Rick Zamperin: Ranking the NHL’s Canadian division

As the National Hockey League and the Players’ Association discuss when, and how, the 2020-21 season will play out during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans in Canada are eagerly awaiting confirmation of an all-Canadian division.

Such a division is a necessity, given the current non-essential travel ban at the Canada-U.S. border, as well as coronavirus quarantine regulations.

So that means, in all likelihood, that the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks will be grouped together when the season begins in January or February.

Which team is most likely to come out on top? Here are my rankings.

QMJHL players hope to be back on ice soon after games cancelled

QMJHL players hope to be back on ice soon after games cancelled

7-Ottawa Senators, 2019-20 record: 25-34-12. Ottawa continues to rebuild their lineup and has a solid group of young, up-and-coming players such as Thomas Chabot and Brady Thachuk, but they are still a long ways off from challenging for the title of top team in the Great White North.

6-Vancouver Canucks, 2019-20 record: 36-27-6. Bring on the hate mail! Sorry Canucks fans, but despite all their great talent, losing Vezina Trophy candidate Jacob Markstrom hurts. Until new starting goalie Thatcher Demko proves that he can be a No. 1 goalie for an entire season I can’t rate this team any higher.

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5-Montreal Canadiens, 2019-20 record: 31-31-9. Montreal is bound to be better this season, right? Carey Price is still one of the best goalies in the NHL and adding scoring punch by signing forwards Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli should mean a few more wins for the Habs.

4-Winnipeg Jets, 2019-20 record: 37-28-6. Yes, the Jets have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Connor Hellebuyck, but the Patrik Laine trade rumours and the health of Mark Sheifele and Bryan Little scare me a little bit and that’s why I have them in this spot.

Read more:
Rick Zamperin: Who are the top 5 centers in the NHL?

3-Edmonton Oilers, 2019-20 record: 37-25-9. They have the best 1-2 punch in the league with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but Edmonton is only going to go as far as goalies Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith take them.

2-Calgary Flames, 2019-20 record: 36-27-7. The addition of Markstrom is huge from a talent standpoint, and it will be a confidence boost. If Markstrom turns in a stellar performance like he did last season and the Flames continue to get production from their go-to guys they will challenge for top spot.

Click to play video 'Sportscaster James Duthie uncovers hockey’s greatest untold stories in new book'

Sportscaster James Duthie uncovers hockey’s greatest untold stories in new book

Sportscaster James Duthie uncovers hockey’s greatest untold stories in new book

1-Toronto Maple Leafs, 2019-20 record: 36-25-9. Aside from the Flames and Habs, the Leafs have made the most noise in addressing their weaknesses — leadership, grit and defence. Adding Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian to an already talented roster should push Toronto to the top of Canada’s hockey chart.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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NHL’s first draft lottery doesn’t set No. 1 pick

FILE PHOTO: Feb 15, 2020; Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA; U.S. Air Force Academy Falcon Stadium is seen during a Stadium Series hockey game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings at. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

June 27, 2020

The NHL held the first phase of its 2020 draft lottery on Friday, and the No. 1 overall pick was awarded to … no one.

The lottery results wound up with the winning slot belonging to a team to be determined after the play-in round of the league’s expanded playoffs.

The eight teams that lose their opening best-of-five series will each have a 12.5 percent chance of landing the top overall selection. A second lottery to determine that choice will be held after the play-in round concludes.

The entry that emerged as the winner, unnamed “Team E,” had a 2.5 percent chance of receiving the No. 1 choice. The overall odds of a placeholder team grabbing the top spot were 24.5 percent.

The Los Angeles Kings, who had the fourth-highest odds of winning the lottery, jumped up to the No. 2 overall pick. The Ottawa Senators will pick third, using a draft choice acquired from the San Jose Sharks.

Rounding out the selections determined Friday are the Detroit Red Wings at No. 4, the Senators at No. 5, the Anaheim Ducks at No. 6, the New Jersey Devils at No. 7 and the Buffalo Sabres at No. 8. Those five places were assigned in inverse order of regular-season points percentage.

The Red Wings had the best chance of landing the top overall selection, 18.5 percent.

After the second phase of the lottery is held, the seven other play-in losers will receive draft picks No. 9 to No. 15, in inverse order of their regular-season points percentage.

The first-round draft choices from No. 16 to No. 31 will go to the remaining teams based on their playoff results.

The Kings were happy to jump up in the selection order.

“It gives us a real opportunity to get a player that is close to being ready to play in the NHL,” team president Luc Robitaille said, according to NHL.com. “Any time you have that, you think as an organization you are going to get the second-best player available around the entire world, so you have a real good opportunity.

“I was telling (Kings general manager) Rob Blake the last time we got the No. 2 pick it was Drew Doughty (in 2008) and we ended up winning the Cup (in 2012 and 2014) with him, and the other one was Jimmy Carson (in 1986) and we traded Jimmy for Wayne Gretzky (in 1988). So, it hasn’t been bad for the L.A. Kings franchise, those two (No. 2) draft picks we have gotten in the past 20 or 30 years.”

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said of his team’s result, according to NHL.com, “Realistically, (I was) prepared to be sitting here today not talking about the first pick. I’m not really surprised. The bottom eight, or the eight playoff teams, had a 24.5 percent chance combined of getting the pick. So the odds were better that the first pick went to the bottom eight than it did us.”

–Field Level Media

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