Last Night’s News 📰
TALKIN’ BOUT PRACTICE?: That’s right, practice! After training facilities were closed last Saturday due to COVID protocols, the New York Islanders returned to practice Wednesday ahead of their game tonight against the San Jose Sharks. Two games were postponed during the shutdown (Sunday at NYR & Tuesday at PHI) and have yet to be rescheduled.
LIP SERVICE: Auston Matthews lived up to his promise on Wednesday and shaved off his moustache after exceeding his goal of $134,000 raised for Movember. The streamlined look seemed to work for him, as he notched the fourth hat trick in his career against the Colorado Avalanche.
DETROIT’S DARLING DUO: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Detroit Red Wings have some really good rookies! Led by 20-year-old defenseman Moritz Seider throughout the month of October, 19-year-old winger Lucas Raymond continued the trend with a Rookie of the Month performance of his own in November. Raymond posted five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 14 games, as the duo became the first pair of teammates to earn back-to-back honors since Matthews and Mitch Marner in 2016-17.
BACK IN BLACK: It was a comeback for the ages for Team Canada Black, who gave up the tie-breaking goal to Team Canada Red with only 29 seconds remaining on the clock. However, with their goalie pulled, Calum Ritchie found Zach Benson to tie the game and force overtime with one second left in regulation. Ritchie would go on to seal the gold medal in the Capital City Challenge for Team Black, scoring off a turnover in overtime.
Top-Shelf Thursday – Top-3 Fantasy Pickups
Each year before the season begins, fans gather to put together their fantasy teams. Some pick players on a whim, while others prepare for days or even weeks. Now that fans have seen a sample size from their initial selections, it’s time to shake up their rosters, especially those that have been a disappointment or others stuck on injured reserve. Here are three players fans should consider picking up if they are still available.
#3 Marcus Foligno – Minnesota Wild
Marcus Foligno has scored a point in four of his last five games and is on a current three-game point streak. He may fly a bit under the radar, but his nine goals are tied with Joel Eriksson Ek for second-best on the team behind Ryan Hartman. Foligno is a player who seems to do everything right, so you may want to consider swapping him in for Kaapo Kakko or Mathew Barzal.
#2 Tage Thompson – Buffalo Sabres
It’s safe to say most people didn’t select a Sabres player during their fantasy draft. If you’re someone who is looking to change up your roster, Tage Thompson may be just the player for your team. He has 10 goals and 16 points in 22 games, two more points than he had in 38 games last season. This appears to be his breakout year, so you might as well reap the benefits of having him on your team.
#1 Andreas Johnsson – New Jersey Devils
In 50 games with the Devils last season, Andreas Johnsson had five goals and 11 points. This season, he has nine goals and 18 points in 20 games, leading the team in both categories. Ever since head coach Lindy Ruff put Johnsson on a line with Jesper Bratt and Dawson Mercer, his game has reached a whole new level.
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
On Wednesday, Hockey Canada released its list of 35 players invited to the National Team Selection Camp for the 2022 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship hosted in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. Whenever these lists come out, there is always controversy surrounding the players that were not included and how others were invited ahead of them. Let’s look at three players that the scouting community agrees should have been among this group of invitees.
The 18-year-old defender was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings with the eighth-overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft and has been a staple on the Barrie Colts blue line this season. Clarke is leading all defensemen in scoring with five goals and 23 points through 17 games in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Although it makes sense that he didn’t make the roster based on the team Hockey Canada is building and he’s younger than most of the players invited, it’s still quite surprising.
Clarke is mainly viewed as a power-play option, and since Owen Power and Olen Zellweger will be the guys Canada turns to for that role, it made him expendable. His defensive game still needs work, but he is excellent in transition and getting the puck into the offensive zone. If that ends up being an issue with this team, some tough questions will need to be asked of the Canadian management group.
Playing for the Flint Firebirds in the OHL, Othmann has 27 points in 17 games and has been a dominant player to begin the year. He was drafted by the New York Rangers with the 16th-overall selection in 2021 and has previous experience playing with the Canada Under-18 team, where he was part of a line that displayed sustained puck possession and had a knack for making skilled plays.
Canada has a lot of options, and at 18 years old, Othmann is still young, but this could come back to haunt the red and white if its offensive game drys up as the tournament grinds on.
Another member of the 2021 draft class, L’Heureux was taken by the Nashville Predators with the 27th-overall selection and, although in the same age group as Clarke and Othmann, plays a different style of game. He fits the player type that Canada’s management group is trying to assemble, playing a physical game while still contributing offensively.
However, L’Heureux’s physicality has been an issue in the past, which may have led to him being left off the roster. He was suspended for four games for unsportsmanlike conduct and removing a player’s helmet during the 2020-21 season.
Three in a Woe
For a guy with three goals to his name and who spent the weekend in the press box as a healthy scratch, Jake DeBrusk is surely getting some attention these days. The 25-year-old winger’s trade demand was confirmed by Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and has reportedly sparked interest from multiple teams around the league.
While we don’t know how the DeBrusk situation will play out in Boston, the trade request from the fifth-year forward offers a chance to look back on the club’s bewildering performance at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Armed with a trio of consecutive first-round picks and only a month into his GM tenure, Sweeney shockingly underwhelmed, a major blight on what is otherwise considered one of the league’s best front offices.
Holding the No. 14 pick in 2015, Sweeney’s first major move as GM saw the team send restricted free agent Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for the No. 15 selection and two second-rounders. That same day, Milan Lucic was traded to LA for Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and the No. 13 pick. Hence, three straight draft picks.
Not that order really matters when you know you have three selections in a row, but the Bruins picked Czech blueliner Jakub Zbořil, then DeBrusk, and, finally, winger Zach Senyshyn. While Zbořil was selected within his projected range, DeBrusk was a bit of a reach based on the mock drafts at that time and Senyshyn was an off-the-board surprise, expected to be taken deep in the second round.
As it turns out, no, Sweeney wasn’t simply smarter than everyone else. Zbořil still hasn’t potted his first NHL goal, as he struggles to stick around as a regular on the B’s blue line and only has 53 games to his credit. DeBrusk looks to be on the way out amidst production that has tailed off substantially the past two seasons. Senyshyn, meanwhile, has only amassed a couple cups of coffee in the league (14 games) and continues to more closely resemble a career minor-leaguer.
Who Came Next?
Time to look away, Bruins fans! For as good as the organization has been over the past few years (and more), how good would the likes of Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, or Thomas Chabot look in the spoked B? Incredibly, those were the next three players selected after Boston’s picks (Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, and Sebastian Aho were available as well). To Sweeney’s credit, the draft wasn’t a total loss, as the Bruins also added Brandon Carlo and Daniel Vladař in later rounds.
While a mid-first-round pick offers no superstar guarantee, a team should probably hit on at least one of three consecutive selections. Instead, Boston landed the 17th, 68th, and 84th-highest scoring players from the 2015 draft class (Carlo is 40th). Ouch.