May 7 – Awards, Mania & Canadian Gold

Editor’s Note

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Thursday’s Tap-in

34 GETS 40: Auston Matthews tallied his 40th goal of the season Thursday — in just 49 games, no less — and has now scored in five straight. He gets to go for No. 41 on Saturday against Montreal.

DOUBLE WHAMMY: The New York Rangers were fined $250k for a statement made on Tuesday suggesting that the NHL Head of Player Safety, George Parros, should be fired over his (inconceivable) refusal to discipline Tom Wilson. Just hours later, forward Pavel Buchnevich was suspended one game for high-sticking Anthony Mantha in Wednesday night’s contest. Just… Ouch.

McHUNDRED UPDATES: Connor McDavid recorded three more assists in Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Canucks, bringing his total up to 96 points with four games left to play.

Red, White & Gold

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — Canada has won hockey gold. The 2021 IIHF Men’s Ice Hockey U18 World Championship tournament was dominated by the play of underage forwards, Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov.

In true dramatic fashion, the tournament culminated with Team Canada and Bedard battling Russia and Michkov for gold on Thursday night. Both the 15-year-old Bedard and 16-year-old Michkov scored in a thrilling affair that resulted in a 5-3 triumph for Canada, the country’s first gold medal in the men’s tournament since 2013.

While the play of the two young superstars brought on comparisons of Sidney Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin, it was Team Canada captain, Shane Wright, who led the way with two goals and added an assist on Logan Stankoven’s second period game winner. Wright finished the tournament with nine goals and five assists for 14 points in only five games, tied with Bedard and two shy of Michkov who was voted tournament MVP.

All told, the Frisco, Texas-based IIHF tournament served as a scintillating preview of hockey’s future. We will likely be talking about this event as the dawn of the Bedard versus Michkov rivalry, as they are shoo-ins for the first and second overall picks in the 2023 NHL Draft. While Michkov took home the individual accolades, round one — and the gold — goes to Bedard.

U-18 Men’s World Championship – Finals

Gold:  Canada 5 – 3  Russia

Bronze:  Finland 0 – 8  Sweden

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

Michkov Mania

The 2021 U18 Men’s World Championships got people buzzing about the NHL Draft — the 2023 NHL Draft. Part of that has to do with the exploits of Canadian phenom Connor Bedard, but Russia’s Matvei Michkov has a major role to play in that excitement as well.

Already generating lofty media hype, the 16-year-old’s 12 goals at the tournament were four better than any other player — and the most by a Russian since Ovechkin scored 14 in 2002. They weren’t exactly junk goals, either.

Alex Ovechkin posted 14 goals and 4 assists for 18 points as a 16-year-old at the U18 World Championships (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Among those 12, Michkov served up an eye-popping four-goal performance against Germany in the preliminary round that included a lacrosse-style score. He followed that up by tallying three points — including scoring the opening goal — in Thursday’s gold medal game.

Michkov and the Russians eventually had to settle for silver at the tournament, but you certainly haven’t heard the last from this teen.

Get to the Hardware Store

Who’s ready for some awards?! Sure, we still have the entire NHL playoffs to get through before any honors are handed out, but remember, the league’s awards are based on regular season performances. Feel free to seek out as many opinions as you want — and there are plenty out there to choose from — but here’s our take on the players most likely to add a little more bling to their trophy case.

Calder Trophy: The Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov is likely to be crowned as the league’s top rookie after posting 47 points in a freshman campaign that has impressed his teammates. Honorable Mention: Dallas Stars forward Jason Robertson has been fun to watch — putting up 43 points as a rookie — all while making it look easy.

Norris Trophy: The Rangers’ Adam Fox is just 23-year-old, but he sure looks like he’s been doing this a long time. His overall output is ahead of both Washington’s John Carlson and Tampa’s Victor Hedman (who, let’s be honest, is probably going to win) — but figure this: Fox has three more points, 24 more takeaways, and 19 more blocks than Hedman, all while averaging roughly the same amount of ice time. Honorable Mention: Hedman, of course, who’s the favorite to win his second Norris. He has finished in the top-3 in voting each season since 2016-17.

Vezina Trophy: Though we’ve seen late pushes from Nashville’s Juuse Saros and Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy should win — backstopping his team to yet another fantastic season without missing a beat. Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins (31), goalie point share (9.5) and is third with a .928 save percentage (behind Alex Nedeljkovic and Semyon Varlamov). Honorable Mention: Fleury, who showed all of last off-season’s critics where they could kindly shove their mock trades.

Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid. Honorable Mention: Connor McDavid. (Keep your “Matthews has made it close” arguments to yourself. It’s not, and The Great One has spoken.)