Jamie Benn

via NHL on NBC

#NHLMediaTour highlights: Doodles, trippy visuals, kids vs. stars

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The NHL Media Tour (or most importantly, #NHLMediaTour) took place this week, and one could conclude that many of the aims were mundane.

… That said, bravo to all of those involved for coming up with dazzling visual displays, moments of hockey players facing kids in adorable ways, and doodles that seemed like they could have come from those kids.

Oh, and there were moments when hockey players were asked to pick up pucks with chopsticks. For, uh, reasons.

If you want to go down the rabbit hole, some of the best stuff can be found at the NHL on NBC Twitter and Instagram feeds, while #NHLMediaTour provides entertainment (though you’ll have to weed through a few weird bits here and there).

For the sake of your browser/scrolling convenience, this is far from a comprehensive collection of the best, funniest, and weirdest bits. Still, there should be a hearty helping of all of those things.

There were some really cool/trippy bits featuring players with team-related backgrounds, but this one of Jamie Benn for the Dallas Stars seems like it would fit in at a pro wrestling event or Pink Floyd laser light show.

USA Today’s Jimmy Hascup deserves a gold star (maybe hastily drawn by a pro athlete?) for asking players to draw their teams’ logos.

You can see the second part in this tweet. Russian Machine Never Breaks graded each bit of artistry.

(Aside: as my high school notebooks would attest, mine wouldn’t approach the Max Domi level.)

From Sidney Crosby to Connor McDavid to Charlie Coyle and beyond, there were some fun interactions between players and kids, sometimes on the ice.

Sid, meet kid. #NHLMediaDay

A post shared by NHL on NBC Sports (@nhlonnbcsports) on

Marc-Andre Fleury took the cake when it came to these clips, and it looks like he did so more than once.

Glorious.

Finally, here’s footage of the chopsticks bit which is remarkably random but admittedly pretty great.

Bovada gives McDavid higher odds than Crosby to win Hart in 2017-18

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In handing Connor McDavid an eight-year, $100 million extension, the Edmonton Oilers essentially are paying the 20-year-old star based on the assumption that he’ll provide MVP-quality play.

At least one Vegas oddsmaker agrees, as Bovada tabbed McDavid as the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, edging Sidney Crosby.

That’s interesting, yet it might be even more interesting to note where other players fall in the rankings. Auston Matthews coming in third is particularly intriguing.

Who are some of the more interesting choices? The 20/1 range seems appealing, as Carey Price is one of the few goalies with the notoriety to push for such honors while John Tavares has the skill and financial motivation to produce the best work of his career next season.

Anyway, entertain yourself with those odds, via Bovada: (Quick note: Bovada originally had Artemi Panarin listed as still playing with Chicago. PHT went ahead and fixed that in the bit below.)

2017 – 2018 – Who will win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player?
Connor McDavid (EDM)                         3/2
Sidney Crosby (PIT)                              5/2
Auston Matthews (TOR)                         17/2
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                            9/1
Patrick Kane (CHI)                                 14/1
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)                       15/1
Evgeni Malkin (PIT)                                16/1
Carey Price (MON)                                 20/1
John Tavares (NYI)                                20/1
Jamie Benn (DAL)                                 25/1
Steven Stamkos (TB)                             25/1
Erik Karlsson (OTT)                               33/1
Nikita Kucherov (TB)                              33/1
Jack Eichel (BUF)                                  50/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)                               50/1
Patrik Laine (WPG)                                50/1
Brad Marchand (BOS)                            50/1
Tyler Seguin (DAL)                                50/1
Nicklas Backstrom (WAS)                      60/1
Brent Burns (SJ)                                    60/1
Braden Holtby (WAS)                            60/1
Phil Kessel (PIT)                                    60/1
Artemi Panarin (CBJ)                              60/1
Joe Pavelski (SJ)                                  60/1

With a new deal in Dallas, Radulov must prove himself once again

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This post is part of Stars Day on PHT…

Alex Radulov returned from the KHL, had a productive season while exciting hockey fans in Montreal, and then cashed in on a long-term contract with the Dallas Stars.

It was argued in February by Washington’s head coach Barry Trotz that Radulov was “maybe the best signing of the year,” which Habs general manager Marc Bergevin deserved credit for during a period of controversy in his tenure thanks to the P.K. Subban trade.

One season is all Radulov spent with the Habs, scoring 18 goals and 54 points, finishing second on the team in total scoring.

He then turned that into a five-year deal worth $31.25 million with the Stars — the contract announced two days before his 31st birthday. He’s now the third highest paid forward in Dallas, per CapFriendly. It’s a large sum of money for a player that will be nearing his 36th birthday when the contract expires.

For the Stars, it’s the addition of a forward they’ll hope can have an immediate impact on an already skilled team at a time when Dallas is in its window to win. The moves general manager Jim Nill has made this summer would certainly suggest the time is now for this group of players he has assembled.

Based on reports, term was what separated the Canadiens and Radulov during their contract talks. Much will be made about the microscope Nill will be under following such an active offseason — this deal included — and missing the playoffs in 2017. There will be considerable pressure on Radulov to perform, as well, under this new contract.

It sounds like Radulov could get the opportunity to start on the wing with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, at least based on comments coach Ken Hitchcock made earlier this summer. If so, that should give their prized free agent signing the best chance to be successful.

“I’ve coached against Radulov both in the NHL and internationally, and he brings an intensity to the game,” said Hitchcock. “You notice him and you have to account for him. Now, put Jamie Benn on the other wing, and you have the same thing. You know he’s there, and you know you have to account for him. Same with Seguin.

“I just think they will all feed off of each other if that’s the line we come up with.”

There is always risk in signing any free agent to a new team.

There are the usual questions: How will they handle a different market? How quickly can they adjust to a different coach? Different system? Different linemates? The Stars have placed their bets on a few key players this summer, with the additions of Ben Bishop, Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal.

Radulov, at a $6.25 million cap hit per season, is the most expensive.

Radulov was able to prove himself with the Habs. Trotz was certainly on to something with his comments this past winter.

With greater term and salary, Radulov will need to do it again in Dallas. If he does, it could help lead to a lofty reward for the Stars.

Hanzal believes Stars will be a ‘winning team’

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If there was a theme to the Dallas Stars’ off-season, it was to getting bigger and meaner.

Bringing back Ken Hitchcock was a big step in that direction. Heck, even Ben Bishop ranks as one of the larger goalies you can find.

Such a pattern carried over to Tuesday, as GM Jim Nill introduced sizable acquisitions Martin Hanzal and Marc Methot. After being a rental with the Minnesota Wild, Hanzal noted his experience in the Western Conference, and said that he signed with Dallas in part because he views the Stars as a “winning team.”

As you can see, Hanzal was especially effusive in his praise of Jamie Benn, deeming him a “top-five player” in the NHL.

One interesting note comes from NHL.com’s Sean Shapiro, who believes that Jason Spezza might move to the wing to make room for the hulking center.

On paper, that’s a sensible idea. Hanzal is a more defensive-minded pivot, so moving Spezza to the wing – whether it’s on Hanzal’s line or not – might free up Spezza to maximize his offensive output.

Hitchcock has been provided with an enviable array of possibilities, including combining Hanzal with another big Stars forward. One could picture a puck-possessing pairing of Hanzal and fellow addition Alex Radulov causing opponents big headaches, especially on rugged West runs with a lot of travel.

Dallas has taken some criticism for being something of a perennial “off-season champion,” so it’s fair to caution against too much daydreaming. Considering his history of injuries, Hanzal likely knows how quickly a good situation can turn sour.

Still, as it stands in mid-July, it’s reasonable to consider the Stars “a winning team” once again.

Hitch talks up Radulov-Seguin-Benn line in Dallas

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Given it’s only July 5, talk of who will play on what lines next year is a tad premature.

That said, it’s also kind of exciting.

Especially in Dallas, where head coach Ken Hitchcock suddenly has a wealth of options at his disposal following the acquisitions of forwards Tyler Pitlick, Brian Flynn, Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov.

With all apologies to the first three, the real excitement in Texas is for Radulov, who came aboard on Monday courtesy a five-year, $31.5 million pact. Hitchcock doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself, but has already envisioned Radulov playing on the club’s top line next to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

“I’ve coached against Radulov both in the NHL and internationally, and he brings an intensity to the game,” Hitchcock said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “You notice him and you have to account for him. Now, put Jamie Benn on the other wing, and you have the same thing. You know he’s there, and you know you have to account for him. Same with Seguin.

“I just think they will all feed off of each other if that’s the line we come up with.”

Riding shotgun with Benn and Seguin has been beneficial for a number of guys over the years. Last season, Patrick Eaves enjoyed a terrific offensive campaign while serving partial duty on the line. Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and a flurry of others have also received minutes alongside the dynamic duo, and produced well.

Radulov brings some interesting attributes to the line. He, along with Benn, are both left-handed shots, which will give the Stars some unique looks in the offensive zone. There’s also his style of play. Despite not being overly large — listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds — he plays a big man’s game. The 31-year-old has terrific upper-body strength, is effective in winning board battles and knows how to leverage his body to protect pucks.

As an example, this wonder goal against the Rangers in the playoffs:

Between Radulov and Hanzal alone, the Stars will be a “heavier” team — at least stylistically — than they’ve been in previous years. It’ll be fascinating to see how that plays out with Seguin and Benn, and under Hitch’s watchful eye.