James O'Brien

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

Patrik Berglund replaces Rickard Rakell for Sweden


Whatever it is exactly that’s bothering Rickard Rakell, it’s bad enough that he’s now out of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Luckily for Sweden, they have a decent replacement in Patrik Berglund of the St. Louis Blues.

You could probably argue that Rakell boasts a higher ceiling than the solid-and-steady Berglund, but the latter brings more NHL experience to the table. One would speculate that he’ll be comfortable taking a less glamorous role behind Sweden’s higher-end firepower.

Rakell was hospitalized due to what sounds like stomach issues, and as NHL.com reports, it seems like they’re still trying to determine the issue.

“He didn’t feel any better [Sunday] so he went back to the hospital,” Team Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said Sunday. “So far we haven’t found anything.”

Yikes. Hopefully they sort that situation out for the promising young Anaheim Ducks scorer.

Sweden’s next game is against Europe on Wednesday.

Pierre-Luc Dubois’ goal: Show that Columbus made the right choice at No. 3

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Here’s how shocking it was when Columbus Blue Jackets selected Pierre-Luc Dubois instead of Jesse Puljujarvi: even Dubois’ mom thought he “was kidding her.”

The Toronto Sun pegged that decision as the biggest surprise of the first round, with PHT in full agreement. Many believed that Puljujarvi was one of the draft’s “big three” of players, yet the Blue Jackets opted for Dubois instead.

At the moment, almost two-thirds of PHT voters believe that Columbus made the wrong choice.

Even Puljujarvi struggled to contain his disbelief:

Dubois realizes that the two will be linked – possibly for their entire NHL careers – especially since the Edmonton Oilers pounced on the chance to draft Puljujarvi fourth overall.

As he hopes to pivot from the winger to becoming a full-time center and also aims to make an immediate NHL jump, Dubois told the Columbus Dispatch that he indeed aims to prove that the Blue Jackets made a justifiable decision.

“(The Blue Jackets) drafted me third in front of the guy everybody thought they were going to draft, but I think they made the right decision,” Dubois said. “I want to prove that to everybody.”

Ultimately, it’s not just his reputation that’s on the line. Viewpoints will be shaped by Puljujarvi’s journey and Blue Jackets management will be judged based on the work of each prospect.

Will his character shine through?

Dealing with such expectations will likely test that character.

Get to know more about Dubois here.

Looks like Canada is sticking with Crosby, Bergeron and Marchand line

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If you’ve even lightly followed hockey over the years, you’re probably aware that coaches shuffle their lines quite often.

Still, from the sound of things, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and others believe that Mike Babcock will stick with the Team Canada line combination of Sidney Crosby and two Boston Bruins (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand).

Considering the star power available to Babcock, that might not seem like the sexiest combination, but sometimes it’s as much about chemistry, communication and cohesive styles.

Apparently this trio was something Babcock’s had in mind for months, and it’s no surprise to see the pairing of Crosby and Bergeron.

The two have been linked since as far back as 2005, and it seems symbolically fitting that a Hockey News story about Bergeron being more or less lucky to be there is a dead link. Bergeron is a nice scorer who also ranks as perhaps the absolute best two-way forward in the NHL.

Marchand, then, is the interesting addition, even considering his familiarity with Bergeron. His inclusion raises eyebrows even with those 37 goals from 2015-16.

“He earned his way on this team with the way he played last season,” Bergeron said, according to TSN. “He took a big step forward. He’s improved year to year, but last season he became truly an elite player in my mind.”

Bergeron and Babcock aren’t the only ones who can see why the talented-yet-pesky winger would be a good fit for such great linemates. Jonathan Toews played up Marchand’s all-around credentials, too, as NHL.com reports.

“He’s out there getting under guys’ skin, but he can make plays,” Toews said. “I played with him at the World Juniors a long time ago and I always knew he had the skill, the offense, but I didn’t know how smart he was, just positionally as well. I can see why he and [Bergeron] play so well together.”

Hey, let’s not kid ourselves either; sticking with Bergeron and Crosby at such a high level wouldn’t hurt Marchand in contract negotiations.

John Gibson is in for North America, but even he thinks Matt Murray is the guy


With the 2016 World Cup tune-up winding down, plenty of teams have some goaltending decisions to make. It sounds like the situation is pretty much settled for North America, however.

John Gibson gets the nod against Team Europe during Sunday’s exhibition, yet Gibson himself said that Matt Murray is still the No. 1 guy, according to ESPN’s Craig Custance.

Team North America certainly seems interested in making sure Gibson isn’t rusty:

Both goalie options are interesting in their combination of promise (Murray’s Stanley Cup win, Gibson winning the Anaheim Ducks’ top job) with inexperience.

Murray only has 13 regular season games and the 21-game playoff run to his name, yet Gibson isn’t exactly a seasoned workhorse either. He’s only played in 66 regular season contests along with six playoff games.

In other words, this isn’t one of those situations where a goalie is firmly established as the veteran guy. So why not just let Murray’s championship run be the tiebreaker?

More on Murray being the “lead dog.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Greiss will start for Team Europe.

J.T. Miller isn’t playing for North America tonight, but he says he’s healthy


J.T. Miller isn’t suiting up for Team America on Sunday, but New York Rangers fans can breathe easy. It looks like he’s just a healthy scratch.

Miller seemed shaken up after a shot hit his hand, yet ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that the Rangers forward insists that he’s OK.

A lot of people were concerned about Miller during the eventual 4-0 win for Team North America vs. Europe:

*scratches chin*

Jacob Trouba joins Miller as a healthy scratch while John Gibson slides into the net for Matt Murray (more on that later).

Based on the last game’s scratches, one would expect Dylan Larkin and Colton Parayko to play against Europe on Sunday.

As a reminder, Marian Hossa is back in the mix for Europe.