Canadiens first round pick might ditch Harvard

1-leblanc.jpgWhile the Stanley Cup finals move along, the Montreal Canadiens are preparing for the future by conducting a development camp for some of their top prospects, one of whom has a lot of drama surrounding him. 2009 first round pick Louis Leblanc had an outstanding year at Harvard University and while the Crimson did not fare so well as a team, the rumors about Leblanc possibly leaving Harvard are circling.

All the signs indicate that Leblanc, the Canadiens’ No. 1 draft choice last June, is leaving Harvard University after one year. Phil Lecavalier, the older brother of Vincent, and Boston-based Montrealer Kent Hughes have been serving as Leblanc’s family advisers, but there are reports that Pat Brisson has assumed that role and he is in negotiations with the Canadiens regarding Leblanc’s future.

For a quick primer, a “family adviser” is similar to an agent only that the “family adviser” isn’t paid for his work and only sees money once the player becomes a professional. The NCAA rules strongly prohibit athletes hiring agents and it means being kicked off your team should you hire one. In the case of Pat Brisson, he’s got at least one big-name client he works for by the name of Sidney Crosby. Perhaps you’ve heard a bit about him.

These kinds of things happen all the time with players leaving NCAA teams to join Canadian major-junior programs, it just happens that in this case, Leblanc is a Habs draft pick and he’s leaving freaking Harvard. It’s not as if Harvard is a major hockey school here. Their fan support is lacking and they haven’t resembled a powerhouse in ages. That said, it’s still Harvard the academic institution and Leblanc is getting what amounts to a free ride to go to one of the best universities in the world. So why would Leblanc potentially give that up? If you guessed “money” your answer could be right.

Leblanc’s options, should he ditch out on Harvard, are simple:

  • He can either join the major-junior team that drafted him. In this case, it’s Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
  • He can make a run at joining the Habs’ AHL team in Hamilton.

As for what Leblanc is going to do, he remained very political in his answers.

“As of now, I’m signed to go to Harvard and that’s what I’m getting ready for and I’m excited,” said Leblanc. “But if I find something better, then I’ll do it. Harvard’s the better fit right now. I get to do my schooling at the best university in the world. My coach (Ted Donato, Harvard Class of 1991) played 13 years in the NHL and I think it’s the best combination.”

“I’ll discuss (any change), firstly with myself, I’ll think about it,” said Leblanc. “And I’ll talk with people who don’t have an agenda to follow, (people who) don’t own a team. I’ll make a decision with people who like me and want the best for me.”

I wonder if Louis is majoring in political science at Harvard, because based on that he’s ready to take graduate level courses.

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    Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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    For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

    Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

    West teams get it done

    Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

    The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2.

    This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

    East teams stumble, some get over it

    Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

    Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

    Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

    Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

    Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
    Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
    Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

    Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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    For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

    With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

    He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

    Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

    Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

    Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

    Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

    Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

    Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

    Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

    Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

    Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

    Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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    Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

    The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

    While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

    Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

    With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

    Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

    Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
    Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
    Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

    Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

    Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?

    Hurricanes’ Lack hospitalized after collision on Red Wings’ OT goal

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    The Carolina Hurricanes fell short of a win on Monday, but their thoughts likely revolve around the health of goalie Eddie Lack instead.

    Lack was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a collision during Andreas Athanasiou‘s game-winning goal in overtime. Officials reviewed that the goal counted, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 overtime victory against Carolina.

    While it’s been a tough overall season for Hurricanes goalie, Lack has been an integral part of Carolina’s push for a postseason spot. PHT will keep an eye out for updates regarding his condition after this scary collision.

    The Red Wings stayed on the ice as Lack was taken off, a nice gesture after an unfortunate accident.

    Update: A mostly positive bit of news from the Hurricanes.