All posts by theScore Staff

NHL Power Rankings: Blackhawks, Maple Leafs come out firing

With hockey season underway, so are theScore's NHL power rankings, which will be published every other Monday. Our inaugural rankings have been put together by editors Josh Gold-Smith, Flip Livingstone, and Ian McLaren.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-0)

If you beat the defending Stanley Cup champions 10-1 right out of the gate, you deserve to jump to the top of the list. A follow-up win over Columbus and a plus-13 goal differential through two games sealed it. - McLaren

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0-0)

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Tied with Chicago in goals for (15), Toronto's offense appears rather unstoppable. If the defense can lock things down, these Leafs will be the ones doing the raking this season. A Monday showdown with the Blackhawks is a must-watch. - McLaren

3. Washington Capitals (2-0-0)

Alex Ovechkin has scored seven goals, and tales of the two-time defending Presidents' Trophy winners demise are proving to be a tad premature. - McLaren

4. St. Louis Blues (2-0-0)

St. Louis spoiled banner-raising night with an overtime win in Pittsburgh, and beat a Stars team coming off another mythical "offseason championship" to start the season on an undefeated note. - McLaren

5. Los Angeles Kings (2-0-0)

Jonathan Quick has allowed one goal in two games and Anze Kopitar is scoring again. That all bodes well for a bounce-back season for the Kings. - McLaren

6. Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0)

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Thanks in large part to James Neal, an expansion hockey franchise based in Las Vegas is undefeated in the regular season. What a time to be alive. - McLaren

7. Detroit Red Wings (2-0-0)

Raise your hand if you had Detroit winning two games to start the season. To their credit, the Red Wings have exceeded expectations by beating Minnesota and Ottawa, two playoff teams from last season. - McLaren

8. Philadelphia Flyers (2-1-0)

Tasked with starting the season on a California road trip, the Flyers escaped with a pair of wins. No easy feat at any point in the season. - McLaren

9. Boston Bruins (1-0-0)

The only team to have played one game to date, the Bruins made good with a win over the Western Conference champions from Nashville. A soft schedule through the first few weeks should help them rise. - McLaren

10. Anaheim Ducks (1-0-1)

Beset by a long list of injuries, Anaheim amassed three points in two games. Until everyone is healthy, it'll be tough to keep flying this high. - McLaren

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-1)

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

A wacky week for the champs: an OT loss to the Blues, a beating at the hands of the Blackhawks, and a dominating shutout of the Predators. Pittsburgh will be fine. - Gold-Smith

12. Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1-0)

The Lighting split their first two games, both against the Panthers, and the team many are pegging to win the Stanley Cup gets a much tougher test Monday against the Capitals. - Gold-Smith

13. Florida Panthers (1-1-0)

Playing their cross-state rivals tight was an encouraging sign for the Panthers, who'll have to ensure they're not complacent when they face the Blues on Thursday after four days off. - Gold-Smith

14. Columbus Blue Jackets (1-1-0)

The Blue Jackets scored a handful of goals in a shutout of the Islanders, but then gave up five in a loss to the Blackhawks. At least they're consistent. - Gold-Smith

15. Edmonton Oilers (1-1-0)

Connor McDavid scored an insane goal, notched a historic hat trick, and provided all of the offense in a season-opening win over the Flames, but the Oilers didn't look like the same team in a loss to the Canucks. - Gold-Smith

16. Calgary Flames (1-1-0)

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

The Flames couldn't contain McDavid, and who can blame them. Calgary got back on track by doubling up the Jets, and it'll ride that momentum into a two-game California road swing. - Gold-Smith

17. Vancouver Canucks (1-0-0)

It's going to be a painful season for Vancouver. but beating the high-flying Oilers to start things off provided some hope. - Gold-Smith

18. Carolina Hurricanes (1-0-0)

The Hurricanes are a trendy pick to make the playoffs and they took a small but encouraging step toward that long-term goal with a strong showing in a shootout win over the Wild. - Gold-Smith

19. New Jersey Devils (1-0-0)

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

The Devils are undefeated! Plan the parade!

Reality check: New Jersey's lone victory came against lowly Colorado. The Devils have some growing to do, but the future does look bright, as Nico Hischier and Will Butcher impressed in their respective debuts. - Gold-Smith

20. Colorado Avalanche (1-1-0)

Don't get accustomed to seeing the Avalanche ranked this high.

Colorado earned a solid road win over the Rangers in its season opener, but was significantly outplayed by the Devils. - Gold-Smith

21. Ottawa Senators (0-0-2)

Two close Ls for the Sens could easily have been Ws, so keep an eye on this team, especially when Erik Karlsson returns. - Livingstone

22. New York Islanders (1-1-0)

The Islanders may spend most of the year below No. 22, but for now, they've earned their current spot thanks to a big win at home over the Sabres. - Livingstone

23. New York Rangers (1-2-0)

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

The Rangers have the dubious distinction of losing - at home! - to the lowly Avalanche, while also allowing 12 goals in three games. - Livingstone

24. Montreal Canadiens (1-2-0)

If the Canadiens continue to play like they did against the Capitals and Rangers, it's going to be a very long season in La Belle Province. - Livingstone

25. Minnesota Wild (0-1-1)

When you lose to the Red Wings and Hurricanes to start the year, you deserve to be ranked near the bottom. However, the Wild are much better than their start indicates, so look for them to bounce back. - Livingstone

26. Buffalo Sabres (0-1-1)

Eichel-mania may be in full swing in the Nickel City, but that hasn't translated into any wins. A close loss to the Canadiens was promising. Getting blown out by the Islanders was not. - Livingstone

27. Dallas Stars (0-2-0)

A new top-six forward and No. 1 goalie haven't yet been enough to turn around the lackluster Stars. Still, the club has more than enough talent to compete, so expect Dallas to climb up this list. - Livingstone

28. Arizona Coyotes (0-1-1)

Despite two losses, Arizona has shown flashes of being a quality hockey club. Clayton Keller looks like the real deal, and, soon enough, so should the Coyotes. - Livingstone

29. Nashville Predators (0-2-0)

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Nashville failed to exact revenge for its Stanley Cup loss by getting blanked at the hands of the Penguins, and has looked lost at times in the offensive zone. - Livingstone

30. San Jose Sharks (0-2-0)

Four goals and two losses in two games is just not going to get the job done, regardless of how early it is. The Sharks will need to be much better if they hope to be contenders in the West. - Livingstone

31. Winnipeg Jets (0-2-0)

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

An opening night shellacking at the hands of the high-flying Maple Leafs followed by another six-goals-against loss to the Flames have soured what was supposed to be an exciting start to the campaign for the Jets, a club looking to take the next step. - Livingstone

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Predicting the 2018 NHL Awards

As part of our extensive season preview coverage, theScore's hockey editors are taking a look at who we think will earn some of the NHL's biggest honors at season's end.

The next round of NHL Awards won't be officially handed out until next June, but that doesn't mean we can't get a head start on projecting them.

Some players are virtual locks to repeat as recipients of certain trophies, while we should see some new winners in several key categories.

Here's who we believe will take home the hardware:

Hart Trophy - Connor McDavid

Josh Gold-Smith: We've now seen what McDavid is capable of in a full season, and there's no reason to believe he won't replicate his MVP form of a season ago.

The 20-year-old superstar hauled in both the Hart and Art Ross trophies in 2016-17, hitting triple digits in the points column while playing every game.

Barring another injury, McDavid is surely due to improve on his 30-goal output, and another season of growth at the NHL level will leave no doubt that he's the league's most valuable player.

Vezina Trophy - Matt Murray

Ian McLaren: We've all witnessed how good Murray has been in the postseason, serving as the goalie of record while the Pittsburgh Penguins raised the Stanley Cup the last two seasons.

His sample size in the regular season is not huge, but he's proven to be as good during the winter months as he's been in spring. Over the past two seasons, he's tied for first in save percentage with Carey Price after stopping 92.5 percent of all shots against, only a slight dip from the 92.8 percent success rate achieved in the playoffs.

Now that Marc-Andre Fleury is gone, he'll get even more starts, and he'll have Kris Letang back on defense to help keep the puck away.

Murray has emerged as one of the best goalies in the game, and he'll further back it up with some hardware earned when the games don't mean quite as much.

Norris Trophy - Erik Karlsson

Craig Hagerman: Karlsson played arguably the best hockey of his career last spring, as he spearheaded the Ottawa Senators' unlikely run to the Eastern Conference Final, all the while playing on just one healthy leg. Who can forget his rink-long saucer pass to Mike Hoffman against the Boston Bruins?

As the 2018 season nears, Karlsson will be cautious about his return, to be sure his leg is 100 percent healthy before getting into game action. However, it's partially for that reason that Karlsson will win the Norris Trophy.

He's the most electric defenseman in the league, and at 100 percent health, he should be that much better. Karlsson isn't expected to miss any major time to begin the season, so a lengthy absence shouldn't be an issue. Offensively and even on the other side of the puck now, Karlsson is the best defenseman in the league. End of discussion.

Calder Trophy - Clayton Keller

Sean O'Leary: There are plenty of intriguing rookie of the year candidates entering the league this season, but Keller gets the nod. The 19-year-old is a dynamic offensive talent, and will have every opportunity be the centerpiece of a young Arizona Coyotes attack under new head coach Rick Tocchet.

Keller put up 45 points in 31 games at Boston University last season, then recorded two assists in a three-game stint with Arizona to close out the season.

If Keller played in a bigger market, the spotlight on his potential would be much brighter, but he'll put himself and the Coyotes on the map with a season worthy of Rookie of the Year honors in 2017-18.

Selke Trophy - Patrice Bergeron

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Cory Wilkins: Until we're given reason to say otherwise, the stalwart Bruins center will lock up the Selke Trophy. Again.

Bergeron has captured this honor in three of the past four years, and he's won it four times since 2011-12. That success rate puts him in the same category as Montreal Canadiens legend Bob Gainey, with both taking home the award four times.

Despite some stiff competition last season, Bergeron again ran away with the Selke, topping runner-up Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks by more than 200 votes, while Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu finished with nearly 400 fewer votes than the eventual winner.

Maybe it's time to rename the Selke as the Bergeron.

Jack Adams Award - Phil Housley

Josh Wegman: The Jack Adams Award is rarely given to the league's best coach, but rather the coach of the most overachieving team, or the most improved team. The Buffalo Sabres will fall into the latter category this season.

Housley spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach with the Predators, primarily working with their defensemen. Anyone who watched them during the playoffs knows how much they like to activate their D. This aggressive, attacking style of coaching will bring out the best in some key Sabres, such as Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Zach Bogosian.

As long as the Sabres can stay healthy (they were hampered by injuries a year ago) they will make the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season. That will be enough for Housley to earn a coach of the year nod in his first season behind the Sabres' bench.

GM of the Year - David Poile

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

Flip Livingstone: Poile may have already taken home the honors by winning last year's GM of the Year Award, but, that doesn't change the fact that he is one of the sharpest hockey minds in the game today.

Not only are the Nashville Predators a testament to that fact as one of the deepest teams in the NHL, but Poile's built his team from the net out with mostly homegrown talent.

While Nashville's lineup won't need a ton of work over the course of the 2017-18 season, expect Poile to be at the ready to do whatever it takes to ensure that his group will be one of the clubs in contention for Lord Stanley's Mug.

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theScore’s primer for the 2017-18 NHL season

The NHL season is fast approaching, and theScore's hockey editors are previewing the upcoming campaign from a multitude of angles. Here's everything you need to know before the puck drops on opening night:


Positional previews

Playoff picks

Production projections

Preseason plotlines

Offseason overview

Mark your calendars

The pressure's on

Looking on the bright side

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Debate: Who will win the Stanley Cup in 2018?

Until anyone proves capable of dethroning the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's their Stanley Cup to lose next spring, but several teams are well positioned to prevent a three-peat.

One of those clubs came close to knocking off the Penguins last season, while another would have been capable of a lengthy Cup run in 2017 if not for a major injury to its captain.

Elsewhere, a certain Western Conference squad will be looking to build on an encouraging return to the playoffs with the Hart Trophy winner and his talented teammate in tow, while a promising Eastern Conference team could accelerate its rebuild in a major way with a long awaited title.

Here's who we project will hoist the ultimate prize in 2018:

Editor Stanley Cup Champion Other Finalist Series Length (Games)
Josh Gold-Smith Predators Penguins 7
Craig Hagerman Lightning Ducks 7
Flip Livingstone Oilers Penguins 6
Ian McLaren Lightning Oilers 6
Sean O'Leary Lightning Oilers 7
Josh Wegman Maple Leafs Oilers 5
Cory Wilkins Lightning Ducks 6

Gold-Smith: The Predators came oh, so close to forcing Game 7 against the Penguins in the 2017 Cup Final, and they're ready to avenge that defeat.

Nashville lost some scoring punch this summer when James Neal was claimed in the expansion draft, but the Predators have plenty of firepower with the likes of Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, plus Kevin Fiala, the promising, young forward who's healthy again.

The Predators' biggest strength is obviously their elite top four on the back end, and while Ryan Ellis will probably need a few months to recover from his injury, he'll be back for the stretch run.

Pekka Rinne turns 35 in November, and that's concerning, but Juuse Saros will be waiting in the wings if the veteran falters. Nashville added Nick Bonino, who'll replace the retired Mike Fisher, and also brought back Scott Hartnell, so one of the NHL's deepest teams is in position to get over the hump.

Hagerman: The Tampa Bay Lightning nearly squeaked into the playoffs last season. A blazing final few weeks saw them ultimately finish just one point out despite having two more wins than the Toronto Maple Leafs. This all while missing Steven Stamkos, who managed 20 points in just 17 games. With their captain back in the fold and likely playing alongside a budding Nikita Kucherov, the club could do some real damage.

Last season Stamkos finished with the third-best points-per-game total behind only Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Meanwhile, Kucherov finished just four goals shy of Crosby who picked up the Rocket Richard Trophy and Victor Hedman cemented himself among the best defenders in the league.

The Lightning have all the pieces, and health permitting, there is no reason why they can't go the distance.

Livingstone: The Oilers were only a few favorable bounces short of a Western Conference Final berth this past spring. And now, with the long-term futures of franchise cornerstones Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid solidified, Edmonton is ready to take the next step.

While replicating last season's 103-point regular-season showing won't be easy, they have the talent required to be the last team standing come June. Aside from its two superstars in McDavid and Draisaitl, Edmonton boasts a deep lineup that includes the likes of Milan Lucic, Ryan Strome, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Factor in that Cam Talbot solidified himself as a bona fide No. 1 netminder last campaign, and the Oilers have become a legitimate Cup threat.

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

McLaren: A few years ago, the Lightning looked like a potential dynasty in the making.

In 2015, they pushed the Chicago Blackhawks to six games in an eventual Stanley Cup Final loss. The next year, they lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final by a single goal and then watched as Pittsburgh won its first of two straight championships.

Last season's campaign was interrupted early and often by injuries - most notably a season-ender suffered by Stamkos in November - and still they only missed the playoffs by a single point.

But lest we think their window is closed, consider the emergence of Kucherov in Stamkos' absence, the growth of Victor Hedman into a Norris contender, the rise of Andrei Vasilevskiy to the ranks of elite netminders, and a roster that is as deep and talented at both ends of the ice as any other.

Finally, Lightning will strike.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

O'Leary: The Lightning have every piece they need to avenge last season's wasted opportunity.

Kucherov has become one of the premier scorers in the league, Hedman has become become the dominant defender he was expected to be as a prospect, Vasilevskiy finally has the net to himself, and most importantly, Stamkos is healthy.

After they capture the Atlantic Division title and work their way through the Eastern Conference bracket, the Lightning - rich in playoff experience - will meet McDavid and the Oilers in the best final in recent memory. Tampa won't let another chance at glory slip away.

Wegman: The Leafs have more depth up front than any team in the NHL. They have a 20-goal scorer in Connor Brown on their fourth line. Don't anticipate any sort of sophomore slump from superstars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, or William Nylander - expect them to grow.

Questions remain on the back end, but Jake Gardiner is one of the game's best puck-movers, Morgan Rielly looks poised to take a huge step this season, and Nikita Zaitsev should make strides in his second year.

The addition of Ron Hainsey gives them a stable, veteran presence. However, the biggest surprise on the blue line will be Travis Dermott. The calm and cool 20-year-old may not make the team out of camp, but when he get's his call, he will prove to be mature beyond his years.

Frederik Andersen isn't an elite netminder, but Chris Osgood and Antti Niemi have shown teams don't need an elite goaltender to win the Cup. Andersen is, however, capable of standing on his head when needed.

To round it out, the Leafs have the league's best motivator behind the bench in Mike Babcock. He will assure that this young team never gets too far ahead of itself, and that it continues to buy into whatever he's preaching.

Wilkins: Steve Yzerman has constructed arguably the NHL's deepest roster, with no weaknesses throughout the lineup. That's why the Lightning will win the Stanley Cup in 2018.

While they didn't qualify for last year's postseason, no team was hampered by injuries quite like they were. Stamkos was limited to just 17 games after suffering a torn meniscus in November. Key contributors like Tyler Johnson, Ryan Callahan, and the since-traded Valtteri Filppula also missed time due to the injury bug.

But with a healthy Stamkos in tow, continued progression of the team's young players, like Brayden Point, and valuable contributions from summer additions, including four-time Cup champion Chris Kunitz, the Lightning are ready to deliver.

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theScore’s 2017 Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit

In preparation of the 2017-18 NHL season, theScore will be rolling out all the fantasy hockey advice you'll need in order to dominate your draft and win your league.

2017 Fantasy Rankings

Sleepers, Busts, and Risks

Stock Reports

Team-Based Strategy

Other Features

Who Should Be The Top Pick?

Mock Draft Recap

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Everything you need to know about the NHL Entry Draft

2017 NHL Entry Draft
Friday, June 23, 7 p.m. ET; Saturday, June 24, 10 a.m. ET
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: Sportsnet, NBCSN (Friday); Sportsnet, NHL Network (Saturday)

Draft day.

The next crop of NHLers are set to have their immediate and long-term futures decided Friday night and Saturday morning.

Below is everything you need to know about the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Prospect Rankings

Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, the consensus top two picks, jockeyed for position on prospect rankings lists all season long. Consider it a coin toss. Here are NHL Central Scouting's top 10 prospects from North America and Europe:

North American Skaters

Rank Prospect Height Weight (lbs) Nationality
1 Nolan Patrick (C) 6-2 199 Canadian
2 Nico Hischier (C) 6-2 179 Swiss
3 Casey Mittelstadt (C) 6-0 199 American
4 Gabriel Vilardi (C) 6-3 203 Canadian
5 Michael Rasmussen (C) 6-6 221 Canadian
6 Cody Glass (C) 6-2 178 Canadian
7 Owen Tippett (RW) 6-0 203 Canadian
8 Eeli Tolvanen (RW) 5-10 189 Finnish
9 Cale Makar (D) 5-11 187 Canadian
10 Nick Suzuki (C) 5-11 183 Canadian

European Skaters

Rank Prospect Height Weight (lbs) Nationality
1 Klim Kostin  (C/LW) 6-2 207 Russian
2 Elias Pettersson (C) 6-2 165 Swedish
3 Lias Andersson (C) 5-11 201 Swedish
4 Miro Heiskanen (D) 6-1 172 Finnish
5 Martin Necas (C) 6-1 178 Czech
6 Timothy Liljegren (D) 6-0 188 Swedish
7 Kristian Vesalainen (LW/RW) 6-4 209 Finnish
8 Urho Vaakanainen (D) 6-1 188 Finnish
9 Erik Brannstrom (D) 5-9 179 Swedish
10 Jesper Boqvist (C) 5-11 165 Swedish

Here are final prospect rankings, most 100 deep, from a number of different outlets:

Mock Drafts

Hischier? Or Patrick?

Check out mock first-round selections from a number of different media outlets:

Scouting Combine

The NHL Scouting Combine was held in early June in Buffalo, and here's how Hischier and Patrick fared, head to head:

Hischier Test Patrick
105.75 inches Standing long jump 99.75 inches
7 Bench press (70% of body weight) 12
4.75 seconds Pro agility test left 4.76 seconds
4.53 seconds Pro agility test right 4.75 seconds
19.37 inches Vertical jump 19.49 inches
13 Pullups 11

You can view top 25 results for each fitness test on the Central Scouting website.

Draft Order

The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers will be landing one of Hischier and Patrick after ping-pong balls bounced their way in the draft lottery.

Here's the draft order through the first round:

Pick Team
1 Devils
2 Flyers
3 Stars
4 Avalanche
5 Canucks
6 Golden Knights
7 Coyotes
8 Sabres
9 Red Wings
10 Panthers
11 Kings
12 Hurricanes
13 Golden Knights (from Jets)
14 Lightning
15 Golden Knights (from Islanders)
16 Flames
17 Maple Leafs
18 Bruins
19 Sharks
20 Blues
21 Rangers
22 Oilers
23 Coyotes (from Wild)
24 Jets (from Blue Jackets via Golden Knights)
25 Canadiens
26 Blackhawks
27 Blues
28 Senators
29 Stars (from Ducks)
30 Predators
31 Penguins

Draft Picks

Here are the picks each team has in the coming draft (in alphabetical order):

Team Round 1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 Total
Anaheim 0 2 1 1 1 0 0 5
Arizona 2 1 2 0 1 0 1 7
Boston 1 1 0 1 0 1 2 6
Buffalo 1 2 1 1 0 0 1 6
Calgary 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 5
Carolina 1 2 2 1 0 1 1 8
Chicago 1 1 1 1 3 2 1 10
Colorado 1 1 0 2 1 1 1 7
Columbus 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 5
Dallas 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
Detroit 1 1 4 1 1 2 1 11
Edmonton 1 0 2 1 2 1 1 8
Florida 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 5
Los Angeles 1 1 1 2 2 1 0 8
Minnesota 0 0 1 2 1 1 1 6
Montreal 1 2 2 0 1 0 0 6
Nashville 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 6
New Jersey 1 1 2 1 2 2 1 10
New York Islanders 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 4
New York Rangers 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 5
Ottawa 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 4
Philadelphia 1 1 2 3 1 1 2 11
Pittsburgh 1 0 1 0 2 1 1 6
San Jose 1 1 0 1 0 2 3 8
St. Louis 2 1 0 1 1 1 1 7
Tampa Bay 1 1 1 0 0 2 1 6
Toronto 1 1 0 2 1 1 1 7
Vancouver 1 2 1 2 0 0 1 7
Vegas 3 3 1 1 2 2 1 13
Washington 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 4
Winnipeg 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 8

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Luongo crosses himself off Panthers’ exposed list

It was only a matter of time before Roberto Luongo chimed in.

The Florida Panthers' 38-year-old goalie was left exposed by the club ahead of the expansion draft, and took to Twitter to sympathize with the Vegas Golden Knights' tough decision ahead:

Vegas must select one player from each team, and Luongo crossed himself off the list.

Considering the 'tender's $4,533,333 salary-cap hit through 2021-22, it's a safe bet Luongo will be in Florida next season and beyond. But you can't fault the guy for making sure. Or trying to, at least.

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Poll: Will the Predators force Game 7?

The only thing better than Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final is Game 7.

If "Winner gets the Cup" is played, it will be contested Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Whether it happens is up to the Nashville Predators. And the Penguins, too, we suppose.

Here's the tale of the tape after five games, each won by the home team:

Penguins 3 2 17 13 115 147 .912 9.1% (2-for-22) 71.4% (10-for-14)
Predators 2 3 13 17 147 115 .852 28.6% (4-for-14) 90.9% (20-for-22) 

Game 6 is at 8 p.m. ET in Nashville.

Is the Stanley Cup Final going the distance?

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Ranking the top 80 unrestricted free agents: 80-66

June is an incredibly busy month for the NHL, but that doesn't mean we can't look ahead to what's coming. Free agency begins at 12 p.m. ET on July 1, and we're ranking the top 80 unrestricted free agents in a seven-post series ahead of the madness.

We're going to start at the bottom and work our way towards the top. Up first, UFAs ranked 80-66

80. Ondrej Pavelec (G)

Age on Oct. 1: 30
2016-17 Cap Hit: $3.9M

It's hard to believe Pavelec is only 29. It feels like he's been bad for so long. But, he's a goalie, and half-decent backups were hard to find this season. He had an .888 save percentage last season, and his career mark is .907. Buyer beware, but he won't cost much.

79. Vernon Fiddler (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 37
2016-17 Cap Hit: $1.25M

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Hey, everyone needs fourth-line guys. And he's Stanley Cup finalist Vernon Fiddler to you, pal.

78. Matt Hendricks (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 36
2016-17 Cap Hit: $1.85M

No one said the names this low on the list were going to be pretty. Now that the Oilers can actually play, Hendricks saw his ice time reduced to 10:45 a night, and he only played in 42 games. He is who he is, and he's getting up there in age, but he'll tell you he can still kill a penalty or two.

77. Jean-Francois Berube (G)

Age on Oct. 1: 26
2016-17 Cap Hit: $675K

Again: Backup goalies were brutal this season. And Berube's only 26. Someone will take a chance, because the Islanders simply didn't play him enough to know what he brings to the table.

76. Chris VandeVelde (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 30
2016-17 Cap Hit: $712,500

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

VandeVelde's been a mainstay in the Flyers' bottom-six forwards for the past three seasons, in which he's recorded 15, 14, and 15 points. His possession numbers are brutal, but that's why he's in the bottom six, right? And one more team in the league means a few more bottom-six jobs.

75. Fedor Tyutin (D)

Age on Oct. 1: 34
2016-17 Cap Hit: $2M

Much like the fact teams need fourth-line guys, they also need depth defensemen. Tyutin averaged 18:56 in ice time in 69 games on Colorado's blue line this season, an experience he's probably trying his best to forget. He was a minus-25 with a ghastly 46.75 Corsi For rating. Think of him like a baseball reliever - someone's got to throw those innings.

74. Curtis McElhinney (G)

Age on Oct. 1: 34
2016/17 Cap Hit: $800K

Without McElhinney, the Maple Leafs miss the playoffs. Seriously. He finished at a respectable .917 in 15 starts and 21 games, and should be able to find another backup job.

73. Jiri Hudler (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 33
2016-17 Cap Hit: $2M

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

The Dallas experiment was a massive failure. Illness and injury limited Hudler to only 32 games, and he managed three goals and eight assists while playing only 11:51 a night. Prior to 2016-17, he had 81 points in his 125 games over two seasons, good for a .648 per-game average. We don't think he's done.

72. Drew Miller (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 33
2016-17 Cap Hit: $1.025M

It appears Miller's time in Detroit is over after eight seasons, and perhaps that's not a bad thing. His possession numbers were god-awful - it's better not to look. He can still skate, and he needs a fresh start somewhere else.

71. John Mitchell (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 32
2016-17 Cap Hit: $1.8M

After four straight seasons in which he scored 10 or more goals and had at least 20 points, Mitchell's production fell off a cliff this season. Blame the Avalanche; Mitchell probably does. Despite playing in Denver, Mitchell had a 49.29 Corsi For rating, which ranked fifth among Avs forwards who played at least 40 games.

70. Eric Gryba (D)

Age on Oct. 1: 29
2016-17 Cap Hit: $950K

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

Gryba didn't play all that much in 2016-17, but he finished with the Oilers' fourth-highest possession rating (52.13 percent) among players who suited up in at least 40 games. He's youngish - with 2017-18 his age-29 season - so there's some value here for a depth defenseman. At least we think so.

69. Scottie Upshall (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 33 (34 on Oct. 7)
2016-17 Cap Hit: $900K

Upshall recorded a respectable 10 goals and eight assists in 11 minutes per game on a 99-point Blues squad - and all for only $900,000. The possession numbers were nasty, though, but, again, there's a reason why bottom-six guys are bottom-six guys.

68. Brian Flynn (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 29
2016-17 Cap Hit: $950K

Flynn's age is why he's where he is on this list. He'll give you 10-to-15 points in around 50-to-60 games playing 12-to-14 minutes a night, and can be used on the penalty kill. Ain't nothing wrong with any of that.

67. Ryan White (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 29
2016-17 Cap Hit: $1M

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Back-to-back 16-point seasons for White, who is nothing if not consistent. Traded to Minnesota in the Martin Hanzal deal, White had a 52.17 Corsi For rating with the Wild, despite being on the ice for 12 goals against and only four goals for.

66. Viktor Stalberg (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 31
2016-17 Cap Hit: $1.5M

Stalberg goes where there is work, and there is often work. Those two 20-goal seasons were nice, but won't happen again. However, he will chip in, and has been a positive possession player for most of his career.

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On the Fly: Can the Preds pull off hockey’s Music City Miracle?

In this week's edition of "On the Fly," we're talking Music City Miracle Part II. The Nashville Predators must win two in a row against the Penguins, one of those in Pittsburgh, to win the Stanley Cup. Can it be done?

Absolutely not

Josh Wegman: Given how desperate the Predators will be in Game 6, and the fact they'll have their amazing crowd behind them, I think they can force a Game 7. But can they win Game 7? Absolutely not.

Pekka Rinne's numbers have been subpar away from Bridgestone Arena this postseason, and his career numbers in Pittsburgh are horrendous.

If Nashville is going to win the remaining two games, Rinne will have to be at his best, and I'm not quite sure he's capable of that on the road, especially given Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are playing some of their best hockey.


Esten McLaren: Yes.

The Penguins aren't winning a do-or-die Game 6 in Music City during CMA weekend. Pittsburgh fell flat in a 2-1 loss following its 7-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, so its 6-0 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final means little.

Game 7 will return to Pittsburgh, forcing Nashville to be the first team to win a road game in this series. The Predators own a Corsi For rating of 59.26 percent through the first three games in Pittsburgh. It will come down to goaltending, and while Matt Murray has had a significant advantage over Pekka Rinne at PPG Paints Arena, the Preds only need Rinne to be average while continuing to drive play in Pittsburgh's end to make this happen.

Rinne can't possibly be worse, right?


Josh Gold-Smith: In a word, no.

Sure, the Predators have history on their side with respect to Game 6, and it wouldn't be shocking to see Nashville bounce back with a victory Sunday night, but winning the series is another story.

Given how abysmal Pekka Rinne has been in Pittsburgh, and how his relatively inexperienced backup, Juuse Saros, hasn't been much better, it's hard to see the Predators prevailing in a winner-take-all game on the road if they do force the deciding contest.

Matt Murray has been nearly unbeatable on home ice in this series, so even if the Predators take the next one, they'll be hard-pressed to buck these ominous trends.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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