Jets sign Olli Jokinen
The Winnipeg Jets have found their No. 1 center in Olli Jokinen.
The Jets signed the unrestricted free agent to a two-year contract Monday night. TSN is reporting the deal will pay Jokinen a total of $9 million.
“Olli is someone that we identified when we went through the process of identifying a players that would be available at the free agency time,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. “We were looking to get at centerman if we could and we were very fortunate to get him. We’re very excited about getting him. He’s got the size, a tremendous amount of experience. He had great consistency over the years. With adding the size of [Alexei] Ponikarovsky and now Jokinen, we’re a bigger and harder team to play against.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to bring in a front-line player and top-six player into the organization.”
Jokinen, 33, was second on the Calgary Flames last season with 61 points, and third with 23 goals. He played all 82 games, including No. 1,000 of his NHL career.
“Very excited about joining the Winnipeg Jets and getting a chance to play in front of the loudest fans in Canada!” Jokinen wrote on his Twitter account.
In 14 seasons with the Kings, Islanders, Panthers, Coyotes, Flames and Rangers, Jokinen has 292 goals and 391 assists in 1,042 games. He’s fourth all-time among Finnish-born players in games played and points (683), and third in goals.
Cheveldayoff said in speaking with Jokinen, the veteran is excited to be joining a young team like the Jets.
“He’s someone that when we did actually speak with his representative and spoke with him in the end here, he’s very excited about being at the forefront of a group that has young players that have a chance to continue to grow and get better,” Cheveldayoff said. “He’s really looking forward to the opportunity to contribute in that regard.”
Coyotes re-sign Bolduc to two-way deal
FS Arizona Reports
The Coyotes re-signed center Alexandre Bolduc to a one-year, two-way contract on Monday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The 27-year-old Bolduc skated in two games with the Coyotes in 2011-12 but did not record a point. He appeared in 23 games with the team’s AHL affiliate in Portland, tallying three goals, 12 assists and 30 penalty minutes.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound forward also played 24 games with the Canucks in 2010-11, posting two goals and two assists in the regular season before going pointless in three Stanley Cup playoff games.
Bolduc, a native of Montreal, was originally drafted by the Blues in the fourth round (127th overall) of the 2003 draft.
Sharks Re-Sign Defenseman Matt Irwin
San Jose Sharks
SAN JOSE, California – San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has re-signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a one-year contract. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In 2011-12, Irwin played 71 games for the Worcester Sharks, posting 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) and 48 penalty minutes. He finished the season first on the team in shots on goal (209), assists (31), power play goals (9) and power play points (24), and second on the team in points (42).
Amongst all AHL defenseman, Irwin finished the 2011-2012 season first in power play goals, first in shots on goal, tied for ninth in goals and tied for ninth in points. He was named to the 2012 AHL All-Star game where he played for the Eastern Conference.
The six-foot-two, 210-pound native of Victoria, British Columbia was signed by San Jose as a free agent on March 23, 2010.
D Andrew Campbell signs two-year deal with Kings
Fox Sports West
LOS ANGELES – The 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings have signed defenseman Andrew Campbell to a two-year contract, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today.
Campbell, 24, had 19 points (2-17=19), 54 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating in 76 games with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League while serving as an alternate captain this past season. His 19 points and 17 assists both served as AHL career highs, and so did his plus-14 rating.
At the conclusion of the 2011-12 regular season, Campbell was named the winner of the Monarchs’ Mark Bavis Unsung Hero award for the second straight year (voted on by Monarchs players), and he shared the Monarchs Community Service award with teammate Thomas Hickey.
The 6-3, 207-pound Campbell is a native of Caledonia, Ontario, and he has skated with Manchester in each of the past four seasons.
Campbell was selected in the third-round (74th overall) in the 2008 NHL Draft, and he has 50 points (8-42=50) and 262 penalty minutes in 298 career AHL regular season games – all with the Monarchs. Additionally, he has five points (1-4=5) and 28 penalty minutes in 27 career AHL postseason games.
Oilers Nail Yakupov puts on a show (Larionov)
Before Tyler Bunz began boasting about his role as the set-up man by deftly linking the tale of his assist to the wildly popular Twitter feed @nail10_1993, the Edmonton Oilers goaltending prospect talked about the shot.
It wasn’t just one particular shot, but the shot that belongs to Nail Yakupov, the dynamic winger the Oilers selected first overall at the recent NHL entry draft.
“He’s got a lot of speed and a really quick release. Real quick,” said Bunz, who will battle it out with Oliver Roy for the backup job with the Oklahoma City Barons next season.
The Oilers re-signed Yann Danis, the American Hockey League’s goaltender of the year, on Sunday, but backup David LeNeveu won’t return.
Bunz, Roy and Yakupov were among 34 prospects on the ice Monday for the final day of the Oilers development camp.
Fittingly, it ended on a shootout goal by Yakupov, who had clearly won over the crowd gathered at Sherwood Park’s Millennium Place.
He snapped in three goals during the four-on-four scrimmage, then celebrated each with unbridled enthusiasm. He pumped his fist, cocked his ear to the crowd, slid down the wing, never repeating his gestures.
Bunz set up the winger for one of his goals.
“(Yakupov’s) speed and his technical skills are of such an elite nature. His one-timer? No matter where, no matter how, he can also hit his target,” said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger, who was among the camp curious.
“But today, there was a situation where he dropped back for a defenceman and had to cover for him. As a coach, I have to be honest, I know everybody wants the show, but we do have to spoil it sometimes with good defence and … it looked like he had some good instincts away from the puck.”
As for his showmanship, Krueger figures it won’t be as, well, showy, when the rookie is around the NHL veterans.
“It’s just for the fans, for the fun. You have to smile sometimes,” Yakupov said.
“(But) you have to work hard in the practices and in the games … you have to be serious. You have to play hard, play the system. Play disciplined. It’s not junior league.
“(But) why not (celebrate)? If you score goals, you can show something … just maybe not crazy like that.”
With camp over, Yakupov is going back to Russia, where he will spend the next two months gearing up for the Canada-Russia Challenge that will start in Yaroslavl on Aug. 9 and wrap up in Halifax, N.S., on Aug. 14.
After that, the winger will be in Edmonton for the NHL training camp, barring a work stoppage as the league and its players association needs a new collective bargaining agreement as of Sept. 15.
In the meantime, Yakupov said he was leaving Edmonton fuelled by a fun, informative week that saw the players get everything from a hands-on lesson on nutrition to on-ice drills to add to their training programs.
They went to a baseball game, took in the Edmonton Eskimos’ home-opener against the Toronto Argonauts, and then headed their separate ways.
“It was a good experience, a good week,” Yakupov said. “This is just once in your life, so you take it. I’ll get a couple of days rest, then I’ll start working. We do have games against Canada in August, so I have to be ready for those games.”
“He got picked first for a reason. He really showed it today and all through camp,” said defenceman Joey Laleggia, a University of Denver product drafted by the Oilers a week and a half ago.
Laleggia also knows a thing or two about skilled forwards, having grown up in Burnaby, B.C., with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The second call he received after he was drafted in the fifth round at Pittsburgh was from the centre.
“(Yakupov) is a special player, a guy you dream about playing alongside one day,” said Laleggia. “He does have a good focus about him, but he knows when to have fun, too.”
And fun he had, particularly on the final day. Krueger said Yakupov had told him he was blown away by the people that showed up to watch a development camp and figured they deserved to see his lighter side.
“He loves the spotlight. He’s going to do very well in Edmonton,” said Bunz. “I think a lot of the fans, a lot of the players, are looking forward to having him around. From what I’ve seen, the city has got a lot to look forward to.
“He does a lot of showboating stuff out there, but it’s just for the fans. He’s actually pretty quiet. He’s shown us a different personality away from the rink.”
Yakupov’s excellent adventure (Larionov)
EDMONTON – Wow, that was awesome. But don’t do it again.
Nail Yakupov put on a spectacular exhibition to complete his excellent Edmonton adventure, combining skill and showmanship to bring fans to their feet in Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.
They cheered him wildly but then, as they left the final day of Edmonton Oilers’ prospects camp, you could hear them saying “Gee, I sure hope he doesn’t do that stuff in the regular season.”
Yakupov, the Oilers third consecutive No. 1 pick in the draft was the show, the whole show and nothing but the show as people packed the place and stood four and five deep to get a look at the young Russian star on the holiday Monday.
And Yakupov, who after keeping his personality pretty much bottled up leading up to the draft and popping the cork the minute he arrived in Edmonton, couldn’t have been much more flamboyant than he was as the Oilers ended camp with a four-on-four game.
How often is a performance at prospects camp something to tell your grandchildren about? It was.
Yakupov scored three consecutive goals for openers.
He took a pass from goaltender Tyler Bunz at the far blueline, took a couple strides and blasted a 25-footer top corner behind Samu Perhonen to get it going. He then turned to the crowd and threw his arms open to welcome the expected applause.
His next two goals, which came on hard, perfect one-timers from set-ups on the doorstep, were followed by an archer pose and by holding his ear to the crowd to again to welcome the applause.
Daniil Zharkov, his Russian running mate, chosen 91st overall in the draft, the guy who told reporters he planned to be “better than Yakupov”, opened the session-ending shootout session with a sick, Linus Omark-worthy between-the-legs left-right backhand bit of razzle-dazzle.
He also played to the crowd, but with a much more understated tip-of-the-hat sort of salute.
Yakupov ended up winning it going last, electing to go with a quick snap shot. And he upstaged even himself by dropping to his butt and pretending to paddle a canoe.
“I had a lot of fun with the fans. It’s exciting. I’ve never seen that before. It was great,” he said of the scene the fans provided in Sherwood Park.
When asked if he’d carry his act over the the regular season, Yakupov’s answer illustrated the joy of hockey he clearly has in him but indicated, I think, that fans need not fear he’s planning on being the clown prince of hockey.
“If you score goals, you celebrate,” he said.
“But not crazy like that.”
It was crazy how the crowd enjoyed the show immensely and then debated it all the way to the parking lot.
Ralph Krueger isn’t expecting to have to take Yakupov aside in the fall.
“He’s entertaining. His spirit and love for the game comes through in that,” said the Oilers’ new head coach.
“How he will function in the mature, older group at training camp will be a lot different based on the conversations I had with him here.
“We’ve connected well the past few days and I know he was trying to make sure everyone was having fun.
“His speed and his intensity is prevalent at all times. You don’t play with that skill level if you’re not practising at a high level, and you can see that whether he’s in the gym at Rexall or here on the ice — he was always working at high intensity.
“He’s also very generous in the way he tried to make plays for other players. Not only did we see a goal-scorer this week, but we saw a playmaker.”
So today, Nail Railovich Yakupov flies home to Russia and his hometown of Nizhnekamsk, Tatarstan to discover to what extent he’s returning a celebrity.
Asked if he’s headed home exhausted from everything involved from the NHL combine, the Stanley Cup final top draft pick day, the pre-draft interview tour, draft week itself and the 10 days here, Yakupov had the perfect answer.
“You only get to do this once so I have to make the most of it,” he said.
You’d have to say he did. And then some.
The 18-year-old, whose first real Edmonton experience included getting Twitter-pated, used the social media outlet where he’s gone from zero to 24,513 followers to say his final farewell before he returns for the serious stuff whenever NHL hockey is played again:
“Great week with the boys !!! Thanks for everything guys !!! See u soon!!;-
“Take care in the summer!!))):-
“Nice caaaaamp :-
“Love u fans.”
Malcolm Subban, Justin Courtnall Trying to Carve Out Own Identities Within Famous Hockey Families
WILMINGTON, Mass. — For most of the undrafted or unsigned players invited to participate in the Bruins development camp, it can be a pretty anonymous existence skating alongside the organization’s most highly-touted prospects.
That’s not the case for Justin Courtnall. He brought to the camp not just the solid resume he had put together in his first three seasons at Boston University, but also a recognizable hockey name and all the baggage that comes with it.
Courtnall’s father, Geoff, played 17 seasons in the NHL, beginning with parts of five seasons with the Bruins, and finished with 799 points and 1,465 penalty minutes in 1,049 career games after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 1983.
His uncle, Russ, played 16 seasons in the league. He piled up 744 points in 1,029 games after being taken seventh overall by Toronto in the 1983 draft. “My uncle was really highly skilled when he was younger, so he was fortunate to just be able to make it,” Justin Courtnall said. “He worked hard, but he was really skilled and that’s how he was given the chance at the beginning of his career. He was really talented, but my dad really had to work hard and learn to become a pro and learn to work harder than everyone else to make it. That’s something he’s taught me along the way. When I was younger he really showed me what hard work was and what it took to become a pro.”
Having his father and uncle around to give him guidance, not to mention some good hockey genes, has certainly helped Justin Courtnall pursue his own dreams on the ice. But the pressures of bearing such a well-known hockey name and trying to live up to the family legacy can have its downsides too.
“When I was younger, coming into junior and stuff like that, it was tough at the beginning,” Courtnall said. “You had guys in your ear saying stuff to you about being a Courtnall and having that kind of a shadow over your head. You kind of have to learn to figure out who you are as a person and make your own identity when you’re faced with that situation.
“But with the negatives come the positives,” Courtnall added. “I probably have an edge over guys just because of that inside knowledge of what it takes and how to act and how to be a good teammate.”
Courtnall didn’t have an edge over everyone at this year’s development camp. Defenseman Matt Benning, the Bruins sixth-round pick this year, also comes from quite a hockey family. His father, Brian, played 10 seasons in the NHL as a defenseman with St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Edmonton and Florida. Just to add even more pressure on his plate, Benning’s uncle Jim also happens to be the Bruins’ assistant general manager who played nine seasons himself with Toronto and Vancouver. The younger Benning didn’t get much of a chance to carve out his own identity in this camp, as he suffered a groin injury on Sunday.
Saginaw Spirit’s Jimmy Lodge to suit up for Team USA in U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament
Saginaw Spirit forward Jimmy Lodge will represent Team USA in next month’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, an Under-18 world tournament to be held in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
In his rookie season with the Spirit, Lodge recorded eight goals and four assists, tops among Spirit first-year players.
“Jimmy is a very skilled young player with a high hockey I.Q. and he is a player we hope makes a considerable contribution offensively this season,” Spirit GM Jim Paliafito said in a statement.
Lodge earned a spot on Team USA’s roster with a standout performance at USA Hockey’s Youth Select 17 Player Development Camp, where he recorded three goals and four assists in six games.
Lodge is the second player with local ties to make Team USA’s Ivan Hlinka roster, along with Saginaw Township goaltender Devin Williams, who currently plays for the Erie Otters.
Perfect fit for Finn
Winnipeg Free Press
It’s all about a fresh start for Olli Jokinen, even in a career that dates back to 1998 and has featured more pit stops than the Indy 500.
It’s about getting energized again in a new locker-room where the 33-year-old Finn will hold the most seniority and serve as a voice of experience.
And so while the debate rages on about the merits and faults of the Winnipeg Jets’ new addition — some have praised the franchise for landing the top free-agent centre, others spit out Jokinen’s name like they’ve just gulped sour milk — the man himself is ecstatic he’s found a place he believes is a perfect fit.
“I had two other offers (Vancouver is rumoured to have offered a one-year deal) and when I looked at Winnipeg’s lineup, they are an upcoming team and I thought it would be a good fit for me,” Jokinen said from Finland.
“The more I was thinking and talking with my agent, we came to the decision that at this time in my career it’s the best situation for me. I can go to a place and help a team hopefully take that next step and at the same time I can be part of something good.
“There’s a lot of good young guys and so as an older guy it gives you energy, it gives you excitement.”
Jokinen’s addition to the Jets became official late Monday when he signed a two-year, $9-million contract with a modified no-trade clause. His arrival helps upgrade a team that was looking for more size — he is 6-3, 210 pounds — and an offensive boost to its first two lines. The 33-year-old veteran of 1,042 NHL games is coming off a season in which he finished second in scoring for the Calgary Flames with 23 goals and 38 assists.
His arrival not only gives the Jets some breathing room in the development of top prospect Mark Scheifele, but bolsters a Top 6 that finished with the promising but inconsistent Alex Burmistrov (13 goals, 15 assists) as the No. 2 centre.
In Jokinen, the Jets are getting more of a shooter than a distributor down the middle and a player who insists he has worked on developing the defensive side of his game. “I think a lot of people had (written) me off when I went back to Calgary (in 2010),” said Jokinen. “(Former GM) Darryl Sutter brought me back there and those guys believed I could still play in the league and be an impact player. The last year and a half I’ve changed my game to be a better overall player and the credit goes to (ex-Flames’ coach) Brent (Sutter). He taught be how to play good in both ends and how to play against the tough lines and be more helpful to the team than just score goals and get points.”
Olli Jokinen looking to provide Winnipeg Jets will offence and experience
The Canadian Press
Olli Jokinen is starting to feel his age.
While mulling over a US$9-million, two-year contract offer from the Winnipeg Jets, the 33-year-old centre started examining the team’s roster. And he was surprised with what he saw.
“I looked at the lineup and I think I’m the oldest player on the team right now,” Jokinen said Tuesday after signing the deal. “I’ve always been around older players and more experienced teams.”
In Winnipeg, that role will fall to him. But Jokinen was brought in to be more than just a veteran presence around the dressing room.
The Finn is coming off a 61-point season in Calgary and became the Jets highest-paid forward. Clearly, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff expects him to provide an offensive boost to a lineup that relies on scoring by committee.
Jokinen is willing to do whatever coach Claude Noel asks of him.
“When you get older, you want to win and you want to be part of something good,” he said. “I think there’s something good in the players already in Winnipeg. I think they’re a good team.
“Whatever my role’s going to be, I’m going to do the best I can.”
Jokinen’s free-agent decision came down to three teams. He knew his time was up with the Flames as soon as the regular season ended, although he still considers his second stint with that organization successful because of the impact coach Brent Sutter had on turning him into a more effective two-way player.
Many scoffed when Calgary signed Jokinen to a two-year deal in July 2010 — just months after dealing him away at the trade deadline — but he feels he proved the doubters wrong.
“I think the last year and a half I changed my game to be a better overall player,” said Jokinen. “And credit goes to Brent. He (taught) me how to play good in both ends and how to play other teams’ top lines and how to be more helpful to the team.”
Jokinen has seven NHL seasons with at least 20 goals under his belt and found free agency “a little bit stressful,” especially when it came down to making a decision.
He was intrigued by the opportunity to live in a hockey-mad city and play in front of the enthusiastic fans at MTS Centre. A native of Kuopio, in northern Finland, he wasn’t the least bit concerned about the city’s notoriously cold climate.
“My family loves living in Canada,” said Jokinen. “They’re not afraid of the cold weather. My kids, they love snow.”
Jokinen excited about opportunity with Jets
Olli Jokinen is no stranger to the critics.
Two summers ago, plenty of people thought he was done and would have trouble finding work in the NHL again.
His production was in decline and Jokinen was essentially a one-dimensional player.
Instead, the Calgary Flames opted to re-sign him in 2010 after moving the Finnish centre to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline the season before.
Heads were being scratched throughout the hockey world at the turn of events.
But the return to Cowtown came with a caveat: the status quo wasn’t good enough.
Enter then-Flames GM Darryl Sutter, who brought him back into the fold and head coach Brent Sutter, the man Jokinen credits with helping him reinvent his game to become more of an all-around player.
“A lot of people wrote me off a couple years ago when I went back to Calgary and those guys believed in me that I could still play in the league and could still be an impact player,” Jokinen said during a conference call from Finland on Tuesday morning. “The last year-and-a-half I changed my game to be a better overall player. (Brent Sutter) taught me how to play good in both ends and how to play against other teams top lines and how to be more helpful to the team, not just score goals and get points.”
Jokinen is also a big body that plays with “weight” and has been involved in plenty of “heavy” games Jets head coach Claude Noel often talks about.
Nobody is saying Jokinen is done now — though once again there are those suggesting his best days might be behind him.
Obviously Jokinen’s play will dictate whether or not that’s true, but he sure doesn’t sound like a guy who signed a two-year deal just so he could fade into the sunset.
“I think I’m the oldest player on the team right now. That’s the first time for me,” said Jokinen. “I’ve always been around older players who are more experienced. The biggest thing going into any new team and being a NHL player, you have to respect the game, you have to respect your teammates, you have to respect the people around you. At the same time, you want to do your best every single day.
“There’s always room to improve, there’s always room to get better.”
Those are lessons passed down to Jokinen from his days with the Florida Panthers when he called the likes of Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk and Carman product Eddie Belfour teammates.
“It was an eye-opener of how hard you have to work, how well you have to prepare yourself to be a professional in this league and stay in the league,” said Jokinen. “I take a lot of pride on my off-ice conditioning. I try to eat well and do the little things right.
“At the end of the day, when my career is over, I don’t have to think ‘I should have done that better.’ I try to do everything in my power the best I can. Hopefully I can bring that in the room.”
Jokinen also sounds like a guy who wants to add to the six playoff games on his resume, all of which came in 2009 as the Flames were ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
“When you get older, you want to win and be part of something good,” said Jokinen. “And I think there’s something good with the players already in Winnipeg. It’s a good team and whatever my role is going to be, I’m going to do the best that I can.”
Nobody is asking Jokinen to put the Jets on his back and carry them to the promised land.
However, he’s posted nine 50-plus point NHL seasons, has a big shot and is sure to give the power play a much-needed shot in the arm. Plus, he gives the Jets another offensive threat on a team that could use one.
Given the other options that were available, this sounds like a smart pick-up to me.
Bears sign Forward Mathieu Beaudoin
The 28-year-old was limited to 47 games (5-17-22) with the Portland Pirates in 2011-12 by a thumb injury that required surgery. He said the injury is 100-percent healed.
Matt Beaudoin took some of his initial AHL strides during a short stint with the Hershey Bears as a first-year pro in 2007-08.
Now the forward, signed as a free agent to a one-year AHL deal on Tuesday by Hershey, aims to deliver a season-long, all-star performance in 2012-13.
“I’ve learned a lot and I’ve grown a lot since I was there,” Beaudoin said.
“To be able to come back five years later with a lot of experience behind my belt, I think it’s a good match for me and for the Bears.”
The 28-year-old was limited to 47 games (5-17-22) with the Portland Pirates in 2011-12 by a thumb injury that required surgery. He said the injury is 100-percent healed.
Beaudoin played in the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic at Giant Center during a 2010-11 season in which he produced 21 goals and 30 assists for the San Antonio Rampage.
The 5-11, 190-pounder’s breakout AHL season came in 2009-10 with the Texas Stars, when he had 19 goals and 25 assists. Texas lost to Hershey in the Calder Cup finals.
“It’s another experience that I did in Hershey — losing in the finals,” Beaudoin joked. “Hopefully, by joining the Bears, I’ll be on the other side next year and bring another championship to Hershey.”
Beaudoin again will be reunited with Texas and Portland teammate Garrett Stafford in Hershey. The defenseman was signed as a free agent on Monday.
“I’m really excited to already know a familiar face and one of my good friends,” Beaudoin said. “We’ve had success together before and we’ve had a good working relationship and a good friendship. It’s going to be fun to bring that to Hershey.”
In Beaudoin, who played seven regular-season games and one playoff game for Hershey in 2007-08, the Bears get a former all-star who also is a non-veteran.
“No. 1, we know him,” Bears President-GM Doug Yingst said. “He’s been here before. From then on his career has taken off.
“It gives us good speed, added depth as a right winger.”
Beaudoin was at Portland’s training camp last season when Alex Berry, signed as a free agent by Hershey on Monday, suffered a season-ending compound arm fracture.
“If I remember right, it was kind of a one-on-one drill,” Beaudoin recalled. “There was a body check involved and he kind of fell awkwardly on the ice and got caught in the boards. It wasn’t a pretty scene out there. The ambulance had to come pretty quick because he was bleeding. It was a quick reaction by the coach [Ray Edwards] and the trainers to get everything under control. It could have been worse.
“I remember him, a big, strong power forward. I think he’s going to be good for the Bears. He’s a guy who works hard. I think a full year of recovery, he’s going to be excited.”
Beaudoin was college teammates with Sean Collins, Dave Steckel and Johann Kroll at Ohio State.
Beaudoin scored a goal in the Stars’ 4-3 victory over Hershey at Giant Center in Game 2 of the 2009-10 Calder Cup finals.
Schofield Signs with Rochester
Democrat and Chronicle
Schofield, 25, is fairly unknown to Amerk fans but Rolston liked what he saw when they played the Crunch and did more homework this summer. Schofield, a native of Pickering, Ontario, played four years at Lake Superior State. Lake State coach Jim Roque is a very good friend of Rolston (Not that it plays too much into the equation, but Rolston was an assistant coach at Lake State from 1990-1995).
Schofield scored only 8-9-17 in 73 games last season but was primarily a fourth-line checker. Most importantly, he is, as his agent Ian Pulver says, ”a wide-bodied centerman.” Rolston wants to get much bigger at center and Schofield is 6-2, 200.
“When we played Syracuse he was always out there 3-against-5, he was a real good faceoff guy and we know he has some of an offensive upside,” Rolston said. “We feel, when given the opportunity, he can put some points up.”
Schofield agrees. He led Lake Superior State in scoring as a junior and senior (team MVP both seasons). He scored 15-13-28 in 36 games as a junior and 17-18-35 in 39 games as a senior.
“When given the opportunity, hopefully I can contribute a little more,” he said. “(With the Crunch) I didn’t take too many chances, I played safe. This year I want to play a good, two-way game. I definitely think I can chip in.”
He doesn’t foresee himself blossoming into a top-line center, though. “If I’m going to move up to the NHL some time, I’m not going to be a top-6 guy,” he said. “The third line (this year) would be wonderful. In today’s NHL and AHL, the top three lines play a lot. I don’t mind being that (shut-down) guy.”
Rolston said Schofield will be important because he won’t need to exhaust his top offensive centermen in penalty-killing situations, which happened often last season with Phil Varone and Paul Szczechura.
“You’re using Phil and Paul on the power play, the penalty killing, 4-on-4; you’d like to free up some of those minutes, especialy when you’re playing three-in-threes and at 3 in the afternoon on that third day,” Rolston said.
“You need those guys to have some aspect of being fresh late in the game.”
Pulver said the Sabres/Amerks were the first organization to phone about Schofield and did so on Sunday. The fit here seemed best, Schofield said.
Wedding bells lure Thiessen to Pens
There are a few reasons behind Brad Thiessen’s decision to resign with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization in recent days.
Thiessen, who spent the last three seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, wasn’t happy with his performance last year, one that resulted in a goals against average of 2.82 and a .887 save percentage. He wants to re-establish himself as the player who won the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL’s top goaltender in 2010-2011.
And there’s another reason why Thiessen wants to come back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton — he’s got a family to think about now.
The 26-year-old netminder is getting married later this month in New Jersey, and he wants to start his new family life in a familiar place.
“It’s always nice to go somewhere familiar with the coaches, staff and the town,” Thiessen said. “I’m getting married, so I have to consider that in my decision.”
Thiessen was an unrestricted free agent this summer and seemed destined for another organization after Pittsburgh traded for and signed veteran Tomas Vokoun to be Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup for the next two seasons.
With the first two goaltending spots locked up, it made sense for Thiessen to look elsewhere for an NHL shot.
“Obviously I was disappointed when (Vokoun) signed. We wall want opportunities to play in the NHL and that kind of solidified (Pittsburgh’s) goaltending situation,” he said. “But looking ahead, my best opportunity was here.”
Other than being familiar with Wilkes-Barre and the organization, Thiessen mentioned several other reasons why returning made sense.
He wanted to play for head coach John Hynes again and, being in Wilkes-Barre should give Thiessen plenty of mintues in net to redeem himself from last season.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I played last year,” he said. “I wanted to come back and re-establish myself as a top goalie in the AHL.”
Thiessen also said the signing off goaltender Jeff Zatkoff – an AHL All-Star last season, should help him get his career back on track.
“He’s a great goaltender and it will create good competition,” Thiessen said. “There’s only one net and, as a goaltender, you want to make sure you’re at the top of your game. Having another good goaltender pushes you to do that.”
Last season, Thiessen got his first taste of the NHL, posting a 3-1 record in five games with Pittsburgh. While the experience was definitely a benefit, he said, it may have contributed to the decline at the AHL level.
“Last year, maybe I was thinking too much about that NHL shot and focused on that more than I should have,” Thiessen said.
Heading into this season with a new one contract and, as of July 22, a wife, Thiessen’s focus is clear. Another NHL shot remains the goal, but this time it won’t be a distraction.
“You never give up on that opportunity. It’s a long season and reaching the NHL again is something I won’t close the door on,” he said. “It’s just not something I’m going to dwell on. I need to play well and be consistent no matter where I’m at.”
Maple Leafs seeing double with Rupert twins
Two for the price of one.
Maybe that’s what Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was thinking when he chose Ryan Rupert in the sixth round, 157th overall, in the 2012 draft.
Ryan’s got a twin, Matt. They’ve played together all their lives. Where one goes, so goes the other. When Matt wasn’t drafted, it was only natural for him to follow Ryan to Leafs prospects camp.
“When I got the call to come here, it was exciting,” said Matt Rupert, a winger. “We played together our whole lives. It was exciting being in the Blue and White, living the dream. I watched the Leafs all my life.”
They’re a hard-working — if undersized — agitating duo that found a role on the OHL champion London Knights.
“You’ve got to play physical and get little jabs in but not go overboard so the refs don’t catch you,” Ryan Rupert, a centre, said about his game. “Gets the other guys frustrated out there.”
Says Matt: “We’re gritty players. If it comes to fighting, we’re not going to back down. I like fighting, it’s fun.”
The Ruperts were tutored by Dale Hunter (until he left to coach the Washington Capitals) quite literally night and day. The lived with Hunter, watching hockey when they weren’t playing it. Hunter would point out — stopping the PVR if he had to — what players were doing right or wrong during whatever game happened to be on the TV at the time.
“He’d go up to the TV, point out plays, corrected us. He was coaching us for pretty much 24 hours,” said Matt.
The two Ruperts are fraternal twins who look alike except for one telling point: Ryan has all his teeth. Matt’s got the Bobby Clarke smile.
“One game, I ran a goalie and a defenceman cross-checked me in the face,” said Matt. “Then the other one was in practise. Puck deflected off a stick.”
Spitfires notebook: Devlin at Rangers camp
It was the next best thing to being drafted for Windsor Spitfires defenceman Brandon Devlin.
Passed over in the NHL Draft, the 18-year-old Devlin almost immediately received an invite to attend the New York Rangers’ prospect camp.
“Being drafted, I would have been really honoured, but going to the Rangers’ camp was pretty special,” said the six-foot-two, 197-pound Devlin, who skated with the club for five days last week.
Acquired in November by the Spitfires from the Barrie Colts, Devlin was ranked by NHL Central Scouting on its mid-term list, but failed to make the final rankings.
“I was hoping to (get drafted), but I guess I’ll take it as a learning curve,” Devlin said. “Hopefully, next year, I get my named called.
“The Rangers camp was good and I thought I did well. I picked up a couple of points and tried my best.”
Now, he’s hoping to take it forward into the 2012-13 season and build off it.
“We have a really good young team and I’m really looking forward to it,” Devlin said of the Spitfires.
“I think it’s going to be fun to watch us.
“I’m looking to strengthen my qualities and, hopefully, I’ll be in a different situation next year (at the draft).”
Jets did right with Jokinen: Sutter
WINNIPEG – The man who helped Olli Jokinen resurrect his hockey career believes the Winnipeg Jets made a wise decision bringing him into the fold.
Brent Sutter, the former head coach of the Calgary Flames, was singing the praises of Jokinen when we caught up to him at his ranch in Sylvan Lake, Alta.
“Number one, he’s a great guy,” said Sutter. “Olli Jokinen is a very good hockey player. I like him a lot. He trains hard, he’s a fit guy who takes care of himself and he’s a tremendous team guy.
“Like all players, they want to score goals and get points but the thing with Olli, he got to learn and understand how important it was to defend and play without the puck. He’s a real good example of a player who, as he got up in age, he understood the importance of changing his game. To get a guy like Olli, it’s a great move by the Jets.” Sutter was a few months into his second season as Flames bench boss when the two had a frank discussion about Jokinen needing to transform his style.
“He really flourished. The last two years, his game went to a whole new level, as far as the type of player he was. With doing it, he was still able to contribute and put up offensive numbers.”
The commitment to the defensive zone led to increased production, bucking the trend for a player in his 30s.
“You look at players, the majority of them, will decrease and not increase, so you have to adapt and do things differently,” said Sutter. “It’s a young man’s game, but players in their 30s can still be great contributors by making some adjustments.”
Those adjustments allowed Jokinen to bounce back with 23 goals and 61 points last season, helping him earn a two-year deal with the Jets worth $9 million.
“This past season, there’s no doubt Olli, from start to finish, was our top forward,” said Sutter.
The Jokinen Sutter knows is determined to win, despite the fact he’s appeared in only six playoff games.
“No question, he’s a team-oriented guy that really wants to win bad,” said Sutter. “He took a lot of pride in wanting to do things right and playing that team game.
“Olli has become a complete player that every team needs on their hockey team to have success. Teams that have big centre-icemen always seem to find a way to win. He’s a big body that can skate and he’s learned how to play the game the right way. He just needs to stay with it.” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is counting on it.
NHL Player Agent Ian Pulver with Jim Lang & Mike Farwell
So where are contracts headed in the NHL? How can owners cry poor after all this money is doled out yet again? NHL sports agent Ian Pulver, (who represents Olli Jokinen, Alex Galchenyuk, and Leafs prospects Ryan and Matt Rupert) discusses the league’s financial situation on Brady and Lang in the Morning.
Loktionov takes home Stanley Cup
The Windsor Star
Former Windsor Spitfire Andrei Loktionov had his day with the Stanley Cup this week.
The five-foot-10, 180-pound forward shared the Cup with teammate Slava Voynov as it toured Russian cities on Wednesday.
Voynov took the trophy to his hometown of Chelyabinsk where he showcased the Cup at the arena of KHL team Traktor.
Later that day, Loktionov brought the Cup to a municipal building in his hometown of Voskresensk near Moscow.
From there, the Cup travelled to Slovenia Thursday where Kings all-star forward Anze Kopitar became the first player to the trophy to the country.
Kings forward Kevin Westgarth of Amhersburg has yet to have his day with the Stanley Cup, but has said he will bring it to the United Communities Credit Complex.
“Have friends, family and the town enjoy it,” Westgarth said in an interview with americajr. com last month.
The Stanley Cup is scheduled to make stops in Viking, Alta., next week when head coach Darryl Sutter will bring it to the farm where he was raised.
Loktionov Photos with the Stanley Cup in Russia (Larionov)
LA Kings Prospect Andy Andreoff Hopes To Leave A Mark In Manchester In 2012-13
LOS ANGELES — Last fall, left wing prospect Andy Andreoff was busy turning some heads during the Los Angeles Kings’ annual Rookie Camp, and he even lasted longer in the team’s 2011 Training Camp than most expected of a third round draft pick (80th overall, 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft).
The 6-1, 201-pound native of Pickering, Ontario, known for his physical play, opened some eyes by displaying some decent skills.
That combination of physical play and skill is what grabbed the attention of Kings scouts in the 2010-11 season, when he broke out for 33 goals and 42 assists for 75 points, with a +34 plus/minus rating, and 109 penalty minutes in 66 regular season games with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League.
Andreoff also scored three goals and contributed eight assists for eleven points with a +3 rating and 16 penalty minutes in ten playoff games.
Coming off that season, and knowing that he made a strong showing at the Kings’ 2011 Development Camp, and the subsequent Rookie Camp, Andreoff also made it past the first roster cuts during training camp last fall.
Andreoff was part of the next group that was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, and there was some thought that he might start the 2011-12 season with the Monarchs, at the very least. He got some great news on October 12, 2011, when the Kings signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract. But there was also some bad news, as he was assigned back to Oshawa at the same time.
Having to return to his junior team for the 2011-12 season was tough for the 21-year-old to accept, at first.
“The biggest challenge might have been getting sent down from the AHL at the start of the season, learning that I had to go back [to the OHL] for another year,” Andreoff told Frozen Royalty in an exclusive interview. “It was a little disappointing, but you learn from that.”
To his credit, Andreoff did not pout. Rather, he took advantage of the opportunity.
“I had to battle through it,” he noted. “It’s a little tough to get sent down. But I learned a lot from the coaches [at Oshawa, they] helped me a lot, so it was good to get back with the Generals for my last year.”
“I don’t think [getting sent down] was anything bad,” he added. “They just thought I’d get more ice time with the Generals, and that was better for me, as a player, to develop more and be ready for the next year. I got a lot of ice time with the Generals, so I was able to improve my skating, and my skills there. Now I’m ready to be a pro, at Manchester, or wherever I might play.”
It was also a lesson in humility.
“It was a good thing,” said Andreoff. “It taught me that you’re not going to be handed everything you want. I got drafted, and I had a good summer, working out, and training at the  Development Camp. Then, I went to Manchester for a little bit.”
“When they sent me back from Manchester, it was good to be back with the guys again, back with the Generals,” added Andreoff. “It’s a great organization. It’s a pretty close group [there], so I was pretty excited to play with them for my last year [in junior hockey].”
Andreoff’s 2011-12 numbers dropped considerably from his 2010-11 marks, with 22 goals and 36 assists for 58 points, with a +1 rating and 88 penalty minutes in 57 regular season games this past year.
Andreoff also scored a goal and tallied three assists in six playoff games.
Despite the decline in his offensive output, Andreoff’s development appears to be on track, especially in terms of his defensive zone play, an aspect of the game that most young prospects need a boatload of work on.
“I thought I had a pretty good year, all around,” he said. “Everything went well, offensively and defensively. I learned a lot from [Oshawa head coach] D.J. Smith. He’s a great coach. He taught me a lot of things about the defensive zone that’ll help me with my game when I become a pro.”
The Kings also kept an eye on him during the season.
“Nelson Emerson, [who heads up Player Development for the Kings], came to a couple of games in Oshawa,” Andreoff explained. “We went out for lunch a couple of times, and went over video [of his play], looking at the key things that the Kings like—board battles, face-offs, and stuff like that.”
“One of the things they keep telling me to work on is my first three steps, having quick feet and explosiveness, so I can be ready for the next level, because it’s a lot faster,” he elaborated.
After the Generals lost to the Niagara Icedogs in the OHL playoffs, Andreoff was recalled by the Monarchs, getting into five regular season games, scoring one goal, his first in the AHL, and in professional hockey.
“It felt great to get that first goal out of the way,” he beamed. “Some guys struggle, and they get nervous as they play more games, but don’t get the goal, so I was happy that I got it out of the way in the first couple of games.”
“I was really happy about that,” he added. “I’m looking forward to that giving me some confidence going into next season.”
Like most young players taking the step up from junior hockey, playing at the AHL level required some adjustments.
“It took me a couple of games to get used to it, but I got comfortable with it, eventually,” said Andreoff. “There’s a great group of guys at Manchester, and they helped me out with everything.”
“I was talking to the guys, asking how it was, in the practices,” added Andreoff. “It’s a little different with the speed, and there’s a lot of older guys, in their late twenties, and they’re a little stronger than in the OHL.”
Andreoff, who also played in four playoff games with the Monarchs, scoring two goals, got a crash course introduction into life at the professional level.
“What stood out the most was being a pro,” he stressed. “It’s a little different in junior, where you live with your billets, and I lived in Oshawa, which is pretty close to my family. Pickering is only 15 minutes away.”
“Being a pro, you live on your own, in your own condo,” he added. “You have to do your own thing—[prepare] food, and everything.”
Andreoff also took note of how hard the pros work.
“At Manchester, Marc-André Cliche was our captain, and he worked hard, on and off the ice,” Andrehoff noted. “He wasn’t just a guy who worked hard on the ice. You’d see him in the gym after practice. That rubs off on you, and you learn [from] those guys.”
Andreoff was one of several Monarchs players who were recalled by the Kings during their playoff run, all the way to the first Stanley Cup Championship in the 45-year history of the franchise.
“It was unbelievable, watching the crowd in a sold-out [arena], every game,” he said. “It was pretty crazy. It really makes you want to be there, more than anything, just seeing the crowd, and the guys playing that hard. It’s the way they won, too, beating Vancouver, who was the top seed. It was awesome.”
Although the young prospects were no longer with the Kings after the Western Conference Finals, Andreoff was glued to the television, watching the Stanley Cup Final.
“I was very happy for them [when the Kings won the Stanley Cup],” said Andreoff. “Watching them throughout the playoffs, they worked so hard. It was the way they played, and they proved [themselves] to everyone who was doubting them.”
“That stood out in my mind, seeing them do that, no matter how many people thought they weren’t going to win,” added Andreoff. “They still battled through everything. No matter how good any [opponent] was, they still worked hard.”
Like all the other young prospects in the Kings’ system, Andreoff now plays for an organization that is the defending Stanley Cup Champion, one that has developed a winning culture.
If that brings any more pressure to bear on the young prospects, in terms of their development, Andreoff is not showing any effects.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing—working hard over the summer, doing what they want me to do—the little things that help me as a player,” he emphasized. “That’ll help me become an LA King someday.”
Nail Yakupov: “I Want to Prove to the Oilers They Made the Right Choice”
Nail Yakupov is only a few weeks into his career with the Edmonton Oilers, but already he has impressed with his performance at the team’s summer development camp. OilersNation’s Andrey Osadchenko caught up with Yakupov there.
Yakupov: We’d get up at 6am, go to the rink and come back around 8pm. It’s not like it was all practice and nothing else. We had a lot meetings and other stuff that’s not directly involved in sports. Every day was so long. We’d get back to hotel, go to sleep only to wake up the next day again at 6am.
Osadchenko: Oilers had options with how they were going to spend their first overall pick, but they finally drafted you. Were you nervous about it or you sort of expected to be picked by the Oilers?
Yakupov: Honestly, I didn’t expect anything before the draft day. But when I woke up on that day, I got really nervous right away. I was shaking all over! Hours went by and I was still shaking. Nobody knew what they were going to do and neither did I. Everybody just kind of waited. When they called my name I felt relieved. It was cool.
Osadchenko: You talked to the Oilers at Combine Tests in Toronto and right before the draft. Did they give you the impression they were interested in you more than in anyone else?
Yakupov: No, there were no hints that they were going to draft me. They talked to me just like they talked to everyone else. They showed me around the rink, introduced me to the personnel and stuff like that. But nothing concrete was ever said. Toronto and Montreal would have done the same thing, but I chose to go to Edmonton. They called me first and I went for it. I mean, the team wanted to see me here, so why would I say no, right? But they never said they’d draft me.
Osadchenko: Former Oilers 1st overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, was up there on the stage with you. Did you get to talk to him?
Yakupov: Yeah, I did. My family and I were invited to a dinner that evening. There we talked a little bit. Great guy. Everything was awesome. We didn’t fight or anything like that (laughs).
Osadchenko: There’s a picture of you talking to somebody on the phone during a photoset right after you were picked. Who were you talking to?
Yakupov: Sam Gagner.
Osadchenko: How did he get your number?
Yakupov: He didn’t. Somebody just gave me the phone and told me Sam wanted to talk to me.
Osadchenko: What did he say?
Yakupov: He congratulated me and wished good luck. That was all.
Osadchenko: Do you think you can get more than 8 points in one game?
Yakupov: (laughs) I’d like to. It’d be great. That’s not what I’m focusing on, though, right now. So far I just want to make the team. I want to prove with work and the way I play that I deserve to be on the team. I want to get as much ice-time as I can. I want my team to win. I want to get a lot of points. I want to feel comfortable on the team. I don’t want to be in the limbo. I want to be a part of the team. I don’t want to be an up-and-down guy. And I want to be the best (laughs).
No-no-no, don’t get me wrong. It’s like I’m going to show up at the camp all cocky and going to act like I’m a star. No, nothing like this is going to happen. You see, getting picked first overall was just step one. Step two is to actually make the team. I want to work hard and be on the team. I want to prove to the Oilers they made the right choice. I want to prove to my family they put all this effort into to me for a good reason. I want to prove to all of my former coaches back in Sarnia and Nizhnekamsk that they taught me well.
I’m very grateful to everyone he helped me in Nizhnekamsk – from security people and janitors to Chemical Factory director Vladimir Busygin. I’m deeply thankful to all those who congratulated me after draft, including mayors of Kazan and Nizhnekamsk – they called my dad right after I was picked. I’m being serious – I don’t want to look bad in their eyes. I want to be a part of the team and play for the Oilers. Hopefully, it’s going to happen. Knock on wood.
Osadchenko: Last summer you went to Neftekhimik’s pro team training camp and looked good. As the matter of fact, you even scored some goals in scrimmage games. Did you feel back then that you were playing with pros? Was there a huge gap for you between this and junior hockey?
Yakupov: I wouldn’t say it was ‘huge’. It’s still just another hockey game. If you come into it well-prepared, nobody can stop you. As soon as you get legs going for you, you’re going to be fine. Sure, when you play with grown men it’s a little bit different – they skate faster and hit harder. They also think faster and do everything faster. I spent a month with them, got to know them better, felt the rhythm they worked in, so it felt comfortable in scrimmage games. Also, I’d like to point out that I’m very thankful to Neftekhimik for letting me practice with them last summer. It was a great experience for me.
Osadchenko: Do you think transition from the Sting to the Oilers would go just as smooth for you?
Yakupov: Even though it’s still early, I think about it. Everything happens to you for the first time some time, you know? It’s just the way it goes. You wait for it to happen and you get somewhat nervous. Not because you don’t think you can do it, but simply because it’s your first time and you’ve never tried it before. I’m interested in how it’s going to pan out. I don’t want to be scared of it. I want to show what I’m capable of, I want to prove I’m ready for the NHL – the best league in the world. I want to be on that level. To summarize my point – yes, I think about it, I feel kind of anxious about it, but only because I don’t want to let people down.
Osadchenko: There’s a lot of talk about the ‘Russian Factor’. Are you fed up with questions about you possibly leaving to the KHL?
Yakupov: I’ve been asked so much about it. So many questions about it. I mean, I understand them. It’s their job. Every agent, scout and GM would ask me about it because his job is on the line. Did you see what happened after the draft? Quite a few teams fired their scouts. It’s their job. They have to know. They have to trust you. Then again when you’re asked the same question over 30 times it kind of gets under your skin. But you can’t do anything about. I’m being honest about it. Whether or not you trust me – I have no control over it. It’s not like I’d get on my knees and beg you to trust me, right?
I told the truth. It’s always been my dream to play in the NHL. This is why I came to Canada. I came here to learn how to play hockey. Then I was lucky enough to be drafted. Now I just have to make the team. I don’t even think about the money at this point. I don’t care who’s going to offer me what. Lots of people asked me: ‘What if you’re offered big contract? Would you leave?’ I thought I said everything that was needed to be said when I said ‘I want to play in the NHL’. Yet, they still ask me this. I want to play in the NHL. That’s the bottom line. Knock it off.
Osadchenko: Could you tell me a little bit about what was your experience like at the rookie camp?
Yakupov: What if I don’t tell you?
Yakupov: (laughs) I’m just messing with you. Okay, where do I start? About 30-35 guys came to the camp – guys who were just drafted, free agents, Europeans… Right after we arrived we had to undergo the same tests we had last month in Toronto. Everything was pretty much identical. The next day we began the actual work. Before going to the ice we’d watch a few videos of what we’re going to work on today. It’d take us about 20 minutes. We’d skate in the morning for 2 hours. First 30 minutes we’d just work on our skating because everybody comes in a different form – some guys didn’t skate at all after last season.
Then we’d split – defensemen would go to one end, forward would go to the other end and goalies formed the last group. Every group worked on its own. Then they’d refresh the ice and we’d reunite. We were practicing 3-on-0 rushes and 3-on-1 rushes… You know, stuff like that. You have to do everything very fast so it was a lot of fun. Because it was so fast-paced, nobody would get bored even though there were a lot of people on the ice – you may be idle for 20 seconds, tops, and then you’re back in action.
Then we’d go to the arena, get changed and grab a quick lunch. Then we’d have different meetings. One day we had two chefs, who came over to tell us everything we needed to know about nutrition. After a meeting we’d have another practice with a fitness coach. With him we did some yoga. That would last also for 90 minutes. The other day we had guys coming over to tell us how to invest our money, what banks should we use and stuff like that. Money stuff. Then we had a meeting with our PR guy who told us how to talk to the media, what to tweet and what not to tweet, how should we act on social networks in general.
One day we went to Superstore with those chefs. There we split up into two teams. We were going around the store and they’d tell us what we should buy and what we shouldn’t. Then we had to pick foods so we’d cook the next day. It was like game – our team vs. the other team. We cooked salad, pasta with chicken and veggies and dessert. Judges ruled that we lost this challenge. But it was a lot of fun. Every team was divided into groups of five. My group was responsible for salad.
Osadchenko: Who was on your team?
Yakupov: Two Slovaks – Marincin and Gernat. Also, Kristians Pelss and Taylor Fedun, who was our captain.
Osadchenko: What did the Oilers PR guy tell you exactly? What aren’t you supposed to talk about?
Yakupov: No trash-talking. Lose or win – you have to respond to questions moderately. Never answer a question with a question of your own. All in all just don’t be rude. He talked about Twitter for some time. It’s not a good idea to tweet irresponsibly. You tweet something you’d better not be tweeting and before you know it everybody is all over it. You don’t want this to happen. For instance, if you’re asked a provocative question, you’d be better off ignoring it. Don’t try to be the King of Twitter or something. Tweet usual stuff. Like ‘Edmonton is a nice city’.
Osadchenko: People are getting worried your Twitter won’t be a fun place anymore. So far you’re quite open on it.
Yakupov: Look, Twitter has to be taken seriously. You may be kidding but people would think otherwise and you’d be in trouble. It can be very difficult to explain to fans that you were misunderstood.
Osadchenko: Did the chefs’ food recommendations were any different from those you received in Sarnia?
Yakupov: Not too much. I’d say it’s pretty much the same. My first year in Sarnia I stayed at Galchenyuk’s and his dad is a former hockey player, so he knows what nutrition is good for you. Then my mom cooked and my dad helped her. And my dad has been in hockey for over 20 years now, so he knows what to eat. It wasn’t a problem in Sarnia. In Edmonton they told me a few little details that I didn’t know. For instance, you have to weigh yourself after workout. If you lost a certain amount of weight, you have to drink a certain amount of water.
They gave a list of foods that you shouldn’t eat. It’s like you can’t eat them at all, but you shouldn’t. Then again it’s hard to always make right food choices. Every now and then you still want to eat some bakery or something. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s not an issue. For instance, on a game day I would never eat fries. But if I can eat something like this some other time, sure, I’ll have it. If I want to get a Subway sandwich late at night, I’d go and get it. I’d rather be sated than hungry. I can’t sleep when I’m hungry.
I was taught many things here. You’d be surprised how many exercises are out there. You look at it and you think it’s worthless. Because it looks so unnecessary. But you do it and you feel terrific. Same with protein drinks. If you started to drink one protein drink, stick to it. Don’t go around and swap it as you like. Because sometimes you feel bad during a game and you don’t know why. If you swap it as you like, you’ll never know.
Osadchenko: So you can still have traditional Tatar meals like vak-belyash and chuck-chuck?
Yakupov: It’s my favorite food! My mom likes to cook it at home. If you’re hungry, you can it quite a lot of Tatar food. I really love soups with uch-pochmak.
Osadchenko: You were born in a small town in Russia. Then you played in a small Canadian town. Edmonton must look very big to you. Do you have to adjust to it?
Yakupov: I like it. It’s quiet and beautiful. And I came here to play hockey. This is my focus now. Besides, Rexall Place is huge. You can practically live in there. When you come there you just sort of forget that there’s something else outside.
Osadchenko: Do they recognize you on the streets already, though?
Yakupov: They do and I like it. Every day there were 2,000 fans in the stands at the training camp. 2,000 fans! Can you believe it?! Guys would score a goal and fans start to cheer. It was a lot of fun. It wasn’t like we couldn’t smile and had to stay serious on the ice. Fans had fun and so did we. When you’re in a good mood, you perform better. I have never experience anything quite like this.
Osadchenko: Women are going to all over you now.
Yakupov: I’d rather prefer girls (laughs). So far it’s not like this. Perhaps, it’s because we were always under cover. We were either at the rink or hotel. It was a quiet week in this sense.
Cody Bradley, son of former Tampa Bay Lightning star Brian Bradley, shines at Lightning’s development camp
Tampa Bay Times
BRANDON — As befitting a former NHL player who has seen it all, Brian Bradley, watching from a balcony Saturday at the Ice Sports Forum, hardly flinched when the Lightning prospect roofed a goal.
He was similarly stoic several seconds later when the same prospect stole a puck and scored again.
As a parent, though, Bradley could not have been prouder, because the prospect was his son, Cody, who continued to distinguish himself at Tampa Bay’s development camp.
“It’s great,” said Brian, who played for the Lightning from 1992-97, was the team’s first legiti mate star and is the organization’s director of youth hockey. “Any time you wear the pros’ colors, it’s a good experience.”
Cody, 18, was not at the camp because of his father, said Al Murray, Tampa Bay’s director of amateur scouting.
A center like his father, Cody last season played for Dubuque of the junior United States league and next season will play on scholarship for Colorado College.
He was on the Lightning’s June draft list. When not selected, he was invited to camp with a phone call from general manager Steve Yzerman, something Cody called “a pretty big deal.”
“We evaluated Cody as every other player is evaluated,” Murray said. “We didn’t even talk to Brian prior to the draft.”
Cody, 5 feet 10, 163 pounds and a lifelong Lightning fan, made the most of his time at the five-day camp that wrapped up Saturday. In six three-on-three games, he had three goals, four points and nine shots on goal.
“He’s skates well, seems pretty smart and makes good plays,” player development coordinator Steve Thomas said. “He certainly didn’t look out of place.”
“He’s skilled,” assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said. “He’s responsible. He competes.”
Cody was too young to recall his father as a player — he wasn’t born when Brian in 1992-93 was the Lightning’s first 40-goal scorer — but he knows Brian’s 13-year career was ended by a concussion.
That was in even sharper focus when Cody missed more than three months last season with a concussion.
It occurred during January’s USHL All-Star Game when Cody’s head smacked the boards after a hit. He played only four more games, in April in the playoffs.
Given Brian’s history, it would be understandable if the injury, which Cody said was “a little bit more serious than I thought,” caused concern about Cody’s career path. But neither he nor his father seemed worried.
“Stuff like that happens,” Brian said. “You just have to overcome it and work hard and battle through it.”
“His most important advice,” Cody said of his father, “was I’m young and not to pressure myself to get back on the ice right away. Make sure it was fully healed before I was ready to go. In the long run, I found out I was going to be fine.
“It’s not really in my head whether a concussion will end my career or not. I just keep playing, hope for the best and work hard every game.”
Like he did during Saturday’s three-on-threes, in which he showed good hands with his top-shelf goal, good anticipation with the steal that led to his second goal and good grit with a goal off a scramble in front of the net.
“He can snipe,” Bradley said. “He needs to shoot more, like anybody, but he can put it in the net.”
Spoken like a proud father.
3 OHL Grads on Russia’s Sary-Arka Karaganda for 2012-13
Previously a member team in Kazakhstan’s 10 team elite league, Sary-Arka Karaganda joins Russia’s VHL for the 2012-13 season. The VHL (Vysshaya Hokkeinaya Liga), also known as the Major Hockey League is an elite league based in Russia but not currently affiliated with the KHL. Karaganda will be carrying three grads of the Ontario Hockey League for the upcoming season: Todd Perry, Brett Parnham and Ben O’Connor.
Todd Perry played three years in the OHL from 2004-05 to 2006-07. His first two seasons were spent with the Barrie Colts before moving over to the London Knights for his final year. Undrafted, Todd played with a handful of clubs in the AHL and ECHL before moving to Russia for the 2011-12 season. This past year, he played for Molot-Prikamie Perm in the VHL.
Brett Parnham recently had a try-out with Ilves in Finland’s SM-Liiga but finds himself returning to the VHL for a second season. Parnham played in the OHL for four years from 2005-06 to 2008-09. He was the 13th overall pick at the 2005 OHL Priority Selection by the Sudbury Wolves. Brett started his OHL career with the Wolves but was traded to the Oshawa Generals 31 games into his first season. He finished out his career with the Generals, topping out with 50 goals in his final season.
Undrafted, Parnham spent two years in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies before making his move to Russia for the 2011-12 season. Like Todd Perry, Brett also played for Perm in the VHL.
Igor Larionov talks on being drafted by the Canucks in 1985
Rupert scores in Memorial Cup Final
Alex Galchenyuk is NHL draft’s man of mystery (Larionov)
TORONTO — The accent is difficult to place.
Hear Alex Galchenyuk speak and you initially think he sounds Russian. But keep listening to the 18-year-old — close your eyes and really listen — and you will notice that there is more going on under the surface than your typical, store-bought perfume. It is the result of a nomadic upbringing. Galchenyuk was born in Wisconsin but followed his Belarusian father’s hockey career to parts of the United States, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Russia.
“I can speak Italian, Russian and English obviously,” Galchenyuk, who considers himself American, said at Tuesday’s NHL Draft Combine. “I used to speak French, but I forgot it.”
The accent is not the only thing that has scouts guessing. Heading into next month’s draft in Pittsburgh, the question most teams are asking is how high Galchenyuk could have gone had he not missed all but two games of the regular season with a significant knee injury.
Would he be have a top-five pick, a top-three pick? Would he have created a Taylor versus Tyler debate with Sarnia Sting teammate Nail Yakupov?
It is nearly impossible to answer, because we do not know if Galchenyuk would have taken a step forward or backward in his development. All we know is that the 6-foot-1, 198-pound centre, who finished second in rookie scoring to Yakupov in 2010-11 with 83 points in 68 games, is the ultimate wild card in an injury-blemished draft.
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have the second overall pick, he could be a stretch. For the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have the fifth overall pick and are in need of a top-line centre, he could be a steal.
“I’m pretty sure if he doesn’t get hurt, we’re having that discussion of whether he goes No. 1,” said Mark Seidel, the chief scout for North American Central Scouting. “For me, it’s the injuries. Talent-wise, he’s up there with Yakupov.”
“I think he will develop into a superior player than Yakupov,” one league scout said.
Before the season began, Yakupov and Galchenyuk were rated No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings of North American skaters. But after Galchenyuk sat out for nearly six months after tearing his ACL in an exhibition game in September, he was left off the mid-term rankings. He was fifth on the final list.
Had Galchenyuk not returned for two games at the end of the season — and another six in the playoffs — his draft stock might have been worse.
“Obviously, the injury is a tough injury, but in the end I was very proud of myself that I came back,” said Galchenyuk. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t play this year. But from the beginning, I said I would work really hard and come back.
“It was important for me just to go to games and show that I can bounce back.”
That resilience was really all Galchenyuk was able to show. While he said he was 100% healthy for the games he played, the injury messed with his timing. He was held pointless in his two regular-season games, and though he had two goals and five points in six playoff games, the Sting failed to advance to the second round.
“I didn’t get to show what I’m about,” he said. “I think I was really frustrated to be out of the playoffs, because by Game 5 or 6 I was just getting my game back. I was kind of moving the puck and playing my game.”
The kind of game Galchenyuk plays is just as varied as his background. He has the skill and playmaking ability of a Russian (he played youth hockey in Moscow), but is equally comfortable playing the North American power game (he has represented the U.S. team in international events).
Scouts, unfortunately, did not get to see many examples, which puts more emphasis on this week’s combine. One league scout likened it to “cramming for a final exam.”
Galchenyuk spent Tuesday interviewing with more than 10 different teams, who are all looking for clues as to what his potential might be. Things might become clearer during Friday’s and Saturday’s fitness tests, where that repaired knee will be put through the ringer.
At the end of the day, however, a team will have to make a decision based more on gut feeling than evidence. It is what the Tampa Bay Lightning did when they selected Brett Connolly sixth overall in 2010. Connolly had played just 16 games in his draft year.
“Anything can happen,” Galchenyuk said. “But, for me, I just want to get drafted and show what I can do.”
Larionov: Yakupov a ‘Perfect Candidate’ for Oilers at Draft
The Edmonton Oilers still have three weeks to decide what to do with the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, but one Hall-of-Famer sees an obvious fit in Sarnia winger Nail Yakupov.
Igor Larionov – agent to Yakupov as well as projected top-10 pick Alex Galchenyuk – sees the consensus number-one pick being a key component to the Oilers moving forward, should they take him.
Speaking to TSN Radio 1050′s Bryan Hayes, Larionov looked at the Oilers as a team ready to make the next step and being able to contend in the NHL.
“Now they’ve got to start to make the playoffs and start to play better as a team and be more consistent,” Larionov told Hayes. “I think Nail would be the perfect candidate [for them]. He can get right in the line-up and play hockey with all those young guys.”
The jury is still out on what the Oilers will do with the first pick, but Larionov believes the team has the talent to be a special group, likening them to talented teams of the past.
“It’s fun to watch them and it kind of reminds me of the Edmonton Oilers of the early 80s and the Red Army team after Lake Placid,” he said. “There were so many young guys and we were very successful because [we] had hockey sense and skill and speed and desire to be successful.”
The Oilers appear to be considering Yakupov among their many options. Larionov admitted towards the end of the interview that Yakupov was headed to Edmonton on Sunday for a day and a half after this week’s NHL Draft Combine is through. He will then head home to prepare for the Draft.
With both his clients expected to go early on in the draft – possibly even both in the top-five – Larionov knows they both have a long summer ahead of them if they wish to follow the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner and take a regular NHL shift as 18-year-olds.
“They realize this is going to be a big challenge for them,” he said. “It’s a hard path and it’s not an easy road. But if you have the mindset to go to the NHL, you have to be ready right now and have a productive summer of workouts and show up at training camp in the top shape and be hungry to make the team.”
A veteran of 14 NHL seasons and 12 seasons in the Soviet League, Larionov also offered unique perspective on the state of Russian hockey players in the league today.
While the lure of the Kontinental Hockey League has presented an obstacle in getting some Russian players to commit to the NHL in the early part of their careers, Larionov believes the choice is simple if a player wants to play against the best competition.
“It’s a situation with the KHL right now because young players can make more money,” Larionov said. “They can stay there but at the same time, [there] is only one league that is the best in the world and that’s the National Hockey League.”
Yakupov, who is a native Russian and Galchenyuk, who is American-born but is the son of a former Belarusian national have the added appeal of having played their junior hockey in Ontario with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting.
Larionov is trying to prepare both his clients for the long road ahead, regardless of which teams control their rights as of June 22.
“It’s very hard sometimes to explain to players [that] if you want to play at the highest level, that’s the level you want to be [at]… in the NHL,” Larionov said. “Those two guys – Alex and Nail – they realize that and they’re very serious about [putting] in a lot of work this summer and [impressing] the teams that want to pick them in the draft and play in the National Hockey League next year.”
Blackhawks agree to terms with 2011 pick Clendening
The Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to terms with defenseman Adam Clendening on a three-year contract.
Clendening, 19, shared the lead among Hockey East defensemen with a career-high 33 points (4G, 29A) in 38 games with Boston University. The Niagra Falls, New York, native ranked second among league blueliners with a career-high 29 assists and 15 power-play points (2G, 13A) during his sophomore campaign and ranked fifth on the Terriers with a career-best +11 plus/minus rating. He was named a Hockey East First Team All-Star and was one of only two sophomores selected to the All-New England Division I All-Star team.
Originally selected by the Blackhawks in the second round (36th overall) of the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Clendening was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and was an honorable mention Hockey East All-Star, the only freshman to receive the honor, in his first season at BU. A product of the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), Clendening led Team USA defensemen at the 2012 World Junior Championships with five points (G, 4A) in six games. He also won gold with Team USA at the 2009 and 2010 Under-18 World Championships and was named to the tournament All-Star Team in 2010 after leading all blueliners in scoring with 10 points (3G, 7A).
Yakupov’s fitness testing performance gets solid reviews (Larionov)
TORONTO — This was the moment Nail Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated North American skater, had been waiting for — a chance to prove to every NHL scout and general manager that he deserves to be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft on June 22 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
The 18-year-old right wing from the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League certainly did his part Friday during the fitness stage of the NHL Scouting Combine at the Toronto International Centre.
Yakupov successfully survived the 13 individual tests designed to evaluate the strength and fitness of the draft hopefuls, including the grueling bike tests — the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and the VO2 Max test.
“I think this is the best moment in my life and it started [at the Combine],” Yakupov told the media after surviving the tests. “It’s a big day for me and this was the first test in my life. We had fun here. There was good exercises, good bikes. I got to show how hard I work and how to push. I feel great.”
Edmonton Oilers head amateur scout, Stu MacGregor, whose team holds the No. 1 choice at the draft for the third straight year, said he was impressed with Yakupov’s workout.
“He extended himself and put himself out there and gave everything he had,” MacGregor told NHL.com. “I think that Nail wants to be No. 1 and he wants to prove he’s No. 1, so he knows what’s at stake and he’s pushing himself to be the best he can be.”
In addition to the bike tests, Yakupov was put through tests that included the standing long jump, vertical jump, curl-ups, grip strength, bench press, push-ups, and push/pull strength. He bench-pressed 150 pounds nine times, and totaled 29 pushups, four more than the average number last year.
He also lasted 12:25 on the VO2 Max test, which measures the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise. During his 30-second spin on the Wingate Cycle Ergometer, Yakupov maintained top speed to the very end, grunting his way through the final five seconds of the exercise.
“I think my favorite was the two bikes,” Yakupov said with a laugh. “If you have to do it again, you do it again, and just push and get good motivation. I was good, I was practicing before and it was easy.”
NHL Central Scouting’s David Gregory thought Yakupov really pushed himself — and as a result left a lasting impression.
“I saw a lot of compete in him which was good and I thought he pushed himself and I think that’s what a lot of teams want to see,” Gregory said. “I thought he did that and he was a strong kid. You could see that there’s an athlete in there, as well as a good hockey player.”
Despite playing just 42 regular-season games, Yakupov finished third on the team with 69 points, including 31 goals. He also had a plus-15 rating and 12 power-play goals.
He was asked if he would be disappointed if he wasn’t selected with the first pick.
“Whether I’m No. 2 or No. 3, I’m not going to stop playing hockey,” Yakupov said. “I keep working. I want to be drafted by an NHL team and help my team win … try win every game. So for me, I want to make the NHL and then we’ll see.”
Yakupov enjoyed having the opportunity to be around his peers and spend a week at the Combine with many other top draft-eligible prospects.
“Everyone talked with everyone,” he said. “When some guy went into meetings, we would say, ‘Good luck,’ and we smile … there were no fights in the hotel. It’s fun and this is your life, so you have to be excited for hockey and how you play.”
Yakupov is hoping to become the first Russian player selected with the No. 1 pick since Alex Ovechkin in 2004.
“It would be my dream to be the first pick, but the NHL is another life and it’s not draft right now, so I just concentrate on my game,” Yakupov said. “I have a life outside of hockey, too. I have my family, my friends, and this year just happens to be my draft year. I will continue to play my game and have fun, and then we’ll see what happens after the draft.”
Scoring goals is something Yakupov enjoys — he led all first-year players in the OHL in 2010-11 with 49 goals in 65 games, and his 101 points led all OHL rookies and shattered Steven Stamkos’ team rookie record (92 points in 2006-07).
Gregory felt scouts and GMs probably learned a lot from Yakupov’s fitness tests.
“There’s a lot of measurables [at the Combine] and we get all that data out to the teams at the end of it,” Gregory said. “But teams like to watch and see how players battle through when you reach your breaking point because those things translate to what you face on the ice, too.”
Alex Galchenyuk from NHL Combine (Larionov)
Max Iafrate from NHL Combine
Clendening Signs With Blackhawks
Petes’ D’Agostini OHL Humanitarian of Year
Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that goaltender Andrew D’Agostini of the Peterborough Petes is the 2011-12 recipient of the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy presented to the OHL’s Humanitarian of the Year.
D’Agostini, a 19-year-old from Scarborough, ON, earns the award for his efforts in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada shown large in part through his support and friendship of six-year-old Anthony Romanelli who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis three years ago. D’Agostini is the fifth member of the Petes to receive this award and the second straight following Jack Walchessen who was last year’s recipient.
“I would like to thank the Peterborough Petes and the OHL for this great honour,” said D’Agostini. “Peterborough has always made me feel welcome and I have enjoyed every minute giving back to them. The real heroes are people like Anthony and his family who understand how precious every day is.”
D’Agostini first reached out to Cystic Fibrosis Canada after hearing the affects of the disease when the local chapter spoke to the Petes’ organization on December 17 prior to club’s fundraising efforts and team skate in support of the foundation. D’Agostini took it upon himself to meet the presenter, Tracy Romanelli, and her son Anthony, and expressed his interest in helping to raise money for the cause. The meeting turned into an ongoing and impactful friendship where D’Agostini has maintained constant communication with Anthony and his family providing gracious comfort and support. D’Agostini is now the spokesman for the Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk which takes place on May 27, 2012, and captains the team “Shutout for Anthony” which has already raised over $5,000.
“Seeing the boys together is just amazing,” said Tracy Romanelli. “Andrew had said to me in that first meeting that he was going to help make a difference in Anthony’s life. I realize it is not easy for a young man to get involved with a sick child but Andrew has given Anthony the dream of becoming a goalie and the hope that one day he may not have to deal with Cystic Fibrosis.”
In addition to his work for Cystic Fibrosis, D’Agostini has contributed over 250 hours in the past three seasons to various causes such as the Petes’ “Partners in Education Program”, while spending time in the pediatric ward of the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, playing floor hockey with a local group of Special Olympians, and visiting a young Petes’ fan after returning home from an extended stay in the hospital as a result of a car accident leaving a Petes’ game earlier in the season. On the ice, D’Agostini played in 38 games between the pipes posting a record of 17-15-1-1 with one shutout, a goals-against-average of 3.90 and save percentage of .890. He was last year’s recipient of the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award presented to the league’s top High School Student Athlete of the Year.
“The Peterborough Petes are very proud of Andrew and the announcement of him being named the recipient of the Dan Snyder Memorial Award as OHL Humanitarian of the Year,” said Petes’ Assistant General Manager Aaron Garfat. “This is an award that the Petes take great pride in nominating a player for. Andrew’s involvement in the community goes above and beyond and is a true reflection of his character. He is a great role model for the youth of our community both on and off the ice.”
Each year the OHL awards a player that has demonstrated outstanding qualities as a positive role model in the community with the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy. The Ontario Hockey League Board of Governors announced in 2004 that the OHL Humanitarian of the Year award would be renamed in recognition of the former Owen Sound Platers captain, who was twice named his team’s Humanitarian of the Year in recognition of his tremendous efforts in supporting community activities.
In addition to D’Agostini and Walchessen, other Petes to win the award include Brent Tully (1994), Mike Martone (1997), and Jeff MacDougald who was the first player to receive the award in recognition of Snyder in the 2004-05 season. This is the third time where a team has had back-to-back recipients following Chris Terry and Ryan Hayes of the Plymouth Whalers in 2009 and 2010, while David Silverstone and Michael Mole earned the award as members of the Belleville Bulls in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
D’Agostini will be the OHL’s nominee for Humanitarian of the Year at the annual CHL Awards on May 26 and will be formally presented with the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy at the OHL Awards Ceremony which takes place June 5 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Rupert on London’s Playoff Run
LeBlanc re-signs with Rockford
Friday April 13th was a day of fortune and near misfortune for Peter LeBlanc.
The 24-year-old former Hamilton Red Wings forward and St. Jean de Brebeuf graduate re-signed with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League that afternoon, but later that night he took a slap shot on the right foot in a game against Milwaukee.
Fortunately, there were no broken bones in the swollen foot and LeBlanc played in the IceHogs’ the final game of the season the next night against Charlotte.
“I just have to rest off on it,” said LeBlanc who was named the team’s unsung hero of the year.
He recently returned home to the Mountain where he plans to take a few weeks off before resuming daily workouts in the gym and over the summer he’ll be playing once again in the summer four-on-four league at the Mohawk four pad arena that features a variety of NHL, AHL, OHL and college players.
The new one-year deal includes a two-way entry level contract with Rockford’s NHL parent the Chicago Black Hawks and LeBlanc said his goal is to win a job with Chicago at training camp in September or at least leave a good enough impression that will put him at the top of the call-up list.
“This is the season I hope to make the move (to the NHL) for sure,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t want to wait any longer.”
While the IceHogs came close, but failed to make the playoffs again, LeBlanc’s first full season with the AHL club was a good one as he led Rockford in goals.
“My goal was to score 20 goals and I got 24,” he said.
As a consistent first or second line forward, mostly at centre, LeBlanc saw loads of ice time and regularly worked the power play and penalty killing units.
He said re-signing with Rockford and staying in the Black Hawks’ organization was an easy decision.
“I think it’s the best for me,” he said. “They like the type of player I am and I like playing there.”
And watching the Black Hawks on television before they were eliminated from the playoffs, LeBlanc said he often imagined himself wearing a Chicago sweater.
“It’s how you have to think,” he said. “That’s my ultimate goal.”
LeBlanc attended the Black Hawks rookie camp last season where he scored four goals during the inter-squad games and saw some preseason action with the NHL club.
He said the biggest difference between the NHL and the AHL is the consistency of the players.
“They come in every night to play,” LeBlanc said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things it takes to be an NHLer is just being consistent night in, night out.”
While pro hockey has become a business for him, LeBlanc said he still enjoys going to the rink each day and he plans to attend the Black Hawks camp on Sept. 12, a week-and-a-half early, in the best shape possible.
LeBlanc said the experience he gained at the Chicago camp last year should benefit him this time around.
“I know the pace now and I know I can be affective at that level,” he said.
Komets hit it big again with blueliner
Justin A. Cohn
The Journal Gazette
FORT WAYNE – The Komets have a knack for finding young players from the junior or college ranks, bringing them in just before the playoffs and getting major contributions from them.
Justin Hodgman was the playoff MVP en route to the 2008 IHL championship. Jamie Milam got his start with the Komets in 2006 – when he was still a forward. Last year’s discovery was Tom Mele.
So it’s not surprising that defenseman Daniel Maggio has been given such responsibility in the playoffs, after he finished his junior career with the Oshawa Generals.
Maggio, 21, has played in 12 of the Komets’ 15 playoff games. He has one goal and three points, has seen plenty of time on special teams and has helped the Komets get within two victories of taking the CHL’s President’s Cup.
The Komets lead the Thunder 2-0 in the best-of-seven finals, with Game 3 at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday.
“It’s been a great experience,” Maggio said. “I just want to do my best and help the team win.”
Maggio scored his first professional goal in Sunday’s 6-3 victory at Intrust Bank Arena.
After Colin Chaulk won a faceoff back to him cleanly, he blasted a slap shot from the blue line past Wichita Thunder goaltender Adam Russo, putting the Komets up 2-1.
“An unbelievable shot,” Komets coach Al Sims said. “That thing was a rocket. It hit the net and came out like a bullet. The kid, we knew he had a good shot, but that was the first time he’s really let one go. He blew it right by Russo. I don’t know if he saw it.
“It’s a tremendous lift for the kid. He’s playing great hockey defensively and for him to pitch in that way and get a goal, I know it meant a lot to him.”
Maggio has been so good that it’s forced Sims to keep David Starenky in the stands the last two games. But Maggio’s willingness to hit has meant Fort Wayne hasn’t had a big drop-off in physical play.
“I’m a big guy and like to finish every hit,” said Maggio, who is 6-foot-3, 202 pounds. “And I think I’ve got a pretty good shot. I just want to help the team win, and that’s why I came here.”
Maggio was a sixth-round pick of the New York Rangers in the 2009 NHL draft. He had seven goals, 19 points and 117 penalty minutes in 66 games this season with Oshawa.
He knows not many players get to win championships, certainly not in their first seasons, so he wants to help make sure the Komets don’t let up against the regular-season champion Thunder.
“It’s a great start. We came here just wanting to get one (victory) and getting two was even better. Now we’ve got to keep the same pace we’ve got going and bring it back home,” said Maggio, a native of Windsor, Ontario.
“You can’t take it for granted. You’ve got a great team over there. We’ve got to keep our emotions level now.”
Rookie season a good one for defenceman Jesse Blacker
This is what the playoffs are like.
An upper body injury meant Jesse Blacker hadn’t played since March 31 when he took the ice for Game 1 of the Marlies playoff against the Abbotsford Heat at Ricoh.
Late in the first period the rookie defenceman tried to beat a man near his own blue line.
The puck stayed in, a wild sequence ensued and the Marlies never got the puck back. Another rookie, the Heat’s Max Reinhart, scored with Blacker swimming in the crease and the visitors had the game’s first goal en route to a 3-1 win.
The two teams resume the series Thursday night at Ricoh and since Blacker has been out of the lineup since March 31, you couldn’t much blame him for a bad decision in his first period in five weeks.
“We went through it this morning and it’s just a mental mistake,” Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said. “If you are coming into a game, you have to be ready to play. If you make a mistake it can’t be ‘hey, I haven’t played for a long time. That doesn’t’ cut it here. I f you deem yourself ready to play, then you’re ready to play.”
For his part, the 21-year-old Blacker agreed.
“I thought I had more time than I did. I tried to force the play a little bit. I managed to recover but sometimes one mistake leads to the next one and it ended up back to the net.”
“It’s one of those things you have to put behind you but keep it in memory bank for the next time. You can’t let it affect your game for the next two periods or everything goes downhill.”
That’s’ about right but Eakins’ reaction speaks volumes about the increased stakes of the post-season. Mistakes, common in junior, are next to unpardonable in the post-season journey of a pro team.
Blacker’s stock has been on the uptick since he arrived with the Marlies after four seasons of junior including a long run with the Owen Sound Attack that climaxed at the Memorial Cup last spring.
Blacker scored one goal and added 16 assists in 58 AHL games and earned enough capital to be plunked back into the Marlies’ lineup at the expense of Stuart Percy, a first round draft choice last June. Putting Blacker where Percy had been meant a night working with Jake Gardiner, the Leafs brilliant young rearguard.
“Jesse was such a good player all year. We put him in because of that,” said assistant coach Gord Dineen. “He made a mistake but he’s been through the wars, he’s played Memorial Cups. That kind of experience is invaluable.”
Blacker is a solid six-foot-one, 190-pounder. His game is built on two elements that flow into each other. He is an excellent skater and he is wildly enthusiastic.
“With Jesse I think it all starts with his energy and enthusiasm for the game,” Dineen said.
In a game laden with traps, schemes and defensive set-ups, offence is often instinctive. Like a point guard who penetrates off the drive, a puckcarrying defenceman can sometimes start the kind of unstoppable sequence of events that Blacker couldn’t squelch in Game I.
“It creates confusion when a D man is leading the rush because now the forward that’s usually responsible doesn’t have him,” Eakins said. “He becomes the responsibility of the D-man. Let’s say nothing happens and it turns into a cycle. Now there’s great confusion in the other team’s zone.”
That kind of offensive thrust can be dynamite. But dynamite doesn’t discriminate.
And so Jesse Blacker’s apprenticeship continues and if there is less room for error, so be it. As important as the mistake is what you do after they turn the goal light off.
Thiessen named the BCHL Player of the Decade
Northeastern goaltender Brad Thiessen (2006-09) continues to grow his list of accolades after he was named the British Columbia Hockey League ‘Player of the Decade’ on Wednesday, May 2.
In November, the top 50 players in BCHL history were revealed as voted by the fans. There were 10 players chosen from each of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. From those groups, more fan voting was held to determine the top player of each decade.
Thiessen joins the ranks of notable nakes like Paul Kariya, Brett Hull, Chad Campell and Bob Nystrom. Thiessen is the lone goaltender to make his name onto the list.
Here are the top players from each decade of BCHL history, as voted by the fans:
1960s – Bob Nystrom, F, Kelowna Rockets
(runner up: Eric Shishido, F, Kamloops Rockets)
1970s – Chad Campbell, F, Penticton Broncos
(runner up: Andy Moog, G, Kamloops Braves, Penticton Vees)
1980s – Brett Hull, F, Penticton Knights
(runner up: Mark Recchi, F, Langley Eagles)
1990s – Paul Kariya, F, Penticton Panthers
(runner up: Shane Kuss, F, South Surrey Eagles)
2000s – Brad Thiessen, G, Penticton Panthers/Vees, Prince George Spruce Kings, Merritt Centennials
(runner up: Duncan Keith, D, Penticton Panthers)
Thiessen recently earned his first career start and victory for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 26, 2012, stopping 22-of-24 shots. In his first NHL appearance, Thiessen finished with a .917 save percentage and a 2.01 goals against average. For earning his first victory, Thiessen earned the first star of the game.
At Northeastern, Thiessen amassed an overall mark of 52-46-12 and owns the school’s best mark in career save percentage (.922) and goals against average (2.40). The Aldergrove, B.C., native backstopped Northeastern to its fourth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009.
A Tale of Two Thomas’
The pressure cooker of pro sports can make for some strange situations, and hockey history has seen many a family battle, with gentlemen sharing the same last name going up against one another in opposing jerseys.
Most of those have been sibling clashes, with brother combinations like Phil and Tony Esposito, the Staal brothers, the Sutter clan, Scott and Rob Niedermayer, Keith and Wayne Primeau, etc., knocking heads.
The current Connecticut Whale vs. Norfolk Admirals series, though, features a father and son locking horns, in the Whale’s Christian Thomas and his dad, Steve.
Christian Thomas joined the Whale from the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League April 4 and played in Connecticut’s last five regular season games, and all four playoff contests to date. Steve Thomas is Player Development Coordinator for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Norfolk’s parent club, and while he is not an official member of the Admirals’ coaching staff, often assists Head Coach John Cooper and Assistant Coach Mike Flanagan, both in practice and behind the bench.
Game One of the Whale/Admirals series Wednesday was the first time the two Thomas men had faced each other on opposing sides. Given that his pride and joy was going to be front and center in the opponent’s lineup, Steve Thomas was conflicted, right up to the start of Wednesday’s game, about whether he should go back behind the bench.
“It’s going to be a bit odd, but I’m looking forward to it,” Steve said Wednesday morning. “It’s a hard kind of thing, but he’s playing pro hockey now and it’s what he wants to do. He’s in an environment , the playoffs, right now, luckily enough, and he’s worked hard to be in this position. So he’s made his bed, and playoff hockey’s intense, it’s played with a lot of passion, and whatever happens, happens out there. It’s beyond my control.”
So, not surprisingly, dad had some mixed feelings. The younger Thomas, on the other hand, didn’t seem the least bit fazed by the situation, although he did acknowledge its out-of-the-ordinary nature.
“It’s pretty weird seeing him on the other bench, that’s for sure,” Christian said. “He’s always coached me in minor hockey. He was on my bench, so he always helped me out, but now he’s helping out the opposition. It’s going to be pretty cool, though.”
Anyone who has kids of their own would certainly forgive Steve Thomas if he became a little distracted in this series, struggling with keeping his mind on his own job and not getting caught up in watching his son. That is a line, however, that Thomas the elder is familiar with straddling.
“I coached him in Minor Bantam, Bantam and Minor Midget, and I treated him like I would any other player,” Steve Thomas said, “and I think that’s the approach I’m going to take [in this series], for sure. More than anything I want our team to win this series, at the same time I’d really like to see my son do well.”
Competing in the heat of battle is one thing, and doing one’s best to help a loved one achieve their goals is another. Steve Thomas, a 20-year NHLer who scored 421 goals and 933 points in the Big Show, is in a great position to use not only his playing experience, but his player-development expertise, to advise Christian on the younger Thomas’ quest to succeed in the pros.
“I think it’s a big transition, playing Junior hockey and making the jump to playoff hockey in the American Hockey League,” Steve said. “You’ve got guys out here that had stints in the National Hockey League, and it’s one step closer to his goal. I think coming out of Junior, that transition, more than anything, is playing well defensively in your own zone. And I think as an offensive player, that makes it that much more of an adjustment because in Junior, it’s all about winning. Guys take chances, they cheat the game a little bit, and you just can’t do that at this level, players are too good. So that transition even becomes more magnified because it’s that defensive mode you kind of have to have yourself in, because ultimately everything starts in your own end. Play good defensive hockey, you get your offensive chances.”
For his part, the 19-year-old Christian Thomas, a second-round draftee by the New York Rangers in the 2010 NHL Draft, takes dad’s advice to heart, and is quick to give the old man credit for knowing what he’s talking about.
“He’s pretty much spot-on,” Christian said of Steve’s counsel. “He said guys (in pro) are bigger, stronger, it’s quicker and you have less time to make plays. First game, I found that out right away, and it was just a bit of adapting I had to do. I feel pretty comfortable out there right now, but playoff hockey is obviously a lot quicker, and it’s going to be a tough series.”
Christian Thomas is already a veteran of one AHL playoff battle, the Whale’s first-round sweep of Bridgeport. Although he did not get on the scoresheet in the three games, he saw significant time on right wing on the Whale’s top line with center Kris Newbury and left-wing Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, another great growth opportunity.
“It was tough, it was my first playoff series in the AHL and it was pretty quick, only playing five games of regular season,” Christian said, “but it was another step up, but playing with two guys like that just makes it a lot easier. They’re so good on the ice and they only help you.”
Christian Thomas, at 5-9 and 170 pounds, is similar in stature to Steve, whose playing dimensions were listed at 5-11 and 185 pounds. The son also exhibits other traits that were hallmarks of his dad’s game, like a quick, hard shot and a willingness to navigate any kind of traffic anywhere on the ice. Still, it’s not exactly like looking in the mirror for Steve when he watches Christian.
“I think he’s a different player than I was,” Steve said. “I don’t think he’s near as physical as I was. I tried to be first in on the forecheck, take the body, go to the net, go to the dirty areas, and he does that. He’s not the one that’s going to initiate a hit that’s going to put a kid through the glass or anything like that. I think he’s more of a finesse player. He shoots the puck as well, if not better, than I ever did, and I think he’s got a better skill set than I had.”
Even if that were an exaggeration of fatherly pride, it is certainly high praise, as Steve Thomas wasn’t exactly a plumber. And now he gets to try to help his own organization defend against that skill set that number 23 in a Whale jersey possesses. Conversely, the potential of having something big to crow about at the summertime family dinner table provides Christian with some extra motivation.
“I know the coach of their team and their other assistant,” Christian said, “but it would be cool, beating these guys in the playoffs, and it’s kind of like bragging rights with my dad.”
According to Steve, who had to battle his way to the NHL after being undrafted out of Junior, his young fellow already has something to hold over his head, what with having been the 40th pick his draft year.
“He’s got that on me, and he passed me last year in my goal total for the Junior levels,” Steve chuckled. “But I’ve really enjoyed watching him play, I really do. Obviously as a dad you hope your son does well, but it’s a bit of a different ballgame now. I’m with this organization and he’s over there, and like I said, I hope he does well, but at the same time I’m hoping we get through this series.”
The most important question might be, who is Christian’s mom, Lori, rooting for in this matchup?
Christian’s answer to that was rather diplomatic, as he said, “That’s a good question, hopefully she’ll be rooting for me, but she’s coming up to Connecticut for the three games there, so we’ll see what she says.”
Steve, on the other hand, harbored no illusions at all about who his wife would like to see prevail.
“She’s going to definitely be rooting for him, for sure,” the proud dad quickly conceded.
Jokinen has surgery for abdominal tear
Just three days removed from surgery to repair an abdominal tear, a relaxed Olli Jokinen chatted openly Friday about the medical troubles that dogged him in the final month of the Calgary Flames’ NHL season.
“It started hurting in early March,” Calgary’s second-leading scorer said via telephone. “Sometimes, as a player, you don’t really want to complain before it really hurts. So it got to the point that it really started affecting my skating and faceoffs and that sort of stuff.”
The status of Jokinen’s health proved a hot topic at the Saddledome before the Flames took off for yet another long off-season of questions. At the time, he refused to discuss his injury trouble.
On Friday, the Flames issued a rare off-season medical up date via news release to tell the world Jokinen successfully went under the knife Tuesday in Philadelphia. A full recovery is expected in three to four weeks.
The release also delved into the history of the injury. According to the Flames, Jokinen first revealed the nagging pain to the team on March 22 when Calgary played the Minnesota Wild.
According to the Flames, Jokinen received treatment from the team medical staff through the conclusion of the regular season.
“To his credit, he played through it,” Flames general manager Jay Feaster told the team’s official website. “Olli, he was very strong about the fact he wanted to get in the playoffs.”
With more than 1,000 NHL games — and only six playoff appearances — on his resume, Jokinen said he battled through the discomfort the best he could.
“It wasn’t the ideal situation,” Jokinen said. “It would have been a lot better if there wasn’t pain. But that’s part of it. Everybody is going through that at some point of the season.
“It was just bad timing for me to get hurt. We were in the middle of the playoff push.”
A pending unrestricted free agent, Jokinen was Calgary’s best forward many nights this season and threatened to overtake Jarome Iginla for the team scoring title through the first 69 games.
The collapse came on March 13 with the Flames battling for their playoff lives. Through the final 13 games of the season, Jokinen managed just two goals and an assist and somehow posted a rating of minus-14 in that span.
“I didn’t want to sit out,” Jokinen said. “I didn’t want to miss games. So I don’t want to use that as an excuse.”
At the trade deadline — with No. 13 playing his best hockey as a Flame — Feaster went public with his desire to lock down Jokinen this off-season. Jokinen also made clear his desire — and that of his young family — to commit to the Flames for the long term.
When the Flames signed Czech centre Roman Cervenka this week to a one-year deal with a $3.7 million cap hit, Feaster refused comment on what that means for Jokinen’s future in Calgary.
According to the man himself, there’s nothing to report.
“Am I going to stay here?” Jokinen asked, rhetorically. “ Am I going to be a free agent July 1? You know, I haven’t really been thinking about that, to be honest. It’s more for my agent to deal with. My focus is to get healthy and ready for training camp.”
Jokinen has made clear his desire to be a Flame next season. He’s not sure if the feelings are mutual.
“It’s always tough to move your family and that kind of stuff,” he said. “But on the other hand, I think it’s been well reported that I want to stay here. There haven’t been any changes since the season’s been over.
“There haven’t been any talks or anything.”
Jokinen made $3 million last season in Calgary, and he would clearly love to parlay a 61-point season into a contract that gives him a raise and a term. So it serves his best interests for the Flames — and other NHL teams — to know the full story behind his late-season struggles.
Rehabilitation on his stomach starts Monday.
“We decided it needed to be fixed,” Jokinen said. “We went to get it done, that way I don’t have to battle with this injury the whole summer.
“My kids understand that Daddy’s a little bit hurt. I’m not going to be able to lift my baby for the first week. But after 10 days, I’ll be OK to do pretty much everything.”
Andy Andreoff joins Los Angeles Kings’ taxi squad
LOS ANGELES — Pickering’s Andy Andreoff joined his third team in the last couple of months earlier this week.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old forward finished his overage season with the Oshawa Generals earlier this spring before joining the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs for the Calder Cup playoffs, and now that that season has come to a close, Andreoff will get to spend time with the big club. He has been called up to serve as a taxi squad player for the Los Angeles Kings as they continue their Stanley Cup playoff run.
Andreoff had a solid showing for Manchester in the first round of AHL playoffs, scoring twice in four games before the Monarchs were ousted in the best-of-five by the Norfolk Admirals and former Ajax-Pickering minor product Mike Kostka.
London Knights even OHL championship series with Niagara IceDogs
ST. CATHARINES, ONT.—Ryan Rupert had a hat trick on Saturday as the London Knights earned a 5-3 victory over the Niagara IceDogs to tie their best-of-seven Ontario Hockey League championship series at a game apiece.
Jarred Tinordi and Olli Maatta also scored for London, while Michael Houser made 39 saves.
Andrew Agozzino had a hat trick in the loss for Niagara, while Mark Visentin stopped 19 shots.
Rupert enjoyed playing on the smallest venue in the OHL — The Gatorade Garden City Complex and Jack Gatecliff Arena.
“It’s that small-barn mentality and playoff hockey, I guess,” said Rupert who now has eight post-season goals. Our line likes to the cycle (the puck) and I like to go the net and it worked tonight.”
Rupert scored two second-period goals capitalizing on IceDogs turnovers, then sealed the deal into an empty net with eight seconds left in regulation.
Niagara head coach and general manager Marty Williamson didn’t mince his words after the contest.
“I didn’t think we were good enough for two periods. I was happy with our third period, but give them (London) credit we turned the puck over and they capitalized on our mistakes. We weren’t good enough. They played with more desire tonight and deserved the win,” said Williamson.
Agozzino scored two first-period power-play goals to give Niagara a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of play, and would complete his hat trick late in the second period to make the score 4-3, but that’s all the IceDogs could muster.
“It’s a loss so (the hat trick) doesn’t mean anything,” said Agozzino, who now leads Niagara with 11 playoff goals. “We weren’t moving our feet enough in the first two periods, and we made too many mistakes.”more
Tyler Seguin seized moment like an old pro
Kevin Paul Dupont
WASHINGTON – The Bruins drafted Tyler Seguin in June 2010 as a one-day game-breaker. On Sunday, with Game 6 on the line against the Capitals, the baby-faced 20-year-old was their season-saver.
Set up by an alert play by David Krejci and a perfect dish by Milan Lucic, Seguin dashed toward the net from high in the offensive zone, flashed a quick glance at advancing goalie Braden Holtby, and had the composure to keep the puck, wait out the unforgiving moment, and eventually broom the winning goal into an empty net. Wednesday, Game 7, at the Garden.
Not bad for a kid who, if he were playing for one of our town’s Beanpot entries, probably would just be wrapping up his freshman year and heading to Ontario’s cottage country for the summer.
In that one intense moment in another team’s building, with the Bruins one goal from surrendering their Stanley Cup title, Seguin went from whizzing wunderkind to wily veteran, his skill and sense coalescing in one of those moments when the game was his to have, and he took it. Kid carpe diem. We will see, but it may prove to be the moment that he looked in the rearview mirror, waved goodbye to the kid in the fading distance, and claimed the leadership role that has been his to have since the Bruins selected him No. 2 overall in the draft.
“I saw the goalie challenging,’’ recounted Seguin, standing outside the Boston dressing room with the bulky hero’s chain and padlock draped over his neck. “So I just tried to make a quick move there, and . . . got lucky it went in.’’
Luck comes in many forms, not only at this time of year but also through the 82-game drudgery and grind of the NHL’s regular season. There are shots that have no business going in the net, but because hockey is hockey, full of ricochets, deflections, rebounds, and pinball justice, luck too often rules the scoreboard.
There was little, if any, luck in Seguin’s senior moment. Krejci made a good play, repossessing the puck around the blue line. His pass to Lucic was quickly relayed right, the Washington defense scrambling as if frantically called to action by Homeland Security, and Seguin summoned his own jets. He went roaring right down Broadway, got Holtby to buy his quick sashay, and then smartly and emphatically delivered the goods.
No luck in that. Just skill.
“Smart enough and poised enough to wait the goalie out,’’ assessed Dennis Seidenberg. “He held on to it and put it in the net. Nice play. I looked over at Z [defensive partner Zdeno Chara] and he had the same kind of look in his eye.’’
The kind of look between the veteran defensemen that said, “Well, now, what have we here?’’ The kid with the No. 19 on his back shut the joint down, bringing a crowd of 18,506 nearly to silence and setting the Bruins up for a fifth Game 7 in their last six playoff series.
“Fitting for him to get that goal,’’ said coach Claude Julien, his club in Game 6 finally working with a lead (1-0, 2-1, and 3-2) for only the second time in the series. “He had to be patient there to finish it off.’’
Fitting, said Julien, because on Saturday in Boston Seguin came within about, oh, an inch of knocking home a goal early in the third period that would have pulled the Bruins into a 3-3 tie. Set up alone at the left post, he pushed a forehander on net, only to have Holtby drop to a split and reject it with a toe save. A little quicker on the release, a touch sharper on the lift, and Seguin would have had the equalizer. Instead, Holtby had the 10-bell stop of the series.
“We have to see a young player gain some confidence if we are to be a better team down the stretch,’’ mused Julien, impressed, too, by a strong defensive play Seguin made Sunday to set up an earlier goal by Andrew Ference. “He’s grown and matured. He understands more and more what it means to play a great two-way game.
“We are proud and pleased by what he’s done, and tonight he showcased some of what he’s got going forward.’’
Seguin’s play on Ference’s strike was equally impressive. He disrupted Alexander Semin’s attempt to unload on Tim Thomas from the left faceoff circle, and again fired up those ferocious legs for a streak up right wing. Holtby held his ground this time – perhaps why he chose to vacate the crease on the OT goal – which in turn got Seguin to thinking.
“The first thing that came to mind was pass,’’ said Seguin. “But I got closer, and decided to shoot for his head, thinking maybe we’d get a rebound.’’
The high shot was on target, nailing Holtby just under the mask, and leaving the rebound hot in the slot. A trailing Ference swooped for a quick lift from about 10 feet, good for a 3-2 lead with 8:03 left in regulation. Seguin’s OT heroics were needed because Alex Ovechkin nailed in the 3-3 tie with quick snipe off a faceoff with 4:52 to go in regulation.
“I heard Segs yelling, he wanted it,’’ said Lucic, replaying the winner that had him perfectly releasing the pass. “Krech did a good job of getting the puck, getting it to me, and one of their D came right to me. Segs was yelling, and I put it right in his triangle [space framed by Seguin’s stick, body, and the ice), and he was gone. Goalie challenged him, and he did a really good job of waiting him out.’’
Such plays have a way of freezing time. Decades ago, when Hall of Famer John Bucyk was on the watch, he had a great knack for doing that. The Chief, impossible to move off the crease, would collect pucks on the doorstep and paralyze goaltenders. They knew what was coming. Their choice was stand and watch, or go for the poke. Either way, Bucyk would hold for that split second, time and space would collapse at his command, and then he would finish off with one of his trademark roof shots under the crossbar. The puck would catch the net and slingshot down by the goal line. He scored 556 goals in his career. He had enough of those rooftop shots to fill the back of a flatbed Ford.
Tyler Seguin, all kinds of wonderful and promise and speed and skill, had one of those moments in time at 3:17 of OT on Sunday. Something similar could happen again on Wednesday. Maybe. Maybe not. But Game 6, Capitals-Bruins, could be the game in which he really grew up.
Growing up Seguin: No such thing as normal
Tyler Seguin doesn’t remember what it feels like to be a “normal” person his age.
At 19 years old, he won the 2011 Stanley Cup and was named to the NHL All-Star team this season. Now 20, Seguin led the Bruins with 29 goals during the regular season and scored the game-winning overtime goal on Sunday to keep his team alive for Game 7 of their first round series against the Washington Capitals.
Growing up as a star athlete, there was little time to do the “everyday things,” not when he was on the fast track to professional sports.
The drive downtown to the bus stop was just the start of the hour-and-a-half morning commute. After being dropped off by his mother, a 40-minute bus ride followed, usually in traffic. And there were days when the young hockey player fell asleep and missed his next stop, elongating the trip.
Next was a walk through the Yorkdale Shopping Centre to get to the subway, which he took to the St. Clair stop. From there, he walked to St. Michael’s College School in Toronto. His family relocated from Whitby to Brampton so he could attend the school.
“Obviously every family has to make sacrifices for money. There were a lot more little things,” Seguin said. “They made that sacrifice to move, it was only an hour-and-a-half, but to move for my hockey . . . There were a lot of little things, sacrifices they had to make, just for me to have a chance to chase my dream.”
Seguin grew up with hockey in his blood. His father suited up four years at the University of Vermont and his mother played for a local team, the Brampton Canadettes, which his sisters played for as well.
As Seguin’s hockey career began to take off, his parents wanted to keep him grounded. They were strict with him and enforced the value of earning everything himself and making the necessary sacrifices to do so.
“I think that’s what helps me get here,” he said. “Obviously my mom’s going to say congrats and say you’re the best and my dad will say that, but my dad also and some friends would say stay humble, don’t become complacent, keep driving to do your best. I do the best I can to stay humble, but sometimes you get a little sidetracked.”
Seguin left Canada as a teenager and moved to the United States to play for the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) junior hockey team. He lived in Michigan for three years, hoping the experience would help him prepare for life in the NHL.
“I think you’ve got to jump into it pretty fast,” he said. “I figured that moving to another country would help me be able to adjust to if hopefully I made it to the NHL at an early age. And it did, but it’s still obviously hard with everything that happens outside the rink, having to be as professional as you can, and you have to mature a bit faster. So you do the best you can.”
Seguin has had to mature faster than perhaps he even expected. After winning the Stanley Cup during his rookie year, all eyes quickly turned to the teenage star.
“Even if I was doing well, my dad would never say you’re better than everyone else,” he said. “My parents stayed on me to be a polite humble person as best as you can. Obviously when we won the Cup and with my age, I was going to act like a 19 year old because I thought I deserved to, but I try to do the best I can.”
There was more than just a trophy that went along with winning it all. His post-championship celebrations were chronicled. This season, his absence at a team meeting (it wasn’t the first time) became a hot topic surrounding the then-teenager. He was scratched from a game in December for missing the obligation.
“I’m watched like a hawk,” Seguin said. “I don’t really remember what to just be a normal guy. I think [it stopped] right when you come here. In juniors, you’ve got to grow up a bit because you’re playing with older guys, older than you’ve ever played with before. Some guys are four years older than you. So you’ve got to mature a bit but you’re still with guys around your age and you can still act your age. When you come here, I still have guys I can maybe I act my age with, but the only time I could really be a  year old, which is what I take advantage of, is in the summer. I’m with kids all my age all time.”
But even then it is difficult for Seguin to open up completely. His walls have to be up higher now as not everyone has different motivations for being around him. To some, he is still Tyler Seguin, the childhood friend. To others, he is Tyler Seguin, the Stanley Cup champion.
“It’s kind of funny, I’ve lost some friends because of that,” he said. “I monitor people really hard of who I can trust and who I can’t trust, especially my close friends. I have my friends who like me for me, who have been my friends since two years, three years, five years before the draft. And then I have friends who have been my friends for a couple years before I came here. Now with the way text messages are, I just can’t be friends how we were anymore because they look at me as someone bigger than what I want to be looked at.”
With this transition comes new friends as well. Over the last two seasons, his teammates have become his new social circle.
“They become your new group of friends because they are in the same shoes as you are,” he said. “That’s why a lot of guys become so tight over their careers because they’re going through the same lifestyle changes that I am.”
Seguin has found friends around the same age in hockey. He has become closest with Brad Marchand, 23, and rooms with Jordan Caron, 21, this season. Last summer he lived with Boston University hockey player, Adam Clendening, who is 19.
But he has become so accustomed to spending time with older teammates, there are instances when he has trouble relating to people his own age.
“It actually gets kind of annoying sometimes because I’m use to 30-year-old men all around me,” he laughed. “I’m used to [Zdeno] Chara’s little jokes he laughs at that I don’t laugh at, and then you go back to guys around your age and just the maturity level, of course. It gets a little weird.”
Seguin is among a small handful of professional athletes who have accomplished coveted feats by the age of 20. Yet, in some ways, he is still experiencing the same transition to adulthood that others go through. This season he has mastered the art of cooking eggs.
“Last year I lived on my own for the first time in my life,” he said. “[I went] through learning to cook and do laundry. Probably during this summer I’m either going to live on my own or have a buddy move in with me. I can’t go back to living with my family, really. It’s just not the privacy I’m used to.”
Life is far from normal for Seguin. Then again, that means he has accomplished what he set out to achieve years ago.
Keevin Cutting leads rookies through the OHL playoffs
BRACEBRIDGE — Though they didn’t come home as OHL champions this year, the Owen Sound Attack’s rookies pulled as far as the semifinals with some inspiration from a Bracebridge native.
With many of the Attack’s more experienced players having moved on since the 2011-2012 season began, Keevin Cutting has had to step up to motivate and lead the team’s rookies. Though Cutting was part of the championship team last year, the Attack was eliminated from the OHL playoffs by the Kitchener Rangers this year in late March, after being bested in four out of five games.
Despite the defeat, Cutting was proud of the way in which his team progressed throughout the season.
“As the year progressed, they became more responsible and more experienced, quicker than many other rookies that have been in the league,” he said. “I think we had a successful season considering how young of a team we had, and how many great players we lost to better themselves at another league.”
Throughout the season, Cutting did his best to inspire the rookies through his own conduct and behaviour.
“It was really all the little things, like always working hard in practice. If they see somebody older than themselves and they’re slacking, they’re going to do the same thing,” he said. “But if you have a guy you look up to who is working hard, then you’re going to work hard yourself.”
A four-year veteran of the Owen Sound Attack, Cutting was first drafted to the team in 2008 as a defenceman. Since then, Cutting also made sure he extended his role as a mentor to times off the ice, where he helped younger players sort out issues and challenges in their personal lives.
“I had a few guys come up to me with some distractions, and I helped them along the way,” he said.
Cutting also volunteered his time to be a leader in the Owen Sound community, serving as a motivational speaker in area schools where he speaks to youth about issues like bullying and life goals with fellow Attack players.
In terms of his own goals, Cutting is still working towards one day playing in the NHL. Although he was ranked 87th out of 300 players in North America last year, he wasn’t drafted. He’s still hoping that dream will come true in the near future.
“Right now, it’s just really waiting it out to see if somebody wants to pick me up,” he said.
Seguin played through knuckle injury; will need surgery
BOSTON — Tyler Seguin’s explosion at the end of the playoff series against the Washington Capitals seems all the more remarkable when it was learned he’ll likely need offseason surgery.
Seguin showed an enlarged knuckle on his left hand middle finger that indicated a displaced tendon injury suffered during Boston’s last trip through Florida in March, and something he played through pain with during the postseason.
Asked he had taken a couple of painkilling shots to get through the postseason, Seguin smiled and said “I think everybody was doing a little something by the time the playoffs rolled around.”
“It’s hard to feel good about what happened, but getting a feel for the playoffs was something I was happy about.”
Seguin finished with two goals in the final two playoff games against the Capitals after getting shut down for the first five games of the series, and said it definitely bothered him at points after it originally happened. The 20-year-old also said the injury would require surgery before he jumps back into his offseason training program with BioSteel Sports up in Toronto. He may try to participate in World Championships before getting his hand worked on, but it’s definitely an inevitability for the youngster.
“I have to talk to the doctors, but I’ll definitely need something. In the first period during my second shift the tendon came out. It was one of those things that I had to playing through at the end of the season and the playoffs,” said Seguin. “It wasn’t going to get any worse, so as long as I could bear the pain. It’s a couple of weeks of recovery after I get it done.
“It wasn’t anything that was going to keep me from playing. At the time I was going to miss a few games. I was a game time decision against Philly during that game in our building when we ended up winning in the shootout. But I didn’t end up missing any time.”
Clearly the youngster was happy with the way things ended for him after getting an overtime game-winner in Game 6 and serving as one of the team’s best forwards in the decisive Game 7. But he was also among a group of top six forwards that didn’t get it done consistently enough to defeat a gritty Capitals crew that never back down.
Seguin also wants much more involvement on the power play moving forward, and that can mean nothing but good things for the Bruins.
“The power play has always kind of been my ‘thing’,” said Seguin. “During my whole life I’ve always liked the power play and it’s always been a part of my game. While I’m still gaining experience I think I’ll be finding even more spots on the power play. It’s something I can only improve on.”
The B’s leading scorer said he hopes to take on more of the “Marc Savard role” on the man advantage off the half-wall where he can use his versatile skill to serve as a triple threat when he curls and drags: he can shoot with deadly accuracy, find open teammates with passes all over the ice or taking the puck straight to the net.
“That’s what I’m hoping for. It’s still a lot different than juniors where I always thought was kind of my ‘go to’ in juniors. At the NHL level there’s that learning factor and finding spots on the ice.”
Coming a season where he was Boston’s leading scorer and an All-Star performer, power play magician for a unit that went 2-for-23 against the Capitals might be the next rabbit to be pulled out of the youngster’s hat.
Galchenyuk Gives Back (Larionov)
Anthony Tudino pokes his head into the hallway beside the RBC Centre ice.
Dressed in full hockey gear, the eight-year-old is at practice for the Bluewater Sharks minor novice AAA team. But he’s not very focused on practice right now.
“Where’s Galchenyuk?” he asks, as his coaches send him back out to the ice.
Alex Galchenyuk slinks quietly into the Sarnia Sting dressing room a few minutes later. The 18-year-old is two months away from being a high pick in the NHL draft, but he arrives alone without fanfare.
Galchenyuk came out to practice with the Sharks Wednesday evening, giving the young hockey players a thrill.
He was a virtual giant skating next to the youngsters, and a hero to the team full of Sarnia Sting fans.
“He’s a really good player,” said Tudino. “He can hit, he can score, he can pretty much do everything.”
A lot of NHL scouts would agree with Tudino, which is why Galchenyuk is expected to be a first-round pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft.
The standout Sarnia Sting forward endured a tough season in 2011-2012. He missed nearly the entire campaign with a knee injury suffered in the preseason.
But the hard work to rehabilitate his knee should soon pay off. Now it’s just a question of where he’ll be playing.
“These are things I cannot control,” said Galchenyuk. “It’s not in my hands.”
Life’s about to get very busy for Galchenyuk. Pro teams are coming knocking and he’s preparing for workouts at the NHL draft combine.
Galchenyuk’s season ended earlier than expected when the Sting lost in the opening round of the OHL playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he gets to relax.
He’s got to be focused on working out, building his conditioning and getting stronger, he said.
But Wednesday was just about having fun playing hockey. Galchenyuk skated drills with the kids, deked out the goalies during a scrimmage, and even traded sticks with one of the Sharks players.
“I’m just trying to go and have fun with the kids,” he said. “When I was that age and I looked at the big guys, I was like ‘oh!’”
Galchenyuk was able to meet a lot of professional players because of his father’s hockey career, but some memories stand out.
“A few years ago … I met Igor Larionov and he became my agent,” Galchenyuk recalled. “That was a pretty fun experience to meet him, he’s a hall-of-famer and a great guy.”
The Sharks team is mostly made up of players from the Sarnia Sting minor team that made the provincial finals over the winter. Coach Dan Lavender thought having Galchenyuk come to practice would be a nice reward for a good season.
The kids look up to Galchenyuk, and for good reason, Lavender said.
“His work ethic is unreal, I’ve never seen a kid with a work ethic like that in my life,” Lavender said.
There was no dramatic introduction or cheesy pep talk at practice. Galchenyuk was just one of the guys, playing alongside kids who’ve watched him excel on that very same ice since 2010.
Galchenyuk gave the Sharks players a tour of the Sting locker room after practice, and got his picture taken with every kid.
“I love the fans, and I respect them a lot,” Galchenyuk said.
Phil Varone Year-end Interview
Agozzino, Ice Dogs Eastern Conference Champions
Yakupov tops Central Scouting’s final rankings (Larionov)
It should come as no surprise that right wing Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting has been tabbed the top North American skater eligible for 2012 NHL Draft by NHL Central Scouting.
Yakupov, 18, was the top prospect on Central Scouting’s preliminary list of the top 25 skaters from the OHL in November and was regarded as the No. 1 North American skater on January’s mid-term report.
Yakupov has done nothing to disappoint the scouts this season.
“His first step and ability to control bouncing pucks, knock them down and make a play are the best of any of the guys in the draft,” said Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards. “He really gets up to top speed very quickly and his hands are outstanding. Like Pavel Bure, Yakupov is dangerous every shift. He may not have been dominant on every shift like Bure was, but he created something every shift … you have to be aware where he is on the ice all the time.”
Hardly a peep was heard when Yakupov’s name was placed at the top during Central Scouting’s final meetings last week to determine the top 210 North American skaters and 30 goalies eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, which will be held June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Yakupov finished third on the team with 69 points, including 31 goals, in 42 games for the Sting this season. He also has a plus-15 rating and 12 power-play goals. He added two goals and three assists in six OHL playoff games.
Josh Leivo after practice
Josh Ho-Sang newest Spitfire
Cammalleri wants Flames captain to stick around
CALGARY — Michael Cammalleri bristled Monday at the suggestion the Calgary Flames might consider building around him for the future.
On the surface, the idea sounds like a massive compliment for a player coming off a 41-point season. But. . .
“I’m a Jarome Iginla fan,” Cammalleri told reporters on garbage bag day at Scotiabank Saddledome. “He’s one of my closest friends. And in spite of that, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he brings as a teammate, a leader and a hockey player.
“So, I’m not really interested in speaking on those terms.”
Don’t get Cammalleri wrong. He’s happy to be seen as one of the key veterans moving forward for a team in limbo.
But he wants Iginla to stay right here in Calgary as the fanbase debates whether the time has come for the face of the franchise to leave in the name of a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup.
“I appreciate a leadership role,” said Cammalleri, 29. “I think I can add a lot in a leadership role. I would like to add that leadership role alongside him and other guys.
“I don’t read any of the newspapers, quite honestly. However, talking to some of the guys lately, it’s been brought to my attention some of the stuff that’s come out about, you know, ‘Is it time for him to move on?’ and things of that nature.”
The mere suggestion clearly ranks as offensive.
“He’s been a great leader for this team,” Cammalleri snarled. “I don’t want to even go there.”
Ownership must decide in the coming months whether to attach an informal For Sale sign to the captain. Otherwise, his contract expires at the end of next season, and the Flames risk losing him for nothing.
“I’d like to win,” said Cammalleri, who is under contract for one more season at $6 million US. “And I think our best chance of winning is with him here.”
Keenly aware of the politics, Cammalleri stickhandled around the discussion of what the team needs to do after missing the playoffs for three straight years.
“Probably a very loaded question at this point and not really one for me to get too much into, especially publicly. If I have opinions on that I definitely wouldn’t be saying them here and now,” Cammalleri said, “and quite frankly (I) just want to part of the solution, and leave that confidence in the people who are going to make the decisions and help us get there and improve for next year.”
On a personal note, Cammalleri knows he needs to improve for the Flames to have a chance at qualifying for the playoffs next year.
And that applies whether he is playing with Iginla, Alex Tanguay or Sven Baertschi.
“It’s been a season of many distractions for me and quite unproductive in many different ways,” said Cammalleri, who was traded in the middle of a game to Calgary from Montreal in January after making public comments about the losing attitude of the Canadiens. “I guess the best analogy if you look at an individual game and you go and play your heart out and left it all out there but lose the game — you can maybe rest your head at night and feel OK about it.
“But when that’s not the case, it’s not so easy to go to bed. For those reasons it’s kind of an ugly feeling for me going into the summer.”
Cammalleri’s stats — 20 goals and 41 points in 64 games with Montreal and Calgary — fall way short of expectations. He suffered another slight this weekend upon not receiving an invitation to represent Canada at the IIHF world hockey championship.
His off-season starts now.
“I’ll look forward to my summer,” he said. “I’ll look forward to spending some time with my family.
“I’ll look forward to working hard on the details of my game and coming back with rejuvenated focus for next season”
That’s if there is a next season. The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NHLPA expires Sept. 15.
The last time around, the entire 2004-05 season was scrapped, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman having locked out the players for 316 days before coming to a settlement.
“Coming out of the last negotiation, ownership was able to accomplish pretty much everything they wanted to,” Cammalleri said. “We experienced a lockout, the other major sports were able to get their agreements done without doing so. They asked for a hard cap and they got it, they asked for a rollback and they got it . . .
“So, players, we want to play hockey, we want to play in a healthy league but it kind of feels like last time they got everything they asked for.”
Regardless, Cammalleri intends on keeping a close eye on the proceedings.
“Because I am going to spend a lot of time in Toronto this summer I plan on trying to attend as many meetings as I can — be involved as much as I can be,” he said. “I find it pretty interesting that stuff.”
Perhaps even more interesting than what promises to be a tumultuous off-season in Calgary.
Thomas Carries on Dad’s Goal-scoring Legacy
Steve Thomas, who would go on to score 421 goals and 933 points in 1,235 NHL games over 20 seasons, was overlooked coming out of an outstanding Ontario Hockey League Junior career. That was largely due to one factor, size, or more accurately, lack thereof. Thomas, who was nicknamed “Stumpy” for his lack of height, checked in at 5-9 and 170 pounds, distinctly undersized for the NHL of the early ‘80’s, when he was graduating from Junior. As it turned out, though, every NHL team who passed on chances to select him in several drafts, or sign him as an undrafted free agent, would go on to regret it, after Thomas quickly proved himself with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent and became one of the grittier goal-scorers of his era.
So when another Thomas came along, Steve’s son Christian, the hockey world was not about to make the same mistake again, even though Christian inherited his dad’s smallish stature.
Christian followed Steve into the OHL, and in his draft year of 2010, coming off of a 41-goal, 66-point season with the Oshawa Generals, he only lasted into the second round, before the New York Rangers nabbed him with the 40th overall pick.
Christian Thomas, who joined the Whale for his first taste of pro hockey last week, after he and the Generals were eliminated from the OHL playoffs, believes that it is easier now for smaller players to succeed in the pro game than it was when his dad was trying to break in.
“There are a lot of smaller players now, hopefully that won’t hurt, the way I play,” he said Sunday, prior to suiting up for his second pro game, a 1-0 Whale win at Hershey. “But big or small guy, you have to be better at other things, more aware on the ice and use other parts of your game better, shoot the puck and be quick. And I find that the way I play is fine like that.”
Steve Thomas, who has moved into the player-development arena since retiring after the 2003-04 NHL season and now serves as the player development coordinator for the Tampa Bay Lightning, served as a valuable role model for his son. Christian was going on 12 years old when Steve hung up the skates, so Christian got a good chance to study how dad got things done.
”He was a really hard worker, he got in on the forecheck, he had a good shot,” Christian remembered of Steve. “So hopefully I can play kind of like he did and get stuff going.
“He had a great career, never drafted, so he always gives me some tips, especially here in the ‘A’ (AHL). He helps coach the Norfolk Admirals (the Lightning’s AHL affiliate), so he knows what it takes here, and he gives me some tips.”
That includes a joking reminder now and again of how the old fella had to battle his way up from being ignored by the NHL, while the youngster has the advantage of having been a high-round pick.
“He was never drafted, he made it on the Leafs there as a tryout, so he always lets me know how hard he had to work,” Christian said. “And hopefully I can be half the player he was.”
Christian Thomas has already accomplished the feat of surpassing Steve’s OHL goal-scoring best, as Christian lit the lamp 54 times in 66 Generals games in 2010-11. The most Steve ever scored as a Junior was 51. Now Christian hopes to translate that production to a new level of competition.
“In Juniors I had good linemates to set me up,” he said, “but here, all the opportunities I get I’m just going to shoot the puck as hard as I can and as well as I can, and hopefully I can get some goals.
“I’m here just to play my game and play how I play in Juniors, and hopefully I can do that here and create some opportunities.”
That will be more of a challenge in the AHL than in the OHL, as Thomas noticed in his first Whale game, a 3-0 loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.
“It was a lot quicker,” Thomas said. “Guys were a lot bigger and stronger, but the first period was kind of feeling the play. Second, third period, I thought it was great, I had a lot of fun out there.”
Whale head coach Ken Gernander feels that Thomas has fit in well in the Whale lineup.
“I thought the first night, in Wilkes-Barre, he showed a lot of hustle, a couple of good bursts of speed chasing loose pucks through the neutral zone,” Gernander said. “He’s had some shots, but he’s going to have to find ways to get them on net, they’ve been fronted or guys get a piece of them, but in practice he can certainly shoot a puck. So we’re looking forward to seeing him rip a couple on net.”
As far as finishing chances and burying the puck, which was Thomas’ bread and butter in the OHL, Gernander is keeping his expectations measured.
“It’s not like the start of the season, where you can spend a training camp getting him acclimated, maybe work him into a power play or what have you,” said Gernander. “We’re challenging for playoff spots and now for playoff positioning, and he’s probably not going to jump right on to your top power play, which he would probably be used to in his Junior environment, being the go-to guy there. Just from an opportunity standpoint, probably not what he was used to in Junior, and he’ll just have to find ways of getting it done five-on-five. But if the opportunity presents itself, he’s someone of interest that could possibly get some special-units play.”
Also playing his first pro game that night in Wilkes-Barre was Thomas’ fellow Ranger draftee, centerman Shane McColgan, who signed an Amateur Tryout (ATO) agreement with the Whale the same day Thomas joined the roster. Although McColgan is a Western Hockey Leaguer, so he and Thomas do not know each other well as players, Thomas says he feels some kinship with the California-born McColgan.
“We’re the same size,” Thomas said, “I met him at training camp, I think we play kind of the same game. He’s a passer, he works hard, he’s quick too. I think if we play our games here, we’ll do stuff well.”
Thomas spoke on Sunday after a fairly lengthy Whale pregame meeting before the game in Hershey. When asked if the game plan imparted was more complex than he was used to in the Junior ranks, he responded that the concepts seemed universal.
“It’s about the same thing,” Thomas said. “Every team’s got their strategy, every team’s got their systems. I think the systems here are pretty similar to in Junior hockey, and the way he (Gernander) wants us to play is pretty similar as well.”
It’s already been a long season for the 19-year-old Thomas, but his main goal in his tour with the Whale is to extend it for as long as he can.
“Just playing as many games as possible,” Thomas said about his objective, “try to generate some offense and not make too many mistakes out there.”
Gernander’s playing career overlapped with Steve Thomas’, and although their paths did not cross often, Gernander sees a lot in Christian Thomas of what he remembers of the elder Thomas’s game.
“Neither one was really big,” Gernander said, “so you’re going to have to really fight hard and compete for loose pucks and for body positioning and things like that. And I think he (Christian) does that pretty well, uses his quickness to get in underneath bigger guys, and his body to protect the puck and support the puck. Hes still young too, and he’s going to mature and get stronger physically. He might not get taller or bigger in stature, but I think he’ll mature physically, and become a little bit stronger as he matures. He’s going to be a good, competitive, hard-working player.”
IceDogs’ Agozzino named OHL’s top OA
Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that forward Andrew Agozzino of the Niagara IceDogs is the Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy winner awarded to the OHL’s Overage Player of the Year for the 2011-12 season.
Agozzino tied for fifth in league scoring with a career-high 88 points in 67 games scoring 40 goals and 48 assists leading the IceDogs to their first Central Division title and best overall record in team history with a record of 47-18-0-3 for 97 points. Agozzino becomes the second member of the IceDogs’ to win the award following his former teammate Michael Swift who earned it in the club’s first season in Niagara back in 2007-08.
“It’s a great feeling to win this award and it’s something I was looking forward to at the start of my overage year,” said Agozzino. “Having the opportunity to be an overager on the same team I started with is something special and I would like to thank the entire IceDogs organization for the opportunities they have given me.”
A 21-year-old native of Kleinburg, ON, Agozzino played all five of his OHL seasons with the IceDogs after being the franchise’s first ever draft pick selected 15th overall in the 2007 Priority Selection. This season the three-year captain led the IceDogs in both goals and points for the third time in five years finishing his career with a franchise record 159 goals and 147 assists for 306 points in a franchise record 318 regular season games played. In 2010, Agozzino represented the IceDogs at the OHL All-Star Classic in Kingston, ON, where he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Game scoring an All-Star Classic record four goals.
“We couldn’t be more happy or proud of Andrew winning the Overage Player of the Year Award,” said IceDogs owner Bill Burke. “Andrew is everything you could ask for in a leader, hockey player and a person and is extremely deserving of this award. He has meant everything to this organization in our five years here and will be impossible to replace.”
The Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the top overage player of the year as selected by OHL General Managers. Teams were not permitted to vote for players from their own hockey club. Players received five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one point for a third place vote.
Agozzino finished the voting process with 53 points just slightly ahead of Owen Sound Attack forward Mike Halmo who finished with 52 points. Defenceman Beau Schmitz of the Plymouth Whalers finished in third with 28 voting points.
Former winners of the trophy include Bill Bowler (Windsor, 1994-95), and Dan Tessier (Ottawa 99-00), along with current NHL stars Chad LaRose (Plymouth 2002-03), and Ryan Callahan (Guelph, 2005-06). Top scorer Jason Akeson of the Kitchener Rangers captured the award last season.
The Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy was donated by the trainers of the Ontario Hockey League, in memory of the late Leo Lalonde, former Chief Scout of OHL Central Scouting. Leo Lalonde was also formerly the Chief Scout for the Belleville Bulls as well as a scout for the Peterborough Petes.
Agozzino will be formally presented with the Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy at the 2011-12 OHL Awards Ceremony scheduled for June 5 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Dylan Di Perna’s Ontario Hockey League draft day experience was a roller-coaster ride of emotions for the highly regarded 15-year-old defenceman.
Expecting to go in the first round, in part because he was a big player on the OHL Cup champion Mississauga Rebels, Di Perna was one of the players who fell out of the first round.
“I watched it online,” said Di Perna, agreeing to the suggestion it was an excruciating experience waiting to be selected.
The Kingston Frontenacs ended his anxiety, selecting Di Perna with their first of two picks to open the second round.
“Once I got the phone call (from general manager Doug Gilmour), I relaxed. I’m happy to be in Kingston,” Di Perna said.
“I was hoping to go in the first round but it’s just a number. Kingston is the right team and the right situation for me. I’m pretty happy about it.”
Gilmour said the Frontenacs draft table was stunned to see defenceman Di Perna still available at the start of the second round.
“We were shocked. To us he was the second best defenceman in the draft. Him and (Jacob) Middleton (who went eighth overall to the Owen Sound Attack),” Gilmour said.
“He is a great pickup for us. He was obviously not happy he didn’t get to go in the first round but it was very exciting for us.”
Di Perna, who is represented by player agents John Walters and Ian Pulver, warmed up to coming to Kingston quite quickly. He realized teaming up with minor midget rival Roland McKeown, Kingston’s first pick, is a pretty special opportunity. The Rebels beat McKeown’s Marlboros in the final of the OHL Cup.
“It’s definitely ironic. I wasn’t even thinking about it but now I guess together the two of us make it pretty good for Kingston,” Di Perna said.
The six-foot-one, 170-pound Di Perna was considered one of the better skating defenceman in the draft. He said he likes to model his game after Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.
“My skating is a strength. Skating with the puck comes pretty natural to me,” Di Perna said.
The Frontenacs had to wait out the London Knights, who were picking last in the first round, before Gilmour was sure of selecting Di Perna.
The Knights passed on Spencer Watson, a London native, and Di Perna. London opted for goaltender Liam Herbst, a Rebels teammate of Di Perna, leaving the defenceman as well as Watson for the Frontenacs.
“As soon as London had picked and Di Perna was there, it didn’t take too long to decide on (our pick),” Gilmour said.
Gilmour and head scout Jeff McKercher came away beaming over their top four picks — McKeown, forward Sam Bennett, Di Perna and forward Watson.
All four were ranked in the first round by the Central Scouting Bureau.
“It doesn’t happen too often like that. Almost four first rounders (for Kingston),” Gilmour said.
“It’s unheard of.”
Watson, who was profiled in the OHL draft guide as “one of the purest goal scorers in the 1996 age group,” was high up on Kingston’s list, too.
Watson scored 55 goals in 36 games for the London Knights Gold minor midgets. Watson is playing for the London Nationals in junior B playoffs. He has three goals, including two winners, for the Nationals, who are off to the Sutherland Cup final.
“He’s one of those opportunists around the net. Great hands and he knows where he has to get to,” Gilmour said.
“He was one of the guys we wanted in the second round. When he was there, I said ‘perfect.’ ”
Di Perna, who turns 16 on April 26, said he is planning his summer with an eye towards Kingston’s training camp in September.
“I’m going to work over the summer, so I come in ready to be the best player I can be,” Di Perna said.
Dubuque Forward Selects Colorado College
The Dubuque Fighting Saints announced that forward Cody Bradley has committed to play hockey next season at Colorado College.
“After taking a look at all my options and talking with the coaching staff, I felt like Colorado College would be the best fit for me,” Bradley said. “I want to go to a school that will give me an opportunity to play right away. I know that I’ll be able to make an impact as a freshman at C.C.”
Bradley has collected 10 points (6g, 4a) in 15 games for the Saints this season after being acquired earlier in the year from the Indiana Ice where he had eight points (3g, 5a) in 16 games. He recently returned to the Saints lineup after missing two months due to injury. At one point during the season, he put together a seven-game point streak for the Saints, scoring 10 points (6g, 4a) from December 17th to January 14th. The 17-year-old from Tampa, Florida was selected to participate in the 2012 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.
The forward first broke into the USHL last season when he recorded 20 points (11g, 9a) in 51 games for the Indiana Ice.
“I’m really happy for Cody Bradley,” said Fighting Saints Head Coach Jim Montgomery. “He’s an exceptional player who is going to an exceptional college hockey program. Our fans got a glimpse of Cody’s ability to make plays this year, and we wish Cody the best of luck in his collegiate career.”
Five other current USHL players are also committed to Colorado College – Christian Heil (Chicago Steel), Alex Roos (Chicago Steel), Jaccob Slavin (Chicago Steel), Duggie Lagrone (Des Moines Buccaneers), and Jared Hanson (Lincoln Stars).
Seguin ready for increased role in this postseason
BOSTON – An afterthought in terms of the Boston Bruins’ lineup a year ago, forward Tyler Seguin is heading into his second Stanley Cup Playoffs as a focal point.
As an NHL sophomore, Seguin led the Bruins in goals (29) and points (67) during the 2011-12 regular season. Still, the 20-year-old has some of the feelings of a less-important player.
“It’s still kind of like even during the pregame skate there, I’m still thinking my head ‘maybe I won’t even play tonight; maybe I’ll get scratched.’ Just from last year and obviously it was a year ago but it really doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. It’s nice to be in different shoes this time around,” Seguin said Thursday after the Bruins’ morning skate at TD Garden in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington.
Seguin admitted he slept better Wednesday night than he did last year on the eve of the postseason. And he’s better prepared to contribute this season after playing a small part – three goals in two games of the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay – of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship drive.
“It’s almost a night-and-day difference from going into the playoffs last year to going into the playoff this year,” he said. “It’s just the whole ride that we went on and seeing everything that I saw both on the ice and off the ice, it just makes me a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident.”
Local Leaf prospect suits up for Marlies
INNISFIL — Innisfil’s Josh Leivo, disappointed but fresh after his Sudbury Wolves exited from the first round of the OHL playoffs, is on the roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs farm team as it prepares for the American Hockey League (AHL) playoffs.
The 2011 third-round draft pick of the Leafs, Leivo had a strong year for the Wolves, potting 32 goals and adding 41 assists. In four playoff games, he scored two goals and added an assist.
Leivo was added to the Toronto Marlies roster on an amateur tryout basis and played his first game for the minor league affiliate on April 6. The Marlies have had a very successful season, securing first place in the North division of the Western conference of the AHL. He joins top Leaf prospects such as Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Carter Ashton and Jake Gardiner as the Marlies anticipate an extended playoff run.
The six-foot two inch 190 lb. winger was born on May 26, 1993. Leivo played for the Barrie Colts AAA midget team before being drafted by the Wolves.
The AHL regular season ends Sunday, April 15
IceHogs Player Profile: Center Peter LeBlanc
Yakupov TSN Interview (Larionov)
Loktionov to replace Clifford in Kings’ Game 2 lineup
VANCOUVER, Canada—The Kings will make one lineup change Friday night for Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, who will make one change up front and one on defense.
The Kings will deploy forward Andrei Loktionov on their fourth line in place of Kyle Clifford, who apparently suffered a head injury when he was hit by Vancouver’s Byron Bitz in the Kings’ 4-2 series-opening victory. Bitz was suspended two games for the infraction and will be replaced by former Duck Andrew Ebbett.
The Canucks, who remain without concussed winger Daniel Sedin, are also expected to change their defense corps by pulling out Aaron Rome and replacing him with Keith Ballard.
Loktionov, 21, will make his NHL playoff debut alongside Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan. He was summoned from Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League last week after forward Brad Richardson had an emergency appendectomy.
Loktionov played 39 regular-season games for the Kings this season and had three goals and seven points. He had five goals and 20 points in 32 games with Manchester.
“I’m excited for the playoffs for my first game,” he said after the Kings’ game-day skate at Rogers Arena.
He also said he hadn’t been given any specific instructions about what will be expected of him.
“Nothing special,” he said. “I play I think with Fraser a couple of games and Nolie, I played with him in Manchester. So I know them.”
Sarnia Sting’s Nail Yakupov: scouts offer takes on NHL draft’s top-ranked prospect
Much like Steven Stamkos in 2008, John Tavares in 2009, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last year — Sarnia Sting star Nail Yakupov has apparently separated himself from the pack as the clear-cut top talent in the NHL’s draft class of 2012.
Yakupov’s impeccable offensive instincts and abilities are what make him great. This elite skill was evident in his first season in the Ontario Hockey League. He bested Stamkos’ 92-point rookie season record in Sarnia with 49 goals and 101 points throughout 65 games. He also turned heads at the IIHF world under-18 championship, posting an outstanding six goals and 13 points in seven games for the Russians.
Unfortunately for him, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound right wing only suited up for 42 games this year due to back and knee injuries plus the concussion he suffered in early March. Yakupov shone when in the lineup, though. He scored 31 goals and 69 points, averaging over one-and-a-half points per game.
Scout’s take: “Yakupov’s skating is unrivaled in this year’s draft,” says Matt Moran of OHL Central Scouting. “He is blessed with a powerful stride and incredible four-way mobility that makes him a threat to score every time he touches the puck. Nail is so explosive and gets to top speed in the blink of an eye. On the offensive side of the blueline he consistently brings fans to the edge of their seats. He is a pure trigger man and is certainly NHL ready in that regard, which is something that can’t be said for many forwards in this draft.”
High expectations and lofty comparisons go hand in hand with being this good this fast. Yakupov has been touted as the NHL’s next big star and franchise player, drawing some comparisons to the likes of New Jersey Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk and Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin.
Scout’s take: “In terms of franchise players, names like Crosby, Ovechkin and (Columbus Blue Jackets’) Rick Nash come to mind, and I am not sure if Nail’s game is as complete as those players in their respective draft years,” says Moran. “Although he showed at the world junior this year he can distribute and use his teammates effectively, he is certainly a one-dimensional player right now.
“While his defensive play will no doubt develop with NHL coaching and more experience, I am not sure if he has a complete enough game right now. While he will no doubt be a first line talent for a long time in the NHL, I think to be a bona fide superstar Nail will need to focus on improving his play both away from the puck and in his own end.”
As mentioned above, Yakupov struggled with injuries this season. These injury woes seem to be a possible cause for concern. Some have worried that the 18-year-old Russian could be accident-prone in the future. Others believe Yakupov will be able to put his health issues behind him.
Scout’s take: “Yakupov did suffer a handful of injuries this year, but the year before he stayed healthy,” says David Burstyn, former NHL scout and current head scout for Mckeen’s Hockey. “One also has to keep in mind that the Sting didn’t have much in terms of toughness or protection for Yakupov and he was often left to fend for himself, in addition he played a ton of minutes, close to 25-28 minutes which is a lot for a forward at any level. He became a target for other teams and after the first few months of the season there was not as much push back from Yakupov as there was last season as he realized he could not take on all the physical challenges.”
The Russian factor
It is no secret that some NHL general managers are cautious of drafting Russians early on in the draft. The main reason for this seems to be because of the risk of the player deciding to stay home or go back home to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Nashville learned this the hard way with Alexander Radulov. The 25-year-old didn’t show up to Predators training camp in 2008 mainly because he was offered a better deal in the KHL. He did recently return to Nashville, but no one truly knows what country he will call home next year.
No one can say with 100 per cent certainty that Yakupov will not pull “a Radulov.” However, all signs point to Yakupov sticking to North America. After all, he did move halfway across the world at the young age of 16 to play major junior hockey in Canada. If this doesn’t show commitment to wanting to play in the NHL, what does?
Scout’s take: “I think had Yakupov not come over to the CHL there may have been more risk [of losing him to the KHL],” says Burstyn. “However, he has been on North American soil for two years now and his agent Igor Larionov has made it very clear that Yakupov’s intentions are to play in the NHL. There were some concerns as well with Alex Burmistrov [the eighth overall pick in 2010 from the OHL's Barrie Colts] but that pick worked out fine for the Jets. Generally I am a firm believer that if they come over to play in the CHL then the NHL is the path they want to choose.”
NHL’s Central Scouting Service, International Scouting Service, and Mckeen’s Hockey all ranked Yakupov No. 1 in their draft rankings. On Thursday, HockeyProspect announced it would put him No. 2 behind his Sarnia teammate Alex Galchenyuk, the playmaking centre who played only eight games this season after sustaining a knee injury in September. HockeyProspect also had Tyler Seguin ahead of Taylor Hall in 2010, when the latter went No. 1 to the Edmonton Oilers and Seguin went No. 2 to the Boston Bruins.
Tyler Seguin’s Strong End to Regular Season Earns Honors as DCU Hero of the Week (Video)
Blackhawks agree to terms with LeBlanc
The Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to terms with forward Peter LeBlanc on a one-year contract for the 2012-13 season.
LeBlanc, 24, shares the team lead with 23 goals, and ranks second on the club with 43 points (23G, 20A) in 70 regular-season games for the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs this year in his first full AHL campaign. His 70 tilts in a Rockford uniform are tops among team forwards. LeBlanc also accrued a club-leading 12 penalty minutes in three 2011 preseason contests with the Blackhawks.
The Hamilton, Ontario, native has registered 35 goals, 38 assists and 26 penalty minutes in 127 career AHL regular-season tilts with the IceHogs, and last season tallied 22 points (8G, 14A) in 22 games with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. LeBlanc was selected by Chicago in the seventh round (186th overall) of the 2006 National Hockey League Entry Draft, and played four seasons at the University of New Hampshire before making his pro debut in 2010-11.
LeBlanc succeeds with winning attitude
Peter LeBlanc couldn’t have had a much better start to his second year of playing professional hockey as he entered the 2011 preseason this past September.
The center participated in the Chicago Blackhawks training camp as an invitee on an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs and played in three preseason games with Chicago, including their final contest on Oct. 2 against the Washington Capitals.
LeBlanc then returned to the IceHogs for the beginning of the American Hockey League’s regular season, but the forward couldn’t carry over the momentum from his strong preseason.
Despite notching three assists in the first four games of the 2011-12 campaign, LeBlanc stalled out, notching just one helper in his next five appearances between late October and early November, even sitting out a few games.
But IceHogs head coach Ted Dent knew LeBlanc would fight his way back into the lineup.
“He was just finding his groove and getting some confidence,” Dent said. “Not that he lacked confidence, because he had a good training camp in Chicago, a really good training camp. [He] was a healthy scratch a few games, which I think woke him up a little bit. Then he found his game and just took off.”
The Hamilton, Ont., native’s season hit full speed after a three-point effort against Oklahoma City on Nov. 16, his first game in the lineup after being scratched for three consecutive contests.
Now, LeBlanc is second overall in points for the IceHogs this season, is one of the leaders in power-play points and has nearly a dozen multi-point games on the campaign.
According to LeBlanc, the key to his success is relatively simple.
“It’s just a comfort thing,” he said. “Last year was my first year playing that many games in a season. This year I’m used to it, the three-in-three’s and back-to-back games. I’ve gotten used to that and have been able to handle the grind of the season a lot better.”
The 24-year-old has found success at every level he’s played at, adapting to increased expectations and higher demands on his time and body as he made his way to the professional ranks.
KEEPING A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
The summer after completing his final season with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, LeBlanc signed an AHL contract with Rockford and prepared to make the jump to the pro game. He started off on a positive note, garnering a helper in his professional debut on Oct. 9, 2010.
But like many rookies, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound forward wasn’t playing many minutes, so the IceHogs loaned him to the Toledo Walleye, their ECHL affiliate, after the first three games of the season.
Though LeBlanc would have preferred to stay in Rockford, he took advantage of the time he spent in Toledo.
“It was disappointing at first,” LeBlanc said. “But when I went down I just tried to improve my game and get my confidence high.
“I played in every situation. I had tons of minutes. I had a lot of points there. It helped my confidence so when I came back here I could be effective.”
In 22 appearances with Toledo, LeBlanc totaled 8-14-22. Rockford recalled the centerman in early December and LeBlanc tallied six points (5g, 1a) in his next eight games with the Hogs, including a stretch where he notched a goal in four straight contests.
“It worked out really well for me,” said LeBlanc. “When I came back to Rockford I was able to make an impact and stay here for the rest of the year.”
In all, the forward earned 12-18-30 in 57 games with the IceHogs during his rookie season and tied for the team lead with four game-winning goals.
The positive attitude that kept LeBlanc on track during his first professional campaign also helped him endure a challenging season during his junior hockey days.
Growing up, LeBlanc played for the Hamilton Red Wings, a Junior A club in his hometown. The local rink was just a two-minute drive from his house and he often walked to practice.
“I played [from] five years old until I was 17,” LeBlanc said. “I really enjoyed playing there. A lot of friends and family got to come see me play.”
Unfortunately, no one saw LeBlanc play very much during his final season with the Red Wings.
“I had mono. I missed 30-something games,” he said.
Thirty-plus games equaled approximately two-and-a-half months that LeBlanc wasn’t able to suit up. What made the situation worse was that, for the most part, LeBlanc felt fine. But an enlarged spleen kept him off the ice longer than he anticipated.
“I had to wait for that to go back to normal,” LeBlanc said. “That’s why it took so long. I was still going to school. I just couldn’t get hit because of my spleen. It was frustrating.”
By the time the forward was cleared to play, only three games remained in Hamilton’s regular-season schedule. LeBlanc knew it would be rough, but he jumped back in so he could prepare for a playoff run.
“When I came back, it was tough to put the weight back on,” LeBlanc said. “The worst part was getting my legs back. After a couple of games, though, I felt pretty good.”
LeBlanc made it through the postseason and then spent the summer preparing for his freshman year at the University of New Hampshire.
Before he packed up for school, though, the Hamilton native was rewarded for his hard work. The Chicago Blackhawks made LeBlanc their seventh-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
“I knew it was my draft year, but I didn’t know if anything was going to happen,” said LeBlanc. “I found out from my mom that I got drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. I was ecstatic.”
The door opened for a potential career as a professional hockey player, but before LeBlanc could test his skills with the big boys, he took his talents to the NCAA where he built a strong resume both on and off the ice.
As a teenager, LeBlanc watched many of his friends move on from Junior A in Hamilton to play hockey elsewhere. Some decided to play Major Junior in Canada, while others choose the college route.
“When I was 15, I didn’t really know much about college hockey,” LeBlanc said. “My dad exposed me to it and said I should take a look at it.”
There were two schools that LeBlanc looked at with regards to both hockey and academics: Michigan State University and the University of New Hampshire. He took trips to see both schools, but after a stop in New England, LeBlanc knew exactly where he wanted to go.
“I went to visit New Hampshire when I was 16, and I fell in love with the place. I thought it was unreal. I really wanted to play there,” said LeBlanc. “I liked the way New Hampshire was set up. [It’s] a nice, perfect sized school, a lot of fan support. I just really liked the atmosphere.”
The forward did consider playing major junior in Canada, but when it came down to it, LeBlanc wanted to be prepared for a career outside of hockey. He graduated from New Hampshire with a degree in political science, and while LeBlanc is currently focused on playing professional hockey, he’s happy that he has something to fall back on.
“It was about having a back-up plan, never knowing what’s going to happen with hockey. I definitely wanted to get an education,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc skated four seasons at UNH and was nearly a point-per-game player during his junior and senior campaigns. In 153 total games at New Hampshire, the forward notched 34 goals and 51 assists.
“Every year I was there we were competing for the NCAA tournament, and we made it every year,” LeBlanc said. “We won three league championships, and in Hockey East that’s tough to do.”
During two of LeBlanc’s NCAA tournament runs, the Wildcats had the opportunity to play at the Verizon Wireless Arena, home of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs. Manchester is less than an hour from the UNH campus in Durham, and fans spared no expense to come cheer on LeBlanc and the Wildcats.
“It was packed, and it was unbelievable,” LeBlanc said. It’s just really exciting when it comes down to one game and your school is really supportive.
“We definitely learned how to win there, and we had a winning attitude. It’s something that stays with you.”
SUCCESS AT THE PROFESSIONAL LEVEL
One of the most frustrating aspects about Rockford’s 2011-12 season is that the team wasn’t winning consistently in the first half of the campaign. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort, but the IceHogs endured some rough losing stretches that would get any team down.
“I think we lost a lot of games that we could have won, and it just didn’t happen for us,” LeBlanc said. “For the most part, we were playing pretty well through the stretches where we were losing games. It was frustrating.”
Then, as the calendar turned to 2012, Rockford’s season also started to turn.
The Hogs had a record of 9-3-0-1 in January after a dismal December when they only won three times. In February they hit a rough patch, but won four games in a row to end the month and went on to garner another 9-3-0-1 record in March.
LeBlanc credits a more defensive-minded approach as part of the IceHogs’ success.
“We’ve stuck to it. We’re playing better defense as far as not giving up so many odd-man rushes. In this league, if you give up a lot of odd-man rushes, [the puck is] going to end up in the back of the net. We’ve definitely gotten better at that and that’s helped our overall game,” LeBlanc said.
The most significant aspect of a solid defense is goaltending, and LeBlanc points to Carter Hutton, who joined the IceHogs in December after spending the first two months of the season backstopping in Toledo, as having as big an impact as anyone.
“Hutton has really helped,” he said. “We got him and he started playing very well, and he’s continued that throughout the season. He plays the puck really well and gets the puck out of our zone quickly. He’s a big help.”
But LeBlanc has contributed to the turnaround, too. He has spent much of the season centering a line that includes Rostislav Olesz at left wing. The two forwards developed a strong chemistry, which resulted in goals and assists.
“Playing with Olesz is great,” LeBlanc said. “He’s a super strong guy, an unbelievable playmaker. It’s been pretty fun playing with him.”
But like everyone on the IceHogs roster, LeBlanc has seen his line change, sometimes on a daily basis, due to injuries, call-ups and trades.
“It’s difficult, but it’s one thing you have to learn with pro hockey,” said LeBlanc. “People move, things happen and you have to adapt to it.”
Regardless of who LeBlanc is playing with, Coach Dent knows that he can count on the forward to contribute under any circumstances.
“Peter penalty kills for us, he’s on the power play, he takes some important face-offs. He’s in all situations,” Dent said.
Not only does LeBlanc play in all situations, but he also brings a solid work ethic and positive attitude to the rink every day. That effort has resulted in LeBlanc becoming one of Rockford’s leading scorers in just his second professional campaign.
“I like the pro game,” LeBlanc said. “I like playing more. It’s nice to get into a good rhythm. I like the style of the game.”
The 24-year-old also likes the city where he has gotten his start in the American Hockey League.
“Rockford’s a really fun place to play. [There’s] great fan support and great support by the city.”
Thunder goalie knows how to deliver
Olivier Roy appreciated the letter his coach wrote to him before the postseason and decided the proper response was stopping nearly everything coming his way.
Inspired by a chance to show his talents in his first professional hockey playoffs, the rookie goalie was outstanding as he led the Stockton Thunder to a first-round sweep of Colorado. Now the story continues as Roy and his teammates challenge the best team in the ECHL.
The fifth-seeded Thunder begins the Western Conference semifinals at 8:15 p.m. today against the Alaska Aces at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska. The Aces are the defending champions and the top seed in the conference, and they had a bye in the first round.
Stockton unquestionably enters the best-of-seven series as the underdog, but the team is excited and relaxed. Roy is a big reason for the optimism and said he appreciates the confidence his team and coach have in him.
Thunder coach Matt Thomas sent a typed letter to each of his players before they played Colorado. His message to Roy was about leadership.
“I have written letters in the past before the season, but not at the playoffs. And I wanted Olivier to know that he needed to be a leader on the ice,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t about putting more pressure on anybody. It was about letting him know that everybody believes in him, including me. So let’s go have fun.”
Thomas laughed when asked if Roy wrote back.
“He didn’t have to. I wasn’t looking for a pen pal,” Thomas said. “His response was his play, and he gave us everything we needed.”
Roy, a 20-year-old Edmonton Oilers prospect from Amqui, Quebec, allowed just five goals in the three games against the Eagles. He said he had not received such a letter from a coach before.
“I really appreciate that he took the time to do it. I know we all did,” Roy said. “It’s an exciting situation, and you just want to come out and play your best.”
It will take the Thunder’s best effort to stop Alaska. The Aces are trying to become the first team since the Toledo Storm (1992-94) to win back-to-back titles, and compiled a 43-18-11 regular-season record. They have many strengths, including ECHL all-time leading scorer Wes Goldie, who had 35 goals this season, and veteran goalie Gerald Coleman, who led the Aces to the title last season and this year had an ECHL-best 1.93 goals against average.
The Thunder hasn’t played in a week, but Alaska’s last game was March 31.
“There is always a little concern, and I guess (today) will tell the tale. But I think we’ve kept a good competitive edge in practice and hopefully it pays off,” Alaska coach Rob Murray said. “For me, the Stockton team didn’t surprise anybody. They had a high work ethic, solid system-wise, and were very opportunistic. It should be a good series.”
Roy said Stockton might be the underdog, but it’s not the first time.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected us to beat (Colorado),” Roy said. “But we believed in ourselves and it’s the same thing this time.”
If Thomas could write a perfect start, the Thunder would find a way to win today and Saturday and return to Stockton on Wednesday in command of the series.
“They are a very good team, but we’re looking to go up there and take care of business,” Thomas said. “I’d be setting our standards low if I said I wanted a split.”
Peterborough AAA stars hoping to shine at OHL level
(PETERBOROUGH) Spike McCormick runs a group of young athletes through a circuit of eight gruelling exercises at Top Performance Training on Wednesday (April 11).
Amongst the brave are Body DiClemente, Chad Heffernan and Mark Price. Heffernan encourages Price, his former minor midget AAA Petes teammate, while he grunts his way through a set of deadlifts. The pair switch spots and it is Heffernan’s turn to pound out his set with Price cheering him on.
Their camaraderie bodes well for the future of the Belleville Bulls. After all, Heffernan and Price were drafted in rounds four and 14 respectively by the Bulls this past weekend in the 2012 OHL Draft. The duo were among six minor AAA Petes to be selected by OHL clubs. DiClemente, Matt Tugnutt, Vince Dunn, Cameron McGill also had their names called.
Between catching his breath and taking a few swigs of water, Heffernan talks about being drafted by the Bulls.
“It (being drafted into the OHL) is a life dream,” explains the six-foot one-inch power forward who had 12 goals and 86 penalty minutes this year.
“They have a real solid staff and are key on skill development. They like to play their young guys which is good for me.”
Heffernan is confident that training with McCormick will pay off when he goes to the Bulls’ camp in September.
“With Spike’s experience, he knows what it takes and what we need to do to get to the next level. If I do what he says and what it takes, I should make it to the next level.”
Rockford IceHogs beat Milwaukee Admirals again
ROCKFORD – Center Peter LeBlanc signed an NHL contract Friday morning, then showed why the Chicago Blackhawks wanted his signature as he capped a 2-1 shootout victory later in the evening.
LeBlanc shot fifth and last for Rockford and put the IceHogs ahead 2-1 in the shootout round after Matt Fornataro had tallied just before him. When goalie Alexander Salak stopped Milwaukee’s fifth shooter, Rockford had its ninth straight win over the Admirals, this time in front of a BMO Harris Bank Center turnout of 5,124.
“I was really excited today when I signed it,” LeBlanc said. “It was nice to get it out of the way and go into the summer not wondering where I’ll be.”
So he had to score in the shootout, right, after signing the contract?
“Exactly,” he said with a smile. “The hockey gods helped me out there. They couldn’t ruin the ending.”
Yakupov Draft Video (Larionov)
Galchenyuk Draft Video (Larionov)
Life takes many turns for young hockey family
Tragedy formed a special bond between Chad Heffernan and his mother Tracy Edwards.
Heffernan, drafted April 7 by the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, was two years old when his father Ambrose Heffernan was killed in a car accident.
“It was a very emotional, hard time for me,” said Edwards. “Chad was the person I leaned on after that. We have always kind of had a real special connection since that time.
“He’s always been the one who looked out and protected me.”
Another special connection developed six years ago when retired NHL star Steve Larmer came into their lives. It started with a chance encounter at a Christmas party and now the couple live together with Larmer taking on a fatherly role with Heffernan and Tracy’s other children Charlize, 9, and J.R., 8.
Hockey was a big part of the household long before Larmer, who played 1,006 NHL games and won a Stanley Cup, arrived.
Edwards played hockey from four to 21 in the Peterborough Girls Hockey Association. She and her parents Al and Dorothy Edwards introduced Chad to the sport at a young age.
“Everything he did was hockey,” she said. “He always had a hockey stick in his hand. He was always shooting.”
Heffernan learned to skate at the Ennismore Community Centre.
“I’d skate by the glass and my family would be there and they’d all bang on the glass,” he said. “It made me happy to see them so happy for what I was doing.”
He started with Tim Bits hockey at age four and began AAA at novice in Peterborough. The six-foot-one, 168-pound centre had 23 points and 89 penalty minutes in 30 games for the minor midget Petes this season. Edwards recalls many times talking hockey on drives home.
“I love hockey, hockey is everything to me so we talk hockey all the time,” she said.
“She spent a lot of hours driving to rinks,” Heffernan said, “late hours at night missing sleep.”
He laughed when he recalled first meeting Larmer.
“My neighbour told me about him and I had a card at the time so I ran down and got it signed,” he said. “That’s all I really knew, that he played in the NHL for Chicago. I had no idea he won the Cup.”
Hockey was an ice-breaker for the pair.
“I would always try and spark conversation when I saw him,” said Heffernan.
Larmer may have expected his parenting days were over. His daughter Bailey is now 23 and a member of the OPP auxiliary. While she played a bit of house league hockey, Chad and J.R.’s exploits have brought Larmer closer to the game.
“It’s been a positive in my life,” Larmer said. “I enjoy going to the rink and watching them play and practice and grow and develop.”
Larmer says their connection goes far beyond hockey.
“Chad’s a really good kid and that’s always more important than the fact he plays hockey,” he said.
Heffernan says Larmer has been a big influence.
“He’s really taught me how to do the little things right. To focus on what I need to focus on. To do what I do best in my game. He loves my shot so we’re always working on my shot and making sure my hands turn over and that I’m shooting off my right foot. Making sure I’m not going out of my way for hits. He keeps me on track,” said Heffernan. “I’m lucky, for sure, with his experience. With his humbleness you’d never guess he played. It’s one of the things he teaches me to do, to be humble but also to never be satisfied so you always strive to get better.”
Larmer stresses hard work.
“You want to be the hardest working guy in practice,” Larmer said. “The only way you’re going to get better is to work at it The same thing in games. You have to focus on playing the game and not get caught up in a lot of the peripheral stuff.”
He’s also introduced the children to fishing and hunting and an appreciation for the outdoors.
“Steve has done so much for us,” said Edwards. “He’s shown, not just Chad but all my kids, so many things in life which maybe I couldn’t have done myself.”
While she’ll be sad to see her son leave if he’s fortunate enough to join the Bulls, Edwards says he’ll also be happy.
“If he’s happy, I’m happy. If that’s his dream and he chooses to follow it, I’m behind him,” she said.
Syracuse Crunch’s Schofield named his team’s man of the year
The Post Standard
The Syracuse Crunch has named forward Rick Schofield its winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Syracuse community during the 2011-12 season.
Schofield, 24, has been one of the most active members of the Crunch when it comes to giving back to the Central New York community. Schofield has donated an immense amount of time to attending numerous school visits, youth hockey practices, charitable events and autograph signings. The center made over 16 appearances in the Syracuse community over the course of the 2011-12 season.
The native of Pickering, Ontario, made multiple appearances at local schools to promote the importance of education and reading during Crunch Literacy weeks and during the holiday season Schofield was one of three players to go shopping with members of the Marine Corp for toys to be donated to Toys for Tots.
Schofield donated his time appearing at multiple youth hockey practices and clinics, including teaming up with Syracuse Parks and Recreation for a ‘Learn to Skate’ clinic on February 28, 2012. The ‘Learn to Skate’ clinic was designed for children that don’t have the chance to skate or access to the proper equipment.
Schofield and his teammates also hosted local Make-A-Wish kids to decorate and paint ceramic plates. The plates that he and other Crunch players designed were later used to raise money for Make-A-Wish.
Schofield is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2011-12 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the AHL in the coming weeks.
Heady rookie makes key contribution for IceDogs
By Bernie Puchalski
St. Catherines Standard
ST. CATHARINES – Marty Williamson has seen it plenty of times in his years of coaching in the Ontario Hockey League.
A high draft pick comes into the league expecting to light up the score sheet, but finds the 70-80 goals he scored in minor midget have drooped to a handful of goals and limited ice time.
“The majority don’t make an impact in their first year. And then they mope and get upset.”
Fortunately for the IceDogs, 2011 second-round choice Carter Verhaeghe has been an exception to the rule.
“Carter never went through that at all,” Williamson said. “He never moped, he wanted to get better in practice and he kept learning.”
Williamson thought the 16-year-old Waterdown native might be hindered by his skating but it hasn’t held him back.
“His hockey IQ has allowed him to find a way to get ice time,” Williamson said. “A lot of times with rookies they are costing you goals and they’re not producing a lot. For him, he wasn’t producing a lot but he never hurt us on the ice. He was always responsible and he knew exactly what I wanted and he was smart in our systems.”
Verhaeghe’s hockey IQ was on full display Saturday night at the Jack Gatecliff Arena. With his team tied 2-2 in the third period of Game 5 of its Eastern Conference quarter-final series against Oshawa, the six-foot, 165-forward took heed of a scouting report which noted Oshawa goalie Daniel Altshuller gave up juicy rebounds if players shoot at his pads.
“I was trying to bang it off his pads and have it come out,” Verhaeghe said.
It did exactly that and Verhaeghe pounced on the rebound and put it past Altshuller to record his first career OHL playoff goal. He also added an assist in the game.
“It was an exciting feeling and a big goal for the team too,” Verhaeghe said.
He recorded four goals and 16 points in his rookie regular season and felt the year was fun and a good learning experience.
“My skating has gotten a lot better and the experience has helped me out a lot on how to make plays at this type of speed,” he said.
His play has been consistent all season.
“Usually rookies hit a wall at mid-season with the daily routines whether they’re playing a lot or not playing,” Williamson said. “And he hasn’t. He has gotten better and better as the season has gone on and we’ve been awfully impressed with him.”
Verhaeghe has followed a simple script this season.
“I’m trying to make better plays and be a better hockey player every time I’m out there. If that means not hitting the wall, I guess it’s good.”
When the IceDogs playoff run is over, he won’t need anyone to tell him what he needs to work on for next season.
“I need to get bigger and stronger to be a better player in this league. And my skating. I need to get better at everything.”
The added strength will come in handy protecting the puck and adding velocity to his shot.
Williamson has high expectations for Verhaeghe.
“He will be a No. 1 centre in this league. And you never want to throw numbers around but he will be a 70- to 80-points guy.”
The coach notices a lot of similarities between Verhaeghe and Ryan Strome.
“Whether he scores 106 points next year, I don’t know. I don’t quite see that but this team is going to grow differently.” Williamson said.
“I don’t know if Carter is going to have the luxury of being surrounded by as many good players but it will still be a good team.”
The IceDogs had a day off Monday and return to ice Tuesday. They’re scheduled to start their second-round series Friday night at home.
Roy leaves ‘em saying ‘Wow!’
By Scott Linesburgh
STOCKTON – Olivier Roy handled just about everything one of the best offenses in the ECHL had to offer and gave his team an early postseason boost.
Roy had 35 saves and didn’t give up a goal until the final period as the Thunder beat the Colorado Eagles 3-1 in the opening game of their first-round ECHL National Conference playoff series. The best-of-five series continues at 7 p.m. today at Stockton Arena.
The Thunder played one of its most complete games of the season in front of Roy. It outshot Colorado 45-36, played most of the game in the Eagles’ zone and scored full-strength, power-play and shorthanded goals in front of a crowd of 2,874.
“The first 40 minutes I thought we were close to perfect, and our goalie was a difference-maker,” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said. “He was good early, good in the middle, good late. He was just good.”
The Eagles were third in the ECHL in scoring, but Roy was prepared when Colorado had opportunities. The rookie goalie made four sparkling saves in the first period alone, while Stockton clung to a 1-0 lead, and his team was leading by three goals when Aaron Slattengren scored for the Eagles with 13:52 remaining in the contest.
“I think tonight we played pretty intense for 60 minutes, it was one of the best games of the year,” Roy said. “To outshoot that team is not easy to do. We did a great job by working hard, and we have to come back and do the same thing (today).”
Garet Hunt, who often gets more attention for his fighting and team-leading 255 penalty minutes than his offense, gave Roy an early lead with an excellent play 3 minutes, 10 seconds into the game. The Thunder had a rush against Colorado goalie Kyle Jones and Hunt took a pass from Greg Squires, who joined Stockton as a free agent on March 29. Hunt fired a shot at Jones and gathered up his own rebound to score.
Syracuse Crunch’s Schofield always willing to lend a helping hand
By Lindsay Kramer
There was some extra detail work to attend to after a Syracuse Crunch practice earlier this week, so naturally center Rick Schofield was the first to roll up his sleeves.
Anaheim goalie coach Pete Peeters was in town to work with Syracuse netminders Iiro Tarkki and Igor Bobkov, and a handful of players stayed well after the workout to run drills and fire pucks on net. Most were younger players or reserves. Schofield, who has grinded out regular shifts in all 70 of his team’s games this year, felt an obligation to chip in as well.
“Going into the stretch, it’s good to have them at their peak,” Schofield said of the goalies. “It’s good to help them out.”
There are many Central New York schoolchildren, budding young hockey players and people in need of an assist who also know how Schofield likes to lend a hand.
Schofield, in his first full season as a pro, has been named the Crunch’s Man of the Year. His several community appearances have included reading at schools, working at youth hockey clinics and shopping for the Toys for Tots program.
Schofield’s philosophy at the events mirrors his approach toward helping Peeters fine-tune the goalies. The Crunch front office is working hard to organize these appearances, Schofield reasons, so why not do what he can to make them a success?
“Coming home from practice, you are usually exhausted. You want to nap. But you can usually have an hour to yourself, then you can donate your time,” Schofield said. “It’s always fun to see the kids’ reaction. It’s not something to take lightly and go through the motions. The kids are getting something from it. You just try to have fun with it.”
Adaptability has long been one of Schofield’s strengths. He marked up the scoresheet at Lake Superior State, posting 28 and 35 points, respectively, as a junior and senior.
After he finished there last year, the Ducks signed him as a free agent. Schofield immediately eased into the Crunch lineup, saying hello with three goals and four assists in 11 games.
“I was surprised (at the immediate playing time). As the games went on, I tried to continue my solid play, be a solid attribute out there,” Schofield said.
Schofield’s pro sampling last season made him realize how he needed to change to maximize his value to the Crunch. He pounded away at claiming a regular third-line spot, becoming a player who could win the big faceoff, kill penalties and irritate opponents’ top lines.
“Coming from college, I was more of an offensive player. But at the same time, I didn’t have the skills some of the top-line forwards have,” Schofield said. “I’m still trying to learn the defensive role. Every faceoff, every penalty kill, is a challenge. Every time you get a block, it feels like a goal. The goals and the assists will come as my game moves forward.”
But even without a lot of points — Schofield has eight goals and eight assists this season — the value of a quality role player is underscored by the blade-thin margin between playoff contenders. The Crunch, which has six games left in the regular season, enters its contest against visiting Binghamton on Wednesday tied for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference with 76 points.
The top eight teams will make the playoffs. Syracuse, riding a 10-game points streak, has played six straight overtime contests and 11 of its last 13 games have been decided by one goal.
“He does a lot of the things that don’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet that allow teams to succeed,” said Crunch associate head coach Trent Yawney. “They are the guys that coaches trust in the last minute of periods, the last minute of games.”
And when it’s time to help make a difference, they are often the types of players who stand out the most.
“You need your leaders to cut the path,” Yawney said. “But you need your followers to make the path wider. I would say he makes the path a little wider.”
Rangers’ ties run deep in Plymouth
KITCHENER — Max Iafrate doesn’t hold a grudge.
But the Kitchener Rangers defenceman admits his career with the Plymouth Whalers didn’t end well.
The former Ontario Hockey League first-round draft pick was gearing up for his sophomore season this past summer when the news hit.
“They traded me after the last training camp game,” said Iafrate. “I didn’t know it was coming.”
The blueliner was shipped to Kitchener for two third-round draft picks. The teams also swapped first-round import selections this year and next.
Now, Iafrate and his Rangers take on the Whalers in the western conference semifinal best-of-seven series. The first game goes Friday at the Compuware Arena.
The ties run deep in Plymouth for many Rangers.
Besides being a homecoming for Iafrate, who hails from nearby Livonia, it’s a return for teammate Jesse Young, as well. The Walled Lake, Michigan, native also grew up watching the Whalers.
“I used to go to every Saturday game for the past two or three years before I came to Kitchener,” said Young, a second-year Rangers defenceman. “I cheered for them more than the Detroit Red Wings.”
Head coach and general manager Steve Spott served as assistant bench boss for five years in Plymouth before coming to Kitchener in 2001. Rangers assistant coach Troy Smith also manned the blue-line for Plymouth during his junior career.
But no one’s family is immersed in the Whalers franchise more than the Iafrates.
Grandmother Alice was a long time employee with the club, going back to the days when it was known as the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors and Jr. Red Wings. Her years of service were so valued that the club names its annual overage award after the former administrative assistant.
Iafrate’s dad, Al, played major junior hockey in Belleville with current Plymouth head coach and general manager Mike Vellucci.
The clan also has season tickets at the Compuware Arena, while Iafrate has volunteered to teach hockey at past Whalers summer camps.
“I’d go to games when I was in high school,” said the 18-year-old, whose family lives about a 10-minute drive from the rink. “I’ve been there a lot with my hockey buddies.”
Iafrate remembers meeting Washington Capitals coach — and former London Knights boss — Dale Hunter after the Whalers eliminated the Knights en route to an OHL championship in 2007.
This year’s edition of the Whalers is also strong. The club finished the season tied for second in the league, just two points behind the top-seeded Knights.
Being familiar with the surroundings makes the series comfortable for Iafrate, but not necessarily easier.
“It’s different playing on the other side,” he said. “It’s a hard rink to play in when you’re on the opposite team.”
Hard feelings from being blindsided before the season have subsided. Iafrate still has friends on the Whalers’ squad and even more in the stands.
“They’re a good team,” he said. “But I think we’re just as good.”
Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk Continue to Prove That Hockey Players Are Nicest Athletes in World
The Bruins’ regular season has been one filled with inconsistency, struggle and occasionally overwhelming success.
Unfortunately, in the final games of the year, it has also been filled with pain. Johnny Boychuk went down and was helped off the ice after he suffered a leg injury in a loss to the Penguins on Tuesday.
But pain and loss has never stopped the Bruins from coming through for their community. As most of the team traveled to play the Ottawa Senators in a playoff preview, several Bruins players stuck behind to meet fans and sign autographs.
Boychuk, along with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, demonstrated just how big their hearts are by taking time away from their recoveries to meet kids and families at the Garden.
The fans were thrilled to meet some of the leading stars on the team. All three players rank among the best in the league in plus/minus.
Seguin, meanwhile, also won NESN’s Seventh Player Award. As Seguin claimed his hardware, Bruins fan and NESN Seventh Player Sweepstakes winner Ashley Friend took home a brand-new 2013 Mazda CX-5. She was on hand for the autograph session.
Bergeron, Boychuk, Seguin and Brad Marchand made the day for several fans, and showed that a frustrating loss would not stand between them and doing a good deed for the community.
Thiessen gets boost from Debut in Pittsburgh
Brad Thiessen was halfway into his first NHL game with the Pittsburgh Penguins when he received a huge welcome to the big league.
It came in the second period when Columbus Blue Jackets sniper Rick Nash picked up a loose puck and skated in alone on Thiessen. In an instant, Nash lifted a shot over Thiessen’s shoulder for a shorthanded tally.
Pittsburgh would go on to win the game and Thiessen would earn a victory in his first NHL start. But allowing his first NHL goal to a sniper like Nash… well, Thiessen said it could’ve been worse.
“I can’t say that I’m disappointed that the first goal I ever let in was to one of the best players in the league,” Thiessen said. “It happened so fast, but I knew it was him coming down.”
Thiessen was in Pittsburgh for about a month for his first NHL call-up. He appeared in five games, starting four and going 3-1. When backup Brent Johnson regained his health, Thiessen was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 29.
He said his time with the big club was a huge confidence booster.
“You always wonder if you can play at that level, and to be able to go out there and contribute to a few wins was important,” Thiessen said. “It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for a long time, and to have some extended time there was a good experience.”
Andy Andreoff bids adieu to Oshawa Generals
OSHAWA — One of the stark realities of junior hockey is that a player can be fighting tooth-and-nail for his playoff life at one moment, and realizing his career with that team is over the next.
Such was the case for the three overage players for the Oshawa Generals on Sunday, most notable among them Andy Andreoff, a Pickering native who leaves the team he grew up cheering for as its all-time games-played leader.
Andreoff admitted Sunday, after his team’s 4-1 season-ending loss to the Niagara IceDogs, that the emotions got the better of him as the clock ticked down before 4,303 fans at the General Motors Centre.
“Yeah, it hit me in the last minute and a half there, when our coach asked me if I wanted to finish it off there,” said Andreoff, who accepted coach Gary Agnew’s offer. “I had a little tear in my eye and I was kind of skating around, looking at the fans and realized it was my last game.”
It was an eventful tenure for Andreoff, who came on the scene as a fifth-round draft pick, 90th overall, in 2007, and played only 25 games that first season, with one assist to show for it.
Listed at 150 pounds on draft day, Andreoff grew and improved steadily over his five years here, ultimately becoming a 200-pound power forward who put up impressive enough 33-42-75 numbers last season that he was drafted, two years after first being eligible, in the third round by the Los Angeles Kings.
He didn’t quite find that same groove this season, but still ended up with more points (58) than games played (57), and finished his career with 81 goals and 207 points in 281 career regular season games.
When asked if he was proud of topping the list for games played, he didn’t hesitate in saying, “Absolutely, I mean look at all the guys who have played in the organization for the Oshawa Generals … It’s a real honour to be a part of that.
“Me and my family used to come to all of the Oshawa Generals games, so to actually get drafted by them and play for them, it was really special,” he added.
Tyler Seguin claims Bruins scoring title
The way Brad Marchand tells it, he was just being a good teammate.
In the third period of Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo, Marchand missed on a shorthanded breakaway. Had Marchand buried his shot (the left wing scored later in the third), he would have ended the regular season with 29 goals, tied with Tyler Seguin for the team lead.
Instead, Seguin finished with the goal-scoring title. Seguin scored twice in the win to end his second season with 29 goals and 38 assists for a team-best 67 points.
“I missed it on purpose because he was crying about how he wanted it before the game,’’ Marchand said. “So I let him have it.’’
Seguin will carry at least a $1.75 million cap hit this year because of his sparkling sophomore season. Seguin hit six of his attainable Individual A bonuses, which are each worth $212,500. Individual A bonuses are capped at $850,000 total. Seguin has a $900,000 base salary.
Seguin earned his bonuses because he netted 20 or more goals, had 35 or more assists, and recorded 60-plus points. Seguin also reached three other thresholds by averaging 0.73 points or more per game (0.83), being among the top three team forwards in plus/minus rating (plus-34), and being named to the All-Star game.
The 20-year-old Seguin became the youngest player in Bruins history to lead the team in scoring.
“It’s pretty amazing,’’ Seguin said. “It’s definitely an honor. I didn’t know that. My linemates make the game a lot easier for me.’’
Seguin can earn an additional $1.8 million in Individual B bonuses, such as winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP.
Tyler Seguin: ‘This Is When the Important Season Starts’
BOSTON — It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t the most consistent season, but after an early season hangover, a near-perfect November and an excruciating January, the Bruins are finally back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While every game this season was approached with an equal dosage of excitement and importance, the B’s can finally admit that this is what they’ve been looking forward to. After all, these are the Stanley cup champs and they’re a team that faced and flourished in hockey’s two most important Game 7s just last season.
Needless to say, they’ve got the playoff itch.
“This is when the important season starts,” said sophomore sniper and team-leader in goals, Tyler Seguin. “If you’re a hockey player and a competitive guy, this is when you get real excited. I know myself, I know the guys try not to think about it, try not to think about the week ahead before tonight’s game, but you can’t lie it was all in our heads and playoffs are right around the corner. We’re all excited.”
Seguin, who suited up for the Eastern Conference finals and Stanley Cup finals last year, introduced himself to postseason hockey with a bang, bagging six points in his first two career playoff games against the Lightning. That was after he was watching from high above the ice during the first two rounds against the Canadiens, and Flyers, respectively.
He would go on to notch just one more point (an assist) in the next 12 games before hoisting the Cup, but Seguin doesn’t want to change a thing from last year’s experience.
“I think experience helped me a lot last year playing a couple of Game 7s and a Stanley Cup final Game 7 — that’s going to go a long way,” he explained, when asked about what he can take into this year’s postseason.
“When I played my first game last year in the playoffs, [it] was just the atmosphere of the game,” he said when asked about how the playoffs were different from the regular season. “It’s the intensity, the speed or even the crowd — especially at the Garden — it gets pretty loud. I don’t know if it makes you nervous, or a little bit more intense, but it was a little new so that was the first thing I noticed last year.”
One thing that will be different this time around for the B’s is that they’re the ones everyone is gunning for. Sure, the Rangers and Penguins may be favored to take the East this year, but until the Cup gets raised this Summer, the Bruins are the champs. The team’s been playing with that mentality and dealing with that pressure all season long.
“We kind of had a target on our back all year. We’re the team that teams will go up and say, ‘This is our measuring stick this year so far,’ and last year when we played Chicago, they were our measuring stick in the regular season.”
That big, shiny target on their backs didn’t make things easy for the Black and Gold. That, and injuries made it tough for the B’s to maintain consistency and cruise into the postseason. Things were rocky early, in the middle, and even somewhat lately when they hit an early March slump.
Getting over those slumps was one thing and patching together a hot streak was another. The B’s were able to do both and after Saturday’s shootout win over the Sabres, Seguin is hoping that the team has hit its stride at just the right time. He’s hoping they can build off Saturday’s win and ride that emotion into hockey’s “important season.”
“It was nice in the third period to see us show character like we might have to do down the road in the playoffs, said Seguin, whose two goals gave him 29 on the year. “We’re a confident group in here — we know if we’re going out there only worrying about what our personal jobs are, not the guy next to us, as a team we’re going to do a good job. If you’re worried about going in who you’re playing, or who’s ahead of you in the standings during the season, it’s not how you win games in the playoffs.”
And if there’s one thing the B’s proved in last year’s playoffs, it’s that they know how to win when it counts.
Rychel delighted with Ho-Sang pick
The Windsor Star
WINDSOR, Ont. — Windsor Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel feels he struck gold Saturday by grabbing Toronto Marlboros minor midget centre Josh Ho-Sang with the fifth pick overall in the Ontario Hockey League Draft.
“To get a player of Josh’s caliber at No. 5 is awesome for our franchise,” Rychel said. “Very electric, very offensive, a driven kid who wants to do well. He will play immediately and be on the top two lines.”
The five-foot-11, 160-pound Ho-Sang was considered the pre-season favourite to be the top pick in this year’s OHL Draft, but his stock slipped during the season.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Ho-Sang, who will wear No. 66. “I’ve been kind of dreaming about playing for Windsor for a long time.”
The slick skating, soft handed Ho-Sang posted 31 goals and 79 points this season.
OHL Central Scouting’s write up of Ho-Sang called him, “one of the most skilled hockey players at the minor midget level in a long time. He has the ability to beat a defenceman one-on-one and make them look like they were standing still.
“It looks like, at times, that the puck is attached to his stick with a string because he can move in any direction with the puck and not lose speed, which makes him very hard to defend in open ice. Joshua has many gears and isn’t afraid to take the puck to any area of the ice if it will create a scoring chance for himself or his teammates.”
Ho-Sang was the third member of the Marlboros taken in the first five picks. Teammate Connor McDavid, who was given exceptional status, went first overall to the Erie Otters and the Kingston Frontenacs took defenceman Roland McKeown with the second pick.
Cammalleri’s return adds spark to Flames
Knowing a player has missed nine games, then seeing him drop to his knees in the first period?
Typically a bad sign. Unless said player is Michael Cammalleri.
Fresh off an upper-body malady that cost him nearly three weeks of hockey, the Calgary Flames forward hopped into action Saturday afternoon and, in signature style, torqued home a one-timer – with his left knee (and nearly his right) on the ice.
Alas, it stood as the Flames’ lone bit of offence in the 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars in National Hockey League action at the American Airlines Center.
But Cammalleri’s return had been a bright spot.
“Cammy in his first game back, he played a real solid game,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter. “Obviously he scored, but I thought he generated some stuff, created some stuff offensively. He worked his way through his own zone pretty good, too.”
Cammalleri, on the ice for the night’s first shift, had originally been on the flank with centre Blair Jones and winger Blake Comeau.
Soon, though, he was elevated to the Flames’ scoring line with wingers Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.
While working on that unit, Cammalleri took a dandy setup from Anton Babchuk and burned in his 16th goal – 193rd of his career – at 12: 27 of the first period to cap a dominating shift.
“Initially I started him on the wing, but I needed to change it up,” explained Sutter. “I just thought we were slow in the first five to seven minutes, and I need to get guys quickly more engaged in the game. That goal certainly gave us some life and got us going.”
Despite missing a good chunk of the recent schedule, despite citing concerns the previous day about conditioning and timing, Cammalleri ended up taking 20 shifts.
He put three shots on goal, missing the net on two other occasions.
“Yeah, he had a really good game,” Iginla said.
“He looked very poised and controlled the puck a lot and settled it down. I thought, off the start, we were a little antsy in the first six, seven minutes. I thought he was able to settle it down – obviously his goal – but the whole game he was making some very nice plays . . . as far as puck control and making chances.”
Post-game, though, Cammalleri was hardly festive.
“I felt OK, I felt OK,” he said, with a shrug. “I don’t think I was great, by any means. I tried to contribute the best I could.”
The forward had jetted into Dallas in time for Friday’s practice at Farmers Branch, Texas. After the workout, he declined to issue any guarantees.
Heck, he wouldn’t even declare himself good to go.
But Cammalleri did suit up and, in a flash, became the Flames’ most dangerous attacker.
“I’ve come back from injury and had really good stretches, and I’ve come back from injury and had terrible stretches,” said Cammalleri. “I try to analyze it and understand why so I can improve moving forward, assuming you’re not going to be 100 per cent healthy every time.
“I think sometimes, you’ve been watching some games, and you come back with a fresh point of view. And sometimes you come back and it’s not clicking.”
Max Iafrate goal vs Owen Sound
Otters’ grad Phil Varone signs with Buffalo Sabres
The Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League are proud to announce that alumnus Phil Varone has signed an entry-level contract with the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres.
A native of Vaughan, Ont., Varone was acquired by the Otters on October 26, 2010 and proceeded to have a career year in his overage season. The center amassed 33 goals and 48 assists for 81 points in his only season with the Otters.
This season with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans, Varone has a team-high 35 assists and 43 points. The Americans are the AHL affiliate of the Sabres.
Varone joins two former Otters who are signed by the Sabres. Brad Boyes, the Otters’ all-time leading point scorer; and Shawn Szydlowski, who is currently teammates with Varone on Rochester.
Cammalleri helps keep Flames’ playoff hopes alive
The Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes are not dead yet.
Mike Cammalleri had a goal and two assists Monday night as Calgary kept their post-season aspirations alive, erupting for four second period goals in a 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars.
The critical victory, which snapped a five-game winless skid, moved the 11th-place Flames to within two points of the eighth-place Phoenix Coyotes and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Calgary trails the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche by one point.
“We need to win, as the only chance for us to get in might be to win these next five games,” said Alex Tanguay, whose goal with 28 seconds left in the second period was the eventual winner. “We’re going to put our best effort in and hope that the out-of-town scoreboard is going to be favourable to us as well.”
The scoreboard was kind to the Flames on Monday, as the Kings lost 1-0 to Vancouver and Colorado fell 5-1 in San Jose.
The Flames host Los Angeles on Wednesday night as the Darryl Sutter and Brent Sutter go up against each other in a game with massive implications.
“We’re going to give it our all, there’s no holding back,” Tanguay said. “We want to be in. We’ve worked so hard for the past two months, played some very good hockey. Haven’t been as lucky as we’d like to be but maybe this luck will come our way the last few games.”
The Flames came into the game scuffling offensively with just six goals in their previous five games, but broke out in a big way with four goals over the final 11 minutes of the second period to surge in front 5-3.
A key moment came when Brent Sutter called a time-out 1:04 into the second period, shortly after Jamie Benn’s second goal of the night on a three-on-two had given Dallas a 2-1 lead.
Cammalleri was on the bench at the time, sitting directly in front of his furious head coach.
“I was glad I didn’t have to make eye contact because I was in prime position for a good f-bomb speech,” Cammalleri said. “But that’s good. I like emotion. I think we’re all big boys and men here and I have no problem with coaches doing that. We expect more out of ourselves than anybody so good for him. The message was basically let’s wake up here and get going, enough is enough.”
Clapperton’s First Playoff Goal
Rupert scores 3 as Knights sweep Spitfires
WINDSOR, Ont. — Ryan Rupert scored three goals and Michael Houser made 35 saves as the London Knights hammered the Windsor Spitfires 8-3 Thursday to sweep their Ontario Hockey League Western Conference quarter-final series in four games.
Chris Tierney added two goals for the Knights, while Brad Welycka, Greg McKegg and Andreas Anthanasiou also scored.
Rupert opened the scoring in the first period when his cross-crease pass bounced off a Windsor defenceman who was standing in front of the net and past Spitfire netminder Jaroslav Pavelka. The goal was a sign of things to come for Windsor.
Kerby Rychel, Chris Marchese and Michael Clarke replied for the Spitfires, who were outscored 17-7 in the series and shut out twice by Houser.
Knights defenceman Olli Maata appeared to suffer a knee injury after being checked into the boards by Windsor forward Hunter Smith. Maata did not return to the game.
Pavelka made 24 saves and could not be faulted on any London goals.
Overage netminder John Cullen, playing in his final OHL game, replaced Pavelka with 11:26 remaining in the third period and made eight saves in a relief effort.
Tyson Teichmann replaced Houser with just under three remaining in the game and allowed Clarke’s
goal on one of the two shots that he faced.
With the series win, the Knights became the first Western Conference team to advance in the post-season.
Sabres sign Varone to Entry-Level Contract
Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier today announced that the team has signed forward Phil Varone to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Varone (5’10”, 186 lbs., 12/4/90) currently leads the Rochester Americans (AHL) with 43 points (8+35) and two shorthanded goals in 63 games this season. His 35 assists rank him fourth among all AHL rookies and tie for 15th-most among all skaters. Varone is ranked 12th among AHL rookies in total scoring.
The Vaughan, Ont. native joined the Americans after recording a career-high 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in just 59 games last season with London and Erie of the Ontario Hockey League. In five OHL seasons with Kitchener, London and Erie, Varone finished his junior career with 230 points (78+152) in 228 games. He also totaled 34 points (14+20) in 26 career OHL playoff contests.
Varone had four points (2+2) for the Sabres in the 2011 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament, helping the Sabres prospects to a tournament championship win. He signed a one-year AHL contract with the Americans in September after attending training camp with the Sabres.
Alumnus Varone signs with Buffalo Sabres
The Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League are proud to announce that alumnus Phil Varone has signed an entry-level contract with the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres.
A native of Vaughan, Ont., Varone was acquired by the Otters on October 26, 2010 and proceeded to have a career year in his overage season. The center amassed 33 goals and 48 assists for 81 points in his only season with the Otters.
This season with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans, Varone has a team-high 35 assists and 43 points. The Americans are the AHL affiliate of the Sabres.
Varone joins two former Otters who are signed by the Sabres. Brad Boyes, the Otters’ all-time leading point scorer; and Shawn Szydlowski, who is currently teammates with Varone on Rochester.
Ho-Sang Highlight Vide
Ice Dog rookie steps into a new world
He’s played hockey almost since he could walk. He’s won championships and filled his shelves with medals and trophies. He’s skated in front of thousands of people, scored hundreds of goals and advanced in the game to a level few reach.
Yet when Waterdown’s Carter Verhaeghe steps onto the ice Thursday night in St. Catharines for the first game of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, he’ll be skating into uncharted territory. For him, anyway.
The 16-year-old has never been in a playoff series.
Having grown up in the OMHA AAA system that runs its playoffs as a round robin over a single weekend, the Niagara Ice Dogs’ rookie centre will be stepping into a whole new world this week. One where you play the same team as many as seven times in 13 days and build up some hatred for your opponent.
“It’s completely different,” he says.
Actually his entire year has been a whole new world.
Growing up as the star on every team he played for, he was able to score almost whenever he wanted, got oodles of ice time and basically controlled most games. In his last year in minor midget as a member of the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs, for example, he scored 34 goals and had 30 assists in 45 games. That’s why he was taken in the second round of the OHL’s draft last spring.
But a kid barely old enough to drive playing against men as much as four years older faces a whole new set of challenges and obstacles.
“It’s been a big adjustment,” he says. “Everything is a lot faster. The game’s a lot better.”
Instead of being The Man, he’s been The Rookie. It took 18 games — nearly until December — to get his first goal. He finished with four. His role became that of hard-working third- or fourth-liner who had to find other ways to contribute.
The coaches understood. They’ve seen it before from just about every talented sniper they’ve ever had. Burlington’s Alex Hutchings, for example, scored just one goal in the very last game of his first OHL year. He went on to get 47 in his final season and then get drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Head coach Marty Williamson simply told Verhaeghe to earn his ice time by contributing in some positive way every shift and avoiding silly mistakes that would hurt the team. The fact that he’s dressed and played nearly every game this season says he did that.
“We don’t care about Carter’s offence right now at all,” Williamson says. “We know it will be there down the road.”
Verhaeghe admits it took some getting used to. But, he says, he learned.
It wasn’t the only adjustment. Being away from home for the first time was tough. Living with a billet and attending a new school is a lot for a Grade 11 student, too. Even one bright enough to keep an 84 per cent average and be named January’s academic player of the month.
Then there was the season-long rookie initiation. After every practice, he was the guy who had to pick up the pucks. After each game, he had to carry the team’s equipment to the team bus. That role, he says, will not be missed next season when he can hand it off to the newbies.
But next season could be a long way off yet. His Ice Dogs finished first in the Eastern Conference with 97 points. They’re heavily favoured in their first-round series against the Oshawa Generals and will remain favoured until they run into the London Knights in the OHL finals, if that happens.
He’s had pressure before, but this is a little different. He can sense the anticipation and expectation throughout the community. With arguably Canada’s best junior goalie — Waterdown’s Mark Visentin — in net and four more members of Canada’s world junior team in front of him, Niagara has a terrific chance to win its first OHL championship. Then maybe claim its first Memorial Cup.
“I guess I feel a little bit of difference,” he says of the added pressure. “We’re supposed to have a good run.”
Williamson says the lessons of this season will pay dividends down the road. His young player has learned from talented, older kids. He’s experienced plenty of winning. He’s worked hard every practice. And he’s shown the kind of talent that will earn him a spot on one of the top two lines next year.
“We believe Carter can be a captain down the road for us because he’s gone through these experiences.”
First though, the kid wants a sip of something bubbly from the Memorial Cup. Sprite, probably. He is just 16, remember.
ECHL ALUMNI PROFILE – BRAD THIESSEN
BY MIKE ASHMORE
Special to ECHL.com
NEWARK, N.J. – It was a few minutes after the second game of Sidney Crosby’s latest comeback, and the second the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room opened at the Prudential Center, the assembled media made a mad dash to “The Kid’s” stall.
Largely left alone, however, was the relatively anonymous player stretching on the floor in the back left corner of the cramped space.
Walking past the endless sea of camera wires and media members would lead you to goaltender Brad Thiessen, who seemed to be enjoying his first extended taste of National Hockey League life.
“It’s exciting,” said the Northeastern alum. “You work hard and you just try and wait for your opportunity. It’s all happened in the last few weeks, and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”
Thiessen, who played in 12 games for the Wheeling Nailers during the 2009-10 season, finally got his long-awaited and well-deserved opportunity after backup Brent Johnson went down with an undisclosed injury. Truth be told, there really wasn’t much left for the 25-year-old to accomplish at the American Hockey League level.
“They kept telling me that the opportunity was going to come,” Thiessen told ECHL.com
“I tried to just maintain the work ethic and level that I could down there and just try and focus on my game there and not worry about what was or wasn’t going to happen.”
He posted a 1.94 goals against average and .922 save percentage in 46 games for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins last year, winning 35 games and the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s best goaltender along the way. Although, comparatively he struggled this season (2.88, .885 in 37 games), Thiessen finally earned some first playing time in the NHL this year and made his debut on Feb. 26 in Pittsburgh against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I remember just going out there and being so excited,” said Thiessen of his 22-save performance and first NHL win.
“I just remember before the game, when the coach was going through the lineup, and you realize you’re in it. That’s what you go out there and work so hard for all your life. To get to that top level and be able to play out there and help contribute to a win was a lot of fun.”
Although he’s in just his third full professional season, the soft-spoken Aldergrove, British Columbua native has come a long way from those first games in Wheeling.
“I’m more experienced, of course,” he said. “At that time, I was just trying to get my feet wet in pro hockey and now I feel like I’ve been able to do that and work on the different parts of my game that make you succeed at this level. Stuff like controlling rebounds and coming up with the big save at the right time.”
Thiessen, who has 113 regular season games of experience at the AHL level, plus another 13 in the playoffs, didn’t have too big of an adjustment to make going from the ECHL to the AHL. But the AHL to the NHL was a little different.
“Guys are obviously that much better up here,” he said. “Plays are more crisp, the speed of the game is faster. But it’s nice when you’re practicing against the best players in the world so you can test yourself against them when you’re playing in games.”
Thiessen has made three starts for Pittsburgh and won them all, putting up an impressive 2.68 goals against average in the process.
With Johnson out for an unknown amount of time, Pittsburgh may have to rely on him to back up Marc-Andre Fleury once the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around. The Penguins have been near the top of the Eastern Conference all season long thanks to strong play from Fleury, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, but in his latest game, an 8-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets, he got to play in front of Sidney Crosby for the first time.
“It’s huge to get him back,” Thiessen said with a smile.
“He’s the best player in hockey, and to be able to add that to your team when the team is pretty good as it is, it can definitely only help us as we go forward.”
Yakupov, Galchenyuk set to rejoin Sting for playoffs (Larionov)
The Sarnia Sting announced Thursday that Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk, each sidelined with injuries last week, will be in the lineup when the team opens its first-round Ontario Hockey League playoff series against the Saginaw Spirit on Friday at the RBC Centre in Sarnia.
It marks the first time this season that two of the top North American prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft will be in the lineup for the same game.
Yakupov had been sidelined the final four regular-season games after suffering an upper-body injury against the Owen Sound Attack. Yakupov required stitches to his mouth after an open-ice hit by Attack captain Mike Halmo 11:20 into the second period of a 4-0 Sting victory March 10. The OHL suspended Halmo 10 games for his hit. He’ll have to sit out his team’s first eight playoff games, if applicable. The Attack open the playoffs Friday against the Kitchener Rangers.
Galchenyuk made his regular-season debut March 14 after being sidelined all season after ACL surgery in October. He played one game before departing a March 16 game against the London Knights with an upper-body injury following a defensive-zone faceoff against rookie Max Domi.
Both players resumed full-contact practice with the team earlier this week, and according to Sarnia’s website, are ready to return. Yakupov finished third on the team with 69 points this season, including 31 goals, in just 42 games. He also sports a plus-15 rating and scored 12 power-play goals.
Playing alongside Yakupov last season, Galchenyuk had 31 goals and 83 points in 68 games for the Sting.
Galchenyuk and Yakupov were the top two prospects on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary ranking of the top 25 skaters from the Ontario Hockey League in November. In January, Yakupov was listed as the No. 1 North American skater eligible for the Draft. Due to his injury, Galchenyuk was listed as a “limited viewing.”
Yakupov told NHL.com he is looking forward to playing and contributing when it matters most — in the playoffs.
“The playoffs are important for everyone,” Yakupov told NHL.com. “I never played in the playoffs, so I want to try to see what it’s like for me. Everybody wants to play more and play at a high end. Performing in big games is better for your hockey career.”
It’s possible Yakupov could become the first Russian player selected with the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft since Alex Ovechkin in 2004.
NHL draft tracker: Kristoff Kontos, Mississauga Majors
Kristoff Kontos is optimistic that going to a team which is a better fit for him might help his NHL draft stock.
The 18-year-old centre practically went from one end of the hockey-philosophy spectrum to the other when the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors acquired him in January from the Sudbury Wolves. The Majors, as you might remember from last spring’s MasterCard Memorial Cup, are known for their tight-checking, conservatively structured game. The Wolves play a bit more of an attacking style. Since Kontos, who was NHL Central Scouting’s 99th-ranked North American skater in January, projects as a depth player, the move allowed
“I had high hopes coming over,” says Kontos, the son of former NHLer Chris Kontos. “James Boyd [the Mississauga coach and general manager] was really adamant that I fit a part of his system and his team. It’s been great so far.
“I learned tons in Sudbury under [former coach] Mike Foligno and [current coach] Trent Cull,” the 6-foot-2, 197-pound native of Penetanguishene, Ont., adds. “But it came time where it was my draft year and I needed to concern myself with getting the ice time that I need. St. Mike’s really wanted to develop me. It was a no-brainer.”
Kontos, who had 15 goals and 47 points in 66 games this season, has helped shore up the Majors’ top-six forwards.
“We were in desperate need of a natural centreman around the trade deadline,” says Boyd. “We traded a pretty good player in Derek Schoenmakers for him. But he [Kontos] has been everything we thought. He’s a good playmaker. He’s able to distribute the puck well [with 19 assists in 31 games for Mississauga]. I’d like to see him shoot a little bit more. He’s great on the faceoffs and been using his big body more lately to win battles.
“There’s upside with him [Kontos],” Boyd adds. “He’s got size which you can’t teach. It’s just a matter of continuing to get better every day.”
Kontos is hoping to reprise some of his Sudbury experience in this year’s post-season. He helped the Wolves sweep a higher-seeded opponent last spring. Mississauga finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, 12 points behind Barrie. A combination of the Majors’ 9-3-0-0 finishing kick across their past dozen games and the Colts losing leading scorer Tanner Pearson to a broken fibula has made Missy a a near even-money bet to advance to Round 2.
“Playoffs is a whole different season,” Kontos says. “When I was with Sudbury, we beat Ottawa as the seventh seed and hopefully we can do something like that this year.”
1. A son following in his dad’s hockey path is not necessarily unusual, but what is it like to learn from someone who is so competitive?
“It’s fun pressure. He [Chris Kontos] is always telling me he did this or he did that. It’s something I try not to think about too much but at the end of the day he’s always going to try to have bragging rights on me … In any game, even in a ping-pong match, he’s always trying to get in my head, push me. He’s just a competitive guy who is trying to help me get to the point where I want to be.”
2. Apart from the obvious — improving your skating, building strength — what is the biggest skill you need to develop before you may turn pro?
“A lot of it is experience, but a lot of it pushing yourself to be smart on the ice. We watched the Ottawa Senators play Buffalo [during an eastern Ontario road trip]. Seeing how smart they are with their passes and their positional play and how they support each other and talk on the ice shows how at the next level, it’s more chess than it is checkers. That’s the biggest thing at the next level — being on top of your mental game.”
3. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?
“I try to take pride in my D-zone coverage as a two-way centreman. If defence is put first and work hard at it, then offence is going to come.”
Tyler Seguin still on upward path
Kevin Paul Dupont
SAN JOSE – Tyler Seguin is still young, far from a complete player at age 20, his career ceiling still unknown. He was a center by trade and upbringing before he was drafted by the Bruins, but he has been almost exclusively a winger in his two NHL seasons. It could be that he remains out there along the wall for years to come.
“There is so much more to this player,’’ said coach Claude Julien before his squad’s game Thursday night against the Sharks. “And he’s going to be even better down the road.
“Right now, he’s giving us a lot of options. If we need him at center, we know he can handle that. Who knows where he’s going to play? But we know wherever we play him, it will be a position of strength for him.’’
Seguin entered the game still No. 1 in club scoring with 26 goals and 60 points, 4 points ahead of veteran pivot Patrice Bergeron. With two weeks left, he already has put up a better sophomore campaign than former Bruins Phil Kessel (19-18-37) and Joe Thornton (16-25-41).
Kessel, now with the Maple Leafs, is the player the Bruins traded three years ago for the first-round pick Boston used to select Seguin No. 2 overall in the 2010 draft. Thornton, who didn’t reach the 60-point plateau until his third season in the Hub, is now captain of the Sharks, the club that traded for him in November 2005.
A stronger, heavier, more confident performer in his sophomore season, Seguin has spent much of 2011-12 riding right wing on a line with Brad Marchand and Bergeron. He also has spent ample time with the Milan Lucic-David Krejci line, helping to fill the void created when Nathan Horton exited the lineup in January with concussion-related symptoms.
Seguin may one day be a center, but Julien remains pleased with a pivot foursome that has Krejci and Bergeron anchoring the top two lines, followed by Chris Kelly and Greg Campbell working among the bottom six forwards.
Now Seguin is a fixture among the top six forwards. He is more responsible about the defensive aspect of the game and no longer prone to flinching when pucks get fired his way or the action gets tougher along the boards.
“I see the game differently now,’’ he said. “Guys talk a lot about the game slowing down. I don’t know if it’s like that for me, but I’ve learned some little tricks out there that have helped me.’’
One of those tricks, said Seguin, is knowing when to circle toward the net when he knows Bergeron has secured a puck along the wall or near the goal line.
“My first year, a lot of this was a whole new world for me. It was a big learning curve with a lot of ups and downs,’’ he said.
Two seasons and one Stanley Cup later, it’s hardly an old world for Seguin, but it is one with far more ups than downs.
“I would say it’s more confidence – confidence and experience,’’ said Julien. “He came into this league last year as an 18-year-old, coming from a league where the competition ranged from age 16 to 19. So here he is, playing against men all of a sudden, and that’s a big jump.
“You could see his skill right away. We saw that just in his success with the shootout. No doubt, he was a little timid in the corner and along the boards, so he needed that period of adjustment.
“This year, with confidence and experience, that skill level is starting to show more.’’
Leivo key in Wolves’ playoff success
BEN LEESON, QMI Agency
Considering the season Innisfil native Josh Leivo has had, it’s hard to imagine anyone overlooking the Sudbury Wolves winger.
Leivo had a career year and then some in 2011-12, scoring 32 goals and adding 41 assists. His 73 points were a full 43 more than he tallied as a rookie in 2010-11.
He finished second among Sudbury point-getters, behind only Ontario Hockey League scoring champion and on-again, off-again line-mate Michael Sgarbossa.
But it’s partly because of Sgarbossa and his dramatic capturing of the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy that Leivo has been somewhat overlooked.
Eastern Conference head coaches even acknowledged Leivo’s unsung status when they voted the 18-year-old the third-most underrated player on any of their 10 teams.
But Leivo isn’t an unsung hero when Wolves head coach Trent Cull gets a chance to sound off.
He gives the lanky forward full marks for being one of the Wolves’ most consistent players while the club battled various injuries these last few months, helping them amass a respectable 36-26-4-2 record and secure fifth place in an ultra-competitive Eastern Conference.
“Josh has come back and been one of our most improved players, if not the most improved,” Cull said. “Not only does he have 70 points and over 30 goals, but he wasn’t playing with Sgarbossa the whole time.”
Many were pleasantly surprised by Leivo’s point production during last year’s postseason, when he, Sgarbossa and Kuchin formed the Wolves’ top line, but wondered if the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect could keep it up without lining up alongside such slick playmakers — and without the benefit of being an unknown quantity. He did.
“I think I had a pretty solid season,” said Leivo, who stands 6-foot-2 and tips the scales at 185 pounds. “I had some off games, but a couple of great games, too, but mostly, I think I was pretty consistent.”
He was no slouch at the other end of the ice, either. That, too, was reflected in the coaches poll, where he was voted the third-best defensive forward in the conference.
“We needed to lean on him and he did a great job,” Cull said. “With Josh, what I always say is when he’s working, when he’s dogging pucks, he’s pretty tough to play against.
“When he’s with Michael Sgarbossa, they’re a dynamic duo, and when they’re apart, those are two guys the other team has to check. And Josh can play in all situations, too.”
Leivo was aware that Cull and assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom expected him to elevate his game every night to mitigate their injury woes. He felt that pressure and welcomed it.
“We wanted everyone to be great,” Leivo said. “And they pretty much did. Everyone gave 110% every shift.”
And they’ll need to do the same tonight, he figures, when the Wolves begin their best-of-s even Eastern Conference quarter-final against the Brampton Battalion.
“We have to play our game and we have to keep it simple,” Leivo said. “Brampton is a really good team, with good goaltending, but we have a shot to win this.”
He’s expecting several friends and family members to attend playoff games, helping create the kind of post-season atmosphere seen in few other OHL rinks.
“Our fans our great,” Leivo said. “They were crazy in the playoffs last year and that really had us going. Hopefully, we’ll have that adrenaline going and, with their help, we’ll get through.”
Matt and Ryan Rupert are mini Dale and Mark Hunter for London Knights
LONDON, Ontario | Matt and Ryan Rupert are both 5-foot-9. Matt is just 178 pounds, while his twin 17-year-old brother tips the scales at 186.
That these brothers play together for the London Knights isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but their similarities to a couple elders is what makes the Ruperts intriguing on and off the ice.
Think of them as little Hunters, like their old coach Dale and their general manager and new coach Mark. They forecheck and grind in the corners like the Hunters did in their playing days, more than compensating for their lack of height.
“They’re tough and they got skill,” Dale Hunter said. “It’s one of those things where we know they’re feisty and they want to win and they stick up for their teammates.”
Anything like you, Dale? Hunter smiled.
“They’re hungry,” he said. “They’re real hungry.”
They also live at Dale Hunter’s house in London, and when Matt and Ryan Rupert were hungry in the mornings, he would wake up and make them eggs at 7 a.m. He always asked them who made the best eggs and joked, “Remember, I’m your coach.”
With Hunter coaching the Washington Capitals, his girlfriend, Cindy Mac Kinlay, watches after them. When he was in London, he taught the young players everything he knew about the game.
“He was a good role model for us. We’d sit and watch some games and he’d rewind the plays and tell us what they did wrong and what they did good,” Ryan Rupert said. “That made us better here.”
The Rupert brothers don’t mind the comparisons to the Hunter brothers, either.
“They’re great hockey players and we kind of pattern their style: grind out, gritty and don’t back down for anything and also put the puck in the net sometimes,” Ryan Rupert said.
Ryan Rupert has 17 goals and 31 assists in 63 games; Matt has 12 goals and 23 assists in 48 games. Often they play together, but they don’t want to be compared to Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Dale Hunter, though? Sure.
“We watch his videos on YouTube sometimes and just try and play like him,” Matt Rupert said. “Just get hard on the forecheck; that’s what he did and be gritty like he did and try to follow his footsteps.”
Galchenyuk’s First Goal Back (Larionov)
Wings sign Ouellet
Nick Laham / Getty Images
DETROIT – The Red Wings today announced that defensemen Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul have both been signed to three-year entry-level contracts. In accordance with club policy, additional terms of these deals will not be disclosed.
Ouellet, 18, has skated with the Montreal Juniors/Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) franchise for the past two seasons where he has recorded 103 points (29G-74) and a rating of +43 in 130 career appearances. Selected by Detroit in the second round (48th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Ouellet was a member of Team Orr at the 2011 CHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Game, played at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.
Montreal’s first choice (14th overall) at the 2009 QMJHL Entry Draft, Ouellet was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team in 2009-10 and represented his home province of Quebec at the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Ontario. Currently competing in the President’s Cup Playoffs with Blainville-Boisbriand, Ouellet finished third amongst all QMJHL defensemen with 60 points (21G-39A) in 63 appearances during the 2011-12 regular season.
Rick Schofield’s Goal vs Rochester
Phil Varone’s Goal vs Syracuse
HOCKEY EAST ANNOUNCES 2011-2012 ALL-STAR TEAMS
~ Nine of the 12 First and Second Team All-Stars in action this weekend at Garden ~
The 2011-2012 Hockey East First-Team All-Stars
Wakefield, Mass. – The Hockey East Association announced its 2011-2012 All-Star Teams on Thursday night at the Hockey East Championship banquet at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, Mass.
Hockey East semifinalists Boston College, Boston University and the University of Maine each had three players named among the league’s 2011-12 All-Star teams, led by the league’s top three scorers, all Black Bears.
Maine seniors Spencer Abbott (Hamilton, Ont.) and Brian Flynn (Lynnfield, Mass.) were two of the First Team’s forwards, joined by BC’s Barry Almeida (Springfield, Mass.). Abbott was the lone unanimous selection to the First-Team. Fellow Black Bear Joey Diamond (Long Beach, N.Y) was named to the Second Team, alongside BU’s Chris Connolly (Duluth, Minn.) and BC’s Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.)
The Terriers had two defensemen chosen, First-Teamer Adam Clendening (Wheatfield, N.Y.), along with Second-Teamer Garrett Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.) and Second Team goaltender Doug Carr (Hanover, Mass.) of UMass Lowell were the only three underclassman among all the honorees.
BC blueliner Brian Dumoulin (Biddeford, Maine) was the only repeat selection, following up on his all-star sophomore season with another strong showing as a junior. Merrimack’s Joe Cannata (Wakefield, Mass.) culminated a fine career as the First Team goaltender, while classmate Karl Stollery (Camrose, Alta.) rounded out the selections as a Second Team defenseman.
The Second Team demonstrated a great cross section of the talent across Hockey East, with five of the league’s 10 teams represented. Interestingly, three selections from each team are natives of Massachusetts.
The Hockey East Association is a 10-team Division I college men’s hockey conference founded in 1984 and an eightteam Division I women’s league which began play in 2002-03. The men’s league has won seven NCAA championships in the past 19 years. Since 1999, Hockey East has won five NCAA Championships and have placed 18 teams in the Frozen Four, along with 45 teams in the NCAA Tournament.more
‘Everything I expected and more’
The puck is the same size in the NHL as it is at every other level.
Goalie coach Gilles Meloche passed along that message to Aldergrove’s Brad Thiessen prior to his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.
Thiessen shared that nugget in a media scrum following his 22-save performance in a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Consol Energy Center.
His efforts earned him first star honours.
“It was everything I expected and more,” he told reporters.
“It was a lot of fun to be a part of it and contribute to a win.”
Thiessen was recalled from the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last week after back-up goalie Brent Johnson suffered an injury.
And with the team playing back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, Thiessen figured he might get his first taste of NHL regular season action.
Thiessen’s dad and a cousin were able to make it to Pittsburgh to watch the game, as was his fiance. Thiessen’s brother and his fiance also made the trip.
Any jittery nerves he may have had, were soon gone.
He used his head — literally — to make his first save, as a Derek Mackenzie slapshot deflected off Thiessen’s helmet and out of danger.
“They had a few good chances on their first few shots so just to be able to make those saves helped me get settled and into the game,” he said.
Columbus opened the scoring when captain Rick Nash beat Thiessen on a shorthanded breakaway 9:49 into the second period.
But Pittsburgh tied the game at one on an Evgeni Malkin goal and then scored three times in the third.
“I knew we had some pretty good forwards on this team that we were going to come through and eventually they did,” he said.
The Blue Jackets’ Vinny Prospal scored the final goal of the game.
Thiessen spent three seasons in the BCHL before starring at Northeastern University.
In his junior season, he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, presented to the top collegiate player.
He left school early and signed with the Penguins as a free agent in 2009.
Thiessen has spent the majority of his three pro seasons in the AHL and last year, won the Aldege ‘Baz’ Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s top goaltender and setting franchise records with 35 wins and seven shutouts.
He still returns to Aldergrove in the off-season and trains locally with TnT Hockey Performance Training.
Top prospect Yakupov excels no matter the situation (Larionov)
The closer the calendar gets to the 2012 NHL Draft, the more Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov seems to relish the moment.
Rarely a week goes by when NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated North American skater doesn’t bring fans to their feet with a highlight-reel goal.
Despite missing 22 games this season as a result of injury or participation in the 2012 World Junior Championship, Yakupov became the first Sting player to hit the 30-goal mark last Sunday. He did so in dramatic fashion, scoring his second of the game with 3.7 seconds left after taking a breakaway pass at center ice, splitting two opposing skaters and firing a shot between the goalie’s pads.
“If there’s anybody you want to have the puck with 10 seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, it’s Nail,” Sting coach Jacques Beaulieu told the team’s website. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
While Yakupov certainly enjoys those pressure-packed moments on the ice, he’s also looking forward to having an opportunity to assist his team when it matters most — in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
“The playoffs are important for everyone,” Yakupov told NHL.com. “I never played in the playoffs, so I want to try to see what it’s like for me. Everybody wants to play more and play at a high end. Performing in big games is better for your hockey career.”
Yakupov, who could become the first Russian player selected with the No. 1 pick since Alex Ovechkin in 2004, has eight goals and 10 points in eight games during February. The 5-foot-10, 189-pound right wing is second on the team with 65 points in 37 games. He also leads the team with a plus-19 rating.
“It would be my dream to be the first pick, but the NHL is another life and it’s not draft right now, so I just concentrate on my game,” Yakupov said. “I have a life outside of hockey, too. I have my family, my friends, and this year just happens to be my draft year. I will continue to play my game and have fun, and then we’ll see what happens after the draft.”
Yakupov said he doesn’t have one favorite player in the NHL, but enjoys watching several, including Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.
“In the NHL, everyone is good at something,” Yakupov said. “Somebody has skill, some legs and hands, some hockey sense, there are good fighters, good goalies … everyone is good.”
And what is Yakupov’s specialty?
“My bread is my legs, and I have hands,” he said.
He added he’s always been a huge admirer of former NHL star Pavel Bure, a three-time NHL goal-scoring leader and five-time 50-goal scorer in 12 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers.
Yakupov wears No. 10 in honor of Bure.
“He played hard, worked hard and skated hard,” Yakupov said of Bure. “He scored so many goals.”
Scoring goals is something Yakupov enjoys — he led all first-year players in the OHL last season with 49 goals in 65 games, and his 101 points led all OHL rookies and shattered Steven Stamkos’ team rookie record (92 points in 2006-07).
“I know Steven Stamkos and know how hard he works to do so well,” Yakupov said. “He goes to the net and can skate. I skate against him in the summer when he returns, so I know a little bit about how good he is.”
Yakupov met Stamkos last August at the BioSteel camp, which is run by trainers Matt Nichol and Gary Roberts and held in the Toronto area. They played on opposite teams but bonded over a few similar items — their time in Sarnia and the fact that Yakupov could follow Stamkos as the first pick of an NHL Draft.
An ethnic Tatar, Yakupov was born in the city of Nizhnekamsk, about 500 miles east of Moscow. He was selected second, behind Edmonton Oilers prospect Martin Marincin of the Prince George Cougars, at the 2010 CHL Import draft. After his outstanding debut season with Sarnia, Yakupov played for Russia at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship and had a hat trick in a 6-4 victory against Canada in the bronze-medal game.
Yakupov had nine assists and a plus-4 in seven games to help Russia win a silver medal at the 2012 WJC. However, he suffered a knee injury in the gold-medal game that kept him out three weeks.
While the injury and the final-game loss were tough, Yakupov said the experience he gained at the tournament was important.
“If was the first big tournament of my life,” Yakupov said. “It was a lot of 1992 (birth year) guys and I’m a ’93, so you play with pretty good hockey players.”
IceDogs captain finds comfort zone
ST. CATHARINES – Andrew Agozzino insists his recent points outburst is simply a matter of comfort.
Comfort with his Niagara IceDogs linemates Alex Friesen and Brett Ritchie, that is.
For much of the season, Agozzino lined up with fellow over-agers Friesen and David Pacan. More recently, however, the IceDogs captain has been skating with Friesen, with whom he was drafted in 2007, and power forward Ritchie.
All three have been putting up points, but not quite as many as Agozzino, who has eight points (all assists) in his last three games). He is currently seventh among league scoring leaders with 36 goals and 78 points while playing in all 59 games this season.
“It’s been fun playing with Friesen and Ritchie,” the fifth-year IceDogs player said. “I think we’ve found some real good chemistry and it’s showing.
“We’re real happy with the way we’re playing, but we think we can do a little better.”
Over the same three games, Ritchie has three goals and three assists and Friesen three goals and two assists.
The team captain said the three are always talking, whether it be on the bench or on the ice.
“A lot of communication goes into it. On the bench, we’re always talking about what we see, what we feel will work and we go out there and try to execute what we’ve talked about.”
What everybody feels the IceDogs may be talking about are two dates with the Ottawa 67’s, who are just two points behind Niagara in the race for top spot in the Eastern Conference. The IceDogs travel to the nation’s capital March 9 and the 67’s return the visit March 17 — the IceDogs’ final home game of the regular season.
If that’s the case, the IceDogs captain isn’t saying so.
“It’s definitely something that’s marked on the calendar, but every time we’re playing, they’re playing as well. So we know they’re probably going to get two points and we have to keep pace and elevate our game so they need to catch us.
“You don’t want to look too far ahead to those games — you want them to mean something when you get there.”
Lane MacDermid awaits NHL debut
Fluto Shinzawa, Globe Staff
Lane MacDermid will make his NHL debut against the Rangers. MacDermid got the call from assistant GM Don Sweeney on Saturday after waking up from his pregame nap before Providence’s game. MacDermid will wear No. 64.
MacDermid is a hard-nosed wing who isn’t afraid to fight. Tough to imagine, however, that MacDermid will square off against John Scott.
MacDermid should replace Daniel Paille on the fourth line. No word on the nature of Paille’s injury.
MacDermid’s parents and girlfriend will be in attendance. His family was visiting MacDermid in Providence. They traveled to New York by train.
Erie Otters forced to put forward in net, lose 13-4 to Niagara IceDogs
The Canadian Press
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – It was a game Connor Crisp will never forget. After allowing 13 goals on 46 shots for the Erie Otters on Sunday, he was named the first star.
The 17-year-old centre was never supposed to play net, but he got pressed into action as an emergency replacement when starting goalie Ramis Sadikov was injured in the opening minutes of a 13-4 victory by the Niagara IceDogs.
“Well, I’m a road hockey goalie, ball hockey goalie, but that’s the first time I’ve put on goalie equipment and played on ice since I was five years old,” said Crisp.
The Otters dressed only one goaltender after backup Devin Williams suffered a head injury earlier this weekend in a game against Saginaw. Sadikov was knocked out just 1:45 into Sunday’s game after a collision with IceDogs forward Alex Friesen, who received a five-minute major for charging and a game-misconduct on the play.
With no backup on the bench the Otters had a choice — dress a player for the rest of the game, or forfeit.
Enter Crisp, who hadn’t played in a single game this season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He had been designated as the backup goalie prior to the game, but said “not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be playing today.”
Following a 20-minute delay while he donned goaltender equipment, Crisp stepped onto the ice and almost slipped, then fell while taking warmup shots — much to the appreciation of the Niagara fans.
“My feet are still cramped, I can hardly walk right now,” said Crisp. “Rammer’s skates were three times too small and not wide enough, that’s probably why I couldn’t skate.”
The fans’ admiration would soon grow.
Crisp made six saves in the first period, 12 in the second and 14 more in the third period, which culminated with a standing ovation from the crowd and first star honours.
“It was appreciated so much — beyond words,” he said. “Honestly, it was embarrassing to let some of those goals in, but I think the IceDogs fans knew. I can’t say enough about how fun and classy that was today.”
Ryan Strome led the Niagara (42-17-3) attack with five goals and one assist, while Freddie Hamilton had one goal and five assists. Jesse Graham, Tom Kuhnhackl and Dougie Hamilton all added three assists in the win.
Stephan Harper and Sondre Olden both had one goal and two assists each for Erie (10-46-6). Jake Evan and Luke Cairns had the other Otters goals.
Former Otters goalie Chris Festarini made 36 stops to pick up the win for Niagara.
But it was the losing goalie who fans will remember. Crisp didn’t have any family at the rink, but he said they knew what was happening.
“As soon I got on the bus I called my parents and as soon as they picked up the phone they were laughing.
“It’s definitely something I will never forget.”more