. In reality, it is par for the course for the 22-year-old forward. Since his strong 36-point rookie campaign in 2015-16, Bennett has failed to improve his production and has seen less and less ice time. This is simply a continuation of the trend.
To say that Bennett has failed to live up to the expectations of his lofty draft position would be to understate the issue. Drafted ahead of the likes of William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dylan Larkin, and David Pastrnak in 2014, the Flames certainly expected far more out of Bennett thus far. His overall production is decreasing, he has never cracked 20 goals or 20 assists in a season, and a center when drafted now plays almost exclusively on the wing. Bennett has simply not at all been what the Flames thought they were getting at fourth overall. Meanwhile, the team is without a playoff win in the three years since Bennett became a regular and patience is running out in Calgary. Bennett has shown flashes of immense ability, but has lacked consistency and, more than anything, has been a poor fit in the Flames’ system. With the hire of new head coach Bill Peters, many expected a turnaround from Bennett this year, but it has been far from it so far. It would seem that Bennett’s time in Calgary is almost up, right?
Wrong, in fact. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman led off his latest edition of “31 Thoughts” by acknowledging the trade interest in Bennett, but doubting that GM Brad Treliving and the Flames were ready to move on. Calgary is wary of trading Bennett while his value is at its lowest to a team seeking to buy low on the talented forward and finally find a way to get the most out of his ability. Friedman expanded on his comments with Sportsnet Radio 960 in Calgary, stating that the Flames appear to be obsessed with avoiding the mistake that provincial rivals the Edmonton Oilers made in trading away Taylor Hall at well below his true value. Hall was also struggling to meet the expectations of his draft slot, first overall in 2010, and it was compounded by the team’s struggles as well. Hall was traded to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson and is now the reigning Hart Trophy winner and a top ten forward in the league. The Flames could certainly use a Larsson-caliber piece in their pursuit of a playoff berth this season, but not at the cost of losing a player that they still believe has untapped potential.
That is not to say that the team hasn’t considered offers, though. Friedman states that, while no deal was ever close, Calgary went “far down the road” in trade talks with several teams. Friedman specifically names the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, and Tampa Bay Lightning as teams that he knows have had interest in Bennett before and, especially in the case of Anaheim and Montreal, likely continue to. The fact that Bennett is perceived as being available via trade would seem to indicate that the Flames continue to field offers for the young forward, even if they aren’t actively selling. While Friedman doesn’t see it happening, Bennett’s play so far this year is trending towards 2018-19 being a new career low. With a year remaining on his contract beyond this season, giving a new team the time to attempt to turn his development around, a poor season for Bennett could see Calgary finally give up on their once-top prospect. It’s fair to want to avoid giving up on potential, particularly for a disappointing return, but a point is fast approaching when Bennett can no longer be seriously compared to a player like Hall.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said today that there is a chance there will be a 2020 World Cup, but one major obstacle is the collective bargaining agreement, according to The Athletic’s Corey Masisak.
With the collective bargaining agreement coming up, both the NHL and the NHL Players Association exercise their right to terminate the agreement next year. If either the NHL of NHLPA opts to do that, a World Cup would be “unlikely” to happen.
The last World Cup was in 2016 when Canada defeated Team Europe (a team made up of countries that didn’t make it into the tournament) in a two-game sweep of the best-of-three finals. If they can pull off a 2020 World Cup, it would be the fourth instalment. There was a World Cup in 1996 and 2004.
- The Florida Panthers may be without their starting goaltender again as Roberto Luongo was forced out of tonight’s game against Tampa Bay. NHL.com’s Corey Long writes that Luongo will not return after a scramble in front of Florida’s net when Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk and forward Frank Vatrano collided in front of the net with Vatrano falling on top of Luongo’s right leg at 12:21 of the second period. Luongo, who had made 13 saves, needed assistance getting off the ice, which could force the injury-prone goaltender to miss some time again. James Reimer took over for Luongo.
- Dana Wakiji of NHL.com writes that Detroit Red Wings’ newly acquired veteran Thomas Vanek has been especially impressed by the play of Anthony Mantha and believes that the 24-year-old will develop into a top-line power forward sooner than later. “I think he can become the next power forward in this league,” Vanek said after the Wings’ practice Saturday. “His size, his skill-set, his skating, you don’t see that combination that much. He’s still young. The consistency is probably for all us, still not quite there, but he can become a real good power forward in this league.” The winger posted 24 goals last season and at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, is capable of doing more. He will play alongside Dylan Larkin this year, which should increase his chances of goal-scoring success.
- Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News released his list of the Top 75 collegiate players with the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche owning the rights to the top two college players, Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes and University of Massachusetts defenseman Cale Makar. Hughes, the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft had 29 points as a freshman for the Wolverines last year, while Makar, the fourth overall pick in 2017, posted 21 points as a freshman last year for the Minutemen.