NHL's success in Europe grows as league increases pre-season presence there

GYI0060996366-ninoniederreiter-bbennett.jpgThe NHL will once again be closing out part of the pre-season and starting the regular season in Europe this year and while some fans in North America may grumble a bit about their favorite teams starting off so far from home, the effect it’s having in Europe is becoming far more pronounced. If you think that love is only coming from Europe for the NHL, the NHL is equally smitten with Europe as Matthew Coutts of the National Post tells us.

For years the potential for NHL teams in Europe, perhaps an entire division in London, Prague, Stockholm, Zurich, Berlin and Helsinki — the same cities that hosted games in recent years — has been considered and salivated over.

Two years ago, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly called it a dream he would like to see happen within a decade. The players’ association has also been open to it. But that does not make it any closer to reality.

“We are a business that is ruled by hockey interest, and I think the ability to expand our business in any way is always something that is considered,” Yaffe said. “That doesn’t mean the ultimate focus is develop a division or expansion into Europe. There are a lot of major challenges to doing that.

“The reality is, we are a North American sports league that is focused on building the strength and viability of 30 clubs across the U.S. and Canada. That is the primary business and the primary focus.”

The thought of the NHL expanding into Europe is mind-boggling at the least, especially with teams struggling financially in North America (not that that didn’t stop us from speculating on expansion), but it’s clear here that the NHL is making their presence more apparent in Europe for a different reason. The NHL wants to attract more of the world’s best players to the league and inspire more players, regardless of where they’re from, to come and play in the biggest and best professional league in the world. While there’s nothing at all wrong with the Swiss, Finnish, Swedish or German elite leagues, the NHL is great melting pot for talent and wanting the best in the world to come there only makes perfect sense.

In the meantime, sending six teams to Europe this year to kick off the season will help drum up interest in the league in Ireland, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic and that means selling team merchandise and helping to excite the fans that already are there and rooting for their countrymen. While it’s fun to pick on the NHL for some of their other marketing ideas, taking advantage of Europe’s interest in the sports is a smart decision.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett – Getty Images)

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    TRADE: Hurricanes get Scott Darling from Blackhawks for third-rounder

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    If you’re looking at that headline regarding the Carolina Hurricanes nabbing Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks in a state of awe, don’t feel too bad.

    TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that even Darling’s representatives didn’t see it coming.

    But it did indeed happen, as the Hurricanes sent a third-round pick in 2017 to Chicago for Darling.

    Darling is scheduled to be a UFA this summer, so the Hurricanes must believe that they can sign a goalie Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman described as “always reliable.”

    The Hurricanes could have chosen to keep Darling in their organization, but apparently he didn’t make a huge first impression during this opportunity:

    “Reliable” might honestly be selling Darling, 28, a little short. In 75 regular season games, he generated a fantastic .923 save percentage and even excelled when called upon in the playoffs.

    With the Hurricanes’ mess in net in mind, you have to credit GM Ron Francis & Co. for being proactive … assuming they can sign Darling to a reasonable deal.

    WATCH LIVE: Game 2 for Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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    P.K. Subban certainly made his presence felt to begin the Predators’ series vs. the Blues. Leon Draisaitl stole the spotlight in helping the Oilers beat the Ducks in their Game 1. Who will step up in Game 2 of each series? We’ll find out soon.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)

    Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Check out the highlights from Nashville’s 4-3 win in Game 1.

    Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)

    Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Check out the highlights from Edmonton’s 5-3 win in Game 1.

    Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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    Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

    Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

    It’s easy to see why.

    He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

    “He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

    Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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    Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

    On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

    Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

    From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

    In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

    And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

    During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

    Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

    “Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”