Last Night’s News 📰
JACK IS BACK: For the first time since having surgery on Nov. 12, Jack Eichel is back on the ice. The 25-year-old center recently had artificial disk replacement (ADR) surgery in his neck three weeks ago and looks to be on track to return in mid-February.
SWEATER WEATHER: Yesterday, both the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning debuted their jerseys for the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series. Both sweaters were designed by Adidas with enlarged “stadium-sized” logos for the outdoor game, which will take place on Feb. 26 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
HOCKEY IS FOR EVERYONE: This weekend, the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association’s (CCYHA) Blue Jackets Special Hockey program will host the third annual USA Hockey Special Hockey Classic. Former Blue Jackets star forward Rick Nash will be on hand for the ceremonial puck drop, as 13 teams will take part in the round-robin tournament.
Let’s look back at some of our favorite moments from this past week:
Let’s Go Baby
On Tuesday night, the Devils got a key piece of their puzzle back. After missing 17 games, Jack Hughes returned from a dislocated left shoulder. It was a big night for the 20-year-old forward, as he signed an eight-year extension earlier in the day worth $64 million. New Jersey has now successfully locked up Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton this season, leading to a good week for fans in the Garden State.
Matthews Contributes On and Off the Ice
Auston Matthews set out to raise $134,000 throughout the month of November for Movember—a charity that encourages supporters to grow facial hair to raise awareness for men’s health, including prostate cancer. He successfully raised $148,832 and, as promised, shaved his “trademark” moustache. On Dec. 1, a clean-shaven Matthews scored a hat trick in front of the home crowd and propelled his team to an 8-3 victory.
Howlin’ For You
The Arizona Coyotes shut out the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, securing the fifth win of their season. Antoine Roussel scored the lone goal of the game and Karel Vejmelka made 46 saves for Arizona to secure the victory. Not much has gone right for the Coyotes and, with rumors swirling about a potential relocation, it was great for fans to celebrate the on-ice performance.
Making Their Case
As of Saturday, we will be exactly two months away from the opening ceremonies of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. There’s a lot that has to happen between now and then to even guarantee that the NHL will participate, but national team executives are planning for NHLers to be available, so we at Morning Skate will, too.
Since the start of the season, there has been no shortage of players raising their stock for possible Olympic consideration. Below are four players who weren’t even mentioned in Tony Wolak’s pre-season roster projections, but have forced their way into the conversation with some red hot early season play.
Jack Campbell – United States
It’s been quite the climb for Jack Campbell over the first quarter of the season, going from tandem duty with Petr Mrázek in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ net to the early Vezina conversation. Connor Hellebuyck probably has the starting role between the pipes for the US locked down, but Campbell could give John Gibson, Thatcher Demko, and Jonathan Quick a run for the backup position.
Nazem Kadri – Canada
There has been some Olympic buzz surrounding Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane on the always-deep Canadian squad, but Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri may be the better fit. There’ll be some understandable trepidation from the Team Canada brass for a player with two bone-headed postseason suspensions for dirty plays on his record. This season, however, the pending unrestricted free agent has 29 points in 19 games, all while playing with a newfound maturity without losing his gritty edge.
Jonathan Dahlén – Sweden
Among an intriguing rookie class, Jonathan Dahlén doesn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd. Quietly, however, the San Jose Sharks center ranks second in the rookie goal-scoring race, behind the Detroit Red Wings Lucas Raymond. The skilled 23-year-old could be a candidate for Olympic inclusion just to gain valuable experience, alone. Maybe then, someone outside of San Jose and the Dahlén family will finally know who he is.
Troy Terry – United States
Arguably, no one has improved their fortunes in terms of Olympic candidacy as much as Troy Terry this season, but that’s what happens when you record a point in 16 straight games. While the 23-year-old might still seem like a reach among a loaded American forward corps, Terry boasts the hot hand and has the youth to at least be intriguing.
Every NHL team, besides the New York Islanders, has played at least 20 games to begin the season, giving a good sample size to evaluate a player’s performance. Often, players that are struggling to produce to their standards are the major storylines, so let’s look at some players that are having bounce-back seasons.
At 32 years old, Holtby is rebounding after a pitiful stint In Vancouver that saw him post a 7-11-3 record, with a 3.67 goals-against average (GAA) and an .889 save percentage (SV%), which was a career-low for him. After his play was trending downward the past couple of seasons, it appeared that he was going to struggle to maintain an NHL roster spot.
Instead, Holtby has become a steady netminder for the Dallas Stars, where he signed a one-year contract worth $2 million. He currently is boasting a 2.30 GAA and .927 SV% through eight starts so far, his best stat line since 2016-17.
This is a different situation than most other players, as Larkin had previously played on a Detroit Red Wings team that struggled to produce offensively. He hit a career-low in terms of his points per 60 (P/60) last season, only scoring at a prorated 43 points over an 82-game season.
However, with the additions of Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, along with the superstar production of Tyler Bertuzzi, Larkin has played like an elite center so far. The 25-year-old from Michigan currently has 10 goals and 21 points in 20 games so far, while continuing to look solid at both ends of the ice.
Like Larkin, Grandlund’s situation is truly unique. He was a great player with the Minnesota Wild and had to adapt to a new role with the Nashville Predators. His offensive game suffered and he was moved to the wing, where he struggled to find his identity after spending his career as a center.
However, the resurgence of Matt Duchene has been the storyline in Nashville this season, but it’s happening because of Granlund’s play. He currently has five goals and 25 points in 22 games, while his rapid scoring pace shows no signs of slowing down—including a four-assist game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.