Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at email@example.com.
Return to play/NHL Playoffs
• Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other officials have expressed some willingness to work with the NHL in the hub city process. Will it be enough, though? Ben Kuzma looks at it from Vancouver’s perspective. [The Province]
• On Wednesday, PHT looked at how the top four teams in the East and West will approach the Round Robin for Seeding. Here’s another chance to check out the article that inspired those posts. [NBC Sports Boston]
• Brad Richardson shares his experience being exposed — but seemingly not infected — with COVID-19. The story ends with some optimism about Richardson getting extra time to heal because of the pandemic pause. [Arizona Republic]
• Carlson missed out on a chance to score 90 points, a rare feat for a defenseman. In David Pastrnak‘s case, he lost a chance to reach 50 goals and 100 points. Which missed milestone bugs him the most? [Bruins Daily]
• Could Mike Sullivan sneak up on Alain Vigneault for the Jack Adams Award? Hopefully Sullivan doesn’t startle Vigneault in the process, right? [NBC Sports Philadelphia]
• Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin remains stuck in a “holding pattern” regarding whether he can join the team from Russia or not. Sorokin’s agent Daniel Milstein explained that frustrating situation. [AMNY]
• Ally Koss went in-depth with Brady Hackmeister on the process behind designing the Henderson Silver Knights’ logo. They discuss how the design breaks with but also evokes design choices related to the AHL affiliate’s parent team, the Vegas Golden Knights. [Hockey By Design]
• Chris Peters tells the story of the Battle Creek Rumble Bees of the Federal Prospects Hockey League. Peters describes the FPHL as “the lowest rung of professional hockey in the U.S.,” so does that make the 1-45-2(!) Rumble Bees the lowest rung of the lowest rung? I’ll need to start doing some counting on my fingers, let me get back to you. (That said, Rumble Bees is a great team name.) [ESPN]
It’s not sheer brute strength in the most direct, muscle-mass sense. Instead, Quinn explains that Panarin possesses significant hand and stick strength. Combine that with a world-class hockey IQ, and it helps explain why Panarin is so tough to stop.
Quinn cites a specific example of those qualities producing strong results for the Rangers. Back in late February, Panarin overpowered and beguiled multiple Islanders defenders to set up Mika Zibanejad‘s overtime goal:
Whether you prefer the “eye test,” enjoy supplementing sensory details with “fancy stats,” or delight in all of it as a hockey buffet, it’s clear that Panarin is a superstar. He’s also a lot of fun to watch, especially when he breaks out one of his goal celes.
Rangers head coach Quinn touched on other Rangers talking points with Liam McHugh and Anson Carter.
Check out the full episode in whatever format you prefer. There’s video above this headline, and an audio version below. Here’s a guide for different topics in case you want to skip around:
3:20-4:55 Quinn’s assessment of Rangers’ season 4:55-7:30 Zibanejad, and Panarin’s second half MVP push 7:30-9:45 Lundqvist’s demotion and the dilemma in goal 9:45-11:40 Learning from Bill Belichick 11:40-13:15 Taking over for the legendary Jack Parker 15:25-19:45 Quinn’s memory of his draft day in 1984 19:45-24:10 Fallout from Quinn’s hemophilia diagnosis 25:40-28:00 BU’s crushing loss in 2015 NCAA title game
With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Washington Capitals.
Carlson surprises as Capitals, NHL defensemen scoring leader
John Carlson began 2019-20 on a downright dizzying scoring pace, and really only slightly cooled off down the stretch.
It’s telling that, for all the strong offensive seasons the Capitals enjoyed, Carlson topped the team with 75 points.
Should he win the Norris Trophy? That’s a debate for another day.
To some extent, it almost feels beside the point. Carlson keeps raising the ceiling for what he can accomplish, and it’s really become a sight to behold.
Heading into the season, Carlson leading defensemen in scoring wouldn’t have been that huge of a surprise. The magnitude of his scoring dominance ranks as one of the biggest surprises for the Capitals, though. Carlson topped all blueliners by 10 points (75 to Roman Josi‘s 65), and Josi was 10 points ahead of third-ranking Victor Hedman (55).
Realizing that Carlson had about a month to tack on more points makes his accomplishments that much more astounding.
Ovechkin passes 700, in range of another Maurice Richard Trophy
Yes, yes, death, taxes, and Alex Ovechkin scoring lots of goals. I get that.
The “death” part of that is a reminder that Father Time eventually wins. With that in mind, Ovechkin tying David Pastrnak for the NHL lead with 48 goals at age 34 isn’t routine. It’s mind-blowing. Ovechkin’s .71 goals-per-game average this season represents his best rate since his matching .71 from 2008-09. When he was 23. Yeah.
Now, you can transition Ovechkin-related Capitals surprises to disappointments if you look away from the goals, all 700+ (706) of them.
A drop in playmaking explains how Ovechkin can score 48 goals and not lead the Capitals in scoring. He managed 19 assists for 67 points in 2019-20. That assist rate of .28 ranks as the second-worst of his illustrious career.
But if there’s one issue that towers as a disappointment — one that could at times derail strengths for Capitals — it was a rough, rough season for Braden Holtby.
Holtby managed a 25-14-6 record in large part because of his team’s scoring ways. Holtby produced an ugly .897 save percentage, and Hockey Reference’s version of GSAA puts him at an ugly -16.76. For context, only Jimmy Howard (-22.12) ranked lower by that metric.
Zooming out on his entire career, I’d argue that Holtby’s probably been underrated at times. Yet, those past accomplishments might cloud future judgments for the pending UFA. He’s struggled quite a bit during the regular season for the past three years, really.
Could the Capitals produce surprises in going with younger goalie Ilya Samsonov, who was solid in 2019-20? Would Holtby leaving be a bigger disappointment, or would the Capitals be the ones suffering if they handed him an ill-advised contract? After extending Nicklas Backstrom, it was that much clearer that someone has to go eventually.
Might Holtby once again rebound in the playoffs, as he did so masterfully during that curse-breaking, Cup-winning run in 2017-18? Also … why does that run feel like it happened a decade ago?
We could see more twists and turns — so, yes, surprises and disappointments — involving Holtby and the Capitals before this is all over.
The NHL and its teams have been making players, coaches and general managers available to the media during the league pause. The availabilities continued on Monday and we learned a few things along the way.
Quarantine stinks: Rask’s gas would keep Chara away
One of the more unexpected things learned Monday was that Tuukka Rask possesses some powerful flatulence. When asked which teammate he’d least like to be quarantined with, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara picked his goaltender.
“The way he farts, the smell is awful,” Chara said. “He like his chicken wings. I sit behind him on the bus and I’ve got tell you, I’ve got control myself sometimes.”
During an Instagram Q&A session Monday, David Pastrnak said that due to Rask’s love of chicken wings and the fact that he owns a sauna at home, he would choose the netminder to be his quarantine buddy.
Pasta did confirm the strength of Rask’s gas.
“His farts are pretty bad, but I think I could overcome it,” Pastrnak said. “I would definitely not skate through his crease anymore than once at practice.”
“I think in my case, it might be the other way around,” Rask said.
We need Tuukka mic’d up from now on for when action shifts to in front of him.
McLellan no fan of No. 1 draft pick tournament
A tournament with all of the non-playoff teams vying to win the 2020 No. 1 draft choice? Please, no, says Kings head coach Todd McLellan.
“I’m not a fan of it, one bit,” he said. “I don’t think the draft and the draft lottery was put in to reward the winner of a tournament. When you take teams that don’t make the playoffs … so team No. 17, if that’s the number, might miss the playoffs by one point. You compare them to teams at No 31 … there’s a big discrepancy between Nos. 17 and 31. No. 17 is going to have a greater chance of winning, and they’re less likely to need the first pick overall. So to me, it’s counterintuitive to do it that way. It makes no sense. But I’m only one voter.”
And he’s right. You think potential UFA Taylor Hall would want to play extra games to help the Coyotes, a team he may not even play for next season, win the first overall pick? We want to put meaningless mileage on Joe Thornton’s soon-to-be 41-year-old body? The NHLPA would shoot that idea down quickly.
Senators with coronavirus “doing well”
Of the four NHL players who tested positive for COVID-19, two are on the Senators. Brady Tkachuk was asked for an update on them and he said they are feeling good.
“We’re a tight group so we’re always in contact with one another,” he said, “but I think all of us are just concerned about them and everybody impacted by it.”
The players, whose identities were not revealed by the team, tested positive on March 17 and March 21, respectively. The Avalanche have also had two players test positive since the league pause.
Flyers’ Fletcher on keeping touch with his staff
It’s not just NHL players maintaining a group text while we maintain social distancing. Team executives keep them as well, according to Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. He’s been in touch with his assistant GMs Brent Flahr and Barry Hanrahan about contracts and the draft, which was postponed last week.
“They’re working hard on getting their lists for the draft, watching video, doing reports, having discussions on players and doing things that they would typically do at this time of the year with the obvious exception that we were are not able to watch games live right now,” Fletcher said. “Barry is working on contracts and cap related issues going forward. Obviously, we’ve been able to sign a couple of our unsigned draft choices, Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison recently. Barry’s been on the forefront of those conversations. We stay in touch every day and try to coordinate things that we do.
“Personally, I am trying to reach out to a lot of our support staff and scouts as well as people like Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren, Bill Barber and Dave Scott to keep the lines of communication going. To speak to people on a regular basis and just to do what we can to stay busy.”
Fletcher is also staying in touch with his head coach, Alain Vigneault. There’s a lot that can’tbe done until the NHL resumes, but there’s still plenty of planning that is taking place for down the road.
“He had been working on his golf swing for a while, but right now he’s like the rest of us, he’s going through notes and trying to stay safe,” said Fletcher. “I speak to AV every week, just once a week. I’ve reached out to quite a few of the coaching staff, scouting staff and supporting staff and try to stay in regular contact with them, whether it’s by a phone call, text or email. We’re all trying to stay in touch and do what we can.
“Again, for obvious reasons, a lot of our business has been shut down right now. Most of the things we can focus on are matters going forward, whether that’s the draft or signing some of our players. Maybe planning some things for the future.”
Several years ago video was unearthed of a teenaged Dylan Larkin and his buddy shooting pucks in his basement, a.k.a. “the dungeon,” for a little “snip show,” as he described it. In it, we learned the Red Wings star had given himself the nickname “D-Boss.”
Asked if a prolonged NHL pause could give the world some followup D-Boss videos, Larkin kept the door open.
“It might come, I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve got a little shooting area in the garage — The Dungeon 2.0. I’ll have to get out there and make a video. Fans might like it. We’ll see.”
Capitals GM on finishing the season
Brian MacLellan, whose Capitals are currently atop the Metropolitan Division, was asked about how the NHL should finish its season. There have been many ideas on the subject from playing out all 82 games to going right to the playoffs. He would like to see some number of games before the playoffs begin.
“Fair to me would be all teams play the same number of games both home and away,” MacLellan said. “Depending on the time you have, when or if we come back, you could set the schedule at 72, 74 games as close to possible home and away, if you could even those out, and go from there.”
As far as what a playoff format would look like, it would all depend on the timeframe to award the Stanley Cup.
“There’s no set answer to it because I don’t know how much time we’ll have,” he said. “If we have eight weeks, 10 weeks, do we have more than 10 weeks? Depending on that time frame and if that’s even legitimate at the time, you would have to set your schedule there. So could you shorten the series? Could you shorten the schedule? I think all those options are on the table. I think it’s just how the virus plays out and how we handle and how much time we’d have to get a season in – if we can get a season in at the end.”
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 three Thursdays.
The first team to enter the competition will be a roster comprised of players 23 years of age or younger. Think a Team North America in 2020. In recent years, younger players have made an instant impact at the NHL level and this team is filled with already established superstars.
First line: Sebastian Aho – Connor McDavid – David Pastrnak
Thoughts: Leon Draisaitl has benefitted greatly from playing alongside McDavid this season and the addition of two dynamic goal scorers (Aho, Pastrnak) should produce an explosive top line. Aho’s ability to light the lamp and create plays should be a perfect fit to round out the group.
Second line: Andrei Svechnikov – Auston Matthews – Patrik Laine
Thoughts: Matthews has the puck-handling skill and on-ice vision to be an elite distributor with Laine alongside him. The size of all three forwards will be tough for most defensive pairings to handle.
Third line: Kyle Connor – Jack Eichel – Mikko Rantanen
Thoughts: Can this line match up with the opposition’s best and still produce offensively? The trio has the skill to be a top line for most NHL teams, but these three will be relied upon to play a smart, efficient, two-way game.
Fourth line: Matthew Tkachuk – Dylan Larkin – Mitchell Marner
Thoughts: The inclusion of Larkin over a Mathew Barzal or Elias Pettersson will raise some questions, but he was the best option to be a fourth line center and contribute on the penalty kill. Matthew Tkachuk will provide some toughness and size to add an important element to the group.
First D pairing: Zach Werenski – Cale Makar Second D pairing: Thomas Chabot – Charlie McAvoy Third D pairing: Rasmus Dahlin – Adam Fox
Thoughts: The second pairing will likely match up against the opposition’s best, but each combination has a strong mix of complementary characteristics. I initially thought it would be tough to find a strong group of mature defensemen in this age range, but these players have established themselves as high-end D-men.
Starting Goalie: Carter Hart Backup Goalie: Ilya Samsonov
Just Missed: Mathew Barzal, Quinn Hughes, Travis Konecny, Elias Pettersson, Ivan Provorov
Captain: Connor McDavid Alternate captains: Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy
This team should not struggle to score with a ton of fire power in the offensive unit. With two of the top three and six of the top 10 goal scorers from the current season, it will be hard to contain this prolific group of forwards.
Two areas of weakness for this team are its ability to play a strong two-way game in even strength situations and kill off timely penalties. Players of this ilk have the ability to play any style but the question will be if players like Eichel and Marner could buy in to a defensive oriented role.
Additionally, their goaltenders are unproven but have the talent needed to play against the world’s best.
Nevertheless, the amount of skill on this team should help them overcome any obstacles and be a formidable challenge for any opponent. The roster has several established leaders, but young stars of the NHL are always eager to prove they belong in the conversation with the game’s best. Channeling that emotion in the proper way could be the difference between a successful tournament run or an early exit.
Quinn Hughes: The young blueliner has been sensational for the Canucks. He is currently in a tight race with Makar for the Calder Trophy awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL. But the team will need size on the backend and cannot carry three undersized defensemen.
Elias Pettersson: The Swedish center is an excellent talent but didn’t fill a need when creating the lineup. While his talent is immense, this is a player that received the short end of the stick in order to build the most complete roster.
— Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.