In DeAngelo, Bolts say they got draft’s top offensive d-man

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PHILADELPHIA — To hear Tampa Bay scouting director Al Murray explain it, the club got fantastic value with Anthony DeAngelo at No. 19, a player Murray called “the most skilled offensive defenseman in the draft.”

Upon saying that, I asked if the Bolts had DeAngelo rated higher than Aaron Ekblad — the OHL Barrie blueliner taken first overall — in terms of offensive ability.

Murray’s response was telling.

“Ekblad’s a special player, but he doesn’t have the offensive ability that Anthony has at this point,” he said. “Aaron Ekblad’s a tremendous player. He’s physically strong enough to be in the NHL next year, he’s a shutdown defenseman that plays with a mean streak.

“But when it comes to his actual puck skills and offensive game, he makes a solid first pass and he’s got a bomb for a shot from the point — but we don’t see the same ability to move the puck around, have the same vision, make all the different passes in different zones that Anthony has.”

(Now feels like a good time to mention Ekblad had 23 goals and 53 points in 58 games last year, so he’s no slouch offensively.)

DeAngelo, 18, has shown remarkable offensive capabilities with the Sting. He notched 15 goals and 71 points in 51 games this season — one year after he led all OHL d-men in assists, with 49 — and showed good offensive abilities with Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, when he had six assists in four games.

All was not rosy for DeAngelo this year, however. He was slapped with an eight-game suspension midway through the year for using a slur against a teammate. From Yahoo:

The Ontario Hockey League announced they had suspended [DeAngelo] eight games for violating the league’s harrassment, abuse and diversity policy. It’s the second time this season the 18-year-old has been suspended for contravening the rule which attempts to keep homophobic, racist, sexist, and the other derogatory language used by small minds – out of the game.

DeAngelo faced plenty of questions about the incident(s) leading up to the draft, and it’s possible they played a role in him falling to No. 19 overall. Defensemen like Ekblad, Haydn Fleury (No. 7, Carolina), Julius Honka (No. 14, Dallas) and Travis Sanheim (No. 17, Philly) all went before DeAngelo, even though Murray said an intense research of DeAngelo’s background came back clean.

“The thing we really liked is that he took responsibility for some of the errors he made,” Murray explained. “We checked so many different people that had been in his history. I think you saw maybe our biggest group of people ever up on the stage, because every one of those guys that was up on the stage had spent time going into the background of Anthony.

“We met with anyone and everyone that had ever been associated with him, and everything came back positive.”

With that apparently not an issue, the Bolts can now focus on grooming what might end up being the steal of the draft.

“He’s just an outstanding offensive talent,” Murray said of DeAngelo. “We got a tremendously skilled player who is very smart and highly competitive.”

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.