All posts by Sean O'Leary

Oilers’ Cave remains in medically induced coma

Edmonton Oilers forward Colby Cave remains in a medically induced coma at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto after recently suffering a brain bleed, his family said in a statement Thursday.

"Colby is still in a medically induced coma. This is giving his brain time to heal and rest from all he's been through," the statement reads. "We would like to thank the Oilers organization, the entire hockey community, all of our friends, and family, and everyone who has shown us love and support.

"We would like to send a big thank you to Colby's critical care team, neurosurgeons, and nurses at Sunnybrook Hospital. We appreciate all that you are doing for our Colby."

Cave was admitted to hospital Monday after complaining about headaches and was later airlifted to Sunnybrook, where he entered intensive care.

His wife, Emily, took to Instagram on Wednesday night to also provide an update.

"Please wake up. Please wake up. It's all I can keep asking, 'He's going to wake up right?' We need a miracle. Colby's parents and myself, got to see him through a window and talk to him with a walkie-talkie last night. We are no longer allowed to be in the hospital because COVID-19 rules. We have no idea when we will be allowed to see him again," she wrote. "The nurse has tied his wedding band to his ankle. I am dreaming of being able to touch you, hear your voice, squeeze your hand (three times), and kiss you again. I love you so much, and my heart is shattered into a million pieces without my best friend."

Cave primarily spent his 2019-20 campaign with the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. The 25-year-old was with the Boston Bruins' organization before joining Edmonton last season.

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Lafreniere, Byfield lead NHL’s final 2020 draft rankings

NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings for the 2020 draft Wednesday. Here's a look at the top 10 North American and international players.

North American

Rank Player (nationality) Position Team (league)
1 Alexis Lafreniere (CAN) LW Rimouski (QMJHL)
2 Quinton Byfield (CAN) C Sudbury (OHL)
3 Jamie Drysdale (CAN) D Erie (OHL)
4 Jake Sanderson (USA) D U-18 (NTDP)
5 Cole Perfetti (CAN) C Saginaw (OHL)
6 Marco Rossi (AUT) C Ottawa (OHL)
7 Jack Quinn (CAN) RW Ottawa (OHL)
8 Kaiden Guhle (CAN) D Prince Albert (WHL)
9 Braden Schneider (CAN) D Brandon (WHL)
10 Dawson Mercer (CAN) C Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

The full rankings for North American skaters can be found here.

Leading the way in the North American group is consensus No. 1 overall pick Lafreniere, who had a gigantic draft year that included 112 points in 52 QMJHL games as well as a gold medal and tournament MVP honors at the world juniors.

Byfield, another gold medalist with Canada, maintained his No. 2 spot after 82 points in 42 games with the Sudbury Wolves. Younger and bigger than Lafreniere, he's an enticing prospect who projects to be a strong two-way center in the pros.

International

Rank Player (nationality) Position Team (league)
1 Tim Stuetzle (GER) LW Mannheim (DEL)
2 Alexander Holtz (SWE) RW Djurgarden (SHL)
3 Anton Lundell (FIN) C HIFK (Liiga)
4 Lucas Raymond (SWE) LW Frolunda (SHL)
5 Rodion Amirov (RUS) LW UFA (KHL)
6 Helge Grans (SWE) D Malmo Jr. (Swedish Jr.) 
7 John-Jason Peterka (GER) RW Munchen (DEL)
8 Topi Niemela (FIN) D Karpat (Liiga)
9 Noel Gunler (SWE) RW Lulea (SHL)
10 Roni Hirvonen (FIN) C Assat (Liiga)

The full rankings for international skaters can be found here.

Stuetzle maintains his No. 1 status atop the international board from the midseason rankings after posting 34 points in 41 games in Germany's top professional league as a 17- and 18-year-old.

Swedish winger Holtz also held his spot at No. 2, but Lundell jumped up one position from the previous rankings and into the top three after registering 10 goals and 18 assists in 44 games with HIFK.

The 2020 NHL Draft was scheduled to take place June 26-27 in Montreal but has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns. A new date hasn't been determined. The draft lottery to determine the order of picks is also up in the air as the league deals with the pandemic.

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Krug hopes he hasn’t played last game with Bruins

Boston Bruins defenseman and pending unrestricted free agent Torey Krug said Tuesday he hopes the NHL's coronavirus-induced break doesn't mark the end of his time with the organization.

"For me personally, I really hope I did not play my last game as a Boston Bruin," Krug said on a conference call, according to Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston. "It's been a special place for me and my family to grow. My love for the game and playing in front of these fans has been very special to me. But (this situation) hasn't given me any clarity."

The 28-year-old is one of the top UFAs potentially available this summer.

"I can't put any assumptions on it, but I can only guess that things are going to look different from a salary-cap perspective next season," Krug said. "Team structures as well are going to be affected by it, but I have no clarity about it. ... It's just the reality of the situation."

He added that there haven't been any negotiations with the Bruins since early March, but the two sides did open talks about a possible extension in October.

The defenseman is in the final campaign of a four-year contract that carries a $5.25-million annual cap hit. The NHL's salary cap was projected to rise as high as $84 million before the pause, but the final figure is far from determined at this point.

Krug signed with the Bruins as a college free agent out of Michigan State and played his first NHL game in 2012. He's racked up 337 points in 523 games, adding another 46 points in 62 career playoff contests.

When the NHL went on pause March 12, the Bruins occupied first place with 100 points.

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Jets ink Dylan Samberg to 3-year, entry-level contract

The Winnipeg Jets signed 2017 second-round pick Dylan Samberg to a three-year, entry-level contract with an average annual value of $1.175 million, the team announced Tuesday.

Samberg spent the past three seasons at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He won back-to-back national championships with the Bulldogs and posted 21 points across 28 games in the 2019-20 campaign.

The 21-year-old has also represented the United States at the world juniors on multiple occasions, capturing a bronze medal in 2018 and silver in 2019.

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Report: Senators front-runners for Russian blue-liner Artyom Zub

The Ottawa Senators are still the front-runners to sign KHL defenseman Artyom Zub, reports TSN's Darren Dreger.

Zub, a 24-year-old right-handed shot, is coming off a season in which he posted a career-high 22 points in 57 games with SKA St. Petersburg.

His 2019-20 campaign prematurely came to an end after one playoff game as the KHL canceled the remainder of its season in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Zub has represented Russia on the international level in numerous events, highlighted by a gold medal win at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.

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Report: Trump tells commissioners NFL season should start as scheduled

Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

President Trump held a conference call with commissioners across all North American sports leagues Saturday and said he believes the NFL schedule should start on time in September despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

More to come.

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Sens offer use of arena to provincial government amid pandemic

Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

The Ottawa Senators are offering the Canadian Tire Centre, its nine adjacent parking lots, and three other arenas affiliated with the organization to the Ontario government to use during the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Canadian Press.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk approached the provincial government with the proposal this week and is awaiting a reply, a team spokesperson confirmed.

Melnyk's offer includes the use of 17 private suites in the Senators' home rink and roughly 200,000 square feet of usable space.

In March, Melnyk pledged to provide part-time and hourly arena staff members with the income they would have received for the remainder of the regular season prior to the league's coronavirus-induced hiatus.

Earlier this week, the Senators' ownership group announced temporary staff reductions effective April 5 - the day after what would have been the conclusion of the 2019-20 NHL schedule.

Six members of the organization, including five players, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Gretzky tells McDavid he’ll win a Cup: ‘You’re too good’

Wayne Gretzky recently gave Connor McDavid a major vote of confidence, with The Great One telling the Edmonton Oilers captain he'll win a Stanley Cup.

"When you guys do win - and you will win a Stanley Cup - the feeling is just over the top," Gretzky said during a lengthy interview the two did together with GQ. "You work your whole life to do that, because even at a young age you probably said, 'Connor McDavid scored in overtime, Game 7, I got the winning goal.' And if you lost you probably said, 'OK, we're going to play again.' So, you always won. But when you actually lift the Cup, it's pretty special, and you will lift it one day because you're too good."

Gretzky won four Stanley Cups during his tenure with the Oilers in the 80s, and he told McDavid multiple times during the interview that winning a championship in a hockey-crazed city like Edmonton is special.

The wide-ranging discussion touched on a variety of topics, including McDavid's path to the Oilers, which Gretzky says was much different than his journey to the NHL.

"The reality was, although there was a lot of focus on me, you were a can't-miss No. 1 pick at 16," Gretzky said. "At 16 and 17 I still had half the hockey world saying, 'Well, I'm not sure if he can play, he might be too small, might be too slow.' My path, my journey was a little different than yours because you had so much pressure."

"Your pressure came from within, having to be successful and live up to the expectations," he continued. "... Each and every year you've gotten better and delivered. I don't think people realize the pressure and microscope that guys like you and Sidney Crosby and Mario (Lemieux). When they come into the league it's a lot harder than people think."

Since drafting McDavid first overall in 2015, the Oilers have made the playoffs once, culminating in a run to Game 7 of the second round in 2017, with the 23-year-old collecting nine points across 13 games.

This season, Edmonton appeared destined to get back to the playoffs after recording 83 points through 71 games, with McDavid and fellow superstar Leon Draisaitl leading the way as the league's top two scorers when the season went on pause.

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Rangers sign Justin Richards out of Minnesota Duluth

The New York Rangers signed free-agent forward Justin Richards to an entry-level contract beginning in 2020-21, the team announced Thursday.

The 22-year-old played three seasons for the University of Minnesota Duluth, winning two national championships and earning the honor of Best Defensive Forward in the conference in 2019-20.

In 120 collegiate games, Richards notched 26 goals and 40 assists.

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Ranking the NHL’s No. 1 overall picks of the 2010s

Few things can accelerate an NHL team's plans to contend like winning the draft lottery and securing the No. 1 overall pick.

The opportunity to transform a team's core can be had by a painful year of tanking or some lottery luck, but no matter how it comes about, it's imperative the club in the driver's seat uses it on the right player. Over the past decade, multiple teams have altered their trajectories by nabbing a generational talent at the top of the draft board, while others have made mistakes with their golden ticket.

With nothing on the pro sports landscape but time to reflect, let's look back and rank all of the previous decade's No. 1 picks.

N/R - Jack Hughes (2019)

GP G A P/GP
61 7 14 0.34

It would be unfair to label the most recent No. 1 pick as the decade's worst in a season he may not even get to finish, so we're not ranking him. Still, there's no denying Hughes' debut campaign fell way short of expectations before the 2019-20 season went on pause. He showed flashes of the tantalizing skill that sprung him to the top of every draft board prior to his first year but he clearly had a difficult time adjusting to life at the NHL level. No problem, though - he has plenty of time to develop and prove he can be the New Jersey Devils' cornerstone.

9. Nail Yakupov (2012)

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty
GP G A P/GP
350 62 74 0.38

Yakupov was the Edmonton Oilers' third No. 1 overall pick in a row, and easily the most disappointing. The "Fail for Nail" hype while the dynamic winger lit up the OHL was real, and Edmonton believed drafting a forward for the third consecutive year was the right strategy. It's easy to blast the Oilers for their whiff now with the benefit of hindsight, but any other choice would have been highly criticized at the time. With that in mind, any of Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumba, or Jacob Trouba - all first-rounders that year - would have been a better fit in the long run.

8. Nico Hischier (2017)

GP G A P/GP
209 59 84 0.64

Hischier has proven to be a solid player through his first three seasons with lots of room still to grow. He and Nolan Patrick were the two presumptive best options at No. 1 in 2017, but looking back at the three picks that followed those two (Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, and Elias Pettersson), it appears the scouts had their rankings a tad out of order.

7. Aaron Ekblad (2014)

GP G A P/GP
458 71 141 0.46

Ekblad's stock heading into the 2014 draft was sky-high, as he was the first defenseman to ever be granted exceptional-player status in the OHL in 2011, and he went on to author a tremendous career with the Barrie Colts. The combination of size, skating, and offensive ability he showed in junior carried over into the NHL, but he hasn't quite become the expected generational rock on the Florida Panthers' blue line. He probably wouldn't retain his top spot in a re-draft due to the success of fellow 2014 first-rounders Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak.

6. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011)

GP G A P/GP
604 169 274 0.73

It's rather incredible Nugent-Hopkins is in his ninth NHL season at just 26 years old. The Oilers counted on him to contribute immediately, and while he may not be the star he was in junior, he appears to have found a more suitable role as a reliable secondary scorer since the arrival of Draisaitl and another to-be-named Edmonton star. There was some elite talent throughout the 2011 draft, namely Jonathan Huberdeau, Mark Scheifele, Nikita Kucherov, and Johnny Gaudreau, but Nugent-Hopkins was the safe pick then and remains a strong choice today.

5. Rasmus Dahlin (2018)

Kevin Hoffman / Getty Images Sport / Getty
GP G A P/GP
141 13 71 0.69

Dahlin's produced a small sample size to date but has definitely lived up to his No. 1 overall status through his first two seasons. He consistently shows the offensive flashes that had many compare him to Erik Karlsson, and his career points-per-game rate ranks second among all teenage defensemen in the NHL's modern era, trailing only Hall of Famer and former head coach Phil Housley. Stepping into the NHL as an 18-year-old and immediately contributing the way he has is no easy feat, and he projects to be a foundational piece with the Buffalo Sabres, alongside captain Jack Eichel, for many years to come.

4. Taylor Hall (2010)

GP G A P/GP
627 218 345 0.89

Hall beat out Tyler Seguin in the infamous "Taylor or Tyler" draft to start the decade and has gone on to establish himself as a bonafide NHL star. He never led the Oilers where many thought he would, but he proved how good he can be when healthy in his 2018 Hart Trophy campaign with the Devils. Hall trails only Seguin in points among all players in his draft class but has played almost a full season less than Seguin due to injuries. The 28-year-old Hall's been as advertised throughout his entire career and should still have many good years ahead of him, but he doesn't quite compare to the top three on this list.

3. Nathan MacKinnon (2013)

Michael Martin / National Hockey League / Getty
GP G A P/GP
525 190 305 0.94

On the strength of three consecutive 90-point seasons, MacKinnon has established himself as one of the NHL's most dominant players. That said, "Nate the Great" didn't begin his career anywhere near the level he's at today, which his why he earns the No. 3 spot in our rankings. MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy but struggled in the following three seasons, topping out at 53 points for a Colorado Avalanche squad that appeared to lack direction. Now at 24, he's a perennial MVP threat leading a club that looks poised to compete for Stanley Cups for much of the next decade.

2. Auston Matthews (2016)

GP G A P/GP
282 158 127 1.01

Since Matthews joined the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2016-17 season, only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals. Once drafted, Matthews made an immediate impact and went on to win the Calder Trophy thanks to a 40-goal campaign. This season, he was on track to eclipse 50 tallies for the first time while having already established a new career high in points before the coronavirus-induced break. The 22-year-old is head and shoulders above everyone else in the 2016 draft class at this point and appears to be getting better on both sides of the puck each year.

1. Connor McDavid (2015)

GP G A P/GP
351 162 307 1.34

There's really no debate. McDavid was dubbed as the next generational NHL superstar before he even made the OHL, and it's safe to say he's delivered. His 1.34 career points-per-game rate ranks fifth in NHL history among all players with a minimum 300 games played, and he's already won an MVP and two scoring titles at 23 years old. McDavid is far and away the most electrifying player in the NHL, and there's a whole lot of hardware left to claim in his future.

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