Author: Ryan Dadoun

Jacob Markstrom

Looking to make the leap: Jacob Markstrom

5 Comments

Canucks GM Jim Benning cleared a path for Jacob Markstrom to start the 2015-16 campaign with Vancouver by trading Eddie Lack, but this is far from the first time Markstrom has been given a good opportunity to establish himself in the NHL. The question is, will things be different this time around?

There certainly is the potential for that after the season he had in the minors. He was dominant with the AHL’s Utica Comets, posting a 1.88 GAA and .934 save percentage in 32 regular season contests. From there Markstrom led Utica to the Calder Cup Finals with a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage in 23 playoff games.

“I think if you look at the history of, whether it be Corey Crawford or Ben Bishop, or these types of players and how they perform at the American Hockey League level, and look at stats and numbers, you can put Jacob in that category,” Canucks president Trevor Linden argued in June.

“He’s had an excellent year. He needs to continue to develop at the National Hockey League level, and we’re going to give him that opportunity.”

Markstrom still has a 3.19 GAA and .896 save percentage in 50 NHL contests, but to be fair to him, he’s just 25 years old and goaltenders can take longer to find their games than forwards or defensemen.

To that end, Linden didn’t simply use those goaltenders as examples because they were the competing netminders in this year’s Stanley Cup Final. Crawford was 25 years old (26 on Dec. 31) in his first full campaign with Chicago while Bishop didn’t participate in more than 22 games in a single season until 2013-14 when he was 27 years old (as of Nov. 21 of that campaign).

So it would be premature to dismiss Markstrom just because he hasn’t developed as quickly as some anticipated. This time — as the backup to Ryan Miller — he might be ready to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.

It’s Vancouver Canucks Day at PHT

Radim Vrbata
6 Comments

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Vancouver Canucks.

After a rough season under bench boss John Tortorella, the Vancouver Canucks went into the 2014-15 campaign hoping that new coach Willie Desjardins would prove to be a better fit for their organization.

He certainly got more out of their offense as the Canucks went from averaging 2.33 goals per game under Tortorella to 2.88 last season, which was good for eighth in the league. Their resurgence was thanks in no small part to the Sedin twins as their point totals jumped by more than 20 points each, bringing them up to 73 (Henrik) and 76 (Daniel) points in 2014-15. Newcomer Radim Vrbata also meshed well in Vancouver, recording 63 points including a team-leading 31 goals.

Fellow 2014 free agent signing Ryan Miller didn’t enjoy quite as smooth of a transition. While he did have a 15-3-0 record through Nov. 28, he was more of a mixed bag after that. Complicating matters, Miller suffered an knee injury in late February that kept him out of the lineup for most of the stretch run. That led to Eddie Lack opening the playoffs as Vancouver’s starting goaltender and while he was actually statistically superior to Miller in the regular season, the 27-year-old netminder ran into problems as the first round series against Calgary progressed.

Lack was replaced by Miller in Game 4, but it wasn’t enough as the Flames went on to eliminated Vancouver six games.

Off-season recap

Vancouver entered the summer with something of a goaltending logjam as in addition to Lack and Miller, Jacob Markstrom seemed deserving of a roster spot after a dominant season with the AHL’s Utica Comets. However, Canucks GM Jim Benning made the controversial decision to move Lack for a 2015 third-round pick (Guillaume Brisebois) and a 2016 seventh-round selection rather than trading the 35-year-old Miller.

In addition to that trade, Vancouver also sent defenseman Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a 2016 second-round pick and acquired Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third-rounder from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Nick Bonino, Alex Clendening, and a 2016 second-round selection.

Vancouver sees Sutter as a “foundation piece” and cemented its commitment to him by agreeing to a five-year, $21.875 million contract extension.

PHT Morning Skate: Crosby, MacKinnon donate 2015 Worlds checks to hometown youth hockey

Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon
2 Comments

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.

Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon gave their winnings from the 2015 IIHF World Championship to promote youth hockey in their home of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. They were both members of Canada’s gold medal winning team. (NHL.com)

Sun Devil Athletics are teaming up with the Arizona Coyotes to bring college games to Gila River Arena. (Coyotes.nhl.com)

Examining Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek’s contracts. (CSN Philly)

Devin Slawson sees Edmonton, Washington, and Columbus as three teams that have the potential to take a big leap forward this season. (The Hockey Writers)

Speaking of the Oilers, here’s a look at what Connor McDavid means to the franchise in the short and long-term. (CBS Sports)

Patrick Sharp sees similarities between the Dallas Stars and what the Chicago Blackhawks were like when they were on the cusp of breaking out. (Dallas Morning News)

Vanek resumes skating following hernia surgery

Thomas Vanek
9 Comments

Minnesota’s Thomas Vanek is feeling good after undergoing hernia surgery in June, according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo. The 31-year-old forward has resumed skating and is expected to be ready for training camp.

The injury was bothering Vanek for a lot of the second half of the 2014-15 campaign, according to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. Despite that, Vanek was fairly consistent in the regular season in terms of his offensive production.

He had 21 goals and 52 points in 80 games in 2014-15, with 30 of his points coming in his final 45 contests. He also never had a scoring slump last more than four games. In the playoffs, he registered four assists in 10 contests.

That was the first season of Vanek’s three-year, $19.5 million contract with Minnesota.

Bettman: Outdoor games aren’t overdone or oversaturated

Gary Bettman
23 Comments

Since the Winter Classic began in 2008 with a game against Pittsburgh and Buffalo in Ralph Wilson Stadium, outdoor games have been a highlight of the NHL’s schedule. However, with six outdoor games being held in 2014, two occurring in 2015, and another three slated for 2016, some have suggested that there’s been too many lately.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman isn’t in that camp. He argued that outdoor games are “far from being overdone or oversaturated,” per the Canadian Press.

There are plenty of franchises that have expressed interest in outdoor games and holding multiple ones in a single season is a way to accommodate that. It also allowed for the NHL to experiment with hosting such an event in markets that might not have gotten the Winter Classic, such as San Jose and Los Angeles.

Beyond that, it’s worth noting that not all outdoor games need to draw national attention as some of them can be more of a major event for the region itself. And at the end of the day, these games draw crowds as every outdoor game thus far has been strong from an attendance perspective.

Next season the Boston Bruins will host the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1 for the Winter Classic. The Stadium Series will feature the Minnesota Wild playing against the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium on Feb. 21 and the Detroit Red Wings battling the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field on Feb. 27.