Kukla's Korner Hockey
from the CP at TSN,
Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel's presence alone at the NHL's pre-draft scouting combine next week is enough to spur league-wide buzz.
There's more. Aside from having two highly touted players included among the 120 prospects scheduled to attend, the combine is finally entering the 21st century.
After spending the past 25 years in stuffy and carpeted hotel and convention centre ballrooms in suburban Toronto, the weeklong event is moving for the first time into an actual hockey facility in downtown Buffalo. Starting Monday and running through June 6, the combine will be held at the newly built hockey/entertainment HarborCenter complex connected to the Sabres home arena.
"This is taking the combine to a whole other level," Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. "I'm looking forward to getting in there and seeing how it's run this year and, maybe going forward, that's the way it's going to continue to be run."
Anything would be an upgrade after last year, when the hotel air conditioning didn't work during the team-player interview portion of the combine.
"I felt bad for the kids, because it was like we were sweating them out," Benning said, laughing.
The $200-million facility, funded by Sabres owner Terry Pegula, opened in November. It features two NHL-sized rinks, a training centre, meeting rooms, a bar and restaurant, and will eventually include a 200-plus-room hotel.
from Brett Popplewell of Sportsnet,
Used to be the warrior was the noble, set apart from those he swore to protect by his acceptance of violence and by a code of conduct that kept him honourable. Medieval knights called this chivalry; to the samurai it was the way of the warrior. It didn’t matter what he accomplished day to day, all that mattered was that when the time came, he entered the battle and fought like he was already dead. That’s what made him noble. That’s what made him selfless.
Kevin Westgarth knows this. Not because he is a student of history and war but because he is one of hockey’s discarded enforcers. A wandering samurai who now finds himself alone and bleeding in a Belfast arena.
Barely a minute has passed since he threw his last punch, cracked a man’s helmet and ripped the skin from the mangled remnants of his reconstructed knuckle. The residual sounds of the brawl—bloodthirsty shouts and chants—echo through the stands, bouncing off the boards and rafters and finding their way into the corner of the dressing room where Westgarth sits, chest heaving, blood pumping out of that knuckle.
from Craig Button of TSN,
Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel started the season as the top ranked NHL prospects and they finish 1-2 on the final Craig's List of the season. The NHL can only hope No. 1-ranked McDavid and No. 2-ranked Eichel develop a rivalry similar to the one Crosby and Ovechkin launched 10 years ago.
Two Ontario Hockey League rivals are next on my final list: Erie centre Dylan Strome at No. 3 and London right winger Mitch Marner at No. 4. Why Strome over Marner at three? The answer is simple. When players are so close in ability, I choose the centre over the winger. While Marner may eventually score at a higher rate than Strome in the NHL, top line centres are instrumental to team success. Strome has a complete yet unspectacular game in the style of Ron Francis. Strome is an elite complete player.
Marner is a unique and creative player who brings people out of their seats. Arizona is interesting at No. 3 in the draft order because either Strome or Marner would add significantly to an already deep prospect pool that includes Marner's London teammate, Max Domi.
The NHL Central Scouting Service has Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin ranked third among North American skaters, behind only McDavid and Eichel. But Hanifin is No. 12 on my list. He's a fantastic skater, but I'm not yet convinced he will make an impact in the NHL worthy of investing such a high pick.
from Bill Beacon of the CP at MetroNews,
Junior hockey was the high point for Esposito, who had 39 goals and 98 points in his first season. His stock dropped when he fell to 79 points in his draft year. He slipped again to 69 the following season, but had his moment at the world junior championship in Ottawa where he scored the game winner in the final for Canada.
Since then, a succession of injuries, including two torn ACL ligaments, a torn MCL and a hip problem, have stalled his career and dropped him into obscurity. Last season, he played one game for Fort Wayne of the ECHL and then was waived and didn’t play again.
“It was a tough year mentally and physically,” the 26-year-old said. “I’ve been through a lot over the last few years, so I took the year off.
“I started training about two months ago and I’m looking to go back and play in Europe again next year.”
Pittsburgh traded him to Atlanta and he spent time in the Florida and Dallas organizations before he was released in 2012. He played a year in Finland, another in Italy and another in the Austrian league, not scoring many goals on any stop.
“You have to learn to accept things,” he said. “Everyone’s destined for something in life.
“It’s too bad I never got to step on the ice in the NHL. You never want to say never, but you have to be realistic and come to terms with it. There’s something else waiting out there and hopefully I get to achieve something else.”
from Today's Slapshot,
Marc Crawford, head coach of the ZSC Lions of the National League A, took some time to email with Sean Tierney and had some interesting thoughts on the process of coaching, Auston Matthews and analytics. His answers are presented as-is.
ST: Rumours have swirled about the possibility of Auston Matthews playing in the NLA next season, possibly for your ZSC Lions. In your opinion, what are the advantages of playing internationally for a draft-eligible star like Matthews? Could a teenager succeed playing against men in the Swiss league?
MC: Auston Matthews is an outstanding young Hockey player and everyone involved with the ZSC Lions is so excited about seeing him play in Zurich.
There is no doubt that he can play and excell [sic] in the Swiss NLA and I believe it is the perfect training ground for young athletes. He will be coached by an NHL coach he will be challenged by playing against men in a fast skating, highly skilled league. He will learn what it is like to play the systems that will be utilized as he continues to rise up the hockey ranks.
He is a wonderful young man who wants to improve and we have an excellent record of development.
Ron Kenins developed with us and this year Jonas Sigenthaler and Denis Malgin both will get drafted because of our program.
One big party...
Below, highlights of Canada's 6-1 win over Russia in the Gold Medal Game.
from Andrew Podnicks of IIHF.com,
This is Canada's first gold since 2007, and with the win Sidney Crosby becomes the 26th member of the Triple Gold Club and the first to captain all three championship teams.
The penalty-free opening period was a blend of nerves and skill, fear of making a critical error and blazing speed. Both teams had great chances to score, although Canada held a wide margin in puck possession. Sean Couturier fired a rebound over the open net while being checked, and Alex Ovechkin made a great rush only to fire high when the time came to shoot.
Cody Eakin opened the scoring at 18:10 when Viktor Tikhonov failed to clear the zone. Tyler Ennis got the puck and curled through the middle, then turned and fired a low shot that went off Eakin’s skate and in. The goal, by Canada’s fourth line, came on Eakin’s third shift of the game.
The player of the period, though, was Sidney Crosby, who made several great passes to create good scoring chances for linemates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
from Andy Potts of IIHF.com,
Canada vs. Russia. The birthplace of the game against one of its most artistic disciples. A clash of styles and cultures, steeped in history on and off the ice. And, this year, a battle between a heavyweight roster that cruised through the early stages and an injury-hit team steadily gaining in momentum. The collision course is set; the confrontation will be intense.
The stellar Canadian offence has gathered most of the plaudits in this tournament, and not without justification. With 60 goals in nine games Canada boasts the four leading point-scorers – Jason Spezza, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Matt Duchene – as well as seeing Brent Burns in the top 10 as the second most productive defenceman of the competition. Spezza and Hall were on the scoresheet yet again to lead the team to a 2-0 win over the Czechs and it’s tempting to assume that this roster will simply blow the opposition off the ice.
The puck drops just after 2:30pm ET and is on NBCSN and TSN.
from the CP at TSN,
Canada will play for the gold medal at the 2015 world hockey championships after defeating the Czech Republic 2-0 on Saturday at O2 Arena.
Canadian goaltender Mike Smith recorded his second straight shutout, making 23 saves to hold down a fired-up Czech squad.
The home team showed great jump early in the game — inspired by its loud, partisan crowd of supporters — but a series of early saves from Smith kept the game scoreless.
Taylor Hall opened the scoring at the 8:40 mark of the first period, converting a slick feed from his Edmonton Oilers teammate Jordan Eberle past helpless Czech netminder Ondrej Pavelec.
Centre Jason Spezza increased Canada's lead to 2-0 at 9:02 of the second period on a sharp-angle shot that snuck inside the far post.
Canada will face the winner of USA/Russia game which starts at 1:15pm ET today.
from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,
The 2015 IIHF World Championship has been such a blast, even from six time zones west, so let’s say it: this is the best one ever. At least through these North American, NHL-trained eyes. Seriously.
Can you recall a previous edition of the Worlds — such a poor man’s Stanley Cup Playoffs that the spring tourney has been relegated to punch-line status, alongside golf jokes — being so rich with stories and rewindable plays and intrigue heading into the medal round?
Saturday offers two hand-plucked semifinals -- USA versus Russia, Canada versus Czech Republic -- that will lead to a fantastic, star-studded gold medal matchup Sunday no matter how it shakes out.
Would you like Canada-USA and watch Sidney Crosby face Jack Eichel? How about Late addition Alex Ovechkin's attempt to avenge the Capitals' elimination and snuff out Crosby's bid to join the Triple Gold Club?
Both semi-final games will be streamed in the US on NBCSports Live Extra.
All times are ET..
Canada vs. Czech Republic 9am
USA vs. Russia 1pm
God medal game is at 2:30pm ET on Sunday and is on NBCSN.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org