15-year-old fan wins contest to design the art on Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom's mask

backstrommaskold.jpg(Niklas Backstrom in his old, less charming goalie mask)

I’ve seen goalies allow fans to design their masks before, but I only recall Calder-winner-turned-backup Andrew Raycroft doing so. The fans who submitted their artwork for Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom’s mask will likely see their labor of love a lot more often, as the Finnish goalie played 60, 71, 58 and 41 games in the last four seasons.

Backstrom chose a design by 15-year-old Peter Best of Plymouth, Minnesota. Here’s a shot of the artwork via the Wild Web Site. (Click to enlarge)

wildmaskwinner.jpg

While the original work is impressively detailed, an artist will take its inspiration and make something a little fancier out of it. Here’s more information about the process from the Wild.

After days of wrestling with his very difficult decision, Backstrom went with Best’s very detailed design. The mask shows the skylines of St. Paul on one side, and Minneapolis on the other, covered by the Wild’s crest at the top. Wolves adorn each side, and the back features the Finnish flag, as well as the Wild’s 10th anniversary mark.

Best will now be invited to the studio of mask designer Todd Miska, who will take the design concept and tailor it to meet Backstrom’s specifications. He will also have the opportunity to present the finished product to Backstrom in person at the Wild’s training camp in September.

Best’s work beat out four other finalists to win the honor (I prefer Kelsey Bolden’s “Logo Mask” and the Paul Bunyan one is adorable in a children’s art kind of way, but that’s just my opinion).

You have to love when teams allow fans to get so involved, especially considering the fact that they’ll be able to look at their work on such a regular basis (barring injury and poor play, of course). Minnesota features one of the most devoted fan bases in the NHL, as they pack the building even when the team is decidedly mediocre. Good on Backstrom and the Wild for running the contest and congrats to Best for earning his 15 seconds (or 50-70 games) of fame.

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    Flyers’ Read out four weeks with reported oblique muscle pull

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 02:  Matt Read #24 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes the puck in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Wells Fargo Center on April 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    The Philadelphia Flyers have had their share of good news lately. They’ve won five in a row and goalie Steve Mason has been solid in that span, being named on Monday the NHL’s first star for the week.

    But it hasn’t all been positive.

    Forward Matt Read is out of the lineup for at least four weeks with an upper-body injury, the Flyers announced Monday. The injury occurred during Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators.

    It’s been reported the injury is an oblique muscle pull.

    With Read out, the Flyers have recalled Taylor Leier from the American Hockey League.

    Leier has been very productive in the minors. In 22 games this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he has six goals and 20 points.

    Ken Holland is all for expanding playoff format to include Wild Card play-in game

    Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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    The topic of a possible Wild Card play-in game being added to the NHL’s playoff format isn’t new.

    General managers around the league have talked about it before. The idea recently seemed to gain traction with at least the small majority, too.

    Hockey insider Bob McKenzie once polled all 30 GMs to get a sense of how many would be in favor of such a thing — and 16 of those GMs were. You can count Ken Holland with the Detroit Red Wings as someone who would like to see a Wild Card play-in game.

    From TSN:

    Holland is also a baseball fan and likes the way MLB has created must-watch play-in games. In baseball, there are three division winners in each league. Those three teams qualify for the division round of the postseason. Two wild-card teams in each league square off in a one-game play-in to decide the fourth divisional qualifier on each side.

    “I’m all for an extra team in each conference qualifying for the playoffs and having a wild- card play-in game,” said Holland. “It would add excitement down the stretch for many more teams fighting for the additional wild-card spot and two extra teams would be involved in the playoffs. Those play-in games would be dramatic.” 

    Of course, the interesting thing about that is the Red Wings have a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances on the line.

    But their best days — when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg led them to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and the final the following year — are long behind them. The organization has undergone substantial change with Zetterberg getting older, the loss of Datsyuk to the KHL and Mike Babcock joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Red Wings could be in real danger of missing the post-season under its current format in 2017.

    Detroit is two points out of the second Wild Card spot in the East, with New Jersey and Boston still ahead of them, although not currently in a playoff spot.

    Boeser, DeBrincat, and McAvoy headline USA’s preliminary World Juniors roster

    TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 09:  Brock Boeser #16 of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks celebrates his goal in the first period against the Quinnipiac Bobcats during the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 9, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    Three forwards — Brock Boeser, Alex DeBrincat, and Colin White — and two defensemen — Chad Krys and Charlie McAvoy — make up the five returnees that were named today to the preliminary roster for the 2017 U.S. National Junior Team.

    Other recognizable names include first-round draft picks Luke Kunin, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Kieffer Bellows, Jack Roslovic, and Tage Thompson.

    “This is a talented, versatile group of players that has found success across all levels of hockey,” said general manager Jim Johannson from USA Hockey. “There is depth at every position, and while we still have some difficult decisions to make, we feel each of these players can fit the style of hockey Coach Motzko (U.S. head coach Bob Motzko) first implemented at our National Junior Evaluation Camp last August.”

    Click here for the full preliminary roster. D-man Jack Ahcan (St. Cloud State) and goalie Jake Oettinger (BU) are the only ones who have yet to be drafted. Oettinger doesn’t turn 18 until later this month.

    The players will attend training camp Dec. 16-20 in Buffalo, then an additional camp in Oshawa, Ontario, from Dec. 20-24.

    Of the 27 camp invitees (three goalies, eight d-men, and 16 forwards), only 23 will make the cut.

    USA won bronze at the 2016 World Juniors in Finland.

    Related: Barzal, Strome, Patrick among invitees to Canada’s World Juniors camp

    Galchenyuk (lower body) out indefinitely, more tests coming

    MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 16:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the warmup period prior to the NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre on November 16, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    The update on the injury Alex Galchenyuk suffered during Montreal’s win in L.A. on Sunday wasn’t definitive, but it was ominous.

    From the Habs:

    Galchenyuk suffered a lower body injury on December 4 in Los Angeles. He went for medical testing in St. Louis earlier Monday, and will be out indefinitely.

    He will be further evaluated by team doctors in Montreal on Wednesday. An update will be released later this week.

    The injury occurred in the third period of Sunday’s game, when he collided with Kings center Anze Kopitar.

    Galchenyuk, 22, leads the Canadiens with nine goals and 23 points in 25 games this year and is one of the club’s top faceoff men, at least in terms of draws taken. He also averages over 16 minutes per night and features prominently on the power play.

    So, needless to say, this is a potentially massive loss for Montreal.

    The Habs will wrap their three-game road swing in St. Louis tomorrow, and are then back in action Thursday, when they host the Devils.

    If Galchenyuk is out for a significant length of time, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Martin Hanzal-to-Montreal trade rumblings start up again.