Author: Ryan Dadoun

David Backes

PHT Morning Skate: Turns out Backes is a decent pitcher


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.

David Backes isn’t a bad pitcher…

Fighting majors were down last season and, as Red Wings GM Ken Holland put it, “one-dimensional players are almost extinct.” (The Associated Press)

Adam Larsson excelled under former Devils coach Scott Stevens. Fortunately, New Jersey’s coaching change doesn’t appear to have negatively impacted him. (

Antti Raanta is very upset after a quote that emerged from a newspaper in Finland painted him in a negative light. The quote stated that, frustrated over a diminished role, Raanta hoped that his Chicago Blackhawks would get swept by Nashville. To be fair to Raanta, the interviewer said that quote by itself lacks the necessary context. (New York Post)

As part of a promotion, Wayne Gretzky organized a game of road hockey with some very surprised fans:

With the Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp underway, here are some storylines to keep in mind. (CSN Philly)

USA Hockey confirms John Tortorella will coach World Cup squad

John Tortorella
Getty Images

It’s official: John Tortorella is Team USA’s head coach for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

“We’re excited to have John as head coach of our World Cup team,” said Los Angeles Kings and Team USA GM Dean Lombardi, per USA Hockey. “He knows what it takes to win at the highest level and I know that our entire management group looks forward to working with him and his staff.”

Tortorella has won 446 NHL games — more than any other American coach — and is a Stanley Cup champion. However, he was relieved of his duties with the New York Rangers in 2013 and his attempt to extend his career with the Vancouver Canucks ended disastrously.

As previously noted though, he does have experience when it comes to representing America in both the Worlds and Olympics. It’s also possible that the World Cup will favor bench bosses that aren’t currently employed by an NHL team, as seems to be the implication after the selection of Tortorella and Ralph Krueger as Team Europe’s head coach.

At the least, this gives him a stage to show that he can still be an effective bench boss.

Eichel nets game-winner in preseason debut

Jack Eichel
The Canadian Press via AP

The results of exhibition games have to be taken with a grain of salt, but Buffalo Sabres fans eager to move past two campaigns of hardship got exactly what they wanted from Jack Eichel‘s first preseason contest.

Eichel set up Matt Moulson‘s goal in the second period and scored a shorthanded marker with 5:44 minutes remaining in regulation time to lead Buffalo to a 3-2 victory over Minnesota.

“He’s everything that you hear,” Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said of Eichel, per the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo. “Steady, big, long reach, upright skater. He slows the game down.”

“(Eichel’s) obviously a pretty special player to make some of the plays he made out there,” Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper said, who lost the shorthanded battle to Eichel.

As if to emphasize the fact that this was just an exhibition contest, the game didn’t end after three periods despite Buffalo’s lead. The two sides continued the contest in the interest of practicing the new 3-on-3 OT format and Zach Parise scored during that stretch. The official boxscore still gave the win to Buffalo though.

Stefan Matteau feels spot with Devils is his to lose


Stefan Matteau is 21 years old and has 24 NHL games on his resume, but he thinks this should be the season he earns a regular spot with New Jersey.

“I worked hard this summer and with the changes that happened in the offseason it’s definitely a big camp for me,” Matteau said prior to Monday’s preseason contest, per

“I feel it’s more my job to lose rather than… It’s obviously not going to be given to me, but I feel ready to make the jump.”

The Devils already showed some faith in him this summer by agreeing to a two-year, one-way contract that comes with a $612,500 annual cap hit. However, the Devils have 12 forwards inked to one-way deals and that doesn’t include top prospects Pavel Zacha and John Quenneville or tryout forwards Tyler Kennedy and Lee Stempniak. In other words, Matteau still has significant competition for that roster spot.

Bench boss John Hynes said Matteau has a “real shot,” but he needs to see him demonstrate more consistency.

“It’s a big camp for him,” Hynes said. “He’s a young guy that is raw but he’s showing that he has NHL size, an NHL body, good hands and good hockey sense. Where does that package fit on a nightly basis?”

As for Monday’s game…

JVR has something to prove following Kessel trade

James van Riemsdyk
The Associated Press
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The acquisition of James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers back in the summer of 2012 has paid off nicely for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he’s something of a question mark now.

He had a career-high of 40 points before his first season with the Maple Leafs, but has gone on to record 75 goals and 149 points in 210 contests with the Leafs. The thing is though, he did that while spending more than three-quarters of his even-strength playing time on a line with Phil Kessel. Even when van Riemsdyk was selected to represent Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics and averaged more than a point per game, it was with Kessel at his side.

Now that Kessel has been traded to Pittsburgh, the Leafs will be looking to van Riemsdyk to help keep their offense going, but he’s also one of the players that could be most effected by the move.

“That’s a good question,” van Riemsdyk said when asked what it will be like for him without Kessel, per TSN. “Now we’ll see it more so.”

While it’s a potential problem for van Riemsdyk, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate that he can still be a serious offensive threat without the likes of Kessel. van Riemsdyk is still just 26 years old, so he’s one of the players that could be in a leadership role once Toronto emerges from its current rebuilding process.