NHL Rink Wrap: J.T. Miller hat trick; Zegras plays lacrosse

NHL Rink Wrap: J.T. Miller hat trick; Zegras plays lacrosse
Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Thursday in the NHL

J.T. Miller, Canucks

For the second time in his NHL career (and first with the Canucks), J.T. Miller generated a hat trick. He was quick about it, too; Miller completed his hat trick 12:55 into the second period. Folks, that’s a goal every 11 minutes, with some spare change left over.

As bad as this season’s been at times for the Canucks, J.T. Miller is enjoying one of his best years. That hat trick gave Miller 44 points (15G, 29A) in 41 games. He’s really only enjoyed one season in that range: that debut Canucks season for Miller, when he collected 72 points in 69 games.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Miller, 28, with the Canucks under new management. Theoretically, the Canucks could just stand pat with Miller, as his contract ($5.25M cap hit) runs through next season.

Yet, with all these signs of life, the Canucks might want to institute at least a rebuild or “retool.” From the look of things, they’d be selling high if they traded J.T. Miller, if nothing else.

NHL highlights from Thursday

Take a look at Trevor Zegras pulling off the “Michigan” lacrosse-style goal. If that’s not enough, there’s a post about it.

Here’s that J.T. Miller hat trick.

Adam Larsson scored the first overtime game-winner in Seattle Kraken history:

Not sure anyone makes coast-to-coast goals almost feel routine quite like Connor McDavid.

Speaking of Connor McDavid and making it look easy:

Should they call Ty Nelson “split” Nelson?

Drew Doughty reached 1,000 games played.

Thursday NHL Takeaways

ECHL suspends Jacob Panetta for racist gesture toward Jordan Subban

Click here for information regarding the ECHL suspending Jacob Panetta for the rest of the season after he made a racist gesture toward Jordan Subban.

(For whatever it’s worth, Panetta claims he was making a “bodybuilder gesture.”)

Former Canucks forward Virtanen charged with sexual assault

The Vancouver Police Department announced that former Canucks forward Jake Virtanen has been charged with sexual assault. This is following an investigation stemming from an incident in Vancouver in 2017. CBC News has more.

Oilers sign Evander Kane for the rest of the season

After the NHL closed its latest investigation regarding possible COVID policy violations, the Oilers and other teams were free to sign Evander Kane. This follows weeks of rumors about different teams being interested in Kane, but the Oilers tended to be linked to him most often.

In pure salary cap terms, it’s a cheap contract for Edmonton. But Evander Kane’s generated awful headlines on and off the ice (and also made enemies on his own teams), so the Oilers have to pay a price when it comes to perception.

Time will tell if it will be worth it. This post goes into greater detail about the Oilers choosing to sign Evander Kane.

Coyotes reportedly in talk to use ASU’s arena (which could mean small-for-NHL crowds)

PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan reports that the Coyotes are in “advanced discussions” with Arizona State University to use their new arena (which is still being built) to host home games. According to Morgan, that Coyotes – ASU arena deal could last for three years, with an option for a fourth.

Early on, word indicated that capacity could be at about 5,000 people for Coyotes games. That estimate might even be optimistic:

Again, ASU’s new arena hasn’t even been completely built yet, so there’s also no guarantee that the building would be ready for the 2022-23 Coyotes season.

All around it … uh, seems pretty embarrassing? Or par for the course for an almost-cursed Coyotes franchise? Morgan brings up alternatives, including the idea of renovating Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but it sounds like the Coyotes using ASU’s upcoming building is quite likely.

Fittingly, while this is a huge mess, it’s not necessarily the end of the story. (Will there even be an end to this Coyotes – arena story?) ASU would still be an “interim” home for the Coyotes if that arena deal goes through.

Hey, at least the Coyotes won’t be goaded into rushing their rebuild too much, eh? Good grief.

Friday’s big story

Rangers vs. Wild, Panarin vs. Kaprizov

Every now and then, a future NHL star makes their presence felt in the KHL.

In 2016, Artemi Panarin won a Calder Trophy during his 23-24 age season, ruffling feathers in the process. Over time, most people forgot about that kind-of-exhausted controversy, and also dropped the other early Panarin criticism (that he was propped up by Patrick Kane).

Last season, people griped that Kirill Kaprizov won the 2021 Calder Trophy at age 24. The way things have been going, that talk will die down and people will just focus on what a star Kaprizov is. (In his first 92 NHL games, Kaprizov’s already collected 100 points.)

Will there be another Kaprizov — a player blowing minds overseas before finally making the leap to the NHL, not missing a beat? Well, we’ve at least seen Kaprizov show that Panarin’s not the only player who can seamlessly transition.

The two aren’t exactly the same — one’s a lefty shot, the other’s right-handed; Kaprizov was drafted and Panarin was not — but they’re both captivating stars. And both will make their seemingly playoff-bound teams well worth watching.

(And leave fans of struggling teams hoping their guy is the next Kaprizov/Panarin.)

NHL scores from Thursday

Ducks 5, Canadiens 4
Hurricanes 3, Senators 2 (SO)
Lightning 3, Devils 2
Panthers 4, Golden Knights 1
Kings 3, Islanders 2
Kraken 2, Penguins 1 (OT)
Blue Jackets 5, Rangers 3
Blues 5, Flames 1
Canucks 5, Jets 1
Oilers 3, Predators 2 (SO)

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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    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.