10:40 a.m.: The Penguins have signed forward Sam Lafferty to a three-year, entry-level contract. He will report to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for now on an amateur tryout contract, with the three-year deal kicking in next season. Lafferty, chosen in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, is from Hollidaysburg in central Pennsylvania. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder recently ended his college career at Brown, where this season he led the team in assists (14) and points (22) and ranked second with eight goals. He is 21.
10:30 a.m.: Great story in the Washington Post about Alex Ovechkin’s memorabilia collection. Why should Penguins fans care? There’s a great anecdote about his stick collection that began when Penguins equipment manager Dana Heinze gave Ovi a signed Mario Lemieux stick, still Ovi’s favorite. He has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sticks, too. Give it a read.
10 a.m.: Even though a Nor’easter is moving up the East Coast, the Flyers official account Tweeted that the game tonight between Philadelphia and the Penguins is on at Wells Fargo Center. It’s unclear how much snow that area will get.
9 a.m.: Ironic that, with the Penguins about to take on the Flyers in always-welcoming Philadelphia tonight, we learned more regarding Sidney Crosby‘s continued elevated standing among his fellow players.
Yes, some fans might still not appreciate Crosby in his 13th NHL season — most notably the denizens of Flyers Nation — but that top-dog baton still hasn’t been passed, if you will.
In an NHL Players Association poll released Wednesday, the 30-year-old Crosby came in first in the following categories:
• Most difficult to play against
• Most difficult forward to play against
• Best role model
• Best team player
• One player you’d want to win one game
• Which player would be a great coach upon retirement
Crosby finished second player polling behind Oilers star Connor McDavid in ‘player you’d like to start a franchise with,’ but McDavid’s 21-year-old body likely factored into that decision as much as anything.
In terms of history of the game, Crosby came out looking good here, too. He ranked behind only Wayne Gretzky and old housemate Mario Lemieux in the ‘best forward of all time’ balloting. (Jaromír Jágr was fourth, by the way.) Crosby came in second to Gretzky when current players were asked which all-time player they’d most like to have as their teammate.
Somehow I doubt this gets Crosby a gentler reception at Wells Fargo Arena tonight, but this polling illustrates just how much respect No. 87 has garnered throughout his decade-plus in the league.
In Penguins-adjacent results, Ryan Reaves ran away with the ‘toughest player’ designation, while Matt Cullen was fourth on the ‘future coach’ query.
We at Pittsburgh Hockey Now will have further updates throughout the day as the Penguins and Flyers prepare for what could be a first-round playoff preview. In fact, as Matt Gajtka wrote yesterday in his analysis of potential postseason opponents, it is the most likely opening-round result for both!