Five Thoughts: Wrapping up on Vancouver-Nashville

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Fare thee well Nashville, you put on a good show to prove that yes, hockey is part of the sports fabric in Tennessee. After some tough seasons the fans there showed well enough that they love them some Predators hockey. As for five thoughts…

1. It’s remarkable that the Canucks were able to win a playoff series without getting major contributions from Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. The twins combined for two goals and five assists in the series and weren’t exactly dominating forces the way they normally are in most other games.

Their absence was made up for by Ryan Kesler alone (five goals, six assists) but as we’ve been stressing all along, if the Canucks are going to win the Stanley Cup they need them both to be on their game and producing offense. A slump in the next round out of the twins would almost certainly mean a failure in the conference finals. Getting nothing from them against San Jose or Detroit will result in another Cup-less season in Vancouver.

2. As huge as Kesler was against Nashville, and let’s face it the Canucks basically get no offense if it isn’t for him, Roberto Luongo’s performance was the real story here. Six games, six starts (crazy to have to stress this after the first round nonsense) a 1.63 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. He gave up six fewer goals to Nashville than he did to Chicago despite essentially playing the same number of games. If Luongo can keep this kind of play up, he’s going to silence a lot of his critics. It’s hard to believe that a guy as good as Luongo brings naysayers out as much as he does, but they’re there (yours truly included).

Luongo is a big name, big money goalie and we haven’t seen one of those win a Stanley Cup in a while. If the Canucks do go on to win it all, it wouldn’t be outlandish to give his backup Cory Schneider a lot of credit in helping to keep Luongo fresh by giving him a solid reliever. Luongo hasn’t really had a capable guy like that backing him up in his tenure in Vancouver leading to Luongo starting 70 games a year and running out of gas in the postseason.

3. In a postseason that’s been loaded with role players going above and beyond the call of duty, the Canucks haven’t really had a player like that emerge yet. They’ve gotten some good offense from their blue line with Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler, but up front it’s been the usual suspects doing their part. There’s always time for a secret hero to emerge and if there’s a guy to keep your eye on right now, it might be Chris Higgins.

Higgins has been playing well in the playoffs and with three goals and an assist through two rounds, some of those chances will improve. We’re not expected Conn Smythe-like play here really, just someone out of the woodwork to help spur a team on. Higgins is in that position to be that guy if he continues to play tough and inspired hockey. After bouncing around the last few seasons, he’s carved out a good place for himself in the playoffs with the Canucks.

4. We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk a bit about the Predators here and what’s impressed us the most through these playoffs for them is the fans in Nashville. From the tossing of giant catfish on the ice, to the chants that make us think we’re at a college hockey game, to the volume of the crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Not to mention the country music celebrity appeal going on and all of a sudden you’ve got yourself a vibrant and bustling hockey market. It’s incredible to think that this city was in a lot of trouble years ago with maintaining this franchise, but a deeper-than-usual playoff run has sealed it up that this is a tremendous market for the game.

5. We know that Barry Trotz’s system isn’t the most exciting thing on earth, but the one thing that really hurt the Predators in this series was the lack of a game-breaking player. Without that sort of offensive force, the Predators had to try and grind things down and even use the occasional sneaky trick shot to score goals. Playing that brand of hockey is physically demanding and when the puck just isn’t going in the net times get frustrating. Having a guy that can fit into that system and plug 30-40 goals would do the Predators wonders. Unfortunately players like that don’t just fall out of the sky.

Vegas has 15 d-men, but won’t keep them all

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The Vegas Golden Knights suddenly have 15 defensemen.

Just don’t expect all 15 to remain Knights for long.

“We’re going to have to move some defensemen,” general manager George McPhee said Tuesday, “because we’re going to claim a bunch.”

So, who might get flipped?

Well, a highly touted youngster like Shea Theodore, acquired in a trade with Anaheim, is unlikely to go. Theodore, 21, could be a core member of the Knights for years to come.

Deryk Engelland probably won’t be going anywhere either. He just signed a one-year contract with the Knights, and he already has ties to Sin City.

But a 32-year-old like Marc Methot? He could be dealt. The Dallas Stars are reportedly quite interested.

A few others could be on the move, too, but we’ll have to wait to find out which ones.

Here’s the full list of d-men that officially became Vegas property today:

Jake Bischoff
Deryk Engelland
Alexei Emelin
Jason Garrison
Brayden McNabb
Jon Merrill
Marc Methot
Colin Miller
Luca Sbisa
David Schlemko
Griffin Reinhart
Nate Schmidt
Clayton Stoner
Shea Theodore
Trevor van Riemsdyk

Vegas Golden Knights name their team

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The Vegas Golden Knights are taking shape.

After completing a cavalcade of trades, the Knights picked 30 players from each existing NHL team in today’s expansion draft. Vegas was obligated to select at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies.

The players were announced in reverse order from last season’s standings.

From the Avalanche: Calvin Pickard (G)

From the Canucks: Luca Sbisa (D)

From the Coyotes: Teemu Pulkkinen (F)

From the Devils: Jon Merrill (D)

From the Sabres: William Carrier (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires 2017 sixth-round draft pick

From the Red Wings: Tomas Nosek (F)

From the Stars: Cody Eakin (F)

From the Panthers: Jonathan Marchessault (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires Reilly Smith (F), Panthers receive 2018 fourth-round draft pick

From the Kings: Brayden McNabb (D)

From the Hurricanes: Connor Brickley (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires 2017 fifth-round draft pick

From the Jets: Chris Thorburn (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires 2017 first-round draft pick and 2019 third-round draft pick, Jets get 2017 first-round pick (acquired by Vegas from CBJ)

From the Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (F)

From the Lightning: Jason Garrison (D)
Trade: Vegas acquires Nikita Gusev (F), 2017 second-round pick, 2018 fourth-round pick

From the Islanders: Jean-Francois Berube (G)
Trade: Vegas acquires Mikhail Grabovski (F), Jake Bischoff (D), 2017 first-round draft pick, 2019 second-round draft pick

From the Predators: James Neal (F)

From the Flames: Deryk Engelland (D)
Signing: Engelland gets one-year contract with AAV of $1 million

From the Maple Leafs: Brendan Leipsic (F)

From the Bruins: Colin Miller (D)

From the Senators: Marc Methot (D)

From the Sharks: David Schlemko (D)

From the Blues: David Perron (F)

From the Rangers: Oscar Lindberg (F)

From the Oilers: Griffin Reinhart (D)

From the Canadiens: Alexei Emelin (D)

From the Ducks: Clayton Stoner (D)
Trade: Vegas acquires Shea Theodore (D)

From the Wild: Erik Haula (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires Alex Tuch (F), Wild get third-round draft pick in 2017 or 2018
Signing: Haula gets three-year contract worth AAV of $2.75 million

From the Blue Jackets: William Karlsson (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires David Clarkson (F), 2017 first-round draft pick, 2019 second-round draft pick

From the Blackhawks: Trevor van Riemsdyk (D)

From the Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury (G)
Trade: Vegas acquires second-round draft pick in 2020

From the Capitals: Nate Schmidt (D)

ROSTER BY POSITION
Forwards:
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Connor Brickley
William Carrier
David Clarkson
Cody Eakin
Mikhail Grabovski
Nikita Gusev
Erik Haula
William Karlsson
Brendan Leipsic
Oscar Lindberg
Jonathan Marchessault
James Neal
Tomas Nosek
David Perron
Teemu Pulkkinen
Reilly Smith
Chris Thorburn
Alex Tuch

Defensemen:
Jake Bischoff
Deryk Engelland
Alexei Emelin
Jason Garrison
Brayden McNabb
Jon Merrill
Marc Methot
Colin Miller
Luca Sbisa
David Schlemko
Griffin Reinhart
Nate Schmidt
Clayton Stoner
Shea Theodore
Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goalies:
Jean-Francois Berube
Marc-Andre Fleury
Calvin Pickard

After stockpiling picks, Vegas aims to ‘draft our way to success’

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On Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena, the Las Vegas Golden Knights took form.

But there’s no denying this team will really take shape at the next couple of entry drafts.

That was the big storyline this evening, as Golden Knights GM George McPhee introduced his 30-man roster, almost in the shadow of an unprecedented stockpiling of draft picks from rival clubs.

“[The objective] was to acquire prospects and surplus draft picks that can help draft our way to success,” McPhee explained. “Time will tell if we met those objectives, but we’re certainly delighted with the way that it went.

“It was a fascinating experience.”

We’ll get to see the fruits of McPhee’s labor shortly. When the dust settled this evening, he and the Golden Knights emerged with three top-15 picks in Friday’s first round of the draft — the sixth, which Vegas won in the lottery, the 13th, acquired in a trade with Winnipeg, and the 15th, acquired from the New York Islanders.

In addition to that, the Golden Knights also received:

• Buffalo’s sixth-round pick on Friday (as part of drafting William Carrier)

• Carolina’s fifth-round pick on Friday (as part of drafting Connor Brickley)

• Tampa Bay’s second-round pick on Friday, and the Bolts’ fourth-rounder in 2018 (for laying off the club’s young d-men, and taking Jason Garrison)

• The Islanders’ second-round pick in 2019 (for taking on Mikhail Grabovski, in addition to the first-rounder listed above)

• Columbus’ second-round pick in 2019 (for not taking Josh Anderson or Joonas Korpisalo, also in addition to the deal above)

• Winnipeg’s third-round pick in 2019 (for taking Chris Thorburn instead of Tobias Enstrom, and also in addition to the above deal)

• Pittsburgh’s second-round pick in 2020 (as part of drafting Marc-Andre Fleury)

Add it all up, and the Knights now have 12 picks at the upcoming draft in Chicago, with five of them coming in the first two rounds. It’ll result in a huge influx of talent and, given the relatively thin nature of the active roster, a real chance for the kids selected on Friday to have a shot at NHL minutes in the fall.

But remember — until these picks have been used, they’re assets. And that’s worth mentioning, because the league-wide trade freeze lifts at 8 a.m. ET Thursday morning.

Stay tuned.

Connor McDavid captures the Hart Trophy (video)

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Only one player in the National Hockey League scored 100 points this season. That would be Connor McDavid.

He accomplished the feat at the age of 20.

On Wednesday, after such a terrific sophomore season in which he was fully healthy throughout, he was recognized with the Hart Trophy , given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team.

McDavid scored 30 goals, many in spectacular fashion, and 100 points to win the Art Ross, often showing a dominant display of speed and hands quick enough to keep up.

The Oilers made the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006, making it to Game 7 of the second round against the Anaheim Ducks..

McDavid beats out Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who has been perhaps the best player in the world over the last two years with Stanley Cups, Conn Smythe trophies and a Rocket Richard Trophy to show for it, and Columbus Blue Jackets Vezina-winning netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for the award.

McDavid also captured the Ted Lindsay Award earlier in the evening.

Here is the Hart Trophy voting:

Points: (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)

1. Connor McDavid, EDM 1604 (147-17-3-0-0)
2. Sidney Crosby, PIT 1104 (14-119-19-11-3)
3. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ 469 (4-17-40-29-23)
4. Brent Burns, SJS 273 (1-3-25-29-30)
5. Erik Karlsson, OTT 258 (0-5-28-23-14)
6. Patrick Kane, CHI 206 (0-3-20-20-25)
7. Brad Marchand, BOS 184 (1-1-14-22-31)
8. Nikita Kucherov, TBL 119 (0-0-11-15-19)
9. Nicklas Backstrom, WSH 60 (0-0-3-11-12)
10. Braden Holtby, WSH 19 (0-0-2-3-0)
11. Auston Matthews, TOR 17 (0-0-2-1-4)
12. Alex Ovechkin, WSH 7 (0-1-0-0-0)
Ryan Suter, MIN 7 (0-1-0-0-0)
14. Victor Hedman, TBL 5 (0-0-0-1-2)
15. Devan Dubnyk, MIN 4 (0-0-0-1-1)
Vladimir Tarasenko, STL 4 (0-0-0-1-1)
17. Cam Atkinson, CBJ 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Cam Talbot, EDM 1 (0-0-0-0-1)