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Colorado’s Matt Duchene, Tomas Fleischmann join Eric Staal as last week’s three stars

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Late last night, I discussed the fact that the Colorado Avalanche might just be the most underrated team in the NHL. Well, the league’s brass recognizes how hot the team is in at least one way: it named two of their players among last week’s three stars.

The NHL named two Avalanche forwards (Matt Duchene and Tomas Fleischmann) along with Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal as the league’s three stars for the week of December 13-19th. Here are some summaries of each player’s week, with comments of our own combined with tidbits from the NHL’s press release.

First star: Duchene

The league chose Colorado’s leading scorer as its top star of the week and it’s tough to argue with that point. The second year player already scored 34 points in 33 games, which ties him for 11th place in the league. Tyler Myers might have won the Calder Trophy for the 2009-10 season, but Duchene might be the biggest success story from that rookie group in year two.

Duchene notched a League-leading seven points (four goals, three assists) last week, highlighted by a pair of dramatic game-winning goals, as the Avalanche (19-10-4) extended their winning streak to six games and reclaimed first place in the Northwest Division.

Second star: Fleischmann

It’s way, way too early to say that Colorado “won” the Fleischmann-for-Scott Hannan trade. Especially when you consider the fact that the Washington Capitals essentially only really care about the rugged defenseman’s impact during the playoffs.

Still, it certainly seems like Fleischmann is experiencing a Peter Mueller-like liberation with the Avs.

Just check out this split. In 23 games with Washington, Fleischmann scored four goals and six assists for 10 points and a +3 rating and a little more than 14 minutes of ice time per game. He’s already scored more points in Colorado, as he has five goals and six assists for 11 points and a +2 rating in only nine games. Perhaps it’s simply a case of opportunity, though, as his time on ice average with the Avs is more than 18 minutes per game.

Fleischmann joined new linemate Duchene atop the League scoring list, notching four goals and three assists in four Avalanche victories.

Third star: E. Staal

I hate to say it, but it’s hard to imagine the eldest Staal reaching the 100-point mark again. He burst onto the NHL scene in the first post-lockout season, scoring 19 goals on the power play alone and notching exactly 100 points during the 2005-06 season.

All those power play opportunities probably inflated his numbers a bit, as his second best total is 82 points (07-08). While another century mark is out of reach, a few extra weeks like this could give Staal a chance to approach 90 points. He has 33 in 31 games so far, his best start since the 05-06 season.

Staal tallied five points (four goals, one assist) in three games, helping the Hurricanes (15-12-4) post three consecutive victories and close within four points of the eighth playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

(snip)

Staal’s career hat trick total is tied with that of New York Rangers’ Marian Gaborik and Ottawa’s Alex Kovalev for second place among active NHL players, trailing only Teemu Selanne of Anaheim (21).

Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

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via Vegas is Hockey
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Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.

Presenting: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hockey bobbleheads

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via Milwaukee Admirals
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From the Department of Sights You Can’t Un-see: the Milwaukee Admirals are going to unleash hockey-playing bobbleheads for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “this fall.”

The Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate continues the fine tradition of headline-grabbing and all-around-odd promotions from the league.

/Pours one out for the Bakersfield Condors and their Seinfeld “puffy” shirts.

Feast your eyes on the rather disturbing duo:

(The replies to that tweet aren’t too weird yet, but it would probably be wise to stay away nonetheless.)

Naturally, there are other bobblehead options available for the two Presidential front-runners, with the Trump ones being especially entertaining.

As the youngest GM in NHL history, Chayka is already making waves

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) His time on the ice done, John Chayka would turn to the tape, spending up to 25 hours to break down the game just played.

He tracked every player on the ice, every possession, touch of the puck, calculating the impact of every decision or movement on the ice.

The attention to detail, to making himself and his teammates better, led Chayka to co-found his own hockey analytics company. Now it’s helped him become the youngest general manager in NHL history, a meteoric rise even he didn’t see coming.

“It would be silly to suggest it wasn’t a little surprising,” said Chayka, named GM of the Arizona Coyotes on May 5. “It’s like anything in life; good fortune, good timing, a lot of that plays into it. I always just try to better myself every day, learn every day.”

Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

Chayka was like most Canadian kids growing up, playing hockey from a young age on a backyard rink in Jordan Station, Ontario. He had some skill, too, as a high-scoring winger who was good enough to be an Ontario Hockey League draft pick.

Instead of becoming a professional hockey player, Chayka took a different route to the highest level. He opted to attend college instead of playing in the OHL and suffered a back injury that ended any chance of a continued playing career.

Chayka liked the analytical aspect of hockey even when he was playing, logging numbers by hand while meticulously going through every play of each game. Once he teamed up with Neil Lane, a friend with an IT background, Chayka was able to vastly expand the data sets he could analyze.

Chayka and Lane co-founded Stathletes in 2009 and built it up, molding the hockey analytics company to serve the needs of NHL teams and players.

But in 2015, Chayka decided to make a change. The business was in good shape and the Coyotes wanted an analytics person, so he joined them as an assistant GM prior to the 2015-16 season.

“The company was in a position for the co-founder to step aside and let it grow, so it was good timing for me to do that,” Chayka said.

Timing worked out for Chayka again this spring.

After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Coyotes decided to make a change, firing general manager Don Maloney after nine seasons.

Instead of hiring an established hockey front-office man, the Coyotes took a bolder route, hiring the then-26-year-old Chayka, making him the youngest GM in NHL history and the first with a primarily analytical background.

“What people are going to find out about John as he becomes more well-known is he’s a very smart guy, a very intelligent guy,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

Those smarts, along with a year of watching the Coyotes operations from the inside out, have allowed Chayka to hit the ground sprinting.

Arizona had one of the highest-rated drafts, landing center Clayton Keller and defenseman Jakob Chychurn, players who could contribute quickly.

The Coyotes signed top-four defenseman Alex Goligoski after trading for his rights and added some scoring depth by signing left wing Jamie McGinn, who set career highs in goals and points last season. Arizona also signed captain Shane Doan to a one-year deal.

Chayka has retooled Arizona’s roster by combining his analytical approach with the traditional methods of evaluating players, dispelling the notion that he would be a numbers-only GM.

“It’s a good holistic approach where you’re weighing both options and ideas,” Chayka said. “Where you have agreements and consistency in your approach, then you have a better decision. When you have those disagreements is where you have real opportunity to learn from it. If the data disagrees with the eye or the eye disagrees with the data, now you have a real opportunity to understand why.”

The need to understand got Chayka to this unprecedented point. It should be the foundation to keep him climbing as well.

Report: Wheat Kings’ McCrimmon likely to be named Las Vegas assistant GM

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The Las Vegas NHL franchise has been in search of an assistant general manager, and that search may be nearing an end.

According to a report from Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show on TSN 1260, Brandon Wheat Kings owner, GM and coach Kelly McCrimmon is likely to be named assistant GM in Las Vegas.

The report was backed up on Friday from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Last summer, McCrimmon turned down a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs front office.

It was reported last week that Vegas general manager George McPhee had asked the Washington Capitals for permission to speak with that team’s assistant GM Ross Mahoney.