Author: Jason Brough

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Flyers’ crowded defense bears watching


Even after the departure of Nicklas Grossmann, the Philadelphia Flyers still have quite the logjam on defense.

Add it up and there will be 13 — thirteen! — d-men trying to crack the roster when training camp opens Thursday.

Eight of those 13 are on one-way contracts: Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald, Nick Schultz, Evgeni Medvedev, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Manning.

The other five are well-regarded prospects who can either be returned to junior or sent to the AHL without being exposed to waivers: Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, and Robert Hagg.

For GM Ron Hextall, it’s great to have all that young talent, but a short-term challenge nonetheless — especially if one or two of those youngsters proves he belongs in the NHL.

Could Hextall try and trade another veteran? Sure. But he may not get full value, given the tight market.

If he tries to send Manning to the AHL, would another team make a waiver claim? The 25-year-old may not be a future superstar, but losing him for nothing would be less than ideal.

Hextall said over the summer that much will depend on how the youngsters look during the preseason: “Someone comes into camp and lights it up. Then we will do what we can to create a spot.”

But then, more recently, he said: “You can’t sit and say, ‘We’ll make room,’ because you don’t know until you get there. If a guy comes in and we think he’s going to make us a better team throughout the course of the year – and not just for two weeks – we’ll look at options. But we’re not going to put a kid in the lineup that is not ready.”

Related: Something will “have to give” on Flyers’ blue line

Benning doesn’t think Ryan Miller is too old

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five

Jim Benning still has faith in 35-year-old Ryan Miller.

“These top-flight goalies, they can play to 40 years old,” the Canucks’ GM told TSN’s Bob McKenzie. “Some people look at his age, but I think he’s going to be real good for us this year.”

Benning better hope so, given he had the opportunity to trade Miller this offseason, but chose to deal Eddie Lack instead. As we saw this summer, it wasn’t a popular decision with fans.

Miller had a .911 save percentage last season, below the league average (.915). And in 2015-16, only a handful of NHL goalies will be older than the 2010 Vezina Trophy recipient.

On top of the scrutiny that will be on Miller, the Canucks’ backup will be Jacob Markstrom, a 25-year-old who’s been excellent in the AHL, but has yet to prove he can play in the NHL.

Benning would like to see Markstrom start 25 to 30 games this season.

“We’re excited about Jacob,” said Benning. “I think he’s worked hard. He deserves the opportunity. So we’ll see where it goes.”

Related: Benning trying to figure where Markstrom ‘fits in’

Leafs to develop Marner, Nylander as centers

William Nylander

They may not be the biggest guys, but William Nylander and Mitch Marner are both being groomed to play center, not wing, for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For a team that hasn’t had a truly elite center since Mats Sundin, it’s reason for optimism in Leaf-land.

“I think as a center you’re skating more and when you’re skating more you’re into the game,” said Nylander, per “Center’s a position where you’ve got to be all over the ice; that helps me get into the game.”

Of course, while both youngsters have tremendous skill, their size and strength will be tested playing down the middle. Today’s NHL may be a more welcome place for smaller skill players, but that doesn’t mean big, strong centers have gone out of fashion. Successful teams like the Kings and Ducks are proof of that.

Marner, the smaller of the two top prospects, believes he’ll start his NHL career as a winger, and “then develop back into a centerman, try and get a little stronger on the draws and stuff like that.”

Related: Babcock expects Kadri to be ‘an elite player’

Flames sign ‘that Micheal Ferland’ to extension

Alexander Edler, Michael Ferland

The Calgary Flames have signed big, physical forward Micheal Ferland to a two-year contract extension, with a reported cap hit of $825,000.

Ferland had just two goals in 26 games during the 2014-15 regular season, but the rookie became a real factor in the Flames’ first-round playoff victory over Vancouver, as the 23-year-old winger racked up hit after hit on the Canucks’ defense.

“It was that Micheal Ferland running around,” Canucks GM Jim Benning lamented during the offseason. “We need to be able to rise to the occasion in the playoffs and play with emotion.”

On top of all the hits, Ferland scored three goals in nine playoff games.

Coyotes upset with city of Glendale…again

PNI Coyotes Deal 0611

Another day, another spat between the Arizona Coyotes and the city of Glendale.

The latest point of contention involves the city’s decision to search for a new arena manager — a job that’s currently held by the Coyotes’ ownership company, IceArizona.

From the Arizona Republic:

Vice Mayor Ian Hugh said Wednesday the city hopes to select an arena manager as early as January and IceArizona will be considered if it responds to the city’s request for proposals.

Coyotes President Anthony LeBlanc said he had expected to begin negotiating with the city on an extension of the two-year agreement, but the city’s sudden move on the request for proposals makes that a moot point.

“The fact that (Glendale) jumped forward … changes the dynamics,” LeBlanc said.

Adding to the above? A long-awaited audit that was released earlier in the week. More on that from Phoenix Business Journal:

An audit released this week of the city of Glendale’s arena deal with the Arizona Coyotes claims problems in verifying the team’s financial losses, and contends the city may have been shortchanged in shared naming-rights and ticket-fee revenue.

The audit also shows the city believes the Coyotes losses might be higher than the $34.8 million the team reported in March.

The Coyotes have just two seasons left on their renegotiated agreement with Glendale. The way things are trending, they may have to look elsewhere for a place to play, be it downtown Phoenix or beyond.

Related: Is there a future for the Coyotes in Glendale?