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The Bakersfield Condors prospect that commands your attention? Evan Bouchard – Toronto Sun

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Evan Bouchard, the youngest player on the Bakersfield Condors, is also the one that commands your attention.

Bouchard’s game has picked up considerably in a number of key aspects from both his spring of 2019 AHL playoff run, and with his play earlier this year in preseason with the Edmonton Oilers and at the start of the 2019-20 campaign with the Condors.

His improvement is marked, which is another way of saying that Edmonton has its prime prospect in exactly the right spot, right where he’s developing in strong fashion, in the AHL frying pan but not in the fire of the NHL spotlight.

I checked in on AHLTV now and then to watch the Condors and just watched their two weekend wins, 3-2 and 2-1, over the San Diego Gulls. I wasn’t looking for Bouchard necessarily, though I was curious about his play, especially with his not-so-nice -11 goals plus-minus. Was that stat really indicative of his play?

The Condors now have 14 wins in 32 games, but are four wins and a loss in their last five games. They’re much improved, largely because they’re now getting strong netminding from Stuart Skinner, 21, who struggled mightily earlier this year after veteran Shane Starrett got hurt.

But Bouchard’s improved game is also another reason the Bake is starting to cook.

I’ll not only talk about him today but show you a series of videoclips from the two San Diego games.

In the first, we see Bouchard with the puck in his own zone, stickhandling his way out of trouble. The play looks a bit iffy, but Cool Hand Bouch has outstanding dexterity stickhandling.

He could stickhandle in a phone booth, as we said in the days when there were phone booths.

Next up we see Bouchard on the ice at the end of the game, trusted by coach Jay Woodcroft to protect a one-goal lead, calmly grabbing up the puck in the defensive slot and advancing it towards the empty net. In the defensive slot, Bouchard does not wield a battle axe like Adam Larsson, nor does he have that cowboy-wrassling-a-steer courage and intensity of Kris Russell. In fact, Bouchard is the opposite. He’s not nasty and he’s never looks too rushed, but he’s doing a better job of being in the right place at the right time, mainly because he’s strong at reading the game, even this early in his career. He’s got one fundamental down, in that his head is always on a swivel, him looking for the open man, the danger man who might get the puck, and Bouchard takes care to move towards that player, not forget that he’s there.

Next, we go to a typical Bouchard play at this level, him winning the puck with his long stick and good reach, then deftly threading a pass to a breaking player.

Whether he’s head-manning the puck, passing D-to-D, or banking the puck off the boards to a teammate, the thing I notice about Bouchard is his passes are invariably right on the tape. For an Oilers fan who has endured too many non puck-moving Edmonton d-men killing the Oilers’ attack before it can get started, it’s just a wee bit thrilling to think about Bouchard making such passes in Edmonton. Again, this isn’t to say that Bouchard is ready for the NHL. He’s doing great just now in Bakersfield, so let that continue for the rest of the year. Fortunately, Edmonton has solid defensive depth, so there’s no need to rush him.

In this next clip we see some bad and good from Bouchard. First, he gets beat in the neutral zone on a play, leading to a two-on-one break for the Gulls. Bouchard is doing a much better job in the neutral zone of playing up on his man, not allowing easy entries in the Condors zone, but he does get beat now and then by speedy opposing breakout plays. On this one, though, he wins the puck in the corner and quickly works a give-and-go to get a sneaky quick high slot shot on net.

Bouchard does an excellent job of joining the attack, and in this next clip we see him start the rush with a quick and accurate tape-to-tape pass, then him charging up to force the play at the offensive blueline, leading to a Bakersfield chance.

There’s some worry about Bouchard’s skating. Indeed, he’s going to have to pick it up a bit to excel in the NHL, but we’ve seen that kind of improvement from Ethan Bear. And, as we see in the next clip, Bouchard is an OK skater at the AHL level, partly because he’s really moving his feet now, getting after pucks and moving fast to pass them out of trouble. Plus, he’s got that outstanding puckhandling and passing to make the most out of a tough situation where he’s being harassed by an opposing forechecker.

This next clip is one of my favourites. On the play, the Condors are defending a fast developing San Diego attack, and Bouchard organizes his teammates, pointing to Joe Gambardella that he should take the trailing player. Very often when a player points for a teammate to take a player, he’s pointing at the wrong player, or it’s a player that the pointer should actually be covering himself. But in this case, Cool Hand Bouch correctly identified whom Gambardella should check, then made sure to cover the right player himself, thus helping to thwart the opportunity. That kind of reading of a play on the fly and communicating to a teammate in the heat of dangerous opposing rush is notable.

Right now, Bouchard is being paired up with veteran Keegan Lowe. Bouchard is being used in all situations, the power play, penalty kill, against tough comp at even strength and at the ends of periods when sound defensive play is needed. This is the perfect situation for him right now. If he can continue to develop his game and stay healthy, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be in the NHL some time next season, if not right out of training camp. With him in the line-up, along with Oscar Klefbom, Ethan Bear and maybe even Caleb Jones, the Oilers would be able to ice four strong puck-passing d-men, which will be one more step in the transformation of this team from perennial loser to perennial playoff contender.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT, 6800, 6800 XT Price and Release Date Announced – Gadgets 360

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AMD has unveiled three new graphics cards under the Radeon RX 6000 series: AMD Radeon RX 6800, AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT, and its new flagship AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT. The last of them is the fastest gaming graphics card AMD has ever developed, the American giant claimed in its announcement. The first two — RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT — will be available November 18 at $579 (about Rs. 43,000) and $649 (about Rs. 48,000) respectively, with the RX 6900 XT following December 8 for $999 (about Rs. 74,000). India prices have not been revealed and are expected closer to launch date, which should be in line with the global launch.

The three new AMD Radeon RX 6000 series graphics cards go up against Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3000 series, which were announced in early September and rolled out later that month globally, including India. The GeForce RTX 3000 series starts at $499/ Rs. 51,000 (for the RTX 3070) and goes up to $1,499/ Rs. 1,52,000 (for the RTX 3090, Nvidia’s new flagship). If AMD too sticks to the $1 = Rs. 100 price conversion strategy like Nvidia (and many others by now) — this is thanks to local taxes and import duties — expect the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series to cost between Rs. 58,000 – Rs. 1,00,000.

Though AMD’s new graphics cards have a higher starting price point ($579 for RX 6800 vs $499 for RTX 3070), it’s undercutting Nvidia elsewhere: $649 for RX 6800 XT vs $699 for RTX 3080, and $999 for RX 6900 XT vs $1,499 for GeForce RTX 3090. The last of them is especially going to make heads turn, with a 33 percent difference between the price of their respective flagships. Of course, it’s impossible to say at this point if performance will be comparable. AMD has a lot of new bells and whistles it’s touting for the Radeon RX 6000 series.

First up, there’s the new AMD RDNA 2 gaming architecture — it’s also being used in both next-gen consoles, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X, though only the latter will have “full hardware support” for all its capabilities — which promises to deliver two times the performance in select games, even though it’s still using the 7-nanometre transistor size. That’s a bit of a cherry-picked number, as it compares the RX 6900 XT to RX 5700 XT (which uses AMD RDNA).

What does RNDNA 2 offer? Improved energy efficiency, reduced latency (thanks to AMD Infinity Cache), and 30 percent frequency boost at the same power level. There’s also support for DirectX 12 Ultimate API that was previously limited to Nvidia GPUs. It allows for ray-tracing (real-time lighting, shadows and reflections) and variable rate shading. AMD says that developers can aim for both quality and performance when this is combined with its own AMD FidelityFX, a collection of lighting, shadow and reflection effects that help with hybrid rendering.

Additionally, the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series also supports AMD Smart Access Memory (this only works if you also have an AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPU and AMD B550/ X570 motherboard), Microsoft DirectStorage (for faster loading times and high-quality textures), Radeon Software Performance Tuning presets (one-click settings including “Rage Mode” stable overclocking), and Radeon Anti-Lag (quicker response times).

The one drawback is an AMD equivalent of Nvidia’s DLSS: deep learning super sampling. With DLSS, Nvidia GPUs render fewer pixels and then use “AI” to upsample them to higher resolutions. This decreases the load on RTX 3000 series while still allowing for close to native resolution quality. AMD has a tech of its own called Super Resolution, but it hasn’t provided any details as it’s still in the works and won’t be available for several months after the launch of Radeon RX 6000 series. This also means AMD’s ray-tracing won’t be on the same level as Nvidia’s for now.

In a prepared statement, AMD graphics’ corporate VP and GM Scott Herkelman said: “Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of R&D focused on bringing the best of AMD Radeon graphics to the enthusiast and ultra-enthusiast gaming markets, and represents a major evolution in PC gaming. The new AMD Radeon RX 6800, RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT graphics cards deliver world class 4K and 1440p performance in major AAA titles, new levels of immersion with breathtaking life-like visuals, and must-have features that provide the ultimate gaming experiences.”

The AMD Radeon RX 6000 series will begin roll-out in November, with cards offered by AMD, in addition to its partners in ASRock, ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire, and XFX.

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Sony shares pop on strong outlook

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A man walks past the logo of Japans Sony displayed at the company’s showroom in Tokyo on October 28, 2020.
KAZUHIRO NOGI | AFP via Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Shares of Sony surged in Tokyo on Thursday, a day after the Japanese electronics giant raised its annual profit forecast.

Sony shares in Japan were up 6.69% on Thursday even though Japan’s broader index, the Nikkei 225, fell 0.37% on the day.

On Wednesday, Sony raised its forecast for its annual operating income by 13% to 700 billion yen (approx. $6.7 billion). It came as the firm announced a operating profit of about 317.8 billion yen (around $3.04 billion) for the three months ended Sept. 30.

Jefferies Asia’s Atul Goyal told CNBC on Thursday that he’s “extremely bullish” on Sony. The firm owns the stock and currently has a “buy” rating on Sony, with a price target of 13,230 yen per share — more than 50% higher than where the price currently sits.

… this is one of the best companies that we have seen in our coverage.
Atul Goyal
Managing Director, Jefferies Asia

Sony is set to release its next generation video game console, PlayStation (PS) 5, which would come on the back of the blockbuster success of PlayStation 4.

“It is looking very solid, very strong for PlayStation 5 and the whole cycle that lies ahead of us for the next 5 to 6 years,” Goyal, a managing director at Jefferies Asia, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday. He highlighted Sony’s claims that the company received as many preorders in 12 hours for the PS5 as it did in 12 weeks for the PS4.

“You would hear shortages of PlayStation 5 because there’s more demand than supply,” the analyst said.

It’s not due to supply disruptions as “they have been able to recover from the … supply-side shortages that they were facing early on because most of the assemblies are happening in China and most of the supply chains have recovered almost entirely in China.”

“Demand is so strong for the product that that will keep the news flow that this product is sold out in most places for a while,” Goyal added.

Coronavirus impact

The video game sector has been among the few that have benefited from more people staying at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. That has raised questions over the sustainability of that bounce in a post-pandemic environment.

“The increase of gaming that we have seen partly is because of stay home, not just working from home, but vacationing from home where people are not traveling, and even the weekends you stay home,” Goyal pointed out. “This increase, part of that will be reverted as and when Covid goes away, and in my base case it doesn’t go away entirely until the end of 2021.”

Still, he said some of these habits that have changed as a result of the pandemic “could last longer.”

“We’re not factoring in (the) next five, six years of Covid-driven earnings increase. What we are factoring is Playstation 5-driven upside, driven by digital sales,” the analyst added.

Looking beyond Sony’s gaming business, which accounts for a sizable chunk of its operating income, Goyal said the firm’s music business is “also spectacular” while its image sensing business is also set to recover.

“All in all, this is one of the best companies that we have seen in our coverage,” he said. “Businesses in these three areas are all duopoly or oligopoly, and Sony’s a leader in all of them, with meaningful growth ahead.”

Source: – CNBC

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Apple ramps up efforts to build own search engine to rival Google, says report – CNET

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Apple and Google

Apple is ramping up efforts to develop its own search engine, according to a Financial Times report published Wednesday, as US antitrust authorities threaten a lucrative deal that sets Google’s search engine as the default option on iPhones and Samsung phones. 

The iPhone’s latest operating system version, iOS 14, has started to show its own search results and link directly to websites when users type in search queries directly from the home screen, according to industry sources cited in the report.

This move adds to mounting evidence, according to the report, that Apple is working to build a rival to Google search, including Apple’s poaching of John Giannandrea, Google’s head of search, more than two years ago.

Earlier this month, the US Justice Department filed a long-expected antitrust lawsuit against Google over its search dominance, alleging that Google “unlawfully maintained monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets.” 

At the heart of the Justice Department’s case are Google’s contracts with other companies, which allow the tech giant’s search engine to be used as the default option. Google pays billions of dollars each year to maintain that default spot. 

Google has been the iPhone’s default search engine for more than a decade. It’s been widely reported that Google pays Apple between $8-12 billion each year for its search engine deal, which is a boon for both tech giants. If it turns out the deal is blocked by the DOJ, Apple will need to supply an alternative for its iPhones. 

 Apple couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. 

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