Roman Josi

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) pushes the puck forward on a break-away as Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau
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A best on best mythical tournament: Players in their prime

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold, Pro Hockey Talk will be creating full rosters for an imaginary best on best tournament over the next few Thursdays. The first team created was a 23-and-under roster that would be fascinating to watch.

An NHL player usually reaches peak performance in his late 20’s and this roster is comprised of players in the prime of their career between the ages of 24 and 29. The combination of skill, size, wisdom and depth in this group will be difficult to match for any opponent. The most surprising part of building this team was seeing several superstars left on the sidelines.

Line Combinations

First line: Artemi PanarinNathan MacKinnonLeon Draisaitl

Thoughts: All three players are firmly in the conversation for the 2019-2020 Hart Trophy and the thought of them on the same team, let alone the same line would be highly entertaining. Panarin has established himself as one of the best passers in the NHL and having two lethal goal scorers alongside him should make for an explosive trio.

Second line: Johnny GaudreauMark ScheifeleNikita Kucherov

Thoughts: Both wingers don’t offer much size but Gaudreau and Kucherov are both electric players that have learned how to win in the corners despite their diminutive stature. Scheifele has long been one of the more underrated players in the league and should find instant chemistry with two players that possess elite on-ice vision.

Third line: Taylor HallMika ZibanejadMark Stone

Thoughts: Hall’s game has dipped since winning the 2018 Hart Trophy but still remains a top two-way forward. Zibanejad was one of the most controversial picks beating out the likes of John Tavares, Tyler Seguin and others. But No. 93 has improved his game since the New York Rangers acquired him in a one-sided traded.

Fourth line: Chris Kreider – Ryan O’Reilly – Jonathan Huberdeau

Thoughts: Kreider and O’Reilly have anchored shut down lines in the past but the addition of Huberdeau should add more offensive punch to a very responsible grouping. All three skaters play a disciplined, 200-foot game and could match up with any combination of forwards an opponent has to offer.

First D pairing: Roman JosiSeth Jones
Second D pairing: Victor HedmanDougie Hamilton
Third D pairing: Oliver Ekman-LarssonAaron Ekblad

Thoughts: It’s hard to find a flaw in this grouping of defensemen. These six players collectively possess all the attributes needed to shut down opponents and can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone.

Starting Goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Backup Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck

Just Missed: Aleksander Barkov, Erik Karlsson, John Klingberg, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares

Captain: Roman Josi

Alternate captains: Nathan MacKinnon, Leon Draisaitl

Analysis

It was surprising to see only one player on this team with a championship ring and just seven players have participated in a Stanley Cup Final. With that said, this team has experience in best on best tournaments at every level and have routinely been through the grind of an NHL regular season.

On paper, there are limited areas of concern. The team is comprised of players with diverse attributes to form an extremely well-balanced roster. It has several explosive goal-scorers in the top-six and responsible players in the bottom-six that have the ability to consistently produce on the offensive side of the ice.

In addition, the blueline is staggered with lockdown defensemen and two Vezina candidates guarding the crease.

One challenge for this team, and for any roster in a tournament of this nature, is the ability to find instant chemistry with line mates. In theory, Panarin can set up a few of the top scorers but does it work in reality?

Due to the balance of the roster and varied characteristics, I believe this team would have the inside track to winning this mythical tournament.

Surprising omissions

John Tavares: It wasn’t too long ago that Tavares was the most sought-after free agent in the summer of 2018, but it was challenging to find a spot for the Maple Leafs captain on this roster. It was a tight race between No. 91 and Mika Zibanejad for the third line center position, but the Swedish right-handed centerman has become one of the more dynamic players in the NHL. Tavares is a world-class player. He could easily slide back onto the roster and change the narrative with a dominant stretch when professional hockey returns.

Erik Karlsson: This Swedish defenseman used to terrorize the league with his smooth skating and incredible vision. However, Karlsson hasn’t looked like himself since being traded to the San Jose Sharks in September of 2018. He routinely crossed the 60-point plateau and set a career-high with 82 points in 2015-16, but injuries have slowed him down the past two seasons. This mythical tournament will require teams to perform at an incredibly high level and there is no room for someone who has not been at the top of his game.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Predators’ Roman Josi fined $5,000 for cross-checking Corey Perry

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The NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday that Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi has been fined $5,000 for cross-checking Dallas Stars forward Corey Perry during Saturday’s game.

The Predators and Perry have a bit of a history this season. It was Perry’s hit on Ryan Ellis in the Winter Classic that sidelined the defenseman for a significant chunk of the season. Perry was ejected from that game and suspended for five games.

This particular incident happened in front of the Nashville net and began with Perry giving Josi a slash on the back of the leg. Josi then turned around cross-checked him in the head.

You can see the sequence in the video above.

Josi was given a two-minute for high-sticking on the play.

The Predators and Stars played two games over the past three days with the Predators winning both thanks to back-to-back shutouts from Juuse Saros. Ellis also scored the lone goal for the Predators on Saturday.

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: Draisaitl nets four vs. Preds; Hutchinson’s winning birthday

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THREE STARS

1. Leon Draisaitl, Oilers

Draisaitl recorded a four-goal, five-point night during a 8-3 win over the Predators. A back-and-forth game through two periods opened up in the third when the Oilers scored four times en route to the win. The Oilers forward put home three of his four goals in the final period and now has 43 on the season. You can read more about Draisaitl’s amazing two-year run here.

2. Connor McDavid, Oilers

While Draisaitl scored four times, it was his linemate McDavid who handed out four assists while also scoring his 32nd of the season. The Edmonton duo now have a combined 75 goals and 201 points this season.

3. Michael Hutchinson, Avalanche

It was a winning birthday for the goaltender as he debuted with the Avs. Hutchinson made 17 saves during a 2-1 win over the Red Wings. Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first goal with his new team and Nathan MacKinnon registered his 300th assist on Logan O’Connor’s winner.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT

Gabriel Landeskog took one for the team as he helped set up O’Connor’s goal:

STATS OF THE NIGHT

• The Avalanche have now won seven in a row and a franchise record ninth straight game away from Pepsi Center.

Roman Josi scored his career high 16th goal of the season in the Nashville loss.

Pekka Rinne was pulled after allowing a career-worst eight goals against the Oilers.

• Draisaitl now has consecutive 40-goal seasons with Edmonton and joins an elite group:

SCORES
Avalanche 2, Red Wings 1
Oilers 8, Predators 3

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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.

Predators’ Ellis ‘not bitter’ at Corey Perry after Winter Classic hit

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Ryan Ellis practiced again on Thursday and could return to the Predators’ lineup Friday night in Chicago.

The Predators defenseman has missed the last 20 games after suffering a concussion following an elbow to the head from Stars forward Corey Perry during the Winter Classic. Perry was suspended five games by the Department of Player Safety.

Ellis spoke after Thursday’s practice, where he was paired with Roman Josi, and said he had no hard feelings towards Perry.

“To be honest, it’s a hockey play. I’m not bitter at him,” Ellis said. “Obviously, I’d like to catch him with a nice open-ice hit as I would anyone on any other team. But it’s a hockey player, I get where he was at, I get what he was thinking. It looks bad. … But I’m not bitter. It sucks not playing.”

Perry spoke after the Winter Classic and explained that the hit was “unfortunate” and “unintentional.”

“It was an awkward play,” Perry said on New Year’s Day. “I went to the bench to get a stick and came back. I reached out to try to deflect the puck or whatever. It was unfortunate. I’ve played with Ryan before. I know him personally. It’s very unintentional. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I hope he’s OK. This is a big event. I’m sure he had family in here. I had some family here. It’s unfortunate. I just hope he’s OK.”

Whether Ellis plays against the Blackhawks will depend on how his body responds to his practice participation. Head coach John Hynes said they’ll have a better idea after Friday’s morning skate.

“We wanted to push him today in practice, put him on a D-pair and play in the situations he could possibly play in,” Hynes said.

The Predators are three points out of a wild card spot and have won three of their last four. They have plenty of ground to make up in the Western Conference playoff picture and getting one of their top defenseman back helps .

“It was a long road and I haven’t been down one like that, so it’s nice to be feeling like myself,” Ellis said. “It’s not like a typical injury, it’s one day good and one day bad, you never know what the next one brings. It’s been a process and I’m glad to be feeling a bit better.”

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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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.

NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America

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NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

The HDIA tripleheader begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC, when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins host Tyler Bertuzzi and the Detroit Red Wings, followed by an Original Six matchup with David Pastrnak and the Boston Bruins visiting Artemi Panarin and the New York Rangers at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Coverage shifts to NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET for a Central Division battle as Ryan O’Reilly and the St. Louis Blues head to Music City to battle Roman Josi and the Nashville Predators.

Hockey Day in America pre-game coverage begins at noon ET on NBC from the plaza outside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Host Liam McHugh and analysts Keith Jones, Anson Carter, and Brian Boucher will anchor pre-game, intermission, and post-game coverage throughout the day.

NBC Hockey Day in America schedule
Red Wings at Penguins – NBC – 12 p.m. ET (Watch live) – 
John Forslund will call the matchup with Joe Micheletti from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bruins at Rangers – NBC – 3 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Mike Tirico will call the matchup at Madison Square Garden alongside Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

Blues at Predators – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Bridgestone Arena alongside Darren Pang.

Throughout Hockey Day in America on Sunday, NBC Sports will shine a light on various stories that celebrate the impact that hockey has had in the U.S. Feature stories that will air throughout the day include:

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships – This year marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, the ultimate event in grassroots hockey. This year’s tournament featured 300 teams and 2,400 players, including a team with an intercontinental flair, and a Nashville-based squad that recruited a player in a pinch via Instagram.

• “Miracle on Ice” 40th anniversary – NBC Sports will air a 30-minute special – Miracle on Ice – 40th Anniversary – featuring Mike Tirico’s conversation with Al Michaels, who looks back at the U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team’s gold-medal run at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The program will debut on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and a portion of Tirico’s discussion with Michaels will air on Sunday on NBC.

• Nashville Sled Preds – United States Marines Ben Maenza, Joseph Woodke, and John Curtin met while recovering from serious injuries sustained in the line of duty in Afghanistan. After leaving Walter Reed Military Hospital and going their separate ways, Joseph and John moved to Nashville to bring the group back together. The trio fully committed to sled hockey playing for the Nashville Sled Preds and have gone from novices in the sport to Paralympic hopefuls. From the hospital bed to the elite ranks of American sled hockey, the men share a bond that looks a lot more like family than close friends.

• Katie Guay, Kelly Cooke, Kirsten Welsh, and Kendall Hanley – Katie Guay, Kelly Cooke, Kirsten Welsh, and Kendall Hanley have played hockey their entire lives and after college, they weren’t ready to hang up their skates. All four turned to officiating, and in September, became the first women to officiate an NHL-affiliated event at the preseason NHL rookie tournaments. Most recently, they officiated the Women’s U.S. vs. Canada 3-on-3 game as part of the NHL All-Star Skills. As Katie, Kelly, Kirsten, and Kendall seek further opportunities for themselves, they also hope to inspire young girls along the way.

• Saywer and Sim Seidl – In 2009, Steve and Molly Seidl adopted two brothers, Sawyer and Simon, then ages 5 and 3, from an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After settling in their new home of Stillwater, Minnesota, the boys began to play hockey, garnering attention with skills few would have anticipated. While this hockey family has dealt with some unwelcome attention due to the color of Sawyer and Simon’s skin, that has not affected their passion and love for the game. In fact, it’s motivated them to push forward. The brothers hope to be an example for others, removing labels and barriers to allow everyone an opportunity to play.

• Black Girl Hockey Club – At the beginning of the 2018 NHL season, Renee Hess founded the Black Girl Hockey Club to create a comfortable atmosphere for black women to watch hockey games together. Hess became interested in hockey years ago when she ran into a crowd of excited Penguins fans following a game when she was in Pittsburgh for work. She was hooked after attending her first game but couldn’t help but notice that there weren’t a lot of people like her in the stands. Hess found a handful of other black female hockey fans on Twitter and they created a group – the Black Girl Hockey Club – where they could discuss the sport and meet in-person at games across the country. With membership now exceeding 200, they are focused on building awareness as proud members of the hockey community.

• “Capalbo Stronger,” One Year Later – Last year, NBC Sports shared the story of Charlie and Will Capalbo, goalies and brothers from Fairfield, Conn. Charlie was in his second battle with cancer and this time he needed a bone marrow transplant. His brother, Will, would be the match but there was no guarantee of success. Charlie is now in remission, and NBC Sports went with Charlie and his family for a bucket list trip to the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, and later to a local rink to see the brothers take the ice together, just like old times.

• El Paso Strong, Part II – Hockey has always had a way of bringing people together by transcending cultures, nations, and borders. In the fall, NBC Sports visited a junior hockey team in El Paso, Texas to see the positive impact the El Paso Rhinos were making in their city following the tragic Walmart shooting in August. In this new feature, NBC Sports spotlights how hockey took root – and now thrives – in this non-traditional market. And like many homegrown stories in Texas, this one starts in a barn.