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Poll: Who Do You Least Want To See Win The No. 1 Pick? –



If Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly’s face didn’t give it away during Friday night’s NHL Draft Lottery, this result was not what the league was expecting or hoping for. In a season when a decorated Original Six franchise, the Detroit Red Wings, had one of the worst campaigns of all-time and the league’s most downtrodden franchise, the Ottawa Senators, had not one but two high-percentage chances of winning the top pick, the No. 1 overall selection will instead go to a to-be-determined “playoff” team.

With the league expanding the postseason field to 24 teams this season as a result of COVID-19 cutting the regular season short, 16 teams will vie for a chance to move through a “knockout round” onto a more standard version of the NHL playoffs. However, now those same 16 teams, all of whom finished above .500 this season, will also be in the running to win the top overall pick and the right to select a generational talent in forward Alexis Lafreniere. All eight losers of the qualifying round will have even odds in a second running of the lottery and one lucky team will get playoff experience and an elite young player this season. No one is going to be truly happy with the result (apart from the lottery winner and their fans of course) but who would you least like to see win the top overall pick?

The Pittsburgh Penguins might be at the top of many peoples’ lists. The franchise has won three Stanley Cups in the last decade and no one would be surprised to see them win again this year, especially given the fact that they finished  the regular season in seventh league-wide in points percentage. The Penguins are the best team slated to play in the knockout round, but if by some chance they lose to the Montreal Canadiens, Lafreniere could potentially join Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and company in a move that could extend the dynasty for years still to come. The thought of the talented young winger playing beside either of those superstars would be daunting to every other team in the league.

Finishing just behind Pittsburgh with the ninth-best points percentage in the league this year were the Carolina Hurricanes. The club has quietly accumulated a deep, talented roster including a number of elite young players. Carolina is set to contend for titles for many years to come, but Lafreniere would make them truly dangerous. Like the Penguins, the Hurricanes simply do not need the best player in the draft. Keep in mind  that they were also one of just two teams to vote against the expanded postseason model, making it especially twisted if they were to reap the benefits of this one-off lottery structure. As good as the Hurricanes were at times this season, they are a popular upset pick in the qualifying round against the New York Rangers and could wind up in the lottery.

The New York Islanders finished just outside the top-ten in points percentage this season and have a deep, experienced team. They also play a sound defensive system. While it works to win games, it isn’t the most exciting strategy and could limit the upside of an explosive offensive talent like Lafreniere. On top of that, the Isles don’t even know where they will be playing their home games next season and have suffered from poor attendance in recent years. It doesn’t exactly sound like an ideal landing spot for an exciting top prospect. Fortunately, the Islanders drew a plus matchup against the Florida Panthers and should advance past the knockout round if they can stick to their smothering defensive game.

Given their luck in the draft lottery over the past decade, it’s pretty gross to think about the Edmonton Oilers being in the running for another No. 1 pick. Likely soon to be the home of two MVP’s in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers landing Lafreniere as their fifth first overall pick and ninth top-ten pick since 2010 would really be something. With an improved NHL roster and a strong pipeline of talent, the Oilers are finally starting to be self-sufficient and don’t need Lafreniere like they might have in recent year. However, if the team can’t hold off a poor Chicago Blackhawks club in the knockout round, maybe they do need the pick.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are another team that is chock full of young talent and it would be an embarrassment of riches (and embarrassing for the league) to see them land Lafreniere. While the team would be in prime shape to finally snap their Stanley Cup drought with the addition, the Leafs are already well on their way and will be contenders for years and years to come even without the top pick. Additionally, should Toronto win the lottery, there would certainly be those that would cry foul about the whole situation. The Maple Leafs face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round in one of the more evenly matched of the upcoming series. Toronto is likely the slight favorite, but could just as easily wind up in the lottery.

The current iteration of the Chicago Blackhawks is not good. However, they are also the most dominant franchise of this decade with three Stanley Cups. It’s not east to find many outside of Chicago who have pity for the current Blackhawks given their sustained success of late. With some of those core players still in place and some exciting young pieces starting to build up, the Blackhawks may already be back on the rebound without the assistance of Lafreniere. If they make it a series with the star-studded Oilers, it will be even more evident that they don’t need a top pick to stay relevant. Like the Maple Leafs, some will also be outraged if the Blackhawks win the lottery due to the perceived favoritism shown by the league on a number of occasions in recent years.

If you really want to hear conspiracy theories though, look no further than the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens winding up with No. 1 overall. Yes, the Canadiens have no business in a playoff series and would have been in the standard draft lottery anyway, but there will be plenty who think that it is far too convenient if the Habs win the top pick when a Francophone and Quebec native is the best player on the board. It used to be that Montreal – who don’t forget have more Stanley Cups than any NHL franchise – was able to claim the best French Canadian players in the draft regardless of draft order. If that opportunity should inadvertently occur once again, plenty of people might get upset at the league despite the fact that Montreal technically is the most deserving (read: worst) of the qualifying round teams. The NHL does not want that drama right now and its most decorated club frankly does not need special treatment, perceived or otherwise.

As for the remaining teams, the Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks were all better than their records implied this season and already have elite young players, the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes may not have the fan bases to support a young star like Lafreniere, and I’m sure there are reasons to root against the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, and Minnesota Wild as well. If you can think of a valid reason why the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have one playoff series win in franchise history, don’t deserve a stroke of good luck, that’s fine too.

What do you think? Which team do you absolutely not want to see Lafreniere go to, either because of existing talent or complaints of foul play or for any other reason? The reality is that one of these 16 will end up with the best player on the board, which in many ways is already a loss for the league, but it can get much worse from here.

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COVID-19 forces cancellation of Toronto FC match at MLS tournament –



COVID-19 impacted the MLS is Back Tournament again Sunday, with a pair of test results on the eve of kickoff prompting Toronto FC’s opening match to be called off.

MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott made the announcement just minutes before the scheduled 9 a.m. ET start at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex in the Orlando area.

The league said a round of pre-game testing Saturday had returned a positive test for a D.C. United player and an inconclusive test for a Toronto player. The positive test is considered unconfirmed until backed up by a second test.

Both players and teams were retested Sunday morning. The match will be rescheduled once results of those tests come back, Abbott said.

The tournament has already lost FC Dallas and Nashville SC due to a rash of positive COVID-19 tests.

“We believe the tournament can still be conducted safely,” Abbott told a virtual conference call Sunday morning. “And if at the point we determine it can’t, obviously we would make a decision then.

“In the case of Dallas and Nashville, the decision was made that based on the extent of the positive tests in those teams [and] their ability to train, that the more prudent course was to withdraw them.

“But we had established a set of protocols that are working as they were designed, which is to identify players that have had positive tests for COVID-19, to remove and separate them from the team and isolate them. And to continue the process of testing the other players … We view this [case] as the process working.”

It marked the second delay for both Toronto and D.C. United. They were supposed to meet Friday night but the game was pushed back to Sunday due to Toronto’s late arrival at the tournament because of the need for additional COVID-19 testing in the wake of a player reporting symptoms.

Under league protocols, players who test positive are isolated while those who test negative “move forward.”

Abbott said because Toronto only arrived last Monday, the decision was made to await the results of tests conducted Sunday morning before playing the game.

“When we receive the results of those two complete team retests, we’ll be in a position to know when the game could be rescheduled,” said Abbott.

The deputy commissioner said the results of Saturday’s tests came back late Saturday or early Sunday.

“Obviously it happened over a brief period of time but we were committed to making the right decision,” he said.

It added to an already stressful morning for the teams given the unusually early kickoff time — made to avoid the Florida heat. Both Toronto captain Michael Bradley and striker Jozy Altidore had criticized the 9 a.m. start, saying it was not conducive to good football.

Toronto’s pre-game meal was scheduled for 5:30 a.m. As it was, the team never left the league hotel — located a five- or 10-minute bus ride from the playing field.

Toronto’s next game is Wednesday against the rival Montreal Impact. D.C. United faces New England on Thursday.

WATCH | MLS players send powerful message before kicking off MLS is Back Tournament: 

Before the MLS is Back Tournament got underway, members of the Black Players for Change took to the field in a joint protest to send a powerful message about social injustice. 6:13

There were some surprises in Toronto’s planned starting 11 Sunday.

While it fielded the same back five as it had in its last league game March 7, there were four changes further forward. Bradley and Argentine newcomer Pablo Piatti, who both missed the opening two games of the season, were to return from injury.

Tsubasa Endoh and Ako Akinola were also in the starting 11.

Altidore did not make the matchday 23. He was late joining the team after spending the lockdown at his Florida home and had to train on his own while fulfilling quarantine.

Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio also was not slated to dress.

Sunday’s Sporting Kansas City against Minnesota United game was scheduled to go ahead despite confirmation Friday by Kansas City that one of its players had tested positive.

The tournament is the first action for the league since it suspended play March 12 due to the global pandemic.

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MLS postpones Toronto FC vs. DC United; match to be rescheduled –



Major League Soccer announced that today’s D.C. United vs. Toronto FC match has been postponed and will be rescheduled.

What follows is the full league statement: 

Major League Soccer announced that today’s D.C. United vs. Toronto FC match has been postponed and will be rescheduled. MLS will announce details later today for the rescheduled match.

Under the league’s health and safety protocols, clubs are tested the day before each match. The results of yesterday’s tests for D.C. United and Toronto FC produced an initial unconfirmed positive COVID-19 case for one player and an inconclusive test for another player. Because of the arrival time of the clubs in Orlando, the league’s protocol called for retesting both teams this morning and to await the results of those tests prior to playing the match.

Major League Soccer will continue to prioritize the health and safety of all participants of the MLS is Back Tournament in making these decisions.

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Usman eases past Masvidal on UFC 'Fight Island' debut – CNN International



Kamaru Usman improved to 17-1 with a unanimous decision over late replacement Jorge Masvidal to retain his welterweight crown in UFC 251.
The 33-year-old — who was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States as a child before becoming a wrestling champion in university — also made it 12 straight wins to tie lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest active streak in the sport.
Given Usman’s pedigree, a Masvidal win would have been an upset. But even more so because the bout was only finalized last week after Usman’s intended opponent, Gilbert Burns, pulled out when he tested positive for coronavirus.
The ongoing pandemic prompted UFC President Dana White to seek as safe a place as possible to hold fights and in early June he picked Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which has been a previous UFC destination.
All fighters, their teams and workers have been tested for the virus that has, according to Johns Hopkins University, killed 565,000 people around the world and infected nearly 13 million.
In a quirk for major fights, the showpiece bouts were held in the early morning hours local time Sunday for the prime time US television market but it didn’t seem to affect Usman.
All three judges gave him a hefty advantage. Two scored it 50-45 while the third had it 49-46.
Kamaru Usman won a unanimous decision in UFC 251.
“Gamebred is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman said, referring to Masvidal’s nickname. “I had to prepare for him, switch gears on six days’ notice. I know a lot was made of him taking a fight on short notice but he’s prepared.
“All these guys have prepared for one guy, and that’s me at the top of the mountain. I had to take a mental shift. I trained for Gilbert, I had a completely different game plan.
“Gamebred is tough and he showed it out there. He took a lot of big elbows there at the bottom but he kept getting up, kept fighting and didn’t quit.”

‘Very tired’

Masvidal — who recorded the fastest UFC knockout last year, in five seconds — acknowledged Usman won “fair and square” but added his “gas tank” was a little empty.
“But I’m still a dangerous man,” said the American, now 35-14. “I’m going to come back better than ever. I’m not going to disappear from this sport without this belt being wrapped around my waist one way or another.
“It wasn’t my best performance tonight but everyone can see I have a dog in me. That dog doesn’t shut up or roll over for anybody. I was very tired at some spots.
“But I was able to dig down and get back on my feet. I’m not happy with my performance but I’m telling everybody I’ll be back strong.”
Both men wanted a rematch. For the time being, though, Usman is keen to return to the US to spend time with his five-year-old daughter, Samirah.
“I need to get back to my daughter,” he said. “I need to sit on my couch, eat some Thai food and watch some Netflix with her. And then watch a couple of (her) gymnastics training and ju-jitsu trainings, and then we’ll start thinking about fighting someone again.”
Kamaru Usman, left, kicks Jorge Masvidal in their title bout at UFC 251. Kamaru Usman, left, kicks Jorge Masvidal in their title bout at UFC 251.
Elsewhere, Alexander Volkanovski successfully defended his featherweight title by beating Max Holloway — whom he toppled in December to first take the belt.
But the result wasn’t as straightforward.


Two judges scored it 48-47 for the Australian while the other gave it to the American by the same score. White felt Holloway did enough to win.
Russia’s Petr Yan, meanwhile, became the bantamweight champ by stopping veteran Jose Aldo of Brazil in the fifth and final round.
Many onlookers, including White, felt the affair should have been stopped sooner.
“Horrible, horrible stoppage by the referee. It should have been stopped sooner,” said White. “Looks like we have to tighten up our refs and judges on Fight Island.”
Three more events are scheduled, beginning on July 16.

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