Marc Methot

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PHT’s Central Division preview: Blackhawks, Wild, Predators, and more

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For ages, it felt like the Central Division was the reigning champion as the toughest division in the NHL.

The Metropolitan Division seemed to knock the Central off its perch, right down to the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Still, much of those stumbles seemed self-imposed, as the Dallas Stars struggled, the Winnipeg Jets disappointed, and the Colorado Avalanche were jaw-droppingly bad.

Let’s take a look at PHT’s material on the Central Division with the 2017-18 season set to begin.

Click here for the Atlantic Division preview.

Click here for PHT’s staff predictions.

Chicago Blackhawks

Poll/looking to make the leap

Colorado Avalanche

Poll/looking to make the leap

Dallas Stars

Poll/looking to make the leap

Minnesota Wild

Poll/looking to make the leap

Speaking of signings, the Wild inked a deal with Daniel Winnik today:

Nashville Predators

Poll/Looking to make the leap

St. Louis Blues

Poll/looking to make the leap

One other Blues note:

Winnipeg Jets

Poll/looking to make the leap

Senators send prospect d-man Chabot to the minors

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Thomas Chabot has been sent to the American Hockey League, the day after a difficult outing versus the Montreal Canadiens in preseason action.

The Senators lost 9-2 to the Habs. Craig Anderson allowed six goals and Mike Condon wasn’t able to fare much better, giving up three goals on 10 shots. Ottawa, as a team, was held to just 17 shots on goal throughout the entire game. So, it was a nightmare for everyone dressed in a Senators uniform.

Chabot had a minus-five rating, and was reassigned to Belleville in the AHL the following afternoon, the Senators announced.

The Senators had high hopes for Chabot, their 2015 first-round pick, heading into camp, particularly with Marc Methot now in Dallas and Erik Karlsson‘s status for opening night still in question as he continues his comeback from offseason foot surgery. Prior to training camp, Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion had gone so far as to say that he believed Chabot could step into the lineup to begin the season.

Chabot made his Senators debut last season, appearing in one game before he was sent back to junior, where he enjoyed another impressive campaign.

He is still just 20 years old and has shown plenty of potential throughout his junior career, so getting sent to the AHL to help develop his game isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Thomas Chabot

NHL cracking down on slashing, faceoff violations to begin preseason

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The NHL has made it a point to crack down on slashing for the upcoming regular season. With the preseason underway, the foundation for the new standard is being set.

Dating back to late June, the NHL had vowed to call slashing more closely after a number of incidents last season, including Marc Methot‘s gruesome finger injury, which was the result of a slash to the hands from Sidney Crosby.

Monday’s game between the Islanders and Rangers featured nine slashing minor penalties. The Devils and Capitals were only 41 seconds into their preseason game Monday when Jimmy Hayes was called for slashing. A total of six slashing minors were called in that game — not to mention three faceoff violations.

From the Washington Post:

There’s been talk of being harder on slashing following several wrist, hand and finger injuries last season from dangerous stick work. “Now, as soon as your stick is off the ice and you touch the other players’ stick or hands, it was zero tolerance today,” Eller said. More surprising was the three faceoff violation penalties called in the first period of the game. That also represented a new emphasis from the league. “Cheating” on faceoffs has been commonplace, and for centers who’ve made their name winning faceoffs with a certain style and routine, staying perfectly within the red lines in the circle was an adjustment.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the Senators-Maple Leafs game Monday also featured three faceoff violations. It appears right now there will be quite an adjustment for players across the league to the apparent crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations, especially early on.

However, will this be the standard for the entire season? For the playoffs?

“I have a tough time believing that in the playoffs, in Game 7, that kind of call is going to be made,” Mark Letestu told Sportsnet. “Right now, there’s an overemphasis on it, and hopefully it doesn’t go all the way back to where it was.”

Stars will keep top pick Heiskanen in Finland, not bring him over for camp

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Dallas Stars fans will have to wait another year to get an up close look at their team’s top pick from the 2017 draft, defenseman Miro Heiskanen.

General manager Jim Nill announced on Monday that Heiskanen will remain in Finland with his team (HIFK Helsinki) and not attend training camp this season.

Part of the decision might be related to the fact that Heiskanen is currently injured. It was recently reported in Finland that Heiskanen suffered a concussion, and when the Stars opened training camp this week his name was included on the list of injured players.

His absence from camp this year isn’t a huge deal from a big picture outlook because it was always unlikely that he was going to make the team this season. The Stars’ plan all along was to be patient with him, and while they would have given him an opportunity to make the team it always seemed inevitable that he was going to end up playing back in Finland for the entire season anyway.

He spent the 2016-17 season playing for HIFK Helsinki where he scored five goals and five assists in 37 games.

The Stars selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft and added him to their collection of promising young defensemen.

Dallas is already dealing with a crowded blue line situation this season with eight players under contract for this season, including offseason addition Marc Methot. The Stars loaded up again this summer with big moves, including Methot, starting goalie Ben Bishop and free agent acquisitions Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal.

Hanzal out with ankle injury as Stars open training camp

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The Dallas Stars began training camp on Thursday, however, forward Martin Hanzal will not be taking to the ice — at least not right away.

Signed by Dallas to a three-year, $14.25 million contract on the first day of free agency, Hanzal is dealing with an ankle sprain, per Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ website.

So far, there doesn’t seem to be a specific timeline for when the 6-foot-6 center could return to the ice.

The Stars made a number of big moves this offseason. It started with the hiring of Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, and continued with the acquisition of goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman Marc Methot, and the additions of Hanzal and Alex Radulov in free agency.

Dallas had a disappointing 2016-17 campaign, missing the playoffs after finishing as the top Western Conference team during the 2015-16 regular season.

Signing Hanzal provides the Stars with a versatile center, capable of playing in a shutdown role or perhaps moving into a top-six spot if Hitchcock decides that’s an option.