WHAT DA PUCK: WEEKLY RECAP

2022-12-12 · 5 min read · NHL/Hockey
Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Shane Wright

Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images | Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to What da Puck let’s get into it.
1
It has been a wild week for Seattle Kraken youngster Shane Wright. The no.4 overall pick of the 2022 draft was recalled from a conditioning stint in the AHL on Monday this past week; after scoring four goals in five games. On Tuesday he played in his first game back in the big leagues against the team many thought would draft him, the Montreal Canadiens, who held the first pick in the draft. Wright seemed to stare some daggers into the hearts of the members at the Canadiens table, though he later denied this saying he did not at all stare at the Canadiens and was instead just overwhelmed by the moment and looking into the camera. I thought you might want to judge this for yourself because while I’m no expert, it certainly looks like a glare to me.
Whether it was motivated by revenge or not, Wright definitely took out some of his frustrations on the Canadians in his first game back, scoring his first NHL goal. Then on Thursday the Kraken loaned Wright to team Canada for the WJC. Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said “To have an opportunity to go and compete for a gold medal for Team Canada is a pretty special opportunity for a young man. So on a lot of different levels, this will be a great opportunity for growth and a great opportunity just in terms of experience for him.” Wright played for Canada when the 2022 WJC initially was held in December 2021, putting up one assist in two games before the tournament was cancelled Dec. 29 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus; He did not play when the tournament was held in August.
Wright is one of 32 players taking part, and Canada will announce its tournament roster Dec. 12. The 2023 WJC will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Moncton and Halifax, Nova Scotia with Canada participating as the defending champion. Two other players were loaned out this week, Arizona Coyotes forward Dylan Guenther (no.9 2021) and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Brandt Clarke (no.8 2021) Guenther had two assists during the 2022 WJC when it was played in December but did not play in the August tournament. Clarke never has played in the WJC.
2
The NHL dolled out a few suspensions this week namely to Jeff Skinner of the Buffalo Sabres, Jamie Oleksiak of the Seattle Kraken, and Pierre Envgall of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Skinner was suspended three games for cross checking Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel during the game between the Sabres and Penguins on Friday.
The incident occurred in the last minute of the third period, Skinner was given a match penalty for the infraction; the Penguins would go on to win in overtime with the man advantage due to the penalty. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, based on his average annual salary, Skinner will forfeit $145,945.95. Kraken defenseman Oleksiak has been suspended for three games, without pay, for an illegal check to the head of Washington Capitals defenseman Alexander Alexyev. The incident occurred about halfway through the second period, like Skinner Oleksiak was assessed a match penalty for the hit. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, based on his average annual salary, Oleksiak will forfeit $74,594.58.
Lastly, Maple Leafs forward Pierre Engvall was dealt a one-game suspension on Friday for high-sticking Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Durzi. The incident took place at 1:02 of the third period in Toronto's 5-0 win over Los Angeles on Thursday. Like Oleksiak and Skinner, Engvall was assessed a match penalty for the incident. These mark the 9th, 10th and 11th suspensions this year and first since November 11th. Suspensions this season have now amounted to $479,297.31; the money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
3
Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson had himself a night to remember this past week, scoring five goals including four in the first period during the Sabres 9-4 drubbing of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday. Another step of the amazing journey Thompson has been on, where in less than two seasons Thompson has gone from being an oversized afterthought who battled injuries and for playing time under Buffalo's previous coach, Ralph Krueger, to becoming the breakout star on a team built around youth and speed. If current coach Don Granato didn't have the guts to shift Thompson from secondary winger role to centering Buffalo’s top line, the Sabres likely would have missed out on having one of the league’s most unique and dynamic scoring threats. Instead they have the guy who became the 12th player since 1992-93 to find the twine five times in a single game. Granato was one of the few people who saw this coming as he coached a 17-year-old Thompson with USA Hockey's developmental program in 2014-15. Thompson scored his first four goals in a span of 11:08, helping Buffalo build a 6-0 lead at the end of the first, after which he then scored at the 16:07 mark of the second period to make it 7-3. The 25-year-old Thompson became the second U.S. born player to score five in on outing joining Mark Pavelich. Overall, he's the fourth player to score four times in the first period, and sixth to do so in any period of a game. To put Thompson’s meteoric rise into context, he’s gone from scoring 18 goals and 35 points in his first 145 career games, including his rookie season in St. Louis, to piling up 59 goals and 108 points in his past 104. So far this season Thompson has 21 goals and 41 points in 28 games, currently good for third in goals and fourth in the league in points. Thompsons electric start to this season blunts those who questioned the Sabres for signing Thompson to a seven-year, $50 million contract this summer based on one season of production in which he had a team-leading 38 goals. Perhaps what is most interesting about Thompson is that most players his size wind up on the blue line or in net. Among current NHL rosters, only six players are listed at 6-foot-7 or taller, with five of them defenseman. The only exception is Detroit rookie left wing Elmer Soderblom, who is listed at 6-8. What separates Thompson from most players is his size, are his soft mitts, and high level of control while stickhandling in tight spaces. Aside from having a top level shot, he’s also becoming quite the creator. Pretty damn good for a guy many were calling a bust after being acquired in 2019 from St Louis in the Ryan O’Reilly deal. Now it seems Tage just needed a little extra time to grow into one of the league's newest and most unique stars. 
Quick Wristers
  • Kris Letang was back in the Pittsburgh Penguins line-up just 12 days after suffering a stroke. The defenseman, who missed five games, led the Penguins with 22:14 of ice time in a 3-1 win over the Sabres Saturday. I'm sure everybody in the Penguins organization was thrilled to get the legend back on the ice, as Letang has 12 points (one goal) in 21 games this season and leads the Penguins in average ice time per game (23:54). In 17 seasons with Pittsburgh, he ranks first among its defensemen in games (962), goals (145), assists (517) and points (662). Boy is this guy tough and possesses a deep love of the game.
  • Another week and another update on Washington Capitals legend Alexander Ovechkin moving up the all-time goals list. Heading into Sunday night's game against the Winnipeg Jets, Ovie is four goals from 800 and five behind Gordie Howe's second place mark of 801. Ovechkin has been hot recently putting up 15 points (eight goals) in his last 11 games, helping the Caps win three consecutive games for the first time this season. Gretzky’s mark of 894 continues to look within reach for The Great Eight. It's only a matter of time, likely not much of it before he passes Howe for second.
  • Speaking of goal scoring, Edmonton Oilers captain Conner McDavid is riding a seven game goal-scoring streak going heading into a Monday night matchup with the Minnesota Wild. McDavid has scored nine goals in that span to lead him to a league leading 25 goals in only 28 games, to go along with this NHL best 54 points, eight more than teammate Leon Draisaitl. It is truly scary to think the guy who has led the league in scoring the past two seasons might have found another level to his already impressive game. McDavid set a career high in goals last season with 44 and barring unforeseen issues he is going to smash that mark this year. It feels like McDavid might be on his way to a legendary season; is becoming the first guy to break the 150 mark since magnificent Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 within reach?
Highlights of the Week
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By: Chase Howard

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