John Tavares

The Islanders’ future is happening right now

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After years of finishing poorly, the New York Islanders piled up an impressive array of draft picks and more than a few of those guys are there already to put the organization on their back.

Any discussion like this begins with John Tavares. If you missed out on what he did for the Isles last season you missed an incredible performance by a 22-year-old. His 28 goals and 19 assists in 48 games led the team in scoring and earned him a spot as a Hart Trophy finalist.

By leading the Isles to their first playoff berth since ’06-’07, Tavares at the very least became a folk hero on Long Island. What he may have actually done though is sealed the deal to be the next team captain. By teaming up with Matt Moulson to provide a killer one-two punch, the Isles have at least one line that can score on anyone in the league.

The fun part for Isles fans and executives alike? He’s not even close to the only young guy emerging.

Among the forwards, there’s a host of young guys thriving on the Island. Josh Bailey (23), Brock Nelson (21), Kyle Okposo (24), Michael Grabner (25), Casey Cizikas (21), Matt Martin (23), and Anders Lee (22) all saw time last season with the Isles. 2011 first-round pick Ryan Strome (20) will join that group this year.

And you wonder why GM Garth Snow mostly stayed away from the free agent market this summer.

Things aren’t any different on defense where Travis Hamonic has emerged as one of the best the Isles have there. At 22 years old he’s playing top minutes in all situations and he’s got other young guys right there with him.

Thomas Hickey (23) and Brian Strait (25) both emerged as key players last season and Matt Donovan (23), Calvin de Haan (22), and Griffin Reinhart (19) will look to crack the NHL roster in training camp.

Of those last three, Reinhart has the highest potential but may stay in juniors. 2013 first-round pick Ryan Pulock could eventually figure into the mix as well.

Long story short, you might look at the Isles roster before the season starts and ask, “Just who are these guys?” Chances are you’ll get to learn them quickly because they’re going to be part of the Isles’ continued rise out of the basement.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.