On Tap For Today — Chicago at New Jersey; 7:00 pm EDT; NHLN, TVAS, MSG+, NBCSCH | Vancouver at Philadelphia; 7:00 pm EDT; SN1, NBCSP | Minnesota at Anaheim; 7:00 pm PDT; ESPN+, HULU
TKA-CHING: A few hours before the home opener against their rival Toronto Maple Leafs, the Ottawa Senators agreed to terms with restricted free agent Brady Tkachuk on a seven-year, $57.5 million contract. This deal locks in a key part of the Sens’ future through 2027-28. No word on whether Matthew Tkachuk will demand $57.6 million when he also becomes an RFA next summer.
BIG FOUR: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals in his team’s season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He completed the hat trick in the 2nd period of play and added one more in the early minutes of the third. Although Bertuzzi took the early lead in the Rocket Richard race, the Lightning scored the final goal—in overtime.
DOUBLE THE HATS: Shortly after Bertuzzi scored the first hat trick of the 2021-22 NHL season, Anže Kopitar scored three goals of his own. Kopitar also added two assists to one-up Bertuzzi on the night, notching five points in the Los Angeles Kings’ 6-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
PULOCK HIM IN: Who is handling the New York Islanders’ finances? Yesterday, they signed defenseman Ryan Pulock to an eight-year extension worth a little under $50 million. The defensive pairing of Pulock and Adam Pelech may be underrated but is slowly building a name for itself after back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final.
Let’s take a minute and review some of our favorite NHL moments of the week.
The Comeback Kid
On April 28, 2021, it was announced Jonathan Drouin was going to take a leave of absence from the Montreal Canadiens without any further explanation. A few weeks ago, he revealed he was battling anxiety and insomnia, and after months away from the rink, he returned to the ice for the Canadiens’ season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Within minutes of the start of the first period, Drouin scored the opening goal of Montreal’s season. On Wednesday night, redemption was spelled D-R-O-U-I-N.
Pursuit of Happyness
Washington Capitals fans had 732 reasons to be excited about their team’s home opener. Yet, I don’t think anyone was more excited than Hendrix Lapierre. In the course of one night, he scored the first goal of his NHL career in addition to celebrating his idol’s milestone—on the bench—as his teammate. The cherry on top was seeing T.J. Oshie go full-on proud-dad on the ice after Lapierre’s goal.
I Am McTavish
You better McLieve it, Mason McTavish made his NHL debut in a big way. The young 18-year-old earned two points during his NHL debut on Wednesday night, including a goal to become the youngest goalscorer in Anaheim Ducks history. He was selected third overall in the 2021 NHL Draft and wasted no time making an impression. Will Anaheim, dare I say it, be decent this year?
The Kids Are Alright
The Seattle Kraken made their long-awaited NHL debut, while the schedule maker had some fun letting the two newest NHL teams battle each other in the season opener. Within those 60 minutes, fans learned this Kraken team may be down, but never out. Seattle erased a 3-0 deficit, all while looking like fire in those jerseys, and although they may have lost the game the Kraken put up a good fight until the end. Who else is counting down to the home opener?
Shouldn’t You Be in School??
Wednesday night saw not one, but two teenagers score a goal in their team’s season opener. 18-year-old Mason McTavish helped his Anaheim Ducks roll over the Winnipeg Jets 4-1, while 19-year-old Hendrix Lapierre contributed to a 5-1 Washington Capitals’ victory on a night when Alex Ovechkin passed Marcel Dionne for the fifth-most goals in NHL history.
Having two of the league’s youngest players score in their first games deserves a closer look, so let’s compare and contrast a pair of exciting starts to what are hopefully bright, successful hockey careers ahead!
Path to the Opening Night Roster
McTavish, the 2021 No. 3 overall pick, probably had an inside track on a roster spot anyway for the lowly Ducks, but that didn’t stop him from earning his place throughout training camp. Meanwhile, 2020 first-rounder Lapierre, on the other hand, was a much longer shot but forced his way into the lineup with a team-high five preseason points.
McTavish scored what would turn out to be the game-winner for Anaheim, helping build a 2-0 first-period lead before adding an assist in the second. Lapierre’s goal, which ended with a slam into the boards, came just 24 seconds after teammate Justin Schultz had already given the Caps a 2-0 lead.
Cherry on Top
Each player’s goal is made more incredible through context. McTavish hit the record books as the youngest player to score a goal in Anaheim franchise history, while Lapierre potted his first on a record-breaking day for Ovechkin, his boyhood idol and current teammate.
Oh, Did I Mention?
Surely both men will take creative liberties when re-telling the story of their first goal in the years to come, but the additional details of each one are legitimately cool. McTavish notched his first against 2020 Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck, while Lapierre’s just happened to come during the first-ever NHL broadcast on TNT.
The busy night also saw Calder hopeful Bowen Byram tally his first career goal for the Colorado Avalanche, but he aged out of his teens back in June, rendering him positively ancient for the purpose of this exercise.