Olivier Rodrigue looked like the odds-on favourite to be Canada’s No. 1 netminder back in the summer, but the country’s crease landscape changed drastically this fall. Nico Daws of the Guelph Storm and Joel Hofer of the Portland Winterhawks were outstanding through the first three months of the season to force their way into the conversation at selection camp. Daws, who had never realistically been on Hockey Canada’s radar before 2019-20, has a record of 13-3-4 and leads the Ontario Hockey League with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. Hofer, who has also never played for Canada, is 20-4-2 with a WHL-leading 1.81 GAA and the league’s second-best save percentage at .937. Sporting a 15-6-0 mark, a 2.79 GAA and a .907 save percentage with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats, Rodrigue also made the team — the only goalie of the five invited to the national team’s summer camp to get the nod — but it appears either Daws or Hofer will get the call to start the tournament.
TOP NHL DRAFT PROSPECTS
Alexis Lafrenière of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Océanic has been projected as the No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft for some time, but Quinton Byfield of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves is closing the gap. And that’s great news for Canada. The 13th forward on last year’s team that finished a disappointing sixth on home soil, the 18-year-old Lafrenière will be counted on to lead his country offensively up front and provide leadership in the locker room as one of five returning players. A hulking centre with speed to burn and soft hands, the 17-year-old Byfield is expected to play out of position on the wing, but this could be the moment he introduces himself to a wider audience on the international stage.
THE HUNTER FACTOR
Despite their dominance in junior hockey, Dale and Mark Hunter’s international résumé are incredibly thin. Dale Hunter is getting his first crack at coaching the world junior team after leading Canada to gold at an under-18 tournament in 2013. Mark Hunter, the former assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the focal point of Canada’s brain trust as the country looks to rebound after a disappointing sixth-place showing in Vancouver and Victoria. The Hunters have won four OHL titles and two Memorial Cups with the London Knights, but will that success translate to the national team?
RED, WHITE … AND GREEN
Canada is set to ice a younger roster than usual at a tournament that often features 19-year-old players. Lafrenière and Byfield will be counted on up front, while Jamie Drysdale — another projected top-10 pick at the 2020 NHL draft — is set to become just the seventh 17-year-old to play defence for Canada at the world juniors. Lafrenière, Joe Veleno, Barrett Hayton, Jared McIsaac and Ty Smith are back from last year’s squad, but this group is greener than many past iterations.
Getting bounced in last year’s quarter-finals at the hands of Finland, which would go onto win gold, means that Canada will have to hit the ground running in Ostrava and Trinec. The Canadians thumped Denmark 14-0 in the 2019 tournament opener, but face that tough test against the Americans on Boxing Day before a meeting with Russia just 48 hours later. “Where we finished last year and the schedule we’re presented, it is what it is, so let’s be ready to play,” Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen said. “I don’t have any doubt we’ll be excited and the coaches will put us in a good spot.”
Canada had failed to score in its past nine shootout attempts at the world juniors before Max Comtois also missed the mark on a penalty shot in last year’s quarters. The Canadians know it’s been one of their Achilles heels, but will do everything possible to be ready if the scenario presents itself in the medal round. “It’s part of the game,” Dale Hunter said. “It’s [something] you can practise.”
Jimmy Butler steals the show on NBA media day with ‘emo’ phase look following Damian Lillard’s trade to the Milwaukee Bucks
Whether or not Miami Heat’s golden child Jimmy Butler’s new “emo” look is just a phase, the NBA star carried it off with some aplomb, drawing plenty of laughs from his teammates.
One year on from his memorable fake dreadlocks look, the 34-year-old outdid himself by turning up at the Heat’s media day on Monday sporting a straightened fringe, piercings in his eyebrow and lips and painted black nails.
Butler said he’s now “emo” and after the summer he and the Heat have had, who can blame him?
After former Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and his agent publicly stated on numerous occasions that he would only want to play for Miami, it seemed like a matter of when, not if, the 33-year-old would end up in South Beach.
Butler led the Heat to an improbable NBA Finals appearance as the eight seed last season, so it’s easy to imagine his excitement at the prospect of Lillard’s addition to the roster pushing the team over the top and to its first title in the post-Lebron James era.
However, the Milwaukee Bucks swooped in last week with a package that blew Miami’s out of the water, meaning Lillard will now be plying his trade in Wisconsin and not Florida.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Butler said as he entered his press conference, pushing his fringe out of his eyes. “I’m emo. This is my emotional state, I’m at one with my emotions so this is what you get.”
Despite failing to acquire Lillard and losing key contributors Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, Butler remains confident ahead of the upcoming season, telling reporters the Heat are going to win it all.
If it’s good news that he’s now at one with his emotions, Butler might just also be a gifted method actor and isn’t actually going through a belated “emo” phase. The six-time All Star could be heard saying “don’t make me break character” as he entered the press conference.
His new character was certainly a hit with his teammates and had Bam Adebayo crying tears of laughter as the pair were having their photos taken for the new season – which means, yes, Butler will have this hair in official photos for the entire year.
Certainly not someone to do things by halves, Butler was fully immersed in his new state and even posted songs from emo bands on his Instagram story throughout the day.
Finding Your Perfect Match: The Best Ways to Choose an Online Sportsbook
In the ever-expanding world of online sports betting, selecting the right sportsbook is crucial. This is to ensure an enjoyable and secure gambling experience. With numerous options available, it can be challenging to find the perfect fit. For instance, you can be looking into sites like BestOdds to find a sportsbook to go with but do not know what exactly to check.
This article will explain the basics of finding an excellent online sportsbook.
Licensing and Regulation
The first and most critical factor when choosing an online sportsbook is ensuring it operates in a legal and transparent manner. A reputable sportsbook should possess a valid license from a recognized regulatory authority. These licenses indicate that the sportsbook adheres to strict standards, including fair play, responsible gambling and financial security.
Before registering, check for the sportsbook’s licensing information. In most cases, you will find this in the footer of their website. Some of the most reputable regulatory bodies for online sports betting include the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission.
Additionally, research the sportsbook’s track record for regulatory compliance and any previous non-payment or unethical practices incidents. User reviews and industry news sources can provide valuable insights into the sportsbook’s reputation.
Odds and Betting Markets
The quality of odds and the variety of betting markets offered are key factors in determining the suitability of an online sportsbook. Competitive odds provide better potential returns for your bets, while a wide range of markets allows you to explore different betting options.
Compare odds from multiple sportsbooks to ensure you get the best bet value. Some websites and apps even offer odds comparison tools to make this process more convenient.
Moreover, consider the breadth of sports and events covered by the sportsbook. Whether you’re into mainstream sports like football, basketball, or soccer or niche sports and events, the sportsbook should offer diverse markets to cater to your preferences.
Security and Payment Options
Security is paramount when sharing personal and financial information with an online sportsbook. Look for sportsbooks that employ the latest encryption technologies, such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer), to safeguard your data. Consider factors like two-factor authentication (2FA) to enhance account security further.
Payment options are another critical aspect. Ensure the sportsbook offers convenient and secure methods for depositing and withdrawing funds. Common payment methods include credit/debit cards, bank transfers, e-wallets (like PayPal or Skrill) and cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin). Choosing a sportsbook that supports your preferred payment method is essential to streamline your betting experience.
As LeBron James enters Year 21, the theme of Lakers media day was passing the torch and sharing the load
The budding relationship between fifth-year forward Rui Hachimura and four-time MVP LeBron James has been one of the stories of the offseason for the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers. Stories of the two working out together have become commonplace. “I call him my Daniel-san and I’m Mr. Miyagi,” James joked at Lakers’ media day Monday. It was an appropriate comparison not just between James and Hachimura, but the legend and his entire team.
Now that Udonis Haslem has called it a career and Andre Iguodala is seemingly headed in that direction, James is officially the NBA’s oldest active player. He proved that he is still a superstar on the court last season, but aside from Anthony Davis and Taurean Prince, all of his Laker teammates are at least a decade his junior. In a perfect world, the days of James pushing for 30-point triple-doubles on a nightly basis are now over. He has a group of young teammates eager to learn from his example and lift him up when he needs it.
“I think with this team we have the most depth,” new Lakers big man Christian Wood said Monday. “No team in the league has more depth than we have.” This was the goal of the Lakers’ offseason. Though they didn’t make any particularly splashy additions, six of the seven Lakers to play at least 200 postseason minutes are back this season. Joining them are Gabe Vincent, a starter on Miami’s finalist from a season ago, and Wood, one of the NBA’s most dynamic scoring big men. Rounding out the new-look bench are former first-round picks Taurean Prince (29), Cam Reddish (24) and Jaxson Hayes (23). That youth-oriented approach was no accident, as Lakers coach Darvin Ham explained Friday.
“Now that we have, top-to-bottom, what we feel is a highly balanced, skilled, athletic, younger team of guys that have logged a ton of NBA minutes, we can surround both he and AD with these players who are coming in eager to contribute, eager to show that they can impact winning,” Ham said. “That’s gonna allow us to be able to be more efficient with his game-to-game minutes.”
Managing James’ minutes was difficult last season. The Lakers lacked depth on a roster depleted by the Russell Westbrook trade, and when Davis was hurt, James needed to carry a remarkable burden just to keep the Lakers afloat. He averaged 24.1 shots and 34.6 points per game between Dec. 18 and Jan. 24, Davis’ longest extended absence of the season. Roughly one month later, he suffered the foot injury that hampered him for the rest of the season. It’s an outcome Davis is hoping to avoid this time around.
“It’s my goal every year to play 82,” Davis said. Though likely unobtainable, keeping Davis on the floor will be essential to the Lakers’ championship hopes this season. In fact, James might even argue that his co-star’s health is more important than his own. “He is the face [of the franchise],” James said at media day. For stretches last season, he was among the NBA’s best players. Between Nov. 13 and his own injury on Dec. 13, Davis averaged 32.4 points per game while doubling as the league’s best defensive player.
But for the Lakers to realize their considerable potential, he’ll have to sustain that dominance for longer stretches. The supporting players, who were so instrumental in lifting the Lakers from out of the top-10 in the West and into the Western Conference finals, will have to continue to benefit from James’ presence as Hachimura has. The Lakers went from cellar-dweller to contender last season when they morphed from an older, star-driven roster to a younger, balanced one, and whether that means Davis stepping into James’ role as the focal point of the team or the role players improving with another year in the system, the Lakers made it clear at media day that they plan to continue that transformation.
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