The NHL Preseason has come to an end, and with Opening Night on Tuesday, the best time of year is just around the corner! We’ve already seen a crazy preseason, with injury, controversy, and budding stars ready to break out.
Here’s everything you may have missed during the preseason.
Did the Hurricanes Break the Rules?
The Carolina Hurricanes are set to play their fourth NHL preseason game on Saturday afternoon, their final tune-up before the regular season. However, that’s two games short of the minimum number of required preseason games, as determined by the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The rule states that teams must play no fewer than six and no more than eight preseason games. Teams are allowed to schedule their own preseason games, though due to COVID-19, teams were trepidatious about the travel involved in scheduling a higher number of games.
“We’re not the only team this year,” Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said on Friday. “Because of COVID, teams cut back on games. We talked to the league months ago about it. We actually couldn’t find enough games.”
There are a few additional wrinkles to the situation: first, there is no defined penalty for not meeting the minimum number of games. Neither the NHL nor the NHL Players’ Association has defined a consequence for failing to play at least six preseason contests.
Second, the Hurricanes are not the only team in this position. The New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and San Jose Sharks are all only playing five preseason games this year (Carolina is the only team to play only four).
“The requirement wasn’t changed,” NHL senior vice president of communications John Dellapina said in an email on Friday. “But the pandemic has required us to be agile and flexible in many areas.”
Finally, the real kicker comes with the rumor that the Montreal Canadiens, who have become rivals with Carolina over offer-sheeting of restricted free agents Sebastian Aho and Jesperi Kotkaniemi in recent years, may have snitched to the league about the Hurricanes’ insufficient number of games.
While nothing may come from this situation beyond further animosity between Montreal and Carolina, it’s still one of the weirder preseason stories we’ve had in a long time.
Preseason Injuries Mounting
Despite the decreased number of NHL preseason games across the league, we’ve already seen several key injuries. Friday night, it was Alex Ovechkin going down with a lower-body injury in a collision with Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny.
Alex Ovechkin hobbled off the ice after hitting Travis Konecny. pic.twitter.com/4M3nFl2IoL
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) October 8, 2021
As of publication, there is no update on Ovechkin’s condition, who needs just one goal to tie Marcel Dionne for fifth place on the NHL’s all-time goals list at 731.
New York Rangers enforcer Ryan Reaves was injured in a similar awkward collision, this time along the boards with New Jersey Devils d-man P.K. Subban.
Ryan Reaves injured in preseason after getting tangled with PK Subban pic.twitter.com/YLvhgrUmqY
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 6, 2021
Reaves’ status for the Rangers’ opener on Wednesday against the Washington Capitals is questionable, and after the bad blood between those two clubs dating back to last season, not having Reaves available would be a considerable setback.
On Saturday, the Minnesota Wild announced rookie forward Matt Boldy is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured left ankle.
While it’s better news than what the club previously feared, Boldy was one of the dark horse picks to win the Calder Trophy this season with odds dropping to +3500 after the news broke (previously, Boldy was around +2000, depending on the betting platform).
Roster Hopefuls Impressing
Another rookie making waves this preseason is Vancouver’s Vasili Podkolzin, who blends his size and speed to generate offense and drive the net.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) October 6, 2021
Though he didn’t score on this play, Podkolzin’s effort is exactly what the Canucks need. Vancouver has an abundance of forwards who can create offense from the perimeter (Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, to name a few). But having a player like Podkolzin with a nose for the net is a huge get for the organization.
Boldy’s teammate in Minnesota, Adam Beckman, has had an impressive preseason as well, leading the team with four goals, including this game-winner Wednesday night to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick (one goal, one assist, one fight):
ADAM BECKMAN CALLS GAME
GORDIE HOWE HAT TRICK
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) October 7, 2021
The Wild announced on Saturday that Beckman did not make it through the final round of roster cuts and will begin the season with the club’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, but with the effort, he put in this preseason, it won’t be long before Beckman is called up to NHL action.
In Columbus, keep an eye on Yegor Chinakhov and Cole Sillinger. Chinakhov (21st overall in the 2020 Draft) and Sillinger (12th overall in 2021) are both playing Saturday, which is a sign of optimism that both will make the Blue Jackets’ opening day roster.
Chinakhov is a lethal goal scorer, netting 10 goals as a 19-year-old in the KHL last season. Sillinger is a bit more of a playmaker, scoring 55 points in 52 games in the WHL and 46 points in 31 games with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL last season.