Hockey Headlines: Capitals on the Brink; Who will the Leafs Draft?

A collection of the latest news from around the world of hockey:

Patrik Laine is going to be a great player. He’s got the talent. The Winnipeg Jets were arguably the real winners on draft lottery day, because he will fall into their laps. But make no mistake. This doesn’t mean the Toronto Maple Leafs should pass on Auston Matthews to get him. In fact, they would probably be crazy to do that. Matthews isn’t as good as Connor McDavid, but he might end up better than Jack Eichel. He’s big, he’s strong, and most importantly, he’s a centerman. The importance of strength down the middle can’t be emphasized enough. No offence to Tyler Bozak, but the Leafs could use a little more depth at the position.

Toronto is finally in a position where they can draft a franchise centerman, the guy who will anchor their team for years to come. They have plenty of other guys who can play center, like Nazem Kadri, William Nylander and even Mitch Marner. But both Marner and Nylander can play the wing, and play it effectively, and Kadri may end up being at the very best a second line guy. They need Matthews. He’s a perfect fit. It makes for interesting headlines to suggest that they could chose Laine, or even trade the pick. But this is what they’ve been waiting for. And yes, I’d rather have Matthews than Steven Stamkos, whose health is a concern, and who will demand way too much money. [The Hockey News]

Now we have to talk about the Penguins and Capitals, because not a lot about that series is going to plan. First all of, the Pens have a stranglehold on the back of a rookie goaltender. Sidney Crosby has one lone assist through four games. Alex Ovechkin has three points. Last night’s game seemed like the perfect storm for the Caps to get back into the series. They outplayed the Pens in game three, and Pittsburgh was without their best defenceman in Kris Letang. But these aren’t your grandfathers Penguins. Since they settled into Mike Sullivan’s system, they have been a different team.

Nobody said it would be easy to fill Letang’s void, but this isn’t a club based on one or two players. They are the ultimate team. They take guys in and out of the lineup and no one misses a beat. If they win this series, someone should just hand Sullivan the Jack Adams trophy, because what’s happening in Pittsburgh is truly remarkable. But make no mistake. This series isn’t over. The Capitals, despite looking utterly defeated post-game, won’t go quietly into the night. They can’t right? They dominated the league all season long. And it’s not as if the Pens have always been the better team. Murray saved their bacon in game three, their powerplay is a joke, and their stars haven’t been producing.

The question is, will the new Penguin philosophy win out, despite a few flaws? The Caps could easily win the next game, but can they win three straight? I knew this series wouldn’t be an epic Crosby/Ovechkin battle, although there is still time for that to happen. In any case, either people underestimated the Penguins, or overestimated the Capitals, or both. Who will be the first to four wins? Your guess is as good as mine. [CBC], [Pensburgh], [Sportsnet]

For anyone who feels they are too young to make a difference, I introduce to you the 26 year-old General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes. I like the hiring. Time for a changing of the guard, and an infusion of new blood into this league. [Yahoo Sports]

Is Jarome Iginla a fit on the Oilers? [Beer League Heroes]

Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry will be Canada’s captain at the World Championships. [Ottawa Citizen]

Will the Dallas Stars be sunk by their goaltending? [Newsday]

The Sharks may have a cat, but the Nashville Predators have a football player on their side. [Oregon Live]

And finally, never forget that some things are just more important than hockey. [National Post]