November 21 — Appreciation in the Atlantic & Grand Gifts

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

NOT QUITE WRIGHT: After being a healthy scratch in 11 of the Kraken’s first 18 games, Seattle sent Shane Wright down to the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds on a conditioning loan. Suffice it to say that most 18-year-olds are probably more excited to head to Coachella than Wright. 

EHLERS OUT INDEFINITELY: Winnipeg will be without the services of Nikolaj Ehlers for the foreseeable future. The dynamic forward is set for surgery to repair a sports hernia and will be out indefinitely, delivering a tough blow for the 10-5-1 Jets.

BUFFALO CLAIMS JOST: On Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres claimed forward Tyson Jost off waivers from the Minnesota Wild. Jost was a healthy scratch for the Wild for three games before being placed on waivers, registering three assists in 12 games. A fresh start will be good for the 24-year-old, who had two goals and nine points in 33 games with the Wild over the last two seasons. 

HOSSA GOES TO THE RAFTERS: Sunday saw the Chicago Blackhawks retire Marián Hossa’s No. 81 ahead of their matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center. Hossa spent eight seasons with the Blackhawks and won three Stanley Cups with the organization in 2010, 2013, and 2015. 

MALKIN HIM EMOTIONAL: Yesterday’s Penguins at Blackhawks game was also the 1,000th NHL game for Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin. Malkin recorded the second goal of the contest, as long-time teammate Sidney Crosby had four points (goal, three assists) to lead the Pens to a 5-3 victory. 

1,000 Games Has Its Perks

Here’s to veteran Minnesota Wild defenseman Alex Goligoski, who’s been in and out of the lineup this season but celebrated his 1,000th NHL game (technically 1,002nd) in style by delivering the game-winning OT winner in a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. What Goligoski described as a “crazy, emotional night” started in pretty sweet fashion for the 37-year-old, with the Wild gifting him a Polaris ATV.

Alex Goligoski, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In doing so, Minnesota followed the recent trend of teams going above and beyond to pay tribute to their players who reached the 1,000-game plateau. So, how does Goligoski’s new ATV stack up? Let’s look at recent gifts delivered to those who achieved the much-celebrated four-digit benchmark of longevity in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby’s career hasn’t been short on celebratory moments, and Feb. 20, 2021, was no exception. Sid the Kid’s 1,000th game was feted with emotional video messages from Mario Lemieux, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. Gift-wise, Crosby was presented with a Rolex, a photo mosaic with each of his first 1,000 games represented, and, as per tradition, a silver stick. To highlight his impact on Pittsburgh, mayor William Peduto declared it “Sidney Crosby Day.”

Marc-Édouard Vlasic

If you’re searching for the most-unique gift among the recent 1,000 gamers, you probably want to look to San Jose, where Marc-Édouard Vlasic was the recipient of a hydrofoil surfboard—or foilboard—back in Feb. 2020. For those curious, a foilboard is a surfboard that features a battery-powered lifting surface that extends below the water. Vlasic also got his silver stick and a large bottle of champagne, but the foilboard stands out.

Patrice Bergeron

Becoming just the fifth player to reach 1,000 games for as storied a franchise as the Boston Bruins is worth celebrating, so it’s no surprise that the organization went big for Patrice Bergeron’s 2019 ceremony at TD Garden. The lifelong Bruins forward was honored with a 2011 Stanley Cup portrait, a crystal bowl presented by club legend Johnny Bucyk, and an all-expense paid family vacation to anywhere in the world, covered by his teammates. 

Phil Kessel

At this point, the new NHL ironman is probably used to being celebrated for showing up to work every day. About three years ago, Phil Kessel was honored by the Arizona Coyotes for surpassing 1,000 games in his career, netting a crystal plaque, a Rolex watch, and the silver stick. More recently, Kessel added a hilarious, custom-made “Phil the Thrill” jacket to the collection in celebration of hitting the 1,000 consecutive game mark.

What Almost Was

A story about when Seattle Kraken forward Yanni Gourde contemplated taking an offer from an ECHL team to continue his hockey career or calling it quits to pursue a civil engineering degree after going undrafted was recently released. After discussing his options with then-girlfriend (now wife) Marie-Andrée, Gourde chose the ECHL and worked his way to an AHL contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate, Syracuse Crunch. He eventually earned a call-up with the Lightning in 2014 and has now won two Stanley Cups while surpassing his 400th NHL game. He isn’t the only player to contemplate another career. Here are some NHL players who almost walked a different path. 

Arber Xhekaj

Montreal Canadiens rookie Arber Xhekaj is one of the more fascinating stories in hockey, as the 21-year-old defenseman shared his journey with The Athletic in November. After not getting featured on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s lists, three drafts went by without Xhekaj hearing his name. He entered a summer hockey camp hosted by Matt Turek, a four-on-four league that served as a last-ditch resort for not having anywhere to train. During his time with Turek, Xhekaj worked at Costco to pay for the camp—stocking shelves, operating the cash register, and collecting shopping carts. However, his Costco manager fired him because he was late most of the time coming from hockey, so Xhekaj got another job building tennis courts. Turek was part of the Canadiens’ amateur scouting team, saw the potential in Xhekaj, and made pitches to the Canadiens on his behalf. One year later, he made Montreal’s roster and has five points in 18 games.

Logan Thompson

Logan Thompson’s journey to the Vegas Golden Knights was unique because he made it to the NHL from Brock University in Canada. He told The Athletic that he thought his career was over after going undrafted four times while playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, so he was looking towards getting a degree in sports management. At the time, he also considered being an Uber Eats driver, but his car kept getting stuck on the icy roads during the winter. After winning the Ontario University Athletics West Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in one season at Brock (2018-19), he received an ECHL contract from the Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils affiliate). Thompson took the offer because he didn’t want to have any regrets and wanted to say he tried, even if it didn’t work out. Now, he is the starting goaltender for the Golden Knights with a 9-3-0 record in 12 games for the third-best team in the NHL. 

Tyler Johnson

Chicago Blackhawks forward Tyler Johnson played for the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL for four years (2007-11) and won many accolades, including MVP during the WHL playoffs, top defensive forward, and best skater. Yet, he went undrafted due to being 5-foot-8. Becoming discouraged, Johnson thought about quitting hockey to pursue a career as a nurse anesthetist. However, he explained that his dad encouraged him to keep going, which motivated him. Johnson signed as a free agent with the Lightning in 2011, joining Gourde as a two-time Stanley Cup Champion. 

Brandon Hagel

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brandon Hagel had an unlucky start to his career. After being selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft, they chose not to sign him, making him a free agent. He said he felt crushed, but Brent Sutter, the assistant general manager and scout for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL, told him it wasn’t too late. They came up with an offseason regimen of things he could do to improve his game, so he could have a standout final year with the Rebels, hoping to entice more NHL offers. Hagel still had this last chance but was planning on taking pre-requisite classes, enrolling in college, and studying to become a teacher if it didn’t pan out. That year he had 102 points in 66 games and signed as a free agent with the Blackhawks in Oct. 2018. Now, Hagel is on the Lightning’s first line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. 

What Teams Are Thankful For – Atlantic Division

It’s Thanksgiving week in the States! That time of year when families gather together and pretend to tolerate each other while they stuff their faces with turkey and mashed potatoes. In keeping with the holiday spirit, this week we break down what each NHL team is thankful for—starting with the Atlantic Division.

Boston Bruins: TD Garden & the Home Crowd

Home sweet home indeed for Jim Montgomery and his team. The Bruins officially tied the NHL record for most consecutive wins at home to start a season at 11-0-0. Jeremy Swayman met with the media and said, “Boston fans are the best in the league, so we want to make sure that we’re winning at home and that we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.” 

Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews

This past summer, the Maple Leafs forward won the first Hart Trophy of his career after scoring 60 goals last season. Like the past few seasons, Toronto is near the top of its division with no real worry that the Leafs won’t make the playoffs for a seventh consecutive time. It won’t be until spring that the familiar anxious feeling will creep in across the 6ix as they hope Matthews can lead his team to a Cup. You’ll be in our thoughts, Toronto fans!

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Past Few Seasons

Vitamin C sang the lyrics, “as we go on / we remember / all the times, we / had together / and as our lives change / come whatever / we will still be / friends forever.” Over the summer, the Lightning lost two significant pieces in Ondřej Palát and Ryan McDonagh. After reaching the Stanley Cup Final three consecutive times, it feels like their dominant reign could be nearing its end, but don’t cry because it’s over—smile because it happened. 

Detroit Red Wings: Steve Yzerman

The Red Wings have a record of 9-5-4 and are currently in the first Wild Card spot. Detroit had a busy summer that brought in Ville Husso, Dominik Kubalik, and Ben Chiarot. The “Yzerplan” is set in motion as the organization seems closer to the end of its rebuild. Is Detroit currently a Cup-contending team? No. Can they surprise some people by making a push for the playoffs? Absolutely. 

Florida Panthers: Matthew Tkachuk

After all the commotion about the Matthew Tkachuk trade, we pick the 24-year-old. Florida gave up everything but the kitchen sink to get the former Calgary Flames forward, and thankfully, it’s been working out as he leads the Panthers with 17 assists and 25 points in 17 games. There may have been that little suspension earlier this month, but he has more than made up for it, as he is on a five-game point streak. 

Montreal Canadiens: Caufield – Suzuki – Dach

Montreal’s top line has been an absolute delight. The young trio has combined for 58 points and has been a bright spot for their team, which is currently out of the playoff picture. The Canadiens are young and have been playing some exciting hockey, including a 7-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues and a 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. They may be a long shot for the postseason, but having an explosive top line will keep the Bell Centre rocking for the rest of the season.

Buffalo Sabres: Tage Thompson’s Production

The 2021-22 campaign was a breakout season for Tage Thompson, who collected 68 points in 78 games. Buffalo rewarded him for his impressive season by signing him to a seven-year contract worth $50 million. It was a big gamble on a player who had 35 combined points over the prior four seasons. However, it is currently paying off, as the 25-year-old has 22 points in 18 games, including a hat trick against Detroit. Keep proving those haters wrong, Tage!

Ottawa Senators: Ryan Reynolds

Two things to note here—first is the Ottawa Senators have been a disappointment after their stellar offseason of acquiring Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat. Secondly, when are we not grateful for Ryan Reynolds? Perhaps if we all pull our money together, we can collectively be the sugar mommies and daddies he needs to purchase the Senators. 

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