In the pre-lockout years, players such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Joe Thornton took a little while to hit their point producing primes. Yet since the lockout forced NHL bigwigs to let the speedy and skilled loose, the learning curve for young players almost seems more like a straight line.
The near-to-immediate success of the Sidney Crosby/Patrick Kane/Alex Ovechkin-type top picks makes it pretty difficult for any 18-year-old who may go first in subsequent drafts. Fans of the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders might not want to hear it, but not every No. 1 pick is created equal.
Oilers blog Copper & Blue projects Taylor Hall to be a productive winger in the NHL, but they want to temper the pie-in-the-sky prognostications of 40 goal/90-to-100 point seasons.
What I find hilarious about the people that are already set to judge Hall strictly by his boxcar numbers is that Jonathan Toews, a player that every single team in the league would love to have, and every single fan in Edmonton would love to see Hall emulate has never come close to this magical ninety point plateau. Toews’ point totals over the last three years: 54-69-68, yet he’s a Stanley Cup champion, an Olympic hero and is widely considered to be one of the best forwards in the game.
So listen to me all of you crazy people out there: your silly boxcar-only projections and lofty expectations are short-sighted and incredibly difficult to reach, even for the best players in the NHL. Taylor Hall can become an outstanding, even great, NHL player without hitting your preconceived superstar points totals.
The good news is that the Oilers have a few building blocks beyond Hall. While Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson might be overrated in some circles, combining those two prospects with Hall, hobbled playmaker Ales Hemsky and the somewhat-resurgent Dustin Penner gives the Oilers solid firepower going forward. That being said, the Western Conference is competitive from top to bottom, so Edmonton fans might want to take it easy on Hall, in particular.
CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.
The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.
The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.
The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.
The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.
The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.
Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.
The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.
TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.
The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.
“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”
Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.
TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.
The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.
“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”
The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.
Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.