Jason Brough

KELOWNA, CANADA - OCTOBER 25: Rourke Chartier #14 of Kelowna Rockets faces off against Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings during the first period on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
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In ‘terrible’ draft year, will more first-round picks be traded?

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The past couple of years, NHL teams were understandably loath to trade first-round draft picks for rentals at the deadline.

It happened a few times, twice involving the Chicago Blackhawks, who picked up Antoine Vermette in 2015 and Andrew Ladd in 2016. In an ill-fated move, the Los Angeles Kings gave up a first-rounder to get Andrej Sekera in 2015, then proceeded to miss the playoffs.

But with so much elite talent available — and we’re not just talking about Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, and Auston Matthews — first-round picks were generally considered too valuable to throw away for a slightly better chance of winning the Stanley Cup.

That could all change in 2017, which is not considered a good draft year.

In fact, as we learn here, one NHL executive likes to text Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman with a message: “How many times do I have to tell you that teams are going to trade their firsts? This draft is terrible!”

Top prospects in 2017 include Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, and Gabriel Vilardi. Though all three have the potential to be very good NHLers, they’ve garnered nowhere near the buzz compared to last year’s trio of Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi.

Beyond the very top prospects, this year’s draft class is also said to lack depth — and that’s where things could get interesting leading up to March 1.

With good reason, sellers will no doubt be pushing contenders to surrender their first-round picks, arguing that a late first-round pick in 2017 is equal to, say, a mid-second-rounder in the last two years.

Top potential rentals include Kevin Shattenkirk, Martin Hanzal, Patrick Eaves, and Brian Boyle. There could also be players with term available, from Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog in Colorado to Jannik Hansen in Vancouver.

We’ll have to see what the market decides. Weak draft class or not, young players are still the lifeblood of any organization. And you never know, the scouts may be wrong about this class. There are always gems to be found regardless.

Hangovers are no fun

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 08:  Head coach Glen Gulutzan of the Calgary Flames stands on the bench during the third period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 8, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Flames defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Calgary Flames were the latest victims of the so-called bye week “hangover.”

There are 18 potential victims remaining.

Last night at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames got pummeled, 5-0, by the Arizona Coyotes. With the loss, teams coming out of their bye weeks fell to a dismal 3-8-1.

Though the Flames outshot the Coyotes 19-9 in the first period, Arizona’s Martin Hanzal was the only one to score.

“We weren’t sharp,” Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan told reporters afterwards. “It was more execution. Some pucks missed the net, were shot over the net.”

Another word for that is rusty.

And as the Coyotes built their lead, the Flames seemed to get even worse.

“That’s as bad as it gets in the second and third,” said captain Mark Giordano, per Postmedia. “Guys were trying to do too much and giving them odd-man rushes and chances.”

On Saturday, it was the Flames’ neighbors to the north who fell flat after their mandatory time off. The Edmonton Oilers lost, 5-1, to a streaking Chicago Blackhawks team that had played the night before in Winnipeg.

“We didn’t have a lot of emotion,” said Edmonton coach Todd McLellan. “There wasn’t a single Blackhawk who was mad at an Oiler all night until the last two minutes. I was disappointed in the loss, the power play, the penalty kill but mostly in the emotional level of our team.”

The Blackhawks then entered their bye week. They don’t play again until Saturday against those very same Oilers, this time in Chicago.

Other teams currently on their bye weeks: the Kings, Predators, Bruins, Lightning, Canadiens, Hurricanes, and Capitals.

Pre-game reading: Are the Bruins and Avalanche on verge of trade?

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— Up top, Jeremy Roenick deemed Gustav Nyquist‘s attack on Jared Spurgeon “one of the worst stick infractions” he’s seen in a long time. Nyquist is facing a lengthy suspension for the inexplicable infraction. He’s been offered an in-person hearing with the league, which could mean a ban of six games or more.

— Don Sweeney and Joe Sakic had a lengthy chat Sunday in Boston, and once again the speculation is heating up that the Bruins and Avalanche could be close to making a trade. The B’s are known to like Gabriel Landeskog, but would they give up young d-man Brandon Carlo to get him? The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa analyzes the situation in Beantown. (Boston Globe)

Read more: Sweeney says Bruins’ core deserves chance to ‘win now’

— Speaking of the Bruins’ defense, it’s sure been a big part of the offense since Bruce Cassidy took over from Claude Julien. Zdeno Chara notched his fifth goal of the season in Sunday’s win over Montreal. Adam McQuaidKevan Miller, and Colin Miller also scored this weekend, which began with a win over Vancouver. One of Cassidy’s objectives has been to get more scoring from everybody — i.e. not just Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak — and so far, so good in his short tenure. (CSN New England)

— Speaking of the Avalanche’s defense, there’s a reason they have to fix it. The Avs have enjoyed very little success at drafting blue-liners, and that’s when they even bothered to try. The Denver Post delves into Colorado’s “failure to land an elite defensemen,” and why it’s such a major challenge facing GM Joe Sakic. (Denver Post)

Wayne Simmonds thinks the NHL has a rat problem. “You’ve got guys running around doing stupid stuff and then guys don’t want to answer the bell. They’ll two-hand (slash) you, they’ll butt-end you, they’ll knee you and then you go to confront them and they don’t want to do anything about it. They try to draw a penalty (for retaliation). I don’t think that’s the way the game’s played or should be played. If you’re going to do something dirty … back it up. If you’re gonna do something that’s going to warrant a fight, back it up.” (Courier-Post)

— On Saturday, Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat notched his 300th career point with OHL Erie. The 19-year-old forward had 104 points in his first season with the Otters (when Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome were teammates), 101 in his second (with Stome still there), and currently has 97 points in just 47 games this season. “It’s pretty crazy. I never thought it would be like this. But with the team we’ve had the past three years, they helped me out a lot. A lot of credit to them.” (GoErie.com)

Enjoy the games!

Foligno downplays report of meeting with Torts, calls it ‘blown out of proportion’

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 17:  Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 17, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Coyotes 7-5.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet insiders Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos reported that Blue Jackets players had held a meeting with John Tortorella in hopes that the fiery head coach would be “a little easier” and more positive going forward.

On Sunday, Columbus captain Nick Foligno acknowledged that the meeting took place, but in a text to The Dispatch newspaper, he said it wasn’t a big deal.

“This whole story is blown out of proportion,” Foligno wrote. “We talked about a lot of things in the meeting. Meetings happen all the time, and I’m not sure why this one was turned into something way more than what it was.”

The Jackets got back in the win column Saturday with a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings. That followed a 3-o loss to the Canucks on Thursday, after which Tortorella criticized his team for playing with “zero emotion,” save for the first three shifts of the game.

“Nothing happens right if you don’t play with emotion,” said Tortorella. “We’ve got to get that figured out.”

Columbus hosts the Rangers tonight (on NBCSN).

Wild place Graovac on waivers, recall two forwards from AHL

Tyler Graovac, Sam Reinhart,
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The Minnesota Wild have placed 23-year-old center Tyler Graovac on waivers.

The club has also recalled forwards Zack Mitchell and Alex Tuch from AHL Iowa and placed defenseman Jonas Brodin on injured reserve with a fractured finger.

Graovac may not make it through waivers. The former seventh-round draft pick is signed through next season with an affordable cap hit of just $625,000. He has six goals and no assists in 45 games for the Wild this season.

But the Wild will risk it anyway. As noted by Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, head coach Bruce Boudreau “clearly wants Charlie Coyle playing center after yesterday’s win over Detroit (one goal, five assists now in his center shifts the past four games) and Graovac, frankly, has been too inconsistent for everybody’s liking in this fourth-line role.”

With Coyle at center, Erik Haula can take Graovac’s spot in the middle of the fourth line. Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu are the two other centers.