James O'Brien

2015 NHL Awards - Red Carpet

Hey, Alex Ovechkin got engaged


Apparently this is a summer of love for the Washington Capitals.

Not long after word surfaced that Brooks Laich got engaged to Julianne Hough, Alex Ovechkin announced that Russian model Nastya Shubskaya “said yes” on his Instagram page.

Сказала да..)))❤️❤️❤️

A photo posted by Alexander Ovechkin (@aleksandrovechkinofficial) on

Shubskaya’s photo might look a little better, although it lacks the enormous engagement ring (although you have to love the ring emoticon):


A photo posted by Nastya Shubskaya (@nastyashubskaya) on

This isn’t the first time that Ovechkin has announced an engagement, as he once did the same with tennis player Maria Kirilenko (who apparently is already married).

Russian Machine Never Breaks provided a little background information on Shubskaya back in March:

So who is Shubskaya? After some research, we found out that she is the daughter of a somewhat famous Soviet/Russian movie star, Vera Glagoleva. Glagoleva’s IMDb page shows she’s a veteran of 33 Russian acting roles and has directed five films. She has two other children, Anna and Rodion, from a previous marriage.

Shubskaya’s father Kirill Shubskiy is also a well-known entrepreneur in the shipbuilding industry. The couple gave birth to Shubskaya in 1993 while in Switzerland.

Congrats to Ovechkin, who posted this admirably goofy photo on Twitter:

(H/T to CSNWashington.com)

Why the Bruins passed on Franson

Dallas Stars v Nashville Predators

Many hockey fans grumbled when they learned that the Buffalo Sabres didn’t just sign Cody Franson; they also landed him at a significant discount.

Just about any squad with a deficit on defense had to at least consider Franson, who generates the sort of points that attract the attention of traditional types while also pleasing stat-heads with his possession stats.

The Boston Bruins are making the types of changes that would seemingly play into Franson’s strengths, so their fans might feel a little disappointed.

Ultimately, Bruins GM Don Sweeney explained that he’d rather see the team’s young defensemen battle for spots, as CSNNE.com reports.

“I think this is presenting an opportunity where you go and establish yourself,” Sweeney said. “There’s definitely a little bit of a tug of war going on internally as to whether or not you go out and get a guy that you know can provide what [Franson] can versus a little of the unknown as to what these [younger] players can grow into.”

Interestingly, Sweeney also said that “if they fall short … we have to make an adjustment accordingly.” That implies that Boston would react by either making a trade or late signing.

CSNNE.com points to increased roles for Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid and opportunities for the likes of Zach Trotman to earn a roster spot.

That’s well and good, yet you have to wonder if Boston is making a mistake; Sweeney could be going from a position of strength (Franson’s surprising lack of options this off-season) to playing catch-up (as teams would be well aware of the Bruins’ plight).

It’s not as if Franson is ancient, either, as he’s merely 28.

One way or another, this has been a fascinating first off-season for Sweeney, and time will tell if his polarizing moves will work out. At least he’s providing some insight on his decision-making, right?

Connor McDavid absorbs his first big-league hit

Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid hasn’t even been in a full-fledged preseason game, yet he already received his welcome-to-the-NHL moment.

That came in the form of a hard (but by all accounts clean) hit by Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen, as you can see via this clip from Friday’s Young Stars skirmish:

McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers prospects won 8-2, yet that check was the big story of that contest.

In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t sound like McDavid was being targeted by a player who suited up with him during the world juniors:

For what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like hockey’s next big thing is making a big thing about the check Virtanen delivered:

Clean hit or not … McDavid being fair game or not … it’s probably fair to say that Virtanen will need to stay alert whenever he faces Oilers players (possibly at multiple levels).

Much like any budding superstar, McDavid will find himself “tested” by opponents from time to time. Last night was a reminder that, for all the hype that surrounds him, nothing’s a given.

Columbus prospect Werenski on return to Michigan

Zach Werenski, Travis Boyd
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The Columbus Blue Jackets gave their 2015 first-round pick Zach Werenski a choice regarding how to handle his next season of development.

Ultimately, Werenski opted to return to NCAA hockey rather than signing an entry-level deal back in August. He told the Columbus Dispatch why on Friday.

“I was 50-50 for a while,” Werenski said. “It’s a great position to be in — signing with Columbus or going to the University of Michigan are great options — but it’s a really tough call. Some of the teams I met with at the combine … they made it really clear: If we draft you, you’re going to do what we tell you to do and play where we say you’re going to play. Columbus didn’t do that, and I really appreciate it.”

He’s mere months removed from Columbus selecting him eighth overall, so the situation must have left his head spinning a bit. He excelled as a freshman defenseman at Michigan, yet he just turned 18 in July.

Werenski cited his young age – not to mention an urge to get his school back into the NCAA tournament – in explaining his return to Michigan.

One gets the impression that Blue Jackets management is giddy about him, even if they’re also trying to respect the patient approach.

“It’s all there for him to be a great defenseman in all facets,” NHL defenseman turned Michigan assistant Mike Komisarek said. “You talk to him, and you’d swear he was 25 years old. That’s how he plays, too. He’s in control of everything. I’m so excited about where this kid is going to go.”

First thing’s first, he’s going back to school.

For more, check out the full article at the Columbus Dispatch. For even more than that, read up on Werenski in this PHT profile.

Yandle’s healthy, ready for Rangers

Keith Yandle, Alex Killorn

Many would agree that Keith Yandle wasn’t the catalyst the New York Rangers were hoping for after sending a considerable bounty to the Arizona Coyotes in 2014-15.

That said, a shoulder injury and the confusion of learning a new system may have slowed the offensive defenseman a bit at times, and the 29-year-old provided a cheery outlook to the Bergen Record.

“I was so used to playing a certain system with certain guys,” Yandle said. “You have the freedom to play here and play with guys who are higher skilled and highly competitive. It’s a lot of fun to come to the rink every day. It probably took me a little bit, maybe a couple of weeks before the playoffs, before I felt really comfortable with myself.”

That shoulder issue – an AC separation, according to Yandle – probably made things less comfortable as well, but Yandle avoided off-season surgery.

His first, abbreviated run with the Rangers was pretty bumpy, and that “freedom to play” might open up moments where Yandle draws the ire of fans with flubs.

On the other hand, New York has enjoyed some big bursts from mid-level players in contract years before, so Yandle could be a prime candidate for a significant rebound.

For better or worse, Yandle can be an adventure on the ice. Rangers fans might just enjoy those experiences a little more in 2015-16.