EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you, loyal readers! However, this will be the final issue of the Morning Skate newsletter. We appreciate your support while we provided a lighter side of hockey news, and we are thankful for you waking up with us every weekday morning.
Yesterday’s NHL Scores
Last Night’s News 📰
JUICE IS LOOSE: Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros made history when he posted 64 saves in a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. He became the second goalie in NHL history to record 64-plus saves in a game while earning a victory. Mario Lessard was the last netminder to accomplish the feat when the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Minnesota North Stars 4-3 in 1981.
ALL-STAR SELECTIONS REVEALED: Yesterday, the NHL announced its All-Star rosters. While there are plenty of familiar faces like Erik Karlsson and Alex Ovechkin, 11 players will be experiencing the All-Star Weekend for the first time. Goaltenders Linus Ullmark, Igor Shesterkin, and Logan Thompson will make their debuts along with Jason Robertson and Matty Beniers. Matthew Tkachuk will represent the hometown Florida Panthers, with the final 12 players to be voted in by the fans.
GOLDEN GUENTHER: Connor Bedard went without a point for the first time in the 2023 World Junior Championship. However, It didn’t matter for Team Canada, as the Canadians survived a push from Czechia to win gold in overtime 3-2. Dylan Guenther scored two goals, including the overtime winner, and added an assist on captain Shane Wright’s second-period tally to drive Canada’s offense. It was the first time the Canadians won back-to-back WJC since 2009 and the first medal for Czechia since 2005.
LUSCIOUS LUCIUS: Although overshadowed by the host nation playing the gold medal game on home soil, the third-place match was something to behold. Following a modest one-goal first period, Team USA and Sweden traded nine goals in the middle stanza, heading into the third tied 5-5. Four more goals in the final frame wouldn’t be enough, as overtime was needed to decide the bronze medal. Chaz Lucius completed his hat trick at 2:06 of additional time to secure the American’s first bronze since 2018.
DeBRUSK IN THE DUGOUT: Jake DeBrusk, the hero of the 2023 Discover Winter Classic for the Boston Bruins, was placed on long-term injured reserve on Thursday due to injuries sustained in Monday’s game. DeBrusk will be out a minimum of 24 days and 10 contests based on the LTIR protocol but will likely miss the next month with his hand and lower-body afflictions.
Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.
For some hockey fans, the Winter Classic is their version of the Super Bowl. A soldout crowd of 39,243 ventured to Fenway Park while an average of 1.8 million viewers tuned in to TNT to watch the Boston Bruins host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Musical performances included The Black Keys and Bell Biv DeVoe. The home crowd eventually celebrated a 2-1 victory, with Jake DeBrusk scoring both Boston goals. With appearances by the great Bobby Orr and Boston Red Sox legend Jason Varitek, it quickly became a night to remember (unless you’re a Penguins fan, of course).
Edler Reaches 1,000 Games
The Los Angeles Kings honored 36-year-old defenseman Alexander Edler this week for playing 1,000 NHL games. He spent the first 15 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks before signing with the Kings as a free agent. During his pre-game ceremony, he was gifted a commemorative silver stick by general manager Rob Blake. His teammates presented him with gifts, including a painting depicting him winning a silver medal with Sweden in the 2014 Olympics, his debut for Vancouver in 2006, and his 500th and 1000th career games. Congrats, Alexander!
Canada Strikes Gold
Connor Bedard and Team Canada earned the gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, but the cities of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, were the true winners! One night following a victory over the United States in the semifinals by a final score of 6-2, the Canadians outlasted Czechia with a 3-2 overtime victory. Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Guenther notched the golden goal as he finished a 2-on-1 with Montreal Canadiens prospect Joshua Roy, erupting Scotiabank Centre into a frenzy. Cheers to our Atlantic Province neighbors for hosting a fantastic tournament!
Eyes on These Guys
With the NHL gearing up for the second half of the season, here are some players and teams to watch for the rest of the year.
Point is on point, as Brayden Point is currently on a tear with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has 15 points in his last 13 games and six goals in his past six contests. His 39 points on the season are good for third-best on the team. As the Lightning strive to make the Stanley Cup Final for the fourth consecutive year, Point is the player to lead the way.
The Philadelphia Flyers are the eighth-worst team in the NHL and are on track to miss the playoffs for the third straight season. Because of that, Travis Konecny is going under the radar. The 25-year-old forward has 40 points in 33 games, and his 20 goals lead the team. His career-best is 24, which he is on pace to break. Meanwhile, his goals-per-game average is ranked ninth-best in the league, better than Point and Kirill Kaprizov. Konecny is a player to watch for his production but as a possible trade deadline chip.
Up-and-coming teams like the Ottawa Senators are showcasing some fun talent this season, and forward Tim Stützle is coming into his own as a two-way player. It is less than 10 days into the new year, but Stutzle is one of the league leaders in January thus far, with four points in two games (three goals, one assist). Although he missed some time in December due to a shoulder injury, it hasn’t stopped him from leading the Sens with 35 points in 34 games and being a force on special teams. Stützle was a third-overall pick for a reason, as the 20-year-old continues to be a player to watch as he develops.
The Washington Capitals had a slow start to the season and found themselves out of a Wild Card spot until the second week of December. Since then, they have posted a 12-2-3 record and are now the eighth-best team in the NHL. Washington scored the most goals of any team in December (60), thanks to the ageless Alex Ovechkin having another career year. Combining that with Evgeny Kuznetsov and newcomers like Sonny Milano making a difference, the Caps are a team to watch to make a run.
Although it might be tough to beat out the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres finally have a chance to break their 11-year playoff drought. Buffalo has a 9-3-1 record as of Dec. 1 and beat some of the league’s best in that span with victories over the Capitals, Boston Bruins, and Vegas Golden Knights. With Tage Thompson being the second-best goal-scorer in the NHL (30) and all of their top draft picks, like Owen Power and Dylan Cozens, making noise, the Sabres are the team to keep an eye on as they are currently six points out of the final Wild Card spot. If they stay hot, anything can happen.
One of the more surprising teams of the season has been the Seattle Kraken. They quickly became one of the most exciting playoff-hopeful clubs because of the contributions of Calder Trophy favorite Matty Beniers, newcomer André Burakovsky, and Jordan Eberle. However, they cooled off to a 4-7-1 record in December after starting the year on a 10-1-1 run. However, they won three-straight games in the new year and are third-best in the Pacific Division with 46 points. Luckily, their cold spell was not enough to bounce them out of a playoff spot, but they are a team to watch to see if they can uphold their status and make it to the postseason for the first time in their sophomore season.
Connor or Connor?
Connor Bedard’s dominant, gold medal-winning showing for Canada at the World Junior Championship has answered some questions and raised others. In scoring nine goals and 14 assists in seven games while earning tournament MVP honors, Bedard put a rest to any lingering mystery surrounding who would go first in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. One question that remains, however: how good is this kid?
Perhaps we’re just caught up in Bedard-mania here. However, it feels like the 17-year-old is entering the league amidst somewhat unprecedented hype and could already be one of its most coveted commodities. Is it ridiculous to think he might be a more appealing franchise cornerstone than his namesake Connor McDavid? Maybe, but such a comparison is also kind of fun! So, who would you rather have if you were starting a team today?
The Argument for Bedard
Yes, we realize it’s crazy to suggest teams might value a teenager higher than the best player in the world, but hear us out. We think of McDavid as still being young, but the soon-to-be 26-year-old is eight and a half years Bedard’s senior. There’s also the prospect of having an über-talented phenom on a rookie deal. If Bedard gets the same contract as reigning No. 1 overall pick Juraj Slafkovský ($950,000 this year), he will count for roughly $11.5 million less against the cap.
The Argument for McDavid
McDavid has led the NHL in points four times—Bedard hasn’t. McDavid has won two Hart and four Art Ross trophies—Bedard hasn’t. While Bedard prompts comparisons to the likes of Mario Lemieux, McDavid is producing at a pace that has been missing since Super Mario retired. The high end of Bedard’s future projections is what McDavid already is as a player.
The Argument Against Bedard
No matter how generational a prospect you are, there are no guarantees when playing in the NHL. Players like McDavid, Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby were once generational prospects, but so were Vincent Lecavalier and Alexandre Daigle. Bedard has passed every test with flying colors thus far, but there are no promises it will pan out at the next level.
The Argument Against McDavid
For all the accolades mentioned above, team success hasn’t matched the individual achievements of the Edmonton Oilers superstar. Bedard could only wish to be so lucky as to have Leon Draisaitl, arguably the league’s second-best player, as a teammate. But even eight years of the McDavid-Draisaitl tandem in Edmonton has produced no better than last year’s Western Conference Final sweep at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.
MSk8 Debate 💬
Morning Skate is wrapping up after almost two years of bringing you the latest hockey news, rumors, quizzes, and funnies. As we reflect on our time at the MSk8, we look back on what this newsletter has meant to us:
Ben: If you’ve been reading us for a while (and thank you for your support if you have!!), then you’ve come to expect a light, breezy bit of random hockey fun in your inbox five times a week. What you don’t see is the creative process, the exchange of ideas, and—not insignificantly—the many late nights as we put together segments that are topical, relevant, and full of up-to-date information. I want to thank Kyle and Kristy for being my linemates since day one and Brooke as the impact addition that brought a fresh dose of energy into what we do here. I hope you had as much fun reading this newsletter every morning as we did making it!
Brooke: I loved collaborating with this team to show the best side of hockey. Hockey can be stressful and sometimes brutal, but it’s important to remember the game is fun! Getting the opportunity to tap into the quirky side of the game to help readers get to know the players better on and off the ice with their different antics and personalities made me appreciate the NHL, as well as Ben, Kristy, and Kyle, more than ever before. I’m grateful for it all and the readers for making it possible.
Kristy: Sports bring people together, and I am grateful the newsletter brought Kyle, Ben, and Brooke into my life. They are some of the most creative people I have met since starting my sports media journey, and I have learned so much from each of them. It’s been a fun journey, and I can’t thank you enough for spending your mornings with us these past two seasons!
Kyle: It still amazes me that this newsletter we sent to six people on April 26, 2021, and 28 the following day now reaches 3,353 loyal hockey fans. What is even more remarkable is the connections I made along the way. While I cannot begin to thank Kristy, Ben, and Pat (yes, he still reads this) enough for their time, energy, investment, and encouragement as we launched, I hope they know how much they mean to me. And although Brooke was a recent addition to the family, she fit in like a 15-year veteran picked up at the deadline! Finally, thank you, our readers, for supporting this newsletter and allowing me to share my love for this sport for the past 393 issues.
NHL’s Leading Scorers
Today’s NHL Schedule
- Today’s newsletter was edited by Kyle Knopp, with contributions by Ben Fisher, Kristy Flannery, and Brooke LoFurno.
- Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here.
- Give us a hand spreading the Morning Skate! Please forward this email to a hockey-loving friend today.
- Want more ways to talk hockey with The Hockey Writers? Join the discussion on Discord!