Date: November 18, 2016

Is 3rd season the charm for young NHL forwards?

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By Doug Harrison – CBC Sports

Rangers’ Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, others poised for breakout seasons

They are not baby-faced teenagers, hot-shot rookies or high first-round draft picks.

In some cases, they weren’t drafted by an NHL team and took a couple of seasons to find their way to regular playing time.

While Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine (league-leading 12 goals) and Toronto’s Auston Matthews (four-goal NHL debut) have stolen the spotlight in Canada, five players south of the border are making noise and poised for breakout seasons. We profile them here.

Kevin Hayes, N.Y. Rangers

The third-year centre has come a long way since he was benched twice in New York’s first-round playoff exit against Pittsburgh last spring. Hayes, 24, arrived at training camp in peak condition and has regained the trust of Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. The six-foot-five, 227-pounder has eight goals and 16 points in 17 games after a 14-goal, 36-point campaign in 2015-16. Hayes has also improved on the draw, winning 47.6 per cent of faceoffs, compared to 36 per cent over his first two season

Jonathan Marchessault, Florida

He’s one of the best bargains on the young season after signing a two-year, $1.5-million US deal with Florida on July 1. Marchessault, who had seven goals and 18 points last season with Tampa Bay, has topped the goal output with eight and already has 14 points in 16 games in his second full campaign. Undrafted after leading the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the 2010-11 season with 40 goals and 95 points, Marchessault has filled in admirably for the injured Jonathan Huberdeau on the Panthers top line, playing the left side with centre Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr.

J.T. Miller, NY Rangers

The good news continues for Miller, who signed a two-year, $5.5-million contract extension in July and got married later in the month. The 23-year-old emerging power winger entered play Wednesday 11th in NHL scoring with 17 points in as many games after finishing fifth in Rangers’ scoring last season with 43 points. Miller, who bounced from line to line last season, is entrenched on New York’s second unit with centre Mika Zibanejad and right winger Mats Zuccarello. At plus-16, Miller is tied for the league lead with teammate Michael Grabner and Montreal’s Shea Weber.

David Pastrnak, Boston

Coming off a 15-goal season, Pastrnak is on track to become the first Bruin since Cam Neely in 1993-94 to score 50, and the only NHL player not named Alex Ovechkin to do so in the past four years. The 20-year-old Czech winger collected at least one point in all but four of his first 14 games (14 points) and boasts a team-leading 10 goals. Skating alongside centre Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on Boston’s top line, Pastrnak is averaging 16 minutes 22 seconds of ice time, up nearly three minutes from last season.

Alexander Wennberg, Columbus

A year ago, Wennberg doubled his output from a 20-point rookie season and appears headed for a repeat, having performed at better than a point-a-game pace through his first 14 starts. With 13 assists, the Swede is well on his way to surpassing the 32 from last season when he became the youngest player in Blue Jackets’ history at 21 to lead the team in assists. Expect Wennberg to establish career highs in many offensive categories should he continue centring the No. 1 line with Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno after beginning the season on the third unit.

Financial worries could force Russia-based KHL to cut teams

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By RT.com

The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) could be forced to reduce its number of teams due to financial pressure.

The Russian-based KHL is currently recognized as the world’s second-best ice hockey league after the National Hockey League (NHL), but a recession in the country is beginning to have an impact on some clubs.

The falling price of oil has affected the Russian state-owned companies and regional governments that fund most teams, sending many into debt.

League president Dmitry Chernyshenko told state agency R-Sport earlier this week that the KHL board is set to discuss “an optimization of the number of clubs taking part.”

“I think it’s possible that the league could contract if the board takes that decision,” Chernyshenko said.

The KHL has long pursued an aggressive policy of expansion, with China’s HC Kunlun Red Star the latest addition to the ranks for the 2016/17 season.

Despite the NHL also identifying China as a possible target for expansion, Shanghai-based Kunlun Red Star – which joined the league this season – has struggled to attract fans, with crowds under 1,000 at some games at its home arena.

There are currently 29 teams in the KHL across eight countries in Eastern Europe and Asia, with the majority based in Russia. Most rely heavily on Russian state handouts to fund their operations.

The top three earners in the KHL are former NHL players – Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Slava Voynov – each with annual salaries around the $5 million mark.

Russia’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, criticized Russian regional governments in financial difficulties last week, saying they were irresponsible by continuing to spend money on sports teams.

Earlier this year Siluanov suggested 5 percent budget cuts would be necessary in 2017, as Russia’s budget deficit was predicted to stand at 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) next year

Comtois leads QMJHL to 4-1 win in Baie-Comeau

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By Canadian Press

2017 NHL Draft prospect Maxime Comtois (Victoriaville Tigres) scored twice while the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies duo of Gabriel Fontaine and Alexandre Fortin each had two points in a 4-1 Team QMJHL win over Russia in Game 6 of the CIBC Canada Russia Series.

After Julien Gauthier (Val-d’Or Foreurs) stole the show on Tuesday in Chicoutimi, Comtois took centre stage in Baie-Comeau, pacing the QMJHL to victory.

“It was a lot of fun being the youngest guy on the team playing with players who have been drafted to the show,” said Comtois post-game. “We have a fast team and we really used it tonight on the forecheck. We used our speed to create chances and managed to score some nice goals.”

Russia came out with an inspired first period, outshooting Team QMJHL 10-5, but the scoreboard told another story as Comtois had the QMJHL up 1-0 after 20 minutes.

The 17-year-old finished off a complete team effort off the forecheck 3:20 into the game, tapping Alexandre Alain’s (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) spin-around scoring chance over the goal line after it trickled through the legs of Russian goaltender Anton Krasotkin.

Krasotkin kept Russia within one in the final minute of the frame, stopping Alain on a two-on-one opportunity from in close.

The two sides had a combined five power play opportunities in the first period but neither was able to convert.

Krasotkin continued to stand tall in the opening half of the second, turning away QMJHL scoring leader Maxime Fortier (Halifax Mooseheads) on two separate occasions.

Those saves set the stage for Russia to knot things up at one as draft eligible forward Klim Kostin scored his first of the series at 12:37. The 17-year-old took advantage of a broken play as Alexander Shchemerov’s low shot went off the skate of a QMJHL back-checker and onto the stick of Kostin who made no mistake.

After breaking a scoreless drought of 108 minutes spanning back to Game 4 in Hamilton, Russia would have just eight seconds to enjoy it.

The Rouyn-Noranda duo of Fortin and Fontaine hooked up to reinstate the QMJHL lead as the former found the latter in the high slot for a one-timer over the glove of Krasotkin at 12:45.

Team QMJHL led 2-1 headed into the third period despite being outshot 18-15 as goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke Phoenix) was there when called upon to keep them ahead.

Krasotkin and Fitzpatrick swapped saves in the opening shifts of the third period before another Husky got in on the action.

Colorado Avalanche prospect Jean-Christophe Beaudin (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) snapped a wrister over the shoulder of Krasotkin at 7:46, getting assists from Rouyn-Noranda teammates Fortin and Fontaine on the play.

Down a man, the QMJHL capped off the series with a shorthanded marker, putting an exclamation mark on Russia’s power play woes as they’d finish 0-for-19 over the six game affair.

Comtois and Alain worked together to strip a Russian defender of the puck at the offensive blue line as Comtois would wait out Krasotkin with a backhand deke in alone with 2:35 remaining to make the final 4-1.

The QMJHL outshot Russia 22-20, holding them to just two shots in the third period.

A capacity crowd of 3,042 took in the action at Centre Henry-Leonard in Baie-Comeau as the QMJHL improved to 16-9-3 all-time in the event.

Goaltenders Callum Booth (Quebec Remparts) and Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke Phoenix) set a new QMJHL mark for goals against in a single series as the two combined to allow just one, turning aside 35 of the 36 shots they faced over two games.

Alexandre Fortin (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) would finish Game 6 as the scoring leader of the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series, recording four points (0-4–4) in the two QMJHL victories.

The CHL wraps up the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series at an all-time mark of 58-19-1-6 while Russia comes away at 26-55-0-3.

The CHL has now won the CIBC Canada Russia Series 11 times in the event’s 14-year history.