Pierre-Luc Dubois

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Which NHLers could be heading to the World Juniors?

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The World Junior Hockey Championship is just a few weeks away, which is great news. Although most countries have named their preliminary rosters for the upcoming tournament, there’s still a chance that NHLers could be added in the next little while.

NHL teams have the option to loan out their junior-eligible players to their respective countries for the two-week tournament that runs from Dec. 26, 2017 to Jan. 5, 2018 in Buffalo, New York.

Reminder: Teams have until Dec. 19 to decide if they’re going to loan their players to their respective countries.

So, who’s in and who’s out?

TEAM CANADA

Jakob Chychrun-D-Arizona Coyotes

Chychrun made his 2017-18 regular season debut on Sunday, after he missed the start of the season because of a knee injury. He played 22:40 and scored a goal against the Golden Knights in his first game of 2017-18. Chychrun heading to the World Juniors is probably unlikely, but it simply can’t be ruled out because of the amount of time he missed due to injury.

Pierre-Luc Dubois-C-Columbus Blue Jackets

The Jackets rookie has a modest 11 points in 28 games, but six of those have come in the last five games. Dubois wasn’t getting much ice time early on in the season. That seems to be changing, as it appears as though he’s earned head coach John Tortorella’s trust. He’s played over 18 minutes in five of his last seven contests. Dubois is starting to become a big part of the team. It would be mildly surprising to see him be loaned out for the tournament.

Samuel Girard-D-Colorado Avalanche

At the start of the season, you probably would’ve thought that Girard would be playing in the tournament, but things have changed. Since being traded from Nashville to Colorado, he’s played a huge role with his new team. He’s played under 20 minutes in each of his last five outings, but he’s still averaging 19:22 of ice time per game.

Tyson Jost-F-Colorado Avalanche

Jost missed a significant amount of time because of a lower-body injury, but he’s back in the lineup right now. The 19-year-old has no points in five games since returning and he’s up to just one goal and one assist in 11 contests this season. Colorado is four points out of a playoff spot, which isn’t significant, but they’re probably a year or two away from being a serious contender anyway. Jost won a silver medal with Team Canada last year. He had a goal and four points in 7 seven games during the tournament. Don’t be surprised if he represents his country again.

Victor Mete-D-Montreal Canadiens

Mete had a terrific training camp with the Canadiens, but he’s come down to earth a little bit. The 19-year-old has been made a healthy scratch a couple of times this season and with Jakub Jerabek and David Schlemko now on the roster, Montreal could opt to send their young blue liner to the tournament. Mete was part of Team Canada’s Summer Showcase roster last summer.

Nolan Patrick-F-Philadelphia Flyers

The second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has had a tough introduction to pro hockey. Not only has he missed nine games because of an upper-body injury, he also hasn’t really played much when he has been in the Flyers lineup. Patrick has two goals and four assists, while averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time in 19 games. The 19-year-old missed last year’s tournament because of an injury. Playing heavy minutes with players his own age could prove to be a valuable experience for the rookie.

TEAM FINLAND

Patrik Laine-F-Winnipeg Jets

This is probably the biggest no-brainer on the list. There’s absolutely no chance that Laine is going to Buffalo to represent his country. We’ll just leave it at that.

Jesse Puljujarvi-F-Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers didn’t loan Puljujarvi to Team Finland last year when he playing in the minors, so it’s unlikely that they’d let him take off now that he’s contributing on the NHL roster. He owned the tournament last time he played in it in 2016, as he had an incredible 17 points in seven games.

TEAM RUSSIA

Mikhail Sergachev-D-Tampa Bay Lighting

Sergachev had a disappointing tournament last year, but he’s been way too good with the Bolts to head back there. The 19-year-old has averaged 14:32 of ice time, which isn’t significant, but he’s been productive in limited minutes. Sergachev has six goals and 19 points in 28 games. That puts him on pace to score 18 goals and almost 60 points.

TEAM SWEDEN

Jesper Bratt-F-New Jersey Devils

In the first third of the 2017-18 season, there probably hasn’t been a bigger surprise than Bratt. The 19-year-old was the Devils’ sixth-round pick in 2016, and no one expected him to produce like this. The rookie now has nine goals and 19 points in 27 games. Would they ever consider sending him to Buffalo for the tournament? No way.

TEAM SWITZERLAND

Nico Hischier-F-New Jersey Devils

The top pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is having a strong rookie season. He’s picked up five goals and 20 points in 27 games, which puts him on pace to hit the 60-point mark in his first year. The Devils, who have shocked the hockey world by being in top spot in their division, need Hischier too much to allow him to leave for two weeks. He’s not going anywhere.

TEAM USA

Clayton Keller-F-Arizona Coyotes

Even though he’s slowed down over the last month, there’s no way the ‘Yotes will be sending Keller to the world juniors. The 19-year-old is an important part of his team and he doesn’t have anything left to prove in the junior ranks.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fantasy adds & drops: One cool DeBrincat

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Every week, PHT will try to help its readers by providing some fantasy hockey advice. This column will attempt to guide you through the rough waters of your league’s waiver wire.

We’ll recommend players to pick up that are owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues and we’ll tell you who you should drop, too.

Here it is:

Alex DeBrincat-LW/RW-Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 36 percent of Yahoo leagues)

DeBrincat, who will turn 20 this month, picked up an impressive 14 points in 13 games during the month of November. He’s currently on pace to score 33 goals in his rookie season, which is pretty impressive for a player of his age. If you’re in a dynasty league, he’s a must-add off the waiver wire.

Mathieu Perreault-C/LW-Winnipeg Jets (18 percent)

Perreault has never hit the 50-point mark at the NHL level, but he seems to have figured things out this season. Even though he missed a good chunk of the season with a lower-body injury, he’s managed to put up 14 points in 15 games. The Jets have a ton of firepower which means they’ll likely continue filling up the net. Perreault probably won’t be a point-per-game player the rest of the way, but there’s definitely some value there.

Kyle Connor-LW-Winnipeg Jets (18 percent)

Connor is currently on the shelf with a minor injury, but he’s still worth picking up in most leagues. The 17th overall pick in 2015 is quietly putting together a solid rookie season, as he’s already up to nine goals and 17 points in 21 contests. The fact that he’s been playing with talented players like Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler will only help his fantasy outlook.

[More Fantasy: RotoWorld’s Waiver Wired column]

Adam Henrique-C-Anaheim Ducks (16 percent)

Henrique’s tenure with the Ducks is off to a great start, as he’s produced a goal and an assist in his first two games with his new team. Anaheim has been decimated by injuries (Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell and Ryan Kesler have all missed time), so Henrique will continue to play an offensive role with the team.

Pierre-Luc Dubois-C/LW-Columbus Blue Jackets (8 percent)

It might still be a little early to pick up Dubois off the waiver wire, but there’s no harm in giving him a mention at this point. He’s only picked up 11 points in 27 games this season, but he’s been producing a lot more lately. The Jackets rookie has a four-game point streak going (he’s picked up six points during that stretch). He’s also playing significant minutes during this stretch, as he’s played at least 18:49 in three of the four contests. He’s a high-risk/high-reward add in most fantasy leagues.

Drop: 

Clayton Keller-C/LW/RW-Arizona Coyotes (62 percent)

Having Keller on the drop list would have been unthinkable a month ago, but his production has really dipped over the little while. Even though  he has three assists in his last four contests, the Coyotes rookie hasn’t found the back of the net in 14 straight games. He was a great story early on, but it probably wasn’t realistic for anyone to think he would keep rolling at a point-per-game pace on a bad Coyotes team.

[More Fantasy: RotoWorld’s In the Crease column]

Matt Duchene-C/RW-Ottawa Senators (50 percent)

Duchene finally got his wish, as he was moved to Ottawa from Colorado a few weeks ago, but that hasn’t helped his on-ice production. Since playing his first game with the Sens on Nov. 10, Duchene has picked up just two points. He might get back on track eventually, but he can safely be dropped for now.

Henrik Zetterberg-C/LW-Detroit Red Wings (48 percent)

The Red Wings have been a disaster of late. Not only have they dropped seven games in a row, they’re also coming off a 10-1 dismantling at the hands of the Canadiens on Saturday night. Zetterberg hasn’t scored in 20 games and he’s accumulated just 15 points in 2017-18. As great as he’s been over the years, it might be time to part ways with him in all fantasy formats.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Blue Jackets bet big on Cam Atkinson

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Carrying a $3.5 million cap hit, Cam Atkinson ranked as one of the better bargains in the NHL, especially considering his trip to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. It sounds like the Columbus Blue Jackets rewarded him for that hard work on Thursday.

The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports (sub required) that the Blue Jackets signed Atkinson to a seven-year, $40.25 million extension, which translates to a $5.75M cap hit starting in 2018-19. (Confirmed by the team Friday morning.)

Atkinson will turn 29 in June, so his extension will kick in before he turns 30. Portzline explains that Atkinson sacrificed some short-term cash for the security of a longer deal.

Interesting.

PHT broke down the Blue Jacket’s salary cap structure after they signed Alexander Wennberg to a six-year deal that carries a $4.9M cap hit. Atkinson was singled out as one of the big forks in the road for Blue Jackets management, so they made a big commitment to him tonight.

(Note: the Blue Jackets haven’t confirmed the extension, but multiple outlets back up the news Portzline broke.)

It seems like Atkinson checks out pretty nicely from a fancy stats perspective, although the $5.75M question will be: how long will this count as a bargain?

The Blue Jackets are committed to Atkinson for more term than any other player now. That said, they do have some other guys under contracts for three years or more: Wennberg, Seth Jones, David Savard, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Josh Anderson, and Pierre-Luc Dubois (granted, the latter is a cheat since he’s on his rookie deal).

Columbus still has some questions to answer. Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin both only have two years remaining on their deals (counting this season). They need to figure out where Boone Jenner fits in the picture, as he’ll be an RFA next summer. Ryan Murray and Jack Johnson are both on expiring contracts, as well.

Overall, there’s definitely some risk involved in this Atkinson extension, yet we’re talking about a player in his prime who’s riding four consecutive 20+ goal seasons. If he can flirt with his breakthrough of 37 goals in 2016-17 fairly often, the Blue Jackets will be very happy with their decision.

Atkinson had been off to a somewhat slow start in 2017-18 (four goals, two assists in 15 games coming into Thursday), so maybe this extension will ease his mind, too?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Panarin sets franchise record in Blue Jackets debut

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One day after his former team put 10 goals on the board versus Pittsburgh, Artemi Panarin had a memorable game of his own in his regular season debut for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It wasn’t a hat trick of goals like the one Brandon Saad recorded on Thursday. Instead, Panarin had three assists, his first a nifty set up on Cam Atkinson‘s first goal of the season. The Blue Jackets jumped out to a big lead over the New York Islanders and cruised from there to a 5-0 win.

The victory also included Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois scoring their first career NHL goals.

The Blue Jackets already had a group of young players that took a step forward last season by contending for the Metropolitan Division against Pittsburgh and the Washington Capitals. They set a new standard for the organization, setting franchise records in wins and points. The play of Sergei Bobrovsky in net played a significant role, too.

They added to their group this summer by acquiring Panarin from Chicago in a blockbuster that sent Saad back to the Blackhawks. In acquiring Panarin, Columbus received a 25-year-old forward with two impressive NHL seasons under his belt, as he reached at least 30 goals in each of those years with the Blackhawks.

He did so playing alongside Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, who has been a dangerous offensive player throughout junior and throughout his NHL career. That said, there seems to be suggestions that Panarin’s production was boosted by the fact he played as Kane’s linemate.

It’s a point that he has expressed anger toward. Who can blame him? After all, he scored 102 points combined over two seasons in the KHL before joining the Blackhawks and continued to put up good numbers in the NHL.

His time in Columbus is off to a good start. He showed chemistry with Atkinson, a 35-goal scorer last season, on the second goal. Breaking into the zone with speed, Panarin put a beautiful pass across the ice for Atkinson, who re-directed the puck in off his skate.

We’ve seen four hat tricks through the first two days of the new season, marking NHL history in the process.

No hat trick tonight for Panarin, but his three assists in his debut were enough to make Blue Jackets history. On the third night of the new NHL season, no less.

Oilers’ top pick Puljujarvi scores first NHL goal in debut

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The opening night of the 2016-17 NHL season turned out to be a great night for the 2016 draft class.

After top pick Auston Matthews made NHL history by becoming the first rookie to ever score four goals in his debut game, Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi, the No. 4 overall pick, played a strong game in Edmonton and scored his first career goal in the third period of the Oilers’ 7-4 win.

Here is a look at the play as he beats Flames goalie Brian Elliott for what the Oilers hope will be the first of many goals in the league.

That is a soft goal for Elliott to give up, something that was a pretty big problem for him most of the night.

The Oilers ended up with Puljujarvi, considered for months leading up to the draft to be one of the top-three players in the 2016 class, after the Columbus Blue Jackets passed on him at No. 3 to take Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Now that Matthews and Puljujarvi have already combined for five goals in their debuts, there is going to be some pressure on No. 2 pick Patrik Laine to have a big game for the Winnipeg Jets.