All week leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, we’ll be profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round. Nothing too in-depth. Just enough so you know who they are and what they’re about.
Pontus Aberg (LW)
Height: 5’11 Weight: 194 Shoots: Right
Team: Djurgarden (SEL)
NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 among European skaters
What kind of player is he?
Aberg already has experience playing with and against men much older than him. He’s an enthusiastic player, but he’s already ran into some injury problems that has probably caused his stock to drop.
He looks like a bit more of a long-term project and it’s worth noting that, as The Hockey Writers pointed out, he’s tied to Djurgarden through the 2013-14 season. Still, he could develop into a top-six forward for the club that ends up drafting him.
He ended up with eight goals and 15 points in 47 games in his rookie season in the Swedish Elite League. However, his club, Djurgarden, has been relegated to the second tier of Swedish teams for the 2012-13 campaign.
“Started the year with vengeance as he was the first player to be nominated for the Elitserien rookie-of-the-year award however a series of injuries took their toll on him and derailed his season. Aberg is a fearless competitor who willingly hurls his under-sized body at players regardless of size. He compliments his competitive streak with a set of nimble hands and a sizzling shot. He is more shifty than he is fast and he will need to address his acceleration moving forward. Aberg would also benefit from being more selective in his physical confrontations for self preservation purposes.” — David Burstyn, McKeen’s Hockey
Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.
Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.
The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.
Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.
Their production together can not be understated.
Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.
What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.
While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.
Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.
He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.
Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer
Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.
The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.
Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.
If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.
Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.
Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.
While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.
In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.
No word yet on financials for either guy.
Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million
Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.