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Ian Scott was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the last draft with Scouting Guru (citation needed) Mark Hunter at the helm. Scott spent his entire WHL career with the Prince Albert Raiders, who selected him ninth overall in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, making him the highest goalie selected since the Tri-City Americans took Carey Price seventh in 2002.

At the time he was selected, Scott was coming off his first season as a WHL starting goaltender. In 50 games behind a hapless Raiders team, Scott went 12-31-3 with an .895 save percentage and two shutouts. Nothing eye-popping, but solid enough numbers for a goaltender shouldering a starter’s workload for the first time behind a bottom-three team. His stats coupled with his physical attributes and raw potential saw Scott named the third ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting entering the 2017 draft, where the Leafs made him the 11th goaltender selected at 110th overall. He signed his entry-level contract on December 14th, 2018.

Rank – Grade – NHL Readiness

15th — C — two-four yrs

Position: Goaltender

Age: 21

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 181 lbs

Drafted: 2017, Fourth round, 110th overall

What Kind of Player Is He?

So far in his career, Scott has shown to have the main baseline strengths you’d like to see in a goaltender. His biggest strengths are his quick lateral movement and puck tracking abilities, oftentimes leading to him being in the right position for an easy glove or chest save, without allowing a follow up chance to the opposition thanks to his solid rebound control. While he does not need to rely on his athleticism like a lot of young goalies, Scott has shown he is more than capable of getting across to make a sprawling glove save or dramatic pad stop when necessary.

Scott is also a fairly confident puck handler, and doesn’t shy away from playing the puck when needed. The pinnacle of this was a little over two years ago when on November 16th 2018, he scored an empty net goal against the Tri-City Americans.

By The Numbers

Scott spent four years in Prince Albert, mostly playing on subpar teams. His best season came in 2018-19, when Scott went 38-8-3 for the Raiders with a .932 save percentage and eight shutouts. The Raiders would go on to win the WHL Championship, with Scott starting all 23 games, posting a .925 save percentage with five shutouts. Scott would end the year by being named WHL Playoff MVP, WHL Top Goaltender, and CHL Goaltender of the Year.

What’s Next for Scott?

Unfortunately, this is where things would turn poorly for Ian Scott. Coming off of his incredible final season in the WHL, Scott was poised to compete with Joseph Woll for a job with either the Toronto Marlies or Newfoundland Growlers (where he would have more than likely been in the mix for the starter’s job) for the 2019-2020 season. Unfortunately, a nagging hip issue led to the 20-year-old having surgery on December 19th, 2019 (one year and a day after signing his ELC) having not appeared in a single game for either club. The Leafs announced that Scott had been shut down for the season, and was expected to be ready for the traditional summer training camp in 2020. Of course, due to the ongoing pandemic, said training camp never occurred. Furthermore, due to the status of the AHL being up in the air and the Newfoundland Growlers announcing that they, along with the rest of the ECHL’s North Division, have opted out of competition for the 2020-2021 season, both of Scott’s most likely destinations from a year ago seem out of the question.

At just 21-years-old, these setbacks do not necessarily mean that Scott has completely derailed on his path to the NHL. Even with the injury, Scott still has a strong fundamental base and access to a top notch team of physicians and trainers to help him regain any steps he may have lost over the last year. However with new competition in the form of Artur Akhtyamov and the aforementioned Joseph Woll widening whatever gap may have separated the two before this season, Scott may need to have a stronger return to play than once anticipated if he plans to cement himself as Toronto’s goaltender of the future.

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Welcome to part two of our “what happened to him” series where we look back at the last Thrashers squad and the very first Jets 2.0 team to figure out what happened to each player. This was inspired by having Blake Wheeler as the only active player who played in Atlanta and is still with the team.

In part one, we took a look at how the Atlanta Thrashers transformed into the Winnipeg Jets. In this post, we will examine the roster from the first season and give everyone a little refresher of what the first season looked like for the Jets. Going forward, we will begin to look at individual players to see how they left the team and what happened to them after they left.

The 2011-2012 Winnipeg Jets weren’t very good. They were still a part of the Southeast division left over from the Atlanta days which meant plenty of travel to Florida, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. They finished the season with a 37-35-10 record which gave them 84 points. They missed the playoffs by 8 points and were 11th in the Eastern Conference and 22nd in the league.

This team was led by captain Andrew Ladd and head coach Claude Noel who had been promoted from the Manitoba Moose. Noel had very little NHL experience with only 24 games as a head coach in Columbus. However, he did spend three seasons as an assistant coach with the Blue Jackets from 2007-2010.

Evander Kane led the team in scoring with 30 goals at only 20 years old. Blake Wheeler led the team in both assists and points with 47 and 64 respectively. Just like the prior year, Pavelec and Mason backstopped the team all year long.

When looking at some of the common line combinations, some familiar trios begin to emerge. Although Ladd, Little, Wheeler spent lots of time together, there were a number of other prominent trios from that first season.

The second most frequent line was the fan-favourite, GST line with Tanner Glass, Jim Slater, and Chris Thorburn.

According to the data I could find, here is a sample lineup from the year.

(data from frozenpool.dobbersports.com)

That sure brings back some memories, eh?

After the team transitioned from Atlanta, we determined in our previous post that 14 players were new when the Jets moved to Winnipeg. This included the likes of Miettinen, Wellwood, Glass, Maclean, Fehr, Gagnon, McArdle, Scheifele, Jaffray, Clitsome, Flood, Jones, Festerling, Meech.

With that many new faces, where did they all come from?

Well, there are a number of ways to acquire players in the NHL, and the Jets used seemingly every way possible when finding these players during the year.

The most common way to get these players was by signing them as free agents. Miettinen, Wellwood, Glass, Gagnon, Jaffrey, Jones, and Meech all joined the team in free agency. Flood was a slightly different story. He was previously signed by the Moose and was eventually called up to make his appearance.

The Jets lacked depth so they also made a few waivers claims. This is how they acquired both Maclean and Clitsome. Funnily enough, this is also how they lost Maclean a little while later.

Festerling was a player who was transferred from Atlanta, although he never actually played for the Thrashers which is why he wasn’t included in the prior post’s details.

Winnipeg also made a few deals to bring in both Fehr and McArdle via trade.

Lastly, the Jets had one player make their debut from the draft as Mark Scheifele played seven games with the Jets and recorded one goal before being sent back down to the OHL for the season.

It’s actually impressive to see the different ways that Winnipeg added players. They did it virtually every way possible and used every tool possible to try and make their team better. Even with all of these new players, the team struggled overall, something that Winnipeg fans would get used to seeing over the next several years.

So, we have established the transition between Atlanta and Winnipeg and now we have refreshed our memory of that first season back in Winnipeg. We looked at some common lines and how Winnipeg was able to get so many new faces in their lineup.

Now the real fun begins as we can start to take a look at individual players’ careers after this first season in Winnipeg.

 

 

 

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Dating back to 2013, the Calgary Flames have turned three first round picks into NHL regulars – Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk. Despite some recent injury speed bumps, Juuso Valimaki is poised to become the fourth as he’s currently dominating Finnish pro hockey.

Valimaki repeats as the top prospect of the Calgary Flames per our annual staff rankings for the third consecutive year.

How did we get here? 

A product of Nokia, Finland, Valimaki grew up playing in the Ilves organization in neighbouring Tampere, Finland. He became a prospect of some renown in Finland, usually playing a year or two above his actual age.

After playing in Finland’s main under-20 junior league as a 16-year-old, Valimaki bet on himself and opted for a change and a challenge. He was selected by the Tri-City Americans of the WHL in the CHL’s Import Draft and joined the Dub as a 17-year-old. He had 32 points as a rookie, finishing fourth in the league among rookie blueliners.

The following season, Valimaki’s draft eligible season of 2016-17, he found a new gear. He had 61 points over 60 games, finishing seventh among all WHL defensemen and emerging as one of Tri-City’s top players in all situations. He was named a second team conference all-star and was selected in the first round, 16th overall, by the Flames at the 2017 NHL Draft.

His post-draft season was hampered by an upper body injury suffered during the World Juniors. He played only 43 games, but amassed 45 points and really impressed scouts with his all-around play when he was healthy. He was, once again, named a second team conference all-star.

Turning pro as a 20-year-old, Valimaki turned heads at Flames training camp and made the team to open the 2018-19 season. He played 22 times in the club’s first 23 games, finding a comfort zone on the third pairing and amassing a modest one goal and one assist. He suffered a high ankle sprain and was sidelined for two months, returning in late January with a stint for the Stockton Heat. He had 14 points in 20 AHL games, emerging as an excellent AHL defender. He was brought back to the NHL for the final two regular season games and suited up a couple times in their first round loss against Colorado.

Valimaki tore his ACL in August 2019, though, and was sidelined for the entire 2019-20 regular season. He was on the Flames’ Phase 3 and 4 rosters for Return to Play, but never dressed. He played his first meaningful hockey since April 2019 when he joined Ilves on a loan in October 2020. He’s emerged as one of the top players in SM-Liiga.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein 

After Sunday’s games, Valimaki has two goals and 17 points through 17 SM-Liiga games. That’s good for eighth in league scoring, and tops among SM-Liiga defensemen. Of the seven players ahead of him in scoring, only two are younger: Florida first rounder Anton Lundell and Columbus draft pick Emil Bemstrom.

Success in SM-Liiga is not a guarantee of NHL success, but it’s a nice sign that he’s bounced back from what was a pretty gnarly injury. An ACL repair is a tough thing to come back from, and Valimaki’s playing extremely well in a really good league. It bodes well for his future.

Those in the know 

Stockton Heat head coach Cail MacLean had Valimaki with Stockton for awhile and has a pretty high opinion of the Finn as a player and person:

I think that they really have, not just a strong, really competitive hockey player, but I think they have someone who has some great leadership abilities in terms of the drive and the dedication to be his best. I think Juuso’s really driven. I think he’s a very good hockey player with a lot of great assets in terms of he’s a workhorse out there. You can count on him in a variety of situations. But what really impressed me was just the sort of mentality and the willingness to grow and learn from a young guy, which to me says when you’ve got someone that talented and they’re able to be humble, hard-working, good teammates, in years to come that’s going to be a really big boost for your organization. Some of those intangibles that in addition to his play are going to make Juuso a real gem for the organization.

On the horizon

Prior to his knee injury, the Flames fully intended to give Valimaki a crack as an everyday NHL defenseman. Nothing that’s happened in the interim has changed that plan, and his success in SM-Liiga has likely cemented it.

When the NHL returns, Valimaki will be wearing a Flaming C and will very likely graduate from this ranking. Since he’s still eligible for the Calder Trophy, you never know what else he could accomplish with the opportunities the Flames will try to give him. Based on what we’ve seen in Finland, Valimaki may be poised for big things.

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020

The no-votes Missed the cut
#20: Tyler Parsons #19: Alexander Yelesin
#18: Ryan Francis #17: Martin Pospisil
#16: Luke Philp #15: Eetu Tuulola
#14: Johannes Kinnvall #13: Ilya Nikolayev
#12: Yan Kuznetsov #11: Adam Ruzicka
#10: Jeremie Poirier #9: Matthew Phillips
#8: Glenn Gawdin #7: Dmitry Zavgorodniy
#6: Emilio Pettersen #4 (tied): Dustin Wolf
#4 (tied): Connor Mackey #3: Jakob Pelletier
#2: Connor Zary

 

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Status: Extension
Date: 11/23/2020
Player: Aleksi Klemetti (F)
From: KalPa
To: KalPa
Information: 2 years
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 11/23/2020
Player: Juhamatti Aaltonen (F)
From: Kärpät
To: Kärpät
Information: 1 year
Source: Link

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Welcome, Internet friends, to a brand new Monday Mailbag where I’ve taken all of your Oilers and NHL related questions, thrown them out to our writers, and compiled all of their answers to give you a few minutes of time killing distraction from whatever you’ve got going on today. This week, we look at the Oilers’ prospects in Europe, Dave Tippett’s second year behind the bench, Reverse Retro jerseys, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got one, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

1) Kevin asks – The Oilers have a bunch of prospects playing over in Europe while we wait for the season to start and I’m wondering who everyone is paying attention to the most?

Jason Gregor:

I have yet to watch a full game on any player if I’m being honest. I’ve watched highlights and read a lot about Puljujarvi, Lagesson and Bouchard, as they are closest to playing on the Oilers. I’ve also followed Samorukov quite closely as he has played the most games, and I think he could be a surprise performer in the future.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m looking at Evan Bouchard in Sweden. As 10th pick in the 2018 draft, I’m sure the Oilers are looking carefully at how well he’s moving along the development curve, as am I.

Cam Lewis:

I’ve watched both Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg thus far but one guy I want to keep an eye on who isn’t in Europe is 2020 first-round pick, Dylan Holloway. He didn’t light the world on fire as a freshman but he was one of the youngest players in the NCAA. Given his first couple of games last weekend, it looks like he can have a huge season.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It’s Broberg for me. He’s going to stay there for the entire SHL season but if Broberg continues to take big steps forward in his development and the Oilers think he can be an impactful NHL defenseman next season then I think it could really change their plans for next offseason and the looming expansion draft.

Nation Dan:

Well, as the author of the Prospect Update, I get to pay attention to them all (and you can too every Monday). Personally, I am paying close attention to the development of Raphael Lavoie as I’m hoping for big things from him. I am also watching the development of our goalie prospects as it’s a bit of a blind spot in our ranks. Right now that’s just Ilya Konovalov and Olivier Rodrigue.

Baggedmilk:

I’m watching Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. I think those two could make the roster sooner than later so I’m really interested in watching how they do.

Jan 6, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett on the bench during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Edmonton defeated Toronto. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Taylor asks – What, if anything, would you like to see Dave Tippett do differently in his second season as the Oilers head coach?

Jason Gregor:

Good question. I really had to think about this. I’d limit Draisaitl’s PK time. Similar to what he did with McDavid last year. I’d rather those two play more at EV and on the PP. I understand if no one else can win a draw, why you need to play Draisaitl, but in an ideal world, I wouldn’t have him on the PK very much, except the odd final few seconds.

Robin Brownlee:

Keep the Draisaitl line together come hell or high water. Didn’t like how he went away from them in the play-ins last summer.

Cam Lewis:

Lean more on Mikko Koskinen and believe less in Mike Smith. Another one would be to not go back to the Draisaitl-McDavid duo, as hard as it might be at times. Keeping them apart is huge for the team’s success.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

That’s a really tough question because I really didn’t have any major problems with what Tippett did last season. I guess I wouldn’t mind if he wasn’t as loyal to Mike Smith and was more willing to play Mikko Koskinen for long stretches of games. I think that could be important next season. But that’s hardly a complaint because he handled the goaltenders pretty well last season.

Nation Dan:

Far be it from me to tell an NHL head coach how to do his job, but I would humbly ask that he give Koskinen more trust and the same kind of “get back out there kid” kind of mentality he gave Mike Smith this year.

Baggedmilk:

I would love if he reunited NuDraMoto because they were one of the best lines in hockey, and it was frustrating for me that they were split up for the playoffs. Hopefully, the added depth that came in this offseason will help balance out the line combos. Also, more Koskinen and less Smith. Thank you.

Photo Credit: NHL.com

3) Clay asks – The Reverse Retro jerseys came out this past week and I want to know who are the winners and losers from around the NHL?

Jason Gregor:

I think winners should be based on sales. Many adults ripped the Ducks jersey, but I suspect kids will love it. I’m not a jersey guy, so I won’t pretend to be one here and list best and worst. My two favs were Minny and LA.

Robin Brownlee:

Anaheim’s jersey was hideous. Don’t care or the Arizona jersey either. Liked the Oilers, Minnesota and Carolina jerseys.

Cam Lewis:

I think it’s cool to see the Nordiques aesthetic come back, especially given Avs’ general manager Joe Sakic’s connection to that team. A lot of the jerseys look quite good, I think. It was a win all in all.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

My winners: Edmonton, Tampa Bay, the LA Kings, and the Minnesota Wild. My losers: the Islanders, the Red Wings. I also don’t love the fact that the Avalanche and Hurricanes are using Nordiques and Whalers jerseys. I explained my reasoning for that last Monday on The Real Life Podcast.

Nation Dan:

I am a big fan of teams that try and get away from the basic colours of sports teams in general (white, red, blue, and black). So with this most recent iteration of the new jerseys, I think teams like Arizona, Nashville, LA, New Jersey, etc. are winners. My losers are the teams that just didn’t do much: the New York Islanders could have done a lot more, the Red Wings did next to nothing, and the Blackhawks just rested on the “we’re old so we can’t do much” ideology.

Baggedmilk:

My favourite is easily the Los Angeles Kings. I love that colour pattern and think they will look solid on the ice. The worst, to me, are the Detroit Red Wings. They look like they forgot they were supposed to participate.

July 28, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA; A general view of game action during the second period of the exhibition game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 28, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. Mandatory Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

4) Sara asks – Assuming an all-Canadian division is the plan for next season, which team do you think improved the most and least this offseason and why?

Jason Gregor:

Ottawa has improved the most, but they also had the most room to improve. Montreal made some good moves, and should be much better. I like Edmonton’s added forward depth and I think their D will actually be better. Calgary getting Markstrom was a big move, and it odd to see a team sign so many players from a division foe. Those Vancouver/Calgary games should be fun to watch. I thought Vancouver might have overachieved a bit in the playoffs, so I’m most interested to see how they do with some significant changes on the blueline and in goal. Nate Schmidt was a  huge addition. Toronto changed their blueline with additions of Brodie, Bogosian and added Thornton, Simmonds and Vesey up front. They should be better. I’m curious who much Paul Stastny has left in Winnipeg. I think he is more of a 3rd line C, but he will get to play with some elite wingers so he might be able to keep producing. The Jets improvement could come simply from staying healthy. I think the Canadian division will be very entertaining and competitive.

Robin Brownlee:

Might be Calgary if Markstrom lives up to his contract. Everything starts in goal. I also like Ken Holland’s work with Barrie and Turris. Montreal is better with Jake Allen and Tyler Toffoli. Not sure the signing of Matt Murray coming off an .899 season is enough to make Ottawa much better given they’re coming from the back of the pack, but we’ll see.

Cam Lewis:

I think Montreal actually got a bit better but I’m not sure how much it matters because they weren’t close to being a playoff team pre-COVID. Toronto filled a lot of their holes by adding T.J. Brodie and a wealth of good veterans like Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian. I see Calgary mentioned because of adding Markstrom but goaltending wasn’t at all an issue for them last season so I’m not sure I see that. Vancouver definitely got worse. Edmonton remained the same, I think, which is a good thing given the challenge of navigating the Oscar Klefbom injury.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I really don’t love what the Canucks did this offseason and I think they have some depth players on bad contracts who won’t age well. I also don’t think the Leafs got better at all. As for who improved, I think the answer has to be Ottawa. They upgraded in net and I think the young pieces they have throughout the rest of their lineup will only get better. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs but you can’t argue with the fact that they got better.

Nation Dan:

The Senators would top my list for most improved just simply because it would be a challenge to be much worse than they were last year. In between (in no particular order) the Canadiens didn’t do much to move the needle this offseason. The Leafs got older and not much better (Brodie is a nice add for them). The Oilers D downgraded slightly, the net is the same, and offence got markedly better.  The Jets are just Connor Hellebuyck or bust. The Flames are better between the pipes, worse at defending, and still are counting on an offence that had three 20 goal scorers and that’s it. The Canucks flat out downgraded at every position and would be my least improved by far.

Baggedmilk:

I think it’s pretty easy to say that the Ottawa Senators were the most improved because they were so bad last year that it would be hard not to. I think Vancouver did the least amount to improve this offseason, but we’ll see what happens.

5) Stephen asks – Is anyone else worried that we won’t have an NHL season in 2021? The players are obviously concerned about how much money they’re giving up while the owners would be expected to pay salaries without having normal streams of income coming back, and it doesn’t seem to make much sense from a business perspective.

Jason Gregor:

Sadly for the players they either agree to more rollbacks or the owners won’t play. It sucks for them as the new CBA was just signed a few months ago, but the owners can choose not to play rather than lose millions. I think there is a small chance we might not see a season, but ultimately I think they reach an agreement. I think with a vaccine coming in 2021, that we might see 25-40% fans at some rinks by March or April and possibly more as more people get the vaccine. The game is so much better with fans in the building. I hope the NHL and players realize this, and not just by making a video thanking fans. Do more to engage your fans.

Robin Brownlee:

Not worried. We’ll have a season in one form or another. Some money coming in is better than none.

Cam Lewis:

Not really. I expect the NHL to stall for time with bad return-to-play offers until they can shoehorn the players into a 42-game season with an expanded playoff format, just like MLB did. That way they can pay the least amount of salary possible and recoup cash with extra playoff games.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m not worried that we won’t get a season, I’m just worried about how long it will take to come to an agreement. I really want the season to start on January 1st, but I don’t think that’s realistic. If money proves to be a massive issue, I’d be worried that we might not get regular season hockey until February.

Nation Dan:

Nope. The league will figure it out. Hope will never die for this guy.

Baggedmilk:

A season will happen but they need to get it together sooner than later.

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Welcome back to another edition of Throwback Thursday! 

This week in 1967 (Nov. 18), Tim Horton played his 1000th NHL game. Horton, then 38 at the time, had joined the Toronto Maple Leafs two decades prior.

His first game for the club was in the 1949-50 season, but he didn’t break into the league on a full-time basis until 1952-53. Horton played defence for the Leafs and spent 20 years with the team before a few seasons splitting time between the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins.

All in all, Horton played in 1445 NHL games scoring 115 goals, 403 assists and 518 points.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

 

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2020 has brought us good news and bad news, even ignoring the ongoing global pandemic. The good news is that Jarome Iginla was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The bad news is that, due to the pandemic, his induction ceremony won’t take place until November 2021.

But the Hall of Fame was nice enough to give us all a sneak peek at Iginla’s plaque earlier this week.

For the photo-impaired, his plaque reads as follows:

JAROME ARTHUR-LEIGH IGINLA
One of the best power forwards of his generation, Jarome Iginla also ranked among the league’s top scorers each year. Spending 16 seasons with the Calgary Flames, including 10 as their captain, he led the team in scoring for 11 consecutive years, including two 50+ goal seasons and a 96 point campaign in 2001-02 that saw him earn the Art Ross Trophy, Richard Trophy and Pearson Award. A Stanley Cup finalist in 2004, the four-time All-Star also won the Clancy Trophy and Messier Award. Just the 19th player in history to score 600 goals, Iginla helpe Canad win two Olympic gold medals and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Player Inductee, 2020

The summary is a fitting tribute to one of the best hockey players of his generation. He will be officially feted by the Hall of Fame next fall.

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Players can provide their team with a jolt of energy when they deliver a solid body check.

It can light up the crowd, create bitterness between the two sides, and they’re just flat out fun to watch.

In 50 seasons of Vancouver Canucks hockey, players and fans alike have stood on their feet cheering great hits on the ice.

Here are the ten best bone-crushing hits Canucks players have laid upon their opponent.

10. Kesler welcomes Kane to the show

Two years before the hate-filled rivalry between the Chicago Blackhawks started, the emotions were brewing.

In 2007, Ryan Kesler gave rookie Patrick Kane his welcome to the NHL moment.

Sending Kane to an unexpected line change, this Kesler hit is the best one during his time in a Canucks sweater.

9. Hammer goes with the hip

The first of two hip-checks that Dan Hamhuis brings to the top ten comes in at number nine. 

Hamhuis’ hit on Vancouver native Milan Lucic in the Stanley Cup Finals was one of the best hits in that series. 

Taking the end game out of it and just living in that exact moment when Hamhuis laid the hammer on Lucic was a great moment in the series and a great hit.

8. The eagle lands

Alex Edler doesn’t have many highlight reel-hits, but this hit on Doughty was unexpected, making it that much better and he also laid him out. 

One of the things everyone playing hockey got taught at a young age was to never keep your head down because the end result will be similar to what happened to Doughty.

7. Ballard joins the hit parade

Another hip-check ranks in the top ten, but this time, it comes courtesy of Keith Ballard.

In the second round of the 2011 playoffs, Ballard gives Jordin Tootoo air in a posterized hit. Ballard was well known for his ability to catch the opponent off guard with a big hip check, and this one was one of his best.

6. Virtanen and the young star

Ok, so technically, this isn’t an NHL game, but hey, it still counts as one of the best hits we’ve seen.

In Jake Virtanen’s second Young Stars Tournament, he gave everyone in Penticton something to cheer about when he welcomed phenom Connor McDavid to the tournament.

McDavid going for the puck didn’t notice the pickup truck that is Virtanen was headed right for him.

5. Bure shows his mean streak

Yup, you read that headline right: Pavel Bure makes the top five with his it on Bryan Marchment.

Bure decided to take matters into his own hands when Marchment went to hit him. A hit that ended up being a knee on knee, which he and teammate Sergio Momesso didn’t like. Momesso tried to fight Marchment, but the refs broke them up before the two could throw hands. Fast forward to 48 seconds of the clip; Bure gets his revenge with a wicked hit, and a cross-check to the back to boot.

4. Hamhuis goes shark hunting

The last hip-check of the list is evidently Hamhuis’ second appearance. Hamhuis lays a thunderous hit on San Jose Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray.

Hamhuis hit on Murray is one of the best when you consider how big Murray is. Hamhuis takes no prisoners when laying a massive hit, which flipped Murray all over the place.

3. Bertuzzi shows no remorse

Todd Bertuzzi comes in at number three with his massive hit on BC native Barret Jackman.

Jackman didn’t see the freight train coming when he went behind the net. Bertuzzi lowers his shoulders and pummels Jackman in an excellent hard-nosed hit.

2. Toews sees stars

Stepping out of the penalty box and stepping in on Johnathan Toews, Willie Mitchell levels Toews with an open-ice hit. 

It’s safe to say Toews didn’t know Mitchell was out of the box, and he got hit, but this clean hit made Toews enter another dimension.

1. Linden breaks the glass

A hit so good it made the glass shatter.

The 1995 playoffs weren’t the best, but the most memorable moment came in round one when Trevor Linden sent Jeff Norton through the glass and into the stands. 

The most famous and best bone-crushing in Canucks history, it earns the top spot on this list, and now we will all wait and see what the next 50 years will bring.

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One of the most intriguing players on the Oilers roster heading into next season is Jesse Puljujarvi. The 2016 fourth overall pick will be returning to the NHL after spending a season with Karpat in Finland and the fan base is largely split on what to expect from him as he returns to North America

He posted 24 goals and 29 assists last season in the SM-Liiga, which is a very good league, and followed it up with 10 points in his first 13 games this season. When Puljujarvi decided to spend a year back home in Finland, those who supported him said that this will allow him to mature both on and off the ice while becoming more confident in his game. Those who didn’t like the decision immediately labelled him as a bust.

I certainly wasn’t against Puljujarvi’s decision to leave North America for a season, but I never understood the people who said that this stint in Finland was going to magically turn him into a top-six winger. We still don’t know how his game will translate to the smaller ice surface in North America and we still don’t know if he’ll mesh with one of the Oilers’ skilled forwards.

So, where’s the best spot in the Oilers lineup for Puljujarvi?

There are really two trains of thought here. The first is saying that he needs to start lower down the lineup, gain confidence, and earn his spot in the top six. The second is that if a skilled player like Puljujarvi is going to succeed and if the Oilers want to maximize his potential, they need to put him in positions to succeed and the best way to do that it to play him with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

It would be completely unfair to close the door on Puljujarvi becoming a top-six player this season because there’s no denying that he has the natural talent to be a top-six winger and there is a real chance that he’s a different player than he was last time he was in an Oilers jersey. But I don’t think the Oilers should start him on a line next to Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. I don’t think that would be best for the team or Puljujarvi.

Yes, being on one of those lines means you get to play with the best players on the team but it also means you have to routinely go up against the other team’s best players. By starting Puljujarvi on the third line, they’ll be able to ease him back into things and give him a chance to gain confidence at the NHL level. That’s important.

It’s also worth noting that Ken Holland has done an excellent job building the Oilers’ forward depth this offseason and when you compare the top nine that the team will have next season to the group that Puljujarvi was apart of during the first two years of his career, there’s a big difference.

While he did play over 300 even-strength minutes with both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid, he also played over 300 ES minutes with Ryan Strome and close to 600 ES minutes with Milan Lucic. This coming season, even if he’s on the third line, he should have better linemates.

I would assume that he’ll start the year on a line with Kyle Turris and one of Tyler Ennis, Dominik Kahun or James Neal. I think that’s an upgrade over playing with Strome and Lucic. I know Strome has found success in New York, but he was not the same player when he was in Edmonton and when it comes to producing offence, Ennis and Kahun will help Puljujarvi more than Lucic did.

The last time he was here, if Puljujarvi wasn’t playing in the top six, then he wasn’t being given a good enough chance to succeed and produce offence. I don’t think that’s going to be the case this season.

If you put him in the top six, there’s going to be a lot more pressure on him to play well and he’s going to be facing much tougher competition. Yes, there’s a chance that he could succeed but putting him in that spot early on has some risk.

I will say that I would love to see Puljujarvi get some looks on the powerplay. If he’s matured physically and learned how to use his size in front of the net, I think he would be a really interesting fit on their top powerplay unit. I know that putting him in that spot wouldn’t necessarily be the best way to utilize his shot, but considering the fact that he shoots right, there would still be plenty of chances for him to get into positions around the net where either McDavid or Draisaitl could use him as a quick one-time option.

Having some patience with Puljujarvi will go a long way as well. Yes, he’s likely developed and changed as a player since the last time we saw him in Edmonton but he also hasn’t played an NHL game in well over a year. There will likely be an adjustment period once he starts playing NHL games again.

I still believe there’s a chance that Puljujarvi works his way into the top six this season and scores more than 15 goals, however, that shouldn’t be the expectation. If he can be a semi-consistent source of offence in their bottom this season then both the team and fans should be very happy with that. That’s why I wouldn’t start him in the top six and think the best spot for him would be next to Kyle Turris on the third-line.

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Ian Scott was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the last draft with Scouting Guru (citation needed) Mark Hunter at the helm. Scott spent his entire WHL career with the Prince Albert Raiders, who selected him ninth overall in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, making him the highest goalie selected since the Tri-City Americans took Carey Price seventh in 2002.

At the time he was selected, Scott was coming off his first season as a WHL starting goaltender. In 50 games behind a hapless Raiders team, Scott went 12-31-3 with an .895 save percentage and two shutouts. Nothing eye-popping, but solid enough numbers for a goaltender shouldering a starter’s workload for the first time behind a bottom-three team. His stats coupled with his physical attributes and raw potential saw Scott named the third ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting entering the 2017 draft, where the Leafs made him the 11th goaltender selected at 110th overall. He signed his entry-level contract on December 14th, 2018.

Rank – Grade – NHL Readiness

15th — C — two-four yrs

Position: Goaltender

Age: 21

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 181 lbs

Drafted: 2017, Fourth round, 110th overall

What Kind of Player Is He?

So far in his career, Scott has shown to have the main baseline strengths you’d like to see in a goaltender. His biggest strengths are his quick lateral movement and puck tracking abilities, oftentimes leading to him being in the right position for an easy glove or chest save, without allowing a follow up chance to the opposition thanks to his solid rebound control. While he does not need to rely on his athleticism like a lot of young goalies, Scott has shown he is more than capable of getting across to make a sprawling glove save or dramatic pad stop when necessary.

Scott is also a fairly confident puck handler, and doesn’t shy away from playing the puck when needed. The pinnacle of this was a little over two years ago when on November 16th 2018, he scored an empty net goal against the Tri-City Americans.

By The Numbers

Scott spent four years in Prince Albert, mostly playing on subpar teams. His best season came in 2018-19, when Scott went 38-8-3 for the Raiders with a .932 save percentage and eight shutouts. The Raiders would go on to win the WHL Championship, with Scott starting all 23 games, posting a .925 save percentage with five shutouts. Scott would end the year by being named WHL Playoff MVP, WHL Top Goaltender, and CHL Goaltender of the Year.

What’s Next for Scott?

Unfortunately, this is where things would turn poorly for Ian Scott. Coming off of his incredible final season in the WHL, Scott was poised to compete with Joseph Woll for a job with either the Toronto Marlies or Newfoundland Growlers (where he would have more than likely been in the mix for the starter’s job) for the 2019-2020 season. Unfortunately, a nagging hip issue led to the 20-year-old having surgery on December 19th, 2019 (one year and a day after signing his ELC) having not appeared in a single game for either club. The Leafs announced that Scott had been shut down for the season, and was expected to be ready for the traditional summer training camp in 2020. Of course, due to the ongoing pandemic, said training camp never occurred. Furthermore, due to the status of the AHL being up in the air and the Newfoundland Growlers announcing that they, along with the rest of the ECHL’s North Division, have opted out of competition for the 2020-2021 season, both of Scott’s most likely destinations from a year ago seem out of the question.

At just 21-years-old, these setbacks do not necessarily mean that Scott has completely derailed on his path to the NHL. Even with the injury, Scott still has a strong fundamental base and access to a top notch team of physicians and trainers to help him regain any steps he may have lost over the last year. However with new competition in the form of Artur Akhtyamov and the aforementioned Joseph Woll widening whatever gap may have separated the two before this season, Scott may need to have a stronger return to play than once anticipated if he plans to cement himself as Toronto’s goaltender of the future.

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Welcome to part two of our “what happened to him” series where we look back at the last Thrashers squad and the very first Jets 2.0 team to figure out what happened to each player. This was inspired by having Blake Wheeler as the only active player who played in Atlanta and is still with the team.

In part one, we took a look at how the Atlanta Thrashers transformed into the Winnipeg Jets. In this post, we will examine the roster from the first season and give everyone a little refresher of what the first season looked like for the Jets. Going forward, we will begin to look at individual players to see how they left the team and what happened to them after they left.

The 2011-2012 Winnipeg Jets weren’t very good. They were still a part of the Southeast division left over from the Atlanta days which meant plenty of travel to Florida, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. They finished the season with a 37-35-10 record which gave them 84 points. They missed the playoffs by 8 points and were 11th in the Eastern Conference and 22nd in the league.

This team was led by captain Andrew Ladd and head coach Claude Noel who had been promoted from the Manitoba Moose. Noel had very little NHL experience with only 24 games as a head coach in Columbus. However, he did spend three seasons as an assistant coach with the Blue Jackets from 2007-2010.

Evander Kane led the team in scoring with 30 goals at only 20 years old. Blake Wheeler led the team in both assists and points with 47 and 64 respectively. Just like the prior year, Pavelec and Mason backstopped the team all year long.

When looking at some of the common line combinations, some familiar trios begin to emerge. Although Ladd, Little, Wheeler spent lots of time together, there were a number of other prominent trios from that first season.

The second most frequent line was the fan-favourite, GST line with Tanner Glass, Jim Slater, and Chris Thorburn.

According to the data I could find, here is a sample lineup from the year.

(data from frozenpool.dobbersports.com)

That sure brings back some memories, eh?

After the team transitioned from Atlanta, we determined in our previous post that 14 players were new when the Jets moved to Winnipeg. This included the likes of Miettinen, Wellwood, Glass, Maclean, Fehr, Gagnon, McArdle, Scheifele, Jaffray, Clitsome, Flood, Jones, Festerling, Meech.

With that many new faces, where did they all come from?

Well, there are a number of ways to acquire players in the NHL, and the Jets used seemingly every way possible when finding these players during the year.

The most common way to get these players was by signing them as free agents. Miettinen, Wellwood, Glass, Gagnon, Jaffrey, Jones, and Meech all joined the team in free agency. Flood was a slightly different story. He was previously signed by the Moose and was eventually called up to make his appearance.

The Jets lacked depth so they also made a few waivers claims. This is how they acquired both Maclean and Clitsome. Funnily enough, this is also how they lost Maclean a little while later.

Festerling was a player who was transferred from Atlanta, although he never actually played for the Thrashers which is why he wasn’t included in the prior post’s details.

Winnipeg also made a few deals to bring in both Fehr and McArdle via trade.

Lastly, the Jets had one player make their debut from the draft as Mark Scheifele played seven games with the Jets and recorded one goal before being sent back down to the OHL for the season.

It’s actually impressive to see the different ways that Winnipeg added players. They did it virtually every way possible and used every tool possible to try and make their team better. Even with all of these new players, the team struggled overall, something that Winnipeg fans would get used to seeing over the next several years.

So, we have established the transition between Atlanta and Winnipeg and now we have refreshed our memory of that first season back in Winnipeg. We looked at some common lines and how Winnipeg was able to get so many new faces in their lineup.

Now the real fun begins as we can start to take a look at individual players’ careers after this first season in Winnipeg.

 

 

 

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Dating back to 2013, the Calgary Flames have turned three first round picks into NHL regulars – Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk. Despite some recent injury speed bumps, Juuso Valimaki is poised to become the fourth as he’s currently dominating Finnish pro hockey.

Valimaki repeats as the top prospect of the Calgary Flames per our annual staff rankings for the third consecutive year.

How did we get here? 

A product of Nokia, Finland, Valimaki grew up playing in the Ilves organization in neighbouring Tampere, Finland. He became a prospect of some renown in Finland, usually playing a year or two above his actual age.

After playing in Finland’s main under-20 junior league as a 16-year-old, Valimaki bet on himself and opted for a change and a challenge. He was selected by the Tri-City Americans of the WHL in the CHL’s Import Draft and joined the Dub as a 17-year-old. He had 32 points as a rookie, finishing fourth in the league among rookie blueliners.

The following season, Valimaki’s draft eligible season of 2016-17, he found a new gear. He had 61 points over 60 games, finishing seventh among all WHL defensemen and emerging as one of Tri-City’s top players in all situations. He was named a second team conference all-star and was selected in the first round, 16th overall, by the Flames at the 2017 NHL Draft.

His post-draft season was hampered by an upper body injury suffered during the World Juniors. He played only 43 games, but amassed 45 points and really impressed scouts with his all-around play when he was healthy. He was, once again, named a second team conference all-star.

Turning pro as a 20-year-old, Valimaki turned heads at Flames training camp and made the team to open the 2018-19 season. He played 22 times in the club’s first 23 games, finding a comfort zone on the third pairing and amassing a modest one goal and one assist. He suffered a high ankle sprain and was sidelined for two months, returning in late January with a stint for the Stockton Heat. He had 14 points in 20 AHL games, emerging as an excellent AHL defender. He was brought back to the NHL for the final two regular season games and suited up a couple times in their first round loss against Colorado.

Valimaki tore his ACL in August 2019, though, and was sidelined for the entire 2019-20 regular season. He was on the Flames’ Phase 3 and 4 rosters for Return to Play, but never dressed. He played his first meaningful hockey since April 2019 when he joined Ilves on a loan in October 2020. He’s emerged as one of the top players in SM-Liiga.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein 

After Sunday’s games, Valimaki has two goals and 17 points through 17 SM-Liiga games. That’s good for eighth in league scoring, and tops among SM-Liiga defensemen. Of the seven players ahead of him in scoring, only two are younger: Florida first rounder Anton Lundell and Columbus draft pick Emil Bemstrom.

Success in SM-Liiga is not a guarantee of NHL success, but it’s a nice sign that he’s bounced back from what was a pretty gnarly injury. An ACL repair is a tough thing to come back from, and Valimaki’s playing extremely well in a really good league. It bodes well for his future.

Those in the know 

Stockton Heat head coach Cail MacLean had Valimaki with Stockton for awhile and has a pretty high opinion of the Finn as a player and person:

I think that they really have, not just a strong, really competitive hockey player, but I think they have someone who has some great leadership abilities in terms of the drive and the dedication to be his best. I think Juuso’s really driven. I think he’s a very good hockey player with a lot of great assets in terms of he’s a workhorse out there. You can count on him in a variety of situations. But what really impressed me was just the sort of mentality and the willingness to grow and learn from a young guy, which to me says when you’ve got someone that talented and they’re able to be humble, hard-working, good teammates, in years to come that’s going to be a really big boost for your organization. Some of those intangibles that in addition to his play are going to make Juuso a real gem for the organization.

On the horizon

Prior to his knee injury, the Flames fully intended to give Valimaki a crack as an everyday NHL defenseman. Nothing that’s happened in the interim has changed that plan, and his success in SM-Liiga has likely cemented it.

When the NHL returns, Valimaki will be wearing a Flaming C and will very likely graduate from this ranking. Since he’s still eligible for the Calder Trophy, you never know what else he could accomplish with the opportunities the Flames will try to give him. Based on what we’ve seen in Finland, Valimaki may be poised for big things.

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020

The no-votes Missed the cut
#20: Tyler Parsons #19: Alexander Yelesin
#18: Ryan Francis #17: Martin Pospisil
#16: Luke Philp #15: Eetu Tuulola
#14: Johannes Kinnvall #13: Ilya Nikolayev
#12: Yan Kuznetsov #11: Adam Ruzicka
#10: Jeremie Poirier #9: Matthew Phillips
#8: Glenn Gawdin #7: Dmitry Zavgorodniy
#6: Emilio Pettersen #4 (tied): Dustin Wolf
#4 (tied): Connor Mackey #3: Jakob Pelletier
#2: Connor Zary

 

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Status: Extension
Date: 11/23/2020
Player: Aleksi Klemetti (F)
From: KalPa
To: KalPa
Information: 2 years
Source: Link

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Status: Extension
Date: 11/23/2020
Player: Juhamatti Aaltonen (F)
From: Kärpät
To: Kärpät
Information: 1 year
Source: Link

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Welcome, Internet friends, to a brand new Monday Mailbag where I’ve taken all of your Oilers and NHL related questions, thrown them out to our writers, and compiled all of their answers to give you a few minutes of time killing distraction from whatever you’ve got going on today. This week, we look at the Oilers’ prospects in Europe, Dave Tippett’s second year behind the bench, Reverse Retro jerseys, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got one, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

1) Kevin asks – The Oilers have a bunch of prospects playing over in Europe while we wait for the season to start and I’m wondering who everyone is paying attention to the most?

Jason Gregor:

I have yet to watch a full game on any player if I’m being honest. I’ve watched highlights and read a lot about Puljujarvi, Lagesson and Bouchard, as they are closest to playing on the Oilers. I’ve also followed Samorukov quite closely as he has played the most games, and I think he could be a surprise performer in the future.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m looking at Evan Bouchard in Sweden. As 10th pick in the 2018 draft, I’m sure the Oilers are looking carefully at how well he’s moving along the development curve, as am I.

Cam Lewis:

I’ve watched both Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg thus far but one guy I want to keep an eye on who isn’t in Europe is 2020 first-round pick, Dylan Holloway. He didn’t light the world on fire as a freshman but he was one of the youngest players in the NCAA. Given his first couple of games last weekend, it looks like he can have a huge season.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It’s Broberg for me. He’s going to stay there for the entire SHL season but if Broberg continues to take big steps forward in his development and the Oilers think he can be an impactful NHL defenseman next season then I think it could really change their plans for next offseason and the looming expansion draft.

Nation Dan:

Well, as the author of the Prospect Update, I get to pay attention to them all (and you can too every Monday). Personally, I am paying close attention to the development of Raphael Lavoie as I’m hoping for big things from him. I am also watching the development of our goalie prospects as it’s a bit of a blind spot in our ranks. Right now that’s just Ilya Konovalov and Olivier Rodrigue.

Baggedmilk:

I’m watching Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. I think those two could make the roster sooner than later so I’m really interested in watching how they do.

Jan 6, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett on the bench during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Edmonton defeated Toronto. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Taylor asks – What, if anything, would you like to see Dave Tippett do differently in his second season as the Oilers head coach?

Jason Gregor:

Good question. I really had to think about this. I’d limit Draisaitl’s PK time. Similar to what he did with McDavid last year. I’d rather those two play more at EV and on the PP. I understand if no one else can win a draw, why you need to play Draisaitl, but in an ideal world, I wouldn’t have him on the PK very much, except the odd final few seconds.

Robin Brownlee:

Keep the Draisaitl line together come hell or high water. Didn’t like how he went away from them in the play-ins last summer.

Cam Lewis:

Lean more on Mikko Koskinen and believe less in Mike Smith. Another one would be to not go back to the Draisaitl-McDavid duo, as hard as it might be at times. Keeping them apart is huge for the team’s success.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

That’s a really tough question because I really didn’t have any major problems with what Tippett did last season. I guess I wouldn’t mind if he wasn’t as loyal to Mike Smith and was more willing to play Mikko Koskinen for long stretches of games. I think that could be important next season. But that’s hardly a complaint because he handled the goaltenders pretty well last season.

Nation Dan:

Far be it from me to tell an NHL head coach how to do his job, but I would humbly ask that he give Koskinen more trust and the same kind of “get back out there kid” kind of mentality he gave Mike Smith this year.

Baggedmilk:

I would love if he reunited NuDraMoto because they were one of the best lines in hockey, and it was frustrating for me that they were split up for the playoffs. Hopefully, the added depth that came in this offseason will help balance out the line combos. Also, more Koskinen and less Smith. Thank you.

Photo Credit: NHL.com

3) Clay asks – The Reverse Retro jerseys came out this past week and I want to know who are the winners and losers from around the NHL?

Jason Gregor:

I think winners should be based on sales. Many adults ripped the Ducks jersey, but I suspect kids will love it. I’m not a jersey guy, so I won’t pretend to be one here and list best and worst. My two favs were Minny and LA.

Robin Brownlee:

Anaheim’s jersey was hideous. Don’t care or the Arizona jersey either. Liked the Oilers, Minnesota and Carolina jerseys.

Cam Lewis:

I think it’s cool to see the Nordiques aesthetic come back, especially given Avs’ general manager Joe Sakic’s connection to that team. A lot of the jerseys look quite good, I think. It was a win all in all.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

My winners: Edmonton, Tampa Bay, the LA Kings, and the Minnesota Wild. My losers: the Islanders, the Red Wings. I also don’t love the fact that the Avalanche and Hurricanes are using Nordiques and Whalers jerseys. I explained my reasoning for that last Monday on The Real Life Podcast.

Nation Dan:

I am a big fan of teams that try and get away from the basic colours of sports teams in general (white, red, blue, and black). So with this most recent iteration of the new jerseys, I think teams like Arizona, Nashville, LA, New Jersey, etc. are winners. My losers are the teams that just didn’t do much: the New York Islanders could have done a lot more, the Red Wings did next to nothing, and the Blackhawks just rested on the “we’re old so we can’t do much” ideology.

Baggedmilk:

My favourite is easily the Los Angeles Kings. I love that colour pattern and think they will look solid on the ice. The worst, to me, are the Detroit Red Wings. They look like they forgot they were supposed to participate.

July 28, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA; A general view of game action during the second period of the exhibition game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 28, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. Mandatory Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

4) Sara asks – Assuming an all-Canadian division is the plan for next season, which team do you think improved the most and least this offseason and why?

Jason Gregor:

Ottawa has improved the most, but they also had the most room to improve. Montreal made some good moves, and should be much better. I like Edmonton’s added forward depth and I think their D will actually be better. Calgary getting Markstrom was a big move, and it odd to see a team sign so many players from a division foe. Those Vancouver/Calgary games should be fun to watch. I thought Vancouver might have overachieved a bit in the playoffs, so I’m most interested to see how they do with some significant changes on the blueline and in goal. Nate Schmidt was a  huge addition. Toronto changed their blueline with additions of Brodie, Bogosian and added Thornton, Simmonds and Vesey up front. They should be better. I’m curious who much Paul Stastny has left in Winnipeg. I think he is more of a 3rd line C, but he will get to play with some elite wingers so he might be able to keep producing. The Jets improvement could come simply from staying healthy. I think the Canadian division will be very entertaining and competitive.

Robin Brownlee:

Might be Calgary if Markstrom lives up to his contract. Everything starts in goal. I also like Ken Holland’s work with Barrie and Turris. Montreal is better with Jake Allen and Tyler Toffoli. Not sure the signing of Matt Murray coming off an .899 season is enough to make Ottawa much better given they’re coming from the back of the pack, but we’ll see.

Cam Lewis:

I think Montreal actually got a bit better but I’m not sure how much it matters because they weren’t close to being a playoff team pre-COVID. Toronto filled a lot of their holes by adding T.J. Brodie and a wealth of good veterans like Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian. I see Calgary mentioned because of adding Markstrom but goaltending wasn’t at all an issue for them last season so I’m not sure I see that. Vancouver definitely got worse. Edmonton remained the same, I think, which is a good thing given the challenge of navigating the Oscar Klefbom injury.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I really don’t love what the Canucks did this offseason and I think they have some depth players on bad contracts who won’t age well. I also don’t think the Leafs got better at all. As for who improved, I think the answer has to be Ottawa. They upgraded in net and I think the young pieces they have throughout the rest of their lineup will only get better. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs but you can’t argue with the fact that they got better.

Nation Dan:

The Senators would top my list for most improved just simply because it would be a challenge to be much worse than they were last year. In between (in no particular order) the Canadiens didn’t do much to move the needle this offseason. The Leafs got older and not much better (Brodie is a nice add for them). The Oilers D downgraded slightly, the net is the same, and offence got markedly better.  The Jets are just Connor Hellebuyck or bust. The Flames are better between the pipes, worse at defending, and still are counting on an offence that had three 20 goal scorers and that’s it. The Canucks flat out downgraded at every position and would be my least improved by far.

Baggedmilk:

I think it’s pretty easy to say that the Ottawa Senators were the most improved because they were so bad last year that it would be hard not to. I think Vancouver did the least amount to improve this offseason, but we’ll see what happens.

5) Stephen asks – Is anyone else worried that we won’t have an NHL season in 2021? The players are obviously concerned about how much money they’re giving up while the owners would be expected to pay salaries without having normal streams of income coming back, and it doesn’t seem to make much sense from a business perspective.

Jason Gregor:

Sadly for the players they either agree to more rollbacks or the owners won’t play. It sucks for them as the new CBA was just signed a few months ago, but the owners can choose not to play rather than lose millions. I think there is a small chance we might not see a season, but ultimately I think they reach an agreement. I think with a vaccine coming in 2021, that we might see 25-40% fans at some rinks by March or April and possibly more as more people get the vaccine. The game is so much better with fans in the building. I hope the NHL and players realize this, and not just by making a video thanking fans. Do more to engage your fans.

Robin Brownlee:

Not worried. We’ll have a season in one form or another. Some money coming in is better than none.

Cam Lewis:

Not really. I expect the NHL to stall for time with bad return-to-play offers until they can shoehorn the players into a 42-game season with an expanded playoff format, just like MLB did. That way they can pay the least amount of salary possible and recoup cash with extra playoff games.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m not worried that we won’t get a season, I’m just worried about how long it will take to come to an agreement. I really want the season to start on January 1st, but I don’t think that’s realistic. If money proves to be a massive issue, I’d be worried that we might not get regular season hockey until February.

Nation Dan:

Nope. The league will figure it out. Hope will never die for this guy.

Baggedmilk:

A season will happen but they need to get it together sooner than later.

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Welcome back to another edition of Throwback Thursday! 

This week in 1967 (Nov. 18), Tim Horton played his 1000th NHL game. Horton, then 38 at the time, had joined the Toronto Maple Leafs two decades prior.

His first game for the club was in the 1949-50 season, but he didn’t break into the league on a full-time basis until 1952-53. Horton played defence for the Leafs and spent 20 years with the team before a few seasons splitting time between the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins.

All in all, Horton played in 1445 NHL games scoring 115 goals, 403 assists and 518 points.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

 

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2020 has brought us good news and bad news, even ignoring the ongoing global pandemic. The good news is that Jarome Iginla was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The bad news is that, due to the pandemic, his induction ceremony won’t take place until November 2021.

But the Hall of Fame was nice enough to give us all a sneak peek at Iginla’s plaque earlier this week.

For the photo-impaired, his plaque reads as follows:

JAROME ARTHUR-LEIGH IGINLA
One of the best power forwards of his generation, Jarome Iginla also ranked among the league’s top scorers each year. Spending 16 seasons with the Calgary Flames, including 10 as their captain, he led the team in scoring for 11 consecutive years, including two 50+ goal seasons and a 96 point campaign in 2001-02 that saw him earn the Art Ross Trophy, Richard Trophy and Pearson Award. A Stanley Cup finalist in 2004, the four-time All-Star also won the Clancy Trophy and Messier Award. Just the 19th player in history to score 600 goals, Iginla helpe Canad win two Olympic gold medals and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Player Inductee, 2020

The summary is a fitting tribute to one of the best hockey players of his generation. He will be officially feted by the Hall of Fame next fall.

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Players can provide their team with a jolt of energy when they deliver a solid body check.

It can light up the crowd, create bitterness between the two sides, and they’re just flat out fun to watch.

In 50 seasons of Vancouver Canucks hockey, players and fans alike have stood on their feet cheering great hits on the ice.

Here are the ten best bone-crushing hits Canucks players have laid upon their opponent.

10. Kesler welcomes Kane to the show

Two years before the hate-filled rivalry between the Chicago Blackhawks started, the emotions were brewing.

In 2007, Ryan Kesler gave rookie Patrick Kane his welcome to the NHL moment.

Sending Kane to an unexpected line change, this Kesler hit is the best one during his time in a Canucks sweater.

9. Hammer goes with the hip

The first of two hip-checks that Dan Hamhuis brings to the top ten comes in at number nine. 

Hamhuis’ hit on Vancouver native Milan Lucic in the Stanley Cup Finals was one of the best hits in that series. 

Taking the end game out of it and just living in that exact moment when Hamhuis laid the hammer on Lucic was a great moment in the series and a great hit.

8. The eagle lands

Alex Edler doesn’t have many highlight reel-hits, but this hit on Doughty was unexpected, making it that much better and he also laid him out. 

One of the things everyone playing hockey got taught at a young age was to never keep your head down because the end result will be similar to what happened to Doughty.

7. Ballard joins the hit parade

Another hip-check ranks in the top ten, but this time, it comes courtesy of Keith Ballard.

In the second round of the 2011 playoffs, Ballard gives Jordin Tootoo air in a posterized hit. Ballard was well known for his ability to catch the opponent off guard with a big hip check, and this one was one of his best.

6. Virtanen and the young star

Ok, so technically, this isn’t an NHL game, but hey, it still counts as one of the best hits we’ve seen.

In Jake Virtanen’s second Young Stars Tournament, he gave everyone in Penticton something to cheer about when he welcomed phenom Connor McDavid to the tournament.

McDavid going for the puck didn’t notice the pickup truck that is Virtanen was headed right for him.

5. Bure shows his mean streak

Yup, you read that headline right: Pavel Bure makes the top five with his it on Bryan Marchment.

Bure decided to take matters into his own hands when Marchment went to hit him. A hit that ended up being a knee on knee, which he and teammate Sergio Momesso didn’t like. Momesso tried to fight Marchment, but the refs broke them up before the two could throw hands. Fast forward to 48 seconds of the clip; Bure gets his revenge with a wicked hit, and a cross-check to the back to boot.

4. Hamhuis goes shark hunting

The last hip-check of the list is evidently Hamhuis’ second appearance. Hamhuis lays a thunderous hit on San Jose Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray.

Hamhuis hit on Murray is one of the best when you consider how big Murray is. Hamhuis takes no prisoners when laying a massive hit, which flipped Murray all over the place.

3. Bertuzzi shows no remorse

Todd Bertuzzi comes in at number three with his massive hit on BC native Barret Jackman.

Jackman didn’t see the freight train coming when he went behind the net. Bertuzzi lowers his shoulders and pummels Jackman in an excellent hard-nosed hit.

2. Toews sees stars

Stepping out of the penalty box and stepping in on Johnathan Toews, Willie Mitchell levels Toews with an open-ice hit. 

It’s safe to say Toews didn’t know Mitchell was out of the box, and he got hit, but this clean hit made Toews enter another dimension.

1. Linden breaks the glass

A hit so good it made the glass shatter.

The 1995 playoffs weren’t the best, but the most memorable moment came in round one when Trevor Linden sent Jeff Norton through the glass and into the stands. 

The most famous and best bone-crushing in Canucks history, it earns the top spot on this list, and now we will all wait and see what the next 50 years will bring.

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One of the most intriguing players on the Oilers roster heading into next season is Jesse Puljujarvi. The 2016 fourth overall pick will be returning to the NHL after spending a season with Karpat in Finland and the fan base is largely split on what to expect from him as he returns to North America

He posted 24 goals and 29 assists last season in the SM-Liiga, which is a very good league, and followed it up with 10 points in his first 13 games this season. When Puljujarvi decided to spend a year back home in Finland, those who supported him said that this will allow him to mature both on and off the ice while becoming more confident in his game. Those who didn’t like the decision immediately labelled him as a bust.

I certainly wasn’t against Puljujarvi’s decision to leave North America for a season, but I never understood the people who said that this stint in Finland was going to magically turn him into a top-six winger. We still don’t know how his game will translate to the smaller ice surface in North America and we still don’t know if he’ll mesh with one of the Oilers’ skilled forwards.

So, where’s the best spot in the Oilers lineup for Puljujarvi?

There are really two trains of thought here. The first is saying that he needs to start lower down the lineup, gain confidence, and earn his spot in the top six. The second is that if a skilled player like Puljujarvi is going to succeed and if the Oilers want to maximize his potential, they need to put him in positions to succeed and the best way to do that it to play him with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

It would be completely unfair to close the door on Puljujarvi becoming a top-six player this season because there’s no denying that he has the natural talent to be a top-six winger and there is a real chance that he’s a different player than he was last time he was in an Oilers jersey. But I don’t think the Oilers should start him on a line next to Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. I don’t think that would be best for the team or Puljujarvi.

Yes, being on one of those lines means you get to play with the best players on the team but it also means you have to routinely go up against the other team’s best players. By starting Puljujarvi on the third line, they’ll be able to ease him back into things and give him a chance to gain confidence at the NHL level. That’s important.

It’s also worth noting that Ken Holland has done an excellent job building the Oilers’ forward depth this offseason and when you compare the top nine that the team will have next season to the group that Puljujarvi was apart of during the first two years of his career, there’s a big difference.

While he did play over 300 even-strength minutes with both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid, he also played over 300 ES minutes with Ryan Strome and close to 600 ES minutes with Milan Lucic. This coming season, even if he’s on the third line, he should have better linemates.

I would assume that he’ll start the year on a line with Kyle Turris and one of Tyler Ennis, Dominik Kahun or James Neal. I think that’s an upgrade over playing with Strome and Lucic. I know Strome has found success in New York, but he was not the same player when he was in Edmonton and when it comes to producing offence, Ennis and Kahun will help Puljujarvi more than Lucic did.

The last time he was here, if Puljujarvi wasn’t playing in the top six, then he wasn’t being given a good enough chance to succeed and produce offence. I don’t think that’s going to be the case this season.

If you put him in the top six, there’s going to be a lot more pressure on him to play well and he’s going to be facing much tougher competition. Yes, there’s a chance that he could succeed but putting him in that spot early on has some risk.

I will say that I would love to see Puljujarvi get some looks on the powerplay. If he’s matured physically and learned how to use his size in front of the net, I think he would be a really interesting fit on their top powerplay unit. I know that putting him in that spot wouldn’t necessarily be the best way to utilize his shot, but considering the fact that he shoots right, there would still be plenty of chances for him to get into positions around the net where either McDavid or Draisaitl could use him as a quick one-time option.

Having some patience with Puljujarvi will go a long way as well. Yes, he’s likely developed and changed as a player since the last time we saw him in Edmonton but he also hasn’t played an NHL game in well over a year. There will likely be an adjustment period once he starts playing NHL games again.

I still believe there’s a chance that Puljujarvi works his way into the top six this season and scores more than 15 goals, however, that shouldn’t be the expectation. If he can be a semi-consistent source of offence in their bottom this season then both the team and fans should be very happy with that. That’s why I wouldn’t start him in the top six and think the best spot for him would be next to Kyle Turris on the third-line.


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