Reports: Former Wild first round pick Nick Leddy signs with Blackhawks


nickleddy.jpgOne of the effects of the great Chicago fire sale of 2010 is that after trading away so many players to help clear salary cap space, Chicago’s system has taken a hit so as to help fill out the Blackhawks roster. Many players who spent major time in the AHL with Rockford will be virtually forced into roles with the Blackhawks next season. Bryan Bickell and Jack Skille among others will be fighting for time on Chicago’s third and fourth lines whereas last year they were fighting for time with the Ice Hogs.

The side effect to this is that Chicago’s depth within the system has taken a major hit and icing a complete team in the AHL with your own prospects to help grow. Enter defenseman Nick Leddy to the equation. Leddy was a 2009 first round pick of the Minnesota Wild who was dealt to Chicago for Cam Barker last season. Leddy was playing his college hockey at the University of Minnesota, but upon being traded by the Wild, one of the reasons given as to why they traded him away was because they weren’t happy with his development with the Golden Gophers. If you’re not familiar with Minnesota, the Gophers are the king of king college hockey programs in the state and obsessed over much the same way college football is obsessed over in Alabama or college basketball is in North Carolina.

Fast forward to today, and reports are surfacing that Leddy has decided to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks and will report to AHL Rockford unless he manages to win a job with the Blackhawks right out of camp. While this story is just a blip on the radar for Blackhawks fans, this is a bombshell in the world of the Gophers. Leddy is just 19 years-old and still filling out in size, so the likelihood of him making it to the NHL right away are slim and besides, it appears the Blackhawks want to help him develop into an NHL-caliber defenseman under their own watch.

As for what Golden Gophers coach Don Lucia would think of this, one can only imagine that he’s not pleased but he’s got bigger problems on his hands with the Gophers not having reached a Frozen Four since Thomas Vanek left school and one of his other players running afoul of the rules of the school and instead of facing up to punishment for it, is leaving Minnesota instead. One organization’s gain is another one’s loss and for college hockey, losing any amount of talent sooner than not hurts. For the Blackhawks, it’s now on their shoulders to ensure Leddy’s development and for their sake, they’d better hope they can do things better than the University of Minnesota apparently can.

McDavid will center Hall and Slepyshev

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid said he didn’t have any trouble falling asleep on the eve of his professional debut.

But when he woke up on Thursday he said it finally hit him.

“In the days leading up I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” McDavid said. “Kind of when I woke up this morning, I guess that’s kind of when it hit me that I’ll be playing in my first NHL game. I think that’s when I first realized.”

When the Oilers play at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the 18-year-old McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most hyped player to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby of the Penguins made his debut a decade ago.

Speaking in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday following his team’s morning skate, the soft-spoken rookie admitted to having some butterflies but said he felt pretty good and was excited to get going.

“It’s just special,” McDavid said of his NHL debut. “I’m living out my dream, so there’s nothing better than that. I’m just really looking forward to tonight.”

McDavid will be centering the Oilers’ second line against the Blues with Taylor Hall on the left wing and Anton Slepyshev on the right. Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, while Slepyshev will also be making his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“We all see what he can do in practice and the games,” Hall said of McDavid. “It’s important to remember he’s 18. I’m 23 and I still have bad games. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world and still has bad games. There’s going to be some trials and some errors, but I think that he’s in a position to succeed and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan, hired in May after spending seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, has already gotten accustomed to receiving questions about McDavid.

The first few questions McLellan was asked on Thursday were about the NHL’s most popular newcomer.

“What I’ve found with him is he’s working really hard to just be himself and fit in,” the coach said. “He doesn’t want to be special, he doesn’t want to be treated any differently but he obviously is. He’s trying to adapt to that and he’s doing a very good job of it personally and collectively I think our team has done a good job around him.”

McLellan said there are three levels of pressure surrounding him.

The first is McDavid’s individual expectations, which he is sure are extremely high. The second comes from the rookie’s teammates, coaching staff, organization and city of Edmonton.

“But where it really changes is the national, international and world-wide eyes being on him,” McLellan said. “How does that compare to some of the other players I’ve been around? I haven’t been around an 18-year-old who has had to deal with that. It’s new to all of us.

“I did spend some time talking to Sid (Sidney Crosby) about his experience and even since then the world’s really changed as far as media and social media and that type of stuff. This is a new adventure for everybody involved. I know Connor has the tools to handle the pressure and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope


While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”