John Tavares

NHL on NBCSN: William Nylander’s bounce-back season

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

William Nylander‘s 2019-20 season couldn’t be any more different than his 2018-19 campaign. First of all, he actually played in games between Oct and Dec. 1 (he was holding out as an RFA last year). Secondly, when he is in the lineup, he’s actually been producing at a good clip. But how has he been able to do it and can he keep it going?

Through 43 games, Nylander has accumulated an impressive 19 goals and 19 assists. That’s already more than he had in 54 games last year (he managed to score 27 points last season). So the fact that he’s been able to give them an added offensive threat is huge news.

The 23-year-old’s advanced stats are equally as impressive. When he’s on the ice, the Leafs control 55.86 percent of the shot attempts, 54.58 percent of the expected goals scored, they score nearly 60 percent of the goals and they generate 55.65 percent of the high-danger chances (all stats via Natural Stat Trick).

But the season hasn’t been perfect by any means. Just prior to the Christmas break, Nylander and teammate Kasperi Kapanen were benched for a good chunk of a game against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 21. At the time, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t make a big deal out of it, but it’s clear that Nylander got the message.

“It’s the way it goes … some nights guys are going to play more than others,” Keefe said about the reduced ice time for Nylander and Kapanen, per the Toronto Star. “Willy had an outstanding game (Friday) and was a difference-maker for us. Today it was other guys. That’s part of having a team and an 82-game season.”

Since that night, the Leafs forward has accumulated 11 points in just six games. He’s had two three-point efforts during that stretch and two two-point nights. He’s been nearly impossible to stop.

Of course, Nylander’s been playing with some pretty good players all year. He’s spent the most amount of time on the ice with Auston Matthews (473:19 this season), but lately he’s been skating on a line with captain John Tavares.

We’ll see if he’s able to keep this up the rest of the way, but it’s clear that the Leafs are a better team when they have secondary scoring behind Tavares, Matthews and Mitch Marner. Having other contributors would also allow them to overcome injuries if they were to pop up like they did to Tavares and Marner earlier this season.

The six-year, $45 million contract that general manager Kyle Dubas handed him last year doesn’t seem to be as bad as many fans made it out to be.

Kathryn Tappen anchors tonight’s coverage with Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will have the call from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

More bad Maple Leafs injury news: Jake Muzzin out week-to-week

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to pile up wins … and also, unfortunately, injuries. Following bad news for Ilya Mikheyev, the team announced that defenseman Jake Muzzin is week-to-week with a broken foot.

Clearly, beating the Devils 5-4 in OT on Friday now qualifies as a costly win. Muzzin hurt himself blocking a shot, while that scary skate blade injury will cost Mikheyev months.

Muzzin suffered the injury during the first period, but kept playing and walking. Maybe that made things a bit worse?

Maple Leafs injuries accumulate

Again, the list of injuries is starting to climb, especially if you consider the season at large (with Mitch Marner and John Tavares missing substantial time).

Combine Muzzin and Mikheyev with the losses of wingers Trevor Moore (out indefinitely with a concussion) and Andreas Johnsson (leg, on IR) and things escalate. About the only “perk” is that all of those injuries alleviate short-term salary cap concerns.

Deflecting to that really feels like gallows humor, though.

Maple Leafs might need to keep outscoring their problems

OK, maybe there’s one other indirect perk: still-new head coach Sheldon Keefe gets even more incentive just to let this group loose. However you feel about Muzzin’s effectiveness since joining the Maple Leafs, he’s not really there for elite scoring ability. Theoretically, his replacements may bring more to the table and take more away. Personally, I’d be more than OK with additional games like that 8-6 thrillride against the Hurricanes, but others, are … well, grumpier. Some agree with my high-entertainment preference, though.

At minimum, the Maple Leafs appear refreshed and unleashed under Keefe compared to the dull latter Mike Babcock days.

Even grumbling critics have to agree that they’ve been better in the standings lately. Toronto’s now won six in a row, with a chance to make it seven against the Rangers on Saturday.

Are they messy sometimes? Sure, but personally, I’ll take a messy-fun hockey game over a “perfectly” played snore-fest.

And, frankly, it’s clearly the style of game that behooves Toronto’s bounty of talent. With Muzzin out week-to-week, it might not just be the best choice, but also the only choice.

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.

The Buzzer: Another 2-goal game for Bergeron; Perron keeps Blues rolling

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Three Stars

1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. There is no stopping Bergeron right now. He scored two more goals for the Bruins in their 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, giving him three consecutive two goal games. He also has nine goals in his past nine games. With 17 goals in 30 games, he is having one of the best goal-scoring seasons of his already incredible career. He is the just the fifth different Bruins player to ever score multiple goals in at least three consecutive games, and the first to do it since Cam Neely during the 1988-89 season.

2. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers. With two goals and an assist in a 6-4 win, Zibanejad continued his outstanding season for the Rangers. He is averaging more than a point-per-game and has once again been one of the bright spots for the Rangers. His first goal came on an absolutely ridiculous no-look, behind-the-back pass from Chris Kreider that you can see in the highlights down below. The Rangers still have their flaws and do not always win pretty, but with Artemi Panarin (who also recorded three points on Friday night) they have some serious impact talent than can keep them in games and give them a chance on most nights.

3. David Perron, St. Louis Blues. With Vladimir Tarasenko sidelined the Blues needed some other forwards to help step up and provide the offense. Perron has been one of those players. He scored another overtime goal on Friday (already his fourth this season) to help lift the Blues to a 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets and extend their current winning streak to seven games. Perron has 24 points in his past 22 games.

Other notable performances from Friday

  • William Nylander and John Tavares both had three points for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they extended their winning streak to six games. The only bad news in the game was Ilya Mikheyev leaving the game with a serious cut to his wrist. Read about that here.
  • Robin Lehner made 38 saves against his former team to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.
  • Tristan Jarry picked up another win for the Pittsburgh Penguins and their depth scoring had a huge night in a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators.
  • The Minnesota Wild rallied past the Colorado Avalanche in the third period. Read more about their win and their recent hot streak here.
  • Andrew Mangiapane scored 11 seconds into the game and finished with three points as the Calgary Flames won the first Battle of Alberta for this season, 5-1, over the Edmonton Oilers.
  • The Anaheim Ducks scored three goals in 97 seconds then held on to beat the Vegas Golden Knights by a 4-3 margin.
  • The Los Angeles Kings overcame a 2-0 third period deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks, 3-2, in overtime. Martin Frk scored his first two goals of the season to tie the game, setting the stage for Jeff Carter to win it in overtime.

Highlights of the Night

Check out this behind-the-back pass by Kreider to set up Zibanejad for the Rangers’ first goal of the night.

This pass from Richard Panik to set up Carl Hagelin is an absolute beauty. The Capitals were 2-1 winners in overtime thanks to a T.J. Oshie game-winning goal.

It came in a losing effort for the Avalanche, but Gabriel Landeskog scored a beauty of a goal against the Wild.

Blooper of the Night

Damon Severson scored an overtime goal for the wrong team. Read more about it here.

Factoids

  • Alex Ovechkin‘s assist on T.J. Oshie’s game-winning goal was his 36th career regular season point in overtime. Only Patrik Elias has more. He also made the decision tonight to not play in the 2020 NHL All-Star game. Read about his reasoning here.  [NHL PR]
  • Cale Makar played his 30th career regular season game for the Avalanche and joined some exclusive company in the process. [NHL PR]
  • Jeff Carter scored the game-winning goal for the Kings, giving him 11 career overtime goals. No player in Kings history has more. [NHL PR]

Scores

Boston Bruins 3, Buffalo Sabres 0
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, New Jersey Devils 4 (OT)
New York Rangers 5, Carolina Hurricanes 3
Washington Capitals 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
Minnesota Wild 6, Colorado Avalanche 4
Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Nashville Predators 2
St. Louis Blues 5, Winnipeg Jets 4
Chicago Blackhawks 5, New York Islanders 2
Calgary Flames 5, Edmonton Oilers 1
Anaheim Ducks 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3
Los Angeles Kings 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (OT)

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.

The Buzzer: Blues, Maple Leafs, others roar into holiday break

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Three Stars

1. Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs

Pity any hockey fan, but especially Leafs and Hurricanes fans, if they didn’t know it was an afternoon game. The two teams put on an epic show, with Toronto rally to win a game with 13 combined goals. This serves as the latest bit of evidence that the Maple Leafs are soaring under Sheldon Keefe.

Marner exploded for two goals and five assists, extending his point streak to eight games (six goals, 11 assists). The gifted playmaker improved his season total to 35 points in 27 contests. In generating five points, Marner matched his career-high for a single game.

Consider this a blanket top star for the most prolific point producers of that game. Martin Necas demands a mention, as the Hurricanes younger scored two goals and two assists. John Tavares (1G, 2A) and Zach Hyman (3A) both cracked three points. Auston Matthews authored the best play of the night with his assist, and also scored a goal. Check the highlights for more on this game, and also this.

2. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning

Point helped the Lightning bombard the Panthers 6-1 on Monday. The undersized star generated one goal and three assist for four points, managing a +3 rating and two shots on goal.

Even with that outburst, Point falls a bit short of a point-per-game (30 in 32). Climbing that mountain could be quite feasible if he stays as hot as he’s been. During the last six games, Point scored four goals and five assists, failing to score in just a single contest.

3. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

On a jam-packed Monday, Anderson faced plenty of competition to reach Buzzer three-star status. Producing one of the highlights of the night counts as a nice tiebreaker, however.

Overall, Anderson finished with 43 out of 44 saves. While the 38-year-old endures more valleys than peaks lately, Anderson has won three of his last four decisions. He’s also taken four of five games.

If this continues, the Senators might need to trade Anderson to maintain an efficient tank-job.

Highlights of the Night

Matthews managing an outrageous spinning assist is the singular highlight, but enjoy the full deal because it’s a delight:

Anderson gives Matthews a run for his money by pulling a Dominik Hasek, though:

Factoids

Scores

TOR 8 – CAR 6
MIN 3 – CGY 0
BOS 7 – WSH 3
TBL 6 – FLA 1
CBJ 3 – NYI 2
PHI 5 – NYR 1
OTT 3 – BUF 1
NSH 3 – ARI 2
MTL 6 – WPG 2
NJD 7 – CHI 1
STL 4 – LAK 1
VAN 4 – EDM 2
COL 7 – VGK 3

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 Decade in Review Roundtable: Favorite goals; best, worst NHL jerseys

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As 2019 comes to a close, we’re using this final full week of the year to take a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.

Player of the decade

SEAN: I’m going to chicken out here and allow Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin to each get a piece of the award. They both achieved so much in the decade and still have a number of years left in the NHL to add to their Hall of Fame legacies.

Let’s start with Crosby, who ended 2009 by winning his first Stanley Cup and then began 2010 by scoring the golden goal in overtime for Canada at the Vancouver Olympics. He continued bulking up his resume with another Olympic gold medal, gold at the World Cup of Hockey and the IIHF World Championship, two more Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, a second Hart Trophy, two Richard Trophies, and two Ted Lindsay Awards, among numerous other honors. To think his never-ending list of awards could have been even greater had he not missed so much time dealing with various injuries.

Moving on to Ovi, since Jan. 1, 2010, the Capitals captain has scored 435 goals in 765 games, 73 more than Steven Stamkos, who has the second-most over that span. When you shoot as much as he has (3,447 total shots, 844 more than Phil Kessel) you’re going to score at a rate that he does.

What else has Ovechkin done this decade? He finally won his Cup, was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, picked up his third Hart Trophy, won the Ted Lindsay Award, scored his way to six more Richard Trophies, and won two golds at the Worlds. He also has a good chance at hitting 700 goals this season as he marches his towards Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894.

JAMES: Honestly, it feels like it would be facetious to name anyone except Sidney Crosby. Maybe if Connor McDavid was born a few years earlier? Perhaps Roberto Luongo if you weigh funny tweets heavily?

Crosby’s piled up some of the best numbers of the last 10 years, even as concussions made the beginning of the decade look like a possible premature end-of-the-line. Thankfully, aside from the occasional hernia hiccup, Crosby’s been able to remain on the ice. He’s collected all of the individual and team accolades one can ask for, and while others enjoyed dominant stretches, Crosby ranks the highest by just about every objective measure.

Would it kill him to crack a few jokes, though?

JOEY: It might be the easy answer, but it’s hard not to go with Sidney Crosby. He captained the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups this decade and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in both those years too, He won a Hart Trophy in 2014. He took home an Art Ross Trophy, a Rocket Richard Trophy, two Ted Lindsay Awards and he was named a First-team All-Star three different times. On the international stage, he took home Gold Medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games. How do you argue with that? Yes, a lot of these accomplishments are team accomplishments, but it’s no coincidence that Crosby’s teams tend to do well. He’s a great player. Clearly the player of the decade.

ADAM: It is the same answer that everyone else is going to give, but how can it be anyone else other than Sidney Crosby? He added two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, another scoring title, another goal-scoring crown, and another MVP to his individual trophy case and was the most productive player of the decade. He is only 20 points behind Patrick Kane for most total points since the start of the 2010-11 season, but you have to keep in mind that Crosby has played in 104 fewer games because of injuries, with his peak offensive years in the league being crushed by injuries and a lockout. I want to see what he would have done offensively with 82-game seasons between the 2010 and 2014 seasons. 

SCOTT: Sidney Crosby will be a popular choice, but Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks has been a joy to watch this decade. Three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe and a Hart trophy are just some of the awards Kane has gathered this decade. Additionally, No. 88 should finish the decade with the most points of any NHL player.

Kane is an electric player and has proven that he can thread a pass in the tiniest of windows and can snipe the smallest of corners from any angle. The NHL is a better sport when a player as special as Kane is on the ice.

Favorite goal from the past decade?

SEAN: Bobby Ryan once scored a goal with Mikko Koivu’s stick, then taunted the Wild forward in response to Koivu swiping his stick moments earlier. It was unique, petty, and just so damn wonderful.

JAMES: Tomas Hertl‘s fourth goal in a blowout against the Rangers in 2013 wasn’t just astounding because it happened during game action, rather than a shootout or practice. It was also astounding because it prompted an incredibly dirty bit of analysis from Joe Thornton, and perked your ears up if Thornton got off to a quick two-goal-or-so start in a given game afterward.

(On a related note: R.I.P., Jason Botchford.)

JOEY: I’m going to have to go back to the start of the decade. Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime in 2010 wasn’t a highlight goal, but it was a funny way to end an incredibly long Stanley Cup drought. Kane was the only person in the world who knew that his shot from a sharp angle went into the Flyers’ net. His reaction was priceless and the fact that everyone else is just looking around made it even more memorable. Again, it wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it’s one that I’ll never forget just because of how unique it was.

ADAM: Two words for you: Butt goal. Buffalo Sabres vs. Arizona Coyotes. Overtime. A loose puck gets deflected in the air, falls into the back of Mike Smith‘s pants, and he then slides his entire body across the goal line into the back of the net and inadvertently gives the Sabres a free overtime win. Easily the most unique, absurd, and ridiculous goal of the decade. Many players have scored Stanley Cup clinching goals or playoff series clinching goals, but how many butt goals do you see? Will also give honorable mention to the three goalie goals of the decade — Cam Ward, Martin Brodeur, and Smith. Smith gets extra credit because his was one he actually shot into the net (not an own-goal by the other team where the goalie was most recent player to touch it). It also came just two months before his butt goal. It was an eventful season for Mike Smith. 

SCOTT: John Tavares’ wraparound in double overtime of Game 6 to lead the Islanders to their first playoff series since 1993. The Islanders needed to get the monkey off their backs and to see a captain deliver in the clutch was a special sight.

Favorite hockey memory from the past decade?

SEAN: Scott Foster wasn’t just your run of the mill emergency backup goaltender, he actually got into a a game, made seven saves and became a legend in Chicago. 

Accountant by day, EBUG by night, Foster played 14 minutes of a Blackhawks win in 2018 as his beer league buddies watched. He wasn’t scored on by the Jets and can forever tout a 0.00 goals against average and 1.000 save percentage … until he’s called upon again.

JAMES: As many great things happened on the ice, I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t meeting my future wife at the NHL Awards.

(Besides, while I followed her to Canada, I’m not yet ready to betray my American brethren by choosing Crosby’s golden goal.)

JOEY: I was thrilled to see. Alex Ovechkin finally win a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals. There was all this silly talk about him not being able to lead his team to a cup, and for a moment it looked like their window had closed. Once they dropped the first two games of their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, everyone got that “here we go again” feeling, but the Capitals managed to prove everybody wrong.

ADAM: I have been writing about the NHL for more than a decade now and have attended several outdoor games, many Stanley Cup Final games, saw the Blackhawks win it in Boston and get to walk out on the ice during their celebration, and was at the Penguins’ double-overtime Game 7 win against Ottawa in the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. All of those memories are amazing. If I am being honest, though, my favorite memory of the past decade is another completely absurd one. Mainly because I love celebrating the absurdity and chaos of sports. It is being in the building the night an angry Henrik Lundqvist flipped the net over during play in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was a huge turning point game for the Penguins because at the time they had not won the second Stanley Cup in the Crosby-Evgeni MalkinKris Letang era and were trying to change the “disappointment” narrative around them. Lundqvist had owned them for a couple of years and eliminated them in back-to-back years in the playoffs. When he flipped the net everyone in the building was completely bewildered in a “what did we just see?” sort of way, and no one could believe it after. It was all surreal. Lundqvist was never the same against the Penguins after that, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup a few months later after going through the Rangers in Round 1, then repeated the next season. 

SCOTT: Mother’s Day 2014. Martin St. Louis scored one of the more emotional goals of the decade. The Hall of Fame forward lost his mother earlier in the week but returned to the New York Rangers to help them overcome a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Best and worst NHL jersey of the past decade

SEAN: Best: As much I hope more teams add some color to their jersey designs, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Sharks’ stealth jerseys. The combination of the black with teal looks real sharp and comes across so nice on HD TVs.

Worst: The Sabres’ Turdburger jerseys were bad, yeah, but what was up with those red Atlanta Thrashers thirds with THRASHERS in that odd font and the number right on the belly? The shoulder patch logos were fine, but altogether it was just a mess.

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JAMES: Considering the Sabres’ checkered history of bad logos and design choices (note: the Hurricanes are the organization that actually dominates literal checkers), it’s refreshing that their gold-encrusted anniversary duds rock so, so hard. Really, anything classic and simple-looking will probably produce some drool, so I will hear your arguments for slick stuff like these Flames sweaters. (The Sabres’ gloves break the tie for me, for what it’s worth.)

While I’m sure there are uglier looks than the Lightning’s “stealth mode” jerseys, that moniker brings about unintended consequences, because frankly, there are times when it’s tough to read players’ numbers. Form is important, designers, but functionality matters in cases like these, too. I’d rather grimace at a bad design than squint. No Robert De Niro impressions here.

Also, as a colorblind person, I a) should probably be disqualified from this discussion anyway and b) would like to gently request that “color vs. color” stays a novelty rather than becoming a regular thing.

JOEY: Worst: It has to be those brutal black New York Islanders jerseys that had the grey shoulders, the world “Islanders” in orange letters on the front and the player’s number on the front of the shirt. Thankfully the Isles retired those a while ago. If we never see those uniform, we’ll all be better for it.

Best: I’m always a fan of the classics. The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks will always be my favorites, but if I had to give another one, I’d go with the Vancouver Canucks black “skate” jersey. I was so happy to see them bring those back this year for their 50th anniversary. Those things are incredible. I don’t really buy jerseys anymore, but that’s one I might have to purchase in the near future. It’s incredibly gorgeous.

ADAM: Worst: The Los Angeles’ Kings stadium series jerseys, the ones with the silver on the top part and plain white on the bottom. Hated them from the minute I saw them and they have never grown on me since.

Best: Probably an unpopular opinion because everyone prefers their teal look, but the San Jose Sharks’ stealth jersey is near the top of my list. I also have no real reason for liking it, but the New York Rangers’ 2012 Winter Classic jersey is one that always appealed to me.

SCOTT: Worst: The Islanders’ black alternate jerseys. They were not the ugliest looking sweaters but were extremely out of place for a franchise that wore blue and orange throughout their history. The organization was not ready to embrace a move to the Barclays Center and the black jerseys did not help the situation.

Best: The Maple Leafs have a classic sweater to begin with, but the white jerseys they wore during the 2018 Stadium Series against the Washington Capitals were super sharp.

One bold prediction for the NHL’s next 10 years

SEAN: The NHL gets fully on board with the idea load management and slashes the schedule to 70 games, beginning the season in mid-September and handing out the Stanley Cup in mid-May. Players get more time to rest; teams get more time to practice; and we’re not worrying about ice conditions deep into June.

Where do the players and owners make up for that lost revenue from the 12 fewer games? Welcome back, World Cup of Hockey. Hello, increased presence of gambling sponsorships. How ya doin’, China market cash cow.

(OK, maybe this is a wish rather than a bold prediction?)

JAMES: Canadian NHL teams will win at least four Stanley Cups, with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews finishing the decade with at least one Stanley Cup victory apiece.

JOEY: By Dec. 31, 2029, I believe we’ll see a European branch of the NHL. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I can see the NHL wanting to go global. I don’t think they’ll expand in North America after Seattle, but I can see them add more than one team in Europe/Asia before the start of the next decade. Leagues are looking to expand their reach. The NFL will be heading to London full-time sooner or later, so it wouldn’t shock me to see Gary Bettman make a similar announcement. Imagine if a Finnish team taking on a Swedish team in the Stanley Cup Final. That might be closer than you think.

ADAM: Connor McDavid plays for a team that is not the Edmonton Oilers not only within the next decade, but within the next five years. I am going big with this bold prediction. I do not trust the Oilers to ever get it right around him and he is going to want to eventually win.

SCOTT: Player tracking will be taken to a whole new level and play a crucial component for NHL teams to use when making roster management decisions.

MORE PHT DECADE IN REVIEW FUN:
• Top NHL players in fantasy hockey
• Most significant goals
• Best players of the decade
Best NHL teams of the decade
Biggest NHL trades