<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Rantanen wants to follow in footsteps of Duchene, Landeskog, MacKinnon


When the Avalanche took big Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen 10th overall at this year’s draft, they — knowingly or not — put a fair bit of pressure on the kid.

This is a club, after all, with a history of not just throwing its top picks straight into the mix, but also getting great results from it:

Matt Duchene, taken 3rd overall in ’09, finished as a Calder finalist for rookie of the year.

Gabriel Landeskog, taken 2nd overall in ’11, won the Calder.

Nathan MacKinnon, taken 1st overall in ’13, won the Calder.

This puts a fairly big spotlight on Rantanen as Colorado’s camp opens this week. The 18-year-old, who already has three years of professional hockey experience under his belt (with TPS Turku of the Finnish league), inked his entry-level deal in July and is now focused on sticking in Denver.

“I have to show them I’m worth the signing, and do everything I can to make the lineup,” Rantanen said, per the Post. “They basically said, ‘Let’s see how the camp goes,’ and of course there are big exhibition games to come.

“There has not been big talk yet.”

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Rantanen was seen by pundits as one of the most NHL-ready players eligible at the draft.

The Avs were surprised to see him fall to No. 10 — per the Post, GM Joe Sakic figured he’d go in the top eight — and there does appear to be minutes available at Rantanen’s preferred right wing position, though he can also play the middle.

Poll: Which contract situation will be the biggest distraction?

Steven Stamkos

There are two universal truths about guys going into the final year of their contracts.

One, they want to get a new deal done before the start of the season.

Two, they don’t want it to be a distraction.

There are few certainties in life, but these are two of ’em. The next time you hear a player say “I’d like for this to linger on as long as possible,” or “I look forward to answering questions about this every day,” it’ll be the first.

There are, of course, several prominent NHLers facing this exact situation.

Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, Carolina’s Eric Staal (and Cam Ward), Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd (and Dustin Byfuglien), Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Arizona’s Shane Doan and St. Louis’ David Backes are all 23 days away from the start of the regular season, at which time they’ll officially enter the final year of their respective contracts.

To date, Stamkos (see here), Kopitar (see here) and Ladd (see here) have been most prominently discussed; that said, Staal has received plenty of coverage and it’s worth noting that, of all the players mentioned, only Byfuglien and Seabrook play defense — a highly-coveted position on the unrestricted free agent market.

When voting in this here poll, a few things to consider:

— How much could the distraction really derail things? Like Carolina, for example. The ‘Canes aren’t supposed to be any good this year anyway and, to be blunt, don’t generate a ton of national discussion.

— Why are some of these guys flying under the radar? All has been quiet on the Seabrook front in Chicago, though that’s likely due to the club’s more immediate (and, pressing) cap concerns. This bit from ESPN is almost all we’ve heard on the Backes extension.

— Is there any additional pressure if it’s a captain? If so, that could further complicate things for Stamkos, Ladd, Backes, Doan and Staal.

Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments section.

NHL to implement concussion ‘spotters’ at games (Updated)

Sidney Crosby

The NHL is taking a page from the NFL when it comes to concussion protocol.

Over the weekend, deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to Le Journal de Montreal that, this season, there will be “spotters” in the stands looking for signs of player concussions.

This is, as mentioned above, similar to the move the NFL made in 2012 with its ACT Spotters, a program in which certified athletic trainers were in place at every game — in the press box — to watch for potential head injuries.

This year, the NFL placed even more power in the spotters’ hands, allowing them to stop the game and remove a player showing signs of a possible concussion.

There will be some differences between the NHL and NFL systems, however.

From Le Journal (translated):

In the NFL, observers are physicians who are employed by the league and are not confined to a single city.

NHL will be different.

It will not necessarily be a doctor (not a requirement) that will take this position and in addition, that person will be paid by the local team. It will be placed in the stands at a secret location and will always remain in the same city.

Le Journal reports the NHL decided to implement spotters because “too many teams decided to flout” the previous concussion protocol, which called for potentially concussed players to exit the ice and head to the “quiet room” for examination.

Update: Here’s further info from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, some of which is contrary to the Le Journal report.

There have been club concussion spotters for the past few seasons — people hired by teams — but this season they will be independent. There will be two designated people per building with varied backgrounds who will split the games.

Their only given job on any given night will be spotting for any visible signs of concussion. They will log all those incidents into a file.

If or when a club wants to use the league spotter instead of their own, they can do that, in which case the spotter will have communication abilities down to the bench to talk to the trainer. But on most nights, because most clubs want to maintain this responsibility in-house, the new independent spotters are there just logging incidents.

Johnson (wrist) questionable for Bolts camp

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One
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A key part of The Triplets could miss some time at training camp.

Tyler Johnson, who suffered a broken wrist early in the Stanley Cup Final, is unsure if he’ll be ready to go when the Lightning get their preseason underway on Sept. 17.

“It’s progressing; I don’t know if I would say that it’s 100 percent, but it’s getting there,” Johnson told The Tampa Tribune. “It feels better every day, so it’s one of those things now that it just keeps getting strength and it feels better.”

When asked if he’d be limited during camp and the exhibition campaign, Johnson replied “I sure hope not.”

Johnson’s remarks are less optimistic than those uttered by Bolts GM Steve Yzerman who, this past weekend, said Johnson would be “ready to go” for camp.

In light of Johnson’s remarks, it’s possible Tampa Bay could take a more cautious approach with his return. The diminutive forward is an integral part of the club’s success, having led all skaters in playoff scoring last year (13 goals and 23 points in 26 games) — so there’s little reason to risk aggravating injury this early in the campaign.

PHT Morning Skate: Don’t call it a competition, says the Hamburglar

Andrew Hammond

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.

“It’s not something I’m going to label as [a competition]. I’m just going to approach the season to be the best goalie that I can be and I want to play as many games as I can. … However many that is, I don’t know, but to say there’s a competition or anything like that, I wouldn’t say that.”

That’s Sens goalie Andrew Hammond, talking about the perceived “goalie battle” with fellow netminder Craig Anderson. (NHL.com)

New Canuck Brandon Sutter wants to “bring something the team is missing and push us over the edge.” (Vancouver Sun)

Interesting piece here on the intense training regimen Connor McDavid experienced under Gary Roberts’ watchful eye. (Globe and Mail)

Heading into the final year of his contract, Coyotes captain Shane Doan thinks he could continue playing beyond ’15-16. (AZ Central)

Tyler Benson, the WHL Giants prospect projected to be a first-round pick in 2016, has undergone surgery to “mend a lower-body ailment.” (Vancouver Province)