Henrik Sedin

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Oilers, Maple Leafs lead NHL’s Canadian revival

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The NHL’s two most dynamic stars under 21 play there, and it’s the home of five playoff teams from last season and potentially more this year.

Oh, Canada, home of some pretty good hockey.

Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are at the forefront of a revival north of the 48th parallel two years after no Canadian team made the Stanley Cup playoffs. McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers, Matthews’ Toronto Maple Leafs, the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames are all in position to qualify again, with the young Winnipeg Jets looking like a contender, too.

“It’s great for hockey when you got the Canadian teams, they’re fighting for playoff spots and they’re in the playoffs,” Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau said. “It was two years ago zero teams (made it). Now you can see all those teams are making a push to make the playoffs and hopefully win a Cup eventually.”

No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since Montreal in 1993. If six Canadian teams make the playoffs in 2017-18, it’ll be the first time since then.

Carey Price gives Montreal a shot, Erik Karlsson can work magic with Ottawa and goaltending could make all the difference in Calgary, but it’s Edmonton that gives Canada the best chance of ending the country’s Cup drought. The past 23 times the Cup has been handed out, it has gone to an American team.

“It’ll vary from year to year,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “What’s in the league’s interest is that we have great hockey.”

There’s plenty of that across Canada right now.

McDavid is coming off winning the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP at age 20, and the Oilers have a talented young core with forward Leon Draisaitl, defensemen Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom and goaltender Cam Talbot that looks ready to challenge the big boys in the Western Conference.

“That’s what good teams do, teams that have won, that’s kind of their recipe is draft good players and watch them develop,” McDavid said. “We’re very lucky that way that we have a lot of young faces in Edmonton, as well as a good mix of older guys that have played and been around the league.”

Adding goalie Mike Smith has given the Flames a spark in the Battle of Alberta. The team and city of Calgary are locked in a dispute over a new arena, but on the ice there’s a lot of optimism about a team with Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and a deep defense.

“I’m excited. I know all the guys in Calgary are excited,” Gaudreau said. “For the Flames and Edmonton, it’s a great rivalry. The province gets pretty crazy and excited for those games.”

Things can get pretty crazy in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, too. In the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens and Maple Leafs being playoff contenders at the same time has led some to dream about the first playoff series between those Original Six teams since 1979.

“It creates good rivalries,” Montreal forward Jonathan Drouin said. “Obviously the Toronto one is good. They’re a good team. You saw it last year. They surprised a lot of people, and they’re going to do the same this year.”

If any Canadian team is a major surprise this season, it’s the Vancouver Canucks, who have a new coach in Travis Green and are expected to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year. Aging faces of the franchise Daniel and Henrik Sedin remain committed to the Canucks, saying on The Players Tribune, “If we are going to win a Stanley Cup, if we are going to achieve our dream, we’d only want it to be in Vancouver.”

But Vancouver is the anomaly as the Canadiens, Senators, Maple Leafs, Jets, Flames and Oilers can all think playoffs and dream of the Cup.

“It is exciting to see all these Canadian teams taking big steps,” Jets center Mark Scheifele said. “Hopefully we’re at the top of that Canadian list.”

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

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The Vancouver Canucks dealt with some adverse conditions as they hit the ice at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai in preparation for this week’s 2017 NHL China Games exhibition series versus the L.A. Kings.

According to the pictures, it was a little on the foggy side for their practice.

Is that . . . Henrik Sedin in the distance?

The Canucks and Kings face off Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Arena, before traveling to Beijing for Saturday’s game at Wukesong Arena.

The good news? It appears the fog was lifted in time for the Kings’ practice.

Poll: Will this be the Sedins’ final season in Vancouver?

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This post is part of Canucks Day on PHT…

Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin have been pillars of the Canucks’ franchise for much of their career. The twins will turn 37 in September though and have just a single season remaining on their matching four-year, $28 million contracts.

They’re at an age where they’re clearly in the twilight of their career, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the curtain is about to fall. There are elite players like Jaromir Jagr that have managed to stay relevant beyond their 30s, but those are few and far between.

If the 2016-17 campaign was any indication, the Sedin twins’ end might be fast approaching. Henrik finished with 50 points while Daniel was limited to 44. Their modest production was a big reason why the Canucks averaged just 2.17 goals for per game last season, which ranked 29th in the league. It’s a long way from their height when Henrik won the Art Ross Trophy in 2009-10 and Daniel claimed it in 2010-11.

“We think about our future on a regular basis, and we’ve said we’re going to take it year by year now,” Henrik Sedin said, per NHL.com. “This year, we want to prove we can still play at a high level, and that’s up to us to do. And we know that if we do, it’ll be easier to answer those questions later in the year. So that’s our mindset.”

Even if the Sedin twins decide to extend their careers, will it ultimately be with the Canucks? If Vancouver has another bad season, would it make sense to keep two aging forwards on the roster? Maybe it would, given that this is the Sedin twins we’re talking about and it would be good to see them ultimately retire as Canucks. On the flip side though, would the Sedin twins have any interest in exploring other possibilities if it was clear that the Canucks were firmly focused on rebuilding while they have very little time left in the NHL?

So do you ultimately believe that this is their last season in Vancouver or will they continue playing for the franchise beyond 2017-18?

Related: Sedins out to prove they can still play at ‘high level’

Canucks forward Dorsett will be ‘ready for camp’ after neck surgery

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Derek Dorsett‘s third season in Vancouver ended prematurely in November, following neck surgery a few weeks later. But it appears he’ll be ready for the 2017-18 campaign.

Last December, the Canucks announced their rugged winger underwent “cervical fusion surgery to repair disc degeneration” in Dorsett’s neck.

On Friday, Rick Dhaliwal of News 1130 Sports in Vancouver spoke to Dorsett’s agent, Jason Davidson, and reported that the 30-year-old Dorsett is no longer dealing with issues in his neck ahead of training camp.

In 14 games with the Canucks last season, Dorsett had one goal and four points. He’s known more for his toughness as a bottom-six forward, with two more years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $2.65 million, per CapFriendly.

The Canucks have 14 forwards under contract for next season, not including prospects Jake Virtanen and Nikolay Goldobin and with restricted free agents Bo Horvat and Brendan Gaunce still left to re-sign. Of those 14 players, only Dorsett, Loui Eriksson and Daniel and Henrik Sedin are in their 30s, as Vancouver transitions younger players into the roster.

Report: Canucks meet with pending UFAs Gagner, Weal

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The Vancouver Canucks reportedly met with a pair of pending unrestricted free agent centers on Wednesday, as Sam Gagner and Jordan Weal were said to be in town.

That is according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli and Darren Dreger.

Vancouver’s top three centers for the 2017-18 campaign appear to be in place, with Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter. However, center is an area the Canucks especially need to improve going into next season and for the future.

Horvat’s development the past three years has provided hope he can eventually take over as the No. 1 center, and, as a pending restricted free agent, the Canucks need to get him under contract. Meanwhile, Henrik Sedin is 37 in September and in the final year of his contract, along with brother Daniel, following a difficult year for the brothers. Sutter has four more years remaining on his deal, but his time in Vancouver has been disrupted by injury.

Gagner and Weal could provide interesting options for the Canucks.

Playing this season on a one-year contract worth only $650,000, Gagner ended up having his most productive campaign with 18 goals and 50 points, despite the fact he averaged less than 14 minutes of ice time per game, and barely over 11 minutes at even strength under John Tortorella.

Read more: Gagner has been ‘a great story’ for surprising Blue Jackets

Where he made his mark was on the power play, with 18 points. That number would’ve led the Canucks, who were dismal on the power play with a 14.1 per cent efficiency rating, good enough for 29th overall. At 27 years of age, and nearing 700 career games played, almost 30 per cent of Gagner’s career points have come on the power play, so perhaps Canucks’ management may look to him as a possible remedy for that ailment when next season begins.

But after giving big money and term — and a no-movement clause — to Loui Eriksson last summer, it would be wise for the Canucks to be a little more sensible in their spending, especially during a rebuilding phase.

Weal is from the Vancouver area, and is hoping to turn a productive two-month stretch (12 points in 23 games) with the Flyers into a raise from the $650,000 he made at the NHL level last season. At last check, Weal and the Flyers appeared good on term but weren’t on the same page when it came to compensation, leading the 25-year-old forward to check out other possible opportunities across the league.

He’s had no problem putting up big numbers in the AHL, reaching 70 points in 76 games three years ago. And the Canucks could desperately use more offensively gifted players in their lineup, particularly if they have age and time on their side.

When it comes to the Canucks, there is another free agent forward with apparent interest. That would be former No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov.

NHL teams can now talk to pending unrestricted free agents to gauge potential interest, however no contracts can be signed until July 1.