Two North Americans Lead KHL Defensive Scoring In 2016

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The KHL is widely considered the second-best professional hockey league, behind only the NHL. Its skill-first play gives the hockey world special highlights with more creative and unique plays than the NHL sometimes produces.

This style stems from the league's predominantly European base. Europe teaches its youth programs puck possession, puck control and creativity. In North America, players grow up in a much more physical game that focuses more on body checking and getting to the gritty areas as well as zone instruction. 

Even with some notable exceptions, when the two continents get together--either squaring off internationally or blending together on a team--the differences are certainly visible.

Two North American defensemen, Canadian Chris Lee and American Matt Gilroy, have seen the differences firsthand, and their backgrounds have pushed them to the top of the leaderboard for KHL defensive scoring this season.

Lee, 36, is 43 games into his fourth season with Metallurg of the KHL and has been a consistently dominant blue-liner. Gilroy, 32, is a veteran of 225 NHL games split between the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, but has found a strong offensive game with Spartak.

Lee finished third, second and fourth in scoring in each of his first three KHL seasons, and now owns an 11-point lead on Gilroy with roughly 20 games remaining in the regular season. In Gilroy's first KHL season, he finished sixth in defensive scoring. An injury limited Gilroy to just 49 games and 15 points last season. Now, Gilroy has a four-point cushion in above former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov.

Even in a league where the average player is 27 years old, the 36-year-old Lee and 32-year-old Gilroy have adapted to the European style in their own way.

Lee's natural offensive instinct and experience of the North American game makes him willing to take a hit to make a play. Gilroy's 6-foot-2, 203-pound frame helps intimidate oncoming opponents as much as when he joins the rush and forces himself deeper into the offensive zone.

'If You Ain't First, You're Last': Erie Otters Take Step Back In OHL

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By Jacob Messing

A historic Erie Otters season ended suddenly in late May when host Windsor defeated the regular season champions 4-3 for the Memorial Cup, given to the winner of a four-team tournament played

Knights Have ‘Golden’ NHL Debut

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By Jacob Messing

The past few months have been full of firsts for the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s 31st franchise.

In March they signed Brandon Wheat Kings center Reid Duke, in June they sifted through opposing rosters during the expansion draft and selected one player from each team, and later in the summer they unveiled their home jerseys.

10 NCAA Players To Watch In 2017-18

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By Jacob Messing

The wait is almost over for hockey fans.

Social media is teeming with #IsItOctoberYet, NHL training camps have started, and teams are beginning to take shape. But mid-September doesn’t just mean a new professional season; the puck is set to drop October 1 for college hockey.

Who Will Replace Nashville's Ryan Ellis?

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By Jacob Messing

Last week, the Nashville Predators announced they would be without rising defenseman Ryan Ellis until the turn of the calendar year. The 26-year-old Canadian is recovering from offseason knee surgery and has not begun skating yet.

Intersection Of NHL Trading Trends And Matt Duchene Deal

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By Jacob Messing

Is Nugent-Hopkins A Fit As Penguins Third Line Center?

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By Jacob Messing

A New Test For Griffins’ Sadowy

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By Jacob Messing

The last three years have been complicated for Dylan Sadowy.

He’s played in the OHL, AHL, and ECHL, been drafted into the NHL by one team, and traded to another -- although he’s yet to play a game in the world’s best league.

5 Best NHL Players On Each Side Of 30

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By Jacob Messing

Earlier this month, Sidney Crosby turned 30 years old, and even at that benchmark age the Pittsburgh Penguins captain still remains at the forefront of any argument about who is the best player in the world.

However, that’s not to say a new generation of budding stars won’t be entering the conversation soon.

The NHL is becoming increasingly younger, and 20-year-old phenom Connor McDavid highlights the future of the game. So, rather than compare them -- given that Crosby has 10 years on the Edmonton Oilers’ young captain -- we decided to break down the best players by age groups, those above 30 and those below.

AHL Sophomores To Watch In 2017-18

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By Jacob Messing

Late summer is typically when hockey fans ask, “Is it October yet?”

While the start of the season is still a long way off, camps begin in a month -- a time for high-end prospects and AHL players to get good, long looks from their coaches as teams push for roster spots and players seek to fulfill their NHL dreams.

Why Danis Zaripov Won’t Find An NHL Home

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By Jacob Messing

KHL star Danis Zaripov is reportedly eyeing to play his hockey stateside after a two-year ban from the International Ice Hockey Federation for a failed drug test. Both organizations follow the policies of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), resulting in Russian side AK Bars Kazan voiding Zaripov’s recently signed two-year deal.