When the experts of ESPN NHL sat down and discussed who they thought were the players to stand out in the 2019-2020 NHL season, they took past performance in consideration, but mostly judged according to potential greatness within these players. With 26 teams having at least one player on the list and Tampa Bay Lighting showing off with five names, this surely is going to be a high season to watch.

  • Connor McDavid – The 22-year-old playing for the Oilers delivered on 324 points which the highest in the NHL throughout the past three seasons. McDavid has the skill to create a full speed offence and is without a doubt one of the fastest on the ice in the entire NHL. With time this young man is only getting better and better.
  • Nikita Kucherov – Kucherov, 26 years old is the reigning MVP and recently set a new record in his salary cap with 128 points. He is considered to be the best right-winger in the NHL, and one of his greatest attributes is that he is always playing with motivation, continually improving his performance.
  • Nathan MacKinnon – Over the past two seasons, the 24-year-old playing for Avalanche has gotten onto the next level. MacKinnon moved from an average of 0.69 points per game to roughly doubling it to 1.26 points. The last two seasons have brought him 18 game-winning goals, and this young man surely has plenty more where that came from.
  • Sidney Crosby – The oldest player in the top five is with no doubt the Penguins’ Crosby at the age of 32. Over time Crosby has managed to gather great awe in the league for is brilliant performance again and again, to such a degree that many do consider him to be the best player in the entire league. During the previous season, Crosby managed his sixth 100-point campaign. This is a record for the period in which he has been playing since he debuted in the 2005-06 season.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy – Vasilevskiy was the winner of Vezina during the previous. The 25-year-old player is also at Tampa Bay Lightning and is being considered as the best goalie in the league, and with a 2.40 goals-against average and a .925 save average, we can understand why.
  • Alex Ovechkin – Playing for the Capitals, there was some gossip a year or two ago about the game getting to fast for the 34-year-old to keep up. Yet he won his first Stanley Cup and came back with a 51-goal season the next year. Ovechkin is not yet ready to leave the league and still being contracted for another two years. It might be safe to say that there is still quite a bit of impressive play left in him.
  • Victor Hedman – Also playing for Lightning, the 28-year-old is the winner of one Norris and went to Vegas three consecutive years as a finalist. The best way to describe Hedman is as an offensive force and add to that; he is probably the best shutdown defenseman in the NHL.

Marian Hossa had to take time out of his career during 2016-17 due to a skin disorder which side-lined him. Always still hoping to return, he now made the tough decision to call it quits. Hossa will be joining his team, the Chicago Blackhawks in the stands now. Even though he is convinced that he still has much to offer, he is at peace with the fact that this was the correct decision for him to make.

The 40-year-old forward visited his former teammates this week in Prague. Since he left due to his skin disorder in 2016-2017 season, there have been some changes to the team, yet the rest of the support and admin personnel is still mostly the same. Being back in that environment was an excellent experience for Hossa. Some of the current team members who played with Hossa and again are playing for the Blackhawks are Jonathan Toews, playing centre and the two forwards Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith is still playing in the position of defensemen, and Corey Crawford is still the goaltender. These guys were all part of the team with Hossa between 2009 and 2017.

Hossa’s Career

The Czechoslovakian hockey player was first drafted in 1997 during the NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators where he played during his first seven years in NHL. From there he moved to the Atlanta Thrashers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings before moving on to the Chicago Blackhawks. Hossa was present in five NHL All-Star Games and playing in three consecutive Stanley Cups every time for a different team. Until he won the championships playing for the Blackhawks in 2009-10.

Later on, the Blackhawks did it twice again in 2012-13 and 2014-15. During his career, he accumulated 1 134 points from 525 goals and 609 assists. He did this by playing 1 309 games in the NHL throughout 19 seasons. In June 2017 the Chicago Blackhawks announced that Hossa would miss out on the next season due to a skin condition which he is suffering from and since then he hasn’t been able to play. His contract is still running until 2021, and then Hossa will formally retire. This is a difficult decision that he had to make since he feels that he is still capable of playing a strong game in NHL, but unfortunately, it is a risk which he can’t take.

Stan Bowman, the general manager of the Blackhawks, stated that Hossa’s absence is leaving a significant gap within the team. He brought much more than merely an excellent game to the table. He even said that he thinks that Hossa might have been in a position where he didn’t get enough recognition for the contribution he made. Vice versa, not being part of the team, is also leaving a vacuum in Hossa’s life.

Brock Boeser, forward to the Vancouver Canucks, has suffered a severe knock against his head during their game against Ottawa Senators. They won the game 6-4, but the outcome isn’t as great for Boeser after being checked into the boards headfirst from behind by Chris Tierney, forward for the Senators. Now uncertainty prevails whether Boeser, who is considered vital in the success of the Canucks will be ready and fit for the opening of the season when they take on Edmonton on the 2nd of October.

The incident occurred only a few days after the 22-year-old forward signed a three-year extension contract with the Canucks to the value of $17.625 million on the 16th of September. This was after he was a restricted free agent during the summer. Boeser was 23rd pick during the NHL Draft in 2015. He had 56 points at that stage from 26 goals, and 30 assists gathered from 69 games of play during the previous season. He is standing now on 116 points from 59 goals and 57 assists after playing 140 games in the NHL. Boeser’s performance makes him a vital part in both the short and the long term plans of the Canucks. Travis Green, head coach to the team, stated that they know that he will have to miss out on some playtime, but also that this is part of the game and one of the challenges which a team have to workaround.

Taking a Hit

Only 16 minutes were remaining of the pre-season game against the Senators and Boeser was chasing after a loose puck. Tierney came from behind and bumped Boeser face-first into the boards. Tierney’s actions were considered to be questionable, and he received a minor time-out for the incident. Boeser did, however, manage to get up and finish the remainder of the game even though his injury was quite severe. Monday night, Boeser had to receive treatment for the damage and was placed on concussion control. This was the first time that the forward was ever put on concussion control and he had to miss out on this week’s practice sessions.

In addition to Boeser’s absence, the team also have to deal with the lack of Oscar Fantenberg. Fantenberg also went hard into the boards after being pushed by Jordan Szwarz. After the incident, he only managed a few more minutes of play before exiting the ice and not showing up for practising the next day. Szwarz received a penalty for his action. The defenceman signed a one-year deal with the Canucks during the previous summer. The upcoming clash against the Senators is set to take place at Rogers Arena this week Wednesday. Now fans are keeping fingers crossed that no more injuries will occur on their team’s side and that they will continue their winning run after Monday’s victory.

The 22-year-old Thomas Chabot signed this week an eight-year extension to staying on with the Ottawa Senators. A contract to the value of $64 million was offered to the young player, leaving the young star with an average income of $8 million per year. This season would have been the defenseman’s final year of his entry-level contract with the Senators, and from the 1st of July 2020, he would have been a restricted agent. Now he is set for the next nine years of his career at the Senators.

This is a development in his career of which he is very proud of. Chabot stated that the contract is a significant development not only for him but for his family too. Chabot had a high season last season with many career highlights including 14 goals, 41 assists and 55 points from the 70 games which he played. He ended up 10th on the list of defenseman with the highest scoring. Since the Senators picked Chabot in the 2015 NHL Draft, he managed 80 points at the team, gathered from 23 goals and 57 assists. Since he made his debut for Ottawa on the 19th of October 2016, he represented the Senators on the ice in 134 NHL Games.

A Long Term Plan

Pierre Dorion, general manager to the Ottawa Senators, stated that Chabot is the kind of player with the capability to develop over time into a core member of their team at a championship level. He also noted that the decision was made because they want to move into a direction with Chabot, which will be beneficial for the team and him. All while the fans are happy about it too.

Chabot’s contract came after the Senators signed Colin White as forward for a six-year contract. His contract is valued at $28.5 million. The vision of the Senators is to develop an active core group of players to carry them forward. The willingness of these players to commit to such a long period to the team is also indicative of their loyalty towards the Senators. This is the foundation on which management wants to expand and continuously improve their rankings within the international rink.

Additional Signed Players

During May they have hired DJ Smith in the position as coach for the team. During July, the forward Connor Brown and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev were traded with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They also signed Ron Hainsey, the defenseman, who was a free agent at that stage as well as Tyler Ennis, as forward, for one year. Lastly, they also traded the forward Artem Anisimov with the Chicago Blackhawks even in July. These editions were made as an effort and in anticipation to drastically improve their position at 31st place at the end of the previous NHL season.

For the first time in the history of the National Hockey League, four women were included in the list of 96 officials participating in the 2019 NHL Exposure Combine. These four women were chosen to officiate many rookie tournaments set in Nashville, Buffalo, Traverse City and Irvine. These events delivered on some daunting challenges, but also some great experiences for the four women, Kirsten Welsh, Katie Guay, Kendall Hanley and Kelly Cooke. This groundbreaking step was taken to move to a point which Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, already envisioned a while ago, where women would be officiating games at the league level.

Kelly Cooke

Both Cooke and Guay were selected to perform as referees. After officiating the women’s world hockey championships during spring, she was included in the Predators Tournament which took place in Nashville. She has been working as an official on the ice for a decade already. During 2016 she retired from her playing career in NWHL where she played for Boston Pride. Cooke then moved on to become the director of player safety for the league. She also started to attend law school. Last year she officiated in Finland at the women’s world championship for the IIHF. Cooke mentioned in her commentary that initially it was quite daunting to see the large guys coming onto the ice and for a moment she wasn’t convinced that she would be able to do this, but she did. She managed perfectly fine to deal with the higher levels of strength and speed, which goes along with the men on the ice.

Katie Guay

Guay was on the ice in Irvine for the Anaheim Ducks. She is currently employed as director of philanthropy for United States Hockey and was the one with the most officiating experience on a high level. She has been involved in officiating since 2006 already and during 2015 she was the first-ever women to be on the ice for the NCAA Division I men’s games. She was also present in the capacity as an official in 2018 at the Winter Olympics held in South Korea. During February last year, she also became the first women to officiate at the Beanpot tournament in Boston. Guay stated that the entire experience is a learning curve for all involved.

Kirsten Welsh and Kendall Hanley

These two ladies were in the position of linesmen. Hanley was on the ice in Traverse City, Michigan for the Detroit Red Wings’ tournament while Welsh was working in Buffalo. Hanley is now in her 12th year of working in the capacity of officiating at the IIHF. She has also been on the lines for NAHL and USHL since she is a member of the Hockey Officiating Development Program of the USA. The much younger 22-year-old Welsh was until recently involved as a defenseman for the Robert Morris University. Her first opportunity to officiate was during the Exposure Combine, and she loved the experience. She was very excited about the opportunity to be part of the action on the ice with great athletes.

Considering the number of stars in NHL coming from Eastern Europe, it is no secret that the National Hockey League has a strong force of support based in Russia and Eastern Europe. Thus this past week saw the NHL signing a multi-year deal with one of Europe’s largest internet providers, Yandex. Yandex will be responsible for streaming all of the regular NHL season games as well as the Stanley Playoff free in Russia. The deal is becoming active in the 2019-20 season which kicks off on the 2nd of October.

Wider Audiences

Leonid Savkov, chief commercial officer at Yandex, was happy to announce this partnership with one of the world’s most significant sports leagues. They are looking forward to working with the NHL to make the games much more accessible to all in Russia and be able to connect the fans with their teams and favourite players. This deal also serves as a brilliant opportunity through which advertising companies will now be able to reach millions of fans watching their favourite hockey teams play.

The NHL is as excited about this deal becoming a reality. David Proper, the executive vice president of international and media strategy for the NHL, said that they consider this deal as a game-changer. Yandex is one of the greatest leaders in the industry in Russia and therefore serves as a brilliant platform to venture into this new market. Both parties are going into the new partnership with full force to be able to deliver engaging content to fans, while they are hoping to be able to reach a wider audience and to expand the interest of the sport.

Live Streaming and Commentary

With the brilliant platform which Yandex offers, viewers will be able to follow the live-action as it happens. They will also be able to react to what happens, to utilize live commentary and emojis. After live streaming, the highlights of each game would be available on watch on-demand. NHL fans will also be able to subscribe to a service which offers notification of when competitions are due to begin. Many Russian stars are returning to the ice for the 2019 season, including some previous Stanley Cup champions. These include Ivan Barbashev, Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov.

For the first time in the history of the National Hockey League, Russian fans will now be able to have unlimited access to all the action of which so many Russian players have been part of for a very long time already. This is something that they have been waiting for, and the impact which it will have through gained interest from those who haven’t been exposed much to the sport in the past will be tremendously advantageous for the Hockey League in future.

During early August the NHL visited Martha’s Vineyard to bring the game of hockey to the OB Boogie. This is considered as on the most significant yearly events where black families gather. Some of these children are very familiar with basketball and football but have never held a hockey stick in their hands.

Amidst pouring rain, hundreds of families still showed up inside the tent set at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The reason for their excitement was meeting the National Hockey League’s first black player, Willie O’Ree. The event also allowed children to try their hand at the sport with stickhandling and shooting stations. The NHL brought the incident to the island to introduce the competition to people who have historically been excluded from the game. This is done in cohesion with a drive to expand the interest in the sports league. According to the vice president of the Industry Growth Fund Initiatives at the NHL, Rob Knesaurek, the NHL wants to show people that the league isn’t only inclusive, but also welcoming to new members and interest.

Knesaurek was a former forward involved in Canadian collegiate hockey as well as playing in the Ontario Hockey League for three seasons. He said that hockey should be considered as an open opportunity for all. The sport needs to be diversified, and all are welcome regardless of your background.

The History of the Boogie

According to one of the Boogie organizers, Lori Hall Armstrong, the NHL helped to introduce these kids to the possibility that there are other sports than just the major leagues with which they are familiar with, which offers both player and fan possibilities. The Boogie started six years ago. The event began when parents of New Jersey and New York connected through sororities and colleges to organize a game filled with activities focusing on children. From there on, it grew into being one of the most significant annual events focusing on the well-being of children.

The Crowd at Martha’s Vineyard

The crowd attending this even at Martha’s Vineyard is characterized as predominantly black people from the East Coast to the West Coast and who are in general not only successful but also affluent. They are a crowd who might find a keen interest in the game of hockey and have probably not been exposed much to it in the past. The event was unique in many ways, and all thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it offered some hands-on experience in the game.

These kind of events are brilliant to attract new interest in the sport. I’ve commented that he could see some real talent within some of these kids. Without opportunities where they can try their hand at it, they will never be able to develop their skills. Hence it is vital to find not only support for the sport but also the talent which is lying dormant until discovered.

It was thanks to the performance of Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars goalie that they were able to make the playoffs for last season’s Stanley Cup. Bishop has been the star of the clash, being a Vezina Trophy finalist. Thanks to him, the second-fewest goals in NHL history was scored. Putting them with 200 goals, only behind the New York Islanders’ 191. This is, however, no way to enter a new season and the Dallas Stars need to answer three questions to perform better next time.

How to increase their goal scoring?

The Stars need to improve on their goal-scoring ability. They ranked third from the bottom of the NHL list of goals scored. A position held in a tie with the Arizona Coyotes at 209 goals. Dallas coach, Jim Montgomery admitted to this. He stated that they are aware of the fact that this area in their play needs some significant improvement. He is hopeful that this is however already improving during their last few games. The signing of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry was done to give this upward trend further momentum. Pavelski scored 38 goals for the San Jose Sharks during the previous season, and Perry made it to 30 goals six times already during his NHL career. The hope is placed on their shoulders to up the Dallas Stars goals.

Will Roope Hintz Fill Up Some Bigger Shoes?

With Mats Zuccarello leaving the Stars for Minnesota Wild and Jason Spezza moving on to Toronto Maple Leafs, Hintz has bigger shoes to fill as forward. The 22-year old joined the Stars late and during his time there managed to get 11 points from 14 games during his time in the second line. Will he be able to step up and fill the gap which Zuccarello and Spezza left?

How Be Will The Lines Structured?

More depth is required to up the scoring on the Dallas side. This might mean that Montgomery will have to break up the magic between Seguin, Benn and Radulov as he did during certain times in the previous season. He might have to put Pavelski in that line, but will he be able to perform like a top forward? Montgomery might structure Radulov, Benn and Pavelski together and then place Seguin in front with Perry and Hintz and hope there will be a new and better bond of chemistry between these lines.

The lines are all dependant on who is playing and who not. Mixing up the tracks is a brilliant opportunity to give all a chance to perform and show what they are capable of. In the end, the Dallas Stars would need to find the best combinations which bring them the magic in-depth, which they need to up their performance.

Alex Ovechkin’s 34th birthday is around the corner, and his contract with Washington Capitals are expiring at the end of the 2020-21 National Hockey League season. These two factors are contributing to rumours that he might be retiring shortly, but Ovechkin is adamant that he is not ready to discuss his retirement just yet. He would, for now much instead focus on the time left at the Capitals and making that count for the team.

His Health a Determining Factor

An interview ignited all the rumours regarding his future in early August with the Russian news agency TASS news. Ovechkin stated during the meeting that he had two more years left on his contract and what would happen after that would depend on the state of his health. The captain of the Capitals gave his response from Beijing on the topic stating that the future will be discussed in about two years when his contract expires. He was in China where he is currently promoting the game, as an ambassador to the sport.

A Great Career of Brilliant Hockey

Ovechkin was the No. 1 pick during the NHL Draft in 2004. He is the 13th player in history to achieve 658 goals from 1 084 games. This season, if he has been able to secure 42 goals, he would become one of only eight players to obtain 700 goals in NHL. There was a time when Ovechkin stated that the all-time Gretzky goal record of 894 goals would never be broken, but now it seems that is precisely what he has his eye set on. Not only a dream but something which genuinely looks like a possibility now.

Even though he is playing in his 15th NHL season, he remains to keep in good shape and states that his health is excellent as well. Last season he was able to bring in 51 goals, making it the eighth season on his career where he exceeded the 50 goals per season benchmark.

Committed and Motivated

The fact that Ovechkin can maintain such a long NHL career is attributed to his offseason training. He remains focused and fit with practice sessions, even with his busy schedule. Even now, during his stay in China, he took Pavel Burlachenko, his trainer, along to keep him in shape.

He mentioned that it is difficult to find the time to train between being involved in hockey clinics and coaching and doing some sightseeing, but it had to be done, so they made a plan to accommodate practice within the schedule. He also states that at his age, he can’t cut done on the importance which training has in his career. Even though he scored more than 50 goals per season for three seasons in a row, he had a dip in his performance during the 2016-17 season. For now, it seems that fans can remain calm. Ovechkin is doing all he can to stay not only valid but truly great in NHL.

As with most sports on an international level, the calls for equal pay, opportunities and resources between men and women’s sports are also present in the National Hockey League. Their plea resulted in 200 women’s hockey players standing together in May with the threat that they won’t play in any professional league again in North America unless they receive the funding and resources required by professional hockey.

The Movement

Some great names in the sport back the movement to gain equality. They are Hilary Knight and Shannon Szabados, both Olympians. These women are placing their careers on the line and are fully aware that by joining the movement, they stand the chance of never playing professionally again. One of these women willing to risk it all is Katie McGovern, playing for Scottsdale.

Katie McGovern

McGovern is a graduate from Duluth, Minnesota. She was signed for the 2018-19 season with the Minnesota Whitecaps, and during this season she played 16 games. In her position as second-line centre, she managed six goals and achieved 11 points. This was the first year that the Minnesota Whitecaps were playing in the National Women’s Hockey League and they were able to lift the Isobel Cup. The joyous moment was short-lived since not long after winning, the movement was started to improve the league for younger generations of women to come. Their plan of action is to stay out of play for the coming season. The risk for the players is rooted in the fact that NHL contracts are awarded on a per-year basis. Hence many players had to decide whether they will join the movement or return to play.

The National Women’s Hockey League

During 2015-16 the league debuted. The first expansion which followed was when the Whitecaps were included, only in 2018. Further extensions were due to include Montreal and Toronto as well, but since the movement started, these plans are cancelled. When the league became aware of the movement’s announcements, it offered the ladies many allowances which included larger salaries. The players denied their offer and stated that the concerns which they have with the league are rooted deeper than only wages. According to McGovern, the female players also have an interest that the league doesn’t treat them like professional players. As professional players, one would expect that they would receive the necessary resources during the tournament. They had no pregame meals, skate laces or tape. The teams also had to take later flights to save on cost. They had no bus to transport the group and hence had to spend hours on airports and to wait for shuttles. Due to sponsorship, the Whitecaps had a trainer, but the other NWHL teams couldn’t afford a trainer either.

These are the concerns which the movement wants to rectify. They want to create a better future for younger females dedicated to promoting women’s hockey and whether they will be able to find an agreement with the league before it is too late, will still have to be revealed.