PHT Morning Skate: Franzen gifts Nyquist with Babcock blanket of horror

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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.

Hey, this is pretty cool: Jenny Scrivens looks like she’ll join the NWHL’s New York Riveters, so consider Jenny and Ben Scrivens hockey’s power goaltending couple:

More than a few people clamor for the Anaheim Ducks to go back to their Mighty jerseys, but if these rumored duds are true, expect some really bad “Orange you glad …” jokes. (Puck Daddy)

Phil Kessel in a Pittsburgh Penguins sweater is weird, but it becomes flat-out fun combined with shorts.

Does Tyler Seguin represent a “new breed” of NHL players? Maybe, but he really just wants to emulate other sports stars like Lebron James. (Sportsnet)

Talk about direct nightmare fuel: Johan Franzen presented Gustav Nyquist with this custom bedspread on Instagram:

source:

The caption is even better, though.

Hey Nyquist, I know you been sad ever since your dad signed for Toronto so I had these custom bed sheets made for u so u always can be close to him #detroit #detroitredwings #babcock #nyquist #separationanxiety #nhl

Honestly, if you need to kill some time, just pour over the Instagram account of “The Mule.”

Amazingly, that’s not the most jarring Red Wings-related image featured in this Morning Skate, at least if you follow this link to what they might wear at their next outdoor game. Maybe they won’t actually look like this? /Holds out hope for humanity (Sports Logos)

Oilers deemed to have best group of prospects; Penguins worst

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The Edmonton Oilers have the best group of prospects.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have the worst.

Those were the findings of ESPN’s Corey Pronman, who ranked the “organizational prospect depth” of all 30 NHL teams and published his analysis today.

“The Oilers have two great defensive prospects in Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart, but the reason for their No. 1 rank is Connor McDavid,” wrote Pronman. “Frankly, remove him and the system is average, as it’s quite thin after the few top names.”

As for the Penguins, Pronman concluded: “There really wasn’t anybody close to Pittsburgh for the 30th spot. This organization is all-in for the next two or three years, and it has more or less burned its system to the ground, through deals of top picks and prospects, to get there.”

Since the article is posted behind a paywall, we’ll give you Pronman’s full list, but you’ll have to pony up for his explanations.

  1. Oilers
  2. Maple Leafs
  3. Sabres
  4. Coyotes
  5. Islanders
  6. Jets
  7. Red Wings
  8. Blue Jackets
  9. Flames
  10. Flyers
  11. Hurricanes
  12. Predators
  13. Blues
  14. Lightning
  15. Canucks
  16. Blackhawks
  17. Canadiens
  18. Bruins
  19. Sharks
  20. Ducks
  21. Capitals
  22. Panthers
  23. Senators
  24. Stars
  25. Avalanche
  26. Devils
  27. Kings
  28. Wild
  29. Rangers
  30. Penguins

Note that Pronman’s “definition for an NHL prospect for the purposes of this ranking is one with 25 or fewer NHL games played this regular season, or 50 total career games.” So, in other words, a player like Aaron Ekblad wouldn’t count, even though he’s only 19.

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

Under Pressure: Mike Smith

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Signed through 2018-19 with a cap hit approaching $6 million, the Arizona Coyotes are indeed “married” to goalie Mike Smith.

As Coyotes fans will tell you, it wasn’t exactly wedded bliss last season, as Smith struggled to a 14-42-5 record with a .904 save percentage. Among goalies with at least 40 starts, only two — Kari Lehtonen and Ben Scrivens — had a lower save percentage than that.

Goaltending was a major reason the Coyotes finished 29th overall, just two points better than the dreadful Buffalo Sabres, and it left GM Don Maloney to deflect some of the blame away from the 33-year-old Smith.

“I think [next season] we’ll play better defense in front of (Smith), which is important,” Maloney said, per NHL.com. “I think we’ll have a better structure in front of Mike so he doesn’t feel like he has to be all-world every night and he can just do his thing.”

To be fair to Smith, he did post considerably better numbers in the latter stages of the season. He then gained even more confidence at the 2015 World Championships, as his solid play helped Canada win gold.

“It reiterates that I’m a pretty good goalie,” he said. “It’s been a tough year mentally on me. Physically, I got a good handle on that, but I think mentally, going into the summer knowing that I’ve played some pretty good hockey now for three months or so, I think it’s important.”

Smith will be backed up next season by Anders Lindback. Considering the Coyotes will be Lindback’s fifth NHL team since 2010, it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll perform. In 2014-15, he struggled badly with the Stars before playing considerably better for the Sabres.

Edmonton Oilers ’15-16 Outlook

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With Connor McDavid in the fold there’s a renewed sense of optimism in Edmonton, and rightfully so. The 18-year-old is the best player to come out of the NHL Draft since Sidney Crosby did in 2005.

McDavid finished last season with 44 goals and 120 points while appearing 47 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. He added 21 goals and 49 points in 20 playoff games. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center won both the OHL and CHL player of the year.

Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli knows there’ll bumps in the road for his star forward as he adjusts to the NHL game.

“He does have some challenges that he’ll have to meet as any good, young, elite prospect will have,” said Chiarelli. “It’s a strong game, strong players and they lean on you. He’s smart, he’ll figure that out, but he’s going to have some learning curves.”

Front office shakeup

Former Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson is now in charge, and has left his mark on the organization in the few months since taking over as the Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group.

Chiarelli along with head coach Todd McLellan represent a new era in Edmonton. Nicholson has since re-assigned Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe.

Joining McLellan behind the bench are three new assistant coaches in Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers.

As Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur said in April, “They’re not the same old Oilers, and that’s a start.”

What to expect

Despite addressing issues in goal (Cam Talbot) and making additions to the blue line (Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba and Andrej Sekera), the Edmonton Oilers chances of ending their nine-year playoff drought are slim at best.

Given the Oilers play in the Pacific Division with the likes of the Anaheim Ducks, L.A. Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, making the playoffs is this season is unrealistic.

The Oilers have not reached the 30 win mark in a season since 2011-12 (32) and should see an improvement on their 24-44-14 record from last season.

Related: Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

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For all the young talent they’ve amassed up front, and even if the goaltending proves better next season, you can’t help but look at the Edmonton Oilers’ blue line and think, Oy, that’s not a very good blue line.

And in a league where it’s rare to win a championship without at least one elite defenseman, that’s a problem.

Case in point, when the Oilers made the finals in 2006, they had a guy by the name of Chris Pronger on the back end. He was traded that summer and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

From 2006 to 2012, Edmonton drafted 17 defensemen. The best was Jeff Petry, who’s in Montreal now. Today, the Oilers’ best veteran is probably the newly acquired Andrej Sekera. A solid player, sure. But certainly no threat to win the Norris Trophy. 

Which is why Oilers fans are so hopeful that 20-year-old Darnell Nurse, drafted seventh overall in 2013, can become a cornerstone defender, a la Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, etc.

It’s also why GM Peter Chiarelli doesn’t want to screw up Nurse’s development by throwing him into an NHL role too soon.

“For a defenseman, it is harder to break into the league properly,” Chiarelli said, per OilersNation.com. “With Dougie Hamilton (in Boston), he had a good strong core around him, and they are completely different players. Darnell is a defender and a puck transporter. He has a few more nuances to learn as far as defending, but I saw him play at the end of his playoffs and he played well. He has world class speed and strength.

“That is a hard one (whether Nurse is NHL ready). I want to be patient with these guys knowing that they are good young players and you’d like to have them help you as soon as you can.”

The Oilers have a few other promising defensive prospects, including Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart. They’re also still hoping Justin Schultz will realize the potential they see in him.

Bottom line: Without a much improved defense, even Connor McDavid will find it tough to bring the glory back to Edmonton.

Related: Todd McLellan is under pressure