Author: Mike Halford

Todd McLellan

World Cup: McLellan to coach Oiler-centric Team North America

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The North American team at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey will have a decidedly Edmonton feel.

On Friday, the squad — to be comprised of players aged 23 and younger — announced that Oilers head coach Todd McLellan would serve as the bench boss for the tournament.

The announcement was made by McLellan’s boss in Edmonton (general manager Peter Chiarelli, also serving Team North America’s co-GM), and in conjunction with the unveiling of the club’s management staff.

Which, you guessed it, also has Oiler ties.

Adam Graves, who won a Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1990, has been named as special assistant to Chiarelli and fellow co-GM Stan Bowman. Graves, currently working in a business operations role with the Rangers, will work alongside player personnel directors Pat Verbeek and Paul Fenton, and director of hockey ops Ryan Jankowski.

Verbeek and Fenton are considered two of better assistant GMs in hockey.

Verbeek serves under Steve Yzerman in Tampa and previously worked in a scouting capacity; Fenton is regarded as one of the league’s best right-hand men, having spent the last 10 years as David Poile’s assistant in Nashville.

Jankowski, a former assistant GM with the Islanders, currently works as Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel.

Oh, and just to continue with the Edmonton theme from above, the Oilers link to Team North America extends beyond coaching and management.

Last month, NHL.com projected that two of their star youngsters — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid — would make the team, while defensemen Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse are also eligible for selection.

Nine days into regular season, Jets finally set to open at home

Twenty-nine of the NHL’s 30 teams have played at least one game at home this season.

Tonight, No. 30 will get its long-awaited shot.

The Winnipeg Jets — who opened the season with road dates in Boston, New Jersey, Brooklyn and MSG — will play their first game of the year at the MTS Centre on Friday, when they host the Flames.

“It’s very exciting because this crowd gets really into it and we’re off to a really good start to the year,” Matthieu Perreault said, per the Free Press. “Much different than last year so we’re excited about this game and this homestretch here.”

The Jets did get off to a good start — going 3-1-0 on the road — and now have a big opportunity with a six-game home stand.

That said, it’s not like it’ll be a cakewalk. As far as home stands go, Winnipeg’s got a toughie — after tonight’s game against Calgary, the Jets will host St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Regardless, Winnipeg is right to be optimistic and happy with its start. Definitely better than last year, when the Jets stumbled to a 2-5-0 record and lost three of their first four at home.

Bolts’ Nesterov has hearing for hit that hospitalized McKenzie

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To nobody’s surprise, Tampa Bay defenseman Nikita Nesterov will have a disciplinary hearing for his illegal check from behind on Dallas’s Curtis McKenzie.

The hit, which occurred during Thursday’s game at Amalie, sent McKenzie to hospital in “excruciating pain,” per Stars head coach Lindy Ruff.  Nesterov was given a five-minute major and game misconduct.

Nesterov doesn’t have a disciplinary history with the league, largely because he has a small body of work. He played in just 27 games last year, his first in the NHL, and was making only his second appearance of the season against the Stars on Thursday.

 

Sticking around: Habs ink Plekanec to two-year, $12M extension

Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens - Game One
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One of Montreal’s big questions coming into this season was the contract status of pending UFA center Tomas Plekanec.

On Friday, the club answered it.

The Habs and Plekanec have agreed to a two-year, $12 million extension, per TSN. The deal will pay Plekanec $7 million in the first year and $5M in the second; overall, the AAV is a tidy raise on his current deal (a six-year, $30M deal with a $5M cap hit).

At first glance, the deal appears to be a win-win for both sides. The Habs aren’t locked into a long-term deal with a 32-year-old — who turns 33 later this month — while Plekanec gets a pretty good chunk of change, and avoids the distraction of pending free agency.

The contract will also allow Plekanec to focus entirely on playing.

And he’s played pretty well in the early part of the season.

He’s tied with Max Pacioretty for the team goalscoring lead (four), while averaging a healthy 19:30 TOI per night. He’s also winning faceoffs at nearly 53 percent and boasts solid possession metrics.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how the Plekanec extension plays into Montreal’s future at the center position. Pivots Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais will need new contracts for 2017-18, which is the same season that Plekanec’s new deal expires.

Kings’ Forbort will make NHL debut, last of ’10 first-rounders to do so

061315 comets mdd
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Of the 30 players selected in the opening round of the 2010 draft, Derek Forbort has long held a most dubious distinction.

Thankfully for him, it ends tonight.

Forbort, the defenseman L.A. took 15th overall five years ago, will finally make his big league debut when the the Kings host Minnesota — and in the process, he’ll become the last of the ’10 first-rounders to appear in an NHL contest.

“I think I always knew if I stayed the course and kept working hard and kept working on my game and developing that it would eventually come,” Forbort said, per LA Kings Insider.

Forbort was only 18 when the Kings selected him — in front of a partisan crowd at Staples, no less. Since then, he finished out his collegiate career at North Dakota before transitioning to the American League, where he’s spent the last two seasons.

In ’14-15, he was a key figure in Manchester’s Calder Cup championship, finishing with six assists in 19 games.

A Minnesota native, Forbort looks as though he’ll replace Matt Greene in the lineup tonight against the Wild.