The previous two Selke Trophy winners, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron, along with first-time finalist Anze Kopitar have been named as the three nominees for this season, the NHL announced on Thursday.
Given annually to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” the Selke was taken home last year by Toews — his first-ever win — and captured two years ago by Bergeron, who won in a landslide with 106 first-place votes.
This year, Kopitar joined the fray. The L.A. center played all 82 games this year and finished second to Sidney Crosby in terms of minutes logged by a forward; Kopitar also logged more shorthanded time than any of the NHL’s top-30 scorers and won 53.3 percent of his faceoffs. By being named a finalist, the Slovenian becomes the first-ever player in Kings franchise history to garner a Selke nomination.
Bergeron, meanwhile, led the NHL with 1,015 faceoff wins — the most by any player in seven years — and led all Boston forwards in shorthanded time on ice per game. This marks the third consecutive year he’s been a Selke finalist, as he finished the runner-up to Toews in ’13.
Speaking of Toews, he earned his third Selke nomination in the last four years by finishing fifth in the NHL in faceoff wins (884) and percentage (57.2). “Captain Serious” also led all Chicago forwards in time on ice per game and finished second on the team in takeaways, with 51.
Leon Draisaitl lands on injured reserve for Oilers
He was injured one week ago in a game against the Winnipeg Jets and has been sidelined with an eye injury and concussion symptoms ever since. It’s a big blow to an Oilers team that is off to a slower than expected start having won just one of their first four games.
Draisaitl signed an eight-year, $68 million contract over the summer making him a significant part of the Oilers’ core alongside Connor McDavid. He finished the 2016-17 season as one of the top offensive players in the league and is going to be counted on to help carry the offense again when he is healthy. The Oilers don’t have a ton of forward depth and are going to need McDavid and Draisaitl to be the focal points once again if they are going to live up to the preseason hype that made them one of the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Before he was injured this season Draisaitl had recorded one assist in three games.
The Oilers host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
It is not yet known how long he will be sidelined.
SPHL gets creative, adopts ‘pick your opponent’ playoff format
When discussion about the NHL’s playoff format comes up, there is a section of fans who would like to see the league allow for an even greater reward for top teams other than home-ice advantage.
That idea has become a reality thanks to the Southern Professional Hockey League.
The 10-team SPHL announced on Monday that they are overhauling their opening round and turning it into what’s being dubbed the “Challenge Round.” The top three teams will get to choose their first-round opponent during a “Challenge Round Selection” event which will be broadcast to fans on Sunday, April 8, the day after the regular season concludes. After the top three seeds select their opponents, the No. 4 team will be matched against the leftover side.
Every playoff series, including the President’s Cup Final, will remain best-of-three with re-seeding taking place for the second round.
The idea for this change came to SPHL commissioner Jim Combs over dinner in June with Axel Bammer, Chief Operating Officer of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. When Combs heard that the league’s top teams get to pick their opening round opponent, he could imagine the buzz and interest it would generate. (Sweden’s Elitserien did this in the past as well.)
A week after meeting with Bammer, Combs met with the league’s owners and received zero pushback about the idea. The new playoff format was widely embraced as the group felt this was the future of the hockey.
One of the benefits of being at the bottom rung of the professional hockey ladder (second-lowest, if you consider the FHL a pro league) is there is flexibility to implement radically new ideas other leagues can not. If the “Pick Your Opponent” format change generates buzz among fans and rivalries between teams resulting in a spirited postseason, the decision could be a winner for the SPHL.
As Campos notes, lower levels of hockey allow for plenty of onnovation while not straying far from the fundamentals of running a hockey league. This new format will certainly make the end of the regular season much more interesting and provide bulletin board material for teams and storylines heading into the playoffs. It’s an idea worth exploring, and the SPHL is no stranger to implementing ideas that catch on elsewhere.
It was the SPHL where 3-on-3 hockey began over a decade ago. It was deemed a silly gimmick at first, but now that we’ve seen it at the NHL level for two seasons, it’s clearly a welcomed change — one that’s made overtime hockey must-see television.
Combs said the league will see how it this playoff format idea plays out in April before deciding whether to keep or tweak it in the future.
So what do you think? Would you want to see the NHL go in this direction for the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Kyle Connor has been a scorer just about everywhere he has played — the USHL, the University of Michigan, and the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League.
He’s only had a brief taste of life in the NHL, playing 20 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season, scoring two goals and five points.
The 2015 first-round pick hasn’t yet experienced the same success at the NHL level, although he’s about to get another opportunity with the Jets after getting recalled on Monday. The move comes after Winnipeg placed Mathieu Perreault on injured reserve. He’s expected to miss up to four weeks.
Perreault has yet to play a full 82-game schedule with the Jets because of injuries, but he’s been an important player when available, with consistent production and strong possession numbers. That said, the 20-year-old Connor is a promising prospect with the potential for significant upside, especially considering the role he should find himself in.
“Speed. That’s the big piece that he can add to that line,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “Patrik’s such a great shooter. Bryan’s a really quick player. What Perreault did well was he got in and he got on it. He was quick enough to get in there to create some offensive zone time and allow those guys to do the things they do well and Kyle should be able to add that.”
The Chicago Blackhawks visit the St. Louis Blues for Wednesday’s Rivalry Night contest on NBCSN, and there will be a familiar voice on the broadcast.
Eddie Olczyk will return to the broadcast booth for this contest — the first meeting of the season between these two Central Division rivals — just over two months after it was publicly revealed that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was undergoing treatment following surgery to remove a tumor.
“We have some dates that we have highlighted and hopefully I will be strong to do the job,” Olczyk told USA Today. “If I am not feeling good, I just have to be honest with everyone and tell them I can’t do it.”
Olczyk played 1,031 NHL games for six teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, L.A. Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins, from 1984 to 2000, scoring 342 goals and 794 points.
After coaching the Penguins during the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons, Olczyk moved to the broadcast booth as an analyst for NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL and also Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago.
In a statement in August, Olczyk vowed to return to broadcasting after his treatment.