Staying or going: Which NHL rookies should stay in the NHL or go back to juniors?

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We’re approaching the nine-game mark for many NHL rookies with junior hockey eligibility and that means teams have potentially tough decisions to make soon. So who is staying in the NHL and who is going back to juniors or Europe? Here’s how we see it.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton Oilers:  STAYING

The Oilers are doing reasonably well and he’s had a lot to do with that. They let Taylor Hall stay under worse circumstances last season and while they tease that he might go back to juniors, he shouldn’t.

Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche:  STAYING

Landeskog has looked very good for Colorado so far and he’s even gotten Matt Duchene to look bad by comparison. He skates hard, he drives the net, he scores goals… And he’ll keep doing that all season.

Adam Larsson – New Jersey Devils:  STAYING

Larsson is seeing the most minutes on the blue line and playing like a veteran in all facets of the game. He came into the season as the most NHL-ready guy and he’s showing it. If the Devils send him back to Sweden, we’ll drown our sorrows in Swedish Fish.

Mika Zibanejad – Ottawa Senators:  GOING

Zibanejad had a great training camp for Ottawa and looked like he’d be a potentially great fit immediately. While the Sens are pulling out wins, Zibanejad isn’t a part of it. He’s playing just over 12 minutes a game and has one assist and even Sens fans would rather see the team get it right than hurry him. Let him go back to Europe and get better.

source: Getty ImagesSean Couturier – Philadelphia Flyers:  STAYING

Couturier has been a defensive stud forward for Philly and he hasn’t looked out of place at all with the Flyers. The points will come, but for now he’s helping Scott Hartnell look expendable in Philly. Plus sources are already saying he’s staying so… Yeah, that’s that.

Ryan Johansen – Columbus Blue Jackets:  GOING

He’s averaging just over 10 minutes a game and while he got a healthy amount in Columbus’ game against Ottawa, he’s not learning or improving anything with the Jackets now. Send him back.

Erik Gudbranson – Florida Panthers: STAYING

Gudbranson has made his presence felt in Florida. He’s playing rough hockey, fighting guys that cross him, and his physicality is something the Panthers desperately need. He’s playing strong, let him stay.

source: Getty ImagesBrett Bulmer – Minnesota Wild:  STAYING

A cocky kid in Minnesota? There’s a team that needs a little attitude and Bulmer gives it. Hockey Wilderness raves about him and Bulmer has fit in seamlessly. He’s the perfect third/fourth line tough kid. No reason to send him back to Kelowna.

Brett Connolly – Tampa Bay Lightning: STAYING

Guy Boucher is giving Connolly every opportunity to make his mark with Tampa, and he’s doing well with that pressure. Boucher loves what he’s been able to do so far and there’s no reason to think they’ll send him back after all this glowing praise.

Devante Smith-Pelly – Anaheim Ducks: GOING

Smith-Pelly has done well as a 19 year-old kid in Anaheim on their third line, but the Ducks have J.F. Jacques back in the fold and Patrick Maroon floating around from Syracuse. His energy will be good in another year, but for now he should go back to Mississauga.

‘It’s all my fault’: Mike Babcock takes responsibility for penalty box blunder

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Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is often regarded as the best coach in hockey, but even the best make silly mistakes sometimes.

During last night’s game between the Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, Babcock’s error forced his team to play an extra 1:54 shorthanded.

Early in the third frame, Roman Polak was given a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Oliver Bjorkstrand (Polak is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday morning). Instead of sending someone to the penalty box to serve the major infraction, Babcock decided to leave the box empty.

Coaches aren’t obliged to send someone to the sin bin right away. During any stoppage in play before the end of penalty, they can send someone to finish serving the infraction. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Babcock never did.

So when Polak’s five-minute major expired, the Leafs couldn’t simply throw someone onto the ice from their bench, they had to wait for a stoppage in play.

Toronto players tried to ice the puck a couple of times, but that didn’t work. So finally, Brian Boyle flipped the puck into the Columbus bench to get a whistle, but not before his team spent nearly seven straight minutes shorthanded.

They ended up winning 5-2, but they held a slim 3-2 lead at the time.

Luckily for Babcock, his penalty killers did an incredible job, as they only allowed one shot on goal throughout the kill.

After the game, he took full responsibility for what happened.

“I’m doing better now, but can you imagine?,” said the Leafs bench boss, per the Toronto Sun. “It’s all my fault, me, the two assistants on the bench, two in the video room and 15 players on the bench. And we can’t get that done right? Often it happens and you just fire a guy in the box. It could have cost you. It will never happen in my lifetime again, I will never wait to put a guy in. But our penalty kill was really good.”

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).