Jason Brough

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USA Hockey respects NHL’s Olympic decision, still has medal expectations

A couple of statements from USA Hockey to pass along, in the wake of the NHL’s decision to forego the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

First from Dave Ogrean, the executive director of USA Hockey:

“We knew it was a very real possibility for many months and certainly respect the decision of the NHL. The good news is that because of our grassroots efforts over the course of many years, our player pool is as deep as it has ever been and we fully expect to field a team that will play for a medal.”

And from Jim Johannson, the assistant executive director of hockey operations:

“We respect the NHL’s decision and will examine our player pool options and plan accordingly. In the end, we’ll have 25 great stories on the ice in South Korea and will go to the Olympics with medal expectations.”

The NHL has been sending players to the Olympics since 1998.

In 1994, when the Games were in Norway, Team USA’s roster featured the likes of David Sacco, Peter Laviolette, Ted Drury, Mike Dunham, and Garth Snow. The Americans were knocked out by Finland in the quarterfinals.

Hockey Canada released a similar statement today.

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    Werenski is ‘day to day’ after Ovechkin hit

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella says defenseman Zach Werenski is “day to day” after leaving a game with an injury.

    The 19-year-old rookie apparently hurt his shoulder Sunday night when hit by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin in the third period of the Blue Jackets’ 3-2 loss. He crumpled to the ice, then went to the dressing room and didn’t return.

    Werenski, who holds Columbus franchise records for points and assists by a rookie, didn’t practice with the team Monday. Tortorella didn’t provide other details.

    Columbus plays in Pittsburgh tomorrow.

    Related: Goal-starved Blue Jackets recall Sonny Milano

    Pre-game reading: Concern in San Jose after Thornton injury

    — Up top, watch the top seven plays of the week, starting with Sidney Crosby‘s bank shot off Henrik Lundqvist‘s head.

    — The San Jose Sharks got a much-needed win Sunday in Vancouver, but according to CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz, the victory “took a back seat” to worry over Joe Thornton‘s lower-body injury. The Sharks only have three games left in their regular season. They’re also without Logan Couture, who took a puck to the face last weekend. (CSN Bay Area)

    — Seventy-nine games into the season and there’s still fierce competition for playing time among Chicago Blackhawks forwards. “We’re wide open as far as guys pushing and looking to take advantage of it here,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Nothing’s set in stone.” Six forwards — Andrew Desjardins, John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco, Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo — are all fighting for two openings in the lineup. (Chicago Sun-Times)

    — Why Nolan Patrick might not be the first overall draft pick, by Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. In a nutshell, the answer is Swiss phenom Nico Hischier, who has three goals and three assists in five playoff games for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. (The Hockey News)

    — On all the players we’ve seen go straight from college to the NHL, and why that’s happening. With quotes from general managers Jim Benning, Ron Hextall, Ray Shero, and John Chayka. (Associated Press)

    — The injury-plagued Ottawa Senators looked into calling up their prized defensive prospect, Thomas Chabot, from his junior team in Saint John. The rules said they couldn’t, however. “The exact rule is, we had eight defensemen on our roster at the trade deadline,” said GM Pierre Dorion. “So, we would need four injuries to fall into an emergency status, in your second emergency status, then at that point in time, you can recall Thomas Chabot.” (TSN)

    Enjoy the games!

    NHL says no to 2018 Winter Olympics

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    For the first time since 1994 in Norway, the NHL will not be sending its players to the Winter Olympics.

    The league released a statement today clarifying its position on the 2018 Games in South Korea:

    “We have previously made clear that, while the overwhelming majority of our Clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject.

    “A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018. And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the Clubs.

    “As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 Regular Season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.”

    The NHL had been hoping for concessions from the NHLPA or IOC in order to continue Olympic participation.

    But the players said they wouldn’t negotiate for the right to go, and the IOC was likewise resistant.

    Related: 

    — Bettman points finger at IOC for opening a ‘whole can of worms’

    — Ovechkin vows to play in Olympics even if NHL doesn’t participate

    Central Scouting: 2017 draft isn’t rich in defensemen

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    Does your favorite team need to draft a top defenseman this summer?

    If it does, it may have to get lucky.

    According to most draft experts, the real strength of the draft is at forward, headlined by centers Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, and Gabriel Vilardi.

    There are some promising blue-liners available, to be sure — just not as many compared to years past.

    “I’d say the depth of defensemen is not there as compared to a year ago,” said Troy Dumville of Central Scouting, per NHL.com. “But I think there’s six or seven quality guys that’ll end up in the first round that are definitely good prospects.”

    Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki, Cale Makar, Nicolas Hague, and Callan Foote are all d-men who should be snapped up relatively early.

    Last year, nine defensemen were taken in the first round, the first being Olli Juolevi, who went fifth overall to Vancouver.

    Of course, not all great defensemen were first-round picks. Duncan Keith was a second-rounder. So were Shea Weber and P.K. Subban. One of the greatest defensemen ever, Nicklas Lidstrom, was a third-rounder.

    “Historically, d-men take longer to develop,” former coach Scotty Bowman said a few years ago, per the Denver Post. “It’s tougher to project where they’ll be in five years, whereas a supremely skilled forward, you kind of know where they’re headed.”

    Related: Major roster holes remain in Buffalo