Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski cites sources who say that the NHL is no longer considering using neutral sites like North Dakota to resume play. Wyshynski explains that a revised plan would involve regional NHL arenas used for the games, aligned by arenas instead of neutral sites. In this scenario, the Hurricanes’ arena would be for the Metro, Oilers for the Pacific, and Wild for Central. According to Wyshynski, there isn’t an Atlantic arena frontrunner just yet. (ESPN)
• Multiple NHL GMs discussed how they’ll be watching the remote NFL Draft closely. There’s also some interesting speculation about how the 2020 NHL Draft will look and feel. Senators GM Pierre Dorion believes that trades will still be doable, even with on-the-draft-floor moving and shaking unlikely. (The Canadian Press)
• Add Jimmy Howard to the list of NHL players who’ve made a big contribution to healthcare workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Howard is donating $50K worth of N95 masks to the Detroit Medical Center. This includes multiple Red Wings helping out, as the list includes at least both Howard and Dylan Larkin. (NBC 25 News)
• In what sounds like a pitch for a sitcom, Keith, Matthew, and Brady Tkachuk are all living under one roof during the pandemic pause. That’s a lot of pesty behavior and antagonism in a small space. (KSDK)
• Breaking down the possible hiccups in the Blackhawks possibly bringing back Dustin Byfuglien. Even with those limitations in mind, a Byfuglien return would be fascinating. Especially since, if I remember correctly, Byfuglien didn’t solidify himself as a defenseman until he left Chicago. (NBC Sports Chicago)
• The Golden Knights signed Nic Roy to a two-year extension that carries a $750K AAV. Roy turned out to be a pretty nice find for the Golden Knights. Could Roy end up being even better than a solid depth player? (Golden Knights)
• Speaking of the Golden Knights, the Devils are interviewing former coach (still strange to type) Gerard Gallant for their head coaching position. Gallant would likely bring assistant Mike Kelly with him. (Sportsnet)
• Hayley Williams is instructing youth hockey players virtually — and from Russia. (WGRZ)
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at email@example.com.
Larkin, others continue to pitch in during COVID-19 pandemic
• Count Dylan Larkin and his family (particularly his father Kevin) among the hockey people who’ve helped healthcare workers the most amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Dana Gauruder of the Detroit Free Press detailed how they helped donate 50,000 gloves to medical workers in Detroit. It’s another example ofinspiringcontributions coming from members of the hockey community. Gauruder also describes how other Larkin family members are handling the halt to their ways of life due to COVID-19, which is an interesting bonus. (Detroit Free Press)
• Speaking of hockey players and their fathers chipping in during the COVID-19 crisis, Tanner Pearson‘s dad, Tim, works for Bauer. This story details how much Bauer has produced for healthcare workers, and also looks at Tanner Pearson’s home life lately. No video games or puzzles, but maybe some Scrabble? (The Vancouver Province)
General hockey links
• In the latest edition of “Color of Hockey,” William Douglas explains how Sameh Ramadan aims to bring hockey to Egypt. (NHL.com)
• By taking the reins with SC Bern, Florence Schelling made history by becoming the first woman to GM a major, tier-1 pro men’s team. Could Schelling blaze a trail for women to become “power brokers” in the NHL? Interesting stuff from Matt Larkin. (The Hockey News)
• We’ve pondered how COVID-19 might affect scouting before, and likely will again. However, this is an interesting look from Bob Duff. He ponders the situation for prospects as well as the people scouting them. Said prospects can’t just buy a Peloton bike like Pearson, after all. (Featurd)
• TSN’s Mark Masters profiles one such prospect: the wonderfully named Hendrix Lapierre. Lapierre dealt with a not-at-all-wonderful stretch of three concussions in just 10 months. That would make Lapierre a health question in any draft, so consider him a wildcard under all circumstances. (TSN)
• Flames interim head coach Geoff Ward didn’t spill much tea during his Q&A with Wes Gilbertson. Even so, you might find it intriguing to hear his observations after having time to delve into video. Oh, and there’s another mention of Scrabble. Take that, Monopoly. (Calgary Herald)
• Kyle Connor believes the sky was the limit for his Jets. Intriguing, as I personally wasn’t convinced the Jets were even a playoff team. Connor also says that, of non-hockey sports, he sure does miss golf. Connor and I might not agree on much, although he was indeed playing well individually. (Winnipeg Free Press)
This is kind of an odd situation at the moment because the players with the longest contracts and biggest financial commitments are players that probably do not actually fit in with the long-term direction of the team.
Out of that group, Larkin and Zadina (who is still on an entry-level contract) are the only ones that are under the age of 28.
Nemeth (who is 28) is the only other player under the age of 30.
Mantha, Bertuzzi, and perhaps Fabbri all figure to stick around for a while and are still under team control as restricted free agents this summer, but they are not technically signed yet.
All of that leaves general manager Steve Yzerman with a fairly clean slate to build from. He also has a couple of really interesting building blocks in Larkin, Mantha, and Zadina.
Larkin and Mantha may not be superstars, but they are still very good top-line players in the prime of their careers, and in Larkin’s case signed to a long-term deal. Mantha will need a new contract this summer but has blossomed into a potential 30-goal, possession driving power forward. Zadina is still a bit of a mystery, but he probably has the most potential of any young player in the organization and has flashed the ability that made him one of the most sought after goal-scoring prospects in his draft class.
When you miss the playoffs four years in a row and are having one of the worst seasons in the modern history of the sport it is safe to say that you have a lot of needs at pretty much every position.
That is the case with the Red Wings.
More specifically, they need impact players.
They need a superstar forward they can build around and make the centerpiece of this entire thing. Maybe they will get some draft lottery luck and get the top pick, which is always a good place to start. It would also be helpful if Zadina blossomed into the top-shelf goal-scorer he was projected to be (and you should not give up on that possibility).
They also need a lot of long-term help on defense.
Moritz Seider, the No. 6 overall pick in 2019, is their best defense prospect, but he is probably a ways away from contributing as a top-pairing player.
Perhaps the biggest long-term hole in the organization though is in net. Howard and Bernier are both over the age of 31 and neither is likely to be standing in the crease for the Red Wings’ next playoff team. That goalie is also probably not in the organization right now.
It might just be the simple fact that they have a very successful and very good general manager that has a lot of resources to work with.
The salary cap situation is not perfect, but it is also not as bad as it looked a year or two ago. They have a couple of contracts they might like to shed (Nielsen, Abdelkader, DeKeyser) but it is nothing that is crushing them at the moment and there is some long-term flexibility there.
Along with having the best odds for the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, they also have 18 draft picks over the next two years, including seven in the first two rounds (two first-round picks, five second-round picks) in those classes.
That comes after making 11 selections in the 2019 class, including four in the first two rounds.
The best way to find NHL talent in the draft is to give yourself more chances at finding a player (more picks) and the Red Wings are overflowing with them. That helps increase the odds in your favor a bit.
Larkin and Mantha should also be viewed as strengths because both players are good enough and young enough to stick around in Detroit and play in meaningful games for the team. Larkin is one of the league’s fastest players, has great underlying numbers, and has become a 60-point player every year. The only thing that has stopped Mantha from being a 30-goal player the past two years has been injuries. There are a lot of positions that need to be addressed, but they have the right person in charge to do it and some pieces to work with.
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.