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NHL Top 8 Mock Draft: Surprise lottery creates interesting scenarios

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If 2020 has told us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. That theme continued Friday night with a shocking result from the NHL Draft Lottery.

Just when Alexis Lafreniere was ready to learn his fate for next season, a placeholder team wins the lottery and extends that uncertainty. With Friday’s results, we now know the draft order of seven of the first eight teams. The LA Kings will pick second, while the first of Ottawa’s two picks rounds out the top three.

With so much uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things may very well change between now and when the draft actually takes place. At first glance immediately after the draft lottery, here’s how we predict the first eight picks will go.

1. Placeholder: Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL):
Not knowing where he will end up going yet only adds to the drama. There are a number of possibilities. Whomever drafts Lafreniere is drafting a complete player. He’s got typical hockey size, and he’s strong enough to be able to handle the game when it gets heavy. He thinks the game well and has excellent vision, which makes him a true power play threat. When shooting is the best option, he can fire it with pace, accuracy and quickness. Lafreniere possesses the “it” factor that shines in big games and he added a layer of physicality this year that makes him different from a typical first overall pick.

Imagine if it was Montreal, so close to home, or Pittsburgh to play alongside another Rimouski legend? What if it were the Leafs or Rangers as Original Six teams? In any event, Lafreniere will be the first overall pick, we’ll just have to wait and see where he goes.

2. Los Angeles: Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL):
In order for Stutzle to unseat Byfield in the two-hole, the Kings have to strongly believe he can play centre. He showed well there at the WJC, but he was a winger playing with and against men in the DEL. Stutzle dances with the puck, he can play at top speed and although his goal numbers were down, that part of his game will evolve with strength and maturity.

German players are all the rage these days as the DEL has become a favourite choice for North American players, adding to what was already a solid league base. The schedule allows for players to work out regularly both in the gym and in skills sessions. His undying work ethic will be appreciated heavily by the Kings, who hope this pick turns out as good as their last at second overall (Drew Doughty in 2008).

3. Ottawa Senators: Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL):
The Sens are deep at all positions in their prospect pool. Every team covets size and strength down the middle of the ice, which Byfield provides. On top of that, Byfield is an excellent skater, who handles the puck well in tight areas. He’s an equal threat as a scorer and a distributor. Keep in mind he’s 10 months younger than Lafreniere and, as big as he is now, there’s still room to grow. As part of the developmental process, I’d like to see him play bigger and to lengthen his stick. He’s keen to learn the trade and regardless of what his third year looks like, I’m excited to see where he’ll take it. As good as he is now, there’s still a rawness to his game and that makes for a higher ceiling moving forward.

4. Detroit Red Wings: Cole Perfetti, LW, Saginaw Spirit (OHL):
There are countless ties between Detroit and Perfetti. Most importantly, Perfetti spent the season a short drive away from the Motor City, allowing everyone in the organization to get multiple looks as well as get up close and personal to know him away from the rink. He’s equally as impressive a young man as he is a player. For Perfetti, his hockey IQ may be the best in this draft class. His awareness is uncanny. Anticipating a play in neutral ice, or jumping the play to earn a breakaway is not uncommon.

In a group setting, he’s a legit threat crossing the blue line. He proved he could score goals as a 16-year-old with 37 in 63 games a year ago. This season, he showed off his playmaking abilities with 74 assists, which helped him finish second in the OHL with 111 points. Fuelled by being cut from Canada’s world junior team, Perfetti returned to Saginaw and recorded a point in 30 of 32 games, accounting for 66 total points.

5. Ottawa Senators: Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP:
The Sens address the two most critical positions with Byfield at three and Sanderson here. Skating is the key foundational asset to Sanderson’s game. Excellent at reading and reacting to the play, he is extremely difficult to play against. He’s a hard defender be it in the corners or at the net front. What impresses me most about Sanderson is his ability to read and kill plays in neutral ice. He’s able to conserve energy, use his speed to transition and control the offensive zone.

Sanderson did a great job to close the gap on Jamie Drysdale for top defenceman with an electric second half. By the end of the season, he was comfortable enough with his defensive game, recognized his team needed more production, and started to show an offensive side. The son of former NHLer Geoff, Jake has been around the game all his life, which could help him transition easier to the pro game. He’s a quiet but confident leader and teammates gravitate towards him.

6. Anaheim Ducks: Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL):
The Ducks have solid forward prospects in Trevor Zegras, Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom, Max Comtois, Max Jones and Troy Terry. In their past 16 picks dating back to Round 6 of the 2015 draft, Anaheim has taken only two defencemen, thus making Drysdale a viable option here. Drysdale compares favourably to Cam Fowler, who’s played close to 700 NHL games. First, they are both world-class skaters. Second, they are both really good puck movers. Third, they both play with poise beyond their years. Drysdale was challenged to be a difference maker every night, and was able to achieve that goal upon returning from the world juniors. He plays with his head on a swivel, which allows him to make high percentage decisions.

7. New Jersey Devils: Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL):
There are several ties between the Ottawa 67’s and the Devils (prospects Kevin Bahl, Mitchell Hoelscher, Nikita Okhotyuk and Graeme Clarke all played with the 67’s last year). Rossi is a well-rounded player whose tireless work ethic and practice habits have made for rapid development.

There are so many things to like about his game, but at 5-foot-9 he’s faced the size question his entire career. At his best, Rossi is reliable in all three zones. He wins faceoffs and can use his low centre of gravity and strong lower half to help repel bigger, heavier NHL competition. He can make plays and isn’t afraid to go to the net. He’s driven, competitive and skilled. The Devils also have Nico Hischier, who played his junior career under the same head coach in Andre Tourigny. The one question mark is who will actually be making this pick? Will it be Tom Fitzgerald, or a new GM?

8. Buffalo Sabres: Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgarden (SHL):
New GM Kevyn Adams is likely aware of all the draft preparation done by former GM Jason Botterill. However, he’s said he wants to take Buffalo’s scouting staff in a new direction, blending pro and amateur scouts, with heavier emphasis on video scouting and analytics. This may entirely alter the direction the Sabres take with this pick, since there’s plenty of video available and time to watch it. In any event, over the past five years, the Sabres have found themselves in the lower third of the league in goal-scoring. Holtz will help address this issue. He shoots it a ton and does so quickly and accurately. Holtz plays a straight line game.

Source:NHL Top

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Jackson apologizes for anti-Semitic post – TSN

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has apologized after backlash for sharing anti-Semitic posts on social media over the weekend.

“My post was definitely not intended for anybody of any race to feel any type of way, especially the Jewish community,” Jackson said in a video he posted on Instagram on Tuesday. “I post things on my story all the time, and just probably never should have posted anything Hitler did, because Hitler was a bad person, and I know that.”

The team issued the following statement: “We have spoken with DeSean Jackson about his social media posts. Regardless of his intentions, the messages he shared were offensive, harmful, and absolutely appalling. They have no place in our society, and are not condoned or supported in any way by the organization. We are disappointed and we reiterated to DeSean the importance of not only apologizing but also using his platform to take action to promote unity, equality, and respect. We are continuing to evaluate the circumstances and are committed to continuing to have productive and meaningful conversations with DeSean, as well as all of our players and staff, in order to educate, learn, and grow.”

The NFL also issued a statement, saying: “DeSean’s comments were highly inappropriate, offensive and divisive and stand in stark contrast to the NFL’s values of respect, equality and inclusion. We have been in contact with the team which is addressing the matter with DeSean.”

Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, is in his second stint in Philadelphia, returning last season to the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

Former Eagles president Joe Banner criticized Jackson on Twitter. Banner wrote: “If a white player said anything about (African-Americans) as outrageous as what Desean Jackson said about Jews tonight there would at least be a serious conversation about cutting him and a need for a team meeting to discuss. Which would be totally appropriate. Absolutely indefensible.”

Banner, who also worked for Cleveland and Atlanta, later shared an anti-Palestinian tweet with the hashtag “Palestinianprivilege getting away with murder.”

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Players sitting out Orlando Tournament: Vela, Onuoha and five Whitecaps – MLSsoccer.com

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Lucas Cavallini tight shot SOLO

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS is Back Tournament kicks off on Wednesday, July 8 and the details of the club rosters are gradually being revealed. 

Below is information provided by some of the clubs regarding the personnel that traveled to Orlando:

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced on July 7 that they will compete without five players who will sit out the tournament. Forwards Lucas Cavallini, Tosaint Ricketts and Fredy Montero are among the five — along with Andy Rose and Georges Mukumbilwa.

In an Instagram post, Montero said it wasn’t an easy decision, but “my family and I have had a complicated few months not only with being isolated in Canada without family or friends but also with an unforeseen health emergency.”

The Colombian forward said he was “deeply disappointed” he’ll be unable to help teammates, but looks forward to rejoining them after the tournament.

Ricketts will not be playing due to a pre-existing condition, Rose’s wife is set to give birth during the tournament and Mukumbilwa — a Canadian permanent resident — was not cleared to travel outside of Canada

Cavallini, the team’s new starting forward, released the following statement.

“This was an extremely difficult decision for me. I would love to be out on the field with my teammates fighting with everything I have to play for this club and community in Orlando. Unfortunately COVID-19 has had a very big impact, taking away two beloved members of my family. I feel that it is best that I remain home to support my loved ones at this challenging time.”

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha on July 7 explained his decision to sit out the tournament. The defender said he didn’t feel comfortable being separated from his wife and children for a month during the global pandemic. The veteran central defender said he has the support of his teammates and the RSL coaching staff.

LAFC

On July 6, reigning league MVP Carlos Vela revealed that he would remain in Los Angeles to be with his pregnant wife and support her during a “risk pregnancy.” The following was his statement via a league release: 

“I would like nothing more than to be with my teammates in Orlando. I always want to give everything I have to my club, our fans and supporters and the city of L.A. However, it is in the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy. I will miss being with my teammates and coaches, but I will be cheering and supporting LAFC from a distance. I can’t wait to be back on the field, playing for all of you and accomplishing great things with our club. Vamos LAFC!”



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Jays handed tough schedule amid much uncertainty – TSN

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays don’t have a home yet, but they’re facing one of the toughest schedules in baseball regardless of the city they reside in.

If they end up playing games at all.

Slated to open their 60-game regular season on July 24 in Tampa against the Rays when the 2020 MLB schedule was officially revealed Monday evening, the Jays organization spent the day working through the logistical challenges that surrounded another positive COVID-19 test in Dunedin, and the subsequent grounding of a number of players who came in contact with that teammate.

While a group of Blue Jays — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are two of the stars in town — were able to get on the field at Rogers Centre on Monday for a private workout that was closed to the media, it meant a portion of the Jays’ 60-man player pool is still stuck in Dunedin.

The team would not confirm who was left behind or the latest COVID-19 case.

On Monday morning, the Jays were also still awaiting test results for team personnel from Friday, as much of baseball experienced testing snafus over the July 4 holiday weekend.

Not a good start.

A week since intake testing officially began on July 1 when players reported to camps, the number of revealed positive COVID-19 cases has been reasonable, according to data released by the league, but it has not been a calming experience for many players across baseball.

In announcing their schedule Monday evening, the Jays left a reminder of just how much is still unsettled, with opening day for the club now officially a little more than two weeks away.

“While no final decision has been made on a site for Blue Jays regular season home games, the club’s preference remains Rogers Centre,” the statement read. “The team continues to pursue this option with the health and safety of the general public and the team at the forefront and will communicate an update as information becomes available.”

You can be sure that the federal government has been watching the MLB testing process closely, and the latest positive case emerging from Dunedin as the team got set to charter north isn’t good for perception.

Despite the uncertainty of where they’ll play home games, the Jays’ schedule won’t change, no matter if they’re playing at Rogers Centre or out of the club’s spring training facility, TD Ballpark, in Dunedin.

Either way, it’s a tough one.

Subjectively, there’s the obvious road through legit World Series contenders in the AL East in the New York Yankees (10 games) and Rays (10 games), while the NL East cross-over format features the defending champion Washington Nationals (four games), the 97-win Atlanta Braves (three games), and potential contenders in the Philadelphia Phillies (six games) and New York Mets (three games).

Objectively, it’s the third-toughest strength of schedule based on 2019 winning percentage at .567, behind only the Mets (.571) and Pirates (.568).

Starting with three games against the Rays and then four against the Nats is a challenge, equalled perhaps by a stretch run that sees the Jays facing the Yankees 10 times in 19 games.

Another wrinkle this year — not that it matters for fans heading to the ballpark because that won’t be happening in 2020 — is first pitch for all Jays home games from Monday through Saturday will be 6:37 p.m. ET, rather than their usual 7:07 p.m. first pitch.

On Sundays, they’ll start at 3:07 p.m.

If they start at all.

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