Josh Morrissey

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Mr. 300: Kessel’s milestone goal leads Penguins over Jets

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Phil Kessel‘s 300th career goal at 1:07 of overtime lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.

Kessel, who also scored the overtime winner against Edmonton on Tuesday, became the 18th American-born player to reach 300 career goals and the second active behind Minnesota’s Zach Parise.

Kessel stripped Patrik Laine of the puck at his own blue line and went the other way on a breakaway. Kessel, with nine points in his last seven games, snapped a wrist shot between the pads of Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck for the winner.

Conor Sheary scored his fifth for the Penguins, who won for the fifth time in six games. Pittsburgh has won seven of nine since losing the first two games of the season.

Read more: Penguins defense is hurting heading into scary stretch

Pittsburgh also won its 17th straight home game against the Jets dating back to March 24, 2007. Overall, Pittsburgh won 17 of the last 20 meetings against the Jets, who last won in Pittsburgh, Dec. 27, 2006, when they were the Atlanta Thrashers.

Matt Murray won his seventh straight since allowing 11 goals on 65 shots in his first two appearances. Murray, who stopped 30 shots, helped Pittsburgh earn points in all eight starts this season.

Josh Morrissey scored his second for the Jets, who had won four of their previous five after being outscored 13-5 in the first two games of the season against Toronto and Calgary.

Hellebuyck, who made 34 saves, saw his four-game win streak end. He was seeking a personal best five-game streak and the team record for the longest win streak by a goaltender to begin the season.

Sheary opened the scoring 1:25 into the game when he re-directed Jake Guentzel‘s pass between Hellebuyck’s pads.

Morrissey tied it later in the period when his shot from the point caught the stick of Penguins’ D Kris Letang and went past Murray’s glove hand.

Murray kept the game tied entering the third period, first with a sharp blocker save on Nikolaj Ehlers before back-to-back stops on Tyler Myers and Laine. He stopped Myers on a breakaway and Laine during a two-on-one with Ehlers.

Laine tried again with a wrist shot 30 seconds into the third period, but Murray made the save and a follow-up pad stop on Kyle Connor.

 

PHT predictions for 2017-18: Stanley Cup picks, McDavid love, and more

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Expert take: Connor McDavid is really something.

OK, such a thought is evident to virtually every sentient hockey fan/person even vaguely interested in the NHL. The PHT staff covers that base in the predictions and picks below, but there are also spicier topics at hand. You be the judge if anything warms up to the level of a hot take.

So, rejoice, and bookmark this page in case you want to vengefully point out how your team was totally robbed of the things people grow up dreaming about: approval from hockey writers.

Of course, if these predictions end up looking good in hindsight, never mention them again. That’s how it works, right?

Also, NHL.com provides this handy guide to opening-night rosters.

Anyway, here are our picks, with staff members listed in alphabetical order:

Joey Alfieri

Art Ross: Connor McDavid. It’s the “boring” answer, but this kid is too good and too fast. I can’t go against him after what I saw last year.

Rocket Richard: Steven Stamkos. I’m not going out on a limb with my Art Ross pick, but I think this one will surprise some people. Obviously, we all know that Stamkos can put the puck in the net. The question with him is whether or not he can stay healthy. I think he’ll play enough games to score a lot of goals in 2017-18.

Hart: I think it’s McDavid again.

Vezina: Braden Holtby. A lot of people seem to think that the Capitals will take a step back this year (maybe they will), but I think they’ll be able to lean on Holtby.

Norris: Victor Hedman. He didn’t get as much spotlight as Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns last year, but he somehow managed to quietly put up over 70 points.

Calder trophy: Nico Hischier. He really impressed me during the preseason. I didn’t know if he’d be NHL-ready right out of the gate, but he answered all those questions for me. We’ll see if he can translate his preseason success into regular season success.

Division winners:
Metropolitan: Washington
Atlantic: Tampa Bay
Central: Minnesota
Pacific: Edmonton

SCF matchup: The Eastern Conference is still very wide open in my mind, so I’m not ruling out the Pittsburgh Penguins going back to the final for a third straight year. I’ll make it a Sidney Crosby vs. McDavid final, as I think the Oilers will make it out of the West.

Champ: Give me the Edmonton Oilers.

Worst team: The Vancouver Canucks will be worse than Vegas. Book it.

Wild card (team that could go very wrong or very right): Winnipeg Jets. They’re loaded with talent up front (see Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Bryan Little, Nikolaj Ehlers) and on defense (Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Josh Morrissey), but the goaltending duo of Steve Mason and Connor Hellebuyck might hold them back.

One 2017 playoff team that won’t make it in 2018: The New York Rangers. I don’t like their situation down the middle. Also, if Henrik Lundqvist struggles during the regular season, Antti Raanta is no longer there to hold down the fort.

Team that missed last year that will make it in 2017-18: The Tampa Bay Lightning. They dealt with a lot of injuries last year and barely missed the postseason. I think they’ll get there in 2017-18.

Adam Gretz

Art Ross: Connor McDavid

Rocket Richard: Nikita Kucherov

Hart: Connor McDavid

Vezina: Carey Price

Norris: Erik Karlsson

Calder Trophy: Nico Hischier

Division winners:
Metropolitan: Columbus
Atlantic: Tampa Bay
Central: Nashville
Pacific: Anaheim

SFC Matchup: Columbus vs. Nashville
Champ: Nashville

Worst team: Colorado
Wild card: Carolina
Playoff team that won’t make it: St. Louis
Team that missed that will make it: Tampa Bay

James O’Brien

Art Ross: Connor McDavid

Rocket Richard: Alex Ovechkin. Don’t underestimate all the goals he’ll get from “his office.” Also, the Capitals need more from him this season. Maybe that will goose his shot attempts and numbers?

Hart: Connor McDavid

Vezina: Braden Holtby. He’s quietly wrestling the “most consistently great” torch from Henrik Lundqvist.

Norris: Victor Hedman. Erik Karlsson is a treasure, but his health is very worrisome.

Calder trophy: Nico Hischier

Division winners:
Metropolitan: Pittsburgh Penguins
Atlantic: Montreal Canadiens
Central: Minnesota Wild
Pacific: Edmonton Oilers

SCF matchup: Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins. Ryan Ellis‘ injury situation leads me to believe that Nashville will, once again, struggle a bit in the regular season. (Even at 100 percent, they might just be better suited for the playoffs.)

Champ: The Predators get revenge. It’s not foolish to assume that they get Matt Duchene, right? (Gulp.)

Worst team: The Vegas Golden Knights. Don’t despair, though, budding fans: this franchise is off to a strong start.

Wild card (team that could go very wrong or very right): The Dallas Stars. They’ve once again “won the offseason,” yet with every great move like adding Alex Radulov, there are troubling signs that this franchise is still behind the curve. What if Ben Bishop is another goaltending blunder? Did the game finally pass Ken Hitchcock by? Many sins will be forgiven if the Jamie BennTyler Seguin show rebounds after a rough 2016-17.

One 2017 playoff team that won’t make it in 2018: Ottawa Senators. The Boston Bruins also worry me.

One 2017 team that did not make the playoffs, but will in 2018: I’ll give you one for each conference: the Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets.

Cam Tucker

Art Ross: Connor McDavid

Rocket Richard: Nikita Kucherov

Hart: Connor McDavid

Vezina: Carey Price

Norris: Victor Hedman

Calder trophy: Charlie McAvoy. Off the board, perhaps?

Division winners:
Metropolitan: Columbus Blue Jackets
Atlantic: Toronto Maple Leafs
Central: Nashville Predators
Pacific: Edmonton Oilers

SCF matchup: Edmonton Oilers versus Toronto Maple Leafs. All of Canada can rejoice!

Champ: Well, I guess I have to pick one of those two teams, so I’m going to say…….the Edmonton Oilers. Sorry, Toronto.

Worst team: Colorado Avalanche. Again.

Wild card (team that could go very wrong or very right): The L.A. Kings. Fascinated to see the difference in style after an offseason coaching change. Still believe they’re a playoff team but last year was a massive disappointment.

One 2017 playoff team that won’t make it in 2018: Ottawa Senators.

One 2017 team that did not make the playoffs, but will in 2018: Tampa Bay Lightning. If Steven Stamkos can stay healthy, this offence — and by extension this entire team — should be a force. The Carolina Hurricanes are, to me, an honorable mention in this category.

Jets sign Nikolaj Ehlers to seven-year, $42 million extension

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On the opening day of training camp, the Winnipeg Jets shelled out a lot of money to sign forward Bryan Little to an extension. With today being the opening day of the regular season, it’s only normal to expect the Jets to make another big splash.

According to Winnipeg Jets TV host and insider Jamie Thomas, the team is on the verge of announcing a seven-year contract extension worth $42 million with forward Nikolaj Ehlers.

UpdateThe Jets made the move official this morning

Ehlers had a breakout season in 2016-17, as he scored 25 goals and 64 points in 82 games with the Jets.

The Jets’ future is looking particularly bright. Patrik Laine has two years left on his entry-level contract, they have Mark Scheifele under contract at $6.125 million per year through 2023-24, Little is signed at $5.291 million through 2023-24, Blake Wheeler is signed for two more years at  $5.6 million, and now Ehlers will be around for a while.

On defense, Dustin Byfuglien has four years left on his deal at over $7 million per season, and Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey are both signed for one more year, but they’re both restricted free agents.

Jets sign Kulikov to three-year deal

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Winnipeg added some depth on defense to open free agency, agreeing to terms with former Sabres d-man Dmitry Kulikov.

Per TSN, it’s a three-year pact at $4.33 million per.

The deal comes after a disappointing campaign with the Sabres. Not only did Kulikov struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games.

Despite all that, he generated plenty of interest on the free agent market and generated interest from a dozen teams, according to his agent. Presumably, the hope in Winnipeg is that Kulikov can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

Remember, Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

In Winnipeg, he’ll (presumably) slot in behind the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, meaning he’ll likely be a bottom-pairing guy.

 

Jets extend Chiarot — two year, $2.8 million

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Winnipeg has retained some of its defensive depth, re-signing Ben Chiarot to a two-year deal worth $2.8 million.

It’s a $1.4 million average annual cap hit for the 26-year-old, and a nice pay bump from the $850,000 he was making on his previous deal.

Chiarot had a nice campaign in ’16-17, scoring a career-high 12 points while appearing in 59 games. The season ended on a down note, however, as he suffered an upper-body injury in mid-March and was shut down for the year.

Looking ahead, Chiarot will likely continue to serve in a depth role for the Jets. The club is bringing back nearly all of the same defensemen it had last year, and it’s expected youngster Josh Morrissey will take on an even bigger role.