Mike Halford

Get to know a draft pick — Patrik Laine

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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer and prospect expert at The Hockey News.

Patrik Laine (RW)

Height: 6-foot-4 Weight: 206 pounds Shoots: Right

Team: Tappara Tampere (Finland)

Country: Finland

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 European skater

Kennedy says: “It’s a huge weight to put the mantle of ‘The Next Alex Ovechkin‘ on a teenager, but it’s also really tough downplaying how Laine has soared this season.

“The Ovechkin comps are obvious: big-time shooter who loves to run guys over and also happens to be a fun interview. And really, someone has to be the next big, powerful sniper in the NHL.

“Laine’s season included a gold medal at the world juniors, a Finnish Liiga championship and silver at the World Championship, where he was also named MVP.

“He is incredibly fun to watch and will definitely be ready for an NHL slot immediately.”

Related: Not lacking confidence, Laine’s goal is to be drafted No. 1

Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles.

Chicago stays busy and re-signs Panik, who they believe can be ‘a dominant player’

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 12:  Richard Panik #14 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the Nashville Predators at the United Center on January 12, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Predators 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Quite the day in the Windy City.

Not long after a noteworthy trade — sending Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina — the Blackhawks announced they re-signed Richard Panik to a one-year deal.

Financial terms have yet to be disclosed.

Panik, 25, was acquired in a mid-season deal with Toronto and fared well upon joining the ‘Hawks, scoring eight points in 30 regular season games, and three in six playoff contests.

Based on GM Stan Bowman’s comments last month, it was clear Chicago valued Panik and wanted to keep him in the fold.

“Can play right wing or left wing, and he’s played on the first line, third line, fourth line because he’s got some versatility to his game, which is what we like,” Bowman explained, to the Athletic. “He’s got a great skill set. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s competitive. He’s physical. So now we’re just looking for him to put it all together on a consistent basis.

“Because when he brings his best game, he’s a dominant player.”

Panik showed flashes of his potential late in the campaign and again in the postseason. He benefited from being thrown into a good situation on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, a trio Joel Quenneville went to a few times in the playoffs.

It’s probably worth noting Panik, who was set to become a restricted free agent, had an uptick at the tail end of a contract year. His one-year, $975,000 deal was set to expire on July 1.

Video: Crosby parades Cup through Pittsburgh streets

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Electric atmosphere in the Steel City on Wednesday, as Penguins captain Sidney Crosby rode through the streets with Lord Stanley’s Mug on display.

This marks the second time in Crosby’s career he’s paraded the Stanley Cup through Pittsburgh, and the fourth time it’s happened in franchise history.

It’s worth noting that this most recent championship puts the Penguins on par with the New York Rangers — one of the NHL’s original six teams — in terms of Stanley Cups won.

More from the Pens’ Stanley Cup parade:

Schultz: ‘It still hasn’t sunk in — it’s awesome’ to win Stanley Cup

‘Dream come true’ for Bonino

Get to know a draft pick — Auston Matthews

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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer and prospect expert at The Hockey News.

Auston Matthews (C)

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 210 pounds Shoots: Left

Team: Zurich (Switzerland)

Country: U.S.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 European skater

Kennedy says: “Even though he has been the top prospect all season long, it still seems like Matthews is underrated. Perhaps it’s because of the flashiness of Patrik Laine, or the fact Zurich games weren’t easy to watch in North America, but trust me: Matthews is the real deal.

“He’s the big, dominating center that teams are built around. Matthews has already drawn comparisons to Jonathan Toews (in terms of style and potential — ­ chill out, folks) and his performance at the World Championship confirmed just how deadly he is.

“His shot and creativity are weapons, while his motor makes him elite. He played against men all year in Switzerland and exceeded expectations.”

Related: Matthews ‘physically and mentally’ strong enough for pressure of Toronto

Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles

As expected, Leafs waive Cowen for buyout purposes

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 21: Jared Cowen #2 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on January 21, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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The Jared Cowen era in Toronto is over, and what an era it wasn’t.

Cowen, acquired as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster with Ottawa, was placed on waivers today by the Maple Leafs, a precursor to the club buying him out of his contract.

The former ninth overall pick never played a game for Toronto after being acquired. Dealing with a hip injury that’s dogged him throughout his career, Cowen was sent home shortly after the Phaneuf trade.

The Leafs didn’t want to risk playing him and potentially re-aggravating the injury, because the goal all along was to buy Cowen out.

See, Cowen has a curious clause in his deal — per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, any team that buys out Cowen this summer gets a salary cap credit of $650,000.

The 25-year-old rearguard — the ninth overall pick in 2009 — has one year left on his four-year, $12.4 million deal.

Of course, once the buyout’s complete, that won’t be of concern for teams looking to acquire him — and it’s safe to assume there will be teams looking.

Despite questions about his mobility, Cowen is still a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defenseman that showed some promise early in his career.