October 20 — Canadian Casualties & an AHL Attitude

On Tap For Today — Boston at Philadelphia; 7:30 pm EDT; TNT, SN1 | St. Louis at Vegas; 7:00 pm PDT; TNT, TVAS

Last Night’s News 📰

GET WELL, BOSSY: NHL Hall of Famer Mike Bossy has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Bossy announced his battle in an open letter on the website of French-language broadcaster TVA Sports, explaining why he was stepping away from his hockey analyst role with the network. We at Morning Skate wish the New York Islanders’ legend all the best in his cancer fight.

SURPRISING SABRES: The Buffalo Sabres beat the Vancouver Canucks, 5-2, to remain undefeated, winning their first three games of the season. Zemgus Girgensons and Colin Miller currently lead the team with four points each. After years of disappointment, I hope Buffalo fans are enjoying the moment—it may be fleeting.

100? 200? 1200!?: Anthony Mantha notched his 100th career NHL goal in the Capitals’ decisive victory over the Avalanche. Not to be outdone, Leon Draisaitl scored twice, including his 200th career goal and added two helpers in the Oilers’ 6-5 win over Anaheim. Finally, Alexander Ovechkin laced up his skates for his 1200th career NHL game last night, all with the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin has only missed 42 games in his 17-year career.

By the Numbers: Alexander Ovechkin

Alexander Ovechkin is on a mission this season. One of the greatest goalscorers to ever play the game appeared in his 1200th NHL game last night against the Colorado Avalanche. While you sip your morning coffee, let’s take a minute and appreciate the career of the “Great Eight” by the numbers.

Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin scoring his 700th goal, Feb. 22, 2020 (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

734: Number of career goals Ovechkin has scored throughout his career. The 6-foot-3 Russian is on a mission to break Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 and has begun this season on the right foot. In three games, he has notched four goals, including the goal that put him in sole possession of fifth place for most career goals.

17: Number of seasons Ovechkin has played in the NHL, all with the Washington Capitals. He has skated in 96.6 percent of all Capitals games since his debut in October 2005. The 36-year-old forward is a future Hall of Famer and is one of the best ever to put on a Washington Capitals jersey.

9: Number of Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies presented to Ovechkin. He has won the title of leading goal scorer in the league nine times, which is the most wins by one player in the history of the trophy. Ovechkin also took home the honors four times in a row from 2013 to 2016. With the way he has started this season, he may be in the running once again.

3: Number of Hart Trophies Ovechkin has won, awarded to the most valuable player in the league. He took home the honors in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009, and again in 2013. The 2004 first-overall pick has been a superstar in the league since he won the Calder Trophy following his rookie season.

1: It took one Stanley Cup to silence the doubters. During the 2017-18 season, Ovechkin led the Capitals to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Ovechkin put up 15 goals and 27 points in 24 postseason games to usher his team to the Cup and capture his only Conn Smythe. His Stanley Cup celebration was one for the ages and well worth the wait.

How Weren’t They Selected? 🇨🇦

With news that Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sam Girard will not be included among the 55 players that Team Canada will choose from for the 2022 Bejing Olympics, it poses an interesting question: how many NHL players should have been selected to the Canadian Olympic team that weren’t in years past?

Throughout the past 30 years, there have been countless instances of certain player types getting favored over more skilled players. Below are three Canadians who should have cracked the national team but were left at home for whatever reason.

Martin St. Louis – 2014

Nov. 2010: Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Icon SMI)

Wait a minute, Martin St. Louis played for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, so how does he make this list? Looking back at history, he wasn’t initially selected to the Canadian roster by then-general manager Steve Yzerman. Yzerman was also St. Louis’ general manager with the Tampa Bay Lightning during this time, causing a lot of tension in the Lightning locker room. Yzerman ended up adding St. Louis to the roster after Steven Stamkos broke his leg weeks before the tournament. St. Louis would ultimately request a trade from the Lightning prior to the trade deadline following this debacle and helped lead the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final that same year.

Sidney Crosby – 2006

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Wayne Gretzky was the general manager of the 2006 Canadian Olympic team and made quite a few head-scratching decisions that did not age well. Sidney Crosby was still a rookie when the rosters were finalized, and there wasn’t a big sample size of his performance yet. However, he put up 102 points in his rookie season and was one of the best players in the NHL the second he stepped on the ice. Inserting Detroit Red Wings Kris Draper into the lineup over Crosby will always be a strange decision, but Gretzky wanted experience over skill.

Mark Messier – 1998

Mark Messier, formerly of the New York Rangers (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)

NHL players participated in their first Olympic games in 1998, and it was expected that Gretzky would be reunited with his former Oilers teammate. Instead, then-general manager Bobby Clarke opted to select defensive specialist Rob Zamuner over Mark Messier, which didn’t bode well for Canada. Although Messier was past his prime at this point, he was still one of the better players in the league. Leaving Messier off the roster and naming 24-year-old Eric Lindros team captain over Gretzky were two of the main reasons Canada failed to medal in the tournament.

So That’s Where He Is!

Last Friday, the American Hockey League took to the ice for what it hopes is its first full season since 2018-19. That means renewed opportunities for young NHL hopefuls, but also for familiar names grinding for another shot at the big time. In fact, you might recognize some of these players suiting up on AHL rosters this season. Let’s take a closer look at some of the notables trying to work their way back:

Brett Connolly

A veteran of more than 500 NHL games, Brett Connolly cleared waivers within the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization and is now plying his trade with the Rockford IceHogs. Believe it or not, he’s just three years removed from posting a 22-goal season en route to a Stanley Cup championship with the Washington Capitals.

Brett Connolly with the Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Keith Kinkaid

It was Keith Kinkaid who backstopped the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs in 2017-18, their only postseason appearance in the last 10 years. Filling in for an injured Cory Schneider, Kinkaid went 26-10-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average (GAA) and .913 save percentage (SV%). Now, the 32-year-old is trying to prove himself all over again as a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Former New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Julio Cortez)

Matt Moulson

30. 31. 36. Those were Matt Moulson’s goal totals as a member of the New York Islanders between 2009-10 and 2011-12. But just as quickly as Moulson developed into an elite goal scorer, the now 37-year-old saw his production drop off dramatically. Credit the left winger, though, as he continues to soldier on in his 17th pro season and fifth straight in the AHL.

Matt Moulson with the Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)