Florida Panthers

Hanifin feels he has NHL ‘mindset,’ but won’t be ‘mad’ if he goes back to college

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CHICAGO — Noah Hanifin wants to play in the NHL next season. That’s his goal.

That being said, if he’s drafted by a team that feels he should spend a bit more time developing his game, he’ll take the team’s advice. The Boston College defensemen feels he’s ready, but he also knows the NHL is a different beast.

“Making that jump, you have to be very mature,” Hanifin said Monday. “In college, it’s fun and stuff, you’re playing with your buddies. For some guys, that’s kind of the end of it. They just want to get their degree. If you want to make that jump, you have to realize what you’re getting into. If you’re going to take someone’s spot, he could have a family, kids. It’s a big deal. It’s a business. That takes a while for some guys to grasp that idea.”

“I think I am at that mindset right now,” he added. “What I got at B.C. this year was great for me. I felt like I got a lot better. If a team wants me to go back and do that again, I’m not going to be mad about that. I’ll be happy to keep going back and working hard. I have plenty of time. I’m 18 years old.”

The list of 18-year-old defensemen who’ve had big seasons in the NHL is a fairly short one. Phil Housley did for the Sabres in 1982-83. Ditto for Bobby Orr with the Bruins in 1966-67. And, of course, Aaron Ekblad did it this past season for the Panthers.

“I like watching him a lot,” Hanifin said of Ekblad. “He’s an offensive defenseman, but he’s a big, strong guy. He played a ton of minutes in Florida. It just shows, if you have what it takes, you can do it at that age. It’s not impossible to do.”

But many of the top blue-liners you see playing today needed more seasoning. Duncan Keith, to name just one, was drafted in 2002; his first season with the Blackhawks wasn’t until 2005-06.

“No matter what happens, you have to have a belief in yourself,” said Hanifin. “You have to know everything happens for a reason.”

Related: Difference of opinion: Craig Button has Hanifin 12th on final draft rankings

PHT Morning Skate: Coach’s challenges and Brian Boyle’s hair

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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.

Could Duncan Keith be the greatest Chicago Blackhawks defenseman ever? (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Coming soon to the NHL: the coach’s challenge? (The Hockey News)

This puppet rendition of Jaromir Jagr MIGHT give you nightmares. (Puck Daddy)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been rewarded for being patient regarding drafting Russian players, especially Nikita Kucherov. (Sportsnet)

Seriously, Jimmy Fallon (or at least one of his writers) really thinks that Brian Boyle looks like a Disney prince, most specifically “Alladin.” He argues as much in the Stanley Cup Superlatives:

 

Joseph Veleno granted exceptional status, eligible for QMJHL draft

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Joseph Veleno is the latest player to be granted exceptional status.

Hockey Canada informed Quebec Major Junior Hockey League commissioner Gilles Courteau of Veleno’s eligibily for this Saturday’s entry draft the league announced on Thursday.

Veleno, who turned 15 in January, spent this season playing midget hockey.

The 6-foot, 170-pound forward finished 12th in his league in scoring with 52 points in 41 games while playing with the Lac St. Louis Lions, according to an article in the Montreal Gazette.

“There is a talent there that plays a 200-foot game, which is rare at that age,” Veleno’s coach, Jon Goyens said. “We’ve been very lucky to be able to coach some of the most talented kids (Jonathan Drouin, Anthony Duclair, Louis Leblanc, Mike Matheson) to come out of Quebec in the last 10, 15 years. Not all of them necessarily had the 200-foot game in them; they might have had other elements, like stickhandling or vision, that might have been ahead of Joseph. But nobody at his age was playing, as a skilled forward, a 200-foot game, which is really, really rare.”

Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Sean Day have all been granted exceptional player status previously, but Veleno is the first player out of Quebec to receive the honor.

“If you’re going to be the first guy (in Quebec) to get exceptional status, right off the bat you’re going to be compared to the four or five guys who got it in the ‘O’ (Ontario Hockey League), and you’re going to be compared to those who didn’t get it,” Goyens said.

The Saint John Sea Dogs hold the first overall selection at the draft.

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

PHT Morning Skate: Gretzky sees shades of Messier in Toews

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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.

Wayne Gretzky thinks very highly of captains Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Toews. With regards to Toews, Gretzky made comparisons to Mark Messier. (ESPN)

The satirical news organization, The Onion, outlined their keys to the Stanley Cup Final. (The Onion)

The AHL will be streaming the entire 2015 Calder Cup Final for free. (AHL.com)

NBC Sports Group’s documentary Center of Attention: The Unreal Life of Derek Sanderson will premiere on NBCSN on Monday following Game 3 of the playoffs. You can read more about that here and check out the trailer below:

Joseph and Marion San Jose, while in Rome for their honeymoon, were able to give Pope Francis a Canucks jersey with his name on it. (Global News)

Here are the top beards of the Stanley Cup Final. (Puck Daddy)

Here are the highlights from Chicago’s 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 1:

Before the Stanley Cup Final started, former Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell reflected on his time with Toews, who Campbell called the “greatest captain I’ve ever played for.” (CSN Chicago)

Joe Starkey argues that no matter what Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle decide to do with their stake in the Pittsburgh Penguins, they can do so knowing that they’ve accomplished their mission. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Tire pump? Yzerman says Toews is ‘bigger, stronger, better’ than he was

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TAMPA — In 2011, Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas brought tire pumping to the forefront at the Stanley Cup Final.

Four years later, the practice may be back in vogue.

During Tuesday’s media availability, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was effusive in his praise for Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, claiming Toews is the superior player of the two.

“The reality is Jonathan’s bigger, stronger, better,” Yzerman said. “He just is. He’s just a tremendous all-around player, great person.

“Over the course of my career my play evolved and through Scotty Bowman. The way he wanted our team to play, we all became more defensive-minded players, more well-rounded players. Jonathan’s been that from day one.”

The Yzerman-Toews comparisons are nothing new (Chris Chelios noted it a while back): No. 19s, Canadians, centers, top-five draft picks (Yzerman fourth overall, Toews third) with each having won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals, Selke and Conn Smythe awards.

Yzerman’s point, however, is interesting. The knock on him prior winning the Cup in ’97 was that he didn’t have the complete game necessary to lead the Red Wings to a championship; Yzerman broke into the NHL as an offensive player, a scorer by trade, and his early point totals (155 points in 1988-89, remember) reflected as much.

Toews, meanwhile, isn’t the same offensive dynamo — he’s never broke the 80-point plateau — but attained playoff success far quicker than Stevie Y. Toews was a captain before he turned 21 and Stanley Cup winner before he was 23, whereas Yzerman didn’t hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug until he was 32.

That said… it’s Steve freaking Yzerman.

A first-ballot Hall of Famer and three-time Cup winner, Yzerman is now regarded as one of the greatest leaders in NHL history. He was the longest-serving captain of any team in North American major league sports upon retiring, and is an icon in Detroit. That reputation of winning has extended to his front office work, where he’s led Tampa Bay to an Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Final in just five years on the job.

And this could be why he said what he did today.

Yzerman’s a shrewd guy, and knows how to work the media. The quiet, humble, aw-shucks-he’s-better-than-me routine fits into the narrative that many have written already, where the Bolts are the young, inexperienced, new kids on the block, underdogs against a Chicago team that’s been here before, done this before and is now looking to win a third Cup in the last five years.

To wit, I asked veteran Tampa forward Brenden Morrow — at 36, one of the few guys in this series to play against both Yzerman and Toews — what he thought of his GM’s remarks.

“They’re both competitors, but that’s just Steve being Steve,” Morrow said, smiling. “He’s a very modest and humble guy.

“He was a pretty special player.”