Jason Brough

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NHL says no to 2018 Winter Olympics

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For the first time since 1994 in Norway, the NHL will not be sending its players to the Winter Olympics.

The league released a statement today clarifying its position on the 2018 Games in South Korea:

“We have previously made clear that, while the overwhelming majority of our Clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject.

“A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018. And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the Clubs.

“As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 Regular Season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.”

The NHL had been hoping for concessions from the NHLPA or IOC in order to continue Olympic participation.

But the players said they wouldn’t negotiate for the right to go, and the IOC was likewise resistant.

Related: 

— Bettman points finger at IOC for opening a ‘whole can of worms’

— Ovechkin vows to play in Olympics even if NHL doesn’t participate

Central Scouting: 2017 draft isn’t rich in defensemen

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Does your favorite team need to draft a top defenseman this summer?

If it does, it may have to get lucky.

According to most draft experts, the real strength of the draft is at forward, headlined by centers Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, and Gabriel Vilardi.

There are some promising blue-liners available, to be sure — just not as many compared to years past.

“I’d say the depth of defensemen is not there as compared to a year ago,” said Troy Dumville of Central Scouting, per NHL.com. “But I think there’s six or seven quality guys that’ll end up in the first round that are definitely good prospects.”

Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki, Cale Makar, Nicolas Hague, and Callan Foote are all d-men who should be snapped up relatively early.

Last year, nine defensemen were taken in the first round, the first being Olli Juolevi, who went fifth overall to Vancouver.

Of course, not all great defensemen were first-round picks. Duncan Keith was a second-rounder. So were Shea Weber and P.K. Subban. One of the greatest defensemen ever, Nicklas Lidstrom, was a third-rounder.

“Historically, d-men take longer to develop,” former coach Scotty Bowman said a few years ago, per the Denver Post. “It’s tougher to project where they’ll be in five years, whereas a supremely skilled forward, you kind of know where they’re headed.”

Related: Major roster holes remain in Buffalo

Ekman-Larsson will miss final three Coyotes games following death of mother

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson is traveling back to Sweden today following the death of his mother.

The 25-year-old defenseman has been granted a leave of absence from the Arizona Coyotes. He will not play their final three games.

His mother had been battling cancer.

“This has been a very difficult year for me personally,” Ekman-Larsson said in a statement. “I’d like to thank the Coyotes organization and all of my teammates for their incredible support all season long. I’m sorry that I’ll miss our last three games but family comes first.”

McAvoy shows ‘poise’ in AHL debut

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Charlie McAvoy’s first two AHL games didn’t do anything to quell the talk he could make his NHL debut this season.

The 19-year-old defenseman registered two assists for Providence, and he got a solid review from Bruins GM Don Sweeney.

“His poise is probably what stands out the most,” said Sweeney, per CSN New England. “His understanding of holding it for that one extra second and not panicking in certain situations [was noticeable] as was his offensive blue line stuff. That stuff is nice and he’s made some nice high-end plays for [goals]. His puck play stuff is really good and now he’s learning in terms of structure without the puck. That’s probably the area that continues to need to be worked on.”

Sweeney wouldn’t say whether he expects McAvoy to get the call to the big club.

“We’ve left that option open and we’re happy that we left it open,” he said.

Winners of five straight in regulation, the Bruins don’t exactly have a pressing need for a right-shot defenseman. Brandon Carlo, Adam McQuaid, and Kevan Miller have all been getting it done lately.

If there’s a question mark, it’s the left side of the third pair, a job that’s currently between Colin Miller and John-Michael Liles.

In theory, Kevan Miller could move to the left side and skate with McAvoy. But we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

The Bruins host Tampa Bay tomorrow.

Related: McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

Canucks coach calls out Goldobin, says he needs to work harder

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Nikolay Goldobin got off to a nice start with his new club, scoring the winning goal against the Los Angeles Kings back on March 4.

But the 21-year-old winger didn’t register a point in his next seven games for the Vancouver Canucks, and he only managed six shots combined.

So on Sunday, Goldobin was a healthy scratch against his old team, the San Jose Sharks.

“I think he needs to prove that he’s gonna go hard at this level,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. “It’s not like I don’t play young guys. If guys come in and they’re going and playing hard, then they play. … We’ve just gotta get him more engaged.”

Desjardins has, indeed, been playing some of Vancouver’s new, young guys. Brock Boeser, the best example, has averaged 16:42 in five games while skating on a line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. The 20-year-old winger has also scored twice, with 14 shots combined.

To be sure, there’s no denying Goldobin’s talent. It’s why he was 27th overall pick in 2014.

“He’s a skilled player,” said Desjardins.

But?

“You gotta get your skill working hard.”