Cam Tucker

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The Avalanche could use some good news — and Tyson Jost may be able to provide it

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The Colorado Avalanche are in the midst of difficult times. Very difficult.

Fans have lost confidence in the Avalanche front office, according to a recent report, following yet another dismal regular season. This week, they were informed that NCAA Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher won’t sign in Colorado, instead deciding to test free agency when that option becomes available to him next month.

Prospect forward Tyson Jost, however, is trying to provide a bright spot for the Avalanche.

After one season at North Dakota, Jost — taken 10th overall in 2016 — signed with the Avalanche at the end of March and then appeared in six NHL games before Colorado’s season (mercifully) came to an end. He scored only once, roofing a quick wrist shot over the shoulder of Devan Dubnyk.

He’s still only 19 years old, and his 20th birthday isn’t until the middle of next March. That said, the objective now is to make the Avalanche out of training camp and remain in the NHL as a regular next season.

“My goal this year is to be in the NHL and to be an impact player with the [Avalanche],” Jost told NHL.com. “To be able to do that, I have to have a big summer and I think I’m heading in the right direction. Working out at elevation, it’s a lot tougher. I wanted to be [at development camp last month]. I’m always looking for ways to get better.”

The Avalanche could certainly use a good news story coming out of training camp.

The story of Jost pressing for full-time NHL duty might slip under the radar when camps open, given the news earlier this month that Matt Duchene could start the season in Colorado, despite being the subject of trade speculation for quite some time.

Canucks prospect Pettersson reportedly aggravated injury at Summer Showcase

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Team Sweden will be without Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson in their lineup today when they play Team USA (White) at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

Pettersson, who was selected fifth overall by the Canucks in this year’s NHL Draft, missed a considerable amount of time during yesterday’s contest against the U.S., before it was revealed afterward that he aggravated a previous injury, according to ESPN’s Corey Pronman.

Given that news, it’s not surprising to see Pettersson held out of today’s game, per reports.

By selecting Pettersson, the Canucks add a talented and creative young center to their prospect pool. But he’ll need some time to develop physically before he’s ready for the NHL.

He stands at 6-foot-2 tall, but weighs in at only 165 pounds, which means he’ll need to grow into that frame. At 18 years of age, there is still plenty of time to do that.

“You’re going to have to be patient with him,” one scout told Ben Kuzma of Postmedia. “The advantage is he’s 18 and already playing against men. Give him two years in Sweden and allow him to gain that 30 pounds that he’s going to need before he can step into the NHL.

“Then you have a guy who can come in as a 20 year old.”

Meanwhile, Blackhawks prospect and Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju — the 29th overall selection this year — was hurt during today’s game against Team USA (Blue), per Adam Kimelman of NHL.com.

Ekman-Larsson counted on to carry Coyotes next season

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The Arizona Coyotes have completed significant moves this offseason.

They acquired a No. 1 center in Derek Stepan. They acquired goalie Antti Raanta, who was the back-up in New York but has shown signs he’s capable of transitioning into the starter’s role. They’ve brought in Niklas Hjalmarsson in a trade with Chicago, and general manager John Chayka expects he could be a top-pairing blue liner in Arizona.

For all of the youthful talent and the summer moves, Chayka believes the centerpiece for the Coyotes this season will be defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who just turned 26 years old a couple of weeks ago.

In Chayka’s mind, Ekman-Larsson is a “super star” for the Coyotes. The left-shooting defenseman has twice gone beyond the 20-goal plateau in a single season, while posting 12 goals and 39 points last season in Arizona.

“It’s a bit of a reboot here but I think we’ve got a good core, a young nucleus led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson,” Chayka told NHL Tonight. “He’s going to carry us. You only go as far as your top players can bring you.”

The Coyotes leaned heavily on Ekman-Larsson last season, as he played in every situation and averaged 24:36 of ice time per game, which led the team. Behind him in that category was Alex Goligoski at more than a full minute behind.

It was reported in June, when the Coyotes informed Shane Doan he would not be brought back next season, that Ekman-Larsson will be called on to be the club’s next captain. He has two more years remaining on his six-year, $33 million contract.

Acquiring Johansen was a ‘turning point’ for Predators

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The Nashville Predators secured Ryan Johansen to a long-term deal Friday. But it was in January of 2016 that the franchise made a drastic change by parting ways with a talented defensive prospect to acquire a young, elite center.

Originally selected fourth overall by Nashville in 2013, Seth Jones enjoyed a breakout 2016-17 season with 12 goals and 42 points. He did so as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, having been the key piece leaving Nashville the year before when Predators general manager David Poile went after Johansen.

That move has benefited Columbus, which will look to build on a franchise record-setting season. But the Predators have emerged as a formidable yet still up-and-coming team in the Western Conference.

The play of their top four defensemen, especially during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, was widely praised. So, too, was the performance of goalie Pekka Rinne. Nashville also boasts a top line of Johansen, Filip Forsberg, who has back-to-back 30-goal seasons, and Viktor Arvidsson, who recently cashed in on his 31-goal breakout regular season.

That trio not only had great bottom line production last season, but they dominated possession, too, with Corsi For ratings all above 55 per cent together at five-on-five. Johansen is the oldest of the three, as he will celebrate his 25th birthday on Monday.

They are all locked into long-term deals, with age still on their side.

“A year and a half ago, we made a deal with Columbus to pick up Ryan, and I think everyone would agree that was somewhat of… a turning point in our franchise,” Poile told the Predators website.

“In [these contract] negotiations, his agent used a line that ‘Ryan’s a driver of our team,’ and I totally concur with that. I really feel in these next eight years, we’re going to do really well, and when we do really well, Ryan Johansen’s going to be a big, big factor in all of our winning.”

After making it to Game 7 of the second round in 2016, the Predators advanced to the Stanley Cup Final as a wild card team in 2017. Johansen was unable to play in the championship series due to postseason-ending surgery he had following an acute compartment syndrome diagnosis during the Western Conference Final.

Per Adam Vingan of The Tennessean, Johansen is expected to be ready to participate in full when training camp opens in September.

Johnson ‘chomping at the bit’ after Blue Jackets’ franchise-record regular season

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The accolades came rolling in for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season.

Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, after his sensational 2016-17 campaign that included a .931 save percentage in 63 starts, which was a big reason for his team’s overall success.

— John Tortorella went from being the coach favored to be fired first to the coach of the year.

Individual awards were the result of a franchise record-setting season with 50 wins and 108 points, as the Blue Jackets qualified for the playoffs in a hyper competitive Metropolitan Division. But a great regular season gave way to a quick postseason appearance as Columbus was dispatched by the Penguins in the opening round, which doesn’t sit well with veteran defenseman Jack Johnson.

“Success is a relative term too, because we had a great regular season, no question, but we still lost in game five of the first round, so it’s not enough,” Johnson said in a Q&A on the club’s website.

“I want to win. I just finished my 10th year, and my 11th year I want to win. I hope every guy is taking the summer seriously, training and getting ready because whether you finished first in the regular season or snuck into the playoffs, if you lose in game five of the first round that’s just not enough. So I’m definitely chomping at the bit, excited for next season because I’m excited every year.”

His comments echo a message from Tortorella earlier this summer. In the coach’s words, the Blue Jackets were able to set a foundation. Now, it’s about taking that next step in contending for the Eastern Conference.

Gone from the Blue Jackets lineup is Sam Gagner, who had a nice bounce-back season with 18 goals and 50 points — 18 of which were on the power play — while playing on a one-year deal at a very affordable $650,000. He then turned last season’s production into a three-year contract, worth a total of $9.45 million, with the Canucks.

The Blue Jackets also bid farewell to Brandon Saad, who was traded back to Chicago in exchange for Artemi Panarin.