Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup? PHT staffers make their picks…

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Sixteen teams out of 30 make the playoffs, but only one can win. Now that we know those 16 teams, we’re making our Stanley Cup picks again. Has anything changed our minds from the preseason? 

Jason Brough: Washington Capitals

(Preseason pick: Penguins over Blackhawks)

I would’ve stuck with the Penguins, but Kris Letang‘s injury swung the pendulum towards Washington. I just don’t see Pittsburgh winning four series with that defense. The Capitals, on the other hand, have three very capable, right-shot d-men in John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk. They’re obviously deep up front as well, with a much improved third line. Plus, they’ve got an excellent goalie. Bottom line: this really feels like Washington’s time. Granted, I said the same thing last year and was wrong, but only because the Caps ran into Pittsburgh. I don’t think the Pens will trip them up this year.

Mike Halford: Chicago Blackhawks

(Preseason pick: Lightning over Blues)

“That energy, that ambition and motivation is back,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said earlier this week. “We have that feeling again.” Without reading too much into a fairly stock quote, I’m buying what Toews is selling. Getting bounced by St. Louis in Round 1 last year might’ve been a good thing — it made the ‘Hawks hungrier, not unlike when they lost to Arizona in the opening round in 2012, then came back to win it all the season following. The energy angle is interesting, because it comes on two fronts: One is from all the young guys (Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Tanner Kero) that’ve never had a deep playoff run before, and are all playing vital roles. The second? The old guys, back for another shot at glory — Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya, specifically.

Adam Gretz: Washington Capitals

(Preseason pick: Predators over Lightning)

Simply put, I think the Capitals are the best team in the NHL. They don’t really have any glaring weakness, they have elite forwards, are the best defensive team in hockey and only made themselves better after adding Kevin Shattenkirk, and they have a Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltender behind all of that. Yes, they have been the best team in the league before and it has not yet brought them a Stanley Cup, but sooner or later things have to break their way in the playoffs, don’t they? They can’t run into a hot goalie every year, can they? Their obvious challenge in the Eastern Conference is going to be if they have to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round again, but even that should be different than a year ago simply because the Penguins will not have Kris Letang in their lineup, which is a total game-changer.

James O’Brien: Washington Capitals

(Preseason pick: Stars over Penguins)

Much of what others have said about Washington’s depth and favorable luck (the Caps being healthy, peers such as the Penguins not so much) applies here. But allow me to add another wrinkle: the Capitals have some hungry players chasing raises. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky, Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov are the standouts among a slew of pending free agents who can boost their bank accounts via playoff heroics. “Greed is good” in sports, and it’s yet another feather in the Capitals’ … cap.

Cam Tucker: Washington Capitals

(Preseason pick: Capitals over Predators)

I am sticking with the Capitals. This is it. This is the year the Capitals get beyond the second round and win the Stanley Cup. And they’re going to do so by getting by Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in the second round. It’s simple: The Capitals have just too many weapons. Look beyond the starting point of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Eleven different players reached double digits in goals scored and 11 different players had 30 points or more. They are stacked. If they remain healthy, they should get it done. Not only are they among the best scoring teams in the league, behind only Pittsburgh and Minnesota, but they allowed the fewest goals against. They’re among the best in the league on the power play and penalty kill. They have Braden Holtby in net. This is their time.

Joey Alfieri: Chicago Blackhawks

(Preason pick: Lightning over Stars)

The ‘Hawks got off to a decent start this season, but they really turned it on after their bye week in mid-February. Their 13-3-1 stretch allowed them to blow by Minnesota for top spot in the Central Division. The Blackhawks might not be as deep as a team like the Capitals, but they still have seven players (Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Hartman) that scored at least 19 goals in 2016-17. Add a group of veteran defensemen like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya, and a star goalie in Corey Crawford and you have a pretty solid team.

Vegas has 15 d-men, but won’t keep them all

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The Vegas Golden Knights suddenly have 15 defensemen.

Just don’t expect all 15 to remain Knights for long.

“We’re going to have to move some defensemen,” general manager George McPhee said Tuesday, “because we’re going to claim a bunch.”

So, who might get flipped?

Well, a highly touted youngster like Shea Theodore, acquired in a trade with Anaheim, is unlikely to go. Theodore, 21, could be a core member of the Knights for years to come.

Deryk Engelland probably won’t be going anywhere either. He just signed a one-year contract with the Knights, and he already has ties to Sin City.

But a 32-year-old like Marc Methot? He could be dealt. The Dallas Stars are reportedly quite interested.

A few others could be on the move, too, but we’ll have to wait to find out which ones.

Here’s the full list of d-men that officially became Vegas property today:

Jake Bischoff
Deryk Engelland
Alexei Emelin
Jason Garrison
Brayden McNabb
Jon Merrill
Marc Methot
Colin Miller
Luca Sbisa
David Schlemko
Griffin Reinhart
Nate Schmidt
Clayton Stoner
Shea Theodore
Trevor van Riemsdyk

Vegas Golden Knights name their team

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The Vegas Golden Knights are taking shape.

After completing a cavalcade of trades, the Knights picked 30 players from each existing NHL team in today’s expansion draft. Vegas was obligated to select at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies.

The players were announced in reverse order from last season’s standings.

From the Avalanche: Calvin Pickard (G)

From the Canucks: Luca Sbisa (D)

From the Coyotes: Teemu Pulkkinen (F)

From the Devils: Jon Merrill (D)

From the Sabres: William Carrier (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires 2017 sixth-round draft pick

From the Red Wings: Tomas Nosek (F)

From the Stars: Cody Eakin (F)

From the Panthers: Jonathan Marchessault (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires Reilly Smith (F), Panthers receive 2018 fourth-round draft pick

From the Kings: Brayden McNabb (D)

From the Hurricanes: Connor Brickley (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires 2017 fifth-round draft pick

From the Jets: Chris Thorburn (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires 2017 first-round draft pick and 2019 third-round draft pick, Jets get 2017 first-round pick (acquired by Vegas from CBJ)

From the Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (F)

From the Lightning: Jason Garrison (D)
Trade: Vegas acquires Nikita Gusev (F), 2017 second-round pick, 2018 fourth-round pick

From the Islanders: Jean-Francois Berube (G)
Trade: Vegas acquires Mikhail Grabovski (F), Jake Bischoff (D), 2017 first-round draft pick, 2019 second-round draft pick

From the Predators: James Neal (F)

From the Flames: Deryk Engelland (D)
Signing: Engelland gets one-year contract with AAV of $1 million

From the Maple Leafs: Brendan Leipsic (F)

From the Bruins: Colin Miller (D)

From the Senators: Marc Methot (D)

From the Sharks: David Schlemko (D)

From the Blues: David Perron (F)

From the Rangers: Oscar Lindberg (F)

From the Oilers: Griffin Reinhart (D)

From the Canadiens: Alexei Emelin (D)

From the Ducks: Clayton Stoner (D)
Trade: Vegas acquires Shea Theodore (D)

From the Wild: Erik Haula (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires Alex Tuch (F), Wild get third-round draft pick in 2017 or 2018
Signing: Haula gets three-year contract worth AAV of $2.75 million

From the Blue Jackets: William Karlsson (F)
Trade: Vegas acquires David Clarkson (F), 2017 first-round draft pick, 2019 second-round draft pick

From the Blackhawks: Trevor van Riemsdyk (D)

From the Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury (G)
Trade: Vegas acquires second-round draft pick in 2020

From the Capitals: Nate Schmidt (D)

ROSTER BY POSITION
Forwards:
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Connor Brickley
William Carrier
David Clarkson
Cody Eakin
Mikhail Grabovski
Nikita Gusev
Erik Haula
William Karlsson
Brendan Leipsic
Oscar Lindberg
Jonathan Marchessault
James Neal
Tomas Nosek
David Perron
Teemu Pulkkinen
Reilly Smith
Chris Thorburn
Alex Tuch

Defensemen:
Jake Bischoff
Deryk Engelland
Alexei Emelin
Jason Garrison
Brayden McNabb
Jon Merrill
Marc Methot
Colin Miller
Luca Sbisa
David Schlemko
Griffin Reinhart
Nate Schmidt
Clayton Stoner
Shea Theodore
Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goalies:
Jean-Francois Berube
Marc-Andre Fleury
Calvin Pickard

After stockpiling picks, Vegas aims to ‘draft our way to success’

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On Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena, the Las Vegas Golden Knights took form.

But there’s no denying this team will really take shape at the next couple of entry drafts.

That was the big storyline this evening, as Golden Knights GM George McPhee introduced his 30-man roster, almost in the shadow of an unprecedented stockpiling of draft picks from rival clubs.

“[The objective] was to acquire prospects and surplus draft picks that can help draft our way to success,” McPhee explained. “Time will tell if we met those objectives, but we’re certainly delighted with the way that it went.

“It was a fascinating experience.”

We’ll get to see the fruits of McPhee’s labor shortly. When the dust settled this evening, he and the Golden Knights emerged with three top-15 picks in Friday’s first round of the draft — the sixth, which Vegas won in the lottery, the 13th, acquired in a trade with Winnipeg, and the 15th, acquired from the New York Islanders.

In addition to that, the Golden Knights also received:

• Buffalo’s sixth-round pick on Friday (as part of drafting William Carrier)

• Carolina’s fifth-round pick on Friday (as part of drafting Connor Brickley)

• Tampa Bay’s second-round pick on Friday, and the Bolts’ fourth-rounder in 2018 (for laying off the club’s young d-men, and taking Jason Garrison)

• The Islanders’ second-round pick in 2019 (for taking on Mikhail Grabovski, in addition to the first-rounder listed above)

• Columbus’ second-round pick in 2019 (for not taking Josh Anderson or Joonas Korpisalo, also in addition to the deal above)

• Winnipeg’s third-round pick in 2019 (for taking Chris Thorburn instead of Tobias Enstrom, and also in addition to the above deal)

• Pittsburgh’s second-round pick in 2020 (as part of drafting Marc-Andre Fleury)

Add it all up, and the Knights now have 12 picks at the upcoming draft in Chicago, with five of them coming in the first two rounds. It’ll result in a huge influx of talent and, given the relatively thin nature of the active roster, a real chance for the kids selected on Friday to have a shot at NHL minutes in the fall.

But remember — until these picks have been used, they’re assets. And that’s worth mentioning, because the league-wide trade freeze lifts at 8 a.m. ET Thursday morning.

Stay tuned.

Connor McDavid captures the Hart Trophy (video)

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Only one player in the National Hockey League scored 100 points this season. That would be Connor McDavid.

He accomplished the feat at the age of 20.

On Wednesday, after such a terrific sophomore season in which he was fully healthy throughout, he was recognized with the Hart Trophy , given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team.

McDavid scored 30 goals, many in spectacular fashion, and 100 points to win the Art Ross, often showing a dominant display of speed and hands quick enough to keep up.

The Oilers made the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006, making it to Game 7 of the second round against the Anaheim Ducks..

McDavid beats out Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who has been perhaps the best player in the world over the last two years with Stanley Cups, Conn Smythe trophies and a Rocket Richard Trophy to show for it, and Columbus Blue Jackets Vezina-winning netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for the award.

McDavid also captured the Ted Lindsay Award earlier in the evening.

Here is the Hart Trophy voting:

Points: (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)

1. Connor McDavid, EDM 1604 (147-17-3-0-0)
2. Sidney Crosby, PIT 1104 (14-119-19-11-3)
3. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ 469 (4-17-40-29-23)
4. Brent Burns, SJS 273 (1-3-25-29-30)
5. Erik Karlsson, OTT 258 (0-5-28-23-14)
6. Patrick Kane, CHI 206 (0-3-20-20-25)
7. Brad Marchand, BOS 184 (1-1-14-22-31)
8. Nikita Kucherov, TBL 119 (0-0-11-15-19)
9. Nicklas Backstrom, WSH 60 (0-0-3-11-12)
10. Braden Holtby, WSH 19 (0-0-2-3-0)
11. Auston Matthews, TOR 17 (0-0-2-1-4)
12. Alex Ovechkin, WSH 7 (0-1-0-0-0)
Ryan Suter, MIN 7 (0-1-0-0-0)
14. Victor Hedman, TBL 5 (0-0-0-1-2)
15. Devan Dubnyk, MIN 4 (0-0-0-1-1)
Vladimir Tarasenko, STL 4 (0-0-0-1-1)
17. Cam Atkinson, CBJ 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Cam Talbot, EDM 1 (0-0-0-0-1)