Jason Brough

D-man Cale Makar makes for a compelling prospect

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The 2017 NHL draft is less than two months away, and while it’s a near certainty that centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will be taken with the first two picks, after that the picture gets a bid muddy.

Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt, and Cody Glass are three forwards who could be taken next.

But for a team looking to bolster its defense, Cale Makar has to be a consideration.

Makar absolutely tore it up (24G, 51A) in 54 regular-season games for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. A right shot, the 18-year-old has been compared to Erik Karlsson.

“To be honest, being compared to such a great player in the NHL and the captain of Ottawa, it’s very humbling,” Makar said recently, per the Calgary Sun. “I think that obviously there is a long way to get there, but to even be compared to a guy like that, at this age, it’s pretty special.”

The 2017 draft class is not considered particularly deep in defensemen. Makar, Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki, Miro Heiskanen, Nicolas Hague, and Callan Foote are all blue-liners who should be off the board by the end of the first round.

How long it takes Makar to get snapped up will be interesting to see. At 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds, he’s not the biggest guy. And the AJHL is a second-tier junior league, one rung below the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL.

But the way the NHL is trending, with puck-moving defensemen an absolute necessity, those Karlsson comparisons may prove tough to resist.

Leafs’ Gauthier will require surgery, up to six months recovery

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A first-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013, Frederik Gauthier has yet to really make his mark in the NHL.

And his journey just got a little tougher.

The 22-year-old center will require surgery and up to six months of recovery time after suffering a lower-body injury Saturday in an AHL playoff game.

Gauthier was hurt on a late hit by Syracuse defenseman Jake Dotchin, who received a five-minute major and game misconduct for interference. Gauthier had to be helped off the ice. He did not put any weight on his left leg.

It was expected that Gauthier would compete for the Leafs’ fourth-line center job next season. Now it remains to be seen if he’ll even be ready for training camp.

Penguins notes: Malkin needs to hold on to puck; HBK Line back together

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It’s hard to criticize the guy who leads the NHL’s postseason scoring race with 17 points in 10 games.

Still, it’s fair to say that Evgeni Malkin didn’t have his best game Saturday in Washington. And if the Penguins are going to eliminate the Capitals tonight (or, if necessary, Wednesday), it would sure help if Malkin brought his best.  (Watch at 7:30 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app)

“He can be a dangerous player when he hangs on to the puck and he forces our opponents to defend against him,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said this morning. “So we’re hopeful tonight that he’ll have the puck more, and he’ll hang on to the puck more. He’ll be more patient with it.”

At this morning’s skate, Malkin took rushes with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby was with Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist, and the HBK Line of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin was back together.

“If we could find some of that scoring touch we had in the playoffs last year, we’d be happy,” Bonino said, per Pens Inside Scoop.

Pittsburgh’s fourth line had Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen, and Tom Kuhnhackl.

On the back end, the Penguins will be without Trevor Daley (lower-body injury) tonight.

Related: Caps take page out of Penguins playbook with Ovechkin on third line

Game 6: Penguins won’t have Daley, who was run over by Wilson on Saturday

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Trevor Daley, after getting run over by Tom Wilson on Saturday, will not be in the Penguins’ lineup tonight in Pittsburgh against the Capitals.  (Watch at 7:30 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app)

Pens coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that Daley has a “lower-body injury.”

Sullivan did not say how the injury occurred, but Daley was leveled by Wilson in the first period of Game 5. The veteran defender managed to stay in the game, but his ice time was limited to just 11:09.

It’s expected that Daley will be replaced by Chad Ruhwedel, a right shot; however, Mark Streit is also a possibility.

“It’s nice to have the right-handed shot, for sure,” Sullivan said of the decision between Ruhwedel and Streit, a left shot.

“If we choose to put Mark in, he brings an element of experience. He can help us on the power play. … We know that regardless of which guy we put in our lineup, they both can help us win games.”

Another Penguins defenseman, Brian Dumoulin did not skate this morning, but Sullivan said Dumoulin will play tonight.

It’s Game 6 of the series tonight. The Penguins lead the Capitals, 3-2.

Steen’s status in question as Blues face elimination

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The St. Louis Blues are facing elimination tonight, and they may have to face it without one of their top forwards, Alex Steen.

At the very least, he won’t be 100 percent.

From NHL.com:

Steen did not participate in the morning skate and Blues coach Mike Yeo would not comment on his status for the game.

Steen has regularly missed practices throughout the playoffs but hasn’t missed a game. The forward has been dealing with a lower-body injury, left the arena Friday on crutches and has regularly worn a walking boot.

“We’ll see,” Yeo said. “I don’t know. I’m not going to talk about the lineup right now.”

Steen is tied with Jaden Schwartz for the Blues’ postseason scoring lead. They each have three goals and four assists in nine games.

The Blues trail their series with Nashville, 3-1. The Predators can advance to their first conference final with a win tonight in St. Louis.

Related: Blues shuffle lines after Game 4 loss