NHL teams' focus turns to 'Big Fish' in free agency: Stamkos (The Associated Press)

As team executives began gathering on the arena floor an hour before the start of the NHL draft's second round Saturday morning, a video highlighting former No. 1 selections began playing on the big-screen video boards. The first player featured just happened to be Steven Stamkos, the top pick in 2008. At a time when Arizona-born center Auston Matthews was selected first by Toronto, and on the heels of the buzz the league's expansion into Las Vegas created, the Tampa Lightning captain's presence during the two-day draft in Buffalo was hard to overlook.

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 26, 2016 at 7:30 pm

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NHL Draft: McPhee grows emotional once son picked by Oilers (The Associated Press)

As a longtime NHL scout and general manager, George McPhee has had a hand in providing opportunities to countless prospects at the NHL draft. It wasn't until Saturday, when McPhee fully appreciated how significant that moment felt as a father. McPhee was in the stands with his family in Buffalo when his son Graham was drafted in the fifth round, 149th overall, by the Edmonton Oilers.

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

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Prolific junior scorer Alex DeBrincat lands with Chicago Blackhawks (Puck Daddy)

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The 2016 NHL Draft featured only two 50-goal scorers from this past season. One was Kieffer Bellows, who was selected 19th overall by the New York Islanders.  The other was one of the smallest players in the draft: 5’7, 165 lbs. Alex DeBrincat from the Erie Otters of the OHL, who landed with the Chicago Blackhawks at No. 39.  DeBrincat’s 51-50-111 season with the Otters was his third straight 50-50-100-plus campaign. In 2014-15, he posted 51-53-104 in his first year in Erie. Before he entered junior, he scored 54-57-111 at Lake Forest Academy, which is about 45 minutes from Chicago. Going to school just outside Chicago did allow DeBrincat to attend some Blackhawks games. But there was one issue. Growing up in Michigan made him a fan of the Detroit Red Wings. That allegiance is obviously severed now. The Blackhawks have never been shy about believing in smaller players. It’s worked out for Patrick Kane, Andrew Shaw and others. With the likes of those two, along with Tyler Johnson, Mats Zuccarello and Cam Atkinson, among others, helping shed the stigma that smaller players can’t succeed in the NHL, DeBrincat is thankful for the opportunity.  “Anyone who’s willing to give me a chance I appreciate,” he said. “It hasn’t been the easiest road but it’s worked out well.” Despite his size, DeBrincat describes himself as a “gritty goal scorer” and isn’t afraid to play a physical style. “As a small guy I have to play a little bigger than I am,” he said. Some saw late-first-round potential for DeBrincat, but like many draft prospects on that bubble he had to sit through Round 1 and wait for Saturday morning before the Blackhawks decided he was their pick. “It was a long day last night. I didn’t really know if I was going to go or not, but I’m really happy now and I’m glad that it’s over,” he said. Being surrounded by offensive talent isn’t anything new for DeBrincat. While in Erie, he was linemates with both Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. Both were top-five picks and are two of the NHL’s brightest young stars. Being around them on a daily basis helped the young forward. “Watching them practice really improved my game a lot,” DeBrincat said. “You try to pick pieces of their game and use it in your own game. Just watching those guys and being able to play with those guys is pretty remarkable.” It will likely be a while before DeBrincat will have the chance to crack the Blackhawks’ roster. For now, he says he’ll likely be back in Erie next season and keep working. “Just improving my all-around game, making the Blackhawks as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s my goal to play in the NHL. This is just one step of the way and the work starts from here.” - - - - - - - Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY :

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 25, 2016 at 12:03 pm

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Boston University foursome makes history at NHL Draft (Puck Daddy)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Boston University/Minnesota rivalry isn't what it once was in college hockey. But Friday's NHL Draft results might just ratchet it up once again.  In 2006-07, the Minnesota Golden Gophers roster boasted freshmen Kyle Okposo, David Fischer and Erik Johnson, as well as sophomore Blake Wheeler in their lineup on a nightly basis. That summer, Johnson went No. 1 to the St. Louis Blues and Okposo was selected No. 7 overall by the New York Islanders. Fischer went 20th to Montreal. Two years prior, Wheeler was drafted out of high school by the Arizona Coyotes No. 5 overall. That gave them four first-round picks on one team at the same time, tying the most ever for an NCAA team. It also tied a high set by three CHL teams, though all those were in the 1960s and '70s, and hockey has obviously changed quite a bit since then. While four is still the NCAA record, BU just simultaneously tied it and bested it. Because while the Gophers had four on the same team, the Terriers not only had four total, but four taken within 14 picks in the first round. That also quadrupled the previous BU record. At No. 7, Arizona went off the board a bit to take center Clayton Keller – even Keller said he was surprised to go that high, though BU coach David Quinn said he had “top-five talent.” Then D-man Charlie McAvoy went 14th overall to the Bruins. Just three picks later, Nashville grabbed defenseman Dante Fabbro at 17. To round out the run, Kieffer Bellows went 20th to the Islanders. “It's something that I'm so excited about,” McAvoy said the day before the draft. “We've got a lot of special guys coming in, and it's such a testament to BU as a school, and the recruiting by guys like [assistant coaches] Steve Greeley, coach [Scott] Young, coach [Albie] O'Connell, and those guys. I think BU recruits better than anyone in the country." Greeley in particular was crucial in the recruiting process for these prospects, but has since taken a job with the New York Rangers. The fact that he was cited by all four as a big reason they chose BU speaks to the impact he made. Quinn likewise sung his staff's praises. “[The draftees] are from Vancouver, St. Louis, Minnesota, Long Island,” he said. “These guys have gone all over and identified great talent. They've done a great job recruiting them, building relationships with them, and all the credit goes to those guys.” But moreover, both Fabbro and Bellows said that what they liked about the entire BU recruiting process is the honesty the coaching staff takes when discussing why kids should go there. There's no whitewashing, no propagandizing. They can count on the program to sell itself. “You know what, basically they were just up-front and honest with me,” Fabbro said. “Albie and Quinn and Young, they were all so awesome with me, giving me time and space to make my decision and kind of think things through. There's a reason why all those players are going there, because obviously Coach Quinn is doing something right. I wanted to be a part of that.” Bellows echoed that sentiment: “He's honest with you. He's blunt with you. He tells you what he likes, what he's gonna want from you, and what he expects.” Indeed, this is now arguably the most talented college hockey team ever assembled. Not only were Keller, McAvoy, Fabbro and Bellows taken in last night's first round, but there are surely more future Terriers who will likewise be drafted tomorrow as well, like Chad Krys, Patrick Harper and Ty Amonte (who will arrive in 2017-18). “We had a lunch today, all of us,” McAvoy said. “Just talking about it and thinking about it. It's surreal, the class that we're coming in with. It's gonna be special. It's gonna be such a fun year next year. I'm really excited to get all those guys in, get back, and play some hockey next year.”

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 25, 2016 at 8:31 am

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Minnesota Wild uses buyout on Thomas Vanek (Puck Daddy)

The Minnesota Wild have bought out the contract of Thomas Vanek, which should open up a large amount of salary cap space for the team. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo first reported the news of the Wild’s decision. According to General Fanager , Vanek’s buyout salary cap hit for next season comes to $1.5 million, which gives the team $5 million in savings over the next year from Vanek’s $6.5 million contract. The following year, Vanek’s buyout cap hit will escalate to $2.5 million. “It was a dream of mine to come back to the State of Hockey and I got to fulfill that, but obviously not the way I hoped," Vanek told Russo . "I think I can score 25, 30 goals in the right situation. As disappointing as it is ... the focus is to find the right fit."   The Wild now have $14.17 million in salary cap space this summer. The only major restricted free agents they need to re-sign are forward Jason Zucker ($900,250 salary cap hit) and Matt Dumba (entry-level contract). This should give them more than enough room to try to find free agents to fill their holes. The decision to sign Vanek ended up being one of the larger mistakes made by general manager Chuck Fletcher the last several years. In the summer of 2014 , the Wild signed Vanek to a three-year $19.5 million contract. He was coming off a season where he had 68 points and 27 goals in 78 games with the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders. The year before he had 41 points in 38 games played with the Sabres, the team that drafted him in 2003.  With the Wild, Vanek averaged 0.60 points per-game and 0.25 goals per-game in 154 games played. In 598 games with the Sabres he averaged 0.83 points per-game and 0.42 goals per-game. The 32-year-old Vanek has scored 40-or-more goals twice in his NHL career.  During the Wild’s playoff push, Vanek was scratched at points and never seemed to mesh with his teammates in the city where he had collegiate success with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  Recently, Vanek had also been the  subject of off-ice legal drama  and it’s unclear how much that played a role in his drop in production. Where will Vanek end up now that he will be an unrestricted free agent and what team would want him after his problems with the Wild? If a team is looking for goal scoring at a bargain price, Vanek could be an option – though a multi-year deal may be tough for him to find moving forward.  MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY - - - - - - - Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 24, 2016 at 3:53 pm

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2016 NHL Draft Tracker: First-round picks & scouting reports (Yahoo Sports)

2016 NHL Draft Tracker: Follow the team-by-team picks in the first round of the draft, with a scouting report on each player.

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm

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Draft day drama; Predators owner sues; Jordie Benn extended (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at  puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com .

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 24, 2016 at 1:55 pm

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Castron handling 1st draft as Devils director of scouting (The Associated Press)

The NHL draft is nothing new for Paul Castron. The New Jersey Devils director of scouting was hired by general manager Ray Shero after spending the previous 16 seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, including the last nine as director of amateur scouting. Coming off a fourth straight year missing the playoffs, New Jersey will have nine picks, including the 11th overall.

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 23, 2016 at 3:57 pm

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Shea Weber wins all-important Mark Messier Leadership Award (Puck Daddy)

Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber captured the 2015-16 Mark Messier Leadership Award, which may have lost a title sponsor in Bridgestone but none of its immense importance at the NHL’s postseason awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday.  Weber is able to add the Messier to a trophy case that includes Olympic gold and world junior gold, along with whatever they give out for the hardest shot at the All-Star Game. We imagine it’s a plaster cast of one of Zdeno Chara’s hands. "I mean, it’s a huge honor to be nominated to come to these awards. It’s pretty special to win it," Weber said. "From an all-time great leader like Mark Messier, it means a lot. Especially with the guys I was nominated with. They easily could have won it. It’s really special."  The Messier is presented “in recognition of his commitment and service to charities in his community as well as “recognizes an individual as a superior leader in hockey and as a contributing member of society.” According to the NHL: Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel and NHL fans in compiling a list of potential candidates. Selection of the three finalists and the ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. Other finalists for this year’s honor were Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and John Tavares of the New York Islanders. Weber – along with teammate Pekka Rinne – started the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund, which raises money and donates tickets to patients at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. That initiative has contributed more than $700,000 since its inception in 2013-14. In his hometown of Sicamous, B.C., Weber partners with the Sicamous Shootout to host a golf tournament in support of the BC Cancer Society. "I'm a believer that you don't really go out and tell people about (charity), you just do it. Our '365 Fund' is known about but when you go to the children's hospital I don't like to be followed with cameras, I don't like to have all the pictures and stuff," Weber said. "I just like to do it for the right reasons." Congrats to Shea Weber and the people of Earth.  -- Greg Wyshynski  is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at  puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com  or  find him on Twitter.  His book,  TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK,  is  available on Amazon  and wherever books are sold. MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 22, 2016 at 8:00 pm

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NHL players on Vegas expansion, gambling, nightlife distractions (Puck Daddy)

LAS VEGAS – There's some mystery, allure and excitement from NHL players about how a potential new Las Vegas team may work.  “It’s the entertainment capital of the world,” said San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. “You look around the buildings and the restaurants and driving around it’s a lot of people everyone’s looking to have a good time. Hockey’s a good time. Should be a good fit.” With the league's Board of Governors expected to vote on expansion into this market on Wednesday, much of the chatter Tuesday – during NHL Awards media availability – had less to do with the trophies to be given out Wednesday evening's show. It mostly had to do with the buzz of a new team coming into the NHL in a market that’s never had a major professional sport. “I think we’re looking forward to it to see how everything unfolds,” Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s definitely a fun city and there’s lots to do." This was the second straight year expansion into Vegas dominated the chatter around the awards, but this year there was more legitimacy to it because it's so close to becoming a reality. Last season the league announced it would start the exapnsion process. This year may finish it with Vegas becoming the NHL's 31st franchise.  Expansion news alters any league’s landscape, but Las Vegas makes a bigger splash. It’s a gambling mecca. It has multiple entertainment options. Its nickname is Sin City. The Las Vegas strip is one of the most discernable skylines in the world. We asked several players what immediately came to mind when they heard “Las Vegas,” and follow-ups on the distractions this city could provide. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars “Exciting. This is a great city, an exciting city. If you’re coming here for a visit or a hockey game it’s fun to be a part of.” Will it be hard to play with all the nightlife distractions? “We’re here to do a job and that’s to win a hockey game. We’re all adults, we’re all professionals and there’s one task. It’s not to come in here and lose focus. It’s to come in here and win a hockey game.” Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins “Hockey … no I think it’s just obviously it’s a city that’s full of diversity and activities and things to do and a crazy city if you want to put it that way. I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s going to work out.” Are you worried about distractions? “I think we’re looking forward to it to see how everything unfolds. It’s definitely a fun city and there’s lots to do, but distraction is part of the city so you have to be focused and smart, but I’ve talked to a few employees and local people yesterday and they seem very excited about having a team here. It’s their first professional team so by us getting in first may be a smart move and hopefully it is.”   Matt Martin, New York Islanders “I think of Vegas as a very fun place. It’s lively. It’s a lot like New York in a lot of ways where there’s always something going on. There’s always a buzz around. I’ve never been here in the winter, but it’s a fun place to come to. Everyone talks about the nightlife and cool parties, but there are a lot of great shows, a lot of great restaurants – like Britney Spears, which we attended the other day. There’s a lot of great things to do and it’s not all partying, it’s not all – I think every time you think of Vegas you think of bachelor parties and partying all night but it’s not the case. There’s great things to do in the city and I think it’s a great thing for the NHL to be a part of." There’s always talk of casinos here and worries with pro athletes, but really there are gambling location on a lot of NHL road trips, right?  “If you want to find trouble you can find it anywhere. If you want to party and drink and have a good time you can do it anywhere. I think guys in this league are professional. They understand we have a job to do on the ice. It’s not going to be party central every time we come here. There’s a lot of things we can do that don’t involve going out every night. There’s Celine Dion, there’s Broadway shows. I’m not concerned for player in this league finding trouble.” Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs. “Gambling. I guess that’s the first word I guess. It’s a different city that’s for sure. You walk around the huge hotels and sounds everywhere. There’s always something going on no matter what time it is.” “New York is close but it’s not the same type of vibe I think. It’s just basically Times Square. That’s the only part that’s similar.” Is all the gambling around you worrisome? “It’s in your face all the time. I’m not a huge gambler. I like playing here and there for fun. I don’t get to a point where it starts to take control. That’s where you can get in trouble quick. Especially if you play here. I’d need to live a little further away.”  Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks “Usually I would probably think of our annual trip with our team. We come here for a couple of days during the season. It’s a way to get away from the game for a couple of nights and a couple of days. Kind of enjoy some team bonding, probably the first thing I think of.”    Shea Weber, Nashville Predators “Gambling? I don’t know. Casinos?” “There’s distractions in every city and in Nashville there’s distractions for the opposing teams. But if you go to Dallas, LA, you go to all these other cities. There’s distractions anywhere you go. Guys are professionals and I don’t think it’s going to be any different or be pulling guys any harder in any other city.” “It’s a hard game now. You can’t do anything that’s going to cost your or cost your teammates. You see how close it is – one point could mean the matter of the playoffs. I don’t think players are going to put that in jeopardy.” Is anyone on the Preds a fan of Celine Dion or Britney Spears? “I’m sure we do, but I don’t think they’re going to admit it.”   MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS - - - - - - - Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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This post was written by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News on June 21, 2016 at 6:28 pm

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