Sweden v United States - 2013 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp

Looking to make the leap: Alexander Wennberg


The Blue Jackets’ youth movement is in full swing. Ryan Johansen, 22, broke out last season with 33 goals and 63 points while rookies Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray made meaningful contributions.

Columbus has more quality prospects on the verge of establishing themselves and arguably the most noteworthy example is 19-year-old Alexander Wennberg. He’s a two-way center that was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

He’s gained experience playing among men with Frolunda in Sweden’s top league and stood out in the 2014 World Junior Championship. Rather than continue to hone his game in Europe, Wennberg signed an entry-level contract this summer so that he can make the transition to North America.

“In talking to Alexander after the season, he made it very clear that he wanted to sign, work hard this summer and then come to training camp to try to make our team,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said following the signing. “He is an outstanding young player and we are excited to watch him develop in the coming years.”

The belief among Columbus’ scouts is that Wennberg is capable of following in Jenner’s footsteps by earning a roster spot with an impressive training camp, according to NHL.com. It helps that Wennberg has bulked up, bringing him to 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.

Making the roster won’t be simple for Wennberg, but there are potential openings. Columbus was passive on the free agent market this summer and the fact that they have players like Wennberg in the system was part of their rationale for that.

“You can’t fast-forward the young players if they’re not ready,” Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch back in June. “But you have to give them room to play, and to do that, you can’t have too many guys in the same role. The bus gets crowded.”

So the opportunity is there for Wennberg. The question now is whether he’ll be able to make the leap straight to the NHL from Europe or if he’ll need seasoning in the minors first.

Galchenyuk scores a beauty in comeback win over Devils

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The Canadiens drafted Alex Galchenyuk to be the big, skilled center they’d been lacking for years.

Most of his first three NHL seasons were spent at left wing, but over the summer the Canadiens decided it was time to put him down the middle.

The transition to center wasn’t always smooth. Galchenyuk struggled to find the back of the net, and his line, which is supposed to be Montreal’s second line, didn’t generate a ton of offense.

But something’s clicked for Galchenyuk over the last week or so.

The 21-year-old has arguably been the Canadiens’ best forward over the last three games and that’s coincided with the arrival of Sven Andrighetto.

The two youngsters were up to their old tricks, again, on Friday night as they led the charge in Montreal’s 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Devils.

Andrighetto got Montreal on the board late in the second period when he beat Cory Schneider with a wrister that cut the deficit to 2-1.

With the Canadiens down by one in the third period, head coach Michel Therrien decided to move Galchenyuk to right wing on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty.

And with under nine minutes remaining in the final frame, he stole the show:

Galchenyuk has scored in three straight games, while Andrighetto has found the back of the net in back-to-back contests.

Both players added goals in the shootout to complete the comeback over the Devils.

These two teams will face-off in Montreal on Saturday night.

Tippett wins 500th game as ‘Yotes bury Flames in overtime

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes grinded their way through the tough stretches, relied on great goaltending and won it on a big goal at the end.

Call it a Dave Tippett special.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in overtime, Mike Smith stopped 25 shots and the Arizona Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 Friday night for coach Tippett’s 500th career victory.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of ugly games in that 500, so it’s probably fitting that was an ugly game,” said Tippett, who has 229 wins with Arizona and the rest with Dallas.

It certainly was right out of the Tippett playbook.

The Coyotes played a solid first period and both teams scored goals in the second on caroms: Martin Hanzal early for Arizona, Mark Giordano late on a power play for Calgary.

Arizona followed with a series of penalties, but Smith was sharp for the second straight game to send this one to overtime.

The Flames had the edge early in the 3-on-3 overtime, leaving the Coyotes gasping for air. Arizona flipped the ice for the final stretch, leaving Calgary’s players winded and scrambling.

Arizona won it with 39 seconds left on the clock when Brad Richardson sent a pass from behind the goal to Ekman-Larsson, and he one-timed it past Karri Ramos.

After the game, the Coyotes handed their championship belt, awarded to the player of the game, to their low-key coach after his milestone victory.

“Coaches don’t have many milestones, but that’s a big one,” Smith said. “Players have milestones all the time, but coaches only have winning, which is all that matters, really.”

The Flames certainly had their chances to win.

Calgary had a rare power-play goal when Giordano scored his fifth of the season, but the Flames failed on five other chances with the man advantage to lose to Arizona for the first time in six games.

Ramos stopped 18 in his first loss in five career games against Arizona and the Flames lost for the first time in six 3-on-3 overtimes.

“It was a good road game,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “We played smart, we played hard, it’s just the result, we wish we could change it.”

The Flames were coming off one of their worst performances of a disappointing season, blowing an early two-goal lead and a one-goal lead in the third period for a 5-3 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night.

The Flames went straight to Arizona, where they watched the Coyotes beat Anaheim 4-2 on Wednesday night.

They played well and so did the Coyotes in a crisp first period.

Arizona needed 29 seconds of the second to take the lead, when a sharp-angle shot by Tobias Rieder hit the far post and caromed off Hanzal into the goal.

Smith stopped 29 shots against the Ducks and was sharp again, turning away some tough chances when the Flames picked up the pressure after Hanzal’s goal.

The Coyotes took a series of penalties, though, and Giordano scored late in the period by wristing a loose puck through Smith’s legs to tie the game at 1-all. That ended a 0 for 16 streak on the power play for Calgary.

Arizona kept sending players to the penalty box in the third period. The Coyotes killed off one penalty early and were called for another 8 seconds later but killed off both to get the game to overtime.

“Obviously, we’d like to score on those power plays and grab some momentum, but we did some good things,” Flames defenseman Kris Russell said. “I thought we played a good game throughout, but at the end of the day, on special teams, we get one there, that’s the difference in the game.”

NOTES: Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … The Flames entered the game 29th on the power play with eight goals in 58 chances (13.3 percent). … Calgary C Jiri Hudler returned after missing two games with an illness.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.