John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Chad Johnson

In praise of John Tavares

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We’re really not going out on a limb here, but John Tavares is worth every bit of praise he’s received.

As if being a finalist for the Hart Trophy two seasons ago didn’t do the job, his performance last season was enough to make fans across the league take further notice of the 23-year-old Islanders phenom.

Before he suffered a season-ending injury at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Tavares had 24 goals and 66 points in 59 games. That kind of output put him at a 1.12 points per-game pace. That rate was good for fourth in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Ryan Getzlaf and was the best mark in his five seasons in the NHL.

Consider this: Since debuting with the Islanders in 2009-10 after being taken first overall at the 2009 NHL Draft, he’s scored 24 or more goals each season. He scored 28 during the 48-game lockout shortened 2013 season and had a career-high 31 the one before that. He’s been scoring at a point per-game rate for the past three seasons. If that’s not the definition of “elite” then there’s something wrong with how things are determined.

As good as his goal scoring prowess is, his ability to make teammates better is right there with it. After Thomas Vanek was traded from the Islanders to the Montreal Canadiens, his one lament was that he wouldn’t be on a line with Tavares and Kyle Okposo anymore as Arthur Staple of Newsday shared back in March.

“I expected a lot more out of all of us,” Vanek said. “Looking back, that line with me, Okie [Kyle Okposo] and Johnny, it was the best line I’ve ever been on. But you look at seven to eight games where we should have won and that’s all the difference in the standings.”

In truth, that line was great as Vanek had 44 points in 47 games with the Isles and Okposo turned in a career-year of his own with 27 goals and 69 points. Previous to helping Vanek, it was Matt Moulson who reaped the benefits of playing on his left wing.

It’s a bit wild to think that someone Tavares’ age is the one helping pick up the careers of guys older than him, but this just shows how great he’s been. If he can avoid complications from his torn MCL, he’s poised to continue his skyward ascent as one of the league’s top players and perhaps lead the Islanders back to the postseason in 2014-15.

Related: It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday

 

‘There’s still lots of room for growth’: Stars GM preaches patience with Nichushkin

Valeri Nichushkin
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Valeri Nichushkin has the tools — listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 205 pounds with devastating speed. He has the skill.

However, now at the end of his entry-level contract, the 10th overall draft pick for the Dallas Stars in 2013 has endured the highs and lows associated with a young player trying to make his mark in the National Hockey League after a promising rookie campaign.

For starters, his sophomore 2014-15 season was essentially wiped out — he played only eight games for the Stars — by a hip injury that required surgery. He also didn’t get off to the greatest start this season, and coming back from surgery likely played a factor as to why, as he found his way into Lindy Ruff’s doghouse early on.

As a result, was made a healthy scratch.

His bottom line offensive numbers included nine goals and 29 points in 79 games played, and one assist in 10 playoff games for the Stars, as they were eliminated in the second round.

Still, he’s just 21 years old. When playing with top players like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, he was able to get on a bit of a roll offensively.

Stars GM Jim Nill, speaking on SiriusXMNHL, referenced the difficulty for a young player coming back off surgery, but remains confident in Nichushkin.

“We’re happy with Val,” he said (at around the 5:30 mark).

“Came back this year, got off to a slow start because of that. We thought the last five games of the playoffs, he really started to look like himself. He started to dominate down low and in the corners.

“He is only 21. I know there’s still lots of room for growth, so we’re going to be patient with him. We think he’s a big part of our future.”

 

Coyotes hire new COO

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Fans line up outside of Gila River Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have hired Anaheim Ducks executive Ari Segal as chief operating officer.

The move was announced by the team on Wednesday.

Segal previously served as a special assistant to Anaheim CEO Michael Schulman and as president of business operations for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in San Diego.

Segal helped with preparations for the new AHL club and recently worked with the NHL in the league’s broadcast media strategy group, evaluating league and team broadcast rights and distribution deals.

Segal previously worked as an associate in the sports practice at McKinsey & Company, a New York-based management consulting firm.

Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

Jackets re-sign Sedlak, AHL affiliate’s leading playoff scorer

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lukas Sedlak #85 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for the pass during the game against the Winnipeg Jets on September 20, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Jets 5-1.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Columbus farmhand Lukas Sedlak, who currently sits tied atop AHL Lake Erie’s playoff scoring leaderboard, has signed a one-year, two-way deal, the Jackets announced on Wednesday.

Sedlak, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2011 that’s spent the last three years in the American League. This season was by far his most successful — in addition to potting a career-best 14 goals, he’s become close to a point-a-game producer in the playoffs, with 11 through 12 games.

“Sedlak has been on a run for us with goal-scoring,” Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s not a guy who does it for us every night. But he works so hard in all the other areas.”

Sedlak has yet to make his NHL debut, but could be in the mix for a recall next season.