All eyes will be on the 2013 NHL Entry Draft when the Memorial Cup kicks off in Saskatoon this weekend. The Saskatoon Blades, Portland Winterhawks, London Knights and Halifax Mooseheads will battle it out to be crowned Canadian Hockey League champions. But what makes this version of the tournament even more intriguing is the amount of top-ranked talent for the forthcoming draft that will be on display.
For the first time in Memorial Cup history the top-three ranked players will all be on the ice and there are eight players ranked in the top-40 North American skaters by Central Scouting.
Portland defenceman Seth Jones is the top-ranked player and all eyes will be on Saturday evening's game between the Winterhawks and Mooseheads will go up against Halifax's dynamic duo Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, ranked #2 and #3 on the final rankings.
Let's take a closer look at the team's competing at the Credit Union Centre.
After three game 7s the Conference Semifinal matchups are set. Two Original Six series, the Battle of California and Sidney vs the last remaining Canadian team in the playoffs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders both snapped playoff droughts and were both eliminated in close, hard-fought series. The Islanders put up a fight against a Pittsburgh Penguins team many expected to sweep the #8 seed. The Maple Leafs came as close as a team can to moving on, losing in game 7 overtime after the Boston Bruins made a late dramatic comeback. Both teams are young & look hungry for wins. It’d be surprising to see one of them not make the playoffs and advance next season.
Ben has once again put up our previews with records, head-to-head match-ups, season fight history, line-up advantages and his own predictions. Check them out and leave your vote.
Both the New York Islanders and New York Rangers are down 3-2 in their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, respectively. Game 6 is a home game for both New York teams and the NY metro area could cease to have a home team within a day without a win.
Both of the Isles-Pens games on Long Island were close games, with the score teetering back and forth. Will we see more of that, or can the Penguins re-create game 1 & 5 on the road?
The home team has won every game in the Rangers-Caps series so far, giving a hint of a game 7 on Monday.
After a couple of rough games between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens things got nasty fast in Sunday night's game three. The first period featured ten penalties with six of those being roughing minors.
In the third period the Sens took a 4-1 lead after Kyle Turris scored his first of the postseason. On the ensuing faceoff Ryan White and Zack Smith exchanged a shove, then White gave Smith a two-hander and everyone on the ice, outside of the goaltenders, paired off.
Jared Cowen grabbed White quickly. Smith wound up facing off against the much smaller, but always game Francis Bouillon. Rounding out the line brawl: Chris Neil took on Travis Moen, Chris Phillips went with Jarred Tinordi and Matt Kassian quickly had Colby Armstrong pinned to the ice. Kassian and Armstrong didn't necessarily deserve the majors everyone else received, but it's hard to blame the officiating crew for keeping it easy (on the scoresheet only) in this situation.
The Senators reflected the scoreboard in the fights, taking out Montreal decisively. Ottawa scored again just four seconds later, making the score 5-1.
Our Conference Quarterfinal previews are up. As I do my non-playoff player impression by squeezing in a quick trip to Vegas, Ben has put our classic previews with records, head-to-head match-ups, season fight history, line-up advantages and his own predictions. Check them out and cast your vote for which team you think will win.
While the playoff teams are set, seeding is not and the game has a big part to play for four of the eight Eastern Conference teams entering the postseason.
Seeding scenarios after the jump
As the NHL regular season comes to a close and teams start to prepare for the playoffs settling scores, risking momentum swings and fighting have predictably slowed down. However, that hasn't stopped some gloves from falling to the ice entirely in the past couple of days.
In last night's Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins game Jay Rosehill and Shawn Thornton found some time half-way through the second to throw down. The scrap started out sloppy, but once Rosehill got righted, thanks to Thornton giving him the chance to, the two threw with disregard for defense until they tired out and locked up.
Last night's Toronto Maple Leafs - New York Islanders game featured two of the toughest lineups possible from any two teams in the NHL. The heavyweight battles that occurred certainly didn't disappoint the fight fans eager to see the fisticuffs, with one of the battles vaulting straight to fight of the year candidacy.
About midway through the first, with the Leafs up 2-0, Matt Carkner and Frazer McLaren met up behind the play and had a solid bout. Carkner was throwing with the left, and McLaren was lobbing massive right hands. After some exchanged bombs, Carkner's jersey comes up, and the two hit the ice.
On the ensuing faceoff, Eric Boulton and Colton Orr decide to one-up their teammates and have an all-out war. The action started fast and furious with both players exchanging huge right hands. After a brief lull to adjust, they got right back to landing right-handed haymakers flush on the other. At one point Orr lands well enough to send Boulton's helmet flying and Boulton just keeps going, landing his own right hand snapping Orr's head back.
Both players made gestures to the standing crowd, and each other, for the slugfest.
The Islanders would roar back in the first with three goals after the fights, adding two more before the Leafs added a late 5 on 3 goal to finish up the scoring 5-3, in favor of the Isles.
The Sens 6'5" defenseman Jared Cowen made his season debut for the Sens after being injured throughout the beginning of the shortened campaign and found the Canes a feisty team to comeback to action against.
Next up was Cowen again, this time with noted heavyweight Kevin Westgarth forcing the issue. Cowen did a good job of limiting Westgarth with his reach, and after a few punches was taken down to the ice.
Late in the second Chris Neil and Tim Gleason found some time to drop the mitts and go rock'em sock'em in a very solid, entertaining fight. Commenters on-site and on our social networks have called Neil out for some late punching.
Saturday night had a heavy dose of gloves off action in the NHL with seven fights on the board, five coming from two games.
The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes had a rough first period with three fights coming in the first 20 minutes. Getting things started were heavyweights Shawn Thornton and Kevin Westgarth who engaged in a locked-out tactical match with few punches exchanged.
Less than a minute later Gregory Campbell and Nicolas Blanchard dropped the gloves off of a faceoff and had a heck of a dance. They entered the spin-cycle with each player winging rights, Blanchard doing a great job slipping underneath the bombs from Campbell and Campbell deflecting and slipping a lot of Blanchard's shots.