Montreal Canadiens

’16 Draft prospect Bellows, son of Brian, wins USHL Rookie of the Year

6 Comments

Kieffer Bellows, son of longtime NHLer Brian, captured the USHL Rookie of the Year award on Friday after scoring 33 goals and 52 points in 58 games for the Sioux Falls Stampede.

Bellows, who’s committed to Boston University, set a record this season for most goals by a 16-year-old in the USHL Tier 1 era, and helped the Stampede capture the Clark Cup. By capturing the league’s ROY trophy, Bellows also joins a pretty distinguished list of winners that have since gone on to successful NHL careers: Johnny Gaudreau, Anders Lee, Max Pacioretty, Kyle Okposo and Joe Pavelski, to name a few.

Bellows is viewed as a potential first-round pick at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, which is shaping up to be a class loaded with talent. Auston Matthews, the Arizona native that’s toying with the idea of playing in Switzerland next year, is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick while the likes of US NTDP’s Matthew Tkachuk (son of Keith), Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun (son of Jeff) and Finland’s Jesse Puljujarvi are also pegged as players to go within the top five.

Brian Bellows was the No. 2 overall pick at the 1982 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play in three All-Star Games, capturing the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1993.

Habs rookie de la Rose (wrist surgery) out three months

Jacob de la Rose’s first NHL campaign ended on a sour note.

De la Rose, who celebrated his 20th birthday today, underwent wrist surgery that will sideline him for the next three months, the Canadiens announced. The club didn’t reveal when he sustained the injury.

As mentioned, the procedure is a tough way for de la Rose to finish what was an otherwise good rookie campaign. The 34th overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he appeared in 33 games for the Habs during the regular season, scoring six points while averaging 13:48 TOI. In the playoffs, de la Rose struggled — no points in 12 games — but still received over 12 minutes per night while playing a bottom-six forward role.

It’s expected that de la Rose will be ready in time for September’s training camp, where he’ll be in the drivers’ seat to retain his spot at the NHL level.

In case you haven’t noticed, the NHL is a young man’s game

13 Comments

Just for the sake of the discussion — and since everyone’s talking about Tyler Johnson today — here are all the players who have scored at least five goals in these playoffs:

Johnson (11), Corey Perry (7), Patrick Kane (7), Nikita Kucherov (6), Chris Kreider (6), Vladimir Tarasenko (6), Alex Killorn (6), Derek Stepan (5), Alex Ovechkin (5), Derick Brassard (5), Evgeny Kuznetsov (5), Max Pacioretty (5), Matt Beleskey (5), and Colin Wilson (5).

That’s 14 players. Can you pick out the oldest?

The answer is Anaheim’s Perry, who turned 30 on Saturday. Only slightly younger than Perry, Ovechkin will turn 30 in September.

Otherwise, it’s all players who are comfortably in their 20s, their legs still full of burst, their bodies not yet worn down by the grind of taking hundreds of pucks hard to the net, and all the punishment that goes with scoring goals in today’s NHL.

This isn’t to say that once a goal-scorer turns 30 he should be put out to pasture, like the theory about running backs in the NFL. Marian Gaborik, Justin Williams, and Martin St. Louis all had productive postseasons last year. This year is perhaps an extreme case.

But it does show the importance of youth, and how quickly a player — especially a forward — can go from getting drafted to making a significant impact.

True, patience is required when developing prospects. You don’t want to rush them. There’s nothing wrong with learning the game in the AHL. But at the same time, there has to be a sense of urgency in getting prospects ready for the NHL so they can enjoy as many productive seasons as possible, before their peak years (at a relatively low cap hit) are over.

Hence, all the talk surrounding 20-year-old Jonathan Drouin. While it’s not like the Lightning should be hitting the panic button that he hasn’t yet gained the trust of his coach, it’s not unfair to wonder if he’s fallen a bit behind in his development.

In a related story, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan knows “the next three or four years is the window” in Washington. Because, where will Ovechkin’s game be after that? Where will Nicklas Backstrom’s? The Caps have an opportunity over the next few years to get production from both their veterans and their youth. That’s the sweet spot every GM aims for. And those sweet spots don’t last long.

For Ducks, Gibson’s injury might’ve been blessing in disguise

7 Comments

Prior to tonight’s Game 2 against Chicago, Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau had some interesting remarks about Frederik Andersen’s emergence in these Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Fortunately for us, or unfortunately, [John Gibson] got hurt in early April and Freddie ran with it a little bit,” Boudreau explained. “He’s gotten better and better and better.

“I think it’s taken the worry out of Freddie’s game and it’s taken the worry from us about him being able to handle playoff pressure.”

Gibson, the club’s 21-year-old goalie of the future, got hurt while battling for Anaheim’s playoff starting gig, and his injury all but took the decision out of Boudreau’s hands — which, hindsight being 20/20, could’ve been the best thing that happened to the Ducks.

Why? Well, the “worry” in Andersen’s game, as alluded to above, was partly due to Boudreau’s (ahem) colorful dealings with his goalies.

Like last spring, for example, when Anaheim became one of the few teams in NHL history to start three different netminders — Gibson, Andersen and Jonas Hiller — in a single postseason. Andersen opened as the playoff starter in Round 1 against Dallas, only to cede the job to Hiller, who eventually closed out the Stars in Game 6.

Hiller then opened Round 2 against the Kings, lasting just two games before Boudreau went back to Andersen — but when the Andersen got hurt, it was Gibson, not Hiller, who took over, as the Ducks eventually fell to L.A. in seven games.

Unsurprisingly, Boudreau’s handling was met with negative reviews. Hiller called the situation “frustrating” after leaving in free agency; in March, Andersen all but assumed he’d be embroiled in yet another “who’s the starter?” saga heading into the playoffs.

“I know we both have to battle for it,” he told the O.C. Register. “I know it’s going to be a long season. You saw it last year. We had three goalies playing due to different circumstances. I know that.”

Boudreau’s penchant for flip-flopping predates his time with the Ducks. In Washington, he yanked Jose Theodore in favor of Semyon Varlamov during the 2009 playoffs; a year later, after vowing “there is no short leash” for Theodore, Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov.

Again.

So it’s easy to see why, this year, Andersen (9-1-0, 1.86 GAA, .930 save percentage) isn’t as mentally taxed. The notion of yanking him in favor of Gibson isn’t constantly looming; in fact, of all the goalies to play at least six playoff games, only Andersen, Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne have been in net for the entirety.

And it seems all that uninterrupted action is paying off.

“I think [Andersen’s] getting more confidence,” Boudreau explained. “He’s played through two rounds now. He’s seen the pressure that comes with it.

“You don’t win unless your goaltender in any playoff series is really good. You need it.”

Bishop lauds Lundqvist as ‘the benchmark’ for goalies

2 Comments

Lucky or not, Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop outperformed likely Vezina (and perhaps Hart?) winner Carey Price in the second round. Now he’ll gaze across the ice at maybe the one bigger name a team could throw out there: Henrik Lundqvist.

Bishop was nothing but effusive about the star Swede, as the Tampa Tribune’s Joe Smith reports.

“I kind of look at him as the benchmark,” Bishop said. “He’s someone who has set the bar.”

Despite being 28, this is Bishop’s first playoff run. He obviously hasn’t had much time to test himself against that benchmark just yet.

He has, however, put up pretty jaw-dropping numbers against the New York Rangers (including when Lundqvist’s been in net). Bishop’s undefeated in those games with fantastic individual stats:

Impressive. As Lightning head coach Jon Cooper points out, Price and Lundqvist have already stacked up some serious resumes, while Bishop is starting to “write” his in 2015.

” … So for him to not get his due, I think he’s slowly going to get his due, and he’s writing it right before our eyes,” Cooper said. “And it’s awesome to watch a kid kind of carve out his niche in the greatest league in the world, and I think that’s what he’s doing.”

The big goalie won’t have much luck slipping under the radar if Bishop and the Lightning best Lundqvist and the Rangers, especially since that means a Stanley Cup Final trip and all …