Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin top list of young scorers

youngoviecrosby.jpgLast night Sidney Crosby joined about as elite company as it gets, becoming the third youngest player in NHL history to hit 500 points behind two nobodies named Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

The only players younger than Crosby (22 years, 244 days) to hit the 500-point mark faster were Wayne Gretzky (21 years, 52 days) and former Penguins star Mario Lemieux (22 years, 172 days).

Condemn me for being a hockey lab rat if you want to, but I couldn’t help but wonder where Alex Ovechkin fits into this whole picture (and Evgeni Malkin too). There’s an inherent danger to such context-sensitive stats though as Ovechkin came into the league as an older player (the lockout shelved what may have been his real rookie year). In other words, Ovechkin (and Malkin, actually) debuted later in life so they didn’t have as good of a chance to hit that very specific milestone as Crosby. (Conversely, when people make their hasty comparisons, they often forget the fact that Crosby is indeed quite a bit younger than his Russian peers. It’s funny that people are so eager to judge these players before they even hit age 25.)

Anyway, I wanted to find out how Ovechkin, Crosby and other young players have been doing since the lockout. I decided to narrow the spotlight onto the highest scoring forwards and to make the cut-off point the Ovechkin/Malkin 2004 Entry Draft. Since certain players have obviously played less than others (like Steven Stamkos, who is in only his second season compared to Crosby and Ovechkin’s fifth), I sorted the list by points per game. Check it out below and note the paper-thin margin between Crosby and Ovechkin – not to mention the fact that Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom round out the top four. (One other note: these are regular season only, just to keep things simple. Ovechkin trumps Crosby in playoff points per game, for what it’s worth.)

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Now, naturally, points don’t mean everything. Players such as Jonathan Toews bring other skills to the table. And obviously there are some only-slightly older players with some impressive point paces too. Still, it’s nice to see that for all the flak the NHL receives for promoting Crosby and Ovechkin, at least the two tend to show up when it matters – whether that’s in trophy voting, scoring lists or (most importantly) the playoffs.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

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    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.