April 29 – Byfield, NWHL & the Gagarin Cup

Wednesday’s Wheelhouse

HE LED WITH HIS CHIN-SKY: Sergei Tolchinsky scored the only goal in Game 6 of the KHL Gagarin Cup Final on Wednesday, as Avangard Omsk beat CSKA on Wednesday to claim its first-ever title. Time to come back, prospects!

MALKIN’S WALKIN: Penguins star Evgeni Malkin appears to be close to returning from a lower-body injury, as he practiced on Wednesday and will travel with the team on their next road trip. Just in time for the playoffs.

CAP IT OFF: The NWHL announced it would double the salary cap for the 2021-22 season – increasing it from $150,000 to $300,000 – a significant bump that highlights the league’s investment in its players.

And The Winner Is…

Last night’s edition of NWHL Open Ice was a special one, recapping the season while handing out some serious hardware. The 2020-21 season concluded back in late March after the Boston Pride became the first team to win the Isobel Cup twice, defeating the Minnesota Whitecaps.

According to the NWHL’s Web site, the the MVP and Denna Laing Awards are voted on by the players, and the Defender, Goaltender, and Rookie of the Year are chosen by a select panel of media. All previous award winners can be found here.

2021 NWHL Season Award Winners

  • MVP: Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto Six)
    • Nine points in six regular season games
  • Defender of the Year: Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston Pride)
    • Nine assists in seven games, +14, second consecutive win
  • Goalie of the Year: Amanda Leveille (Minnesota Whitecaps)
    • Two shutouts, .936 save percentage, two-time winner
  • Newcomer of the Year: Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto Six)
    • 61% faceoff percentage, also won MVP!
  • Denna Laing Award (For Perseverance): Saroya Tinker (Metropolitan Riveters).
    • Community activism, and one heck of a defender

Congrats to all of the nominees and winners, we can’t wait for next season!

Byfield Arrives in La La Land

When the Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years back in 2014, Quinton Byfield was still a couple months away from celebrating his 12th birthday. Now, the 2020 second overall pick has arrived in LA as an 18-year-old to make us all feel old and invigorate a Kings franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series since that last Cup triumph.

The club has the best prospect pipeline in the league and the former Sudbury Wolves superstar could be a foundational anchor for that group. His arrival also marks a clear “future is now” shift for the organization heading into 2021-22, a necessary transition for a team whose leading scorers this year are Anze Kopitar (age 33), Drew Doughty (31), and Dustin Brown (36).

Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Next year, a still-teenaged Byfield will not only remain Calder eligible and have yet to use up a year of his entry level contract, he’ll also have a couple of games under his belt at the NHL level.

With no disrespect to Justin Herbert of the LA Chargers, Byfield might just be the best young QB in Los Angeles!

Top-Shelf Thursday – Top-5 Hockey Movies

Who doesn’t love a good movie night? The absolute best combine our love for cinema and hockey. There are plenty of movies to select for your next rainy day marathon but below are the top five that every hockey fan needs to see (and eventually be able to quote).

5. Youngblood

Let me get this straight, hockey — in addition to Rob Lowe, Keanu Reeves, and Patrick Swayze? Where do I sign up? Lowe stars at Dean Youngblood who receives an offer to tryout for a junior league team and realizes proving himself is more important than winning.

4. Goon

The movie that introduced us to Doug “The Thug” Glatt. Sean William Scott, Liev Schreiber, and Kim Coates take you on a bloody and humorous journey that takes Doug from bouncer to enforcer for the Halifax Highlanders.

3. Mighty Ducks

If you grew up in the 90s, this movie was a staple of your childhood. Even if you don’t know anything about hockey or the NHL, you likely know the “Flying V.” The movie was so popular it inspired the name of the now Anaheim Ducks, who were then introduced to the NHL as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

2. Slap Shot

The true definition of a cult classic. This movie came out in 1977 and hilariously focuses on old-time, violent hockey. In 1998 Slap Shot was named the best “Guy Movie of All Time” by Maxim Magazine.

1. Miracle

This movie is cinematic gold. Kurt Russell does not get enough credit for literally becoming Herb Brooks. You’re the Grinch if your heart doesn’t grow three sizes by the end of this movie.

U-18 Men’s World Championship – Preliminary Round

 Czech Republic 5 – 6  Finland |  Canada 4 – 2  Latvia

Learn more about the IIHF U-18 Men’s World Championship here