Plenty of surprises among NHL’s goal scoring leaders

It’s important to note that we are still in the early stages of the season, but we’re deep enough into the proceedings that goal totals are hitting the double digit mark. Chances are that most of the biggest dark horse candidates will fall out of the top ranks of the Maurice Richard race, but that’s almost half the fun in glancing at the leaders now.

So let’s look at the top guys and then analyze their individual situations.

Tied for first:

Brandon Dubinsky, center, New York Rangers: 10 goals

Steve Stamkos, center, Tampa Bay Lightning: 10 goals

Patrick Sharp, center/winger, Chicago Blackhawks: 10 goals

Tied for second:

Chris Stewart, winger, Colorado Avalanche: nine goals

Loui Eriksson, winger, Dallas Stars: nine goals

Tied for third:

Daniel Sedin, winger, Vancouver Canucks: eight goals

Alex Ovechkin, winger, Washington Capitals: eight goals

Alex Semin, winger, Washington Capitals: eight goals

Sidney Crosby, center, Pittsburgh Penguins: eight goals

Brenden Morrow, winger, Dallas Stars: eight goals

Tied for fourth with seven goals: Rene Bourque, Claude Giroux, Marian Hossa, Clarke MacArthur, Raffi Torres, Phil Kessel.

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Here is a quick list of the guys who should stay in the hunt (barring injury): Stamkos, Ovechkin, Semin, D. Sedin, Crosby, Hossa and Kessel.

Here are a few players who could be productive enough to really make a charge: Sharp, Eriksson, Morrow and Bourque.

Now, let’s quickly touch on the biggest surprises.

Dubinsky: Brandon “Dubie” Dubinsky is known for being an all-around player more than a scorer, with a career-high of 20 goals. He’s likely to regress a bit at some point, but perhaps he’s simply responding to the Rangers’ dire need for offense?

Stewart: He might be worthy of inclusion in the “players who could be productive enough to really make a charge,” but I still wanted to single out his ascension as a possible star power forward in the NHL. His current 25.7 shooting percentage is more than double the 12.7 mark he put up last year when he put up 28 goals, so don’t be surprised if the quick start helps him flirt with 35 or 40 goals this season. You really never know.

Giroux: He is almost halfway to his 16 goal total from 2009-10, but he scored 10 goals in 23 playoff games so maybe he’s just hitting his stride as a young, super-talented NHL player. He probably won’t maintain his .54 goal per game pace, but 30-plus goals is certainly reasonable. (Oh, did I mention that he’s in a potentially lucrative contract year?)

MacArthur: The former Atlanta Thrashers arbitration rejection victim probably would be happy with a 25 goal season, to be honest. He scored five of his seven goals in the first four games of the season and only scored one in his last five games. Still, he might have been worth the bargain pickup anyway.

Torres: Laffy Raffi is basically the reverse version of MacArthur; after a cold start he’s absolutely on fire with five goals in his last three games, including a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers. He probably won’t be in the top ranks of goal scorers this season, but he could threaten his career high of 27 goals from the 2005-06 season.

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So there’s a quick rundown of some of the surprises in the top ranks in goal scoring. Which players do you think will keep up their hot paces and which ones are just the beneficiaries of good luck? Let us know in the comments.

These 2017 NHL Draft picks lacked hype … but not swagger

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The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity or hopefuls to push back.

In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.

One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.

Nice, right?

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.

Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?

If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.

As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.

The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.

Kings, Golden Knights labeled 2017 NHL Draft winners; Bruins, not so much

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It’s nearly certain that we won’t be able to determine the “winners and losers” of the 2017 NHL Draft until, say, 2022. If not later.

Still, what fun is that?

Quite a few outlets pegged some winners and losers, though sometimes the choices were more about themes like nations or player types than specific teams.

For example: Puck Daddy gives a thumbs down to the “green room” experiment.

Let’s take a look at some of the consensus picks.

Winners

Vegas Golden Knights

GM George McPhee was dealt a bad hand when it comes to the lottery draft, so he instead made his own luck. And then he selected three players who could improve this team going forward.

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek especially liked the last two of their three first-rounders (Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom), viewing Cody Glass as more of a no-brainer. Plenty of others were on board.

Los Angeles Kings

Gabe Vilardi fell to Los Angeles, whether it was because of shaky skating or some other reason. That potential steal (and some other shrewd moves) impressed the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, who assembled draft profiles for PHT.

Again, Vilardi’s loss was considered the Kings’ gain, as slower skaters were considered losers by the likes of Post Media’s Michael Traikos.

Philadelphia Flyers

Boy, Ron Hextall is good at this thing, isn’t he? Philly drew high marks even beyond the layup of landing Nolan Patrick. The main area of disagreement revolved around the Brayden Schenn trade, though plenty came out on Hextall’s side there, too.

Arizona Coyotes

Boy, that negative press didn’t last long, did it? Between landing Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in trades and savvy picks, they were a popular choice.

Themes

Smaller players, Sweden, and Finland drew semi-serious mentions as “winners.”

Losers

Boston Bruins

The perception is that they played it too safe.

Colorado Avalanche, for now?

OK, this was more about draft weekend than picks, but people are criticizing Joe Sakic for standing pat. That could change, but the negative sentiment is there.

Detroit Red Wings

Another common choice. Some believe that their draft was the worst of them all, which isn’t great considering the declining opinion of GM Ken Holland overall.

New York Rangers

Lias Andersson was viewed as a reach by plenty, and his connection to the trade to Arizona might intensify the scrutiny.

Themes

Not a great draft for Russian-born players and/or guys who don’t skate quite swiftly.

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So, those are some of the near-consensus choices for winners and losers, via the brave souls who made rapid reactions to the 2017 NHL Draft.

Ducks ink D Holzer to two-year deal reportedly worth $1.8M

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As the dust settled on the expansion draft, the Anaheim Ducks’ defense is coming into focus.

Sunday continued that pattern; the Ducks signed Korbinian Holzer to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

You can break down the Ducks defense as more expensive players (Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Kevin Bieksa) and cheaper ones (Holzer, Brandon Montour, and Josh Manson).

Only Vatanen, Lindholm and Holzer see contracts that go beyond 2017-18 – at least without an extension yet for the likes of Fowler and Manson – so Holzer provides a little bit of certainty.

Is the $900K a minor overpay, though? Holzer played in 32 games for the Ducks this season after appearing in 29 in 2015-16. His impact has been pretty minimal, generating seven points while averaging 13:31 in ice time per contest (down from 14:45 the previous season).

Granted he may get more opportunities to show what he’s capable of if the Ducks lose another piece. Then again, at 29, the Ducks likely know what they have.

2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class to be named Monday; Selanne + who?

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The 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class is expected to be announced on Monday, and every indication is that Teemu Selanne will be on the list. Beyond that, well, there are a lot of question marks.

NHL.com notes that there’s at least a possibility that Selanne will be the only NHL name to be part of this class, which would mark a first since 2010 (when Dino Ciccarelli was the lone addition).

It’s a nice way to continue what’s been a buffet for hockey fans: the 2017 Stanley Cup Final’s conclusion, the expansion draft and then the 2017 NHL Draft. The HHOF announcements are a nice appetizer before free agency gets, well, frenzied?

“The Finnish Flash” was also an obvious top choice in last year’s poll to see who should be in the class.

Now, that doesn’t mean he is the only interesting name.

For one thing, Daniel Alfredsson will be eligible for the first time, much like Selanne. “Alf” falls in the “Maybe” category with some interesting, debatable other options: Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Paul Kariya, Chris Osgood, and more.

The 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class included Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov, and Pat Quinn.