Bozak, Clarkson contracts were big gambles for Nonis

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Toronto Maple Leafs day on PHT continues with a look at two big summer signings — will they pan out?

July 5 was a big day for the Leafs. First, the club announced it had re-signed center Tyler Bozak to a four-year, $21 contract extension. Then, not long after, former Devils winger David Clarkson agreed to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract.

In all, the club committed $57.75 million to the pair of forwards — a commitment that left many critics wondering if general manager Dave Nonis had spent his valuable cap space wisely.

Don Cherry, for one, was no fan of the Bozak deal.

“I can’t believe they re-signed him for that,” said Cherry. I mean, there’s a classic case of overpaying a guy. Ridiculous. He’s a plugger, he’s playing with (Phil) Kessel and he can’t get 20 goals.”

Others agreed with Cherry — so much so that Bozak, 27, was asked during a radio interview about all the negative things that had been said and written in the wake of his new deal.

His response?

“I’ve had two coaches (Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle) that had the opportunity to not play me in that role and have, so if there’s a few fans on Twitter that still think I’m not able to play, I’ll take the coaches’ opinion over theirs every time.”

Meanwhile, the case against Clarkson centered around giving a 29-year-old with fewer than 100 career NHL goals a contract that runs through 2019-20.

Clarkson came to Toronto after scoring 97 goals in 426 career games for the Devils. His breakout year didn’t come until 2011-12, when he scored 30 times, with 16 assists and 138 PIM, in 80 games.

The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle was critical of the contract in large part due to Clarkson’s age.

Clarkson is a particular kind of forward who plays a very physical game, often known as a power forward, and in recent years especially, they have been phased out rather quickly in their careers.

There aren’t a lot of 30-something power forwards, in other words.

The NHL has become much more about speed than brawn in recent years, with even so-called tough teams like the Boston Bruins having plenty of finesse and playmaking ability, as they showed against a slower Pittsburgh Penguins team.

But Nonis defended the length of the deal, saying he wasn’t concerned about the years at the end of the contract.

“I’m not worried about six or seven right now,” Nonis said. “I’m worried about one. And Year One, I know we’re going to have a very good player. I believe that he’s got a lot of good years left in him.”

He’d better hope so. Because for Nonis — who incidentally was just granted a new five-year contract — the performances of Bozak and Clarkson next season will be strongly tied to his own approval rating.

More Leafs day on PHT: Reimer vs Bernier — Who ya got?

McPhee, Golden Knights begin process of stockpiling talent

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The Vegas Golden Knights used the expansion draft this past week to stockpile draft picks in exchange for not selecting certain players. General manager George McPhee’s haul helped the team collect 12 draft picks for this year, including three of the top-15 picks in the first-round (No. 6 overall, No. 13 overall and No. 15 overall).

McPhee ended up keeping all three of his first-round picks and followed through on his commitment of drafting their way to success.

With those picks the Golden Knights selected a pair of centers, Cody Glass from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks at No. 6, and Nick Suzuki from the Owen Sound Attack at No. 13.

From there, they began to build up their blue line by taking Swedish blue-liner Erik Brannstrom with the 15th overall pick.

With that collection of assets it was reasonable to imagine that McPhee might try to package some of them together to move up from their own pick at No. 6 overall, perhaps even to make a run at Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick with one of the top-two picks.

McPhee made it sound like Glass was one of their primary targets and even suggested they had a deal in place (involving one of their second-round picks) to make a move for him if needed.

He did not need to.

When asked about the comparisons Glass drew to Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele, McPhee said it was a fair comparison.

In the end, keeping all three first-round picks is probably the best-case scenario for Vegas when it comes to building an organization from the ground up. Luck was not on their side in the draft lottery and they didn’t get an opportunity to get one of the elite prospects, and as tempting as it might have been to make a bold move up for one this is a team that is literally starting from scratch. It needs talent all over the ice and a lot of times the best way to find success in the draft is by giving yourself as many opportunities as possible.

McPhee certainly did that for Vegas in their first ever draft.

Getting drafted by Wings a ‘dream come true’ for Rasmussen

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CHICAGO — The first thing you notice about Michael Rasmussen is his size.

This is a big kid the Detroit Red Wings just drafted out of the Western Hockey League.

Rasmussen stands 6-foot-6 and weighs around 215 pounds. The 18-year-old center scored 32 goals in 50 games for the Tri-City Americans last season.

“I’ve got a big wing span, so I protect the puck well,” he said after going ninth overall Friday at United Center. “When I have the puck, I pride myself on not getting it taken from me.”

For the Red Wings, this is a big pick in another way. Amazingly, Rasmussen is the first top-10 selection the organization has made since 1991, when Martin Lapointe was drafted 10th overall.

In other words, GM Ken Holland better be right about this kid.

Read more: A very different draft for Detroit

To realize his potential in the NHL, Rasmussen knows he’ll need to get faster on the ice.

“Obviously, being a big guy it’s tough to get a bigger frame around,” he said. “It’s something I’ll work hard on this summer with my speed coach. It’s something I need to improve for sure.”

A Vancouver native, Rasmussen was naturally a Canucks fan growing up. He particularly admired the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel.

“They were always in the community and giving back,” he said. “That’s something I admire, even more than their play. They’re amazing leaders and amazing people. They’ve done a lot for the city of Vancouver.”

Now Rasmussen hopes to do a lot for his future home and team.

“I think it was one of my hopes that I could go to Detroit,” he said. “My combine meeting went really well. It was in my mind that this was a place that I really wanted to go to. It’s a dream come true definitely.”

PHT’s 2017 NHL Draft Tracker

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From the United Center in Chicago, it’s the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft!

Click back here throughout the night for all the latest picks, complete with draft profiles, stories and video from tonight’s broadcast on NBCSN.

1. New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier center, QMJHL Halifax (profile)

More: Hischier not caught up in ‘Nico vs. Nolan’ hype

2. Philadelphia Flyers: Nolan Patrick center, WHL Brandon (profile)

More: ‘The media’s pumping it down’ — Patrick rejects notion of weak draft class

3. Dallas Stars: Miro Heiskanen, defenseman, HIFK Finland (profile)

4. Colorado Avalanche: Cale Makar, defenseman, AJHL Brooks (profile)

More: D-man Makar makes for compelling prospect

5. Vancouver Canucks: Elias Pettersson, center, SHL Timra IK

6. Vegas Golden Knights: Cody Glass, center, WHL Portland

7. New York Rangers (from Arizona): Lias Andersson, center, SHL HV71

8. Buffalo Sabres: Casey Mittelstadt, center, Eden Prairie HS (profile)

More: Mittelstadt has no regrets after chasing Minnesota high school title

9. Detroit Red Wings: Michael Rasmussen, center, WHL Tri-City

More: Getting drafted by Wings ‘a dream come true’ for Rasmussen

10. Florida Panthers: Owen Tippett, RW, OHL Mississauga (profile)

11. Los Angeles Kings: Gabriel Vilardi, C, OHL Windsor (profile)

More: Gabriel Vilardi deserves your attention

12. Carolina Hurricanes: Martin Necas, center, Czech League Brno

13. Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg): Nick Suzuki, center, OHL Owen Sound

14. Tampa Bay Lightning: Cal Foote, defenseman, WHL Kelowna

15. Vegas Golden Knights (from NY Islanders): Erik Brannstrom, defenseman, SHL SV71

16. Calgary Flames: Juuso Valimaki, defenseman, WHL Tri-City

17. Toronto Maple Leafs: Timothy Liljegren, defenseman, SHL Rogle

18. Boston Bruins: Urho Vaakanainen, defenseman SM-liiga JYP

19. San Jose Sharks: Josh Norris, center, USA U-18 NTDP

20. St. Louis Blues: Robert Thomas, center, OHL London

21. New York Rangers: Filip Chytil, center, Czech League Zlin

22. Edmonton Oilers: Kailer Yamamoto, right wing, WHL Spokane

23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota): Pierre-Olivier Joseph, defenseman, QMJHL Charlottetown

24. Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas): Kristian Vesalainen, right wing, SHL Frolunda

25. Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Poehling, center, St. Cloud State

26. Dallas Stars (from Chicago): Jake Oettinger, goalie, Boston University

27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington)
28. Ottawa Senators
29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim)
30. Nashville Predators
31. Pittsburgh Penguins

Cody Glass becomes Vegas’ first-ever draft pick

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Cody Glass became part of history on Friday night.

Glass, the No. 6 ranked North American skater from WHL Portland, became the first-ever draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, who took him sixth overall at the United Center in Chicago.

A 6-foot-2 center that was named the Winterhawks’ MVP this season, Glass has drawn comparisons to Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele. He put up a stunning 94 points in 64 games this season, and is regarded as one of the finest offensive talents in the Western League.

While Glass is the first-ever pick for the Knights, he’ll soon have some company. GM George McPhee stockpiled a pair of additional first-round picks at Wednesday’s expansion draft — No. 13 and 15 respectively — meaning Vegas could walk away from tonight with a boatload of young, enticing prospects.