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Features

Blue Jackets want goals, leadership from Hartnell

Tuesday, 08.05.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Craig Merz - NHL.com Correspondent

The Columbus Blue Jackets didn't trade for forward Scott Hartnell specifically to agitate the Pittsburgh Penguins, but his ability to antagonize certainly didn't hurt.

Hartnell earned a reputation as a Penguins-baiter during his seven seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded to Columbus for R.J. Umberger on June 23. He was particularly pesky, to put it mildly, when the Pennsylvania rivals met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2008, 2009 and 2012. There wasn't nearly the same level of vitriol when the Blue Jackets and Penguins played in the Eastern Conference First Round in April, a series won by Pittsburgh in six games.

Even though the Penguins have gone through a turbulent offseason they are still considered a contender in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. Clearly, the Penguins are still one of the teams to beat.

That's why Hartnell's 91 career playoff games could come in handy for the Blue Jackets, a franchise that has played all of 10 since joining the NHL in 2000.

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Blue Jackets' lineup marked by improving youth

Tuesday, 08.05.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

When the Columbus Blue Jackets had three first-round picks at the 2013 NHL Draft, it looked like those players would be counted on to help the franchise finally become a consistent Stanley Cup Playoff participant.

The franchise might already be that by the time those guys arrive. Columbus reached the postseason in 2013-14 and won its first two games in franchise history. With president John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen in charge, the Blue Jackets have quickly morphed from potential rebuilding situation to potential contender.

There is star-level talent at every position. There are young players with the potential to improve already on the NHL roster. There are exciting young prospects in the pipeline.

It was actually a pretty quiet summer in central Ohio, in part because Kekalainen didn't need a busy one. The biggest item of business remains locking up restricted free agent Ryan Johansen, who can be the first "franchise center" the organization has ever had.

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Blue Jackets:

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World view forms Blue Jackets' top 10 prospects

Tuesday, 08.05.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The IIHF World Junior Championship is traditionally the tournament most NHL scouts point to as a barometer to gauge how far a prospect has progressed among his peers.

If that's the case, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must be brimming with confidence after witnessing his players excel for their respective countries at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden.

Five recent draft picks were very productive in last year's tournament, including forwards Alexander Wennberg of Sweden, Marko Dano of Slovakia and Kerby Rychel and Josh Anderson of Canada, and goalie Oscar Dansk of Sweden. Wennberg, Rychel and Dano were chosen No. 14, No. 19 and No. 27, respectively, in the 2013 NHL Draft. Dansk was selected No. 31 and Anderson No. 95 in 2012.

Additionally, the 2014 WJC Division I Group A tournament featured another diamond in the rough for the Blue Jackets in right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand of Denmark. All Bjorkstrand did was earn recognition as the top forward at the tournament after he had four goals and six points in five games to help his country qualify for the 2015 WJC in Montreal and Toronto.

"I think it means something when kids get a chance to win at that younger level; it helps their confidence down the road because of that winning attitude," Blue Jackets director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "We've kind of lacked that type of stuff. So anytime you win, it's good."

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Goaltender Demko not worried about recent struggles

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 7:51 PM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Thatcher Demko said one of the most enduring lessons he learned at the USA Hockey national junior evaluation camp last year was that roster spots aren't won or lost in August.

The goaltender would do well to remember those lessons this year, as the first few days of camp aren't anything he's likely to brag about.

"It's been alright," Demko told NHL.com. "I don't think I've played my best yet."

Demko allowed two goals on seven shots playing the first 30 minutes Monday in USA White's 4-3 loss to Finland. In parts of three games, he's allowed eight goals on 27 shots.

"It's hard for goaltenders to come in the middle of summer," United States coach Mark Osiecki said. "You don't know how much they've been on the ice, what kind of game action they've seen, bodies in front of them and the speed factor of it. It's hard to adjust and it's going to take some time. He's been average; he knows that."

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McDavid eager to get draft-eligible season underway

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 5:46 PM / Prospects

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Connor McDavid sat and watched in June as many of his friends, the players he grew up playing with and against, saw their lifelong dreams realized.

The 2014 NHL Draft was a highlight moment for one of McDavid's closest friends, defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who was the first pick by the Florida Panthers. Sam Bennett, McDavid's teammate and linemate for seven years in minor hockey, was selected fourth by the Calgary Flames.

As the draft continued with names being called at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, McDavid saw more and more of the people he grew up with, people who ultimately helped him become the most highly-anticipated hockey prospect since Sidney Crosby.

He was happy for them. But he also started to get antsy.

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Trotz confident he can fix what ailed Capitals

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

As part of his exercise in discovering information about his new team, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz has been asking friends and colleagues around the NHL to disclose what they told their players before playing the Capitals in recent seasons.

Trotz's discoveries have given him an indication as to why the Capitals failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

"It was pretty consistent," Trotz told NHL.com. "They would say, 'Don't let them score on the rush. Don't let their forwards freewheel. Take away time and space. They don't do much around the net. They're not very physical. They don't block shots.' It was good information, and now I've got to get it changed. I know I can."

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Trotz-Ovechkin bond among Capitals' five questions

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

A new general manager (Brian MacLellan), new coach (Barry Trotz) and two high-priced veteran additions to the blue line (Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik) indicate the Capitals will have a new look this season after their streak of six consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs came to an end last season.

However, the final answers to the following five questions ultimately will determine if Washington's new path will lead to the postseason:

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Versatile Laich eager to help Capitals again

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich couldn't wait for Monday to come. It's the day he's finally scheduled to hit the ice and incorporate skating into his offseason training regimen.

It's been two years since Laich has been as energized and excited to lace 'em up as he is now; two very hard, painful, injury-riddled years to be exact.

"Now when I step on the ice I feel completely free as opposed to very limited, like the last two years," Laich told NHL.com.

This can only be viewed as fantastic news for the Capitals.

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New regime aims to get more out of Capitals lineup

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

For the first time in seven seasons the Washington Capitals did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013-14. That led to some substantial changes.

Brian MacLellan became the third general manager in the past 32 years, replacing long-tenured George McPhee. Barry Trotz became the fourth coach in the past 30 months, a fact that had a lot to do with MacLellan's promotion from assistant GM.

When Adam Oates was hired to coach in Washington, the mission statement seemed to be "Fix Alex Ovechkin, fix the Capitals." Ovechkin scored lots of goals for Oates and the power play often was incredible. But pretty much everything else, from possession to goal prevention to penalty killing and secondary scoring, was far from incredible. The Capitals slipped in 2012-13 and sunk in 2013-14, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

There's a new regime, a new system and some new players. There is better depth on defense but not necessarily up front. Will the changes result in a return to the postseason?

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Capitals:

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Dynamic Burakovsky leads Capitals' top 10 prospects

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With a new general manager in Brian MacLellan and a new coach in Barry Trotz, training camp will be a clean slate for the Washington Capitals.

That includes a talented group of prospects that will be looking to impress the new staff and potentially earn NHL jobs.

"With all these younger guys, they have to prove to the coaches that they deserve to stay," assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said.

Here's a look at the Capitals' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic