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2019 NHL Draft tracker: Rounds 2-7

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The first round of the 2019 NHL draft was a quiet one in terms of transactions, with only one trade being made (The Arizona Coyotes moving up from 14 to 11 in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers). With six rounds go to on Day 2 there is sure to be more activity. While top picks Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko will dominate the headlines in this year’s class, there are still some potential impact players available when Round 2 begins on Saturday.

Here are some of the best players available at the start of the second round.

Following along with our 2019 NHL draft tracker for all of the picks.

Here are some of the top stories from Round 1 of the draft.

Round 2

32. Ottawa Senators — Shane Pinto, forward, Tri-City Storm
33. Los Angeles Kings — Arthur Kaliyev, forward, Hamilton Bulldogs

This looks like a potentially great pick for the Kings. Kaliyev was a potential first-round talent that scored 51 goals this past season as a 17-year-old in the OHL.

34. Philadelphia Flyers (from New Jersey — From Nashville) — Bobby Brink, forward, USHL

Skating concerns dropped him down the draft.

35. Detroit Red Wings — Antti Tuomisto, defender, Finland
36. Carolina Hurricanes (from Buffalo) — Pyotr Kochetkov, goalie, Russia
37. Ottawa Senators (from New York Rangers — from Carolina) — Mads Sogaard, goalie, Medicine Hat Tigers

38. Edmonton Oilers — Raphael Lavoie, forward, Halifax Mooseheads

Lavoie was expected to go higher than this, but falls to the Oilers in the second round.

39. Anaheim Ducks — Jackson Lacombe, defender, Shattuck St. Mary’s.
40. Vancouver Canucks — Nils Hoglander, forward, Sweden
41. Vegas Golden Knights (from Philadelphia — From San Jose) — Kaedan Korczak, defense, Kelowna Rockets
42. Minnesota Wild — Vladislav Firstov, forward, Waterloo Black Hawks
43. Chicago Blackhawks — Alex Vlasic, defender, USHL

He is the cousin of San Jose Sharks defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

44. Carolina Hurricanes (from Florida — From San Jose — From Ottawa) — Jameison Rees, forward, Sarnia Sting
45. Nashville Predators (from Arizona Coyotes — From Philadelphia Flyers) — Egor Afanasyev, forward, Muskegon Lumberjacks
46. Montreal Canadiens — Jayden Struble, defender, St. Sebastiens School
47. Colorado Avalanche — Drew Helleson, defender, U.S. National Development team
48. San Jose Sharks (From Vegas) — Artemi Kniazev, defender, Chicoutimi Saguenéens
49. NY Rangers (from Dallas) — Matthew Robertson, defender, Edmonton Oil Kings
50. Los Angeles Kings (from Columbus — from Vegas — From Montreal) — Samuel Fagemo, forward, Sweden
51. Winnipeg Jets — Simon Lundmark, defender, Sweden
52. Florida Panthers (from Pittsburgh) — Vladislav Kolyachonok, defender, Flint Firebirds
53. Toronto Maple Leafs — Nic Robertson, forward, Peterborough Petes

This is the Maple Leafs’ first pick of the 2019 NHL draft.

54. Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders — From Vegas) — Robert Mastrosimone, forward, USHL
55. San Jose Sharks (from Nashville — from New Jersey) — Dillon Hamaliuk, forward, Seattle Thunderbirds
56. Washington Capitals — Brett Leason, forward, Prince Albert Raiders
57. New York Islanders (from Calgary) — Samuel Bolduc, defender, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
58. New York Rangers (from Tampa Bay) — Karl Henriksson, forward, Sweden
59. Minnesota Wild (from Carolina) — Hunter Jones, goalie, Peterborough Petes
60. Detroit Red Wings (from San Jose) — Albert Johansson, defender, Sweden
61. New Jersey Devils (from Boston) — Nikita Okhotyuk, defender, Ottawa 67s
62. St. Louis Blues — Nikita Alexandrov, forward, Charlottetown Islanders

Round 3

63. Colorado (from OTT) — Matthew Steinburg, forward, St. Andrews College
64. Montreal (from LAK) — Mattias Norlinder, defenseman, MODO Hockey
65. Nashville Predators (from New Jersey Devils — From Edmonton Oilers — From Philadelphia Flyers) — Alexander Campbell, forward, Victoria Grizzlies
66. Detroit — Albin Grewe, forward, Djurgårdens IF
67. Buffalo (conditional to PIT) — Erik Portillo, goalie, 
68. NY Rangers — Zachary Jones, defenseman, UMass (Amherst)
69. Florida (from EDM) — John Ludvig, defensemen, Portland Winterhawks
70. New Jersey (from ANA) — Danil Misyul, defenseman, Loko Yaroslavl
71. Tampa Bay Lightning (from VAN) — Hugo Alnefelt, goalie, HV71 J20
72. Philadelphia — Ronald Attard, defensemen, Tri-City Storm

Player of the year in the USHL in 2018-19, had 30 goals, 34 assists in 48 games.

73. Carolina Hurricanes (from MIN) — Patrik Puistola, forward, Tappara
74. Pittsburgh (from ARI — from CHI) — Nathan Legare, forward, Baie-Comeau Drakkar

Scored 45 goals in 68 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

75. Minnesota (from NSH — from FLA) — Adam Beckman, forward, Spokane Chiefs
76. Arizona — John Farinacci, forward, Dexter School
77. Montreal — Gianni Fairbrother, defenseman, Evertt Silvertips
78. Colorado — Alex Beaucage, forward, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
79. Vegas — Pavel Dorofeyev, forward, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk
80. New Jersey (from DAL) —  Graeme Clarke, forward, Ottawa 67s

81. Florida (from CBJ) —  Cole Schwindt, forward, Mississauga Steelheads
82. New Jersey (from WPG — VKG — SJS — NSH) —  Michael Vukojevic, defenseman, Kitchener Rangers
83. Carolina Hurricanes (from Pittsburgh- From Vegas — From Ottawa) — Anttoni Honka, defenseman, Mikkelin Jukurit

Brother of Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars

84. Toronto — Mikko Kokkonen, defenseman, Mikkelin Jukurit
85. Edmonton (from NYI) — Ilya Konovalov, goalie, Yaroslavl
86. Vegas (from NSH) — Layton Ahac, defenseman, Prince George Cougars
87. Los Angeles (from WSH) — Lukas Parik, goalie, Liberec Jr. 
88. Calgary — Ilya Nikolaev, forward, Yaroslavl 2
89. Tampa Bay — Maxim Cajkovic, forward, Saint John Sea Dogs
90. Carolina — Domenick Fensore, defenseman, U.S. National Development team

The 11th player selected from the USNTDP in 2019

91. Washington (from SJS — NSH — NJD) — Aliaksei Protas, forward, Prince Albert Raiders
92. Boston — Quinn Olson, forward, Okotoks Oilers
93. St. Louis — Colten Ellis, goalie, Rimouski Oceanic

Round 4

94. Ottawa Senators — Viktor Lodin, forward, Sweden
95. Los Angeles Kings — Jordan Spence, defender, Moncton Wildcats
96. New Jersey Devils — Tyce Thompson, forward, Providence College
97. Detroit Red Wings — Ethan Phillips, forward, Sioux Fall Stampade
98. Arizona Coyotes (from Pittsburgh) — Matias Macceli, forward, Dubuque Fighting Saints 
99. Carolina Hurricanes (from New York Rangers — Boston Bruins — Minnesota Wild) — Cade Webber, defender, USHL
100. Edmonton Oilers — Matej Blummel, forward, Waterloo Blackhawks
101. Anaheim Ducks — Henry Thurn, defender, USHL
102. Buffalo Sabres (from Vancouver) — Aaron Huglen, forward, Fargo Force
103. Philadelphia Flyers — Mason Millman, defender, Saginaw Spirit
104. Columbus Blue Jackets — Eric Hjorth, defender, Sweden
105. Chicago Blackhawks — Michal Teply, forward, Czech Republic
106. Florida Panthers — Carter Berger, defender, Victoria Grizzlies
107. Arizona Coyotes — Alexandr Darin, forward
108. San Jose Sharks (from Montreal) — Yegor Spiridonov, forward, Russia
109. Nashville Predators (from Colorado) — Marc Del Gaizo, defender, UMASS
110. Vegas Golden Knights — Ryder Donovan, forward, USHL
111. Dallas Stars — Samuel Sjolund, defender, Sweden
112. New York Rangers (from Columbus) — Hunter Skinner, defender, USHL
113. Winnipeg Jets — Henrik Nikkanen, forward, Finland
114. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Pittsburgh — From Florida) — Dmitri Voronkov, Russia 
115. Toronto Maple Leafs — Mikhail Abramov, forward, Victoriaville Tigers
116. Calgary Flames (from New York Islanders) — Lucas Feuk, forward, Sweden
117. Nashville Predators — Semyon Chystyakov, defender, Russia
118. New Jersey Devils (from Washington) — Case McCarthy, defender, US National Development Team 
119. Los Angeles Kings (from Calgary – Montreal) — Kim Nousianien, defender, Finland
120. Tampa Bay Lightning — Maxwell Crozier, defender, Sioux Falls Stampede
121. Carolina Hurricanes — Tuukka Tieksola, forward, Finland
122. Vancouver Canucks — Ethan Keppen, forward, Flint Firebirds
123. Chicago Blackhawks (from Boston) — Antti Saarela, forward, Finland
124. Toronto Maple Leafs (from St. Louis) — Nicolas Abruzzse, forward, USHL

Round 5

125. Ottawa — Mark Kastelic, forward, Calgary Hitmen
126. Montreal (from LAK) — Jacob Leguerrier, defensemen, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
127. New Jersey — Cole Brady, goalie, Janesville Jets
128. Detroit — Cooper Moore, defenseman, Brunswick Prep
129. New Jersey (from BUF-DET-WSH) — Arseny Gritsyuk, forward, OMSK 2
130. NY Rangers — Leevi Aaltonen, forward, Kalpa Jr. 
131. Montreal (from EDM) — Rhett Pitlick, forward, Chaska
132. Anaheim — Trevor Janicke, forward, Central Illinois 
133. Vancouver — Carson Focht, forward, Calgary Hitmen
134. Winnipeg (from PHI) — Harrison Blaisdell, forward, Chilliwack
135. Vegas (from MIN) — Isaiah Saville, goalie, Tri-City Storm
136. Florida (from CHI — MTL) — Henrik Rybinski, forward, Seattle Thunderbirds
137. Florida — Owen Lindmark, forward, US National Development Team 
138. Montreal (from ARI-CHI-LAK) — Frederik Nissen Dichow, goalie, Vojens
139. Vegas (from MTL) — Marcus Kallionkieli, forward, Sioux City Musketeers
140. Colorado — Sasha Mutala, forward, Tri-City Americans
141. Vegas — Mason Primeau, forward, North Bay Battalion
142. Dallas — Nicholas Porco, forward, Saginaw Spirit
143. Buffalo (from CBJ — DET) — Filip Cederqvist, forward, Vaxjo
144. Winnipeg — Logan Neaton, goalie, Prince George
145. Pittsburgh (from CHI) — Judd Caulfield, forward, US National Development Team 
146. Toronto — Michael Koster, defenseman, Chaska
147. NY Islanders — Reece Newkirk, forward, Portland Winterhawks
148. Nashville — Ethan Haider, goalie, MN Magicians
149. Minnesota (from WSH-MTL) — Matvey Guskov, forward, London Knights
150. Calgary — Joshua Nodler, forward, Fargo Force
151. Arizona (from TBL — CHI) –Aku Raty, forward, Karpat Jr. 
152. Carolina — Kirill Slepets, forward, Yaroslavl 2
153. Washington (from SJS) — Martin Has, defenseman, Tappara Jr. 
154. Boston — Roman Bychkov, defenseman, Yaroslavl 2
155. St. Louis — Keean Washkurak, forward, Mississauga Steelheads

Round 6

156. Vancouver Canucks (from Ottawa) — Arturs Silov, goalie, Latvia 
157. Los Angeles Kings — Braden Doyle, defender, USHL
158. New Jersey Devils — Patrick Moynihan, forward, USHL
159. Detroit Red Wings — Elmer Soderblom, forward, Sweden
160. Buffalo Sabres — Lukas Rousek, forward, Czech Republic
161. New York Rangers — Adam Edstrom, forward, Sweden
162. Edmonton Oilers — Tomas Mazura, forward, Kimball Union Academy
163. Anaheim Ducks — William Francis, defender, USHL
164. San Jose Sharks (from Vancouver) — Timur Ibragimov, forward, Russia
165. Philadelphia Flyers — Egor Serdyuk, forward, Victoriaville Tigers
166. Minnesota Wild — Marshall Warren, defender, US National Development Team 
167. Chicago Blackhawks — Dominic Basse, goalie, Selects Hockey Academy
168. Florida Panthers — Greg Meireles, forward, Kitchener Rangers
169. Philadelphia Flyers (from Arizona) — Roddy Ross, goalie, Camrose Kodiaks
170. Montreal Canadiens — Arsen Khisamutdinov, forward, Russia
171. Colorado Avalanche — Luka Burzan, forward, Brandon Wheat Kings
172. Minnesota Wild (from Vegas) — Nikita Nestrerenko, forward
173. Dallas Stars — Benjamin Brinkman, defender, University of Minnesota
174. Arizona  Coyotes (from Columbus) — Daniel Savunov, forward,
175. Vancouver Canucks (from Winnipeg – From Buffalo) — Karel Plasek, forward, Czech Republic
176. Arizona Coyotes (from Pittsburgh) — Anthony Romano, center, Sioux Fall Stampede
177. Detroit Red Wings (from Toronto – Detroit) Gustav Berglund, defender, Sweden
178. New York Islanders — Felix Bibeau, forward, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 
179. Nashville Predators — Isak Walther, forward, Sweden
180. Vancouver Canucks (from Washington) — Jack Malone, forwards, Youngstown Phantoms
181. Carolina Hurricanes (from Calgary) — Kevin Wall, forward, Chilliwack Chiefs
182. Tampa Bay Lightning — Quinn Schmiemann, defender, Kamloops Blazers
183. Carolina Hurricanes — Blake Murray, forward, Sudbury Wolves
184. San Jose Sharks — Santeri Hatakka, defender, Finland
185. Boston Bruins — Matias Mantykivi, center, Finland
186. Anaheim Ducks — Mathew Hill, forward, Barrie Colts 

Round 7

187. Ottawa — Maxence Guenette, defenseman, Val-d’Or Foreurs
188. Los Angeles — Andre Lee, forward, Sioux Falls Stampede
189. New Jersey — Nikola Pasic, forward, Linkoping Jr. 
190. Detroit — Kirill Tyutyayev, forward, Yekaterinburg 2
191. Detroit (from BUF) — Carter Gylander, forward, Sherwood Park
192. Boston (from NYR) — Jake Schmaltz, forward, Chicago Steel
193. Edmonton — Maxim Denezhkin, forward, Yaroslavl 2
194. Chicago (from ANA) — Cole Moberg, defenseman, Prince George Cougars
195. Vancouver — Aidan Mcdonough, forward, Cedar Rapids Roughriders
196. Philadelphia — Bryce Brodzinski, forward, Blaine
197. Minnesota — Filip Lindberg. goalie, UMass
198. Tampa Bay (from CHI) — Mikhail Shalagin, forward, Spartak 2
199. Florida — Matthew Wedman, forward, Seattle Thunderbirds
200. Arizona — Axel Bergkvist, defenseman, Leksand Jr. 
201. Montreal (from MTL — PHI) — Rafael Harvey-Pinard, forward, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
202. Colorado — Trent Miner, goalie, Vancouver Giants
203. Pittsburgh (from VGK) — Valtteri Puustinen, forward, HPK
204. Toronto (from DAL) — Kalle Loponen, defenseman, Hermes
205. NY Rangers (from CBJ) — Eric Ciccolini, forward, Toronto JC
206. Montreal (from WPG) — Kieran Ruscheinski, defenseman, Calgary Northstars Midget AAA
207. Arizona (from PIT) — Valentin Nussbaumer, forward, Shawinigan Cataractes
208. St. Louis (from TOR) — Vadim Zherenko, goalie, Dynamo Moscow 2
209. NY Islanders — Cole Coskey, forward, Saginaw Spirit
210. Nashville — Juuso Parssinen, forward, TPS Jr. 
211. Pittsburgh (from WSH — SJS) — Santeri Airola, defenseman, Saipa Jr. 
212. Columbus (from CGY-OTT) — Tyler Angle, forward, Windsor Spitfire
213. Tampa Bay — Mckade Webster, forward, Green Bay Gamblers
214. Calgary (from CAR) — Dustin Wolf, goalie, Everett Silvertips
215. Vancouver (from SJS) — Arvid Costmar, forward, Linkoping Jr.
216. Carolina (from BOS-NYR) — Massimo Rizzo, forward, Penticton
217. St. Louis — Jeremy Michel, forward, Val-d’Or Foreurs

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

What kind of GM will Ron Francis be for Seattle?

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Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise confirmed a key hire on Wednesday, naming Ron Francis as its first general manager.

The Hall of Fame center spent just under four years as Carolina Hurricanes GM, and with that, his work inspires mixed reactions. Let’s consider the good, bad, and mixed to try to get a feel for what Francis offers Seattle as its new boss.

Net losses

The Hurricanes never made the playoffs during Francis’ time as GM, and faulty goaltending was the biggest reason why. At the time, gambling on Eddie Lack and Scott Darling as replacements made some sense – though the term Darling received heightened the risks – but both gambles were epic busts.

With Alex Nedeljkovic (37th pick in 2014) still developing, it’s possible that Francis drafted a future answer in net, yet his immediate answers came up empty. Matching the luck that the Vegas Golden Knights have had with Marc-Andre Fleury seems somewhat unlikely, but Francis needs to do better with that crucial position in his second GM stint.

Building a strong young roster on a budget

It says a lot about Francis’ work in Carolina that The Athletic’s (sub. required) Dom Luszczyszyn graded the Hurricanes as the NHL’s most efficient salary structure, and apparently by a healthy margin.

Some of those great contracts were offered up by current GM Don Waddell (or Marc Bergevin’s offer sheet for Sebastian Aho), yet Francis and his crew authored some stunners. Teuvo Teravainen, Jaccob Slavin, and Brett Pesce boast some of the best bargain contracts in the NHL.

[RELATED: NHL Seattle tabs Ron Francis as first GM]

With a clean slate in Seattle, maybe Francis and his crew can create similar competitive advantages?

Drafting wise, the Hurricanes had some big wins under Francis, most notably stealing Aho in the second round in 2015. Still, if you’re a Hurricanes fan, maybe spare yourself the thought of Carolina getting Charlie McAvoy or Alex DeBrincat instead of Jake Bean at No. 13 in 2016, and some other gems instead of Haydn Fleury at No. 7 in 2014. Maybe Fleury and Bean are late bloomers, but it’s tough to imagine them looking like the right moves. If NHL teams truly have learned from the last expansion draft, Seattle will be more draft-dependent than Vegas has been so far, so Francis may be asked to hit homers instead of singles with key picks.

(NHL GMs make enough blunders that Seattle may still get some Jonathan Marchessault-type opportunities, though, so we’ll see.)

Investing in analytics

Whether it’s Francis or Waddell, it’s difficult to distinguish which smart Hurricanes moves stem from them, and which ones boil down to brilliant analytics work from the likes of Eric Tulsky. The thing is, if Francis listens to advice in Seattle, does it really matter?

A lot must still come together, but it’s promising that Seattle already hired a promising mind in Alexandra Mandrycky. Mandrycky was hired before Francis, so there’s a solid sign they may end up on the same page.

If your reaction is “One analytics hire, big deal,” then … well, you should be right. This list of publicly available analytics hires from Shayna Goldman argues that Seattle is off to a good start, and could leave some turtle-like teams in the dust if they keep going:

To take advantage of the expansion draft, you might need to be creative. Leaning on analytics could be key to eking out extra value.

***

Ultimately, we only know so much about Francis.

While George McPhee took decades of experience into Vegas, Francis was only Hurricanes GM for a touch under four years. Such a thought softens the “no playoffs” criticism, and while some of his work was hit-or-miss, it’s crucial to realize that Francis left the Hurricanes in a generally better place than when he took over.

Will his approach work for an expansion franchise in Seattle? To some extent, it will boil down to “taking what the defense gives him,” as Francis might be able to find savvy deals like Vegas did with Marchessault and Reilly Smith, and what Francis managed himself in exploiting Chicago’s cap issues to land a star in Teravainen. It’s also worth realizing that Seattle offers different variables than Carolina did, including possibly giving Francis a bigger budget to work with.

Overall, this seems like a reasonable hire, but much like Seattle’s roster or even its team name, Francis can be filed under “to be determined.”

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.

Ron Francis hired as NHL Seattle’s first GM

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NHL Seattle president and CEO Tod Leiweke said last month during the NHL Draft in Vancouver that the group wanted to hire a general manager sooner rather than later.

Well, 226 days after the NHL awarded them a franchise that will begin play in the 2021-22 NHL season, Seattle has a GM and his name is Ron Francis.

“Announcing Ron Francis as our team’s first general manager is a dream come true,” said Leiweke in a statement. “He is truly hockey royalty and is the perfect fit for the team we are building. He has a proven track record in hockey management, a dedication to the community and an eagerness to innovate which fits our vision. In our search, we looked for someone who is smart, experienced, well-prepared and progressive. I am confident that he will maintain our commitment to excellence and ultimately guide us to a Stanley Cup.”

NHL Seattle, still working on a name and team colors, wants to follow the same blueprint that the Vegas Golden Knights did when they assembled their staff before entering the league for the 2017-18 season. This is one big step among many before they finally hit the ice as a franchise.

Francis, who will oversee player personnel, coaching staff, amateur and pro scouting, player development, analytics, sports science and AHL minor league operations, was last in NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes. He joined the organization in 2011 as director of hockey operations and three years later took on the role of GM. In March of 2018, Francis was reassigned to president of hockey operations after Tom Dundon bought the team. One month later the Hockey Hall of Famer was fired. Since January he had been working at a Raleigh commercial real estate firm.

According to the Seattle Times, which first broke the story on Tuesday night, Francis’ deal is likely in the five-year range and “midrange” in terms of salary compared to other NHL GMs.

Under Francis, the Hurricanes failed to make the the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four years. He oversaw the trade that sent longtime captain Eric Staal to the New York Rangers, as well as the deal that brought Teuvo Teravainen to Raleigh. His scouting staff helped draft the likes of Warren Foegele, Sebastian Aho, highly-touted forward Martin Necas, and Noah Hanifin, who would later be a piece to bring in Dougie Hamilton via trade. 

[MORE: What kind of GM will Ron Francis be for Seattle?]

The summer of 2017 was an interesting one for Francis. After years of tight purse strings, he finally was able to spend some money. His biggest signing that did not work out was the four years and $16.6 million given to Scott Darling to solve their problem in goal. But the one that worked and could still pay off if he decides to keep playing is bringing back Justin Williams, who has helped changed the culture around the team during this past season of success.

In a completely different environment with much different expectations, Francis has lots to prove in his second chance as an NHL GM.

It will be difficult to copy the success that the Golden Knights had in their inaugural season, and judging by how Francis ran his ship in Carolina, he’ll be about patience and not sacrificing the future for today — and he’ll probably be able to spend some money on a more consistent basis.

————

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.

Ovechkin to play role of NHL ambassador in China

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Alex Ovechkin will be taking a week away from his summer break to play a different kind of role in the NHL next month.

Ovi is heading to China as the NHL’s international ambassador on the week of Aug. 4. He will travel to Bejing, China’s capital, a trip that will include the Russian superstar holding youth hockey clinics, a media tour and business development meetings.

“It is a huge honor for me to be an ambassador for the entire Washington Capitals organization and the National Hockey League for this special trip to China,” Ovechkin said in a release from the Caps. “I think it is very important to spend time to help make people all over the world see how great a game hockey is. I can’t wait to spend time with all the hockey fans there and I hope to meet young kids who will be future NHL players. I can’t wait for this trip!”

The NHL continues to try and grow the game at the international level in places traditionally not hotbeds for hockey.

China has been seeing a lot of the NHL over the past three seasons. Although no preseason games are scheduled for the 2019-20 season, the NHL has played a total of four since 2017, with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks contesting two games in 2017-18 and the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames playing the other two prior to last season.

The Stanley Cup found its way to the country for the first time last September, as well.

“We are very excited that Alex Ovechkin will be joining us in China this summer,” said David Proper, NHL Executive Vice President of Media and International Strategy. “Alex represents the best in sports, as he epitomizes that combination of great talent, great personality and great sportsmanship. He is the perfect person to represent the NHL’s efforts to grow hockey in China.”

China, with a population of over 1.3 billion, expects to expand its participation in winter sports, including hockey, to 300 million people by 2022.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Report: Police say Greg Johnson’s death an apparent suicide

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DETROIT (AP) — A police report says the death of former Nashville Predators captain Greg Johnson was an apparent suicide, according to the Detroit News.

The paper said Wednesday it had obtained a Rochester Police report, and that Johnson was found by his wife shortly before 10 a.m. on July 7. A gun and a single bullet were found near him. No suicide note was left.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner declined to discuss findings from an autopsy, according to the paper.

Johnson was with Nashville for the franchise’s first season in the league. He spent the last seven years of his career with the Predators. He also played for Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago during his 12 years in the NHL.

The Detroit News said Johnson’s agent, Tom Laidlaw, declined to discuss the specifics surrounding the former player’s death. Johnson was 48.