Cam Tucker

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 03:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Oilers shutout the Flyers 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Wearing the ‘C’ for Team North America could be a ‘good trial run,’ says McDavid

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Connor McDavid won’t turn 20 years old until January, but for months now, he’s been mentioned as a candidate to become the next captain of the Edmonton Oilers.

That, the young phenom forward has said before, would be a huge honor.

As Edmonton’s bench boss Todd McLellan pointed out already, the new Oilers captain will be determined during NHL training camp. While Team North America’s captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey is expected to be named this week. And yes, McDavid is a candidate for the position.

McDavid addressed that possibility on Wednesday, following a team practice in preparation for its first pre-tournament game against Team Europe in Quebec City on Thursday.

“If I were to wear the ‘C’ here it would obviously be good experience if I wear it in Edmonton,” said McDavid, as per video from Sportsnet. “I don’t want to comment too much on it. Obviously it would be a huge honor, but it would be a good trial run and good … practice if it happens in Edmonton.”

It’s possible that some time within the next few weeks, McDavid — already with the support from teammate Cam Talbot — could become the youngest captain in the league’s history.

As for this tournament, Team North America is stacked with young talent. Are they the most intriguing team heading into the competition? You could make an argument for that.

Team North America’s captain would join an impressive list that includes the likes of Sidney Crosby (Canada), Anze Kopitar (Team Europe), Joe Pavelski (Team USA) and Alex Ovechkin (Team Russia).

The wait continues.

Hurricanes sign Michael Leighton, who will act as a ‘valuable mentor’ with prospect goalies

Michael Leighton, Chicago Blackhawks
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The Carolina Hurricanes, for right now anyway, may be set in goal at the NHL level with Eddie Lack and Cam Ward, but on Wednesday they added some professional experience to their minor league system.

The club announced it signed 35-year-old goalie Michael Leighton to a one-year, two-way deal worth $700,000 at the NHL level. Last season with the Rockford IceHogs, he posted a 28-8-8 record and a .918 save percentage.

Leighton joins the Hurricanes organization with 106 games of NHL experience, posting a career record of 35-41-10-4 and a save percentage of .901, and almost 300 regular season games in the American Hockey League.

Carolina wanted a veteran puck stopper in the minors, especially with prospect Alex Nedeljkovic, the team’s second-round pick, 37th overall, from the 2014 draft, looking to make the jump from juniors to the pro game.

“Michael is a veteran player who gives our organization reliable depth in goal,” said Hurricanes GM Ron Francis in a statement. “He is a true professional who also will serve as a valuable mentor for the young goaltenders in our system.”

Signed to a three-year entry-level deal in March of 2015, Nedeljkovic has played three games in the ECHL for the Florida Everblades, while splitting his final year of junior in 2015-16 with the Flint Firebirds and Niagara IceDogs, and he would likely need more seasoning down in the minors.

Related: Watch out for the Hurricanes

Team Canada’s blue line is under the microscope heading into the World Cup

Mike Babcock
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It didn’t take long after Team Canada’s World Cup of Hockey roster was named for the debate to begin, especially when it comes to the blue line.

Sometimes, it’s not about who is named to the team, but who is left off. And why?

Why wasn’t the right-shooting P.K. Subban, a dynamic offensive defenseman, added to the roster? Ditto goes for Kris Letang, also a right shot capable of putting up big numbers from the blue line, while logging heavy minutes — an average of 26:56 in the regular season for Pittsburgh — and being used on both the power play and penalty kill.

When it was announced late last month that Duncan Keith opted out of the World Cup due to injury, he was replaced by fellow left-shooting defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Again, the likes of Subban and Letang were left off the squad.

The simple explanation is that head coach Mike Babcock is really all about the left-right balance on defense. As Canada opened camp on Monday, he explained in detail his philosophy.

But there was another interesting development to come from the first day of camp.

It seems Babcock went with the left-right dynamic for two of his three pairings, but not necessarily for the third. As reported, one pairing included a pair of right shots, with Brent Burns and Alex Pietrangelo.

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Babcock and general manager Doug Armstrong spoke at length at the time of the importance of having a balance of left-handed and right-handed shots on defense. Since Keith shot from the left side, it was natural to add the left-shooting Bouwmeester, they said.

That’s why it was somewhat surprising to see Pietrangelo skating on the left side Monday.

Well, surprising to everyone except Pietrangelo.

“A couple of weeks before camp Mike called me and said, ‘Hey, we think we might play you on the left side,'” Pietrangelo said.

On a star-studded team, Canada’s defense could be under the spotlight as this tournament goes on.

MacKinnon likes Team North America’s chances: ‘I don’t think there’s a more skilled team than ours’

Nathan MacKinnon
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They might be young, but Team North America — especially forward Nathan MacKinnon — certainly isn’t lacking skill or confidence with the World Cup of Hockey approaching.

Earlier today at PHT it was prefaced that Team North America, with a roster that includes stars Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Aaron Ekblad and Jack Eichel to name a few, shouldn’t be taken lightly, despite a supposed lack of experience compared to players on the other teams.

Canada, with players returning from 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medal victories, may be the favorites.

But with a roster that possesses so much youthful skill, MacKinnon staunchly believes Team North America could do some damage when the tournament begins Sept. 17, and he made that clear when he met with the media on Monday.

“I don’t think there’s a more skilled team than ours. I’ll go against anybody’s roster and put ours against them,” he said, as per Sportsnet.

“We have the talent and the ability to beat anybody for sure.”

Almost 15 months ago, McDavid and Eichel went first and second overall, respectively, in the NHL Draft. They had been compared to each other for months before that, as it became clear they were the front runners to get selected in the top two.

Now, they are teammates. That’s a scary thought, depending on your perspective heading into the tournament.

“It’s great,” said Team North America coach Todd McLellan, as per the Buffalo News. “Wouldn’t you like to do that every day? … Tremendously talented, great hockey skills and skill sets. They’re teammates now, which hasn’t happened before but it’s happening now and it’s great to be a part of it.”

The roster assembled for Team North America — which is still searching for a captain, and that will be a development to keep an eye out for over the next few days — has also captured the attention of opposing players, like Steven Stamkos.

Goaltending questions on the front burner ahead of World Cup

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Carey Price #31 of Canada looks on during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Goaltending competitions are front and center as World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament camps open around the world from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Columbus, Ohio.

The United States, Canada and Team Europe are among the teams that could have goaltending drama linger through the start of the World Cup on Sept. 17. The U.S. could turn to a two-time Stanley Cup winner with Olympic experience in the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick, or opt for either Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning or Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils.

Canada has a similar embarrassment of riches in net. There is reason to wonder about Sochi Olympics star Carey Price, who hasn’t played a game since November because of a knee injury and is the biggest key to Canada’s success.

“He’s 100 percent, skating, facing pucks, shaking off the rust and he’s excited and ready to go,” Canadian general manager Doug Armstrong said.

If Price isn’t back to his all-world self, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals figures to be the next goalie up, then two-time Cup winner Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks. Holtby endorsed Price as the starter if the Montreal Canadiens’ 2015 MVP is healthy, but games Friday and Saturday against the U.S. are worth watching.

“We’re playing back to back right away in exhibition, so we wouldn’t play a goalie back to back in exhibition for sure,” coach Mike Babcock said. “So there’s going to be opportunities for more than one goaltender.”

There will be an opportunity in goal for Europe’s camp in Quebec City and Montreal after Frederik Andersen was injured in Olympic qualifying for Denmark over the weekend. The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Andersen will miss three to four weeks with an upper-body injury, meaning New York Islanders goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss will compete to start for the team that’s a mix of players from Slovakia, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Switzerland, France, Austria and Norway.

Team North America, a combination of Americans and Canadians age 23 and under, has a pretty clear-cut goalie picture at the start of camp. A year ago John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks looked like the no-doubt starter, and then Matt Murray won the Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I would think going in it’s going to be Matt first,” North American GM Peter Chiarelli said. “Just based on his body of work, what he’s done, you can’t ignore that. He’s the lead dog right now, I would think, based on my discussions (with coaches) and I think it’s fairly obvious.”

Finland can’t go wrong with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins or Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, and Russia has two strong choices in Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche.

The Czech Republic has a three-way competition between Michal Neuvirth of the Philadelphia Flyers, Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets, while Sweden will go with Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers in the easiest decision of the World Cup. Lundqvist recently took a puck to the ribs in practice but should be able to play through it.

Here are five other questions to answer in the lead-up to the World Cup:

HOW CRISP: It’s September and over 150 of the best players in the world are being asked to play big-time games right off the bat. “I’m anxious to see how crisp it is,” U.S. defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “Not only are you playing with different teammates and potentially a different system or whatever, there’s going to be a little hesitation in that regard, probably, in the exhibition games.”

WHO’S HURT: With 12 injury replacements already, several teams are short-handed and digging into their reserves. If more players are hurt in camp or during exhibition games, it could be harder to convince others to jump right in without the weeks of preparation.

CAMP TORTORELLA: Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella gets to run camp on his home ice in Columbus and could bring his brand of shot-blocking, defensive-minded hockey to the U.S. team. How Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and other top skill guys fit into that system will be fascinating.

NORTH BY NORTH YOUNG: Team North America has 18-year-old Auston Matthews and 19-year-old Connor McDavid among its absurd group of No. 1 picks. They could be two of the best players in the tournament, and McDavid could even be captain.

EUROPEAN CHEMISTRY: Blending together players from eight different countries is the most difficult job for Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger. Letting Kings star Anze Kopitar take over isn’t a bad strategy.