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The 2018 draft pick played a defense-focused season.

Shortly before a 6:30 PM puck drop in Manchester, NH, defender Spencer Stastney was announced as a late scratch in what would be the University of Notre Dame’s last game of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

24 hours before that 4-0 loss to the UMass Minutemen, Notre Dame took down Clarkson University in overtime, and Stastney (despite not being recorded on the score sheet) was a big factor, playing critical minutes late in the game and in overtime.

One week before that, Stastney scored the (technically) lone goal of his freshman campaign in South Bend: the game-opener as the Fighting Irish took down the Penn State Nittany Lions for the 2019 Big Ten Championship title.

It was a quiet season for Statsney, who was picked 131st overall last summer by the Nashville Predators from a heralded U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) that included Bode Wilde, Mattias Samuelsson, and K’Andre Miller on defense alone. He finished with one goal and three assists in 39 games played for the Irish but also only committed four minor penalties. He finished 11th in team scoring the season before, with two goals and 28 points in 57 games for the USNTDP, but had an impressive tournament at the U18-World Junior Championships, finishing tied for sixth in team scoring with five points in seven games.

eliteprospects.com Spencer Stastney’s Career Statistics

I don’t think Stastney’s offensive numbers this year are indicative of his potential. I think his freshman season at Notre Dame was best used playing catch-up on defense. He only recently transitioned to the back-end in the past few seasons and was able to learn from two excellent prospects in Andrew Peeke and Bobby Nardella.

I spent the past couple weeks re-watching some of Stastney’s games from this season and want to highlight some really impressive shifts and skills.

In the clip above—early in the Big 10 title game—Stastney, #24 in white, exhibits excellent positioning. He uses an active stick along the boards and reverts back to a shooting lane between a Penn State player and the net when his partner takes the puck-carrier.

Moments later, Stastney does well to anticipate an opposing player drifting towards the back door. Despite not being overly physical or using an active stick, he maintains good positioning in the slot and is therefore able to clear the puck into the neutral zone.

On his next shift, Stastney pinches well inside the blue line and breaks up a zone entry but makes a curious, ill-advised pass to clear. Despite this, he collects the loose puck and goes end-to-end for a beautiful goal (Note: this is Stastney’s lone credited goal this season. He scored a double overtime winner on Jan. 20, however, that extra frame was played purely for tie-breaking purposes in the standings. The result of the game is recorded as a 2-2 tie).

Despite moments like the goal above, Stastney still played too much of a reserved offensive game this past season. Notice his time and space above for a good skate through the neutral zone. Instead he makes a poor, two-zone pass that results in a turnover.

Later that game, Stastney started gaining more confidence in his offensive zone play noticeable by him hovering lower for better puck support. Above you will notice a good, heads-up activation by #24 that leads to an extended offensive zone possession.

Above, Stastney displays some mildly frustrating defense. He positions himself well in front of the net but doesn’t have his stick in a good position to play the puck or stick-check his opponent if needed. In fact, when the puck makes its way to the net front, Stastney becomes overly-reliant on his hands with his stick flailing elsewhere. But, seconds later, he makes an aggressive attack on a puck up for grabs and is able to deliver a nice pass for a controlled zone exit.

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The above clip shows Stastney late in Notre Dame’s first round match-up with Clarkson shortly after the Irish tied the game at two. He slides well to the back post to cover that floating skater and shows good communication when playing man-coverage along the half-wall. This leads to a turnover that Stastney clears to his teammate.

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Deep into overtime, Stastney finds himself in front of the net and does well to win a rebound. You will noticed a preferred skating trick of his: using his edges to pivot his stance open without committing to a crossover move. He can work on his puck control skills and awareness that deep in the zone, but how often will we see him down there in the future? His awareness and ability to skate in tight corners or to open space will only help his neutral and defensive zone games, too.

Notre Dame will likely return five other defenders next season, but only two of them—Matt Hellickson and Tory Dello—played more than Stastney this past year. Additionally, they will welcome two freshmen on the back end. Stastney will see top-pair minutes at even strength and be given every opportunity to excel during a man-advantage and on the penalty kill.

Sentiments like the following are trite, but I hear often this season Stastney’s teammates gloated about how he is easily the best skater on the team. It shows in the tape above and is complimented well by his disciplined defensive approach.

A complete defensive skill set isn’t there just yet, but you and I have seen flashes of brilliance. Outside of lackluster offensive production, I was impressed with the strides Stastney took defensively and in his transition game. More ice time will only help solidify better decisions, and I anticipate more points will come naturally for a gifted skater and puck handler like #24 in year two in South Bend.

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.

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Usually this period of hockey withdrawal and boredom comes in late July. With this year’s early exit, I am already running out of things to talk about.

Smashville News:

Stanley Cup Final: Nashville arena readying for awards show, not hockey | The Tennessean - Apparently Bridgestone Arena is lonesome for actual Stanley Cup Final festivities. Also, where have they taken Ben and Gill for the summer?

My Story: Covering Nashville’s Favorite Hockey Team | NHL.com - Some great behind the scenes tales from an unsung hero in bringing hockey fandom to Middle Tennessee.

Nashville Predators’ keys heading into ‘19 offseason | Yardbarker.com - No surprises. Maybe it will sound better coming from an outside voice.

Best of 2018-19: Filip Forsberg | NHL.com - Here are Prince Filip’s highlights for the year.

Best of 2018-19: Ryan Johansen | NHL.com - And also Joey’s greatest hits. I love the layout pass to Arvi.

Now for some fun and games. First, use this link to watch Calle Jarnkrok cheating Lindsay Rowley at the Whisper Challenge.

Are You Southern Yet? | NHL.com - “Pekka Rinne, Ryan Ellis, Matt Irwin and several other Preds take a quiz to see if their time in Nashville has made them southerners yet.” I’m disappointed that Pekka and some other long timers did not have higher scores. Also, I so want to see this entire video with all the questions to all the players.

And of course who could be having more fun than these guys. My husband thought Doug was laying down. I kept saying “No, he’s flying!”

View this post on Instagram

Jumping into pool season liike

A post shared by Doug & Dozer (@doug_and_dozer) on May 29, 2019 at 2:27pm PDT

Central Division News:

Blues shake up lineup, but Binnington still in net | NHL.com - Did anyone think they would start Jake Allen? How did these changes work out for them?

Captain Marvelous: How Jonathan Toews’ nutrition renaissance became one for his career | Chicago Sun-Times - Today’s long read. No real details on his nutrition regimen, but man he played through a lot before he learned what his body couldn’t tolerate.

A childhood dream’: Alex Turcotte hopes to follow in Jonathan Toews’ footsteps with Blackhawks | Yahoo Sports - ”Alex Turcotte grew up a Blackhawks fan. He was at the 2010 Stanley Cup parade in Chicago. Idolizing Jonathan Toews as a kid, Turcotte hopes to be half the player he has become and it would be a “childhood dream” for him to do it in Chicago.” So do they use their first-round third pick on him?

Blues’ ‘Gloria’ moment bittersweet for manager preserving singer’s legacy | NHL.com - I had forgotten that Laura Branigan had passed.

Other Hockey News:

Patrice Bergeron, Ryan O’Reilly are a study in contrasts | ESPN - Okay, I’ve read this twice but it still seems to me they have more in common than not. The major difference seems to be their career success so far.

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson taking long, hard look at staying with Sharks | NBCS Bay Area - ”Erik Karlsson has a big decision to make this month, and we reportedly could know what he wants to do within a week.” What do you think the odds are he stays in the Bay Area?

Gabriel scores big win for inclusion with use of Pride Tape in NHL game | NHL.com - It’s such a little thing, with big meaning. I’m surprised more players don’t show some visible sign of support.

Berglund hasn’t ‘regretted one second’ of walking away from NHL | theScore.com - Someone help me out here. How can he return after so short a time and not have to return to the Buffalo Sabres? Did they get any compensation for him doing a runner?

NHL should allow teams to replace concussed players during games | The Boston Globe - I like this proposal, although there would be more details to be flushed out. It should be applied for all injuries that the coach thinks worth the two-game sit-out to follow. I don’t like teams being down men for practically the whole game during the playoffs. The games are hard enough.

How the NHL is planning on using data analytics to change the game for everyone | ZDNet - ”Gone are the days of coaches receiving a rushed print-out on how their players are performing; now the NHL is looking at how to track the puck and the players in real-time.” Sounds like they have good technical partners and are taking time to build the source data correctly.

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Get down, turn around, go to town, boot scootin’ boogie!

Around the League

Goalie prospect Knight impresses at Combine fitness testing
Spencer Knight is a tantalizing goaltending prospect.

Clutterbuck expected to be ready for Islanders training camp: report
Cal Clutterbuck had surgery on his back after the Islanders were eliminated from the playoffs.

Dialed In: Unflappable Tuukka Rask has Stanley Cup – and Conn Smythe – in his sights - TheHockeyNews
I'm completely fine with a Finnish goaltender winning the Cup and the Conn Smythe.

NHL Draft combine: the importance of playing multiple sports - TheHockeyNews
This year's draft class shows the importance of playing multiple sports.

Pure Perfection: Bruins top line comes to life and Torey Krug enters the Conn Smythe conversation - TheHockeyNews
Boston's pieces are coming together.

Future Watch: 10 AHL players expected to battle for NHL jobs next season - TheHockeyNews
Nashville's Eeli Tolvanen makes an appearance on this list. The young Finn will definitely compete for a roster position this fall.

Checkers bounce back, even Finals with Game 2 win | TheAHL.com | The American Hockey League
The Charlotte Checkers have tied the series against the Chicago Wolves.

Five things the Blues have to do to avoid being steamrolled in the Stanley Cup final - TheHockeyNews
Yeah...I wouldn't be sad if the Blues got steamrolled.

Bruins' Rask speaking to a whole country in goofy Finnish interviews - Sportsnet.ca
It's Tuukka time, y'all.

10 NHL Draft Combine Takeaways: Jack Hughes is a true pro - Sportsnet.ca
Is it time for the draft yet?

Maple Leafs and Patrick Marleau ready to part ways - Sportsnet.ca
Patrick Marleau might be headed back to the West.

Erik Karlsson’s decision on his future coming soon - Sportsnet.ca
It's Karlsson Watch 2.0. Where will the talented blueliner end up next season?

The Blues’ offside challenge is great example of something the league needs to improve - Stanley Cup of Chowder
Our friends at Stanley Cup of Chowder have some thoughts on offside and offside challenges.

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Today we’ve got combine news, SCF news, a quick geology digression, and some shenanigans in the ECHL.

Nashville Predators News & Notes:

NHL and NHLPA to Celebrate Pride Month as Part of “Hockey Is For Everyone” Outreach | On the Forecheck
The Preds haven't yet announced what they will be doing, but the NHL has said that all 31 teams will participate, and this is the closest thing to Preds news we have today, so...

Hockey Morning in Tennessee: Boston Bruins 7 - St. Louis Blues 2, Bruins lead Stanley Cup Final 2-1.

Stanley Cup Game 3 Notebook: Bruins use incredible photos to motivate | Sportsnet.ca
Photos or not, I don't think they're in any danger of forgetting what they're playing for, Bruce.

Blues’ O’Reilly learned a lot as parents ran foster home | ProHockeyTalk
I cannot imagine having forty-nine children in my house, even sequentially. Kudos to Mama O'Reilly.

Stanley Cup Final: Blues special teams continue to be sour note | ProHockeyTalk
The Bruins scored on all four (4) (!!) of their power plays last night. Jake Allen, entering in relief after Jordan Binnington was pulled, allowed one of those power-play goals, but stopped the other three shots he faced in his first NHL action since April 3. Under the circumstances it could easily have gone a lot worse for the Blues' backup.

Geology:

What would happen if the Yellowstone supervolcano actually erupted? | Vox
The Yellowstone supervolcano is a fascinating apocalyptic scenario for all your near-future science fiction needs, and this article is both very informative and very clear about how unlikely the scenario it's laying out actually is (even less likely than a killer asteroid).

Other News & Notes:

Does Kaapo Kakko missing draft combine impact battle for first overall? | Sportsnet.ca
Gasp! A prospect skipping out on testing that bears only so much resemblance to anything he'll be asked to do in his actual job! Whatever can we do except conclude that he—

NHL scouting combine wraps with physical testing as Jack Hughes sits | Sportsnet.ca
—oh.

Wow. It’s almost like there’s no actual reason to make these kids bike until they throw up, or something.

Digit Murphy: Life, leadership, and the pursuit of equality | The Ice Garden
How do you feel about August hockey? The Aurora Games, a festival celebrating and promoting female athletes, is going to include an Americas vs the World all-star hockey game. The Ice Garden profiles the coach of Team Americas.

ECHL, Colorado Eagles at odds over return of Kelly Cup | Sportsnet.ca
The ECHL claims that the Eagles—no longer an ECHL team, as they became an AHL team for the 2018-19 season—didn't return the Kelly Cup. The Eagles claim that the ECHL refuses to accept the Kelly Cup for a mystery reason that cannot be put on the record.

All I can say is, someone clearly has lyin' eyes.

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There’s no hockey, but this is something fun to happen this June, anyway.

The NHL made the following announcement today:

NEW YORK/TORONTO (June 1, 2019) – This June, in partnership with the You Can Play Project, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and National Hockey League (NHL) joint Hockey Is For Everyoneinitiative will celebrate Pride Month. All 31 NHL Clubs, alumni, and current players will participate in pride events including parades across North America. The League will be participating in 2019 WorldPride – the largest pride parade in the world – in New York City. The month will also feature original programming and storytelling.

“There’s no better way to make young athletes and fans feel safe and welcome than to have their sports idols and the teams they look up to showing this kind of recognition and support. This was the original vision of You Can Play, and our partnership with the NHL and NHLPA has made that something that LGBTQ athletes and allies alike can feel good about,” said Brian Kitts, You Can Play co-founder and president.

Since 2013 the NHL and NHLPA have been partners with the You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization fighting homophobia in sports, reaffirming that the official policy is one of inclusion on the ice, in the locker rooms, and in the stands. Founded in 2012 by Patrick Burke, NHL Senior Director of Player Safety, You Can Play has since generated support from more than 100 professional hockey players who have voiced their support for gay teammates. The partnership was You Can Play’s first with a North American professional sports league.

“I was raised by my mom to treat people the way you want to be treated and that means being inclusive and accepting people for who they are, because I want to be accepted, too,” said Kurtis Gabriel, New Jersey Devils forward. “For me, using Pride Tape is just a small gesture that I hope will go a long way. Anyone can play the game we all love and cherish so much.”

“At parades and events across North America celebrating Pride, the NHL and our partners will be participating to send a message that is clear and unequivocal – hockey is for everyone,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We are immensely proud of the work that members of our NHL and extended hockey families do to make all feel welcome in the world’s greatest game. Furthering inclusiveness is a year-round mission for the NHL and we are excited to highlight some of our efforts during this Pride Month.”

The month will feature original storytelling shared on NHL.com/Pride, NHL Network, and via the NHL and NHLPA’s social channels. Stories will be released throughout the month of June and include:

Patrick and Brian Burke – the tragic loss that led to the creation of the You Can Play Project, and the hope it continues to inspire across the sports world today.

Patrick Farabaugh – the journey of a man who fled one of the world’s most violent cities to create one of the largest gay hockey organizations in the world, the Madison Gay Hockey Association.

Kurtis Gabriel – the story of why an NHL player has committed to using Pride Tape on his stick for the rest of his hockey career, featuring Pride Tape founder Jeff McLean. (Click video above to watch this feature.)

Elliott Govaars – how 15-year old Elliott, who was playing for the Junior Sharks girls hockey team, found a support network with his teammates as he began his transition to becoming a boy, also featuring transgender activist Harrison Browne.

Brock McGillis – one of the only openly gay men in professional hockey will discuss his personal triumphs and struggles with the other openly gay man in professional hockey, Dre Barone.

Fans interested in purchasing Pride Tape or rainbow branded NHL or Club merchandise can visit Shop.NHL.com. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #HockeyIsForEveryone.

The Nashville Predators have not yet announced what they will be doing for Pride Month, but after a February jam-packed with Hockey Is For Everyone activity in Music City, we can hope for another exciting June—even though it won’t bring the other parade we all wanted to see.

We’ll keep you informed as the Preds roll out their plans.

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The only thing we have right now to distract us from the Stanley Cup Final is the ever-more-tense situation with the women’s pro game.

Nashville Predators News & Notes:

Crickets. C’mon, gentlemen, extend Rocco Grimaldi or something. Colton Sissons. Even Brian Boyle, if you’d like; he was okay for his salary and presumably won’t ask for much more. Give us something.

(It’s too early yet for any news of a Roman Josi extension, but if they’re busy working on that I’ll forgive them for not brightening our days with anything else.)

Other News & Notes:

What Blues miss with Sundqvist suspended for Game 3 | ProHockeyTalk
Game 3 is tonight at 7 PM Central, unless the asteroid gets here first.

Blues’ long-awaited return to Cup Final lifts spirits of St. Louis faithful | Sportsnet.ca
I mean, I guess they have to have something to console them, what with living in St. Louis—have you seen what they do to perfectly good food in St. Louis?—and it being all of [checks notes] eight years since the last major sports championship was won there. Truly, an echoing desert of disappointment.

And then, of course, you have Boston, where it’s been [checks notes again] about thirty seconds since the last major sports championship win. Such hardship. At least the fans have edible food to sustain them in their anticipation and dread.

Oilers part ways with assistant coaches Yawney, Viveiros | Sportsnet.ca
The Oilers are making changes, which is good, but...man. Chiarelli really didn't leave everyone in an optimal kind of situation. I'm perfectly all right with Connor McDavid not leading a super-team, but I'm told Connor McDavid leading a trash fire is "bad for the sport" and it’s certainly no fun for McDavid himself.

Willie Desjardins says Ilya Kovalchuk was 'a challenge' to coach | Sportsnet.ca
I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that Ilya Kovalchuk is not every NHL coach's favorite person. Shocked!

Is Jeff Skinner worth $9M to Sabres? | ProHockeyTalk
Comparing Skinner's potential contract to Sidney Crosby's, when Crosby a) signed his when the salary cap was much lower (thus signing for a much higher percentage of the cap) and b) deliberately signed a contract for less than he could have asked for in order to make his cap hit 8.7M/year, to go with his birthdate and his jersey number (I think even Penguins fans agree that Crosby is kind of weird), is...interesting.

The rest of this is pretty solid, though. It’s a good look at what kind of team needs can drive a team to overpay—potentially—for a pending UFA.

Evgeny Kuznetsov publicly apologizes for ‘putting myself in a bad situation’ | Russian Machine Never Breaks
The NHL and the Washington Capitals have both said they're satisfied with Kuznetsov's explanation of why he and some lines of cocaine were recorded in the same room. (What do we even say these days now that "videotaped" isn't a thing any more? Do the youths even know what a videotape is? Is this like the icons of floppy drives that mean "save"?)

Beyond The Slow Growth Model | The Victory Press
I had not known any of this about NWHL contracts or the NWHLPA, and it's deeply unsettling.

NWHL expansion plans in jeopardy, open to talks about “passing the torch” | The Ice Garden
The NHL is waiting for the NWHL to fold before they even decide whether or not to step in to fund a women's hockey league, while the NWHL says it is as yet unwilling to quit on the players still relying on it, and the star players aren’t willing to return to the NWHL or any other pro league until it has more money than it is likely to get without establishment support.

So you have a wolf, a goat, a cabbage, and a boat that can only carry two at a time, and you have to get all three across the river, but the wolf will eat the goat and the goat will eat the cabbage if you leave them alone together...

(I think that makes the players the cabbage in this metaphor. Please nobody tell Hilary Knight I said that.)

Undersized Hughes stands out as top NHL draft prospect | Sportsnet.ca
Who do you have first on your fantasy draft boards? Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko?

NHL Scouting Combine primer: What will players go through in 2019? | Sportsnet.ca
Some information on the combine, for those of you who have interest. Kakko is skipping it entirely, which might be a reasonable choice, after his outstanding performance at Worlds.

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Martin Erat calls it a career and Shaun finds a missed marketing opportunity.

Nashville Predators News

Martin Erat has retired
Meanwhile, in Nashville, Filip Forsberg has been crowned Prince Filip.

Martin Erat Traded: Sobering Up After the Marty Party | On the Forecheck
Caution: Forsberg is referred to here as the Predators' "Hot New Thing"

Around Hockey

Sundqvist suspended, out for Blues in Game 3 of Cup Final
Oskar Sundqvist was obviously upset about Matt Grzelcyk's lower vowel to consonant ratio and now the St. Louis Blues will have to find a way to win without him in Game 3.

Blues content with various matchups against Bruins' top line in Cup Final
My guess is that somehow Vladimir Tarasenko is involved.

Reaves dresses as Golden Knight for prank, really frightens Schmidt
I wasn't really expecting Nate Schmidt's response, but this is pretty good.

Главная (Home) | By Vladimir Tarasenko
Why I love Vladimir Tarasenko (not just this quote, but read the entire article)

"Excuses … it’s for loser. And I am not loser. I am winner."

Canucks, RFA Brock Boeser 'not close at all' in contract talks - Sportsnet.ca
I know a great landing spot for Brock Boeser.

Let's Bring It Home | By Charlie Coyle
I always enjoy articles from The Players Tribune; this is a good one. Of course, what will really stand out to you is that Charlie Coyle is related to ALL of Boston.

NWHL cancels expansion plans, open to talk of new league | Sportsnet.ca
I wonder if there will be any takers. It certainly seems bold to stop expansion plans in the interest of doing what's right for their players. I hope this works out (and ends with a team in Nashville).

Hot Dogs

Kessler's Franks
So, the #9 hot dog manufacturer is located in Pennsylvania. The company's name is nearly Kessel! How has there been no crossover between Phil Kessel and Kessler's Franks?!

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It’s already unbearably hot, Boston and St. Louis are still playing for the Stanley Cup, and I have no idea what the Predators are going to do this off-season... The dread of summer is just getting started.

Nashville Predators News & Notes

Predators Sign Jarred Tinordi to Two-Year, Two-Way Contract | Nashville Predators
ICYMI: The Predators re-signed the Admirals’ Captain yesterday to a two-year deal. This is a good move for Milwaukee, and Milwaukee only. Hopefully we never have to see him in gold.

World Rising: Five players who helped their stock at the World Championship | The Hockey News
“Turris finished with 10 points in 10 games on a line with Anthony Mantha and Jared McCann. Injuries and inconsistent play have plagued Turris’ career over the past few years, but the skilled centerman played the best hockey of his international career and could use it to kickstart his career back into place next season.”

Sure, but what place is that exactly?

Other Hockey News & Notes

Blues take Game 2 over Bruins, even Stanley Cup Final series at 1-1 | Sportsnet
The better team won Game 2, and that’s all I really care to say about this series between these two teams.

Mic’d Up Moments: STL@BOS, Gm1 | NHL.com

Former NHL good determined to stay in jail | VAT News
So you’re going to have to use your web browser’s translate function to read this article, but good lord.... Remember Patrick Cote? Well, his life is an absolute train wreck.

Dude’s literally committing crimes with the purpose of getting sent back to prison. I am not joking. He wants to go back to prison.

Everybody loves Zdeno Chara | ESPN

Maple Leafs sign Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe to two-year extension | Sportsnet
You have to feel like it’s only a matter of time before this guy bolts for a big boy job.

Winnipeg musicians record bluegrass tribute to St. Louis Blues - Winnipeg | Globalnews.ca
Cool, I hate it.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ‘almost used’ to Edmonton Oilers changes | TSN
Geeze, Edmonton... quit torturing this poor guy, and just give him to us already.

Senators re-sign goalie Anders Nilsson to two-year contract | Sportsnet
The Senators have inked their back-up goaltender to a two-year deal with an AAV of $2.6 million.

Second Chance at the Table: Ten overagers to watch for the 2019 NHL Draft | The Hockey News
‘Some draft prospects develop slower than others, but shine with an extra year of development under their belt. Here are 10 over-agers worth keeping an eye on heading into Vancouver.’

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I know we have to respect the hockey season cycle, but if someone could give us something outside of the Cup Final to talk about...some of us are bored.

Hockey News & Rants

Summer Wish List for the Nashville Predators & the NHL | On the Forecheck
We’ve got some time until decisions have to be made, but it’s never too early to start thinking about what direction you’d like to see the team go in. Eric has some bold ideas to give the Preds some edge.

Prospect Kakko to pass on scouting combine | ESPN
If I was a number two overall pick in the draft and I just won a gold medal for my country, I think I’d be skipping the combine too.

NHL players' solutions to replay review controversies | ESPN
It’s weird to find myself agreeing with Brad Marchand...but here we are. The league has to go all-in with reviews or get rid of them completely. Whoever determined that only certain plays could be reviewed obviously didn’t realize the chaos it was going to cause or didn’t care. It definitely needs to be overhauled because it’s obviously frustrating everyone.

NHL commissioner reacts to missed hand pass at end of Sharks’ Game vs. Blues | NBC Sports
Wait, didn’t this happen like a week ago? I’m not sure why his head exploded. Clearly we see how that hand pass worked out for the Sharks in the long run.

On the flip side, at least the commish realizes it’s time for a change.

Tippett hired by Oilers as coach | NHL
Oilers updating everything but the arena sinks!

Or are they? Is anyone else getting arena upgrades every summer or is it just Bridgestone?

How one NHL game turned Lil Nas X into a hockey fan | SportsNet
I’ve never listened to “Old Town Road” and it’s only because of this article I can connect Lil Nas to said song if it ever comes up in a round of trivia at some point in my life.

As a hockey fan, I get what the league is trying to do competing with the spectacles of the NFL and NBA, but as a music fan, I have so many questions.

Who asked for “Country/Trap” music? Was there a meeting? A ballot? An online poll? Why do I feel like all of them would have taken place on the rooftop of Florida Georgia Line’s bar? Does it even have a rooftop bar?

This is how Wikipedia spirals start.

NHL, Ticketmaster announce 10-year partnership extension | NHL
Cool, too bad Ticketmaster is the worst. If they’re really going towards mobile ticketing overall what do they need all that extra money in fees for? Handling fees? What are you handling? Are you crawling through the digital space of the World Wide Web personally to make sure my ticket makes it to my phone? How did this $60 ticket suddenly become the same cost as a down payment on a trip to Disney World?

Krug’s old-school helmetless shift may be among NHL’s last | Concord Monitor
“I’m sure my coach and my GM were hoping that I would just get off the ice at that point,” Krug said. “But that’s hockey.”

It’s 2019—why are we not calling plays dead or forcing players to go to the bench when they lose their helmets? Additionally, if a player gets his helmet ripped off by another player why is that not a penalty? We’re entering an era where head injuries are becoming harder to overlook because science is advancing and former players are tired of the long-term repercussions being ignored. You would think small changes like simple helmet rules would help that transition go a little more smoothly instead of the league just pretending it’s not happening.

NHL Players’ Blue-Collar Financial Adviser Tends Economic Goals | Bloomberg
“I am going to tell them not to spend $250,000 on a car.’’

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Some bold ideas for the future of hockey in Nashville.

Every now and then, I come out of my humble prospect home and write something truly inflammatory to the Nashville fan base. Kidding, of course; my takes are usually rather tame. But I have put a significant amount of thought into some ideas that this organization can lead by example on and change some of the core operations of the league.

Below I lay out some off-season ideas for the Predators, ranging from smart hockey operations moves to bold and maybe shocking ideas to revamp the NHL. So, let’s dive in.

ECHL Affiliation

When I started writing this, the Predators didn’t have an affiliation with any ECHL team. When you read this, you’ll already know that Nashville read my mind and thought, “Hmmm, Eric is usually pretty right—let’s scoop up an ECHL affiliate!”

Nashville has, to say the least, had some trouble with ECHL relationships lately. After a years-long relationship with the Cincinnati Cyclones, they entered into an agreement with the Norfolk Admirals in the summer of 2017. That affiliation was mysteriously terminated just 19 games into the 2017-18 season, and Nashville has been without an official partner since.

This past season, the Predators made do by loaning players to the Atlanta Gladiators (affiliated with the Boston Bruins). Despite the improvements of Zach Magwood and some players on AHL contracts, this move resulted in the failure of all three of their European free agent prospects: Filip Pyrochta, Miroslav Svoboda, and Carl Persson.

Without a proper affiliate, the Predators’ players may not get ice time priority, Predators management has little to no say in hockey operations staffing, and they’re less likely to support a club like Atlanta financially to upgrade facilities and training regimens.

My initial suggestion was for Nashville to affiliate with the independent Greenville Swamp Rabbits—just over five hours away in South Carolina. But instead, they decided to partner with one of the most successful ECHL clubs in recent memory:

#Blades enter affiliation agreement with @PredsNHL, starting with 2019-20 season.

Read more: https://t.co/VxiZKJGpXX#EverRising pic.twitter.com/o23SEqkZL9

— Florida Everblades (@FL_Everblades) May 24, 2019

The Florida Everblades (long affiliated with Carolina) have missed the playoffs just one of their 21 seasons and were atop the Eastern Conference this season, but lost to Newfoundland in the conference final.

European Outreach Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It’s obvious the Nashville fan base has a dedicated European following and that there has been frustration over the Predators’ lack of an invite to the NHL Global Series thus far. It’s a shame, but it will happen soon enough. Something the organization can take up in their own right, however, is striking up a European partnership.

If you watched any of the IIHF World Championships this year, you see how intense these crowds are. Having been to a few games in Europe myself, I can tell you it’s an experience unlike any other.

I’m not suggesting the ownership group buy a European club like the Kings have done. But, I can envision a mutually-beneficial partnership by way of:

  • Fan exchange program
  • Organizational support and coverage during the Champions Hockey League
  • North American & European exhibition games
  • Summer development camps together, etc.

There are plenty of teams that I could imagine in this scenario and provide a neat way for fans to cultivate a better understanding of the game across the pond.

Potential Partner Clubs:
  • SC Bern - NLA [Switzerland]: Home club of Roman Josi and current NLA champions.
  • Adler Mannheim - DEL [Germany]: Home of former Predator Marcel Goc and current DEL champions.
  • Oulun Karpat - Liiga [Finland]: Home club of Pekka Rinne.
  • KalPa - Liiga [Finland]: Partially owned by Kimmo Timonen.
  • Skelleftea AIK - SHL [Sweden]: Home club of Viktor Arvidsson.
  • HC Kosice - Tipsport Liga [Slovakia]
  • Bruleurs de loups - Ligue Magnus [France]
In-Game Betting

Gov. Bill Lee allowed the bill that allows online sports betting in Tennessee to become law without his signature. The law becomes effective on July 1. https://t.co/358nuOJcQk

— WSMV News4 Nashville (@WSMV) May 24, 2019

This one is pretty relevant to some big happenings in Tennessee politics this week. On Friday, Gov. Bill Lee allowed a bill legalizing online sports betting to become law without his signature. Tennessee is now just one of a handful of states with legal sports betting, but the only one with exclusively online legality that isn’t tied to land-based gambling.

Additionally, the bill stipulates that sports books will be required to buy official data from pro leagues to set up shop in the state—a huge win for the NHL.

Also this week, the league signed a partnership with a third sports book, making FanDuel, MGM Resorts, and William Hill official partners of the league.

There has been significant chatter about how this materializes, but I think it’s pretty simple. Ignoring how awful the NHL app is, the best way for this to be accessible to casual and die-hard fans alike is in-game betting on the app. Let’s say Nashville gets a power play: open up your app real quick and throw $5 down on whether they score a power play goal or not (let’s be honest, those will be long-shot odds).

The league has already dipped its toe in these waters in a sense with contests like the Daily Hat Trick, where earlier in the day you can select whether three certain events will happen in the evening’s games. Obviously that’s for a prize and not for money, but it can be a good model.

And there is room for fans to recoup some of the financial benefit here.

.@BrdgstoneArena, Metro Nashville propose new 30-year lease to keep Preds in arena until 2049 and relieve Metro and taxpayers of financial responsibility.https://t.co/53WbD4h3Z3

— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) May 16, 2019

On the one hand, it’s great Metro is being relieved of financial responsibility for the organization. On the other hand, there will be an increase in ticket surcharges to offset costs. My suggestion would be for the organization to negotiate with a sports book to provide a discount on league data for a similar surcharge to operate in Bridgestone. It’s probably unlikely the league agrees to that, but alas.

If not, maybe the team and a book can strike an agreement about payouts: the book pays a surcharge redistributed to ticket fees based on how many nights there are with payouts inside or outside certain bargained ranges or based on other qualifications. In exchange, the sports book can operate a betting lounge in-arena for a more holistic betting experience. (Side note: that lounge should hang right next to an e-sports lounge to encourage the next wave of 21st-century sports fandom).

Stuff like this is coming. I anticipate Vegas and New Jersey to be at the forefront, but with a rare victory like this in the Tennessee State Legislature, the Predators should take full advantage.

Pre-Season Games

This has been touched on before, and I think it is coming soon: Nashville would be wise to start organizing preseason games in other Southern cities. This organization has had an incredible hold on the region since the Thrashers left, but things will only get tougher with the Hurricanes’ and Blues’ recent success.

Greg Wyshynski at ESPN dove into this in January and confirmed the organization is looking at a plan along these lines.

Part 2 of my Hockey in Alabama story. I asked fans: "How should the NHL market hockey to the South?" Enlightening stuff here, with lots of @PredsNHL perspective, too. https://t.co/f5B888KTWc

— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 9, 2019

Memphis, Louisville, Little Rock, Huntsville, Birmingham, Atlanta and Augusta could be excellent locales for September hockey in the near future.

Position-less Hockey

I think the name of this section is misleading, and it is tough to actually express empirically how this would work. But the sport is heading this way in more and less explicit ways. For the past several years, there has been rabid discussion about the future of defense: would you rather a shut-down defender or a player scoring a lot, so he’s rarely playing defense? The game is much faster and more fluid today than it’s ever been, and it’s shown in how depth forwards and defenders have evolved over the past couple decades.

I would love to see Nashville take a stab at implementing more five-man strategies than traditional 3F-2D setups. This, of course, starts with abandoning the latter on the man-advantage (something most other teams have already done). But it also includes bringing in the right personnel.

I actually think they have a bit of a head start here with two particular players in Milwaukee: Matt Donovan and Brandon Fortunato. When Donovan was excelling at the beginning of last season, he was skating much more as a “fourth forward” at even strength and not simply pinning himself to the point on the power play.

Again, it’s hard to empirically explain how this will work, but the first steps are power-play adjustments and removing focus from valuing players on their shooting side, size, etc.

F's & D should both learn how to move in the same ways. 6 clips of F's sliding, pivoting, popping off, backpedaling, etc. Not just for D pic.twitter.com/shGjCwwI9z

— Peter Russo (@peter_russo9) November 9, 2017

Big changes are coming in this regard. The American Development Model is implementing position-less coaching as early as the 12U stage. Nashville would be wise to analyze film like what’s shown above and be a front runner in adaption.

Below are three more suggestions I would like to see adopted league-wide.

Playoff Selection Show
2015 NHL All Star Fantasy Draft: Alex Ovechkin Compilation. January 23rd 2015. (HD) - YouTube

This is by no means an original idea of mine, but I think it’s a fantastic one. Everyone has a gripe with the current playoff format and for good reason. So, what’s the solution? Look no further than one of the greatest nights in NHL history: the 2015 NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft.

It was a spectacular evening full of actual personality and mostly-drunk NHL players. I say we adopt that into a playoff selection show. Take the first Sunday after the regular season ends and turn it into a night for television. Each of the 16 qualifying teams will send a couple of players to a studio, and the top seven seeds by points (disregarding division or conference) get to pick their first-round opponent. The league can organize the bracket how they see fit, but the best seven teams get to control their destiny.

Imagine this: a tipsy Roman Josi and P.K. Subban poking fun at Matt Duchene for his country music skills to his face and announcing, “We pick Columbus, because we believe they’re the worst team here.” It gives that team motivation, mixes up the match-ups, provides excellent TV, and gets players engaging with each other. I think it’s foolproof and is an excellent avenue to solve the many qualms with the current format. And who knows what players end up choosing? Maybe they want the hardest match-up first, or a team with weak goaltending, or a team a few hours down the highway. It’s the players’ league, and this gives them ultimate ownership.

[Ed.: There was a strong implication that the NHL got rid of the All-Star Game draft because either the players or the managements were uncomfortable with the format—whether the “get NHL players tipsy on live TV, what could possibly go wrong?” aspect or the overall human-interest factor, which would remain even without alcohol. If so, this one might be a harder sell than the rest—which is a shame, because the mental images Eric has conjured up here are incredible.]

AHL Research & Development

The AHL product is likely as good as it has ever been, and that is fantastic for player development. But the league itself still has a drag on excitement due, in my opinion, to excessive division play. I get that teams are looking to keep travel costs down, and the divisions are set up fairly nicely to combat that. But I think the AHL can provide more.

A few summers ago, the NHL was hosting regular Research & Development camps each summer to explore new suggestions to the game. Sessions like these produced current game mainstays like 3-on-3 overtime:

NHL: 3-on-3 overtime at research and development camp - YouTube

Ideas to change the sport aren’t getting any fewer, so why not better utilize the AHL—a development league—for this? Here’s my suggestion:

  • Separate current AHL teams into tournament groups of five teams each, dissimilar to their current divisions.
  • Play the league as a Champions Hockey League-style season. Each group plays a round robin in their group seven times over: 28 games each.
  • After that point, mix up the groups with the top 15 teams slotted in three of them and the bottom 15 in the other three groups: 28 more games; 56 games each total.
  • Then, the top 16 teams qualify for a playoff tournament with six-game series and the addition of aggregate scoring like the CHL or UEFA.

Games can be played Thursday through Sunday and be bunched together over the course of the first half of the season for group play.

How does the CHL season work? - YouTube

Additionally, through group play, each set of teams can use those games to test out a rule change the NHL is considering: two-minute majors, eliminating the trapezoid or offsides, changes to the video review problem, starting power plays in the offensive zone, etc.

The playoff tournament can be used to implement the ideas the NHL and AHL deemed successful in group play further.

NHL Draft Lottery Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I’ll keep this one short and simple: the NHL Draft Lottery should happen an hour before the first round of the draft is scheduled to start. Merge it into the existing draft coverage, mic up some general managers, and let chaos ensue.

The teams down the draft board have to react in real time to selections before them. There’s no legitimate reason the team pick first overall should get nearly two months to prepare. Plus, the current lottery is awful television.

What’s on your wish list?

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