Why you want to watch tonight’s World Junior Championship Gold Medal Game between the USA and Canada if you’re a Vegas Golden Knights fan.
For VGK fans, Golden Knights prospect Brendan Brisson is the player to watch. Brisson has a pair of goals in the tournament so far in six games. Vegas selected Brisson 29th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. After the tournament is over Brisson will head back to the University of Michigan to complete his freshman year.
Three Golden Knights prospects had a shot at making Team Canada for this year’s WJC, but when the dust settled it was defenseman Kaedan Korczak and forward Peyton Krebs making the roster.
Krebs is the player most ready to make the jump to the NHL in our eyes. He went into the bubble with the Golden Knights last year and although he did not make an appearance, the fact that he was even there speaks volumes about what the organization thinks about him. This year in six games for Canada, Krebs has three goals and eight points to go with a plus-9 rating.
From the VHN point of view, it’s not a stretch to think Krebs might challenge for a roster spot this year. That said, development is going to be a difficult proposition this year as some teams and leagues simply do not play. One has to wonder if the NHL might not consider exemptions for guys if the OHL or other leagues don’t play this season.
Meanwhile Korczak, the #41 overall pick from 2019, has one assist to show in his six games but a plus-5 rating to go with it. Canada has been dominant, out-scoring opponents 41-4 to this point in the tournament and Korczak has helped anchor the back end.
Like Krebs, Korczak will join Golden Knights training camp after the WJC.
No matter who wins, Golden Knights fans will want to tune in to the game for some fantastic hockey!
Tom’s Daily: Deryk Engelland Tributes; NHL Trade Rumors Heat Up
Tom’s Daily includes several great tributes to the career of Deryk Engelland; NHL trade rumors are heating up now that there’s some certainty; Signings begin again; Offside changes; more.
Vegas Golden Knights
Here’s a great look at Deryk Engelland’s impact from the local level by David Schoen. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here’s more of a 50,000-foot view of Engelland’s career (NBC Sports)
One more from Sportsnet on Engelland.
Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving thinks we’re about to see things start moving on a major level player-wise. Expect NHL trade rumors and perhaps even actual trades to be front and center. (TSN)
Here’s the transaction tracker from TSN’s website. Bookmark this if you have to, it will come in handy.
This one flew under the radar, but the NHL has made a major change to the off-side rule. Now a player’s skate position counts whether on the ice or in the air, where previously it had to be on the ice. This article also has a nice roundup of the COVID protocols. (NBC Sports)
Michael Granlund back with the Preds. (NBC Sports)
The Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals among the first teams to debut helmet advertising ahead of the new season. (ESPN)
The NWHL will have its games televised nationally next season (New York Post)
Which Alex Tuch Shows Up This Season?
Last year was a Tale of Two Tuchs for the Vegas Golden Knights. The regular season Tuch battled injuries, inconsistent linemates and a lack of production. The playoff Tuch led the team in a few different offensive categories and was one of the better players in the return to play. Which story plays out this season for the VGK?
The Vegas Golden Knights made another deep playoff run this season, bowing in the Western Conference Final to the Dallas Stars. Although there was inconsistency up and down the lineup, Tuch was among those who stepped up. He scored eight goals, three of them game winners. Both of those numbers were good enough to lead the Golden Knights in the playoffs. His 12 points doubled his career playoff output. Not bad for a guy who is just 24 and also had a stellar 20-goal, 52-point season in 2018-19.
But then, there was the 2019-20 regular season. Coming off those career best numbers Tuch struggled. Big time. Outside of a nice four-game point streak at the start of December with four goals and seven points, the Syracuse, NY native was absent from the score sheet more often than not. In fact, after scoring a goal in the last game of that streak on December 5, Tuch would only score three more times in the next 28 games. Then Tuch got hurt, and a short time later everything went on pause.
Tuch’s first two seasons with the Golden Knights showed promise and improvement. There was nothing out of the ordinary with the advanced stats. It merely looked like a very good prospect developing into a very good NHL player. Expectations were high for last season for last season but not unwarranted. If Tuch took that next step forward, perhaps he’d blossom into a 30-goal scorer (or better).
It’s possible to say that the pressure of his new contract kicking in weighed on him. Or that teams were paying more attention to him than before after scoring 20 goals. But I truly believe there was one major and one abetting factor holding him back.
The abetting factor would be the injury issues he had last season. Tuch only appeared in 42 games, picking up a “lower body injury” (I hate these terms) on February 13 that ended his season. For those who missed it, it was a cringeworthy crash into the boards late in the third period of that game. Oddly enough he tanlged with current teammate and then-Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the collision. Tuch tried to come back a short time later but suffered a setback. Then the league went on pause giving him time to heal for the return to play.
I don’t have any major concerns on Tuch’s health moving forward, which is a very good thing. I’m sure VGK fans are breathing easier after his playoff performance as well. In fact, the pause took the pressure off many athletes feel to return and help the team. Instead, Tuch was able to focus on getting healthy this time. He’s still young and no doubt felt some pressure to justify that new contract by trying to play at less than 100 percent.
But injuries are only part of the equation.
The major factor is Tuch’s ever-changing supporting cast of linemates. Before the Mark Stone trade, he looked at home in the top six forward group and as mentioned was putting up good numbers. After being knocked down to the third unit through no fault of his own, Tuch struggled to find the consistency that made him such a threat. It’s understandable that occasionally injuries and streaks of play displace linemates. But this is a different situation.
Even head coach Peter DeBoer recognized that fact, saying before the return to play that he felt Tuch not being in the top six hurt his production. Injuries up and down the lineup didn’t help with the consistency for linemates. DeBoer also noted that he didn’t feel Tuch’s game had changed much, but some of the difference was situational.
One thing that will go a long way towards settling down the lines is figuring out the centers. Whether Cody Glass or Chandler Stephenson wins that second line spot where Paul Stastny used to skate, establishing chemistry in a shortened season is paramount. Getting Tuch comfortable with a center who can help create time and space for him is important.
If Stephenson does end up on the third line, reuniting with Nicholas Roy reforms a line that saw success and chemistry in a small sample size last year. DeBoer seemed to like that line coming out of summer camp before the bubble. As if on cue, Stephenson had to step up between Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone early in the return when injuries hit.
Truth be told, Stephenson didn’t look out of place, and that’s exciting news if his level of play continues on the second or third line. It also makes sense to put him on a third line to see what Glass has to offer. Plus if the third line has to take some defensive matchup weight they could, although DeBoer noted Tuch is a “mismatch guy” for the VGK. Simply put, DeBoer feels if he can get Tuch on the ice against weaker opposition he should be primed to produce for the Golden Knights.
With the depth of skill up front for Vegas, I truly believe the only factors holding back Alex Tuch this season are comfort and line familiarity. If he can establish himself and his linemates early in camp, there’s no reason to believe the Alex Tuch that earned a seven-year, $4.75M per year deal won’t look like a massive bargain in the long run.
NHL Return: League Offers 56 Games, Jan. 15 Start
OK, let us forget about the financial issues of the NHL Return and talk about the actual framework for the 2020-21 NHL season, at least for a moment. The National Hockey League moved past the dollars to present the first real season proposal of the 2021 NHL Return’s new discussions to Play.
Friday morning, the NHL presented a 56-game schedule to the NHLPA, according to TSN reporter Frank Seravalli.
Drafts were based on Jan. 1 start date, but sides discussed pushing that back (Jan. 15 or 16?).
Told talks were unrelated to recent economic requests.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) December 4, 2020
The hope is, or was, for a Jan. 1 start date, but according to Seravalli, the two sides have acquiesced to reality and are looking at a Jan. 15-16 start date.
Via Twitter, Seravalli rightly commented this should be viewed as a positive development.
The NHL does have some time constraints as U.S. TV rights holder NBC owns the rights to the Olympic Games, which begin on July 15. NBC uses all of its television properties to broadcast the games, which means there would be no room for NHL playoff games beyond mid-July.
In recent weeks, the NHL and NHLPA have wrangled over economic issues, which were thought to be solved in late May as part of the recent CBA and NHL Return to Play agreement. Initially, the NHLPA agreed to a 20% escrow (which was expected to go exclusively to the owners) and a 13% salary deferral. The salary cap is to remain flat until the NHLPA repays the economic losses of last season and this coming season to NHL owners.
However, in recent weeks, the NHL owners through NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, have sought to revise those terms and asked for an additional 13% deferral, upping the deferred salaries to 26%. PittsburghHockeyNow and the Hockey Now network confirmed the additional deferral request.
Reportedly, owners also asked to raise the escrow to 25%. Bettman said it was incorrect or “inaccurate” to say the NHL sought to renegotiate the new CBA. Though, he admitted the league was seeking to revise the terms.
“If we have to pay out lots of cash — two-thirds of which is going to come back to us — that will cause some stresses, but we can, or we will have to deal with it if we’re going to move forward,” Bettman told the Sports Business Journal’s Dealmakers in Sport panel.
VHN and the Hockey Now network will have more in the coming days, including a near guarantee from a league executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, that there would be a season.
As far as the January 15 start date, I have thoughts on that in my podcast here – please subscribe for fresh hockey content two to three times per week!
We will have more details on the potential NHL Return in the coming hours and days.