NCAA on NBCSN — Frozen Fenway: No. 6 Boston College vs. No. 14 Notre Dame

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 college hockey season tonight when the No. 6 Boston College Eagles (12-4-2) host the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-7-1) at Fenway Park in Boston with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. 

The Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium won’t be the only outdoor hockey game with ties to college this week. It’s time for Frozen Fenway in Boston and the main event features a pair of powerhouse teams in Boston College and Notre Dame.

With BC involved, there’s plenty of talent to go around (10 NHL draft picks) but the biggest name is one of the smallest players in junior forward Johnny Gaudreau (pictured).

Gaudreau, a fourth-round pick by the Calgary Flames in 2011, is second in the nation in points with 33. His 15 goals put him behind just RPI junior forward Ryan Haggerty in that category. The remarkable part is he’s done all this in 18 games.

What makes BC scary is they’re not a one-player show. Seniors Kevin Hayes (Blackhawks) and Bill Arnold (Flames) are right there with Gaudreau in points and freshman Ryan Fitzgerald (Bruins – son of former NHLer Tom Fitzgerald) has arrived on the scene in a big way with 18 points.

The bad news for the Fighting Irish? BC is on a tear heading into the game. The Eagles have won four in a row and have outscored opponents 21-5 over that stretch. Aside from a couple of hiccup losses on the road to Maine and at home against Holy Cross, the Eagles have been more than worthy of their No. 6 ranking.

Notre Dame heads into the game having won just two out of the past six games. They’ve been off for almost a full month due to the holidays and finals and coach Jeff Jackson is hoping the time off will help them rebound.

Senior T.J. Tynan (Blue Jackets) has led the team with 15 points and sophomore forward Mario Lucia (Wild) leads in goals with nine. Offense has been a problem and they’ll have to go without freshman Vince Hinostroza (Blackhawks) who’s away with Team USA’s World Junior team.

That could spell trouble for the Irish as BC’s had strong goaltending this year. If the Irish want to surprise the Eagles, they’ll need senior Steven Summerhays to continue his strong play (9-6-1/.931/1.89). With an attack like BC has and the buzz that will be in the air at Fenway for this game, it sets the bar high for Summerhays to get the job done.

NHL Draftees

Boston College — Forwards: Johnny Gaudreau (JR – Flames), Bill Arnold (SR – Flames), Kevin Hayes (SR – Blackhawks), Ryan Fitzgerald (FR – Bruins), Adam Gilmour (FR – Wild), Chris Calnan (FR – Blackhawks)

Defensemen: Ian McCoshen (FR – Panthers – at WJCs), Michael Matheson (SO – Panthers), Isaac MacLeod (SR – Sharks), Steve Santini (FR – Devils – at WJCs), Chris Calnan (FR – Blackhawks)

Notre Dame — Forwards: Vince Hinostroza (FR – Blackhawks – at WJCs), T.J. Tynan (SR – Blue Jackets), Austin Wuthrich (JR – Capitals), Bryan Rust (SR – Penguins), Jeff Costello (SR – Senators), Mario Lucia (SO – Wild), Steven Fogarty (SO – Rangers), Thomas DiPauli (SO – Capitals – at WJCs)

Defense: Robbie Russo (JR – Islanders), Stephen Johns (SR – Blackhawks), Kevin Lind (SR – Ducks)

Islanders’ D getting crowded with four-year deal for Adam Pelech

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If nothing else, quantity probably won’t be much of an issue for the New York Islanders’ defense in 2017-18.

GM Garth Snow locked down another blueliner on Monday, as he signed Adam Pelech to a four-year contract. The deal is worth $1.6 million per season ($6.4M overall), according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

Pelech, 22, played 44 games at the NHL level in 2016-17, collecting 10 points and struggling from an analytics standpoint. He also appeared in nine games with the Islanders in 2015-16.

Staple notes that this could make for a logjam – or, to put a positive spin on it, make for a lot of competition – particularly if the Isles can strike a deal with Calvin de Haan soon. If that pans out, they’d have eight defensemen who would need to go through waivers.

On the bright side, the Islanders’ defense looks respectable on paper, and that’s assuming that Pelech doesn’t take a step forward. If he does, this could be another respectable, under-the-radar move by Snow.

At the moment, it mainly seems like adding depth and flexibility, which isn’t the worst thing, either.

Plenty of opportunity on revamped Blackhawks defense

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For almost a decade, Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ back end, quietly providing some of the most effective defense in the league.

But with Hjalmarsson in Arizona now, traded to the Coyotes for the younger-though-less-proven Connor Murphy, it remains to be seen how Chicago’s blue line will roll out next season.

In addition to Hjalmarsson, the ‘Hawks also bid adieu to Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Trevor van Riemsdyk this offseason.

Add up all the good-byes, and that’s a lot of minutes to replace.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we’re going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

The way it looks right now, the top four will be comprised of Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, and Michal Kempny. That’s two left shots — Keith and Kempny — and two righties — Seabrook and Murphy.

Read more: After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

The bottom pairing, though, is anyone’s guess. Newly signed Czech defenseman Jan Rutta is in the mix. But so too are Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and possibly even Luc Snuggerud.

Once training camp starts, it’ll be up to those young players to prove themselves.

“Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more,” said Oesterle, whom the ‘Hawks signed July 1. “I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Veteran Michal Rozsival is also under contract for next season. However, he turns 39 in September, and with all that youth champing at the bit, the Blackhawks will be hoping they won’t need him much, if at all.

Chicago’s defense in 2016-17, ranked by total time on ice

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.