2018 NHL Draft

Adam Boqvist ‘going with the flow’ to start Blackhawks career

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

It’s been a whirlwind week for Blackhawks defenseman Adam Boqvist, as the eighth overall pick from the 2018 NHL Draft has had a trio of firsts.

On Oct. 30, Boqvist recorded his first professional goal during a 6-2 win with the AHL Rockford IceHogs. The following day he was recalled by the Blackhawks, made his NHL debut on Saturday and scored his first goal during Sunday night’s overtime win over the Ducks.

The Blackhawks are currently in the midst of a youth movement — as best as they can given their salary cap situation — and Boqvist has been looked at as a cornerstone on the blue line. Through two games he’s been paired heavily with Duncan Keith at even strength and showed enough in his NHL debut Saturday against the Kings to have head coach Jeremy Colliton put him on the ice for three shifts as the lone defenseman in overtime, playing a little over two minutes of the extra frame. His puck-moving abilities has also allowed him to quarterback the second power play unit.

“He’s been really good,” said Colliton. “Obviously, he does bring that dimension to the power play. He can finish, he’s got a great release. His movement is fantastic back there. He could have scored in overtime [against Los Angeles], too, so clearly he’s having an impact on the game, but I think defensively he’s been quite good. We feel pretty comfortable with him out there. Obviously, we’re trying to protect him when we can, but he’s made a really good impression so far.”

[COVERAGE OF BLACKHAWKS-SHARKS BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

The 19-year-old London Knights product played only six games in the AHL before being called up. He wasn’t impressed with his own play in Rockford, but he was put in a strong situation in Chicago being paired with a two-time Norris Trophy winner.

It wasn’t the best of starts, however. Boqvist logged 12:57 of even strength ice time against the Kings, and saw a minus-seven shot differential (11-18) when he was on the ice at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick. But possession was a team-wide issue Saturday night. The rookie improved mightily in that department against the Ducks with a 16-7 shot advantage at even strength when the Falun, Sweden native hopped over the boards, which led to a team-best 69.57 Corsi on the evening.

Improving his stick work, working on gap control, and adjusting to the rigors of the NHL will take time for Boqvist. But for the moment he’s just doing what he knows best.

“I don’t think so much out there,” Boqvist said. “It’s happened so quick and everything. There’s so much in my head right now. I got called up four days ago. So I’m just going to go with the flow.”

Kathryn Tappen will anchor tonight’s studio coverage with Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter. Randy Hahn and Jamie Baker will call the Blackhawks-Sharks matchup from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

NBC Sports will premiere “The Russian Five” documentary, a feature on the first five Russians to play hockey together in the NHL, Wednesday, November 6, following Wednesday Night Hockey between the Red Wings and Rangers. The documentary tells the story of how Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, and Igor Larionov were able to defect from their homeland and transform the Detroit Red Wings into perennial contenders and back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

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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.

Ice-cold Coyotes offense could get boost from Hayton’s debut

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Through their first two games of 2019-20, things seemed a lot like last season for the Arizona Coyotes.

They played strong defense, only allowing three goals total over those two games, but their offense has yet to ignite with Phil Kessel added to the mix, as they mustered a lone goal.

The Coyotes are likely feeling anxious considering the break they’ve had between Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins and Thursday’s upcoming home game against the Vegas Golden Knights. The most excited player of all might be Barrett Hayton, who is getting into the lineup for his first NHL game.

It seems like the 19-year-old is getting a legitimate chance to make an impact, too.

Via NHL.com’s handy collection of Thursday’s projected lines, Hayton is set to start his NHL career with some solid linemates in Christian Dvorak and Nick Schmaltz. (Interestingly, you could argue that all three could line up at center, depending upon the circumstances.)

According to Left Wing Lock, Hayton also might get a look on the Coyotes’ top power play unit with Kessel, Derek Stepan, Clayton Keller, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Depending upon how you look at it, that’s either a great opportunity for the fifth pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, or a trial by fire. (Or maybe it’s a combination of the two?)

While the Coyotes got mixed reviews for selecting Hayton at that position — at least with many penciling Filip Zadina in as the third best choice available, though he slid to Detroit at sixth — Hayton’s impressed since the Coyotes went out on a bit of a limb to choose him. In 39 games with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds, Hayton scored 26 goals and 66 points, exceeding the 60 points he scored in the OHL in 2017-18, even though he played in 63 games that season. Hayton also managed 16 points in 11 playoff games at the junior level in 2018-19.

In September, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked Hayton as the 11th-best prospect in the NHL (sub required), ahead of the likes of the Golden Knights’ Cody Glass (16th) and Zadina (23).

So, it should be interesting to get a first look at where Hayton is at, especially since he’s slated for a top-six role, instead of just barely making it into the lineup on the fourth line.

The Coyotes could use the boost, too, with that lone goal in two games.

Some of that improvement should happen strictly from positive regression, mind you.

Arizona’s been solid-to-good at even-strength so far, with Natural Stat Trick listing them as having 4.28 expected goals vs. 3.3 expected goals allowed at five-on-five. A league-worst 1.67 shooting percentage at even-strength has doomed them through two games (Columbus is second worst at 3.85). Even if the Coyotes might lag a bit behind other teams from a shooting skill standpoint (their 6.61 even-strength percentage was the worst of 2018-19), they should get far more bounces over the long haul of this season, especially if Kessel clicks — and maybe if Hayton can catch on as another gamebreaker.

The Golden Knights aren’t necessarily the easiest opponents to stick with, but either way, it should be interesting to see how Hayton might keep up.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 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.

Sabres’ Dahlin says he’s better prepared for second NHL season

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Last season didn’t sit well with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

Unaccustomed to losing and no longer a rookie, Dahlin told The Associated Press on Thursday he feels better prepared and is far more driven to help transform the Sabres into contenders.

”I’m putting more pressure on myself. We’re going to be a winning team and be in the playoffs,” Dahlin said. ”I think everyone is putting more pressure on ourselves now, and we’re ready to go.”

The first player selected in the 2018 draft is so eager to put last year behind him, he was among the first Sabres players to hit the ice at the team’s practice facility, some three weeks before teams open training camp. He arrived in Buffalo from his native Sweden on Tuesday, and would have been back in town a few days earlier if not for travel complications.

The rookie of the year finalist is motivated after how Buffalo unraveled immediately following a 10-game winning streak that had the team briefly sitting first in the overall standings at the end of November. The Sabres then won just 16 of their final 57 games to miss the playoffs for an eighth straight season, the NHL’s longest active drought.

”We played so well in the beginning of the season, so that made you frustrated because we know how good we can play,” he said. ”Yeah, we’re going to get something good going on here.”

Expressing unhappiness and acknowledging frustration is new for Dahlin, who spent much of last year looking mostly at the bright side. When asked late last season if Buffalo’s 49 losses (including overtime and shootouts) were the most he ever endured in one year, Dahlin smiled and responded by saying the team’s 33 wins were also a season-high for him.

A year ago, Dahlin was expressing hope he’d simply make the season-opening roster. Now he’s begun to find his voice as a key member of the team.

”I feel more prepared. I feel more mature,” said Dahlin, who turned 19 in April. ”Like that one year of experience, I know what’s coming this season. I feel more comfortable in my position.”

He said he spent much of the summer adding weight and strength to better handle the rigors of an 82-game schedule and face elite opposition.

Dahlin’s rookie season mirrored much of that of his team when it came to inconsistency. He had a goal and eight assists during the 10-game win streak, but followed with two goals and four assist over his next 17 games.

Though he led Sabres defenseman and finished third among NHL rookies with 44 points (nine goals, 35 assists), he closed the season with a goal and six assists in Buffalo’s final 19 games.

Dahlin showed some rust Thursday, when the usually smooth-skating player took a spill – ”Oh, yeah, I slipped,” he said – while being untouched at the blue line. He bounced back a few moments later, when he drove in from the right point and converted Jason Pominville’s no-look pass for a goal.

Declaring himself ready to go, Dahlin already had his first face-to-face meeting with new coach Ralph Krueger on Wednesday.

”He seems like a really good coach and a good man,” he said of Krueger, who takes over after Phil Housley was fired following two sub-par seasons.

With Hughes in Devils camp, it’s easy to overlook Ty Smith

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — With Jack Hughes in the New Jersey Devils’ development camp, it’s easy to overlook Ty Smith.

Hughes was the No. 1 overall selection in the draft last month and much is expected of the playmaking center. It’s almost certain he will be on the Devils’ roster when the regular season opens in October and the packed-crowd at the team’s training rink in the Prudential Center roared on Wednesday when he was introduced before a four-team, 3-on-3 competition.

Much like the other three dozen young players at the weeklong gathering, the 19-year-old Smith received polite applause.

What people tend to forget is Smith was the Devils’ first-round pick a year ago – 17th overall – and he nearly made the roster after a tremendous training camp.

A year later, Smith may be ready to take that next step. The puck-moving defenseman has added about 8 pounds since last year and he is coming off a great season in the Western Hockey League. He had seven goals and a career-high 62 assists, the second-highest single-season total in league history.

Devils coach John Hynes said Smith appears to have matured in the past year, noting his body is thicker and he looks fit.

”He is not a wide-eyed kid here that is taking everything in for the first time,” Hynes said of the WHL defenseman of the year. ”It’s the second time he is coming into the culture of what we are doing. He sees the needs and knows what you are talking about. He seems a lot more confident. I don’t want to say on a mission, but he seems a little more focused as opposed to taking everything in for the first time.”

Hynes expects Smith to be a motivated player when training camp starts in September.

Smith will be trying to break into a veteran defensive unit. It’s led by captain Andy Greene and recently acquired Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. Sami Vatanen, Damon Severson, Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller and Connor Carrick are returning from last season’s team.

Despite being a little bigger and stronger, Smith doesn’t believe he has lost any quickness or agility.

”I like to get the puck and give the puck to the forwards,” Smith said. ”My dad always tells me ‘Get the puck to the skill and then support it.’ They’ll make the play and then join the rush in the second wave and create offense.”

Smith refuses to speculate when he will play in the NHL. He saw action in the preseason last season and was sent back for another year of junior hockey, helping the Chiefs get to the semifinal round of the WHL playoffs.

”I feel confident in myself, that I can play,” he said. ”Whenever the Devils want me to. It’s up to them. I have to be the best I can possibly be and come out and compete, compete for a job. It’s not easy to make the NHL. It’s up to them.”

NOTES: Hughes’ team won the 3-on-3 competition, posting a 1-0 win over a squad that included Joey Anderson, his roommate for the camp and a player who saw some time with the Devils last season. … Xavier Bernard, a fourth-round pick in 2018, had the only goal in the deciding game. Akira Schmid, a Swiss native who was a fifth-round pick last year, had the shutout.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Sabres, Senators own top odds in 2018 NHL Draft Lottery

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Now that the 2017-18 NHL regular season has officially come to an end and we know the 16 teams who will vie for the Stanley Cup, we also know the 15 teams who will be hoping ping pong balls fall in their favor in order to win the No. 1 selection in June’s entry draft.

The Buffalo Sabres locked up the top odds earlier this week, and here’s how the rest of the teams look heading into the April 28 (NBC, CBC, TVAS) lottery.

Buffalo Sabres: 18.5%
Ottawa Senators*: 13.5%
Arizona Coyotes: 11.5%
Montreal Canadiens: 9.5%
Detroit Red Wings: 8.5%
Vancouver Canucks: 7.5%
Chicago Blackhawks: 6.5%
New York Rangers: 6.0%
Edmonton Oilers: 5.0%
New York Islanders: 3.5%
Carolina Hurricanes: 3.0%
New York Islanders (from CGY): 2.5%
Dallas Stars: 2.0%
St. Louis Blues**: 1.5%
Florida Panthers: 1.0%

• The Senators, via the Matt Duchene trade, have the option to keep their pick and send the Colorado Avalanche their 2019 first-rounder.

• As per the terms of the Brayden Schenn trade, if the Blues’ pick ends up being in the top 10, they have the choice to keep it and send the Philadelphia Flyers their 2019 first-rounder. If not, Philadelphia will get St. Louis’ first-round choice this year.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

Via the NHL, the 2018 Draft Lottery will consist of three drawings: the first Lottery Draw will determine the team selecting first overall, the second Lottery Draw will determine the team selecting second overall and the third Lottery Draw will determine the team selecting third overall.

The odds for the remaining clubs will increase on a proportionate basis for the second Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the first Lottery Draw, and again for the third Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the second Lottery Draw.

The 12 teams not selected in the 2018 Draft Lottery will be assigned 2018 NHL Draft selections 4 through 15, in inverse order of regular-season points.

Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, Oliver Wahlstrom, Quinn Hughes and Brady Tkachuk are among the top prizes in this year’s entry draft. This is the third time in five years that the Sabres have owned the top odds. Will the third time finally be the charm?

More: NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

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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.