Detroit Red Wings Captain Henrik Zetterberg could miss upcoming season

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg is possibly facing retirement as the 37-year-old Swedish forward is dealing with a health issue. It's possible that Zetterberg won't be able to suit up for the NHL team to start the upcoming 2018/19 season due to an ongoing issue with his back. General manager Ken Holland recently announced the news on the club's website and said Zetterberg's health issues mean he hasn't been able to train properly during the offseason.

Holland, the rest of the club and the team's fans obviously hope for the best, but they'll just have to wait until training camp starts in September to see how healthy the player is. If Zetterberg is able to play it will be his 16th season in the NHL, all with the Red Wings. The back problem isn't anything new since he had surgery on it in 2014 to fix a ruptured disc. However, he missed just five games in the 2014/15 campaign and has been able to play the full 82-game schedule in each of the last three seasons.

But according to Holland, Zetterberg had some issues with his back last season and although he played the club's games, he didn't practice with the squad for the last 10 weeks of the schedule. The news from Holland doesn't look too good at the moment, especially since he announced on July 1st that he believed his captain would be able to play this year. Zetterberg's scoring output may have tailed off slightly with age over the past few years, but his leadership skills and experience are essential to the team.

Zetterberg came in second in team scoring last season with 11 goals and 45 assists for 56 points as centre Dylan Larkin led the Red Wings with 63 points. Larkin, who just signed a fiver-year $30 million contract with Detroit, said Zetterberg has played with a lot of pain over the years and believes he's still the best player on the team. He added that he definitely hopes the veteran can play this year, but understands that his health and future need to be taken into consideration.

Zetterberg told the press at the end of last season that he isn't thinking about retirement any time soon and he'll work out in the summer and see how he feels once training camp opens. If for some reason he can't play in 2018/19, there's a good chance Zetterberg may have to hang up his skates due to his age and deteriorating back. He'll turn 38 years old in October. So far, he's appeared in 1,082 regular-season games and has racked up 960 points on 337 goals and 623 assists.

He's also played in 137 playoff contests and added another 57 goals and 63 helpers for 120 points. Zetterberg led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2007/08 and was rewarded for his excellent performance by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason.

Buffalo Sabres ready to climb the NHL standings

The Buffalo Sabres have been one of the NHL's doormats for the past several seasons, but general manager Jason Botterill is doing his best to change that. The Sabres finished dead last in the league last season for the third time since 2013/14 with 62 points. However, they finally won the draft lottery and now look poised to make the postseason for the first time since 2010/11. The Sabres did manage to add one key piece to their rebuilding puzzle when the Edmonton Oilers drafted Connor McDavid first overall three years ago as they landed forward Jack Eichel with the second pick.

Eichel hasn't had much in the way of help on the ice since then though other than centre Ryan O'Reilly. Therefore it's hard to understand how the club will be any better this season since O'Reilly was traded this summer. Of course, finally owning the first overall draft choice was a step in the right direction and Botterill used it to select ace 6-foot-2-inch Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin from Frolunda HC of Sweden's Elite League. Along with Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres now appear to possess two of the best young defencemen in the game and also have Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe in the mix.

The defence certainly has unlimited potential with those two on the blue line and Botterill then went about upgrading the forward positions. He acquired Conor Sheary from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional fourth round draft pick. Sheary proved he was the real deal in 2016/17 with 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points in just 61 contests, but his numbers dropped off last year with 18 goals and 12 helpers for 30 points in 79 games. The Sabres feel he can regain his scoring touch though by skating on the left wing with either Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt at centre.

Let's not forget the O'Reilly trade to the St. Louis Blues enabled Buffalo to add some depth up front as Patrick Berglund was acquired along with Vladimir Sobotka, 20-year-old prospect Tage Thompson and a first and second-round draft pick. The newcomers will be joining Eichel, Sheary, Mittelstadt, Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart up front in a young and versatile forward core. To top things off, Botterill was then able to pry Jeff Skinner away from the Carolina Hurricanes for a prospect named Cliff Pu and a second, third and sixth-round draft pick.

The 26-year-old Skinner is a quick, skilled winger who has cracked the 30-goal barrier three times and racked up 89 goals over the past three campaigns. Only 11 other NHL players scored more than Skinner during that span and just six players bettered his 74 even-strength goals. Skinner, the NHL's rookie of the year as an 18-year-old in 2010/11, obviously believes Botterill has the Sabres moving in the right direction as he agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the team. He told the media he believes the Sabres' young core is quite exciting and he feels he can be a key piece of their puzzle.

So while the Sabres seem to look pretty good at both ends of the rink heading into the season they're also going to need top-notch goaltending to improve in the standings. This task will fall on the shoulders of 32-year-old Carter Hutton who was signed as a free agent from St. Louis in the offseason. Hutton inked a three-year deal for $8.25 million and will be entering his sixth NHL campaign. He played just 32 games last year and went 17-7-3. But when it came to goalies who appeared in at least 30 contests he led the league in goals-against average at 2.09 and save percentage at 93.1.

Hutton will now have to prove he can be just as effective with a heavier workload. If he should happen to falter it looks like 25-year-old Linus Ullmark will get the nod. Ullmark has appeared in 26 games with Buffalo over the past three seasons with a 9-13-2 record along with a GAA of 2.52 and a 91.7 save percentage. All the stars will need to align for Buffalo to make the playoffs this year. They need to score more goals, allow fewer against, stay healthy and improve both on the power play and penalty kill. If they can gradually achieve all of those goals, the club should be playing in the postseason once again in the next year or two.

Hall of Fame candidate Jarome Iginla hangs up his NHL skates

Perhaps one of the least known facts about Jarome Iginla is that his full name is Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla. But one of the best known facts about him is that he was one of the most talented and toughest forwards the NHL has ever seen. The 41-year-old native of Edmonton, Alberta has decided to say goodbye to the league though as he announced his retirement on July 30th. Iginla definitely left his mark over the past 20 seasons, especially in Calgary, where he played 16 of them.

Iginla's name can be found at the top of the leader board in just about every category for the Canadian franchise as he's the all-time leader in games played at 1,219, goals with 525 and points at 1,095. He's also number one with 161 power play markers and 83 game-winners. The only major area he doesn't rank number one is in assists with 570 as he ends his career with 39 fewer than leader Al MacInnis. The 6-foot-1-inch right-winger also added 28 goals and 21 assists for 49 points in 54 playoff games for the Flames.

Let's not forget Iginla also suited up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings during the final four years of his career. When his totals with those clubs are added, Iginla walks away with 625 goals and 675 assists for 1,300 points in 1,554 regular-season games with 37 goals and 31 assists for 68 points in 81 playoff contests. He wasn't one to shy away from the rough stuff either and ended up serving 1,040 minutes in penalties in the regular season and another 98 in the postseason. He ranks 13th all time in games played and is tied with Joe Sakic at number 15 in goals scored.

Iginla was originally drafted from the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL by the Dallas Stars back in 1995 with the 11th pick overall. However, he was traded to Calgary along with Corey Millen for Flames' star Joe Nieuwendyk just a few months later. While in Kamloops as a junior, Iginla racked up 102 goals and  134 assists for 236 points in 183 games, won two Memorial Cups and was named the league's player of the year in 1996. During his NHL career Iginla made the All-Rookie Team, three First All-Star Teams a Second All Star Team and played in six All-Star Games. He also won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice for leading the NHL in goals and the Art Ross Trophy once as the top point-getter. .

In addition, he took home the Ted Lindsay Award in 2002 as the league's most outstanding player after a season of 52 goals and 44 assists as well as the 2004 NHL Foundation Player Award and King Clancy Award for community leadership and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2009. One thing that eluded him though was the Stanley Cup. He did lead the Flames to the Final in 2003/04 as club captain, but they were eventually upended in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Iginla left Calgary in March of 2013 when he was dealt to Pittsburgh for the rest of the season. He then signed as a free agent with Boston for a year, Colorado for two years and was traded to Los Angeles in March, 2017.

Iginla also represented Canada at numerous international tournaments. He led the World Junior Championships in scoring with five goals and seven assists in 1996, won a gold medal, was named to the All-Star Team and also named the top forward of the tournament. He won a gold medal just a year later at the age of 19 when playing for Canada's senior squad at the World Championships and added two goals and three helpers. He scored twice in the final game of the 2002 Olympics to lead Canada to a gold medal and also became the first African/American to capture a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

He played for Canada in the World Cup of Hockey in 2004 and won a gold and then played at both the the 2006  and 2010 Olympics. He led the 2010 Games with five goals and helped his homeland win another gold medal. Iginla was a perfect example of a power forward and similar to Gordie Howe in many ways as he could skate, score, setup teammates and easily take care of himself when the going got rough. And like Howe, fans should see Iginla in the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible. 

Jaromir Jagr's NHL days likely over

It looks like Jaromir Jagr's amazing NHL career has quietly come to a dead end as the 46-year-old forward currently recovers from a serious knee injury. Jagr became an unrestricted free agent on July 1st after spending the 2017/18 campaign with the Calgary Flames. He managed just one goal and six assists in 22 outings with his last game coming on New Year's Eve. Just four weeks later he was placed on the club's injured reserved list and placed on waivers. There were no takers and Jagr ended up back at home in the Czech Republic with Ryitiri Kladno, a franchise which he just happens to be the majority owner of. 

Jagr told the media back in April that he hoped to play in the NHL for a 25th season in 2018/19, but it now appears those hopes are a longshot. He recently stated that his main concern right now is getting 100 per cent healthy and he aims at doing that by working out and playing with Kladno. If Jagr's NHL career is over, the league will be losing it's second-highest scorer in history as he currently has 766 goals and 1,155 assists for 1,921 points in 1,733 regular season games. The only players to score more goals were Wayne Gretzky with 894 and Gordie Howe at 801 while Gretzky's 2,857 points are the most ever accumulated.

In addition, Jagr's number of games played are third all-time behind Mark Messier's 1,756 and Howe's record of 1,767. Jagr holds the mark for the most game-winning goals in history though with 135  and he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990/91 and 1991/92 seasons. Individually, he took home the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player in 1999, led the league in scoring five times and won the Masterton Trophy in 2016 for his perseverance and dedication to hockey.

Jagr, who broke into the NHL in 1990/91, said he's obviously not the same player he was even 10 years ago, but still feels he can play at a high level this season. His recent practice was the first time he's been on the ice in the past six months and he admitted he still has a long way to go. Jagr said his knee didn't bother him, but his muscles and thighs felt weak. He attributes this to his advanced age, but believes he'll eventually get stronger and in top shape with each passing day. Time may not be on the future Hall of Famer's side though as Kladno's campaign faces off on September 8th and the 10-game preseason beginning on July 31st

Jagr signed a one-year deal for a million dollars with Calgary last season and it's still possible he gets a similar type of offer from an NHL club for 2018/19. However, it likely wouldn't come until September or October if and when he gets himself into playing shape with kladno. Jagr admits he didn't play well with the Flames last year, but still believes he can play until he's 50 years old and would definitely prefer to finish his career somewhere in the NHL.

Ilya Kovalchuk's return to NHL overshadowed by John Tavares' Maple Leafs move

Most of the talk in the NHL offseason has centred around free agent John Tavares' decision to leave the New York Islanders and sign a long-term deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, there was also another significant signing as Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk headed back to the NHL after playing in his homeland in the KHL for the past five years. The star left-winger, who's now 35 years old and was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers, was inked to a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings for $18.75 million.

Kovalchuk started his career in Russia then skated for eight seasons with Atlanta before signing as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils where he spent another four NHL campaigns. Kovalchuk agreed to a 17-year, $102 million contract with the Islanders, but departed for SKA St. Petersburg in 2013 after posting 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points in 816 regular-season NHL contests. He also added 11 goals and 16 assists in 32 playoff games. While playing in the KHL, he scored 138 goals and 189 assists for 327 points in 298 games with 43 points in 63 playoff outings and helped his team win a pair of championships.

Kovalchuk remained visible to NHL fans over the past five years as he continued to play internationally in the World Championships and Olympic Games, being named MVP of the 2018 Games and winning a gold medal. He was still considered a highly-skilled forward who could produce at a point-per game pace and led the KHL scoring parade last season. He also publicly stated that he was interested in returning to the NHL before he retired. There was a lot of interest in Kovalchuk's services, but he decided the Kings suited him best.

Kovalchuk recently told the media he believes he has another three or four top-level seasons left in him and wanted to join a team that is ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup now rather than a few years down the road. He said the Kings fit the bill perfectly as the club has one of the best goaltenders and defence in the NHL as well as a top centre to play with in Anze Kopitar. Of course, he'll also be suiting up with top goaltender Jonathan Quick and defenceman Drew Doughty. Kopitar enjoyed a career year of 92 points this season while Doughty broke the 60-point barrier. In addition, veteran forward Dustin Brown scored 61 points and Jeff Carter notched 22 points in 27 games.

According to Kovalchuk, the veterans on the Kings' roster all have their names on the Stanley Cup and will help him remain productive on the ice. Los Angeles head coach John Stevens is obviously glad to be adding Kovalchuk's offence to his lineup and believes he'll also make a difference on their power play due to his lethal shot and passing skills. Kovalchuk shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2003/04 as the NHL's top goal scorer with 41 goals, but he actually bettered that total on four occasions with seasons of 52, 42, 52 and 43 goals from 2005 to 2009. He also posted 98 points in 78 games in 2005/06 and 91 points in 79 outings in 2008/09. It'll definitely be interesting to see how his production compares to that of Tavares over the next three seasons. 

2018 Hockey Hall of Fame nominees a mixed bag

With all the excitement of NHL free agency and the recent spate of trades, many fans may have missed the announcement of this year's Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. For those of you who may not be quite up to date, let's recap the nominees who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming November.

Goaltender Martin Brodeur of Montreal, Quebec definitely isn't a surprise inductee as he's the all-time leader in regular-season wins with 691 and shutouts at 125. He's one of just 15 netminders who managed to record at least a dozen shutouts during a season and posted a 2.24 career goals-against average along with a save percentage of 91.9. Brodeur won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils while winning 113 postseason games and posting a 90.9 save percentage in the playoffs. He won the Jennings Trophy five times for the league's lowest goals-against average and took the Vezina Trophy home four times for being the NHL's best goalie. Brodeur was nominated to seven All-Star Teams overall, was one of just seven goalies to be named rookie of the year since 1967 and added two Olympic gold medals to his collection of awards.

Right-winger Martin St. Louis of Laval, Quebec was deemed by many experts to be too small for the NHL and was never drafted. But he proved the naysayers wrong by scoring 391 goals and 642 assists for 1,033 points in his 1,134 regular-season contests for the Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers. St. Louis took home the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP in 2004 as well as the Ted Lindsay Award as the best player in the NHL voted on by his peers. He led the league in scoring twice and helped Tampa win the Stanley Cup in 2004. St. Louis scored a minimum of 25 goals in 10 different seasons and took the Lady Byng Trophy home on three occasions as the league's most sportsmanlike player. The five-time NHL All Star also helped Canada win the 2014 Olympics and the 2004 World Championships. St. Louis added another 42 goals and 48 assists for 90 points in 107 playoff games.

Eighty-two-year-old Willie O’Ree of Fredericton, New Brunswick was inducted as a builder and was the first African-American player in the NHL. He made his debut in January of 1958 for the Boston Bruins and would end up playing just 45 NHL contests. However, after breaking the colour barrier O'Ree also went on to play in over 1,000 games in the minor leagues even though he was legally blind in his right eye. He won the 2003 Lester Patrick Trophy for helping develop the sport of hockey across America and in 2008 was named to the Order of Canada. O'Ree led the Western Hockey League in scoring twice and posted over 800 points during his pro career.

Alexander Yakushev of Moscow, Russia was one of the best left-wingers in the world during his career and proved it while playing against Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. Yakushev starred for the Soviet Union and led the team in scoring during the eight-game event with 11 points from seven goals and four assists. He played with Moscow Spartak during the 1960s and 70s and once notched 50 goals during a 44-game season. He won a pair of Olympic gold medals as well as seven more golds at the World Championships. After hanging up his skates, Yakushev coached the Soviet national squad and Moscow Spartak and also worked as a referee. 

Trenton Ontario's Jayna Hefford was a right-winger who began playing hockey at the age of six years old and set several scoring records while playing minor hockey in Kingston, Ontario. Hefford later starred for the women's team at the University of Toronto before playing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League where she became the first player to score 100 points in the league. She also won seven gold medals in various international tournaments while suiting up for Canada along with four Olympic gold medals. Hefford scored the gold-medal winner at the 2002 Olympics and racked up a dozen points in five outings at the 2010 Games. The CWHL trophy for the league's most outstanding player is named after Hefford.

Current NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman of Queens, New York will be inducted as a builder. The 66-year-old has been running the league since 1993 and has added 10 expansion franchises since then. Under his watch, the NHL now generates over $3 billion U.S in revenue per year. Bettman has also helped build the NHL brand across the world by signing numerous television broadcasting contracts across Europe and other parts of the world. He's also organized regular-season and preseason contests across the globe and came up with an assistance plan to help out franchises that were struggling to survive. Bettman is the longest-serving commissioner in professional sports and has led the NHL to its most lucrative period in history. 

John Tavares to Toronto Maple Leafs leads free agent frenzy

The Toronto Maple Leafs landed the biggest available unrestricted free agent this summer by signing 27-year-old centre John Tavares to a seven-year $77 million contract. Tavares was drafted by the New York Islanders with the first overall pick back in 2009 and spent nine seasons with the team The native of Mississauga, Ontario leaves the Islanders with 272 goals and 349 assists for 621 points in 669 regular season games and 11 goals and 11 assists in just 24 career playoff contests. Tavares led the team with 37 goals and 47 assists for 84 points in 82 outings last season.

It's unclear how the acquisition of Tavares will affect the Leafs' payroll situation over the next year or so as the club needs to either re-sign or trade young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and/or William Nylander. And while the Leafs gained 37 goals by signing Tavares they lost 47 goals from last year's lineup as free agent centre Tyler Bozak (11 goals) signed with the St. Louis Blues on a three-year $15 million contract and left-winger James van Riemsdyk (36 goals) signed a five-year deal, $35 million with the Philadelphia Flyers.

There was plenty of other activity on July 1st, which was the first day of free agency, and we'll recap the biggest moves of the day.

Anaheim Ducks: Signed defenceman Luke Schenn of the Arizona Coyotes to a year-long deal.

Arizona Coyotes: Signed forward Michael Grabner from the New Jersey Devils to a three-year deal. Defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson was re-signed for two years.

Boston Bruins: Signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the New York Islanders to a two-year contract and signed forward Chris Wagner from the Islanders to a two-year deal. They also inked defenceman John Moore of the New Jersey Devils to a five-year contract.

Buffalo Sabres: Signed goaltender Carter Hutton of the St. Louis Blues to a three-year contract and goaltender Scott Wedgewood from the Arizona Coyotes to a one-year deal.

Calgary Flames: Signed centre Derek Ryan of the Carolina Hurricanes to a three-year contract and inked forward James Neal of Vegas to a five-year deal.

Carolina Hurricanes: Signed goaltender Petr Mrazek of the Philadelphia Flyers to a one-year deal.

Chicago Blackhawks: Signed goaltender Cam Ward from Carolina to a one-year contract as well as forward Chris Kunitz of the Tampa Bay Lightning and defenceman Brandon Manning of Philadelphia.

Colorado Avalanche: Signed defenceman Ian Cole and forward Matt Calvert of the Columbus Blue Jackets to three-year contracts.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Signed defenceman Adam Clendening of Arizona to a one-year contract and centre Riley Nash of Boston to a three-year contract.

Dallas Stars: Signed defenceman Roman Polak of Toronto to a one-year contract and goaltender Anton Khudobin of Boston to a two-year contract. Forward Blake Comeau of Colorado was signed to a three-year deal.

Detroit Red Wings: Signed goaltender Jonathan Bernier of Colorado to a three-year contract and forward Thomas Vanek of Columbus to a one-year contract. Defenceman Mike Green was also re-signed to a two year deal.

Los Angeles Kings: Signed forward Ilya Kovalchuk of the KHL to a three-year contract.

Minnesota Wild: Signed goaltender Andrew Hammond of Colorado to a one-year deal and forward Eric Fehr of the San Jose Sharks to a year-long deal. Forward Matt Hendricks of the Winnipeg Jets also signed on for a season. Defenceman Greg Pateryn was signed from Dallas for two years.

Montreal Canadiens: Signed forward Tomas Plekanec from Toronto to a one-year contract and inked
forward Matthew Peca of Tampa Bay to a two-year contract.

New York Islanders: Signed forward Valtteri Filppula of Philadelphia to a one-year contract and forward Leo Komarov of Toronto to a four-year contract. Defenceman Thomas Hickey was re-signed to a four-year deal.

New York Rangers: Re-signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year contract.

Philadelphia Flyers: Signed forward James van Riemsdyk from Toronto to a five-year contract.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Signed defenceman Jack Johnson of Columbus to a five-year contract, forward Matt Cullen of Minnesota to a one-year contract and forward Jimmy Hayes of New Jersey to a one-year deal.

San Jose Sharks: Re-signed forward Logan Couture to an eight-year deal.

St. Louis Blues: Signed centre Tyler Bozak of Toronto to a three-year contract, goaltender Chad Johnson of Buffalo to a one-year contract and forward David Perron of the Vegas Golden Knights to a four-year deal.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Re-sign defenceman Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year contract.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Signed forward John Tavares of the New York Islanders to a seven-year contract as well as forward Josh Jooris of Pittsburgh. Defenceman Martin Marincin was re-signed to a one-year deal and defenceman Jordan Subban of Los Angeles signed for a season.

Vancouver Canucks: Signed centre Jay Beagle of the Washington Capitals to a four-year contract and
forward Antoine Roussel of the Dallas stars to a four-year deal.

Vegas Golden Knights: Signed defenceman Nick Holden of Boston. Forward Paul Stastny of Winnipeg was also signed for three years while forward Ryan Reaves was re-signed.

In addition, there was also a trade between the Buffalo Sabres and the St. Louis Blues as Buffalo sent centre Ryan O'Reilly to the Blues for Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, prospect Tage Thompson, a first-round draft pick in 2019 and a second-round pick in 2021. O'Reilly was the top faceoff man in the NHL last season and chipped in with 24 goals and 37 assists. Berglund had 17 goals and nine assists with the Blues while Sobotka had 11 goals and 20 assists.

Few surprises in first round of NHL Draft

The NHL draft has come and gone for another year with few surprises in the first round. Let's recap the top 31 picks for 2018.

1- As expected, the Buffalo Sabres selected 18-year-old Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden with the first overall pick. He's a fine puck-moving defenceman who scored 20 points in 41 contests with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League last season. He also played at the World Junior Championships and PyeongChang Olympics.

2-The Carolina Hurricanes took Andrei Svechnikov of Russia with the second pick after the 6-foot-2 winger scored 40 goals as a rookie for Barrie of the OHL in 44 games. He led the league at 0.91 goals-per-game even though he missed several weeks of the season with an injury. He also racked up five assists in five outings at the World Junior Championships

3-The Montreal Canadiens used their first pick to choose centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi of Finland. He had 10 goals and 19 assists last season and won't turn 18 until July 6th.

4-The Ottawa Senators took left-winger Brady Tkachuk of Boston University. He's 6-feet-3-inches tall and finished the season with with 31 points and a plus-15 rating. He led his team with 23 assists and was fourth in overall scoring on his squad. The power forward also had three goals and six assists at the World Junior Championships for America.

5-The Arizona Coyotes chose centre Barrett Hayton of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. He posted 21 goals and 39 assists for 60 points in 63 games and was also used on the special teams as he's considered a fine offensive and defensive player.

6- The Detroit Red Wings selected forward Filip Zadina after he scored 44 times in 57 games with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Zadina was named the top prospect in the league last season as he led all rookies in scoring with 44 goals and 38 assists for 82 points in 57 games. In addition, he added seven goals and an assist for the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championships.

7- The Vancouver Canucks took defenceman Quinn Hughes of the University of Michigan. The 18-year-old played at the 2018 World Championships for the U.S. And could be a fine power play specialist. He scored five goals and 24 assists last season in 37 games.

8- The Chicago Blackhawks took defenceman Adam Boqvist of Brynas Jr. in the Swedish junior league. He netted 14 goals and 10 assists in 25 games last season and added three goals and two assists in just three playoff games. The 17-year-old also had six points at the IIHF World U-18 Championship,.

9- The New York Rangers selected right-winger Vitali Kravtsov from Chelyabinsk in Russia. He was one of the youngest players in the KHL last season and he chipped in with four goals and three assists in his 35 contests. He then netted six goals and five assists in his 16 postseason games and was the rookie of the year in the KHL.

10- The Edmonton Oilers chose defenceman Evan Bouchard from the OHL's London Knights. His 25 goals and 62 assists ranked him seventh overall in league scoring and was tops for blueliners. He's known for his hard shot and on-ice smarts.

11- The New York Islanders too right-winger Oliver Wahlstrom from the American Under-18 squad and Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Minnesota. He scored 48 goals and 46 assists for 94 points last season along with six game-winning goals and 13 power-play goals in 62 games.

12- The New York Islanders also had the 12th pick and selected defenceman Noah Dobson from Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior League. The First-Team All-Star scored 17 goals and 52 assists for 69 points along with 11 power play goals. He added three goals and 10 assists in 20 postseason outings to help Acadie-Bathurst win the title.

13- The Dallas Stars took centre Ty Dellandrea from Flint of the OHL after he led his team with
27 goals and 32 assists for 59 points in 67 games. The 17-year-old also led the squad with 10 power-play goals and played for Canada at the IIHF World U-18s.

14- The Philadelphia Flyers chose left-winger Joel Farabee from the USA U-18 team. He scored 76 points on 33 goals and 43 assists last season and added five shorthanded markers in 62 games. He was also a plus-41 on the year.

15- The Florida Panthers took Russian left-winger Grigori Denisenko of Yaroslavl 2. He played for the junior Loko team for most of the year and posted nine goals and 13 assists in 31 games and added five more goals and a pair of assists in 12 postseason contests.

16- The Colorado Avalanche drafted right-winger Martin Kaut from Pardubice in the Czech Republic. He scored nine goals and seven assists in 38 games in the Czech League and added three goals and two assists in his seven postseason games. He also posted two goals and five assists at the World Junior Championships.

17- The New Jersey Devils chose defenceman Ty Smith from Spokane of the Western Hockey League. Smith had 14 goals and 59 assists for 73 points last season and was a plus-44 with 27 power-play points.

18- The Columbus Blue Jackets selected centre Liam Foudy from the London Knights of the London OHL. He posted 24 goals and 16 assists for 40 points in 65 games along with four game-winners and five shorthanded tallies.

19- The Philadelphia Flyers took centre Jay O'Brien from Thayer Academy High School in the U.S. He led his league with 43 goals and 37 assists for 80 points in 30 games.

20- The Los Angeles Kings drafted speedy centre Rasmus Kupari from Karpat in Finland. He scored six goals and eight assists last season in 39 games in Liiga and also played at the World Junior Championships.

21- The San Jose Sharks took defenceman Ryan Merkley from Guelph of the OHL after he racked up 67 points in 63 games last year. The 17-year-old was third in scoring for OHL defencemen with his 13 goals and 54 assists and posted 1.06 points-per game.

22- The New York Rangers chose defenceman K'Andre Miller from the USA U-18 team. He's 6-feet-3-inches tall and posted nine goals and 20 assists last season and was a plus-23. Miller also scored two shorthanded goals.

23- The Anaheim Ducks took centre Isac Lundestrom from Lulea in Sweden after he scored six goals and nine assists in 42 games last season along with a plus-7 rating. He added two goals at the World Junior Championships.

24- The Minnesota Wild drafted defenceman Filip Johansson from Leksand Jr. in Sweden. He posted four goals and five assists in his 29 junior games. And added a goal and three assists at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament along with two goals and an assist at the U-18 World Championships.

25- The St. Louis Blues took German-born right-winger Dominik Bokk from Vaxjo Jr. in Sweden. He played 35 games as a rookie and scored 41 points on 14 goals and 27 assists and added five goals and six assists in his eight postseason games.

26- The Ottawa Senators chose defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker from Okotoks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He scored 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 points in 47 games and will play at the University of North Dakota next season.

27- The Chicago Blackhawks selected defenceman Nicolas Beaudin from Drummondville in the QMJHL. He was ranked second in defenceman scoring with 69 points on 12 goals and 57 assists and posted 28 assists on the power-play in 68 games.

28- The New York Rangers took defenceman Nils Lundkvist from Pitea in Sweden where he posted three goals and 11 assists in 26 contests as a 17-year-old.

29- The Toronto Maple Leafs took Swedish defenceman Rasmus Sandin from the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The rookie scored 12 goals and 33 assists for 45 points last year and was a plus-35 in 51 games.

30- The Detroit Red Wings chose centre Joseph Veleno from Drummondville of the QMJHL. He posted six goals and 25 assists for 31 points in 31 games last year with Saint John and was then traded to Drummondville where he added 16 goals and 32 assists for 48 points in 33 games. Veleno added five goals and six assists in his 10 postseason contests.

31- The Washington Capitals drafted last in the first round and took Russian defenceman Alexander Alexeyev from Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. Alexeyev is 6-feet-4-inches tall and scored
seven goals and 30 assists last season in 45 games. He then added two goals and three assists in three playoff matches.

NHL Awards winners announced

The NHL held its annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 20th with Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils taking home the Hart Memorial trophy as the league's most valuable player. Hall is the first Devils player to capture the honour and it was his first tome as a finalist. He finished the season with a career-high 93 points on 39 goals and 54 assists with 37 points coming on the power play. He also racked up 41 more points than the next highest Devil this season. Hall edged out Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings in the voting as well as Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid.

However, McDavid was named the winner of the Ted Lindsay Award for the second straight season. The young Oilers' captain was named the league's outstanding player by his peers after scoring 41 goals and adding 67 assists for 108 points. McDavid became the first player to win the award twice before reaching the age of 22. He's also the third Oiler to win the honours along with Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky.

The Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender went to Finnish native Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. It was his first win and fourth time being a finalist. Rinne posted the third-most wins in the league this season at 42 and also had an 11-game winning streak this season as he helped Nashville win the President's Trophy as the league's top team. Rinne beat out Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights. He becomes the first Predators' goalie to win the award.

The Frank Selke Trophy was handed out to Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles as the league's best defensive forward. Kopitar has now won the award twice and he's been a finalist four times in the past five seasons. He led all forwards in the NHL in total ice time in 2017/18 and was third in both faceoff wins with 983 and total faceoffs at 1,816. Kopitar also chipped in with 35 goals and 57 assists for 92 points and helped the Kings to the best defensive record in the league. He beat out Sean Couturier of Philadelphia, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild.
The Vegas Golden Knights had four winners on the night as forward William Karlsson of Sweden won the Lady Byng Trophy as the league's most sportsmanlike player. The 25-year-old scored 43 goals and added 35 assists and served just 12 minutes in penalties during the regular season. He also led the NHL in plus/minus with a plus-49 rating. Karlsson beat out Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres, Aleksander Barkov of Florida, Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles and Jared Spurgeon of the New York Islanders.

Twenty-one-year-old Mathew Barzal of the Islanders was named the winner of the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie. The forward led all first-year players in scoring with 22 goals and 63 assists for 85 points and is the fifth Islander to win the award. Barzal beat out Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks, Clayton Keller of the Arizona coyotes, Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets and Charlie McAvoy of Boston on the ballot.

Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay was named the best defenceman in the NHL for 2017/18 and took home the James Norris Memorial Trophy for his efforts. He's the first Lightning player to win the award and the third Swedish defenceman to take it home after finishing the year with 17 goals and 46 assists for 63 points. Hedman beat out Drew Doughty of Los Angeles, P.K. Subban of Nashville, Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets and John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.

Gerard Gallant of Vegas took home the Jack Adams Award as the league's best coach after leading the expansion club to the Pacific Division Title and the Stanley Cup Final. It's the first award for Gallant after being a finalist while coaching the Florida Panthers in 2015/16. He became the first head coach in the modern era to lead an expansion franchise to a division title in any of North America's major pro sports leagues. Gallant beat out Bruce Cassidy of Boston, Jared Bednar of Colorado, Paul Maurice of Winnipeg and Peter Laviolette of Nashville in the voting.

There was no surprise when George McPhee was named the General Manager of the Year as he put together the roster of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights who posted a season record of 51-24-7 and reached the Stanley Cup finals in their first year of operation. The club became the most successful first-year team in NHL history. McPhee beat out Kevin Cheveldayoff of Winnipeg, Steve Yzerman of Tampa Bay, Don Sweeney of Boston and Joe Sakic of Colorado.

Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin of Vancouver were the recipients of the King Clancy Trophy as the players to best exemplify leadership qualities and humanitarian contributions to their community. The Sedins were drafted number two and three in 1999 and are the only brothers in NHL history to record at least 1,000 points each.

Forward Brian Boyle of New Jersey won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship to the game of hockey. The 33-year-old Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia just before the start of the season, but made his way back into the lineup by November 1st and finished the campaign with 13 goals and 10 assists and also represented New Jersey at the All Star Game.

The Mark Messier Leadership Award was won by forward Deryk Engelland of the Vegas Golden Knights as he exemplified great leadership qualities on and off of the ice this season and also helped grow the game of hockey in his community. Engelland organized many events following the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October and also worked with local firefighters to raise money for children that couldn't afford to play the game of hockey.

Alexander Ovechkin: Mission Accomplished

Alexander Ovechkin tackled the 2017/18 NHL playoffs like a man on a mission and ultimately achieved it by leading the Washington Capitals to the franchise's first Stanley Cup since entering the league in 1974. The 32-year-old Russian winger was the catalyst for his team's five-game victory over the expansion Golden Vegas Knights in the finals after dispatching the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in six games and then the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven in the Eastern Conference Final.

Ovechkin just finished his 13th NHL campaign and this was the first time he made it past the second round of the playoffs. However things were decidedly different this year as he racked up a league-leading 15 goals along with 12 assists for 27 points in 24 postseason contests and also captured the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs beating out teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov and goaltender Braden Holtby in the voting. The victory came in the Capitals' second appearance in the finals as they were swept in four games by the Detroit Red wings back in 1997/98.

They're also just the seventh team to win the championship after losing their first two postseason games as they were down to Columbus 2-0 in the first round this year. In addition, Ovechkin entered the playoffs as the only multiple winner of the Hart Trophy to never win a Stanley Cup and that awkward milestone has now been eliminated. Ovechkin, who has missed just 29 regular-season games during his NHL career, certainly had some help in the postseason, but his leadership and enthusiasm for the game made him the team's driving force.

Kuznetsov led the league in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points and was followed by Ovechkin's 27 points and then Nicklas Backstrom with five goals and 18 assists for 23 points. The line of Kuznetsov, Lars Eller (7-11-18) and Backstrom chipped in with 73 points while goaltender Braden Holtby posted a 2.16 goals-against average with a 92.2 save percentage. The Capitals' power play went five for 16 against Vegas in the finals for a success rate of 31.3 per cent and it went 22 for 75 overall in the playoffs for a con version rate of  29.3 per cent.

Backstrom, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie all scored at least 11 power play points in the postseason with Carlson scoring 20 and Oshie racking up 21 points overall. Ovechkin, who led the league in scoring for the seventh time this year with 49 goals, is the first Russian-born player to captain a Stanley-Cup winner and the pressure's definitely been lifted from his shoulders. He was often the scapegoat of previous Washington squads as they struggled to succeed in the playoffs, but Ovechkin's always pulled his weight and now has 61 goals and 56 assists for 117 points in 121 career playoff games. This includes one point in each of the five games in this year's final series.