NHL Expansion Draft

The NHL Expansion Draft is coming up soon, at the NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 21st. Las Vegas will host the new NHL team at T-Mobile Arena. The team called the Vegas Golden Knights are the new NHL Expansion team and each time there is a new Expansion team, they are allowed to draft one player from each of the 30 other teams. Each team can protect either 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and 1 goalie or 8 skaters and 1 goalie. All 1st and 2nd year players, and unsigned drafted players are exempt from being drafted. The Vegas Golden Knights will also be receiving the 6th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Each team will likely lose an important asset because the Golden Knights will probably only take players under age 31 for safety, as those players are young and should be able to play longer than the veterans. Some of the top players likely to be drafted are Ducks’ RW Jakob Silfverberg, Wild’s D Marco Scandella, Predator’s C Colton Sissons, Penguin’s G Marc-Andre Fluery, and Maple Leafs’ C Leo Komarov. All of these players are either just finding their game or still have some game left in them. Colton Sissons is likely to be protected after having an unbelievable postseason with Nashville. The Vegas Golden Knights have already signed three non-NHLers: Reid Duke, Vadim Shipcahynov, and Tomas Hyka.

The Vegas Golden Knights are likely to not be a playoff team for a few years, but the Wild are well known for making the Western Conference Finals in just their 3rd season of play back in 2003, as an Expansion team. The Golden Knights have been fairly criticized as more of a 100% money, 0% hockey, reasoning as to why Las Vegas is getting a hockey team. I believe it was not a great move by the NHL for the fans morale. A popular and devoted city like Seattle is a town most fans believe deserves a hockey team. Especially after their basketball team left not too long ago. For now, all the fans can do is wait and see how this Expansion plays out.

UEFA Champions League preview

The UEFA Champions League final is set for Saturday, June 3rd, at 1:45pm CT. The two finalists consist of the La Liga champions Real Madrid and Juventus.

Real Madrid finished 2nd in Group F with a 3-3-0 record (W-D-L). They defeated Napoli, Bayern Munich, and Atletico Madrid to advance to the finals. Cristiano Ronaldo was 2nd with 10 goals, and 2nd with 6 assists in the whole tournament.

Juventus finished 1st in Group H with a 4-2-0 record. They defeated Porto, FC Barcelona, and Monaco to reach the finals. They have allowed just 1 goal in their past 7 games, and just 3 goals the whole entire tournament.

Real Madrid this year have already become champs in other areas. They won their league championship on Sunday, May 21st, with a 2-0 win over Malaga, which clinched the title. Real Madrid had a great season totaling 93 points. Ronaldo scored 25 goals and helped lead his team to their first league championship in 5 years. Alvaro Morata helped this year as well, with 15 goals, proving to be a future talent. Toni Kroos also played well, with 12 assists, the 2nd most in the league.

Juventus had yet another successful season in the Italian Series A league. They won the championship for the 3rd straight year and their 12th total championship. Gonzalo Higuain had an outstanding season with 24 goals, although much less than his career high of 36 goals last year; it was still a great showing for Higuain. He’s scored at least 17 goals since 2013-14, and has proved to be a top striker in the world. Miralem Pjanic was tied for 12th in the league, with 8 assists, and was a great help this year.

Juventus and Real Madrid should hopefully put on a show at the National Stadium of Wales in the Capital of Wales, Cardiff. The game can be watched on ESPN and Fox Sports.

I predict Real Madrid will come out victorious, 2-1.

Stanley Cup playoffs round 3 preview

The second round of the NHL playoffs wrapped up last Wednesday. Two game 7s occurred, while the other two series ended in six games.

The Nashville Predators took down the St. Louis Blues in 6 games. The Predators look to be the real deal this year as they swept the Blackhawks in the first round then went on to defeat the Blues in the second round. Their goaltender, Pekka Rinne, has been outstanding.

The other Western Conference team to advance were the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks defeated the Oilers in 7 games. Their captain, Ryan Getzlaf, has been very dominate for the Ducks, and is playing like a true leader. He’s 3rd in the league with 15 playoff points.

The Ducks and Predators will start their series on Friday, May 12th at 8pm CT. My prediction is that the Predators will win this series in 6 games.

Now on to the East, where the surprising Ottawa Senators are heading to the Eastern Conference final. They haven’t made the conference final since 2007. The Senators defeated the New York Rangers in 6 games; they have been led by captain Erik Karlsson. He’s playing through many injuries, but continues to play excellent.

They will get ready to face the defending champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals for a second straight year, in the second round. This is a recurring thing for the Capitals as they haven’t passed the second round since 1998. Even with the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk this season, they couldn’t break their streak. Many Penguins players played great including Evgeni Malkin who leads the league with 18 playoff points, and 13 assists, and Jake Guentzel who leads with 9 goals.

The Penguins and Senators will begin their series Saturday, May 13th at 6pm CT. My prediction is that the Penguins will win this series in 7 games.

NHL playoffs round 2 preview

The first round of the NHL playoffs came and left with many surprises. Starting with the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers were able to knock out the Montreal Canadiens in six games due to Montreal’s lack of scoring. The Ottawa Senators surprised many by beating the Boston Bruins in six games. Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan helped immensely with Ottawa having many injuries. Ottawa’s goalie Craig Anderson played hard for the Senators. His wife was diagnosed with cancer in February, and he’s been playing his best ever since. The Senators and Rangers will open their series in Ottawa on Thursday night, April 27th, at 6pm CT.

The reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins showed no mercy against their rivals, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Penguins defeated them in just five games with Penguins center Evgeni Malkin leading the league with 11 points in the playoffs so far. The Washington Capitals barely escaped the Toronto Maple Leafs, who drove the Capitals to six games, until Washington brought them down. Five of the six games went to overtime, which the Capitals won three of. The Capitals and Penguins will once again have a hyped up playoff series. Last year the Penguins beat the Capitals in the second round on their road to winning the cup. The teams will play game 1 in Washington D.C. on Thursday night, April 27th, at 6:30pm CT.

Now onto the Western Conference, which held many surprises. The Nashville Predators shocked the world and swept the best team in the West, the Chicago Blackhawks. No one saw this coming. Nashville has always been a dangerous team in the playoffs, but Chicago has always been the most dangerous. Goalie Pekka Rinne carried the Predators with a 0.70 GAA, 0.976 save percentage, and 2 shutouts in the four wins. He let up a total of just 3 goals, and had more points (2 assists) than any Chicago player.

The other Central Division series was the Minnesota Wild vs. the St. Louis Blues. The Wild dominated the whole series outshooting the Blues 182 to 134. The Wild couldn’t capitalize on their many chances. They only scored 8 goals, while the Blues scored 11. The goalies in this series were key. Blues’ goalie Jake Allen carried the Blues, while the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk did the best he could against a scary Blues offense. The Blues got out easily in 5 games winning both overtimes the series had. The Blues and Predators will start round 2 against each other on Wednesday, April 26th, in St. Louis at 7pm CT.

The Anaheim Ducks hosted the Calgary Flames for their series, and it was all Anaheim. The Ducks were 1 of 2 teams that swept their opponent. Anaheim won all but game 4 by one goal. In game 4 they won 3-1 to close out the series. Ryan Getzlaf led the Ducks with 3 goals and 2 assists, while Ducks’ goalie John Gibson posted a 9.26 GAA. The Ducks are heavy favorites in the West.

The Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks played to face Anaheim. The Oilers were carried by superstar Connor McDavid who led the league with 100 points at just 20 years old. Leon Draisaitl was quietly good for Edmonton scoring 77 points this season, but Edmonton was led by their goalie this series Cam Talbot. He had 2 shutouts, and besides letting up 5 goals in 1 game, he played amazing for the Oilers. The Oilers and Ducks will play Wednesday, April 26th, in Anaheim, at 9:30pm CT.

Right now the most likely teams that will play in the Stanley Cup are the Pittsburgh Penguins for the East, and the Anaheim Ducks for the West.

NBA playoff predictions

The NBA regular season has come to an end, and the playoffs are finally here. The playoffs started on Saturday, April 15th. There will be 16 teams each from the Western Conference and Eastern Conference. The Golden State Warriors hold the 1st seed in the West. The Boston Celtics hold the 1st seed in the East. The Warriors are the obvious favorites this year after going 67-15; the best record in the NBA.

The best matchup in the first round will be in the West. James Harden, and the 3-seeded Houston Rockets, face Russell Westbrook, and the 6-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook recently broke the single season triple-double record with 42. Oscar Robertson was the original record holder with 41 triple-doubles in one season. Westbrook has proven his case for MVP, while others believe James Harden deserves the MVP because Houston has a better record, and Harden shows a lot of leadership by being one of Houston’s only great players. Both players play the point guard position.

Another exciting matchup, but for the East, is the 3-seeded Toronto Raptors hosting the 6-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors are led by star shooting guard Demar Derozan who helped carry his team when all-star point guard Kyle Lowry was injured. The Milwaukee Bucks are led by small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo [ˈʝanis a(n)detoˈkun(m)bo] who stands at 6 feet 11 inches. He leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He carries the whole team and will have to continue to do so if they want to beat the Raptors.

My official finals prediction is the 1-seeded Golden State Warriors vs. the 2-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors finally have Kevin Durant back after a long injury recovery, and if he can stay healthy the Warriors should be able to cruise to the Finals. The Cavaliers have struggled late in the season but still prove to be the only team that could make it out of the East. They have many stars in Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and of course LeBron James. I believe the Warriors will win this year. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson really stepped up when Durant got injured, and the Warriors starting five may be the best the NBA has seen in awhile. My prediction: Warriors win in 6 games.

MLB season preview

The MLB season is right around the corner. On Sunday, April 2nd, the Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the St. Louis Cardinals have their home openers. The Rays play the New York Yankees, the Diamondbacks play the San Francisco Giants, and the Cardinals play the reigning World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs. Currently, players are staying active by playing in Spring Training, and the World Baseball Classic which is an international baseball tournament. As of the writing of this article, the Yankees have the best Spring Training record at 18-7.

According the www.bleacherreport.com, they have the Cubs finishing with the best record – scoring 96 wins. They have the Minnesota Twins having the worst record – losing 100 games.

A team that could be very dangerous this season is the Cleveland Indians. The Indians have a young team that led them to the World Series last year, but fell short. Even though they lost, they still should be able to become contenders this year again. This offseason they signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion. They also still have Corey Kluber in their bullpen who made a huge impact on their drive to the World Series. They are the most likely team to win the AL Central division.

One team that may disappoint is the Kansas City Royals. They lost big hitter Kendrys Morales and players like Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon are starting to get old. Eric Hosmer is still a great player, but he seems to be the only great player on this year’s team. The Royals also sadly had a young pitcher of theirs, Yordano Ventura, pass away during the offseason. He died in a car accident while in his native country of the Dominican Republic.

One dark horse this year are the Seattle Mariners. They have three star players in Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. They also depend on Felix Hernandez who needs a bounce back season this year. Last year, Hernandez had only a record of 11-8 with a 3.82 ERA. His worst ERA since 2007. He didn’t have a single shutout last season compared to the 2 he had in the 2015 season. If he can pitch well, then the rest of the MLB should watch out for Seattle.

NCAA March Madness preview and predictions

It’s that time of the year again, when 68 college teams try to conquer the March Madness tournament. The first round consists of 8 different teams qualifying to enter. Once that’s over, all 64 teams are placed in a division ranked one through sixteen. The divisions/sections are called: Midwest, West, South and East. The 16 teams in each section battle it out to get to the final four. The best team in the South plays the best team in the East, and the same goes for the Midwest and West.

The selection day for the 68 teams is Sunday, March 12th. The first four (8 qualifying teams) games play on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 14th and 15th. The official 64 team bracket starts Thursday, March 16th, and goes to the second round on Saturday, the 18th. The first and second rounds both last 2 days. The 2 day format also applies to the Sweet Sixteen (3rd round) and the Elite Eight (4th round). The Final Four round is Saturday, April 1st, and the championship game is Monday, April 3rd.  

This year’s top teams include: Kansas, UCLA, Gonzaga, and last year’s winner Villanova. Kansas is currently ranked number 1 in the top 25. They have beaten 5 teams in the top 10. Kansas is carried by senior point guard Frank Mason the Third, and freshman superstar Josh Jackson. They for sure will get a number one seed in the bracket. UCLA will be a major threat with freshman point guard Lonzo Ball. He’s one of the most athletic guards in the NCAA this year. He’s also accompanied by TJ Leaf and senior Bryce Alford. These 3 players combined average 47.7 points a game. Their team altogether averages an NCAA best 91.3 points per game. They are more than likely to receive a number one seed.

Gonzaga looked to be a real threat after starting 29-0, but they lost to BYU by 8 points, and that loss sent them from ranked number one to four. Their biggest problem is that they don’t play in a good enough conference, which might prove why they had such a good record until they played BYU. They finished 32-1 and won the West Coast Conference Championship. Their team is led by junior guard Nigel William-Goss, who averages 16.9 points per game and 5.7 assists per game. They are more than likely to lose early in the tournament. They would be lucky to receive a number one seed, as the number two seed fits them better.

One last team that’s being talked about, coming into the tournament, is the reigning champs, Villanova. They defeated North Carolina in the championship last year after Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer beater three for the win. He’s now in his senior year and playing well, but the star player for Villanova is senior guard Josh Hart who leads the team in points per game with 18.7 and with 6.5 rebounds per game. Villanova has a great chance of winning the tournament in back-to-back years. They will have a number one seed.  

My one sleeper team is SMU. They are ranked 12th with a 27-4 record. They haven’t played many ranked teams, and their free throw shooting is only at 69%, but they have won 13 straight games. They have also won 23 of their last 24 games, only losing by 2 points to 22-ranked Cincinnati. Senior Ben Moore has been a lot of help for SMU; he has 11.8 points per game and standing at 6 feet 8 inches, he grabs 8.2 rebounds per game. SMU could go deeper than people may expect as they’re likely to be a 4 or 5 seed in the South section of the tournament.

Stanley Cup predictions

The NHL’s 100th season only has a little than than 2 months to go before the end of the regular season. The league is starting to show which teams are great, good, decent, bad, and the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche are the worst team in the NHL and soon enough will be officially eliminated from the playoffs. As of February 24th, they have a record of 16-40-3 (35 points). The league’s best, the Washington Capitals, have 87 points.

The Western Conference has been weaker this year, with a few really good teams and then some disappointing teams. The Minnesota Wild have played their best hockey in franchise history and have a nice 3 point lead over Chicago. The San Jose Sharks also have a comfortable 3 point lead over Anaheim and Edmonton thanks to SJ defenseman Brent Burns’ 5 goals in the last 4 games.

As for the Eastern Conference, the worst team is just 12 points (6 games behind) out of a playoff spot, and the Atlantic division is still up for grabs where the Capitals have a good 5 point lead over Pittsburgh. This year, even with the Capitals great 40-12-7 record, they are not big favorites for winning the Stanley Cup. They have not made it past the second round since the 1997-98 season.

The Chicago Blackhawks are always favorites with superstars Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford, but some of their stars aren’t stepping up. Jonathan Toews has just 44 points this year, even though he missed 9 games, it’s still not his standard, but recently he put up 3 goals and 2 assists vs. Minnesota, so Chicago is hoping this might be his turnaround. Brent Seabrook also hasn’t been very productive with a -1/ plus-minus rating and only scoring 3 goals.

Another popular contender is last year’s runner-up, the San Jose Sharks. They’ve been playing good this year, and have been keeping Connor McDavid, and the Oilers, out of the top spot in the division, but they were best known for their play on the road, which was the best in 2015-16, but they already have more road losses this year than all of last year.

My last honorable mention, for possible contender, is the reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year they have 3 guys with 50+ points, which leads the league, but they’re having trouble catching up to Washington for the division lead. They have been deadly at home – winning 24 games, but have won only 13 on the road, which will be a big problem once they enter their opponent’s playoff atmosphere arena.

My main prediction to win it all this year is the Minnesota Wild. I’m trying to not be biased, but after watching this team win and win over and over, they really qualify as contenders. They have 8 players with at least 30 points, and 10 players with up to 10+ goals. This team doesn’t have a ton of superstars, but they mainly just work hard and have a team with great chemistry. A lot of this is thanks to new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who has the best winning record, percentage wise, in the NHL. In the offseason they added Eric Staal who has been a great addition to the team for just $3.5 million per year.

They also made a smart signing in getting Chris Stewart, who is a well-liked guy in the locker room. The younger players have really stepped up too. Nino Niederreiter is tied with Mikael Granlund with 19 goals, and  Granlund also leads the team, and is 12th in the league, with 55 points. Also, 5 of the 10 top plus-minus players in the NHL are Wild players, with Ryan Suter leading the league with a +33 rating. This team is not only contenders now but also for the future too; being the 10th youngest team in the league with an average age of 26.96. 

The main reason to the Wild’s success is goalie Devan Dubnyk though. He has by far put up the best numbers in the NHL, leading all goalies with 32 wins, a .933 save percentage, is 2nd place with a 2.01 goals against average (GAA), and is tied 4th with 5 shutouts this season. He’s been lights out and has really proved he is worthy of winning the Vezina Trophy (awarded to the best goalie during that season).

Note: All data presented is as of February 24th.

North Star College Cup results

The North Star College Cup is a college hockey tournament that consists of 5 Division 1 hockey schools from Minnesota. Those teams are: the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Bemidji State Beavers, St. Cloud State Huskies, Minnesota State Mavericks and the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The tournament started back in 2014.

The University of Minnesota won in the cup 2014, Bemidji State won in 2015, and St.Cloud State won last year in 2016. 2017 marks the 4th annual tournament and most likely the last.

The tournament has been taking place at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, and it has not been drawing a crowd. This year’s tournament took place Friday to Saturday, January 27th and 28th. Last year only 23,584 people combined showed up for both days, which is not a lot considering a Minnesota Wild game usually has 18,000+ in attendance per game.

This year’s teams consisted of just 4 of the original 5 teams, with Minnesota State withdrawing. The Duluth Bulldogs took home the cup this year in a 2-1 overtime win against St. Cloud State. St. Cloud State got to the championship by defeating Bemidji State 2-1, while the Bulldogs defeated the Gophers in an exciting 3-2 win. This all set up for a boring 3rd place game in which Minnesota won 4-0 over Bemidji State.

Late in the 1st period, of the championship game, St. Cloud State defenseman Will Brogen opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the right side of the left circle; off a pass from Forward Robby Jackson. The Bulldogs responded just 42 seconds into the second period, as Alex Lafallo scored by finding a loose puck in front of the net off a pass from behind the net and shooting it past the goaltender.

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image taken from: NCAA.com

Both teams had tremendous chances for the rest of the second period and for the whole 3rd period, but neither team could score another goal which sent the game to overtime. With 6 minutes into overtime Duluth defenseman Neal Pionk shot a puck from the point and it was deflected to the left side of the net where left-handed Duluth forward Kyle Osterberg shot the puck past goaltender Jeff Smith. The Minnesota-Duluth fan section erupted out of their seats as the Bulldogs had won their first North Star College Cup.

This was Duluth’s first championship appearance since they lost in a shootout 5-4 vs. Minnesota in 2014. Again, this is more than likely the last North Star College Cup because of the lack of attendance, but it will always be something the players and local hockey fans enjoyed.