Martin St. Louis

Did You Know? Martin St. Louis probably should’ve been drafted

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The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.

Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Tampa Bay Lightning and its veteran leader, Martin St. Louis. The 36-year-old is in the midst of another solid campaign — 5G-11A-16PTS in 19GP — and coming off a loss to New Jersey where he played a season-high 27:26.

Needless to say, St. Louis is showing no signs of slowing down.

Looking back on St. Louis’ career, it’s crazy to think he almost never made the league. Despite earning numerous accolades — six-time All-Star, Hart/Art Ross/Lester B. Pearson/Lady Byng winner, Stanley Cup champion — there was a time 26 NHL teams passed on acquiring his services.

St. Louis went undrafted during his years of eligibility, one of the greatest oversights in league history.

First off, it’s not like St. Louis came out of nowhere — he was a three-time Hobey Baker finalist at the University of Vermont. It’s also not like the draft was the only time he got passed over — both the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames cut him loose after brief stints with the organizations.

For speculation’s sake, let’s assume St. Louis was available at the ’97 Draft. That was the year he got axed from the Senators as an undrafted rookie free agent and played with Cleveland of the IHL. Knowing what we know now, how different would it look?

Here were the first 15 picks:

No.1 — Joe Thornton, Boston
No. 2 — Patrick Marleau, San Jose
No. 3 — Olli Jokinen, Los Angeles
No. 4 — Roberto Luongo, New York Islanders
No. 5 — Eric Brewer, New York Islanders
No. 6 — Daniel Tkaczuk, Calgary
No. 7 — Paul Mara, Tampa Bay
No. 8 — Sergei Samsonov, Boston
No. 9 — Nick Boynton, Washington
No. 10 — Brad Ference, Vancouver
No. 11 — Jason Ward, Montreal
No. 12 — Marian Hossa, Ottawa
No. 13 — Dan Cleary, Chicago
No. 14 — Michel Riesen, Edmonton
No. 15 — Matt Zultek, Los Angeles

St. Louis has to be a top-four pick, no? He and Hossa would jump up to replace Jokinen and one of Marleau/Luongo. (I’d also bump Brenden Morrow — who went 25th overall to Dallas — way up, easily into the top 6-7.) At the very least you’re taking Marty at No. 15 over Matt Zultek, last known to be playing for the Mississippi Surge of the Southern Professional Hockey League. (Yes, such a team exists. Owned by former Philadelphia Flyer Tim Kerr!)

Would you go as far to say St. Louis should’ve gone No. 1 overall? Thornton has the better career numbers and a Hart Trophy of his own, but St. Louis has a Stanley Cup (and remember, if it wasn’t for Brad Richards’ unprecedented goalscoring streak, St. Louis probably would’ve won the Conn Smythe. He led the Lightning in assists that postseason and scored the key OT winner in Game 6.)

Whatever the case, I think we can all agree: St. Louis probably should’ve been drafted.

Goalie nods: Backup extraordinaire Montoya gets the call versus Wings

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya watches game action against the New Jersey Devils' during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.

Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.

The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).

“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”

Beyond Montoya, other NHL backups with particularly good numbers include the Flyers’ Michal Neuvirth (.933), the Kings’ Jhonas Enroth (.931), the Blues’ Brian Elliott (.930), the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.929), and the Wild’s Darcy Kuemper (.928).

Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings. He used to be Detroit’s backup, but he’s since surpassed Jimmy Howard for the starting job.

Elsewhere…

Cory Schneider for the Devils at MSG, versus Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.

John Gibson for the Ducks in Pittsburgh, versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.

— Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning in Ottawa, versus Craig Anderson for the Sens.

Blues put Pietrangelo on IR with knee injury

Pietrangelo-Coyle
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Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.

Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.

The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.

The first day of the playoffs is April 13.

Update:

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

“I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.

This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.

“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”

Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.

Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.

Vigneault felt the hit was late.

“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.

Beleskey was not suspended.

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From the NHL:

Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.

Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.

Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse