The new-look Competition Committee held its first meeting today and took action on several issues surrounding the game.
Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, led the meeting which was attended by five NHL executives (general managers, owners, coaches), five NHL players and long-time referee Don Van Massenhoven. Among the league's contingent was Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, Flyers owner Ed Snider, Predators GM David Poile, Red Wings GM Ken Holland and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.
The meeting concluded around 5 p.m. ET at the NHL's offices in Toronto. According to NHL.com, players present for the meeting were David Backes, Cory Schneider, Mike Cammalleri, Alex Pietrangelo and Ron Hainsey.
Among the items headed to the league's Board of Governors for approval: grandfathering mandatory use of visors for NHL players. After scary eye and facial injuries brought the issue of visors to the fore this past season - namely Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, who missed the remainder of the season and playoffs - the topic of grandfathering in mandatory use became more prevalent.
Every NHL team wants depth, competitiveness and options -- and sometimes those three go hand-in-hand-in-hand.
Over the past two seasons, the Blue Jackets have concentrated a significant amount of time and effort into building competitive depth throughout the organization, while at the same time giving themselves as many options as possible to improve the team in both the short and long term. When they acquired Jack Johnson from the Los Angeles Kings a year ago, they not only picked up a key piece of the club in Johnson, but also a first-round pick that they could use in either the 2012 or 2013 NHL Draft.
Then came the Rick Nash trade in July: the Blue Jackets bolstered depth at center ice and on defense, and also netted another first-round pick in this year's draft. In a year when the draft class is widely considered to be ripe with NHL talent, there's no such thing as too many assets (and really, is there ever such a thing?)With three first-round picks, it's pretty much a guarantee that the Blue Jackets' phone number will be a popular one - if it isn't already. Kekalainen has indicated to NHL.com and other outlets that the team's first rounders are in play, but only if a potential deal brings back young, established NHL-caliber help. That alone should raise some eyebrows around the league and up the level of activity leading up to the picks.
Here are a few of the options available to the Blue Jackets...
The picture above left features Alexander Wennberg, a center currently playing for Djurgarden IF Stovkholm in the Swedish Allvenskan League. Over the past few years, Wennberg has impressed on the international stage with his play in the 2012 IIHF Under-18 World Championships and the 2013 World Junior Championships, helping his team bring home the silver medal in both tournaments.
Wennberg is a shifty player who possess an active stick and alert hockey sense. He can read players to make poke checks and take pucks off opponents’ sticks in the blink of an eye. Once he takes the puck, good luck catching him. He is definitely one of the better skaters available in the draft with explosive speed and acceleration.
Wennberg’s skating, when coupled with his excellent puck handling skills, makes him extremely difficult for opponents to shut down and defend one-on-one. He’s excellent at changing direction, stopping and starting on a moment’s notice.
As more of a playmaker than goal scorer, Wennberg’s vision and hockey sense lead to near flawless execution and smart plays in every zone. He is not afraid to battle at the top of the crease or along the boards to make a big play which leads to great opportunities for his teammates.
TORONTO -- The first day of fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine saw 72 players get measured, poked, prodded and tested in front of scouts and managers from all 30 teams, as well as members of the media.
The two most infamous tests are the bike tests: the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and the VO2 Max. The Wingate measures a player's peak output in a 30-second sprint, and the VO2 tests a player's stamina and ability to recover between shifts.
Defenseman Samuel Morin of the Rimouski Oceanic had the highest peak power output in the Wingate test, measuring 15.8 watts per kilogram. Defenseman Shea Theodore of the Seattle Thunderbirds was second, also at 15.8.
Another defenseman, Mirco Mueller of the Everett Silvertips, lasted the longest on the VO2 test, clocking in at 14:39. Owen Sound Attack blueliner Chris Bigras was second at 14:30.
The two players with the longest wingspans also were defensemen: Jonathan-Ismael Diaby of the Victoriaville Tigres and Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater. Each measured in at 81.00 inches. London Knights defenseman Nikita Zadorov was next at 80.50 inches, along with Eamon McAdam, a goaltender with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.
TORONTO -- The NHL Scouting Combine is an opportunity for teams to learn about the players they might take in the 2013 NHL Draft. But sometimes the players learn something about themselves. That was the case for Aleksander Barkov, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated European skater.
"I didn't know that my English is so good," he said. "I thought that I can't speak but then it was easy."
Barkov already was highly regarded because of his play. The 17-year-old center had 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games with Tappara in sm-Liiga, Finland's top professional league, and also had three goals and four assists in seven games for Finland at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. He had five assists in five playoff games in Finland before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury March 27. He had surgery in April and said he can start skating next week, with the intention of being 100 percent when NHL training camps open.
The injury prevented him from going through the fitness testing portion of the Combine, but that likely won't keep teams from taking him high, especially because of the success he had playing against grown men in Finland.
TORONTO -- Jonathan Drouin is five days removed from winning the Memorial Cup, and after 72 games of hockey this season during the regular season, playoffs and international hockey, he opted Friday to not take part in the fitness testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine.
Drouin, No. 3 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft, went through the medical exams and had his height, weight and body fat measured, but chose to skip the more rigorous testing.
"We've been through a lot of hockey lately," Drouin said. "Just came back [from the Memorial Cup] four days ago. We didn't want to hurt each other. We didn't train a long time, no off-ice stuff. Just a little dangerous to do it."
Drouin said it was a tough decision, but after talking to his agent, he decided it would be for the best.
"For sure it's hard," he said of skipping the testing. "Some guys probably don't like it, but it's hard on yourself. You want to prove you're able to do the stuff."
TORONTO -- Is there any doubt that the words "bike test" are enough to make any top draft-eligible prospect uneasy in the week leading up to the fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine?
It's a frozen moment in time for any blue-chip athlete looking to make an impression on NHL scouts and general managers. The heart starts beating faster the moment those technicians duct tape both feet to the pedals in preparation for those two infamous bike tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and VO2 Max.
Those familiar with the VO2 Max, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles, knows it happens to be the most grueling of all the endurance tests conducted by York University for the benefit of the 30 NHL teams.
The Wingate peak power output test measures the explosiveness of a skater and could provide critical information in learning how quickly a player might be able to begin a transition up ice.
Last year, just one player lasted at least 14 minutes on the VO2 -- Swedish defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who was drafted sixth overall by the Anaheim Ducks.
NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-rated North American skater in 2012, Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting, lasted 12:25 on the VO2.
TORONTO -- Simply put, defenseman Ryan Pulock of the Brandon Wheat Kings is a warrior.
Despite missing considerable time in 2012-13 with a fractured orbital bone and then a broken wrist, he impressed the scouts enough to earn a No. 12-ranking on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top 2013 NHL Draft-eligible North American skaters.
"He does everything well," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "He's got the hardest shot I've seen in years. He's so smart. The thing that's even more impressive is I've seen him take seven or eight super hits -- body checks and hip checks -- laying guys into the boards. He's got all the tools to be a top pick."
Sullivan went as far as to say that Pulock has an NHL-caliber shot right now.
"He's got one of the hardest shots not only in the Western Hockey League, but would have one of the hardest in the NHL," Sullivan said. "Don't laugh … it's that good."
It was only a season ago Pulock finished third among Western Hockey League defensemen with 60 points, while also finishing with an eye-popping plus-43 rating, in 71 games. In 61 games this season, he had 14 goals -- including seven on the power play -- 45 points and a minus-7 rating as one of the leaders for a relatively young Brandon squad.