Avalanche Canucks Hockey

They were chanting Mike Santorelli’s name last night in Vancouver


It wasn’t the loudest chant you’ll ever hear; they rarely are at Rogers Arena. But there was no mistaking the name of the fans’ favorite during Vancouver’s 3-1 victory last night over Colorado  — San-to-rel-li.

As in, Mike Santorelli. Formerly of the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers. Had a brief, unsuccessful stint with Winnipeg last season. The Canucks signed him to a two-way deal in July, with the expectation he was bound for the farm team in Utica.

Turns out expectations were a tad low. Not only did Santorelli — a Vancouver native, by the way — make the big club, the 27-year-old forward now sits fourth in team scoring, with 21 points in 32 games.

Santorelli figured on all three Canucks goals versus the Avs, scoring two of them and setting up Ryan Kesler’s 15th.

Speaking of which, his apparent chemistry with Kesler is another bonus, given the elusiveness of that particular pursuit for Canuck management. But the chemistry makes sense. Santorelli is a good puck distributor, which isn’t something you’d call Kesler, who’s more of a puck taker.

Santorelli is also a pending unrestricted free agent who should be in for a nice raise next season, particularly if he can keep producing at the same rate for the Canucks. And he did have 20 goals and 21 assists for the Panthers in 2010-11, so it would be unfair to call what he’s doing now a fluke. It’s just, nobody really heard about him when he was in Florida.

Related: Santorelli impressing Torts in Vancouver

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
Leave a comment

The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
1 Comment

Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”