James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

North Dakota defeats Quinnipiac for eighth NCAA Ice Hockey title

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On an extremely busy night for the NHL, plenty of scouts were probably watching the NCAA.

That’s because the 2016 national championship game was taking place, and North Dakota won handily, beating Quinnipiac by a score of 5-1.

This is North Dakota’s eighth title, but it’s been some time as the last one came back in 2000.

One of the requisite tweets:

A few tidbits that might be fans of poaching college free agents/etc.:

Everything you need to know about the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery


There are two games on Sunday, yet all four of those teams are remarkably guaranteed playoff spots, so their contests won’t affect the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

This post has a simple aim, then: catch you up to speed on where teams landed and other key bits of information.

Let’s rattle it all off in something resembling a FAQ format, shall we?

When: It takes place on April 30, 2016.

Rankings: Here are the standings, with each team’s chances of landing the first overall pick.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs – 20 percent chance
2. Edmonton Oilers – 13.5 percent
3. Vancouver Canucks – 11.5 percent
4. Columbus Blue Jackets – 9.5 percent
5. Calgary Flames – 8.5 percent
6. Winnipeg Jets – 7.5 percent
7. Arizona Coyotes – 6.5 percent
8. Buffalo Sabres – 6 percent
9. Montreal Canadiens – 5 percent
10. Colorado Avalanche – 3.5 percent
11. New Jersey Devils – 3 percent
12. Ottawa Senators – 2.5 percent
13. Carolina Hurricanes – 2 percent
14. Boston Bruins – 1 percent

Will the world end if the Oilers get the top pick again?

Hopefully not.

It would be super-awkward/funny if that happened, though.

How it’s changed

This NHL release breaks it down spot-by-spot if you’d like, but the gist is that the bottom teams aren’t given quite the same odds. For example: the team with the highest odds would have a 25 percent chance before, but now it’s at 20 percent.

Here’s a little more, via that release:

Beginning in 2016, the Draft Lottery will be utilized to assign the top three drafting slots in the NHL Draft, an expansion over previous years when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection only.

Three draws will be held: the 1st Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery draw will determine the club selecting third overall.

As a result of this change, the team earning the fewest points during the regular season will no longer be guaranteed, at worst, the second overall pick. That club could fall as low as fourth overall.

The allocation of odds for the 1st Lottery draw will be the same as outlined above for the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. The odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the 2nd Lottery draw, based on which Club wins the 1st Lottery draw, and again for the 3rd Lottery draw, based on which Club wins the 2nd Lottery draw.

The 11 Clubs not selected in the Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 4 through 14, in inverse order of regular-season points.

Who will go first?

That depends, and it’s something PHT will tackle as the draft approaches, but Auston Matthews (pictured) is probably at least the most widely known guy who could be the top selection.

With Kings’ loss, Pacific title comes down to Ducks – Caps on Sunday


For a few hours, the Anaheim Ducks were Winnipeg Jets fans. Now the Los Angeles Kings get to root for the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

(Hey, it shouldn’t be too hard, with beloved former Kings winger Justin Williams playing for the Capitals …)

The reasoning is simple. The Jets beat the Kings via a shootout on Saturday night, thwarting Los Angeles’ attempt to lock down the Pacific Division title.

Note: Jonathan Quick gave the Kings a legit shot at winning, however.

Los Angeles is now at 102 standings points with zero games left while the Ducks are at 101 with one game remaining, that contest against the Capitals on Sunday. Luckily, we don’t need any long division or tiebreaker gymnastics to figure this one out. Instead, it comes down to this:

If the Ducks win in any fashion, they take the Pacific.

If the Capitals win in any fashion, the Kings win the Pacific instead.

Easy, right?

It should be a fun time, and it gives Sunday’s funky, final day of the regular season that much more meaning. The Pacific winner takes on the Nashville Predators while the second-place team faces the San Jose Sharks in round one.

Neither one of those scenarios are necessarily “easy,” but winning the division brings with it some perks, most obviously being better access to home-ice advantage.

Get the popcorn ready for tomorrow, everyone.

Milestone updates: Braden Holtby ties Martin Brodeur’s record with 48th win


Let’s consider this a “lightning round” for some of the milestones, records and bonuses different players hit on Saturday night. Feel free to add other examples in the comments.

Braden Holtby wins 48th: It took some time, but Braden Holtby hit the 48-win mark on Saturday, tying Martin Brodeur’s single-season record.

The burning question for Barry Trotz: do you give Holtby a chance to pass Brodeur or do you avoid playing Holtby in back-to-back games to end the season?

Some might argue that Holtby’s name should be mentioned first because of this little tidbit:

Alex Ovechkin scores 50th goal: More on that here.

A bonus bit on the Capitals, for one:

Vlad ain’t bad: Vladimir Tarasenko ranks high on the list of “Guys who score a lot of goals unless you compare them to Ovechkin.” He hit the 40-goal mark himself tonight.

Plenty hit 30: Alex Galcehnyuk and Max Pacioretty helped each other hit the 30-goal plateau on Saturday. Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri both managed 30 goals for the Devils. (Some guys, including Jason Chimera, also hit 20 goals.)

Bonuses and trophies: Artemi Panarin is virtually assured of hitting some big bonuses by possibly winning the Calder Trophy and finishing in the top 10 in scoring after his three-point game gave him 77 points in 2015-16. Patrick Kane‘s name is probably already being placed on the Art Ross Trophy after he collected three points of his own, giving him a whopping 106.

300 goals: Scott Hartnell managed that achievement.

Passing the Golden Jet: With the 611th goal of his career, Jarome Iginla now stands at 16th all-time.

History repeating? St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks in round one


For years, the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues have produced brilliant regular seasons … with very different playoff results.

While the Blackhawks only authored one recent defeat for the Blues (beating them in six games back in 2013-14), the narratives have been consistent. Chicago goes deep, winning three Stanley Cups in the Patrick KaneJonathan Toews era. Meanwhile, St. Louis falls with frustration, whether Ken Hitchcock’s troops fall in round one or two.

So, yes, the Blues nearly won the Central Division and they’ll have home-ice advantage in this series … but they’re probably still the underdogs to many, if not most.

Plenty is on the line for both teams – who knows how much longer Chicago’s window will remain open – but there’s no doubt that the Blues are under big-time pressure.

Even after navigating a minefield of injuries this season, few will give this group the benefit of the doubt if they fall in the first round once again.

If their 2014 series was any indication, it should be a lot of fun, at least for those watching.

(The Blues saw their division title hopes die by getting clobbered by the Washington Capitals, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway since the Dallas Stars edged the Nashville Predators.)

Other series set

Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild