Hockey bloggers share their 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame "ballots"

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adamoates.jpgNow that we provided our Hall of Fame choices, let’s get to some of our favorites from the hockey blogosphere. We’ll provide a “consensus” post later on, too.

Laura Astorian
http://www.thrashingtheblues.com/

1. Adam Oates – greatest assist man of all time and part of the best nicknamed duo in hockey: “Hull & Oates.”
2. Doug Gilmour – one of the best captains in Maple Leafs history, and there are quite a few to choose from.
3. Pavel Bure – he was fast, thrilling, and the hockey grandpappy of guys like Ovechkin and Kovalchuk.
4. Joe Nieuwendyk, because I’m contrarian and because he’s the “shoo-in.”

Every year Oates gets passed over drives me nuts. Nieuwendyk’s a lock regardless, but I like to live on the edge. (Ed note: someone purchased Aerosmith’s “Get a Grip” album in the 90s … besides ME!)

Ryan Porth
http://www.rldhockey.net/

Four choices: Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour, Dave Andreychuk, and Pavel Bure
Honorable Mention: Cammi Granato
Nieuwendyk should get into the Hall in his first year on the ballot… no question! Gilmour, Andreychuk, and Bure are worthy of getting in, too. Granato would be a great story to get in as the first woman, but doubt she’ll be elected in her first year on the ballot.

andreychuk.jpg

Scotty Hockey
http://www.scottyhockey.com

1. Joe Nieuwendyk – Twenty seasons, three Cups, a Conn Smythe, a 0.90 point per game average over that span … this guy is a gimme for the Hall.

2. Hakan Loob – It is the Hockey Hall of Fame, right? Not the NHL Hall of Fame. Loob had a stellar career in the NHL, in Sweden and for Sweden – putting up solid numbers and bringing fans out of their seats. I would put Mats Naslund in as well for the same criteria but there are only four slots and, well, there are enough Canadiens in the Hall already. Induct him and they might want to retire his number… (Editor’s note: is Scotty Hockey trying to score points with John Buccigross?)

3. Alexander Mogilny – Like Loob, Mogilny is a Triple Gold member. Unlike Loob, he had to defect to come to play in he NHL and battled extreme xenophobia – he was a Soviet coming to take a job. It was a battle he won by becoming a star.

4. Lorne Chabotsky aka Lorne Chabot – By any name, the first goaltender in Ranger history was a great one. Lorne played 11 seasons, was traded six times, won two Stanley Cups (one with the Rangers, one with the Leafs), collected a Vezina Trophy (with the Hawks) and left the league with a winning record (201-148- 62).

Honourable Mention – Pavel Bure – A Russian Mike Bossy without the luck to end up on a dynasty team. Both were dynamic offensive talents who wowed with their skill and had their careers end too early due to injury. And Bure did it not in the open ’80s but the dead puck era.

Rob Yunich
http://stormingthecrease.com/

1. Joe Nieuwendyk
It may not be an original pick, but it’s hard not to start with him. He’s a proven winner who also looks like he’s going to have success as the Stars GM. A lock.

2. Dave Andreychuk
He’s one of 74 players all-time with more than 1,000 points and is 28th all-time in points overall. He’s a leader who played 1,639 games in a brilliant career.

3. Doug Gilmour
He’s 12th all-time with 964 assists in his 1,474-game career. Although he was somewhat overshadowed by Wayne Gretzky as a center, he certainly is worth of induction alongside the Great One.

4. Cammi Granato
If you’re going to include women on the ballot, why not start with somebody from a strong hockey family? Granato led the USA to two Olympic medals (a gold and silver) and a boatload of other international titles.

Honorable Mention — John LeClair: He may not be a sexy pick, but he’s certainly worthy of induction. He won a Cup on a great Canadiens team anchored by Patrick Roy and then nearly led the Phiadelphia Flyers to a title. And he won a silver Olympic medal too.

After the jump, picks from the remaining hockey bloggers.


ciccarelli.jpgMonica McAlister
http://www.thehockeywriters.com
http://sinbinchronicles.blogspot.com

Mike Vernon

Still holds the goaltending records for the Calgary Flames; and come on after so many years of battling it out with Patrick Roy between the pipes to finally pummeled him at center ice in the Fight Night at the Joe brawl on 26 March 1997 (which was also his 300th NHL victory) then back stopping the Detroit Red Wings to their first cup since 1955 and win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Adam Oates

Probably one of the most overlooked players because he never won the Stanley Cup. Has the most points (1420 and what a pretty number that is) out of any eligible HHOF ballot members. After coming so close to winning so many different awards (Stanley Cup, Lady Byng, etc) isn’t it just time we finally let Oates be a bride and not the bridesmaid?

Dino Ciccarelli

Four time All Star game ranging from 1982 to 1997. The original goaltender annoyance before Tomas Holmstrom. Recorded 1,200 points (and 1,425 PIM) in 1,232 career games.

Alexander Mogilny

The original (OK not historically but we are talking hockey) Alexander the Great. A Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold medal, and a World Championship Gold medal) member that just needs his Hockey Hall of Fame induction to complete his collection.

Honorable Mention:

Pavel Bure

Though he did not have a successful postseason career, he was flashy and enjoyable to watch. People tuned in to watch games they may have not normally watched to see what Bure might do. He was quick and flashy; and the people loved him but is that enough?

granato.jpgCornelius Hardenbergh
http://www.hockeyblogadventure.com/

1: Adam Oates. The only inactive non-hall-of-famer with more points than Oates is Joe Sakic, a first-ballot lock when eligible. That Brett Hull is in and Oates is not also breaks up the “Hull and Oates”
2: Doug Gilmour. If 1400+ games and points, many as a captain, doesn’t make you a hall of famer, maybe we should rethink George Armstrong. Both are former leafs who scored cup-winning goals…Gilmour just happened to do it for Calgary.
3: Dino Ciccarelli. Nearly a point per game through 1200+ games, he’s been kept out of the hall because of some questionable off-ice behavior. He’s been left to twist in the wind long enough, it’s time for him to finally get in.
4:John Vanbiesbrouck. Of eligible goalies, he’s the best. Tom Barrasso would also be acceptable, even if he did play for my high school’s rival before breaking into the NHL.
Honorable Mention: Phil Housley. One of the best American defensemen of all time, he’s cursed by a lack of Stanley Cups. I expect Messier to get into the Hall again before Housley does, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t.

First female inductee: Cammi Granato has been the first woman into 2 other hall of fames already – USHHOF and IHHOF – and with good reason. I see no reason to break the pattern. (USA! USA! USA!) (Editor’s note: Cornelius cheated! This won’t count but it’s still cool to have her in the post again.)

Scotty Wazz
http://scottywazz.blogspot.com/

1. Dino Ciccarelli: Aside from the off-ice shenanigans, Ciccarelli was a solid scorer and someone who was dependable for most of his career. 600+ goals and 1200 points is something that shouldn’t be left out of the Hall anymore.

2. Adam Oates: There wasn’t a better passer and probably never will be. Like Ciccarelli, the lack of Cup ring will definitely hurt him in the field of guys who have it– but even so; he should be able to get in on pointage alone.

3. Pavel Bure: While his career was cut short, the impact he had when it came to people looking at Russian players is something that paved that way for the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. The only thing that will screw him over is the shortness of his career.

4. Joe Nieuwendyk: Three Cups and someone who was able to get into their role position after he was no longer the big fish in the small pond. While his stats were never flashy, he got the job done in the long run and contributed where needed.

Honorable Mention: Mike Richter: How he was passed up in his prior voting is a shock; but he will be again. NHL accomplishments aside, he did a lot of great international work with USA Hockey.

Bryan Reynolds
http://www.hockeywilderness.com

Joe Nieuwendyk – This guy has all of the numbers. 564 goals, 1126 points, three Stanley Cups. This guy is a mortal lock.

Phil Housley – Top scoring American born D-man ever. Second only to Mike Modano for highest scoring American regardless of position. If Housley doesn’t get in, the selection committee should be ashamed of themselves.

Dino Ciccarelli – The 600 goal club is a small one, and the fact that Dino is not in the hall is a travesty. I don’t think off the ice incidents (indecent exposure) should hurt a guy’s chance to get in the Hall. It’s about on ice success, and Dino was one of the best.

Dave Andreychuk – Another 600 goal club member left out of the hall. Stanley Cup, over 1300 points, in a relatively weak class of possible inductees. I’m not sure what a shoe-in vote looks like, but he has to be it.

Honorable mention:

Mike Vernon – No, he doesn’t have the greatest numbers of all time, but he beat the tar out of Patrick Roy. That has to count for something.

Cassie McClellan
http://www.rawcharge.com

1. Kevin Lowe – As much as I dislike him as the president of the Edmonton Oilers, there’s no denying that he was a presence on those five Cup winning Edmonton Oilers teams. And he managed to add a sixth Cup win when with the NY Rangers. Even if it was just luck on his part, those six rings speak volumes.

2. Cammi Granato – Manon Rhéaume may have broken the gender barrier in the NHL – even if it was only during the preseason – but Granato has accomplished far more on the ice than Rhéaume has. She’s won just about everything there is to win in women’s hockey, including the first-ever Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. In 2007, she was one of the winners of the Lester Patrick Award, which is often awarded to NHLers; if that doesn’t say something, then I don’t know what does.

3. Alexander Mogilny – Mogilny’s on-ice accomplishments were many, but it’s his off-ice accomplishment that makes him HHOF-worthy. He was the first Russian to defect in 1989 as a junior player to the US to come play hockey in the NHL – the Soviet Union didn’t fall until two years later in 1991. Mogilny’s bravery led the way for other Russians to join him in North America, such as Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure.

4. Manon Rhéaume – She was the face of women’s hockey for many years, and inspired a generation of girls to toss their figure skates for a pair of hockey skates – or even just to learn to skate so they could play hockey. She broke the NHL gender barrier by playing two NHL preseason games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, one in 1992 versus the St. Louis Blues and the other in 1993 versus the Boston Bruins. She also participated in the first ever women’s ice hockey Olympic tournament in 1998 with Team Canada, winning the silver medal.

Honorable Mention, Mike Richter – Perhaps not the most successful goaltender on the list, but his accomplishments to grow the game here in the US were great. He was, for many years, the face of USA Hockey – and he lived up to that admirably. It doesn’t hurt that he also managed to win a Cup in 1994 with the NY Rangers as well.

Ivan Makarov (no relation to Sergei, though)
http://www.fearthefin.com

1. Joe Nieuwendyk
2. Eric Lindros
3. Pavel Bure
4. Sergei Makarov

Honorable Mention: John LeClair – consistent performer, but not quite the first-year inductee.

There is no question Joe should be elected on the first ballot – he has the numbers, the trophies and the rings. Lindros and Bure do not have the rings, but when we think of the players who dominated the game in the 90s, those two come up in all conversations. All young Canadian and Russian prospects with high potential are still compared to those two all the time. Finally, Makarov belongs to HOF too. No doubt he was one of the best players to ever play the game and it’s a shame he was in his prime when he couldn’t play with the best in the NHL.

Blogger Tally

Nieuwendyk 7

Oates 4

Gilmour 4

Bure 4

Ciccarelli 4

Andreychuk 3

Granato 2

Mogilny 2

Loob

Chabot

Vernon

Vanbiesbrouck

Housley

Rheaume

Lowe

Lindros

Makarov

NHL 19 brings some legitimately big changes

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Sports video games tend to trot out new wrinkles that end up being forgotten in months, let alone years. And when we remember them, it’s sometimes for how they fail; football fans may still shudder at Madden’s dreaded “QB Vision” cones.

When you put yourself in the developer’s shoes, it’s tough not to feel some sympathy, as it can’t be easy to churn out a new game every year.

Fair or not, “NHL 18” received some of the typical “glorified roster update” charges that come with annual updates. Even as an easy mark for the series, I must admit that the title felt a little stale. There was a worry that the series was losing steps faster than Corey Perry.

Delightfully, “NHL 19” is its own beast, and presents a surprisingly large step forward for the series. Perhaps it only makes sense with “World of CHEL” bringing the game outdoors.

Today, PHT will look at some of the biggest changes, and how they mostly work for the better. Tomorrow, we’ll trot out a wishlist of sorts for changes we’d like to see in the probable event that EA will release “NHL 20.”

(With that in mind, absolutely share your own wants and hopes in the comments.)

World of CHEL, the good sort of fresh coat of paint

On one hand, “World of CHEL” feels like a repackaging of the series’ many online game modes. If you want to be sardonic about it, this mode sometimes resembles a memorable Jim Gaffigan bit.

While I’ll admit that I’m still very early on when it comes to this mode, so far, it seems like it mostly works.

Personally, I’ve never been all that into heavy player customization; “World of Warcraft” and other online-heavy modes have rarely been my bag. (Considering how addictive many of those games can become, that’s almost certainly a good thing.)

A lot of people do love decking out their characters with “Office Space”-approved flair, though, and this mode seems to bring previous “Be a Pro” elements to a new level. Credit EA with not ruining “World of CHEL” by adding microtransactions, either. Maybe you can chalk it up to HUT covering those bases, or just the backlash to NBA2K’s decisions and EA’s own heartache with Star Wars titles, but it’s nonetheless appreciated.

Ones of a kind

After introducing a more arcade-style, 3-on-3 mode title “Threes” in last year’s game, “NHL 19” adds “Ones.” It’s hockey’s answer to pro wrestling’s triple-threat match, as three individual players battle for the puck and try to score the most goals against a computer goalie.

Yes, it’s as hectic as that sounds. It’s also a fantastic “palate cleanser” compared to more straightforward modes.

As someone who misses the days of arcade-style games (EA’s own “BIG” label churned out truly fantastic titles like SSX and NBA Street, for instance), I appreciate the efforts with these modes. Actually, such thoughts make me hope that EA goes even further with the zaniness in future editions.

Regardless, it’s a nifty, refreshing new flavor for the NHL series.

Cutting edges

A lot of times sports games will trot out gameplay tweaks with goofy, corporatized titles. “NHL 19” isn’t immune to this when it comes to “Explosive Edge Skating.”

Luckily, skating really is drastically improved in this one.

In earlier additions, players sometimes felt like they pivoted with the grace of tugboats. Mediocre responsiveness exacerbated issues where star players didn’t always stand out enough compared to their peers.

“NHL 19” makes big strides in that area, as it’s far easier to turn on a dime and find space, particularly with the Connor McDavids of the world.

Such improvements are felt in other ways – hitting has improved – but you’re most likely to feel the difference in skating.

Death of the pokecheck?

In recent titles, I’ve “spammed” the pokecheck button on defense, albeit at the right moments. Sometimes it almost felt a little dirty that it was so successful, so often.

“NHL 19” shakes a finger disapprovingly at my old methods, however. Penalties generally seem to have been ramped up in this version, with a borderline overcorrection happening regarding pokechecking leading to tripping penalties.

It’s not clear if EA found the sweet spot with this yet, but after grumbling through some early growing pains, I think it’s probably for the best.

EA Hockey Manager

Sometimes you want to feel the rush of deking around defensemen, landing big hits, and roofing pucks beyond a goalie’s glove. Other times you want to feel like you’d do a better job than Marc Bergevin and Dale Tallon.

In past NHL games, you’d probably get an overly inflated feeling that you’d school Bergevin, aside from maybe in a bench-pressing contest. If you engage with all of the modes in “NHL 19,” you may actually end up feeling some empathy for the league’s most embattled execs.

That’s because the franchise mode feels a lot beefier.

For one thing, scouting feels closer to the spreadsheets-as-games experiences you could get if you nerded out with “Eastside Hockey Manager” or “Franchise Hockey Manager.”

Rather than merely budgeting time in weeks and sending a scout out to different locations like in previous games, “NHL 19” allows you to hire and fire scouts. You can align your pro and amateur scouts in a number of ways, including which details you survey in a given prospect.

(Bonus points for EA adding the player comparison element to prospect profiles, so you can experience the fun of some 18-year-old never becoming the next Zdeno Chara. How life-like!)

You can see how it works in greater detail by watching this video, but in short, it brings this series closer to the deeper scouting elements seen in other sports games.

Refreshingly, you’ll need those pro scouts if you keep “fog of war” on, and that element might be what makes you feel a simulation of a GM’s pain.

In past NHL games, you’d know the rating for every player – even ones on opposing teams – aside from players you were scouting. If fog of war is toggled on in “NHL 19,” you’ll sometimes only get hazy reports, and you’ll need to trust the accuracy of your professional scouts.

It opens the door for fascinating differences of opinion. Maybe you’d also pull the trigger on a trade akin to Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson if you were going off the opinion of a C-grade pro scout?

If this all sounds like way too much for a video game – understandably – note that customize it by turning fog of war and other things off. (Personally, I tend to turn off owner mode, as I’m not really interested in deciding how much money I should spend on bathroom repairs.)

HUT gets some tweaks

One bummer with long-lasting NHL modes is that they don’t carry over. Your franchise mode team can’t continue on, and your Be a Pro must be a scrappy up-and-comer even if your “NHL 18” version made the Hall of Fame.

It might be worst with Hockey Ultimate Team, however, as real-life dollars are frequently spent to improve HUT rosters. (This FIFA story is basically a parent’s nightmare.)

So, on one hand, I’m not sure how I feel about soccer-like “loan players” in HUT. I’m also not sure if changes to player ratings are really just a way to nudge the mode closer to “pay-to-win.”

Either way, seeing fairly noteworthy tweaks to HUT might make it easier for those who’ve paid for previous teams to start from scratch. Maybe.

As far as the wider quality of the mode goes – particularly how feasible it is to be competitive if you make it a point not to spend an extra dime on “NHL 19” – it will probably take months to know for sure if it’s truly better, the same, or worse. Early on, there’s some value to the sheer novelty it represents.

***

Long story short, “NHL 19” presents more than just token changes to EA’s formula for NHL games. These changes should be refreshing for series veterans, while the improved gameplay and other tweaks make for a solid start for anyone new to the titles.

More than anything else, it all feels so much better to play, even if it’s unlikely to convert its loudest critics.

This series has been providing quantity for quite a few years, and you’re getting even more of that with “NHL 19.” Thankfully, this iteration presents a big jump in quality, too.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Golden Knights, William Hill sportsbook announce historic partnership

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It was a pretty busy Tuesday afternoon for the business side of the National Hockey League. In the span of an hour, the league announced a sponsorship with Jägermeister, making the liqueur company the “official shot” of the NHL, and the Vegas Golden Knights teamed up with the William Hill U.S. sportsbook for a multi-year partnership.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to engage different segments our fan base and provide a unique fan experience,” Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz said in a release. “This partnership between a major professional team and a sportsbook operator is a historic, landmark agreement and we are delighted to be leading the way with William Hill in this space.”

The Golden Knights/William Hill U.S. deal is the first between an NHL team and a North American sportsbook. William Hill will get advertisements on rink dasherboards, in-arena signage and have updated odds from across the league promoted on the team’s Jumbotron between periods. 

And because everything in life these days is sponsored, once a period when Golden Knights make a line change it will now be known as the “William Hill Line Change” — because gambling, you see? The promotion will also be heard on radio broadcasts.

“We hope people will be sitting at T-Mobile and betting between periods,” said William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher told Sports Business Journal. “Frankly, we know they do that already. We’re hoping to be able to get more people to our site because the brand will be right there in front of them.”

This could be the start of new revenue streams for franchises if they reside in a state that has legalized sports betting.

In May, the Supreme Court opened the door for states to legalize betting on sports, breaking a longtime ban and creating a potential financial boon for states and the gambling industry. The state of Nevada, obviously, was already enjoying gambling well before the decision.

Despite opposition from the major sports leagues and the Trump administration, the high court struck down a federal law that had barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. States that want to take advantage of the ruling now will generally have to pass legislation to allow sportsbooks to open.

Over the summer, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said those wanting to involve the NHL will have to negotiate a deal.

“We’ve historically been opposed to extending sports betting on our game, and, emotionally, I don’t think that’s changed,” said Bettman. “However, it is a fact of life in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it’ll be up to states to decide whether or not they’re going to enact sports betting.

“From our standpoint, we believe that that whether it’s our intellectual property or data, whether it’s video of our game, we have important assets. And if somebody is going to avail themselves or want to avail themselves of those assets in order to conduct their business, then we’re going to need to have a negotiation.”

With files from the AP

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kotkaniemi gives Canadiens something to be excited about

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Montreal Canadiens fans haven’t had much to cheer about lately.

It makes sense, then, that Jesperi Kotkaniemi experienced the sort of ovation he’ll never forget after scoring a goal on his first shot in his first pre-season NHL game.

Kotkaniemi flashed some of the brilliance – not to mention a big, affable smile – that made him the third pick of the 2018 NHL Draft on the play. Not only did he manage to handle a rolling puck and send it into the net, but he also showed poise in shaking off a hard hit while making a pass that really got things rolling.

“That was sick,” a giggly Kotkaniemi told the media after Montreal’s 3-1 preseason win against New Jersey Monday night. “I’ve never heard a crowd that loud. It was pretty unbelievable.”

Habs fans clearly relished that moment, lavishing Kotkaniemi with additional praise once he was announced as the game’s third star:

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien underscored the on-ice adjustment Kotkaniemi faces as an 18-year-old with limited exposure to NHL-sized rinks and NHL-sized players (whom he compared to “superheroes”).

“He’s still a junior player to a lot of people’s eyes, and this is North American hockey on a smaller rink,” Julien said, via Sportsnet’s Eric Engels. “We play a much more aggressive style than they do where he’s from. But, again, I think you have to appreciate the way he handled himself tonight in the game and showed his skill level. He showed his patience. He’s also learning on the fly and I think he’s getting better and better on a daily basis. So it’s encouraging to see how well he’s doing so far.”

[Montreal mismanagement: Canadiens wasted opportunity with Max Pacioretty]

It would be a steep learning curve for any player, but the transition overseas is unlikely to be smooth. The Athletic’s Arpon Basu notes (sub. required) that Kotkaniemi really hadn’t seen on-ice fights until last night, and didn’t really know how to conduct himself during pre-game warm-ups.

Even so, there are those positive moments, and early feedback – including from Julien himself – that Kotkaniemi’s skating might be better than advertised.

So, would the Canadiens (and Kotkaniemi) be better off if the Finnish forward makes an immediate jump to the NHL, or would it be better if he continued to polish his game before burning off a year from his entry-level deal?

Well, it’s complicated.

Center of attention

On Monday, Kotkaniemi basked in the thrill of being the apple of the crowd’s eye.

Still, if we’ve noted anything about hockey-obsessed markets, it’s that the “honeymoon period” can be short-lived in a place like Montreal. Growing pains are probable whenever a young player makes the jump, yet throwing Kotkaniemi into the deep end right off the bat could only expose a lack of polish that much more.

Such a decision would run the risk of shaking Kotkaniemi’s confidence.

There’s another factor not unlike Filip Zadina possibly soothing some pain in Detroit: a reasonably productive and promising Kotkaniemi could give Canadiens fans a sorely needed bright side to look on. The Max Pacioretty trade – not to mention picking third – sent at least a partial rebuild message, so if 2018-19 is as rough on the ice as it is on paper, it might be nice to glimpse some of the light at the end of the tunnel.

The bottom line is that, at some point, the pressure will really rise on Kotkaniemi to be the Canadiens’ long-sought-after high-end center. Considering how short the fuse can be when it comes to Marc Bergevin assessing a player’s usefulness in that regard, it could be a cruel test for the Finn.

Cautionary tales

The modern NHL treasures speed, skill, and smarts. Sometimes that translates into young players managing instant success, as we saw with Nico Hischier being a quick study after a splendid jump from being the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

There are some examples of the immediate jump going wrong, or at least being handled poorly, and you can look at some recent third picks as warnings for Montreal.

Alex Galchenyuk – Like Kotkaniemi, Galchenyuk was a could-be center (and could be one in Arizona) who Montreal selected third overall. In the case of “Chucky,” it was the third pick in 2012.

Galchenyuk jumped right from that 2012 draft to the 2012-13 season, at least once the lockout dissipated. He played in all 48 regular-season games (and five playoff contests), acquitting himself quite nicely.

Yet, patience wasn’t in great supply for the talented forward, as Bergevin shut the door emphatically on Galchenyuk’s bid to be a center, and the atmosphere sure felt toxic pretty quickly.

Would Galchenyuk’s game been more well-rounded if he didn’t make the jump right away? Was stepping from the draft to the pressure cooker of Montreal hockey an example of “too much, too soon?”

In my opinion, it’s absurd to look at Galchenyuk as a failure. That said, the Canadiens failed to handle his situation properly, and it’s unclear if Bergevin & Co. truly learned from their mistakes. Rushing Kotkaniemi into the NHL could end up being an unpleasant example of history repeating.

Jesse Puljujarvi – While Kotkaniemi was a mild surprise in rising to the third pick, plenty were surprised that fellow Finn Puljujarvi slipped below the third choice, instead going fourth overall in 2016.

It’s far too early for this to be a permanent judgment, but at the moment, the Blue Jackets’ bold decision to go with Pierre Luc-Dubois instead may end up being the correct call.

Either way, it’s been a bumpy ride for Puljujarvi, and a considerable portion of the blame falls on the Edmonton Oilers, an organization that hasn’t exactly developed the greatest track record of handling all but the most can’t-miss of prospects. (They haven’t messed up Connor McDavid, although they’ve blundered spectacularly when it comes to giving him help.)

Puljujarvi burned a year off his entry-level contract by making an immediate jump in 2016-17, a move that proved to be ill-fated, as he was demoted to the AHL. He’s spent the past two seasons going between the AHL and NHL, with some legitimate concerns about stunted growth.

Even if Puljujarvi pulls out the sort of season that would justify his draft placement, the Oilers have already squandered most of his rookie contract. Edmonton’s essentially written the blueprint on how not to handle Kotkaniemi in the form of his countryman Puljujarvi.

The North American Game

Although the above scenarios inspire some fear of mishandling Kotkaniemi, the Habs could theoretically see some advantages in keeping him around, even if his 2018-19 season isn’t a smash success.

As mentioned before, Kotkaniemi hasn’t experienced much exposure to the North American game. The Canadiens might reason that he’d be better off not returning to Finland for this next campaign, then.

***

With plenty of cap space and a lot of forwards under contract (according to Cap Friendly’s listings), it’s not as though the Canadiens badly need to get solid production from a cheap rookie contract. If expectations are as low in-house as they are on the streets of Montreal, then sliding the first year of Kotkaniemi’s entry-level deal to 2019-20 might be a lot more prudent.

Overall, there are some notable pros and cons to Kotkaniemi making the immediate jump, so the Canadiens better look before they leap.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Captaincy continues Aleksander Barkov’s growth as a player

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It was Shawn Thornton who requested that Aleksander Barkov move his stall closer to his within the Florida Panthers’ locker room. In Barkov’s second year in the NHL it was Thornton’s goal to get the shy young Finn to show off his personality a little bit more around his teammates.

The move happened and Thornton slowly pecked away and brought more and more of Barkov’s personality out.

“When you sit next to that kind of player and person, it helps you a lot,” Barkov told Pro Hockey Talk on Tuesday. “Even the first couple of days, you’re just shy and sit next to him and answer his questions. Then a little bit at a time you just get out of your shell and start talking to him, joking with him and just have fun with him. That helped me a lot. If you can be good friends with this guy, you can be good friends with everybody.”

That small change allowed Barkov to get comfortable in his early NHL days and was the first step in him feeling confident enough to take on the responsibility of team captain, which the Panthers announced on Monday.

Barkov was approached at the end of last season and asked if he felt ready should they decide to have him wear the ‘C,’ replacing Derek MacKenzie. He said he was ready for the honor but also fine with remaining as an alternate, which he served as last season.

You might think there would be some awkwardness with MacKenzie being asked to give up the captaincy, but when he was given the ‘C’ in 2016 he knew that he was just holding it before one of the team’s younger stars was ready for the responsibility.

[Captain switch: Panthers give ‘C’ to Aleksander Barkov]

So when the change became official, MacKenzie was thrilled to be passing it on to Barkov.

“He called me right away and congratulated me,” Barkov said. “I was really happy to hear him calling me and congratulating me and telling me he’s OK with everything and he’s actually fine with that and he’s going to help me. I learned a lot from him. He’s probably one of the best captains I’ve ever heard in my six seasons here.”

MacKenzie, along with Willie Mitchell and Ed Jovanovski were the three captains Barkov played for since breaking into the NHL in 2013. Each of them has left a lasting imprint on the 23-year-old Panthers star.

“Those three guys, they helped me so much,” said Barkov, who also added that former NHLer Ville Nieminen, who played with Barkov and his father in Finland, was also a big influence. “Not just being a captain, just being great people you can talk to about anything, even if everything is good you can just go to them and talk to them and they’re true professionals. I got lucky to be with them in the same organization.”

Barkov takes on the captaincy at an important time in the Panthers’ growth. He’s coming off a career season offensively and the team missed out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs by a point. Bob Boughner is entering his second year behind the bench, Mike Hoffman was acquired over the summer and highly-touted prospects Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett could make an impact. There are plenty of expectations that the trend continues upwards in 2018-19.

As far as leadership style goes, Barkov doesn’t expect much to change as they look to build off the last few seasons. The only thing that may change is how many dinners he may have to pick up as captain, but MacKenzie didn’t give him the heads up on that.

“No, nobody told me about that,” Barkov said laughing. “I’m just trying to keep quiet so nobody remembers that.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.