Roundtable: Most entertaining NHL players for hockey H-O-R-S-E

There will be a H-O-R-S-E competition featuring current and former NBA and WNBA players this Sunday. If the NHL were to do something similar with a game of P-U-C-K, which four players do you think would provide an entertaining show?

SEAN: We’ll need a solid mix of skill and personality and if you’re trying to put on some unique content while everyone is stuck at home, let’s go heavy on the entertainment factor.

Brad Marchand and P.K. Subban: Between Marchand recently voted best and worst trash-talker by his peers and Subban’s ability to continuously yap on the ice (while also pulling in votes in the “worst trash-talker” category), these two would keep things very light and entertaining. The chirps would be good, and every mistake would be deserving of some trash talk.

Andrei Svechnikov: The new reigning king of “The Michigan,” would have plenty of ice to work with to do the move again and maybe try with a few alterations as well.

Jakub Voracek: He has no filter and isn’t afraid to chirp right back. Marchand and Subban will need someone to fire back when they unload their zings, and the long-time Flyer would happily give it right back.

JAMES: This idea rules so much. There are a lot of correct answers, but here’s the most fantastic four:

• Brad Marchand: Look, in an event like this, you want serious smack-talking. Marchand is such a pest he should start every game of “P-U-C-K” with a P. He’s also skilled enough to walk the walk.

Connor McDavidIs McDavid a perfect fit for an event that might lean a bit more toward shooting than passing? I don’t know, but wouldn’t you want to find out if the best player in the game can translate his skills to a game of hockey H-O-R-S-E? It could give McDavid a showcase for something other than his “making the turbo button in video games seem realistic” speed.

There’d be big pressure for McDavid to show that he’s not deliberately bland like certain players who held the best-in-the-world crown (motions not-so-subtly toward Sidney Crosby).

Alex OvechkinFew superstars ever loved to ham it up quite like Ovechkin, who also happens to be the greatest sniper the NHL’s ever seen. This should give him a chance to showcase his personality, as only the most mutated of mutants would complain about Jimi Hendrix-level goal celebrations here … right?

(Looks worriedly off in the distance with thoughts of those especially mutated mutants.)

Matthew TkachukFrankly, we need some insurance for trash talk. While Marchand can really entertain, he also clams up around the media at times, opening the door for fun-killing. But throw in the NHL’s other crown prince pest in the mix and maybe we bring out the saltiness in all involved. At least that’s the hope.

If nothing else, Tkachuk’s proficiency at between-the-legs goals shows that he can pull off some trick shots.

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ADAMSince we are keeping this to modern NHL players I just want to take this opening part to say that Alex Kovalev and Pavel Datsyuk would be on my list of past players just because I would want to see what they could do and come up with. When it comes to current players…

Mathew BarzalI feel like he was one of the underrated and overlooked stars in the league and can be an absolute wizard with the puck. I think he could excel in a competition like this where he has the freedom and open ice to shine.

• Andrei Svechnikov: You need confidence and a willingness to be bold in a competition like this, and you know that would be Svechnikov. The lacrosse-goal may be something that most NHL players can do, but nobody ever did it until he did it. Twice. I like that moxie.

• Sidney Crosby: I kind of think we need the best player in the world in this thing, don’t we? There are times in games where he makes it looks effortless when he embarrasses opposing defenders and there is no limit to his creativity when it comes to making plays with the puck. Maybe he won’t use props or talk trash, but you know he is going to do something that leaves you speechless.

Elias Pettersson: Another young standout that can make magic happen when the puck is on his stick. He is one of the league’s best young players, one of the most talented players, and already an elite puckhandler.

JOEY: I’ve got to be honest, I’d totally watch something like this. I opted to go for skill and grease with my four choices. I also wanted to sprinkle in some celebrity splash.

Auston Matthews has to be one of the choices for this game. He’s one of the elite shooters in the game right now, so he’d be able to score from so many different angles. Also, he might be able to get Justin Bieber to endorse the event, which means more eyeballs on this game of P-U-C-K.

Zdeno Chara needs to be in this competition. Not only would he be able to riffle shots into the net at an alarming speed, he’s also one of the most imposing figures in the NHL. If other competitors start pulling away from Chara, they might end up getting cross-checked in the throat. That’s no fun!

Brendan Gallagher isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of this kind of event, but everybody knows somebody that plays his kind of game. He won’t score the prettiest goals during our game of P-U-C-K, but he’ll find a way to put enough pucks in from in-close throughout the game to keep himself in it. Bonus, he’ll be able to get under Chara’s skin throughout the game.

This kind of event would have Alex Ovechkin’s name written all over it. We all know about his ability to hammer pucks into the net from all over the ice, but think about the props he might use to put on a show. Remember the 2009 NHL All-Star Game? That’s when he put on a fishing hat with a Canadian flag, and a pair of sunglasses before a shootout attempt. He’d know how to make this a must-see TV event.

SCOTT: Love this idea, hopefully NBCSN will televise this alongside my mythical tournament.

Patrick Kane: His skill level is off the charts and the Blackhawks superstar can compete in any type of challenge. Whether it’s shooting, passing, stickhandling or .. Kane would most likely finish atop the leaderboard. His versatility from category to category makes him a must-have in this skills competition.

• Brad Marchand: James hit the nail on the head. In this type of competition, you need to get under the skin of the opponent. Marchand has the ability to not only annoy the opponent, but back up his words with an impressive skillset. His peers voted him as the game’s best (and worst) trash talker for the second straight year in the NHLPA Player Poll.

Kyle Connor: Did you see his between-the-legs goal against the Sharks in February? If he can pull off that maneuver at game speed, imagine what he could do in a trick shot challenge.

Johnny Gaudreau: An elite skillset is important, but creativity is paramount. If his on-ice ingenuity translates to this competition, Gaudreau will provide a ton of entertainment.

PREVIOUS PHT ROUNDTABLES:
Best NHL teams to not win Stanley Cup
Moments we’ll miss; hockey movies in quarantine
Playing out rest of NHL season; 2019-20 memories

Rangers’ rebuild gets another significant piece with Draft Lottery win

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In a few years New York Rangers fans might look back at this year’s three-game qualifying round sweep at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes as a major turning point for the franchise.

Perhaps the turning point for the franchise.

It was that loss that put the Rangers back in the running for the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, which they won on Monday night.

In a normal season, the Rangers, who finished the regular season with the 18th best record in the league, would have had less than a 2 percent chance of winning the top pick in the lottery and would have most likely picked 14th overall.

But because of a perfect storm of events that included them being included in the 24-team return to play format, a “placeholder team” winning the first phase of the draft lottery, and their qualifying round loss, their chances jumped up to 12.5 percent for Monday’s drawing. It was there that their lottery ball came up.

With that comes the opportunity to add another massive piece to an already promising rebuild.

[Related: Rangers win 2020 NHL Draft Lottery]

Assuming the Rangers keep the pick (the No. 1 overall pick has not been traded since 2003) it is expected that they will use it on Alexis Lafreniere, a potential top-line winger that has spent the past three years completely dominating the QMJHL.

It will continue a rather impressive two-year run that has seen them significantly add to the high-end talent throughout the organization, and give them what should be an outstanding core of high-level players to build around. This is not a case where a No. 1 overall pick is going to a team that is starting from scratch and has to completely rebuild. This is a team that could (and perhaps should) be a playoff team as soon as this upcoming season.

They already have an MVP-level player in place after the addition of Artemi Panarin this past summer. His first year in New York was one of the finest offensive seasons in the history of the franchise, and while he does turn 29 next season he should still have several impact years ahead of him. Along with Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider remain top-line players and are signed long-term.

But it’s the young talent on the roster that is perhaps most exciting.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

This is the second year in a row the Rangers had draft lottery luck on their side. A year ago they moved from sixth to second in the lottery, getting the right to select Kaapo Kakko. While he struggled through his rookie season and did not make an immediate impact, he is still only 19 years old, loaded with talent, and has top-line potential.

They also have a potential building block on their blue line in Adam Fox, one of the most impressive rookies in what turned out to be a fantastic 2020 class across the league. If he continues on his current trajectory he should be a top-pairing defender for years.

While the book seems to be closing (and is perhaps entirely closed) on Henrik Lundqvist‘s time with the team, they have two in-house replacements in Alexander Georgiev and the emergence this year of Igor Shesterkin, who had already taken over the starting job down the stretch.

Now they are adding what could end up being the best player of the bunch in Lafreniere.

This does not guarantee the Rangers anything next season or five seasons from now or at any point down the road. It does not mean a Stanley Cup is immediately on the horizon or a foregone conclusion. It not a perfect team by any stretch at this point.

There is still a pretty big hole at center beyond Zibanejad, and the defense needs a lot work after Fox.

But you can find a No. 2 center or a second defense pairing a hell of a lot easier than you can find potential franchise-changing players.

It is the franchise players that you needemphasis on need to win a championship. They are always the players that are most difficult to find and acquire. It usually requires a significant amount of luck, good fortune and perfect timing, something the Rangers have now had on their side in two consecutive years with the draft lottery to land Kakko and (potentially) Lafreniere.

Almost every Stanley Cup winning team in the salary cap era has at least one top-two pick on their roster, with the only exceptions being the 2018-19 Blues, the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings, and the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks (Chris Pronger was a No. 2 pick, but he was not picked by Anaheim). Many of them have had multiple picks in that area.

The rebuild is not over by any stretch, but the amount of potential superstar talent the Rangers have added in the span of one year has certainly accelerated the process.

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.

Rangers win 2020 NHL draft lottery, will pick No. 1 overall

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The New York Rangers were the winners of Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery on Monday night and now own the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

It is expected that winger Alexis Lafreniere will be the top pick in this year’s class.

This is the second years in a row the Rangers have experienced a huge jump in the lottery after moving from the sixth spot to No. 2 where they selected Kaapo Kakko for the 2019 class.

All eight teams that were eliminated from the qualifying round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were eligible for the top pick, each having an equal 12.5 percent chance of winning. The Rangers, who finished the regular season with the 18th best record in the league, were eliminated from the qualifying round when they were swept in three games by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The first phase of the lottery was held in June and won by a placeholder team that was set to participate in the league’s qualifying round in the return to play, creating the need for the second phase of the lottery held on Monday.

The NHL draft will be held on October 9 and 10.

[RELATED: Rangers’ rebuild gets another significant piece]

This is what the first 15 picks in the draft will look like.

ROUND 1 ORDER
1. New York Rangers
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators (via San Jose)
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
========================
9. Minnesota Wild
10. Winnipeg Jets
11. Nashville Predators
12. Florida Panthers
13. Carolina Hurricanes (via Toronto)
14. Edmonton Oilers
15. Pittsburgh Penguins (Or Minnesota Wild)

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.

2020 NHL Draft Lottery: How to watch, live stream, Phase 2 odds

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The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft will be announced Monday night during Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream)

All eight teams that were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round are eligible. Each have a 12.5% chance of winning the No. 1 pick. Rimouski forward Alexis Lafreniere is expected to be chosen with the first overall selection.

Phase 1 of the draft lottery was held in June and won by a team involved in the NHL’s Return to Play. That means that one of the Rangers, Predators, Panthers, Wild, Penguins, Jets, Oilers, or Maple Leafs will own the top pick in the Oct. 9-10 draft.

According to the NHL, since the 1995 draft, no team has held the No. 1 pick finishing better than 26th in the standings.

WHAT: 2020 NHL Draft Lottery stream – Phase 2
WHEN: Monday, August 10, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the NHL draft lottery stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Here’s a look at the order of the first 15 picks:

ROUND 1 ORDER
1. Placeholder team
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators (via San Jose)
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
========================
9. Placeholder team
10. Placeholder team
11. Placeholder team
12. Placeholder team
13. Placeholder team
14. Placeholder team
15. Placeholder team

The seven losing teams from the First Round that do not win the No. 1 pick will fill out spots 9-15 by reverse order of their regular season points percentages. The remaining 16 Round 1 draft picks will be determined by the results of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The prospects

Lafreniere will be the No. 1 pick. We know that. After that? It could go a lot of different ways. Quinton Byfield (Sudbury – C- OHL), Tim Stutzle (Adler Mannheim – C/LW – DEL), Lucas Raymond (Frolunda – LW/C – SHL), Jamie Drysdale (Erie – D – OHL), Marco Rossi (Ottawa – C – OHL), Cole Perfetti (Saginaw – C – OHL), Jake Sanderson (D – USNTDP) are among the top prospects expected to be selected early.

Check out Ryan Wagman’s midseason mock draft to further educate yourself on these players.

MORE:
Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule
Power Rankings: Best First Round matchups
Conn Smythe Watch entering First Round

Bruins vs. Hurricanes: 5 things to know about their First Round series

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The First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins August 11. Before the NHL postseason resumes play, PHT will preview each of the eight opening round series, including Bruins and Hurricanes.

1. Bruins’ stars off to slow start

Boston was winless in round-robin play and dealt with absences to a number of players, including David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase. The offense was also invisible through three games with a total of four goals scored. Chris Wagner (two), Charlie McAvoy, and Jake DeBrusk were the only ones to light the lamp. Still waiting to get going are Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Torey Krug, Charlie Coyle, and Zdeno Chara, who combined for four assists.

The power play has been hit by the offensive drought, too. The unit went 0-for-9 in three games after clicking at a 25.2% success rate during the regular season.

2. Even strength success for Hurricanes

The Rangers were a top-10 team in even strength goals scored during the regular season. In three games against Carolina, they were shut down, only able to muster two EV goals. The Hurricanes, even without the services of Dougie Hamilton, remained strong defensively and were able to limit dangerous chances. Most of New York’s opportunities came from above the circles, not really challenging Petr Mrazek and James Reimer.

Boston’s woes weren’t just on the power play. They struggled in the shot attempts department at 5-on-5, something that will have to be fixed very quickly. Carolina is aggressive on the puck and can force turnovers. They’re also very good at keeping the puck once they have it. The Bruins big names will have to find lots of time and space in order to create chances because the Hurricanes will be relentless pursuing the puck.

3. What’s Boston’s answer to Carolina’s top line?

The Rangers couldn’t contain the trio of Sebastian Aho (three goals, eight points), Andrei Svechnikov (three goals, five points), and Teuvo Teravainen (two points). The chemistry between Aho and Svechnikov was on display in the Qualifying Round, and they can use their individual talents to constantly apply pressure.

Boston’s defense was superb during the regular season, led by Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, whose play earned them the Williams Jennings Trophy. But it will be a battle of getting to the net. The Bruins were good at limiting opportunities to the outside, while the Hurricanes were excellent as getting chances from the high-danger areas in front of goal.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Bruins-Capitals stream
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

4. Pucks should start going Bruins’ way … maybe

After three games, Boston’s shooting percentage sits at a lowly 4.3%. That’s more than a 50% drop from their regular season number of 10.1%. Eventually things will balance out, right? This goal scoring issue will work itself out, right?

Those are questions waiting to be answered. And while you’d expect the offense to turn around, the Hurricanes have shown they are a strong defensive team. If the numbers are going to swing back in Boston’s favor, it won’t come easy.

5. Hurricanes in 6.

The Bruins couldn’t have been thrilled with the NHL’s Return to Play format. They won the Presidents’ Trophy during the regular season, but a listless round-robin puts them as the No. 4 and a difficult matchup. Carolina rolled by New York and now faces a struggling Boston side that doesn’t have a lot of time to fix their mistakes. The Hurricanes will frustrate the Bruins with their aggressive style and if the strong goaltending of Reimer and Mrazek continues, they’ll find a way to dump a 100-point Boston team.

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Carolina at Boston, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 13: Carolina at Boston, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Boston at Carolina, 12 p.m ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Boston at Carolina, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Carolina at Boston – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Boston at Carolina – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Carolina at Boston – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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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.