PHT Morning Skate: Why does Team USA keep falling short at the Worlds?

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Erik Karlsson has been a great defenseman for a long time, but NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin takes a deeper look at how Karlsson has improved in 2016-17. Karlsson has bought into Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 system and he’s also allowed his teammates to take some of the pressure of his shoulders. This is a terrific piece on the development of one of the best players in the world. (NHL.com)

–Speaking of Karlsson, he made an appearance on The Hockey News’ list of “10 NHLers up-and-coming prospects most want to be like”. It’s not surprising that Carey Price and Sidney Crosby were also pretty high on the list. (The Hockey News)

–Team USA was dominant during the preliminary portion of the World Hockey Championship, but they dropped their first knockout game to Team Finland on Thursday afternoon. The Score breaks down the main reasons why Team USA fails to play for gold (hint: it’s not because they’re lacking talent). Seriously though, they haven’t made it to the gold medal game since they last won the tournament in 1960. (The Score)

–The Anaheim Ducks nearly blew Game 4 of the Western Conference Final after getting off to such an incredible start. But eventually, they were able to come away with a 3-2 win in overtime. Check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–The Memorial Cup will begin today, and Mike Morreale provides us with a list of all the best prospects on the teams that are participating in the tournament (Erie, Windsor, Seattle, Saint John). OHL player of the year and Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will suit up for Erie. (NHL.com)

–It’s not every day that you get to hear from three of the greatest players to ever hit the ice. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr talk about how the game has changed over the years and if they’d be able to keep up in today’s NHL. (NBC Sports)

–For some reason, the Oakland A’s baseball team paid tribute to the San Jose Sharks during yesterday’s batting practice (not sure why they waited until May to do this). It’s still pretty cool to see two teams in the same city get along:

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.