Here’s a look at our top 10 prospects from the Western Hockey League for the 2013 NHL Draft, a group that includes a very top-heavy batch of elite defensemen. All players in our ranking attended the NHL Combine last month.
Despite a resolute late push by the now-younger Dallas Stars in the regular season, they were unable to clinch a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season. And once again, upheaval was afoot. The Stars sacked head coach Glen Gulutzan after two seasons but not before canning general manager Joe Nieuwendyk as well. Conversely, at the minor league level, the Texas Stars enjoyed a very successful regular season and won a playoff round.
The Tampa Bay Lightning failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season and Head Coach Guy Boucher was eventually relieved of his duties and replaced by Jon Cooper, the coach of the Lightning's AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Goaltending and defense proved once again to be the team weakness, as they dropped to 14th in the East, and locked up the third overall pick in this June's draft.
For the first time in four years, the Edmonton Oilers will not be taking the first overall pick in the NHL Draft. Although they failed to make the playoffs for the seventh straight year, the Oilers managed to climb a bit farther up the ladder and landed at 24th in the league after the regular season. Soon after came the dismissal of General Manager Steve Tambellini, only to be replaced by former head coach Craig MacTavish, who is anticipated to make some big changes for the club.
When a kid grows up playing ice hockey in either Norway or Denmark and shows above-average abilities or an innate understanding of the game, he’ll often find his way to one of the many excellent junior programs that dot the Swedish ice hockey landscape. This is exactly what has taken place for the currently 5’10”, 170-pound Norwegian defenseman Mattias Norstebo (written Nørstebø in Norwegian and Nörstebö in Swedish).
With only two playoff appearances in the past six seasons, it is abundantly clear the Buffalo Sabres need to retool their roster and head in a new direction. Finishing last in the Northeast Division, the team's worst showing since the 2003-04 lockout, general manager Darcy Regier is preparing to usher in the post-Lindy Ruff era of Sabres hockey.
Prior to the trade deadline, the St. Louis Blues tried to acquire enough talent to make a push for the Stanley Cup. While the additions of Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold helped solidify the depth and experience of their blue line, they were unsuccessful in making a run for a championship and lost both young talent and draft picks in the process. In the Bouwmeester deal, the Blues gave up Mark Cundari, Reto Berra, and a conditional first round draft pick, which would be exercised if the Blues made the playoffs. The Blues did make the playoffs and were forced to give up their 2013 first round draft pick to the Calgary Flames.
The New York Islanders took a huge step forward this season making the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006-07. After clinching the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders took the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins to a hard fought sixth game before being eliminated in the first round.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season when the Detroit Red Wings picked up their 24th victory to bring its point total to 56. Despite coming up a point short from its second trip to the playoffs, the new look Blue Jackets exceeded expectations after adding depth forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov from New York. A mid-season trade brought Marian Gaborik over from the Rangers and the star winger finished with 27 points after posting 19 with New York.