All posts by Sonny Sachdeva

Flames clinch playoff spot with win over Sharks

The Calgary Flames are the third Canadian team to clinch a spot in the 2017 playoffs, earning their berth with a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.

Calgary's long trek back to the postseason wasn't an easy one. The Flames started off 2016-17 with a rough 5-10-1 stretch, but rebounded midway through the season after getting some exceptional play from goaltender Brian Elliott.

The veteran netminder posted a save percentage of just .898 during the season's first month, but rebounded shortly after the calendar flipped to 2017, turning in clips of .922 in February and .935 in March.

With their playoff berth in tow, it's safe to say the Flames' rebuild has stabilized. The club earned a postseason spot in 2014-15 - its first in six years - before missing the cut last season. The disappointment prompted a coaching change, as bench boss Bob Hartley was ousted in favor of Glen Gulutzan.

As it turns out, the move worked.

After zero Canadian clubs made it into the playoffs last season, three have now clinched spots in 2017 - Montreal, Edmonton, and now Calgary.

The Flames sit in a wild-card spot for now, just one point back of San Jose for third place in the Pacific Division.

If the standings remained as they are right now, Calgary would meet the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, though the Flames are currently only six points behind them for first place in the Pacific, so much is yet to be decided.

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How the league’s top 10 scorers stack up without the noise

Everyone loves a good old fashioned scoring race, and the 2016-17 campaign has gifted fans a fantastic one: young phenom Connor McDavid leading the pack, trailed closely by the league's current king, Sidney Crosby, and last year's scoring champ, Patrick Kane.

But the scoring race doesn't necessarily illustrate who exactly the best pure scorers in the game are. Injury and general misfortune play a role, of course, taking certain potential front-runners out of the conversation, but there's also the matter of what exactly gets counted in the standard point totals.

Should secondary assists be included in that bunch?

The value of counting secondary helpers varies from play to play, with some marking a key aspect of a goal's playmaking origin, and some representing far less impressive contributions.

Taking them out of the mix entirely may be a bit drastic, but if we're looking to pin down the top offensive talents in the game, pointing to primary scoring - counting goals plus primary assists only - might be a better route.

That said, let's take a look at how this season's top 10 overall scorers stack up against the top 10 primary scorers:

Player Overall Points Player Primary Points
1. Connor McDavid 91 1. Sidney Crosby 68
2. Patrick Kane 84 2. Connor McDavid 67
3. Brad Marchand 83 3. Nikita Kucherov 64
4. Sidney Crosby 82 4. Patrick Kane 64
5. Nicklas Backstrom 82 5. Brad Marchand 60
6. Nikita Kucherov 80 6. Evgeni Malkin 60
7. Mark Scheifele 78 7. Auston Matthews 55
8. Brent Burns 73 8. Leon Draisaitl 55
9. Evgeni Malkin 72 9. Mikael Granlund 55
10. Leon Draisaitl 72 10. Brent Burns 54

Among the top two names in the game, not much changes - Crosby and McDavid remain roughly level, each having a chance at claiming No.1 honors before the season is through.

A few notable names jump slightly higher - Nikita Kucherov moves up to tie Kane at third and Evgeni Malkin climbs to sixth despite playing far fewer games than the rest of the top 10 - but the biggest surprise is in the latter half of the primary scorers list.

Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews, who's already setting records for his new club, rises significantly. Ranking as low as 27th in the league on the traditional scoring list, Matthews reigns as the seventh-best in the league thus far in terms of goals and primary setups.

Minnesota Wild pivot Mikael Granlund is a similar story, ranking 16th in overall scoring but moving up to tie Matthews and Leon Draisaitl at seventh if secondary assists are taken out of the equation.

We can't entirely discount secondary helpers, as there are certainly cases in which the success of a particular play hinges on that less direct assist.

But boiling it down to what undeniably counts - goals and the immediate setup passes that precede them - seems to paint a much clearer picture of who's carrying the offensive mail for their clubs.

Apparently, in many cases, it's the young guns.

(All statistics courtesy: Corsica)

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How McDavid is bolstering the Oilers’ offense by drawing penalties

With their return to the playoffs looking all but sealed up, the Edmonton Oilers look to be officially turning the corner.

Generational phenom Connor McDavid has been the central pillar holding up that newly high-flying group, pacing the league with 88 points to his name through 75 contests. With those elite totals in tow, the Oilers' offense has managed to score at a clip of 2.92 goals per game - the 10th-best pace in the league.

But McDavid's straightforward production is only part of the young captain's ability to inspire his team's offensive dominance. He can make plays with the best of them, clearly, but it's the more subtle impact of McDavid's full skill set that has changed the narrative in Edmonton.

Getting the calls

Special teams have been one key part of that equation. With a blend of speed and skill so absurdly dangerous that defenders are often left spinning or far out of position, McDavid has become one of the league's best at drawing penalties - not a surprise given the opposition's understanding of what may happen if they let the young centreman pass them uncontested.

Among all NHL skaters who have played at least half of the 2016-17 season, McDavid ranks among the top 10 in the league in minor penalties drawn per 60 minutes of play, with a ninth-ranked mark of 1.74.

And that's a crucially important fact, as the Oilers' power play is flat out lethal.

Edmonton's man-advantage unit is currently the third best in the game, scoring on 22.7 percent of its opportunities. Just ask the clubs that have tried to handle that production over the past two weeks.

In their past 10 games over that span, the Oilers have struck on the power play 10 times. They netted a man-advantage goal in seven of those 10 tilts, scoring as many as three during one match against the Boston Bruins - unsurprisingly, a 7-4 victory for Edmonton.

That's certainly due in no small part to McDavid as, besides being a mainstay on his club's top power-play unit, he's playing a central role in getting Edmonton those opportunities to begin with.

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Accept no substitutes

And this isn't just the natural result of being a star player who attracts more attention. Of the top 15 penalty-drawers in the league this season, the only other name that could be classified as a top-tier name would be 14th-ranked Johnny Gaudreau, who's likely getting players sent to the box the same way McDavid is: by burning defenders with top-end speed.

Notably absent from the list? Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Brad Marchand, Nikita Kucherov, etc. etc. - all of the other top forwards in the game similarly merit plenty of attention from the opposition, but they aren't translating that into power-play chances like the young Oilers captain is.

In fact, none of those four forwards mentioned above rank in the top 50 in terms of penalties drawn per 60 minutes of play. Instead, the majority of the players flanking McDavid on that list are depth forwards, all of whom take far more penalties than the Oilers pivot and put up far fewer points.

But at this point, it shouldn't be a surprise to see McDavid flip the script and wind up on that list. The young centreman has already proven to be more than simply the next great talent to suit up in the big leagues. Rather, he seems to be an entirely new breed of offensive star.

And even after nearly two seasons of watching him do what he does best, it seems the rest of the league is still struggling to catch up.

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Toews: Matthews handles puck like Malkin, Kane

Auston Matthews may be mired in a scoring drought, but the young Toronto Maple Leafs pivot's overall body of work is still worth plenty of praise. Just ask Jonathan Toews.

Ahead of the Saturday-night tilt that will see the two pivots line up across from each other at center ice, Toews dished on what he's seen from the 2016 No.1 pick's rookie effort.

Count the Chicago Blackhawks captain a fan.

"You compare (Matthews) to guys like Malkin and even Kane, the way he handles the puck with his feet moving," Toews told TSN. "For a guy that size, it's not that easy."

High praise, to say the least, given the fact that Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane have combined for five Stanley Cups, two Hart trophies, and three scoring titles thus far, among a slew of other awards.

Matthews has a long way to go before he's truly in the same conversation as those two stars, but Toews believes the potential is clearly there.

"You knew he had the talent but sometimes it's a matter of time before it translates to the NHL, and he's wasted no time," Toews said.

"You wonder, if that’s how he comes out of the gate, what’s he going to be like in a couple years from now?"

Matthews has racked up 31 goals and 55 points through 69 games this season, both marks ranking second among all rookies behind 2016 No. 2 pick Patrik Laine.

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Mock expansion keeper list: Metropolitan Division

Each day this week, we'll publish mock expansion keeper lists by division, and up next is the Metro. On Friday, we'll publish our mock expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights roster.

Atlantic | Pacific | Metropolitan | Central

*NMC = No-movement clause
*All first- and second-year professionals, along with all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).

Carolina Hurricanes

Jordan Staal (NMC) Justin Faulk Cam Ward
Jeff Skinner Klas Dahlbeck
Teuvo Teravainen Matt Tennyson
Victor Rask
Elias Lindholm
Phillip Di Giuseppe
Andrej Nestrasil
  • The Hurricanes have plenty of freedom to lock up the majority of their key pieces, and have enough big-league depth to avoid losing anything too significant.
  • One interesting name to watch will be Justin Faulk. The club will surely want to protect the star rearguard, but right now he's the only eligible defenseman signed for next season; teams must expose at least one defender signed for 2017-18.
  • So, Carolina has a few options: extend one of its blue-liners, just to expose them (Ryan Murphy, Klas Dahlbeck, and Matt Tennyson are the only ones at or near the required number of games played), add a player who's signed for 2017-18, or be forced to expose Faulk.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Brandon Dubinsky (NMC) Seth Jones Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)
Nick Foligno (NMC) David Savard
Scott Hartnell (NMC) Ryan Murray
Cam Atkinson
Brandon Saad
Boone Jenner
Alexander Wennberg
  • The Blue Jackets have their dangerous offensive depth to protect, which means they'll likely go for the seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie format.
  • Zach Werenski is exempt from the expansion draft and Seth Jones will surely be protected. Who gets the last two spots? It's between Jack Johnson, David Savard, and 2012 second overall pick Ryan Murray. Whoever isn't protected likely gets nabbed by Las Vegas, as all three are quality options.
  • Promising goaltending prospect Joonas Korpisalo will also be exposed, however, which might be more desirable for the fledgling Golden Knights roster.

New Jersey Devils

Taylor Hall Damon Severson Cory Schneider
Travis Zajac Andy Greene
Mike Cammalleri Ben Lovejoy
Kyle Palmieri
Adam Henrique
Devante Smith-Pelly
Jacob Josefson
  • New Jersey has only six forwards signed for 2017-18 - the first six on the list above - all of whom they'll likely want to protect. That means the Devils have to either extend a couple exposed forwards to comply with the draft rules, or risk leaving some key names available.
  • Damon Severson and Andy Greene seem to be the top candidates for protected defensemen - the former leads all Devils rearguards in points and the latter leads the team in average ice time.
  • The third spot isn't as clear; John Moore has the second-most points among Devils' blue-liners, but Ben Lovejoy logs the second-most minutes per game. The edge may go to the latter, as general manager Ray Shero has longtime ties to Lovejoy dating back to their days in Pittsburgh.

New York Islanders

John Tavares (NMC) Johnny Boychuk (NMC) Thomas Greiss
Andrew Ladd (NMC) Nick Leddy  
Anders Lee Travis Hamonic
Brock Nelson
Casey Cizikas
Josh Bailey
Ryan Strome
  • The Islanders will have a tough choice between protecting their forward corps and keeping their blue line together.
  • If they want to lock up as many of their depth forwards as possible - which may be necessary given John Tavares is their lone remaining marquee scorer - they'll leave plenty of key defenders exposed.
  • Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and Travis Hamonic are sure to get protected, which means Thomas Hickey, Dennis Seidenberg, and Calvin De Haan will be exposed for the Golden Knights.
  • Key to consider: George McPhee, Las Vegas' new general manager, knows the Islanders' group well, having served as a special adviser for the club before taking on his new role in the desert.

New York Rangers

Rick Nash (NMC) Marc Staal (NMC) Henrik Lundqvist (NMC)
Derek Stepan Dan Girardi (NMC)
Chris Kreider Ryan McDonagh
Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller
Mika Zibanejad
Kevin Hayes
  • The Rangers will catch a break with key young guns like Jimmy Vesey, Brady Skjei, and Pavel Buchnevich exempt from the draft.
  • But they do look set to lose at least one key offensive piece. If they go with the protection list above, they risk losing Michael Grabner, who's currently leading the team in goals. However, protecting Grabner would mean exposing one of the forwards on the chart above, all of whom seem to be core pieces for the Rangers.
  • The draft rules require teams to expose at least two forwards under contract for next season. Grabner would satisfy one of those spots, but if the club wants to keep its core group, it'll need to extend another forward to leave available for the Golden Knights.

Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux (NMC) Shayne Gostisbehere Michal Neuvirth
Valtteri Filppula (NMC) Radko Gudas
Wayne Simmonds Andrew MacDonald
Jakub Voracek
Sean Couturier
Brayden Schenn
Matt Read
  • Adding Valtteri Filppula at the trade deadline cut one forward prospect from the team's protected list, as his no-movement clause means he must be protected.
  • Philadelphia still has enough room to protect most of its key names, however, but retaining forward depth will leave the blue line at risk. Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas both seem set for protection, while Ivan Provorov - who leads the team in average ice time - is exempt. But, a decision must be made between Andrew MacDonald and Michael Del Zotto - one of whom will be exposed, and both of whom would likely draw interest from McPhee's club.
  • In net, the team must decide between Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. Mason is getting the bulk of the starts, and has slightly better numbers, but there's a case to be made that Neuvirth is the more promising option moving forward, as indicated by the club extending him until 2019. It's a toss up, and both could be interesting options for Las Vegas.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby (NMC) Kris Letang (NMC) Matt Murray
Evgeni Malkin (NMC) Brian Dumoulin  
Phil Kessel (NMC) Justin Schultz
Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin
Nick Bonino
Bryan Rust
  • Pittsburgh's core pieces are already protected through their no-movement clauses; the big question is in net. Goaltender Matt Murray is surely the team's first choice moving forward, but veteran Marc-Andre Fleury remains in town, with a no-movement clause requiring he be protected.
  • There are still a few options: trading Fleury in the offseason, asking him to waive his clause to be exposed in the draft, or swinging a deal with Las Vegas to have the franchise avoid Pittsburgh's netminders.
  • Pittsburgh's main goal will be maintaining its forward depth, which has been one of the club's central strengths; the 7/3/1 format seems preferable. Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin are locks to stay, and after a dominant 2016-17, Justin Schultz looks set to remain as well. If so, Las Vegas has a few desirable options in rearguards Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley, and Ian Cole.

Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin Matt Niskanen Braden Holtby
Nicklas Backstrom John Carlson
T.J. Oshie Karl Alzner
Evgeny Kuznetsov Dmitry Orlov
  • The Capitals' defensive depth means they may have to leave a few talented forwards exposed. If they opt to lock up four defenders, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, and Tom Wilson will all be left for the taking.
  • If Washington opts for the 7/3/1 format, it could keep all of those forwards, but will have a tough choice on the blue line between Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov, only one of whom would be protected.
  • Capitals veteran Brooks Orpik looks likely to be exposed regardless. However, given Orpik's $5.5-million cap hit and that he's 36 years old with a diminishing role, Las Vegas may not be interested anyway.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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3 teams that will be overmatched in the playoffs

Just over a month remains before the regular season gives way to the 2017 playoffs, and the league's contenders and pretenders continue to emerge from the pack.

The top of the pile has looked the same for much of the season, with the usual powerhouses looking most likely to add to their championship counts. But it's the other end of the spectrum that's most intriguing.

While some of the teams on the playoff bubble gain momentum and tease the promise of a miracle run, others seem unsure of why they're even in the picture.

Let's take a closer look at who may be in over their heads:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner show has been a treat to watch, but clinching a playoff spot would likely be where the good times end for the blue and white in 2017.

It the Maple Leafs do indeed snag the final wild-card spot, they'll likely find themselves face to face with the Washington Capitals in round one, with the current top-ranked club also the most motivated to prove itself in the postseason.

The mismatch here is pretty clear.

Toronto has allowed the eighth-most goals per game thus far, as Frederik Andersen has looked brilliant at times and downright terrible at others. He's shown promise, but Andersen's .916 save percentage suggests he isn't going to hold up for 4-7 games against Alex Ovechkin and the rest of Washington's third-ranked offense.

Making matters worse, the Leafs hold the fifth-worst penalty differential in the league, having taken 23 more penalties than they've drawn. So take that offensive mismatch and add in the man-advantage factor.

Not ideal.

And then there's the issue of the Leafs' frequent third-period meltdowns - Washington scores more goals in the third than in any other period, their 81 tallies in the final frame ranks fourth-most in the league.

Again, not ideal.

Toronto has talent, but the Capitals are heading into these playoffs with fire in their eyes, as Ovechkin and company know their window is closing. They were just a few one-goal losses away from advancing to the conference finals last year, and they're not about to be quashed by a bunch of teenagers this time around.

2. Ottawa Senators

Elsewhere in Ontario, the Ottawa Senators are similarly in danger of getting rolled over once the playoffs begin.

The Senators have managed to hang on to second place in the Atlantic Division, but with the injury cloud hanging over them, the club's depth remains in question at the worst possible time.

Of all the teams bound for the playoffs via top-three division finishes, Ottawa's goal differential ranks last - they've scored just one more goal than they've allowed up to this point. Even one of the potential wild-card teams boasts a better differential, as the New York Rangers have potted 37 more goals than they've allowed.

Regardless of the injuries, Ottawa just doesn't seem to have the offensive firepower necessary to contend with any of their conference's big guns.

Consider the top names on the roster.

Can Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, and Mark Stone cancel out Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel? Or Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie?

The Senators' playoff hopes have a hard cap in this regard, as they can't match the top-end skill of their conference's best, let alone overall depth throughout the lineup.

Even their likely first-round matchup, the Boston Bruins, has a better top-three in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. That line remains the most dominant regularly-used trio in the league in terms of puck possession, and Marchand's breakout year has him fourth in league scoring.

New additions Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg put up a few goals early in their tenures with their new club, but they aren't the catalysts that spur true contention from the Senators.

They'll make it to the dance, but they won't be staying long.

3. Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators have found new life as of late, with Filip Forsberg piling in three-point games seemingly every night. But even with everything going right at the moment, the Predators are about to run into a brick wall in the first round.

Nashville currently sits third in the Central Division, with the stumbling St. Louis Blues closest to taking their spot. Winnipeg is coming, but if Nashville holds on, they'll punch their playoff ticket in that No.3 position.

That gives them either the Minnesota Wild or Chicago Blackhawks in round one - whichever of the two dominant squads doesn't claim the division title.

Good luck.

If the Predators draw Minnesota, they get the club with the highest goal differential in the West, and second-highest in the league overall - the Wild have potted 61 more than they've allowed this season.

Minnesota boasts 11 different players with double-digit goal totals, more than any other team in the league. Seven forwards rank above star winger Zach Parise in that regard. If he turns it up, and the rest of Minnesota's offense keeps rolling, Nashville will have its hands full.

And answering back won't be easy, not with the league's current top netminder, Devan Dubnyk, manning the Wild cage.

But maybe Nashville will catch a break and get Chicago. The Blackhawks have won seven in a row and 12 of their last 13. Throughout those 13 tilts, star forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have posted a dominant 41 combined points - both ranking among the top-three scorers in the league over that span.

Anything can happen once the playoffs begin and the stakes change, but all things considered, it's safe to assume the Predators' yellow threads won't be making an appearance in the second round.

(Photos courtesy: USA Today Sports)

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Babcock says lack of experience fueling Leafs’ third-period issues

Days after Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice took a shot at fellow bench boss Mike Babcock, suggesting the Jets don't use their youth as an excuse like the Toronto Maple Leafs do, Babcock dug in on the impact experience - or lack thereof - has on a young team.

The Leafs outlasted Babcock's former club, the Detroit Red Wings, on Tuesday night, winning 3-2 after nearly succumbing to yet another third-period meltdown.

Following the victory, Babcock said the team's third-period issues are directly tied to their inexperience.

"Some people may think this is an excuse - I don't think it's an excuse at all," Babcock said, according to The Athletic's David Alter. "When you have a veteran group who has been through it before, someone goes out and calms everyone down and just makes a play. And we don't - it's like a feeding frenzy. So as much as we talk about it, not a whole lot happens."

For those who have spent time in the big leagues, it's a simple formula.

"When you're loose and driving, you're flying and on top of the other team and you look fast and you're playing right. Then when you're tight, you look slow," Babcock said, according to the team. "That's just the reality of being in the league and learning how to win, and expecting to win every night and understanding what you've got to do to win."

The veteran coach did highlight Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri as a few team veterans who dug in late in the game to help the club hold on for the win. Kadri netted what wound up being the game-winner midway through the tilt, scoring his career-best 27th of the year in the second period.

With the win over Detroit in tow, the Leafs currently have 72 points on the season, leaving them right in the thick of the wild-card battle with the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers - all of whom are separated by just five points.

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Blue Jackets’ dangerous youth their biggest advantage

If the season ended today, the Columbus Blue Jackets would earn their highest division finish in franchise history.

The club ranks second in the Metropolitan, though just two points above the Pittsburgh Penguins with 20 games to go. Even if Sidney Crosby and Co. overtake them, the Jackets appear likely to finish no lower than third, which would match their previous best, set back in 2005-06.

Needless to say, it's been a good year for the former basement-dweller, as Columbus has emerged as one of the league's best on both ends of the rink. Their 3.19 goals per game rank fifth-most among all NHL clubs, while their 2.34 goals against rank third-lowest.

But one key characteristic separates the Jackets: age.

While the rest of the league's top contenders - the Penguins, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, and Chicago Blackhawks - rank among the league's 10 oldest teams in terms of average age, Columbus sits on the other end of the spectrum.

With an average age of 26.6, they're in fact the seventh-youngest team in the NHL, roughly level with the rookie-led Toronto Maple Leafs.

That discrepancy is significant, as it speaks to what Columbus' 2016-17 success really means. Nothing is guaranteed, but this doesn't appear to be a flash of brilliance on an otherwise mediocre timeline.

The Blue Jackets have enough pieces to make waves come playoff time, and with their youth playing a key role, that success is looking sustainable.

A look at who's carrying the mail in Columbus makes this clear. Of the club's top 10 goal-scorers, six are under the age of 25, just approaching their prime:

Player Age Goals
Cam Atkinson 27 29 Goals
Nick Foligno 29 22 Goals
*Brandon Saad 24 19 Goals
*Josh Anderson 22 14 Goals
Sam Gagner 27 14 Goals
Scott Hartnell 34 13 Goals
*Alexander Wennberg 22 12 Goals
*Boone Jenner 23 12 Goals
*Seth Jones 22 10 Goals
*Zach Werenski 19 9 Goals

The Jackets haven't seen the best of the majority of that top-10 group, while the team's top scorer, Cam Atkinson, is just hitting his stride.

The league's other top clubs are working on much shorter timelines.

Pittsburgh has just two players under age 25 among its top 10 goal-scorers, while Washington, Chicago, and Minnesota each have three. Those teams will likely dominate for the next few seasons, but, with most of their top weapons getting on in age, their inevitable decline isn't far.

Whether Columbus is ready to truly contend with those powerhouses remains to be seen, but it's clear the Jackets are miles beyond their fellow young gun squads.

As compared to the rest of the 10 youngest teams, they've achieved the most overall success by far. The Edmonton Oilers are the only other team among that group to rank even in the top half of their conference heading into the season's home stretch.

Toronto has its crew of elite rookies in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Edmonton has the game's next No. 1 star in Connor McDavid. But if we're talking depth and the ability to put it all together for team-wide results, the future looks to belong to the jackets.

It's an unexpected turn of events, to say the least.

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Iginla to Edmonton? What a trade could mean for the Battle of Alberta

With only hours remaining before the NHL trade deadline, future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla is still a member of the Colorado Avalanche. But it's clear to all involved that he likely won't be wearing the snow-capped "A" for very long.

The 39-year-old is playing out the final season of the three-year deal he signed with Colorado in 2014, and the club's consistent lack of success since that signing has left Iginla looking for a new opportunity to vie for the Stanley Cup.

"I would like to, at the deadline, go somewhere," Iginla said early in February. "I would like to be in the playoffs."

Bad news for Calgary Flames fans: though Iginla made his name in Calgary, dominating the league throughout his 16-year career in Flames colors and becoming one of the franchise's most iconic figures, his best chance at a 2017 playoff appearance might be with the rival Edmonton Oilers.

Contenders can't handle him

Who else would be able to take in the veteran sniper? Iginla isn't showing up with just a few sticks and his elite wrister. He also brings a hefty $5.3-million cap hit to town - tough to absorb for a player who can still put up numbers, but who's clearly well past his prime.

The strongest contenders in the league - the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Minnesota Wild - don't have nearly enough space to make that work.

The Penguins could technically use their LTIR situation to swing something, but they've already seen the Iginla experiment come up short in the Steel City, and likely wouldn't give up anything significant for round two.

As for the other three teams, money aside, there seems to be no place for the veteran among their forward corps.

Home away from home

One playoff team that does have enough space? The Oilers, whose seven entry-level contracts leave them millions to work with. But Iginla's potential fit goes beyond the financials.

Unlike many of the top contenders, whose games are based on speed and well-established chemistry, the Oilers' style meshes perfectly with the former Flames captain's.

Just look at the success of rugged forwards Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian. General manager Peter Chiarelli hasn't been shy about adding size up front, and Iginla remains one of the league's most potent blends of physicality and pure skill.

For Iginla, Edmonton would be the best of both worlds. It would give him a chance to dabble in the playoffs again - and who knows what can happen with generational phenom Connor McDavid leading the charge - and a chance to go home. The veteran was born in Edmonton and grew up nearby in St. Albert.

(Photo courtesy: Reuters)

Bye bye, Flames legacy

That's all well and good, but it's fair to assume Iginla would effectively torpedo his legacy in Calgary by going to Edmonton.

That's tough to imagine, considering all he did in Calgary, but this wouldn't be the same as other longtime franchise stars who finished their careers in different threads. Sure, Mats Sundin had a wacky year in Vancouver Canucks colors, and it was strange to watch Bobby Orr in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey at the tail end of his career.

But the pain of seeing Iginla in Edmonton would go much deeper, because the Flames and Oilers started from the same spot.

Both teams were whittled down to basement-dwellers, and both forced to slowly rebuild. However, while the Flames earned only a handful of decent top-tier picks - and a miraculous hidden gem in Johnny Gaudreau - the Oilers received a seemingly unending stream of No. 1 selections, culminating in the greatest prize of them all: McDavid.

There's no doubt Flames fans are bitter about how it all played out. Aside from Calgary's brief foray into the 2015 playoffs, the Oilers' fortunes have been greater than Calgary's for decades. But Edmonton landing McDavid, the future of the sport, was a particularly catastrophic turn of events in Calgary.

The only thing that could make it sting even more? McDavid marching through the playoffs with Jarome Iginla on his wing. Not a good look in the eyes of the Calgary faithful.

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Why the Canadiens should gamble on Capitals’ Galiev at deadline

If the Montreal Canadiens are looking for an affordable gamble to upgrade their offense, they might consider giving the Washington Capitals a call.

The topic of conversation? Stanislav Galiev, the skillful winger who seems to be nearing the end of his tenure in Washington.

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is ready to move the 2010 third-round pick, according to The Washington Post, not because he thinks Galiev isn't worthy of a shot in the big leagues, but because the team simply has a deep NHL roster and too many young forwards clawing for spots.

Putting up points

Galiev has done enough to prove he could be of use to a club in need of an offensive boost if given a decent shot. The 25-year-old has 17 goals and 28 points through 34 appearances in the AHL this season, but he also boasts a notable resume of production dating back to his days in junior hockey.

The Russian winger showed plenty of promise early in his career while suiting up for the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs (alongside current Habs' defender Nathan Beaulieu). Galiev posted 60 points in 67 games in his first go-round with the club, before exploding for 37 goals and 65 points in just 64 contests one year later, his best offensive showing thus far.

He's bounced around between the ECHL and AHL since then. His finest effort in each league: 47 points in 46 games with the ECHL's Reading Royals in 2012-13, and 45 points through 67 appearances for the AHL's Hershey Bears in 2014-15.

Dotted throughout that timeline is a history of winning. The Moscow native has lifted five championship trophies up to this point, racking up a Memorial Cup, an ECHL championship, two QMJHL championships, and a USHL championship.

And he wasn't simply along for the ride during those runs either. Galiev amassed 34 goals and 80 points in 57 playoff contests in the QMJHL, and scored at a point-per-game pace during the ECHL playoffs as well.

(Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports)

Bringing it in the big leagues

Does this resume guarantee the talented winger can succeed at the NHL level? Of course not, but it should give teams in need of an offensive spark enough reason to roll the dice - especially in a situation such as this, wherein MacLellan seems resigned to simply let Galiev go so that the forward can play.

The Capitals kept Galiev on their roster throughout the entirety of 2015-16 to avoid losing him in the waiver process, though he only managed to break into the club's well-stocked lineup 24 times. He posted just three points in those appearances, though he wasn't given much of a shot, his ice-time limited to fewer than 10 minutes per game.

Galiev is far from a sure thing, but his talent is promising enough that Washington held on to him as long as they could, and seem willing to part with him simply to avoid stalling his development. With a bigger role, he could thrive.

Meshing in Montreal

The Canadiens' offensive woes have been well-documented. Despite boasting a few marquee stars on the roster, they've scored the fewest goals in the league over the past month.

Acquiring Galiev likely won't require much of a sacrifice in terms of assets going the other way, nor would the 25-year-old put much of a strain on Montreal's salary situation - he carries a $575,000 cap hit and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Bring him in, give him a shot, and see if something clicks. It's fair to assume Galiev is hungry for an opportunity to showcase his skill after being shelved for much of last season, and at this point, the Canadiens could use any help they can get.

His countryman Alexander Radulov has already helped bring a different flavor to the Canadiens' offense this season, and the veteran could potentially play a key role in helping Galiev's transition as well.

Buying big remains an option for general manager Marc Bergevin, but if the club opts for a more subtle addition, Galiev might just be a worthy gamble.

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