After suffering a broken hand during the World Cup, Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is missing three to six weeks of hockey action.
Some players don’t wait for the NHL season to begin before being hurt, which creates opportunities for others.
- Pittsburgh’s outstanding young netminder Matt Murray won’t need surgery, but will be out three to six weeks recovering from a broken hand he suffered while playing for the North American young guns at the World Cup. That temporarily suspends the soap opera involving Murray and No. 1 incumbent Marc-Andre Fleury. The cap-crunched Penguins can’t just go out and acquire a veteran backup, so Tristan Jarry will likely back up Fleury until his young challenger returns to action.
- Colorado’s superstar-in-waiting Mikko Rantanen could miss all of the Avalanche’s training camp after spraining an ankle Sept. 17 in a rookie tournament game against the Sharks. The RW is expected to be out of action for two to four weeks, and he will likely need some more AHL time to tune up for what promises to be his first substantial NHL campaign. After totaling 60 points in 52 AHL games last season as an 18-year-old against men, the strapping Finn has nothing left to prove on the farm. He is the clear successor to 39-year-old Jarome Iginla.
- Boston prospect winger Frank Vatrano is expected to miss three months due to torn ligaments in his left foot, which he injured while training for what he hoped was a top-six role with the Bruins. The 22-year-old had eight goals and 11 points in 39 games with Boston last season. He got that opportunity by potting an AHL-best 36 goals in as many games.
- Tomas Jurco, who hoped to make Detroit’s opening-day roster, isn't expected to be available to play until November. He had back surgery in August after hurting himself while working out. The Slovakian winger had four goals and six points in 44 NHL games last season, although five goals and nine points in nine AHL games were encouraging.
- Young forward Oscar Lindberg, who quietly helped the Rangers with 28 points in 68 NHL games, is recovering from hip surgery and isn’t due to return to action until early November.
- Veteran winger Joffrey Lupul, still recovering from sports hernia surgery in February, began Toronto’s training camp on IR. The timetable for his return is unclear. Assuming William Nylander was already a strong bet to make the opening-day roster at RW, Lupul’s injury could help Nikita Soshnikov or Zach Hyman start the season in the NHL.
- To nobody’s surprise, Islanders’ forward Mikhail Grabovski failed his training-camp physical due to concussion symptoms that have lingered since February. Still not cleared to even skate, there’s no guarantee he’ll play this season. Not that Grabovski figured to play a prominent role anyway, but his absence gives young phenom center Matt Barzal a better chance of catching on even in a lesser slot than his eventual top-six role.
- While veteran defender Ladislav Smid ponders retirement with a serious neck injury, his inability to play this season opens a depth spot on Calgary’s blueline that might be filled by a youngster. Jyrki Jokipakka, 25, already had the inside track based on his steady defensive performance in 18 games after coming from Dallas in a deadline-day trade. Tyler Wotherspoon, 23, has the next best shot, although Oliver Kylington, 19, Rasmus Andersson, 19 and Brett Kulak, 22, are also in the pipeline.
* * *
The Winnipeg Jets have arguably the best prospect pool of any NHL team, and speedy LW Kyle Connor is one of the reasons for that.
Winnipeg prospect Kyle Connor was a scoring star at Michigan:
The 17th-overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft is fresh out of university hockey at Michigan and he’s competing for playing time with other hot young players such as Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Joel Armia, Marko Dano and Nic Petan for playing time with the Jets.
The speedy 6-1, 176-pound Connor nonetheless turned heads last season as an NCAA freshman by leading U.S. collegiate hockey with 71 points, including 35 goals as well as leading the NCAA in goals per game and points per game plus tying for first with 24 power-play points.
After turning pro ahead of schedule, the top-three Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist will get a good look from the Jets, who have enough other good young talent to not feel compelled to pressure him.
* * *
Bruce Boudreau, hired as head coach by Minnesota after being sacked by the Anaheim Ducks (who shockingly replaced him with previously fired Randy Carlyle), is expected to open up the Wild’s historically underwhelming offense.
After all, Boudreau used that approach to capture eight division titles in nine seasons with the Ducks and Washington Capitals.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, it remains to be seen if Carlyle will modify the abrasive approach that eventually wore out its welcome on the Ducks. He claims he's become a less-confrontational players' coach.
The former Norris Trophy winner as best NHL blueliner inherits arguably the best pool of young defensemen in the NHL. With his experience, Carlyle could really help young prospects Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour and Jacob Larsson push for NHL jobs.
* * *
Speaking of outstanding blueline prospects, Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford raved about Derrick Pouliot on the first day of the Penguins’ training camp.
With a body built for hockey, the six-foot, 208-pound former eighth-overall draft pick impressed on the first day of camp with his skating and apparent determination on a pairing with Trevor Daley.
“He’s had the best summer of any player on our team,” raved Rutherford. “It’s a huge difference from where he was last year at this time. I expect Derrick to make a big jump. I truly do. He’s in a great position right now. He’s so talented. You’re going to see a different player this year, I’m telling you.” Assuming Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley and Brian Dumoulin will open the season in the NHL, Pouliot needs to beat Ian Cole or Justin Schultz for a top-six role. The impressive physical specimen is easily more talented than either of them. All he’s needed to do is improve his conditioning and improve his defensive play.
- 2020 NHL Draft Fantasy Rankings
- Prospect Ramblings: Calder Power Rankings 004
- Prospect Ramblings: Just How Good is Cale Makar?
- Prospect Ramblings: Player A vs. Player B
- 2021 NHL Draft Ranking: Finnish prospects (December 2019)
- WHL Report - December 2019
- Shift Work: Lucas Raymond
- QMJHL Report - December 2019