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NHL Notebook: Calgary Flames name Ryan Huska as head coach, Evaluating the top UFA defencemen, and more

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Aleena Aksenchuk
8 months ago
After a detailed search process, the Calgary Flames have officially named Ryan Huska as their 24th head coach in franchise history.
Back in May, the Flames announced they had relieved head coach Darryl Sutter of his duties after the team had missed the playoffs, and Huska rose as the top candidate for the job.
Huska has been a part of the Flames organization since 2014, serving as the head coach for the AHL’s Adirondack Flames. In 2018, Calgary announced Huska as their interim coach for two games after taking over for Geoff Ward before Sutter came into the picture. When Sutter did finally arrive Huska was bumped into the assistant coach position.
As reported by Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis, here’s what general manager Craig Conroy and Huska had to say about the reveal:
“While continuity and familiarity are a benefit, we have witnessed first-hand Ryan’s work ethic; he is a clear communicator who builds trust with his players; and he’s a critical thinker with a plan,” GM Craig Conroy said.
“Ryan provides 11 seasons of bench experience as a head coach from the WHL and the AHL and over 20 years coaching in total, including knowledge gained as an assistant coach in Calgary for the past five seasons. Ryan has earned this opportunity and we are confident he is the right coach for our team.”
“My position coming into this is a little different than most as I know our players very well,” Huska said. “We have good people in our dressing room, excellent hockey players who want to win. My job is to inspire them every single day to help get our team to the next level.”

Evaluating the top UFA defenceman

Two of the top unrestricted free agents defencemen, Damon Severson, and Vladislav Gavrikov, have locked in deals with their respective teams, giving the remaining defensive free agents the opportunity to secure some serious cash from teams who are in need of help on the blue line.
With Severson now with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Gavrikov inked with the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Graves and Carson Soucy have moved into the conversation and now may be amongst the top defensive UFA’s.
On Monday’s episode of Daily Faceoff Live, Frank Seravalli and Mike McKenna broke down the free agent landscape for UFA blueliners.
Here’s Daily Faceoff’s Anthony Trudeau’s transcription of the episode:
Seravalli: Let’s talk about the d-man market, Mike. We covered an interesting turn of events on Friday when Damon Severson joined the Columbus Blue Jackets on an 8-year deal worth $50 million in a sign-and-trade with the New Jersey Devils. That will pay him $6.25 AAV, so a significant buy from the Blue Jackets. That contract and the deal that the LA Kings gave Vladislav Gavrikov of $5.875 million per year for 2 seasons has to leave the other guys who are pending UFAs in a very thin class licking their chops.
There are already rumblings that Dmitry Orlov is seeking something in the $8 million AAV range, Mike. No matter what, there is definitely good news in those numbers for Ryan Graves, Scott Mayfield, and Carson Soucy.
McKenna: Well Orlov is already 31 years of age and I guess he thinks it’s time to cash in; that’s going to have to be a short-term deal if he wants 8 million bucks, man. It’s funny because I think the biggest free agent in the defensive market looking for his next big contract might actually be Vince Dunn in Seattle. Depending on the term of his deal he’ll easily make $7 million plus or even approach $8 million on a short-term deal. He’s an RFA, though, so that’s a different process.
Ryan Graves’s value just went through the roof with the Gavrikov deal. Graves could make north of $5 million bucks from somebody. He is a mobile player. Even further down the list, Scott Mayfield is on the wrong side of 30 but he has been a top-four player for the Islanders, he plays shutdown, penalty kill minutes; he’s an Alec Martinez type minus the Stanley Cup.
With guys like Graves and Mayfield out there, there’s going to be a lot of $4-5.5 million-dollar contracts given out to defensemen this summer. They aren’t the big tickets, but they’re in the mix at that price range.
Here’s what I want to ask you: what do you think of Matt Dumba? Where does he slot into this class? He’s a big variable for me.
Seravalli: I think he’s someone that will sign a short-term deal for one or two years to prove himself and rebuild his value. Coming off of a year where he really struggled, teams view him as a kamikaze pilot. He can throw an enormous hit in the neutral zone, but he makes a lot of questionable decisions with the puck that I think teams are wary of. Does it make sense to pay Dumba?
A perfect fit would be a place like Florida; get an opportunity on a cheap deal and try to hit it out of the park. He already had a nice payday with the Wild on that long-term deal. Same thing with John Klingberg. Had these guys hit the market a year ago we would be looking at them in a different light, but they need to rehab their images now.
Very few guys have increased their value in the playoffs the way that Radko Gudas has in our fifth spot. He’s been a beast all postseason. He is exactly the kind of guy you sign to round out your six. On a 3-year, $2 million dollar per year deal, Gudas would be a valuable playoff commodity.

Scouts and opponents talk about Connor Bedard’s dominant play

Connor Bedard has taken the hockey world by storm, from scoring 71 goals and crushing the WHL scoring lead to dominating for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, the young man now holds the title as the top prospect heading into the 2023 NHL draft.
He’s become one of the most popular topics in the hockey world, with highlights filling social media feeds, but what do people on the inside think of Bedard’s talent?
Daily Faceoff‘s Steven Ellis got the run down from some of Bedard’s peers, and those who have spent the past few years watching his play closely, here’s what some of them had to say:

Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna Rockets

“(His shot) has always been pretty scary. Now, it’s a little bit of a different beast, but I think back to when we were 13, we’re out skating and he’s ripping bar downs and we’re just trying to get the puck in the air. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

Matteo Mann, D, Chicoutimi Saguenéens

“You can tell that he’s been at this for a long time. You can see his body the way it is compared to a lot of guys out here. He’s really far along his development of his physical attributes. You see the shot, that’s probably the biggest thing when you see it in real life. There’s a difference between the rest of the group and him.
On Bedard’s shot: “I got a chance to see it in practice (for the CHL Top Prospects Game). From (a fan’s) vantage point, I don’t people understand how far across he really brings the puck. If you watch on TV, it’s easy to point out the defenseman’s errors in how they’re positioning the stick. But I think every guy knows they’re going to pull and drag the puck. I’m anticipating that, but he brings it so much that it still misses your stick. I’d even go to say it’s deceptive. Even though everyone knows how he releases the puck, it’s still deceptive just because of how much drag and pull he gets on it. His sticks are built really long for his size too. So his elbow is really up because that’s how much he gets it in.”

Caden Price, D, Kelowna Rockets

“Just the way he approaches the game, and the stuff he does on the ice, you don’t see a lot of players trying to attempt what he does. I think the hardest thing is defending his shot. He can release it from anywhere, he has such a long stick so his reach is pretty good. It’s tough to get sticks on him.”

What the scouts say

Russ Cohen, SiriusXM/EP Rinkside

“He never loses his speed from the start of a shift to the end of the shift. It never seems like he gets tired, and it seems like he takes the longest shifts of anybody on his team, in any game I ever watch.”

Western Conference NHL Scout

“I’m not sure there’s an NHLer, outside of maybe (Auston) Matthews, that has as deceptive of a release as Bedard. Maybe Patrick Kane. From a style perspective, Bedard has a bit of both. His shot alone is one of the best we’ve seen in a prospect in a long time. His ability to power through an odd-man rush without being taken down is mind-blowing.”

Western-based Scout

“The phrase ‘man among kids’ is a bit cliche, but it’s the best way of describing Bedard’s game. There are at least four to five plays every night you don’t see coming. You eventually run out of adjectives to describe what you’re seeing.”

Aleena Aksenchuk is an intern with Oilersnation and the Nation Network. She can be found on Twitter at @A_Aksenchuk8.

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