Few surprises in first round of NHL Draft

The NHL draft has come and gone for another year with few surprises in the first round. Let’s recap the top 31 picks for 2018.

1- As expected, the Buffalo Sabres selected 18-year-old Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden with the first overall pick. He’s a fine puck-moving defenceman who scored 20 points in 41 contests with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League last season. He also played at the World Junior Championships and PyeongChang Olympics.

2-The Carolina Hurricanes took Andrei Svechnikov of Russia with the second pick after the 6-foot-2 winger scored 40 goals as a rookie for Barrie of the OHL in 44 games. He led the league at 0.91 goals-per-game even though he missed several weeks of the season with an injury. He also racked up five assists in five outings at the World Junior Championships

3-The Montreal Canadiens used their first pick to choose centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi of Finland. He had 10 goals and 19 assists last season and won’t turn 18 until July 6th.

4-The Ottawa Senators took left-winger Brady Tkachuk of Boston University. He’s 6-feet-3-inches tall and finished the season with with 31 points and a plus-15 rating. He led his team with 23 assists and was fourth in overall scoring on his squad. The power forward also had three goals and six assists at the World Junior Championships for America.

5-The Arizona Coyotes chose centre Barrett Hayton of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. He posted 21 goals and 39 assists for 60 points in 63 games and was also used on the special teams as he’s considered a fine offensive and defensive player.

6- The Detroit Red Wings selected forward Filip Zadina after he scored 44 times in 57 games with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Zadina was named the top prospect in the league last season as he led all rookies in scoring with 44 goals and 38 assists for 82 points in 57 games. In addition, he added seven goals and an assist for the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championships.

7- The Vancouver Canucks took defenceman Quinn Hughes of the University of Michigan. The 18-year-old played at the 2018 World Championships for the U.S. And could be a fine power play specialist. He scored five goals and 24 assists last season in 37 games.

8- The Chicago Blackhawks took defenceman Adam Boqvist of Brynas Jr. in the Swedish junior league. He netted 14 goals and 10 assists in 25 games last season and added three goals and two assists in just three playoff games. The 17-year-old also had six points at the IIHF World U-18 Championship,.

9- The New York Rangers selected right-winger Vitali Kravtsov from Chelyabinsk in Russia. He was one of the youngest players in the KHL last season and he chipped in with four goals and three assists in his 35 contests. He then netted six goals and five assists in his 16 postseason games and was the rookie of the year in the KHL.

10- The Edmonton Oilers chose defenceman Evan Bouchard from the OHL’s London Knights. His 25 goals and 62 assists ranked him seventh overall in league scoring and was tops for blueliners. He’s known for his hard shot and on-ice smarts.

11- The New York Islanders too right-winger Oliver Wahlstrom from the American Under-18 squad and Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota. He scored 48 goals and 46 assists for 94 points last season along with six game-winning goals and 13 power-play goals in 62 games.

12- The New York Islanders also had the 12th pick and selected defenceman Noah Dobson from Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior League. The First-Team All-Star scored 17 goals and 52 assists for 69 points along with 11 power play goals. He added three goals and 10 assists in 20 postseason outings to help Acadie-Bathurst win the title.

13- The Dallas Stars took centre Ty Dellandrea from Flint of the OHL after he led his team with
27 goals and 32 assists for 59 points in 67 games. The 17-year-old also led the squad with 10 power-play goals and played for Canada at the IIHF World U-18s.

14- The Philadelphia Flyers chose left-winger Joel Farabee from the USA U-18 team. He scored 76 points on 33 goals and 43 assists last season and added five shorthanded markers in 62 games. He was also a plus-41 on the year.

15- The Florida Panthers took Russian left-winger Grigori Denisenko of Yaroslavl 2. He played for the junior Loko team for most of the year and posted nine goals and 13 assists in 31 games and added five more goals and a pair of assists in 12 postseason contests.

16- The Colorado Avalanche drafted right-winger Martin Kaut from Pardubice in the Czech Republic. He scored nine goals and seven assists in 38 games in the Czech League and added three goals and two assists in his seven postseason games. He also posted two goals and five assists at the World Junior Championships.

17- The New Jersey Devils chose defenceman Ty Smith from Spokane of the Western Hockey League. Smith had 14 goals and 59 assists for 73 points last season and was a plus-44 with 27 power-play points.

18- The Columbus Blue Jackets selected centre Liam Foudy from the London Knights of the London OHL. He posted 24 goals and 16 assists for 40 points in 65 games along with four game-winners and five shorthanded tallies.

19- The Philadelphia Flyers took centre Jay O’Brien from Thayer Academy High School in the U.S. He led his league with 43 goals and 37 assists for 80 points in 30 games.

20- The Los Angeles Kings drafted speedy centre Rasmus Kupari from Karpat in Finland. He scored six goals and eight assists last season in 39 games in Liiga and also played at the World Junior Championships.

21- The San Jose Sharks took defenceman Ryan Merkley from Guelph of the OHL after he racked up 67 points in 63 games last year. The 17-year-old was third in scoring for OHL defencemen with his 13 goals and 54 assists and posted 1.06 points-per game.

22- The New York Rangers chose defenceman K’Andre Miller from the USA U-18 team. He’s 6-feet-3-inches tall and posted nine goals and 20 assists last season and was a plus-23. Miller also scored two shorthanded goals.

23- The Anaheim Ducks took centre Isac Lundestrom from Lulea in Sweden after he scored six goals and nine assists in 42 games last season along with a plus-7 rating. He added two goals at the World Junior Championships.

24- The Minnesota Wild drafted defenceman Filip Johansson from Leksand Jr. in Sweden. He posted four goals and five assists in his 29 junior games. And added a goal and three assists at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament along with two goals and an assist at the U-18 World Championships.

25- The St. Louis Blues took German-born right-winger Dominik Bokk from Vaxjo Jr. in Sweden. He played 35 games as a rookie and scored 41 points on 14 goals and 27 assists and added five goals and six assists in his eight postseason games.
26- The Ottawa Senators chose defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker from Okotoks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He scored 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 points in 47 games and will play at the University of North Dakota next season.

27- The Chicago Blackhawks selected defenceman Nicolas Beaudin from Drummondville in the QMJHL. He was ranked second in defenceman scoring with 69 points on 12 goals and 57 assists and posted 28 assists on the power-play in 68 games.

28- The New York Rangers took defenceman Nils Lundkvist from Pitea in Sweden where he posted three goals and 11 assists in 26 contests as a 17-year-old.

29- The Toronto Maple Leafs took Swedish defenceman Rasmus Sandin from the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The rookie scored 12 goals and 33 assists for 45 points last year and was a plus-35 in 51 games.

30- The Detroit Red Wings chose centre Joseph Veleno from Drummondville of the QMJHL. He posted six goals and 25 assists for 31 points in 31 games last year with Saint John and was then traded to Drummondville where he added 16 goals and 32 assists for 48 points in 33 games. Veleno added five goals and six assists in his 10 postseason contests.
31- The Washington Capitals drafted last in the first round and took Russian defenceman Alexander Alexeyev from Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. Alexeyev is 6-feet-4-inches tall and scored
seven goals and 30 assists last season in 45 games. He then added two goals and three assists in three playoff matches.

NHL Awards winners announced

The NHL held its annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 20th with Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils taking home the Hart Memorial trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Hall is the first Devils player to capture the honour and it was his first tome as a finalist. He finished the season with a career-high 93 points on 39 goals and 54 assists with 37 points coming on the power play. He also racked up 41 more points than the next highest Devil this season. Hall edged out Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings in the voting as well as Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid.

However, McDavid was named the winner of the Ted Lindsay Award for the second straight season. The young Oilers’ captain was named the league’s outstanding player by his peers after scoring 41 goals and adding 67 assists for 108 points. McDavid became the first player to win the award twice before reaching the age of 22. He’s also the third Oiler to win the honours along with Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky.

The Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender went to Finnish native Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. It was his first win and fourth time being a finalist. Rinne posted the third-most wins in the league this season at 42 and also had an 11-game winning streak this season as he helped Nashville win the President’s Trophy as the league’s top team. Rinne beat out Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights. He becomes the first Predators’ goalie to win the award.

The Frank Selke Trophy was handed out to Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles as the league’s best defensive forward. Kopitar has now won the award twice and he’s been a finalist four times in the past five seasons. He led all forwards in the NHL in total ice time in 2017/18 and was third in both faceoff wins with 983 and total faceoffs at 1,816. Kopitar also chipped in with 35 goals and 57 assists for 92 points and helped the Kings to the best defensive record in the league. He beat out Sean Couturier of Philadelphia, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild.
The Vegas Golden Knights had four winners on the night as forward William Karlsson of Sweden won the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most sportsmanlike player. The 25-year-old scored 43 goals and added 35 assists and served just 12 minutes in penalties during the regular season. He also led the NHL in plus/minus with a plus-49 rating. Karlsson beat out Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres, Aleksander Barkov of Florida, Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles and Jared Spurgeon of the New York Islanders.

Twenty-one-year-old Mathew Barzal of the Islanders was named the winner of the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie. The forward led all first-year players in scoring with 22 goals and 63 assists for 85 points and is the fifth Islander to win the award. Barzal beat out Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks, Clayton Keller of the Arizona coyotes, Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets and Charlie McAvoy of Boston on the ballot.

Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay was named the best defenceman in the NHL for 2017/18 and took home the James Norris Memorial Trophy for his efforts. He’s the first Lightning player to win the award and the third Swedish defenceman to take it home after finishing the year with 17 goals and 46 assists for 63 points. Hedman beat out Drew Doughty of Los Angeles, P.K. Subban of Nashville, Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets and John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.
Gerard Gallant of Vegas took home the Jack Adams Award as the league’s best coach after leading the expansion club to the Pacific Division Title and the Stanley Cup Final. It’s the first award for Gallant after being a finalist while coaching the Florida Panthers in 2015/16. He became the first head coach in the modern era to lead an expansion franchise to a division title in any of North America’s major pro sports leagues. Gallant beat out Bruce Cassidy of Boston, Jared Bednar of Colorado, Paul Maurice of Winnipeg and Peter Laviolette of Nashville in the voting.
There was no surprise when George McPhee was named the General Manager of the Year as he put together the roster of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights who posted a season record of 51-24-7 and reached the Stanley Cup finals in their first year of operation. The club became the most successful first-year team in NHL history. McPhee beat out Kevin Cheveldayoff of Winnipeg, Steve Yzerman of Tampa Bay, Don Sweeney of Boston and Joe Sakic of Colorado.

Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin of Vancouver were the recipients of the King Clancy Trophy as the players to best exemplify leadership qualities and humanitarian contributions to their community. The Sedins were drafted number two and three in 1999 and are the only brothers in NHL history to record at least 1,000 points each.
Forward Brian Boyle of New Jersey won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship to the game of hockey. The 33-year-old Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia just before the start of the season, but made his way back into the lineup by November 1st and finished the campaign with 13 goals and 10 assists and also represented New Jersey at the All Star Game.
The Mark Messier Leadership Award was won by forward Deryk Engelland of the Vegas Golden Knights as he exemplified great leadership qualities on and off of the ice this season and also helped grow the game of hockey in his community. Engelland organized many events following the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October and also worked with local firefighters to raise money for children that couldn’t afford to play the game of hockey.

Alexander Ovechkin: Mission Accomplished

Alexander Ovechkin tackled the 2017/18 NHL playoffs like a man on a mission and ultimately achieved it by leading the Washington Capitals to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since entering the league in 1974. The 32-year-old Russian winger was the catalyst for his team’s five-game victory over the expansion Golden Vegas Knights in the finals after dispatching the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in six games and then the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven in the Eastern Conference Final.

Ovechkin just finished his 13th NHL campaign and this was the first time he made it past the second round of the playoffs. However things were decidedly different this year as he racked up a league-leading 15 goals along with 12 assists for 27 points in 24 postseason contests and also captured the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs beating out teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov and goaltender Braden Holtby in the voting. The victory came in the Capitals’ second appearance in the finals as they were swept in four games by the Detroit Red wings back in 1997/98.

They’re also just the seventh team to win the championship after losing their first two postseason games as they were down to Columbus 2-0 in the first round this year. In addition, Ovechkin entered the playoffs as the only multiple winner of the Hart Trophy to never win a Stanley Cup and that awkward milestone has now been eliminated. Ovechkin, who has missed just 29 regular-season games during his NHL career, certainly had some help in the postseason, but his leadership and enthusiasm for the game made him the team’s driving force.

Kuznetsov led the league in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points and was followed by Ovechkin’s 27 points and then Nicklas Backstrom with five goals and 18 assists for 23 points. The line of Kuznetsov, Lars Eller (7-11-18) and Backstrom chipped in with 73 points while goaltender Braden Holtby posted a 2.16 goals-against average with a 92.2 save percentage. The Capitals’ power play went five for 16 against Vegas in the finals for a success rate of 31.3 per cent and it went 22 for 75 overall in the playoffs for a con version rate of  29.3 per cent.

Backstrom, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie all scored at least 11 power play points in the postseason with Carlson scoring 20 and Oshie racking up 21 points overall. Ovechkin, who led the league in scoring for the seventh time this year with 49 goals, is the first Russian-born player to captain a Stanley-Cup winner and the pressure’s definitely been lifted from his shoulders. He was often the scapegoat of previous Washington squads as they struggled to succeed in the playoffs, but Ovechkin’s always pulled his weight and now has 61 goals and 56 assists for 117 points in 121 career playoff games. This includes one point in each of the five games in this year’s final series. 

NHL sees several coaching and GM changes during playoffs

With the NHL playoffs being in full gear over the past several weeks fans may have missed out on all the front office changes that have taken place since the regular season ended. Let’s go over these moves so we know just who’s in charge when the teams head into the upcoming NHL Entry Draft on June 22/23 in Dallas, Texas. Since the season came to an end there have been four coaching changes and three general manager moves.

Bill Peters took over the head coaching duties with the Calgary Flames on April 23rd after he resigned from the same position with the Carolina Hurricanes. He compiled a 137-138-53 record in Carolina and never made the playoffs in his four seasons at the helm. The 53-year-old Alberta native will now be taking over a Calgary club which missed the postseason this year. The coaching job became vacant with the Flames after Glen Gulutzan was fired.

The Dallas Stars named Jim Montgomery as their new head coach on May 4th to replace 66-year-old Ken Hitchcock who announced his retirement a few weeks earlier. Hitchcock remains with the team as a consultant after 22 years of coaching in the NHL which included a Stanley Cup triumph with Dallas in 1998/99. Hitchcock ranks third in NHL history in coaching wins with 823. The 48-year-old Montgomery has over 10 years of college coaching experience and won the national title in America in 2017, but this is his first crack at the NHL.

Former NHL star Rod Brind’Amour was named the new head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes on May 8th, shortly after former bench boss Bill Peters left the club. Brind’Amour has been with the team as an assistant coach since 2011, a year after he retired as a player, and helped out with player development. This will be the 47-year-old’s first head coaching job in hockey.

The latest head coach to be hired was David Quinn as he joined the New York Rangers on May 23rd. The 51-year-old takes over from Alain Vigneault who was fired on April 8th right after the season ended with the club missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Vigneault spent the last five years with the Rangers and led the team to the Stanley Cup Final and also won a Presidents’ Trophy. Quinn’s previous jobs include being a development coach with USA Hockey as well as coaching in the college ranks and the AHL. He has NHL experience as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche.

As for the general managers, Carolina named Don Waddell as the club’ president and GM back on May 8th as the 59-year-old replaces Ron Francis. Waddell is a former pro player, scout, NHL coach and general manager. He’s been the president of the Hurricanes for the past four years and the club hasn’t made the playoffs for the past nine seasons now.

The Toronto Maple Leafs named 32-year-old Kyle Dubas as the club’s new general manager on May 11th. Dubas was formerly an assistant GM with the club to 75-year-old Lou Lamoriello. However, Lamoriello wasn’t re-signed by the team as they hoped he’d take a consulting job with the club. Lamoriello then jumped ship and ended up with the New York Islanders as president of hockey operations. Dubas was previously a general manager with Sault Ste. Marie in  the OHL and the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. The Leafs also lost assistant general manager Mark Hunter after Dubas was promoted as he left the club. Dubas then promoted Brandon Pridham and hired Laurence Gilman as assistant general managers. 
The newest general manager is Paul Fenton as he was hired by the Minnesota Wild on May 21st. The 58-year-old former NHL player was previously an assistant GM with the Nashville Predators and general manger of the Milwaukee Admirals AHL team. Fenton takes over the reins from Chuck Fletcher who was let go by the team a few weeks earlier.