During this season, the NHL had great success in pulling off two distinct outdoor games. There was the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh that saw the Penguins fall to the Washington Capitals and there was the Heritage Classic in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that saw the Flames shutout the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.
For next season, we’re hoping Canadian fans got their fill of the Heritage Classic because according to a report from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the NHL will only be putting on the Winter Classic and not the Heritage Classic. The 2011 Heritage Classic was the first one held in eight years since the original took place in Edmonton in 2003 and featured the Oilers taking on the Canadiens. While the Heritage Classic this year was a huge financial success, the availability of locations in Canada appears to be a major problem. There’s also the issue of the league oversaturating the market for outdoor games by staging two of them per year.
For next season, it’s rumored that the Flyers and Rangers will face off with each other in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park on January 2, 2012. The NHL has yet to confirm those reports but it’s believed strongly that that’s what the matchup and location will be. Not doing a Heritage Classic is likely to ruffle many feathers north of the border, but in order to pull these off they have to have a place large enough to host it and in a location where weather won’t be a major factor. Cities like Toronto and Montreal have ideal weather but no real place to hold the games. Vancouver has a venue that could be used but the weather along the Pacific Coast doesn’t lend itself well to real winter-like conditions.
While the report says that the Heritage Classic won’t be played this year, there’s hope it’ll return for the 2012-2013 season. That could lead to the possibility of seeing one take place in Winnipeg but there are some issues there that would need to be settled as far as a venue plus the weather during winter in Winnipeg is harsh, cold, and windy. Not the ideal sort of thing for hockey outdoors. That will be some time away to think about. We’re sure the NHL enjoys putting on these events as they’re a cash cow to put on, but they have to have the locations needed to do it and that’s just something they don’t have enough of in Canada.
John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.
Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).
Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.
A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.
Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.
Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.
Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”
McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.
It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.
Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.
Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.
The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.
Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.
Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.
London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.
“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.
“He does everything for us.”
Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.
Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.
Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.
Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.
“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.
“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”