2011 NHL Draft

Ducks recall top prospect goalie John Gibson

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The Anaheim Ducks might get a peek into their future in goal soon.

The team announced the recall of goalie John Gibson from the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals. Gibson was the Ducks’ second-round pick, 39th overall, in the 2011 NHL Draft and is regarded as the future No. 1 goalie for the franchise.

Gibson is getting the call from Norfolk because Frederik Anderson is under the weather and did not travel with the team to Edmonton. He will likely be backing up starter Jonas Hiller when they face the Oilers this afternoon.

Gibson is in his first full season as a pro after spending two seasons in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers. In 45 games with the Admirals, he’s 21-17-4 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against average. Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, led Team USA to a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia and was named tournament MVP.

Adam Larsson’s Calder campaign can begin now in New Jersey

When the New Jersey Devils lucked out in the NHL draft lottery and got to move from eighth to fourth thanks to winning the lottery, they were set to get a great player no matter what. When their turn came up, Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson was there for the taking and talk began immediately about how Larsson could start right away for the Devils.

Fast forward to today, Devils coach Peter DeBoer is talking big things about Larsson saying that the 18 year-old has all but won a spot on the team for opening night. With the Devils being a slight bit thin on defense and in need of a guy that can move the puck and not make mistakes with it, Larsson has been all that and then some in training camp. An kid in his first year in the NHL with poise and showing like he belongs right away? We’ll just go ahead and start discussing him as a preseason favorite for the Calder Trophy.

Fire & Ice’s Tom Gulitti has the take right from DeBoer about what Larsson is showing him in camp and the big minutes he’s played in preseason games.

“It’s not optimal,” DeBoer said of those kind of minutes for an 18-year-old during the regular season. “But the kid has handled it so far no problem. We’ve been loading him up with the regular shift, penalty kill and power play to see where his strengths lie and where we think we’ll see him during the regular season. I’m not saying he’s no going to play 24 minutes a night. On some nights in the regular season, that’s a real possibility, but I don’t see that as an every-night thing. It’s been more a situation where we’re throwing everything at him and seeing what’s the best fit for him.”

DeBoer probably will limit Larsson’s time on the penalty kill during the regular season. Playing him on the power play seems like a certainty, though.

“He’s handled himself everywhere,” DeBoer said of the No. 4 overall pick from June’s NHL Entry Draft. “I think where we’re at, he’s done a real good job on the power play up there. I think the guys are comfortable with him. I think it’s just a matter of them getting a lot more reps together and some tough luck around the net for it to go, but I think probably to start if we have to limit some special team action it will be his penalty kill.”

Getting Larsson off the penalty kill and on the power play gives him all the chances in the world to shine offensively while limiting his ability to make mistakes. That can go a long way towards improving Larsson’s psyche and helping him fit in even easier in New Jersey.

Larsson is going to help Devils fans feel a bit better about how the team did last year when he evolves into their next generation version of Scott Niedermayer. It’s lofty advance praise and a lot of things can happen in the future, but he’s got the tools and the skills to become something very special.

Blackhawks injuries to Stalberg and Smith, opens door for top prospect Brandon Saad

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Chicago is suddenly having a hard time with injuries in the preseason and while that’s bad for the team in general, it’s a good thing they managed to draft pretty well back in June.

Viktor Stalberg is set to miss the next 2-3 weeks with a knee injury and Ben Smith is “day to day” according to coach Joel Quenneville after getting rocked by a head shot from Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith. Those are tough developments for Chicago to handle, but the play of 2011 second round pick Brandon Saad is making Quenneville take notice of the 18 year-old’s skills.

CSNChicago’s Tracey Myers gets the word from the coach on how Saad is forcing him to take notice of his skills.

“Saader’s been one of those guys you appreciate what he can do,” Quenneville said. “Certainly his playing on the wing with Johnny (Toews) is a nice thing for him at this stage of camp. He’s been useful every time we’ve seen him on the ice. He continues to impress us. He’s got a chance.”

Playing with Toews can make a lot of guys look really good but for a second round pick who went into the draft with first round potential, it’s the chance of a lifetime to prove that he should’ve been taken sooner than 43rd. As a product who played for the U.S. National Development Team and is a product of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, the Pennsylvania native wants to show that he can be a power forward right away. At 6’2″ 210 pounds and still incredibly young, if he isn’t ready now, he’ll be a monster in the years to come in Chicago.

As for his immediate future, if he doesn’t win a spot with the team out of camp, he can still get a nine-game look in Chicago to see if he can hack it before the team decides whether to send him back to junior hockey or not. Saad won’t be the only prospect to get that treatment, but getting a shot to do it in Chicago means getting a big start in a great situation.

 

Blackhawks prospect Brandon Saad makes case to stay at NHL level

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The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup run was built on a foundation of strong draft picks. Many of those stars made an immediate impact in the NHL, too, as the team’s fortunes began to change when Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews made their rookie debuts in 2007-08.

With that in mind, the team should be among the league’s most open-minded organizations when it comes to embracing an ahead-of-schedule youngster. That being said, it’s still surprising that 2011 second round pick Brandon Saad is making such a preseason impact.

Saad performed well enough to earn his fourth preseason start (coming up Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings), after he teamed up with Viktor Stalberg and Jonathan Toews for an explosive third period on Friday. He even scored the game-winner against the Washington Capitals to make it 3-2.

Naturally, there’s a huge difference between carving up defenses in exhibition games and making an NHL team as an 18-year-old player – let alone continuing that scoring pace in the big time. Saad wasn’t even the team’s first second round pick in 2011, as the team bagged four prospects in the draft’s first two rounds:

Mark McNeill (round 1, 18th overall)
Phillip Danault (round 1, 26)
Adam Clendening (round 2, 36)
Sadd (round 2, 43)

Saad’s first impression caught some off guard, but he’s running with his chance to do so. CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers asked Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville about Saad’s impressive start.

Still, nobody quite expected the Blackhawks’ second-round draft pick to have this much of an impact this quickly. The question is, can he really make this Blackhawks team?

“I don’t know. If he keeps doing that way every day we’ll probably be talking about him the next day,” said Quenneville on Friday, after Saad’s goal claimed a 3-2 Blackhawks victory over the Washington Capitals. “This is not something we envisioned. But every training camp there’s someone who gets your attention and captures it, makes you look at the case differently. He’s done that.”

Of course, if he does make the team, it’s unlikely that he’ll see much time alongside 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy-winner Toews on the first line. All he can do is put himself in the best position to succeed, though, whether he ends up on the team’s opening night roster or at the junior level with Saginaw.

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Carolina signs 2011 first round pick Ryan Murphy

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Last year, Calder Trophy winner-to-be Jeff Skinner impressed enough to make the Carolina Hurricanes’ roster right out of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. If offensive defenseman Ryan Murphy hopes to follow in Skinner’s footsteps, he’ll need to be under contract, so it’s great news for both sides that they came to terms on an entry-level deal today.

Murphy was the 12th overall pick of this year’s draft and Carolina’s top pick overall. NHL.com reports that Murphy’s deal is worth $832,500 per season with a $277,500 signing bonus.

If Murphy doesn’t make the jump to the NHL, he’ll return to the junior hockey level, where he’s been an impressive scorer from the blueline. Here’s a little bit more about Murphy’s successes and how the Hurricanes feel about his future – whether that manifests itself sooner than usual or if he understandably takes longer than Skinner to make the leap.

“Ryan is a gifted offensive defenseman,” [Hurricanes GM Jim] Rutherford said. “He skates extremely well and is dynamic with the puck. He put up very impressive numbers as a 17-year-old in the OHL, and he’s put himself in a position to push for a spot on the NHL level.”

Murphy has played two seasons for the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League. He ranked second among all OHL defenseman last season with 79 points in 63 games. His 26 goals led all OHL blueliners and were second among all defensemen across Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues. His 53 assists were second among defensemen in the OHL.

Murphy has some international acclaim as well. He was named the top defensemen at the 2011 IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship earlier this year when he led Team Canada with 13 points in seven games.

The Hurricanes play an attacking system, so Murphy could be a great fit whenever he shows that he’s ready for the rigors of the NHL. Carolina would certainly be delighted if he eventually helps them improve a power play that has earned a league-leading amount of opportunities since the lockout but hasn’t produced the results you’d expect from all those chances. He’ll have to prove himself in training camp and possibly preseason games to have a chance to make an immediate impact, though.