This week, another first, more coaching rumors and the World Junior Championships.
1. Congrats Mason AppletonI just wanted to give a special shout-out to Winnipeg Jets rookie, Mason Appleton, who scored his first NHL goal last Thursday. Like Appleton, I attended Michigan State University and I was fortunate enough to see him play a few times, so it is exciting that a player from my alma mater made it to The Show. Congrats, Mason!
2. Coach Q to PhillyLast week, I wrote about how the Flyers would need to start playing better if their then bench boss, Dave Hakstol, wanted to save his job. Well, I guess I was a tad late to the party, considering Hakstol was fired less than 12 hours after I put it in writing.
Anyways, rumor has it that the Blackhawks ex-coach, Joel Quenneville might be on his way to Philly. These rumors started swirling the day Hakstol was ousted, although there hasn’t been much momentum since the coach of the Flyers AHL affiliate, Scott Gordon, has already been named the interim. I think this would be a great match for Coach Q because the Flyers definitely have talent, and it’s obviously in every new coach’s best interest to go to the team with the most talent. Regardless of talent, I’m praying that Q goes to Philly because if there is any fanbase that can rattle him, it’s Philadelphia’s. And I would love to see another meme-able Coach Q moment.
3. Unloved Team: The New Jersey Devils
I’m going to start with a positive. The New Jersey Devils’ red, green, and white jerseys are going to look awesome if they plan on wearing them around this time of year. They are very festive.
Now to the negatives. The Devils are very bad. Taylor Hall must have suffered a broken back from carrying them to the playoffs by himself last year. If you forgot, he was the league MVP last year after being the only player on the Devils that 90% of hockey fans can name. Well, part of the reason that the Devils are tied for the LAST place in points is that Hall has cooled off. He isn’t having a bad year, with 11 goals and 26 assists in 33 games, although he still doesn’t have a ton of help. Kyle Palmieri (33 points) and Nico Hischier (23 points) are both solid pieces next to Hall, but New Jersey has absolutely nothing after that. Their next highest scorer after Palmieri and Hischier is Travis Zajac, who has 19 points. Not to mention that their goaltending has also been very bad. Their starter, Keith Kinkaid, is sporting a below-average .901 save percentage and a 3.02 GAA. Without Taylor Hall playing out of his mind and a huge step up in secondary scoring, I’ll have no reason to write about the Devils again until the offseason.
4. The World Juniors Start Tomorrow
The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships start tomorrow (full schedule here), which makes the holiday season even sweeter for every hockey fan that is eager to check out their team’s next potential star. The United States won last year’s tournament, defeating arch-rival Canada in the finals. This is exciting for the US considering the NHL could allow their players to participate in the 2022 Olympics. Many of the Americans who won gold at the WJ last year could be ready to help the senior team in four years. A few of them have already made an impact at the next level, most notably Bruins’ defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, and Coyotes forward, Clayton Keller.
This year’s rosters boast a few exciting prospects from around the world. For the Americans, its next year’s potential number one overall pick, Jack Hughes, younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman, Quinn Hughes. So, if your hometown team has a shot for the first-overall pick, I would tune into this year’s tournament to get your first look at a guy who could change your franchise very soon. The player I’m most looking forward to watching in this year’s tournament is Filip Zadina. He was the Red Wings’ top pick in this year’s draft and has gotten off to a so-so start in the AHL in Grand Rapids. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he could bring to Detroit in a year or two.
5. McDavid Hits 200 Before 22Connor McDavid recently reached another milestone in his young career, becoming the sixth player to notch 200 or more assists before his 22nd birthday. This puts McDavid in the same company as Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, Dale Hawerchuk, and Ron Francis. I don’t really think anyone is surprised by anything McDavid does at this point. The second he won the Hart trophy following his second NHL season, he had already proved he was going to live up to the hype. Hockey is one of the few sports where if you have it, you have it. And McDavid sure as hell has it. Really, I only decided to write about McDavid’s milestone because I don’t mention him too much, mostly because being an extraordinary player has become ordinary for him. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.