Don Cherry's wild predictions: Maple Leafs make the playoffs, Coyotes move to Winnipeg

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doncherry1.jpgLeave it to Don Cherry to make sure our summer isn’t totally devoid of hockey talk or humor for that matter. The star of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada recently spoke with Ken Pagan of the North Bay Nugget in Ontario (one of the best newspaper names of all time might I add) and it appears that “Grapes” is already in mid-season form with some of his thoughts just a month away from the start of training camp.

One of two teams, along with the Florida Panthers, that have yet to reach the playoffs in the post-lockout era, the Maple Leafs should qualify for the post-season this year, Cherry said.

“I think they should make the playoffs,” he said prior to signing autographs for fans lined up in the restaurant. “I think (goaltender J.S.) Giguere is going to have a better year starting off there. They have one of the best defence groups in the league, but the problem is, they can’t score. They really don’t have the forwards. There are some tough guys on the third and fourth lines, but they’ve got to get those top six guys who can score and get somebody to play with Kessel and help him score.”

While the Leafs are the only one of Canada’s six NHL teams not to play a playoff game since 2004, there will soon be another NHL team in Canada, Cherry said.

“It’ll happen in Winnipeg,” he said. “I would say Phoenix will be the team. If you’ve watched Coach’s Corner, I’ve guaranteed within two years, Phoenix will be in Winnipeg. They have to go. They’ll never draw in Phoenix. They had a winning team this past year and they still didn’t draw. They can’t do much better than they did, to make the playoffs and still not draw. So they will be in Winnipeg and they’ll jam them in there.”

If these bold predictions had come from anyone else that works at CBC or anywhere else in the hockey media, these might come off as completely insane. Coming from Don Cherry, however, makes them a bit more fun and endearing, especially when you know that Cherry will argue with you up and down about how he’s right.

Calling for the Leafs to be a playoff team this upcoming season, with the way the team is made up at this moment is very bold. While Cherry is spot-on about everything that he’s said, projecting that lineup to be a playoff team is a very tall order. The Leafs are going to be very young up front and some of their off-season additions at forward are total wild cards in that we don’t know what they could add goal-wise.

As for his feelings on Winnipeg and the Coyotes… Who knows how that situation might end up. We know that if the league or the City of Glendale can’t find a buyer for the team sooner than later, David Thomson in Winnipeg is ready and waiting to be given the opportunity to buy the team and bring them back to Canada. Whether that happens or not remains the subject of nightmares for people in Arizona and the thing of dreams for fans in central Canada.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

See it for yourself:

Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: