Saturday, December 5, 2009

Funny images

Last night I was waiting for the Caps prospect Jake Hauswirth to finish showering after the South Carolina Stingrays game, and was confronted with a very funny sight: Nikita Kashirsky in a giant foam cowboy hat. He turned right in front of me. "Nice hat," I said.

I asked around and found out this monstrosity gets passed around the Stingrays locker room as a reward for good play. I chuckle about what coach Cail MacLean said about the hat tradition: "I think it's sort of on the down low." Something that big and that funny won't stay on the down low long.

Kashirsky had scored the game winner that night, which was worthy of the hat. But since he's also a rookie, he had to carry bags to the bus. In the hat. Sadly I did not have my camera while he was doing this.

Here's a link to an ad for the hat. The Stingrays one looks just like this, but with yellow trim and numbers scribbled on the front brim. For more of MacLean's comments, read my HF article on the ECHL prospects.

And here are a couple of other funny sites from yesterday.

Jake Hauswirth projectile spitting.


Trevor Bruess with an uncontrollable tongue.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Potluck

Typically when I interview people, I know basically how I'm going to use the information, and I follow through and use it that way. That didn't happen with my latest article, an installment of Off the Radar. I was trying to find an ECHL rookie worthy of a full feature, but was not enamored enough with any of them to feature them alone. So I decided to just write a bit about all three. Prospect potluck I guess.

I think Mike Berube has the best chance of the three though. He's got so much going for him, with just a small skating issue. If he really keys on that, with some help he can fix it.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Finley possessed

I couldn't talk to Joe Finley last night because I was busy filling in for the paper, but I took some photos at warmups. Several came out with just white in his eyes. I've never seen anyone blink this way on film. Kind of creepy.




He played well though. Quite a good skater for his size and he's hard to get around. Accurate shot from the point. I'll probably talk to him in a few weeks.
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

How you know when your team has sold out

This.


The Kalamazoo Wings, in warm-ups. The helmet stickers went all game.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

NHL prospects in the ECHL for 2009-10

Just finished my yearly "prospects to watch" in the ECHL for HF. It's a lot more work than it looks like. Not all the NHL prospects are mentioned, just the best ones -- the ones who will be there half a year and move up, not the guys who are just playing out the string.

The ECHL teams range from nine NHL-contracted prospects (Bakersfield) to none (Johnstown). Here's the full list, near as I could come up with. You can't use transaction logs because those are often misleading.

Alaska (STL): T.J. Fast, Ryan Turek, Anthony Peluso, Tomas Kana
Bakersfield (ANA): Maxime Macenauer, MacGregor Sharp, John de Gray, Stu Bickel, Timo Pielmeier, Justin Pogge, Bobby Bolt, Logan MacMillan, Shawn Weller.
Charlotte (NYR): Ryan Hillier, Chris Chappell. None from Colorado.
Cincinnati (NAS): Jeremy Smith. None from Montreal.
Elmira (OTT): Michael-Lee Teslak, from Philly
Florida (CAR): Rob Hennigar. None from the Panthers
Gwinnett (ATL): Chad Denny, Michael Forney. None from Columbus
Idaho (DAL): Guillame Monast, Michael Neal, Richard Bachman
Kalamazoo (PHI): Jeremy Duchesne. None from San Jose
Las Vegas (PHO): Nick Ross, Matt Watkins, Joe Gistedt
Ontario (LA): Dwight King
Reading (TOR and BOS): Kevin Regan and Stefano Giliati
South Carolina (WAS): Braden Holtby, Joe Finley, Josh Godfrey
Stockton (EDM): Jordan Bendfeld, Bryan Pitton
Toledo (CHI and DET): Alec Richards, Jordan Pearce, J.C. Sawyer
Trenton (NJ): Myles Stoesz
Utah Grizzlies (NYI): J.D. Watt (CAL)
Victoria (VAN): Dan Gendur
Wheeling (PIT): Alex Grant, Joey Haddad, Casey Pierro-Zabotel
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Head injuries, football and dogfighting

This is probably the only football-related story I've read all year, and it's a good one. It compares football and dogfighting, for their destructiveness to the participant. It's by Malcolm Gladwell, one of today's best thinkers and writers.

From The New Yorker:

Much of the attention in the football world, in the past few years, has been on concussions—on diagnosing, managing, and preventing them—and on figuring out how many concussions a player can have before he should call it quits. But a football player’s real issue isn’t simply with repetitive concussive trauma. It is, as the concussion specialist Robert Cantu argues, with repetitive subconcussive trauma. It’s not just the handful of big hits that matter. It’s lots of little hits, too.

There is nothing else to be done, not so long as fans stand and cheer. We are in love with football players, with their courage and grit, and nothing else—neither considerations of science nor those of morality—can compete with the destructive power of that love.

Hockey is of course much more of a skill game than football. But it does raise the specter of head injuries and the responsibility of the league and the fans to spare the players.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Takeaways from Traverse City tournament 2009

Now that I've been back home for a few days, I have some perspective on the real takeaways from the 2009 Traverse City tournament.

First, four games each day is a lot of hockey. On the last day, an elder statesman scout sat down next to me and said "I'll just write down what you write down." I felt his pain. But if you want to see a lot of hockey in a short time, this is the place to go. And lots of scouts from other teams were there, so it's obviously meaningful hockey.

The stands were about 30% scouts, 50% parents and other family, and then miscellaneous, including agents. Not many simple fans. Not a lot of media either, except around the Red Wings. But the media who were there seemed to pick out their article topics before the tournament started, making for material that didn't seem to fit right.

There are no good camera angles in either rink. The one spot that isn't behind white netting cannot see the near boards. So I had to edit when the play reached the near boards. The video didn't work out as well as hoped. Better than nothing though I suppose.

I came away with an even lower opinion of agents, which seemed impossible. I stood next to a rather well-known one by the glass during warm-ups and he was trash-talking another agent and his recruits. Sports would be better without agents.

The Granato brothers take after their dad in their looks.

The Dallas Stars organization is not what I would call "serious." I used to think that Les Jackson must have been the heavy to balance out Brett Hull, but know better now. Joe Niewendyk seems to carry his new role well though.

The Wild dressing room was the best to hang out around, very friendly. Carolina was good too.

Players: Zach Boychuk should play in the NHL this year. It will be a shame, and a waste of money on an unnecessary vet, if he doesn't. I was also impressed by Evgeny Grachev, though more in potential than actual play. He's a horse. Matt Calvert certainly put himself on the radar. I had already interviewed him before he started scoring, which was great.

Ivan Vishnevskiy was a disappointment, and not just to me, I heard other people saying that too.

Tyler Beskorowany is a hoot to talk to, and Darcy Kuemper is very happy-go-lucky.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Predators hire Niagara goalie coach Ben Vanderklok

Ben Vanderklok will take over Mike Valley's duties with the Predators minor-league affiliates. Valley, who was recently hired by the Dallas Stars, had worked closely with Predators goalie coach Mitch Korn. Korn told me today that he got Vanderklok to replace Valley. Vanderklok had been Jeremy Smith's goalie coach in Niagara, and Korn had been impressed with his reports. He hired Vanderklok first to help with one of his summer camps in Buffalo as a get-to-know-you exercise, thinking that he might need him in a year. But Valley ended up getting picked up this summer.

Vanderklok will commute to Milwaukee 10 days a month, and Cincinnati five days a month. Korn will overlap in these cities as well. (Vanderklok's actual contract might be with Milwaukee, it's not clear, but in any case this is a Korn hire.)

Here's the only shot I have of him from today:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Handicapping the 2009 Traverse City tournament rosters

We're less than two weeks away from the start of the 2009 Traverse City Prospects Tournament, and it's time to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land. Typically the team who wins is the one who brings the most experienced roster -- that is to say the most guys who have played some pro hockey. That team this year is the Detroit Red Wings, the host team. They have five players who spent all of last year in the AHL. Put that together with good goaltending tandem in the form of Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce, and you have a winner. Note that it is important to have two good goaltenders for this tournament rather than one, as they usually take turns -- there's no reason to overuse a goaltender and pull a groin so early in the season.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were barely able to scrape together a roster. Only eight of their players are owned by the organization, and that's after flying in two Europeans! The rest were invitees, including both goaltenders. The only big name on the roster is John Moore.

Minnesota, similarly, has only nine players it owns. But, they are spread out a bit better among the positions and both goaltenders, Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper, are Minnesota property. They should be in slightly better shape.

The best roster from a pure prospects perspective is probably Carolina's. Between Zach Boychuk, Jamie McBain, and Mike Murphy, there's a lot of future NHLers there. And even one current one -- Brandon Sutter, who played 50 NHL games last year. He's one of five players with pro experience. That plus the talent level make Carolina a favorite as a new entrant, taking over Tampa's spot.

The St. Louis Blues also have some well-regarded prospects on their roster, including probably the highest of them all, Alex Pietrangelo. With Jake Allen, Brett Sonne, and new second rounder Brett Ponich, this will be a team to check out. They have three players who spent most of the season in the pros, although just one of them was in the AHL. Overall this is a young team.

The Thrashers entry is also very young, with six players having been drafted in 2009. Only five defensemen are listed so far, and there are pro spots still available, since only two have been filled with invitees out of the IHL and CHL. Another strong pro addition to the blue line would tip this entry strongly in one direction.

Defending tournament champion
Dallas boasts a good goaltending tandem with Richard Backman and Tyler Beskorowany, and some bigger names in Scott Glennie and Ivan Vishnevskiy. It's apparent how far the pendulum has swung away from Europeans in that organization, as not one player drafted out of Europe appears on the roster (though three are originally from there). Three of the players were in the ECHL last season, and one -- Vishnevskiy -- played in the AHL.

Last but not least is the NY Rangers. They have compentent goaltending in Scott Stajcer and Chad Johnson. Two of their forwards and no defensemen played pro last year. This is probably not going to be their year again though.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Up and coming goalie coach: Nick Petraglia of Miami

This summer I attended Mitch Korn's goaltending camp because I was working on a feature on the Predators coach. I learned a lot while doing it, but the highlight for me intellectually was an off-ice session taught by Nick Petraglia, who is a coach and director of hockey operations at Miami University and also does some coaching for USA hockey. He had done research to determine the best way to position your goaltending glove, and it's not the way most goalies do it. Between these kinds of insights, learning from one of the best in Mitch Korn, and Petraglia's team attitude, I wouldn't be surprised if an NHL team picked him up in the next few years. And not just to coach goalies, he's got the right background to go far in any front office position. He played for Andy Murray at Shattuck, so he knows some of the right people. Here's his full bio from the Miami website.


Nick Petraglia at Korn camp in Nashville in 2009.

Side note: I've created a Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/HollyGunning. I'll post mostly when I travel.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hockey's Future will cover the 2009 Traverse City Tournament

A lot of people are looking around for information on the upcoming Traverse City Prospects Tournament. There is generally very little coverage of this tournament. Hockey's Future will be there, and have daily updates on every game. Follow on Twitter for in-game score updates.

Last year, NHL Network showed some of the games on tape delay, but there has been no indication of the same this year. With all the issues on the NHL's plate, taking on the expense of doing that just doesn't seem likely.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Page turns on another year in hockey

We're going through our once a year age purge right now at Hockey's Future. I've been going through every page, player by player, weeding out the guys who no longer meet the criteria due to age. August 15th is our cutoff date because it's at a time that won't interfere with anything else and is in the middle of a Top 20 rerank. There's always mixed feelings when weeding, as I bump into guys I've met along the way. Some should have made it but didn't. Some were good people, but ultimately lacked the talent.

One guy it felt right to delete was Josh Hennessy. It seems like he's been kicking around forever. He's been ranked for like six years and I'm tired of seeing his name. Time to finally say goodbye. It doesn't look like he'll make it.

Later this week (Aug. 15) is the signing deadline for college guys and we'll say goodbye to a few more.

Meanwhile, I'm already preparing for a fall trip. Starting my research and making a notebook to take along. I can smell the ice if I close my eyes.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Turnover in goalie coaches

Hey look, I wrote something! Seems like a long time in between both articles and posting, but I've been busy doing Top 20 ranks for about four different teams and took a little vacation in there too. Tonight I finished something on all the goalie firings/hirings this summer.

The Panthers and Avalanche still have openings. It would seem reasonable that Melanson, Hackett, and Marcoux would be candidates. But then again, jobs don't seem to go to the obvious people. And a lot seems to be who you know.

I do think goaltending coaching is far more important than people realize. Which is why I'll be writing more about this in a few weeks.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Portland Winterhawks are now one word in case you missed it

Every so often teams adjust their names for no apparent reason. It happened again in May. I missed it then because I was focused on the entry draft.

The WHL Portland Winter Hawks became the Portland Winterhawks. They now join the Chicago Blackhawks, but not the the USHL Waterloo Black Hawks, on the one-word bandwagon. Copy editors around the world rejoice.

Here's their trying-hard-to-be-cute press release about it.
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Photos from Nashville conditioning camp

Here's a photo gallery from Saturday's session of Nashville Predators conditioning camp. I've already put up a Q&A with Roman Josi and Chet Pickard at HF. I will have another with Nick Oliver coming. I really enjoyed talking to Pickard. And he's very even keel, which you want in a goalie.

Funny story. I was looking for Nick Oliver in the locker room afterwards, and couldn't find him. The PR guy pointed him out. I went over Oliver, who was visually heckling Blake Geoffrion during an on-camera interview. I tapped Oliver on the arm and his face was the look of someone caught red-handed. Guilty! Then he proceeded to talk my ear off. The kid is not shy.

Taylor Stefishen. When I went up to see Ohio State last November he was out of the lineup with mono so it was good to see him out there this time.

Charles-Oliver Roussel. He was the only defenseman who came out as a shooter for the goalie ice work. That's telling. Hopefully he got some sun before leaving the south.

Cameron Reid.

Jani Lajunen reacts to a puck going out over the glass. Patrick Wellman looks like John Cusack.

Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert.

Lambert at the board.

Taylor Beck and Ryan Ellis are towards the front of this group shot.


Bruce Lauer, assistant coach of the Admirals, helped out during the goalie session.

Mitch Korn poses with Chet Pickard, Anders Lindback and Jeremy Smith. Atte Engren didn't skate in the afternoon due to a groin pull. He toughed it through the morning but was held out later.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Worthwhile prospect free agents

There are a few names among the non-tendered RFA's that are worthwhile.

1. Travis Morin -- Washington was so deep at center through its system that Morin never got much of a chance at the AHL level and just kept racking up the points in the ECHL. It was a tragedy to see. Some AHL or NHL team will snatch him up this summer. Very good locker room guy.

2. Peter Mannino -- let go after one year with the Islanders mostly at the AHL level. He was a star at DU. Worth another look.

3. Lukas Kaspar, Taylor Dakers -- I don't know these prospects much, but San Jose cleaned house this summer and may be throwing some babies out with the bathwater.
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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Plagiarism rampant even by pros

There are a few things that are key to a civilized society. One of them is property law. It lets us be secure enough about our stuff to leave it behind while we do other things like drive to work, go on vacation, etc.

There's a parallel with intellectual property. Written things have a name attached, which lets us put the words out there, knowing they will remain ours.

That is until people copy, paste, and use them as their own.

This happens on message boards, which gets posters warnings and edits. Some of them just didn't know the rules. OK, they're learning.

But this draft season, my work for Hockey's Future was plagiarized by an NHL team and a Canadian Junior league team -- one of them in a press release! Putting it in a press release means they disseminated the information to other outlets to use (and of course they did, multiplying the problem). It's truly unbelievable that this would happen. Non-print media get a lot of crap thrown at them, but who's the professional here?

It's stuff like this that will eventually make me stop writing. Will it make others stop too?

At the very least, we'll call in the chits that these two teams owe us this year. But that won't make up for it.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Reflections on the 2009 draft

Going into this draft, I knew more about the prospects than ever before, having covered both the U18 championships, seen a couple 2009-dense OHL games, plus asking any player I talked to about guys they knew who were eligible. In all, I had seen maybe a third of those likely to be taken and written features on a dozen.

The night before the draft, I added about 5-6 profiles to HF of guys who were late risers, sleepers, etc. I added Ben Sexton, for example. I seem to do this every year, out of paranoia that critical guys won't be there. I thought about adding goalie Jaroslav Janus, but I had seen him play in Erie and did not like him at all so even though I thought someone would take a chance on him due to his WJC performance, I just couldn't bring myself to add him. He was eventually taken by Tampa.

After the first round, the draft seemed like chaos. There were a lot of teams who made reaches for guys who weren't really on the radar for the major scouting services. And there didn't seem to be a lot of justice in the picks. Fighters were taken above skill guys. Bloodlines had guys going above where their skill level warranted too, like Philip Samuelsson.

Of the 12 draft-eligibles I had written features on, 10 were drafted, seven of them in the first two rounds. It was satisfying to see them valued highly, but they didn't seem to go to the teams that would be the best fit for them, except perhaps with Ryan O'Reilly going to Colorado, who will need young leadership and that's something he can bring. Simon Bertilsson to Philly seems like a good fit as long as they don't expect him to talk much. The others led to a lot of head scratching.

Now we get to know the players better, and the second most important year begins for them. We will learn more about who had a good 2009 draft and a bad 2009 draft in the next season than over the next four combined, since players change the most at younger ages.
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Combine invitations no guarantee of selection

106 prospects were invited to the NHL combine this year, ahead of a 210-player draft. Eight of the players invited to the combine were not selected:

Anton Burdasov
Burke Gallimore
Gabriel Lemieux
Cassidy Mappin
Danny Mattson
David Valek
Alex Vazzano
Brennan Yadlowski

I saw just one of them play this year, David Valek (USNTDP), and I wasn't impressed by him, so the fact that he wasn't drafted seemed justified. Mappin is widely thought to be talented but not very hard-working.

There were a few guys who went very high and didn't go to the combine:
31 Mikko Koskinen
35 Kyle Clifford
56 Kevin Lynch
62 Anders Nilsson
64 Reilly Smith
76 Igor Bobkov

When the combine list came out, I wrote on it "No Lynch!" so obviously that one was surprising at the time. A couple others are explainable: Koskinen is an overager and I believe came to the combine last year or the year before. Bobkov was drafted largely on the strength of his performance in the U18 tournament, which was going on at the same time the invite list came out. Clifford I guess teams were trying to keep quiet on him.

The takeaway is that the combine list is a generally good predictor of who the top prospects are, but isn't foolproof.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2009s who may be overrated due to birthdate

The cutoff date for each draft class is Sept. 15 -- you must be 18 by this date in a given draft year to be eligible. Players born in late September and October have an advantage of being almost a full year older than some of their cohort. They are naturally further ahead in development and are often unintentionally overrated.

Here's a list of early birthdates for 2009, the potentially overrated in the 2009 draft class:
John Tavares 9/20/1990. Yes, that John Tavares.
Stepan Novotny 9/21/1990
Gabriel Bourque 9/23/1990
Dan DeLisle 9/24/1990
Jordan Schroeder 9/29/1990
Alex Chiasson 10/1/1990
Mike Lee 10/5/1990
Nazem Kadri 10/6/1990
David Rundblad 10/8/1990
Seth Helgeson 10/8/1990
Jakob Silfvrberg 10/13/1990
Matt Clark 10/17/1990
Ben Hanowski 10/18/1990
Dmitri Kulikov 10/29/1990
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2009s who may be underrated due to birthdate

The cutoff date for each draft class is Sept. 15 -- you must be 18 by this date in a given draft year to be eligible. Since the draft is held in June though, there are several players taken who are still 17 when taken. They will turn 18 in July, August or early September. These players are almost a full year behind some of their cohort. They are naturally further behind in development and are often unintentionally underrated.

Here's a list of late birthdates for 2009, the potentially underrated in the 2009 draft class:
Charles-Olivier Roussel 9/13/1991
Bryan Dumoulin 9/6/1991
Marek Hrivik 8/28/1991
Brayden Schenn 8/22/1991
Marcus Foligno 8/10/1991
Landon Ferraro 8/8/1991
Evander Kane 8/2/1991
Chris McCarthy 7/30/1991
Simon Despres 7/27/1991
Tyson Barrie 7/26/1991
Dmitri Orlov 7/23/1991
Oliver Ekman-Larsson 7/17/1991
Linden Vey 7/17/1991
Nate Schmidt 7/16/1991
Rasmus Rissanen 7/13/1991
Adam Polasek 7/12/1991 (a personal favorite)
Oliver Bellavance-Roy 7/12/1991
Kenny Ryan 7/10/1991
Ryan Howse 7/6/1991
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Who will be Mr. Irrelevant in the 2009 NHL draft?

"Mr. Irrelevant" is not a tag dreamed up just for the NHL draft. It comes from some other sport, baseball probably. A sport whose draft is more predictable. Hockey drafts are not predictable though. The guy taken 210th can turn out to be a regular player - very relevant. Nevertheless, a fun little game among draftniks is to try to guess who will be the last player taken without going over (into the untaken).

Last year I won among the HF Staff with a pick of Mark Olver, 140th to Colorado out of NMU. That's not terribly close to the end of the draft, but it won because most of the guesses were so obscure that they weren't taken at all.

This year I'm going with Roman Horak out of the Czech Junior league. Talented but lazy, he's good enough that someone will take a flyer, but not put too much on the line. I personally don't like this player much, but I'm trying to win here, not pick favorites. I think a European is generally a better strategy in this game since they tend to go later in the draft.

Here are some other staff guesses. Most of them picked from leagues they know well.
Oleg Yashin from Atlant-2 Mystichi (Rus) - Mike Farkas
Benjamin Casavant, PEI Rocket, QMJHL - Kevin Forbes
Chase Schaber - Calgary, WHL - Glen Erickson
Casey Cizikas - Mississauga OHL - Leslie Treff
Beau Schmitz - Plymouth, OHL - Kyle Kujawa

By all means, add your own guess in the comments.
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Off to camp this weekend

It's the time of year for hockey camps. I'm headed to one out of town for a story I'm going to do. I'll be observing all day from the bench at a youth camp. It's not the players I'm concerned with -- I'm writing about the guy running it. I want to see him in action to see what he does that's so special. He's worked miracles at the NHL level.

Ideally I'd go see him in August, when there's not much else going on, but this is when the camp is closest to me, so I have to go now. It should be fun though. I just hope we have time for the bizillion questions I have.
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Friday, May 22, 2009

Wading through entry draft preparations

I'm knee-deep in draft-related stuff now. The HF servers got moved today, far enough in advance of the draft that I hope this means that we'll be able to handle the enormous spike in traffic on draft weekend. I think so.

I'm getting much closer to finishing the features I'm writing on draft-eligibles. I have only Rajala and Bertilsson left. I'm very close to finishing Rajala and then Bertilsson will be tough because of his lack of English. It will probably be mostly his coach talking.

A few years ago when I had covered the draft, but no players leading up to it, I came away with the impression that 18-year-olds have much less to say than other players because they just haven't has as many experiences to put things in perspective. But I found working on them this year more interesting than I had anticipated. The biggest drawback was having to deal with parents. That's not fun. Luckily it's not often.

I found out that it's a myth that all Swedes speak English. They understand English, but they can't all respond.

Another thing I came away with was that there's much less consensus about where someone should or will be taken than fans like to think. Opinions vary widely on guys. Who's to say who's right at this point. We won't know for a few years.

Oh and the combine is critical. It's not until then that teams really decide who they are going to take with their picks. So to me it's pretty worthless to do a mock draft until after the combine, after some scuttlebutt actually comes out. Looking forward to that happening next week!
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

South Carolina Stingrays on to conference finals

The South Carolina Stingrays took down the Florida Everblades in the ECHL South Division finals tonight. I picked them in preseason, and they came through, despite a ton of roster changes. No reason they can't beat Cincinnati in the conference finals as well. Goaltending wins championships, and the Stingrays have it with James Reimer. I hope they win another series so I can goto the Kelly Cup Finals again this year. Last year I went to Cincinnati for them, and that was an enjoyable little trip. I'm rooting for an Alaska Aces/Stingrays final, one that doesn't interfere with another hockey trip I am doing in early June.
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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ekman-Larsson story done

Whew. This one was a tad difficult, because I didn't get much out of the player himself. When I introduced myself, OEL said his English wasn't very good, and almost got a translator to help. I wish now that he would have. Thank god for Kevin Doell, who I contacted later. He helped out a ton. Doeller went above and beyond what was asked of him, as is his usual.

Here's a link to the finished OEL story. And here are the ones on Robin Lehner, Adam Polasek, Erik Haula, and John Henrion as well. I still have a few more coming.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

The internet is cool

I just Facebooked someone in Sweden I needed to finish a story, and they wrote me back within five minutes. All of this while sitting out on the patio at Panera Bread, enjoying the lovely spring weather. Some days I can't believe they pay me for this.

Well, then there's those days where I'm stuck inside transcribing for hours, or fixing up some poorly-written copy. That's not fun. But today is.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Bobkov likes the Blue Jackets, or just a hat?

I was going through some photos from the U18s and came across one of Russian goalie Igor Bobkov in a Columbus Blue Jackets hat. This was the game against Norway where he backed up.

So the question is, does he like the team, or just the logo? And does his affection for the Blue Jackets make it more likely that they would draft him this June? Is he hinting to scouts that he would like to go to the team, or just a Filatov fan? Often the big question for Russians isn't their skill but their desire to play in the NHL. This couldn't be a bad sign.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Notebook cleanout from the U18s

Most of the information I gathered at the U18s went straight into prospects' profiles and feature stories at HF. That process is still going on. But here's a few leftovers.

  • I think Nashville will try to take Ryan O'Reilly. They already have his brother Cal and I was chatting with a scout in the stands and when I said I was originally from Erie, he brought up O'Reilly and said how much he liked him. I later found out he worked for Nashville.
  • Jerry D'Amigo put up a lot of points. But I kept thinking "all he can do is score goals." While that sounds great, being one-dimensional doesn't get you to the NHL.
  • Adam Murray made some big motions in net for the USA, like a windmill and a couple statues of liberty. Good goalies make the hard saves look easy by being in position for them to hit in the stomach. But what he was doing was making normal saves look hard. I see why he is ranked so low.
  • Team USA captain William Wrenn had the misfortune of being paired with Nick Mattson, who was not impressive. I wanted to see Wrenn separately.
  • David Valek (USA) was invisible. I looked for him a few times, just to fill something in for him, and still had nothing to say.
  • Simon Bertilsson looks a lot like Jimmy Slater in the face. And they are both poor interviews, but for different reasons. Bertilsson only speaks Swedish. Slater only speaks cliche.
  • Russian warmups was pure chaos. There didn't seem to be much of a plan, and by the end it deteriorated into individuals roaming on their own, doing trick shots. You can see a lot of a people's culture in their warmup I think.
  • Tarasenko, 2010-eligible, really likes attention. Really really likes attention. Not only does he talk when the questions aren't posed to him, he saw me with a camera and was posing. Much like Angelo Esposito has done in the past.
  • Czech Roman Horak has talent, but he's a hot dog who only skates hard when he has the puck. He stood around most of the warmup. I got a photo of him scratching his backside in warmup and that kind of epitomized things.
  • If Sweden had had a little better goaltending, things might have been different. It was the weakest position on a top-notch squad. Using their skill instead of their force would have played more to their advantage as well.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Comments on Central Scouting's final ranks for 2009

I've seen more of the draft-eligible prospects this year than ever before, so I actually have opinions about Central Scouting's list. In general, I like the final list much better than the mid-terms, though there were some guys who fell who maybe shouldn't have.

The North American skaters list thins out at about No. 100. I noticed that they added a few NCAA players who were eligible last year.

OHL
Peter Holland fell from 9 to 19, but he probably should have fallen farther. They had him way overrated before, and have only corrected it part way. Ethan Werek is kind of an awkward skater to be listed at No. 32. Bjorn Krupp at 108 (down from 88) is probably still too high given his skill level.

WHL
Landon Ferraro at 18 seems high. Cass Mappin fell from 27 to 73, but I think his rank was better before, at least based on what James Reimer told me. Tommi Kivisto took a plunge from 46 to 119 but that seems extreme given his attributes. Unless there is a character issue, he's too low now.

QMJHL
Michal Hlinka at 90 (previously 39) is too low. He was one of the best players for the Czechs at the U18s.

USNTDP
Morin and Shore seem overrated on not just Central Scouting's lists, but everyone's. They are 33 and 28 on the CS final, but they just aren't that far ahead of their teammates. On the other hand, Kevin Lynch at 100 seems low. He has good offensive skills and really stood out at the U18s.

Europe
Ekman Larsson is the fourth-rated European skater by CS, but he'll probably be taken as the second. He impressed me more than Paajarvi and Josefson at the U18s as well. I'll have a story done on him soon.

The European skaters list really thins out at about No. 50. And the European goaltenders list is thin, period. I saw a lot of goalies I wouldn't take, like Conz, Holly, Mazanec. But Russian Igor Bobkov did himself a lot of favors at the U18s (if you throw out the first game against Finland), and it would not shock me if he was the first European goalie taken.
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Scouts at work at the U18s

Scouts outnumbered fans at many of the U18 World Championship games. All 30 NHL teams were there, along with many of the CHL teams, who have an import draft coming up in a couple months. I saw the Rimouski Oceanic and Portland Winterhawks for example.

Here's some photos of scouts in their natural habitat. If anyone knows what teams they are from, let me know.

There's a lot of looking for not much writing down.

Bob Owen of the Thrashers turns back to talk to guys from another team behind him. Norman Poisson, who scouts the Q for Atlanta, is next to him.

A familiar sight: scouts huddle up between periods. One team had a pizza delivered between periods. That's smart use of the cell phone.

Some smiles on faces, a rare sight. Scouts are a dour bunch. The lifestyle is not at all appealing either. Constant travel, cold arenas. I like seeing some of the top guys, but one or two trips a year is plenty for me.

Most of them stuck around to watch the USHL playoff game between the Fargo Force and Omaha Lancers. I'm sure all of the players were aware that they were being heavily scouted.

This group was so interested in a Russian that they attended a Team Russia practice, as did another NHL team.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Team USA's extra white stripe at the U18's

The whole purpose of the US National Team Development Program is to build a team that can represent the US in international tournaments. So it comes as no surprise that virtually all the US players at the U18 and U20 championships have gone through the program. That said, right now there's a few players on the regular-season U18 team that didn't make the cut for the U18 championships (some U17 players went instead). Forward John Henrion told me that the players who are there are remembering those who aren't by putting and extra white stripe of tape on their right legs.


Above, Kevin Lynch prepares to take a faceoff.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Photos from the U18s in Fargo/Moorhead

A few photos from the U18 Championships. These are roughly in chronological order.

Team Czech Republic. At the top of the stands you can see all the NHL scouts in black.

Filip Gunnarson (SWE)
Sweden during warmups.

Sweden during a game.

USA goaltender Adam Murray checks out the Finns.

Finnish captain Sami Vatanen gets into a scuffle against USA. I mentioned it to a Finnish official later and he said he didn't see it. Uh-huh.

Team USA celebrates victory over Finland.

USA and Finland during the anthem at the Urban Plains Center.

Vladimir Tarasenko chats up some girls in the stands during the USHL game that followed theirs.

Team Sweden watching the USHL game. Bertilsson and Ekman-Larsson are sitting together in the top row.

Russian goalie Emil Garipov.

Nikita Dvurechensky and Sergei Chvanov.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Adventures in interviewing at the U18s

I had what had to be the most challenging day of interviewing ever today. I'm at the U18 World Championships and interviewed three Europeans with low levels of English ability. Some interviewees are so easy that you just give them a topic and they do a monologue. Brett Sterling is this way. Not today. Today was painstaking.

Typically Swedes and Germans speak good English, however, I managed to pick out some that barely did. Then the Czech I talked to came out with a teammate as an interpreter, which is usually kind of awkward but the teammate was very easy-going, while at the same time doing a good job, so we three had a fine time. That one was actually the most successful by any measure.

Here's a ranking of the English skills of players/coaches I've talked to at the tournament, from best to worse:
Erik Haula (FIN) - so good he could pass for a native, mannerisms and all.
Coach Stephan Lundh (SWE) - searched for just a few words
Robin Lehner (SWE) - about the level of most Europeans who play in the NHL in that he can express his thoughts and just gets a few grammatical things wrong.
Mikael Granlund (FIN) - his English was surprisingly good
Tomas Rachunek (CZE) - he played in NA last year so he can say everything he wants to. Not an outgoing person though.
Kirill Kabanov (RUS) -- he tried to say somewhat complex things, but I had to ask for clarification a couple times.
Thomas Brandt (GER) - conversational, but not in a complex way.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (SWE) - warned that his English wasn't good. He almost got a translator.
Finnish coach Mika Marttila -- hard to tell because while he understood some things, he used interpreter to respond.
Toni Rajala (FIN) - answered some questions himself, some via teammate Haula.
Vladimir Tarasenko (RUS) - like Rajala, answered some himself, some via Kabanov.
Simon Bertilsson (SWE) - struggled to give more than 3-4 word answers. We needed an interpreter, but didn't have one.
Adam Polasek (CZE) - full-on interpreter (Robin Soudek).

And here's a photo of the Finns tossing a football around in the parking lot. Erik Haula's dad used to coach football, he told me. Interesting.
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A strange first day at the Under 18s

I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the Under-18 World Championships. I'm not ready to talk about particular players yet, but here are a few observations.

1. Everyone loves beating the Russians. The Swedish coaches in the stands nearby actually applauded when the Finns took the lead over Russia. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, apparently. There was quite a big celebratory noise coming out of the Finnish locker room after the game as well. When I told two Finnish players that the Swedes clapped for their goal, they looked at each other with a sort of befuddlement. How bizarre indeed.
2. The Finnish team looks very small compared to the Russians. They have skill to make up for it.
3. The Finnish coach used an interpreter, probably to make sure his meaning was precise. I was surprised he wasn't comfortable in English though, virtually all European coaches are.
4. I found the Swedish coach in the stands and talked to him about a particular player. Very nice man.
5. There was virtually no press at the rink we were at (the secondary one). It was quite bizarre to be at a very important tournament and have to be the lead question-asker towards a coach. Shouldn't someone else, someone writing a game story, be doing this? But on the other hand, I could get any player I wanted and no time limit. That was good. So far it has sort of a high school tournament feel to it -- well, if there weren't so many scouts here.
6. I'd say there were about 100 NHL scouts, virtually all dressed in black, on the top ring on all four sides. I think they might have outnumbered the fans.
7. Several guys are listed on the roster as 5'12. Hmm. That makes me wonder what how tall the guys who are 6'0 are. Maybe I should use the centimeters and convert on my own.
8. The rink was freezing, an 'I had long underwear but I still need gloves' kind of cold. I thought it wouldn't feel cold outside after so many hours in the cold rink, but I was wrong. The windchill out there is brutal.
9. Erik Haula's English is so good, you would think he was native. Amazing. You want to blurt out 'are you really Finnish?' but then he talks to someone else in Finnish and, well, nevermind.
10. This place really is just like the movie Fargo. Stopped and asked someone directions today, and they didn't know how to get to the arena, but they called three people on their cell phone to find out. "Near the high school, you're figuring?" he said. That one made me giggle on the spot. That's where it was alright, behind the "Home of the Spuds," but unmarked.
11. The flood danger has not passed. They are building a secondary sand dyke right outside the hotel here. I anticipate that the work will go on all night.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Off to Fargo

Just a note to say I’m off to Fargo tomorrow for the U-18 World Championships. I will post things as they warrant, and if time is available. I anticipate being busy, but having some down time too. It’s not like the happenin' nightlife of Moorhead, Minnesota will be as distracting as say, Nashville.

The highs will only be in the 40’s, but given that I had to use the ice scraper on my windshield this morning – in Atlanta – it won’t be a big change.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reimer's future may not be just in playing

Every so often you meet someone who you know is going somewhere and you think to yourself, 'I'll be able to say I knew them on the way up.' I said that about one of my students once. I said it again after meeting James Reimer last weekend.

Reimer is a goaltending prospect for the Maple Leafs. He's quite a good goalie and has a bright future on the ice. But that's not the end of it. He has that special something that will draw people to him, inspire them. The kind of quality you find in a great coach.



Here's the Q&A I did with him for Hockey's Future. If he didn't have to catch a bus, I could have talked to him for an hour.

I'll go on record as saying that in 25 years, Reimer is coaching in the NHL. Most likely a goalie coach, but very possibly more than that. And he'll be an excellent one.


Photo of the back of Reimer's mask, featuring Ramona's Courage and an accompanying bible verse.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Real locker room drama welcome

When we hear the term "locker room drama," it's almost always a bad thing: someone is acting like a prima donna, or teammates aren't getting along. But the playoffs mean a good kind of drama, the win or go home kind. The kind that brings things out of people they didn't know they had. I was in a losing locker room after a deciding game in the finals once, and it was a very powerful thing. Like walking into a movie.

I raised my hand to go to Charlotte tomorrow to cover the Gwinnett Gladiators last game of the season, the one that decides whether they make it to the playoffs or not. It's a powerful storyline, and there will be strong emotions. We just don't know which way they will go.

I have a feeling that 95% of the words I turn in will be written after the second intermission. This one will be all about the emotions, not really about how the goals were scored.
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Della Rovere turns pro (photos)

Tonight was Stefan Della Rovere's second game as a pro, having joined the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays from the OHL Barrie Colts. He looked about as I expected, having seen him in the WJC. He's an agitator and played like most agitators do. Like a lot of guys fresh out of junior, he ran around a lot, sometimes from one side of the ice to the other just to make a hit. He always finished his checks -- to a fault. His physicality seemed to turn up the tempo on the game though, which worked to South Carolina's advantage. Della Rovere had several failed hits, as his timing was a bit off. Also cherry picked and had a roughing penalty for putting a guy in a headlock along the boards after the whistle.

Della Rovere played left wing on a line with Pierre-Luc O'Brien and Jeff Corey and had one assist. Also had a good tip in front for a chance, and made a nice centering pass.

Here are some photos.


At warmups.

Listening to the older and wiser Maxime Lacroix explain what to do during warmup.

Crashing the net -- par for the course for him.

Chirping all the way back to the net. Also par for the course.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

AHL may return to dressing 17 skaters a game

Prior to this season, the AHL had dressed 17 skaters a game, one fewer than the NHL. For this season, they increased the number to 18. But the economy may push it back down to 17, as everyone tightens their belts.

From the Patriot-News (Hershey):

Economics played the prime role in the AHL's traditional use of 17 skaters. Adding a player to the lineup adds to costs (contract, health care, equipment).

The economic downturn ultimately could mean a return to 17. It's a topic that likely will be addressed at upcoming AHL meetings.

"There could be contraction and reducing it to a less number for next year," [Hershey Bears president-GM Doug] Yingst said. "My sense right now is that the vote would be to reduce the number.

It sounds like Hershey rolls four lines regularly, which is good for the rookies, who do get the experience they need. But not all teams use all four lines regularly, which means that a lot of rookies don't get much playing time. Some would be better off in the ECHL where they would see more situations.

It's interesting that the ECHL just broke its own record for number of players graduating to the NHL in a season (49 players) during a year in which the number of prospects sent by NHL teams went down. Surely there's a delay effect -- the guys who played in the NHL this year largely played in the ECHL last year or the year before. If the 18-skater rule doesn't change in the AHL though, that record will probably stand because fewer prospects will have seen time in the ECHL,
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

City takes on stake in Utah Grizzlies to keep them going

Two ECHL teams have folded this season, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of teams in trouble. The Utah Grizzlies turned money owed for rent into a new owner -- West Valley City. They'll be one of the lucky ones when it's all said and done.

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

The minor league hockey team now has a partner and the city now owns part of a professional sports franchise. It's not an ideal situation for either party, but the fact is they need each other.

The Grizzlies need a partner to shore up mounting financial losses. The city needs its biggest E Center tenant to keep filling dates and bringing in the crowds.

West Valley City laid out $600,000 to buy a stake in the team, a figure that essentially wiped out what the Grizzlies owed the E Center in rent.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Football draft to become earlier like hockey

I found this interesting -- football wants to move their draft to be before veteran free agency (as hockey has long had it). This would increase the ability of teams to plan around their rookies. One difference between the two sports is that you expect many fewer hockey players to step right into the lineup. Only about 10 do so every year lately, a number that has grown since the new CBA and salary cap increased the importance of rookies. The same age pressure seems to be happening in football in These Economic Times -- having more rookies on the roster is cheaper, therefore more desirable.

Multiple inside sources throughout the league have told PFW that the economic climate, coupled with the uncertainty of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players in addition to the potential for an uncapped year in 2010 and a potential lockout in ’11, have made cost-cutting measures a top priority...

One other key factor in holding the draft earlier is that it is likely to limit the amount of input from the head coach and his assistants. It will force teams to rely more on their scouting staffs and personnel departments. The earlier draft will reward well-organized and talented scouting departments and expose less-talented, less-informed scouts...

The earlier draft would allow teams to select for need with younger players first, then see what they’ve got in minicamps before deciding whom to pursue in free agency. The system currently encourages teams to fill roster needs with veteran free agents before the draft.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Bowling Green may eliminate hockey

I'm a little late on this one, but wanted to mention it. The economy has taken out two ECHL teams so far, and now may claim a college team.

From the Sentinel-Tribune:

All university departments have been asked to develop a variety of scenarios regarding budgets and programs.
The school believes it is looking at a funding shortfall of between $6 million and $10 million when the new state budget begins July 1. University president Carol Cartwright has said that if that figure worsens, cuts in programs will be need to be made.
Rumors suggest the decision to cut hockey could be made final during a special meeting of the BGSU Board of Trustees sometime during the next week to 10 days.
Many former NHLers have come out of Bowling Green.

The only silver lining I see here is that maybe the CCHA could take in one or more CHA teams so they aren't left hanging.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Red is the new blond in hockey playoff hair

Beards, mohawks, shaved heads, blonde dye-jobs, mustaches. It's all been done by hockey teams as a way of bonding for the playoffs.

The Ohio State hockey team has gone red this year, which is appropriate given their school colors. College teams usually set the trend each year, as their playoffs come earlier in the season.

From The Lantern:

With playoff beards just beginning to blossom and mullets requiring months of planning and infrequent barber shop visits, the scarlet dye found little serious competition in the spur-of-the-moment locker room debate.

"It's just to bring the team together, something that we're doing together," senior co-captain Zach Pelletier said. "We're pretty tight right now but this should take us to the next level so we can go into this weekend prepared."
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Sunday, March 1, 2009

More casualties of teams in minor league hockey

ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna was unusually candid in this AP story, saying the league could lose more teams during this economic downturn.

"The teams that struggle in a good time, they're going to struggle even more when the economy's bad," McKenna said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we have a couple more casualties. Hopefully we're better positioned for growth in the future. Our league having lost some struggling teams may in fact make us stronger overall."
It's almost a given that Wheeling will be one of those lost this offseason. It's implied by one of the comments by the owner in the same article.

"We want to do our best to keep some type of hockey team here in Wheeling because we love the community," said Jim Brooks, who bought the team with his brother in 2003. "But we need the community's help to do that."

Wheeling's facilities are very outdated, and do not attract players, to say the least. That franchise may fold or be sold. Mississippi is another team that due to travel costs, is on the edge. Johnstown has been hanging on by a thread for several years. They are averaging just 2100 in attendance. If they don't get the lease renegotiated favorably enough, they could move.

Abbottsford, British Columbia is a possible new location for a team if they do not get an AHL club.

The article points out that while other minor leagues have had a decline in attendance, the ECHL is actually up 2.2 percent this season.

Attendance at minor league hockey games is down nationwide. The only exception is in the ECHL, which has seen a 2.2 percent increase in per-game attendance after losing four of its seven lowest-performing franchises since the end of last season.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

USNTDP to rejoin USHL

I always thought it was weird that they weren't there to begin with. Seems very logical as far as level and geography go.

From USHL.com:

The United States Hockey League in conjunction with USA Hockey is pleased to announce that the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) will become full-time members of America's Tier I league, effective the 2009-10 season. This will mark the second foray for Team USA into the United States' top league as a full-time member. They were previously a part of the USHL in the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons.

"The re-association of America's only Tier I program with the national program in place in Ann Arbor will yield a powerhouse league second to none in the United States – and the strongest opportunity ever developed for the world'selite 17, 18, 19 and 20-year-old hockey players to develop their skills on their way to college and professional distinction," USHL Commissioner Skip Prince said.


On a related note, it's a long shot, but the USHL may be coming to Youngstown, Ohio too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Puck Prospectus launched

After a long delay, Puck Prospectus, the hockey-sibling of Baseball Prospectus, has launched.

From the welcome post:

I've been waiting a long time to say this: Welcome to Puck Prospectus.

You know me if you've been following Baseball Prospectus over the years, but in this endeavor, you won't see me out front too much. Instead, I have the pleasure of working with a team of analysts, statisticians, and writers that will change how you see the game of hockey. Everyone I talk to raves about watching hockey in high-definition, that they can follow the puck and see the game in a whole new way. The Prospectus style applied to our amazing game is going to change things in much the same way, opening you up to new ideas, changing your mind about certain things, and reminding you of others.

It was going to be named Hockey Prospectus, but they lost the domain name. Not many people know about it as they haven't started advertising yet, just sent out links to the teams. So I hear.

Stat-lovers, dig in.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Going to Fargo

In a couple months, Hockey's Future is sending me to Fargo, North Dakota, a place that most Americans, especially those from warm climates, know just enough about to avoid. Actually, I volunteered to go. The World Under-18 Championships are being held there. It's a tournament that is virtually always in Europe, so it's an opportunity to see a truckload of the best prospects for the 2009 draft across many countries. I'm prepared for information overload.

I was thinking about the most far-flung place I've been to watch hockey in the past. I thought of four candidates. One would be Waterloo, Iowa, where I saw a USHL game. A small arena with a metal roof, it was the loudest building I've ever been in. But Iowa is quite civilized and this wasn't far from other cities so I'm going to say this wasn't the most far-flung. Another candidate would be Green Bay, Wisconsin. Despite having an NFL team, Green Bay is tiny, and far from anything else. I drove up there from Chicago to see Alex Kangas play when he was still in the USHL. When I got out of the car -- at the mall mind you -- the air smelled like cows. That's insane.

Another candidate would be Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A real industrial place with interesting geography, there was an awesome storm that rolled in as the Chicago Wolves got ready to play Game 4 of the Calder Cup finals against the Penguins. I watched it develop behind Larry Simmons' head as we chatted. As AHL cities go, WBS is separated by distance and geography, but since it's relatively populated itself, doesn't quite qualify as far-flung. It feels really far from life in Atlanta though.

The last candidate would be Columbus, Georgia, which used to have an ECHL team. This city is close to Atlanta on a map, but off the hockey grid. They used to be affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, a place you could argue is in the center of hockey. It was a very strange connection. When I would interview the players, it was as if the words were beamed out and read in an entirely different universe.

Fargo in April. It couldn't be that cold, could it? Nevermind. I know better than to say that.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

This is why I'm not in the medical field

I've known all my life that I don't like to deal with blood and guts. I once fainted after receiving a particularly nasty gash, and another time got so grossed out listening to a story on NPR that I had almost had to pull the car over to avoid passing out. I'm tough in a lot of ways, but this ain't one of them.

Normally I can avoid blood and guts pretty well in my jobs, but sometimes I'm told to talk to a player while they are getting treatment from the trainer after the game. Most hockey injuries are internal, but not all. Tonight I talked to Capitals prospect Josh Godfrey, who's playing for South Carolina, and he has a very nasty cut on his ankle from a skate blade. This thing is two weeks old, puffy, multiple colors, with stitches hanging out. As bad as you can imagine such a cut looking, it looked.

I was distracted enough by how bad it looked that I had trouble keeping track of my questions. Then when I talked (coach) Jared Bednar afterward, he said that he thought Godfrey has been playing a little tentative because he's afraid it will pop open. Nice visual, thanks.

I have a sister who's an ER nurse. I often question if we're really related.
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Concussions more serious than most realize

I try to keep up on the research surrounding concussions, because I've long believed they are more serious injuries than the sports world wants to admit. I've had my own bell rung a few times playing hockey, so it's a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

Last weekend I talked to three 2009-eligible players, and was sure to ask about their concussion histories, because it's important to know before betting on them long-term. Calvin de Haan's response shows how lightly concussions are taken by athletes.

HF: What kind of injuries have you had in your career?
CdH: I haven't really had injuries, knock on wood. Stitches a few times, that's it.

HF: No concussions?

CdH: A concussion here or there. Nothing like a busted femur. Mine wasn't that bad, just a minor one.


Some may be familiar with Sasha Pokulok, a Capitals former first rounder who has been with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays the past couple years. He missed almost an entire season with two concussions in 2006-07, and he had another one a couple weeks ago. To my surprise, Pokulok is now back skating. At what point are the doctors going to tell him he should stop playing hockey for good? It should be soon. Sasha has a brother Nik Pokulok who is eligible for this year's draft, but given the hereditary nature of brain makeup, teams should be cautious taking him given his family concussion history.

The latest research shows that even one or two concussions have long-term effects, and repeated ones are debilitating later in life.

From The Star:

A single head blow during their playing days can leave athletes with significant physical and mental problems three decades after they've hung up their equipment, a new Canadian study says.

In the longest-term look ever at concussions in sports, University of Montreal researchers showed that athletes who had suffered even one minor bell ringing on the ice or football field had measurable brain and body reflex impairments 30 years later.



From the LA Times:

The headbanging collisions that thrill sports fans have lifelong effects on the athletes, with impairments in movement and thinking skills showing up 30 years or more after the concussions, researchers reported Tuesday.


Canada.com:
Scientists are beginning to build stronger links between the injury and some of its long-term impacts, such as depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other quality of life issues.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Baseball Prospectus interviews hockey player

Q&A with Blake Wheeler.

Interesting isn't it? :)

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Phantoms sale imminent, AHL on the move

From the Delaware County Times:

... soon enough it should be known where the Philadelphia Phantoms will play next season.

What seems to be clear is wherever the Phantoms land, they no longer will be married to the Flyers.

Philadelphia’s little hockey brother, born in the mid-1990s under the Comcast-Spectacor banner and which grew into a two-time Calder Cup champion of the American Hockey League, could be sold by the end of the week, according to two sources with knowledge of the negotiations.

Possible new locations include Austin, Texas, where the Dallas Stars will be starting up a team that will serve as its affiliate (and previously had no franchise to actually do it with), or Abbotsford, BC, which has been courting the AHL. Look for Philly to affiliate with a nearby AHL team, as they got used to the convenience over the years.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Notes on OHL guys for the '09 draft

This past weekend I took in a couple OHL games. Here are some notes on what I saw. I'll be writing Q&A's or features on three of them in the next week or so.

Oshawa


Calvin de Haan (09) -- Skates beautifully and is extremely patient with the puck, carrying it through two or three forecheckers like it's nothing. Doesn't look like he's putting out that much effort, but guys who are better than everyone else often look that way in junior (thought the same of Rick Nash). I would've liked to see more grittiness out of de Haan, but he doesn't have the body for it yet. He's confident that he's still growing though, since he grew a lot in the past year. Nice kid, though quite naive about the whole draft process still.

Kory Nagy (NJ) -- Loved him. Turns on a dime, scrappy as all heck. Has a decent wrist shot. He's like Derek Dorsett (CLB) maybe. Good pick by New Jersey. Can definitely picture him in the NHL on a fourth line.

James DeLory (FLA) -- He was sent back to junior to learn to play F, but is back playing D right now since the Tavares trade. He's bigger than most juniors, but not necessarily more effective. Pinched up a lot when they were down. Was in bad mood after the game when I asked him about the F/D thing.

Michael Zador (09) -- DND due to them still carrying three goalies since the trade.

Erie



Ryan O'Reilly (09) - He seemed to play as hard as the game necessitated. In the 8-2 win, he wandered around avoiding traffic (which is his brother Cal's downfall as well). But the next game when it was tied, he was digging in the corners, making things happen. Seemed nice when I talked to him before the second game.

Brett Cook (09) - He's not rated very high, but I thought he was solid defensively. Gets pucks on net and hits people. May be worth a late pick.

Mitch Gaulton (NYR) - Good defensively, but passing skills and shot placement are lacking.

Tyler Hostetter (09) -- He has a very hard shot. That's probably his best asset.

Jaroslav Janus (09) -- He made a lot of stops, but not with the best form. He was leaning to one side when he should have been square to the shooter for example. Was beaten by bad-angle shots a couple times.

Zach Torquato (DET) -- His game doesn't seem likely to carry over to the pros. He seems to cut corners.

Luke Gazdic (DAL) -- Has a pro body but didn't stand out even as a good checker.

Guelph

Peter Holland (09) -- a disappointment for someone rated so high. He has nice size and vision, but doesn't have a good all-around package. Almost never saw him carry puck, and he's a center. Stickhandling overall seemed to be lacking as he bobbled the puck several times.

Michael Latta (09) -- Another disappointment. Only saw him when looking for him. His stickhandling is too deliberate and he's not strong on the puck.

Taylor Beck (09) -- I liked him much more as a player, maybe the most of anyone except O'Reilly. Creative without being a puckhog, hard on the forecheck, backchecks hard. He's very developed for his age, as far as his body and game go.

Ben Chiarot (09) - He's strong and his skating isn't horrible, but he's bad defensively and doesn't score.

Corey Syvret (FLA) - So good defensively, he really slowed down the game. Underrated player.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Two Canadian schools to join NCAA?

And you know what sport they would play for sure, right?

From USA Today:

Two years after the NCAA opened its doors to Canadian schools, at least one — Simon Fraser in Burnaby, British Columbia — is poised to walk in.

The University of British Columbia likewise is weighing a move to join its rival as the NCAA's first international members. Both would join Division II.

The annual NCAA membership application deadline is June 1. Schools can be full members in as little as three years.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The perfect draft

Joe Posnanski does a thought experiment on what if a team had a perfect draft -- picked all the best available talent at their spots. He goes through what was and what might have been for the Kansas City Royals. If you like baseball especially you might enjoy it. He takes long asides, but he's good enough you'd read him to Peru and back.

We’re going to use the Kansas City Royals as an example, but you can obviously do the following with any team. The Royals are just a good example because they have been lousy for fifteen years.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Regan Q&A up

I chatted with Kevin Regan last night and the Q&A is up at HF. It's important to read it in a South Boston accent for flavor.



One note is that Pyle did not rule out Nastiuk returning to Gwinnett. It sounded like that wasn't the plan now, but "if something happens" he would. I guess something happening would be a trade by the Boston system.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Regan to debut for ECHL Gladiators tonight

Bruins prospect Kevin Regan was assigned to the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators yesterday, and will make his debut for the team tonight. The rookie pro out of UNH will wear #31.

Regan at morning skate today. That bright yellow Bruins mask is going to clash badly with the Gladiators sand and mauve third jerseys.


Coach Jeff Pyle seemed to take special care to make Regan feel welcome. Tonight's an important game against division leader the Florida Everblades. Anton Khudobin (MIN) will start for the Blades. Jeff Mason, normally a defenseman for the Gladiators, will play wing. Brad Schell, still out with a back injury (2-3 more weeks), will debut a new white shirt as he runs the defensive pairs. He has to expand his wardrobe now that he's behind the bench.
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