Plenty of Montreal Canadiens fans were frustrated with the way Michel Therrien handled certain players; those fans must be pretty happy after Friday. You see, Claude Julien delighted many by installing highly talented – and frequently stalled – forward Alex Galchenyuk as the first-line center.
You can tell it’s a big deal when his inclusion as top center gets ALL CAPS.
It’s not to say that Galchenyuk was totally neglected under Therrien. For all the moments where people wondered if Therrien trusted him as a center, the high-end prospect’s still progressed nicely at times in Montreal.
One just wonders if Julien might get even more out of Galchenyuk and some other players.
I think the four players who will benefit most from Julien taking over are Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Beaulieu and Price.
Julien is in a fascinating spot. He doesn’t get a training camp to install his changes, a matter to consider even while acknowledging the startling frequency of mid-season coaching swaps paying dividends. (Just ask Therrien about Dan Bylsma … actually, maybe don’t.)
Is he really that different than Therrien? Maybe, maybe not. Giving Galchenyuk a boost here certainly would get him on the good side of plenty of Habs fans, either way.
As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.
LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.
Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.
Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.
Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.
In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”
Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.
Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.
Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.
Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.
As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.
The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.
The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.
“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”