When it comes to premier centers in the NHL the two names you’ll hear come up the most are Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. Crosby is the dynamic scorer and set-up man and Toews provides his own offensive punch and has Selke Trophy defensive skills to go along with it.
So if you were starting a team, who would you want to be your choice? That was a question raised by ESPN Insider’s Craig Custance (subscription) to a group of NHL executives, coaches and players and their top pick was Toews.
While Saturday was a lucrative day for Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, what with the two-year, $11.9 million extension and all, it was also a day for him to update how he’s doing after undergoing wrist surgery in April.
“I have most of my range of motion back, but now it’s just getting that strength back,” Bishop said. “But there is still some rehab left. The elbow feels good and I’m just excited to try it out. … I’m really excited for training camp.”
Bishop being unable to backstop the Lightning in the playoffs hurt them immensely as they were swept in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens. After a Vezina Trophy finalist-worthy season, he was vital to their success.
It looks like Brendan Shanahan may be responsible for helping find his replacement at the NHL in a roundabout kind of way.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports Claude Loiselle, recently fired former assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is in line to replace Shanahan as the NHL Vice President of Player Safety. Shanahan left that position to become the President of Hockey Operations with the Maple Leafs.
Loiselle had been with the Leafs since May 2010 joining Brian Burke’s staff in Toronto. He was fired on July 22 to make way for 28-year-old former GM of the Soo Greyhounds, Kyle Dubas.
Should Loiselle take over, he’ll be the man front and center on those suspension videos we’ve come to enjoy. He’d also be the guy responsible for deciding how severely (or not) to punish those who have run afoul of the law on the ice. Perhaps he can try resetting the standard Shanahan initially tried to set when he took over for Colin Campbell.
“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the Calgary Flames, we pick… forward Sven Baertschi.
It’s been a roller coaster career for one-time Flames top prospect Sven Baertschi. When he came out of Portland in the WHL, he looked to be a can’t-miss offensive stud. His final season there in 2011-12 he put up 33 goals and 94 points in 47 games and looked ready to make the leap to the NHL in a big way.
It hasn’t gone quite as smoothly for the 21-year-old 2011 first-round pick. In each of the past two seasons he’s split time between Calgary and the AHL and hasn’t made the same impression he did in junior hockey in either location.
In 51 career games in the NHL, he’s scored eight goals and has 24 points. Add in the fact that Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke was critical of him last year and people might start thinking of Baertschi as a bust.
It’s not all gloom, however, as he showed signs of awakening in Abbotsford last season scoring 13 goals with 29 points in 41 games with the Heat. If ever there was an opportunity to seize control of his future in Calgary, it may be during training camp this September.
The Flames have a dearth of scoring talent outside of Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler. If Baertschi can apply what he may have learned in the AHL last season and make it work in the pros, the Flames rebuild will start looking a bit better.
At Baertschi’s age it’s tough to be so hard on him as he may just be a late-bloomer in evolving his game at the NHL level. If he can join Monahan, and possibly Johnny Gaudreau, as the “young guns” on the roster there’s no doubt the Flames’ climb out of the basement can go a bit faster.
If you’re not familiar with Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau, you’re likely going to hear a lot about him in the coming months.
Gaudreau was a star player at Boston College and won the 2014 Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player. Scoring 36 goals with 80 points in 40 games made him the virtual automatic winner of the award as offensive output like that doesn’t happen very often in college hockey.
The same day he won the Hobey, he signed his entry level deal with the Flames. Two days later he made his NHL debut and scored his first goal. Making a first impression like that is a good way to get fans excited, but now it’s a matter of doing it daily at the pro level.
Potentially working against Gaudreau is his size. At 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds he’s far from big, but fortunately for him he has a role model who’s been making his size work for him for a while in the NHL in Martin St. Louis.
The comparisons with St. Louis are something he’s been dealing with for a while. They’re even more apt considering both guys played college hockey and were big time scorers there. What may help Gaudreau most is the situation the Flames are in as they rebuild.
Gaudreau will have every opportunity to crack Calgary’s roster right out of training camp and, after a quick glance at who they have now, there’s no reason to think he can’t do it.
The Flames are lacking in dynamic offensive players. Gaudreau has shown he can light it up at the college level (175 points in 119 games) and while doing it against much bigger pros is a lot harder, opponents may find his speed and elusiveness hard to handle. If he can show his BC skills during camp, we may be talking about him as a Calder Trophy candidate in no time.