Jarome Iginla

Columbus’ Bjorkstrand named WHL Player of the Year


It’s been quite the year for Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Bjorkstrand, Columbus’ third-round pick (89th overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, capped off a banner 2014-15 campaign by winning the WHL’s Player of the Year award, becoming just the second European player to ever capture the trophy.

(Past WHL POY winners include Sam Reinhart, Jordan Eberle, Karl Alzner, Dan Hamhuis and Jarome Iginla.)

The 20-year-old Dane scored a whopping 63 goals and 118 points in just 59 games this season. He also set some league history by scoring 50 goals in 50 games, becoming the first WHL player to accomplish the feat since Anaheim forward Emerson Etem did it for Medicine Hat in 2011-12.

Bjorkstrand participated with Columbus in training camp and the preseason before being returned to Portland, and also logged time with the Danish team at the 2015 World Juniors. There, he led the Danes to their first-ever win in tourney history, scoring five points in five games.

He’s currently participating with Denmark’s national team at the World Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic, and will (presumably) get a good look at cracking the Blue Jackets roster this fall.

PHT Morning Skate: Ted Leonsis will shave his head if Capitals, Wizards reach finals


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.

Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, promised that if both of his teams make it to finals, then he’ll shave his head. “That would be the least that I could do,” he said. (Washington Post)

New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero isn’t ruling out the possibility of hiring his former bench boss in Pittsburgh, Dan Bylsma, but he emphasized that it’s not a lock either. (NHL.com)

Mario Lemieux’s son, Austin, has been selected by the Omaha Lancers Tuesday in the ninth round of the United States Hockey League’s draft. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Bob Hartley has done a terrific job leading the young Calgary Flames into the playoffs, but that wasn’t the gameplan when former Flames GM Jay Feaster originally sought him out. At the time the Flames were more of a veteran team and Feaster felt Hartley would get the most out of the squad’s older players. In particular, Feaster was interested in getting a coach that would work well with Jarome Iginla. As it happened, Hartley and Iginla didn’t even spend a full season together in Calgary. (Calgary Sun)

On that note, here are the highlights from Calgary’s 4-3 overtime win against Anaheim:

Ilya Kovalchuk might return to the NHL someday, but it doesn’t sound like it will happen any time soon. (Slava Malamud)

The Montreal Canadiens might be down 2-0 in their second round series, but as long as they have goaltender Carey Price, they have a shot. (Canadian Press)

Crosby to captain Canada at Worlds


Sidney Crosby will once again wear the “C” internationally — on Thursday, it was announced that Crosby will captain Team Canada at the upcoming World Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic.

Dallas’ Jason Spezza and Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis will serve as alternates.

Crosby, 27, previously captained Canada to gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He’s also twice served as an alternate for his country — once at the Worlds in 2006 (when he scored 16 points in nine games, becoming the youngest scoring champ in tourney history) and again at the ’10 Olympics in Vancouver, where he was part of a leadership group that included captain Scott Niedermayer, and fellow alternates Chris Pronger and Jarome Iginla.

Crosby famously scored the “golden goal” for Canada at those Vancouver games, potting the OT winner in the tournament finale against the United States.

Feisty Flames dump Canucks, win first home playoff game in six years


Prior to tonight, the Saddledome faithful hadn’t seen postseason hockey since 2009.

They, and their Flames, savored the return.

And what a return it was, as the Flames rode a wave of emotion — and some gritty, physical play — to a 4-2 victory over Vancouver in Game 3 of their Western Conference first round matchup.

“It really helped us out tonight,” Flames center Sean Monahan said of the fan support.

“They were unbelievable,” added fellow forward Michael Ferland.

With the win, the Flames took a 2-1 lead in the series.

That win was also Calgary’s first in the playoffs at the Saddledome since defeating Chicago 6-4 in April of 2009. Back then, Mike Keenan was the coach and Jarome Iginla was the club’s veteran leader — a far cry from tonight, which further illustrated that Calgary’s youth movement isn’t just underway.

It’s thriving.

Sam Bennett, the 18-year-old playing in just his fourth NHL contest, scored what proved to be the game winner just 2:14 into the third period. Bennett, the fourth overall pick at the 2014 draft, notched his second point in three playoff games and helped solidify himself as a major contributor for a Calgary team that received plenty of support from the kids tonight.

Monahan, 20, scored an insurance marker for his first goal of the series. T.J. Brodie, 24, led the Flames with two points (1G, 1A). Ferland, 22, led all skaters with a game-high nine hits.

“They had a good forecheck. That’s the bottom line,” Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins said. “They got on our D. I thought they played physical all night. We turned over the first goal on the wall, where we couldn’t get it out. They did a good job on us.

“We have to be better. We weren’t good enough. We know that.”

Ferland’s ferocity embodied how the Flames played for most of the evening. They out-hit Vancouver 33-18 on the night and seemed to feed off a frenzied home crowd. They also carried over the emotion from the end of Game 2, when a wild brawl ended with over 130 minutes in penalties; Kris Russell squared off with Alex Burrows late in tonight’s third period, followed by a tilt between Ferland and Kevin Bieksa.

(Burrows was given an instigator penalty for his antics with Russell, and could be subjected to further discipline from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Dan Hamhuis could also be getting a call for a headshot on Bennett in the third period.)

As for Vancouver, tonight might prove a wake-up call. The Canucks controlled proceedings at Rogers Arena on Friday night but were unable to do the same this evening, and often looked to be the older, slower and less energetic team. If there was a bright spot, it was that some secondary scorers — Shawn Matthias and Jannik Hansen — scored their first goals of the series.

But that might be it, as far as silver linings go. Sunday night was all about Calgary.


The Flames made a pair of lineup changes tonight: Tyler Wotherspoon drew in on defense for Corey Potter, while Mason Raymond played up front in place of Markus Granlund… Eddie Lack stopped 23 of 27 shots for Vancouver, Jonas Hiller stopped 23 of 25 for the Flames… It was another busy third period for the scorekeepers tonight, as the two teams combined for 57 PIM in the final frame.

Neely, Jacobs presser leaves more questions than answers


They didn’t want to get into specifics and, for the most part, they didn’t.

That was the biggest takeaway from Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs and team president Cam Neely meeting with the media this afternoon, just hours after dismissing GM Peter Chiarelli. The pair began the session evading questions about Chiarelli’s ouster — “I don’t want to get into specifics,” was the common refrain — and left without really delving into why one of the NHL’s most respected GMs, who led Boston to two Stanley Cup Finals in the last five years, was turfed.

That’s not to say Neely and Jacobs didn’t talk around the firing. Here’s a list of the (possible) reasons that were (partially) touched upon:

— Missing the playoffs.

— A lack of push from younger players for roster spots, which morphed into talk of whiffing at the draft (which Brough pointed out on Twitter.)

— Straying from the team’s identity, possibly related to the aforementioned young players and lackluster drafts. “We got away from our identity,” Neely explained. “We weren’t as tough to play against as we’d like to be.”

— Cap management, with Jacobs saying the Jarome Iginla contract put Boston in a “sticky” situation.

It’s likely a combination of all these factors played a role Chiarelli’s dismissal, though one wonders why he wasn’t afforded the chance to try and fix some of the issues. For as disappointing as this season was, Chiarelli developed a good track record of success — and a good reputation across the league — over the previous eight.

The lack of insight also makes it tough to predict what the Bruins seek in a new GM. All we know is Neely and Jacobs will look both internally and externally for “the best candidate, period,” and that the new hire will decide the fate of head coach Claude Julien.

Neely also confirmed he had zero interest in becoming GM.

That isn’t to say, however, that Neely doesn’t want major influence over the club moving forward. Consider this, from the Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa:

Chiarelli’s ouster is a result of two things: the Bruins’ failure to make the playoffs and the clout of Cam Neely.

The president, in conjunction with CEO Charlie Jacobs, made the decision to fire Chiarelli. Neely has not been happy with many things about the Bruins this season: the defense-first style of play, the small number of young players pushing for NHL employment, and the team’s tightness against the salary cap.

This is Neely’s quickest move to call for change. He will have a big say in who becomes the next GM. Beyond that, Neely will have an greater say in how the GM goes about his business. The 2015-16 Bruins and beyond will be built according to Neely’s vision and play in the manner he prefers.

Neely also revealed he utilized some of his clout at the March trade deadline.

“At some point during the year as we approached the trade deadline I had a conversation with Peter to make sure that we were protecting as many assets as we could,” Neely said. “Peter was very professional, and he was going to do everything he could to help improve our club during the season.

“It was more about, for me, trading assets for rentals which he understood.”

Translation: Chiarelli wasn’t allowed to mortgage the future for a deal that might get the B’s into the playoffs, which might’ve saved his job.

Not long after saying that, Neely left the podium and embarked on arguably his most important offseason after coming aboard five seasons ago. There’s a GM search to conduct, Julien’s lame-duck status to figure out and trade rumors swirling around Milan Lucic.

Soon, the Bruins will have to get into specifics.