Brendan Gallagher

PHT Morning Skate: Draft lottery winners, losers; options for Senators

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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? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Following Placeholder Team’s win in the NHL Draft Lottery Friday night, a look at some other winners, as well as some losers. [Sportsnet]

• Brian Burke on how the lottery played out: “This result is nothing short of a disgrace. This makes no sense. It should’ve been just the seven teams that weren’t in the play-in round in the lottery. Give the teams who need the most help the best players.” [Detroit News]

• The Senators ended up with the No. 3 and No. 5 picks. GM Pierre Dorion will have plenty of options when it’s his time to make those selections. [Ottawa Citizen]

• Why having chaos reign was the best possible outcome of the draft lottery. [Scotty Wazz]

• The hub cities could be announced as early as Monday. Las Vegas’ chances have taken a hit with recent spikes in COVID-19 cases. [The Sports Daily]

• NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on the hub city selection process: “Every relevant consideration will be fairly evaluated before decisions are made and announced.” [TSN]

• How Brendan Gallagher became the biggest steal in the 2010 NHL Draft. [The Score]

• Should the Rangers pursue a Lias Andersson for Casey Mittlestadt swap? [Forever Blueshirts]

• An interesting look at the progress of hockey in Egypt. [The Hockey News]

• Fun look back at the Sunshine Hockey League’s West Palm Beach Blaze. [Litterbox Cats]

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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.

NHL Power Rankings: Which play-in playoff series would be the most exciting?

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With the NHL just announcing how Phase 2 will work — but not even exactly when it will start — the NHL has a long way to go before a 24-team playoff format might actually happen. That “long way to go” part gives us a lot of time to mull over different possibilities, though. So let’s mull, then.

A lot must still be determined, but if everything holds, there will be eight “play-in” series (four per conference, featuring the 5th through 12th seeds). Each series would include a best-of-five format.

So which of those current, play-in series would be the best? Which would brim with drama, even with fans relegated to watch at home? Let’s rank them. You can also see the proposed 24-team NHL playoff format at the bottom of this post.

1. Penguins vs. Canadiens

Look, it’s true that there’s a lot of evidence that the Carey Price players imagine has not been the Carey Price players actually face most nights over the past, say, three years.

But in your heart of hearts, can you truly dismiss how fun it could be to see “Carey Price vs. Sidney Crosby” in headlines? Especially when you can throw Evgeni Malkin in the mix? Then maybe Brendan Gallagher to add some humorous wrinkles on TikTok?

The actual, not just imagined, hockey would really sell it. Even with a more defensive bent at times in 2019-20, the Penguins remain one of the league’s most electric teams. Sometimes that electricity stems from the static energy of making mistakes. For all of the Canadiens’ flaws, they are the sort of smaller, speedy, skilled team that might carry upset potential during these uncertain times. Montreal boasts the possession numbers of a viable team, too.

Maybe Shea Weber can shoot a puck through a net and make us forget about the state of the world for at least a few moments?

Bonus points if this would set the stage for the Penguins facing the Flyers, who currently stand as the East’s fourth seed.

2. Oilers vs. Blackhawks

When in doubt, go with star power. You could do a lot worse than Connor McDavid vs. Patrick Kane. Heck, you could do worse than Leon Draisaitl vs. Jonathan Toews, too.

In a macro sense, there are some parallels between the way the teams are built, too. McDavid and Draisaitl often feel the burden of carrying not-so-balanced Oilers teams. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are a very top-heavy, deeply flawed team. But their top players are dangerous.

Corey Crawford‘s quietly strong finish to 2019-20 sprinkles in some extra intrigue as well.

If nothing else, this could be messy-but-fun.

3. Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

Sometimes you stick to star power. Other times, you subsist on the potential for soap opera drama.

On one side, you have the explosive Maple Leafs, whose explosiveness can backfire. The media will seize on any of their stumbles, and this talented team nonetheless gives critics plenty to chew on.

On the other, you have John Tortorella, who basically has a quota for dramatic press conferences. The NHL basically owes us some controversial calls to leave Torts fuming. It’s basically an unwritten right for us hockey fans. Don’t let us down during this play-in series, then, NHL.

The contrast between a defensive-minded team and an explosive offense can let us olds rattle off “irresistible force vs. immovable object” references if we really feel saucy.

Speaking of saucy, it’s possible the Maple Leafs would go on to face the (gulp) Bruins.

4. Flames vs. Jets

If this happened a year earlier, it might take the top spot. Both teams have fallen quite a bit, though, making this a series where you wonder if they can reclaim past magic.

Even with tempered expectations, the Jets and Flames bring a lot to the table. Matthew Tkachuk has all of that pent-up pest energy from the pandemic pause. Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine can fill up highlight reels. Mark Giordano vs. Blake Wheeler would be fun.

From an actual hockey standpoint, this series might deserve a better spot on the list.

5. Hurricanes vs. Rangers

You have to assume that the Hurricanes will come up with some sort of viral sensation, right? They’ll stumble upon something.

Luckily, the Hurricanes can back up that sizzle with the steak of good hockey. Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho also give Carolina more star power than most might realize.

All of that aside, it will be tough to resist this becoming “The Artemi Panarin Show.” He generated justified Hart Trophy hype, and the Rangers were finishing pretty strong this season.

(I’m admittedly artificially boosting this on the hope that we’ll get one last Rangers playoff run from Henrik Lundqvist, by the way.)

6. Canucks vs. Wild

I’m not sure the hockey world has totally clued in to how great Elias Pettersson is. The play-in for the NHL’s 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs seem like a great opportunity to see the light.

7. Predators vs. Coyotes

There’s no way we can sneak P.K. Subban back onto the Predators for entertaining purposes, is there? (*Puts hand to imaginary earpiece*) It appears there is no way.

These two teams can play some high-quality hockey when they’re on. For all of Nashville’s headaches, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis were incredible this season. Maybe Pekka Rinne can get back on track, and create a memorable goalie duel with Darcy Kuemper? (Kuemper deserves more credit for his elite work from the past two seasons.)

Even with no Subban, there are players to watch. How might Taylor Hall perform with a lot to prove, and his next contract hovering? Will Phil Kessel rebound, or at least amuse us?

8. Islanders vs. Panthers

As much as people might want to replay John Tavares‘ series-clinching goal (it ruled), that clip might honestly bother both Panthers and Islanders fans at this point.

*cough* And yet I must …

 

There’s not really much of a rivalry here, yet even as the eighth-ranked NHL play-in series, it’s not that hard to find reasons to get excited.

Can the Islanders contain an explosive Panthers offense starring Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov? Maybe Sergei Bobrovsky can get his mojo back after a wildly disappointing first Florida foray? Joel Quenneville vs. Barry Trotz is kind of fun. And, really, take any excuse you can to witness the splendor of Mathew Barzal.

However you rank the NHL’s potential play-in series, the odds are strong that you’ll get some fun hockey. Will it be strange to watch it without fans? Sure, but the talent and intrigue might just make it all work.

Brushing up on the NHL’s proposed 24-team playoff format, including play-in series

As a reminder, here’s how it might look, and what we’re basing the play-in series upon.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
Bruins
Lightning
Capitals
Flyers

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens

(6) Hurricanes
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers

(7) Islanders
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers

(8) Maple Leafs
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
Blues
Avalanche
Golden Knights
Stars

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks

(6) Predators
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes

(7) Canucks
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild

(8) Flames
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets

MORE POWER RANKINGS:

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.

PHT Morning Skate: NHLers and TikTok; goalies and the draft

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

Brendan Gallagher is just one of a number of NHL players using TikTok as a creative outlet. [ESPN]

• While many GMs disagrees, Golden Knights president of hockey ops George McPhee is a fan of an early-June draft. [Sin Bin Vegas]

• Examining 10 years worth of NHL drafts and seeing how goalie selections eventually panned out. [The Hockey News]

• The Capitals have had a diverse jersey history. Here’s a good examination of the good and bad looks they’ve sported over the years. [Hockey by Design]

• Caps GM Brian MacLellan has a thing for trading third-round picks at the deadline. [NoVa Caps]

Cory Schneider has been one of the more active Devils when it comes to handle NHLPA duties for the team. [Devils]

• How would you rate Mark Scheifele‘s eight-year, $49 million contract? [Jets Nation]

Joe Pavelski is using the NHL pause to get his restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin up and running. [WKOW]

• Reggie Millette’s character is one of his best traits as a person and hockey player. [NHL.com]

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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.

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.

Getty Images

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

Long-term outlook for the Montreal Canadiens

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Montreal Canadiens.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Canadiens don’t have a lot of players locked up to much term. That seems like a plus, because the bigger contracts also happen to be Montreal’s biggest headaches.

Apologies to Carey Price after already critiquing his 2019-20 season, but you can only be so delicate about his situation. Price has already shown some troubling signs of fatigue at 32. His $10.5 million AAV is frightening now, yet it carries through 2025-26, with a no-movement clause to boot.

Shea Weber didn’t suffer a career-ending injury as feared, yet there’s no denying that he’s banged up. One wonders if the 34-year-old is fated for LTIR; otherwise, his $7.86M AAV (also through 2025-26) could become quite burdensome.

Jonathan Drouin breaks the trend of older players receiving term, but there are already rumors about the 25-year-old getting moved out before his deal ($5.5M AAV) expires (after 2022-23).

Looking at the Habs’ agreed-upon core is a chore. The more interesting questions revolve around who else might be a part of it.

The Canadiens don’t face that many long-term contract decisions this offseason, but pending RFA Max Domi is a key one. Can they find the right price and term for the speedy but flawed forward?

There are some other interesting mid-career players to consider.

Marc Bergevin balked on trading Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry, two players whose contracts expire after 2020-21. Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault stand out as other noteworthy pieces who need new deals after 2020-21, too. Who stays and who goes?

Granted, a lot of that revolves around how much progress Montreal’s promising prospects make.

Long-term needs for Canadiens

Look, it’s not going to be pleasant for the Canadiens to pay a backup goalie a handsome fee. Not when they already allot $10.5M in cap space to Price.

Yet it seems like Montreal’s committed to at least hovering around the playoff bubble with Bergevin and Claude Julien running the show. Why wouldn’t you try to ease Price’s burden and get a Plan B when the market could include borderline starters like Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, and old pal Jaroslav Halak?

Getting some saves would go a long way. So would finishing more chances.

For another year, Montreal clearly suffered for its lack of snipers. This team can hog the puck at five-on-five, and create havoc with skilled forwards. They just don’t really have a ton of players who finish, something that surfaces for a power play that finds itself snakebitten far too often.

The Canadiens could certainly use more NHL-ready help on defense. That’s another question filed under “How ready are these prospects?”

Perhaps more than anything else, the Canadiens need vision.

So far, Montreal’s been trying to build for the future while staying in contention. The first part’s gone pretty well, but the Canadiens have settled for not-quite-good-enough. Are they hurting their chances of having a higher ceiling by trying to prosper now and later? Should they at least do a Rangers-style mini-reboot, selling off the likes of Tatar, Petry, and Drouin (and maybe even Gallagher)?

Oh yeah, and how much would it take to compete in an Atlantic Division featuring the Bruins, Lightning, and Maple Leafs?

The answers are tough to come by, but Bergevin & Co. need to soul search on such topics.

Long-term strengths for Canadiens

Again, the Canadiens’ farm system looks pretty good. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler ranked them second overall in February (sub required), and that’s while “graduating” the likes of Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Cole Caulfield could indeed parallel Alex DeBrincat as a near-instant draft steal, as many wondered about the spritely sniper.

I wonder if that group could still use the added “oomph” that would have come with a tanktastic, premium high draft pick, but it’s heartening for Montreal overall.

Bergevin’s also seemingly learned from how much the Price contract boxed the Canadiens in by not signing many other long-term deals. The uncertainty translates to flexibility.

Arpon Basu and Marc Antoine Godin went in-depth on the Canadiens’ salary cap opportunities recently (sub required). If the pause squeezes the cap flat, Montreal could take advantage of teams in “salary cap prison.” They could also exploit a free agent situation that may thus be low on buyers. There’s also the possibility that Bergevin could send out more offer sheets.

Bergevin’s patience could pay off … if he makes the right moves.

MORE ON THE CANADIENS:
Breaking down their 2019-20 season
Biggest surprises and disappointments

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.