Thomas Vanek

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Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal makes some history with another 5-point game

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The New York Islanders got a much-needed win on Saturday afternoon when they absolutely crushed their cross-town rivals 7-2. It was a completely one-sided game that saw Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist have to come on in relief and try to give his teammates a pep talk before entering the game.

(It did not work.)

The star of the game for the Islanders was rookie forward Mathew Barzal as he finished with a pair of goals and three assists in the win.

It was the second time this season that Barzal, a rookie, has recorded at least five points in a game.

That is kind of a big deal for a lot of reasons. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

— For one, Barzal is the only player in the NHL this season that has at least two five point games. The rest of the NHL has combined for seven as Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Hartman, Patrick Kane, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin, and Thomas Vanek all have one each.

— He is only the 13th player since 2005-06 to have multiple five-point games in a season. Only Evgeni Malkin (four in 2011-12), Sidney Crosby (three in 2009-10) and Alex Ovechkin (three in 2007-08) have had more than two since then.

— Then we start to get into the fact he is still a rookie. The only other Islanders rookie to record a pair of five-point games in a season was Bryan Trottier during the 1975-76 season.

— Impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that in NHL history there have only been 73 five-point games from rookies. The only rookies to have one since 1993 are Barzal, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, John Tavares, Alexandre Picard, Evgnei Malkin, Dan Hamhuis, and Ilya Kovalchuk.

— The list of rookies to have more than one is even shorter. It is made up of Barzal, Trottier, Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Marian Stastny, Cy Denney, and Joe Malone. That is it. Malone and Denney’s seasons came in the NHL’s first season in 1917-18. Malone is the only one that had more than two (he recorded three). So, basically, two guys that played when the NHL was first created, the Stastny family, and two Islanders.

The Islanders are in a tough spot this season. Their recent slump has put them on the playoff bubble and their two leading scorers, John Tavare and Josh Bailey, are both unrestricted free agents after this season. No matter what happens the rest of the way or with Tavares and Bailey in the summer the one bright spot they will definitely be able to take out of this season is the development of Barzal. He looks like he is becoming a star. He might already be one.

After Saturday’s performance his 44 points are tops among all NHL rookies, putting him four points ahead of Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser. Barzal and Boeser are the only two rookies with at least 34 points on the season. It is pretty much a two-man race for the Calder Trophy right now.

Just a reminder: The Islanders acquired Barzal with a 2015 first-round draft pick that they acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart, to this point, has two points in 39 NHL games and is no longer a member of the Oilers’ organization (he is now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights organization. He currently plays in the American Hockey League).

What a trade for Islanders general manager Garth Snow.

(Historical data via NHL.com stats database)

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.

Canucks confident in GM Jim Benning’s ‘team-building mindset’

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You know, it wasn’t that long ago that the Vancouver Canucks were sitting nicely in a Pacific Division playoff spot. A month ago they were seven points behind the Los Angeles Kings after a three-game winning streak. Then it all began to fall apart.

The Canucks ended December losing nine of 11 games, gaining just five points over that stretch to leave them currently tied with the Edmonton Oilers for 13th in the Western Conference. This puts general manager Jim Benning and Trevor Linden, the team’s president of hockey operations, in an interesting situation with 52 days until the NHL trade deadline.

Benning is one a few GMs around the league who does not have a contract beyond this season.  Injuries and poor goaltending have brought their pursuit of a playoff spot off the rails and put a spotlight on the pending unrestricted free agents on the roster that could net future assets for the continued youth movement.

Forward Thomas Vanek and defenseman Erik Gudbranson likely won’t be with the Canucks beyond Feb. 26. Linden said on Wednesday there haven’t been discussions about extending Gudbranson, instead waiting to see how the next 6-8 weeks shape up.

All this means that Linden is fine with Benning handling the trade deadline despite an uncertain future with the franchise.

“He came into a challenging situation and I think we’re trending in the right direction,” said Linden. “I like the job Jim’s done, but beyond that I think we’re focused on the next couple months and the deadline.”

It all sounds encouraging for Benning, whose teams have made the playoffs once in four seasons as GM, a 101-point year in 2015-16. Since then, it’s been a downhill slide as more youth has been injected into the roster. The futures of Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen are exciting as the Sedin twins enter their final years in the NHL.

The Gudbranson acquisition in 2016 was one of Benning’s biggest moves as GM. He gave up Jared McCann and a second- and fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft. It hasn’t worked out as injuries and poor play have seen him bumped down the depth chart to the third pairing. With the direction of the team right now, it’d be wise to move him and let the kids play rather than re-sign him and cement a roster spot with an anchor.

If Linden is confident in Benning handling the trade deadline and continuing to shape the future of the franchise, there should be no concern about who the GM will be next season, right?

“Jim has always been of the mind that, at heart, he’s a guy that has a team-building mindset,” Linden added. “He’s going to continue to have his eye on the future, and that’ll be no different as we head into deadline.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Marleau continues to turn back the clock; Vegas continues to rewrite record book

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Players of the Night: 

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs: Marleau scored two more goals, his 13th and 14th goals of the season. It was the 67th multi-goal game of his long career. It’s been a great season for the former Sharks forward. The man is timeless, everyone. Timeless.

James Reimer, Florida Panthers: Reimer stopped 29 of 31 shots for his fourth consecutive win. Reimer has put up a .935 save percentage or better in each of those four games.

Sam Gagner and Thomas Vanek, Vancouver Canucks: Each player had a pair of goals to their respective names in a 5-2 win for the Canucks over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Highlights of the Night: 

Marleau’s second goal of the game came off a pretty slick deke after getting the puck alone in front:

Derek MacKenzie goal finished off this slick cross-ice pass. It was a short-handed goal to boot.

Nikita Kucherov‘s no-look pass found Steven Stamkos for some Sedin-like magic:

Joonas Donskoi in a short film that needs no explanation:

Factoids of the Night: 

James Reimer is doing things in Florida:

Brock Boeser is re-writing the Canucks’ rookie record book:

MISC: 

Scores:

Lightning 3, Canadiens 1

Capitals 4, Bruins 3 (SO)

Panthers 3, Flyers 2

Maple Leafs 7, Coyotes 4

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

Golden Knights 3, Kings 2 (OT)

Sharks 3, Flames 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Shea like butter, freakouts, losing efforts

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Players of the Night

The Vegas Golden Knights have been quite the story, and the remarkable thing is that it isn’t all just smoke and mirrors.

Still, this stuff is more fun when there’s some magic happening, so file this moment under it. Theodore already had three assists on Tuesday, but his lone goal ended this game in regulation with about three seconds remaining. Consider this the highlight of the night, at least with Dmitry Orlov‘s deke masterpiece already covered in this post.

(Note: That’s basically how I score half of my goals in “NHL 18.”)

There’s been a rash of high-scoring players in defeat lately; add Vanek’s name to that growing list. The aging winger collected a hat trick and an assist, yet those four points weren’t enough for a win or even a charity point. At least Vanek got the 10th hat trick of his career.

Odd stuff

Is … Marc Crawford OK?

Wes McCauley: a little weird.

Factoids

Speaking of strong play in defeat, consider Erik Karlsson, who hopefully escaped Crawford’s spit and wrath:

Earlier today, PHT discussed John Tavares possibly sticking with the Islanders, in part because of a reported deal for a new arena. The other part: improved help around him, headlined by the likes of Josh Bailey?

Scores

Maple Leafs 8, Hurricanes 1
Red Wings 6, Islanders 3
Rangers 4, Ducks 1
Wild 6, Senators 4
Bruins 3, Sabres 0
Jets 6, Predators 4
Capitals 4, Stars 3 (OT)
Panthers 3, Coyotes 2
Canadiens 7, Canucks 5
Golden Knights 4, Lightning 3

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.

Best NHL trade targets with Duchene off the market

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Fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, and other teams must feel a little left out after this weekend.

While those GMs either were afraid to pay the sticker price or weren’t in the conversation, the bottom line is that the Ottawa Senators got Matt Duchene, the Nashville Predators added Kyle Turris, and the Colorado Avalanche’s future looks brighter.

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

So, what’s next for teams hoping to add that missing piece?

As Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (sub required), “some stuff will always come up.”

With that in mind, let’s consider some of the best trade targets post-Duchene. For the sake of brevity, we’ll stick to forwards; maybe there will be a time to discuss the Keith Yandles of the world some other day. The likelihood of possible moves varies, and will likely change dramatically as the season goes along.

(Note: As usual, Cap Friendly was a glorious resource for this.)

Mandatory, especially unrealistic mentions

John Tavares: Even if they’re more worried about letting him go than they’re letting on, it’s very difficult to picture New York Islanders GM Garth Snow actually trading the face of the franchise and a guy who is, during the bleakest moments, the only bright side to look on.

Still, I’d have to turn in my blogger’s badge if I didn’t at least mention Tavares, because a team would offer up its vital organs if JT actually did go on the market.

The Sedin twins are unlikely as well, though in wildly different ways. Throw Joe Thornton here, too.

A bucket of Golden Knights

Even if the Vegas Golden Knights remain competitive heading into the trade deadline, GM George McPhee could be forgiven if he jumps on a good offer. It’s possible they can have their cake and eat it too, really.

  • James Neal: You can go in circles talking about the negatives (he’s 30, can sometimes go invisible for a while, takes bad frustration penalties), but getting a big, prime-ish-age sniper could be huge for a contending team. If Vegas decides he’s not a part of the future, why not sell high?
  • David Perron: A lot like Neal – they even both had stints with the Penguins – except a lower ceiling, one year younger, and a smaller cap hit. His slick mitts give him the potential to be a gamebreaker if a team doesn’t ask for too much.
  • Jonathan Marchessault: The 26-year-old carries just a $750K cap hit, and he’s at a fascinating fork in the road for his career. Vegas might want to keep him, but what kind of raise is coming? And what if a contender tight against the cap presents a war chest of assets for him, considering that cheap 2017-18 mark?

Lightning round

Alex Galchenyuk: Free Alex.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Could the latest $6M Oilers forward be gone?

Jesse Puljujärvi: Would Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers really cut ties with another high draft pick?

Patrick Maroon, Ryan Strome: Two guys on expiring contracts. Bargain-hunting GMs might as well keep Chia on their speed dial, right?

Phil Kessel: Ugh, it’s irksome to mention, but it feels required. There’s at least some merit to the murmurs.

Rick Nash: See more on how Nash could fit into a mini-Rangers rebuild here. Nash is tantalizing, but the Rangers would need to find a way to make things work for a trade partner considering his Nash-sized cap hit.

Evander Kane: Has his issues, but he’s a power forward in his prime, and the 26-year-old seems like he’s playing at a high level. Manageable cap hit at $5.25M, especially since the trade deadline tends to make guys like him easier to get under the ceiling.

Gabriel Landeskog: Tough to imagine the Avalanche making such bold moves in succession, but then again, why not at least gauge the market? With four years remaining at about $5.57M per, it would require a major undertaking. What if Sakic offered to take, say, Ryan Callahan‘s problem deal on for Landeskog in exchange for a boatload of assets? Just saying.

[Sakic’s patience pays off in Duchene trade]

Gustav Nyquist, various Red Wings: Gotta pull off the rebuild Band-Aid sometime, right? Maybe?

Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk: Two affordable Maple Leafs forwards who are likely to get lost in the shuffle when Auston Matthews & Co. burn through their rookie deals. JVR is a chronically underrated winger.

Patric Hornqvist: The scorer of the 2017 Stanley Cup-clinching goal is an old 30 considering all of his battles in front of the net. Maybe he’d go the other way if the Penguins wanted to make a move or a series of moves?

Tomas Plekanec, Thomas Vanek, etc.: There are a handful of aging, reasonably useful forwards on expiring deals. Imagine them all listed here; check Cap Friendly for even more options.

***

That’s quite the list, and some of those players are even worth trading for. Maybe Blue Jackets and Hurricanes fans can daydream about better days, too?

Feel free to add any names you believe are missing in the comments, emails, or via Twitter. You can even embrace the freedom to be more out-there than the idea of trading Tavares. Have fun.

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.