Author: Ryan Dadoun

Connor McDavid

Success for McDavid isn’t purely a numbers game

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A lot of people have a number they think Connor McDavid will reach during his rookie campaign, but he doesn’t want to go down that road.

“It’s something I don’t really know how to answer,” he admitted when asked by NHL.com what it would take for him to personally consider his rookie campaign a success. “I just have to do the best that I can do. There are no real numbers that I have in my mind. I just want to have as good a year as possible.”

Part of the reason McDavid doesn’t have a specific number in mind is because he thinks imposing those types of goals “can really mess with you.” Beyond that though, he wants to judge himself on more than just how many goals he scores or points he collects.

“Numbers are one thing, but some of the best games I have ever played have been games in which I didn’t get a point or maybe had one point,” McDavid said. “You don’t necessarily have to put up a lot of points to be impactful. There are lots of ways you can impact a game, and that is something I take a lot of pride in, trying to impact the game in any way possible.”

While everything he does with or without the puck is worthy of note, it of course won’t change the fact that the numbers he puts up will influence how other people view his campaign. In some cases the benchmarks people are looking for might be unfair given his age and level of experience, but his billing as a generational talent combined with his stellar work in the OHL have led to that scenario. On top of that, he’ll be compared against Jack Eichel, who will be under similar scrutiny during his first season in Buffalo.

None of that information is likely news to McDavid, who has had to live with the hype surrounding him for quite some time now. He’s aware that the attention he gets is only going to grow as he starts his rookie campaign, but he’s confident in his abilities.

“More anxious to get things going,” he added when asked if he’s nervous about training camp. “I have been talking about it for so long and I have been waiting so long to get going, I don’t think nervous is the right word. Just anxious.”

Hitch finds silver lining in Berglund injury

Patrik Berglund
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Losing Patrik Berglund (shoulder) for at least four months is a setback, but Blues coach Ken Hitchcock can see how this situation could have been worse.

“You never want to see a guy get hurt,” Hitchcoch said, “but it couldn’t come at a better time because it allows us to have preparation for finding his replacement. It gives us time to look at guys in training camp. We’ve brought in some NHL players to take a look at, bona fide NHL players, so we’ve got lots of time to see how it works.

“If this happens during the season or even during exhibition season, it’s a different story, but we’ve got a lot of time to figure it out and we’re going to get a good player back when we need him the most.”

Scott Gomez will be among those competing for a spot during training camp after inking a professional tryout contract on the same day that the Blues announced Berglund’s injury. This could also be seen as an opening for highly regarded prospect Robby Fabbri, although Hitchcock insists that whether or not he makes the team will be about how Fabbri does rather than the Blues’ situation.

Instead Berglund’s injury might be seen as creating more of an opening for some of the Blues’ more experienced prospects like Ty Rattie, who has spent the last two seasons playing primarily in the AHL.

The timing of Berglund’s injury also means that part of his recovery time will occur while no games of consequence are being played. The flip side to that is that after missing training camp and the early portion of the season, rust might be a factor.

Neuvirth cites Voracek as his reason for joining Flyers

New York Islanders v Washington Capitals - Game Five
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Any Flyers fans that were happy to see goaltender Michal Neuvirth sign with their team this summer can apparently thank Jakub Voracek for that.

“I met Jake and we talked about things here and he said all good things about the Flyers,” Neuvirth told CSN Philly. “He wanted me to come here. I think it made him happy when I signed here. … He was the reason I signed here.”

Neuvirth, 27, inked a two-year, $3.25 million deal to serve as Steve Mason’s understudy. The hope is that he’ll prove to be more effective in that role than Ray Emery was last season.

Although this is the first time that Voracek and Neuvirth will play together in the NHL, the two have been working together on the Czech national team since they were teenagers.

For his part though, Voracek doesn’t want to take credit for recruiting Neuvirth.

“I think it’s hard to say I convinced him,” Voracek said. “I told him this was a great place to play with a great locker room [of guys]. A lot of potential. That’s all I said.”

Neuvirth has a 2.73 GAA and .912 save percentage in 168 career NHL games.

Hurricanes add Ray Whitney, three others to scouting staff

Jeff Daniels
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Less than a year after officially ending his playing career, Ray Whitney has returned to the Carolina Hurricanes to begin the next chapter of his professional life.

Along with Mark Craig, Jeff Daniels, and Don Elland, Whitney has joined the Carolina Hurricanes’ scouting staff, per the team’s release. Elland will serve as an amateur scout while the rest will be pro scouts.

“Mark, Jeff and Ray will bring a fresh perspective to our pro scouting staff, and Don brings a wealth of experience in the OHL to our amateur staff,” said Hurricanes GM Ron Francis.

Whitney enjoyed a 1,330-game playing career that involved stints with the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes, and Dallas Stars as well as the Hurricanes. His stint with Carolina was the longest at 372 games, but more importantly Carolina is the team he won the Stanley Cup with back in 2006.

He’s tied for 59th place on the all-time assists leaderboard (679) and is 63rd in points (1,064).

Daniels is another former Hurricanes player and the retired forward logged 425 games at the NHL level. At this point though, Hurricanes fans likely know him better for his work as a coach as he spent four years working as an assistant with Carolina before logging another seven as the bench boss of their AHL-affiliate. He was relieved of that post in April.

Craig also has ties to the Hurricanes, albeit in a less direct way. When current Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. owned the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, Craig was his team’s first bench boss. Craig spent the 2014-15 campaign as the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers’ general manager, which Karmanos also owned until January.

Similarly, Elland was the Whalers’ head coach for the 2014-15 campaign and had originally joined that franchise’s coaching staff in 2010.

Wild ’15-16 Outlook

Zach Parise
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When looking at the Minnesota Wild, it’s easy to see their potential, but without making any major additions over the summer, are they in a position to get past the second round for the first time since 2003?

To a decent extent, Minnesota’s fate rests on Devan Dubnyk’s shoulders. This is a team that was in a free fall when he was acquired and his stellar play helped right the ship. Minnesota doesn’t necessarily need him to win the Vezina Trophy, but if he struggles mightily, as he did in 2013-2014, then Minnesota could be in serious trouble. Of course Darcy Kuemper and perhaps even Niklas Backstrom could step up to fill the void in that scenario, but Backstrom is 37 years old with a history of injuries while Kuemper is coming off of an erratic campaign.

Part of the reason why so much rides on Dubnyk though is because Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been anything to write home about. Which is a shame because in theory, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Mikko Koivu should make for a great core and when you throw in promising youngsters like Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle, the potential is there for the Wild to be more than a middle of the road team when it comes to offensive production.

That’s what they were last season though, in part because Koivu regressed while Granlund, Niederreiter, and Coyle weren’t able to make meaningful offensive improvements compared to their 2013-14 campaigns. Perhaps that will change this season though and if it does, that would certainly take some of the pressure off of the Wild’s goaltending.

As far as their defense goes, Ryan Suter is expected to once again play in nearly half of every game. Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, and Jonas Brodin are projected to make major contributions too, but the X-factor is 21-year-old Matt Dumba as he should play a bigger role in his sophomore campaign after being limited to 15:00 minutes per contest last season.

The makings of a contender are there. It’s just a question of if everyone will click this time around.