Brayden Schenn

Locked-out NHL rising stars and top prospects are shining in AHL

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This lockout obviously isn’t fun for the fans and it’s a good bet that if you asked just about any AHL player if he’d rather be in the NHL right now, he’d say yes. Still, the work stoppage is giving some highly regarded youngsters a chance to hone their skills in a lockout-improved AHL.

During the last lockout, a few players like Jason Spezza dominated in the AHL before taking a big leap forward in 2005-06. Edmonton Oilers fans should hope that history will repeat itself.

Oilers defensive prospect Justin Schultz has been incredible in the minors and is showing no signs of slowing down. He leads the league with 23 points in 16 games and has only been held off the scoresheet twice. On top of that Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Taylor Hall have all been putting up big numbers in the minors.

Philadelphia Flyers prospect Brayden Schenn has also been looking pretty good lately. He had a modest 18 points in 54 games with the Flyers last season, but he’s been red hot lately and now has 20 points in 15 contests.

Lastly, New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter is leading the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with nine goals and 18 points in 15 contests. Niederreiter didn’t even scratched the surface of his offensive potential during his stints with the Islanders, but the squad also limited him to an average of 10:06 minutes in 55 NHL games last season. Like the players mentioned above, Niederreiter might be very impressive once this lockout ends.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.

 

Trade: Capitals go all in for Kevin Shattenkirk; Blues receive picks

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If there was any doubt about the Washington Capitals going “all-in” to win a Stanley Cup, they erased it on Monday. They sent a pick-heavy package to the St. Louis Blues to land defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Yes, that’s right; the top team in the NHL standings landed the biggest trade deadline target. They also edged other contenders hoping to land Shattenkirk, including the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

Here’s the official announcement, which clears up some of the finer details:

The conditional second-rounder might come in 2019, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford. The full conditions are … complex, so check out this thread from the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan for the highly specific factors that could net more picks for the Blues.

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To recap, the players involved go as follows: Brad Malone and Zach Sanford to St. Louis; goalie Pheonix Copley to Washington.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Blues retained 39 percent of Shattenkirk’s salary in the deal.

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Sanford, 22, was a second-round pick (61st overall) by the Caps in 2013. He has three points in 26 NHL games this season and also played 25 games (compiling 16 points) in the AHL.

Malone, 27, is a gritty player (30 points and 188 PIM in 176 games played) while Copley, 25, generated a nice .920 save percentage in 25 AHL games this season. He also struggled in his lone NHL appearance for St. Louis in 2016-17.

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Almost exactly one year ago, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said that he believed the team has a two-year window to win a Cup, or at least as their best opportunity to win it all. He’s backing up those words with this bold move.

(And maybe he was playing coy by stating that he was only looking to improve his team “on the fringes.”)