Author: Mike Halford

Kitchener Rangers v London Knights

Get to know a draft pick — Mitch Marner

Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Mitch Marner (C)

Height: 5’11 Weight: 160 Shoots: Right

Team: London Knights (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 among North American Skaters

What kind of player is he?

A diminutive skill guy, at a time when diminutive skill guys are all the rage.

Sure, that might be overstating things a bit, but we did just wrap a Stanley Cup Final in which Patrick Kane (5-foot-11, 181 pounds) and Tyler Johnson (5-9, 175) finished tied for the playoff scoring lead. And if you’re looking for offense, look no further than Marner — he finished second in the OHL in scoring this year (126 points in just 63 games), became the fastest 17-year-old in London history to score 40 goals and became the 46th player in franchise history to notch 100 points, joining the likes of Kane, John Tavares and Corey Perry.

“The NHL has changed,” Marner said earlier this month. “It’s not about height. It’s not about cross-checking as hard as you can. It’s not about hooking. All those get you a penalty nowadays. It’s a speed game now. It’s about thinking.

“If you have the brain to play in the NHL, no matter how tall you are, you can play. If you can dodge hits, you can play.”

Seidel says:

“The Kane comparisons are inevitable because both are undersized, offensive machines that had phenomenal careers with London. Marner is a magician with the puck and had the OHL scoring race locked up — until the final day of the season, when Dylan Strome notched six points to snatch the title. Although Marner needs to get stronger, concerns about his size are overstated as he’s shown a willingness to go into the dirty areas to make plays. It also shouldn’t be overlooked that he came into the OHL as a one-dimensional offensive star, only to evolve into a complete player under the tutelage of Dale Hunter. Marner has the potential to become a superstar in the NHL, and shouldn’t drop out of the top-five.”

NHL comparable: Kane/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Report: Soderberg seeking $5M annually on new deal


Sounds like Carl Soderberg is looking to cash in.

Per ESPN, Soderberg’s gunning for a deal that pays $5 million annually when he hits free agency on July 1 — and should he get it, he’d score a pretty sweet raise from his soon-to-be-expired deal (that paid just a shade over $1M per season.)

Soderberg, who turns 30 in October, scored 48 and 44 points in his first two full seasons with the Bruins after spending the early parts of his professional career in the Swedish Hockey League. He emerged as a dependable forward for Claude Julien last year, averaging nearly 17 minutes per night, and proved a fairly solid contributor during Boston’s ’14 playoff run, scoring six points in 12 games.

Last week, B’s GM Don Sweeney admitted re-signing Soderberg was “highly unlikely.” Boston is facing a cap crunch and can ill-afford to get into a bidding war for Soderberg’s services, especially since the club feels it has a cheaper replacement in house in Joonas Kemppainen, a “player of a similar nature” signed out of the Finnish League earlier this offseason.

ESPN reports that seven-to-eight teams are currently interested in Soderberg. He’s also reportedly been tied to Swiss League club HC Lugano, though his agent denied a move back to Europe in mid-April.

Here’s the full 2015-16 NHL schedule, with key dates


Following yesterday’s roll-out of individual teams’ season and home openers, the NHL announced it’s full regular-season schedule on Thursday.


Some key dates to note:

Oct. 7: Opening night. The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will raise their banner prior to an original six matchup against the New York Rangers at the United Center.

Oct. 8: Connor McDavid will make his (likely) NHL debut on the road, as Edmonton will open its campaign in St. Louis.

Oct. 9: New Toronto head coach Mike Babcock will make his Detroit return as the Red Wings host the Leafs at the Joe. Then, the Isles will play their first regular-season game in their new digs, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, against the Blackhawks.

Oct. 24: Tampa Bay will travel to Chicago for the first rematch of this year’s Cup Final.

Jan.1: The Boston Bruins will play host to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Jan. 28 to Feb 1: Nashville will host its first-ever NHL All-Star Weekend

Feb. 21: The Minnesota Wild will play host to the Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.

Feb. 27: The Colorado Avalanche will make their debut in a regular-season outdoor NHL game when they play host to the Detroit Red Wings at Coors Field in Denver.

Apr. 9: All 30 teams will play on the final day of the regular season.

Per usual, the NHL will have its annual Christmas break from Dec. 23-25.

It’s official: 3-on-3 OT, coach’s challenges to begin next season


It won’t be drastic, but the NHL will have a decidedly different look next season.

On Wednesday in Las Vegas, the league’s Board of Governors passed motions to implement 3-on-3 overtime in 2015-16, along with coach’s challenges. While mostly a formality, today’s announcement marks a fairly dramatic shift for the NHL as it looks to both lessen the number of games that go to a shootout, and better utilize the replay system on plays involving goalie interference and offsides.

As confirmed during yesterday’s GM meetings, the new overtime rules will see teams play three aside for the entire five-minute overtime session, rather than utilize what the American Hockey League did last season — begin at 4-on-4, before eventually going down to 3-on-3 if there were no goals scored through the first three minutes.

The coach’s challenge, meanwhile, will be somewhat limited in scope during its inaugural campaign. As mentioned above, it can only be utilized on plays that may have potentially been offside, or ones involving goalie interference.

To call a coach’s challenge, the bench boss making in question must still have his timeout available.

For the full breakdown of the rules regarding overtime and coach’s challenges, click here.

Get to know a draft pick — Pavel Zacha

2015 NHL Combine

Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Pavel Zacha (C)

Height: 6’3 Weight: 210 Shoots: Left

Team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Country: Czech Republic

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 8 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

The numbers really tell the story. Zacha’s a big kid (as listed above), that has equal penchants for scoring (34 points in 37 games this year) and the rough stuff (56 PIM, and two suspensions). As far as playing experience goes, his is pretty diverse; in ’13-14, Zacha played for Liberec in the Czech Extraliga — working under the tutelage of longtime NHLer Petr Nedved — and this year, he jumped the pond to play Canadian junior hockey in Sarnia.

Seidel says:

“Zacha’s an interesting prospect — a Czech-born player that possesses a lot of North American traits. He willingly and routinely initiated contact in his rookie OHL campaign but occasionally crossed the line, which resulted in a couple of significant suspensions. Despite that, he showed a team-first mentality the Sting loved. Zacha’s biggest strengths are his skating and ability to beat defenders one-on-one; he has a skill set that’s hard to handle and will become an offensive force as he develops. Like most offensive stars, Zacha still needs to work on his defensive game, but the heady Czech will add that to his repertoire for whichever team selects him.”

NHL comparable: Eric Staal/David Backes

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.