Is it in Ottawa’s best interests for Mika Zibanejad to make an immediate NHL jump?

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Every once in a while, a person makes an argument that changes the way people look at things. Sometimes that persuasive piece might alter your viewpoints on large issues such as religion or politics, other times a TV show just makes you think less of a rival program.

Just a year ago today (Sept. 27, 2010), Tyler Dellow argued that the Edmonton Oilers should’ve preserved the first entry-level years for promising rookies such as Taylor Hall and Magnus Pajaarvi. To impatient Oilers fans, that idea probably sounded ludicrous, but Dellow’s point shouldn’t be taken lightly – especially since the Oilers were bad enough to earn the number 1 overall pick in a second straight draft.

It might be harsh to call their rookie years a waste, but one can make the unpopular but reasonable argument that the Oilers would’ve been better served saving those two players’ bargain years. Now Hall only has two seasons left until The Dreaded Second Contract, which could be a nightmare.

(I’ll admit there’s one indirect perk to this “plan,” though. Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ contract years will be staggered by at least one summer, so that could allow them to take their second contract lumps in more digestible portions.)

Senators face a similar conundrum

The Oilers aren’t the only struggling Canadian NHL franchise that should think long and hard about expending precious entry-level years, though. The Ottawa Senators should be careful about the way they handle their 2011 first round pick Mika Zibanejad, even if the versatile Swede’s play almost demands a spot on the opening day roster.

The reasoning is simple: the 2011-12 season is expected to be an ugly one for the once-proud Sens. Don’t get me wrong, Craig Anderson could be very good next season. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza should get a little more luck with their health, while Sergei Gonchar has nowhere to go but up from a dreadful 10-11 debut in Ottawa. Even so, the Senators rank as a long shot, especially considering how much better the Northeast Division figures to be next season.

Zibanejad keeps scoring

Zibanejad isn’t exactly making it easy for the Senators to turn him down, though. He already was making a solid case with two “dazzling” goals going into tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Zibanejad managed to score one more impressive goal on Tuesday, as you can see from the highlights in that link.

It’s tantalizing to think about, but chew on this: two of the three Calder Trophy finalists played on teams who failed to make the playoffs. Rookie of the year Jeff Skinner’s first season was so sensational that it would be silly to call it a bad move, but the Carolina Hurricanes might wonder – for at least a second – when his payday comes in 2013 rather than 2014.

The Senators will likely make that crucial choice somewhere around Zibanejad’s ninth regular season game, which is the deadline for teams to either postpone that first entry-level year until next year or let it melt away. GM Bryan Murray and head coach Paul MacLean will have a tough choice to make, but if you ask me, they should be fun-killers by sending him down.

What do you think, though? Should they lean one way or just keep an open mind about his chances? Do you prefer instant gratification or slow-roasted goodness? Let us know in the comments.

Huge step? Doctors may find a way to identify CTE in living NHL players

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Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper and TSN’s Rick Westhead pass along what could be a breakthrough Boston University study  – or at least the early stages of a breakthrough – in how concussions/CTE are handled in sports.

The key: after only being able to study brains of deceased athletes, there’s a chance that living athletes with CTE might eventually be identified.

On face value, that’s great news for player health. Hockey, like other contact sports such as football, is no stranger to careers and lives being derailed by brain injuries.

Of course, the NHL and NHLPA would need to cooperate to make the most of potential progress. If you’ve watched hockey long enough, particularly postseason hockey, you know that certain protocols can stand as great concepts met with hesitant execution.

Westhead expounds on such thoughts, and some of his findings aren’t very pretty.

The league is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit regarding concussions, and its actions have been elusive enough that politicians have gone as far as to accuse Gary Bettman and the NHL of being “delusional” about the issue.

Don’t just put this on the league, though.

Players might be hesitant to take such tests if it means that they’ll miss playing time (or even see their careers end). It brings back memories of Peyton Manning willfully sandbagging his baseline concussion test. For better or worse, these guys want to play.

Not great, yet you can also understand the human element.

Of course, it’s crucial to realize that potential breakthroughs from this study could take quite some time to trickle into functional practices, even if leagues and players end up being more willing to comply than expected.

Overall, this is promising news. Hopefully such changes could help athletes during their careers and into retirement.

Sprong continues to impress, just not enough to make Penguins (yet)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins frequently give prospect Daniel Sprong rave reviews, yet it seems like they believe that he still needs some seasoning before making a dent at the NHL level.

Sprong and fellow intriguing forward Zach Aston-Reese headlined a group of 21 players the Penguins demoted to the AHL on Tuesday.

Here is the full list:

Forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Thomas Di Pauli, Adam Johnson, Sam Miletic, Dominik Simon, Colin Smith, Daniel Sprong, Christian Thomas, Freddie Tiffels and Garrett Wilson; defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Frank Corrado, Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman; and goalies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have all been returned to WBS.

Sprong, 20, was the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s been generating solid numbers at the OHL, so it will be interesting to see how he converts that to AHL work. Sprong played 18 regular-season games for the Penguins back in 2015-16, notching two goals.

Sprong discussed that experience with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this summer.

“I played [in the NHL] at 18 for a reason,” Sprong said. “With the shoulder surgery last year, that was kind of a setback. But I’m excited for this year and hopefully I can start the season here.”

That won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll see Sprong in 2018-19 … or maybe sooner?

Aston-Reese, 23, already showed some promise in that regard; he scored eight games in a 10-game audition at the AHL level in 2016-17.

These moves narrow the Penguins’ training camp roster down to 26 players. They have until Oct. 3 to settle on 23.

Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

* – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.

Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

“I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).