We’re still in quarantine. The state of Illinois has issued a state-wide “shelter-in-place” warning, so I’ll be hanging out in my studio apartment for the next month. However, I still cooked up a batch of NHL-related takes for everyone. There are some things COVID-19 can’t stop!
1. Two Senators Players Test Positive for COVID-19
Last week, the hysteria of COVID-19 took over our lives. For most of us, the disease itself seemed distant, even though it resulted in the suspension of the hockey season. That has changed as the first players in the NHL have contracted the disease. Two players on the Ottawa Senators have tested positive for COVID-19 according to the team. Many players on the team have been tested and it wouldn’t be surprising if more positive tests pop up.
Things are getting very real. Not only have two players on the Senators contracted the disease, but huge names in sports and entertainment have as well, including NBA superstar Kevin Durant, and actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. It’s tough because we all know that it has to get worse for it to get better. With testing becoming slowly more available, the numbers are sure to grow. We can all hope the precautions governments has put in place will prevent the spread of the disease and we can return to normal life sooner rather than later. Stay inside!
2. Seattle Nickname on the Horizon
If there is one thing we can look forward to this quarantine, it’s that the Seattle franchise seems close to revealing their nickname. According to ESPN, the franchise is working on the trademarking process and other legal hurdles required to secure a nickname. The Evergreens and the Metropolitans are two of the potential names that have floated around the internet. (Note: we floated our own suggestions on Puck Junk last year.)
I pray to god the new franchise chooses neither. While both would pay homage to Seattle and Seattle’s hockey history, neither are original. Evergreen trees are a popular tree in the Pacific Northwest and the Seattle Metropolitans was a former professional hockey team that played in the city between 1915 and 1924.
This franchise is new and a new nickname would be exciting. This is a chance for the Seattle franchise to shake things up and attract a bevy of new fans with a fresh nickname and color scheme to match. While league’s last expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, came in with a new color scheme, the name wasn’t new and the colors weren’t sexy. While I do like the idea of incorporating aspects of the city into the nickname, Metropolitans and Evergreens aren’t sexy. I hope they make my dreams come true and surprise everyone. We’re waiting on pins and needles.
3. IIHF World Championships Canceled
Another one bites the dust. The IIHF announced on Saturday that its annual tournament would be canceled. This year’s tournament was scheduled to take place in the cities of Zurich and Lausanne in Switzerland, from May 8-24. It seems as if there is no chance the tournament can be rescheduled and our desire for international hockey will have to wait another 14 months.
The IIHF World Championships are not the most-hyped tournament. That’s because they’re played during the NHL playoffs and the league’s best players are often playing in said playoffs, thus have to opt-out of the World Championships. They’re also often played overseas, making it tough to watch them on TV because of the time difference.
I have recently started following them and have enjoyed the highlights. They provide a small taste of international hockey and a little preview for the upcoming season. In last year’s tournament, two of the most dominant players, Maple Leafs’ William Nylander and Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha, started hot in their respective NHL campaigns.
I’m pretty disappointed they canceled the tournament. I can’t say I’m surprised. However, maybe this will add a bit more fuel to the fire to allow NHL players to participate in the Winter Olympics in 2022. We can only hope.
4. Caufield to Stay at Wisconsin
Cole Caufield was one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the US NTDP. So prolific that he was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadians. Caufield generated a lot of buzz because of his scoring prowess but also height. He is 5’7″ and many scouts lamented that his height would prevent him from being an impact player at the pro level. Many front offices have changed their minds on this after seeing many other shorter players succeed in the NHL, most notably Blackhawks’ forward Alex DeBrincat.
In his first season with the Badgers, Caufield led the Big Ten in goals with 19 and finished second in points with 36. He’s no doubt one of the most talented players in the NCAA and could make the jump to the pros if he wanted to.
If I were Caufield, I would 100 percent stay in college. I went to a similar school, Michigan State, and I would do anything for another day back. I can’t imagine the perks of playing hockey at a Big Ten school. I’ve also been to Wisconsin’s campus in Madison, WI and it’s one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. I can see why many consider it the best campus in America. If I could go back to college, it would be my second choice, behind MSU of course.
Caufield has absolutely nothing to lose by going back. He’s already proven he can play at the NCAA level and another year in school will only help his development. Considering he’s already been drafted, there’s little risk. He’ll also have a chance to have a ton of fun playing for his school with his buddies. Madison is a magical place and I’m sure Caufield won’t mind living there another year.
5. 2019-20 Breakout Star: Quinn Hughes
It absolutely kills me to write this. But, arguably the most impressive rookie and breakout star of this season is Canucks’ defensemen, Quinn Hughes. I have nothing personal against Hughes but he attended the University of Michigan and I hate that place. I did have the opportunity to see him play in college a few times which is cool! He is the older brother of Jack Hughes, the first-overall pick of the 2019 NHL draft.
Hughes has been a stud all season. He was even selected to represent Vancouver in the All-Star Game. Many didn’t hear about him until a bit later because he was overshadowed by another star, rookie defensemen, Cale Makar. Hughes is currently fifth among ALL defensemen in points. He leads all rookies in points with 53 and in assists with 45.
I do like Hughes as a player. He’s the perfect, modern NHL defenseman. He’s fast and can handle the puck on the powerplay, he has 25 PPP already this season. If Vancouver can build around Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Hughes, they will be very dangerous in the next few years. ■