PHT Morning Skate: All-Star tweaks; Best goalie tandems

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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.

• The Maple Leafs signed Trevor Moore to a two-year contract extension. (NHL.com/Maple Leafs)

• The Hockey News looks at the five off-season acquisitions that have provided the least amount of value to their new teams. There’s more than one Dallas Star on this list. (The Hockey News)

• Take a look back at the Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones trade three years after it happened. (On the Forecheck)

• Caps forward Jakub Vrana has all the tools to become a young star in the NHL. (Washington Times)

William Nylander‘s struggles aren’t a big problem for the Maple Leafs right now. (Toronto Star)

• It’s time for the Florida Panthers to make some significant changes. (The Rat Trick)

• Pens defenseman Kris Letang is making a case for the Norris Trophy. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

• The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington looks at a few small tweaks that could help All-Star weekend. (Buffalo News)

• Sabres goalie Carter Hutton got off to a great start, but he’s struggled pretty badly over the last few weeks. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson uses his psychology background to help him with his game. (NHL.com)

• Find out which teams have the best goalie tandems in the NHL. (ESPN)

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Trading Zuccarello; importance of Pacific for Flames

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.

• It’s time for the New York Rangers to move Mats Zuccarello and continue their rebuild. [NY Post]

• “Making the case against the red-hot New York Islanders” [Yahoo]

• A deep playoff run for the Calgary Flames would be helped by them winning the Pacific Division. [TSN]

Elias Pettersson is one reason why the Vancouver Canucks are fun to watch again. [Featurd]

• “When Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson body-slammed Pettersson in October and knocked him out of the lineup for six games with a concussion, the Canucks were livid, as they should have been. But it’s pretty clear the Canucks have come to the realization that their star player is going to have to get used to being abused. And Pettersson is probably coming to that realization, too.” [The Hockey News]

• Looking at the second half schedule, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be challenged every night. [Raw Charge]

• On Alex Ovechkin and why he shouldn’t be punished for skipping the 2019 NHL All-Star Game. [USA Today]

• It’s time for the Ottawa Senators to sell, sell, sell. [Faceoff Circle]

• Despite a down season for the team, Carter Hart is showing a potential bright future for the Philadelphia Flyers. [EP Rinkside]

Philipp Grubauer or Semyon Varlamov? Which Colorado Avalanche netminder should Jared Bednar stick with? [Mile High Hockey]

• Marc Bergevin isn’t planning any short-term moves with his Montreal Canadiens roster. [Canadiens]

Justin Abdelkader talks about the Detroit Red Wings’ rebuild and the children’s book he’s writing. [SI.com]

• The Minnesota Wild need to solve their inconsistency problem in the second half. [Star Tribune]

• Look back at Michel Therrien’s famous 2006 rant that called out the Pittsburgh Penguins’ defensive woes. [Pensburgh]

• The losing needs to stop for the Florida Panthers. [The Rat Trick]

• Finally, always be aware of Gritty:

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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.

The best goals of 2018 (PHT Year in Review)

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Pro Hockey Talk is taking a look back at the year in hockey. We’ll be presenting you with the best goals, saves, moments, players and more as we remember 2018.

Hockey is a game of skill. Some have it, some don’t. In 2018, there were a number instances where hockey players all over the world showed off incredible moves before putting the puck in the back of the net.

We love hockey for so many reasons. There’s jaw-dropping saves, hilarious bloopers, incredible moments, the amazing players and much more. But there’s nothing like an incredible goal to get you out of your seat. So let’s see what some of these crazy kids did on the ice to entertain us throughout 2018.

Keep in mind that these are in no particular order. Just sit back, keep scrolling and enjoy the show!

Let’s start in Nashville, where the Predators were bounced from the Stanley Cup Playoffs a little earlier than they had hoped, but not before Filip Forsberg was able to score one of the best goals you’ll see on this list. Avs defenseman Samuel Girard is a really good player, but Forsberg went around him like he wasn’t even there on this fabulous play:

Sometimes, when you see a goal, you’re left wondering how on earth an NHLer could pull off such a spectacular move on another NHLer. Well, earlier this season, that’s exactly what Penguins captain Sidney Crosby did to Ryan Strome. Crosby’s elite, but this just isn’t fair:

William Karlsson and the Vegas Golden Knights used the 2017-18 season to put themselves on the hockey map. Karlsson scored an incredible 43 goals last year, including this between-the-legs beauty against the San Jose Sharks last March:

Are you a fan of incredible hand-eye coordination? Well, if you are, you’ll love this goal by Senators forward Matt Duchene. How on earth he was able to get a shot off and then bat the rebound out of mid-air is simply ridiculous. Many players around the league bat pucks out of mid-air, but not many can do it like this. It’s just not fair:

Duchene was able to bat the puck away from distance, but how about this double-tap from Crosby from in-close. Carey Price has absolutely no chance of keeping this puck out of the net. Also, Crosby would be a fantastic ball player:

Sorry Flyers fans, you’re on the list again for all the wrong reasons. It’s been an up and down year for Anthony Duclair, as he’s played on three teams over the last two seasons. He’s been a healthy scratch in Columbus on a few occasions this year, but he also scored a remarkable goal from his knees:

Alright, let’s get away from the NHL for a little bit. A gentleman by the name of Vincent Praplan pulled off a lacrosse-style goal during a Swiss League game this year. Yeah, this has been done before but it’ll never get old. Impressive stuff right here:

Montreal Canadiens prospect Jarret Tyszka will never be confused with Alex Ovechkin, but how about the effort and concentration it took to score this goal while falling down during WHL action last season:

Speaking of scoring while falling down, this goal by Cameron Stokes of the Paris Mounties is pretty sweet, too. Steal the puck in the corner and take care of business while going down. Not bad, not bad at all:

Another Canadiens prospect finds himself on the list. Josh Brook somehow managed to carry the puck for a while before going between the legs to beat the opposing goaltender. This one is pretty sweet:

Can we give some love to a goalie? USHL netminder Roman Durny snuck onto this list thanks to the goal he scored last week. A perfect shot from downtown:

Just in case you’re not aware, Alexis Lafreniere isn’t draft-eligible until 2020. That doesn’t stop him from doing ridiculous things like this though:

Here’s one you don’t see every day. Nic Petan with the Superman stretch to score a goal in the AHL.

Jocelyne Lamoureux helped the U.S. win gold with this shootout goal against Team Canada:

Alright, back to the NHL. Panthers defender Mike Matheson isn’t known for his silky-smooth mitts, but he scored an incredible buzzer-beater against the Detroit Red Wings earlier this season. Even he seemed to be a little surprised that he was able to pull this off:

There’s some soft defending by Noah Juulsen here, but this is still a pretty incredible goal by Neal Pionk:

Don’t forget to check out NBC Sports’ Top 18 Goals of 2018. There’s some beauties here too:

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.

Panthers’ Huberdeau is playing best hockey of his career

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Those who follow hockey closely were already aware that Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau is a really, really good player. His red-hot start to 2018-19 brings up a question, though: is he even better than we realized?

If you’re putting together a list of the hottest players in the NHL, quite a few of the top-end Panthers would be on there, including recent import Mike Hoffman. But don’t forget about Huberdeau … you know, scratch that. Huberdeau is forcing people to take notice.

The Quebec native generated three points (one goal, two assists) as the Panthers crushed the Boston Bruins 5-0 on Tuesday. With that, Huberdeau extended his multi-point streak to six games, giving him three goals and 11 assists for a whopping 14 points.

This isn’t merely a matter of a hot six games. Consider that, since Nov. 21, Huberdeau’s 16 points in eight games ranks second only to Nikita Kucherov, who’s managed a remarkable 18 in his own eight games.

Overall, Huberdeau has seven goals and almost an assist per game (24 in 26) to give him 31 points this season.

The third pick of the 2011 NHL Draft isn’t sacrificing all-around play to boost his offensive numbers, as Huberdeau remains as strong as ever when you consider his possession stats, including relative ones.

Huberdeau’s hot start doesn’t merely revolve around lucky bounces. His 11.7 shooting percentage is right around his career average (11.2), and Huberdeau’s on-ice shooting percentage (8.4) is actually below his career mark (8.9).

Goals like these paint a picture about this not just being about playing alongside Mike Hoffman and probable future Selke winner Aleksander Barkov, either:

Speaking of that mega-line, Thursday presents a treat even if you don’t want to bask in the explosive offensive glory of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s because the Huberdeau – Barkov – Hoffman line will get to make its case as the best (or at least the hottest) line in the NHL, as they’ll face the Colorado Avalanche, employers of the deadly Mikko RantanenNathan MacKinnonGabriel Landeskog trio.

Even with Vincent Trocheck sidelined thanks to that grisly injury, you’d think the Panthers would sport a better record than 11-10-5, considering the brilliant work by Huberdeau, Hoffman, Barkov, and Keith Yandle. Sitting four points out of the East’s final wild card spot (tied with the Penguins and Senators for 12th place with 27 points) isn’t just disappointing, it’s at times confounding.

Maybe we’ll look at that 5-0 win against the Bruins as something of a turning point for a Panthers team that’s been in quite a few tumultuous, close games lately?

“We have had some games where we had the lead and it went to overtime or we lost in the final minutes,” Mike Matheson said, via The Athletic’s George Richards (sub required).

“To have a game that I would call a no-doubter is a good feeling. This is a confidence booster and we have to keep it going, do it again. But this was huge for our team.”

Perhaps it will be, as Roberto Luongo was finally back in action, pitching a shutout and possibly hinting toward the Panthers receiving the goaltending they’ve been sorely lacking.

A Florida team that combined solid-to-great goaltending with an already impressive arsenal? Sure, that would be scary, but we’ve seen that dream disintegrate plenty of times before, often as Luongo goes down with another injury. It remains to be seen if the Panthers can finally put it together after multiple false alarms.

That said, even if they fail to do so, it should be a lot of fun to watch Huberdeau and their other top players conduct some harmonic hockey, including against the Avalanche’s tremendous top trio on Thursday.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson drawing rave reviews

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — There are the startling goals, the jaw-dropping passes and mind-bending moves. And in just two months, there are the rave reviews.

Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson is rocketing shots past goalies. He already has 13 goals and eight assists in 20 games, drawing comparisons to some of hockey’s best.

”I think he’s possibly one of the best players in the NHL already,” Canucks right wing Jake Virtanen said. ”He’s very fun to watch and obviously a treat to have on our team.”

Wayne Gretzky recently spoke about Pettersson on a Vancouver radio station, saying he sees similarities in how they both play.

Pettersson said being mentioned alongside Gretzky is a great honor, though it’s one he isn’t entirely comfortable with.

”I don’t know if anyone should be compared to him because he’s the greatest ever,” he said.

In October, Pettersson was named the league’s rookie of the month despite missing two weeks because of concussion from a hit by Florida’s Mike Matheson on Oct. 13. In early November, he became the youngest Canuck to have a five-point game when he helped Vancouver edge Colorado 7-6 in overtime.

The 6-foot-2, 176-pound Swede is quiet and humble off the ice. On it, he has shown he is more than an offensive juggernaut. He blocks shots and delivers hard back checks.

”I see shades of (former Detroit Red Wing) Pavel Datsyuk and those type of players in him,” Vancouver center Bo Horvat said. ”Just his hands, the way he moves out there.

”But I think he’s himself. I don’t think there’s any person in the league who’s like Elias Pettersson. He brings his own element to the game.”

Virtanen is struck by Pettersson’s savvy and intelligence.

”His IQ on the ice is beyond mine and beyond our team’s,” he said. ”I think. It’s pretty funny. When you see him out there, he’s just thinking of stuff to do that no one else would really think of.”

Andrew Calof played with Pettersson on the Vaxjo Lakers in Sweden last year. He says everyone knew right away he was a ”special talent” with an insatiable work ethic.

”He’s a perfectionist. When he sets his mind to something, he will accomplish it,” Calof wrote in an email to The Canadian Press from Russia, where he plays in the Kontinental Hockey League.

He recalls Pettersson’s dedication – constantly watching video and working after practice on shooting and passing.

”He just would spend so much time trying to improve every aspect of his game and that’s what makes him such a fantastic player,” he said. ”And what’s scary is he will only get better and better.”

Behind Pettersson, the Lakers captured the Swedish Hockey League championship. He led the league in scoring with 56 points and was the most valuable player.

”Whoever was on his line knew they were going to get a couple of extra points that week because Elias would do something crazy and either give you an open net or score a shot that you’re think was impossible,” Calof said.

Despite all the acclaim and attention, Pettersson insists he feels no extra pressure. He’s playing hockey and having fun.

”I’m living my dream,” he said.