2019 NHL All-Star rosters announced

The NHL has announced the four rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game today, scheduled to be held on January 26th in San Jose. Earlier today, Alex Ovechkin, who was elected captain of Metropolitan Division squad, told the league that he wouldn’t be attending and will accept the punishment of missing one game either before or after the break. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews will represent the Pacific, Central and Atlantic respectively, as the other captains. A replacement captain for Ovechkin has yet to be named.

The full rosters are as follows:

Pacific Division

John Gibson (ANA)
Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK)

D Erik Karlsson (SJS)
Brent Burns (SJS)
Drew Doughty (LAK)

Connor McDavid (EDM)*
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY)
Joe Pavelski (SJS)
F Elias Pettersson (VAN)
F Clayton Keller (ARI)

Central Division

Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Devan Dubnyk (MIN)

D Roman Josi (NSH)
D Miro Heiskanen (DAL)

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)*
Mikko Rantanen (COL)
Blake Wheeler (WPG)
Patrick Kane (CHI)

Mark Scheifele (WPG)
F Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

Atlantic Division

Jimmy Howard (DET)
G Carey Price (MTL)

Keith Yandle (FLA)
D Thomas Chabot (OTT)

F Auston Matthews (TOR)*
F Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
F Steven Stamkos (TBL)
John Tavares (TOR)

F David Pastrnak (BOS)
F Jack Eichel (BUF)

Full List

By Zach Leach

NHL Power Rankings: Standout rookies for all 31 teams

Youth continues to be served in the NHL, as almost every team has a first-year player making an impact. For this week’s ESPN NHL Power Rankings — voted on as always by ESPN’s panel of experts — we take a look at some of its best freshmen (or, in some cases, middle schoolers waiting to get the call-up to the big school) of the 2018-19 season thus far.

1. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 1

Eeli Tolvanen. There was a time when this talented Finnish winger was being chatted up as a potential Calder Trophy contender, before being demoted to the AHL in the preseason. So far, he has eight points in 14 games with Milwaukee, with four of his seven assists coming on the power play.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 2

Anthony Cirelli. The Lightning forward has four points in 15 games, skating 13:50 per night, with a minus-4 goal differential at 5-on-5.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 5

Igor Ozhiganov. The 25-year-old KHL import doesn’t have a point in 12 games while skating 13:50 per night. As Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote: “He hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy — no big goals, or memorable passes. But he hasn’t done anything wrong, and that in itself is often praise-worthy of a defenseman.” So, congrats on not being noteworthy, Igor.

4. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 3

Vladislav Kamenev. Acquired from the Predators as part of the Matt Duchene trade, Kamenev had his arm broken by defenseman Brooks Orpik last season, limiting him to just three games. He’s played nine games this season with a goal and an assist, skating just 9:05 per game as a fourth-line center.

5. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 6

Antti Suomela. The 24-year-old Finnish center has two goals and three assists in 14 games. His 1.91 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is third best on the Sharks this season.

6. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 7

Ryan Donato. One of the most surprising demotions of the season thus far. Donato had one goal in 11 games and was sent down to AHL Providence to work on his offensive game. That’s after his incredible nine points in 12 games debut for the Bruins in 2017-18.

7. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 8

Brendan Lemieux. The most notable accomplishment for the spawn of Claude Lemieux this season has been a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vincent Trocheck. Otherwise, he’s averaged 5:32 per game and is a minus-17 in shot attempts at 5-on-5.

8. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 10

Travis Boyd. The depth forward, 25, was injured in the preseason and returned on Nov. 5 with two assists against the Oilers.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 4

Juuso Riikola. Injuries on defense for the Penguins gave the 24-year-old Finn some early-season chances. He’s been a bit overwhelmed, to the tune of minus-39 in shot attempts, worst among Pittsburgh defensemen. Yes, including Jack Johnson.

10. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 9

Jordan Greenway. The promising winger was sent down to the AHL after a rough start, playing a couple of games for Iowa. He returned with a rediscovered confidence, and has a goal and two assists in his last four games.

11. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 15

Juuso Valimaki. Another Finn! Valimaki, a first-rounder for the Flames in 2017, is skating 14:46 per game. He’s on the plus side of possession but has a minus-5 in goal differential.

12. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 24

Elias Pettersson. The Canucks star rookie became the first player to record 16-plus points through his first 10 career NHL games since 1992-93, when Dimitri Kvartalnov and Nikolai Borschevsky accomplished the feat. You heard it here first: Elias Pettersson, the new Nikolai Borschevsky.

13. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 16

Josh Ho-Sang. As usual, interesting things are happening around Josh Ho-Sang. He was on fire for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, including a 12 points in 12 games run. At the same time, he had to apologize for comments he gave to the New York Post about his lack of premium ice time.

14. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 14

Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He’s 18 years old, the No. 3 overall pick in June, and has seven points in his first 15 NHL games for the resurgent Habs.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 17

Calvin Thurkauf. He’s missed a bit with an undisclosed injury, but the former Swiss world junior team captain had 24 points in 75 games with Cleveland last season. He’s got some upside, and the Jackets will have an eye on the AHL to see what the winger does in his second pro season.

Full List

By: Greg Wyshynski

Bridge contract likely for William Nylander

While the mutual preference of both the Maple Leafs and winger William Nylander would be to get a long-term deal done, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that this no longer appears to be an option. He notes that there isn’t an AAV that is high enough for Nylander’s liking that fits in with Toronto’s salary structure for 2019-20 and beyond.

With that in mind, the Leafs are basically down to two options – either sign him to a bridge contract or trade him and by all accounts, the latter route is something they have no interest in going at this point nor has Nylander requested a move.

Accordingly, the bigger question now is how long the bridge deal will be. Although the 22-year-old has gone through his entry-level contract, only two of those seasons qualified as counting towards UFA status as he failed to play in 40 games back in 2015-16. As a result, Nylander is still five years away from being able to become an unrestricted free agent. That gives Toronto the opportunity of pursuing a three-year bridge pact instead of the standard two while still leaving him with a couple of arbitration-eligible seasons at the end of the deal.  In doing so, they’d also have a much better idea of what they can afford long-term as by then, both winger Mitch Marner and center Auston Matthews will be locked up as well.

As most core players coming off of their entry-level deals sign long-term deals, there aren’t many comparable contracts in recent years to work with. One that would be close is Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov.  Following two straight seasons of over 60 points (same as Nylander), the Russian inked a three-year, $14.3M contract. That took up 6.53 percent of the salary cap at the time; that percentage of the current cap today would work out to an AAV of just over $5.19M which would seemingly represent the ceiling of a Nylander bridge deal. A contract like that could very well be back-loaded as well to yield a higher qualifying offer at its expiration.

Toronto GM Kyle Dubas has stated on many occasions that he believes that he can keep the core of the team together even after bringing in John Tavares this offseason. Given the state of where things are, it appears that he’ll have to settle for giving Nylander a short-term deal to make that happen.

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors  |  By Brian La Rose

Full Article

Every NHL team’s odds to win the Stanley Cup

Toronto Maple Leafs (13/2)

The pressure for the Toronto Maple Leafs to win this season is going to be immense. They were already a really good team with an embarrassment of riches at forward, and then they went out and signed John Tavares in one of the biggest free-agent moves in recent NHL history. For any team in any other NHL city, this would be pressure. In Toronto, where the Maple Leafs have not won a championship in the post-Original Six era and have not advanced beyond the first round since 2004, the expectation to do something is going to be sky-high. There will be no excuses to be had, either. They have a team willing to spend to the cap, with a couple of superstars, and the highest paid, highest regarded coach in hockey.

Tampa Bay Lightning (15/2)

This team is absolutely loaded on paper with a couple of Art Ross Trophy contenders (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos) at forward, a Norris Trophy contender (Victor Hedman) on defense and a Vezina Trophy contender (Andrei Vasilevskiy) in goal, with a strong supporting cast around all of them. J.T. Miller, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, so on and so on. On paper this is one of the best teams in the league and has been in at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the past four years. It is not a stretch to think the Lightening could be there again.

Winnipeg Jets (19/2)

They lost Paul Stastny to the team that beat them in the Western Conference Final, which is not ideal, but Stastny was always a luxury on this team. The Jets have one of the best collections of young forward talent in the league, and Patrik Laine could be on the verge of taking yet another step forward this season (50 goals?). The key to their success will be whether or not starting goalie, Connor Hellebuyck, repeats what he did a year ago for them.

Nashville Predators (11/1)

No team in the NHL has a defense that can match Nashville’s. The Predators also are incredibly deep at forward, and they have two goalies capable of starting and playing at a high level. There is no real, clear-cut weakness on this team, and even better, the entire core is locked in place on long-term, salary cap-friendly contracts. The Predators fell a little short in their quest to repeat as Western Conference champions, but they are not going away as Stanley Cup contenders anytime soon.

Full list here

In a Blow to the Islanders, John Tavares Joins the Maple Leafs

John Tavares, an Islander his entire nine-year career and the team captain the past five seasons, has decided to go home. He signed a seven-year, $77 million contract on Sunday with the Toronto Maple Leafs that will bolster that club but leave the Islanders without the longtime face of their franchise.

The 27-year-old Tavares was the first overall pick by the Islanders in 2009 and went on to lead the team in scoring seven times. His signature moment was the double-overtime goal scored against Florida in the 2016 playoffs, which clinched the series for the Islanders. It turned out to be the only postseason series that Tavares won in his near-decade with the team.

“I’m thrilled to be starting a new chapter of my career and life in Toronto,” Tavares said on his Twitter feed after agreeing to the deal with the Maple Leafs. “I feel very fortunate to come join a team with a great young core and play where I grew up learning and loving the game.’’

The Islanders missed the playoffs for the second straight year last season, and for the sixth time in Tavares’s Islanders tenure.

The Islanders made wholesale front-office changes after last season, hiring Lou Lamoriello as the president of hockey operations and then naming him general manager as well in place of Garth Snow. Lamoriello, in turn, hired Barry Trotz, who led the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup this past spring, to replace Doug Weight as coach.

But that wasn’t enough to convince Tavares to stick around, even with the Islanders’ majority owner, Jon Ledecky, and Snow repeatedly stating that they wanted Tavares to remain an Islander for his entire career.

“It was tough,” Tavares said on Sunday. “You’re in one place for so long, you get so embedded, your roots are so deep in there. You care so much about the people and the people that have cared about you.”

Tavares grew up a Maple Leafs fan in Mississauga, Ontario. In his Twitter statement, he said he was “thankful that I had the opportunity to be an Islander for as long as I did,” but added that it was “time to live my childhood dream here in Toronto.”

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By Allan Kreda

Caps Win Series Against Leafs, 4-2

Written by Nathan Sick at Russian Machine Never Breaks.com

Sunday night the Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs for the last time this season, winning 2-1 in the fifth overtime of the series. All six games were won by one goal. Even though it would’ve been arrogant to completely dismiss the Leafs prior to this series, almost nobody thought it would be quite this tough (Peter and Ian excepted). Props to the Leafs, who showed that they can be a deep, tough, and structured opponent.

The heroics last night came mainly from Marcus Johansson, who got the OT winner and the late third period game-tying goal. Nate Schmidt was nearly injured by Leo Komarov (who we won’t miss), but hopefully he’ll be okay for the Caps’ upcoming matchup with the flightless birds.

Once again, shot attempts were nearly even at 63 to 62 in favor of the Caps at five-on-five, and scoring chances were 31-27. The Caps seized the “big moment” of OT and managed to put five shots on net to just one by the Leafs.

Key Stats

  • The depth players chipped in. Last year, we lamented the lack of production from almost everyone below the top line. That trend has been bucked a bit so far this postseason, with three goals from Tom Wilson, another three from Justin Williams, and two more from MoJo. Each of them has a “W” almost solely credited to their name. The only pointless players in the series were Jay Beagle, Brett Connolly, and Daniel Winnik. Still though, of the Caps’ 18 goals this round eight of them came from the top-line trio, which is both good and bad, depending on how you look at it.
  • Alex Ovechkin finally led Caps forwards in ice time. We’ve been clamoring for a few games for as much Ovi-time as possible, and last night our request was fulfilled. Ovi skated around 19.5 minutes at five-on-five and was plus-11 in shot attempts and plus-six in scoring chances during that time. The top line trio was a plus-four in shot attempts overall last night, just behind the third line at plus-five. Overall, Ovi was fifth on the team among forwards in ice time per game, with TJ Oshie leading the way in that statistic.

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Capitals Tie Series With Leafs, Bringing Series Home For Critical Game 5

Written by Pete Blackburn at FoxSports.com

The Capitals and Maple Leafs continue to duke it out in what is the best series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.

After the Leafs took a 2-1 series lead with an overtime victory in Game 3 earlier this week, I wrote that the Capitals need to take advantage of their depth to overpower Toronto and climb back into the series. On Wednesday night, they were able to do that as they came away with a 5-4 victory on the road to even the series.

Not only did Washington get solid contributions from their heavy-hitters up front — especially Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie — but they also got a career-best performance from Tom Wilson

Not only did Wilson score twice — the first multi-goal game of his NHL career — but he also prevented a goal for Toronto with what might be the best save of the series.

On a wild sequence in the first period, Wilson made a diving stick save to prevent the puck from rolling across the goal line after it trickled through Caps’ netminder Braden Holtby, then immediately went down to the other end of the ice and scored a goal on a deflection in front of the Leafs’ net.

It was a hell of a swing for the Capitals, and one that ultimately made a huge difference in game decided by a single goal.

Wilson, who scored seven goals all regular season, went on to add a second tally on an odd-man rush later in the period.

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Maple Leaf’s Youth Is Killing the Capitals Season

Written by James Mirtle at The Atlantic

“That line is a load,” Mike Babcock said.

If you watched the Maple Leafs play – and dominate the end of Game 3 – against the Washington Capitals on Monday night, you knew which line he meant. It was his three rookies, one of the youngest trios in the league, with a 19-year-old phenom in the middle of a 24-year-old former fifth round pick who spent four years in college and a 20-year-old converted centre.

They have been good all season, but they were great this night. They’ve been great all series, in fact.

So great the best team in the NHL doesn’t yet have an answer for them.

Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews and William Nylander were pointless in the first two games of this series, but a breakthrough on the score sheet felt inevitable. Whenever they were on the ice, they had the puck and were charging down the ice, unhindered. Capitals coach Barry Trotz’s countermeasures – the Karl Alzner and John Carlson D pair – were overmatched.

With Nylander on the ice, the Leafs had 53 per cent possession in Game 1 then 68 per cent in Game 2’s double overtime win.

Monday it went to another level. Alzner was hurt, and Nate Schmidt came in. But Babcock had last change, and he fed his “load” of a line some easier minutes, with plenty of shifts in the offensive zone and against Washington’s second, third and fourth lines.

So the Leafs’ Kid Line went to town.

They were all over the ice, holding the neutral zone and pushing the play down low. They out shot Washington 9-2 at even strength and out attempted them 23 shots to only five for the Caps.

The Leafs were at 67 per cent possession with Matthews on the ice. With Nylander, it was higher: 79 per cent.

“I just thought they were good all night,” Babcock said. “Today they were totally in control of the play. They had a lot of possession time. I thought they were dangerous. I thought they were skating. I think Matty’s been good right through. I thought this was Willy’s best game, and the best legs he’s had. Hyman’s just the same every day. It was just another day for him. But that line was good.”

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Tom Wilson Scores in OT To Win Game One For Caps

Written 

When Tom Wilson learned he would be playing against his hometown team in the first round of the playoffs, he texted his father a tongue-out emoji in excitement. Born and raised in Toronto, Wilson grew up a Maple Leafs fan. On Thursday night, he added to the franchise’s recent heartbreak.

Thanks to Wilson’s overtime snipe, the Washington Capitals avoided disaster and won the opening game of their first-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs, 3-2 in overtime, at Verizon Center. In a matchup Washington is heavily favored to win as the league’s top team, it fell behind early because of sloppy play and turnovers.

Two goals from Justin Williams tied the contest, and Washington prevailed in overtime thanks to its unexpected hero. On Monday, Toronto Coach Mike Babcock was asked about Wilson and said, “Nothing against ‘Wils’ because he works hard and all that, but he’s not as big of concern as a lot of people on their team.”

Wilson later saw a tweet of that quote from Babcock.

“I see it obviously because my phone’s not off,” Wilson said. “It comes through. I get people sending it to me and stuff. I’m not going to deny that I saw it. Honestly, it’s a pretty true quote. He’s got a point.”

Wilson then proceeded to list off his talented teammates: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov. But those players didn’t score Thursday night. Instead, Wilson recorded his first playoff goal in 29 postseason games and just his third point. He’s the first Capitals player to score his first career playoff goal in overtime.

Williams saw Wilson standing around in the hallway after the game and just said, “It feels good, doesn’t it?”

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Auston Matthews Scores Four Goals In NHL Debut

Written Joel Petterson at New York Times

The N.H.L. started its regular season on Wednesday with a couple of big names set to miss their openers: Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins star, who is recovering from a concussion; and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, the No. 2 draft pick last year, who injured his ankle on Wednesday.

But the 19-year-old Auston Matthews made sure no one noticed.

On Wednesday, Matthews, selected No. 1 in this year’s draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, became the first player to score four goals in an N.H.L. debut — a feat he accomplished by the end of the second period in a game at Ottawa. The first three goals came on his first three shots as an N.H.L. player.

His first came 8 minutes 21 seconds into the game off a pass from Zach Hyman. He added another, unassisted, six minutes later, then helped the Maple Leafs to a one-goal lead at the end of second with two more in that period.

Somehow, the Maple Leafs still managed to lose, as the Senators’ Kyle Turris tied the score in the third period and again in the first minute of overtime to give Ottawa the win.

Matthews was just the fifth player to score three goals in an N.H.L. debut since the 1943-44 season, according to The Associated Press, and the first since the Rangers’ Derek Stepan did it in 2010.

“I couldn’t believe that was happening out there,” Matthews said after the game, according to the A.P.

The spectacular performance was met with near disbelief on social media (and on Wikipedia).

But those who have followed Matthews for the past several years were probably the least surprised by the sensational debut. Matthews grew up in the nontraditional hockey market of Arizona and was born just 15 months after the Coyotes moved to Arizona from Winnipeg.

He was born two days after the cutoff that would have made him eligible for the 2015 N.H.L. draft. As it became clear that professional hockey would be his goal, his family weighed the options and chose an unusual route for a young prospect: After high school, Matthews eschewed playing college hockey or joining a junior team, instead spending a year playing professionally for the Zurich Lions in Switzerland. The experience helped him grow as a player, he said — as well as in other areas (“The recycling here is intense,” he said in an interview with The New York Times last year.)

And in recent weeks, he earned a good share of the spotlight at the World Cup of Hockey as a member of Team North America, scoring two goals in three games as part of a line that included Connor McDavid, the 2015 No. 1 draft pick.

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