2013 NHL Draft - Portraits

Can Nashville’s 2013 draft pick defensemen make this year’s team?


One of the biggest things to happen at the NHL Draft for the Nashville Predators was seeing No. 1 prospect defenseman Seth Jones fall into their lap with the fourth overall pick.

Many people believe Jones is the guy who will make Ryan Suter an afterthought in Nashville. Meanwhile, third-round pick Jonathan-Ismael Diaby has some thinking he along with Jones will be the Suter-Shea Weber combo of the Preds’ future.

The question to ask now is: Can both players make the Preds roster this season? It could happen.

Here’s what Nashville’s defensive setup looks like right now:

Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Kevin Klein – Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
Victor Bartley

The top four seems almost destined to happen. Josi had a breakout season playing alongside Weber and earned himself a big contract extension because of it. Some think Jones is set to play alongside Weber, but they’re both right-handed shots. Pairing the improving Klein with Jones would seem more likely.

Those final two spots would seem to be up for grabs and Diaby could fit into that mix.

source:  At 6’5″ 223-pounds, Diaby is already NHL-sized as an 18-year-old. Last season with Victoriaville in the QMJHL, he had just 4 goals and 22 assists but punished opponents to the tune of 117 penalty minutes. That kind of mean streak and physicality is lacking on the Preds blue line as Ekholm and Ellis are better puckhandlers than hitters.

Nashville’s “Smashville” brand of hockey gets plenty of grit-and-grind from the forwards but it’s lacking from the defense. Diaby could change that up drastically.

One thing working against the possibility is age. Would coach Barry Trotz trust two 18-year-old defenseman to make the jump right into the NHL? Jones is a virtual lock to start right away but Diaby may need more refinement to his game. Trotz along with new assistant coach and legendary defenseman Phil Housley will have plenty to look at when camp opens next month.

‘Lots of try,’ but Coyotes still winless on tough road trip

New York Rangers' Josh Jooris, right,reacts after scoring past Arizona Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue during the first period of the NHL hockey game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Two more games and it’s over.

Two more games and the Arizona Coyotes can go home.

The ‘Yotes lost their fourth straight road game Sunday in New York, falling 3-2 to the Rangers. They play at New Jersey tomorrow and at Philadelphia Thursday. Then, mercifully, the six-game trip will be done.

“We knew this was going to be a tough trip,” head coach Dave Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “We were going to find out about our team. Every game we find out a little more. There’s some areas that are improving. There’s some areas that still need lots of work. We got lots of players that are getting good experience right now.”

The Coyotes actually played quite well in New York. The game was tied, 2-2, until Dan Girardi scored early in the third. Arizona ended up outshooting the Rangers, 29-26.

But a 1-4-0 record has the Coyotes in last place in the Pacific Division. It’s an early hole for this young team, with five rookies on the roster, including three teenagers. And even when they finally get home, tough games await against Colorado, San Jose, and Nashville.

“Lots of try in our group. Lots of try,” Tippett said. “But we’re giving up three goals a game now. We gotta find a way to be better defensively.”

Arizona’s next opponent, New Jersey, isn’t the most offensive team in the league. In fact, the Devils rank dead last in scoring, with just eight goals in five games. And the Flyers haven’t been all that great either.

So perhaps the Coyotes can still salvage something from this trip. It’s been a tough one so far, but end it on a high and the flight home will be that much more enjoyable.

Related: The Coyotes are in a tough spot

Isles bring back Steve Bernier on two-way deal

NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Steve Bernier #16 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on September 25, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After attending training camp on a PTO, Steve Bernier has signed with the Isles.

On Monday, the club announced Bernier had agreed to a one-year, two-way deal, which gives him a second go-round with the club. Last year the veteran forward caught on with the club and proceeded to score six points in 24 regular-season games, and appear in six playoff contests.

A former first-round pick, Bernier’s deal comes with the Isles dealing with a few injuries up front — Shane Prince is currently week-to-week with a lower-body injury, and Mikhail Grabovski is out indefinitely with post-concussion symptoms.

The Bernier deal could also give the Isles flexibility with their two 19-year-old rookies, Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal, as both are eligible to be returned to junior (and the Isles would prevent “burning” a year on their entry-level deals if they do it before the nine-game threshold.)

That said, Beauvillier is off to a terrific start, with five points through five games. Barzal has been less effective, dressing just once.



With three straight wins, the Oilers have ‘responded well’ to the Buffalo debacle

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23: Oscar Klefbom #77 of the Edmonton Oilers congratules Cam Talbot #33 on his shutout against the Winnipeg Jets during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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The Edmonton Oilers improved to 5-1-0 with Sunday’s outdoor shutout of the Jets. They’ve now won three straight since getting embarrassed, 6-2, at home by the Sabres, leaving head coach Todd McLellan quite satisfied with the response he’s seen from his group.

“I thought we started the season sloppily and (still) won games,” said McLellan. “We gave up a lot of opportunities and chances. We were very sleepy and casual against Buffalo, and we went after the group pretty hard. But after that, we responded well, and we played three pretty good teams over the last little bit and played the game a lot better.”

Since the debacle versus Buffalo, the Oilers have beaten the Hurricanes, Blues and Jets, all in regulation. Goalie Cam Talbot has been excellent, improving his save percentage on the season to .919. Over the past three games, it’s been .970.

“I think it started after that Buffalo game that none of us were happy with obviously, so we knew we had to address some things after that,” said Talbot. “We came out Tuesday hard against a tough Carolina team, got a 3-0 lead and kind of let them back in the game there. We talked about it again after that game that we’re going to have to tighten up when we do have these leads, and Thursday was a big win against St. Louis going 1-1 into the third, getting a lead and then holding onto it. And then tonight we took it to another level (with a 3-0 win).”

There are still concerns, to be sure. At five-on-five, the Oilers rank 23rd in Corsi, per Natural Stat Trick, and that’s often a better predictor of success than a team’s record. Overall this season, the Oilers have surrendered more shots (199) than they’ve registered themselves (173).

So while happy, McLellan was careful not to spread the praise too lavishly.

“Do we make mistakes? Of course we do, and when we do, we seem to have a goaltender that makes some pretty good saves, which is nice to have,” he said. “But we’re a growth team. I wouldn’t consider us a championship team or anything like that right now. We’re still a growth team. We’re learning how to do things.”

Devils send ‘impact’ rookie Speers back to junior

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 27:  Blake Speers reacts after being selected 67th by the New Jersey Devils during the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 27, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Blake Speers, one of two 19-year-olds to make the Devils out of training camp earlier this month, has been returned to his junior team in OHL Sault Ste. Marie, the club announced on Monday.

Speers was the club’s third round pick, 67th overall, at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and wasn’t expected to make his impact at the NHL level for a while. But a solid training camp and exhibition campaign impressed both Devils head coach John Hynes and GM Ray Shero, who proceeded to give Speers a three-game look before shipping him back to junior.

“When you see him, he’s an impact player every day,” Hynes said, per the Sault Star. “His hockey smarts and instincts are excellent.

“He has speed, he has compete and he has strong puck skills.”

Speers’s three games came against the Panthers, Lightning and Wild, which included a season-high 12:50 TOI against the Bolts. By returning him to Sault Ste. Marie now rather than beyond his ninth game of the year, the Devils avoid “burning” the first year of Speers’ entry-level contract.

With Speers gone, the Devils have recalled Steve Santini from AHL Albany. Santini could make his season debut tonight when Blackhawks visit Prudential.