Canucks ‘a team we can turn around in a hurry,’ says new GM Benning


On Friday, new Canucks general manager Jim Benning conducted a Q&A with fans and ticketholders — essentially his first duty as GM — and made it clear he thinks the pieces are in place for a fast turnaround following last year’s disappointing campaign.

“I like the team, I like the core players,” Benning explained. “The Sedins are excellent people and great players, so I think this is a team we can turn around in a hurry.”

Benning, the 11th GM in franchise history, will have plenty to do to right the ship. The next 4-5 weeks promise to be a whirlwind as he has to prepare for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, figure out what the Canucks plan to do in free agency and work with president of hockey ops Trevor Linden in the search for a new head coach.

Benning essentially deferred to Linden on the topic of who would replace John Tortorella, and Linden replied by saying that process was still in its infancy.

“I’ll go through the same process [as hiring a GM] — building a profile of what type of vision and characteristics we want from our head coach, and then we’ll start the interview process,” Linden explained. “The great thing about having Jim on board as quickly as we have him is we can work together in that process.”

Head coach isn’t the only personnel decision Benning will have to address. There’s also the issue of Ryan Kesler, who has been a hot trade target since the March deadline.

Benning wasn’t offering many hints as to what his plans were for the former Selke winner, saying that he “loves the way Ryan Kesler plays” and that “if it was up to me, we would like try and keep him.”

But later, Benning addressed the core group of veteran players in Vancouver with no-trade clauses — which includes Kesler (according to The Province, he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for six teams: Anaheim, Colorado, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh) — and said those NMCs and NTCs wouldn’t keep him from trying to improve the club.

“We’re going to do what we feel is the best thing to do for the organization,” Benning explained. “I know we have a lot of no-trade contracts, but if we feel we can make the team better, we won’t be afraid of approaching players and asking them to waive a no-trade.”

Overall, Benning sounded like someone inheriting a team with pieces he felt he could work with, and ultimately fix. Vancouver missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year, and the new GM said he can help return to the club to a successful level.

“It’s a passionate fan base — the team and the fans really want to win here,” Benning explained. “We want to build a team with the right types of players that has a chance to win every year.”

Bruins sign Olympic standout Ryan Donato to entry-level contract

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The Boston Bruins have a plethora of young players coming through the pipeline, including Ryan Donato who they signed to a two-year, entry-level contract on Sunday night.

The Bruins drafted Donato in the second round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The 21-year-old spent each of the last two seasons at Harvard. In 2017-18, he finished the year with 26 goals and 17 assists in 29 games with the Crimson.

Donato also represented the United States at this 2018 Olympic Games, where he had had five goals (tied for the tournament lead) in five games.

The team has already announced that he’ll join them right away. He’s eligible to suit up in tomorrow’s game.

“It came together in pretty short order,” GM Don Sweeney said, per the Bruins’ Twitter account. “We had always been committed to providing the opportunity to Ryan if and when he decided to leave school…I think it was an opportunity on both sides to explore with Ryan and see where he’s at.

“He’s a kid that’s got a confidence about himself, a talent level, and he’s got some details he’s gonna have to work on – all young players do. But he’s a player that has hard skill. We’re looking forward to having him…get immersed and get a taste.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Nathan MacKinnon delivered another MVP-like performance on Sunday


Not only is Nathan MacKinnon involved in a tight playoff race, he’s also in the thick of the MVP hunt. His performance in Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings certainly didn’t hurt his chances of winning the award.

MacKinnon finished the night with two goals, an assist and 11 shots on goal in 18:05 of ice time. Oh, and one of his goals looked like this:

The 22-year-old is now riding an 12-game point streak. He’s racked up an incredible 24 points during that stretch. The Avs forward has also racked up 28 points in his last 15 outings.

The Avalanche went 4-4 during MacKinnon’s eight-game absence between Feb. 1-16. With him in the lineup, they’re 35-21-8. That’s quite a difference.

“If we get in the playoffs, for me, he’s the MVP,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of MacKinnon, per the Denver Post. “I can’t imagine there is another player who means more to their team, and doing more for their team, than Nate’s doing for us. That’s just the way I see it. He is the driving force to our offense. And it’s consistent. It’s multiple-point games — seems like every night.”

Of course, his biggest competition will come in the form of Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils, Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and a few others.

It’ll be difficult not to give MacKinnon the award if the Avs qualify for the playoffs. They’re currently sitting in the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but they haven’t clinched anything just yet.

On a positive note, they’re also just three points behind the Minnesota Wild for third place in the Central Division.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks

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Projected Lines

St. Louis Blues

Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennVladimir Tarasenko
Patrik BerglundKyle BrodziakAlexander Steen
Dmitrij JaskinVladimir SobotkaTage Thompson
Nikita SoshnikovIvan BarbashevChris Thorburn

Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo
Vince DunnColton Parayko
Joel EdmundsonRobert Bortuzzo

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

[Check out the PHT Preview of the game]

Chicago Blackhawks

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Matthew Highmore – Nick Schmaltz – Vinne Hinostroza
Tomas JurcoArtem AnisimovAlex DeBrincat
Patrick SharpDavid Kampf – John Hayden

Duncan KeithJan Rutta
Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook
Jordan OesterleConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Jean-Francois Berube

NHL Playoff Push: Another huge day ahead for Western Conference race


Entering play on Sunday there are six teams in the Western Conference that fighting for three playoff spots (the third spot in the Pacific Division, both Wild Cards). Those teams are all separated by just four points.

Five of those teams are in action on Sunday.

First, here is a look at how the standings look entering the day.

The Kings lost on Saturday to New Jersey and failed to gain any ground on the rest of the pack, while the Blues were able to get a huge win against the New York Rangers and set up another big game for them on Sunday night when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks. You can catch that game on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

On Sunday the Avalanche are hosting a Detroit team that is just circling the drain down the stretch and have a great opportunity to pick up two more huge points. The other Wild Card team at the moment, Dallas, is trending in the wrong direction down the stretch having won just five of their past 16 games. They are in Winnipeg on Sunday to play a Jets team that has one of the most powerful offenses in the league.

The Ducks, meanwhile, who can climb into the third spot in the Pacific Division with a point on Sunday, are hosing the Devils team that knocked off the Kings on Saturday.

The other team in that mix is Calgary. The Flames are the team that probably have the longest odds in this group, sitting four points back with all of the aforementioned teams sitting ahead of them. They are in Vegas to take on one of the best home teams in the league this season. The Flames, for what it is worth, have been one of the absolute best road teams. Given the standings and deficit they are facing the Flames have almost no margin for error the rest of the way.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

In the East, New Jersey has a chance to to move up a couple of spots in the standings with a win and some help.

A Devils win in Anaheim, combined with a Flyers loss to the Washington Capitals, would put the Devils into the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. Even if the Flyers win and maintain their hold on the No. 3 spot in the Metro the Devils could still leapfrog the Blue Jackets for the first Wild Card spot.

The other game in the Eastern Conference on Sunday with playoff implications is Tampa Bay hosting the Edmonton Oilers.

The Lightning have seen its lead in the Atlantic Division dwindle down to just two points after losing to the Boston  Bruins on Saturday night while the Bruins still have a game in hand. The Lightning could reclaim that four point lead with a win. The Oilers have been playing a bit better as of late, thanks almost entirely to Connor McDavid making a late season push for the scoring title.

If The Playoffs Started Today

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils
Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche
Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Sunday’s Key Games

Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche, 3 p.m. ET
Calgary Flames vs. Vegas Golden Knights, 4 p.m. ET
Edmonton Oilers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 5 p.m. ET
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 5 p.m. ET
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. ET
Dallas Stars vs. Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m ET
New Jersey Devils vs. Anaheim Ducks, 9 p.m. ET

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.