Zach Parise, Ryan Miller

Which American-born forward could be the ‘next’ Mike Modano?

3 Comments

ESPN’s Craig Custance took a look at what might be an impossible role to fill today, as he “searched” for the next Mike Modano. (subscription required.) Custance’s take is an interesting one that’s worth reading, but here’s PHT impressions of who might be able to carry the torch for American hockey as the next ambassador for the sport.

Zach Parise – It’s natural to begin with Parise, the New Jersey Devils winger who wears the same number 9 as Modano. Parise shares one of Modano’s greatest traits: blazing speed, while he’s already a well-rounded player (which surely would have made Ken Hitchcock happy). Parise also seems like a polished crowd pleaser, much like Modano. As Custance points out, it can’t hurt that he already has a high-profile Olympic moment; Parise scored the last-minute goal that sent the 2010 gold medal game into overtime.

He might lack that little bit of “oomph” that made Modano special in his prime, though.

Patrick Kane – … which is where Kaner comes in. If you look at “filling Modano’s shoes” in a more abstract way, it’s about selling the game, and one could argue that Kane’s silky style is the most seductive of all American forwards. Kane is simply an electric player in a huge American market and he already has one thing that Modano achieved: a Stanley Cup ring.

On the other hand, there are some significant differences. Kane is undersized (listed at 5-foot-10) while Modano was a prototypical 6-foot-3. Kane also has a wild side that Modano lacked (or perhaps he was just lucky enough to hit his prime in the pre-Deadspin era).

Bobby Ryan – Much like Parise, Ryan also wears number 9. The Anaheim Ducks player sports a power forward style that conflicts with Modano’s finesse game, but the budding star might have the best chance of any active American forward to eclipse Modano’s all-time record for goals (561) among U.S.-born players.

Ryan Kesler – The two-way Canucks forward is another speedy American who showed that he can be an elite scorer last season. Kesler also brings plenty of charisma to the table, which could be a big part of the process. That being said, playing in Vancouver might work against him a bit.

James van Riemsdyk – Like Ryan, JVR’s style contrasts with Modano’s because he’s a power forward. That being said, the American-born winger is like Modano in that his impact just jumps out at you when he’s on top of his game. He also plays in a big hockey market in Philly, so he’ll get a chance to be a prominent U.S. player if he lives up to his recent contract extension.

Honorable mentions: Dustin Brown, Paul Stastny (if you count him), Phil Kessel, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Joe Pavelski.

***

The cop-out answer is to say that Modano’s “role” will be filled by committee. That list of players brings some great skills to the table, with some of Modano’s strengths as well as strengths of their own.

If I had to pick one, though, I’d go off the board and side with Kane. The Chicago Blackhawks winger is a delight to watch and his dizzying skill should be more obvious to casual fans than most. He also has plenty of personality, which can’t ever hurt. He might want to work on that mouthpiece-chewing habit a bit, though.

Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

Leave a comment

Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Here are the details:

McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

 

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

Leave a comment

It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday