Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while looking to see if there’s any last Christmas presents under the tree.
*Interesting piece on Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry, and how he’s gotten back in touch with his inner Grapes after a recent conversation with his wife.
*Here are the top 10 things to watch around the National Hockey League prior to next month’s NHL All-Star break.
*Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are no different than a married couple as they continue to make plays with the Washington Capitals.
*Within his hockey mailbag, Mark Lazerus ponders the fate of the Chicago Blackhawks if they “one and out” in the playoffs again this season.
*For something completely different: In a massive development for MTV’s “The Challenge”, Johnny Bananas is single and ready to mingle.
DALLAS – On the second day, the Bruins finally got involved in the NHL draft at the American Airlines Center and made a few picks. The day started in the second round (57th overall) with the B’s selecting young Swedish defenseman Axel Andersson from Djugardens, a 6-foot, 183-pounder from the Swedish junior leagues who's put up pretty good offensive numbers with what’s said to be pretty good skating ability.
In the third round (77th overall), the Bruins took Czech center/left wing Jakub Lauko, who played for Team Czech in the World Junior tournament this past season. Lauko, 18, is 6-foot, 179 pounds and is a speedy, tenacious forward from the assorted scouting reports on him. Lauko was expected to be drafted higher than the third round and certainly didn’t lack for confidence in saying he’s one of the fastest skaters in the draft.
“My speed is my biggest strength. I think I’m one of the fastest players in the draft, so I want to use my speed to help a team like Boston,” said Lauko, who said he only spoke with the Bruins scouts at the NHL combine earlier this month in Buffalo. “[Detroit Red Wings'] Dylan Larkin is the same like me. He’s a really fast guy that likes the breakaways. I think in this way we are the same.”
Lauko compared himself to Larkin and the speed game is certainly one that the Bruins are continually interested in with their prospects.
There was a very funny moment when the Czech-born Lauko was asked what his parents do (for a living), and he misunderstood the question and answered: “I don’t know? Maybe they will drink tonight.”
In the fourth round (119th overall), the Bruins took big center Curtis Hall, a 6-foot-3, 191-pounder who's committed to Yale next season and who scored 13 goals and 31 points in 54 games last season for the USHL Youngstown Phantoms.
DALLAS – It looks as if the Bruins are starting to resign themselves to letting their remaining free agents head to the market on July 1. Don Sweeney said at NHL draft weekend in Dallas that the Bruins haven’t really made any progress signing pending UFAs Anton Khudobin, Riley Nash and Rick Nash, and they may have to begin formulating other plans in case agreements doesn’t come to fruition.
“I’ve talked to all of them, and it seems to be inching rather than moving in the direction I’d like it to,” said Sweeney of his looming free agents. “Just because we’ve gotten closer to the deadline doesn’t mean we’ve closed the door on any of them, but [July 1] does get closer. As much as they might think it does [get closer], we also have to begin to think and prepare otherwise.”
Clearly, the fate of 33-year-old Rick Nash was tied up in the Bruins' pursuit of Russian free agent Ilya Kovalchuk, who signed with the LA Kings on Saturday. It may be that Nash is ready to dip into free agency with the Bruins clearly viewing him as a secondary option for a second-line winger. Riley Nash and Khudobin were both players that the Bruins had interest in retaining after banner years, but free agency also comes at a time for them where they may be able to maximize their value on the open market.
With the third-line center position, the Bruins actually have some pretty good youthful options - former draft picks Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson are getting really close to NHL readiness. Things may be a little more treacherous at goaltender as there is a real question as to whether B’s prospect Zane McIntyre is ready to be an NHL backup behind Tuukka Rask. Instead, the Bruins may need to dip into the free-agent pool to bring in a veteran backup capable of playing the 20-25 games that Rask needs out of his understudy.
The good news for the Bruins is that goaltender Chad Johnson, with past Bruins experience, and others like him are expected to hit the free-agent market, where they could be a good fit.
It’s doubtful trade-deadline acquisitions Tommy Wingels and Nick Holden are going to end up back in the fold with Boston, but the door won’t officially be closed until the market opens July 1. With $12 million in cap space, the Bruins clearly will have some money to spend on needs at third-line center, second-line wing or backup goaltender.