Tag: Kris Letang


Is it too early to get excited about Crosby vs. Ovechkin again?


Yes, we’ve been in this spot before.

For all the star power that the NHL boasts outside of Pittsburgh and Washington, it’s difficult to resist the siren call of a spike in the Sidney Crosby – Alex Ovechkin rivalry. It’s perfectly plausible that we’ll never get a sequel to that memorable 2009 playoff series.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s be honest: it’s been a while since the Penguins and Capitals were in a better position collectively to pull this off.

Serious firepower

It’s still strange to picture Phil Kessel in a Penguins uniform, firing home well-placed passes from Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin … but would it be that outrageous to imagine Kessel chasing Ovechkin in the Maurice Richard race now? As excited as Crosby and Malkin seem to be about the acquisition, Kessel and hockey fans should be especially thrilled.

Here’s the wrinkle that makes things even more fun: while the Penguins added the biggest name, Washington’s moves likely provide the Capitals with a deeper array of weapons.

Beyond the obvious in Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps now combine seasoned newcomers (Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie) with promising youngsters (Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky) to form a frightening forward group.

Hockey’s a team sport, and Crosby – Ovechkin can only be so riveting on their own … so how about Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Kris Letang vs. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Williams, Oshie and Washington’s bevvy of pricey blueliners? Yeah, that sounds like appointment viewing.

While they’re still young

NHL TV Awards Show
via Getty Images

As strange as it sounds, the window might be closing on this rivalry, at least as a true showcase of two players who are seriously considered two of the best alive.*

Ovechkin will turn 30 on Sept. 17, and his hair is already looking a little grayer these days. Crosby turns 28 in August and people are already wondering if he’s starting to slow down.

No, the Penguins and Capitals haven’t totally mortgaged their futures this summer, yet the complexion of each franchise changed in some resounding ways in the past few days. You never know what might happen – we’ve been fooled before – but it’s tough not to picture an epic 2016 playoff series between these two players (and teams).

If nothing else, it’s fun to think about.

* – One could quibble about where the two rank among the elite, but they’re at least up there, right?

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

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.

Karlsson claims Norris Trophy for the second time

2015 NHL Awards - Press Room

For the second time in four years, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is the Norris Trophy winner.

When it comes to contributing offensively, no blueliner has been better than him in recent years. Karlsson has led all defensemen in terms of points in three of the last four campaigns, including his 21 goals and 66 points in 82 contests this season. He’s also a workhorse, averaging 27:15 minutes per game in 2014-15.

The battle for the Norris Trophy was a fierce one though. Karlsson came out ahead with 964 votes, but Drew Doughty finished just shy with 889 and P.K. Subban was a strong third with 801 votes.

Here are the voting results for the award, cutting off at the top 10:

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)
1. Erik Karlsson, OTT 964 (44-42-33-19-8)
2. Drew Doughty, LAK 889 (53-30-20-13-10)
3. P.K. Subban, MTL 801 (24-36-38-37-8)
4. Shea Weber, NSH 614 (26-19-28-20-21)
5. Roman Josi, NSH 222 (3-9-11-17-23)
6. Mark Giordano, CGY 177 (1-6-11-15-25)
7. Duncan Keith, CHI 134 (1-7-4-12-19)
8. Kris Letang, PIT 80 (1-2-6-6-8)
9. Ryan Suter, MIN 43 (2-0-0-4-11)
10. John Carlson, WSH 31 (0-1-1-6-1)

Here’s a list of the Norris winners and the second highest vote-getters since 1990:

Year Winner Runner-up
2015 Erik Karlsson, Ott. Drew Doughty, L.A
2014 Duncan Keith, Chi. Zdeno Chara, Bos.
2013 P.K. Subban, Mtl. Ryan Suter, Min.
2012 Erik Karlsson, Ott. Shea Weber, Nsh.
2011 Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Shea Weber, Nsh.
2010 Duncan Keith, Chi. Mike Green, Wsh.
2009 Zdeno Chara, Bos. Mike Green, Wsh.
2008 Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Dion Phaneuf, Cgy.
2007 Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Scott Niedermayer, Ana.
2006 Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Scott Niedermayer, Ana.
2004 S. Niedermayer, N.J. Zdeno Chara, Ott.
2003 Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Al MacInnis, St.L
2002 Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Chris Chelios, Det.
2001 Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Ray Bourque, Col.
2000 Chris Pronger, St.L Nicklas Lidstrom, Det.
1999 Al MacInnis, St.L Nicklas Lidstrom, Det.
1998 Rob Blake, L.A Nicklas Lidstrom, Det.
1997 Brian Leetch, NYR Vlad. Konstantinov, Det.
1996 Chris Chelios, Chi. Ray Bourque, Bos.
1995 Paul Coffey, Det. Chris Chelios, Chi.
1994 Ray Bourque, Bos. Scott Stevens, N.J.
1993 Chris Chelios, Chi. Ray Bourque, Bos.
1992 Brian Leetch, NYR Ray Bourque, Bos.
1991 Ray Bourque, Bos. Al MacInnis, Cgy.
1990 Ray Bourque, Bos. Al MacInnis, Cgy.

Pens’ Letang expects to be ready for training camp

2015 NHL Awards - Nominee Media Availability

Since being cleared for workouts earlier this month, Kris Letang says he’s been in his normal offseason routine.

Letang suffered his latest concussion on a hit from Shane Doan on March 28 and missed the final six games of the regular season and all five Penguins’ playoff games.

“I would say since I got fully cleared, I’ve done everything I wanted and I would say I’m at the same level in training that I was a year ago,” Letang told reporters in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “I didn’t go on the ice yet, but I’ve been in the gym going all out and no restrictions and everything went well.

“Without a doubt, I think I’m going to be ready for training camp. No doubt about that.”

The blue liner is a finalist for the Masterton Trophy along with Devan Dubnyk and Andrew Hammond.

Letang set career highs in assists (43) and points (54) while averaging 25:29 a night in ice time in 69 games during the 2014-15 season.

Despite his health issues, he suffered a stroke in February 2014; Letang says he’s not concerned about returning to the game.

“If today I’m working out, it’s because I have no fear of that,” he said. “For sure it’s in the back of my head, but I want to keep going and be a part of the Penguins and play at the level I can play at because I have no fear.”

As for the next step in his offseason workout, Letang says he plans on hitting the ice next month.

“Usually I target around the end of July, beginning of August,” said Letang. “I don’t want to go on the ice too early, but honestly it’s not something I’m looking for… ice is kind of like the same thing as the gym, I think when I reach a certain level in the gym, I know if I’m ready or not.”

Get to know a draft pick — Oliver Kylington

2015 NHL Combine
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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Oliver Kylington (D)

Height: 6’0 Weight: 185 Shoots: Left

Team: AIK IF (Allsvenskan)

Country: Sweden

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 among International Skaters

What kind of player is he?

A two-way, puck moving defender blessed with good skill and skating ability, Kylington is high on talent but played to mixed reviews this season. After struggling at the start of the year with SHL club Farjestad, the 18-year-old was loaned out to second-tier club AIK for the remainder of the campaign.

In January, an injury kept him from representing Team Sweden at the 2015 World Juniors.

Despite those setbacks, scouts remain high on Kylington heading into the draft. His speed and playmaking skills figure to translate well to the current NHL, where there’s a premium on blueliners that can move pucks quickly out of the defensive zone.

Seidel says:

“Kylington has been on the radar of NHL scouts for a couple years because of his exceptional skating and offensive skills. Unfortunately, he went through inconsistent stretches this season that caused concern among some teams. His calling card in the NHL will be offense, and he’ll use his foot speed to support and occasionally lead the rush.

“His overall effectiveness will be determined by whether he can become a little more committed in the defensive end — but we feel confident that, as he gets older and stronger, Kylington will become a solid contributor.”

NHL comparable: Erik Karlsson/Kris Letang

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.