Nino Niederreiter will still be only 18 years old when he reports to his second NHL training camp this September.
But after the season he just enjoyed -- his second in North America -- the highest Swiss player ever selected at the NHL Entry Draft (No. 5, 2010) one has to think Niederreiter is already ahead of the game.
After beginning the 2010-11 season in the NHL, Niederreiter was returned to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. In 55 regular-season games, the 6-foot-2, 203-pound left wing had 41 goals, 29 assists, 67 penalty minutes and a plus-28 rating. But it was Niederreiter's postseason that has to have Isles GM Garth Snow downright giddy.
Relatives and fans of New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard shed tears Sunday as they remembered the former NHL enforcer as a "teddy bear" who was as generous and kind as he was burly and tough, a somber end to a weekend during which his distraught family agreed to donate his brain to medical researchers.
The 28-year-old Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment Friday. Boogaard's agent and a spokeswoman for the Boston University School of Medicine confirmed Sunday that his brain will be examined.
"It's an amazing thing he did and his family did. Hopefully, that'll bring some information," agent Ron Salcer said.
DETROIT -- In some ways, there is more to feel positive about for the Detroit Red Wings than there was a year ago at this time.
Instead of bowing out to San Jose in five games in their Western Conference Semifinal series, as they did in 2010, the Red Wings fought back against the Sharks in 2011 -- coming all the way back from a 3-0 deficit only to fall short with Thursday's 3-2 loss in Game 7 at San Jose's HP Pavilion.
This team also showed more grit, more heart and more desire to make another Stanley Cup run together. Then there was the solid playoff performance by second-year goalie Jimmy Howard, who made the two-year contract extension he signed during the regular season look like a great decision by General Manager Ken Holland.
DETROIT -- The group of reporters and TV cameramen huddled around Nicklas Lidstrom's locker on Saturday had to be thinking the same basic thing: After posing for the team photo at Joe Louis Arena to cap the 2011 season, was the Detroit Red Wings' captain and legendary 41-year old defenseman peeling off his winged wheel uniform for the last time?
The answer will come in the next few weeks -- "before July 1," he said -- after Lidstrom mulls over whether to retire or sign another one-year contract with the only NHL team he's ever played for.
"I'm sure it's going to be the same process as last year, I don't think it'll be that big of a difference," said Lidstrom, who finished the regular season as a finalist to win his seventh Norris Trophy with 16 goals and 62 points before scoring 4 goals and 8 points in two playoff series. "You take everything into account. How you feel. Motivation. Family situation. Take everything into account before you make a decision."
If he takes his teammates' thoughts into account, that's got to be good news for those hoping Lidstrom comes back for another season.
No one has ever doubted the ability of St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund to be an impact player at any level of competition. Consistency has always the main issue for the 22-year-old native of Vasteras, Sweden. Coming off a 22-goal, 52-point season for the Blues, Berglund has spread his wings at the World Championships in Slovakia.
Berglund's performance is a major reason the Swedes will play for the gold medal on Sunday against Finland. His size has created matchup problems for opposing teams, and his soaring confidence has made him almost impossible to take off the puck. With 8 goals in eight games, he is tied with Finland's Jarkko Immonen for the tournament lead. Berglund's 10 points rank second, one behind Immonen.
When Team Finland takes to the ice on Sunday to play Sweden for the gold medal at the 2011 World Championships, it will be carrying the hopes of an entire nation on its shoulders. It has been 16 years since Finland won its first -- and only -- gold medal in a major, senior-level international tournament. In many ways, Finland's gold medal at the 1995 Worlds marked the start of a new chapter in the country's hockey history and stands to this day as an enduring symbol of national pride that goes far beyond the rink.
The Finns' gold medal in 1995, won at Stockholm's Globe Arena at the expense of Sweden, left an indelible mark on every member of the current squad. Just as the Miracle on Ice squad is venerated in the United States, the members of Finland's gold medal winning squad and the memories of the culminating effort against Sweden will forever be held in the highest esteem among Finns.
By the end of Thursday evening, the Boston Bruins may no longer be known as the most recent sports franchise to blow a 3-0 series lead and lose a best-of-seven series, depending on how Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals between Detroit and San Jose plays out.
Regardless of the outcome of that game, and regardless even of whatever the Bruins go on to accomplish in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs after rallying past Montreal in seven games and then redeeming themselves against Philadelphia in the second round, Boston GM Peter Chiarelli admits memories of last year's postseason collapse will probably remain with him.
"I don't think I'll ever get over it," Chiarelli said during a guest appearance on Thursday's “NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman.”
"We've had to deal with it in some shape or form throughout the whole year. Personally, it's something I probably think about it every other day at the very least. You just try to build on it, you try to learn from it, learn lessons from it -- I've had a manager call me and ask how we dealt with it at certain stages, so I guess there's other people who are benefitting from it."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed speculation about the Atlanta Thrashers' ownership situation during his weekly radio show Thursday night and comparisons to the Phoenix Coyotes, who are currently under League ownership and will remain playing in Glendale, Ariz., for the 2011-12 season after extending its agreement with the city of Glendale this week.
"I think everybody needs to take a step back because I think there's been a fair amount of speculation, supposition and even hysteria in the media, which has been largely fabricated," Bettman said during the "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman.". "I wish I had a dollar for all of the reports a month ago that said the Coyotes were definitely moving and it was going to happen in a matter of days.
"I mean, people who are reporting on this stuff are simply making it up, and that's unfortunate for our fans. It's unfortunate for the fans who have a club they don't want to lose, and it's unfortunate for building up expectations in other places.
As his whirlwind first season as an NHL coach continues on, Guy Boucher of the Tampa Bay Lightning takes it all as it comes -- a philosophy that seems to have served him well in his meteoric rise from relative anonymity to one of the League's hottest commodities.
"As a player you always want to make the NHL, but as a coach the weird thing is I always focused on where I was and I always enjoyed where I was and I always felt that if I did a good job where I was I'd never need to leave," Boucher said while appearing as a guest on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman."
"And it's because I think I focused on the present and enjoyed so much where I was that I went up through the ranks without pushing. Not that I didn't mind going up in the NHL, but the fact was that if I didn't make it to the NHL and stayed in the American League for a few years and know that I was surrounded by good people there, too, I think the fact I didn't make it a dream and I didn't make it a goal and every day in my life try to push for it, I think that's what helped me get here."
BROSSARD, Que. – He's played so little over the past two seasons, it's sometimes easy to forget that Andrei Markov is considered by many to be the best player on the Montreal Canadiens.
A sublimely talented defenseman that is among the best in the world at his position, Markov, 32, is still working his way back from his second reconstructive surgery on his left knee in a span of eight months, a knee that limited him to just seven games this season.
With the Canadiens being eliminated from the playoffs Wednesday night in Boston, the focus shifts to how GM Pierre Gauthier handles the delicate situation of Markov's impending unrestricted free agency on July 1.