NHL.com's seven 'breakthrough players' for 2010-11

jonathanberniergoalie.jpgLast season, Steven Stamkos went from a disappointing rookie to a sophomore sensation, tying Sydney Crosby for the most goals in the NHL. His breakthrough season inspired NHL.com to name its seven candidates for a breakout season in 2010-11. Here’s the list, plus a few selected paragraphs and some commentary.

Jonathan Bernier, LA Kings

If there were any doubts, Bernier laid them to rest with a superb showing (3-0-0, 1.30 goals-against average) during a late-season call-up that left Kings fans wondering if he should be their team’s playoff starter — and with little doubt that he’s their goaltender of the future.

Eh, I don’t know if three starts erase all doubts of Bernier being an answer in net. Don’t get me wrong, Bernier seems super-promising but let’s not get carried away here. Still, Jonathan Quick has reason to look over his shoulder.

Michael Grabner, Florida Panthers

Peter Mueller, Colorado Avalanche

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks

Couture showed in junior hockey (39 goals and 87 points in 62 games his final season) and in the AHL (20-33-53 in 42 games for Worcester) that he has the skills to contribute offensively. That could be just what the Sharks need as they look for more scoring from their bottom-six forwards to keep teams from overloading on the likes of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau.

johncarlson.jpgI expected a lot more change in San Jose, to be honest. Still, the team had to let Manny Malhotra go and that will open up some room for Couture to make an impact.

Karl Alzner, Washington Capitals

John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Carlson has been an offensive force at every level he’s played at, including the AHL, where he was 4-35-39 in 48 games for the Bears last season (he had 1 goal and 5 assists in 22 games with the Caps). With a couple of openings coming on the blue line in D.C., there’s room for Carlson to join Alzner and step in.

The Capitals won the Southeast division and Presidents Trophy without Carlson and Alzner. Can you imagine how scary that team will be once those guys develop?

Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators

With Jason Arnott sent to New Jersey in an offseason trade, the first-line center role is there for Wilson to grab. Wilson has been an offensive force at every level he’s played at, and the Predators will give him every opportunity to play a major role this season.

If any team could use a little “oomph” from a young player – especially on offense – it’s the Nashville Predators.

So, there’s NHL.com’s list of possible breakthrough players. I’m not quite as sure about Grabner, Wilson and Couture but the Capitals’ defensive duo, Mueller and Bernier look like they could make a big impact. Later today, I’ll share a few of my own guesses.

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    Jeff Carter comes through to help Kings get two huge points

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    The Los Angeles entered Monday’s game in Minnesota as one of the six teams in that chaotic scramble for one of the final three playoff spots still up for grabs in the Western Conference.

    Trailing by a goal with less than a minute to play — after giving up three consecutive goals to squander what had been a two-goal lead — it seemed as if they were going to leave two important points on the table.

    It was at that point that Dustin Brown sent the game to overtime with a late goal, setting the stage for Jeff Carter to score the game-winner in overtime and lifting the Kings to a 4-3 win.

    It was Carter’s second goal of the game and continued his strong play since returning to the lineup in late February from injury. In 12 games since returning to the lineup Carter now has eight goals and 10 total points. The Kings are also now 7-4-1 with him back in the lineup. He is still an impact player and having him healthy is going to certainly be huge for the Kings down the stretch as they push for a playoff spot.

    Make no mistake, this was a huge win for the Kings when it comes to getting that playoff spot. They entered the night with 84 points, tied with the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars. The Kings were sitting in the second wild card spot due to tiebreaker but were able to jump back ahead of the Ducks for the third spot in the Pacific Division.

    That means the Ducks fall into the second wild card spot, sitting two points ahead of the Stars and three points ahead of the St. Louis Blues. Colorado with 86 points is also very much in that group.

    Speaking of the Avalanche, even though the Wild let a point slip away tonight by giving up the late goal and losing in overtime they still picked up point and were able to move four points ahead of the Avalanche for the No. 3 spot in the Central Division.


    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Ryan Donato scores in NHL debut for Bruins (Video)


    One day ago the Boston Bruins signed US Olympian Ryan Donato to an entry level contract.

    On Monday, he was given an opportunity to immediately slide into their lineup against the Columbus Blue Jackets and he did not waste any time making an impact.

    After recording four shots on goal in the first period, Donato broke through with his first NHL goal in the second period (on his fifth shot of the game) when he blasted a one-timer home on a give-and-go with Torey Krug.

    Have a look.

    That goal tied the game at one early in the second period.

    Brad Marchand and Riley Nash would add goals not longer that to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

    All of that is happening against a Blue Jackets team that entered the night having won seven in a row, while the Bruins were playing without Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash and Charlie McAvoy. Pretty deep team they have in Boston.

    Donato added two more assists after scoring his first goal.

    Unfortunately for the Bruins they were unable to hold on to that 3-1 lead and allowed Columbus to come from behind for the 5-4 overtime win.

    Prior to signing with Bruins (and along with his time on the US Olympic team) Donato had been playing his collegiate hockey at Harvard. He scored 26 goals and added 17 assists in 29 games this season.

    He was originally a second-round draft pick by the Bruins in 2014. That 2014 draft class has already produced David Pastrnak, Danton Heinen, and Anders Bjork.


    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Minnesota Wild

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    NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Monday night when the Los Angeles Kings visit the Minnesota Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.


    Tobias RiederAnze KopitarDustin Brown
    Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTrevor Lewis
    Kyle CliffordAdrian KempeTyler Toffoli
    Andy AndreoffNate ThompsonTorrey Mitchell

    Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
    Alec MartinezDion Phaneuf
    Jake MuzzinChristian Folin

    Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

    [NHL on NBCSN: Kings, Wild continue pursuit of important points]

    WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET

    Jason ZuckerEric StaalNino Niederreiter
    Zach PariseMikko KoivuMikael Granlund
    Tyler EnnisMatt CullenCharlie Coyle
    Marcus FolignoJoel Eriksson EkDaniel Winnik

    Ryan SuterMatt Dumba
    Jonas Brodin – Ryan Murphy
    Nick SeelerNate Prosser

    Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

    NHL GMs are at least trying to fix goalie interference reviews

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    Much like the NFL’s headaches when it comes to what is or isn’t a catch, a simple stroll around Hockey Twitter will often unearth loud groans about goalie interference reviews. At least when people aren’t grumbling about offside goal reviews, that is.

    From the viewpoints of reporters on hand for the latest round of GM meetings, it sounds like the league is at least attempting to sort out the latest mess.

    Granted, you could sense some of the fatigue on this issue from what Lightning GM Steve Yzerman had to say about it, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen:

    “You can clarify the standards, but each referee and everyone, you and I, has a different opinion,” Yzerman said. “Within that room everyone has a little different opinion on did it impact the goaltender. It’s subjective. No one is ever going to agree 100 percent.”

    Fair enough, but much of the frustration stems from the sheer confusion at hand, as there doesn’t seem to be a clear standard. It’s one thing to disagree with how an infraction is called, but at the moment, many feel like there’s far too much variation in calls.

    With that in mind, some GMs apparently hope to tweak the process by, ideally, limiting the number of people who are making the snap decisions on goalie interference:

    By “centralizing,” it could mean leaving that decision to “The Situation Room,” as Rosen explains:

    The meetings reportedly included test cases for goalie interference, with Rosen noting that GMs and media alike had trouble reaching a consensus on certain examples. That helps to illuminate the challenge at hand, but again, many people would probably be at least a bit happier if it was easier to anticipate what would and would not be called as interference.

    Quite a few numbers were thrown around about coaches challenges. ESPN’s Emily Kaplan shared a slide from the NHL that would argue that offside challenges have dropped off, likely because a failed challenge results in a delay of game penalty, but goalie interference remains a drag on the game.

    It’s a vaguely depressing yet informative chart:

    Ultimately, it seems like the league still has quite a bit to sort through, with totally fun subplots including the notion that goalies are being coached to embellish interference. Again, lots of fun.

    For fans of the sport, it’s about walking the line between getting it right and not grinding too many games to a screeching halt. One might ponder carrying over the delay of game penalty to challenging goalie interference alongside offside reviews, but that might not fly:

    Maybe Habs GM Marc Bergevin is correct in saying that just a small number of calls go wrong. Still, these challenges are slowing down games about two minutes at a time. That might not sound like much, though when it happens in the flow of an exciting back-and-forth contest, it can be a real killer.

    Let’s hope they improve the process, even if it ends up being a work in progress.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.