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Milano, Rychel among Blue Jackets' top five prospects

Saturday, 08.08.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Craig Merz - Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The prospects cupboard is far from bare for the Columbus Blue Jackets thanks in part to six first-round picks in the past three NHL drafts.

The abundance of young talent enabled the Blue Jackets to make a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire forward Brandon Saad on June 30. Rookie forward Marko Dano (No. 27, 2013 NHL Draft) was sent to the Blackhawks along with three other players for the two-time Stanley Cup winner.

The Blue Jackets still have a wealth of prospects at forward but aren't as deep on the defensive side.

That's why they took defensemen Zachary Werenski (No. 8) and Gabriel Carlsson (No. 29) in the first round this year.

Goaltender Anton Forsberg (No. 188, 2011) was an American Hockey League all-star last season but struggled (0-4-0, 4.69 goals-against average) for the Blue Jackets when injuries struck goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney.

With McElhinney under contract for two more years, Forsberg will be given time to develop.

Here are the Blue Jackets' top five prospects, according to

Good start, Murray among Blue Jackets questions

Saturday, 08.08.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Craig Merz - Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Knowing what's wrong and fixing the problems are two different stories for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

They have gotten off to miserable starts the past four seasons, a significant factor in them qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs once (2014) during the span.

How the Blue Jackets will fare early this season is one of three major questions they face:

Johansen, strong finish have Blue Jackets optimistic

Saturday, 08.08.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Craig Merz - Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are hopeful their strong finish to the 2014-15 season will translate into a Stanley Cup Playoff berth this season.

The Blue Jackets finished nine points back of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference after their season-ending, 13-game point streak (12-0-1), but it left them eager to get back on the ice in October.

Here are four reasons the Blue Jackets are optimistic:

Blue Jackets expect boost from Saad, healthy Murray

Saturday, 08.08.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Craig Merz - Correspondent continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets set out this offseason to improve a defense that, along with an inordinate amount of injuries, derailed their chances of making a return trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now about six weeks from the start of training camp, nothing has changed among the defense, which ranked 25th in goals allowed (3.02 per game) last season.

"I'm not concerned at all if we have to start the season with this group," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

Ducks sign forward Silfverberg to four-year contract

Friday, 08.07.2015 / 7:32 PM / News

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

Jakob Silfverberg sounded like he knew he had to exercise patience when it came to getting a contract from the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks' top priority of the offseason was extending center Ryan Kesler, and they also have other moving parts.

But the wait paid off when Anaheim on Friday announced a four-year contract for Silfverberg, 24, who was a restricted free agent.

"My agent and I had a pretty good talk, and we said we were in no hurry," Silfverberg said from Sweden. "We just wanted to get the right kind of contract. … I think both parties are really happy about the contract. I'm super-excited. It might have taken a little longer than I expected, but that's how it is."

Top prospect Matthews to play '15-16 in Switzerland

Friday, 08.07.2015 / 5:07 PM / News

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Auston Matthews, a frontrunner to be the top pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, announced Friday that he will play for Zurich in the Swiss National League in 2015-16.

The announcement came after months of speculation that the 17-year-old center might instead play for Everett of the Western Hockey League. Matthews was selected in the third round (No. 57) by Everett in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft.

Matthews, who signed a one-year contract with Zurich and said he will join the Lions after he turns 18 on Sept. 17, is with 32 other U.S. prospects at United States National Evaluation Camp. The U.S. will play Finland on Saturday.

"I am deeply grateful to the ZSC Lions for the opportunity to be a part of their wonderful organization and look forward to joining them next month," Matthews said in a statement. "For now, however, my commitment is to my teammates and USA Hockey as we prepare to win tomorrow’s game."

Philadelphia Flyers fantasy hockey outlook

Matt Cubeta - Fantasy Insider

As part of's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.

Leading the way: Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek

Giroux cracks my offseason fantasy rankings at No. 1 and Voracek comes in at No. 20. Both players are elite fantasy contributors and should be viewed that way again this season. Though Voracek finished last season as the No. 4 overall player in Yahoo leagues, I would expect some regression this season. His 81 points were a career high and a big jump from the 62 he had in 2013-14. He also had 78 penalty minutes, the most of his career, but two unlikely fighting majors and two 10-minute misconducts contributed to that total. I wouldn't expect that again.

Matthews, Puljujarvi offer excitement for 2016 draft

Friday, 08.07.2015 / 9:14 AM / 2016 World Junior Championship

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- There's certainly a lot to get excited about when discussion shifts to the increasing potential of the 2016 NHL Draft class.

Fans and some 100 NHL scouts had an opportunity to witness two of the most high-profile prospects eligible for the draft during United States National Junior Evaluation Camp here at Lake Placid Olympic Center's 1980 Herb Brooks Arena this week.

Center Auston Matthews (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), the projected No. 1 pick, is starring for the U.S. National Junior Team. Right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (6-3, 203), widely considered to be the top European prospect, has been equally impressive for Finland.

Each player represented his country at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship and will likely participate in the 2016 WJC in Helsinki, Finland, to be held Dec. 26, 2015, through Jan. 5, 2016.

WJC drought over, Canada aims to maintain success

Friday, 08.07.2015 / 8:44 AM / 2016 World Junior Championship

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- Canada's gold-medal drought at the IIHF World Junior Championship ended in 2015, and the focus has shifted to a gold rush.

That process is off to a good start, according to Hockey Canada vice president of hockey operations and national teams Scott Salmond.

"I think for five years we've kind of been chasing it," Salmond said. "I've seen the feeling in the room from the coaches, from the players. We know what it takes to win. I think we've done a real good job of building, not only World Juniors, but men's Worlds and back to (the) Sochi (Olympics) on the concept of the team we need to be to win and how we need to play. I think that's in the players' minds. To go in and defend instead of chasing, that's a different thing.

"It's tough when you have pressure and you're trying to get something back. When you have it, you want to keep it. It's a bit of a different feeling."

A weeklong retreat to Calgary in August attempted to lay the foundation for just that.

Neuvirth, Gagner give Flyers some optimism

Friday, 08.07.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping to erase the memories of last season, when they won 33 games and failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons.

They enter this season with a new coach and the hope that their talented group of forwards, along with goaltender Steve Mason, can get them back in contention.

Here are four reasons for optimism in Philadelphia:

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Quote of the Day

It's a big milestone for me and I'm happy to help my team with lots of good teammates. It's fun.

— Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, who on Wednesday became the ninth Russian-born player, and ninth Red Wings player, to score 300 NHL goals
World Cup of Hockey 2016