Jeremy Roenick chooses his top Conn Smythe candidates

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Jeremy Roenick chooses his top Conn Smythe candidates

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is taking an early stab at choosing his top Conn Smythe candidates from the four remaining playoff teams.

Here's a look at JR's choices:

Coyotes: Mike Smith
Kings: Jonathan Quick (or Dustin Brown)
Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk (or Zach Parise)

Mike Smith is clearly the top choice in Phoenix, but the goaltender will have to get back on track against the Kings to look Trophy worthy. You have to give him credit, Smith shined in the first two rounds of the playoffs and became a well-known name around the league. He's maintained a .943 save percentage and has recorded two shutouts since the end of the regular season--one against the Blackhawks and another against the Devils.

Deciding between Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick isn't easy. The Kings' captain has recorded seven goals and seven assists in 11 games, two of them short-handed. On top of that, he's maintained a level of physicality on the ice that isn't comparable to anything else we've seen in the postseason. His ability to deliver and absorb hits without hindering his performance has skyrocketed the Kings to a phenomenal 10-1 playoff record.

But when analyzing the Kings, you have to remember that Jonathan Quick is the reason Los Angeles made it to the playoffs in the first place. The Kings were the worst offensive team in the league for a good portion of the season, and they went through a frustratingly-long rough patch of not being able to score more than two goals per game. Quick's outstanding on-ice performance has only gotten stronger during the playoffs. His .951 postseason save percentage and two shutouts have helped make the Kings unstoppable and is the reason Roenick has chosen him as his top pick. Quick's also a candidate for the Vezina Trophy.

Henrik Lundqvist has been outstanding for the Rangers. Despite New York's scoring struggles from time to time, they managed to hold on to the top seed in the east. Roenick points out that Lundqvist has been the most consistent goalie since October, and his .930 regular season save percentage backs that statement. If the Rangers and Kings were to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, the goalie battle would keep any hockey fan at the edge of their seat. He is also a candidate for the Vezina Trophy (Pekka Rinne is the third goalie battling for the honor).

When looking at the Devils, Roenick believes Ilya Kovalchuk is the better choice over Zach Parise. Kovalchuk has transformed into more of a team player and has produced six goals and seven assists in 13 playoff games. But it's important to note that Parise has always shown his dedication to the sport at to his team, pushing the Devils to constantly improve. He's recorded four goals and five assists in the postseason.

If a winner were chosen today, who would you pick as your favorite candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Notre Dame unit preview: Searching for the next go-to WR

Notre Dame unit preview: Searching for the next go-to WR

With the start of Notre Dame preseason camp approaching fast, we’re looking at what to expect from each unit that’ll take the field in primetime Sept. 4 against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. 

Depth Chart

W (Boundary)

1. Torii Hunter Jr. (Redshirt junior)
2A. Miles Boykin (Redshirt freshman)
2B. Alize Jones (Sophomore)
3. Chase Claypool (Freshman)

Z (Slot)

1A. C.J. Sanders (Sophomore)
1B. Corey Holmes (Redshirt sophomore)
2. Torii Hunter Jr. (Redshirt junior)

X (Field)

1. Equanimeous St. Brown (Sophomore)
2A. Torii Hunter Jr. (Redshirt junior)
2B. Kevin Stepherson (Freshman)
3. Javon McKinley (Freshman)

Hunter has the ability to play all three receiver positions, which is why he’s listed as the “backup” at the Z and X. He’ll probably take most of his reps, though, at the W, where Corey Robinson was in line to play before he retired due to suffering multiple concussions. 

Despite only catching 28 passes for 363 yards last year, Hunter is Notre Dame’s leading returning receiver, which is more a nod to the production lost from Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. But Hunter took command of Notre Dame’s wide receivers during spring practice — despite barely getting any sleep due to his football, baseball and academic workload — and emerged as an offensive leader in March and April. 

Outside of Hunter, there’s plenty of young, untapped potential in this group. Coach Brian Kelly has raved about St. Brown from the day he set foot on campus, and Notre Dame believes his combination of blazing speed and good size (6-foot-4, 205) will make his a dynamic receiving threat as soon as this fall. Sanders flashed his playmaking ability by returning a kick and a punt for a touchdown last year, though surgery on his hip flexor knocked him out of spring practice and could slow him during preseason camp. 

Holmes and Stepherson both impressed at times during spring practice, too, and are set up to carve out roles in the Irish offense. And Jones is the wild card here — he worked a bit at the W during spring practice and his athletic 6-foot-4, 240 pound frame could create some matchup nightmares if he slides over from tight end. 

Biggest question: Who becomes DeShone Kizer/Malik Zaire’s go-to target?

Fuller became a get-out-of-jail free card almost immediately for Kizer last year, with that 39-yard game-winning heave at Virginia sparking a rock-solid season for the new Irish quarterback. Brown, too, used his savvy skills to make some big catches, like his touchdown at Fenway Park against Boston College. 

But with both of those guys gone, Kizer or Zaire will need to figure out who that reliable pass-catcher is. The good news is Notre Dame has had one every year of the Kelly era, from Michael Floyd to Tyler Eifert to T.J. Jones to Fuller. 

Hunter is the most experienced one of the bunch, though St. Brown or Jones could very well emerge as that guy, too. But given Notre Dame’s track record, wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock deserves the benefit of the doubt here. 

Youthful impact

McKinley and Claypool both were four-star members of Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class. There are some questions about whether or not Claypool, who was listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds on signing day, could someday move to tight end, but for now, he’ll get a shot as a receiver, probably on the boundary. 

Stepherson, a three-star recruit, was roundly praised by coaches and teammates for how quickly he picked up the Irish route concepts and offense during spring practice, and his ability to catch the ball at a full sprint over the middle makes him a candidate to contribute as a freshman. 

Notre Dame hasn’t shied away form playing freshmen receivers in the past, and without much experience in this group, there could be opportunities for all three first-year players to get on the field this fall. 

They said it

“There’s a lot to be gained from playing baseball, but you have to be a special individual, especially at this level. I think the gains are competitiveness, discipline and the maturity that he shows and his ability to handle it.” — Brian Kelly on Torii Hunter Jr., who was drafted and signed by the Los Angeles Angels this summer

Comcast unveils new technology for Rio Olympics

Comcast unveils new technology for Rio Olympics

Comcast is rolling out new technology that will give Olympics fans a unique viewing experience. 

The X1 platform will give users access to more than 6,000 hours of live, on demand and streaming Rio Olympics events. Fans can follow athletes, nations and teams with ease throughout the Rio Games, and also record or view on demand. 

The ability to customize the Olympics experience will give audiences an unlimited scope and make it easy to watch what they want, when they want. 

Report: White Sox make James Shields available for trade

Report: White Sox make James Shields available for trade

With the Aug. 1 trade deadline right around the corner, a new name has been added to the mix.

James Shields, who was acquired by the White Sox in early June, is reportedly available for trade, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, after the 34-year-old right-hander has pitched his way into the trade market with his latest hot streak.

The White Sox traded for Shields in an effort to strengthen their rotation and alleviate some pressure off a taxed bullpen, but with the team six games back for the division lead and the final wild card spot, it would be wise of the White Sox to take advantage of this pitcher's market and flip Shields for assets that can help them in the future.

[SHOP: Get your White Sox gear right here]

After a rough start in Chicago, Shields has turned in five quality starts in his last five outings, which included a stellar performance in Tuesday's 3-0 win over the Cubs. He also owns a 1.71 ERA across his last six starts.

The biggest question will be, which team wants to take on Shields' contract?

He still has two years remaining on a four-year, $75 million deal he inked with the San Diego Padres in 2014. It's worth noting Shields has an opt-out clause after this season, and a club option to return in 2019.