October 20 — EA Rankings, Injury Tracker & TV Twinning Again

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

DIVERSITY & INCLUSION REPORT: To grow the sport, the NHL has released its inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Report detailing its efforts to diversify the workforce. Encompassing dimensions based on leadership, education, marketing, employment, partnerships, participation, and community engagement, the report helps “establish metrics” to “create a safer, more welcoming, more diverse game and business.” 

VRÁNA ENTERS ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: On Wednesday, Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrána was placed in the NHL and NHLPA’s player assistance program, designed to help with a range of matters. Vrána missed Detroit’s game on Monday and team practice on Tuesday before entering the program. Once cleared by administrators, he can return to the team. 

FALLING LEAFS: Following Monday’s loss to the Arizona Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe appeared to call out Toronto’s top skaters for not playing like elite players. Yesterday, Keefe walked back on those comments saying he “used some of the wrong words,” and attempted to clear the air before tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars.

EKBLAD BACK TO IR: After leaving the second period of Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Florida Panthers have placed defenseman Aaron Ekblad on long-term injured reserve for the second time this calendar year. Ekblad missed the remainder of the regular season following an injury against the Anaheim Ducks on March 18, 2022.

SNOWBALL EFFECT: Although the Colorado Avalanche expected to be without their captain Gabriel Landeskog to begin the season, they did not expect he would be out for another three months. Landeskog elected to have arthroscopic knee surgery in Minneapolis on Tuesday, setting his return timeline back another 12 weeks.

Seriously, Another Injury??

We get that injuries are a part of the sport, but doesn’t it seem like things are getting ridiculous around the NHL right now? In the last 24 hours alone, news has broken on long-term injury-related absences for Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (knee surgery), Florida Panthers stud defenseman Aaron Ekblad (lower-body injury), and new Washington Capitals forward Connor Brown (lower-body injury).

While it might be too early to read much into most trends around the league, the injury bug could legitimately impact playoff races and shift the balance of power in both conferences. Here are the teams who’ve been hit the hardest to date—until tomorrow brings a new wave of injuries, anyway.

Boston Bruins

Boston sits atop the Atlantic Division at 3-1, which is remarkable given how many key players currently find themselves wearing suits in the press box. The Bruins’ blue line is without Charlie McAvoy (shoulder), Brandon Carlo (upper body), and Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder). However, the most glaring hole is up front, with Brad Marchand (hip) sidelined until early December.

Philadelphia Flyers

A surprising 3-1 start aside, the Philadelphia Flyers were expected to struggle to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division with even a fully healthy roster. And their current group is far from that. Although Ryan Ellis (pelvis) was never going to be fit enough to play this year, the club probably didn’t count on missing Sean Couturier (back), Owen Tippett (upper body), and Rasmus Ristolainen (lower body).

Washington Capitals

Even as the ageless Alex Ovechkin pushes ahead, many of his contemporaries among the Caps’ forward corps have struggled to stay in the lineup. Brown has now joined a sidelined group that includes Nicklas Bäckström (hip), Tom Wilson (knee), and Carl Hagelin (eye). Not the best time for Evgeny Kuznetsov to get suspended.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Injuries have already taken their toll on a Toronto team that doesn’t have the cap flexibility to replace the wounded in the lineup, but let’s not pretend to be shocked here. After all, Matt Murray (groin) was very available this past summer in part because he was injury-prone, so guess who’s already hurt? Jake Muzzin (neck) only played 47 games last season and is poised to challenge that mark this year. Injuries to Timothy Liljegren, Jordie Benn, and Carl Dahlström have ravaged the blue-line depth, leaving the Leafs perilously thin early on.

Where NHL 23 Got It Wrong

With the 2022-23 NHL season ramping up and so many storylines to follow, it was pretty hard to stay on top of EA Sports’ release of NHL 23 last week. While it’s not like the dust has exactly settled on the new campaign yet, we at the Morning Skate have had a chance to check in on the game’s ratings. And—we have some thoughts.

It’s a tall ask for EA to nail their rating for every player, so you can’t blame the California-based video game publisher for making a few mistakes. But just because we can’t blame them doesn’t mean we can’t point out where they whiffed, now does it?

Too Low: Leon Draisaitl, 93

Given the statistical domination of the Edmonton Oilers’ duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in recent years, it’s curious that the pair don’t own sole possession of the highest-rated teammates. That’s because Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, who finished 22 points behind Draisaitl in last year’s scoring race (in 15 fewer games, but still), and Cale Makar each netted a 94 rating. No disrespect to the two best players on the Stanley Cup champs, but McDavid and Draisaitl probably warrant another level.

Too High: Trevor Zegras, 87

It makes sense that EA would want to give some love to its cover boy, but that doesn’t make Zegras’ rating right. Do you know who didn’t rate as highly as the 20-year-old? Troy Terry, his teammate, finished with 14 more goals and six more points in as many games a year ago. Future projections count, but Terry is only 24 and still has room to develop. 

Too Low: Igor Shesterkin, 92

Igor Shesterkin won the Vezina Trophy last season in a vote that wasn’t particularly close. According to EA Sports, that merits the second-highest goalie rating behind Andrei Vasilevskiy. Although Vasilevskiy has been doing it longer, he’s also had the benefit of playing behind one of the league’s deepest teams. Given how they are hockey’s two best netminders, no one would’ve argued with giving them the same rating.

Too High: Patrick Kane, 93

Try this fun exercise—go down the list of right wingers rated lower than Patrick Kane (No. 1 for his position) and determine who would trade for the Chicago Blackhawks star in a one-for-one swap. Tampa Bay doesn’t give up Nikita Kucherov, Colorado probably won’t part with Mikko Rantanen, Boston likely wouldn’t sacrifice David Pastrňák, and Toronto says, “no thank you” to a Mitch Marner swap. So, why are they all rated lower? You’ll also notice Kane’s 93 matches Draisaitl despite the 18-point scoring discrepancy between them last year.

Television Twins: Schitt’s Creek

“Schitt’s Creek” was a beloved show that ran from 2015-2020 and picked up a cult following during the early years of the pandemic. Fans were captivated by the Rose family and their misadventures in the small town, often rooting for characters that most would despise. That thought led to our second iteration of “Television Twins,” picking which NHL players would closely resemble one of our favorite TV families.

Patrice Bergeron as Johnny Rose

Johnny is easily the most dependable and likable member of the Rose family, and we have not met a hockey fan who hates Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. The fictional patriarch will do whatever he can for his family, and the 37-year-old forward continually helps his team in all situations. Neither is afraid of hard work and always thinks of the people that surround him before himself. 

Sidney Crosby as Moira Rose

Throughout his 18 seasons, Crosby has earned two Conn Smythe Trophies, three Stanley Cups, and a reputation for being one of the more dramatic players in the league. Moira is talented, but her professional achievements often get overshadowed by her dramatic flair. Early in his career, Crosby earned the nickname “Crybaby” from fans around the league because of his constant pleas to the referees. Throughout six seasons, how many times did Moira beg Johnny to get her out of Schitt’s Creek? We think we made our point.

Nazem Kadri as Alexis Rose

Nobody had a better character arc on the show than Alexis. She started as a helpless and spoiled socialite and, over time, turned into an independent and empowered businesswoman. Nazem Kadri began his NHL career in Toronto during the 2009-10 season and, at that time, was a one-dimensional player who never took a defensive zone faceoff. Kadri went from the kid who took too many penalties and suspensions to a Stanley Cup champion. His evolution has been so impressive that he signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with the Calgary Flames. 

Thatcher Demko as David Rose

David is the black sheep of the Rose family, and naturally, that description transitions to goaltenders—our segment, our rules. Surprisingly, the Vancouver Canucks netminder is an early Vezina Trophy favorite even though his team is currently 0-3-1. Remember when David negotiated a higher compensation for the Blouse Barn, which resulted in him helping out his family’s situation? Demko carried his team throughout the bubble playoffs and will be relied on to get his team out of their current slump.

NHL Standings

NHL’s Leading Scorers

Today’s NHL Schedule