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Top NHL draft-eligible players at the 2020 World Junior Championship – Sportsnet.ca

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The projected top-three picks at next June’s NHL Draft in Montreal are due to be on display for hockey fans over the holidays at the World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.

Canada leads the group with some intriguing names on display while Sweden should have a pair of players up front who could help their offence.

Here’s a look at the top names who will be available for NHL clubs to select next June and competing at this year’s WJC.

CANADA

Alexis Lafreniere, LW: He’s been the projected first-overall pick for a long time and could solidify that over the next few weeks if he has a solid tournament. This will be Lafreniere’s second world juniors after scoring one goal in five games at last year’s event. He will be relied upon heavily on Canada’s top line and should be well rested given that his first game in nearly two weeks came in a pre-tournament tune-up against Switzerland. He’s lit up the QMJHL so far this season and will have a chance to shine in the international spotlight.

Quinton Byfield, C: If there’s anyone pushing to topple Lafreniere for top spot in the draft, it’s Byfield. With his big, powerful frame, he’s extremely difficult to play against. Add in his impressive goal-scoring ability and Byfield is a remarkable player to watch. He’s third in OHL scoring with 57 points with the Sudbury Wolves and Canada’s coaches liked what they saw from him during selection camp. He’s likely to slot in on one of Canada’s top two lines and should get plenty of ice time.

Jamie Drysdale, D: Drysdale’s smooth-skating and solid decision making skills earned him a spot on Canada’s roster as a seventh defenceman. He’s been projected to be a top-10 pick at the draft although how much time he plays for the Canadians at the world juniors will depend on the performance and health of others. An exciting, offensive blueliner.

Dawson Mercer, RW: The product of Bay Roberts, N.L., is projected to be a mid-first round selection following a strong first half with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. His crafty hands in front of the net earned him a goal in pre-competition play against Switzerland as he continues to make a case for minutes in Canada’s lineup.

SWEDEN

Lucas Raymond, LW: There was some uncertainty as to whether Raymond would even make Sweden’s team at all, but he’s arrived at the tournament with lots to prove. His numbers at the pro level with Frolunda of the SHL haven’t been outstanding, but now he’s got a chance to play against players his own age. He’s a skillful forward and Sweden hopes he can provide some much-needed offence. Projections have Raymond going third overall.

Alexander Holtz, RW: Another young forward with a lot of upside for Tre Kronor. Holtz has good size at six foot, 183 pounds, which he uses to his advantage. A good friend of Raymond’s, Holtz has a nice shot and explosive speed. He’s a first-year pro with Djurgardens IF and played on the same line as Raymond in some tournaments leading up to the world juniors. It could make for an exciting trio to watch when the under-20 event begins.

FINLAND

Anton Lundell, C: There was doubt as to whether Lundell would even play at the tournament after an elbow injury earlier this month had him projected to miss six weeks. He was productive last year as Finland won WJC gold with one goal and three assists and has carried that forward in his second season in Liiga, Finland’s top professional level. Early projections have Lundell being a top-10 pick.

RUSSIA

Yaroslav Askarov, G: Askarov is the top goaltender available at the draft with his impressive numbers at every level he’s played at so far. Currently with SKA-Neva St. Petersburg of the VHL, a league below the KHL, he’s got a 2.38 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 16 games. Can anyone say this year’s Andrei Vasilevskiy?

CZECH REPUBLIC

Jan Myšák, LW: Projected as a mid-to-late round pick, Mysak has played this season in his native Czech Republic with HC Litvinov where he has five goals and four assists in 26 games. Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino lists him as a good, all-around player.

Jaromir Pytlik, C: A big centre at six-foot-three and almost 200 pounds, who can put the puck in the net. Pytlik has 14 goals and 18 assists in 31 games this season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. He decided to come to North America to raise his draft stock at the start of January and so far it appears as though it’s paid off.

GERMANY

Tim Stutzle, LW: Stutzle will be one to keep an eye out for this year. He’s projected to be just outside the top-five, but playing in a best-on-best tournament like this one could change the opinions of scouts. He has five goals and 18 assists in 25 games during his first year of pro with Adler Mannheim of the DEL. He has good size and skill and it will be fun to see what he can do for Germany.

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Saints’ Drew Brees mum on future after playoff loss to Buccaneers

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NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone.

Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again.

Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance.

Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform.

For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract.

“I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I’m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said.

That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl.

This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round.

“I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.

“There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.”

Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire.

As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.”

Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him.

“That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.”

Other teammates didn’t wait, though.

“He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.”

Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him.

“When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle.

“He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.”

Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43.

When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby.

“I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.”

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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Drew Brees’ career possibly ends with more Saints playoff sorrow as Tom Brady and Bucs move on

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The Canadian Press

Saints’ Brees exits playoffs, perhaps career, on sour note

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone. Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again. Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance. Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform. For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract. “I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I”m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said. That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl. This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round. “I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. “There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.” Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire. As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.” Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him. “That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.” Other teammates didn’t wait, though. “He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.” Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him. “When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle. “He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.” Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43. When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby. “I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Brett Martel, The Associated Press

Source: – Yahoo Canada 

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FRIESEN: Injury to Laine just latest curveball for Jets – Winnipeg Sun

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Article content continued

“He couldn’t warm up right during practice,” Maurice said, shedding little light on the trouble. “I don’t even know if I’m going to list him as day-to-day, yet. We’ll get to tomorrow to see how he’s feeling.”

At least Laine was planning to get on the plane to Toronto.

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman (centre) defends as Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk tips the puck past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg on Thursday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Tucker Poolman, Josh Morrissey’s partner on the first defence pair, wasn’t.

Poolman spent his second day on the COVID-alert list and won’t make the three-game trip out east, where the Jets face Ottawa on Tuesday and Thursday.

It was Poolman’s issue (flu-like symptoms, presumably, or perhaps a close contact) that caused the Jets to cancel Saturday’s practice.
Maurice says he didn’t have to cancel, that the Jets were just being extra careful. Better safe than sorry, especially these days.

If potentially having your scoring star out and your top defence pair halved isn’t enough, first-line winger Nik Ehlers didn’t practice on Sunday because he’s still dealing with symptoms that produced a negative COVID test which allowed him to play the first game against Calgary, Thursday.

Ehlers made the trip to Toronto.

Dylan DeMelo did not, and this is where the good news comes in.

One of the Winnipeg’s top defensive defencemen, DeMelo and his wife had a baby that kept him out of Thursday’s game.

The pandemic prevents the couple from getting any help, though, so dad is staying home to help with the new addition.

Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sun., Jan. 17, 2021. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network
Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sunday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Maurice says mom and baby are doing fine, so that’s a plus.

The Jets survived DeMelo’s absence just fine in Game 1. Compounding it with Poolman’s will add to the challenge.

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