As more and more NHL teams near the nine-game mark — nine games, of course, being the deadline when junior-age players can be sent back to their respective clubs — we’re starting to get a better sense of what this year’s rookie class will look like.
Earlier today, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that Brett Connolly has made the team. Connolly, the first-ever selection by GM Steve Yzerman, posted just two assists in his first nine games, but is tied for the team lead with a plus-5 rating and is averaging 13:54 of ice time per game.
Shortly thereafter, Florida’s other team announced they’re also holding onto a prized prospect. The Miami Herald reported the Panthers will keep D Erik Gudbranson in the fold — he’s played in all eight of Florida’s games this year and GM Dale Tallon expects him to play No. 9 Thursday night in Ottawa.
Speaking of Ottawa, the Senators parted ways with Mika Zibanejad today. Zibanejad, the sixth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, had just one assist in nine games, and was a minus-3. He’ll return to Djurgarden in Sweden, but this still leaves Ottawa with four rookie skaters: Jared Cowen, David Rundblad, Stephane Da Costa and Colin Greening.
As for the rest of the NHL, players we’re still waiting to hear a decision on include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson, Sean Couturier, Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Bulmer.
Bang it here (to steal a phrase from Pro Football Talk) for PHT’s take on which rookies will stay and which will go.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: