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.


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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Baseball Prospectus interviews hockey player

Q&A with Blake Wheeler.

Interesting isn't it? :)


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.