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.”

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

Video will be added to give you better context for the goal, but until then, check out this GIF of the key moments:

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.