James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Kaprizov’s hot WJC start bolsters argument that Wild got a fifth-round steal

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Don’t blame prospect-minded Minnesota Wild fans for cackling with glee upon seeing the show Kirill Kaprizov put on tonight.

The prospect generated a hat trick (and two assists) for Russia in a 2017 World Juniors rout of Latvia, as the team bounced back from Monday’s 5-3 loss to Canada by dominating 9-1.

Really, Wild fans were probably pretty happy with what they saw of Kaprizov even in that loss, and also in how he’s playing so far in the KHL:

To be precise, the Wild selected Kaprizov, 19, with the 135th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. (His selection seems to fall into a minor trend of people joking about Boston Bruins non-picks after New York Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal looked impressive on Monday.)

With Minnesota living off of its goaltending at times in 2016-17, it must be exciting to see a possible offensive catalyst in the prospect pipeline.

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Naturally, when you win 9-1, you’re getting contributions from other players.

Other standouts for Russia included Mikhail Vorobyov (four assists, 104th pick in 2015 by the Philadelphia Flyers) and Igor Rykov (three assists, 132nd pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2016). For more stats from that lopsided game, click here.

In other WJC news, Switzerland beat the Czech Republic 4-3 in overtime while Finland faces Denmark and Canada takes on Slovakia later tonight.

Canadiens won’t have Markov for first half of rough road trip

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On Monday, PHT discussed the tough rough ahead for the Montreal Canadiens. Now the light at the end of the tunnel feels a bit more distant.

The team announced that Andrei Markov won’t be available for their “next’ road trip, meeting away games on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. (He’s dealing with a groin injury that already sidelined him for three contests.)

Montreal’s probably wise – and reasonable – to compartmentalize the road ahead as two separate road trips, and Michel Therrien believes he could be available during the second half:

Ruled out

Wednesday (Dec. 28): at Lightning
Thursday (Dec. 29): at Panthers
Saturday (Dec. 31): at Penguins

Possibly available

Jan. 3: at Predators
Jan. 4: at Stars
Jan. 7: at Maple Leafs

As you can see, there’s a considerable gap between that road game against the Penguins and then the next set of dates starting on Jan. 3.

This doesn’t mean that Markov will be available next week, but this does give him an opportunity to heal up while the team plays a limited – but tough – slate of games.

At the moment, this is how the Habs’ defense looks:

Nathan BeaulieuShea Weber
Mark BarberioJeff Petry
Joel Hanley – Zach Redmond

Not ideal, especially since Montreal’s dealing with injuries to their forwards, too. They might need some Hart-quality work from Carey Price to wade through the next couple weeks.

Not quite 100 percent yet: Stars place Roussel on IR

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Injuries aren’t as much of a factor for the Dallas Stars as they were, say, a month ago … but they’re still dealing with some issues.

Along with season-long or close to season-long issues of Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky, the Stars are dealing with a hobbled Stephen Johns and are down one pest in Antoine Roussel. They placed the pugnacious forward on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 20 on Monday.

Roussel’s loss might be Jason Dickinson‘s gain, at least if the forward gets a shot at some playing time. Dickinson, the 29th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, was recalled from the AHL. He’s been generating solid AHL numbers and already has a game under his belt from earlier this season.

With Cody Eakin unavailable until Dec. 29 thanks to his high-profile suspension, the Stars will be a little shorthanded early this week. Unfortunately for Dallas, it’s become a familiar feeling.

Barzal, Strome prove explosive as Canada beats Russia at World Juniors

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Dylan Strome would prefer to play for the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL right now, but he’ll have to settle for putting up big numbers for Canada at the 2017 World Juniors. So far, he’s doing just that.

Strome (third overall in 2015) and Mathew Barzal (16th pick by the New York Islanders in that same year) were big factors in Canada’s WJC-opening 5-3 win against Russia on Monday.

Strome scored two goals while Barzal was named the player of the game, collecting the game-winner as well as two assists.

Canada’s other two standouts were Tyson Jost, who enjoyed a strong first period, and the team’s power play, which generated three of their five tallies. Jost justified at least some wishful thinking among Colorado Avalanche devotees as the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft.

The Canadians carried much of the play early on in particular, hogging the puck and carrying a 3-1 lead into the third period.

The final frame saw the two countries trade goals with Canada ultimately coming through with that 5-3 win.

Canada might have to worry a bit about goaltending (Philadelphia Flyers prospect/48th pick from 2016 Carter Hart allowed those three goals despite just 17 shots on goal), but overall, it was a strong showing for the perennial contender.

Also, the country’s goaltending is basically meme fuel anyway.

Other games

Sweden 6, Denmark 1

Czech Republic 2, Finland 1

U.S. 6, Latvia 1. More on that game here.

Also, if you want to read up on the Flyers’ bounty of World Juniors invitees, check this post.

Canadiens prospect Noah Juulsen shaken up by hit

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The 2017 World Juniors can be a catalyst for fans dreaming of future NHL impacts, but there’s also the risk that a prospect might get hurt.

Here’s hoping that Montreal Canadiens defensive prospect Noah Juulsen will avoid any significant issues after a big hit by Dallas Stars prospect Denis Gurianov. Gurianov received a two-minute penalty for the check, which put Russia shorthanded against Canada.

Some believe that Juulsen was at least partially at fault for the hit being dangerous, as he turned at an inopportune time:

Either way, Canadiens fans have to cross their fingers that this won’t be too big of an issue for Juulsen. Especially since he’s already dealt with some concussion problems.