Getty

Which NHLers could be heading to the World Juniors?

2 Comments

The World Junior Hockey Championship is just a few weeks away, which is great news. Although most countries have named their preliminary rosters for the upcoming tournament, there’s still a chance that NHLers could be added in the next little while.

NHL teams have the option to loan out their junior-eligible players to their respective countries for the two-week tournament that runs from Dec. 26, 2017 to Jan. 5, 2018 in Buffalo, New York.

Reminder: Teams have until Dec. 19 to decide if they’re going to loan their players to their respective countries.

So, who’s in and who’s out?

TEAM CANADA

Jakob Chychrun-D-Arizona Coyotes

Chychrun made his 2017-18 regular season debut on Sunday, after he missed the start of the season because of a knee injury. He played 22:40 and scored a goal against the Golden Knights in his first game of 2017-18. Chychrun heading to the World Juniors is probably unlikely, but it simply can’t be ruled out because of the amount of time he missed due to injury.

Pierre-Luc Dubois-C-Columbus Blue Jackets

The Jackets rookie has a modest 11 points in 28 games, but six of those have come in the last five games. Dubois wasn’t getting much ice time early on in the season. That seems to be changing, as it appears as though he’s earned head coach John Tortorella’s trust. He’s played over 18 minutes in five of his last seven contests. Dubois is starting to become a big part of the team. It would be mildly surprising to see him be loaned out for the tournament.

Samuel Girard-D-Colorado Avalanche

At the start of the season, you probably would’ve thought that Girard would be playing in the tournament, but things have changed. Since being traded from Nashville to Colorado, he’s played a huge role with his new team. He’s played under 20 minutes in each of his last five outings, but he’s still averaging 19:22 of ice time per game.

Tyson Jost-F-Colorado Avalanche

Jost missed a significant amount of time because of a lower-body injury, but he’s back in the lineup right now. The 19-year-old has no points in five games since returning and he’s up to just one goal and one assist in 11 contests this season. Colorado is four points out of a playoff spot, which isn’t significant, but they’re probably a year or two away from being a serious contender anyway. Jost won a silver medal with Team Canada last year. He had a goal and four points in 7 seven games during the tournament. Don’t be surprised if he represents his country again.

Victor Mete-D-Montreal Canadiens

Mete had a terrific training camp with the Canadiens, but he’s come down to earth a little bit. The 19-year-old has been made a healthy scratch a couple of times this season and with Jakub Jerabek and David Schlemko now on the roster, Montreal could opt to send their young blue liner to the tournament. Mete was part of Team Canada’s Summer Showcase roster last summer.

Nolan Patrick-F-Philadelphia Flyers

The second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has had a tough introduction to pro hockey. Not only has he missed nine games because of an upper-body injury, he also hasn’t really played much when he has been in the Flyers lineup. Patrick has two goals and four assists, while averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time in 19 games. The 19-year-old missed last year’s tournament because of an injury. Playing heavy minutes with players his own age could prove to be a valuable experience for the rookie.

TEAM FINLAND

Patrik Laine-F-Winnipeg Jets

This is probably the biggest no-brainer on the list. There’s absolutely no chance that Laine is going to Buffalo to represent his country. We’ll just leave it at that.

Jesse Puljujarvi-F-Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers didn’t loan Puljujarvi to Team Finland last year when he playing in the minors, so it’s unlikely that they’d let him take off now that he’s contributing on the NHL roster. He owned the tournament last time he played in it in 2016, as he had an incredible 17 points in seven games.

TEAM RUSSIA

Mikhail Sergachev-D-Tampa Bay Lighting

Sergachev had a disappointing tournament last year, but he’s been way too good with the Bolts to head back there. The 19-year-old has averaged 14:32 of ice time, which isn’t significant, but he’s been productive in limited minutes. Sergachev has six goals and 19 points in 28 games. That puts him on pace to score 18 goals and almost 60 points.

TEAM SWEDEN

Jesper Bratt-F-New Jersey Devils

In the first third of the 2017-18 season, there probably hasn’t been a bigger surprise than Bratt. The 19-year-old was the Devils’ sixth-round pick in 2016, and no one expected him to produce like this. The rookie now has nine goals and 19 points in 27 games. Would they ever consider sending him to Buffalo for the tournament? No way.

TEAM SWITZERLAND

Nico Hischier-F-New Jersey Devils

The top pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is having a strong rookie season. He’s picked up five goals and 20 points in 27 games, which puts him on pace to hit the 60-point mark in his first year. The Devils, who have shocked the hockey world by being in top spot in their division, need Hischier too much to allow him to leave for two weeks. He’s not going anywhere.

TEAM USA

Clayton Keller-F-Arizona Coyotes

Even though he’s slowed down over the last month, there’s no way the ‘Yotes will be sending Keller to the world juniors. The 19-year-old is an important part of his team and he doesn’t have anything left to prove in the junior ranks.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Oilers send 2016 first-round pick Puljujarvi back to the AHL

Getty

Jesse Puljujarvi is back on his way to the American Hockey League.

On Sunday, the Oilers sent the 19-year-0ld Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in 2016, to the Bakersfield Condors, after he scored twice with three points in five preseason games for Edmonton.

It appears the play of 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto through training camp could’ve played a role in the decision to send Puljujarvi to the minors, where he scored 12 goals and 28 points in 39 games last season.

Yamamoto is listed at only 5-foot-8 tall, but he’s been very productive throughout his junior career and has impressed during training camp to the point where beginning the season in Edmonton has become a real possibility.

The Oilers have the option of keeping Yamamoto with the NHL club to start the year, giving him nine games of experience and then sending him back to junior without using up a year of his entry-level contract.

Habs prospect Reway: ‘It’s going to be difficult’ in comeback from heart condition

Getty

BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) Martin Reway was happy just to be on the ice with other prospects when the Montreal Canadiens opened rookie camp Thursday.

The 22-year-old Slovak missed a full season recovering from a heart problem, setting back the development of one of the most gifted players in the Canadiens’ system.

Reway would not say exactly what the illness was, other than it was a virus that put him in hospital for a month and required most of a year to overcome.

“After a long time, it’s a great opportunity for me to be back,” the 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward said. “I know it’s going to be difficult to get on track again but I’m working hard in practice here, trying to get better and I’m hoping it’s going to go as quickly as possible.”

The Canadiens are just as anxious to see what effect a year off has had on Reway, who dazzled while leading underdog Slovakia to a bronze medal at the 2015 world junior championship.

He was drafted in the fourth round in 2013, while he was putting up 112 points in 90 games over two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He later played for Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic and had a short stint with Fribourg in Switzerland before falling ill.

Doctors found a problem during a routine checkup a week before Reway was to leave for the Canadiens’ rookie camp last summer.

“I didn’t feel well so they kept me there and found out I had a serious problem with the heart, so I had to rest,” he said. “I had high fever. It happened so quickly I don’t know. I wasn’t able to do any workouts or any movements in the first three or four months. When you’re a hockey player, you know how hard it is to stop doing what you love. I had to rest up for a bit. But when you come back, you’re more excited, I think.”

Reway spent the season resting and resuming the economics studies he’d let slide when he joined Gatineau. He described his year as a “bore,” adding “I hope I’m not going to have to study any more because I’m not interested. I spent more time with my family. That was the positive part of the virus.”

Now he wants to make up for lost time. Reway received the green light by Canadiens doctors to resume skating five weeks ago and was working out with a Slovak team before heading to camp.

On the first day, he didn’t look up to full speed but said his fitness will come gradually. He’s to take part in the main camp next week. It would be a longshot for him to make the NHL club this season, so he’s expected to begin the season with team’s AHL affiliate, which starting this season will be based nearby in Laval.

“I was surprised that my hands weren’t as bad as I expected,” he said. “Obviously, the legs, the cardio, weren’t that good, but that’s understandable after a year of not playing.

“Now I think it’s getting better every day that I’m on the ice. I believed all the time that I was going to come back. Sometimes in life, the things that happen to you, you can’t change. You have to fight it. I’m really happy I came through. It’s a good experience for me and I hope nobody’s going to see the difference.”

Reway said no longer needs to take medication and is confident there should be no further problems with his heart.

Reway was among 23 prospects in camp. They leave Friday for a rookie tournament in Toronto against Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators hopefuls.

Getting sent to junior made Blue Jackets prospect Dubois a ‘more mature’ player

Getty
1 Comment

Pierre-Luc Dubois is back with the Canadian contingent at the World Junior Summer Showcase. In September, he’ll try to take the next steps toward making the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Selected third overall by the Blue Jackets in 2016, Dubois can play center or the wing, bringing great size at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds, and skill up front. He didn’t make Columbus last season out of training camp, but was instead sent back to junior where he played for Cape Breton in the QMJHL before getting traded to Blainville-Boisbriand.

His overall production dropped from the 42 goals and 99 points he registered in his draft year to 21 goals and 55 points split with those two junior clubs.

“If I made Columbus [in 2016-17] it wouldn’t have been a bad decision, but I don’t think getting cut was a bad decision either,” Dubois told NHL.com. “I think it all comes down to what I did after I got cut, and I think I did all the right things to learn from it and become a more mature player.”

The Blue Jackets are hoping so. It’s already been noted in the Columbus Dispatch that Dubois, who just turned 19 years old in June, isn’t eligible for the American Hockey League next season, which means he either makes the NHL squad or faces another year in the QMJHL.

The Blue Jackets have a group of young players like Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Boone Jenner and Alexander Wennberg, stacked with talent. They took a big step last season, making the playoffs and setting franchise records for wins and points, before getting eliminated in the first round.

There has been talk dating back to June and the expansion draft that Dubois could challenge to make the Blue Jackets in a bottom-six role next season, according to Aaron Portzline last month.

“Pierre-Luc can not only make our team this coming season,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch at the time. “He can make our team better.”

Devils’ Hischier back to work after ‘living the life’ of a first overall pick

Getty
1 Comment

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) At the end of the second of three practice sessions Friday at the New Jersey Devils’ development camp, top overall pick Nico Hischier, was on his hands and knees, scooping up pucks, just like everyone else.

The novelty of being the No. 1 draft pick is rapidly wearing off for Hischier, thanks to the three-day developmental camp at the Barnabas Health Hockey House, the Devils’ practice facility next to the Prudential Center.

“Right after the draft, I was living the life a little,” said the 18-year-old Swiss player who had 38 goals and 48 assists last season for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. “I was doing all these fun things, like going to a baseball game and a soccer game. I was in Times Square and was on television. But now, I’m here and I’m working hard on the ice.”

Hischier doesn’t want special treatment.

“I don’t want to be known as the guy who didn’t pick the pucks up,” Hischier said. “I’m still one of the younger guys here. I want to fit in. I’m going to focus on that.”

Hischier went through the hour-long instructional drill session with ease. He was wearing No. 33 on with other players donning obscure sweater numbers like 59, 67 and 78. He was just one of the guys, doing the intense stick handling and skating drills.

“I’m taking it all step by step,” Hischier said. “It’s only been a couple of days on the ice. I was able to meet the (coaching) staff and the players. But I’m just another player here. My practice skill set has to get better.”

Hischier said that his first line of importance was getting more comfortable with being property of the New Jersey Devils – even though he has yet to sign his rookie contract.

“It’s getting better and better every day,” Hischier said. “I’m going to take as much as I can out of this camp, because I’m still learning and I’m trying to improve my game.”

The Devils’ coaching staff has already been impressed with the teenager.

“One of the things that we really liked about him when we did our research was his passion for the game,” coach John Hynes said. “He trains hard and is a very good teammate. It’s what we were looking for with the first pick.”

But Hynes would not go as far as to consider Hischier a lock to be on the Opening Day roster come October.

“It’s still too early to judge that,” Hynes said. “I would say at this point that he has the skill level and the ability to play. But there’s still time before our training camp. He has some work to do, but we’re going to give him an opportunity to win a job.”