Jack Hughes

NHL Scores
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The Buzzer: Benn’s hat trick; Draisaitl keeps rolling for Oilers

Three Stars

1. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars. It hasn’t been the best season for Benn but he is refusing to go down quietly and now finds himself as the Stars’ leading goal scorer (18) this season thanks to his hat trick on Tuesday night in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. He has scored nine of those goals in the 15 games since January 1, and is just one goal away from the 300-mark for his career. He is now on pace for 26 goals this season.

2. Mike Matheson and Mark Pysyk, Florida Panthers. It might be cheating to include two players as one entry in the three stars section, but look, these two guys deserve some recognition here. The Panthers dressed eight defensemen on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils and played two of them — Matheson and Pysyk — at forward on a line with Noel Acciari. All that line did was score three goals (one for each player) in a 5-3 win, while Matheson and Pysyk each had a goal, two assists, and finished as a plus-three. Pysyk has previously played forward for the Panthers this season and had a hat trick a couple of weeks ago.

3. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. No Connor McDavid, no problem for Draisaitl and the Oilers on Tuesday. The Oilers were 5-3 winners over the Chicago Blackhawks and it was Draisaitl leading the way with a four-point night (one goal, three assists) as he extended his current lead in the NHL scoring race to eight points over McDavid. He is now at 89 points on the season and on pace for 129 points this season. He had 105 points a year ago. If he continues that level of play during McDavid’s absence and helps get the Oilers back in the playoffs it might be enough to take the MVP award away from his teammate.

Along with Draisaitl, 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto also had another big game for the Oilers, scoring two goals in the win. He is now up to seven goals and 14 points in his first 15 games this season after joining the team in late December.

Other Notable Performances From Tuesday

  • Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 37 shots for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime to extend their winning streak despite a growing injury list. Read all about it here.
  • Alex Stalock stopped all 26 shots he faced for the Minnesota Wild as they shut out the Vegas Golden Knights. Kevin Fiala also had a big game for the Wild to extend his point streak to five games.
  • Another strong game for rookie New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin as he stopped turned aside 42 shots in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Chris Kreider also scored two goals in the win.
  • Mathew Barzal had three assists for the New York Islanders as they won a wild game over the Philadelphia Flyers. Read all about it here.
  • Philipp Grubauer stopped 36 shots for the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night

Mikko Rantanen scored an absolutely beautiful goal late in the first period against the Ottawa Senators, starting it off with a spin move at the blue line.

Here is one of Mathew Barzal’s three assists on Tuesday night, setting up Jordan Eberle for a first period goal to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead. He just flipped it to himself and created a shot like it was nothing.

Not long after a potential Arizona Coyotes game winner was overturned for goaltender interference, Kasperi Kapanen scored the winner for the Toronto Maple Leafs by batting a puck out of mid-air, sending himself on a breakaway, and scoring the goal.

Moment of the Night

Jacob Trouba returned to Winnipeg for the first time as a visiting player on Tuesday night. He did this before the game.

 

Factoids

  • Kucherov extended his point streak to 12 games before leaving with an injury. It is the longest current point streak in the NHL and the fifth-longest in Tampa Bay Lightning franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • Rasmus Dahlin is now tied for the most assists (76) by a teenage defenseman in NHL history. [NHL PR]
  • Jack Hughes became just the third 18-year-old to record at least 20 points in a season for the New Jersey Devils. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, Detroit Red Wings 2
Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Arizona Coyote 2 (OT)
Florida Panthers 5, New Jersey Devils 3
New York Islanders 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (OT)
Minnesota Wild 4, Vegas Golden Knights 0
New York Rangers 4, Winnipeg Jets 1
Dallas Stars 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1
Colorado Avalanche 3, Ottawa Senators 0
Edmonton Oilers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 3
St. Louis Blues-Anaheim Ducks (Postponed)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Trade Deadline: Non-UFAs who could move

NHL Trade Deadline
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The NHL trade deadline is just a few weeks away and we already have a pretty good idea as to which players are a good bet to be traded based on their contract situation (pending unrestricted free agents) and their current team’s place in the standings (out of the playoff picture with little hope of playing back into it).

Ottawa is almost certainly going to trade Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

The New York Rangers are probably going to trade Chris Kreider.

The Los Angeles Kings seem like a good bet to deal Tyler Toffoli.

Montreal should absolutely try to see what it can get for Ilya Kovalchuk following his brief offensive resurgence with the Canadiens.

These are the near-locks, as many pending UFA’s are on non-playoff teams. But every year there is always that surprising trade, usually one that involves in a player that still has term remaining on their contract. Last year it was Los Angeles trading Jake Muzzin and Minnesota trading Mikael Granlund.

Let’s take a look at some potential options this season.

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Contract remaining: Three more full seasons (through 2022-23 season) with a $5.5 million per year salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The already tried to move him (and very nearly did) on two different occasions over the past year. To be fair, that was a different general manager pulling those strings and it’s possible that Bill Guerin has a long-term vision that includes Zucker. But barring some kind of dramatic second half turnaround the Wild seem destined to miss the playoffs for a second straight year and shouldn’t be opposed to listening to offers on any player. One team that apparently has a lot of interest: Guerin’s former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a need for a top-six winger with Jake Guentzel sidelined, Zucker would be a fit with their style of play, and they were one of the teams that nearly acquired him when Paul Fenton seemed hellbent on trying to trade him.

What he might cost: Zucker’s not a star, but he is a fast, two-way player that is going to score 20 goals and 50 points every year while helping out on the defensive end. With still three years remaining the Wild should easily be able to get two or three assets for him if they decide to move on: First-round pick, a good prospect or young NHL player, and one lesser “throw in” asset (late round pick, fringe prospect).

(UPDATE: Zucker has been dealt to the Penguins for a package of Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison, and a conditional first-round pick.)

Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with $5.3 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Canadiens are going nowhere this season and it could be a good opportunity to sell high on Tatar who has been simply outstanding in his season-and-a-half with the team. Since joining the Canadiens he has 43 goals and 104 points in 132 games, while also posting some of the best possession numbers in the entire league. Of the more than 660 players that have played at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey since the start of the 2018-19 season, Tatar ranks in the top-five in shot attempt share, scoring chance share, high-danger scoring chance share, expected goals share, and goal differential. Even going back to his Detroit days he is a near lock for 25 goals and is an outstanding possession driver.

What he might cost: We have some idea here because Tatar has been traded twice on this very same contract, including once at the deadline when a bad Detroit team traded him to a contender (Vegas) in 2017-18. Vegas gave up a first, second, and third round pick for him. Three assets. It was viewed as an overpayment at the time — and still is — but that’s not entirely fair. Had Tatar worked out in Vegas they would have had a top-line talent for what amounts to three low-ceiling lottery tickets. Unfortunately he got off to a slow start, never had a chance to prove himself over a full season, and was traded for Max Pacioretty (a trade that has worked out for Vegas).

Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4 million salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The Kings are one of the worst teams in the league and need to re-tool rapidly. Martinez is one of the few players on the team that might bring a decent return.

What he might cost: Los Angeles traded Jake Muzzin last season under almost the exact same circumstances — A bad Kings team trading a veteran defenseman with one year remaining with a $4 million salary cap hit. The only big difference is that Muzzin was 29 (vs. Martinez at age 32) and was having a better season. The Kings received a first-round pick and two prospects (Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi) for Muzzin. Given Martinez’s age and somewhat down season they probably shouldn’t expect quite as much, but the framework should be similar (draft pick and a prospect).

(UPDATE: Martinez has been dealt to the Golden Knights in exchange for second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.)

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4.65 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Devils have been a spectacular disappointment this season, still seem to be several pieces away from contending, and outside of their pending free agents don’t really have many realistic trade options that can bring a return. Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are the untouchables. P.K. Subban‘s value has to be at an all-time low given his performance this season and remaining contract. Travis Zajac and Andy Greene have complete no-trade clauses, with Zajac reportedly declining a trade already this year.

Palmieri is a really good player, but turns 29 on Saturday, will be 30 when he starts his next contract, and only has a limited no-trade clause, making it easier to deal him. As good as he is, he might have more trade value to the Devils right now than he does as a player for them beyond this season. They’re probably not a playoff team next season whether he plays for them or not.

What he might cost: Very similar to the Zucker/Tatar price. Tatar and Zucker are both probably better overall players, but there is a lot to be said for Palmieri’s ability to put the puck in the net. He’s averaged a 30-goal pace per 82 games with the Devils (a lousy offensive team during his time with the team) and still has another full year remaining on his deal. A first-round pick and a good prospect seems like a must-have starting point for the Devils.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Bounce-back candidates for the second half

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I’d normally focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. For this week though, because we’re coming off the All-Star break, I’m doing something a little different. This week I’m highlighting 10 players who underperformed in the first half and should do better for the rest of the campaign.

Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – LW/RW: With 13 goals and 38 points in 50 contests, you can’t say that Gaudreau is having a bad season, but it is a significant step down from his previous two campaigns. The Flames as a whole have had a rough campaign offensively, going from the second best in 2018-19 to the 25th ranked offense this season. Part of Gaudreau’s problem though might be some rough puck luck. His shooting percentage is significantly off from his career average (9.2% in 2019-20 compared to 12.4% in his career), his PDO is the lowest it’s ever been, and his IPP is the lowest it’s been since the 2014-15 campaign.  Those can be taken as indicators that he’s been rewarded less than he should have been. All that has to be taken with a grain of salt, but even with that qualifier, Gaudreau is a top-tier player so it’s not a bad idea to put your faith in him.

Phil Kessel, Coyotes – RW: The Coyotes added Kessel in the hopes that he would provide them with the one thing they sorely lacked last season: goals. So far that hasn’t quite worked out. Arizona has been a better team offensively this season than they were in 2018-19, but it’s still their main weakness and rather than lead the charge, Kessel has been a decent, but not great top-six forward. Kessel has 11 goals and 31 points in 51 contests after recording 61 goals and 174 points in 164 contests in his previous two seasons with Pittsburgh. Kessel might have needed some time to adjust to his new environment though and he has been doing better lately with seven goals and 17 points in his last 23 contests as well as three goals and 10 points in his last 10 games. The stage seems to be set for him to have a better second half.

Jake Gardiner, Hurricanes – D: Gardiner typically produced solid numbers offensively with the Maple Leafs, but he also was logging over 20 minutes of ice time with them each season. By contrast, he has three goals and 13 points in 50 games while averaging just 16:29 minutes in Carolina. With Dougie Hamilton sidelined indefinitely though, the Hurricanes might need to lean on Gardiner significantly more. He’s averaged 20:22 minutes in the three games since Hamilton’s injury and if that continues then he should have a much stronger second half.

Pekka Rinne, Predators – G: If the season ended today, this would arguably be the worst campaign of Rinne’s career. He has a 16-10-3 record, 2.95 GAA, and .899 save percentage in 29 starts. That save percentage would be the worst he’s ever endured and his GAA is only topped by the 3.80 GAA he had over two games back in 2005-06. Just two years removed from his Vezina win, it’d be quite the collapse. He’s largely been dragged down from one prolonged bad stretch though. From Oct. 31-Dec. 21, he had a 3.91 GAA and .864 save percentage in 12 starts. Before that he was having a terrific season and since he’s bounced back somewhat with a 2.86 GAA and .907 save percentage in nine games. This is probably going to go down as a season where Rinne declined meaningfully, but his second half should still be an improvement on his first.

John Klingberg, Stars – D: Klingberg had two goals and 19 points in 37 games going into the All-Star break. That’s not terrible, but if the season ended today, his points-per-game pace would be the lowest of his career. He’s thawing out though with nine assists in his last nine games. Given his track record, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe that he can do better going forward.

Jack Hughes, Devils – C: The first overall pick in the 2019 draft hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm. He has six goals and 17 points in 40 contests so far, which means there hasn’t been much reason to own Hughes if you’re in a standard fantasy league. That being said, the more NHL experience he gets, the better he should be. The fact that the Devils are out of the playoff hunt might also strangely work in his favor. The Devils have already traded Taylor Hall and they will likely attempt to continue selling, which may lead to the team handing Hughes more ice time to compensate. There’s also more incentive for them to give their young players plenty of ice time if their focus is on the future and not the 2019-20 campaign.

Sidney Crosby, Penguins – C: This one is a bit of a cheat. I’ve been avoiding highlighting players who spent most of the first half on the sidelines, but in terms of players who missed time in the first half, Crosby is among those who should have the biggest impact in the second. When he’s been healthy this season, Crosby has been his usual dominant self with eight goals and 25 points in 22 contests. As long as he can stay off the sidelines for the rest of the campaign, he should be among the league scoring leaders from the All-Star break onwards.

Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche – C/LW: Landeskog set a career-high last season with 75 points in 73 games, but he’s had a quiet first half with 13 goals and 21 points in 33 contests. Part of the problem was a lower-body injury that cost him 16 games, but of course that doesn’t explain away his decline in points-per-game. He has a 42.9 IPP, which is very low and might indicate that he’s endured some unusually bad luck. That might be part of the reason for his underwhelming first half and if that’s the case, we might see a better return out of him after the All-Star break.

Jordan Eberle, Islanders – RW: In early January, Eberle described himself as a second-half player and so far he’s backed that assertion up with four goals and seven points in his last eight games. That’s in stark contrast to his three goals and 17 points in 31 contests from Oct. 4-Jan. 6. Eberle has been hit-and-miss in recent years, so it’s entirely possible that his recent run is simply a hot streak, but he underperformed thus far relative to what we’ve seen out of him for most of his career, so it’s not out of the question that he will be better in the second half of the season compared to the first.

Braden Holtby, Capitals – G: Holtby can become an unrestricted free agent this summer and his is not the sort of season he’d like to have in his contract year. While he has a great 18-9-4 record behind the amazing Capitals, his GAA and save percentage leave a lot to be desired at 3.09 and .897 respectively. He’s certainly had some good stretches this season though and perhaps the break came at an ideal time for him because it gives him an opportunity for him to step back from his recent struggles. He’s allowed at least three goals in each of his last seven games, which has dragged down his numbers. The time to reflect might be just what he needed and with his contract expiring, he’s not short on motivation to bounce back.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

Where it all went wrong for Ray Shero and the Devils

Shero Devils
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The New Jersey Devils fired general manager Ray Shero over the weekend, ending his four-and-a-half year run with the team.

On the surface, it’s not hard to see why the decision was made. Given the circumstances, it was inevitable.

The Devils have been a massive disappointment this season after a huge offseason, and were on track to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years under Shero’s watch. Not many general managers are going to make it through that sort of run unscathed. Especially when you consider how high expectations were in the preseason after the additions of top pick Jack Hughes and the acquisitions of Nikita Gusev, P.K. Subban, and Wayne Simmonds.

So where did it all go wrong for Shero and the Devils?

We should start with the very beginning.

1. Shero inherited a mess

While the lack of progress is the thing that will stand out in the wake of the change, it can not be understated how bad of a situation Shero walked into when he was hired by the Devils in May of 2015.

The Devils were coming off of a 2014-15 season where they had one of the worst records in the league, had missed the playoffs three years in a row, had a barren farm system, and had what was by far the oldest roster in the league.

Things were bleak. Very bleak.

Consider…

  • Seven of the top-12 scorers on the 2014-15 season were age 32 or older. Five of them were out of the NHL completely within two years.
  • Of the 35 players that appeared in a game that season, 18 of them were out of the NHL within the next two years.
  • Only two players on the team recorded more than 40 points, and nobody scored more than 43.

It was a team of fringe NHL players that were not only not very good, but were on their way out of the league.

Combine that with a mostly empty farm system and there wasn’t a lot to build on.

He had to start from the ground level and try to build a contender out of nothing. That was always going to take time.

2. The trades always seemed to look good on paper…

… But the timing and the luck was never on the Devils’ side.

Given the lack of quality talent on the NHL roster, Shero had to work quick to bring in talent from outside the organization. And when you break down his individual trades, he almost always seemed to come out on the winning side of them.

Getting Kyle Palmieri for a couple of draft picks was a steal.

He pounced on the Capitals’ salary cap crunch and picked up Marcus Johansson for two draft picks.

Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall was one of the biggest one-for-one steals in recent league memory.

The same thing happened this summer when he managed to get Subban and Gusev for next to nothing. Combined with a pair of No. 1 overall draft picks (Nico Hischier and Hughes) and there was a huge influx of talent on paper over the past couple of years.

But for one reason or another, the results never followed.

For as promising of an addition as Johansson was, his time with the Devils was ruined by injuries that prevented him from ever making an extended impact.

Subban and Simmonds were big-name pickups this summer, but it has become increasingly clear as the season has gone on that he got them at the end of their careers.

There was even some bad luck with Hall when he lost almost the entire 2018-19 season to injury.

3. Cory Schneider rapidly declined, and the Devils never adjusted in goal

This might be the single biggest factor in the Devils’ lack of progress under Shero.

When he joined the Devils he had one franchise cornerstone that he could build around, and that was starting goalie Cory Schneider. And he was a legit building block.

Coming off the 2014-15 season Schneider was one of the best goalies in the league. Between the 2010-11 and 2014-15 seasons he owned the best save percentage in the NHL (minimum 100 games played) and was just beginning a long-term contract that was going to keep him in New Jersey for the next seven seasons.

He was also still at an age where his career shouldn’t have been in danger of falling off. But after one more elite season in 2015-16, Schneider’s career did exactly that. It fell apart.  After his 30th birthday Schneider went into a sudden and rapid decline that sunk him to the bottom tier of NHL starting goalies.

This is where Shero’s biggest failing in New Jersey came into play. He never found a goalie to replace Schneider. That was the biggest question mark heading into this season, and the play of their goalies this season has been one of the biggest factors in their disappointing performance.

Shero’s tenure with the Devils is a fascinating one to look at from a distance. He inherited a team that had absolutely nothing to build around and tried to swing for the fences with some big additions over the years. He made a lot of the right moves and brought in legitimate top-line talent. But some bad injury luck (Johansson; Hall a year ago), a couple of star players declining (Schneider, Subban), and his inability to make the one big move that he needed (a goalie) helped hold back what started as a promising season. The 2019-20 season ended up being one losing season too many for the Devils.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Subban, Hischier help Devils win third in a row

For the first time this season the New Jersey Devils have won three games in a row.

They extended their winning streak on Thursday night with a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders thanks to goals from P.K. Subban and Nico Hischier, as well as a 29-save effort from Mackenzie Blackwood in net.

It was a mostly quiet night for the Devils offense with the exception of a three-minute stretch of clock time between the second and third periods.

Trailing by 1-0 with less than two minutes to play in the second, Subban blasted a one-timer from the blue line for his fourth goal of the season.

Hischier broke the tie just one minute into the third period with this slick goal.

It is his ninth goal of the season and extended his current point streak to four consecutive games.

The Devils played this game without No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes due to an upper-body injury.

It may be too late to salvage their season when it comes to making the playoffs, but the Devils have been finding a bit more success over the past few weeks following a dreadful start. After winning just nine of their first 31 games, the Devils are now 6-2-1 in their past nine games.

They are still facing a double-digit point deficit in the race for a Wild Card spot, while only the Detroit Red Wings sit below them in the standings. Even so, given where they started the season, going through a coaching change, and then trading Taylor Hall it is pretty clear they have not packed it in on this season and still have some fight.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.