NHL

PHT Morning Skate: Golden Knights retire number 58; 16-year-old Jack Hughes turning heads

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Tonight might just be Erik Karlsson‘s last home game as a member of the Ottawa Senators. (Ottawa Sun)

• The Detroit Red Wings have started winning games at the wrong time. Sure, it’s nice to see them end the season on a positive note, but their chances of winning the lottery have taken a serious hit. (MLive)

Thomas Vanek has been a great fit in Columbus, but John Tortorella would like him to shoot the puck a little more often. (Columbus Dispatch)

• Devils forward Marcus Johansson (concussion) has been activated off injured reserve. He didn’t play in last night’s game against Montreal, but it sounds like he’s close to coming back. (NHL.com/Devils)

• The one thing that could take the Bruins down is their hectic schedule. (NBC Sports Boston)

• It wasn’t too long ago that the Florida Panthers were surging. Now, they’ve seemed to hit a wall and their playoff hopes are badly damaged. How did this happen? (Sun-Sentinel)

• Like most coaches with teams eliminated from playoff contention, Joel Quenneville has done a lot of teaching this season. (Chicago Sun-Times)

• Beer league teammates and opponents react to Scott Foster making his NHL debut for the Blackhawks last week. (NBC Sports Chicago)

Kyle Okposo played football and basketball, but he quickly fell in love with the game of hockey even though his parents forbid him from playing after the Christmas tree incident. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Nobody from the Islanders organization benefits from the situation between the organization and prospect Josh Ho-Sang. (The Sports Daily)

• What does San Jose’s road record say about their chances of making some noise in the playoffs? (NBC Sports Bay Area)

• The Capitals have put Tom Wilson in a position to succeed offensively, and he’s done just that. (Nova Caps Fans)

• Now that Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins share a line together, it’s time for the the Oilers to find someone to play with Leon Draisaitl. Whether that’s via free agency or with a trade, it has to be done. (Oilers Nation)

• 16-year-old Jack Hughes looks like a star in the making. TSN hockey analyst Craig Button has already referred to Hughes as “one of the most exciting players I’ve seen in a long time.” (USA Today)

• NHL referee Dave Jackson took part in his final game last Thursday. He worked over 1600 games in 25 years of work. (Scouting the Refs)

• The Vegas Golden Knights retired no. 58 in honor of those who passed away during the Vegas shooting in October:

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.

Connor McDavid hits the 100-point mark again (Video)

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Since the start of the 2010-11 season there have only been six 100-point performances in the NHL.

Two of those now belong to Connor McDavid. Nobody else has more than one.

With his first period assist on a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal on Tuesday night McDavid hit the century mark for the second year in a row, becoming the first player to record consecutive 100-point seasons since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both did it in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Here is a look at that play that gave him point No. 100.

As if that wasn’t enough, McDavid followed that up by scoring his 40th goal of the season and then assisting on another goal later in the period to give the Oilers a 3-0 lead.

In typical Oilers fashion, however, they surrendered three consecutive goals to squander the lead and go into the first intermission tied, then gave up another goal early in the second period to fall behind.

Along with hitting the 100-point mark for the second year in a row, McDavid is trying to become the first player since Jaromir Jagr won four in a row between 1997 and 2001.

With his three-point first period on Tuesday he now sits six points ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.

Is that going to be enough to get him a second consecutive MVP award? It is definitely an MVP level performance, but there will no doubt be voters that hold the team’s lack of success against him. The fact Edmonton is going to miss the playoffs by such a margin with a player as special as McDavid is a stunning statement on the incompetence of the team’s front office.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Allen coming up clutch; Who plays with McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Sabres top prospect Casey Mittelstadt looked back at his college experience at the University of Minnesota after he signed his entry-level contract with Buffalo this week. (The Gopher Hockey Blog)

Jake Allen has had his share of ups and downs this season, but he’s really come through for his team during this crucial stretch. (Fan Rag Sports)

• Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo wrote a great letter about how hockey is an escape for all the tragedies he’s experienced in his life. (The Players’ Tribune)

• Former NHL defenseman Andrew Ference believes it’s time for hockey to be more inclusive, which means that players can’t just stay in their own little bubble. They have to participate in different programs that show off their personality so that they might develop a connection with new fans. (ESPN)

• Cristobal Huet and Christian Ehrhoff both decided to call it quits over the last couple of days. Both had plenty of success in the NHL. (IIHF)

• Now that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is playing on Connor McDavid‘s left wing, Oilers Nation examines which player could be the best fit on the right side of that trio. (Oilers Nation)

• How useful is Roman Polak in the playoffs? Faceoffcircle.ca takes a deeper look at the numbers. (Faceoffcircle.ca)

Shea Weber won’t return this season, but the foot injury that was expected to sideline him for six months will only take four months to heal. (Sportsnet)

Nico Hischier still has plenty of things to work on, but his rookie season has been a success in New Jersey. (All About the Jersey)

• The Preds have lost three games in a row, but that’s no reason for their fans to be concerned. After all, they’re still right at the top of the league standings. (On the Forecheck)

• Ottawa and Carolina went head-to-head last night, so TSN’s Travis Yost looked at a problem they both had in common this season. (TSN.ca)

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.

Smith shutting out McDavid, Oilers should give Flames hope

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When the Calgary Flames once again made wholesale changes to their goalie duo in the summer, focusing on bringing in Mike Smith, there were plenty of skeptics. (Myself included.)

On one hand, the 35-year-old boasts considerable puckhandling skills, and the sort of large frame NHL teams seek – sometimes demand – in a starting goalie. While his stats were up-and-down during his run with the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes, Smith also showed the ability to stand on his head and stop a barrage of shots.

That said, consistency’s often been an issue for Smith, and that includes being healthy enough to consistently stay on the ice.

So far in 2017-18, both the Flames and their critics have been partially right. GM Brad Treliving targeted Smith, and looked smart in recalling his Coyotes days in doing so, as the big goalie’s been huge for Calgary, generating a .922 save percentage. That said, his latest injury cost him 13 games, leaving Calgary in a predicament where missing the playoffs is a very real fear.

Things didn’t look great in his first game back, as Smith and the Flames fell to the even-more-lost New York Islanders 5-2, with Smith allowing four goals. Luckily, he didn’t wait long to remind people why he’s been so badly missed, as Smith put on quite a performance against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, allowing Johnny Gaudreau‘s lone goal to stand up in a 1-0 win last night.

McDavid set up some great chances for Ryan Strome, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and himself, but Smith denied all of them, and the Flames really took it to the Oilers superstar physically:

The Flames still stand at a disadvantage in the West’s bubble races, but this was a reassuring win, especially in seeing Smith look so brilliant.

Take a look at some of the teams they’re chasing between the wild-card spots and the Pacific seeds within reasonable reach:

Pacific second and third (Vegas out of reach)
2. Sharks: 83 points in 69 games, 33 ROW
3. Kings: 82 points in 70 GP, 36 ROW

First WC- Avalanche: 82 points in 69 GP, 36 ROW
Second WC- Stars: 82 points in 70 GP, 34 ROW

Ducks: 80 points in 70 GP, 30 ROW
Flames: 80 points in 71 GP, 33 ROW
Blues: 79 points in 69 GP, 34 ROW

Again, just about all of those teams have some sort of edge on the Flames, yet they do have some agency in fighting back. They’ll face the Sharks twice, with the next match taking place on Friday in Calgary. The make-or-break stretch will likely come from March 21-26: a home game against the Ducks, then vs. the Kings in Los Angeles and the Sharks in San Jose.

No doubt, the odds are against them. Sports Club Stats, for instance, only gives Calgary a 22.2-percent chance to make the playoffs, and that’s with a 5.9-percent bump from blanking the Oilers.

It’s lot easier to believe in their chances with Smith back in the lineup and on the top of his game, however, so Tuesday had to renew some hope.

And, hey, they might also get some more balance in the forward groups with Kris Versteeg back:

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.

Are you ready for the Oilers to win another draft lottery? It could happen

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

There has been no greater disappointment in the NHL this season than the pathetic showing put forward by the Edmonton Oilers organization. It has been a collective effort from everybody involved, from the general manager that seems to thinks he is building a team in 2002, to the coach that has not figured out how to fix his team’s garbage special teams, to the owner that put all of these people in power, to the players on the ice.

They all own it.

This is a team that entered the season with the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup. it is now positioned near the bottom of the standings and already has virtually no chance to make the playoffs with still a quarter of the season left to be played.

They may have been a little overrated at the start of the year, but there was almost nobody that saw this sort of season coming.

Following their loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon, their sixth loss in a row and eighth in the past 10 games, the Oilers now find themselves with the third-worst record in the NHL and are only six points ahead of the Coyotes when it comes to having the worst record in the league.

For a team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at the top of its lineup it is an inexcusable waste of young talent. In the case of McDavid, it is a waste of MVP talent. Generational talent.

Only three teams in the history of the league has ever missed the playoffs with the reigning league MVP on its roster.

The Edmonton Oilers are not only going to do join them, they are going to miss the playoffs by miles.

With an MVP that has a cap hit of less than a million dollars in a salary cap league.

[Related: Connor McDavid could author one of the NHL’s greatest wasted seasons]

What this raging dumpster fire of a season has done is put the Oilers in a great position to do the only type of winning they’ve become accustomed to over the past decade — the NHL Draft Lottery.

Entering play on Sunday the Oilers would have the third-best odds to land the No. 1 overall pick with a 10.5 percent chance winning. That would give them the opportunity to select Swedish phenom defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, a prospect that is pretty much the exact player they need.

Those odds are … somewhat favorable, and high enough to probably drive hockey fans that are tired of watching the Oilers waste these picks insane.

Let’s revisit this history, just in case you’ve forgotten:

Between 2010 and 2015 the Oilers picked first overall four times in six years, landing picks that brought them Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and McDavid. That includes a run between 2010 and 2012 where they picked first overall three consecutive years. In the years between 2012 and 2015 they picked seventh (Darnel Nurse) and third (Draisaitl). Four No. 1 picks in six years is a run unlike anything we had ever seen in the history of the NHL draft.

And they didn’t always need to finish with the worst record to get there. It was the perfect combination of being a lousy organization and getting some fantastic luck.

When they won the draft lottery in 2010 to get Hall the Oilers won it with the worst record in the league.

The next season (the Nugent-Hopkins pick) the Oilers again finished with the worst record in the league and were able to maintain that pick when the New Jersey Devils won the lottery and moved up four spots from No. 8 to No. 4 (this was when winning the draft lottery meant you could only move up four spots). The Devils winning that draft lottery would turn out to be significant for the Oilers down the line because the Devils used that pick to select defenseman Adam Larsson. In the summer of 2016 the Oilers traded Hall to the Devils in a one-for-one swap for … Adam Larsson.

The next year they won the draft lottery to move up from the second spot to the top pick where they selected Nail Yakupov.

In 2015, they finished with the third-worst record and won the Connor McDavid lottery.

So, in other words, it’s happened before. There is nothing stopping it from happening again.

The closest we ever came to a draft pick run like the Oilers have had was when the Quebec Nordiques picked first overall three years in a row between 1989 and 1991. That was before the draft lottery was put into place and the team with the worst record just simply picked first.

Even though none of the players the Nordiques picked first overall (Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, Eric Lindros) won a championship with the team, those picks helped set the stage for what would become two Stanley Cup winning teams. Sundin was eventually traded for Wendel Clark, who was later traded for Claude Lemieux. Nolan was traded for Sandis Ozolinsh, one of the most productive defensemen in the league and a member of the 1996 Stanley Cup championship team. The Eric Lindros trade … well … that trade turned out to be historic.

The expansion Ottawa Senators had a run of three No. 1 overall picks in four years between 1993 and 1996 when they picked Alexandre Daigle, Bryan Berard and Chris Phillips. Daigle turned out to be a bust and Berard was traded (for a package that included Wade Redden, a long-time staple on the Senators’ blue line), but Phillips played more than 1,100 games in Ottawa over 17 seasons. Starting in 1996, the year of the third and final No. 1 pick, the Senators went on an 11-year run where they made the playoffs every year (with Redden and Phillips playing significant roles). It never resulted in a championship, but they made the Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Final once.

What’s so maddening about the Oilers, even as a completely neutral observer, is how they have completely wasted this draft pick bounty.

It’s certainly possible they could come back next season and be decent. When you have Connor McDavid that chance always exists. But he can’t do it alone, and we have to trust an organization that has made the playoffs three times in 16 years (and only once in 12 years) can figure out what the hell it is doing.

Especially when it has a proven track record of, again, wasting the talent it has been lucky enough to get.

Yakupov simply did not work out, not really anything anybody can do about that. Arguing that he was a bad pick would be 20/20 hindsight. Sometimes picks just don’t work out and there weren’t many people arguing against his selection at the time.

But after that it’s a story of waste.

Hall, one of the best left wingers in the league and a player that has a pretty compelling MVP argument this season (he won’t win, but there is an argument to be made), was traded for an okay-but-nothing-special defenseman.

Don’t be shocked if Nugent-Hopkins, another talented and productive player that probably gets underrated because he’s been stuck on a lousy team for his entire career, gets moved in a similar deal in the next year or two.

They traded another of their top forwards, Jordan Eberle, for a lesser player in Ryan Strome that will not ever come close to matching Eberle’s production.

They signed Milan Lucic and Kris Russell for a combined $10 million per season for at least the next … four years?!

They managed to get one playoff appearance out of McDavid’s entry level contract, and as I said a couple months ago, the front office that could not build a competitive team around him making the league minimum now has to figure out a way to build a competitive team around him while he is making $12 million per year (with Leon Draisaitl riding shotgun making $8 million per year).

At this point their reward for all of this incompetence could be anything from an 8.5 percent chance (fifth worst record) to an 18 percent chance (if they should happen to collapse enough to finish with the worst record — and I’m not betting against that) to land one of the best defense prospects to enter the NHL in years. Those odds are way too high. Those odds are too much in their favor. They do not deserve odds that high.

If their is some sort of just and loving draft lottery deity floating around in the hockey world it will not allow this to happen. It can not happen.

For the sake of Rasmus Dahlin’s career.

For the sake of hockey fans outside of Edmonton.

Heck, just for my own personal sanity, the Edmonton freaking Oilers can not be rewarded with another top draft pick. Especially one that could be this good at a position where they have a desperate need.

Somebody else — literally, anybody else — needs to get the chance to make something out of Rasmus Dahlin.

Anybody but the Edmonton Oilers.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.