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Jack Eichel wants Jimmy Vesey in Buffalo, but understands Bruins are probably ‘in the back of his mind’ 06.23.16 at 1:25 pm ET
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Jack Eichel hopes his friend Jimmy Vesey will sign with the Sabres. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Jack Eichel hopes his friend Jimmy Vesey will sign with the Sabres. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

BUFFALO — When the Sabres sent a third-round pick to the Predators for the rights to North Reading native and stud left wing prospect Jimmy Vesey, their hope was obvious: Vesey would pass up his promise to go to unrestricted free agency and instead team with fellow Massachusetts native and Jack Eichel to solidify a young offensive nucleus in Buffalo.

The promise hasn’t changed, however. Vesey’s camp said the day of the trade that the player would still go to free agency on Aug. 15. Should that hold true, all the Sabres have is time to sell him on their plan so that when all is said and done, Buffalo is the player’s choice in free agency.

Fortunately for the Sabres, they have one of the most talented young players in the league as a recruiting tool. Yet while Eichel put in his sales pitch soon after Monday’s trade (the two work out together every day), he doesn’t expect any good news before Aug. 15.

“I don’t think in his mind anything has changed,” Eichel told WEEI.com Thursday. “I think he’s still going to wait until free agency, but it’s nice to have him part of the organization, I guess. It would be great if he came to the Sabres, but he’s going to do whatever’s best for him at that point.”

Furthermore, the 2015 second overall pick is aware of the looming threat on Causeway Street. Shortly after Vesey announced his intentions to not sign with the Predators and instead head for free agency, chatter began (and a Boston Herald report outwardly said) that Vesey had his sights set on signing with the hometown Bruins.

Though Eichel thinks Vesey would make a hell of a Sabre, he can recognize that the Bruins might represent a threat to his teams odds of landing the player.

“I mean, he grows up in Boston watching the Bruins and obviously I think that’s got to be in the back of his mind,” Eichel said. “He went to school in Boston at Harvard, so he’s comfortable and familiar with that area. If that’s his preference and that’s what he wants to do, then I’m sure he’ll do it. But I’m sure he has options and a lot of things going through his head, so I know he’ll just take his time and make his decision. [I wish him] all the best.”

Eichel, who played with Vesey for Team USA at last year’s World Championships and is currently playing in a summer league with Vesey, was modest in expressing how much influence his recommendation will have with Vesey. He noted that Vesey will take advantage of his options as a free agency and consider his own preferences and those of his family and agents.

“Obviously he’s a great player, he’s a good kid,” Eichel said. “He’d bring a lot to the [Sabres]. Any time you can get good players, it’s always good. If he comes to Buffalo, I know he’ll enjoy it. It’s a great city to play for, [but] I think at the end of the day he’ll make whatever decision is best for him.”

Read More: Jack Eichel, Jimmy Vesey,
Anze Kopitar beats out Patrice Bergeron for Selke, somehow 06.22.16 at 8:27 pm ET
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Patrice Bergeron

Patrice Bergeron

The Kings cleaned up at the NHL Awards Wednesday night, with “cleaning up” meaning “won awards they probably shouldn’t have won.”

Moments after Drew Doughty beat out Erik Karlsson for the Norris Trophy (an award with which Karlsson should have run away), Anze Kopitar was awarded the Selke Trophy to deny Patrice Bergeron his third-straight win.

Statistically speaking, Bergeron figured to be the favorite to win the Selke, which is given to the league’s top two-way forward. The Boston center had 32 goals to Kopitar’s 25 and though Kopitar had more assists (49 to 36) and points (74 to 68), defensive and possession metrics heavily fell in Bergeron’s favor. Bergeron’s Corsi Relative of 20.4 was vastly superior to Kopitar’s 2.4 mark.

Bergeron also led the league with 1,130 faceoff wins to Kopitar’s 950 despite Kopitar playing one more regular-season game. Bergeron won 57.1 percent of his draws, with Kopitar winning 53.5 percent.

Despite Bergeron’s statistical advantages, Kopitar received 31 more first-place votes by Pro Hockey Writers Association members than Bergeron, who finished second. Bergeron has now finished first or second in Selke voting in five straight seasons. Had he won Wednesday, he would have tied Bob Gainey for the most career Selke wins (four) and become the second player in league history (Pavel Datsyuk) to win three straight.

The voting breakdown was as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.18.21 PM

Bruins not yet discussing Loui Eriksson’s rights with teams 06.22.16 at 6:58 pm ET
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Loui Eriksson

Loui Eriksson

The Bruins and agent J.P. Barry still plan to negotiate further as they try to bridge the gap on Loui Eriksson’s next contract. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sweeney and Barry will meet Wednesday night.

With the sides still not close on a deal, however, the clock is ticking on the team to decide whether they’re going to keep the player unsigned through the draft or flip his rights to another team for draft pick compensation. Given that such trades involve mid-round picks (as has been the case for free-agents-to-be Alex Goligoski, Keith Yandle and Jimmy Vesey), the Bruins would realistically have until Saturday (the second day of the draft) to make such a move if they were to seek 2016 compensation. According to a league source, the Bruins are not currently discussing Eriksson’s rights with other teams.

Considering that the team shopped Eriksson leading up to the trade deadline, it figures that the team has some sort of indication as to which teams might be interested should it come to that. Last summer, the Bruins traded the rights of UFA Carl Soderberg to the Avalanche the night before the draft in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft.

Read More: Loui Eriksson,
NHL awards expansion franchise to Las Vegas 06.22.16 at 6:43 pm ET
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Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman

The NHL announced Wednesday that an expansion franchise has been granted to Las Vegas. The team, which has yet to be named, will debut in the 2017-18 season and will play in the Pacific Division.

Per the NHL’s press release, following are the parameters of the Las Vegas team’s addition, which includes, among other things, alignment, scheduling and next offseason’s expansion draft:

Alignment

The Las Vegas franchise will begin play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference in 2017-18. There will be no other changes to the NHL’s alignment.

2017-18 Schedule Matrix

Each club will continue to play an 82-game schedule, with 41 home games and 41 road games.

The schedule matrix, which ensures that all teams play in all arenas at least once each season, will be adjusted to the following in 2017-18:

Eastern Conference (Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions – 8 Teams)

Within Conference (Division): 28 games
* 7 Teams: 2 Home / 2 Away
* 7 x 4 = 28 games

Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 1 Away
* 4 Teams: 1 Home / 2 Away
* 4 x 3 = 12 games
* 4 x 3 = 12 games

Non-Conference: 30 games
* 15 Home / 15 Away
* 2 x 15 = 30

Western Conference (Central Division – 7 Teams)

Within Conference (Division): 26 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 2 Away
* 1 Team: 3 Home / 2 Away
* 1 Team: 2 Home / 3 Away
* 4 x 4 = 16
* 1 x 5 = 5
* 1 x 5 = 5

Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 1 Away
* 4 Teams: 1 Home / 2 Away
* 4 x 3 = 12 games
* 4 x 3 = 12 games

Non-Conference: 32 games
* 16 Home / 16 Away
* 2 x 16 = 32 games

Western Conference (Pacific Division – 8 Teams)

Within Conference (Division): 29 games
* 6 Teams: 2 Home / 2 Away
* 1 Team: 3 Home / 2 Away
* 6 x 4 = 24 games
* 1 x 5 = 5 games

Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 1 Away
* 3 Teams: 1 Home / 2 Away
* 4 x 3 = 12 games
* 3 x 3 = 9 games

Non-Conference: 32 games
* 16 Home / 16 Away
* 2 x 16 = 32 games

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The NHL’s current playoff format will not change.

Expansion Draft  Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast: Kirk Luedeke discusses which defensemen Bruins could select in NHL draft 06.22.16 at 4:01 pm ET
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In case you missed it, Kirk Luedeke of Red Line Report joined me this week to discuss the first round of Friday’s NHL draft. Click here for the writeup on his thoughts regarding where Boston’s 2015 selections currently stand.

Following are Luedeke’s thoughts on a number of the defensive prospects that could be available at the 14th overall pick, which the Bruins currently own along with No. 29. Red Line Report has Jake Bean as their top defenseman in the draft, while Luedeke has BCHL defensemen Dante Fabbro as his No. 1 defenseman this year.

“I don’t think there’s any clear emerging dominant defenseman this year,” Luedeke said. “There’s quality at the top of the draft. I think this draft has really good value from picks 1 to 15 or 16 depending on the order of where those players go. There might be a couple of guys that jump into that 15 or 16 that are not currently projected there. But the defensemen are a solid crop.”

Luedeke thinks there is a strong group of D in the first half of the first round and that there are enough quality forwards to push some of the defensemen down. As such, Luedeke feels that moving up would be a waste of assets.

“I don’t think that there’s any defenseman that you need to be moving up to get because I think someone good is going to fall to them,” Luedeke said.

He also noted that he doesn’t feel Kevin Shattenkirk “constitutes good enough to move 14” given that Shattenkirk is ideally not a top-pairing defenseman and only has one year left on his contract.

Here are Luedeke’s thoughts on some of the individual players:

Jakob Chychrun, LD, Sarnia (OHL), 6-foot-2, 194 pounds

“I will tell you that Jakob Chychrun has been a tad disappointing. He was the one that was projected to be ‘the guy’ entering this season. A lot of people felt he would go No. 2 overall behind Auston Matthews. That hasn’t materialized. On the plus side, he’s a big kid, he can really skate, handles the puck with confidence. On the downside, there are questions about his vision, his instincts. He didn’t have a strong Under-18 tournament, didn’t have a strong second half of the OHL season, so there are some questions. Chochrun’s sliding. I don’t he’ll slide all that far, to be honest with you, just because there are teams out there that value him, but I see Chychrun has a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of defenseman.

“He was seen as a franchise cornerstone at the beginning of the year, and he just hasn’t performed at that level. Having said that, I think he plays.”

Mikhail Sergachev, LD, Windsor (OHL), 6-foot-3, 195 pounds

“A real toolsy defender.”

Jake Bean, LD, Calgary (WHL), 6-foot-0, 165 pounds

“In Red Line Report, our No. 1 defenseman is Jake Bean, who scored 24 goals for the Calgary hitmen. He’s a left-shot defensemen and he set a franchise record for goals by a defenseman. He’s got this real wicked sneaky little wrist shot that he gets off quickly and it’s one of those seeing eye puck kind of shots where there might be a maze of people in front and it somehow just will sneak through and will handcuff goalies. They won’t see it coming and it’s by them.

“Real good passer. He’s more of an offensive defenseman at this stage of his development, but I think he kind of gets diminished a little in his defensive ability. He’s a guy that wants to work, but he’s pretty average-sized and he’s slight. During the season, he’s the kind of guy that’s going to have trouble keeping weight on, so he’ll start the season heavier and then as the grind goes on, he’ll lose weight.

“In that WHL, it’s a rugged league, and guys are bigger and stronger and more physical. I think that kind of tends to play into some of the perceptions that Bean is not good defensively, but that overshoots the fact that he’s smart, sees the ice, has good, savvy positional skills, is learning and wants to be good.

“That’s the thing about Bean: he wants to be a complete three-zone player and he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a single-dimension one-way threat. He understands what he needs to do, and it’s just a matter of maturing physically and continuing to learn, get good coaching and go out and work.

“At Red Line we’ve got Bean like No. 6 overall. He’s our No. 1 defenseman.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dante Fabbro, Jake Bean, Kirk Luedeke,
Bruins’ 2016-17 schedule released 06.21.16 at 1:09 pm ET
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The NHL released the regular-season schedule for the 2016-17 on Tuesday. The Bruins will open the season with a three-game road trip beginning Oct. 13 in Columbus before playing in Toronto and Winnipeg. As was learned Monday, Boston’s home opener will take place on Oct. 20 against the Devils.

The Bruins’ schedule features 14 sets of back-to-backs. They don’t have any road trips lasting longer than four games, though they do have five four-game trips.

Boston will not have a Black Friday matinee, as the B’s will host the Flames at 7:30 p.m. that night. The Bruins will also play in Ottawa on Thanksgiving day.

For the complete schedule, click here.

Podcast: Kirk Luedeke weighs in on Bruins’ 2015 picks a year later 06.21.16 at 9:35 am ET
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The great Kirk Luedeke of Red Line Report was kind enough to join me for our annual pre-draft podcast. Kirk is an expert on NHL prospects and the draft in general, so his insight is always extremely valuable as we look ahead to the draft.

Listen above for the entire conversation. Following are notes as we reviewed some of the players Boston took in last season’s draft. Check back soon for a post detailing his thoughts on players who might be fits for Boston come Friday.

– Brandon Carlo is indeed the closest of Boston’s three top-60 pick defensemen to reaching the NHL, but Luedeke notes that much of that is based on age. Luedeke doesn’t expect him to make the Bruins out of camp, but that’s “not the end of the world for him” because he has AHL eligibility.

– Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon are “a little further away” and have to go back to their junior teams if they don’t make the Bruins.

Luedeke notes that Zboril, whom the Bruins chose with the 14th overall pick last June, took a step back offensively. Issues that Luedeke had prior to the draft about Zboril’s motor have not gone away, and thus Luedeke considers next season something of a critical year for the player’s development. He notes that the Bruins have emphasized with the player that he can’t puck watch as much as he has in the past.

“There are too many nights where he’s just kind of passive and unengaged and he’ll go long stretches where he’s not really doing much and you have to really look for him. With a player who has that much talent, that’s kind of an issue.”

Added Luedeke: “When he’s playing physical and he is engaged, he is a snarly, surly, atypical European defenseman in that he will lower the boom on people. I’ve seen him fight guys and do very well because they kind of grab the tiger by the tail. He has that big, booming shot and he is capable of delivering that on-target lead pass and distributing the puck on the man advantage. All the things that you like in a defensemen — good in puck retrieval. It’s just that he hasn’t put it together. This is going to be a huge year for him.”

– Lauzon is Luedeke’s favorite of the three defensemen.

“He’s just a solid blend of the three. Not as big as shutdown as Carlo, but solid defensively, good positionally. Not as offensively gifted as Zboril when Zboril’s on top of his game, but still has a real good shot, good vision, can really move the puck. His skating’s fine — probably could stand to improve his pivots and directional change, but it’s coachable stuff. It’s not a major glaring weakness, and that’s really the thing with Lauzon: there are no glaring weaknesses in his game. … I think when you look at what makes a successful pro in this day and age, Lauzon has all those attributes.”

– Luedeke was satisfied with both Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn this season. He notes that though Senyshyn scored 45 goals in the OHL this season, the player’s 200-foot game still needs improvement before he can be considered close to a full-time NHLer. Luedeke feels Senyshyn has a small chance of a nine-game trial to begin the NHL season, but that he’ll be better served to mature with another season in the OHL.

DeBrusk, who could be sent to the AHL if the Bruins chose, impressed Luedeke with his work around the net. Luedeke notes that he’s far from a flashy player, but that he’ll be a productive one.

“He’s not flashy in the way he goes about it, and I think that’s the knock on DeBrusk. There’s this tendency for fans to want to be entertained. They want players to bring them out of their seats and be flashy and electric. I get that, and Kyle Connor was certainly that kind of forward for the University of Michigan this year. I get that it just fueled the debate of ‘Why did the Bruins take DeBrusk?’ but DeBrusk is one of those guys where he’s just kind of there and then all of a sudden he’s jumping on a puck and burying it, or he’s pulling a couple D to him and then sliding a perfect sauce pass to a wide-open teammate for a back-door tap-in. You can’t put a price tag on that. That’s just natural offense and he’s got it.

“If you’re looking to be dazzled every time DeBrusk is on the ice, you’re going to be a little disappointed. If you peel back the onion and you look closer at what he does and how he’s quietly effective — he’ll put that little burst on the puck and beat the defender in a footrace and then get the puck to the net and either score it himself or set it up for a goal by a teammate, he’s doing all the things you look for.

“I really like Jake DeBrusk. I continue to like him. I think he got a raw deal just in terms of how he was perceived because the Bruins didn’t take other people, but he couldn’t control that.”

Read More: Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon

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