Author: Joe Yerdon

Connor McDavid

PHT Morning Skate: McDavid modeling himself after Stamkos

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Potential No. 1 pick in 2015 Connor McDavid finds out what it’s like to work with the big boys at the BioSteel camp as a 16-year-old and models himself after Steven Stamkos. That’s not a bad guy to be like at all. (The Globe And Mail)

Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun has a great interview with Canucks coach John Tortorella. He’s honest, he’s humorous, he has a great affection for dogs. Why does everyone hate him again? Oh right, he gets grumpy. (Vancouver Sun)

Patrick Sharp really hopes he can make the Team Canada roster for the Olympics. (Daily Herald)

Apparently Heritage Classic tickets in Vancouver aren’t exactly selling like hot cakes. (The Score)

Francois Beauchemin’s return from a torn ACL is ahead of schedule. (Eric Stephens twitter)

Gustav Nyquist is excited by his new contract with the Red Wings. (Windsor Star)

News flash: Alex Pietrangelo is vital to St. Louis’ success

Alex Pietrangelo

This may not come as a surprise to anyone, but Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is quite good.

Examining his last three seasons in the league, his production on offense as well as solid play defensively, somehow has yet to make him a household name.

In 2010-2011, his first full NHL season, he put up 11 goals and 43 points. He followed that up the following season with 12 goals and 51 points. If you dug into his advanced numbers those seasons (’10-’11, ’11-’12), you’d see he was even better than those numbers detailed.

Even in last year’s lockout-shortened season, Pietrangelo had a great year with five goals and 24 points in 47 games. He and Kevin Shattenkirk were, by far, the Blues’ top two defensemen which makes it all the more curious Pietrangelo is still an unsigned restricted free agent.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong hopes a deal will get done before training camp and the team isn’t in peril with the salary cap with just under $8 million in cap space. Even owner Tom Stillman has crowed about the money they’ve spent to keep their other RFAs.

So what’s the problem here?

Pietrangelo is the best defenseman the Blues have had since Al MacInnis or Chris Pronger and at the ripe old age of 23 he’s a guy they can lock up in St. Louis until he’s 31 if they’d like. If they want to follow in Montreal’s footsteps with how they handled P.K. Subban’s two-year deal, they have to be careful.

They’re likely hoping the deal they inked Shattenkirk to will provide the framework they want, but if Pietrangelo continues to play this well, and perhaps even better, the price will only keep rising.

‘Canes captain Staal says knee ‘felt good’ after skate in Raleigh

Eric Staal
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Hurricanes captain Eric Staal is back skating in Raleigh to prepare for the season and he’s feeling good.

Staal returned to North Carolina after an offseason that saw him suffer a scary knee injury during World Championships at the hands (er, knee) of Sweden’s Alex Edler. He tells Chip Alexander of the News & Observer he’s doing quite well.

“It felt good,” he said. “It has been no issue here for a little bit now. It’s good to be back and it felt strong. I feel good.”

I wonder if he feels good?

That’s a relief for Carolina fans and coaches alike to hear. Even better still, Staal skated without a brace on his knee as well. He and the team both said he would be ready for training camp, but sometimes seeing is believing.

Staal didn’t need surgery for the knee Edler attempted to blow up with his wicked knee-on-knee hit but he said he began skating two weeks ago at home in Canada. You’d have to think with the progress he’s made he’ll be good to go for camp in a few weeks.

Breaking down St. Louis’ three-headed goalie monster

Nashville Predators v St. Louis Blues

One area the St. Louis Blues don’t have to sweat is goaltending.

Between Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, and Jake Allen they’ve got three guys all vying for playing time and at least one already has a bead on being the No. 1 guy (Halak).

Does that mean all their questions and concerns are answered? Of course not! Let’s break it all down.

Halak: When the Blues acquired him three years ago, they figured they’d answered their starting goalie question for the foreseeable future. They did… Sort of.

After dealing with injuries of varying degrees that past two seasons, the team believes he’s entering this season in great shape. If he stays healthy he figures to get the bulk of the starts, but counting on him to do that may be seen as a gamble.

Two seasons ago he was outstanding before getting hurt. If that type of play returns, the Blues will be sitting pretty.

Elliott: Whenever Halak went out of action, it was Elliott who stood tall. His incredible numbers two seasons ago made many believe the Blues were destined to make the Stanley Cup Final. Instead, the Kings bounced them out of action.

Last year, Elliott wasn’t nearly as good and suffered the same fate all while being pushed by Allen for starts late in the season.

Ideally he’s the backup, but with the other worries (Halak’s health, Allen’s rise), Ken Hitchcock may have some hard choices to make. After the way he flamed out in Colorado, many are waiting to see if his slip-ups last season will continue.

Allen: He’s the new guy of the bunch and he showed last season he can be good in a pinch. After the Blues dealt Ben Bishop to Ottawa last year, Allen’s path to St. Louis was cleared.

Is he a legit backup hopeful or does he need more time in the minors? He’s just 22 years old so rushing him to the NHL now to be a backup may not be necessary, but if Elliott’s struggles continue he could be wearing the baseball cap on the bench.

Somehow through this “cloudy” situation, Hitchcock and GM Doug Armstrong will figure things out, but don’t be shocked to see all three guys at some point this season.

Trotz on the Wild: ‘I want to kick their butt’ for ‘stealing’ Suter

Barry Trotz

Nashville coach Barry Trotz isn’t the kind of guy you’d assume to be a guy who’d make bold declarations in the media, but that’s just what he did today.

Trotz appeared on Nashville radio station 102.5 The Game and the talk of playing against new divisional foes came up and, of course, Ryan Suter’s name came up. Dirk Hoag at On The Forecheck lays it out.

“We’ve got to start new rivalries, like us and Minnesota,” Trotz said. “They stole Ryan Suter, so I want to kick their butt, plain and simple.”

One good way to start a new rivalry is to not get over a guy signing elsewhere in free agency the way Suter did. Predators fans only had one opportunity to boo Suter on their ice last season and, let’s face facts here, games between the Wild and Predators aren’t exactly barn-burners.

Some added fire would do these teams some good. With the new divisions and Nashville and Minnesota being paired up in the Central and fighting it out with each other for a playoff spot, a rivalry might just happen.

It won’t happen because Minnesota “stole” Suter by backing up the Brink’s Truck and dumping $98 million on his front step though.