Video: Phil Kessel steals the show for Penguins

Phil Kessel has always put up solid numbers in his NHL career, but that hasn’t necessarily endeared him to the fans of the teams he’s played for.

In Toronto, Kessel found the back of the net 30, 32, 37, 20 (lockout year), 37 and 25 times in six seasons. You’d think that those numbers would be good enough to keep fans and the media off his back. But it didn’t.

“For some reason, lots of people don’t like Phil Kessel,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said, per USA Today. “He was the best player Toronto had for eight years. Year in and year out and he got the blame for everything, which was unfair. He’s a very talented player. We all know he can score. But he’s a playmaker as well. He can pass the puck as well as just about anybody in this league.”

Last summer, the Leafs and Kessel finally parted ways, as Toronto sent him packing for Pittsburgh. The 28-year-old didn’t post career numbers in 2015-16, but something seems to have clicked in the playoffs. Now that Kessel isn’t the number one offensive threat on his team anymore, he’s been able to avoid the more difficult matchups in the postseason and it’s led to better production.

The Pens winger has seven goals and 16 points in 14 games in the 2016 playoffs. No player on the Penguins roster has more goals or points than Kessel so far this spring.

PHT Morning Skate: Letang takes shot at Maple Leafs for not paying tribute to Phil Kessel on Saturday


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.

Kris Letang took a shot at the Maple Leafs on his personal Twitter account because they didn’t pay tribute to Phil Kessel before Saturday night’s game in Toronto.

Flyers equipment manager Derek Settlemyre decided to prank some of the team’s players and coaches by having them open a cooler with a toy snake in it. (Bardown)

Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason wrote about the new three-on-three overtime format and how it’s turning the game into “a circus act”. (Buffalo News)

ESPN’s Scott Powers takes a behind-the-scenes look into the family life of journeyman goaltender Michael Leighton. (ESPN)

Sportlogiq’s Andrew Berkshire examines Sidney Crosby’s slow start to the season. (Sportsnet)

Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski came up with two ways the NHL could improve the coach’s challenge. (Puck Daddy)

Phil Kessel booed in return to Toronto


Phil Kessel was expecting to be booed in his return to Toronto, and he was right.

Kessel is playing in his first game at the Air Canada Center since the off-season trade that saw him go from Toronto to Pittsburgh, and the fans got on him early.

At least they weren’t too vicious:

Penguins forward Chris Kunitz opened the scoring in the first period.

Pittsburgh currently leads 1-0.

PHT Morning Skate: Ron Wilson expects Phil Kessel ‘to score at least 40 goals this year’


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.

Ron Wilson — Phil Kessel’s former coach in Toronto, who once ripped Kessel for being “uncoachable” — says the former Maple Leaf is destined for great things with the Penguins. “Pittsburgh is building a team that wants to win the Stanley Cup now, and I think Phil is only going to add to their success, so I expect him to score at least 40 goals this year and be a dominant player again.” (

Sounds like the Oilers will hire University of Alberta bench boss Ian Hebers as one of Todd McLellan’s assistants. (Edmonton Journal)

Are the NHL and NHLPA looking to score $8 million in jersey sponsorships fees from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? (TSN)

Fancy stats are being utilized in arbitration hearings. (TSN)

Nashville has re-upped with depth defenseman Anthony Bitetto on a one-year, two-way contract worth $665,500 at the NHL level and $60,000 at the AHL level. (NHL)

After a busy and important offseason, highlighted by the Brandon Saad trade, the Blue Jackets “have to go out and perform,” according to team president John Davidson. (NHL)

‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’


For all the criticisms of Phil Kessel — and we’re not saying they’re all without merit — here are some facts:

— He has 247 goals in 668 career NHL games. Among active players, that’s the 29th-most goals. And he’s only 27.

— Over the last five seasons, only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Corey Perry have scored more goals than Kessel. And Kessel’s center has mostly been Tyler Bozak. In Pittsburgh, it’ll be Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

That’s why Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is excited to have acquired Kessel, whom he considers “right there” in a class with Ovechkin and Stamkos.

“It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel,” Rutherford told TSN.

Not only did Rutherford get the player he wanted without giving up Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta, two young defensemen the Pens will need even more now, he convinced the Leafs to eat $1.25 million per year of Kessel’s salary.

Without that concession by the Leafs, the deal couldn’t have happened, Rutherford said, noting that the Penguins already have Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury signed to big, long-term contracts.

Oh, and Rutherford isn’t done yet. He still hopes to add another winger, as well as a fourth-line center.