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2014 NHL Draft
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NHL Insider

Ekblad ready, willing to prove himself to Panthers

Tuesday, 07.08.2014 / 2:26 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad was selected No. 1 in the 2014 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers in part because he was considered the most NHL-ready player at his position.

With the Panthers' prospect development camp opening this week in Sunrise, Fla., spectators already are wondering whether Ekblad will begin the 2014-15 season on the NHL roster.

"We'll have a good, long look at him at training camp," general manager Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald. "If he's ready, he's ready. If not, well, [Jonathan] Huberdeau went back. Guys come back better players.

"But if he's ready, we're keeping him, no doubt. We're still thinking the same thing about this being a marathon. We're getting closer with each draft."

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Best friends Jaskin, Barbashev reunited with Blues

Tuesday, 07.08.2014 / 2:12 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- They've known one another for roughly two years, but for St. Louis Blues prospects Dmitrij Jaskin and Ivan Barbashev, the bond has made it feel like a lifetime.

Both are natives of Russia: Jaskin a Czech raised in Omsk; Barbashev born and raised in Moscow. At a young age and about to embark on new lives in North America, they relied on one another to get by in a different culture. It set the wheels in motion on a friendship that continues to grow in strength.

They were drafted together by the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at the 2012 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, and now Jaskin and Barbashev are together again as draft picks of the St. Louis Blues.

Jaskin, 21, and Barbashev, 18, were second-round picks in the NHL draft. Jaskin was the 41st pick in 2011 while Barbashev, who was projected as a mid-first round selection, was the 33rd pick of the 2014 draft.

They arrived in Moncton without much knowledge of the North American culture. But the common denominator was Jaskin and Barbashev had each other, and a friendship rapidly ensued.

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Five potentially underrated free-agent signings

Tuesday, 07.08.2014 / 12:50 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Isn't it funny how the wild world of NHL free agency has a way of providing fans and hockey scribes reason for analytical thinking during the dog days of summer?

Which team struck it big, and which team struck out? Which general manager paid too much, and who got the best bargain?

NHL general managers handed out more than $500 million in new contracts to unrestricted free agents July 1, according to Kevin Gibson of TSN. There were a total of 94 signings July 1, the opening day of free agency, likely helped by a new five-day window that allowed teams to meet with potential free agents before the signing period began.

Now more than a week into free agency, here are five signings that went a bit under the radar but could prove to be well worth the time, effort and money spent to bring each player aboard (a complete rundown of all the free-agent signings this offseason may be accessed here).

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Canadiens wing Sekac determined to make it in NHL

Monday, 07.07.2014 / 6:30 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

Jiri Sekac did everything he could to get the attention of the NHL.

From the time he left his home in Kladno, Czech Republic in 2009, just after his 17th birthday, to come to North America, Sekac began his courtship of NHL teams, one that remained strictly one-sided as not a single scout from a single team ever expressed the least bit of interest in the left wing.

His attempt at playing the highest level of hockey in North America was short-lived, lasting eight games with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League before he spent two seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League and was passed over in both the 2010 and 2011 NHL Drafts.

As he was halfway through his third season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in December, Sekac was offered a contract extension by his club, HC Lev Prague in his native Czech Republic. The offer would have given him financial security after years of uncertainty surrounding his hockey career.

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Trotz believes Orpik fills a need for Capitals

Monday, 07.07.2014 / 5:55 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Vingan - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals' signing of defenseman Brooks Orpik on July 1 was arguably met with the most skepticism.

The Capitals gave Orpik, who turns 34 on Sept. 26, a five-year contract worth $27.5 million. It was a significant raise from the $3.75 million he earned annually throughout the duration of his latest contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Why am I worth that? That's probably a better question for the people who give out the contracts," Orpik said during his introductory teleconference. "I think my body of work speaks for itself."

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Boyle not worried about ice time with Rangers

Monday, 07.07.2014 / 5:14 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Dan Boyle has led his team in ice time per game for 11 straight seasons. Those days should be over for the soon-to-be 38-year-old, which might be why ice time was low on Boyle's list of reasons for signing a two-year, $9 million contract with the New York Rangers on July 1.

Playing for the Eastern Conference champions, with former and now again current teammate Martin St. Louis, for an Original Six team, in New York, and at Madison Square Garden all came ahead of ice time for Boyle.

They all apparently came ahead of money too.

Boyle indicated Monday that he could have made more than $4.5 million per season if he signed elsewhere, most notably with the New York Islanders, who acquired his negotiating rights in a trade with from the San Jose Sharks on June 5. Had he signed with the Islanders, he instantly would have become the favorite to challenge Travis Hamonic as the team's ice-time leader.

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Ducks' size up front on display at prospect camp

Monday, 07.07.2014 / 3:55 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Anaheim Ducks have left little doubt the type of player they covet at the NHL Draft each year.

Battling for top honors against the likes of the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division each season, Ducks general manager Bob Murray has made a habit of choosing big, strong forwards capable of driving the net and giving and taking more than their share of hits over the course of 60 minutes.

Many of those physically fit power forwards were on display at the team's recently completed prospect development camp at The Rinks - Anaheim ICE.

All five picks from the 2014 draft were on display, including Nicolas Ritchie (first round, No. 10), Marcus Pettersson (second round, No. 38), Brandon Montour (second round, No. 55) Matt Berkovitz (fifth round, No. 123) and Ondrej Kase (seventh round, No. 205).

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Spezza 'just a piece' to Stars' championship puzzle

Monday, 07.07.2014 / 1:17 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- Jason Spezza has only been a member of the Dallas Stars organization for about a week, but the veteran center already feels he will be a great fit with his new employer.

"I'm just a piece to the puzzle," Spezza said Monday morning during his introductory press conference at American Airlines Center. "You have to be willing to be that in order to win in this League. I think it's a great fit, and to have the young group and some of the young stars they have, you don't see that very often and you hope to kind of grow with the group."

Spezza, 31, was acquired last Tuesday in a trade with the Ottawa Senators that sent young forwards Alex Chiasson, Nicholas Paul and Alexander Guptill to Ottawa for Spezza and forward Ludwig Karlsson.

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Oilers' pick Draisaitl sizes up his NHL chances

Saturday, 07.05.2014 / 9:05 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

On a team with a recent history of No. 1 draft picks, Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl said he doesn't feel any less pressure being a No. 3 selection.

"Obviously there is a little bit of pressure as people expect quite a bit from a third overall pick or any first-round pick," Draisaitl told the Oilers website Saturday at development camp. "I think there is a little bit of pressure, but I think for me personally the most important thing is that I just do what I am doing best and just doing what I can control. That is basically just going out there and working as hard as I can and being the best player I can be."

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Drouin expects to make Lightning this time around

Saturday, 07.05.2014 / 7:08 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Tampa Bay Lightning forward prospect Jonathan Drouin was one of the most decorated players in junior hockey when he was selected third in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Instead of debuting in the League, he was sent back to junior and established himself as one of the world's top prospects. After a 2013-14 season when disappointing losses overshadowed great individual achievements, the 19-year-old is on the verge of starting his NHL career.

"I'm more mature as a person. I think I grew a little bit being one of the older guys on the [junior] team, seeing things you didn't see when you were 16 or 17," Drouin said from Lightning prospect camp. "A lot of things were tough for me. It helped me grow as a person. Not winning was the toughest thing."

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Quote of the Day

When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions