Getty Images

Young college try: Boeser, Keller impress as NHL rookies

4 Comments

WASHINGTON (AP) — In his final season at the University of North Dakota, Brock Boeser took a high-level course on what life in the NHL would be like.

He aced it.

Boeser fought through a wrist injury that required surgery and was defended like the star he is quickly becoming as a rookie with the Vancouver Canucks.

”More guys started keying on you, so I think you learn from that,” Boeser said. ”The frustrations, I think you really can develop from that.”

Boeser developed into the NHL’s only rookie All-Star and is making a quick adjustment to the professional game along with fellow NCAA product Clayton Keller, who went from Boston University to a substantial role with the Arizona Coyotes in his first season. Five of the league’s top eight rookie scorers came out of five different college programs: Boeser, Keller, the Boston Bruins’ Danton Heinen from Denver, the Winnipeg Jets’ Kyle Connor from Michigan and the Colorado Avalanche’s Alexander Kerfoot from Harvard.

”The facilities and stuff they have really allowed you to grow (and help) your body get stronger,” Boeser said. ”I think college hockey is a great route to go through. Keller’s one of my buddies, too, and to see him have that success doesn’t surprise me.”

Boeser and Keller each benefitted from not coming into the NHL cold during training camp. The Coyotes and Canucks decided to sign them late last season and plug them directly into the lineup, which gave them a head start.

”I got a little bit of a taste last year, so I knew what to expect,” said Keller, who’s third among rookies and leads Arizona with 32 points. ”It was huge. You never really know how hard it is until you play in the NHL and see how fast and strong guys are.”

No matter how fast and strong the rest of the league is, it hasn’t slowed these college-cultured rookies. Boeser is fifth among all players with 22 goals and is by far Vancouver’s leading scorer with 40 points.

”I’m not worried about the next step for him,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. ”The league’s been trying to focus on him for a little while here, and he seems to be doing all right. If things don’t go his own way, good players find a way to get themselves out of it.”

Like Boeser, Keller knows what he doesn’t know, namely what an 82-game schedule would be like after college games were mostly on weekends. Halfway through, he has begun to figure it out.

”You never really get much rest, and I think the days that you do get off, you really have to recover and take care of your body,” Keller said. ”It’s definitely a grind and I think you’ve just got to take care of your body and good things will happen.”

Keller is one of the best things to happen this season for the NHL-worst Coyotes, who could use him as a building block for their future. First-year coach Rick Tocchet noticed Keller in rookie camp and has seen the 19-year-old Missouri native’s defensive game and quickness to the puck improve with experience.

”He’s got a very outstanding hockey IQ,” Tocchet said. ”I think if you’re a young player and you have a high hockey IQ you can have a really good chance to be a good player in this league. … He doesn’t force passes, too. That’s what I like about him. He just doesn’t throw pucks away. A lot of his goals are around the net. He’s a 19-year-old, 180-pound kid that is not afraid to go to the net.”

Boeser isn’t afraid of anything at age 20 and has the kind of shot that Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz compares to Alex Ovechkin‘s. Ovechkin teammate T.J. Oshie, a fellow North Dakota product, worked out with Boeser last summer and was impressed by his shot, his strength and ability to make the right play.

”He seems not to overthink with the puck,” Oshie said. ”Skating, the thing that surprised me most was the jump in his speed, how quick he was from a standstill, and also his shot. He doesn’t have the biggest (stick) curve, but the way he’s able to release the puck is really quick, really hard.”

Boeser arrived in the NHL with that kind of shot and gained confidence from playing nine games with the Canucks last spring. He also came equipped with the same kind of smarts Tocchet raves about with Keller, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Boeser having similarly positive results.

”He understands the game for a young guy,” Green said. ”He understands the importance of play away from the puck, which at times he does get away from it and he’s not afraid to admit it. That’s also important for young players to understand when they’re playing not as good as they can and why, just as importantly.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

Report: Blackhawks concerned Crawford could miss remainder of season

Getty
1 Comment

Here is some less than encouraging news for the Chicago Blackhawks.

According to a report from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday night, there is some growing concern within the Blackhawks organization that starting goaltender Corey Crawford could miss the remainder of the season due to experiencing vertigo-like symptoms for the second time in his career.

Crawford has been sidelined since before Christmas due to an upper-body injury, but the team has been quiet on specifics other than to say publicly that they expect him to return this season.

Over the past few years Crawford has become one of the NHL’s top goalies and when he has been on the ice this season has been absolutely stellar for the Blackhawks. Given the current state of their defense and the rate that they give up shots he has become one of the team’s most important players and the one that seems to drive their success more than any other.

[Related: Corey Crawford has become the Blackhawks’ most important player]

In his absence the team has leaned on Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Both have played about as well as could have been expected, but they aren’t Crawford and there is a noticeable drop in play at the position when he is not in there.

In 26 games this season Crawford is 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage.

As of Tuesday night the Blackhawks are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting three points back of the Minnesota Wild. They also have the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche sitting between them.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

1 Comment

The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

Getty
Leave a comment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday night, as the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 p.m. ET.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller – Vinni Lettieri
Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey
Michael Grabner – Peter Holland – Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden
Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk
Marc StaalSteven Kampfer

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

[Flyers look to push winning streak to five games against Rangers]

Flyers

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Michael RafflValtteri FilppulaJakub Voracek
Jordan WealNolan PatrickWayne Simmonds
Taylor LeierScott LaughtonJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Startling goalie: Brian Elliott