Mike Halford

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  Top Prospect Alexander Nylander speaks during media availability for the 2016 NHL Draft Top Prospects prior to Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Get to know a draft pick — Alexander Nylander

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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.

Alexander Nylander (LW)

Height: 6-foot Weight: 180 pounds Shoots: Right

Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Country: Sweden

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 3 North American skater

Kennedy says: “The younger brother of Toronto’s William Nylander, Alex had himself quite the first season in North America. Not only was he named OHL rookie of the year, but he was also lightning for Sweden at the world juniors, picking up for his brother when William was concussed by a Swiss player early on.

“Alex is slightly bigger than his brother, but has just as many jaw-dropping moves. His passing vision is sublime and because he was technically ‘loaned’ to Mississauga from Swedish club Rogle, he does not have to stay in junior next season – he could also play in the AHL (or NHL, or Europe).”

Related: Nylander finishes as Central Scouting’s No. 3 North American skater

Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles.

Pens announce Sprong out 7-8 months after shoulder surgery

Daniel Sprong
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Pittsburgh will be without one of its brightest young prospects for nearly half of next season — on Friday, the club announced that Daniel Sprong will miss the next 7-8 months recovering from shoulder surgery.

The procedure came after Sprong, 19, was injured while practicing as a Black Ace during Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup run.

Prior to that, he’d embarked on a wild campaign.

Sprong was one of the biggest surprises to come out of Penguins training camp, making the team as an 18-year-old draftee (a second-round pick, no less).

His time in Pittsburgh was tumultuous, though. Sprong only played in 18 games and was a healthy scratch on a number of occasions — decisions that seemed to cause a rift between GM Jim Rutherford and former head coach Mike Johnston.

Rutherford eventually urged Johnston to play Sprong more. But after Johnston was fired and replaced by Mike Sullivan, the decision was made to return Sprong to junior.

It was a contentious decision at the time, given Pittsburgh had already burned the first year of his entry-level contract, though the move ultimately seemed to pay off. Sprong went back to QMJHL Charlottetown and was terrific, scoring 46 points in 33 regular season games, and 15 in 12 playoff outings.

He then made a seamless transition to the American League, racking up five goals and seven points in 10 Calder Cup playoff games for Wilkes-Barre.

Sprong’s sophomore campaign will be a difficult one. The recovery window suggests a January return at the earliest.

Coyotes sign Cunningham to one-year extension

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16:  Craig Cunningham #22 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on November 16, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Arizona GM John Chayka made a minor signing on Friday, inking forward Craig Cunningham to a one-year, two-way contract extension.

Cunningham, 25, has been with the Coyotes organization since getting plucked off waivers a year ago. He’s split time between Arizona and the American League — last year, he scored just one point in 10 games with the Coyotes, but racked up 46 in 61 games with Springfield.

A fourth-round pick by the Bruins in 2010, Cunningham will probably spend next season shuttling back and forth between the Coyotes and their new AHL affiliate in Tucson.

Get to know a draft pick — Olli Juolevi

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 28:  Olli Juolevi #4 of Team Orr skates up ice during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game January 28, 2016 at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
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THN Banner

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.

Olli Juolevi (D)

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 182 pounds Shoots: Left

Team: London Knights (OHL)

Country: Finland

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 North American skater

Kennedy says: “It’s tough to say who the first defenseman to go in the draft will be, but Juolevi is a great candidate (Jakob Chychrun and Mikhail Sergachev are options, too).

“Intelligent, smooth with the puck and blessed with pretty good size, Juolevi models his game after Hampus Lindholm and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Juolevi was an all-star at the world juniors, where he helped the Finns win gold at Hartwall Arena, his dream rink as a kid in Helsinki.

“He also paced the London defense corps to an OHL championship and the Memorial Cup title. Not bad for a kid who was only playing his first season in North America.”

Related: Benning doesn’t know if there’s a true No. 1 defenseman at this year’s draft

Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles.

Get to know a draft pick — Matthew Tkachuk

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  Top Prospect Matthew Tkachuk speaks during media availability for the 2016 NHL Draft Top Prospects prior to Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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THN Banner

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.

Matthew Tkachuk (LW)

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 200 pounds Shoots: Left

Team: London Knights (OHL)

Country: U.S.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 North American skater

Kennedy says: “Other than his explosiveness, there’s really nothing Tkachuk is missing right now. Skating can be worked on, but his natural gifts aren’t found in a lot of other players.

“The son of ex-NHLer Keith Tkachuk has size, smarts, a competitive mean streak and excellent hand-eye coordination that makes him a tip-in machine in front of the net. He scored the overtime winner at the Memorial Cup, and helped Team USA to bronze at the world juniors.

“If he doesn’t go straight to the NHL, he’ll be a buzzsaw – again – in the OHL. Though he’s not really fast, he is strong on his skates and wins battles.”

Related: Tkachuk pumps draft stock, says ‘people want winners’

Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles.