The play of several high-profile rookies, including forwards Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks of the 2019 NHL Draft, respectively, is one of the major storylines of the 2019-20 season. Each Monday, NHL.com will examine topics related to this season’s class in the Rookie Watch.
With the NHL pausing the 2019-20 regular season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, we continue our look at the top NHL rookies in each division. This week, the top six in the Metropolitan Division (player ranking on Dec. 3 in parentheses after team):
1. Adam Fox, D, New York Rangers (2): He’s third among rookie defensemen with 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists), first with 57 takeaways and plus-22 and tied for third with 92 blocked shots while averaging 18:54 in ice time in 70 games. Fox needs three more takeaways to pass John Carlson (60 in 2010-11) of the Washington Capitals for most in a season by an NHL rookie defenseman since the League began tracking the statistic in 2005-06. The 22-year-old ranks sixth in Rangers history in points by rookie defensemen behind Brian Leetch (85), Reijo Ruotsalainen (56), Ron Greschner (45), James Patrick (44) and Mike McEwen (43).
“I knew his strengths were going to be able to be influential at this level,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “I didn’t know to what degree, but I knew he was going to be a good player at this level, he was going to be a smart player who was going to generate some offense and get us out of our end. When you watched him in college you just knew this kid had that special ability that was going to translate.”
2. Martin Necas, F, Carolina Hurricanes (4): The 21-year-old right-handed shot leads Metropolitan Division rookies with 16 goals and 11 even-strength goals in 64 games. Necas ranks seventh among all rookies with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) while averaging 14:10 in ice time. The Hurricanes control 51.9 of all shots attempted at even strength with Necas on the ice, first among rookie forwards in the division with at least 10 games played.
“I know when I first came over here at 16 (from Russia) it was so hard for me,” Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov said. “The game was so much faster and more physical. I think last year helped him so much to get ready for the NHL. As far as his skill, he’s so fast. When he gets the puck, you expect he’s going to do something good with it and have a good moment.”
3. Elvis Merzlikins, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (NR): The 25-year-old is tied for second among goalies with five shutouts (Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights; Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins). He’s a big reason the Blue Jackets are tied with the Hurricanes for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Merzlikins is 13-9-8 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 33 games.
“Merzlikins played a lot of games by the way of the injury to Joonas Korpisalo and was lightning in a bottle for them on a team that is still in contention,” NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes said. “Especially considering the fact that Korpisalo was selected to the All-Star Game this year (but didn’t play because of injury). Merzlikins has taken the League by storm.”
4. John Marino, D, Pittsburgh Penguins (5): Marino ranks third among division rookies with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists), 77 blocked shots and 37 takeaways while averaging 20:15 in ice time in 56 games. The 22-year-old had seven points (one goal, six assists) in a six-game point streak (Nov. 16-27), the longest among rookies this season.
“Marino (6-foot-1, 181 pounds) is big and strong, he can really skate, defends well, has a good stick, and he is brave,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s willing to take hits to make plays. He can hang onto the puck, take a hit and make a subtle pass, a four-foot pass that helps us get out of our end clean with possession.”
5. Mackenzie Blackwood, G, New Jersey Devils (NR): Blackwood leads rookie goalies in wins (22), starts (43), saves (1,328) and shots against (1,452). He is 22-14-8 with a 2.77 GAA, .915 save percentage and three shutouts in 47 games. The 23-year-old was 8-2-2 with a 2.28 GAA and .936 save percentage in his past 12 games prior to the NHL pause March 12.
6. Jack Hughes, F, New Jersey Devils (1): The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Hughes ranks first among division forwards in shots on goal (123) and average ice time (15:52) and is third among division rookies with four power-play goals. The 18-year-old, who has been asked to do a lot in his first NHL season in a top-six role, has drawn 16 penalties and ranks second among division rookies with 42 takeaways.
Head to Head comparison
Hughes and Kakko each have spent much of the season learning what it takes to experience NHL success and though it may have taken longer than many have expected, there’s no doubt the future looks bright for each player. The Devils (average age, 25.7) and Rangers (average age, 26.0) are the two youngest teams in the NHL.
Kaapo Kakko, F, New York Rangers
Shots on goal: 109
Average ice time: 14:16
Telling stat: Tied with Fox for fifth among rookies with 13 power-play points.
Jack Hughes, F, New Jersey Devils
Shots on goal: 123
Average ice time: 15:52
Telling stat: Ranks fourth among NHL rookies in face-offs taken (462) and sixth in face-off wins (167), leading all first-year players with 38 wins on the power play.
Morreale’s Calder Trophy frontrunners
1. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche: Leads rookies in points per game (0.88) with at least five games played, and all rookie defensemen in goals (12), power-play goals (four) and even-strength goals (eight).
2. Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks: First among rookies with 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists) and 25 power-play points (three goals, 22 assists) in 68 games.
3. Dominik Kubalik, F, Chicago Blackhawks: First among rookies with 30 goals, 38 even-strength points and 157 shots on goal and third with 46 points in 68 games.
NASCAR, Wallace respond to Presidents tweet – Yahoo Canada Shine On
President Trump on Monday asked on Twitter if an apology was forthcoming from NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace for his alleged role in what he termed a “hoax” two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway, adding that the sanctioning body’s decision to ban the confederate flag has hurt television ratings for its events.
None of these claims are true.
Wallace, the lone Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, embraced a widespread show of support from the stock-car racing industry and his fellow drivers two weeks ago after the discovery of a noose at his team’s assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway. The rest of the Cup Series driver roster stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Wallace on Talladega’s pit road after a crew member for his Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team reported the noose’s presence to NASCAR officials that weekend.
The Birmingham office of the FBI launched an investigation, later determining that no hate crime had been committed against Wallace and that the garage pull had been tied into a noose since last fall’s events at the Alabama track. That prompted conspiracy theories and other allegations of wrongdoing on social media accusing NASCAR and/or Wallace of falsifying the timeline of events.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed those charges at a press conference June 25, stating: “Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this.”
Wallace responded later Monday with his own statement, encouraging his followers to “keep your head held high” and saying in part that “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”
Trump’s mention of the “Flag decision” refers to NASCAR’s June 10 decision to ban the confederate flag from its events and properties. That resolution came days after Wallace advocated for its removal and days after NASCAR drivers banded together for a video message speaking out for social justice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others in the Black community.
Trump’s claim of “lowest ratings EVER” is false, unsupported by the facts of recent TV ratings data. NBC Sports on Monday said the NASCAR Cup Series’ Sunday event averaged a total audience of 4.37 million viewers, a 46 percent increase from last year’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway race and a 32 percent rise over the Daytona event held on the same weekend last year. Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports executive vice president in charge of research and Nielsen ratings analysis, said his network’s ratings were up 8 percent since NASCAR racing resumed in May after the coronavirus outbreak.
NASCAR released its own statement Monday afternoon, saying “We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”
A spokesperson also reiterated the stance made by NASCAR President Steve Phelps on June 25: “Bubba has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity and he stood tall for what he believes in.”
Decade Deals: How other 10-year NFL contracts panned out – theScore
While such instances are rare, Mahomes isn’t the first recipient of a contract spanning 10-plus years. Here’s how the other decade-long deals panned out:
March 2001: Brett Favre gets 10 years, $100M from Packers
Favre didn’t anticipate playing beyond 2006 but took a 10-year deal at 31 to help Green Bay massage the salary cap. Though his best days were behind him, Favre still led the NFL in passing touchdowns once and gave the Packers four Pro Bowl seasons after signing the deal. The club made the playoffs five times over the next seven years, and Favre broke the NFL career passing touchdowns record in a Packers uniform.
Favre didn’t finish the contract in Green Bay, though, as he was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 after ending a brief retirement. The Jets released him in 2009 after he retired again, and he signed a fresh contract when he made a second comeback as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
March 2001: Drew Bledsoe gets 10 years, $103M from Patriots
Bledsoe was already regarded as the greatest quarterback in Patriots history by the time he signed his deal. And at 29, it appeared he was signing up to spend the rest of his career in New England. But Bledsoe played only two more games for the Patriots, as an injury in Week 2 of the 2001 season spelled the beginning of the Tom Brady era.
Bledsoe helped the Patriots reach the Super Bowl that year after relieving an injured Brady in the AFC Championship Game and collected a ring as Brady’s backup. Bill Belichick and Co. traded him to the Buffalo Bills that offseason with nine years left on his contract. While Bledsoe got off to a hot start with his new team, he fizzled the following season and was released after the 2004 campaign.
September 2002: Donovan McNabb gets 12 years, $115M from Eagles
McNabb owns the record for the longest contract in NFL history. At 26, he agreed to a 12-year pact with Philadelphia. The deal quickly paid dividends, as McNabb led the Eagles to a Super Bowl berth two years after signing. The Eagles were perennial contenders with McNabb, though they never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy or returned to the Big Game after the 2004 season.
Shockingly, the Eagles traded him to the Washington Redskins in 2010 with four years remaining on his contract. Though only 34, McNabb’s game fell off quickly in Washington, which made the five-year extension he received midway through the 2010 campaign a head-scratcher. He was relegated to third-string duties late in the season and was traded to the Vikings in July 2011. McNabb spent less than one miserable season in Minnesota before he was released, and he retired soon after.
May 2003: Daunte Culpepper gets 10 years, $102M from Vikings
One of the most exciting young quarterbacks in football at the time, Culpepper was 26 when he inked his extension. He immediately rewarded the Vikings with two of his best seasons. In 2004, Culpepper established a new NFL record for total yards by a quarterback, racking up 5,123. He led the league in passing that year with over 4,700 yards.
But he got off to a horrid start in 2005, and in late October, he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. The Vikings shipped him to the Miami Dolphins, who were more encouraged by his injury outlook than that of Drew Brees. Culpepper struggled with the Dolphins and was released after one year, with six seasons remaining on his contract. The three-time Pro Bowler had forgettable stints with the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions before exiting the NFL for good.
December 2004: Michael Vick gets 10 years, $130M from Falcons
Atlanta gave a 24-year-old Vick, perhaps the most electrifying quarterback the NFL had ever seen, the richest contract in league history. Vick steered the Falcons to the NFC divisional round that year and appeared to be ascending, but he plateaued. While he became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in 2006, his lack of progress as a passer kept him from joining the top echelon of quarterbacks and the Falcons from becoming a Super Bowl threat.
Everything came crashing down in the summer of 2007, as Vick was arrested for his role in a dogfighting ring and spent most of the next two years in prison. The Falcons recovered nearly $20 million in arbitration, and the signal-caller signed with the Eagles upon returning to professional football.
Blue Jays’ 60-game schedule for the abbreviated 2020 MLB regular season – Bluebird Banter
Major League Baseball chose to unveil their 2020 schedule on MLB Network with MLB Tonight: Schedule Release by Camping World®. For some reason, that show conveniently skipped over the Blue Jays’ schedules (along with others) even though they had a lot of talking. That left us to try to piece together the schedule from other teams’ releases until the Blue Jays finally made their own announcement.
Blue Jays baseball is scheduled to return at 6:40 pm on July 24 against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
It is still unclear where these games will be held, but the Blue Jays will open their home schedule on July 29 against the Washington Nationals as a second half of a home-and-home. The Jays then host the Phillies then the Marlins—meaning the first American League team to visit will be the Rays on the weekend of August 14.
If they do get to play in Toronto, the only place to see live baseball games will likely be in one of the field-view suites at the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel, which is attached to the Rogers Centre. While rooms are available to be booked, it is not clear whether fans will actually be permitted to occupy them as both Blue Jays and visiting personnel are to be set up in there.
The Blue Jays will not be playing on the August 3 Civic Holiday but will be at home hosting the Yankees on Labour Day. The 2020 regular season will end with a seven-game homestand against the Yankees and Orioles. Actually, the Blue Jays will play their entire 10-game schedule against the Yankees in September.
September 27 is the final day of the regular season, and all games, including the Baltimore-Toronto tilt is scheduled to begin at around 3 pm ET.
All home games Monday through Saturday are scheduled to start at 6:37 pm, with Sunday games starting at 3:07 pm.he only exception is the game on Monday, August 31 against Baltimore, when first pitch will be at 2:07 pm. Toronto will not have an off day between August 21 and September 9, playing 20 games in 20 days.
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