The NHL's top prospects take a long, strange trip to make it in the big leagues. Imagine being 18 years old and one of the most talented hockey players in your age group, anywhere. Your life is about the next game, the next practice, the next level — and then you get invited to the NHL Combine (this year's edition of which has been going on all week in Buffalo).
Suddenly, it's about tests, reviews and interviews, and kids who aren't really accustomed to talking about themselves are stuck trying to decide what to say on the two-page questionnaire that virtually all of them fill out.
Gare Joyce of SportsNet has laid hands on past questionnaires from a few big names and talked with an anonymous scout about what it all means. Among other things, it means that exaggerating about height and weight starts early:
"Really, the most important things on there are the name of the kid's agent and the contact information," the scout says. "The rest of the stuff, well, I don't know what you can read into it. You know that when a kid is asked to list his height and weight, he's going to over-report. You know that a kid is going to say what a team wants to hear, which is pretty much like the combine interviews anyway."
In fact, on the questionnaire prospects are asked to list the strengths and weakness of their games and provide the players with compared skill sets and roles—an exercise that a lot of teams will grind prospects on during interviews.
"Again, a lot of kids will say what they think teams want to hear," the scout says. "But if you are interested in a player but unsure about him you want to get an idea if he has a realistic view of his game and what he's going to have to do to get to the next level and stick."
One important thing scouts can learn from the questionnaires is how comfortable international players are with the English language (Mikko Rantanen: very, Filip Forsberg: maybe not so much).
But the biggest range of answers comes in the space reserved for "Ambition outside of hockey." Aaron Ekblad had law, medicine or business as his fallback positions, while Forsberg, waxing philosophical, just wanted to be "a good and nice guy."
It's an interesting look into what some of the sport's top talents were thinking at a crucial point in their very young lives. Give it a look-see. [SportsNet]
Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals is tomorrow (Saturday, June 6) at 6:15 p.m. Central (NBC/CBC/TVA Sports). The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks in Amalie Arena. I'm telling you this because you're probably gonna sleep before then.
Everybody loves Brenden Morrow, at long last, playing for another Stanley Cup. Mike Heika has posted a piece about MiniMo's long journey back to the finals. [DMN]
And here, Mark Stepneski shares his thoughts on the feel-good hit of the summer. [Stars Inside Edge]
The Lightning are pretty happy about it, too:
"It was 15 years for me to wait to get back. You hear those stories all the time of how tough it is to do." - Morrow pic.twitter.com/9g1Cpqpnb9— 4 - @TBLightning (@TBLightning) June 3, 2015
The response from @DallasStars is everything you've come to expect:
Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) June 3, 2015
But before the Lightning signed Morrow, they tried to make a deal with another ex-Dallas Star. Kyle Alexander speculates on what might have been if Jarome Iginla had chosen the Bolts over the Colorado Avalanche. [Raw Charge]
So what's really up with Amalie Arena's anti-Blackhawks policies? Not nearly what you've been led to believe, says SB Nation writer Achariya Rezak. Yes, a Blackhawks fan site has published a Snopes-style debunking of the common read on this situation and issues a clarion call to just dry up about it for cryin' out loud. [Second City Hockey]
More importantly, what's up with Andrew Shaw biting Victor Hedman in Game 1? As it turns out, there's a history of NHL players going full Walking Dead on each other, and it's every bit as disgusting as it sounds. [ESPN]
The incident in question, as captured by NBC Sports (who have also posted a bonus video of Alex Burrows making a snack out of Patrice Bergeron). You make the call:
CoachWatch 2015 update: Two sources say Claude Julien isn't getting the ax, yet, and it looks as if the Boston Bruins will also keep his assistants, for now. New GM Don Sweeney remains ominously silent. [Boston Globe]
The coach's challenge is finally coming. The NHL Competition Committee has recommended that coaches be permitted to challenge goals involving possible goalie interference and offside plays with a video review. With NHL Players Association approval, the new rule will take effect for the 2015-16 season. Not included in the reviewable plays: puck-over-glass penalties. The committee was also deadlocked on changes to the overtime format, but plans to "continue dialogue." [THN]
The Edmonton Oilers continue to scorch the earth in preparation for The Next One. The team has released associate coach Keith Acton and assistant coach Craig Ramsay. You will learn more about the situation from the comments than the article. [Edmonton Oilers]
Speaking of Connor McDavid, he hasn't even been officially drafted yet, but CCM has just announced him as its newest athlete spokesdude, with a portentous preview and everything:
Meanwhile, is The Next Next One on the horizon already? Meet Joseph Veleno, the fifth player (and first Québecois) to be granted exceptional draft status by Hockey Canada. Veleno — 15 years old and already six feet tall and 170 pounds — scored 52 points in 41 games last season with the Lac St.-Louis Lions. He's now eligible to play in the major juniors, like McDavid and John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad and Sean Day before him. [NBC Sports]
Yesterday, the Vancouver Canucks celebrated the 14th birthday of their mascot,
Left Shark Fin. Here are some photos. I am not responsible for your nightmares.