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4 things learned from Day 1 of US World Junior selection camp – NHL.com

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PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Matty Beniers, selected No. 2 by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Draft, was excited to be back on the ice with familiar faces during the United States National Junior Team selection camp at USA Hockey Arena on Monday.

The camp, which includes 16 forwards, 10 defensemen and four goalies, runs Monday through Wednesday and is the initial step in naming the team that will represent the United States at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

The morning and afternoon sessions focused primarily on chemistry, line rushes and specialty teams.

“I think every day is kind of trying to find some chemistry with lines,” Beniers said. “I was pretty lucky that I was with Brett Berard (New York Rangers) today. We’ve been playing together our whole lives, so it’s not too hard to find chemistry there because that’s kind of always been there for me and him. 

“I think these first couple of days are kind of for getting the systems down, figuring out the penalty kill and power play. That’s kind of the main focus of these practices; getting some good work in and then finding some chemistry with some lines is I’d say an extra benefit.”

The tournament is scheduled to be played from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta.

The 25-player roster is expected to be named Wednesday, and the team will then travel to Edmonton, quarantine for 48 hours before continuing training. It will play two exhibition games against the Czech Republic at Gary W. Harris Centre in Red Deer on Dec. 20 and Finland at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Dec. 22. 

The United States will try to win the tournament back to back for the first time after defeating Canada 2-0 in the 2021 championship game. Canada was the last team to do so, winning five straight from 2005-09. 

Here are three other things learned at selection camp Monday:

Defining the leadership group

The leadership group, including the captain and alternates, will likely be named while the team is training in Edmonton, but returning defenseman Jake Sanderson (Ottawa Senators) already has some ideas.

“I feel like everybody kind of leads in their own way,” Sanderson said. “But if I had to choose a couple guys, Matty Beniers … he’s not the most vocal guy, but just how he goes about his day, and leads by example with how hard he works. 

“Defenseman Brock Faber (Los Angeles Kings) and forward Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks) also continually do the right things. I think other guys look up to that.”

Sanderson is also in the leadership mix. The No. 5 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft missed games Friday and Saturday with the University of North Dakota with an undisclosed injury but said he is fine.

“No, there’s no concern,” he said. “I was just doing some maintenance on my body, that’s all.”

Hughes ready for any role

Luke Hughes, the No. 4 pick by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 draft, has become a versatile force on defense the past two seasons. A left-handed shot, the 18-year-old can play on either the left or right side, which he did for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in 2020-21 and as a freshman this season at the University of Michigan.

“Being able to play both sides is just something in my tool box that I think can help,” Hughes said. “I’ve gotten pretty comfortable there, so the coaches can put me wherever they want to put me; whatever is good for the team.”

Hughes was paired with right-handed shot Faber, a defenseman with the University of Minnesota, during the afternoon session.

“He’s a really good player, super steady,” Hughes said of Faber. “He makes really good decisions with the puck.”

Peart given a chance

Jack Peart, a defenseman taken in the second round (No. 54) by the Minnesota Wild in the 2021 draft, was a late invite to selection camp after forward Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose Sharks) and defenseman Sean Behrens (Colorado Avalanche) were released Sunday.

Peart has scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 12 games as a freshman at St. Cloud State University this season.

Bordeleau, a sophomore center at the University of Michigan, was in a similar situation prior to the 2021 WJC when he was set to represent the United States at the tournament; however, he was left off after his roommate at the selection camp tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s really tough,” said Beniers, a sophomore at Michigan. “We’re all going to miss him. He kind of caught COVID at a time when me and (Michigan teammate) Jacob Truscott were away from the team. He was going to be a really huge part of this team, so that’s why it’s such a tough hit. I’m not totally sure if there’s anyone that can really fill his boots.

“So some guys are going to have to step up; that’s going to be an important part of this.”

Listen: New episode of NHL Draft Class

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Bombers extend Most Outstanding Defensive Player Bighill – TSN

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Adam Bighill is staying in Winnipeg.

The Blue Bombers announced Thursday the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player has signed a one-year contract extension with the team. 

Bighill has spent the past three seasons with the Blue Bombers, helping the team back-to-back Grey Cups.

A veteran of nine CFL seasons, Bighill has played in 146 games in his CFL career and ranks eighth in league history all-time in total tackles.

The three-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player had 70 tackles and added two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last season. He was named a CFL All-Star for the sixth time in his career.

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Denis Shapovalov Australian Open third round Reilly Opelka – TSN

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Denis Shapovalov needed three hours and 23 minutes to take down Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, working through a handful of unforced errors and a fourth-set tiebreak.

It was a cakewalk compared to his second-round matchup.

The Richmond Hill, Ont., native went the distance with Kwon Soon-woo, needing five sets and nearly four and a half hours to dispatch of the 54th-ranked South Korean. Shapovalov lost back-to-back tiebreaks in the second and third sets but battled back to take the final two and avoid an early exit.

Watch his third-round matchup LIVE on TSN4, TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct at approximately 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT Thursday night.

“It was tough to bounce back every time. In the second set I had a set point on his serve and then the third set I had a couple of set points. I felt I was doing everything the right way, it just wasn’t going my way,” Shapovalov told TSN’s Mark Roe after the win.

“It’s definitely not easy but it’s the case sometimes. I’m just happy to be alive and have an opportunity to play in the third round. I’m pretty young so I’m sure I’ll be alright; I’ve had this before.”

Now it’s on to the third round for Shapovalov where he gets his toughest test of the tournament yet in No. 23 seed American Reilly Opelka.

Opelka has had a much easier road to Round 3, scoring straight-sets victories over Kevin Anderson in the first round and Dominik Koepfer in the second. Standing at 6-foot-11, the big-serving American isn’t much for rallies, combining for 41 aces in his first two matches in Melbourne.

“I think it’s more about recovery to be honest. I mean, Reilly’s game is pretty straightforward. He goes for his serves, he’s going for his ground strokes off the back as well so it’s going to be kind of like a guessing game a little bit on the returns and hopefully, I can take care of business on my serve and hopefully I’m getting good looks, but I’ve just got to stay patient against him,” Shapovalov said.

The 22-year-old comes into the year’s first Grand Slam with some momentum having won the men’s ATP Cup earlier this month in Sydney alongside Canadian teammates Felix Auger-Aliassime, Brayden Schnur and Steven Diez.

Fatigue from a recent bout of COVID-19 forced Shapovalov to sit out the start of the tournament but he said earlier this week he was back to feeling 100 per cent.

“Towards the end of the [ATP Cup] I got really comfortable, and the body felt good again, so that was a good sign. And, of course, leading up to this tournament I had little aches and pains, so I wasn’t practising too much but I’m really happy after the two matches that the body is feeling good and it’s definitely a good sign.”

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Sheldon Keefe calls Leafs 'soft and purposeless' after Rangers collapse – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe finally blew a gasket after his team squandered a 3-1 lead for the fourth time in its last five games. (Getty)

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Toronto Maple Leafs have a multi-goal lead but their opponents come back to win the game.

Wednesday’s tilt against the New York Rangers played out exactly like that, with the Leafs having a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and the hometown Rags storming back to earn a 6-3 victory with five consecutive goals.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe called out his team’s effort during his post-game availability, specifically citing the defensive side of their performance.

“Today, I just thought we played soft, and we made poor decisions defensively,” Keefe said

“We couldn’t sort anything out. It was just far different. Each game has been different, so it’s hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious that we’ve been giving up leads. I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft, soft and purposeless, and just kind of playing the game and hoping it was going to work out.

“I didn’t think we had anybody that played well tonight. Coaches didn’t coach well tonight. So, today is a much different game than we’ve played in the others where we’ve given up leads and such. I just didn’t think we had nearly enough urgency or purpose.”

The Leafs were without two of their top four defenseman in Jake Muzzin (concussion) and Justin Holl (COVID protocol) in New York, but missing personnel is something that can be overcome. Keefe pondered if it was a larger-scale issue that keeps putting the Leafs in this position.

“We’ve had a lot of really good starts,” Keefe said. “Obviously it’s been the finish or the second half of games that haven’t gone well. …Maybe a fast start was working against us. We thought it would be easy the rest of the way. We paid for it.”

Toronto let three third-period leads get washed away by their opponents in the previous four games before Wednesday, making it more of a concerning trend than coincidental bad luck.

The Leafs will take another stab at trying to hold a multi-goal lead when they visit Islanders on Saturday.

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