New York Rangers v New York Islanders

Video: First overall picks score a pair of hat tricks

There’s a reason that players are picked with the #1 overall pick: they’re good. Unless the player’s name is Patrik Stefan, #1 overall picks have a tendency to break into the league and set the league on fire. Recently, Patrick Kane won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season and Steven Stamkos scored 119 goals in his first three seasons in the league. If Saturday is any indication, there are a couple more first overall picks that are going to make noise this season.

It started when John Tavares dropped a hat trick on the cross-town rival New York Rangers. The first overall pick in the 2009 draft had a hand in all four Islanders’ goals en route to a 4-2 win at Nassau Coliseum. It was his second straight four-point night and his third career hat trick in his young NHL career. Tavares is now tied for the league lead with 5 goals and 8 points on the young season; not bad for a guy who is rapidly becoming the undisputed face of the franchise.

Katie Strang from ESPN New York talked to Tavares after his four-point night:

“It’s nice to produce. It’s what I do best, obviously,” said Tavares, who signed a six-year $33 million contract extension last month. “I take a lot of pride in it and it’s nice to come through.”

Good thing he enjoys scoring—because it looks like he’s going to do it a lot this season. It’s exactly what they Islanders expected when they chose him above guys like Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane.

Here are all three goals from Tavares on Saturday night:

On the other side of the continent, the first overall pick in the 2011 provided the encore performance. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a breakout performance on Hockey Night in Canada; he scored three goals in the Oilers’ 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The third goal is up for dispute (it looked like Taylor Hall knocked it across the goal line), but he still showed the talent that made him the best player in this June’s draft. For those keeping track at home, he’s now scored four goals in three career games for the Oilers.

Playing on the line with yet another #1 overall draft pick, Taylor Hall, should help Nugent-Hopkins make the transition to the NHL. Combined with Jordan Eberle, the Oilers’ “kid line” features the only three players on the team that have scored more than a point this year. Before the season started, it was assumed that Nugent-Hopkins would be the playmaker while his linemates were the goal scorers. So far, Nugent-Hopkins has flipped the script.

The line’s performance should silence the debate whether the 18-year-old rookie would be good enough to stick with the big club this season or if he should be sent back to Red Deer after nine games. Games like this certainly make him look like an NHLer.

Modano, Ciccarelli, Roenick and Savard highlight Minnesota-Chicago alumni rosters

Mike Modano
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There’ll be no shortage of star power on display on Feb. 20, when alumni from the Wild, Blackhawks and North Stars do battle at TCF Bank Stadium.

On Tuesday, the NHL unveiled the rosters for the Stadium Series outdoor game — one day prior to the tilt between Chicago and Minnesota, a slew of ex-NHLers will compete for bragging rights, including Mike Modano, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick and Denis Savard, to name a few.

The full rosters:

North Stars/Wild

Fred Barrett, Don Beaupre, Brian Bellows, Brad Bombardir, Neal Broten, Andrew Brunette, Jack Carlson, Jon Casey, Dino Ciccarelli, Curt Giles, Craig Hartsburg, Darby Hendrickson, Antti Laaksonen, Reed Larson, Dennis Maruk, Brad Maxwell, Giles Meloche, Mike Modano, Richard Park, Steve Payne, Willi Plett, Gordie Roberts, Brian Rolston, Bobby Smith, Wes Walz, Tom Younghans.


Adrian Aucoin, Murray Bannerman, Chris Chelios, Dave Christian, Denis Cyr, Eric Daze, Reggie Kerr, Steve Konroyd, Jerry Korab, Cliff Koroll, Dave Mackey, Peter Marsh, Jamal Mayers, Grant Mulvey, Troy Murray, Brian Noonan, Jack O’Callahan, Jeremy Roenick, Phil Russell, Denis Savard, Reid Simpson, Brent Sopel, Jimmy Waite.

The North Stars/Wild will be coached by Lou Nanne, Mike Ramsey and Tom Reid. Tony Esposito and Pat Foley will man the Blackhawks bench.

Veteran NHLer Moss signs in Swiss league

David Moss
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Another journeyman has been forced to find work overseas.

David Moss, who had four goals as 12 points in 60 games for Arizona last season, has signed with EHC Biel of Switzerland’s National League A, the club announced on Tuesday.

Moss, 33, is a veteran of over 500 games, split between the Coyotes and Calgary Flames. He nearly landed in Switzerland last season, reportedly agreeing to a deal before utilizing his one-week out clause to catch on in Arizona.

After playing out his one-year, $800K deal, Moss failed to land a contract in free agency and eventually signed a PTO with Milwaukee, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.


Chara isn’t satisfied with Bruins’ recent success

Zdeno Chara
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The Boston Bruins didn’t get off to a great start in October or November, but in both instances, they were able to turn things around in the back half of the month.

Right now, everything seems to be going right for Boston, but if you think they’re satisfied with their current five-game winning streak, guess again.

“We did some things well, and we did some things that we need to improve, keep working on and keep getting better,” captain Zdeno Chara told CSN New England. “ It’s nice to win games, and it’s nice to be getting points. But I think we also want to improve our play systems-wise, and be better in certain areas.”

A big reason for their success comes from their improvement on special teams, specifically on the penalty kill.

Boston still has the 27th ranked penalty killing unit in the league, but they’ve killed 15 of their opposition’s last 16 power plays during their recent winning streak.

They’re power play is clicking at a mind-boggling 32.5 percent, which is tops in the NHL this season.

The Bruins will get their first crack at former GM Peter Chiarelli’s new team when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

Does Columbus have a fitness problem?

John Tortorella

Interesting note from the Dispatch this morning regarding Monday’s Blue Jackets practice, in which head coach John Tortorella put his players through some rigorous skating drills.

Especially interesting, given what Scott Hartnell had to say.

“You can tell by the way we practiced today that [Tortorella] wants us in better shape so we’re not fading at the end of games,” he explained.

Fitness, or lack thereof, has been a recurring issue in Columbus this season.

In late October, Tortorella called out All-Star center Ryan Johansen for being out of shape — coincidentally, Johansen was “singled out” for extra skating on Monday — and, in a recent conversation with, Torts again brought up the team’s conditioning problems.

“I think it’s a team with a number of different mental and physical bad habits that we’re trying to turn into good habits to where it becomes an instinct, but we’re a ways away,” he explained. “These are mental habits that have nothing to do with X’s and O’s.

“It’s a pretty young team, and quite honestly it’s about what it is to be a pro and doing the little things.”

So, does Columbus have a fitness problem?

It’s hard to say.

Back in October, GM Jarmo Kekalainen told the Dispatch all players passed their training camp conditioning tests and, when asked, said “I don’t think anybody can say we’re out of shape.”

But it stands to reason one of Kekalainen’s objectives in making the coaching change from Todd Richards to Tortorella was to light a fire under the team, and get them back to playing “Blue Jackets hockey” — the hard-working, hustle-filled style with a decided lunch bucket approach.

And in order to play that brand of hockey, the team has to be in shape.