Category: NHL (page 1 of 9)

Golden Knights officially name Gerard Gallant 1st head coach

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By

The Vegas Golden Knights officially announced the hiring of Gerard Gallant as the franchises first head coach Thursday.

Gallant, 53, has been linked to the gig since his dismissal from the Florida Panthers in November, and the speculation became all but a certainty Wednesday, as reports surfaced that general manager George McPhee was closing in on his target.

“We are proud to announce Gerard as the first head coach in Vegas Golden Knights history,’ McPhee said. “He is an experienced head coach, has had success at multiple levels and has a great reputation amongst the players who have played for him.

“Being named the first head coach in Vegas Golden Knights history is such a tremendous opportunity and one I am extremely grateful for,” said Gallant. “There is a great deal of excitement in the hockey community regarding what is happening with the Golden Knights and I am glad to now be a part of the team.”

Gallant led the Panthers to the Atlantic Division title in 2015-16, and owns a record of 152-141-4-31 as an NHL head coach. He’s also been named to Team Canada’s coaching staff for the 2017 World Championship, and was an assistant for Team North America at September’s World Cup.

8 series, 8 numbers: Key statistics for the NHL’s first round of playoffs

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By John Matisz – Postmedia Network

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Washington (1st Metropolitan) vs. Toronto (2nd wild card)

Key number: 60.5

The most lopsided matchup of the opening round has the potential to entertain the masses. Toronto has no issue generating shot attempts (60.5 per 60 5-on-5 minutes, good for third in the NHL), yet they’re awful at suppressing attempts (28th). Combine this high-event brand of hockey — surely, a byproduct of the Maple Leafs icing so many rookies every night — with the Capitals’ enviable firepower and it’s not difficult to envision the amusement. Otherwise, Washington trumps Toronto in almost every category, namely goaltending, depth and playoff experience, and should have no problem advancing. Prediction: Capitals in 5.

Pittsburgh (2nd Metropolitan) vs. Columbus (3rd Metropolitan)

Key number: 3.9

Pittsburgh is shorthanded as stud blueliner Kris Letang nurses a neck injury that will keep him out of the lineup for the entire post-season. The club has been okay in his absence, winning 13 of 23 games to close out the regular season, but playoff hockey is another beast. Letang’s impact on how the Penguins’ ‘D’ operates is immense, from both a workload (25-30 minutes a night) and puck-possession perspective. When Letang’s usual first-pairing partner, Brian Dumoulin, is apart from Letang, for instance, the Penguins’ 5-on-5 shot attempts differential swings the other way, dropping 3.9 per cent to below the 50-50 mark. While the odds are stacked against Columbus, in general — winning four of seven games over the Sidney Crosby-led defending Stanley Cup champs is no easy task — the Letang injury certainly thickens the plot. Prediction: Penguins in 6.

Montreal (1st Atlantic) vs. New York Rangers (1st wild card)

Key number: 20

New York, with its rapid, off-the-rush attacking offence, has come at teams in waves all year. Head coach Alain Vigneault has nine forwards at his disposal who in the regular season combined for 179 goals for an average of 20 goals apiece — Chris Kreider (28 goals), Michael Grabner (27), Rick Nash (23), J.T. Miller (22), Kevin Hayes (17), Derek Stepan (17), Jimmy Vesey (16), Mats Zuccarello (15) and Mika Zibanejad (14). No world-beaters in that group, not even a 30-goal scorer, just heaps of opportunistic scorers. Montreal swept the season series, 3-0, but might have trouble containing the up-tempo Rangers in a high-energy environment like the NHL playoffs. All-world goalie Carey Price is the series’ X-factor. Prediction: Rangers in 6.

Ottawa (2nd Atlantic) vs. Boston (3rd Atlantic)

Key number: 42

The Bruins boast the NHL’s best line (Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak) and an elite goalie (Tuukka Rask), but enter the post-season dangerously low on capable bodies on the back end. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo, Boston’s No. 2 and No. 3 defencemen, are inactive for Game 1 vs. Ottawa. Together, they eat up more than 42 minutes a night. This is a huge development for the Senators, who finished 22nd in the league in regular-season goal scoring. Conversely, Ottawa is in the midst of a lineup revival, as several players prepare to return from injury, including its entire first pairing of Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot. Prediction: Senators in 7.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago (1st in Central) vs. Nashville (2nd wild card)

Key number: .783

Thanks to strong play at the end of an underwhelming regular season and a drool-worthy defence corps, the Predators seem to be the first round’s trendy sleeper pick. Yet, to beat Chicago, a legitimate Stanley Cup favourite, Nashville must play a perfect game, every game. And that includes steady performances from Pekka Rinne, who is not the goalie he used to be. Rinne finished 16th in quality starts percentage among goalies with 30 or more appearances and his .783 save percentage on 5-on-5 shots in and around the slot (often referred to as the “high danger” area) ranked 36th among regular goalies. Simply put, the 34-year-old Finn is an average NHL goalie with a consistency problem. Prediction: Blackhawks in 7.

Anaheim (1st in Pacific) vs. Calgary (1st wild card)

Key number: 7.6

Calgary and Anaheim finished the regular season with the worst even-strength shooting percentages among the West’s eight playoff teams. What does this mean? The Flames (7.6 SH%) or the Ducks (7.8%) — both? — are due for an offensive explosion. It may come in this series, it may not; either way, it’s something to keep an eye on. Particularly unlucky players include Calgary’s Sam Bennett, TJ Brodie and Alex Chiasson, as well as Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Garbutt and Nick Ritchie. Someone who has been both lucky and extremely good? Undercover Anaheim superstar Rickard Rakell (33 goals on 177 shots in 71 games). Prediction: Ducks in 6.

Edmonton (2nd in Pacific) vs. San Jose (3rd in Pacific)

Key number: 29

The Sharks are vulnerable down the middle, with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture tending to injuries ahead of Game 1. The Oilers, on the other hand, boast a healthy one-two punch in Art Ross winner Connor McDavid and soldier Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The tide changer, if he plays at his highest level, is Brent Burns. Lost in the tremendous second-half performances of fellow Norris Trophy candidates Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman is Burns’ wire-to-wire production in the puck-possessing and point-getting departments (53.6% at 5-on-5; 29 goals and 76 points in all situations). Clearly, a perfect storm is brewing for Edmonton, but San Jose’s core, which is on its last legs, will not go down without a fight. Prediction: Oilers in 6.

Minnesota (2nd in Central) vs. St. Louis (3rd in Central)

Key number: 82.9

Probably the least sexy first-round series, the most intriguing storylines may be behind the bench. The Wild’s Bruce Boudreau, whose 10-season NHL coaching career now includes nine playoff appearances, is desperate to advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time. The Blues’ Mike Yeo, who took over as head honcho mid-season after Ken Hitchcock joined the unemployment line, is desperate to show Minnesota, the team that fired him last winter, what they’re missing. Both clubs, no doubt boosted by new instruction, have improved or stayed the course on special teams this season. The most impressive progression: the Wild’s penalty kill rocketing up the league ranks, from 27th (77.9%) to eighth (82.9%) over a season. Prediction: Wild in 6.

Canada, U.S. preparing for Olympic ‘Plan B’ without NHLers

By The men in charge of the Canadian and American hockey programs expressed disappointment with the NHL’s decision to forgo the 2018 Olympic Games, but made it clear they’re prepping alternate plans.

“Today’s statement by the NHL is not what we were hoping for because, ultimately, we want best-on-best at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games which, for us at Hockey Canada, includes the participation of NHL players,” Hockey Canada president and CEO Tom Renney said in a statement Monday, according to TSN.

“This does not change our preparation for the Games – we have developed both a Plan A and a Plan B, and will be ready to move forward. However, for the next month, our priority is the 2017 IIHF World Championship, and we will be ready to advance the required plan following that event.”

USA Hockey is also readying a backup plan.

“We knew it was a very real possibility for many months and certainly respect the decision of the NHL,” executive director Dave Ogrean said in a statement.

“The good news is that because of our grassroots efforts over the course of many years, our player pool is as deep as it has ever been and we fully expect to field a team that will play for a medal.”

“We respect the NHL’s decision and will examine our player pool options and plan accordingly,” added Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for the American hockey governing body. “In the end, we’ll have 25 great stories on the ice in South Korea and will go to the Olympics with medal expectations.”

NBC, which has the broadcast rights to the Games, claims the tournament will still be worth watching without near-full NHL rosters.

“The Olympics have been the world’s greatest international hockey tournament irrespective of whether professionals or amateurs are playing,” the network said in a statement, according to Mike Halford of NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk.

“Although we’re disappointed that NHL players will not get the chance to experience and compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics next February, we’re confident that hockey fans and Olympic viewers will tune in to watch the unique style of play that occurs at the Olympic Winter Games when athletes are competing for their country.”

Swedish Ice Hockey Federation wants NHL GMs to keep their prospects in Sweden rather than the AHL

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By SB Nation

As the GMs meeting wrapped up, plenty of information has come out about a number of things you’ll be hearing about in the next couple of days. One interesting wrinkle that’s come out for this is what the Svenska Ishockeyförbundet (Swedish Hockey Federation) wants for the NHL’s young swedish prospects.

Namely, for them to not play in the AHL.

….Well that kinda came out of left field.

Currently, Boston has two players from Sweden in their AHL affiliate, with a host of Swedes outside the semi-pro system (Oskar Steen, Johansson, Forsbacka-Karlsson) that, once they hit a certain level, have to make a choice in regard to their development. Move to Rhode Island, or return to their Sport Clubs in Sweden.

On the one hand, it’s not hard to understand why Sweden might want their young players to come home every once in awhile. The time difference to see these talents in their prime is sometimes very prohibitive, and having them playing on Swedish teams means more revenue for said teams. It also has precedent for the development perspective, as Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin took a season off from NHL play to return to their previous teams in Sweden, and both came back just as good, if not better, than they were. Sometimes players still need a better transition period that doesn’t always come with playing in the AHL. A more recent example that Swedish officials got word of was that of Alex Nylander (brother of William) struggling mightily in the AHL where he previously…didn’t. Artturi Lehkonen wasn’t exactly a bad player, but after a stint in Frolunda he came to the NHL and has been a promising (and infuriating) prospect for Montreal. There’s plenty of precedent for improvement being made from the SHL.

On the other hand…there are plenty of players who can say the opposite has been working out for them in the NHL because they went to the AHL instead of Sweden. Oscar Sundqvist in Wilkes-Barre has improved his point-getting immensely from any season he had at the highest level of play for Skellefteå in Sweden. To say nothing of course of Boston’s own David Pastrnak, whose currently blowing any previous season he’s ever had in Europe out of the water. His time in the AHL put him at a point-per-game no matter what sample size they threw him in. 25 games? 28 points. 3 games for conditioning? 4 points. Anton Blidh at the SHL level had less than 10 points in his 60+ career. In Providence? Much more consistent with at least 12-15 points a season.

On top of all of that there’s still that whole “North America doesn’t play on Olympic ice“ thing that can be kind of an issue sometimes? It’s not that much of one anymore, but it can still take some getting used to. The Bruins have gotten around this mostly by having players who’ve already made the transition to North American leagues by choice or have been playing on NHL level ice for awhile now. Oh…and probably a much more pressing matter: whole “Geography” thing. If you’d like to get a player called up? You’re gonna have to wait on a plane that at the absolute least 10 hours or more while they get on a flight.

Sweden didn’t come down hard on the NHL so it’s still up to player and team discretion to what comes next in their development before they have a chance to make the NHL roster, but it does leave one wondering who will take their home country up on the offer or what GM will consider the proposition.

NHL poised to enter China, hockey’s next frontier

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By Canadian Press

When Andong Song started playing hockey in China at age 6, he wore figure skates on his feet and had to use the straight parts of short-track speedskating rinks for practice.

His father brought back equipment from his travels one piece at a time, and his family moved to Canada a few years later so he could pursue a career in the sport. Song, the first Chinese player selected in the NHL draft, envisions a day when that sort of cross-global exodus is no longer necessary for kids growing up in China.

That could be coming soon with the NHL looking at China as hockey’s next great frontier. With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China is eager to step up its game and the league is intrigued by the potential of a new nontraditional market with 1.4 billion people that might take to hockey like it did basketball.

“It’s a place that hasn’t had that much of an opportunity to be introduced to what everybody acknowledges is a great game,” commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Because of the size of the market and the fact that lots of sports haven’t been developed there, it’s a good opportunity to expand the sport even further.”

This week, Bettman is expected to announce NHL preseason games in China between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, along with grassroots programs to build a hockey foundation where the NBA has laid one for decades. It’s the first big step toward the NHL making inroads in China, whether or not players participate in the 2018 Olympics in neighboring South Korea.

NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said showcasing the NHL, running clinics and getting more broadcast coverage all figure into the long-term strategy. Even though Russia’s expansive Kontinental Hockey League now has a team based in Beijing, NHL exhibition games — and potentially regular-season games as early as fall 2018 — will have a bigger impact.

“Even with the KHL there, they know it’s not the best league,” said Song, a Beijing native and sixth-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2015 who now plays for the Madison Capitols of the United States Hockey League. “They know it’s not the NHL.”

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, China only has 1,101 registered players and 154 indoor rinks. Despite having a quarter of China’s population, the U.S. has 543,239 players and 1,800 indoor rinks.

By October , 14 different NBA teams will have played 24 preseason games in greater China since 2004, so the NHL has some catching up to do. The Boston Bruins sent an envoy on a Chinese tour last summer that included players Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak, and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis recently said his team could be next after hosting youth players from China in January.

“There will be about 200 new rinks being built in China and we would expect China being a very, very formidable force in the Olympics,” said Leonsis, who called China the next great hockey market. “And also we’ll see that China will be producing players and I would expect that we’ll have NHL players that were born and trained, just like we’ve seen in the NBA, and China will be able to bring players here.”

The NBA gained popularity in China in part due to Yao Ming, the first pick in the 2002 draft. The NHL is going into China hoping to develop homegrown stars. Chinese broadcaster and producer Longmou Li, who has worked the Stanley Cup Final and helped families move to North America for hockey, said 500 to 600 new families are joining the Beijing Hockey Association each year, which could mean churning out an NHL first-round pick every five to six years.

Song said because the sport is still in its infancy in China and centralized in the northeast and in big cities, keeping the best players there instead of seeing them leave for North America is the biggest challenge.

About 200 Chinese hockey families currently live in North America, Li said, and the return of those players, coupled with the KHL’s Kunlun Red Star’s presence and a commitment to skill development, will help the national team grow in preparation for the 2022 Olympics. With a broadcasting deal already in place to air four NHL games on state-owned China Central TV and 10-12 online through Tencent each week, his keys to the growth of Chinese hockey are players reaching the NHL and the national team competing at the top level of the world championships.

Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Keenan was recently tapped to take over Kunlun and oversee the men’s and women’s national teams, so the process is underway.

“If NHL can help China to get that, I think we can at least get 100 million fans from China,” Li said. “Because hockey is just so passionate a game, is so fast a game, it’s so easy to get people to get involved. But they will need to attract them to watch.”

Although being awarded the Olympics was impetus for the Chinese government to pour resources into hockey, it’s getting some help from the private sector in the form of Zhou Yunjie, the chairman of of metal can manufacturing company ORG Packaging. The goaltender-turned-billionaire is at the forefront of hockey’s growth in China through NHL partnerships and sponsorship’s.

“As long as (TV networks) in China broadcast many more games in China, it will attract more people to notice the NHL, especially the youth hockey player,” Zhou said through an interpreter. “Because there are many Chinese kids that have started learning hockey there, and there is a good population of the people that will develop hockey in China.”

When Chris Pronger famously plastered Justin Bieber into the boards during a celebrity game at NHL All-Star Weekend in January, not only was Zhou playing goal but an ORG Packaging patch was on players’ jerseys. Talking about spreading the “gospel” of hockey, Leonsis called Zhou “the greatest evangelist.”

Zhou can’t do it alone, and NHL integration in China is also connected to the 2022 Olympics. After NHL players participated in the past six Olympics, there’s pessimism about the league going to Pyeongchang next year. Discussions about Beijing will happen later.

By then, the league should know if the experiment is working.

“If we can get in on the ground floor, help them with that (and) bring our expertise,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “You can’t argue with the population or the economy, so if we’re able to do that it could be a great opportunity for us.”

100 years ago, Seattle won the Stanley Cup and expanded the reach of pro hockey

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Hap Holmes of the Seattle Metropolitans was an outstanding playoff
goalie in 1917.

By Larry Stone – The Seattle Times

The names, even those of Hall of Famers such as Frank Foyston, Harry “Hap” Holmes and Jack Walker, are known mainly just to hardcore hockey aficionados. The arena was razed after a mere nine years of existence. The feat is savored as a trivia question but remains a revelation to many — even longtime residents of the Puget Sound area and devoted sports fans.

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of one of the singular events in hockey history, but still an obscurity in its own backyard.

On March 26, 1917, as the capacity crowd of about 3,500 stood and celebrated in the Seattle Arena located at Fifth Avenue and University Street, the Seattle Metropolitans defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 9-1, to clinch the Stanley Cup

Seattle thus became the first American city to claim what was then a 25-year-old trophy symbolic of hockey supremacy, now celebrating its 125th year as one of the iconic totems in all of sports. It’s a little scratchy, but the engraving of “Seattle Metropolitans” remains to this day.

At a time when Seattle is attempting to build a new arena that could lure the NHL to town, it’s appropriate to examine this town’s memorable hockey roots. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, in fact, is sending its curator, Philip Pritchard, to Seattle this weekend with most of its Metropolitans memorabilia to help mark the anniversary. It will be on display Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Washington Athletic Club, part of a series of Metropolitans-related activities planned this week.

“We’re hoping the people of Seattle, even though it was 100 years ago, realize they have a little niche in hockey history no one can take away from them,” Pritchard said.

The NHL also is celebrating its centennial this year, but it was the precursor of that league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), that marked its final campaign by losing the best-of-five Stanley Cup series to Seattle, representatives of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), in four games.

Professional hockey, which heretofore had been almost exclusively a Northeastern, and mostly Canadian, venture, slowly had begun to make inroads in the West. The galvanizing event was the formation of the PCHA in 1911 by the Patrick brothers, Frank and Lester, who were part of a still-legendary hockey family. In 1912, the trustees of the Stanley Cup deemed the new league formidable enough for its champion to meet the NHA champ for possession of the Cup.

The Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA had become the Western-most team to win the Stanley Cup when they stunned the Ottawa Senators with a three-game sweep in 1915, but normalcy was restored the next year when the mighty Canadiens prevailed in five games over the Portland Rosebuds. Pritchard points out gently that Portland actually beat Seattle onto the vaunted Stanley Cup by a year, inscribed on the trophy as the 1916 loser.

In 1916, the Patricks installed a team in Seattle, populated largely with players he had raided from the Toronto Blueshirts as part of a salary war, which were common in those days. Given that Toronto had won the Stanley Cup in 1914, it didn’t take long for the Metropolitans — named after the Metropolitan Building Company, which constructed the new arena for the princely sum of about $120,000 — to become competitive.

Among the players poached from Toronto were the three aforementioned Hall of Famers, as well as Cully Wilson, described by hockey historian and author Craig Bowlsby as “a small, vicious badger who wore a sadistic smile when he smashed into larger players.” From the Victoria Aristocrats came Bernie Morris, who would emerge as the Mets’ — and league’s — leading scorer, and top defenseman Bobby Rowe. Another member of the ’17 Metropolitans, Jim Riley, holds the distinction of being the only person to play NHL hockey and major-league baseball.

 

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(Seattle Times archives)

In 1917, when World War I, aka the “Great War,” was in its fourth year, and an eight-room home in the Mount Baker area sold for $4,500, the Metropolitans won the PCHA title with a 16-8 record and awaited the Canadiens, the fabled “Flying Frenchmen,” for the Stanley Cup. Because of the distance involved, all by rail, the entire series was played in one site, alternating annually between the NHA and the PCHA.

By good fortune for Seattle, this was the PCHA’s year to host, so the Canadiens embarked on the 3,000-mile train journey to Vancouver, stopping to play practice games in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Brandon, Manitoba; and Edmonton, Alberta. They made the final leg of the trip by boat, arriving in Seattle at 8 a.m. March 17, some 12 hours before the first game.

Author and historian Mark Hansen, who wrote about the series in The Seattle Times for the 75th anniversary in 1992 and contributed to this story, noted that according to the Seattle Daily Times, the Canadiens upon arrival posed for a team photo, ate breakfast and then retired to the Savoy Hotel for rest. Their coach, George Kennedy, expressed supreme confidence, expressing the prevailing opinion of Easterners that the NHA was the superior league.

“I do not expect my men to have their feet tonight,” he told reporters. “Seattle may win tonight, but after that, I shall be greatly surprised if my men do not make a clean sweep of it.”

In fact, Kennedy had it precisely backward. Montreal, featuring the great goalie George Vezina, for whom the NHL trophy for best goalkeeper is named, and Hall of Famer and team captain Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde, a noted brawler, won the first game, 8-4. But Seattle won Game 2 on March 20, 6-1; they took Game 3 on March 23, 4-1; and then romped in Game 4 on March 26, 9-1, to win the Stanley Cup.

The clear-cut star for the Mets was Morris, the PCHA scoring champion who had an astonishing six goals in the clincher and 14 in the series to go with two assists. Morris would go on to some notoriety in 1919, when the Metropolitans made it back to the Stanley Cup. Just before the first game, Morris was taken away by the U.S. military and put on trial for desertion, ultimately serving 11 months at Alcatraz.

As was the tradition, the 1917 series was played with alternating rules, which meant, among other things, six men a side and no forward pass when under the guidelines of the NHA, and seven men a side and use of the forward pass — which turned into a huge advantage for Seattle — when playing under PCHA standards. The tenor of the series was captured in the Daily Times, which wrote of Game 3:

“Customers who left The Arena last night unsatisfied were either deaf and blind or unfortunate enough to have wagered their kopecs on the Flying Frenchmen. Spectators who were not on their feet during most of the contest must have been brought to the battle in wheel chairs or hobbled to the rink on crutches.”

So what did it all mean? Certainly, said Pritchard, Seattle’s victory helped expand the reach of pro hockey, with the Boston Bruins becoming the first American NHL team in 1924. The New York Rangers in 1928 became the next American team after Seattle to win the Stanley Cup. (Interestingly, no Canadian team has won the Cup since the Canadiens in 1993.)

Added Bowlsby, author of “Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, 1911-1926”: “It helped prove that the PCHA was as good as the NHA or NHL, and it proved that the forward pass could work as a technique that was better than what was happening in the East.”

Did it turn America into a hockey hotbed? Not exactly, says Eric Zweig, author and hockey historian. He likened it to the Toronto Blue Jays becoming the first Canadian team to win the World Series in 1992.

“Certainly, there were a few more Canadian players, but it’s not like baseball became a Canadian game,’’ Zweig said. Same in Seattle. “People loved them at the time. … But if they had made enough of a dent, there’s no way the rink decides they could make more money as a parking garage.”

But that’s precisely what happened in 1924, when the Metropolitans folded after their arena was turned into a parking structure (which remained in place at Fifth and University until it was replaced by the IBM Building in 1963).

The Metropolitans made it to two more Stanley Cups before going under. In 1919, they played Montreal again, but the series was abruptly called off in the middle of it because of a flu epidemic that killed one Canadiens player, Joe Hall. In 1920 — with Morris out of prison and back on the team — the Mets lost to Ottawa, three games to two.

Pro hockey hardly was done in Seattle, however. A new team, called the Seattle Eskimos, was born in 1928 and played at the Mercer Street Arena, which is in the process of being torn down. Other incarnations of Seattle pro hockey included the Seattle Seahawks, later renamed the Olympics; the Stars, Ironmen, Bombers, Americans and finally, in 1958, the Totems, who lasted until folding in 1975 and earned a devoted following. What has followed is junior hockey in the form of the Breakers and Thunderbirds, who have played in Kent since 2009.

The Metropolitans might be a footnote to history, but it’s a rich and compelling one that is more relevant today than ever.

“I think it’s an important and yet unknown part of Seattle history,’’ said Jeff Obermeyer, author of Hockey in Seattle. “Three Hall of Famers on the team, and the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. That’s kind of a big deal.

“With the potential of the NHL coming here, there’s a lot of talk about Seattle as a hockey town. Hockey has a history here. It’s been played almost constantly since 1915. It’s been part of the culture of the city for a long time. It’s a little underground and not as visible now, but it’s definitely there and part of our heritage.”

The 1917 Stanley Cup Final
In a best-of-five series, Seattle beat Montreal 3-1. Bernie Morris scored 14 of the Mets’ 23 total goals, including six in their big 9-1 victory in Game 4.
Gm 1 Gm 2 Gm 3 Gm 4 Total
Seattle 4 4 4 9 3 wins
Montreal 8 1 1 1 1 win
Notable: Games 1 and 3 were played under seven-man rules while Games 2 and 4 were under six-man rules.

Future Watch 2017: The NHL’s Top 10 rising prospects

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By Matt Larkin – The Hockey News

We’ve carefully evaluated every NHL team’s farm system and ranked their top prospects. Which players’ stocks have risen the most since 2016?

The approach of spring brings the NHL playoff race’s home stretch and also my favorite issue we publish at THN every year: Future Watch. It’s a farm system breakdown you can’t find anywhere else. We grade out every franchise’s developing crop of NHL-affiliated talent.

First, we consult scouts from all 30 NHL franchises to get lists of their top 10 prospects. In this case, “prospects” mean players under team control who are not yet full-time NHLers. That gives us a list of 300 players. We then turn that list over to our scouting panel, made up of roughly 15 NHL executives depending on the year, including head scouts and GMs. Each panel member ranks the top 50 prospects from that group. Enough players receive votes that we produce a final top-75 individual player list, and we expanded that to 100 players this year.

Finally, we grade every team’s prospect list while also including any players 21 and younger on their NHL rosters – as we can hardly discount Connor McDavid, Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel as significant part of their teams’ futures for years to come.

And voila, that’s Future Watch, covering teams’ farm systems from every angle.

Every year, individual player rankings see wild fluctuations. Which prospects not yet graduated to full-time NHL duty made the biggest leaps over the past year? Last year’s top climbers were Jimmy Vesey and Nick Schmaltz, each of whom plies his trade in the NHL today.

Note: the list of risers does not include any prospects drafted in 2016, as they’re appearing in Future Watch for the first time. That includes Clayton Keller, Jesse Puljujarvi and so on.

1. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Minnesota Wild (+63)
Last year: Not ranked in top 75
This year: 13th

Kaprizov forced his way up our rankings with an incredible 365 days between Future Watch 2016 and 2017. He absolutely devoured the 2017 world juniors, with nine goals and 12 points in seven games. Then he ripped off 20 goals in 49 games with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa, and his 42 points set a league record for a teenager. If there’s one thing the Wild lack right now on their deep roster, it’s a truly deadly goal scorer, as they should finish 2016-17 without a 30-goal man. Kaprizov can help them in that area long term. He doesn’t fit the mold of prototypical Richard Trophy contender in that he’s not a pure, “selfish” shooter. He’s more of an all-around scoring type with great hands and speed. At just 5-foot-9, he’s often compared to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin.

Minny fans have to mop up their saliva and wait a couple years, however. Kaprizov’s KHL contract doesn’t expire until 2018. So we’ll anticipate his 2018-19 arrival just like we did Evgeny Kuznetsov’s for so many years.

2. Philippe Myers, D, Philadelphia Flyers (+47)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 29th

The Flyers inked Myers as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He didn’t even crack their top 10 prospects in Future Watch 2016, so a leap inside the top 30 shocked us. Our panel really likes the kid, as do the Flyers, who rave about his blend of mobility and agility on a 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame. He’s quietly been better than a point-per-game player with the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this season. He impressed in a pre-season look with the Flyers last fall, too, and made Canada’s world junior squad. TSN’s Bob McKenzie excited Flyers fans in January by suggesting Myers was NHL ready.

As if the Flyers weren’t stacked enough with young D-men. They already have Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere at the NHL level, with Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg in the system. Myers could leapfrog that AHL trio if he keeps playing this well.

3. Jordan Greenway, LW, Minnesota Wild (+40)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 36th

The hulking Greenway earned a “project” label in last year’s edition but made a massive leap for 2017. He was a huge component of the championship 2017 U.S. world junior squad, with three goals and eight points in seven games. He’s a major part of Boston University’s offense, too. TSN’s Ray Ferraro, quoted in Future Watch, compares Greenway to Todd Bertuzzi. Greenway possesses a similar blend of scoring touch, size and flat-out nastiness.

4. Thomas Chabot, D, Ottawa Senators (+35)
Last year: 38th
This year: 3rd

Chabot didn’t make the single-biggest jump of any prospect over the past year, but climbing specifically from 38th into the top three overall makes his rise arguably the most significant. He became a household name in Canada as the world junior team’s workhorse, do-it-all D-man and is the first defenseman to win tournament MVP. Most blueliners need AHL seasoning to learn the pro game, but Chabot might be too good. He could jump from QMJHL Saint John right to the Sens for good next season. First, he’ll try to pad his resume with a Memorial Cup.

5. Brandon Montour, D, Anaheim Ducks (+35)
Last year: 65th
This year: 30th

Montour appears to have landed in the NHL for good but was still spending most of his time in the AHL when our scouts compiled their rankings, so he was still treated as a prospect in our magazine this year. There’s a reason why, despite all the trade rumors, Montour remained a Duck through the deadline, even with Anaheim enjoying a surplus of good young blueliners. Montour is just too promising, and his offensive ceiling appears to have surpassed that of Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Shea Theodore. That’s not to say Montour is a sure thing – but he’s a smooth-skating right-hander who can run a power play and has a big-time shot. He’s a risk taker who makes mistakes, but he could grow into a high-scoring NHLer if he rounds out the rest of his game and earns an increased role. The question now is: should GM Bob Murray shop right-shooting Sami Vatanen to free up depth chart space for Montour?

6. Jack Roslovic, C, Winnipeg Jets (+30)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 46th

Spoiler alert: the Jets’ farm system finished first in our team rankings for the second time in three years, and Roslovic is making nice a splash as a first-time pro in the AHL alongside speedy Kyle Connor. Roslovic possesses promising 200-foot hockey acumen. Is he the long-term successor to Bryan Little as Winnipeg’s No. 2 center? Little turns 30 next year, has one season left on his deal at a $4.7-million cap hit and has missed significant time due to injury three years in a row.

7. Jacob Larsson, D, Anaheim Ducks (+27)
Last year: 50th
This year: 23rd

Sheesh, these Ducks are swimming in ‘D’ prospects. Larsson has strong two-way skills and fluid skating. The Ducks gave him four games in the NHL and AHL before loaning him back to Frolunda of the Swedish League. Larsson’s still just 19, and the Ducks’ stacked blueline buys them time to slow-cook him. He’ll likely get an extended look at the North American pro game next year in the AHL, with an eye on cracking the Ducks for good in 2018-19.

8. Christian Fischer, RW, Arizona Coyotes (+22)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 54th

Subpar skating hasn’t derailed Fischer’s ascension as a promising power forward. He’s torn up the AHL in his first season of pro hockey, flirting with point-per-game production, and he scored twice three NHL games with the Coyotes.

9. Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets (+20)
Last year: 73rd
This year: 53rd

Like Montour, Bjorkstrand hadn’t yet stuck with the big club when our panel ranked the players. It appears he’s there permanently now. He was a prolific scorer in major junior with WHL Portland, and he found his touch and ripped it up with AHL Lake Erie in the 2016 playoffs en route to winning the Calder Cup. So far, so good in the NHL as well, where he has five goals and 10 points in 18 games this season. He’s bouncing around the lineup a bit but always has quality linemates on such a deep team.

10. Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Minnesota Wild (+18)
Last year: 23rd
This year: 5th

The scouts love Eriksson Ek, and with good reason. He’s a smart, skilled pivot who, interestingly enough, profiles as a Mikko Koivu type of player but with more offensive upside. Eriksson Ek had five points in nine games with Minny to start the year, but the Wild decided they’d rather see him play a ton back in Sweden than toil on their fourth line. He lit up the world juniors with six goals and nine points in seven games, too. He’ll be back in the NHL soon, likely next season, and he’ll contend for the Calder Trophy.

Thornton notches 1,000th career assist

https://d13csqd2kn0ewr.cloudfront.net/uploads/image/file/232840/w768xh576_GettyImages-648884162.jpg?ts=1488860351

By Josh Gold Smith – the Score

Make it quadruple digits for Jumbo Joe.San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton picked up the 1,000th assist of his career with a helper on Joe Pavelski‘s empty-netter against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.

Thornton became the 13th player in NHL history to accomplish the feat, recording his 1,382nd point in his 1,432nd game.

The 37-year-old ranks 23rd on the league’s all-time points list, and his 1,000th assist pulled him to within 16 helpers of Joe Sakic for 12th all time in that category.

 

Burns a special player

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

If you were to ask Brent Burns what his greatest hockey memory is, it would surely be the gold medal he won with Canada at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Prague.

He was named IIHF Directorate Best Defenceman, was a force on the blueline, and was among the top scorers in the tournament. In the gold-medal game, a 6-1 thumping of Russia, Burns logged more ice time than any other player on either team.

Burns also helped Canada to the World Cup title this past September. In all, he has played at four World Championships (winning a silver in 2008) and one U20 (silver in 2004).

But now, as we play out the final quarter of the 2016/17 NHL season, Burns is on the cusp of accomplishing something great with his club team, the San Jose Sharks. He sits tied for third in the scoring race with Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand, all three having 67 points. Patrick Kane is second with 68 points, and at the head of the pack is Connor McDavid with 72 points.

The focus is on Burns, though, because he is a defenceman, and blueliners don’t often produce offensively at the rate needed to put them in consideration for the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer in the regular season.

Indeed, only six defencemen have finished in the top-ten of NHL scorers. Leading the way is Bobby Orr. The extraordinary Orr is the only D-man to have won the scoring title, a feat he accomplished, twice. In 1969/70, he led all players with 120 points, and in ‘74/‘75 he finished with 135 points. In all, he placed in the top ten for six years running, from 1969/70, through 74/75, before knee injuries ravaged his career.

New York Islanders Hall of Famer Denis Potvin made the top ten twice later in the 1970s, and Paul Coffey did so six times between 1983 and 1995. The only other defencemen to produce to this degree were Ray Bourque (1986/87), Al MacInnis (1990/91), and Brian Leetch (1991/92).

Coffey was the last defender to make the top ten, in 1994/95, a feat Burns is surely going to match some 22 years later. The closest anyone ever came to equaling Orr’s achievement was Coffey in 1983/84, when he finished second in scoring, but that is a misleading figure because although he accrued an astounding 126 points, teammate Wayne Gretzky finished with 205 points!

Why is Burns succeeding this year in a way he never has in this his 13th year in the league? For starters, he has offence in his DNA. When the Minnesota Wild drafted him 20th overall in 2003, he was a right winger with the Brampton Battalion in the OHL. Indeed, the Sharks used him as a forward for much of the two-year period 2012-14, but having a defenceman who can add offence is more valuable than a scoring winger, so the Sharks have kept him on the blueline whenever possible.

Second, Burns is both a tremendous shooter and a skilled passer. He sees the ice as well as any defenceman and is smart about deciding when to pass or shoot. He also is logging plenty of ice time. His 24:55 average per game puts him 10th among all players this season.

At 6’5” and 230 pounds, and a beard that only adds to his intimidating presence, Burns can play physically and create space and scoring chances simply because of his size. Not many players – forwards or defemcemen – can do that.

And, Burns is the anchor on the team’s power play. Indeed, 7 of his 27 goals have come on the power play and 19 of his 65 points are with the extra man. The Sharks are a talented, offensive-minded team, and Burns is a key part of that offence under coach Peter DeBoer.

Last year the Sharks went to the Stanley Cup finals, losing to Pittsburgh in six games. The team has its sights set on getting as far, and then winning it all this year, and key to their chances is Burns’s play from the blueline.

The team has 19 games left in the season, but before the playoffs start Burns has the chance to chase Coffey, and maybe even Orr. No matter how you slice it, he is having a season for the ages.

Sidney Crosby among fastest to 1,000 despite delays

By Nicholas J. Cotsonika – NHL.com

Sidney Crosby isn’t the best player in the world because he’s more talented than everyone else. He’s the best because he works hard, he’s determined, and he’s skilled, especially in tight spaces. He makes the most of his talent and his teammates better.

When the Pittsburgh Penguins captain reached 1,000 points with an assist in a 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, he showcased his defining traits.

Crosby stood in front of the net while a point shot bounced off Jets captain Blake Wheeler and skidded into the left circle. He and Wheeler raced to the puck, and Crosby won the battle with the strong edge work, huge hockey haunches and low center of gravity he hones in workouts and practices.

He lifted Wheeler’s stick, spun around and shielded the puck with his body. He collected the puck and found linemate Chris Kunitz with a slick pass as he has so many times before. Kunitz scored on a one-timer from the slot 6:28 into the first period, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

But the occasion was bittersweet, even though Crosby assisted on the tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime.

It felt like Crosby finally did it when he received a standing ovation and raised his stick in return. At the same time, he became the 12th fastest to reach 1,000 points in terms of games played (757).

Crosby, 29, should have reached 1,000 points long ago and should have far more than 1,002 now. He has missed 167 games in his NHL career. One hundred sixty-seven. That’s a little more than two seasons of the prime of one of the best players in NHL history.

He has missed about 18 percent of Pittsburgh’s regular-season games since entering the NHL in 2005-06. Had he missed, say, half that and stayed at his career average of 1.324 points per game — fifth-best in history, behind Wayne Gretzky (1.921), Mario Lemieux (1.883), Mike Bossy (1.497) and Bobby Orr (1.393) — he would have more than 1,100 points by now.

Of course we don’t know if he would have produced at the same rate. He might have produced at an even higher rate.

Crosby had 66 points through 41 games in 2010-11, averaging 1.61 per game, on pace for 132. It would have been not only the best season of his NHL career, but the best for anyone since the mid-1990s. But he missed the final 41 games that season and then 60 games in 2011-12 because of concussions, and then the final 12 of the 48-game schedule in 2012-13 because of a broken jaw.

What would he have done had he stayed healthy? Just because we can ask the same about Lemieux, Bossy, Orr and others makes it no less disappointing for him.

Crosby has overcome so much, reclaimed his place atop the game and held it amid increasing competition. Despite the concussions, setbacks and uncertainty, he has come back and played the way he used to — flying up ice, grinding down low, going to the net, taking contact and initiating it.

In 2013-14, he won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion for the second time each, plus his second Olympic gold medal with Canada. He was fifth in Hart voting in 2014-15, second last season. He won the Stanley Cup for the second time and the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP for the first time last year, plus the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and tournament MVP with Team Canada.

Although he missed the first six games of this season because of a concussion, his 31 goals lead the NHL.

Look at the 11 who reached 1,000 points in fewer games: Gretzky (424), Lemieux (513), Bossy (656), Peter Stastny (682), Jari Kurri (716), Guy Lafleur (720), Bryan Trottier (726), Denis Savard (727), Steve Yzerman (737), Marcel Dionne (740) and Phil Esposito (745).

Pretty good company. Most of them scored their first 1,000 points in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. None of them did it in this lower-scoring era with its salary cap, parity, video study, emphasis on systems and stingier goaltending.

Once known as Sid the Kid, Crosby has aged to the point where he is hitting milestones and being asked to reflect. Among his competition for best player in the world is Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, 20, who grew up idolizing him. Crosby often says he appreciate things more after what he went through and doesn’t take moments like this for granted.

“I think you look at it a little bit differently when you get older,” Crosby told reporters in Pittsburgh recently. “It’s just something you enjoy a little bit more.”

But older doesn’t equal old. If he stays healthy, Crosby should keep playing at a high level, if not the highest, for the foreseeable future.

“Right now Crosby is the best player, and you have to earn your stripes,” Gretzky said before the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian were unveiled in Los Angeles on Jan. 27. “Until somebody knocks him off the castle, that’s the way it’s going to be.”

He’s at 1,002 points and counting.

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