Month: December 2014

[PT] A história do estranho surto de papeira que colocou a NHL em alvoroço

Ryan Suter, dos Minnesota Wild, foi um dos craques afectados (Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY Sports)

Não existe fenómeno mais singular que o aparecimento da palavra “mumps” entre o léxico gramatical da NHL nesta temporada. Em 2013, foram relatados nos Estados Unidos, um universo de mais de 300 milhões de pessoas, 483 casos de papeira. Na NHL, onde menos de 750 atletas têm presença regular, já foram identificados 15 casos positivos entre os jogadores (mais dois entre o grupo de árbitros) desde Outubro, e a epidemia parece estar longe de chegar ao fim, tendo já corrido de uma costa à outra.

Como explicar tal fenómeno? Quais os sintomas desta doença, quais os efeitos e como se propaga? Quais as razões que facilitam o aparecimento e disseminar de um surto deste tipo dentro de uma liga profissional? Onde surgiram os primeiros casos da doença? Vamos procurar responder a esta e outras perguntas neste artigo.

Muitos dos nossos leitores devem lembrar-se da papeira como uma doença normalmente associada ao período da infância. Usualmente ligada a outras infecções extremamente contagiosas, como o sarampo e a rubéola, é a manifestação de um vírus que durante muito tempo atacava a maioria das crianças, estimando-se que cerca de 90% a contraiam até aos 14 anos, mas que, com o aparecimento da vacina, viu a sua incidência reduzir-se significativamente, tornando-se uma maleita rara. Contudo, nos últimos anos, tem renascido com uma incidência estranha em adolescentes e adultos, o que tem intrigado os especialistas, já que o acesso à vacinação é, hoje em dia, relativamente universal a nível mundial. Mas antes de nos focarmos na vacinação, falemos da doença em si.

A papeira (ou mumps, em inglês) é uma infecção viral que afecta as glândulas parótidas, um dos três tipos de glândulas produtoras de saliva (salivárias) situadas por baixo e à frente das orelhas, provocando a chamada parotidite. Entre os sintomas observados nos doentes, registam-se, para lá de pronunciados inchaços e dores nas glândulas em um ou ambos os lados da face, febre, dores de cabeça, fraqueza e fadiga, dores corporais, perda de apetite e dificuldades para mastigar e engolir. Bastante desagradável, portanto.

Contudo, os maiores problemas são os efeitos colaterais que podem surgir em adultos. Entre os homens, cerca de 20 a 30% dos doentes sofrem de inflamação e inchaço dos testículos, a chamada orquite, que no limite pode causar esterilidade, enquanto entre os membros do sexo feminino é especialmente perigoso para as mulheres grávidas, podendo dar origem a abortos espontâneos. Além disto, adultos com papeira podem também desenvolver encefalite e, em cerca de 15% dos casos, meningite, que é potencialmente mortal e pode resultar em perda de audição, por exemplo.

Tanner Glass (esquerda), um dos mais prolíficos lutadores da NHL, foi o primeiro caso confirmado na Costa Este (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

O vírus da papeira é espalhado essencialmente por saliva, no contacto próximo de pessoa para pessoa, e por respiração de gotículas de saliva ou muco do nariz, garganta e boca provenientes de uma pessoa infectada que espirra, tosse ou fala. Além disso, é possível apanhar a doença em resultado da partilha de utensílios alimentares, latas ou copos que tenham sido utilizados por um portador da doença. O contacto com uma superfície que foi tocada por um doente que não tenha as mãos lavadas e um esfregar posterior do nariz ou da boca podem também transferir o vírus.

A vacina da papeira foi descoberta em 1967, com o número de casos a reduzir-se significativamente (estimativas apontam para 99%) depois da mesma passar a ser utilizada. Os recém-nascidos são normalmente imunizados contra a papeira durante o primeiro ano de vida e recebem uma segunda dose da vacina (que protege também contra o sarampo e rubéola) aos 5 anos, antes de entrarem para a escola. É importante referir ainda que nem todas as pessoas ficam protegidas, já que se estima que cerca de 10% das pessoas que são vacinadas não sejam capazes de produzir os anticorpos necessários para combater o vírus, e que o aparecimento de um caso totalmente desenvolvido de papeira conduz à imunidade da pessoa que o sofre para o resto da vida.

Contudo, relativamente aos restantes, existem também dúvidas sobre o seu nível de exposição após vacinação. Estudos apontam para o facto de a efectividade da vacina diminuir com o tempo, sendo considerada muito menos eficaz que outras ao proteger cerca de 88% dos casos. Foram registados vários exemplos onde o vírus se superioriza em indivíduos que receberam as duas doses de vacinação na idade infantil, sendo por isso aconselhada uma dose de reforço na idade adulta. Isto acontece porque os especialistas não conseguiram ainda determinar a altura em que o efeito da vacina se esvai, com o corpo a reagir bem à imunização inicialmente apenas para mais tarde a deixar de produzir os anticorpos necessários para a sua protecção. Por outro lado, também não se sabe a que nível de anticorpos no sangue se está seguro ou imune à doença.

Os surtos de papeira ocasionalmente detectados situam-se em zonas de alta densidade populacional e onde as pessoas vivem dentro das mesmas instalações, como dormitórios e colégios internos, que devido às características próprias da doença aumentam a exposição e facilitam a transmissão da mesma.

Se atentarmos ao dia-a-dia de uma equipa da NHL, vemos que não é propriamente surpreendente que tenha surgido um surto destes na liga. De facto, os jogadores chocam uns contra os outros, lutam, batalham, suam e cospem durante as partidas, deixando amostras de saliva um pouco por todo o lado, mas mesmo assim é difícil ter a certeza que a transmissão pode ser feita entre adversários no meio da acção, uma vez que os contactos próximos não duram assim tanto tempo. Fora do gelo, companheiros partilham garrafas de água, passam muito tempo em quartos próximos e interagem frequentemente com amigos e antigos companheiros antes e depois dos jogos. Não deixa por isso de ficar claro que o balneário de uma equipa da NHL é um local onde a protecção contra este tipo de doenças contagiosas é um processo complexo e onde é necessária vigilância redobrada.

A dificultar as coisas está o facto de os sintomas da doença poderem ficar latentes durante um largo período de tempo, que pode ir dos 12 aos 25 dias, estando os atletas em estado de contágio mesmo sem manifestarem os sintomas. É assim complicado identificar atempadamente os casos e isolar os jogadores, que mesmo sentindo-se bem estão a espalhar o vírus. A papeira demora normalmente cerca de uma semana a passar, não existindo tratamento específico para a doença, que normalmente é combatida por ingestão de fluidos e recurso a antibióticos que permitem incrementar a produção de anticorpos.

François Beauchemin e Corey Perry, dos Anaheim Ducks, dois dos primeiros jogadores infectados

Na NHL o primeiro caso noticiado e oficialmente diagnosticado com a doença remonta a 5 de Novembro, quando o avançado Corey Perry, dos Anaheim Ducks, foi afastado da equipa com sintomas de gripe e viu a confirmação de papeira chegar apenas uma semana depois. Já o seu companheiro François Beauchemin notou um inchaço na cara depois de um jogo com os Arizona Coyotes, a 7 de Novembro, e queixou-se após chegar a casa exausto. Quatro dias depois tinha já perdido imenso peso devido à falta de apetite, tendo acabado por ser hospitalizado e falhado cinco jogos, referindo após voltar que o desconforto tinha sido maior que qualquer outro que tinha sentido anteriormente. Apesar de em Setembro ter sido lançado um alerta de papeira em Anaheim, a epidemia da NHL não terá começado necessariamente no balneário dos Ducks.

Vários jogadores dos St. Louis Blues adoeceram durante o mês de Outubro, mesmo que até hoje a equipa não tenha confirmado que qualquer deles tenha sido infectado pelo vírus da papeira. O certo é que o finlandês Jori Lehtera estava doente antes de defrontar os Ducks a 19 de Outubro, com sintomas parecidos com os da papeira, e vários outros companheiros de equipa sentiram efeitos semelhantes. Também Keith Ballard, dos Minnesota Wild, ficou de fora entre 17 de Outubro e 8 de Novembro com uma doença que pode ter sido a papeira.

Além de Perry e Beauchemin, também Clayton Stoner e Emerson Etem foram diagnosticados com a doença na equipa dos Ducks, com Ryan Suter, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin e Christian Folin a juntarem-se a Ballard entre os casos positivos da formação do Minnesota, que viu assim serem afectados cinco dos seus defesas, curiosamente todos eles com cacifos adjacentes no balneário.

A 29 de Novembro o surto chegou à Costa Leste, com Tanner Glass, dos New York Rangers, a ser diagnosticado, tendo-se seguido Travis Zajac e Adam Larsson, dos New Jersey Devils, e mais três nomes nos últimos dias: Sidney Crosby e Beau Bennett, ambos dos Pittsburgh Penguins, e Derrick Brassard dos Rangers. Entre todos os nomes referidos, nota para grandes variações na incidência da doença, com os dois primeiros jogadores dos Ducks a terem de ser hospitalizados, Ballard a falhar oito jogos, Suter apenas dois, e Zajac a ser apenas diagnosticado quando já estava livre de sintomas.

Contudo, o caso mais mediático, e provavelmente mais bizarro, foi mesmo o de Sidney Crosby, por muitos considerado o melhor jogador do mundo.

(Continuar a ler em http://modalidades.com.pt/noticias/c92-nhl/a-historia-do-estranho-surto-de-papeira-que-colocou-a-nhl-em-alvoroco)

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Top NHL prospects to watch – Western Conference

Darnell Nurse has already debuted on the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers

(Introduction and top prospects in the East here)

The Western Conference top 5 prospects to watch are:

Josh Morrisey, D, Winnipeg Jets

Three years after leaving Atlanta, the Jets roster still contains the same core players that played for the Thrashers. Selling the rough weather of Winnipeg to high-profile free agents is a tough task, so, in order to improve the quality of the team, the Jets have to rely on selecting well on the draft. Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, the first round picks in 2011 and 2012, are already playing for the team, with Josh Morrisey, the 13th pick in the 2013 draft, and Nikolaj Ehlers, the team’s first selection this year, being the next in line.

Josh Morrisey in action for the Jets’ afiliate on the AHL

Contrary to Jacob Trouba, who figures to become a complete, workhorse defender, Morrisey is the typical offensive blue-liner who can skate, create offense in transition either carrying the puck with confidence or distributing it, and with good instincts to surprise opposing defences. His hockey IQ, ability to read the play on both sides of the puck and push the pace can earn comparisons to fellow Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom, even if Morrisey is a bit taller (6’0’’) and heavier (186 lbs), which helps in mixing it up with big, physical forwards, something he’s show the willingness to do.

The native of Calgary was one of the last cuts on this season’s Jets training camp and returned for a fourth and final run with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raider. After scoring 15 points and 47 points on his draft year, the defenseman raised his level last season, scoring an impressive total of 28 goals and 73 points in just 59 regular season games, leading the league in goals by a rearguard. The Raiders were eliminated on the first round of the playoffs but Morrisey proceeded to represent Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate, the St. John Ice Dogs, earning valuable professional experience during the team’s deep playoff campaign (9 pts in 20 games), stopped in the final by the Texas Stars. Earlier in the year, Morrisey was also part of Canada’s U20 World Juniors team, tallying 3 points in 7 games, and he is in line for another appearance on the 2015 tournament.The 19-year-old is currently rounding up his game and gaining strength in Prince Albert while his time in Manitoba doesn’t come, totalling 21 points in 25 games. He’s projected to turn into a powerplay quarterback and a top pair defenseman for the Jets.

Darnell Nurse, D, Edmonton Oilers

Four top three picks in the last five NHL drafts landed the Oilers a staple of dynamic scorers, but resulted also on the lack of sure-fire NHL prospects on the blueline. In 2013, with the 7th pick, the Edmonton-outfit decided to choose a hulking rearguard from the OHL’s Sault St. Marie Greyounds, and they hope he can solve some of the problems that have plagued the team in the last few years.

Darnell Nurse is a 6’4’’, 205 lbs, two-way defenseman with a nasty side that can slot as a shutdown presence. Despite the huge frame that he is still filling up, the Hamilton native is mobile and skates well, possessing the skill to play on the powerplay and put points on the board while delivering punishing hits on opponents and engaging physically often, something expressed on the 116 PIM amassed in 2012-2013. On his draft year he managed to get 41 points in 68 games while last season, as team captain, his offensive production jumped a bit, to 50 points and 13 goals in 65 games, but more important were the steps he took on his development, playing on both first special team units, logging 25-30 minutes of ice time per game, and leading the team to the second round of the playoffs. Nurse was surprisingly left out of the Canadian roster for the 2014 U20 World Junior Championships in Malmo, but at the end of the year had his first taste of professional hockey, suiting up for the Oklahoma City Barons, Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, in 7 games.

The defenseman is currently on his fourth OHL season, after being demoted by the Oilers following a two-game appearance at the NHL level, performing at a point per game pace (19 in 19 games) and hoping to further refine his skill set, work on the offensive game, and improve on some defensive zone details. The 19-year-old will also have the chance to finally appear on the U20 World tournament, suiting up for the 2015 edition held in Canada, and is projected to become a top pair blueliner with an imposing presence, sound positioning and some offensive upside.

Ty Rattie, RW, St. Louis Blues

On the last few years, the St. Louis Blues attack has always been capable of playing a heavy, responsible, gritty style of hockey, but the game-breaking skills were something they lacked when the games counted the most, the playoffs. Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz were the first wave of highly-skilled talented forwards to emerge on the team, and Ty Rattie is looking to follow shortly on their footsteps.

Ty Rattie warms up before his 2nd NHL game, in April 2014

The 21-year-old, born in Airdrie, Alberta, enjoyed his first professional season last year, scoring 31 goals for the Chicago Wolves, the fourth best total in the AHL, and adding 17 assists to finish in the top 10 in points among rookies. He followed that by adding a goal and two assists in nine playoff games, and having his first two appearances in the NHL. His goal-scoring prowess was already evident at the junior level, when, as part of a skilled Portland Winterhawks team, he improved his goal and point totals in each of the first three WHL seasons. The right-winger went from 37 to 79 to 121 points, and from 17 to 28 to 57 goals, displaying offensive skills that convinced the Blues to select him with the 32th pick in 2011. In 2012-13, as he returned to Portland for a fourth and final WHL season, his numbers dipped a bit, to 48 goals and 110 points, but he rebounded on the playoffs, scoring 20 goals in 21 games and earning MVP honours in the team’s triumphant march. Rattie is not the most skilled or talented player, but can find the open spots, control the puck and put it on the back of the net, having proved his versatility to play in every situation over the years.

Due to the Blues stacked lineup, the Canadian is still stuck on the AHL, where he can continue to get stronger (6’0”, 178lbs), improve on his average skating, build consistency and refine defensive aspects. He has 13 goals and 15 points in 25 games this season and should be able to crack a spot on St. Louis’ roster on the short term, with his offensive talent projecting a solid career as a consistent scorer at the NHL level.

Max Domi, C, Arizona Coyotes

Two consecutive seasons without playoff hockey and a veteran roster, especially at the forward position, leave Dave Maloney and the Coyotes organization with no solution but to take a chance on their youth. Arizona’s last three first round picks were spent on forwards and the son of Tie Domi seems to be the most ready to make an impact.

Max Domi in an Arizona Coyotes sweater.

The Winnipeg native is a small, compact forward (5’10, 198 lbs) with good strength and a powerful skating stride that helps in getting away from defenders with top-notch speed and acceleration. He likes to skate low, use his marvellous stickhandling and playmaking skills to create offense, either from the center or left wing positions and, at his best, is a tenacious, gritty presence on the forecheck. However, Domi still needs to find the balance between hanging on to the puck in order to make a play and trying to go through all the opponents’ defence by himself, which is something he has the hands to do on occasion at youth levels but won’t result against experienced teams. Like his father, he also takes pride in playing an aggressive game, which gets him in trouble from time to time as teams try to expose his temperament.

The 12th pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft scored 39 goals (87 points) in 2012-13, delivering also 32 points on the London Knight’s OHL title campaign, but only managed 34 apples last year (93 points), failing to improve significantly his offensive production because he sulked after being sent back to junior, something that surely contributed in the lack of an invitation to be a member of the Canadian World Junior team. In 2014-15, the 19-year-old was once again cut at the end of the Coyotes camp but reacted much better, exploding to post 58 points in the first 27 games of the new season while playing on the wing. He’s working to round out his game and behaving as a captain by cutting on the bad penalties that, in the past, have crippled the team’s effort.

Lack of discipline and deficiencies on the defensive side of the puck have slowed his progress and delayed Domi’s debut at the professional level, but shouldn’t be long until he cracks the Coyotes top forward lines and starts showcasing his offensive talent at the NHL level.

Teuvo Teravainen, C/W, Chicago Blackhawks

The Finnish forward will add to Chicago’s offensive firepower

It’s almost unfair that a Blackhawks team with so much high-end forward talent has this Finnish wizard almost ready to explode at the NHL level. Teravainen is a product of Jokerit Helsinki’s youth system, having debuted on the first team at the age of 17, in 2011-12, to produce 11 goals and 18 points in 40 games. The following season he jumped to 31 points, while taking part for the first time on the World U20 Junior Championships, notching 11 points on the competition. Last season was destined to be his last one in Europe and the versatile forward made an effort to leave a mark, reaching 44 points in 49 games, which earned him a nomination for the SM- Liiga All-Star team, and dazzling on his 2nd appearance on the World’s Under-20 competition, serving as captain and leading Finland to the title while posting a tournament-leading 15 points (2 goals) in seven games. After the end of Jokerit’s season, the 20-year old made the trip over the Atlantic, playing three regular season games for the Blackhawks.

Selected with the 18th pick of the 2012 NHL draft, the 5’11’’ forward can play at the center or wing positions, displaying superior on-ice vision and playmaking skills, which he uses to create offense every time he hits the ice. Teravainen has great hands but still needs to build strength and improve his defensive acumen in order to make an impact at the NHL level.

He has started 2014-15 on the AHL’s Rockford Ice Dogs, tallying 16 points on 23 games while still adjusting to the speedier and tighter North-American game. Teravainen’s skill, hockey sense and passing ability seem poised to translate into a fruitful NHL career, with the expectations being that he fills up the somewhat problematic 2nd line Center position, producing offense alongside the similarly-built Patrick Kane for a long time.

(All data updated until December, 9th)

Top NHL prospects to watch – Eastern Conference

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning’s best goalie prospect (DIRK SHADD | Times)

Every year, dozens of excited young players enjoy their first taste of NHL hockey. Some stay for the whole year and become stars from the get go, while others are only temporary call ups, stopgaps for a pair of games before regulars came back. This exercise is about the ones that I believe will join the first group shortly, at the latest next year, and hopes to elucidate and inform about the characteristics and careers of this selected collection of prospects that aim to become mainstays in the NHL.

Since I wanted to compile the players that will make an impact in the NHL on the near future, an effort was made to select those that have yet to appear on a NHL game or have only experienced a couple of low-profile games, generally at the end of the regular season. I further limited my pool of candidates by skipping former top 5 picks, as the vast majority of these players are already in the NHL, and those who aren’t are already well-known by fans, and the members of the 2014-15 rookie class.

I ended up picking 5 prospects to watch from each Conference, with this post presenting the representatives of the East.

Anthony Mantha, RW, Detroit Red Wings

The inherent costs of keeping a sequence of twenty-three consecutive presences on the NHL playoffs meant that the Wings haven’t had the chance to select a lot of impact first round picks since the turn of the century. In fact, Jakub Kindl (19th, 2005) and Brendan Smith (27th, 2007) are only serviceable defenders and Riley Sheahan is still evolving as a two-way center at the NHL level. This leaves Nicklas Kronwall, the 29th pick of the 2000 NHL draft, as the last player selected by the team to have become an integral part of the franchise’s core group, and makes Anthony Mantha one of the most talked-about prospects seen recently by Wings fans.

Anthony Mantha on a pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins

The 20-year-old Quebec native is, above all, a pure goal-scorer with a deadly wrist shot. Despite possessing a big frame, listed at 6’5’’ and 214 lbs, and being a great skater, he is not overly physical or aggressive pursuing the puck, using his size mainly to find loose pucks in traffic, keep possession, and open space to fire at the net. Two league-leading 50 goal-seasons at the junior level, playing for the Val D’Or Foreurs (QMJHL), including an MVP-worthy, goal-per-game performance last year (57 goals in 57 games (120 total points), give an idea of the right wing’s offensive ceiling. He was also part of Canada’s 2014 World Junior Championships team, gathering 5 goals and 11 points in 7 games.

His 2014-15 season, the first at the professional level, started with a fractured tibia that ruined his chances of fighting for a spot on the NHL roster, but he has already returned to action, adding 3 goals and 5 points in 11 AHL games. With the bevy of talented forwards on the Red Wings roster, Mantha’s affirmation at the NHL level could be delayed until next season, with the time being used to cement his adaptation to the professional game and to work on in-game consistency, defensive awareness and the lack of intensity that he, at times, still displays on the ice. The 20th pick of the 2013 NHL draft is projected to become an explosive top line goal-scorer at the NHL level, joining the likes of Tomas Tatar, Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist as main features of Detroit’s attack on the next decade.

William Nylander, C/RW, Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s been a really long time since the Toronto Maple Leafs had a forward prospect as exciting as the baby-faced 18-year-old Swedish/Canadian. Born in Calgary in 1996, William is the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander and played youth hockey in the United States until 2011, when his family moved back to Sweden after his father signed in Switzerland. He developed his skills on the youth Sodertalje teams, and 43 points in 27 games for the U20 team were enough to warrant a debut on the professional ranks in 2012-13, as a 16-year-old playing against men on the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second division. In the following season, the forward moved to the SHL, signing for Ornskoldsvik-based MODO, but after 7 points in 22 games on the top division, he was loaned to Rogle, his father’s team, and later he finished the season back at Sodertalje, averaging more than a point per game (19 in 17 games) for the club.

William Nylander impressed during Toronto’s training camp

The 18-year-old center was the 8th pick of this year’s draft and his skill package is a tantalizing one for the Leafs. He’s a brilliant skater that can execute at full speed and his puck-skills are tremendous, displaying a superb ability to keep the puck even under pressure from stronger players, dangle around people and sticks, change the pace of the game, and thread a pass to a teammate. Nylander can also score with his accurate wrist shot and is smart, dynamic and confident player that is not afraid to be the go-to guy (sometimes too much…) and show his skill and agility against more experienced opposition. At 5’11 and 174 pounds, he is considered a lightweight and needs to work on filling up and gaining strength, with this being exactly the reason why the Leafs sent him back to MODO for the 2014-15 season, in which he is already leaving his mark, clocking at a point per game (17 points in 17 games) and earning praise from the great Peter Forsberg, assistant GM of his current formation.

It is not a sure thing that Nylander will represent the Leafs next year, but there’s no doubt that the sky is the limit for him, with Toronto fans having another chance to evaluate their future 1st line Center when he represents Sweden at the 2015 World Junior Championships held in the City (and in Montreal).

Derrick Pouliot, D, Pittsburgh Penguins

Among the impressive group of defensive prospects left by Ray Shero on the Pittsburgh Penguins system, none has a bigger pedigree than Derrick Pouliot. Taken by the team with the 8th pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, acquired instants before on the Jordan Staal trade, the native of Estevan, Saskatchewan is an extremely mobile offensive defenseman with terrific vision and puck-moving skills. Despite being a bit undersized at 5’11, Pouliot is able to hold onto the puck and win battles in the corner due to his aggressiveness and core strength, expressed on his 208 lbs weight. He is also an explosive skater with a heavy shot that can create damage off the rush or quarterbacking the powerplay.

Derrick Pouliot, Penguins’ future on defense

The left-shot defenseman played his entire junior career for a powerhouse Portland Winterhawks team, winning the WHL title in 2012-13 and racking up points during 4 seasons (205 in 247 games), including last year’s performance of 70 points (17 goals) in 59 games, which earned him CHL Defenseman of the year honours and was followed by an impressive 32 points in 21 playoff games. The 20-year-old was also a member of the 2014 Canadian Under-20 WJC team, adding 5 points in 7 games.

After overcoming a shoulder injury that cost him the chance to fight for a roster spot on the Penguins coached by Mike Johnson, his former Portland trainer, Pouliot started this season in Wilkes-Barre, amassing 16 points on his first 19 games. When the time to shine in Pittsburgh arrives, he should be a fixture at the top of the team’s top powerplay unit, distributing the puck to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, unleashing bombs from the blue line, and logging tough minutes at even-strength on a top four role.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers

The NHL expansion to the Southern states has in Shayne Gostisbehere another proud product. The 21-year-old prospect was born in Margate, Florida, and grew up on the state alongside ice hockey rinks because his mother was a figure skater. Later, the defenseman moved to Connecticut to study on prep school and he would commit to playing NCCA Hockey for the Union College. Selected in the third round (78th pick) of the 2012 NHL draft, Gostisbehere, or simply “Ghost”, is a dynamic offensive defenseman with outstanding skating ability and great puck-handling skills, that he uses to transition the play efficiently to the offense, navigate through the neutral zone and set up scoring chances. His offensive flair is also evident on the powerplay, with the American excelling as the man-advantage quarterback, possessing both the capacity to pass and the willingness to shoot the puck. Since he is also good at reading and executing on the defensive end, the biggest knock is his size, as the 5’11’’, 170 lbs frame seems pretty light to handle the rigors of a full NHL schedule, even though the league has seen an increase in small, quick, smart players that succeed at the top-level.

Shayne Gostisbehere

Beyond being a key player for the gold-medallist USA’s 2013 World U20 Championship team, on three years at Union the Flyers prospect evolved to become one of the best defenseman in college hockey, leading his team to the 2013-14 National Championship on a season where he was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, and was part of the Conference and Frozen Four All-Star teams. His performance on the NCAA final, precisely in Philly, is probably one of the most impressive of all-time, with the junior collecting three points, the MVP trophy, and finishing the game with a +7 (!!! ) rating on Union’s 7-4 win over Minnesota.

Gostisbehere turned pro this season, appearing in 5 games (5 points) for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and two for the Philadelphia Flyers, before suffering an ACL injury that required surgery and shelved him indefinitely. With the Flyers starving for a mobile, puck-moving, creative defenseman on the NHL roster, such setback on Gostisbehere evolution is disappointing for both the player and the organization. However, when he comes back, the path for an important role on Philadelphia’s blue line is clear and he should become a significant contributor on the team’s future, handling a top four load with responsibilities on both special teams.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning

With John Gibson securing a spot on the Anaheim Ducks roster, Andrei Vasilevskiy now holds the torch of most promising goalie on the brink of the NHL.

Born in Tyumen, the Russian goaltender was picked by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the 19th pick of the 2012 NHL draft just a few months after his first U20 World Championships appearance, where he led Russia to the final with a 4-1 record, 2 SO, 2.01 GAA and 0.953 SV% before being deprecated in favour of Andrei Makarov for the decisive game. One year later, Vasilevskiy was supposed to be the undisputable goaltender for the 2013 event, held precisely in his team’s town, but split the starts with Makarov once again, posting this time a 1.81 GAA and a 0.950 SV% in 4 games. After passing through all Salavat Yulaev Ufa youth teams, Vasilevskiy debuted on the KHL team in 2012-13, amassing a 2.22 GAA, 0.924 SV% in 8 games, and played even more in 2013-14, handling 28 regular-season games with almost identical stats (2.21 GAA, 0.923 SV%) and being named the KHL’s rookie of the year. He took over the starting spot on the playoffs, where he made 18 appearances with some great performances resulting on a 1.99 GAA and 0.934 SV%. The year of 2014 has definitely been an important one for the 20-year-old, since, in his last appearance on the U20 WJC, he posted a 1.83 GAA and a 0.933 SV% in 6 games as Russia took bronze for the second consecutive year, before securing a place on the main World Championships, backing up Sergei Bobrovsky and playing two games for the eventual winners.

In the summer of 2014 he decided to move to North America, signing a three year entry-level deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who decided to groom him on his AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, where he has already played 12 games, holding a 2.64 GAA and a 0.908 SV% while getting acclimated to the different ice dimensions and style of play. Standing at 6’3’’, Vasilevskiy is a big, athletic goalie capable of making spectacular saves due to his quickness and agility, but he needs to get better at battling through traffic, something that should be solved with some time on the AHL. Since the Lightning have 28-year-old Ben Bishop holding the starting spot for the foreseeable future, Steve Yzerman, the team’s GM, might someday need to make a decision on trading a Russian goaltender that looks poised to become an everyday NHL starting goalie.

(All data updated until December, 9th)