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NHL Mock Draft: Wright, Slafkovský, Cooley top 2022 class – NHL

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With 2022 NHL Draft this week, the team at McKeen’s Hockey has prepared a mock draft to give you an idea of how the first day could unfold. Director of Scouting, Brock Otten, Director of Video Scouting, Will Scouch, Video Scout, Sam McGilligan and Publisher Robert Howard got together and made our picks for whom we thought best matched the team on the clock. It was a fun and interesting process. They certainly do not mirror our McKeen’s rankings, which are not trying to predict the draft, but which prospects will develop into NHL players and at what level in five years’ time. ]

Every NHL team has its own list, its own goals, and surprises are expected, so, enjoy our best guess on who your teams next great hope is going to be. 

The McKeen’s team has published our annual NHL Draft Guide which includes profiles on over 300 players, feature articles plus much more. It is available as a direct download with a subscription, or on its own. You can learn more here.

1. Montreal Canadiens (Sam McGilligan) Shane Wright, C, Kingston (OHL)

The decision to select Shane Wright is an easy one. There’s a reason he was deemed the potential first overall for the years leading up to this draft and it’s because of his impeccable understanding of the game, killer release and the most pro-ready playstyle of the entire draft. There’s a level of safety and projectability in every one of his strengths and while weaknesses do exist, they aren’t anything significant enough to reasonably predict Wright struggling in the NHL. The floor here is a low level second line center, and some may wince reading that knowing this is a first overall pick who is supposed to alter a franchise. 

Make no mistake, Wright has that potential on the same level that guys like Juraj Slafkovský and Logan Cooley do as well, it just doesn’t show up on the highlight reel in as pretty a fashion. We may never truly know how much his development was impacted by the OHL shut down last year, but it is safe to infer that Wright’s scoring numbers suffered as a result. There’s a world where that shutdown doesn’t happen and Wright continuously builds momentum all the way to this very week with much higher scoring totals, ending the debate before it even has a chance to begin. Considering the upside and the level of safety, the No. 1 pick is a no brainer even if he doesn’t end up as the best player in the class.

2. New Jersey Devils (Brock Otten) – Juraj Slafkovský, LW, TPS (Liiga)

There are just so many options for what happens with this pick. Do the Devils deal it for some form of immediate help as speculated? Who goes first and what kind of impact does that have on this selection? In this mock, Wright goes first so the Devils take Slafkovský second. Slaf is the draft’s most NHL ready prospect thanks to his size, speed, and skill combination. What he has been able to do playing against high caliber competition at the Olympics and at the World Championships is mighty impressive. Sure New Jersey may be looking to deal this pick, but the irony of that is that Slafkovský might just be an ideal fit to play alongside the Devils’ group of talented, but undersized centers.

3. Arizona Coyotes (Will Scouch) – Logan Cooley, C, USN U18 (USNTDP)

This one’s pretty easy to me. Arizona needs, well, everything. Cooley has an excellent combination of skill, creativity, dynamic pace and impressive offense tools and if Arizona can draft other skilled, high pace players who can finish and chip in defensively a bit on Cooley’s wing, he could be one of the most productive players in the draft. One of the most efficient offensive transition players I’ve tracked with a heck of a playmaking mind, Cooley is a great building block to get the Coyotes pointed in the right direction with an exciting streak to his game putting bums in seats.

4. Seattle Kraken (Brock Otten) – David Jiříček, D, HC Plzeň (Cze)

Seems fairly likely that the Kraken look for a defender to build their team around here. You have Jiříček, Nemec, Mintyukov, and even Kevin Korchinski (in their backyard) available. Something tells me that Ron Francis and his director of scouting Robert Kron (a fellow Czech) might favor Jiříček and his two-way upside. He finished the year fairly strong after returning from a knee injury and he may offer the largest boom potential of any defender available this year.

[For more coverage of top prospects and the 2022 NHL Draft, follow McKeen’s Hockey on Twitter]

5. Philadelphia Flyers (Robert Howard) – Šimon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Svk)

The Flyers will be sorely tempted by Cutter Gauthier here as a fixture at center ice in the future, however, they could use depth at all positions. The most recent rumblings out of the organization are more about adding pieces to win now and perhaps short-term needs will outweigh future options. Nemec may represent the best player available at this point, and a potential future cornerstone on defense with solid two-way play and considerable upside on offense. Playing against men in Slovakia’s pro league for a second season, he scored 26 points in 39 games and set a league record for scoring by a defenseman in the playoffs. He could be making an important contribution on the back end within a couple of seasons. 

Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Chicago) (Brock Otten) – Cutter Gauthier, LW/C, USN U18 (USNTDP)

There is some talk that Gauthier might not be available even this late, but if he is, I think the Jackets make him their selection. There may be a pull towards drafting a defender here who can help quarterback the powerplay (like Korchinski or Mintyukov), however Gauthier looks like an ideal pro. His game is tailored to having a long and impactful NHL career thanks to a well-rounded skill set. He is one of the better goal scorers available this year and his off-puck play is strong. The jury is still out on whether he can play down the middle, but if you are drafting him this early, you envision that. 

7. Ottawa Senators (Sam McGilligan) – Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK (SHL)

Kasper has been an interesting player to see ascend up the boards of draft scouts. The reason for his rise is simple — he just spent an entire season playing projectable, professional hockey in Sweden and continuously improved all year long. Not only do his strengths carry over to a smaller ice surface, some think he may even benefit from the change. Where Kasper starts to lose some scouts is his level of upside. Some believe he’s already in the final stages of his development and anything that’s left is simply polishing his play to the level that the NHL demands, leaving him likely to be a middle six center at best. Others are more confident in his upside and believe there’s another level Kasper can bring his game to. The latter would take him this early, and that’s exactly the type of drafting the Senators have been known for in recent years. Kasper joins the line of safe players with reasonable upside that the development team believes might take a step forward. If Kasper slips past Ottawa, I don’t think it takes much longer for him to end up selected this year. 

8. Detroit Red Wings (Brock Otten) – Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw (OHL)

I have a feeling that the Wings have their eye on one of Gauthier or Kasper, but with both gone, they turn their attention to a player right in their backyard. The Saginaw Spirit and Red Wings have had a long-standing relationship and there is no doubt that they have a ton of intel on Mintyukov. His offensive upside is through the roof due to his creativity and playmaking abilities. The defensive game needs refinement, but he is a moldable player who could look terrific beside Moritz Seider in the future.

9. Buffalo Sabres (Will Scouch) – Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)

This one is just all about upside. Savoie at ninth seems like great value, and while there may be some questions about his likelihood of hitting his production potential due to a lack of separation speed, but to me, that’s just one glaring hole in an otherwise excellent talent profile. He’s one of the most agile and daring players available in the draft, showing me an ability to create plays as well as generate chances for himself over the season. He’s exciting, could play center or wing, and would provide a great offensive boost to the Sabres’ future to complement the more well-rounded forwards they drafted in 2021. Savoie’s defensive game is underrated as well, so I get the feeling that patching his game up here and there while encouraging him to remain creative could do wonders for him.

10. Anaheim Ducks (Brock Otten) – Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)

At this spot in the draft, I see the Ducks targeting one of the many quality goal scoring wingers available this year. The thing that likely draws them to Kemell (even if the Ducks haven’t drafted a ton out of Finland in recent years) is that he’s fairly competitive. Despite a lack of size, he works hard to get to the middle of the ice and his shot is among the best in the draft. How good would Kemell look alongside Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish in the future? 

11. San Jose Sharks (Rob Howard) – Jonathan Lekkerimäki, RW, Djurgårdens (SWE J20)

The Sharks were encouraged by the progress of last year’s first round pick in William Eklund from Djurgårdens and hope to see him graduate as soon as this season. For this reason, they were thrilled when one of the best, natural goal scorers in the draft, and Eklund’s teammate, is available in Lekkerimäki at 11. He is young, just turning 18 in July, and needs to add strength but has not shied away from traffic in the Swedish men’s league. He brings the unteachable instincts of a goal scorer, along with the best shot in the draft. He and Eklund will be formidable on the power play in time.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets (Brock Otten) – Kevin Korchinski, D, Seattle (WHL)

Getting Korchinski this late would be great value for the Jackets after taking Gauthier earlier at sixth. One of the draft’s biggest risers over the course of the year, Korchinski is a terrific puck mover and powerplay quarterback. There are some concerns over his decision making and defensive play, but his improvement over the course of the season was encouraging. Plus, it is rare to get a high-end puck mover with his size and athleticism.

nhl mock draft
Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

13. New York Islanders (Sam McGilligan) – Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)

Geekie is an enigmatic center to say the least. His draft range is monstrous, stretching from a possible top ten pick to a late first. This monstrous range exists because there is such a wide spectrum of outcomes with Geekie, with a fringe bottom six physical presence on one end and a polished top six monster with skill and size on the other. While he may not be there yet, a team that trusts their developmental program to create such a nuisance will show no hesitation to selecting Geekie in the top half of the draft. The Islanders match that description as best as anyone left on the board does. 

14. Winnipeg Jets (Brock Otten) – Danila Yurov, RW, Stalnye Lisy (MHL)

Someone is going to do it. Even with the recent (and horrific) news surrounding Flyers’ prospect Ilya Fedotov. If Yurov is still available, I like him for the Jets. A) They have shown little fear of selecting high end Russian prospects in recent years. B) This is a team about to hit a crossroads between rebuilding and remaining competitive. They really need to hit a home run and Yurov is a top five talent this year when you eliminate politics. Taking a chance on him makes sense.

15. Vancouver Canucks (Will Scouch) – Brad Lambert, C, JYP-Pelicans (Liiga)

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Lambert’s potential. I’ve heard many people come and tell me he’s the next Andreas Athanasiou, but I get the feeling Lambert would have smashed Athanasiou’s OHL production in his draft year had he played in the WHL this year, and even if that’s his potential, an offensive, speedy forward putting up 40-50 points a season consistently coming out of the middle of the first round doesn’t sound that terrible to me. Lambert’s speed is utilized at times defensively that I’d love to see more, and Vancouver is just swinging for upside here. Nobody combines skill and speed better, and nobody had as unlucky and mystifying a season as Lambert. Against junior competition, the points flowed. Against men, he tried, but in my viewings had very little to work with. There are improvements to be made, but if I’m Vancouver, I’m taking advantage of everyone overcorrecting on Lambert and moving the team in a more exciting, high upside direction.

16. Buffalo Sabres (via Vegas) (Brock Otten) – Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Where Mateychuk goes at the draft is one of the draft’s biggest mysteries. His rankings are all over the map and are likely to be among NHL organizations too. It comes down to whether you think he can defend at the NHL level, because there is no question that his offensive abilities should translate well. With a few strong defensive prospects and young defenders in the system already, Buffalo can afford to take a chance here on someone we feel (at McKeen’s) has among the highest upside of any defender available.

17. Nashville Predators (Rob Howard) – Noah Östlund, C, Djurgardens (SWE J20)

An aging defense core might suggest they are looking at defense, but with Mateychuk and Korchinski off the board, they look to add some creativity to the forward group, targeting a player with significant upside. Östlund has been climbing draft boards rapidly, progressing consistently throughout the season. His outstanding performance at the U18 World Championship with 10 points in six games demonstrated some ability to rise to the occasion at big events. A very intelligent playmaker and offensive creator, there are not many players with as solid a skill set, combining elite vision with clever stickhandling, precise passing and a gift for finding opportunities. Size registers as a concern, and his ability to handle the physical game at a higher level, but the home run potential at this stage of the draft is just too tempting to pass up. 

18. Dallas Stars (Brock Otten) – Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylya (VHL)

Talk about draft wild cards. Miroshnichenko is the ultimate one. You have the Russian factor. You have his cancer diagnosis (which looks incredibly encouraging, thankfully). You have his mysterious VISA issues in regard to entering the United States and Canada. However, you also have a big, power, goal scoring winger with good wheels who is a top ten talent this year. If there is a team positioned to take a chance on a Russian player, it is the Stars. This organization has drafted unbelievably well in recent years and now find themselves swimming in quality forward prospects. Denis Gurianov hasn’t really worked out quite as well as they may have anticipated, but I don’t think that can completely sour you on Miroshnichenko if you think he is going to be a high-end NHL player.

19. Minnesota Wild (via Los Angeles) (Sam McGilligan) – Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens (SWE J20)

Öhgren is one of my favourite players in the draft, one that is likely to go higher in the draft than Bob McKenzie’s final list would indicate. This Swedish winger tore up the Swedish J20 last year at an absurd pace while also playing SHL games and demonstrating his ability to translate his game to a professional environment. What makes Öhgren one of the best value picks this late in the draft is how reliable his projection to the NHL is — he’s almost certainly a lock to play in the show and do so in a third line capacity at least. But there’s real top six possibility here that I’m willing to bet he reaches due to how detailed his ability to find space is and how well he deceptively executes plays that benefit the whole team from within this space. Öhgren is a real 5v5 phenom that contenders want in their top six, and he’s one of the easiest picks you can make in this range with a smile on your face.

20. Washington Capitals (Brock Otten) – Nathan Gaucher, C, Québec (QMJHL)

I mocked this same selection in an earlier mock for NBC and I’ve seen it in others too. I think it makes a lot of sense. The Caps have been heavily invested in scouting the Q in recent years. They also have seen teams beat them with Gaucher type players occupying a spot through the middle of their lineup. This is the ideal pro player for today’s playoffs. Gaucher is big, physical, intelligent, and quick. He could be the perfect lockdown third line center for them…and he could move quickly through the system too.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins (Will Scouch) – Frank Nazar, C, USN U18 (USNTDP)

How did Nazar fall all the way to 21 here? Sheesh. Nazar may not be huge, and he may want to play a game bigger than he is, but size just does not scare me nearly as much. Nazar is a great straight-line skater, one of the fastest blueline to blueline that I tracked of high end talents this year, with excellent individual chance generation offensively. I’d like to see a bit more intensity and physical strength away from the puck, but Nazar plays a strong offensive grinder’s game and with crossover/agility improvements, you could unlock a ton of potential from Nazar over time. Pittsburgh just takes the swing on the guy many rightfully have ranked much higher than this, and I get the feeling his brand of play would go over just fine with Penguins fans.

nhl mock draft
Kevin Hoffman/NHLI via Getty Images

22. Anaheim Ducks (via Boston) (Brock Otten) – Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands (SHL)

While I’m a little skeptical of Bichsel’s upside, it seems almost certain that someone will take a chance on him early. The puck skill is a work in progress, but the defensive game shows massive potential thanks to his size, athleticism, and physicality combination. I could see the Ducks favoring someone like Ryan Chesley more here, but something tells me that Bichsel’s bigger frame might appeal to them as they look for future defensive partners for guys like Jamie Drysdale and Olen Zellweger.

23. St. Louis Blues (Rob Howard) – Jiří Kulich, C, Karlovy Vary (Cze)

Another player who significantly enhanced his draft stock at the U18 World Championship earning tournament MVP while scoring with nine goals and 11 points in six games. A goal scorer who fits St. Louis’s style. He is tenacious and aggressive and plays with pace, hustling for loose pucks, working along the boards and can be difficult to separate from the puck. He can play center or wing and is solidly built and makes for a projectable pick with a reasonable floor, but also the ability to find the back of the net. Goal scorers are always a welcome addition, and he will fit well on an attack with Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Jake Neighbours for years to come. 

24. Minnesota Wild (Brock Otten) – Isaac Howard, LW, USN U18 (USDP)

Lots of connections here. Howard has played his minor hockey in Minnesota. He is attending Minnesota-Duluth. Best of all, his skill set as an intelligent and creative complementary winger fits in really well with what they currently have in the cupboard. Between him and Öhgren (who they took earlier), the Wild really cover their bases in regard to high IQ future top six wingers. 

25. Toronto Maple Leafs (Will Scouch) – Lane Hutson, D, USN U18 (USNTDP)

I’ll never ever doubt Kyle Dubas’ scouting team again after pulling a rabbit out of their hat last summer in Matt Knies, who I was and continue to be extremely perplexed by, so I have no idea where Toronto actually goes here, and part of me thought “draft a forward” here, but I also never recommend drafting on current need, especially at 25. Hutson has enormous potential waiting to be unlocked by more powerful skating to generate speed and escape pressure better. The shiftiness, creativity, deception and skill are basically unmatched this year, and his improvement on paper in my work over the season is impossible to ignore. Similar to Savoie, there are some glaring holes, but patching those holes could give Toronto a clear offensive threat off the blueline that they haven’t really had outside of Morgan Rielly, and when Hutson likely hits NHL ice, Rielly will likely be at the tail end of his best years.

nhl mock draft
Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

26. Montreal Canadiens (via Calgary) (Brock Otten) – Rutger McGroarty, LW, USN U18 (USNTDP)

If the Canadiens do take Wright first over Slafkovský, it seems only fitting that they target a player like McGroarty with their other first round selection. Sure, the footspeed is an issue. However, the rest of his game is extremely well rounded. This is one of the smartest players available this year. A true power forward who can play in any situation, McGroarty should become a fan favourite in Montreal. 

27. Arizona Coyotes (via Carolina) (Sam McGilligan) – Ryan Chesley, D, USN U18 (USNTDP)

Chesley is the type of defenseman that NHL teams don’t let slip out of the first round often. He’s a physical entity that offers a legitimate defensive presence at the NHL level beyond that of your average third pairing guy. It’s not just securing his own zone that makes Chesley a first-round draw — he certainly has some offensive upside as well that can be developed and nurtured over the next few years due to an underrated passing game and a solid set of hands. Considering the surplus of picks that Arizona has in this draft and the sheer volume of high upside swings they can take after this pick, I say being able to convert a late first round pick into a stable, reliable mid-tier defender that you have cost control over for a few years is a win.

28. Buffalo Sabres (via Florida) (Brock Otten) – Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current (WHL)

When you have three first round picks, you can take some chances. Insert Pickering. He has one of the most intriguing skill sets of any defender available this year thanks to an extremely late (and massive) growth spurt. He flashes some really excellent skills at both ends of the ice, but consistency is an issue at this point in time. Once he matures physically and fills out, could Pickering be a two-way monster? Between him and Mateychuk, the Sabres should at least get one high end NHL defender. 

29. Edmonton Oilers (Will Scouch) – Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern (HE)

Edmonton perplexes me with their draft strategy under Ken Holland, but they gravitate towards a few NCAA names here and there with well-rounded skillsets, even if they don’t excel in certain areas. I think people are a little low on Hughes, even if I have him ranked a bit later. The production wasn’t quite there, but I love the skill and pace in Hughes’ game. He’s a good two-way force up the middle who could also slot in on the wing if need be. There’s offensive upside with the creativity he displayed in flashes but getting stronger to get to more dangerous space and trusting his skill and agility to create passing lanes a bit better could significantly help him drive better results.

30. Winnipeg Jets (via NYR) (Brock Otten) – Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USN U18 (USNTDP)

Snuggerud is one of those guys that NHL scouts are bound to like more than independent, amateur ones simply because his game lacks flash, but is tailored to playing at the pro level. A high-level thinker, Snuggerud is terrific off the puck and he has improved tremendously on the puck over the last year with the USNTDP. His skating has also come a long way…but will need to come further. It is easy to see Snuggerud as a middle-six fixture in the future. After taking a risk with Yurov, the Jets find safety in the selection of Snuggerud.

31. Tampa Bay Lightning (Rob Howard) – Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Winning two Stanley Cups and advancing to the final in a third year will have an impact on the prospect cupboard as picks are used as currency for immediate roster needs. Picking in the first round for the first time since 2019, and without a first pick in 2022 and 2023, they need to make this one count. They do not pick again until the fourth round, making Firkus a perfect fit here with tremendous offensive upside that with the right development can be right up there with most in this draft class. One of the leading U18 scorers in the entire CHL, he brings a well-rounded offensive skill set as an equally adept goal scorer and playmaker. McKeen’s ranked him at No. 20, and he may fall in the draft because he is undersized. Tampa has made the most of that type of prospect in the past and will maximize his sizable talent. 

32. Arizona Coyotes (via Colorado) (Brock Otten) – Filip Mešár, C, HK Poprad (Svk)

The Coyotes have so many selections for this draft. It really is absurd. It will be a monumental and critical day for the franchise. With three first round picks and a bunch of early seconds, you know they will take some chances on high upside guys. Fortunately, at this spot, Mešár is both a high upside guy and someone many would consider the best player available. The Slovak winger loves to push the pace of play and is a skilled transitional attacker. How the rest of his game comes together remains to be seen. However, this is a nice gamble for Arizona to close out the first round.

If you’re looking for more prospect or fantasy hockey information, NBC Sports Edge is a great resource.

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Andreescu earns thrilling 1st-round win over Kasatkina at National Bank Open in Toronto – CBC Sports

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Bianca Andreescu feels as though she has found her fighting spirit after a tough, but thrilling 2 1/2 hour two-set victory on Tuesday.

The Mississauga, Ont., native defeated world No. 9 Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (5), 6-4 in her opening round match at the National Bank Open.

“A win is a win no matter how you pull it off and today really showed me a lot about myself and how I can push through these things if I really want it,” Andreescu said.

“It just shows that fighting spirit that I still have in me. I want to continue building on that.”

WATCH l Andreescu advances to 2nd round:

Bianca Andreescu digs deep, wins opening round match at National Bank Open

8 hours ago

Duration 3:20

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu defeated Russian Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (5), 6-4 Tuesday in Toronto at the National Bank Open.

The win didn’t come without difficulty though.

On a number of occasions, Andreescu was in discussion with her trainers and seemed to be breathing heavy at different points of the match.

But the 22-year-old insisted she felt much better post-match.

“I’m feeling much better. I felt really dizzy, I had no idea what it was,” she said. “Maybe something that I ate or all the stress leading up to the tournament, I have no idea. I’m super happy that I was able to clutch it out.”

Asked if she thought of retiring from the match, Andreescu was adamant about not wanting to.

“I did not want to at all. There was one moment where I was a bit afraid that I couldn’t [continue] but it’s not like I had that thought in my head where I wanted to quit. I really couldn’t today, something came upon me even though I was feeling like absolute crap,” she said.

“Especially during the tiebreaker, I hit a shot and I was seeing double almost. That was kind of the point where I didn’t feel the best. But the crowd, they really pushed me to continue.”

Bianca Andreescu returns a ball to Daria Kasatkina during their first-round match in Toronto on Tuesday. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Andreescu, who won the event in 2019 in Toronto, was sharp and active early, making comebacks within games she later won. She also went 3-for-3 on break points through the first five games.

Up 3-2, she mixed up her shots, using forehands, backhands and drop shots, making Kasatkina work. A Kasatkina error allowed Andreescu to have some breathing room with a 4-2 lead.

“Changing it up with my drop shot — I feel like I brought it out more today than (these) past four months,” Andreescu said. “I’m very happy with that.”

After Kasatkina eventually tied the set at 6-6, Andreescu scored six out the final eight points in the tiebreaker to win the set, punctuated by a powerful forehand. The set took 85 minutes to play.

In the second set, Andreescu jumped out to a strong start, outlasting Kasatkina through multiple lengthy exchanges as the Russian committed multiple errors, sending shots into the net.

Andreescu again began to mix it up between drop shots and forehands that Kasatkina struggled to return with accuracy at times, as the Canadian grabbed a 2-0 lead.

After Kasatkina took the next three sets, Andreescu followed with three straight wins of her own, finishing with a forehand winner that had her opponent visibly upset.

With the home crowd behind her, Andreescu went up 40-0 in the clinching game before committing two errors. She then used another drop shot that Kasatkina could not run down to close the match.

She immediately raised her hands as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Andreescu will play against Alize Cornet of France in the second round, a player she hasn’t defeated in two career outings.

Eyeing her revenge against Cornet, Andreescu feels more confident in her chances after beating Kasatkina.

“It definitely gives me confidence for the next match. Alize kind of plays like Daria a little bit in a way — more consistent and all that,” she said. “So having this match under my belt and going into tomorrow against Alize definitely gives me confidence.”

In women’s doubles, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez won her opening match alongside younger sister, Bianca Jolie. The duo topped Belgium’s Kirsen Flipkens and Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-1.

Shapovalov, Pospisil eliminated

An opening double-fault. Two wayward backhands. Another mistake on match ball.

Denis Shapovalov’s rain-suspended match was over shortly after it resumed Tuesday afternoon as he dropped a 7-5, 7-6 (4) decision to Australia’s Alex de Minaur at the National Bank Open men’s tournament in Montreal.

The players were in a tight battle a night earlier but rain forced a postponement with the tiebreaker tied at three. Shapovalov was hoping to force a decisive third set but instead was eliminated after just a few minutes on court.

“I haven’t had this exact experience before so it was tricky,” Shapovalov said.

WATCH | Shapovalov labours in straight-sets loss:

Denis Shapovalov’s struggles continue at National Bank Open

13 hours ago

Duration 0:38

Alex de Minaur of Australia won his rain-suspended opening match at the National Bank Open in Montreal, defeating Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., 7-5, 7-6(4). It’s Shapovalov’s ninth loss in his last 10 matches.

The result capped a tough day for the Canadians in the 56-player singles draw. Vasek Pospisil dropped a 6-4, 6-4 decision to American Tommy Paul and 15th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov posted a 6-4, 7-5 win over Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que.

That left sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal as the last Canadian remaining in singles play. He had a first-round bye and will likely play his opening match Wednesday.

Groans could be heard at last Friday’s draw ceremony when de Minaur’s name was called out as Shapovalov’s first opponent.

At No. 21, de Minaur is one spot ahead of Shapovalov in the world rankings. The five-time winner on the ATP Tour had also beaten the Canadian in both previous meetings at the pro level.

De Minaur wasn’t fazed by Shapovalov’s power game during the match and was able to handle the left-hander’s wide serves. Tremendous retrieving skills helped blunt the Canadian’s aggressiveness and led to some mistakes.

“I think I did a lot of good things yesterday, I was playing some great points,” Shapovalov said. “I felt like I was starting to get some momentum in the match. I thought I was dictating and playing some good-level tennis.”

Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., has recorded just one win since beating Rafael Nadal last May in Rome.

In men’s doubles, Shapovalov and Russian partner Karen Khachanov lost a tough three-match set in 86 minutes to Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-6.

Pospisil, meanwhile, had three break points in the final game of the opening set but was unable to convert. Paul went on to complete the victory in one hour 25 minutes.

“[It] just wasn’t one of my best matches for sure,” Pospisil said. “Tommy played his match. He didn’t play anything that was so exceptional that I couldn’t have given myself a better look. But yeah, wasn’t the best of matches. Had good moments, but not consistent.”

WATCH | Pospisil loses in straight sets: 

Vasek Pospisil ousted in National Bank Open 1st round

16 hours ago

Duration 2:15

Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C. lost to American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round of the National Bank Open in Montreal.

The native of Vernon, B.C., is entered in the doubles draw with Italy’s Jannik Sinner. Calgary native Cleeve Harper and Liam Draxl of Newmarket, Ont., are the other Canadians in the doubles field.

The start of Tuesday’s opening session was delayed about 90 minutes due to wet weather. Another rain delay forced a 20-minute pause in the afternoon.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who was victorious last week in Washington, beat Argentina’s Sebastian Baez 6-4, 6-4 to set up an intriguing second-round matchup with top-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

Marin Cilic, the No. 13 seed, defeated fellow Croatian Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2. Other seeded players to advance were No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and No. 17 Gael Monfils of France.

The lone upset in afternoon play saw Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta surprise 11th-seeded Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2. 

British wild-card Andy Murray, who was ranked world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals for 41 straight weeks in 2016, couldn’t find that old magic against 10th-seeded Taylor Fritz of San Diego in the feature evening match.

Fritz made quick work of the 35-year-old Murray, winning 6-1, 6-3.

The US$6.57-million tournament continues through Sunday.

WATCH | Galarneau loses to Bulgaria’s Dimitrov:

Laval’s Alexis Galarneau falls in Masters 1000 debut at National Bank Open

14 hours ago

Duration 2:44

Making his Masters 1000 debut, Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., lost to Grigor Dmitrov of Bulgaria 6-4, 7-5 in the opening round of the National Bank Open in Montreal.

Marino ousted

Canada’s Rebecca Marino lost 6-3, 6-7 (5), 4-6 to China’s Zheng Qinwen in her opening-round match on Tuesday.

The Vancouver native entered the tournament coming off a quarterfinal appearance at the Citi Open, where she fell to Daria Saville of Australia.

Marino, who made it into the WTA top 100 rankings for the first time since 2012 and is currently No. 96, got rolling early as she took the first set with relative ease.

WATCH | Marino bounced in 1st round: 

Rebecca Marino bounced in opening round of National Bank Open

16 hours ago

Duration 2:00

Despite claiming the first set, Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino fell to China’s Qinwen Zheng 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the first round of the National Bank Open in Toronto.

Marino overcame a strong start from Zheng in the second set, but had trouble with unforced errors in the tiebreaker.

The Canadian went up 4-3 in the final set before losing the final three games.

Marino fired 12 aces to Zheng’s 10 and was a perfect 2 for 2 on break points in the loss.

The 19-year-old Zheng, ranked 51st, will next play fifth-ranked Ons Jabeur in the second round.

Fellow Canadian Carol Zhao also dropped her first match, 6-1, 6-3 to American Amanda Anisimova.

Osaka’s struggles continue

Naomi Osaka’s recent struggles continued Tuesday with an early exit in Toronto.

The four-time Grand Slam champion retired from her first-round match with a back injury. Osaka was losing 7-6 (4), 3-0 against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi when she withdrew from the contest.

“I felt my back from the start of the match, and despite trying to push through it, I just wasn’t able to today,” Osaka said in a written statement. “I’d like to pay credit to Kaia for playing well and want to wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament.”

Entering the tournament, Osaka had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round, including a straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

That was her first competition since the French Open as she recovered from an Achilles injury.

Prior to that run, she had her best tournament of the year making it to the final of the Miami Open in early April before losing to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

The 31st-ranked Kanepi will next play No. 8 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

Another successful young star had an early exit Tuesday when ninth seed Toronto-born player Emma Raducanu of Great Britain lost 7-6 (0), 6-2 to Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

Other women’s winners Tuesday included Shuai Zhang of China, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain and Elise Mertens of Belgium.

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Judge rules three LIV players will not be permitted to join FedEx Cup playoffs – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour has reached the first of what will surely be many courtrooms.

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman heard arguments from attorneys representing both the PGA Tour and a consortium of eleven LIV-affiliated players on Tuesday afternoon. Three LIV players — Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones — were seeking a temporary restraining order that would permit them to compete in this week’s tournament, the first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

However, after a two-hour hearing, Judge Freeman ruled that the players had not proven that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if they were not permitted to play. She also indicated that the players were fully aware of the potential consequences of joining LIV when they did earlier this summer, and that they had earned a substantial amount of purse revenue as a result of their decision to play on the LIV tour. Accordingly, the LIV players will not be in the field this week or the rest of the PGA Tour playoffs.

The players’ temporary restraining order was only one part of a much larger lawsuit that the LIV players, led by Phil Mickelson, have brought against the Tour on antitrust grounds. That suit charges that the PGA Tour has engaged in anticompetitive behavior and coerced other entities in the golf world — the four majors, various vendors, courses — to shun LIV and its players. The Tour has responded that it is protecting the interests of its members — the players — by keeping walls high against players from competing tours seeking to, in the Tour’s oft-repeated words, “have their cake and eat it too.”

While Tuesday’s hearing focused primarily on the narrow issue of the three players’ eligibility to play in the Tour’s playoffs — an event for which they’d already qualified prior to leaving for LIV — both the LIV players’ attorneys and the Tour’s attorneys previewed the arguments that will be at play in the coming months.

Judge Freeman seemed to take issue with the breadth of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s power to suspend and otherwise control the destiny of players on the Tour. On the other hand, she raised significant doubts about the level of antitrust violation at work here, given how successful LIV has been in attracting and retaining some of the biggest names in the sport. Five of the 10 most popular players on Tour, according to the Tour’s own metrics, have now joined forces with LIV.

Some significant revelations also surfaced during the hearing, the most significant of which concerns the way at least some LIV players are paid. According to the players’ own attorney, at least some LIV players have their tournament winnings deducted from their upfront payment — which, in effect, works like an advance rather than as an actual, discrete payment. So under that arrangement, a player who hypothetically received $10 million to play for LIV would need to earn $10 million in tournament purses before earning additional money on the LIV tour. That’s a significant and substantial difference from the way that PGA Tour players are paid.

The FedEx St. Jude Classic, the first of the three-event FedEx Cup playoffs, starts Thursday. The next LIV Golf event is scheduled for early September in Boston.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Hudson Swafford is one of three LIV Golf players seeking to compete in this week's FedEx Cup playoffs. (Joe Maher/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

Hudson Swafford is one of three LIV Golf players seeking to compete in this week’s FedEx Cup playoffs. (Joe Maher/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

_____

Contact Jay Busbee at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

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What you need to know ahead of the restaged 2022 World Junior Championships – ESPN

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The World Junior Championship is a holiday hockey tradition like no other.

This year is an exception.

The tournament is still coming your way during peak vacation time, only now it’s happening mid-summer, rather than post-Christmas. Confused? Let’s recap.

The 2022 WJC was set to be played as usual last December. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the location was moved to Edmonton, Alberta, under restrictive “bubble” conditions. The International Ice Hockey Federation hoped strict protocols would allow the event to go off as scheduled. Spoiler: It did not.

Four days in, the IIHF was forced to call things off after the United States, Czechia and Russia each forfeited preliminary round games because of mounting COVID cases through their ranks. The IIHF didn’t know at the time whether the tournament could be rescheduled.

In April, a new plan was announced. The IIHF said it would restage the 2022 iteration of its event from Aug. 9-20 in Edmonton. The results from games that were played last December would be thrown out. Players born in 2002 or later would retain their eligibility to participate. And so, here we are.

When preliminary action begins (again), all eyes will of course be on the tournament’s perennial favorites from the U.S. and Canada. Those countries highlight two groups of participating nations: Group A has the U.S., Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, while Group B is Canada, Czechia, Finland, Latvia and Slovakia.

Austria retained its place in a top division despite finishing in 10th place last year. Normally, it would have faced relegation, but the cancellation of various U20 tournaments altered regulations and they remain in the mix.

The top four teams from each group will play in the quarterfinals, starting on Aug. 17. That will be followed by the semifinals on Aug. 19, and the gold and bronze medal games on Aug. 20.

Before things get rolling, we’re checking in on some of the major storylines and more intriguing players populating this year’s tournament. As hockey fans know, there is no comparison for the drama the World Juniors can bring. (Editor’s note: A version of this story was posted in December ahead of the initial start of the tournament. This has been updated to account for what has changed between then and now)

Can Team USA go back-to-back?

Spencer Knight made 34 saves and Trevor Zegras recorded two points when Team USA shut out Team Canada 2-0 to win gold at the 2021 World Juniors tournament.

That marked the fifth WJC title for Team USA, along with victories in 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2017. What the U.S. has never accomplished is winning gold in consecutive years. And there’s no time like the present to give it another shot.

Head coach Neal Leaman will be behind the bench again this year, after guiding Team USA to gold in 2021. Leaman has been the men’s coach at Providence College for 11 seasons and won an NCAA title in 2015.

Team USA has four skaters returning from that championship-winning roster in 2021 in Brock Faber, Landon Slaggert, Brett Berard and Tyler Kleven, and retained 17 of the 25 players who were originally slated to be in the December tournament.

Standing prominently in the U.S.’s way of a repeat will be Team Canada, although they’ve suffered significant losses to their numbers from before. Nine players from Canada’s December roster aren’t returning this time around, including Owen Power and Kaiden Guhle. However, Canada does boast impressive goaltending depth highlighted by the Canadian Hockey League’s goalie of the year, Dylan Garand.

Canada was also the last team to win consecutive WJC titles, earning five straight gold medals from 2005 to 2009. Will the U.S. be next to go back-to-back?

Can Connor Bedard dominate — again?

Technically, the last 16-year-old to play for Canada in the World Juniors was some guy named Connor McDavid.

In December, another Connor followed in McDavid’s footsteps — and the (then) 16-year-old Connor Bedard was off to a great start. Bedard entered Canada’s winter selection camp with an outside shot at being the team’s 13th forward. He made the final roster and proceeded to become the youngest player in tournament history to score four goals in a game during Canada’s preliminary round rout of Austria. One day later, the IIHF shut the championship down.

Bedard returned then to the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats and produced an electrifying 76 points in 38 games.

It’s no wonder then that Bedard enters this tournament re-do not only on Canada’s top line with Mason McTavish, but as the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron said the three months of playing time that elapsed for Bedard between one championship and the next made a “huge” impact on his overall game. The center agrees, telling reporters this week he felt improved from the second half of last season, particularly when it comes to his face-off percentage. Bedard will be angling to show off those advancements on an international stage.

There’s no reason to doubt he can. Bedard has long been an overachiever, like when he became the first player in WHL history to be granted exceptional status to join the Pats as a 15-year-old. So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Bedard came to last winter’s camp and was Canada’s leading scorer through exhibition play with two goals and four assists.

Even still, Bedard wasn’t projected to play a huge role for Canada. That’s changed quickly. Expectations are now sky-high for what Bedard can produce on a squad hungry to get back on top.

Same goes for the USA’s Logan Cooley. He was part of the team’s original WJC roster, tallying an assist in one preliminary round game before the COVID shutdown. Leman thought Cooley made great plays in that match against Slovakia and expected he’d rely on Cooley more from there.

That should be especially true now, given all that’s happened for Cooley since. He returned to the US National Team Development Program and had a terrific year with the U-18 squad, collecting 75 points in 51 games. That translated to Cooley being drafted third overall by Arizona in last month’s NHL Entry Draft. Confidence boost? You bet.

Cooley wants to go pro quickly but is committed to play at Minnesota next season. The World Juniors should be an ideal segue into his freshman year. The Pittsburgh native is a highly skilled center who can take on a top-six role for the USA and be toe-to-toe with Bedard and other elite skaters in this tournament.

Where’s Russia?

This is the first time ever that a World Junior championship won’t include Team Russia.

They’ve been involved since the tournament’s outset in 1974 and claim the most medals (37) of any participating nation. Russia was also part of the championship taking place in December. But in February, the IIHF ruled all teams from Russia and Belarus were suspended from competing in any IIHF-sanctioned events. The verdict was made amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of the Ukraine.

“The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine,” IIHF President Luc Tardif said in a statement at the time. “We nevertheless have a duty of care to all of our members and participants and must therefore do all we can to ensure that we are able to operate our events in a safe environment for all teams taking part in the IIHF World Championship program.”

So, with Russia out, Latvia is now in. This will be Latvia’s first appearance in the tournament since 2017, and its seventh trip overall. Latvia earned its spot by placing second in the tournament’s Division 1A competition in December. Belarus finished first and would normally take Russia’s spot in this instance, but Belarus is also banned.

Will new faces emerge?

All players from the tournament in December could have returned for this summer showcase. Naturally not all of them will be, requiring some reinforcements on just about every roster.

Say hello to (a few of) the new guys.

William Dufour, F (Canada)

Dufour didn’t made Team Canada the first time he tried out. But that was then. The New York Islanders’ prospect put together a tremendous 2022 season with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, leading the league in goals (56) and finishing second in points (116). It was good enough to earn Dufour the QMJHL’s Michel-Briere trophy as league MVP — and he didn’t stop there. Dufour earned another MVP title when he led the Sea Dogs to a Memorial Cup championship this spring, tallying the most goals (7) and points (8) in the tournament. Dufour has the goal-scoring prowess that Canada needs and should be a lock for big minutes at even-strength and on the power play.

Sean Behrens, D (USA)

Technically, Behrens isn’t totally new here. He did make Team USA’s roster in December but couldn’t travel to the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. The defenseman has another crack at playing now and will be coming into this championship on a high. The Colorado prospect just wrapped up a sensational freshman season at the University of Denver, producing 29 points in 37 games and helping guide the Pioneers to a national title. Behrens is a talented overall skater with great puck-moving ability that will make him especially fun to watch in Edmonton.

Thomas Bordeleau, C (USA)

This opportunity has been a long time coming for Bordeleau. He was supposed to play for Team USA in both 2021 and last winter but was thwarted by COVID-19 protocols on both occasions. The 20-year-old did get to play a small role for the U.S. during the men’s World Championship this year. He should have a bigger role at the Juniors. Bordeleau projects to be a top-six center, using his creativity and high-end skill set to generate plenty of offense for the U.S. A San Jose Sharks draft pick, Bordeleau signed his entry-level contract with the team at the end of last season.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki, F (Sweden)

Keep an eye out for this Vancouver Canucks draftee. Lekkerimaki has had a great international season for Sweden already, notching a tournament-high 15 points in the U18 World Championship (where he won gold) and five goals at the Hlinka tournament. Add to that a seven-goal performance back in the Swedish Hockey League and there is little surprise the 18-year-old is generating some big buzz — and expectations — about how he’ll help lead Sweden’s offense in this championship.

Aatu Raty, F (Finland)

This season was a real turning point for Raty. The Islanders’ prospect got off to a poor start with the Finnish League’s Karpat, registering little ice time through the team’s first six games. Raty was then traded in October from Karpat to Jukurit, where he played under head coach (and former NHLer) Olli Jokinen. It was a perfect match, and Raty excelled in his new quarters putting up 13 goals and 40 points in 41 games. After being left off Finland’s roster entirely last year, he’s now centering their top line with Roni Hirvonen and Joakim Kemell and could end up being the tournament’s top scorer. Talk about a glow up.

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