September 16 — First Pitches & Dual Sport Threats

Last Night’s News 📰

KEITH REMAINS IN OIL TOWN: Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers announced they signed Duncan Keith to a player development contract. In July, the 38-year-old announced his retirement from the NHL after a 17-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks and Oilers. He had 21 points and was a plus-15 in 64 games with Edmonton last season. 

FIRST CUP, NOW CONTRACT?: Heading into the final season of his seven-year, $44.1 million contract, Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon acknowledges that he and the defending Stanley Cup champions are “pretty close” on a new contract extension. MacKinnon hopes to have a new deal in place before the Avs’ season opener on Oct. 12.

ANOTHER SHOT FOR MOTTE: Forward Tyler Motte signed a one-year, $1.35 million contract with the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, adding even more depth to a deep offensive group. Motte notched seven goals and eight assists in 49 games with the Vancouver Canucks before getting traded to the New York Rangers. 

Friday Favorites

Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.

Prospects Take the Ice

Prospects tournaments are happening around the league, and it feels so good to see the boys back on the ice. Last night, the Blue Jackets dominated the St. Louis Blues at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City with a final score of 7-1, while the Montreal Canadiens fell to the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-3 at the 2022 Prospects Challenge at the LECOM Harborcenter in Buffalo. 

New Era in San Jose

The San Jose Sharks unveiled their “Evolve” uniforms for this season, and they’re giving the Seattle Kraken uniform a run for its money. San Jose’s sweaters feature new primary home (teal) and away (white) jerseys, paired with teal home helmets, teal pants with striping that matches the jersey, and teal gloves. According to the team’s official website, this marks the first time in nine years that the team’s uniform underwent significant changes. A new era is here—are you ready, Sharks fans? 

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

New York Islanders players, including Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, Ross Johnston, and Scott Mayfield, attended a New York Mets game where Bailey threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Mets battled the Chicago Cubs. Highlights involved Bailey’s sons Wyatt and Mack, who sat at the Mets media podium where one declared, “raise your hand if you cheer for the Islanders,” as the other quickly raised his hand.

When Hockey Players Pitch

As you will see from the next segment of today’s newsletter, hockey players are great athletes. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they all excel in every facet of sports. Take baseball, for instance. Or, more accurately, the ceremonial first pitch.

We’ve seen no shortage of NHL players try their hand at the traditional 60-foot, six-inch throw from the mound to home plate that opens many Major League Baseball games. Sometimes, they enjoy the satisfaction of watching their pitch land right down the middle (or at least in the general vicinity of the strike zone). Other times, as with Matthew Tkachuk at a Miami Marlins game earlier this week, they create a viral moment they’d rather avoid. Here are some best and worst recent first pitches by hockey stars:

Best: Gabriel Landeskog & Sidney Crosby

No, the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins captains did not throw their first pitch together. Instead, they each threw in front of teammates they had just won the Stanley Cup with (Landeskog earlier this summer at Coors Field and Crosby back in 2017 at PNC Park). Neither man’s effort disappointed, as Crosby had Pittsburgh native and MLB ump Jerry Meals on hand to make the call, earning a somewhat questionable strike.

Worst: Alex Ovechkin

Another NHL star who wound up on the mound amidst a summer of Cup celebrations is Alex Ovechkin. But unlike the efforts of Landeskog and Crosby, Ovie’s toss didn’t go nearly as well. How bad was it? His catcher, then-Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, felt compelled to give the Russian superstar a do-over. Luckily, owing to the strong relationship between the Nationals and Ovechkin’s Capitals, he’s had numerous occasions to prove the flub was a fluke.

Best: Marc Johnstone

While not technically a ceremonial first pitch, Marc Johnstone, then-captain of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, earned points for creativity after opting to snipe a wrist shot from in front of the mound. With Johnstone leaning more into his natural skill set than other hockey-players-turned-first-pitchers, it’s no surprise he was successful, efficiently finding the strike zone on his shot toward Chicago White Sox catcher Kevan Smith.

Worst: Matthew Tkachuk

Sorry, Matthew, but we didn’t forget about you. The elder of the Tkachuk brothers arrived in South Florida this week, taking to the diamond before setting foot on the ice as a Florida Panther. In that sense, “stick to your day job” would’ve been sound advice. Let’s hope that his well-short offering doesn’t portend how the rest of his tenure down south will go!

Multi-Sport Threat

NHL players are notorious for being incredible athletes like other professional sports players. Some NHL players have dedicated their entire lives to playing hockey, but others have dipped their toes into other sports and have made names for themselves in different realms. Here are some hockey players that excel in multiple sports.

Sidney Crosby

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby might seem like he is all hockey, but he played different sports growing up. When speaking with Hockey Canada in 2019, he said he played for his school’s football and basketball teams. Crosby stated baseball was especially prominent, playing hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer. Maybe he will suit up for the Pirates when his hockey days are over!

Alex Ovechkin

In June, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin signed a one-day contract with his hometown soccer team, FC Dynamo Moscow, of the Russian Premier League. He had a fantastic pro debut where he scored a goal 10 minutes into the game, proving that he can’t stop scoring goals, no matter the sport! Fun fact: his father played for FC Dynamo in the past, so when Alex played, he wore his dad’s number: three! 

Anders Lee

New York Islanders captain Anders Lee was noted as a highly renowned high school athlete in hockey, football, and baseball. According to USA Hockey, he was known for being an outstanding pitcher and third baseman in baseball. In football, he was the star quarterback who, during his senior year, had 1,982 passing yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 1,105 yards and 32 scores. It led him to be a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Football Award. Simultaneously, during his senior year in hockey, he had 84 points in 31 games and was named a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award. Yet, he ultimately decided hockey was the sport for him. Good choice, Anders!

Jeff Skinner

Buffalo Sabers forward Jeff Skinner was a competitive figure skater after he started lessons at six years old and took to it immediately. When he was 11, he won the bronze medal at the Canadian Figure Championships in the juvenile division in Edmonton. However, he was also a standout in hockey at the time, and before his freshman year of high school, he decided to make hockey his priority. Few NHL players can say they can do a double axle, eh? 

Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Morning Skate will introduce The Hockey Writers team contributors as they share some quick thoughts on what has been happening with their respective clubs this summer.

Charging into prospect tournament weekend, we chat with Sean Panganiban of the Edmonton Oilers and the Boston Bruins team of Brandon Share-Cohen, Michael DeRosa, and Vince Reilly to preview their teams. 

Edmonton Oilers

Boston Bruins

How Would You Rate the Team’s Offseason?



A Prospect Who Could Make His NHL Debut This Season:

An Offseason Move That Will Pay Off This Season:

Most Underrated Player on the Roster:

Which Player Departure Was the Biggest Loss?:

Who Finishes Third in Scoring This Year?:

Will the Bruins Be Buyers or Sellers at the Deadline?:

BOS: Buyers