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Martin Necas named CCM/AHL player of the week

After piling up a staggering seven assists in two big road wins for the Checkers, Martin Necas has been named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week.

The rookie forward matched a franchise record with four assists and helped the Checkers erase a two-goal deficit to roll over Hartford 7-4 on Friday, then followed that up with three more helpers the next night – including setting up the overtime winner – as the Checkers pulled off a wild rally to stun the Springfield Thunderbirds.

The 19-year-old Necas, who was selected 12th overall by Carolina in 2017, is currently tied for fourth among AHL rookies with 20 points in 22 games for Charlotte this season and ranks third with 14 assists.

Pettersson leads 3 Stars of the Week

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue and Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau have been named the NHL's "Three Stars" for the week ending Dec. 9.

FIRST STAR - ELIAS PETTERSSON, C, VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Pettersson led the NHL with 2-6-8, including two game-winning goals, in three outings to power the Canucks (13-16-3, 29 points) to a pair of victories. He collected one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild Dec. 4. Pettersson then scored his third career game-winning goal and added one helper in a 5-3 triumph over the Nashville Predators Dec. 6. He capped the week with 1-4-5, his second career five-point performance (also Nov. 2 vs. COL: 2-3-5), in a 6-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues Dec. 9. In doing so, Pettersson became the sixth rookie in the NHL's expansion era (since 1967-68) to record multiple five-point games within a single season - and the second to achieve the feat before the end of December (also Bryan Trottier: 1975-76 w/ NYI). The 20-year-old Sundsvall, Sweden, native - who was selected fifth overall in the 2017 NHL Draft - paces all rookies with 15 goals, 15 assists and 30 points in 26 contests this season. His four game-winning goals also lead all rookies and share fourth place in the entire League.

PETTERSSON EARNS SECOND STAR OF THE WEEK

Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson and Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point have been named the NHL's "Three Stars" for the week ending Nov. 4.

FIRST STAR - SEAN MONAHAN, C, CALGARY FLAMES

Monahan registered four straight multi-point performances, leading the NHL with 4-4-8 to propel the Flames (9-5-1, 19 points) to a perfect week and into first place in the Pacific Division. He collected 1-1-2 in a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Oct. 29, lifting Calgary to its first win in Toronto since Jan. 15, 2011. Monahan then recorded assists on both the tying goal in the final minute of regulation and the overtime winner in a 2-1 triumph against the Buffalo Sabres Oct. 30. He added 1-1-2 in a 6-5 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Nov. 1 before capping the week with two goals - his 15th career multi-goal performance - in a 5-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks Nov. 3. The 24-year-old Brampton, Ont., native - who ranks second on the Flames with 8-10-18 this season (15 GP) - paces Calgary with 146 goals and sits second on the team with 299 points since making his League debut in 2013-14 (408 GP).

SECOND STAR - ELIAS PETTERSSON, C, VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Pettersson shared the League lead with four goals and ranked third overall with seven points in three games to also power the Canucks (9-6-0, 18 points) to a perfect week. He scored twice, including his first career game-winning goal, in a 5-2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild Oct. 29. After being held off the scoresheet in a 4-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks Oct. 31, Pettersson rebounded with five points (3-2-5) - including the tying goal with 35.9 seconds remaining in regulation and the primary assist on the overtime winner - in a 7-6 triumph over the Colorado Avalanche Nov. 2. At 19 years, 355 days, Pettersson became the youngest player in Vancouver history to record a five-point game as well as the first rookie in franchise history to achieve the feat. The Sundsvall, Sweden, native - who tops all rookies in goals and points this season (9-6-15 in 9 GP) - is one of just 16 players in NHL history with at least nine goals through his first nine career games.

THIRD STAR - BRAYDEN POINT, C, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Point led the NHL with six assists and ranked second overall with eight points to lift the Lightning (10-3-1, 21 points) to three wins in four contests and into first place in the Atlantic Division. He collected 1-4-5 in an 8-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils Oct. 30. At 22 years, 231 days, Point became the youngest player in Tampa Bay history to record a five-point game. After being held off the scoresheet in a 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators Nov. 1, Point bounced back with one assist in 4-1 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens Nov. 3. He closed the week by scoring the tying goal with 26.4 seconds remaining in regulation and then assisting on the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory against the Ottawa Senators Nov. 4. The Calgary native paces the Lightning with eight goals and 17 points through 14 games this season.

Pettersson Wins Rookie of the Month Honors

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson, who led all rookies with seven goals and 10 points in eight games (7-3-10), has been named the NHL's "Rookie of the Month" for October.

Pettersson edged Ottawa Senators defenseman Maxime Lajoie (4-3-7 in 11 GP), Anaheim Ducks left wing Max Comtois (2-5-7 in 10 GP), Detroit Red Wings defenseman Dennis Cholowski (2-5-7 in 10 GP), and Chicago Blackhawks teammates Dominik Kahun (1 6-7 in 13 GP) and Henri Jokiharju (0-7-7 in 13 GP) for the honor.

Pettersson, who paced rookies in goals and points despite missing six games due to injury, registered 1-1-2 in his NHL debut Oct. 3 and 2-1-3 in his second outing Oct. 6. He became the fourth player in Canucks history to collect multiple points in his League debut and the second - along with Thomas Gradin (4-1-5 in 1978-79) - to record five points through his first two NHL appearances.

Pettersson ultimately extended his career-opening point streak to five games (5 3-8), becoming the second player in Vancouver history - along with Don Tannahill (3-2-5 in 5 GP in 1972-73) - to achieve the feat. Pettersson added his sixth and seventh goals Oct. 29, making him the 21st player in League history - and eighth in the modern era - to reach that total through seven career NHL contests.

The 19-year-old Sundsvall, Sweden, native and reigning Swedish Hockey League MVP was the No. 5 overall selection by the Canucks in the 2017 NHL Draft. He and teammate Brock Boeser (November 2017 and December 2017) have combined for three of the past seven Rookie of the Month honors since the start of 2017-18.

 

Elias Pettersson in October

Date, Opponent, G, A, PTS, Result

Oct. 3, CALGARY, 1, 1, 2, 5-2 W

Oct. 6, at Calgary, 2, 1, 3, 7-4 L

Oct. 9, at Carolina, 0, 1, 1, 5-3 L

Oct. 11, at Tampa Bay, 1, 0, 1, 4-1 W

Oct. 13, at Florida, 1, 0, 1, 3-2 W

Oct. 16, at Pittsburgh, --, --, --, 3-2 OT W

Oct. 18, at Winnipeg, --, --, --, 4-1 L

Oct. 20, BOSTON, --, --, --, 2-1 OT W

Oct. 22, WASHINGTON, --, --, --, 5-2 L

Oct. 24, at Vegas, --, --, --, 3-2 SO W

Oct. 25, at Arizona, --, --, --, 4-1 L

Oct. 27, PITTSBURGH, 0, 0, 0, 5-0 L

Oct. 29, MINNESOTA, 2, 0, 2, 5-2 W

Oct. 31, CHICAGO, 0, 0, 0, 4-2 W

Totals 7, 3, 10, 8-6-0

Pettersson Wins Rookie of the Month Honors

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson, who led all rookies with seven goals and 10 points in eight games (7-3-10), has been named the NHL's "Rookie of the Month" for October.

Pettersson edged Ottawa Senators defenseman Maxime Lajoie (4-3-7 in 11 GP), Anaheim Ducks left wing Max Comtois (2-5-7 in 10 GP), Detroit Red Wings defenseman Dennis Cholowski (2-5-7 in 10 GP), and Chicago Blackhawks teammates Dominik Kahun (1 6-7 in 13 GP) and Henri Jokiharju (0-7-7 in 13 GP) for the honor.

Pettersson, who paced rookies in goals and points despite missing six games due to injury, registered 1-1-2 in his NHL debut Oct. 3 and 2-1-3 in his second outing Oct. 6. He became the fourth player in Canucks history to collect multiple points in his League debut and the second - along with Thomas Gradin (4-1-5 in 1978-79) - to record five points through his first two NHL appearances.

Pettersson ultimately extended his career-opening point streak to five games (5 3-8), becoming the second player in Vancouver history - along with Don Tannahill (3-2-5 in 5 GP in 1972-73) - to achieve the feat. Pettersson added his sixth and seventh goals Oct. 29, making him the 21st player in League history - and eighth in the modern era - to reach that total through seven career NHL contests.

The 19-year-old Sundsvall, Sweden, native and reigning Swedish Hockey League MVP was the No. 5 overall selection by the Canucks in the 2017 NHL Draft. He and teammate Brock Boeser (November 2017 and December 2017) have combined for three of the past seven Rookie of the Month honors since the start of 2017-18.

 

Elias Pettersson in October

Date, Opponent, G, A, PTS, Result

Oct. 3, CALGARY, 1, 1, 2, 5-2 W

Oct. 6, at Calgary, 2, 1, 3, 7-4 L

Oct. 9, at Carolina, 0, 1, 1, 5-3 L

Oct. 11, at Tampa Bay, 1, 0, 1, 4-1 W

Oct. 13, at Florida, 1, 0, 1, 3-2 W

Oct. 16, at Pittsburgh, --, --, --, 3-2 OT W

Oct. 18, at Winnipeg, --, --, --, 4-1 L

Oct. 20, BOSTON, --, --, --, 2-1 OT W

Oct. 22, WASHINGTON, --, --, --, 5-2 L

Oct. 24, at Vegas, --, --, --, 3-2 SO W

Oct. 25, at Arizona, --, --, --, 4-1 L

Oct. 27, PITTSBURGH, 0, 0, 0, 5-0 L

Oct. 29, MINNESOTA, 2, 0, 2, 5-2 W

Oct. 31, CHICAGO, 0, 0, 0, 4-2 W

Totals 7, 3, 10, 8-6-0

Karlsson signs one year contract with Vegas

VEGAS (August 4, 2018) - Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee announced today, August 4, that the team has signed forward William Karlsson to a one-year contract through the 2018-19 season worth $5,250,000.

"William had a great year for us and we are excited to now have him under contract for next season," said Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee.

Karlsson, 25, is coming off a career year with the Golden Knights in which he led the team in goals (43), points (78), and won the Lady Byng Award, which is given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

The Marsta, Sweden native recorded his 100th career point on Feb. 15 and now has 128 career points through four seasons in the NHL. He was acquired by the Golden Knights during the 2017 Expansion Draft.

William Karlsson
Country: Sweden
Birthplace: Marsta, Sweden
Born: January 8, 1993
Height: 6'1
Weight: 189 lbs.
Age: 25
Draft: Selected by Anaheim in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Notes:

  • Was the only Vegas player to record a hat trick during the 2017-18 season, and he finished the year with two: vs. Toronto (12/31) and vs. Calgary (3/18).
  • Set new career marks in goals (43), assists (35), and points (78) in 2017-18.
  • Increased goal production from six goals in 2016-17 to 43 in 2017-18.
  • Was the only Vegas player to record a hat trick during the 2017-18 season, and he finished the year with two: vs. Toronto (12/31) and vs. Calgary (3/18).

Ducks Sign Rodin

The Anaheim Ducks announced that the Club signed Anton Rodin to a one year contract.

Rodin, 27 (11/21/90), has appeared in three NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks, earning one assist during the 2016-17 season. Rodin split last season with Utica of the American Hockey League (AHL) and Davos of the Swiss National League, combining for 2-6=8 points in 15 games. Rodin added 3-4=7 points in six playoff games for Davos in the spring.

Selected by Vancouver in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Rodin has collected 15-29=44 points in 121 career AHL games with Utica (2016-18) and Chicago (2011-13). A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Rodin was named the Swedish Hockey League's Most Valuable Player in 2015-16 and helped Team Sweden to bronze at the 2010 World Junior Championship (3-7=10 points in six games).

Karlsson of Golden Knights wins Lady Byng for NHL sportsmanship

William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights won the Lady Byng Trophy awarded for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Wednesday.

"It's very special," Karlsson said. "Being nominated is one thing, but to win it, it's been a crazy year."

The 25-year-old forward finished third in the NHL with 43 goals and led the League with a plus-49 rating in 82 games. He took six minor penalties; his 12 penalty minutes were the fewest among the NHL's top 40 scorers.

Karlsson became the first player to win an end-of-season trophy for a team in its inaugural NHL season since Wayne Gretzky won the Hart and Lady Byng trophies for the Edmonton Oilers in 1979-80.

"I never would have thought a year ago that Vegas would be a hockey town," Karlsson said. "It's crazy to see that, from month to month, it's been growing. They've seemed to really embrace us and it's a fun place to play."

Karlsson, who had 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) in 183 NHL games prior to this season, had 78 points to help the expansion Golden Knights to the Pacific Division title, the Stanley Cup Final, and records for wins (51) and points (109) by an NHL team in its inaugural season.

"[I'm] going into the summer motivated," Karlsson said. "I want to try and get better. Obviously, we didn't go all the way this year. That's the goal we have. I'm very hungry to get going and excited for next year."

Five players have scored more goals playing for a team in its inaugural season, and seven have had more points.

Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly, 27, and Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, 23, were the other finalists. O'Reilly took one minor penalty in 81 games. Barkov had 14 penalty minutes in 79 games.

Here is the voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association:

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)

1. William Karlsson, VGK 915 (57-32-15-12-10)

2. Ryan O'Reilly, BUF 654 (38-11-23-23-13)

3. Aleksander Barkov, FLA 493 (10-30-29-8-14)

4. Anze Kopitar, LAK 471 (13-31-15-12-13)

5. Jared Spurgeon, MIN 202 (6-8-10-10-6)

6. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS 182 (7-5-8-10-7)

7. Alex DeBrincat, CHI 169 (3-9-6-11-13)

8. Auston Matthews, TOR 157 (6-3-6-14-4)

9. Claude Giroux, PHI 123 (6-4-3-4-8)

10. Connor McDavid, EDM 119 (2-7-7-4-3)

 

Inside the transformation of 'Wild Bill' Karlsson from six-goal to 43-goal scorer

There was a time that William Karlsson felt on top of the hockey world. It was October 2014, and the 21-year-old center was a rookie for the Anaheim Ducks. The Swede had just made the move to North America, and as a 2011 second-round draft pick he wasn't sure he'd make the roster out of training camp. "So," his agent, Michael Deutsch, texted him after final cuts. "Did you make the team?"

"I don't know," Karlsson replied. "But I'm on the plane to Pittsburgh."

A week later, Karlsson netted two goals against the Buffalo Sabres in his second-ever NHL game. The next night, in Philadelphia, the Ducks entered a shootout against the Flyers. In the eighth round, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau was looking for a left-handed shot to go against goalie Steve Mason. He turned to Karlsson because, as he would tell reporters later, "he was the guy I thought would be the hottest." Karlsson scored the winner and was mobbed by teammates. He was riding high. His NHL career could not be off to a better start.

Karlsson recorded just one point (an assist) in his next 13 games. In mid-November, he fell ill. It was a terrible bug that put him in the hospital for two days. Karlsson lost about 12 pounds. When he was released, the team sent him to the minors.

Karlsson didn't take the demotion too well. He knew he could produce at the NHL level, but he couldn't pull himself out of a funk. He would be recalled, then sent down, recalled, then sent down, and never fully found a rhythm. At the trade deadline, he was shipped to Columbus in a trade involving defenseman James Wisniewski.

It was a total shock for Karlsson, still wading through the NHL transition. He loved the Ducks organization, was close to fellow Swede Rickard Rakell, and enjoyed living in Southern California. The Blue Jackets started Karlsson in the minors. Still in a slump, he recorded zero points in 15 games with Springfield. Karlsson would play only three games for Columbus that spring, tallying a goal and assist, but left his first NHL season knowing he wanted -- and was capable of -- so much more.


As the Vegas Golden Knights continue their improbable tear, it's hard not to identify a player like Karlsson -- who led the team (and was third in the NHL) with 43 goals -- as a catalyst. Sure, the NHL awarded Vegas a more favorable format than any expansion team ever, but it was up to general manager George McPhee and his team of scouts to identify the right players who would thrive in the opportunity.

Perhaps no one exemplifies that better than Karlsson, a highly regarded prospect from Sweden, who never found his footing in his first two NHL stops. Karlsson, ironically nicknamed "Wild Bill" by coaches in Anaheim (despite trademark shoulder-length blond flow, his temperament is quite mild), finally lived up to the billing in Vegas -- because Vegas allowed him to play the game as he preferred.

 

Karlsson led all Vegas forwards in ice time: 18:43 minutes per game, greater than a five-minute jump from last season. The 25-year-old was just as important on the penalty kill -- among forwards, he was second to specialist Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in ice time, plus had 12 takeaways and a team-high four shorthanded goals -- as the power play, where, you guessed it, he manned the first unit and led all forwards in minutes. Yes, his shooting percentage was astronomically high -- a 23.4 percent rate that was league high among skaters with at least 50 games -- but while everyone waited for a regression, Karlsson sustained it all season, chasing Alex Ovechkin for the scoring title into March.

Karlsson, who even as a prospect in Sweden was never known for his hands or fancy stickwork, is typically lauded for his vision and being positionally sound; he found just as many opportunities for linemates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, who also both put up career highs in points. "He always seems to know where we are," Marchessault said. "Always."

 

Though the plus-minus stat has come out of vogue when evaluating players, Karlsson's league-high plus-49 doesn't happen by accident. To fully understand the Karlsson ascent, consider the blank stares and stuttering you receive from teammates when asked what they knew about the former Blue Jacket before arriving at training camp.

"Not a whole lot," said defenseman Nate Schmidt, formerly of the Washington Capitals. "I played against him, he was in the division. This kid, he was somebody that people had talked about, but you weren't really sure."

"We played a lot against each other as fourth-liners," said Bellemare, a former Philadelphia Flyer. "I thought he was a good defensive guy. You saw in camp he was capable of doing much more than before. But scoring 40, 40-plus goals? I didn't see that in camp, for sure."

Added Ryan Reaves, the trade-deadline acquisition: "I didn't know much about any of the guys, to be honest. I sure know a lot about him now."


After his first inauspicious season in 2014-15, Karlsson wasn't guaranteed to make an NHL roster. The message from Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was clear: Come back after the summer with more speed. Deutsch, Karlsson's agent, linked his client with Henrik Petre. Deutsch represented Petre as a player; once an elite prospect from Sweden himself, Petre's career was derailed by injuries and he pivoted to a second career as a trainer. Petre was going to help make Karlsson faster. But before they got to work, Petre asked Karlsson his goals. "I want to excel in the NHL and show the world how good I can be," Karlsson said, according to Petre. So the trainer promised: "I will show you what it takes to be a professional."

When Karlsson returned to Sweden, Petre picked him up at the crack of dawn and drove him two hours north of Stockholm to Gavle, where he did drills with other NHL players. Sometimes Karlsson would train with former NHL players much older than him; often, his training buddies were Blue Jackets teammate Alexander Wennberg (a good friend), current Golden Knights goalie Oscar Dansk and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Lukas Bengtsson. For the entire summer, save for a short vacation, they trained three hours in the morning, Monday through Friday.

As Karlsson worked through the program, Petre peppered him with advice:

  • Stick with the plan -- don't change.

  • Don't be afraid you are doing something wrong -- of course you always have to analyze what you're doing -- but believe in what you're doing.

  • Everyone gets what they deserve.

  • You're going to get the chance, and it's important that you're ready when you get the chance.

 Columbus had a surplus of forwards with NHL contracts heading into the 2015-16 season, so in training camp, coach Todd Richards tried Karlsson everywhere: in the top six as a center, as a checking-line center, on the fourth line as a wing. Karlsson proved he was capable ... everywhere. Columbus figured the utility player was good enough to make the roster. He was scratched for the season opener, then played the next 81 games. In late October, Columbus fired Richards and replaced him with John Tortorella. Karlsson played better as the season wore on, but still, he waffled between the third and fourth lines. His defensive play was getting notice, but he recorded only nine goals and 11 assists.

After the season, Karlsson returned to Sweden and resumed work with Petre. Karlsson -- who signed a two-year extension worth $1 million per season -- didn't need much encouraging to stick to the plan. He had conviction about his goals.

"I've always wanted to be a top-six player," Karlsson says now. "Not being one in Columbus was really frustrating. I wanted the chance."

But the next season in Columbus was more of the same. Karlsson was relegated to the bottom six. He led forwards in shorthanded time, but he saw his overall role decrease to 13:23 per game and barely got a lick of the power play. His offensive production (six goals, 19 assists) was nothing to write home about. "That fourth line was good," said Bellemare. "They were skating fast and aggressive all the time. They were tough to play in their D-zone because they were playing really well defensive side."

Once again, Karlsson returned to Sweden disappointed but undeterred: He still wanted to show the world what he could do.


Karlsson wasn't surprised when the Blue Jackets exposed him in the expansion draft, nor did he sulk. In fact, when he got the call from Kekalainen that Vegas was going to take him -- Karlsson was back in Sweden at the time -- there was a sense of relief.

"There have been times when I doubted myself, could I really do this?" Karlsson said. "Then I got picked by Vegas and I thought to myself this is my big chance. It's up to me to take it. I'm glad I took it."

That summer, nothing changed with his training. "He is always the same -- never cheats himself, never finds excuses," Petre says. The trainer remembered one day last summer when he put Karlsson through a tough bike test. Karlsson pushed through it, then afterward sprawled out on the ground and began yelling, "Henrik! Come, you have to help me with my legs!" Petre had to massage Karlsson so he could resume working out. "He does what needs to be done," Petre said.

 The Golden Knights had sketched out that Marchessault and Smith, teammates with the Florida Panthers, would man the top line with KHL star Vadim Shipachyov. Karlsson was slotted for a second- or third-line role -- and likely at wing. But on Oct. 22, after Karlsson scored his first goal of the season (he would begin the season pointless in his first four contests), coach Gerard Gallant decided to try Karlsson centering the top line at practice.

The rest is Knights history. His teammates began to see what Karlsson saw all along. "His deception with the puck is insane," Schmidt said. "When you see guys who really make plays, it's how they deceive other players. That's what some of the goal scorers in the league do."

Added Bellemare: "He gets a lot of credit for his offensive game, but all of his offensive game is because he works so well defensively. He's on the right side of the puck -- he reads the play so well. He's much faster than he gets credit for, and a lot of times he gets breakaways and people don't realize he's that fast. It's always fun to see, especially for a player like me that is trying to work on my defensive game. It's good to see a guy like him because it's an example. I try to do what he's doing."

Smith noted Karlsson's confidence grew "rapidly" once he got promoted. "I played against him a few times when he was in Columbus. Structurally, defensively, I knew he was always a smart player. I don't think he was given the opportunity that he's gotten," Smith said. "Even some of the goals he scored in the later part of the season, you knew he was feeling it."

No doubt Smith was alluding in part to a March 31 goal that sent NHL social media into a tizzy. On a shorthanded breakaway against the Sharks, Karlsson evaded a poke check by goalie Martin Jones by slipping the pucks through his own legs -- a la Marek Malik's famous shootout goal -- and chipping it in from behind. Only difference? Karlsson was doing it at full speed.

By the time Karlsson returned to Columbus on Jan. 23 -- and he already had racked up 25 goals, more than during his two seasons with the Blue Jackets combined -- Marchessault asked if there would be a tribute video.

"Probably not," Karlsson said. "I scored six goals all of last year."


As accolades began pouring in for Karlsson, he remained true to himself. "He's not that in-your-face personality," Reaves observed. "He's one of the quiet guys in the room, but he's got the skill of one of the best players in this league."

 

In other words, Wild Bill is still tame. He doesn't have a ton of outside hobbies; Wennberg taught him how to play the guitar, but teammates lament that he plays very poorly. He doesn't drive a flashy Lamborghini to games like Marchessault. Perhaps the only noticeable change in his life is when he posts photos on Instagram -- like an April 19 picture of him celebrating, captioned: "Vegas, are you ready for the next round?" -- he gets comments from music stars like Diplo and Tiesto.

Back home in Sweden, Petre beamed. He knew the hard work Karlsson put in explained why, when given an opportunity to play nearly 20 minutes per game, the center barely showed fatigue; Karlsson was the only Golden Knights forward to suit up in all 82 games. "It gives me goosebumps," Petre said. "That's why I do this work. It gives hope to so many players to never give up on the plan."

Karlsson becomes a restricted free agent this summer, and though serious contract discussions are on hold until after the season, it's clear he's happy in Vegas. When it's time to negotiate, who knows? Wild Bill's wild ride could include another chapter: a date with the Stanley Cup.

Canucks Sign Pettersson

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced today that the club has signed forward Elias Pettersson to a three-year entry-level contract.

"Elias is a talented offensive player with tremendous vision and skill," said General Manager Jim Benning. "Like most Canucks fans we watched with excitement the incredible season he had in Sweden. This is an important offseason of training and development for Elias and we expect him to be ready to challenge for a roster spot in training camp."

Pettersson, 19, recently completed his first season with Vaxjo HC, leading the SHL in both regular season (24-32-56 in 44 GP) and playoff scoring (10-9-19 in 13 GP) en route to the SHL Championship as well as Rookie of the Year, Best Forward, MVP and Playoff MVP honours. The 6-2, 161-pound forward's point totals in both the regular season and the playoffs also set a new SHL record for scoring by a U20 player.   

On the international stage, the Sundsvall, Sweden native recently registered three points in five World Hockey Championship games. He also helped lead Sweden to silver at the World Junior Championship, tying for fourth in tournament scoring (7) and shots (23).  

Pettersson was drafted by Vancouver in the first round, fifth overall, at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Red Wings add free agent goaltender Patrik Rybar

The Detroit Red Wings today signed goaltender Patrik Rybar to a one-year entry-level contract. 

Rybar, 24, primarily spent the 2017-18 season with HK Hradec Kralove in the Czech Extraliga, the top professional league in the Czech Republic. In 36 games with the club, Rybar posted a 23-13 record and led the league in both goals-against average (1.73) and shutouts (7), alongside a 0.932 save percentage. He helped his club reach the semifinals in the Extraliga playoffs, sporting a 2.24 goals-against average and 0.918 save percentage in 12 postseason games. The Skalica, Slovakia, native also represented his country internationally on two occasions this season. He was named to the Slovakian Olympic Team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyongchang, South Korea, but did not see game action, and recently competed at the 2018 IIHF World Championship in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark, appearing in three games with a 1-1 record, 2.49 goals-against average and 0.906 save percentage.

The 6-foot-3, 176-pound goaltender has split his four professional seasons between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, totaling a 47-26 record, 1.93 goals-against average, 0.927 save percentage and nine shutouts in two seasons with HK Hradec Kralove from 2016-18 and posting a 3.07 goals-against average and 0.920 save percentage with SHK 37 Piestany in the Slovakian Extraliga from 2014-16, posting the league's top save percentage (0.933) in 2015-16. Prior to his professional career, Rybar played for the junior club of HC Slovan Bratislava from 2009-14 and also saw action in 26 games in second-tier Slovakia, while debuting in the top Slovakian league with one game for HC Slovan Bratislava in 2010-11.

Patrik Rybar, Goalie

Born Nov 9 1993 -- Skalica, Slovakia

Height 6.03 -- Weight 176 -- Catches L

Karlsson reaches superstar status for Golden Knights with overtime winner

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018 | 12:20 a.m.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Golden Knights forward William Karlsson skated in on goaltender Martin Jones, waiting for him to make the first move. 

Before Jones could blink, Karlsson flicked the puck past his blocker and into the net, silencing the sellout crowd of 17,562 inside SAP Center in San Jose as the Golden Knights topped the Sharks 4-3 in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead.

The overwhelming narrative of the Golden Knights’ season has painted the team as a pack of castaways who have rallied together and created something special despite their lack of a superstar player.

Whether that narrative was ever true can be argued (Marc-Andre Fleury might have something to say about that), but after Monday night’s overtime winner it’s definitely over because Karlsson is a superstar.

The 25-year-old Swede has continued his 43-goal breakout season into the playoffs, leading the Golden Knights in goals (4) and points (9), the most important of which came on a laser shot to give home ice advantage back to Vegas.

“Playoff hockey is where you get your notoriety,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “It’s where you become (known as) an elite level player around the league, and I think he’s making a name for himself. That’s for sure.”

Passing the puck never crossed Karlsson’s mind on the final play, and with good reason. He has displayed historically great shooting accuracy this season. Karlsson’s 23.4 shooting percentage is the highest for any player with at least 40 goals since 1994.

“I was behind him when he scored that goal, and you just see that type of thing,” Schmidt said. “He does it in practice, he does it in games, big situations like that and it’s incredible to watch him do that. It’s so cool to watch him play and watch him become the guy and the player that he has.”

Karlsson’s spectacular season has often been dismissed as a fluke, but it’s time to stop.

He scored two more goals than Connor McDavid, eight more than Anze Kopitar, nine more than Auston Matthews and 14 more than Sidney Crosby. His plus/minus of plus-49 was 15 points higher than any non-Golden Knight in the entire league and the fifth highest since 1999.

What will it take for Karlsson to prove that he belongs with the other names on that list?

“He scored 43 goals, what else do you want?” Karlsson’s linemate Jonathan Marchessault said. “And he shows up in the playoffs, gets big goals and he’s a big-time player.”

In the first round of the playoffs, Karlsson was almost exclusively matched up with Kings’ captain Kopitar and outplayed him en route to a four-game sweep by Vegas.

“There’s a lot more to Karlsson than just scoring,” Marchessault said. “Defensively he’s awesome and I think we have a mentality as a line to play well defensively first and goals will happen. That’s what happened tonight.”

Karlsson’s defense has been great all season, and his passing has improved drastically as the year went on.

Monday night he assisted on Reilly Smith’s goal in the second period with a tip pass so perfect it was hard to believe he did it intentionally. Karlsson received the puck just in front of the crease, and deflected it behind his back to Smith, who slotted it into the wide-open net.

“It’s more instinct, I’d say,” Karlsson said. “I saw Reilly in the corner of my eye and I knew he was back there, so I just kind of tried to get him the puck. We have the chemistry. We think the same. We are pretty fast, all three of us, and we aren’t afraid to make mistakes.”

Karlsson’s confidence has grown all season, crescendoing in his division-clinching breakaway goal on March 31 that he slipped between his own legs and fired into the goal. That goal was also against San Jose, and he has tormented them all season with seven goals and six assists in seven games this season.

“He’s done it all year for us, and that was a huge goal tonight, obviously,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I don’t know if there are any superstars on our team, but there are a lot of really good hockey players. I’m sure a lot of coaches around the league say there are some star players on this team.”

Gallant is being modest, but he’s wrong this time. The underdog narrative has served the Golden Knights well as motivation this season, but it’s no longer true.

Karlsson is a star.

 

 

Victor Ejdsell's first NHL opportunity with Blackhawks comes quickly

Victor Ejdsell has had some week and a half.

His SHL season ended on March 14. The plan was to quickly join the Rockford IceHogs, but that got delayed four days due to an issue with his visa. He finally was able to leave Sweden on Wednesday. He practiced with the IceHogs on Thursday and played in games on Friday and Saturday. He was recalled by the Blackhawks on Sunday morning and is expected to play in his first NHL game on Monday.

On top of all that, he still hasn't fully adjusted to the time zone difference.

“Not 100 percent,” the 22-year-old Ejdsell said after the IceHogs' game Saturday night. “I woke up at 6:30 this morning and couldn't sleep almost. It's coming, though. … I'm going to keep adapting to everything. It's been fun to be here.”

It should be even more fun Monday as he takes the ice for the Blackhawks at the United Center. The Blackhawks acquired Ejdsell, a 6-foot-5 forward, as part of the Ryan Hartman trade with the Nashville Predators last month. Ejdsell had 20 goals and 14 assists in the SHL this season.

Ejdsell displayed some of his offensive ability in his first two games with the IceHogs, recording an assist and six shots on goal.

“He's got skill for sure,” IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton said Saturday. “Of course, I coached against him last year, so I had a pretty good idea what was coming in. It's his first time really on the small ice. I think he was at prospect camp last year with Nashville, but it's a different thing to play live and in sort of a playoff chase.

“Willingness to shoot the puck. He's got a heavy, heavy shot. Not afraid to play in traffic. Obviously a big frame, protects the puck well. He's got vision. He can make plays. He added a nice dimension for us. You can never have enough of those type of players.”

Unfortunately for Colliton, Ejdsell is already moving on. He is, however, expected to return to the IceHogs before the end of the season.

Ejdsell has spent most of his career on the larger sheet of ice in Europe. He got a taste of the smaller rink when he attended the Predators prospect camp last summer, but Friday and Saturday were his first real games on it.

Ejdsell has noticed he'll have to make some adjustments.

“It's been fun,” he said. “It's also been tough to adapt to the smaller rink. It's a different game here. I think I've done better than I expected, just going to keep it going. … You have less time everywhere, so your mind got to be faster.”

The AHL game is also much different than what's he accustomed in Sweden. He may actually find the NHL game to be more suitable.

“It's kind of different, you kind of dump the puck a lot more than you do in Sweden,” Ejdsell said of the AHL. “In Sweden, you want to keep the puck within the team more, just want to keep the puck as long as you can until the opportunity [is there]. Here, you kind of chase it more and chase the puck all the time and shoot it when you get a chance.”

Colliton didn't want to throw too much at Ejdsell over the first few days. They watched some video together, but Colliton advised Ejdsell to just experience everything and play his game.

“We know he's a good player,” Colliton said. “We know he can make plays. From his perspective, just try to get in as many situations as he can and he can help us.”

Ejdsell played center in his first two games with the IceHogs. In Sweden, he saw time at wing and center. He centered Tyler Sikura and Henrik Samuelsson on Saturday.

“It doesn't really matter,” Ejdsell said. “I've been playing half and half in Sweden. Last season I did center all season. I'll play wherever they want me to play. They said they wanted me to play center here. I guess they like my game as a centerman and I just go with that.”

Ejdsell quickly found ways to get off his shot in the AHL games. He'll undoubtedly be looking to net his first NHL goal sooner than later.

“I'm just seeking into the area in the slot where you can get good opportunities,” Ejdsell said. “I'll keep shooting and hopefully they find in there some way.”

William Karlsson arrives in a big way for Golden Knights

Much like his team, William Karlsson has arrived in a big way this season.

 

 

The Golden Knights’ young Swedish center scored his 40th goal of the season and added two assists in Monday’s playoff-clinching win over Colorado and once again displayed the type of play that has made him a pivotal part of Vegas’ impressive inaugural run.

 

Karlsson, who this season has more goals than in his previous stints with the Blue Jackets and Ducks combined, has helped form one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL playing alongside Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith.

 

“He shows up every night, he works hard, and he helps me be a better player and I help him to be a better player,” Marchessault said. “I just love playing with a high-quality player like that. It doesn’t happen often in a career, to have a connection like that. Me, Karly and Smitty, we have something special. We know that, and I think it makes it fun every night.”

 

The Golden Knights were the first team in the NHL with five different 20-goal scorers this season, and Karlsson leads the way with his 40, fourth-best in the league. Marchessault (24) and Smith (22) have also scored at least 20 goals this season. Meanwhile, Karlsson is tied for 27th in the league with 69 points. It’s a big reason the expansion Golden Knights lead the Pacific Division with six games remaining.

 

“That’s what happens when you play with good players. I’ve always wanted to be a top-six forward in the NHL,” said Karlsson, who’s affectionately known as Wild Bill. “It’s good to know that I can do it, that I can be a top-six forward in this league. That feels really good to know after playing a defensive role the last couple of seasons. I got the chance here, playing with great players, and I’m happy that I took the chance. It’s been great so far, but we’re not nearly done.”

 

According to his teammates and coach Gerard Gallant, Karlsson’s diligence on the defensive end is what makes him such a special player. It’s not uncommon to see him start plays several passes before he’s on the receiving end of a would-be goal.

 

“I’m impressed by his goals, obviously, and his play offensively, but what people don’t realize is a lot of guys that have so many points are not especially great two-way players, not complete players,” center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “When there is a goal, often … I mean, five plays before he finishes, he’s the one creating that play because he plays the right way or he’s saying the right stuff. For me, that’s the most impressive part.”

 

Gallant said he knew the type of player he was getting in Karlsson coming into the Knights’ inaugural season. And while Gallant would have never predicted the types of numbers Karlsson has, he’s putting forth the effort Gallant expected to blend well with the likes of Marchessault and Smith.

 

“You look at the line, they’re all high-plus players,” Gallant said. “They’ve built chemistry all year long. It’s every night these guys are making good plays, and that’s important to our team. We talk about having 20 guys playing every night, and most nights we got it. But when these guys are hot like they are, they make your team go.

 

“Reilly Smith is one of the best two-way players in the league in my opinion. Marchy has had a great year both offensively and defensively. That’s what our team is, we work hard at both ends of the rink and that’s why we’re having success.”

KARLSSON RETURNS TO COLUMBUS

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is more bricklayer than sculptor. He makes his living doing the heavy lifting as a center iceman in the Golden Knights defensive zone. While Bellemare appreciates the goals, the flowing hair and the offensive flair, when he looks at William Karlsson - it's the so called little things which impress him most.

"It's what he does when he doesn't have the puck, when he is in our zone and when he is breaking the puck out which is so impressive," said Bellemare, when asked about his teammate. "He is a complete player."

Complete player. It's a phrase which has become cliché and over-used in hockey. Coaches attach it to players far too easily. And often it's used to prop up a player who is lacking in the offensive zone. By definition, complete must reflect a player who is as strong offensively as he is defensively.

William Karlsson is not half finished. He is indeed, complete.

The 25-year-old has 35 goals and 24 assists for 59 points which ranks 29th in the NHL. Only two players, Alex Ovehckin (40) and Evgeni Malkin (36) have more goals than Karlsson.

Karlsson ranks first in plus-minus at a plus 39. He's fourth in the league in takeaways with 65.

A smooth skater able to accelerate in an instant, Karlsson affects the game in so many ways. He's elite defensively and as a penalty killer. He drives offense with his speed and vision. Lots has been made about his shooting percentage which currently sits at 24 percent but even if it regresses in the future - he's still a No. 1 center whether he scores 40 goals or 25.

"(Karlsson) reminds me a lot of what Reilly Smith does on the ice. They play everywhere: PK and power play. They do everything right on the ice," said Jonathan Marchessault, who along with Smith plays on Karlsson's wing. "They don't cheat the game and they let the game come to them. I try to follow those two on the ice. I think he just finds a way to have good scoring chances. He's opportunistic right now. He's really a great player for us."

Karlsson's line is arguably the best in the NHL right now. They've played 674.83 minutes together at 5v5 which is the most in the league for any line. Their consistency has kept them together as Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant has never seen the need to break them up.

They lead the league in goals at 5v5 by a line with 46 and the next closest line has a combined 37 goals in 5v5 situations.

They also lead the league in goal differential at 5v5 - at a +25.

There are eight lines in the league that have played at least 500 minutes together. Of those 8, the Vegas line ranks second in CF% at 55.69%.

 Vegas meets the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night and it will be Karlsson's first game back in the city he called home for parts of three NHL seasons before being selected by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft. 

"I enjoyed my time here and I'm looking forward to the game. It should be fun," said Karlsson.

Golden Knights’ Karlsson Playing the Best Hockey of His Life

Golden Knights forward William Karlsson has been so hot over the past month, it’s a wonder how they keep the ice frozen beneath him at T-Mobile Arena.

“You just have to laugh at it because I’ve literally never seen someone as hot as he is right now,” fellow Vegas forward Erik Haula said. “I just hope he continues it because it’s fun to watch.”

The 24-year-old Swede admits he’s playing the best hockey of his life, and the numbers back it up. Karlsson scored two goals in the Golden Knights' 5-4 overtime win over San Jose Friday night, bringing his season total to 12.

It’s three more than his previous career high, and took him a quarter of the season to do it.

“I’ve been scoring so many goals lately, so for sure I’m playing the best hockey of my life right now,” Karlsson said. “I play with two great linemates who help a lot so I think it’s a combination of everything.”

Karlsson played 162 games over the last two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but scored only 15 goals combined (0.09 goals per game). Through 21 games in Vegas, he’s scoring 0.57 goals per game.

“I don’t know what he’s doing different but he’s playing a good, solid game at both ends of the ice,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “That usually happens. If you play hard on one end you get rewarded on the other.”

It has a lot to do with opportunity. After playing only 13:23 per game last year with Columbus, Karlsson’s time on ice with the Golden Knights has jumped to 17:52 this season.

“That’s pretty much the story of all of us,” said Karlsson’s linemate Jonathan Marchessault, who scored the overtime winner on Friday. “We are all guys that didn’t have the chance to play on the top two lines and some didn’t play at all like (Brendan) Leipsic who is playing big minutes for us. It’s just fun that we can give everyone an opportunity and I think everyone is making the most of it.”

Karlsson has had his share of spectacular goals: his first of the season was a beautiful one-timer to beat the Blues in overtime. But many come because he’s willing to battle in front of the net.

“I mean, everything he touches goes in,” Marchessault said, laughing. “I think it’s great to play with a guy like that. He’s a hardworking guy and he’s the identity of our group. He’s not flashy but just makes the plays.”

Karlsson’s first goal on Friday came on a rebound following a shot by Alex Tuch. He pushed the puck to the right of the goaltender to put Vegas up 3-1 at the time.

The second came when he redirected a shot from Marchessault past San Jose’s netminder to make it 4-1.

“I just positioned myself there in front of the net and it was a perfect shot from Marchessault so I just had to tip it in,” Karlsson said. “I’ve had some puck luck for sure. It seems like the puck is always there for me.”

It’s hard to equate it to luck when Karlsson is shooting with pin-point accuracy. His shooting percentage with the Blue Jackets was 7.7 — just below the league average of 8.9.

This season it has spiked to an otherworldly 24.5 percent, which is good enough for sixth in the entire NHL. Of the five above Karlsson in shooting percentage, only one (Mark Stone) has more goals.

It’s highly unlikely Karlsson can keep this pace up for 82 games (he’s on pace for 50 goals, which would have led the NHL last season), but the Golden Knights are enjoying it while they can.

“When you’re hot, you’re hot, and he’s got a hot stick right now, so we want him shooting as much as he can right now,” Gallant said.

 

Sabres, Beaulieu Agree to 2-Year Contract

The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has signed defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to a two-year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $2.4 million.

A first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, Beaulieu (6'2", 205 lbs., 12/5/1992) was acquired by the Sabres in June after the defenseman turned in career-high totals in games played (74), goals (4), assists (24) and points (28) during his fifth NHL season with the Montreal Canadiens in 2016-17.

Beaulieu has appeared in 225 career NHL regular-season games, recording 60 points (7+53) and a plus-19 rating. The Strathroy, Ontario native has added four points in 17 career playoff games with the Canadiens.

Canes Agree to Terms with Martin Necas

Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has agreed to terms with 2017 first-round selection Martin Necas (NEH-chahs) on a three-year, entry-level contract. The deal will pay Necas $832,500 on the NHL level or $70,000 on the American Hockey League level per season. He receives a signing bonus of $277,500.

Necas, 18, spent the 2016-17 season with HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga, the Czech Republic's top professional league. He notched seven goals and earned eight assists (15 points) in 41 regular-season games, and ranked third on the team with three power-play goals. The Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, native scored four goals in 10 playoff games as Brno won the league championship.

In international play, Necas (6'1", 178 lbs.) represented the Czech Republic at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship, notching three points (1g, 2a) in five games. He captained his home country's team to its first gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August 2016, scoring two goals and earning four assists in four tournament games. He also earned three assists in the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

Ducks Sign Rasmussen to One-Year Contract

The Ducks have signed forward Dennis Rasmussen to a one-year contract through the 2017-18 season. Per club policy, no financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

Rasmussen, 27 (7/3/90), has collected 8-9=17 points with a +5 rating and 16 penalty minutes (PIM) in 112 career NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks. He played the entire 2016-17 season with the Blackhawks, recording 4-4=8 points with 12 PIM in 68 games. Rasmussen made his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, scoring his first career postseason goal against Pekka Rinne in Game 3 of the First Round on April 17 at Nashville.  

A native of Vasteras, Sweden, Rasmussen has represented his country in several international tournaments since 2009. The 6-3, 205-pound center won bronze for Team Sweden at the 2014 World Championship in Russia and 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatchewan. Following the 2014 World Championship, Rasmussen signed as a free agent with Chicago and made his North American debut in 2014-15 with Rockford of the American Hockey League (AHL), earning 13-14=27 points with a +9 rating and 30 PIM in 73 games.

Canucks Select Center Elias Pettersson Fifth Overall

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced today that the Canucks have selected center Elias Pettersson fifth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Pettersson, 18, spent the 2016.17 season with Timra in Sweden's second division, collecting 41 points (19-22-41) in 43 games. His goals and points ranked second among the team while his assist totals were the most by a junior-aged player in Sweden's second division. In 2015.16, the 6-2, 165-pound center split time between Timra's junior club where he registered six goals and eight assists in 22 games and its main team in the second division where he collected three goals and six assists in 25 games. The season prior, Pettersson recorded 38 points (20-18-38) in 18 games with Timra's Under-18 team and added 14 points (5-9-14) in eight playoff games to help secure the League's bronze medal.

On the international stage, the Sundsvall, Sweden, native won a silver medal for his country at both the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (1-7-8 in seven games) and the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial. He also represented Sweden at the 2017 World Junior Championship.

Hurricanes take Martin Necas with 12th pick of NHL Draft

The Carolina Hurricanes went into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft looking for offensive help, possibly a playmaking center.

The Canes believed they got that kind of player with the 12th overall pick, taking center Martin Necas of the Czech Republic in the first round Friday at Chicago’s United Center.

“We think we got a big skilled centerman who can skate, make plays and plays with a little bit of an edge,” Canes general manager Ron Francis said. “We had him high on our list and think when he develops he can be a good piece for us.”

Francis said he has had trade talks that involved moving the Canes’ first-round pick, as well as their other seven selections in the draft, but felt the best option was to use the first-rounder.

“You have to look at the value of what you’re getting,” he said. “For where we are and what we’re building, there wasn’t anything we felt comfortable giving up pick No. 12 pick for prior to making the selection.”

Necas, 18, isn’t imposing physically. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 178 pounds and quickly conceded Friday he needs to add size and strength to reach and play at the NHL level.

But Necas has excelled at every level in the Czech Republic — in junior hockey, in international competition. He has played against older professional for HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Extraliga, again impressing with his skating, speed, skill, and explosiveness in transition as Brno won the league championship.

“I’m a typical playmaker,” Necas said after being drafted. “I like to play a two-way game. I think I’m a very good skater. I do need to be stronger.”

Necas, rated one of the best skaters in this year’s draft, may not be ready for the NHL next season, and said as much Friday.

“When I was younger, the NHL is my dream,” he said. “Right now I am drafted and I need to work hard every day. I hope I can be in the NHL after one year.”

Necas was rated fifth among European skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings and 13th by International Scouting Services. Some believed he could be a top-10 pick Friday.

Necas competed for the Czech Republic in the 2017 World Junior Championship. He served as captain for the Czech Republic team in the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, leading his team to a gold medal.

The Hurricanes had used their first pick on defensemen in the past three drafts — Haydn Fleury in 2014, Noah Hanifin in 2015 and Jake Bean last year. They did select forward Julien Gauthier with a second first-round pick in 2016, 21st overall, eight picks after taking Bean.

Necas was the leading scorer in the Czech U-16 league in 2014-15, but missed several games because of injuries and sickness in 2015-16. In 41 games last season for Brno, he had seven goals and eight assists, and scored four times as Brno won a three-game final series for the league title.

 
 
 

Sabres Acquire Nathan Beaulieu

The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has acquired defenseman Nathan Beaulieu from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Buffalo's third-round pick (68th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Beaulieu (6'2", 205 lbs., 12/5/1992) appeared in his fifth NHL season with the Canadiens in 2016-17, logging career highs in games played (74), goals (4), assists (24) and points (28). In 225 career NHL regular-season games, Beaulieu has totaled 60 points (7+53) and a plus-19 rating, adding four points in 17 career playoff games.

A first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, Beaulieu was drafted by the Canadiens after four seasons in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs that included a Memorial Cup championship in 2011 and QMJHL titles in 2011 and 2012. A native of Strathroy, Ontario he also won a bronze medal while representing Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Canucks Sign Defenceman Philip Holm

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced today that the club has signed defenceman Philip Holm to a one-year, entry-level contract. The 6'1", 190-pound defenceman most recently represented Sweden on the international stage at the 2017 World Championship, helping to earn gold for his home country.

"Philip is a mobile, two-way defenceman who adds depth to our blueline," said Benning. "He made strides in his development last season with Vaxjo and played a strong series with Sweden at the World Championships. We're pleased to welcome him to the Canucks organization." 

Holm, 25, spent the 2016-17 with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League where he posted 21 points (4-17-21) and 30 penalty minutes in 52 games. He was a plus-24 on the season and earned the honours for the 2016-17 best plus/minus in the SHL.

Predators Sign Ejdsell to Entry-Level Contract

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Monday that the club has signed free-agent forward Victor Ejdsell to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Ejdsell, 21 (6/6/95), was named Swedish second league (Allsvenskan) most valuable player and forward of the year in 2016-17 after leading the league in points (25g-32a-57pts), tying for second in assists, and for third in goals.

The 6-foot-5, 214-pound center split time with Farjestad's junior and Swedish Hockey League clubs is 2014-15 and 2015-16, captaining the junior squad in 2014-15.

Devils Re-Sign Defenseman Viktor Loov

The New Jersey Devils today signed defenseman Viktor Loov (pronounced "LUHV") to a one-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 at the NHL level. The announcement was made by Devils' Executive Vice President/General Manager Ray Shero.

Loov, 24, spent the 2016-17 season in the American Hockey League between the Albany Devils and Toronto Marlies. He was acquired by New Jersey from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Sergey Kalinin on February 18, 2017. The blueliner played in 10 regular-season games with Albany and in three Calder Cup Playoff matches before the A-Devils were eliminated in the first round by the Toronto Marlies in four games. He played in 41 games with the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate before being traded to New Jersey, scoring two goals and four assists for six points and 43 penalty minutes. Through 180 career AHL contests, the 6-2, 210lb. rearguard has posted 11 goals, 31 assists, 42 points and 133 penalty minutes, while accumulating a + 24 rating.

Loov registered his first NHL point, an assist, in his NHL debut on February 18, 2016 vs. the NY Rangers. He has skated in four games at the NHL level during his professional career. In 2014-15, he led all Marlies' defensemen with 74 games played and 15 assists, while ranking second on the club with six goals and 21 points. Prior to his North American career, the Swedish defenseman skated for MODO Hockey of the Swedish Hockey League in 2013-14. He also spent five seasons, 2008-13, with Sodertalje SK, playing at various levels. Loov was born on November 16, 1992 in Sodertalje, Swe. and was Toronto's sixth choice (7th round), 209th overall, in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Preds Sign Pettersson to Entry-Level Contract

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile today announced that the club has signed forward Emil Pettersson (eh-MIHL PEH-tuhr-suhn) to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Pettersson, 23 (1/14/94), finished ninth in the Swedish Hockey League in points (15g-23a-38pts) while splitting the 2016-17 season between Skelleftea and Vaxjo. The 6-foot-2, 164-pound center has spent the past four seasons in Sweden's senior leagues, first in the second division with Timra, then at the elite level with Modo, Skelleftea and Vaxjo.

Pettersson was Nashville's seventh choice, 155th overall (sixth round), in the 2013 Entry Draft.

Karlsson Steps It Up in the Playoffs

William Karlsson scored a much-needed goal early in the third period Tuesday night, but his biggest contribution to the Blue Jackets’ life-preserving win over Pittsburgh started well before the final frame.

Karlsson centered a line — with scrappy Matt Calvert on his left and locomotive Josh Anderson to his right — that pulled the plug on Sidney Crosby and the Penguins’ top line, allowing the Blue Jackets to survive a wild affair 5-4 before a sold out crowd of 19,093 at Nationwide Arena.

 The Blue Jackets are still on the brink of elimination, but the series — led by Pittsburgh 3-1 — heads back to the Steel City for Game 5 on Thursday.

“We have nothing to lose,” Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson said. “We’re still down. We’re still crawling back into this. But it’s huge for us to get momentum. A lot of guys contributed, so feel good about this, get ready to work (today) and we’ll head to Pitt. Just play our game and we’ll have success.”

Karlsson, Boone Jenner and Markus Nutivaara each had a goal and an assist, while Jack Johnson and Anderson each had a goal and Brandon Saad had two assists.

The Blue Jackets put veteran Kyle Quincey and the rookie Nutivaara in the lineup for the first time and played their most controlled defensive game yet.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who has struggled mightily in this series, still showed signs of shakiness. But he also made some huge stops at critical times, finishing with 27 saves.

“It’s a game at a time now, really, and it’s all we can do,” Karlsson said. “We said we wanted to go back to Pittsburgh. We held serve here. We had to win.”

Other than the Blue Jackets’ winning, the game followed a similar script to the rest of the series. The Jackets dominated the first period, taking a 2-0 lead, and held on for dear life in the second, carrying a 3-2 lead into the second inter

Karlsson, getting his first taste of the postseason in this series, made it 4-2 only 27 seconds into the third, when he skated behind the Pittsburgh net and swatted the puck off goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and into the cage.

The Penguins pulled to 4-3 only 1:43 later, but the Blue Jackets pushed the lead to 5-3 when Jenner scored his first of the playoffs at 5:37.

Karlsson, Calvert and Anderson combined for two goals, two assists and a plus-8 rating. Karlsson also won 12 faceoffs (on 22 attempts), which has been a struggle thus far in his NHL career.

Meanwhile, Crosby’s line, which has unnerved the Blue Jackets with its ability to turn any little hiccup into an odd-man chance, was mostly silenced.

Crosby had a minus-2 rating with no points and no shots on goal. Right wing Conor Sheary was minus-3 and Jake Guentzel, despite scoring a late goal, was minus-2.

 “You really can’t take a shift off against that line,” Karlsson said. “They’re really skilled and really good. You really have to have your head on a swivel all the time and be sharp.”

Dennis Rasmussen’s Hockey Dream Comes Full Circle

 

To this day, Marcus Kruger can picture facing Dennis Rasmussen as junior players in Sweden.

There was one thing about Rasmussen that Kruger always remembered.

“He had white gloves,” Kruger said. “There wasn’t anyone else in the whole junior league that had it. The white gloves I remember, and he was a good player. He was one of the top players and then the white gloves made him even more noticeable out there.”

Rasmussen admits now the white glove were probably a poor choice and were “kind of ugly.” But the actual point of the story is Rasmussen and Kruger were peers growing up in Sweden. They were born less than two months apart, lived within a few hours of each other and were two of the better players at their age. They went up against each other in various Swedish leagues and played together on junior national teams. They both played for Sweden in the World Junior Championship in 2009.

Eventually, they went their separate ways. Kruger was drafted by the Blackhawks in the fifth round in 2009 and made his NHL debut in 2011. Rasmussen was bypassed in his NHL draft-eligible years, remained in Sweden and had to find another way to the NHL.

This is Rasmussen’s story.

***

The draft-eligible years

Rasmussen was a good enough player to be considered to be an NHL draft pick. The Blackhawks even had him on a list.

“I remember his draft year,” Blackhawks scouting director Mats Hallin said. “We had him. It was the legs maybe, the speed and the quickness. But if you work real hard, you can improve that and find a way.”

Rasmussen had an idea most NHL teams thought of him that way. They liked him to an extent, but there was no guarantee anyone was actually going to select him.

Rasmussen built up some hope the three years he was draft eligible. He wasn’t glued to a television or the Internet at home in Sweden, but he paid enough attention to follow where his friends were going and whether any team drafted him.

“I always had friends who were going to get picked,” Rasmussen said. “I always watched the draft. I always followed it, especially the first round. After that, it’s pretty hard to stream the draft live. I always saw the updates and everything.”

Each time the updates didn’t bring good news. He was prepared for that, though.

“I knew it was a possibility,” Rasmussen said. “Almost every year I talked to some team, but then ended up not getting drafted. … Wasn’t really tough days. I knew it was going to be like 50/50 if I get drafted or not. It wasn’t really tough, but, of course, I wanted to get drafted.”

Dennis Rasmussen grew up a few hours away from Marcus Kruger in Sweden. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports)

Another path

Rasmussen didn’t allow his NHL dream to end with those drafts.

Rasmussen has a reputation of being a positive and cheerful person, and he applied those attributes to his situation. He didn’t believe his odds of making the NHL were any worse after going undrafted.

“No, I didn’t think that way,” Rasmussen said. “I just thought if I work hard and prepare myself and do everything I can, I’m going to give myself the best chance to get there. That’s all I’ve been thinking about.

“It’s always been my goal to play in the NHL even though I didn’t get drafted. I was a little bit disappointed every year of course. But you can look at it different ways. I could pick a team and choose whatever team I wanted when I developed later.”

Rasmussen was successful in the Sweden’s junior leagues and was making a name for himself in Sweden’s second division, Allsvenskan, by the 2010-11 season. He had 33 points in 48 games for VIK Vasteras HK that season.

One of VIK Vasteras HK’s competitors in Allsvenskan was the Vaxjo Lakers. The Lakers finished in first in Allsvenskan in the 2010-11 season and earned a promotion to Sweden’s top league, which is now called the Swedish Hockey League. With the team’s move up, Lakers general manager Henrik Evertsson was seeking young and promising talent to inject into his team. Rasmussen, who turned 21 prior to the 2011-12 season, was the ideal player to bring with the Lakers to the top league.

“I guess we saw the tools,” Evertsson said in a phone interview from Sweden. “Dennis had the tools. He also has an iron-strong will that he just wants to succeed. He’s so determined. We felt us being a pretty young organization we didn’t have that many from our own system that we could move up. Dennis was a fairly young kid with all this will. We had a couple of veterans, but behind them we needed guys like Dennis to really show everybody that it was possible to do stuff.

“We had a lot of patience with him, but he also showed improvement the whole time. He worked his ass off every day, which kind of led us to believe this is going to be good at the end of the day and it was.”

Dennis Rasmussen has often centered the fourth line this season. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports)

Patience and perseverance

Rasmussen is grateful today for just how much Evertsson and the Lakers believed in him.

Rasmussen was nowhere near being a finished product when he joined the Lakers. It was an adjustment for him and the organization to play against better competition. In his first season, he had 17 points in 55 games and the Lakers finished in ninth place.

Evertsson remained confident in Rasmussen’s potential, and Rasmussen eventually came through for him. Rasmussen improved his second season and had 28 points in 42 games. In his third season, he had 40 points in 52 games.

“A guy that meant a lot to me when I was there was [Evertsson],” Rasmussen said. “He brought me there. He really believed in me. He really gave me a lot of chances even though sometimes I didn’t score. He still gave me a lot of chances to play on the first line. Suddenly, I ended up scoring a lot of points and had multi-point games.”

As Evertsson explained, the Lakers’ future sort of depended on Rasmussen’s growth.

“I remember often talking about it’s not a matter of him getting time on a power play, we need him to play on the power play,” Evertsson said. “If he doesn’t play on the power play, we’re in trouble. Often maybe young kids they feel frustrated because they feel they should be given time. We were kind of telling Dennis that you need to play well on the power play or we’re in trouble. I think that was a good spot for an ambitious young kid to be needed.

“At the same time, we could all preach patience. I think it was maybe what got him to develop more than the average guy because that’s definitely what happened. You don’t see a lot of careers propelling like Dennis’ did.”

That’s the thing. While Evertsson believed Rasmussen could be an impactful player in the SHL, Evertsson wasn’t so sure Rasmussen was a future NHL player. Whether or not Rasmussen was going to get there, Evertsson tried to teach Rasmussen to take the necessary steps to achieve his goals.

“The work ethic of Dennis, you never had to question that,” Evertsson said. “It was more of a matter channeling it to being a healthy work ethic. I think Dennis when he came to us struggled a little bit with being somewhat overambitious where he would want everything to happen pretty much overnight and he’d get really disappointed and really came down hard on himself when not succeeding.

“If we did anything, I think we helped Dennis stay the path and let time play out his role and kind of pressure the small steps, the little steps instead of just counting on huge things to happen and be disappointed when they didn’t. That’s by far Dennis’ biggest asset — that he’s coachable. He’s a smart kid. He’s such a good kid. Talking to him about these things always sat well with him. .. He was dead set on making it to the NHL. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure even I believed that he would make it to the NHL at the time. But that’s why this job is fun. You get surprised.”

Dennis Rasmussen is set to become a restricted free agent after the season. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

Becoming the example

Rasmussen’s offensive game had gone to another level in the SHL by his third season, but he also maintained a reliable defensive game. And that was his ticket to the NHL.

The Blackhawks had already had some success with Kruger as a bottom-6 center. They liked similar traits in Rasmussen as a defensive forward.

After Rasmussen’s 2013-14 SHL season, which ended in the Lakers’ first playoff appearance, he was contacted by a few NHL teams. The Blackhawks were one of them, and they already had a special place in Rasmussen’s heart because he attended a Blackhawks game in Chicago during his first trip to the United States as a seven-year-old.

It was only fitting the Blackhawks wanted him. Prior to his 24th birthday, Rasmussen chose to sign with the Blackhawks for a few different reasons.

“They seemed like they really wanted me,” Rasmussen said. “It was a dream to come back here too for me and my whole family.”

The Blackhawks envisioned Rasmussen fitting into a specific role.

“Not a lot of players, but there are players over there who can play in this league if they adapt to a small piece on the team,” Hallin said. “I think he does. He’s just happy to be here now and work on the small details and be coachable, listen to the coaches and teammates and find a way. He knew and I knew he was not going to be coming here and be the [Artemi] Panarin type of player.”

Rasmussen began his adaptation to what the Blackhawks wanted from him with the Rockford IceHogs during the 2014-15 season. He played the entire season in the AHL and had 27 points in 73 games and helped the IceHogs on the penalty kill. Rasmussen began last season in Rockford, but then was recalled for the first time in December after continuing to prove himself in the AHL.

“Attitude and work ethic were off the charts,” Blackhawks minor league affiliations senior director Mark Bernard said. “And his mind, he thinks the game very well. I thought from year one to year two his pace, his NHL pace, he worked extremely hard. The way that he plays, like Coach Q [Joel Quenneville] likes to call it a safe player, he makes good decisions. He’s good on the penalty kill and he’s taking advantage of the opportunity. … He always came to the rink with a smile on his face, wanting to get better. He knew what he wanted and went after it.”

Rasmussen had a memorable NHL debut on Dec. 8, 2015 by scoring a goal on his third shift. He didn’t stick the remainder of the season in the NHL, but he played in 44 games. He’s been in the NHL from the start this season and has appeared in 47 games.

“Maybe he took a little longer road there,” Kruger said of Rasmussen in the NHL. “His hometown team played in the second division, so he was patient and got better and better every year. Then becoming a top player in the Swedish League and then coming over here, he’s been taking step by step. Here too, I think he’s been taking step by step and getting better and better and getting more ice time. He’s doing a really good job.”

Coincidentally while Kruger’s been out of the lineup the last three-plus weeks, it’s been Rasmussen who has replaced a lot of Kruger’s shorthanded ice time on the penalty kill.

Rasmussen isn’t content as a player, but he has allowed himself to enjoy what he’s accomplished. The NHL was his dream, and he was able to attain it.

“It means a lot of course,” said Rasmussen, who is now 26 and on the final year of his contract. “This is all I ever wanted was to play here. I think it can help other guys too, show you don’t have to get drafted to get to the NHL. There has been lots of ups and down in my career. When I was younger, I wasn’t always the star on my team. I had to work hard pretty much the whole of my career. That’s what I’ve done.”

Back in Sweden, Evertsson uses Rasmussen as the example of a player who made it.

“I often say when we sign young players we want players who don’t want to play here,” Evertsson said. “We want guys who want to play higher up, even though we play the highest league in Sweden. So, we want players who are making it to the national team or the NHL because if they’re satisfied with just walking into the door here we’ll send them packing before you know it.

“In order to be trustworthy when we say stuff like that, we need to point at examples. Dennis is one of them where we can say that, ‘Hey, we had Dennis Rasmussen here. He came from the same background as you did. If you work hard, you too can play for the Blackhawks or whatever other NHL organization.’”

Dennis Rasmussen Carving Out A Kruger-like Niche For Himself

 

Dennis Rasmussen watches the play during a Nov. 19 game at Vancouver. (AP Photo)

Mark Lazerus

LOS ANGELES — No kid grows up dreaming of becoming Marcus Kruger.

Everyone wants to be the superstar, the guy who scores 40 goals, who makes all the highlight reels and goes down as an all-time great. There’s little glory and even less glamour in being the guy who hurls himself in front of flying pucks, who kills penalties, who starts the overwhelming majority of his shifts in the defensive zone.

But Dennis Rasmussen is well aware of how big a role Kruger has played in the Blackhawks’ success. And while he’s only 37 days younger than his fellow Swede, the late-bloomer Rasmussen knows his path to long-term NHL success and stability is carving out a Kruger-like niche for himself.

“Those guys are important,” Rasmussen said. “You see Krugs, he’s won two Stanley Cups and he’s been out on the ice [in the final minute] when they won it, both times. He’s been on the ice at the end of big games when they’re trying to protect a lead. And that’s what you want to be. You want to be on the ice when everything happens and it’s all on the line. It’s great.”

After spending 44 games with the Hawks last season as mostly a fourth-line afterthought, and entering training camp as a long shot to even make the team, Rasmussen has forced his way into a much larger role this year. Since entering the lineup in the third game of the season, he’s been scratched just once. He’s averaging nearly 12 minutes of ice time a game, up from just nine last season, and that’s largely because he’s become one of the Hawks’ top penalty-killers.

Among Hawks forwards, only Kruger has seen more shorthanded ice time, and the two are usually paired together on the PK rotation. After a historically bad start to the season on the kill, Rasmussen has helped stabilize the Hawks’ penalty kill, all while entrenching himself as a fixture in the Hawks lineup.

There are all sorts of technical concerns on the penalty kill — “controlled pressure,” Rasmussen calls it — and Rasmussen has been relentlessly picking the brains of Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson, along with assistant coach Mike Kitchen, to learn all the nuances of the Hawks’ scheme, and the tendencies of their opponents. But more than anything, Kruger has noticed the way that Rasmussen has embraced what can be an inglorious — but invaluable — role.

“It’s not [glamorous],” Kruger said. “But you have to really take pride in it. He’s doing a great job of that, and he’s curious all the time, asking questions and stuff like that. He’s been adapting very quickly.”

Perhaps on another team, in another role, Rasmussen could be a more offensive player. He twice scored 16 goals in short Swedish league seasons, and had 13 tallies in his first season at Rockford. In 63 career NHL games entering Saturday night’s game in Los Angeles, he had just five goals, including one this season. But he has size and skill, as he showed with his acrobatic effort Friday afternoon in Anaheim to get the puck into the slot, which led directly to a Ryan Hartman goal.

Of course, Rasmussen didn’t even get an assist on the play, because it touched the stick of Anaheim’s Shea Theodore for a brief moment before Kruger hacked it back to Hartman. But Rasmussen’s used to that. Glory isn’t in the job description. Only winning is.

“I’m trying to do my role as good as possible every game,” Rasmussen said. “Of course, I want to help the team on offense, too, and take my chances when I get them. But I’ve been mostly a defensive guy here, a lot of defensive-zone draws and penalty-killing. That’s my role here, and I like that role. Every team needs guys like that.”

Resurgent Rodin

Of the 60 players selected in the first two rounds of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, 50 have played at least one NHL game.

Anton Rodin, drafted 53rd overall by the Canucks that year, is set to become the 51st to play in the big league this season, if all goes according to plan.

Then again, nothing has gone according to plan for Rodin.

Seven years ago Rodin was brought into the organization and viewed as an up-and-coming forward with superb puck handling, a solid shot, excellent skating and good hockey sense. He spent the 2009-10 season proving the Canucks right as a rookie with Brynas in Sweden's Elitserien, at the 2010 U20 World Junior Championship and the World Junior Championship, where he tied Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson for second overall in points (10).

The 5-foot-11, 181-pound forward signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canucks in June 2010 and it was only a matter of time before he made the move to Vancouver.

Then, as much as a prospect can vanish, Rodin did.

He played two seasons with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, collecting 41 points in 111 games, while fighting through a myriad of injuries. The then 22-year-old returned to Sweden and all but said goodbye to his shot at an NHL career.

Think again.

Over the past three seasons with Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Hockey League, Rodin was a standout with 47 goals and 65 assists for 112 points in 134 games. Last year, despite losing almost half the season to injury, he had 37 points in 33 games as team captain and was awarded the Golden Helmet, an award bestowed upon the league MVP. To be clear: Rodin missed 19 games and was still named most valuable player.

Clearly something clicked for the now 25-year-old.

"Those three years in Sweden were really good for me, I was a key player on my team," said Rodin, after skating alongside Alex Burrows and Brandon Sutter at training camp in Whistler Saturday. "I'm a lot older now, so I'm more mature on and off the ice and this time around will be better for me."

Both GM Jim Benning and coach Willie Desjardins speak highly of Rodin, who was signed to a one-year, one-way contract last March. It's too early to tell if and where Rodin fits into the picture for the Canucks this season, but even being in the discussion again is quite remarkable.

Rodin said he needed to mature as a person and a player before he could take the next step.

"Last year did a lot for my confidence, especially being named captain of my team. I got tons of opportunities from my coach and I think I took them too. Opportunities are always good, that's all you can ask for, then it's up to you to make the best of it."

He certainly made the best of his summer through training with Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom, a former teammate with Brynas and good friend. Once he arrived in Vancouver in June Rodin started getting to know the Sedins and Alex Edler as well, so it's no surprise to hear him talk as if nothing is promised.

"My game is in the offensive zone, I'm a good skater and I can put the puck in the net. But first of all it's hard work, if I'm not working hard, I'm not a good player. So I focus on hard work, then the rest will come."

Columbus Resigns Karlsson

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed center William Karlsson to a two-year contract extension through the 2017-18 National Hockey League season, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. As is club policy, terms were not disclosed.

Karlsson, 23, tallied nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points with six penalty minutes in 81 games with the Blue Jackets in his first full NHL season in 2015-16, including 6-8-14 and a +14 plus/minus rating over the final 39 games of the campaign. His 81 games played was tied for second among NHL rookies and he led all club first-year players in goals, assists, points, shots (108) and games played.

“William Karlsson made great strides in his first NHL season and we believe that he is just beginning to come into his own as a player,” said Kekalainen. “He is an important part of our young, core group of players and we are pleased that he will continue to grow, develop and contribute to our team as we move forward.”

Anaheim’s third pick, 53rd overall, in the 2011 NHL Draft, Karlsson was acquired by the Blue Jackets with Rene Bourque and a second round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from the Ducks in exchange for James Wisniewski and a 2015 third round pick on Mar. 2, 2015. He has collected 12-13-25 and eight penalty minutes in 102 career NHL games with the Blue Jackets and Ducks, including 10-12-22 and six penalty minutes in 84 games with Columbus.

The Marsta, Sweden native registered 19-46-65, 26 penalty minutes and a +17 plus/minus rating in 105 career games with HV 71 in the Swedish Hockey League from 2012-14. In 2012-13, he picked up 4-24-28 and 12 penalty minutes in 50 games to earn SHL Rookie of the Year honors and with VIK Vasteras HK was named Sweden’s top junior player in 2011-12. He also represented Sweden at two IIHF World Junior Championship tournaments, winning a gold medal in 2012 and silver in 2013.

Rasmussen Re-ups With Chicago

Dennis Rasmussen showed good work in his first season with the Blackhawks. On Wednesday, he signed up for one more.

The Blackhawks and Rasmussen agreed to terms on a one-year deal on Wednesday afternoon.  The 25-year-old Rasmussen played in 44 games with the Blackhawks last season, recording four goals and five assists.

Rasmussen provided depth at center when the Blackhawks were without Marcus Kruger, who missed nearly four months with a broken wrist. In March, Rasmussen talked about everything he learned in his time with the Blackhawks, and how beneficial it would be entering training camp this fall.

“Of course, you feel more comfortable and know what to expect,” Rasmussen said at the time. “When you go back in the summer you know what to focus on and how the game is up here. Before, you didn’t know exactly. Of course it’ll make you feel more comfortable.”

Bengtsson Signs with Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Lukas Bengtsson to a two-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The two-way contract will begin with the 2016-17 season and runs through the 2017-18 campaign.

Bengtsson, 22, recently helped his Swedish Elite League club, Frolunda, win the championship, contributing seven points (2G-5A) and a plus-7 in 12 postseason contests.

A 5-foot-10, 181-pound righthanded-shooting defenseman, Bengtsson logged his first full season in the SHL with Frolunda in 2015-16, tallying 14 points (7G-7A) and a plus-17 in 30 regular-season contests.

Last year, the Stockholm, Sweden native broke into Sweden’s top professional league with Frolunda during the playoffs, scoring one goal and four points in nine SHL postseason contests.

Before joining Frolunda for the playoffs in 2015, Bengtsson finished his fifth regular season with Mora IK in Sweden’s second division. He recorded the second of his back-to-back 30-point seasons with Mora (’14-15 & ’13-14) while serving as one of his club’s alternate captains as a 21 year old.

Bengtsson helped Sweden win a silver medal at the 2014 World Junior Championship, tallying three points (1G-2A) in seven contests. He was teammates on that squad with current Penguins center Oskar Sundqvist.  

SHL MVP Rödin Returns to the Canucks

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced today that the Canucks have signed Right Wing Anton Rödin to a one-year, one-way contract.

Rödin, 25, played for Brynäs IF Gavle in 2015-16 recording 37 points (16-21-37) and 18 penalty minutes. The 5’11”, 181-pound right winger was also awarded the Gold Helmet Award of the Swedish Hockey League as the League’s Most Valuable Player. Prior to playing in the Swedish Hockey League, Rödin played two seasons in the AHL (2011-13) with the Chicago Wolves, collecting 41 points (14-27-41) in 111 games.

On the international stage, Rödin won a bronze medal with Sweden at the 2010 World Junior Championships. He collected 10 points (3-7-10) in six games, ranking tied for seventh in tournament scoring.

A native of Stockholm, Sweden Rödin was selected in the second round, 53rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Rödin Named MVP of the SHL

Despite missing a third of the season with an injury, Anton Rödin was named the 2015-16 MVP of the SHL, winning the league's coveted Gold Helmet.  In just 33 games, Rödin scored 16 goals and 27 assists, tallying a league leading 1.12 Points Per Game.  Rödin's NHL rights are owned by the Vancouver Canucks.

 

Despite missing a third of the season with an injury, Anton Rodin was named the MVP of the Swedish Hockey League. The MVP award is named “The Gold Helmet” or Guldhjälmen in Swedish, which strikes me as a pretty awesome nickname: Anton “Guldhjälmen” Rodin. [Brynas]  - See more at: http://www.vancourier.com/pass-it-to-bulis/stick-in-link-to-hype-or-not-to-hype-tryamkin-1.2196559#sthash.xsf09Njf.dpuf
Despite missing a third of the season with an injury, Anton Rodin was named the MVP of the Swedish Hockey League. The MVP award is named “The Gold Helmet” or Guldhjälmen in Swedish, which strikes me as a pretty awesome nickname: Anton “Guldhjälmen” Rodin. [Brynas]  - See more at: http://www.vancourier.com/pass-it-to-bulis/stick-in-link-to-hype-or-not-to-hype-tryamkin-1.2196559#sthash.xsf09Njf.dpuf

Leafs Recall Loov

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Thursday that the team has recalled defenceman Viktor Loov from the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies on an emergency basis.

Loov, 23, has collected 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 48 games with the Marlies this season. The Sodertalje, Sweden native has yet to make his NHL debut after being selected by the Maple Leafs in the seventh round (209th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

NHL Success Worth the Wait

Three times, Dennis Rasmussen was eligible for the NHL draft. Three times, he heard from teams that were interested in selecting him. Three times, he thought he might get picked.

Three times, he went undrafted. 

“When you’re a young kid and your dream is to play in the NHL, of course, you’re a little bit disappointed,” Rasmussen said. “But at the same time, it’s not over yet. You have to work even harder, and everything came pretty late for me. I just had to work harder.”

 

Better late than never. 

 

Rasmussen has come from seemingly out of nowhere to become the answer the Hawks have been looking for at third-line center. In just nine games since becoming the ninth Rockford player to get a shot with the Hawks this season, he has three goals and an assist and has formed a nice partnership with fellow big body Bryan Bickell. And as his tremendous one-man effort on a goal in Buffalo showed, the 6-3, 205-pounder has more offensive skill and power than most realized. 

 

“We didn’t envision the offense,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We like how he’s playing overall, putting the puck in the net, and that line’s been effective. It’s a bit surprising, but we’ve been pleased.”

 

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise. Rasmussen never took the easy way. Never had a choice, really. After going undrafted during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts, Rasmussen spent one more season in the Swedish minor leagues before getting promoted to the Elite League. After scoring 16 goals in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, Rasmussen finally started drawing serious interest from the NHL.

 

He had multiple suitors, but the Hawks were among the most aggressive. The track record of successful Swedes in Chicago helped, and a recruiting pitch from countryman David Rundblad put the Hawks over the top. Rasmussen signed with the Hawks in June of 2014. 

 

He was briefly called up as insurance during a west coast trip last season, but seemed buried under a host of other prospects in the organizational food chain. As the likes of Kyle Baun, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and others got called up and quickly sent back down, Rasmussen did what he’s always done — he waited, and he worked. 

“You’re always pushing for your chance to prove that you can play here,” Rasmussen said. “You’ve just got to battle hard, and even harder if you see a guy from Rockford going up. You see you might have a chance, too, if you’re playing good enough. You just have to be patient.”

 

All that patience — and all that work — has paid off. While many of those other call-ups had just brief stints in the NHL, Rasmussen appears poised to stay, especially in light of the wrist surgery that will sideline center Marcus Kruger for the rest of the regular season. 

 

It’s been a long road for Rasmussen. He’s already 25 years old, just two years younger than stalwart veterans Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. In fact, he’s been waiting for the chance to put on a Hawks sweater for about 18 years. 

 

Turns out Rasmussen saw his first Hawks game at the United Center when he was 7 years old. In his lone visit to the United States, he and his dad and a friend flew to Chicago to catch a Hawks-Avalanche game and a Jordan-era Bulls game. Eighteen years later, he’s living out a dream. 

 

It was all worth the wait. 

 

“To come back here and play is just an awesome thing,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen Scores in Debut

Dennis Rasmussen recorded a team-low 8 minutes and 33 seconds of ice time during his NHL debut in a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, but he only needed his third shift to make an impact.

At the 10:45 mark of the first period, Andrew Shaw directed a shot on net, where Rasmussen planted himself in an effort to screen Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Not only did he obstruct Rinne's view, but the shot was deflected by the 25-year-old rookie, who celebrated his first NHL goal (on his first shot) like anybody would.

"I yelled as loud as I could," Rasmussen said.

He had 21,432 fans at the United Center that joined him.

[MORE: WATCH: Blackhawks' Dennis Rasmussen scores first NHL goal in first NHL game]

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=107

It's not that Rasmussen scored in his debut that may have mattered most to the Blackhawks; it's how he did it. A tip-in while battling for position in front of the net, something coach Joel Quenneville has stressed his team should do more of and an area the Blackhawks additionally worked on in practice Monday.

"That's how you score in our league," Quenneville said of Rasmussen's unorthodox goal. "Pretty goals are hard to come by. Traffic, turn the puck over, get it back to the point, second opportunity or screen, tip, deflection and go off that. Lines like that, that’s the recipe for success. Bring energy, get on the body, turn pucks over and scoring a big goal like that certainly helps us in a lot of ways."

Rasmussen took a cross-check to the back after scoring the goal, but that's the price you pay when you go to the front of the net and it paid off this time.

Is that the type of goal he envisioned for the first of his career?

"I think I visualized a couple things," Rasmussen said. "This game I just tried to play a simple game and try to get into it right away and to get the goal, that's of course, I'm really happy about it.

“I felt good right away and the guys really helped me to feel on the team and to feel comfortable and talked to me a lot, especially (Bryan) Bickell and (Andrew) Shaw, so I really felt comfortable, even from the start, and after a goal of course the nerves got away a little bit too."

Rasmussen became the second Blackhawks player this season to register a goal in his NHL debut, with Artemi Panarin being the first on opening night.

A goal on his first shot in his first career game is something Rasmussen will certainly never forget. But to cap off a memorable day, his parents and brother were in attendance for it after flying in from Sweden.

"It's the biggest day of my life so far," Rasmussen said. "It's easy to say that."

Rasmussen Called Up By Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today they have recalled forward Dennis Rasmussen from the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs.

Rasmussen, 25, shares second on the IceHogs with 14 points (7G, 7A) and shares third on Rockford with 48 shots on goal in 22 games this season. The Vasteras, Sweden, native registered 27 points (13G, 14A) and a +9 plus/minus rating in 73 regular-season games with Rockford last year in his North American debut; he added five shots on goal in seven Calder Cup contests.

The Blackhawks return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 8, when they host the Nashville Predators at 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet and heard on WGN Radio AM-720.

Karlsson Thrives in Bigger Role

NEWARK, N.J. — With Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen out of the lineup the past two games because of a mysterious illness, rookie William Karlsson and second-year pro Alexander Wennberg have moved into bigger roles.

Wennberg has centered the No. 2 line with veterans Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson, which accounted for two goals in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory at New Jersey.

Karlsson has centered Boone Jenner and Matt Calvert, a line that also scored. But it’s Karlsson’s gritty play — hits, winning pucks on the boards, blocked shots, etc. — that has stood out.

“I didn’t even know who the hell they were,” coach John Tortorella said of the two young Swedes. “I love it. They’re kids. I’ve put them in some pretty crucial spots early on here.

“I’m putting them in those spots because I think they deserve it right now. I’m very impressed with them.”

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Wennberg began to emerge as a solid two-way player last season, and his defensive anticipation remains brilliant. Faceoffs, however, are a challenge: he’s 17 of 45 (37.8 percent).

Karlsson has been more of a revelation. The Blue Jackets acquired him in March in a deal that sent defenseman James Wisniewski to Anaheim.

“I came out of the summer stronger and faster, just getting a year older,” Karlsson said. “I can feel it on the ice, the difference.”

Karlsson is speaking in a way that will endear him to his new coach, too.

Asked about blocking shots, he said: “Of course, it hurts to take a puck. But the pain goes away when the guys give you pats on the back at the bench.”

Asked if he prefers playing left wing or center, he said: “I’ve always played center. But if Torts asks me to play goaltender, I’ll go get some pads.”

Karlsson is a Cool Customer

Sitting in his locker stall at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, William Karlsson peeled off his gear piece-by-piece, while at the same time wondering if that game would be his last of training camp.

“I gave it everything,” Karlsson said, exhausted after a four-point effort and nearly 17 minutes of ice time on Friday night.

Coming into training camp, he knew the situation: the Blue Jackets were loaded up front. They had an obvious surplus of forwards on NHL contracts, thus making it a rather clear-cut situation for himself or any of the organization’s young players looking to break through – long story short, if you’re going to make it, you’d better do something special.

From the first day of training camp, that was Karlsson’s goal.

He felt energized by the opportunity in a new organization, and given a taste of the NHL late last season and a full summer to get further familiarized with the team, this fall felt different. Karlsson was a regular member of Todd Richards’ lineup in the preseason, and with each passing game, he seemed to take step after step and with it came the coach's trust.

When the Blue Jackets made their final round of cuts on Saturday night, Karlsson’s name remained on the NHL roster. He was one of the 23 healthy players who will begin the season with the big club, and he's here for good reason; Karlsson’s steady and consistent performances made it a rather easy decision to keep him in Columbus.

“I think he’s improved (from last year) and he looks faster on the ice, but I think his play has stayed the same,” Richards said. “What I mean by that is he’s a very reliable, trustworthy guy and he does the little things right. His game has improved, but what I mean ‘stayed the same’ is that, as a coach, you trust him. You know what to expect. He’s smart positionally, in the right places, he can make plays and provide some offense.

“I put him out on a penalty kill 5-on-3, and he’s right in front of (the point man) eating pucks. When you sit on the bench and watch that, it’s part of a culture thing that you want on your team.”

This fall’s edition of "Wild Bill" showed many of the attributes that attracted the Blue Jackets to him when they made a deadline trade with Anaheim last spring. Karlsson was part of the James Wisniewski deal that also brought Rene Bourque to Columbus, and though he was sent to Springfield (AHL) when the trade was announced, it wasn’t long before Karlsson joined the parent club.

Recalled on Mar. 23 due to an injury to friend and fellow Swede Alexander Wennberg, Karlsson scored his first goal with the Blue Jackets a few days later in St. Louis. It was a brief NHL stint, but also one in which he learned things that he’d take with him back to the AHL and into the offseason.

When he came back to Columbus in August, Karlsson felt a new level of confidence that shone through in training camp.

“I feel a lot more comfortable this year with the organization, the city, the guys in here,” Karlsson said. “I’m more confident and comfortable with the systems, which helps now being in my second year. I just came into this camp with confidence and told myself I was going to give it my all, and I feel like I did that.”

Checking line center? Check. Top six forward? Check. Fourth line left wing? Check.

Karlsson played a variety of roles in training camp and the preseason, making himself a viable option for Richards, who kept putting the 22-year-old out there and in various situations. That versatility reminded Richards of former Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu, who seemingly played just about every position here except goaltender.

“He was a big piece of that trade,” Richards said. “I think there’s more there. To get your foot in the door, you’ve got to start somewhere. Right now, he’s put his name in the conversation which is what you need to do as a young player.

“When you make yourself a utility player where the coach can utilize you in different situations, it becomes pretty valuable.”

Two and a half weeks ago, Karlsson reminded himself that he didn’t want to leave camp with any what-ifs and, even though the odds seemed long, he wanted to put himself in the best position possible to make the team.

That goal was achieved, but even if he didn’t break camp on the NHL roster, he was determined to make sure that the door remained open.

“I worked hard all camp, played my game and felt like I kept getting better,” Karlsson said. “You don’t know when your last (preseason) game is, or when you’re getting your last chance. I wanted to leave everything out there. I played my heart out.

“If I didn’t make the team, it’d be disappointing, but then I’d work my tail off to be the first call-up.”

Lindback Signs With Arizona

Arizona Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney announced today that the Coyotes have signed goaltender Anders Lindback to a one-year contract. As per club policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

 

Lindback

 

The 27-year-old Lindback registered a 6-16-2 record with a 3.11 goals against average (GAA) and a .909 save percentage (SV%) in 26 games with the Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres last season. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound native of Gavle, Sweden posted a 2.76 GAA and a .924 SV% in 16 games with the Sabres.

Lindback is 40-51-10 with a 2.83 GAA and a .905 SV% in 111 career NHL games. He was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the seventh round (207th overall) in the 2008 Entry Dr

Beaulieu Re-Signs with Canadiens

Nathan Beaulieu will be looking to earn a little more action when training camp kicks off in September.

Four years after being nabbed in the first round at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Nathan Beaulieu has earned a permanent spot in the Canadiens dressing room. Having spent parts of the last three seasons trekking back and forth between Montreal and Hamilton, the 22-year-old blue-liner has finally left the AHL in the rearview mirror and is now focused on making his mark with the big club.

 

“It took a lot of patience. It was a journey. I had to play a little time in the American League and I had to grow aspects of my game. It was a process and I feel like now I’ve grown into an NHL player,” shared Beaulieu via conference call from his home in London, ON, after inking a two-year deal with the Canadiens. “The biggest thing I learned is the focus you have to have, shift in and shift out. Every time you step on the ice, you have to be prepared and you have to be on your game. You can’t get away with having a lackadaisical shift.

“It was just about maturing and focusing and understanding it’s a process,” he continued. “Now that I feel like I’ve established myself as an NHL player, it’s time to take a big step forward in my NHL career.”

The pending restricted free agent wasted little time putting pen to paper when Habs general manager Marc Bergevin called to discuss contract details. Coming off a year that saw him score his first career NHL goal while averaging 15:41 in ice time per game, Beaulieu jumped at the chance to continue building on the foundation he and his teammates established during their 50-win 2014-15 campaign.

“I wanted to be a Canadien and I wanted to stay here. There’s no other place I want to be,” he stressed. “We have that burning desire to win. We had a special team [last year] and we still do. The great thing about us is we’re young, and we’re only going to get better from what we learned in the past. I’m very excited to move forward with this group.”

After becoming the first of the team’s RFAs to sign on the dotted line this summer, Beaulieu is treating his two-year deal as a new beginning in his life as an NHLer. Eager to prove he’s ready for additional responsibilities and a heavier workload in his fourth pro season, the speedy rearguard plans on celebrating his big news by hitting the gym harder than ever. 

“For next season, I want to play a bigger role on the team. With that, you want to be in the best shape you can,” mentioned Beaulieu, who had a plus-6 differential through 64 regular season games this year. “The reason I was brought into this organization was to bring offense from the back end, but this year I learned a lot on the defensive side.

“And I have a great guy to learn from in Andrei Markov,” he added of the veteran pivot, who finished second on the team in power play minutes per game behind P.K. Subban, with 3:14. “You just have to wait for your opportunities, and I know eventually I’m going to be a power play guy, but you have to earn it. It doesn’t just get given to you. I want to prove I can play big minutes and be a Top 4 guy who can help the team win. I’m ready to take on responsibilities and earn that spot.”

Lindback Dealt to Buffalo

Anders Lindback was traded from the Dallas Stars to the Buffalo Sabres for Jhonas Enroth.  He'll share goaltending duties in Buffalo with Michal Neuvirth.

Goc Traded to St. Louis

The Blues' new fourth-line center could help shore up some minor weaknesses heading into the second half.

Few would have faulted general manager Doug Armstrong for sticking with a roster that has produced 37 goals and earned 15 of 16 possible points in its last eight games. But the best leaders understand there's always room for improvement, and a Tuesday night trade with Pittsburgh looks like a smart move with minimal risk.

What St. Louis lost in physicality and skating ability with Maxim Lapierre should be more than made up for by the intelligence and defensive presence of veteran Marcel Goc, a two-time Olympian with Germany. Armstrong says although the two players aren't that different, Goc provides a better fit with physical fourth-line wingers Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves.

"Sometimes in the games we saw we were getting caught giving up odd-man rushes and I think it's all three of the players -- (Lapierre), Reaves and Ott -- really like to get in on the forecheck," Armstrong says. "I think this is going to give us a lot of reliability from that center position."

That's an appealing idea to both Ott and Reaves, even though they were shocked to hear about the departure of their linemate and close friend. Lapierre joined the Blues as a free agent prior to last season and quickly earned a reputation as a hard-nosed player ready to make the necessary sacrifices.

He occasionally added some offense as well, scoring nine goals a year ago and two in 46 games this season to go along with seven assists. Goc brings a little more firepower based on his career numbers and has three points in his last four games, but that's not what interested the Blues when trade talks began before the All-Star break.

Pittsburgh's penalty kill ranks fourth in the league at 87.1 percent, and no one played more on the PK than Goc, who averaged three minutes per game. He'll slide into Lapierre's role alongside Ott for the Blues' penalty kill, which ranks 17th at 81.2 percent, though they've killed 32 of their opponents' last 34 power plays.

Rasmussen Called Up

Dennis Rasmussen wasn’t anticipating anything.

When coach Joel Quenneville said last week that the Blackhawks would recall a forward before heading on this road trip, Rasmussen wasn’t aware of it. He was just going about his business with the Rockford IceHogs.

On Sunday, however, it was Rasmussen who got the call. Yet as excited as Rasmussen is to be here, he’s still not building any expectations into what could happen in his time here.

Rasmussen was recalled from the IceHogs on Sunday, a day before the Blackhawks headed to Los Angeles for their six-game road trip. It was good news for Rasmussen, who has eight goals and eight assists in 44 Rockford games this season.

“It’s a pretty big opportunity for me to be here. Obviously I’m really happy,” Rasmussen said following Monday’s practice. “It’s my first time being called up and it’s fun to be here with the guys after being with them in [training] camp.”

If and when he plays, however, is up in the air. When the Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, Quenneville plans to have the same lineup he did prior to the all-star break. If and when Rasmussen plays, Quenneville will likely use him at center, his primary position.

“He gives us some size up the middle,” Quenneville said. “He’s a responsible guy, a two-way type of center man. He’s strong, has a nice shot. We’ll see how he does up here. Certainly he can play some wing as well but we’re thinking center when he does play.”

Rasmussen isn’t coming up here with any expectations. If he plays, he’ll do what’s worked for him in Rockford.

“I try to be a two-way player, be responsible on both ends of the ice and just try to help the team as much as possible, winning pucks and using my speed to make good plays,” he said. “It’s a goal to play up here this year. I know it’ll be tough. But now I’m here and it’ll be fun. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”

Beaulieu Finds His Stride

From the Montreal Gazette

John Tavares is in full stride as he circles around the Canadiens net with the puck at the end of his stick.

There’s an opening on goalie Dustin Tokarski’s left side and it looks as though Tavares has just enough time to close the circle and score a wraparound goal.

But with just seconds left in the period Saturday and the New York Islanders threatening to tie the game, defenceman Nathan Beaulieu appears seemingly out of nowhere to save the day. Beaulieu knows the only way Tavares can score is by putting the puck low on the far left side of the Canadiens net.

So he gets on his knees and slides across the crease looking less like a hockey player than James Brown exploding onto stage (you can almost hear him screaming “Waaaah!”).

Crisis averted, the Canadiens went on to win the game 6-4 Saturday at the Bell Centre.

“I don’t even know who James Brown is,” Beaulieu said, not quite grasping my Godfather of Soul comparison. “I know how (Tavares) skates, he gets really low and as soon as he put his stuck down and he was cupping the puck, I knew what he was going to do. He wanted to jam it in, so it was kind of just a desperation play on my part. I slid and fortunately it worked out.”

When he was called up from the minor leagues in December, Beaulieu looked a little out of place on the Canadiens blue line. He’s a defenceman known for taking calculated risks, quickly moving the puck up ice and generating scoring chances. But at the beginning of his latest stint in the National Hockey League, Beaulieu seemed tentative, often keeping his feet planted atop of the offensive zone instead of moving in to help his linemates.

After a few games, Beaulieu began loosening up and once again played to his strengths.

“Before I was just playing to stick around and stay in the lineup,” he said. “Now I know my role on this team and I’m trying to play it. I’m a little more relaxed now.”

Midway through the first, the 22-year-old thrust his shoulder into Islanders forward Michael Grabner as he tried to carry the puck into the Canadiens zone. He delivered the hit with such precision and timing that it derailed Grabner — his body twisted in mid-air. After Beaulieu recovered the puck and relaunched the Canadiens attack, he nearly took Brock Nelson’s head off when he drove his right forearm into it.

That one earned Beaulieu a two-minute penalty, but it was as though he put the entire arena on notice. He may be a gifted player, but Beaulieu also has something of a mean streak to him. During a one-week period in November, Beaulieu fought twice, knocking both his opponents out using the brutality one associates with a honey badger.

 “I’m not naturally a physical guy, but when there’s an opportunity to get a hit, I’ll take it,” Beaulieu said. “My dad taught me to play that way. He wasn’t a big guy, but he was a tough guy, so I have a little bit of that in my blood.”

After getting out of the penalty box, Beaulieu jumped into a play wherein he spotted Max Pacioretty across the offensive zone and sent a perfect pass to the forward’s stick — nearly setting a goal up in the process.

There were good and bad moments throughout the rest of the game. One play saw Beaulieu totally shut down an Islanders’ clearing attempt so that teammate David Desharnais could intercept the puck and create a scoring play. Later, the Islanders potted a goal when the puck slightly deflected off Beaulieu’s skate on what should have been a harmless shot.

There will be mistakes, bad periods, bad games, but for now the question of whether Beaulieu belongs in the NHL seems to be a foolish one. He played more than 20 minutes on Saturday, often looking like he’s a lock on the Canadiens’ second defensive pairing until someone unseats him.

On a team that has one of the oldest blue lines in the NHL, Beaulieu’s presence is refreshing. He plays the new brand of defensive hockey: responsible but always pressing forward, either carrying the puck up ice or quickly moving it to a teammate, and his feet are endlessly in motion.

There was a time not long ago when defencemen could be big and slow — “des gros jambons,” as the French Canadian saying goes. But that breed of defenceman is dying out and making room for players who can be physical, yes, but also keep a frantic pace.

“You’ve seen the game evolve over the past 10 years, you can hold on or clutch and grab guys’ jerseys,” Beaulieu said. “You have to be quick, first on the puck. That’s our motto here, we’re a fast hockey club. I’m fortunate, I fit right into that.”

Karlsson Scores Shootout Winner

William Karlsson was a bystander watching his first NHL shootout Tuesday night when he heard a call.

"Wild Bill!"

Instead of choosing Ducks leader Ryan Getzlaf, Coach Bruce Boudreau said he decided on the fly to play the wild card after two of three right-handed Ducks' shooters failed to beat Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason.

"He's got some great offensive vision and he can make some plays," Boudreau said of Karlsson. "I was looking for a left-handed guy, and he was the guy I thought would be the hottest."

A night after scoring two goals in his second NHL game, the 21-year-old Swedish rookie delivered the Ducks a 4-3 victory (2-1 in the shootout) by burying a shot that closed a season-opening Eastern Conference road trip with a 3-1 record while the Flyers (0-2-2) remained winless.

"You just have to smile about the situation and think you're going to be the hero," Karlsson said. "I knew I was going to shoot. I was just trying to find open net. It's been a good roadie."

Karlsson Nets Two

A week ago, William Karlsson wasn’t sure he made the Ducks’ roster until the center boarded the team flight for a season-opening four-game eastern road swing.

On Monday afternoon, the rookie 21-year-old center was celebrating his first two NHL goals following a one-sided 5-1 win over the winless Buffalo Sabres.

“I had a goal to make the team, but I was ready to go back to Norfolk,” Karlsson said, referring to the Ducks’ Virginia-based AHL affiliate. “But now I’m here. And now my next focus is the next game.”

 

Karlsson has certainly earned his opportunity filling the third-line center role in place of injured forwards Dany Heatley (groin) and Kyle Palmieri (ankle). He put the Ducks up 2-0 at 8:15 of the second period by snapping a shot in from the slot. Karlsson then made it 4-0 early in the third period, when he batted in his own rebound.

Coach Bruce Boudreau held out Karlsson in the Ducks’ opener at Pittsburgh, before giving him a shot in a 3-2 win at Detroit on Saturday.

“We put him in, and it was, ‘Not bad. Let’s see what he’s got again,’” Boudreau said. “And tonight, I thought he was our best player.”

Lindback Signs With Dallas

Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed goaltender Anders Lindback to a one-year contract. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Lindback, 26, posted a record of 8-12-2 with an .891 save percentage and a 2.90 goals against average in 23 regular-season contests with Tampa Bay last season. Lindback also earned one shutout for the Lightning during the 2013-14 campaign. The goaltender made four appearances in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 0-3 with an .881 SV% and a 3.91 GAA.

"Anders has been effective in both Nashville and Tampa Bay," said Nill. "He's a player that Mike Valley, our goaltending coach, knows well and his age and experience mesh perfectly with where our group is at collectively."

The four-year NHL veteran has posted a career record of 34-35-5 with a .904 SV% and a 2.74 GAA with three shutouts in 85 career regular-season appearances with Tampa Bay and Nashville. He has appeared in five career Stanley Cup Playoffs contests, earning an 0-3 record with a 3.68 GAA and an .890 SV%, stopping 113 of the 127 shots he's faced in the postseason.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound native of Gavle, Sweden was originally selected by Nashville in the seventh round (207th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft.

Goc Re-Ups with Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward Marcel Goc to a one-year contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The deal has an average annual value of $1.2 million.

Goc, 30, joined the Penguins in a trade from the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline in March. He played in 12 regular-season games with Pittsburgh, winning 57.3 percent of his draws with the team and collecting two assists.

Goc appeared in nine postseason games with Pittsburgh, leading the team with a 58.5-percent faceoff success rate. He missed the final nine regular-season games and the first four playoff games with a lower-body injury.

The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Goc played in 74 regular-season games in 2013-14 combined with the Penguins and Panthers, tallying 11 goals, 14 assists and 25 points. His 11 goals were the second-highest single-season total of his career. At the time of his acquisition by Pittsburgh, Goc ranked first among Florida forwards with 103 hits and 41 blocked shots.

Goc, who hails from Calw, Germany, has skated in 562 career NHL regular-season contests with San Jose, Nashville, Florida and Pittsburgh, totaling 72 goals, 107 assists and 179 points. He has also played in 59 postseason contests, registering 15 points (5G-10A).

Goc was originally drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the first round (20th overall) of the 2001 NHL Draft. He has represented his native Germany at the 2006 and ’10 Olympics, seven World Championships, four World Junior Championships and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

In 2010, Goc captained the Germans to a fourth place finish at the World Championship, the country’s best finish at that tournament in 72 years.

Blackhawks agree to terms with Rasmussen

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they have agreed to terms with forward Dennis Rasmussen (RASS-muh-suhn) on a one-year contract.

Rasmussen, 23, tallied 40 points (16g, 24a) in 52 games this season with Växjö of the Swedish Hockey League. He led the team and ranked 10th in the league in points, while ranking second on the team in goals and assists. Rasmussen shared 12th in the SHL in assists and was 17th in goals. He also recorded six points (2g, 4a) in 12 SHL playoff games.

The Västerås, Sweden, native has posted 85 points (40g, 45a) in 149 career SHL games with Växjö from 2011 to 2014. Rasmussen has also appeared for Sweden in international competition, helping Sweden to a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championships and the 2010 World Junior Championships.

Beaulieu Solid in 1st NHL Playoff Game

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu woke up Monday and went to the Montreal Canadiens' morning skate completely unaware of what the day had in store for him.

He had no idea he was about to play the biggest game of his life.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien rolled the dice by dressing the rookie for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins, and Beaulieu rewarded him.

He received 9:36 of ice time, but Beaulieu accomplished a lot in that short time to help the Canadiens win 4-0 and force a Game 7 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) at TD Garden.

Beaulieu joined the Canadiens during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as one of the "Black Aces." Three weeks later, he found himself helping Montreal stave off elimination.

"When you come here as a 'Black Ace', you've got to stay ready. You have to come here with expectations that anything can happen," Beaulieu said. "The best way to put it is I was overwhelmed, very happy with the opportunity.

"I just tried to take full advantage of it."

Lars Eller opened the scoring at 2:11 of the first period on Beaulieu's first shift of the game, snapping a streak of 149:38 without scoring an even-strength goal against Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Beaulieu didn't play a big role on the goal, which came off a Kevan Miller giveaway to Eller right in front of the Boston net, but it still allowed him to settle into the game right off the bat.

Beaulieu was inserted into the lineup by Therrien because of his offensive skills, and he showed them with an instinctive play to set up the biggest goal of the game.

With the Canadiens clinging to a 1-0 lead in the second period despite carrying much of the play to that point, Beaulieu grabbed a loose puck off a blocked shot by defense partner Mike Weaver. This was his first playoff game as a professional hockey player, his first game of any kind since April 19, and Beaulieu made a play that a seasoned veteran might not have considered.

When Beaulieu looked up he saw forward Max Pacioretty racing up ice, so he lofted a pass into the neutral zone, hoping it would somehow bounce to his teammate.

That's exactly what happened when Loui Eriksson missed catching the puck before it bounced past Dougie Hamilton and into the Boston zone. Pacioretty beat Zdeno Chara to the loose puck and poked a shot through Rask's legs at 15:24 to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead.

It was the breathing room the Canadiens needed, and they never looked back.

One might call that pass to Pacioretty a lucky bounce, but it never would have happened if Beaulieu hadn't attempted it.

Leafs Sign Viktor Loov

David Nonis, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Wednesday that the hockey club has signed defenceman Viktor Loov (LEWV) to a three-year entry level contract.

Loov, 21, registered five goals, seven assists, 12 points, 20 penalty minutes and a plus-two (+2) rating in 42 games for MODO in 2013-14, his rookie season in the Swedish Hockey League. The 6-3, 190-pound defenceman also played two games in the playoffs for MODO.

A native of Sodertalje, Sweden, Loov was selected by the Maple Leafs in the 7th round, 209th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Lindback NHL 1st Star of the Week

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback, Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson and Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending April 13.FIRST STAR – ANDERS LINDBACK, G, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNINGLindback posted a 3-0-0 record with a 0.67 goals-against
average, .975 save percentage and one shutout to help the Lightning (46-27-9, 101 points) earn four consecutive victories and clinch home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. He stopped all 25 shots he faced in relief of Ben Bishop in a 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs April 8. Lindback then made 34 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers April 10. He capped the week by recording 18 saves, and denying all three attempts he faced in the shootout, to pick up his third career shutout and first since Dec. 13, 2010, in a 1-0 triumph over the Washington Capitals April 13. The 25-year-old native of Gävle, Sweden, appeared in 23 games this season, compiling an 8-12-2 record with a 2.90 goals-against average and .891 save
percentage.

Greiss Earns Shutout

Coyotes backup goalie Thomas Greiss stopped all 30-shots that came his way and Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored a pair of goals in a 3-0 win over the Kings.

It was Greiss' second shutout in his last three-starts and he improved to 7-3-1 this season, with a 2.00 GAA and .935 SV%.

Erat Adds Two Assists

Martin Erat, moved to Washington's first line in the wake of Alexander Ovechkin's injury, tallied two assists in the Capitals 7-0 trouncing of Philadelphia last night.

Greiss Makes 36 Saves in Victory

Thomas Greiss, making his second start of the season, made 36 saves in the Phoenix Coyotes shootout victory over the Nashville Predators.  Greiss stopped 4 Predators in the shooutout to seal the victory. 

Martinek Returns with 2 Assists

After signing a free agent contract with the Islanders on Thursday, Radek Martinek returned to the ice on Friday with a two assist performance, propelling the Islanders to a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Martinek's helpers both came at even strength.

Beaulieu Tallies First Point of the Season

October 24, 2013 - Nathan Beaulieu tallied his first assist of the 2013-14 NHL Season when his blast from the point was tipped in by Michael Bournival for the opening goal in the Canadiens 4-1 win over the Ducks.  The 20 year old Beaulieu has played in 4 games this season after playing 6 during his rookie campaign last year.

Martinek Re-ups with the Islanders

The New York Islanders announced today that defenseman Radek Martinek has agreed to a one-year deal.

Martinek, 37, has appeared in 473 career National Hockey League games, including 466 with the Islanders. A native of Havlicko Brod, Czech Republic, Martinek has 25 goals and 82 assists for 107 career points. He’s also appeared in 11 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, all with the Islanders.

The Islanders selected Martinek in the eighth round (228th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’2, 210-pound defenseman scored three goals in 13 regular season games last season with the Islanders, while also appearing in two playoff games during the Islanders’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Martinek played five seasons in the Czech league with Ceske Budejovice from 1996-2001, the same club with which he spent the 2004-05 lockout season. He also appeared in four games with Ceske Budejovice last season. On the international stage, Martinek has represented the Czech Republic at three World Championships (2000, 2001, 2011).

Erat Records Three Assists

Martin Erat wanted the opportunity to show the Washington Capitals what he could bring to this team. Saturday night in the Capitals’ 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Erat seized the moment and recorded three assists in his first game after being moved up from the fourth line to the second.

Erat was instrumental in setting up Washington’s pair of even strength goals and keyed an on-going cycle game, along with linemates Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer, that helped fuel the team’s collective confidence.

“I played with him in Nashville, I know what he’s capable of, what he can bring to the table,” Joel Ward said. “It was good to see him out there flying again tonight and seeing him back to his old self….Marty’s a great guy off the ice. He’s definitely a team-first guy. He wants to win, he battles hard, he works hard even though he’s not the biggest guy out there but he goes out in to the corners and battles. I’m just happy for him to get an opportunity.”

Through the first seven games, Erat skated on the fourth line averaging 8 minutes, 46 seconds and recording no points. It was a difficult situation for Erat, who has mainly held top-six roles in his 12-year career and was acquired at the trade deadline last year to provide top-tier forward depth.

When Coach Adam Oates reconfigured the forward lines Friday and moved Erat up to the second line, it presented the chance for the veteran winger to prove why he should have been there all along.

 

“We made some changes and he stepped in and played great for us,” Oates said. “He and I talked a couple weeks ago. We had a heart-to-heart conversation, which is always difficult. I know he talked to [General Manager] George [McPhee]. He played good for us tonight and that’s what being a pro is all about.”

On the play that led to Capitals’ second goal, Erat drew three Blue Jackets toward him as he surveyed the scene and dished the puck on to Steve Oleksy. The defenseman made a slick play himself to put the puck on net and then Brooks Laich knocked in the rebound.

Ahead of the third goal, Erat picked off a pass by Nikita Nikitin to regain possession in the offensive zone and then sent the puck to Troy Brouwer in the slot. On the power play, Erat fed the puck from behind the goal line all the way up to Mike Green at the point ahead of Alex Ovechkin’s booming slap shot.

But even after all that, Erat didn’t want the focus to be on his personal performance.

“It’s nice to have a good game but in the end it’s all about the wins,” said Erat, who finished with 17:49 of ice time. “We get the win and that’s the bottom line.”

Ovechkin, however, didn’t hesitate to praise his teammate.

“He was flying tonight,” Ovechkin said. “He was the best player for us tonight. He showed who he is.”

Greiss Signs with Phoenix

The Phoenix Coyotes signed free agent goaltender Thomas Greiss to a one-year deal on Thursday. The deal is worth $750,000. "We are pleased to sign Thomas to a one-year contract," said Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney in a press release. "Thomas is a big, athletic and aggressive goaltender who has tremendous upside. We are excited to have him work with Sean Burke and continue his development." Greiss was 1-4 in five starts last season with the San Jose Sharks. He posted a 2.53 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in that time.

In his career, Greiss has posed a 2.52 GAA and .912 save percentage. Greiss will replace Jason LaBarbera, who was signed by the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, as the Coyotes' backup netminder for Mike Smith.

Erat Traded to Washington

The Washington Capitals made a surprising trade just before Wednesday's deadline, acquiring scoring forward Martin Erat from the Nashville Predators for top prospect Filip Forsberg. Erat figures to provide scoring depth for the surging Capitals (17-17-2), who entered Wednesday just two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Southeast Division.

Washington also received minor league forward Michael Latta in the deal. The 31-year-old Erat, who has spent his entire 12-year career in Nashville, has four goals and 17 assists in 36 games this season. "It is always difficult to trade a player who was drafted, developed and who has produced for the franchise for many years such as Martin Erat," Predators general manager David Poile said in a statement released by the team. "We thank Martin for all his contributions to the Predators' success over the years and wish him and his family the best in Washington."

http://espn.go.com/nhl/story/_/id/9130960/martin-erat-traded-washington-capitals-nashville-predators-filip-forsberg

Martinek Rejoins Isles

After a one season sojourn with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Radek Martinek has returned to play with the team which originally drafted him and for which he played during 10 seasons. Radek signed a one year deal with the New York Islanders, providing a veteran presence on a youth oriented team.

Welcome back to New York.

Kovalev signs with Florida

Alex Kovalev is coming back to the National Hockey League. The 39-year-old, who was attending camp with the Florida Panthers on a tryout deal, has signed a one-year, $1 million deal and will be on the club's 23-man roster. Alex played last season in the KHL with Atlant Mytishchi.
In 18 NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers, he scored 1,024 points in 1,302 games - Welcome back, Alex.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=413868

Erat Named Assistant Captain

Martin Erat was named Assistant Captain of the Nashville Predators, giving him a formal leadership role on the only team for which he has played in his eleven year NHL Career. Marty's myriad of statistical accomplishments on the ice are matched by his leadership qualities, both in the locker room and on the ice.  Congratualtions, Marty.

http://predators.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=650255

Lindback Traded to Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have solidified their situation in goal for the foreseeable future Friday when they acquired Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators. The Lightning sent a pair of 2012 second-round picks, a 2013 third-round pick and goaltender Sebastian Caron to the Predators in exchange for Lindback, forward Kyle Wilson and a 2012 seventh-round pick.

"We are very pleased to announce this trade today," vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman said upon making the announcement. "We believe Anders will join the team and give us a nice lift at the goaltending position as we prepare for the 2012-13 season. He has the potential to develop into the No. 1 goaltender we covet."

"I'm very excited to now be with the Tampa Bay Lightning," Lindback said. "I had some great years with Nashville but I was in a tough spot behind Pekka Rinne. My dream all my life has been to be a number one goalie in the NHL and I think I have a great opportunity to be that in Tampa Bay." Lindback is coming off his second full NHL season, in which he played 16 games as Rinne's backup. He went 5-8-0 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He has appeared in 38 career NHL games, all with Nashville, registering a 16-13-2 record, with a 2.53 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.

The 6-foot-6, 203-pound goaltender was a seventh-round pick (No. 207) of the Predators in 2008. He'll replace Dwayne Roloson, last season's starter, who is an unrestricted free agent. Tampa Bay also has veteran Mathieu Garon as well as well as 22-year-old Dustin Tokarski, a 2008 draft pick who led Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, to the Calder Cup championship.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=634879

Erat Gets Recognition

At the morning skate before the Predators played Ottawa on Feb. 9, a reporter asked Senators Coach Paul MacLean about the scoring balance up and down Nashvilles lineup.

He did not hesitate.
Martin Erat is an exceptional player for them, MacLean said. He doesnt get an awful lot of credit, but every line he plays on seems to be the best line on their team. The words werent revelatory. They came from experience. As an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings for six years, MacLean had seen Erats skating ability, nifty hands, passing vision and hockey sense up close six times per season in the Central Division.

I consider whatever line Martin Erat is on a top line in the league, MacLean said. This season Erat has achieved harmony on and off the ice. The Predators forward has a career-high in points with 58 and has found his voice as one of the teams leaders. At home, he and his wife recently welcomed their first child. The game and life have slowed down for the 30-year-old, who has taken advantage by hitting his prime and getting the publicity he deserves.

Now I know where I should shoot, where the goalies are playing, what types of defense plays against me. You just get used to playing against certain players and you get more patient in your game, Erat said. Its just a learning experience, and in hockey the experience is the biggest thing after talent. Said Predators Coach Barry Trotz: People dont realize how good of a player he is.

The junior years
Growing up in Trebic, Czech Republic, Erat knew he had talent to eventually go pro. He also knew he needed to make a move in order to improve on his game. Back then, players from Eastern Europe playing in Canadian major juniors wasnt a foreign concept. But most Europeans didnt want to leave the comfort of the their homes and travel across an ocean to play in North America. In 1999, Erat believed it was vital for his development to leave the Czech Republic for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His game was bent toward a North American style rather than a European style, which is often more skill based.

I think it was the best decision I ever made, Erat said. I learned the language, the hockey, learned you can play different systems than what you play in Europe and to be able to look at hockey in a totally different way. It didnt hurt that Erat had two tough-as-nails former NHL players as his coaches. With the Saskatoon Blades he learned from Brad McCrimmon, a no-nonsense defenseman in his playing days and a former captain of the Calgary Flames. The following year with the Red Deer Rebels, Erat played for Brent Sutter, another Western Canadian known for hard work and toughness.

That was the biggest influence you can have on your career when you are a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old, Erat said. It was during the 2000-01 season when Saskatoon traded Erat to Red Deer, a team with Memorial Cup aspirations. He quickly endeared himself to his new coaching staff and fans. Whenever Erat scored a goal, Rebels supporters threw rubber rats on the ice, an obvious homage to Erats last name. In the playoffs he led Red Deer with 36 points and the Rebels won the Memorial Cup. He just had that skill set that he can make certain plays at certain times that can change the whole complexion of the game, Sutter said. He wasnt just an offensive player, he played hard defensively too. He backchecked as hard as anyone.

Take a chance
When the Predators selected Erat in the seventh round of the 1999 draft, he was listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds. He was coming off a broken leg, which prevented him from being picked earlier. He was a bit of a risk. It was a little calculated strategy that he would recover from the broken leg, which kept most everybody away from him, Predators General Manager David Poile said. We thought the talent overrode the size. Its good to be good, its better to be a little bit lucky. As Erat continued to develop in junior, the Predators knew he was turning into a legit prospect. Erat himself, however, wasnt so sure. When he arrived in Nashville for summer prospect camps, the searing heat shocked him. Oh my god, how can they play hockey in this city? he asked himself.

The commitment it took to play in the NHL equally confounded him. Erat would jump on the exercise bike for conditioning and had trouble keeping pace. Oh my god I cant even play in the NHL because I cant get through the bike, he would mutter. Yet he also had a revelation: You have to work hard to be here. And in time Erat filled out to his current 6 feet, 201 pounds. In many ways, Erat was fortunate he ended up in Nashville. He grew with a young team that was patient with his development. The Predators also featured several players who spoke his language. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun, whose wife grew up as neighbor to Erat in the Czech Republic, and forward Vladimir Orszagh befriended Erat as mentors.

There were times Erat forgot to do things such as pay his electric bill  which resulted in his lights being turned off  but his fellow countrymen were there to help out. Just when I needed a home meal or if I needed to ask something, they were always there for me, Erat said. People dont realize when were coming from Europe how many things we need to figure out, and at the same time you have to focus on hockey.

A good place
For so many years, Erat had an if in front of his name. If Martin Erat scored 30 goals  If Martin Erat becomes a point-per-game player  If Martin Erat finds consistency. Those ifs have been discarded. Seen for so long as the young Predator, Erat has morphed into a graybeard on one of the leagues youngest teams and embraced the role. He will not score 30 goals this season, but he has been Nashvilles best and most consistent forward. Hes not a point-per-game player, but hes pretty close at .83 per contest.

If the Predators need a late-game score, Erat is on the ice. If they need one more defensive stop, Erat is trusted to help get it done. If they need to acclimate a new player, Erat gets the call. A lot of Sergei Kostitsyns success has to do with Erat. When the Predators acquired the forward, Erat was charged with bringing him along. He told me where I can go eat, simple stuff, where I can do this and this. We were roommates last year and hung out a lot, Kostitsyn said. He helped me a lot.  We talked about the team and the way they play here.

Charity is ingrained in Erat  especially toward children. He feels strongly about several causes, but doesnt seek the public eye. If you give something you shouldnt be saying about it, oh I did this, I did this,  he said. Still, the effects of his philanthropy are noticeable in two countries. For Nashvilles last home game before Christmas, he rented a Bridgestone Arena suite for the charity My Friends House. In Trebic, Erat helped build a youth soccer field.

Now were trying to get a gym for them to make sure they can do something in the winter times instead of being home at the computer, Erat said. Im trying to always help when I can. For me its tough to see people struggling with this and this. Im trying to help with the Czech Republic.
I love to help little kids play hockey or when they need hospital visit because kids are always going to be kids. On Feb. 24, his first son, Sebastien, was born, ushering in a more mature phase in Erats life.

If there is one agreement on Erat and his maturation in his game and as a person, its that his hard work has paid off. This season has been as good as it gets. Marty has always had a smile, hes just comfortable, Trotz said. Hes comfortable as a player and he keeps everything in perspective. And he is in a good place, no question.

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120405/SPORTS02/304030113/Martin-Erat-finds-harmony-in-breakout-season-for-Predators

Erat Third Star of the Week

The National Hockey League named Martin Erat its Third Star of the Week today.  Erat led the League with seven points (two goals, five assists) in four games as the Predators (42-22-8, 92 points) leapfrogged the Detroit Red Wings for fourth place in the Western Conference. He recorded one goal and two assists in a 5-4 shootout win at the Phoenix Coyotes March 12 and collected one helper in a 2-1 shootout loss at the San Jose Sharks March 15. Erat then tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-2 defeat at the Los Angeles Kings March 17 before closing the week with an assist in a 3-1 victory at the Anaheim Ducks March 18. The Trebic, Czech Republic native leads Nashville with 38 assists and 56 points in 64 games, and is on pace to establish career highs in both categories.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=622983navid=DLNHLhome

Erat's Consistency Recognized

The first and the fourth picks in the 1999 Entry Draft were forwards from the Czech Republic. Predators right wing Martin Erat, a Czech native who was taken in that draft, has 454 points in 677 career games -- an impressive haul -- and has proven himself incredibly consistent in his 10 seasons. Of late, he is one of the hottest players in the League, with 29 points (9 goals, 20 assists) in his last 31 games, helping to power his team near the top of the League standings, where Nashville entered the day tied for fifth with Pittsburgh.

But back in '99, Erat was selected by Nashville in the seventh round, 190 players after Atlanta took Patrik Stefan first and 187 after Carolina took Pavel Brendl. Stefan's career ended after seven NHL seasons in which he totaled 188 points in 455 games and he never scored more than 14 goals in a season. Brendl played only 78 games with totals of 11 goals and 11 assists.

To Erat, who measured only 5-foot-8 or 5-9 when he was drafted and missed five months during his draft year because of a broken leg, it's simply proof that 18 is too young for NHL teams to pick players. "Before the lockout they always drafted big guys," Erat said. The growth "just happened. I was a surprise. I got (to the NHL) the hard way and that's the way it is."

In an organization like Nashville's in which consistency and continuity are prized -- Barry Trotz is the only coach in franchise history and David Poile the only general manager -- Erat stands as examples of those traits in a player. Beginning in 2003-04 -- the first season that Nashville made the playoffs -- Erat's points totals show little in the way of vacillation: 49, 49, 57, 57, 50, 49 and 50. He's a bankable quantity. This season, he has 17 goals and 35 assists for 52 points in 61 games, which puts him on a pace for a career-best 63 points despite missing eight of the team's first nine games.

Trotz explained why, in his view, Erat is able to remain so consistent. "He's got a really good inner spirit, a competitive spirit that pushes him to that level every year," Trotz said. "He's a real underrated player. You talk about a player that no one talks about in the National Hockey League, Martin Erat might be that guy."

Erat said that as a young player, he tried to learn from the work habits of Paul Kariya, who played two seasons in Nashville, arriving when Erat was 24 and had only two full seasons in the League under his belt. Even Peter Forsberg made an impression during his short stay.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Lehtonen's play carries Stars up standings
By Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent
Kari Lehtonen says he loves this time of the season, and he's lifted his game to match the intensity of the stretch run.  

ALL IN THE SPOTLIGHT STORIES
"Every game I'm playing, I'm just trying to prepare myself as best as I can," Erat said. "I learn from the best. We had Paul Kariya here. We had Peter Forsberg here and I just try to take the best from them. I look at them like how they prepare, how they play the games. That was my lesson for my NHL life. I think it makes me better."

While Erat might be a well-kept secret, so might his entire line. With Sergei Kostitsyn at left wing and Mike Fisher at center, it's possible that all three can finish with 20 goals, 50 points and a rating of at least plus-12. Fisher already has 21 goals, tied for best on the team. Since coming together around Jan. 1, the members of the line are averaging almost a point per game. Kostitsyn has 11 goals and 12 assists in his last 25 games. Fisher has 13 goals and 13 assists in his last 29 games. In addition to being the team's top offensive line, it also can double as a checking line. Trotz likes to match them up against other teams' top lines. All three kill penalties.

"I think any time, to me, you play with offensive guys, you always get chances and it's fun," Fisher said. "I like to play at both ends of the ice and we try to be responsible defensively. And Marty's an all-around guy who can play at that and with the skill of those two guys, we've kind of created a fun line." The line has been so productive that Trotz refused to break it up after Nashville acquired Kostitsyn's brother Andrei from Montreal at Feb. 27's trade deadline. (He does pair the brothers on the power play quite successfully.) Fisher said that Erat has "sneaky speed" and is "shifty, too."

"He does a real good job of delaying the puck and making plays back, cutting wide and finding space," Fisher said. Those are the kind of moves that Erat's Czech countryman Jaromir Jagr also likes to make. Like many players of Erat's generation -- Czech or otherwise -- Jagr was his favorite growing up. Erat has twice played on Czech Olympic teams with Jagr, but as both are right wings, they don't get to play on the ice at the same time. Erat marvels at how Jagr can still be so productive at age 40. It's been almost 13 years since Erat was drafted so far behind those other two Czech players back in '99. That mantra of getting him to the NHL the hard way has carried him far and he hopes it will carry his team even farther this season.

"This year we got more guys who are working, got their working shoes on, and they work every single game," Erat said. "This NHL, this new NHL, you have to come every single game. If you don't play (well) for 10 games, you can have a snowball right away. That's what's good about this team. Even if you're losing first or second period, we're still in the game and that gives you a chance every single game."

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=622226print=true

Ducks Sign Tarkki

The Anaheim Ducks signed goaltender Iiro Tarkki to a one-year entry-level contract. Iiro, 25 (7/1/1985), spent the last two seasons with the Espoo Blues of the Finnish Elite League. He appeared in 55 games with the Blues in 2010-11, posting a 2.09 goals-against average (GAA), .924 save percentage (SV and five shutouts. Tarkki tied for the league lead in appearances during the regular season, ranked seventh in GAA and eighth in SV He helped lead the Blues to the Finish Elite League Playoff finals in 2011, compiling a 2.19 GAA, .924 SVand three shutouts. Among postseason leaders, Tarkki finished first in appearances and fifth in GAA and SV.

A native of Rauma, Finland, Iiro appeared in 54 games for Espoo in 2009-10, going 22-22-9 with a 2.44 GAA and .919 SV He also appeared in three playoff games for the Blues in 2010, posting a 1-2 record with a 1.91 GAA and .936 SV Tarkki played three seasons with SaiPa Lappeenranta from 2006-09. In 90 appearances with SaiPa, the 6-2, 190-pound goaltender posted a 25-47-14 record with a 2.65 GAA.
Congratulations, Iiro!

http://ducks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=562148navid=DLANAhome

Erixon Lands in Vancouver

Vancouver Canucks President and General Manager Mike Gillis announced today that the Canucks have signed defenceman Sebastian Erixon.

Erixon, 21, appeared in 44 games in 2010.11 for Timra IK, collecting 20 points (5-15-20) and 20 penalty minutes. The 511, 194-pound defenceman played on the international stage as a member of the silver medal-winning Team Sweden at the U20 World Junior Championships in 2008.09 and bronze medal-winning Team Sweden at the U18 World Junior Championships in 2006.07.

As an unrestricted free agent, "Sebbe" was free to sign with any NHL club.

http://canucks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=560411

Erat Reaches 400 Points

Martin Erat tallied his 400th NHL Point in the Nashville Predators recent 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.  All of Marty's points have come with the Predators, who drafted Erat 191st overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.  Erat's 400th point ranks him in the top scorers from that draft, which includes NHL Stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Martin Havlat.
Congratulations, Marty.

Kovalev A Penguin Again

The Ottawa Senators shipped veteran forward Alex Kovalev to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a club where he excelled during a previous stint. Kovalev told reporters that he was looking forward to the move and a chance to compete in the post-season once again.

"I'm excited to go to Pittsburgh and play in the playoffs again," said Kovalev.  It's been awhile."  An Olympic gold medalist with Russia in 1992, and a Stanley Cup champion with the Rangers in 1994, Kovalev has scored over 400 goals and recorded over 1000 points in his 18-year NHL career.

Kovalev reaches 1000

Congratulations to Alex Kovalev who became only the 76th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000 career points mark. Alex is the third Russian born player to post at least 1,000 points, joining the elite company of Sergei Federov and Alexander Mogilny.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=342463

Lindback Shines For Preds

The Tennessean chronicals how Anders Lindback overcame adversity to become one of the most impressive rookies during the start of the 2010-2011 season.

Click here for the full story http://www.tennessean.com/article/20101103/SPORTS02/11030348/2163

Rodin Signs with Vancouver

ESM is pleased to announce that Anton Rodin has signed a three year Entry Level Contract with the Vancouver Canucks.  The Club drafted Anton with the 53rd overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Anton was a key member of the Swedish National Team at the 2010 World Junior Championships, and elevated his game upon returning to Brynas following the tournament. A dynamic skater and scorer, Anton projects as a top two line player in the NHL.  Congratulations, Anton.

Nashville Inks Lindback

ESM is pleased to announce that Anders Lindback has signed a two year Entry Level Contract with the Nashville Predators. The signing comes just days after Anders completed play in his first World Championship Tournament with Team Sweden, where he and the squad secured a bronze medal.

After moving from Brynas to Timra this past summer, Anders established himself during the 2009-10 season as one of Sweden's elite young netminders.  The 6'6" goaltender posseses lighting like reflexes and a calm, confident demeanor. Congratulations, Anders.

ESM Clients at 2010 World Championship

ESM clients are well represented at the 2010 world championships, with six players playing for their national teams in Germany.  Included amongst the participants are Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun (Czech Republic);  Nashville predators goalie prospect Anders Lindback (Sweden); Nashville Predators center Marcel Goc (Germany) ; Nashville predators defenseman Alexander Sulzer (Germany); Milwaukee admirals defenseman Robert Dietrich (Germany); and Robert Mueler.

Rangers Recall Heikkinen

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that defenseman Ilkka Heikkinen has been recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Heikkinen, 25, has skated in 24 games with Hartford this season, registering five goals and 11 assists for 16 points, along with eight penalty minutes.  He is currently tied for fifth among AHL defensemen in goals, sixth in points and ninth in assists.  He also ranks second on Hartford overall in shots (54), fifth in points, and is tied for second on the team in shorthanded goals (one), third in assists and seventh in goals.
Heikkinen has recorded four multi-point performances on the season, including two multi-assist efforts.  He tallied a point (assist) in his AHL debut on October 3 at Binghamton, and notched his first career AHL goal on October 11 at Providence.

The Rauma, Finland native skated in 283 career SM-liiga games with Lukko and HIFK over six seasons prior to joining Hartford, registering 31 goals and 82 assists for 113 points, along with 255 penalty minutes.  He finished last season ranked third among all SM-liiga defensemen in points (34) and led HIFK defensemen in goals (eight), assists (26) and points, while finishing second on the team overall in assists, fourth in points and seventh in goals.  In 2007-08, he established SM-liiga career-highs in goals (11), assists (26), points (37), and penalty minutes (96).
Heikkinen signed with the Rangers as a free agent on May 20, 2009.

Senators Sign Kovalev

Alex Kovalev signed a two-year, $10 million deal Monday with the Ottawa Senators, leaving the rival Montreal Canadiens after parts of five seasons. Kovalev, a 16-season NHL veteran, led Montreal with 26 goals and 65 points last season. He earned $4.5 million last season and became an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"All I know is when I coached or watched our team play in the last couple of years against Montreal, every time he came on the ice, I was scared to death he was going to be the difference in the game," General Manager Bryan Murray told the media earlier today. "Some nights, he certainly was."

"I think he's one of the most entertaining players in the league and I hope our fans are real excited about this," he said. "I know our management team and coaches are very, very happy and the players I've talked to think it's a great, great move for this organization."
"When he plays great, he can win a game for you," said Murray. "In this organization, we've got many hard workers, good workers that will compete for us every single night. But we needed something special to go with that and this guy is a special player in that he's got the ability to make players around him better.

"He's one of the most exciting players in the league. Talking to a couple of our players, they feel that this guy will step in and really help us a great deal."

Pahlsson Signs with Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed center Samuel Pahlsson to a three-year contract, club General Manager Scott Howson announced July 1. The three year deal is worth $7.95 million and includes a limited no trade clause.

"Samme Pahlsson is a very good two-way center who can play against the top players in the league and strengthens our hockey club at the center ice position," said Howson. "He won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim two years ago, played in the Finals in 2003 and won a gold medal with Sweden at the last Olympics, so he brings valuable experience at the highest level of competition to our dressing room."

2009 NHL Entry Draft

ESM is proud to announce that Anton Rodin, Simon Bertilsson and Marcus Kruger were selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Vancouver stepped up to take Anton with its second round pick, 53rd overall. Simon was selected by Philadelphia in the third round, 87th overall.

Chicago nabbed Marcus with the 149th pick in the 5th round. Congratulations to Anton, Simon and Marcus.

Blackhawks Ink Carlsson

The Chicago Blackhawks have signed  Jonathan Carlsson to an entry-level contract. Carlsson, 20, has spent each of the last three seasons in the Swedish Elite League, which includes posting one assist and 58 penalty minutes in 55 games with Brynas IF Gavle. The Uppsala, Sweden, native was the Blackhawks fourth choice, 162nd overall, in the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

Heikkinen Signs with Rangers

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with free agent defenseman Ilkka Heikkinen.

Heikkinen, 24, skated in 54 games with HIFK Helsinki of the SM-liiga this past season, registering eight goals and 26 assists for 34 points, along with 22 penalty minutes. His 34 points ranked third among all SM-liiga defensemen. He led all HIFK defensemen in goals (eight), assists (26) and points, while finishing second on the team overall in assists, fourth in points and seventh in goals.

The 6-2, 200-pounder has appeared in 283 career SM-liiga games with Lukko Rauma and HIFK Helsinki, collecting 31 goals and 82 assists for 113 points, along with 255 penalty minutes.

Kovalev NHL's 1st Star of Week

Alex Kovalev is the NHL's first star of the week after helping the Montreal Canadiens move closer to clinching an Eastern Conference playoff berth with a 3-0-0 record. Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin picked up second-star honours while St. Louis Blues centre David Backes was named the third star.

Kovalev led all NHL scorers with two goals and seven assists in three games last week. The winger ranks second on the Canadiens in scoring with 24 goals and 39 assists in 74 games.

Pahlsson Dealt to Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks have acquired center Samuel Pahlsson in exchange for defenseman James Wisniewski. Pahlsson, 31, has recorded 10 assists, 15 points and 32 penalty minutes in 52 games with the Anaheim Ducks this season. He led Ducks centers with a 54.0 faceoff winning percentage and ranked third among team forwards with an average time on ice of 18:30 per game.

The Ange, Sweden, native is currently in his ninth National Hockey League campaign, collecting 143 points (52G, 91A) and 258 penalty minutes in 544 regular-season games with the Boston Bruins (2000-01) and Anaheim (2000-09). Pahlsson was a member of Anaheims 2007 Stanley Cup Championship squad, posting 12 points (3G, 9A) and 20 penalty minutes in 21 contests during their playoff run.

Kovalev Named All-Star Game MVP

Alex Kovalev capped a memorable weekend in front of his hometown fans with an MVP performance Sunday. The Canadiens winger thrilled the crowd of 21,273 with two goals and an assist and scored the game-winner in the shootout during the Eastern Conferences 12-11 victory over the Western Conference in the NHL All-Star Game.

You cant ask for a better package than this, said Kovalev, who received a car for being named the games most valuable player. Get voted into the All-Star Game by the fans, starting lineup, being the captain and get MVP. This is something youre going to remember the rest of your life.
Kovalev was the brightest star in a game with the second-highest score in All-Star Game history. He didn't hide his desire to impress the Montreal faithful.

I wanted this badly, Kovalev said. I was going for it. Kovalev is the fifth Canadiens player to capture MVP honors since the awards inception in 1962, joining Jean Beliveau in 1964, Henri Richard in 1967, Pete Mahovlich in 1976 and Mark Recchi in 1997.

Sulzer Re-ups With Nashville

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed defenseman Alexander Sulzer to a two-year, $1.3 million contract. It is a one-way contract that will pay him $600,000 in 2009-10 and $700,000 in 2010-11.

Sulzer, 24 (5/30/84), currently ranks third among American Hockey League defenseman in both points (29) and assists (22), in addition to being third on the Milwaukee Admirals in each category. Through 35 games, the Kaufbeuren, Germany native has already matched his goal total (7), and is just three points shy of his 61-game performance from 2007-08, his first season in North America. During the month of December 2008, the 6-1, 196-pound blueliner reached the scoresheet in 12 of 14 games, totaling 18 points (6g-12a) in that span, and helping Milwaukee to 12 wins, its most during a month in franchise history.

Nashvilles seventh choice, 92nd overall (third round), in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft held in Nashville, Sulzer was the first German player ever drafted by the Predators. He has represented his nation in international competition on five occasions since his draft year, most notably playing five games and posting an assist for the Germans at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Kovalev NHL All-Star

Alex Kovalev capped a sensational season by being selected as an NHL Second Team All Star for the 2007-08 season.  This marked Kovalev's first selection for the prestigious year-end honor.

Erat Signs 7 Year Deal

The Nashville Predators have agreed to a seven-year, $31.5 million contract with forward Martin Erat. Erat was due to become a restricted free agent.

"Martin Erat is a perfect example of this organization's philosophy," Predators GM David Poile said in a statement. "He came to us as a seventh-round draft pick, and grew steadily into an elite player when given an opportunity to succeed. He has continued to take on more responsibility and is an integral part of our team moving forward. We look forward to his leadership and production for the next seven years."
Erat, 26, scored a career high 26 goals this past season and tied a personal best with 57 points. The Predators selected Erat with the 191st overall pick in the 1999 Entry Draft.

Erat Tallies Hat Trick

Martin Erat scored his first career hat trick on March 4th against the Edmonton Oilers.  The natural hat trick gave Marty 21 goals for the season, a personal best for the Czech native, and helped propel the Predators back into a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Erat NHL Third Star of Week

Nashville Predators winger Martin Erat was named the Third Star of the Week for the entire National Hockey League for his three-goal, six-point effort in three games from Nov. 12-17.

Erat started the week off with a career-high four points (2g-2a) in a 4-1 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets last Monday, including the game winning goal. Erat followed that up by providing the overtime heroics in a 5-4 thriller with Chicago.

Kovalev Reaches 1,000

On October 26, 2007, Alex Kovalev played in his 1,000th regular season NHL game. Kovalev became only the fourth Russian player to reach that impressive milestone.  Remarkably, in the very same game, Kovalev notched his 800th regular season point.  Congratulations Alex!

Martinek Signs Extension

Radek Martinek signed a 3 year, $4.5 million extension with the New York Islanders.

"Our organization has felt for a while that Radek is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league," said Islanders general manager Garth Snow. "He is a very steady defenseman in both zones and he plays with a lot of grit. It was a priority for us to keep Radek an Islander beyond this season. We're very happy he was as dedicated to staying an Islander as we were to keeping him here."

"The Islanders were the NHL team that drafted me and Long Island has become a second home," Martinek said. "I never even considered the possibility of playing for another team. I'm looking forward to this season and many more to come as an Islander.