Off The Draw: Connor McDavid shows some fight; Leafs brace for B's
Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, the top prospect for the upcoming 2015 NHL Draft, injured his right hand on Tuesday during a fight with Bryson Cianfrone of the Mississauga Steelheads. McDavid dropped the gloves after taking a two-handed slash and appeared to hurt his right hand when one of his punches missed Cianfrone and connected with the glass. There's been no official statement on the severity of the injury, so there's no telling how long McDavid, who has amassed 15 goals and 49 points in just 17 games, will be out of the lineup. That said, you can see the battle lines already being drawn between those who think McDavid showed grit and character by stepping up in the wake of a borderline hit and those who abhor fighting.
Clearly no one wants to see a marquee player out of the lineup for any reason, but this much is true: The incident won't hurt his draft standing one bit.
“You like to see a superstar that's willing to stand up for himself,” a scout told SI.com on Wednesday morning. “This kid takes a ton of abuse, always has, and I guess this time he'd had enough. Sometimes you've got to step up. You hate to seem him get hurt in the process … but he showed something out there. A kid like that should be focused on doing other things [like scoring] but you like to see someone can handle himself. I hope [the injury] is not too serious. But no, this won't hurt [his draft standing] at all. The other way around, if anything. Just one more thing to love about his game.”
The real loser in this, aside from the Otters, might be Team Canada. McDavid is expected to be the club's top center at next month's World Junior Championship and his absence, if he isn't healed in time, would create an unfillable hole in the roster.
What to watch tonight
Bruins at Maple Leafs (8 p.m. EST; NBCSN, TVA, SN)
It's NBCSN's Wednesday Night Rivalry game, which means Toronto fans might want to skip the pregame and the intermissions if they prefer not to be reminded of their myriad meltdowns against the Bruins. (I'm setting the over/under on Game 7 references at four.) The B's come into this one without several key players, including top center David Krejci and captain Zdeno Chara, but somehow riding a five-game winning streak. Carl Soderberg is red hot with two goals and six points in his past five games, giving him the team lead in scoring. Find another third liner in the league who can say that. Patrice Bergeron is clicking too, with six points in his past four, including a 1-2-3 effort against the Devils in Boston's last game, a 4-2 win over the Devils on Monday. Former Bruin Phil Kessel (14 points in his last nine games) is setting the pace for the surging Leafs, who are 5-1-1 since dropping a 4-1 decision to Boston back on Oct. 25. They're still giving up too many shots though (33.3 per game, 27th in the league) and that's putting the pressure squarely on goaltenders James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier to bail them out. If the Bruins get up early, this one could get ugly.
Kings at Ducks (10:30 p.m. EST; NBCSN, SN1)
As a rivalry this one's not quite on the level of Kings vs. Blackhawks or Kings vs. Sharks, but after last spring's seven-game second round playoff series Los Angeles and Anaheim have reason for their growing animosity that goes beyond geography. The Ducks will be looking to salvage the finale of a four-game homestand that's seen them drop the first three in extra time or the shootout. They've managed just five goals with Corey Perry (viral infection) on the sidelines, and that shines a harsh spotlight on their kids. Devante Smith-Pelly has just one assist in his past six games despite averaging more than 18:00 of ice time per game. Jakob Silfverberg (two assists in nine), William Karlsson (one assist in 11) and Emerson Etem (one assist in 16) are even colder. It's time for one of them to step up.
The Kings signed Jamie McBain to a minimum deal on Tuesday, ensuring that they'll be able to dress six defensemen after going with a short roster on Saturday. No word yet on when, or if, they'll be given salary cap relief to compensate for Slava Voynov's indefinite suspension. McBain, who failed to latch on with the Coyotes in camp, will fill a depth role for the foreseeable future. Keep an eye on first liners Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. Each accounted for two points in Saturday's 5-1 win over the Canucks, a sign perhaps that their scoring droughts are coming to an end.
What you missed last night
More highlight video:
• Hot again, the Islanders routed the stumbling Avalanche.
• Slagged by their coach for recent subpar efforts, the Rangers delivered a statement game against the Penguins.
• The high-flying Jets were brought down to earth by Carey Price and the Canadiens.
• Roberto Luongo anchored the Panthers' emphatic, skid-snapping win over the Sharks.
• Filip Forsberg continued his impressive start to the season by scoring his seventh goal as the Predators edged the Oilers. Forsberg now leads all rookies in goals (7-tied), assists (10) and points (17). His +17 is the NHL's best rating.
• The surprising Canucks kept rolling with an OT win over the Senators.
The numbers game
• Through last night's action, home teams are 124-74-33 for a .608 points percentage so far this season.
• Jori Lehtera is now the first St. Louis player to score a natural hat trick since Hall of Famer Al MacInnis hung one on the Rangers on Oct. 12, 1998.
• After blanking the Avalanche, the Islanders now have an active shutout streak of 181:11, only 18:13 shy of the club record that was set from March 31 to April 8, 1998.
Today's must reads
• The Vancouver Canucks are in first place in the National Hockey League. It doesn't matter how many times you read that. It still won't make sense.
• Youth hockey tournaments aren't for the young, writes Scott Feschuk, who explains what to expect if you're heading out on your first road trip with the kids this season.
• Sorry, Ron MacLean fans: George Stroumboulopoulos is here to stay.