Experts say race for No. 1 spot in 2011 NHL Entry Draft is wide open

Variety might be the spice of life, but for sports writers, it’s often a lot more appealing to set one irresistible force versus an immovable object. Sure, the NBA must be delighted by the fact that Kevin Durant is emerging as a big star, but do they want him to muddle the Kobe vs. Lebron picture they’ve been trying to paint for the last few years? (OK, they probably don’t mind, but “Magic vs. Bird” is still the gold standard for the league’s marketing.)

With the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the top storyline was quite simple: do you go with Taylor (Hall) or Tyler (Seguin)? Everyone else was a rung or two lower on the ladder; just look at how far the supposed third best player Cam Fowler dropped in the actual draft.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie writes that the storyline won’t be as clear for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota, with at least three players coming into their final pre-draft seasons with a chance at the top spot.

This year’s battle for No. 1 could not be more wide open, shaping up at the starting line as at least a three-man race. In fact, for the first time ever, TSN’s pre-season ranking of the Top 10 NHL Prospects has produced a dead heat at No. 1 overall.

Drummondville centre Sean Couturier and Swedish blueliner Adam Larsson finished with identical results in the annual survey of 10 NHL scouts by TSN. Remarkably, they each had four first-place votes, four seconds and two thirds. The only other prospect to get top-dog consideration was Red Deer centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was No. 1 on the other two ballots.

It’s the first year in quite some time when there hasn’t been a consensus No. 1 to start the season.

“All three guys have something special,” one scout said. “Couturier is a big, skilled centre, Larsson is a total package defenceman and Nugent-Hopkins is a tremendous offensive talent with elite skill. It’s going to be the most interesting race for No. 1 we’ve seen in a long time.”

While Tyler Seguin isn’t guaranteed to be a member of the Boston Bruins next season, chances are we’ll at least be able to see the first chapter of Tyler vs. Taylor this season. Will one, two or all of Larsson, Couturier and Nugent-Hopkins make a strong case for the top spot this year? It could be an interesting race to watch, especially if a dark horse emerges.

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    Report: AHL’s Portland Pirates moving to Springfield

    Portland Pirates goalie Mark Visentin makes a save during an AHL hockey game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Andrew Krech) MANDATORY CREDIT
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    Looks like the AHL isn’t finished shuffling around teams.

    From the Portland Press Herald:

    The Portland Pirates are leaving Maine.

    Mitch Berkowitz, chair of the board of trustees for county-owned Cross Insurance Arena, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that “the Pirates will be headed to Springfield” Massachusetts, but that he did not know further details.

    The city of Springfield has been searching for a team to replace the AHL Falcons, sold last month – although yet to be approved – to the parent Arizona Coyotes, who announced plans to move the franchise to Tucson.

    The Pirates are the AHL affiliates of the Florida Panthers. They’ve been in Portland since 1993, when they started out as the Capitals’ farm team and were coached for a number of years by Barry Trotz.

    Travis Green: ‘I think I’m ready’ to coach in the NHL

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    Travis Green has never coached in the NHL, not even as an assistant.

    But a lengthy career as a player, followed by success as a head coach in the WHL and AHL, has left him feeling prepared to take the next step.

    “I think I’m ready,” Green told Postmedia yesterday. “Every job in the NHL is worth its weight in gold, and I would have 100 per cent interest at options with every team in the league. You hope all your qualities are enticing for one of them.”

    After the Flames fired Bob Hartley yesterday, many are wondering if Green could be a candidate to take over in Calgary. Other head-coaching vacancies exist in Anaheim and Ottawa, and potentially Minnesota.

    For the past three seasons, Green has been the head coach of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Last year, the Comets made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals, an accomplishment that Green found particularly rewarding since “it wasn’t like we had an all-star team.”

    While some GMs won’t risk hiring a coach without any NHL experience — they’d prefer a guy who’s been there before and knows what to expect — it’s worth noting that Jon Cooper didn’t have an NHL track record before he took over in Tampa Bay, and he’s done OK. Heck, Dave Hastol hadn’t even coached professionals before he landed the job in Philadelphia, and the Flyers seem pretty happy with him.

    Green is under contract for one more season in Utica, but reportedly has an out-clause to pursue an NHL job.

    Related: Will the Sens take a run at Kevin Dineen?

    After Game 3 drubbing, Stars rule out Seguin (again) for Game 4

    Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    Any thought Tyler Seguin flying into St. Louis after last night’s 6-1 blowout loss was wiped out on Wednesday morning, as Stars head coach ruled out both Seguin and fellow forward Patrick Eaves for Game 4.

    The decision comes after Ruff played a bit coy prior to Game 3. While he said neither Seguin nor Eaves would travel with the Stars, he noted both had resumed skating back in Dallas, adding “they have flights into St. Louis every day.”

    Well, the airline schedule doesn’t much matter now.

    Game 4 will be played at Scottrade tomorrow night, which means Stars fans clamoring for Seguin might need to look ahead to Game 5, and the potential implications at hand.

    Should the Stars even up the series at two heading back to Dallas, Seguin could return for Game 5 and provide what would be a huge momentum swinger.

    Should the Stars lose on Thursday and return home down 3-1, Seguin could be inserted into the lineup simply to stave off elimination.

    Or, Seguin could not play at all.

    Whatever the case, Dallas has a tall task at hand — and it goes well beyond surviving life without No. 91. The club has allowed 10 goals over the last two games, and seems to have an issue in goal, where neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lehtonen has played especially well.

    Andreychuk confident that Stamkos will re-sign in Tampa Bay

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    Former Tampa Bay Lightning player Dave Andreychuk is now a member of the club’s senior management team, and he’s confident that the Bolts won’t lose Steven Stamkos to unrestricted free agency this summer.

    “Steven is going to come back. He’s going to be fine,” Andreychuk told Hockey Central today, per Sportsnet.ca.

    “I still believe that Steve Yzerman is trying whatever he can do to sign Steven Stamkos, and I believe it will happen.”

    Andreychuk — whose official title is VP Corporate & Community Affairs — is not part of the Lightning’s hockey operations, but presumably he speaks with Yzerman, the general manager, from time to time.

    Of course, the challenge for Yzerman goes well beyond re-signing the captain. Even with an owner that’s willing to spend to the cap, it simply may not be possible to keep Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Jonathan Drouin.

    All eight of those players need new contracts this summer or next.

    Stamkos, Hedman, and Bishop are pending UFAs, while the other five are pending RFAs.