Now that Team Canada has made "the easy calls" with its first 16 roster members, everyone is wondering who'll fill the final seven spots.
There's a lot of hockey left, and a number of opportunities left to make an impression, but the selections are probably all but written in stone. After all, it's no secret what sort of players coach Mike Babcock wants on this squad: Safe, smart skilled players who can step up to the challenge of a big moment. And he probably knows exactly who he's willing to trust as his final three defensemen and four forwards.
The guess here? Alex Pietrangelo takes one of the spots. He's a solid possession driver who's already proven himself to Babcock as part of Canada's smothering defense in Sochi. T.J. Brodie likely gets the final left-hand slot. He won't generate a lot of scoring opportunities, but he makes consistently good decisions and rarely turns the puck over.
The final spot: P.K. Subban. Is there some risk to his game? Absolutely. But nowhere near as much as casual observers seem to think. Subban is the perfect No. 7, a player who can slot in on any of the three pairs and add something with his speed and his creativity. He creates offense. He can win puck battles with his strength and make things happen in transition. And if he needs to simply shut it down, he can do that, as well.
Up front, Corey Perry is sure to get one of the spots. He hasn't shown himself to be as effective a two-way player this season as in the past, but he has that ability to ramp it up when it matters most. He's also a pure goal scorer, something this team will need to make the most of its array of playmakers.
Taylor Hall is close to a lock. A natural left winger, he uses his size and speed to create havoc up and down the wall and he's got a terrific nose for the net. He might be an option to skate alongside Sidney Crosby.
The final two are where things get interesting. Brendan Gallagher hasn't generated much buzz, but he's an ideal fit. He can slide up and down the roster, and has a knack for bringing out the best in his linemates.
The last spot will go to Brad Marchand. He's not just Canada's top goal scorer with 33 for the Bruins this season. He's an elite playmaker who's also an outstanding defensive asset. And he can raise his game when it matters—remember those two goals in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final?
What about Claude Giroux? Matt Duchene? Mark Stone? Tyler Toffoli? Anything can happen between now and the final roster being assembled prior to June 1, but it's a good bet they'll be watching the tourney on TV with the rest of us.
• Arizona Coyotes forward Max Domi picked up an automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight with Anaheim's Ryan Garbutt during the final five minutes of Thursday's 5-1 loss to the Ducks. It's a good bet he also received a standing ovation in the locker room after the game.
Domi dropped the gloves in response to this hit from Garbutt that flattened teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson:
Yes, it was totally above-board, a shoulder-to-chest shot. Not fun to see, but typically that's the sort of hit that you have to begrudgingly accept on someone who handles the puck as often as OEL.
But the superstar defenseman had been targeted repeatedly over the course of a game, and not every incident of contact had been as clean as that one. So Domi rightly drew a line to protect a player who drives the success of the Coyotes more than anyone else. And he may have drawn his teammates a little closer as a result.
Demanding retribution after a clean hit is always going to be controversial, but there are occasions when it is justified. This was one of them.
• Calgary prospect Mark Jankowski is one of just two players selected in the first round of the 2012 draft who has yet to skate in an NHL game (St. Louis's Jordan Schmaltz, currently skating with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, is the other). But he's also the only one yet to sign a contract, and the clock is ticking.
The Flames have until Aug. 15 to sign Jankowski. If they can't come to terms, the Providence College star is eligible to sign with any other team, leaving the Flames to settle for a compensatory second-round pick. Both sides have to wait until he finishes his season with the defending champs, a restriction that could push negotiations back until April.
The expectation is that Jankowski, a 6'3" center who projects to fill a third-line role, will sign with the Flames. But four years after being drafted out of high school in Quebec, the ball's in his court... and if he chooses to wait it out, he will have options. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
• Less than a week after performing a full-on faceplant at the the trade deadline, the Canucks may have added a very big piece for the stretch drive.
A Latvian journalist is reporting that Vancouver has come to terms with mammoth defenseman Nikita Tryamkin. Worth noting here that GM Jim Benning is denying the report, but that may have to do with addressing cap and contract issues before making an announcement. According to various sources, the 21-year-old is anywhere from 6'6" to 6'8" and weighs as much as 231 pounds.
Tryamkin, the 66th pick in the 2014 draft, just finished his fourth season in the KHL with Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist during which he tallied a career-best 11 points in 53 games. That total is probably reflective of his NHL ceiling as well. Tryamkin plays a simple, stay-at-home style that relies heavily on positioning and physicality. He'll drop the gloves when necessary and thrives on playing the body. He's regarded as a good skater for his size, but he's not going to impress anyone with his wheels.
That limitation is seen as a key to the struggles of young, oversized defenseman in the NHL of late, so Tryamkin's progress against smaller, speedier attackers will be closely monitored.
If he comes, the timing of his arrival though couldn't be better as it gives the Canucks a few weeks to see if he has anything to offer ahead of a summer of upheaval on the blueline. Vancouver is expected to lose both Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber to free agency and Dan Hamhuis could follow them out of town, leaving jobs to be won.
Here's a look at his pre-draft interview in which he says he models his game after Zdeno Chara.
And here's a look at some of the bright spots from his 2014-15 season:
• Further evidence that Gary Bettman's expansion efforts into the southern United States are paying dividends: Of the 48 players with year-2000 birth dates invited to try out for the US National Team Development program, nine come from markets that would have been considered "non-traditional" just a generation ago. The group includes three from Arizona, two from Texas, and one each from North Carolina, Tennessee, California and Colorado.
The group features some strong bloodlines as well. Nolan Foote is the son of former Nordiques/Avalanche stalwart Adam Foote, while Mattias Samuelsson is the son of Kjell Samuelsson and Adam Samuelsson is the son of Ulf Samuelsson.
• Lots of buzz building around college free-agent Alex Lyon. The Yale netminder, who went undrafted in 2011 and 2012, led the nation in goals-against average (1.62), save percentage (.939), and shutouts (7) last season. He topped those numbers this year, entering the ECAC postseason with a GAA of 1.51 and a save percentage of .941, earning a nomination for the Mike Richter Award, given to the top goalie in D-I hockey, for the second year in a row.
The 23-year-old junior lacks ideal size at 6'1", 200 pounds, and there are questions about how he'll adapt to the faster pace of the pro game, but there's potential in Lyon's game that has scouts intrigued. "Good raw tools and a great work ethic," one scout told SI.com. "Battles hard...tremendous focus."
The same scout suggested that Lyon would likely need "a couple of years" in the minors before he was ready to step onto NHL ice, but added that he believed the player could become a starter down the road.
Dallas, Vancouver, Calgary, Arizona and Florida are though to be among the dozen or so teams that will contend for his services when Yale’s season ends. After that, he's a strong contender to earn a spot among the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey's top player, and could be added to Team USA for the World Championships. Lyon was one of three collegians to earn a spot on last year's team, picking up a bronze medal along the way.