Jason Brough

Hometown Sabres take Nylander eighth overall


BUFFALO — With the eighth overall pick, the home team at the 2016 NHL Draft selected Swedish forward Alexander Nylander.

The younger brother of Toronto’s William Nylander, Alexander will join a Buffalo squad that drafted center Jack Eichel second overall last year.

The newest Sabre was the OHL’s rookie of the year in 2015-16, piling up 75 points in 57 games for Mississauga.

“Alex made a seamless transition into the OHL, quickly becoming a key member of our hockey club and a valued teammate,” Mississauga general manager and coach James Boyd said, per NHL.com. “His exciting style of play thrilled our fans all season long. Alex is a focused player who is willing to put the work in to get better every day and is extremely deserving of this special award.”

Related: Alexander Nylander’s scouting profile

Draft-day shocker: Blue Jackets take Dubois over Puljujarvi


BUFFALO — Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen wasn’t bluffing. The Blue Jackets have selected Pierre-Luc Dubois with the third overall draft pick.

That means the Blue Jackets did not select Finnish phenom Jesse Puljujarvi, who came into today’s draft as part of the so-called Big Three, along with the first and second overall picks, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, respectively.

Dubois, who turned 18 today, had 99 points in 62 games for QMJHL Cape Breton. He told PHT during the Stanley Cup Final that he thinks he can be a “first-line center in the NHL,” and that may have helped convince Kekalainen — who traded Ryan Johansen to Nashville for Seth Jones during the regular season — to take Dubois over Puljujarvi, a winger.

With the fourth overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers took Puljujarvi.

A plan comes together: Leafs take Matthews first overall


BUFFALO — He grew up in Arizona, a rink rat in the desert. Now Auston Matthews is headed north, to the biggest hockey market in the world. The Toronto Maple Leafs made him the first overall draft pick Friday. An 18-year-old American from Scottsdale, the newest and brightest hope for Canada’s richest and longest-suffering NHL team.

Matthews spent last season in Switzerland’s top professional league. He chose to play pro instead of major junior or college, and it went well. He finished first on his Zurich club with 24 goals in 36 games. He’s drawn comparisons to Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar, a couple of the best two-way centers in the game.

Which brings us to the Leafs, who haven’t had an elite center since Mats Sundin left in 2008. They’ve only made the playoffs once since then, and we all know how that ended.

Two years ago, the change started in earnest. First, Brendan Shanahan was brought on as president. A year later, after a disastrous finish to the 2014-15 season, Shanahan fired general manager Dave Nonis and the entire coaching staff. Not long after, Mike Babcock was hired as head coach and Lou Lamoriello came aboard as GM. The organization started to embrace analytics. Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, the two big acquisitions of the previous regime, were traded. There would be no more shortcuts, no more impatience. They accepted it — there would be “pain.”

“The challenge in Toronto is not coming up with the plan but sticking to the plan,” Shanahan said last year. “That is the hard part. Our vision is to draft and develop our own players. I think every decision we make has to be about building a winning organization that can sustain itself year after year after year through the draft.”

Even with Matthews in the fold now — and even with Matthews joining other talented youngsters like Morgan Rielly, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner — the Leafs still have a ways to go before they’re competing for the Stanley Cup. They finished dead last in 2015-16. They couldn’t score, and they weren’t all that great at defending either.

But they played hard, and the fans appreciated that. In the end, it was arguably the most successful 30th-place finish in NHL history. It gave them the best odds to win the draft lottery, which they did.

And that gave them a direct path to Matthews, who’s confident he won’t buckle under the pressure.

“If that were to happen, I definitely think I can handle that,” he said of playing in Toronto. “I think I’m physically and mentally strong. I want to be an impact player in the NHL.”

Report: After ‘alleged incident’ at a Buffalo bar, two crime reports have been filed against Evander Kane

HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 20:  NHL player Evander Kane attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "We Are Your Friends" at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 20, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

A couple of hours before Buffalo will host the 2016 NHL Draft and Sabres forward Evander Kane is in the news again for the wrong reasons.

From WIVB in Buffalo:

Sources have confirmed to News 4 that two crime reports have been filed against Sabres’ left winger Evander Kane.

The crime reports relate to an alleged incident following Kane’s appearance at a Buffalo bar called Bottom’s Up on Chippewa Street on Thursday night.

Witnesses who called News 4 say Kane had been ejected from the bar that night. It’s not yet clear what crimes Kane is accused of committing.

The Sabres have yet to comment.

Earlier this year, Kane, 24, was cleared after an investigation into a sexual encounter he’d had in December in Buffalo. He insisted when that investigation became public that he’d “done nothing wrong.”

Related: Jets’ Kane facing lawsuit for alleged assault

Yandle calls Panthers an ‘all-in organization,’ excited to play with Ekblad

SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 15: Florida Panthers fans hold a team flag near the end of the game against the New York Islanders in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the NHL 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the BB&T Center on April 15, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Islanders 3-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

According to Keith Yandle, the decision to sign with the Florida Panthers for the next six years went beyond the $44.45 million he’ll be paid.

“I learned how much the ownership wants to win,” the 29-year-old defenseman said this morning about his negotiations with the club.

“You feel like it’s an all-in organization.”

That’s not something that’s been said very often about the Panthers, a franchise that many saw — and some still see — as a prime relocation candidate.

But with new ownership, a new deal with the county, and a young team on the rise, things really do seem different now.

“We’re thrilled,” co-owner Doug Cifu told the Miami Herald. “[The Yandle signing] shows that top players want to win in Florida. Keith wants to win the Stanley Cup in Florida. That’s why we were his top priority and vice versa.”

Yandle, whose rights were traded by the Rangers earlier this week, is also pretty excited at the prospect of playing with 20-year-old Aaron Ekblad.

Ekblad, by the way, is reportedly close to signing an eight-year extension worth in the neighborhood of $60 million. He has one year left on his entry-level deal, so an extension of that length would buy four years of unrestricted free agency.

Related: Where will Brian Campbell sign?