All posts by Matt Teague

Forecasting USA’s roster for potential 2021 World Cup

With news that the NHL is "cautiously optimistic" that current CBA talks might lead to a World Cup in February 2021, we've decided to predict what each team's roster could look like should the tournament take place.

We adopted the NHL's format for the 2016 World Cup. Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic all send teams, while Team North America (players aged 23-and-under from Canada and the U.S.) and Team Europe (players from other European countries) round out the field.

Teams are comprised of any combination of 20 skaters and three goalies. Any Canadian or American player under 24 years old on Feb. 1, 2021, is automatically assigned to Team North America. However, we've added our own caveat: If a player suited up for Team North America in 2016, he is eligible to represent Canada or the U.S. this time around, even if he's still under 24.

In this edition, we project Team USA's roster.

Head coach: Mike Sullivan

John Tortorella remains a strong coaching option for the Americans, but we'd like to see what Mike Sullivan could do with a younger core. Since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Sullivan has captured two Stanley Cups and has established himself as one of the more beloved coaches to play for in the league.

Forwards

LW C RW
Patrick Kane Auston Matthews Blake Wheeler
Johnny Gaudreau Jack Eichel Phil Kessel
Kyle Connor Dylan Larkin Cam Atkinson
Jake Guentzel Vincent Trochek T.J. Oshie
Alex Tuch

Notable omissions: Joe Pavelski, Brandon Saad, Anders Lee, James Van Riemsdyk, Zach Parise, Kyle Palmieri

The top-six forward group is any coaches dream. You could mix and match those wingers with either center in Matthews or Eichel and expect tremendous results. The bottom six provides a ton of speed, skill, and scoring ability while adding a level of grit and tenacity. Tuch is a 6-foot-4 winger with blinding speed and should be ready to crack this lineup in a year-and-a-half from now.

As for the omissions, Pavelski isn't getting any younger. He's declined over each of the last four campaigns despite coming off an extremely fortunate 38-goal season when he recorded a shooting percentage of 20. Parise will also be that much further past his prime.

Defense

LD RD
Torey Krug Seth Jones
Jaccob Slavin John Carlson
Noah Hanifin Jacob Trouba
Ryan Suter

Notable omissions: Shayne Gostisbehere, Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien, Brett Pesce, Jake Gardiner

This defense core was extremely difficult to decide on. The omitted players still have a strong case to make the team, but the young American talent that's come along on the blue line just can't be overlooked - and they're only going to get better. This unit offers a healthy balance of lefties and righties who are mobile both with and without the puck.

Leaving veterans like Yandle, McDonagh, and Byfuglien off the team was tough, but when the tournament deepens and the Americans find themselves up against other powerhouse nations, they'll need the speed and skill on the back end.

Suter is a rare exception. The 6-foot-2 blue-liner is an absolute horse and one of the best American defenseman of all time. Despite all the miles he's logged, he remains a force on the back end and would be a valuable veteran presence to have as an extra option.

Goalies

G
John Gibson
Ben Bishop
Connor Helleybuyck 

Notable omissions: Jonathan Quick

Despite a down season for the Anaheim Ducks, Gibson shined between the pipes and further proved himself to be one of the most valuable goaltenders in the NHL. Bishop will still be on the right side of 30 come the tournament, and Hellebuyck has shown tremendous promise in Winnipeg early in his career.

Quick should still be considered but will need a bounce-back season to prove he's still able to perform at a high level entering the latter years of his career.

Others in this series:

  • Canada
  • Sweden and Finland (Saturday)
  • Russia and Czech Republic (Sunday)
  • North America and Europe (Monday)

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Report: Canucks extend GM Jim Benning beyond 2019-20 season

The Vancouver Canucks have inked general manager Jim Benning to a contract extension that will keep him with the club beyond the 2019-20 campaign, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

The 56-year-old executive, who was hired by the team ahead of the 2014-15 season, was heading into the final year of his current contract, according to Friedman.

Benning joined the club during a transition period and made his mark after shipping out veteran pieces Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa to the Anaheim Ducks. Benning has added talented young pieces through the draft including Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes.

Benning and his staff had an active offseason, signing free-agent defensemen Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Oscar Fantenberg, as well as forward Micheal Ferland. He also acquired forward J.T. Miller in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning at the NHL draft in June.

The Canucks made the playoffs in Benning's first season but failed to do so in any of the following four campaigns.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Report: Thornton expected to re-sign with Sharks

It appears veteran center Joe Thornton will be back with the San Jose Sharks for at least one more season.

The 40-year-old told reporters during the NHL Awards in June that he planned to return for the 2019-20 campaign, and, according to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz, there is "no doubt" Thornton will re-sign with the Sharks in the near future.

Teammate Timo Meier also feels confident about the future Hall of Famer's return to the Bay Area.

"I think everybody that knows 'Jumbo' expects him to be back," Meier said according to NHL.com's Dan Rosen.

"The way he's training and the way he's still in shape with his 40 years, I don't doubt that he's coming back. He'll be playing until he can't anymore. Probably he'll play longer than he can walk. I really hope he's going to be back because he's just a huge presence and the guys all love him there and obviously we all know what kind of hockey player he is."

Thornton has spent 14 seasons with the Sharks, playing each of the previous two campaigns on one-year deals. The former Hart Trophy winner is the franchise's all-time leader in assists and ranks second in both games played and points.

The Sharks have $4.68 million in projected cap space with a roster of 21, including 11 forwards, according to CapFriendly.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Eddie Lack joining Arizona State University as goalie coach

Former NHL goaltender Eddie Lack is taking a break from professional hockey and becoming the new goalie coach for the Arizona State University men's hockey team, the 31-year-old announced Wednesday on Twitter.

Lack cited chronic hip injuries as the reason for his pause, saying he'll focus on physical therapy in hopes of making a return to pro hockey someday.

The Swedish netminder has suited up for 143 NHL contests in stints with the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames, and New Jersey Devils, posting a career 2.62 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

Lack hasn't appeared in an NHL game since February 2018 and played just six games - all at the AHL level - in 2018-19.

After just four seasons in college hockey's top division, Arizona State has already transformed itself into one of the stronger teams in the nation. The Sun Devils booked a ticket to the program's first-ever Divison I national tournament last season, losing in the regional semifinal to Quinnipiac.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Jets’ Connor plans to sign new deal before training camp

Winnipeg Jets restricted free-agent forward Kyle Connor is hopeful that he can get a new contract signed before the team's training camp begins in September.

"Yeah, that's definitely the plan," Connor said, according to NHL.com's Scott Billeck. "The player never wants to miss time in training camp. It's tough not getting that preparation and time with teammates in practice."

The 22-year-old enjoyed a career year during his third NHL season in 2018-19, as he tallied 34 goals and 66 points in 82 games while adding three goals and five points in six playoff contests.

A number of high-profile restricted free agents remain unsigned, including fellow Jets winger Patrik Laine, but Connor understands the nature of the negotiating process and remains focused on preparing for the season.

"I have friends, other players who are going through the same situation," Connor said. "I don't think it's anything to press the panic button on. It's kind of how these things go. It's definitely different. Usually, you already know what's going on and you have plans, everything like that. But right now it's no different from a training aspect."

The Jets have the lowest cap hit in the league and have $17.6 million in projected cap space, according to CapFriendly. Winnipeg has just eight forwards under contract, however, and will need to add a pair to its payroll in addition to Connor and Laine.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

5 players likely to regress next season

It's incredibly difficult to stay consistent at the NHL level; some players experience regression, unable to carry over their success from one campaign to the next.

Regression doesn't necessarily result in a poor season or a downward trend that will last for the rest of a given player's career. It simply means not being able to reach lofty totals achieved the season prior due to multiple factors, including circumstance, age, and unsustainable statistical trends.

Here are five players that are likely to take a step back in 2019-20:

Joe Pavelski

Brandon Magnus / National Hockey League / Getty
GP G A P ATOI
75 38 26 64 19:03

Pavelski's point total has declined for three consecutive campaigns, and the 35-year-old isn't getting any younger.

Even though the sharpshooter hit the 30-goal mark for the fourth time in the last six campaigns and led the Sharks in tallies last season, his 2.1 shots on goal per game marked his lowest average since his rookie season. His accompanying shooting percentage of 20 suggests he had some luck.

Only 14 players all time have hit the 38-goal mark in their age-35 season or older. The last player to do it was Daniel Alfredsson in 2007-08 - the only skater on that list who's not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Pavelski will also have to adjust to a new home for the first time in his 13-year career. The Dallas Stars - who he signed a three-year deal with in the offseason - are far less offensive-minded than the Sharks.

Robin Lehner

Mike Stobe / National Hockey League / Getty
GP W GAA SV% SO
46 25 2.13 .930 6

Lehner backstopped the New York Islanders to one of the most memorable underdog seasons in recent memory in 2018-19. The Swede's incredible play between the pipes helped lift a team that many projected to be lottery-bound to the Metropolitan Division's second seed.

However, playing in the Windy City after inking a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks offers Lehner an entirely different challenge. The Islanders' structurally-sound, defensive-minded game is the polar opposite of how the run-and-gun Blackhawks operate.

The Islanders finished fourth in the league in blocked shots last season and allowed the fewest goals against with 191 - exactly 100 less than the Blackhawks. Chicago also conceded the most high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at 13.66; the Islanders surrendered 10.79. But perhaps the most glaring indication of the Blackhawks' porous defense is the fact that all three of their netminders ranked within the top four league-wide in terms of closest average shot distance.

Lehner has proven to be a reliable No. 1 option, but it's hard to imagine him putting together another career season playing behind Chicago's vulnerable defense.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
GP G A P ATOI
82 27 34 61 17:43

Dubois certainly has the tools to prove us wrong, but he's also benefited by having Russian superstar Artemi Panarin on his wing early on in his career.

Here's the Blue Jackets' share of 5-on-5 offense when Dubois is on the ice with Panarin compared to without:

CF% W CF% w/o HDSC% W HDSC% w/o xGF% W xGF% w/o
55.39 41.83 55.19 41.86 57.06 42.54

In addition to losing Panarin, forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel also won't be back with the club, leaving a large hole offensively. The Blue Jackets brought in skilled forward Gustav Nyquist on a five-year deal and will have 41-goal man Cam Atkinson, but more of the offensive duty will fall on Dubois.

He's unquestionably capable of becoming a blue-chip center, but with less talent around to help boost his game, Dubois will have to figure out how to navigate being the guy. He may be due for a temporary step back before he takes another large leap forward.

Leon Draisaitl

Andy Devlin / National Hockey League / Getty
GP G A P ATOI
82 50 55 105 22:35

Draisaitl is one of the greatest natural talents in the league, but his career-best campaign with the Edmonton Oilers last season came with some good fortune.

The big German doubled his goal total from the 2017-18 season, but also saw his 5-on-5 shooting percentage rise from 9.9, which is around league average, to an unsustainable mark of 20. When you include special teams, Draisaitl's shooting percentage of 21.6 led the league among players with a minimum of 80 shots on goal.

In addition, Draisaitl benefitted from playing heavily alongside Connor McDavidlast season. The pair logged a total of 805:37 of 5-on-5 ice time in 2018-19 compared to 498:33 in 2017-18. However, new head coach Dave Tippett has already said he's not stuck on keeping the duo together.

Splitting up the two stars - and pairing McDavid alongside proven scorer James Neal - may be more beneficial for the Oilers for the upcoming campaign, but Draisaitl likely won't be able to replicate last season's production while driving his own line on the second unit.

Jordan Binnington

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty
GP W GAA SV% SO
32 24 1.89 .927 5

Binnington should have a strong sophomore season, but it's unrealistic to think the netminder will repeat his incredible rookie totals over an entire NHL campaign. The Ontario native has never played more than 50 games in a single regular season at any level, and will likely be tasked with that kind of workload for the St. Louis Blues during the upcoming campaign.

The 25-year-old actually started to regress around the midway point of his 32-game stint last season, including the playoffs.

Sample size GAA SV% SO
First 16 GP 1.58 .937 4
Last 16 GP 2.17 .918 1
Playoffs 2.46 .914 1

Binnington also faced the second-fewest high-danger shots against per 60 minutes among goalies with at least 15 starts - a testament to the Blues' strong defensive core.

That being said, with captain Alex Pietrangelo turning 30 in January, St. Louis will have four regular blue-liners over the age of 30 with a ton of extra hockey under their belt after winning Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues will also be tasked with competing in a much-improved Central Division.

Advanced stats courtesy of NaturalStatTrick / Hockeyviz

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Subban: Devils have ‘one of the best environments I’ve ever been in’

The New Jersey Devils introduced star defenseman P.K. Subban at a press conference Thursday, and the 30-year-old couldn't hold back his enthusiasm in joining the club.

"I don't think I've been this excited for a training camp since my first one," Subban said, according to NHL.com's Mike Morreale. "I definitely have been in the league long enough now to know kind of what type of environment is a winning environment, and you hear it from players and hear it from coaches all the time, but I can definitely tell you this is one of the best environments I've ever been in."

Subban was welcomed to the stage with a loud applause from hundreds of season-ticket members, youth hockey players, and more.

The 2013 Norris Trophy winner was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators the day after the club selected blue-chip prospect Jack Hughes with the first overall pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. As one of the more experienced players on a young Devils club, Subban is excited to take on a true veteran role for the first time in his career.

"Any way I can mentor and help the young players, I will," he said. "I'm going to be there for them as much as I can and I'm excited about that. This is probably one of the only times in my career where I've been in a situation where I have a lot more experience than some of the guys in the room, so I want to lean on coach (John) Hynes and some of the other veteran players to help me be that player."

Known as one of the more fashionable players in the NHL, Subban was gifted a Ric Flair-style red and white gown with his signature No. 76 on the back from Devils mascot NJ Devil.

Subban ranks sixth among defenseman with 406 points this decade, but the three-time All-Star still believes his finest days are ahead of him.

"I still don't believe that I've played my best shift yet, or had my best period, my best game, or my best season," Subban said, according to NHL.com's Amanda Stein. "So, I try to inspire myself. Everybody has to work on themselves, no one is perfect. No one wakes up every morning and, you know, you have to love yourself but you also have to drive yourself from within."

Subban has laced up for 645 career games over 10 seasons between the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Sabres sign Rodrigues to 1-year, $2M deal

The Buffalo Sabres have locked up forward Evan Rodrigues on a one-year contract worth $2 million, the team announced Thursday.

The terms of Rodrigues' contract were based on an independent arbitrator's ruling following the forward's salary arbitration hearing Tuesday.

Rodrigues, 25, enjoyed his best NHL season in 2018-19, recording career highs with nine goals and 29 points over 74 games. The 5-foot-10 winger has tallied 21 goals and 62 points in 154 contests since signing with Buffalo out of Boston University in 2015.

The Sabres now have a projected $3.1 million in available cap space, with restricted free agents Linus Ullmark and Jake McCabe in need of new contracts, according to CapFriendly.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Maple Leafs acquire Schmaltz in trade with Blues

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Jordan Schmaltz from the St. Louis Blues on Thursday in exchange for blue-liner Andreas Borgman, the club announced.

Schmaltz, 25, recorded two assists in 20 regular-season contests with the Blues last season. He contributed nine points in 36 games at the AHL level with the San Antonio Rampage.

The 24-year-old Borgman made 45 appearances with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, tallying four goals and 17 points. The 6-foot rearguard has 48 games of NHL experience, recording three goals and 11 points with the Maple Leafs during the 2017-18 season.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Garrett Wilson, Pontus Aberg among slew of Leafs depth signings

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed free-agent forwards Garrett Wilson and Pontus Aberg to one-year deals worth $725,000 and $700,000 respectively, the team announced Wednesday.

Additionally, the club inked contracts with forwards Tyler Gaudet, Kalle Kossila, and Nick Shore, along with defenseman Kevin Gravel. Forward Kenny Agostino's two-year deal with an average annual value of $737,500 was also made official.

Here's a breakdown of each additional deal:

Player Term AAV (NHL level) Type
Gaudet 1-year $700K 2-way
Gravel 1-year $700K 1-way
Kossila 2-year $700K 2-way
Shore 1-year $750K 1-way

Wilson contributed eight points in 50 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and added one goal in four playoff contests. The 28-year-old was selected by the Florida Panthers with the 107th overall pick of the 2009 NHL Draft.

Aberg, 25, appeared in 37 games with the Anaheim Ducks in 2018-19, tallying 11 goals and 19 points before being traded to the Minnesota Wild, where he recorded six points in 22 contests.

The 26-year-old Shore spent last season with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. The 6-foot-1 forward previously spent four seasons in the NHL and recorded 53 points over 236 career games.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.