PHT Morning Skate: Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award finalists, plus more

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Willie O’Ree Award finalists; bits on Rangers, Bruins, Maple Leafs

• Announcing the finalists for the 2020 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award in its third annual rendition: Dampy Brar of Calgary, Alexandria Briggs-Blake of Oxon Hill, Maryland, and John Haferman of Columbus. [NHL.com]

Charlie Coyle‘s agent confirmed that Coyle was held out of Bruins practice Saturday because of an inconclusive COVID-19 test. Coyle was among seven Bruins who were deemed “unfit to play,” with Tuukka Rask, Torey Krug, David Krejci, Chris Wagner, and others also in that situation. In at least Coyle’s case, his agent claims that after that inconclusive test, Coyle’s follow-up test ended up being negative. Considering the speculation swirling around David Pastrnak already, it’s been a turbulent start to Bruins training camp. [NBC Sports Boston]

• Apparently, the Maple Leafs really kicked things up a notch on Sunday. That translated to mimicking actual games more, including a full 60-minute scrimmage with breaks that were a lot like intermission pauses. All of that said, the lineup choices might have been the most exciting. Imagine the anxiety a defenseman would feel having to defend John TavaresAuston MatthewsMitch Marner? Almost seems unfair. [TSN]

• Speaking of the Maple Leafs, really interesting insightful stuff from Jeff Veillette on the team being punished for “investing in themselves.” [Faceoff Circle]

• Larry Brooks writes of Kaapo Kakko bringing a new “swagger” and looking like a new man. Beyond his health risks, that’s a good thought. Because … well, frankly, Kakko quietly suffered through a crummy rookie season. [New York Post]

Like, really bad. Note: it’s not great when you see the old “double walrus” (term I just made up) on someone’s Evolving Hockey RAPM chart:

• More Rangers: after some concern, it sounds like Pavel Buchnevich will be available for the Rangers for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. [Blueshirts Forever]

Other hockey links

• Bryan Burns of the Lightning website zooms through the pros and cons of media “scrums” on Zoom/the Internet versus the traditional way they’ve been done in person. Reporters generally prefer the old way. What about players, and coaches, such as Jon Cooper? They are more of a mixed bag. [Lightning website]

• Deeply sad stuff from Troy Stecher on the recent passing of his father, Peter. The story is also poignant, though, as Troy discusses a loving letter Peter wrote for Troy that Peter never got to send. It’s a worthwhile, if emotional, read all around. [Sportsnet]

• Sin Bin Vegas believes the Golden Knights’ top line of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny needs a nickname. [Sin Bin Vegas]

Mikko Koivu admits that he’s not ready to make a retirement decision. Honestly, that’s good, because I think I speak for many others in hoping a Selke-caliber forward gets another stab at a truly great run. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

• Oilers Nation’s Cam Lewis believes Edmonton will lean toward starting Mike Smith, not Mikko Koskinen, during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Lewis points to Smith’s experience, in particular. Personally, I wonder if experience is overrated, at least when you consider how often Smith’s looked shaky with all of that mileage on him at age 38. [Oilers Nation]

• Why is it so difficult for defensemen to win, or even become finalists for, the Lady Byng? [The Hockey News]

• Icethetics goes deep (like, really deep) on whether leaks about a Senators rebranding might be legit. And if so, if those tweaks would be well-advised. [Icethetics]

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.

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