Will Sam Anas be the next undersized forward to make a successful transition from college success to the NHL?
Anas took another step in that direction when he reportedly inked a two-year, entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild, per Elliotte Friedman.
Update: Minnesota has confirmed the signing. His two-year contract will start in 2016-17.
The 22-year-old forward stands at roughly 5-foot-8 and has recorded just over a point-per-game in each of his three campaigns with Quinnipiac University. In 2015-16 he had 24 goals and 50 points in 43 contests.
“His best trait is his composure with the puck — there’s no panic in his game. He’s so poised with the puck on his stick. He has that ability to wait and wait,” Quinnipiac Coach Rand Pecknold told the Washington Post back in January. “There are great players stuck in the minors because they don’t have poise in games. If anything, Sam gets better when the puck drops in a game.”
Like other undersized forwards, he’ll be under extra scrutiny, but that’s nothing new to him and you don’t have to look hard to find examples of forwards that have taken a similar path. Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau is an obvious example and perhaps someday Anas will be an easy go to as well.
In a back-and-forth contest where the Florida Panthers held the lead on three separate occasions, it was the New York Islanders that ultimately claimed a 5-4 victory in Game 1 Thursday night.
After finishing the 2015-16 regular season on a hot streak, John Tavares carried that momentum into this series in a big way with a goal and two assists. Ryan Strome had a helper too and netted the game-winning goal.
The Islanders offensive depth extended beyond that though as Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each contributed a goal and an assist. Meanwhile, defenseman Travis Hamonic made his return from a knee injury and finished with an assist in 24:52 minutes of ice time.
On the Panthers side, Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen did their best to keep Florida in this one. Smith found the back of the net twice and had an assist while Jokinen scored a goal and registered two assists. Teddy Purcell, who was acquired from Edmonton during the 2015-16 campaign, scored the series opening goal just 1:55 minutes into the contest.
For the Panthers and Islanders, this series is about ending a lengthy and painful stretch of the team’s history. The Islanders haven’t won a playoff series since 1993 and Florida’s drought dates back to 1996. One of those trends will end and the Islanders are now one win closer to it.
It’s been months since the Washington Capitals were in a position where any particular game was especially important to the team, so the question going into Game 1 was if they could match the intensity of the Philadelphia Flyers, which had to claw their way into the postseason. Despite that potential contrast, Washington came out strong to earn a 2-0 victory in Game 1.
Washington outshot Philadelphia 31-19 and as has been the case throughout the campaign, Braden Holtby stepped up when the Capitals needed him to. This was his third career postseason shutout and just adds to his impressive body of work in the playoffs. Though he’s just 26 years old, he had a 1.92 GAA and .936 save percentage in 34 playoff contests going into this series.
The Capitals ran into penalty trouble in the first period, but it was Washington that capitalized on the power play. Defenseman John Carlson scored the game winner with the man advantage midway through the second period and Jay Beagle provided an insurance goal with 3:24 minutes remaining in the contest.
As disappointing as dropping Game 1 has to be for the Flyers, the key issue might be losing Sean Couturier in the second period after he absorbed a big hit from Alex Ovechkin. Couturier might have hurt his shoulder, but the Flyers are only calling it an upper-body injury. He’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow.
While there’s a lot left to plays, the Flyers had long odds going into this series and will have a lot riding on Game 2 on Saturday. That contest could get very physical too if the second half of the third period tonight was any indication.
While the Philadelphia Flyers were still within striking distance of the Washington Capitals through 40 minutes, the big story for them thus far is the status of Sean Couturier.
The 23-year-old forward left the game midway through the second period with what looked like it might be a shoulder injury after absorbing a hard hit from Alex Ovechkin. He didn’t return and the Flyers are officially terming his injury as “upper body,” per the team’s Twitter feed.
We’ll still need to wait for more information about the severity of the injury, but if Couturier misses part or all of this series, it will be a serious blow for the Flyers. He’s a significant presence with the team, especially defensively.
Just to highlight how important he is to the Flyers, in terms of minutes per game he was second on the team among forwards in the regular season, behind only Claude Giroux.
The first round series between the Ducks and Predators will be the last to start on Friday and that extra time was probably to Anaheim’s benefit.
The Anaheim Ducks have a few injured players, but defenseman Kevin Bieksa (upper body) and forwards Rickard Rakell (appendectomy) and David Perron (shoulder) might all be healthy enough to play in Game 1, per the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens. We probably won’t find out for certain until just before the start of the contest though.
The trio served important roles on the Ducks during the regular season. Bieksa ate up 21 minutes per game, Perron had 20 points in 28 contests after being acquired from Pittsburgh, and Rakell was fourth on the team’s scoring list with 43 points in 72 contests.
The Ducks are the favorites going into this series against Nashville, but just seven points separated them in the standings. Any weakness the Ducks have might be exploited by Nashville and the last thing the Ducks want is to have depth issues stemming from injuries. Fortunately for them, it looks like they might not need to deal with that challenge.