CHICAGO – Fresh off his whirlwind week at the NHL Scouting Combine at HarborCenter, Jack Eichel will have what should be another memorable experience when he attends the morning skates and Game Three of the Stanley Cup final Monday in the United Center.
The NHL annually invites the top prospects for the upcoming draft to a game during the final. The players attend the morning skate and visit the teams’ locker rooms in addition to taking in the game. Another big tradition of the day is a taping of a “Coach’s Corner” segment with longtime CBC analyst Don Cherry. The players will also do group interview sessions Monday morning with the media covering the series.
Eichel, the Boston University star expected to be tabbed by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 2 overall pick, and presumptive No. 1 pick Connor McDavid are both scheduled to be on hand. So are defenseman Noah Hanifan, centers Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner and winger Lawson Crouse. All figure to be top-10 selections.
A few years ago, Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos were both prospects doing the same thing. So they know this year’s highly regarded class will savor the moment, and go through a lot of scrutiny during their day at the final.
Kane, the No. 1 pick in 2007, got his chance in Anaheim a couple of weeks before the draft when he watched the Ducks battle the Ottawa Senators and was around some celebrity Ducks fans.
“We actually sat right in front of Snoop Dogg,” a smiling Kane said here Sunday. “He had a couple kids with him. One was Lil’ Snoop with the apostrophe of course, and the other was Spanky or something. They were into the game. It was fun to sit in front of them. They had the George Parros moustaches on and jerseys. They were cheering loud. It was a fun experience.”
Stamkos did likewise in 2008 for a Pittsburgh-Detroit game in Joe Louis Arena. Playing for the Red Wings that night was current Tampa Bay teammate Valteri Filppula.
“Me and a couple of guys got to go in the rooms and that was pretty exciting,” Stamkos recalled. “For me, it was your first taste of seeing these guys up close, watching a game and getting to know some guys. We’ve already had some discussions that we’re looking forward to meeting those guys tomorrow. I know Connor a little bit from training and skating with him in the summer.
“This is what those guys dream of as well. I remember being in Detroit watching them hoping I could be on this stage someday and here we are.”
The Lightning improved to 4-0 in this postseason in Game Twos with Saturday’s 4-3 victory. They are 8-1 following a loss, losing back-to-back games only in Game Four and Five to Montreal in the Eastern conference semifinals.
Tyler Johnson’s second-period goal Saturday was his NHL-high 13th goal of the playoffs, breaking the Tampa Bay franchise record of 12 set by current Blackhawk Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko during the Lightning’s 2004 Cup season. Fedotenko famously got Nos. 12 and 13 during the Game Seven win in Tampa over Calgary that cemented the franchise’s only championship. That game was 11 years ago Sunday.
Dating to Game Six of the 2013 final in Boston – when the Hawks scored two goals in a 17-second span to wrest away the Cup – six of the past eight final games have seen the victorious team overcome a deficit at any point, including four in the third period.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville had no further update on rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, other than to say “could play.” Van Riemsdyk (wrist) hasn’t played an NHL game since November but is a good bet to give the Hawks more mobility on the back end, especially at home where Quenneville can better control his matchups.
Quenneville said he was thrilled by American Pharoah’s Triple Crown victory Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. Trainer Bob Baffert is a close friend of Quenneville and trains a horse called Midnight Hawk that’s owned by Quenneville and assistant Mike Kitchen. Quenneville and Baffert regularly exchange text messages.
“I’m very happy for him,” Quenneville said. “Watched the race. Great race. I texted him. Great for the sport. Quite an achievement.”