Author: Jason Brough

Pavel Zacha, Auston Matthews

Central Scouting releases list of ‘players to watch’


NHL Central Scouting has identified 24 potential first-round draft picks in its list of “players to watch” this season.

The list is headlined by American forward Auston Matthews, who, of course, has made the decision to play professionally in Switzerland this season.

The other 23 include defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Finnish forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine, and Matthew Tkachuk, son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk

Remember that the 2016 draft lottery will have three draws, for the first, second, and third overall picks, respectively.

The new rules mean that the team that finishes last in the standings could fall to fourth in the order.

That’s different from last season, when the Buffalo Sabres finished last but were guaranteed to draft second. When Edmonton won the lottery for the right to pick Connor McDavid, the Sabres were at least able to get Jack Eichel.

Anyway, here’s the list of 24:


Quebec City’s NHL bid has a former Canadian prime minister on its side

Brian Mulroney, Gary Bettman

Quebec City’s NHL expansion bid was aided by a pretty heavy hitter today in New York, as former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney was on hand to represent Quebecor.

Mulroney, who retired from politics in 1993, currently sits on Quebecor’s board of directors.

Reporters caught up with Mulroney after Quebecor delivered its pitch to the NHL’s executive committee:

Mulroney added that things are now in the NHL’s hands, and that it’s their process to control.

In the past, Mulroney has called NHL commissioner Gary Bettman “bold, daring and visionary,” a compliment the commissioner returned by saying, “everybody would vote for you again if they had the chance.”

So yes, there’s a relationship there — one that’s been cultivated by Mulroney, an expert in doing just that. He was Canada’s prime minister from September of 1984 to June of 1993, during which time he forged strong relationships with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Related: Vegas also makes pitch

McCann making case to stick with Canucks

Jared McCann

Linden Vey‘s “do or die” season is being jeopardized by a 19-year-old named Jared McCann.

McCann — the forward the Canucks drafted with the 24th overall pick they got from Anaheim in the Ryan Kesler trade — scored the only goal in Vancouver’s 1-0 preseason win over the Coyotes last night.

“The McCann goal got us going,” head coach Willie Desjardins said.

It was a pretty good shot, too.

“If guys deserve it we have to get them in the lineup,” Desjardins continued. “Right now, both McCann and [defenseman Ben Hutton] are doing that. They are making guys have to play better, or their spots are in jeopardy.”

While McCann has impressed, there has to be concern in the Canucks’ organization that Vey has not been able to translate a summer of hard work into on-ice results. When Desjardins said he “wanted to have a real good look” at McCann playing center, it could, and probably should, have been seen as a shot across Vey’s bow.

The Canucks still have three preseason games left. And, of course, McCann can play nine regular-season games before the club has to decide if he should be returned to junior. For now, though, the momentum is on his side.

“The confidence keeps going up and you always want to play with it,” said McCann. “I want to make this team badly.”

Pens’ Bennett looking ‘a lot more confident’

Robin Lehner Beau Bennett
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Back in April, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford admitted that the club screwed up Beau Bennett‘s development, and that the first-round draft pick in 2010 should’ve spent more time honing his game in the AHL.

Keep that in mind when you read today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story on Bennett, because apparently a summer of strength-training has done wonders for the 23-year-old forward’s state of mind.

“I’ve seen him enter training camp a lot more confident,” said coach Mike Johnston. “He’s handling the puck well.”

Bennett credits his new trainer, Matt O’Hara, for not only helping him get stronger, but getting “strong in the right way.” He added that his ” biggest regret” is that he didn’t meet O’Hara “five years ago.”

After putting up just 12 points in 49 games last season, Bennett signed a one-year, $800,000 contract in July.

That’s actually a decrease in NHL salary compared to his entry-level contract, so he shouldn’t lack for motivation in 2015-16.

The Blackhawks also cut Dan Paille

New York Rangers v Boston Bruins

In addition to cutting veterans Tomas Kopecky and Lubomir Visnovsky, the Chicago Blackhawks also released forward Daniel Paille today.

Paille was with the ‘Hawks on a tryout basis. The 31-year-old is still looking for an NHL job after spending the past six seasons with the Bruins, who cut ties last spring.

Paille enjoyed success as part of the Merlot Line in Boston, along with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. None of the three are still with the Bruins. Campbell is now with Columbus; Thornton’s with Florida.

The ‘Hawks also assigned forward Brandon Mashinter and d-man Cameron Schilling to AHL Rockford, leaving them with 18 forwards, 10 d-men and three goalies on their roster.

Related: Daniel Paille searches for contract as camp looms