One of the things that helped attract Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to Minnesota last summer was the wealth of young talent in the Wild pipeline. Last season, a few of those guys had a chance to show what they were made of.
You know all about Calder Trophy finalist defenseman Jonas Brodin by now, but the guy who might be the biggest key is forward Charlie Coyle.
Coyle broke out last season and earned a spot on the Wild’s top line playing right wing alongside Parise and Mikko Koivu. After tallying eight goals and six assists in 37 games and adding two more helpers in the playoffs, he showed that he’s got the game to keep up with the big boys.
This season, Coyle could start as the team’s second line center but will have to beat out fellow top prospect Mikael Granlund to do it.
Before you question that, know that Coyle’s natural position is at the pivot and both he and Granlund have tremendous offensive upside. After seeing Granlund bounce between the Wild and the AHL last season, you have to think Coyle has the advantage.
What’s important to note here is that one of those two players has to step up for the Wild to be a playoff team again. Minnesota’s dedication to them ensured that Matt Cullen would leave as a free agent, signing with Nashville for two years.
Kyle Brodziak is a solid centerman, but if the Wild are counting on him to play on the second line should Coyle or Granlund struggle, that’s a bad sign. If there’s something a team counting on young players to step up doesn’t need it’s seeing both of their top prospects fall short of expectations.
Given what Coyle showed last season and the confidence GM Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo have shown in him, things are looking up for fans in Minnesota.
You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.
With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.
Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).
In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:
Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.
Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.
So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.
The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.
No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.
He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.
There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.
So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.
Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.
(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.
After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:
Record at the end of October: 5-5-2
Record at the end of November: 11-11-3
As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.
The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?
Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.
They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.
The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?
Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.