Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Olympic tournament full of NHL talent of past and future

Leave a comment

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Mark Arcobello had a choice between shuttling to and from the minor leagues in North America and taking his talents to Europe.

Arcobello, who went to Europe a year for some stability before the NHL decided not to participate in the Olympics, said he is glad he took the path less traveled because it helped him make the U.S. national team.

”This opportunity kind of solidifies that I made the right decision,” said Arcobello, who spent time with the Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs organizations. ”It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if I’d still be going up and down between the minors and NHL right now, I’d be probably regretting it and wishing that I had left.”

Arcobello is one of the poster boys for this unpredictable, wide-open Olympic men’s hockey tournament that begins Wednesday with the U.S. against Slovenia and Russia playing Slovakia. Even though current NHL players aren’t taking part, 94 of the 300 Olympians have played at least one NHL game and every country has at least one former player.

”People say the NHL’s not here, but it’s all NHL talent,” U.S. defenseman James Wisniewski said. ”Maybe it’s not the All-Star talent that they’re looking at like a Patrick Kane or (Jonathan) Toews or (Ryan) Getzlaf – those kind of guys. But it’s still NHL talent. It’s just the guys that you really never heard of because they decided to take the European route.”

A lot of them took the European route. Players at the Olympics come from 19 different professional leagues based in 13 countries plus the NCAA and Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps.

Canada has 23 former NHL players and the U.S. 16, down to Norway and South Korea with two and Slovenia one. Russia might have the two best former NHL stars in Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, and Finland the best goaltender now who played in the NHL in Mikko Koskinen.

It’s an NHL tournament. Just of the past and future.

”Everybody has a lot of talent here,” said Kovalchuk, who leads the favored Russians after playing for the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils. ”We have a great team. There are five, six teams I think that are in the same level who’s got a lot of young kids who will be future NHLers, too.”

Soon-to-be NHL talent is everywhere. Sweden defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is expected to be the No. 1 pick in June, and U.S. college players Jordan Greenway and Ryan Donato, Finland defenseman Miro Heiskanen and forward Eeli Tolvanen, and Russia forward Kirill Kaprizov should be there in no time.

Combine that young skill with over 17,000 games of NHL experience, and players expect the quality of hockey to be better than expected.

”I think it’s going to shock some people,” said U.S. defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, who played for the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes. ”Obviously with the NHL current players not coming, it’s a little bit of a different scenario, but there’s a lot of great players here that are excited to show what they can bring to the team and with the opportunity to play on the big stage and actually compete for a medal.”

Germany coach Marco Sturm, who played 938 regular-season and 68 playoff games in the NHL, said everyone will treat it the same because ”there is still gold, silver and bronze.”

Historically, the value of those medals will certainly be reduced compared to those given out in the five previous Olympics with NHL players. It’s not what hockey people like to call a ”best-on-best” tournament like the 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 Olympics and the 1996, 2004 and 2016 World Cup of Hockey, though it’s far more of a mystery.

”More unpredictable because not a lot of teams know about each other,” U.S. coach Tony Granato said.

For all the scouting and video teams can use to learn about each other, one major question is who are the most dangerous players.

Kovalchuk leading the Kontinental Hockey League in scoring. Koskinen is among the KHL’s best goalies and other season trends give an indication, though the motivation of this unique chance and the quirkiness of a short tournament provide the opportunity for the tournament to be a must-watch drama.

”I do not think it will be easier (without NHL stars),” said Slovenia’s Jan Mursak, who played 46 games for the Detroit Red Wings. ”It is sometimes even harder to play against the players from Europe who, for a lot of them, this is their first Olympics. I am sure they will be pumped up as much as we are.”

AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth contributed.

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

The Buzzer: Raanta shutout, Brassard showcase, Blackhawks finally win

Getty Images
1 Comment

Players of the Night:

Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes: Raanta shutout Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, stopping all 40 shots sent his way for his first goose egg as a member of the Coyotes.

Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators: The Derick Brassard Showcase continued on Saturday night. The Senators forward, who has been the subject of trade speculation leading up to the trade deadline in two weeks, scored in his fourth straight game and added two helpers in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers.

Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights: Smith extended his point streak to seven games, scoring twice and adding a helper in a 6-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Smith has five goals and seven assists during his streak and now has 51 points in 58 games this season.

Anders Nilsson, Vancouver Canucks: Nilsson turned aside 44 of the 45 shots he faced from one of the league’s hottest teams in the Boston Bruins. The Canucks obliged their goaltender, scoring six and chasing Tuukka Rask in a 6-1 win.

Jonathan Toews and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks: Losers of eight straight coming into Saturday, the Blackhawks finally ended the streak, putting up seven goals against the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals. Toews had a goal and two assists in the game. It was Chicago’s first win of the month and their seven goals were half of the number they scored in their previous eight games.

Eddie Lack, New Jersey Devils: Lack wasn’t supposed to be playing against the league’s top team. But there he was on Saturday, stopping 48 of 51 shots against Stamkos, Kucherov and Co. He even out-dueled Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will likely win the Vezina in June. Impressive stuff.

Highlights of the Night:

Ryan Hartman, untouchable:

Nikita Scherbak’d:

Matt Murray did this two nights ago. Deja vu:

Two-pad stack alert:

Factoids of the Night:

The season can’t end fast enough for the Oilers:

The Golden Knights are creeping toward another record:

Evgeni Malkin hits 900:

MISC:

Scores:

Kings 4, Sabres 2

Ducks 3, Wild 2 (SO)

Senators 6, Rangers 3

Coyotes 1, Oilers 0

Golden Knights 3, Canadiens 3

Devils 4, Lightning 3

Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 3

Red Wings 3, Predators 1

Blackhawks 7, Capitals 1

Canucks 6, Bruins 1

Panthers 6, Flames 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blackhawks fans tossed after racist taunts toward Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly

Associated Press
4 Comments

Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were kicked out of Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals at United Center after racially-charged taunts were made toward Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly, serving a five-minute major for fighting in the third period, got upset with a fan next to him who, according to the Washington Post, was chanting, “Basketball, basketball basketball,” toward Smith-Pelly, who is black. 

“There’s absolutely no place in a game of hockey, or a country, for racism,” Trotz said after the game. “I think it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it. The athletes in this country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”

Trotz said he hadn’t spoken with DSP about the incident, but said he was upset and his teammates had been talking with him.

DSP did not speak with the media following the game, which the Capitals lost 7-1.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

The Blackhawks issued a statement following the game

““We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” a Hawks spokesperson said. “The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Should Miles Wood be suspended after boarding Vladislav Namestnikov? (video)

SUN
3 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

He won’t have much of a defense, it would seem.

New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood took off his responsible thinking cap on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the second period, Woods came barrelling in on the Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The latter had already ushered the puck up the ice, and with his back turned to Woods, the Devils sophomore appeared to leave his feet, driving his shoulder into the nameplate of Namestnikov’s jersey.

If that wasn’t enough, Andrej Sustr came in to defend his teammate and paid the price at the hands of Wood, who broke his visor with a punch, leaving Sustr bloodied.

Wood was given a boarding minor on the play and an additional two minutes for roughing after he left Sustr in a mess. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if Wood is summoned by the NHL’s player safety department.

Both Namestnikov and Sustr had to leave the game, but both returned in the third period.

The Devils won the game 4-3. Guess who scored the game-winner…


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Cam Talbot, furious with overturned goal, launches expletive-laden tirade

Getty Images
7 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

Cam Talbot wasn’t too happy after losing to the bottom feeders of the NHL’s Western Conference on Saturday afternoon.

The Oilers, who have Connor McDavid, couldn’t manage to score a goal against a team that’s given up the third most to opposing teams this season.

And the goal they appeared to score to tie the game 1-1 in the third period was eventually overturned because of goaltender interference.

Video review confirmed that Patrick Maroon impeded Antti Raanta’s ability to move his blocker side arm freely, a call that Talbot took exception to following the game.

“It’s extremely frustrating, to have what seems like every single one of these calls go against us in the past two years is just unbelievable,” Talbot lamented to the media. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We challenge a goal, it stands. They challenge a goal on us for some reason it’s always waved off.

“I just don’t understand it, it’s the exact same play that we had last week against L.A. where the guy clips my blocker. We challenge and it’s still a goal. Last year in the playoffs against  Corey Perry, same play, takes my blocker with him, puck goes blocker side and it’s still a goal on us. There’s just no consistency and I’m f***ing sick of it.”

Answering another question, Talbot continued to drop f-bombs speaking to Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Journal.

“The fact that every single goal is disallowed against us and every single call or every single time we challenge it’s still upheld. I don’t f***ing get it. They’re the same f***ing plays every time and for some reason, the call goes against us these past two years. We haven’t won one challenge in the past two years. It’s ridiculous. I just don’t get it.” 

This looks one part frustration and another part sour grapes. There have been some blown calls this season, for sure, including against the Oilers.

Here.

Here.

And here.

But this one the Situation Room got right.

Meanwhile, Talbot’s Oilers were shutout for the seventh time this season. They continue to wildly underachieve, despite having names like McDavid and Draisaitl. And they have to watch former teammates like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle light it up with their new teams.

Sure, Talbot and Co. can blame it a host of external issues. But he and the Oilers have to start looking within. They didn’t become bottom feeders because a goal got overturned.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck