Wednesday, December 30, 2009

King Sized Deal, and more to come from Edmonton

Edmonton and Brandon hooked up for a King sized deal today as Brandon loads up for the Memorial Cup, while Edmonton officially arrived in next year land.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oiler Pick now an Oil King

As expected, the Edmonton Oil Kings have begun to deal as the WHL trade deadline rapidly approaches. GM Bob Green has dealt forward Clayton Cumiskey to the Everett Silvertips in exchange for Edmonton Oilers draft pick Cameron Abney.

Here is the official release from the Oil Kings and the Silvertips.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A late Christmas present for coaches

A little while back I was asked to test out a product called Sports Performance Analyzer. It's a terrific tool for hockey teams who want an extra edge when it comes to their club tendencies and those of their opponents.

SPA allows coaches to track a variety of different stats from shots on goal to turnovers. But unlike other stat programs available, SPA goes deeper than just the surface.

For example, when it comes to shots on goal, you not only can easily track who took a shot, but where it came from on the ice, and where it ended up, by a simple click of the mouse. By using this method you can start to realize trends for your shooters or opposing goalies. You can track whether a shot went high glove side, hit the post, or missed the net entirely. Stats are divided into colors. Red for goals, blue for saves, black for missed shots and green for blocked shots. Power play and shorthanded situations can be used and stats are kept period by period.

Face offs are followed by more than just wins and losses. There are clean wins and losses, but also if a player wins the draw but his team doesn't gain control of the puck.

Turnovers, hits blocked shots and plus/minus are also easily recordable. All of this can be done by just one person, and while I was a little intimidated at first, after trying it for a couple of games it became pretty easy.

What is also a neat feature is the white board, where coaches can explain set plays or the statistical story being told during the game.

Sports Performance Analyzer is an interesting tool. One that is suited for high calibre teams or leagues. All past games are kept for future research, and information can be easily looked at in between periods for up to the minute game preparation.

Starting in January, The Pipeline Show will be giving listeners a chance to win a free Sports Performance Analyzer software package, so keep listening, and for more information on the program, check out their website for a few new wrinkles to the program.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The WHL responds to Paul Kelly Tonight.

Last week former NHLPA head Paul Kelly stirred things up with his comments about the CHL. Kelly now works for College Hockey Inc and had some unflattering things to say about the CHL. After the interview we were contacted by the WHL who requested a chance to respond to Paul Kelly, so tonight Commish Ron Robison will join us.

After that we'll dive into our CHL preview portion as we'll disect each country with the help of Brad Elliot Schlossman, Jamie Thomas and Sam Cosentino.

As usual you can join the show by emailing us You can listen live in Edmonton on the TEAM 1260 or online at The show airs from 7-9 PM MST.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Memories of a WJC Hero

The winner of the 2010 World Junior Championship will be decided on January 5th in Saskatoon but it will be hard to match the drama that unfolded the last time 'Toon Town' hosted the event. Back in the days when it was only a round robin tournament, Canada won their first gold medal on home soil thanks to a late third period goal from a most unlikely source.

Recently, The Pipeline Show spoke with the hero of the 1991 World Junior Championship.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

USA Trims Camp Roster by 6


Team USA has made some cuts after their 4-2 win over the University of North Dakota on Saturday night. The 30-man tryout roster now stands at 24 players with some notable names having been dropped by USA Hockey this morning.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Pat On The Back Regina G.M. Brent Parker

This road trip aside, things have been better than most expected for the Regina Pats this year. Until they went on their current 5 game losing skid, Regina was over .500 and challenging for a top 4 spot in the conference.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

USA WJ Camp Opens Today

While Canada has wrapped up their WJC camp and named it's 22-man roster, the American squad is opening their first ever 3-day December camp today in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The 30-man camp features a plethora of talented players including 22 NHL drafted players and 5 others who will be eligible for that distinction for the first time in June of 2010.

But will they be good enough to challenge for a medal let alone contend for the gold?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Who Will Become Captain Canada?

Now that the final roster is in place, the next question is who will Hockey Canada look to as the leadership group for the 2010 World Junior Championship. When you have a roster comprised of 22 leaders, it's probably a good problem to have and an easier decision to make. That said, it also makes guessing who will wear the letters might be more challenging too.

Team Canada Roster Set


Hockey Canada has announced the final 22-man roster that will represent the country at the 2010 World Junior Championship. A number of talented players did not make the final cut and were released from the team earlier today and there were a couple of surprises.

Here is the release from Hockey Canada.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Paul Kelly:CHL teams are paying players under the table

Paul Kelly was briefly in charge of directing NHL players as head of the NHLPA. He's now working for a league, and hoping to keep college hockey players in college instead of the growing trend that has mostly American players bolting their NCAA commitments for the CHL. Kelly is now the Executive Director with College Hockey Inc.

Glennie's WJC Camp Ends


Another player has seen his WJC dream fall short although this time it wasn't a decision made by Hockey Canada.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Brandon Wheat Kings forward Scott Glennie suffered a concussion last night in the final red/white game ending his hopes of playing for Canada at the WJC.

Canada Sends 4 Home

Hockey Canada got out the cleaver on Tuesday and chopped 4 players from their camp roster. The team has played a pair of inter-squad games and will faceoff against a CIS All-Star team tonight that is comprised of members of the UofS Huskies and Regina Cougars. Unfortunately for four players, their WJC hopes have been cut short.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Camp Lines Juggled For Game 2

Yesterday's 3-2 red/white game is in the books with the second match set for tonight. In preparation for the second go around, Hockey Canada has re-jigged the line combinations which has several teammates, past and present, finding themselves in familiar company.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oiler Prospects Sharing "Top Line"

As The Pipeline Show has speculated about for months now, Edmonton prospects Jordan Eberle and Philippe Cornet are starting Team Canada camp on the same line.

As Dean mentioned last week, Eberle had told head coach Willie Desjardins about the past chemistry the two wingers have developed over the last few years and obviously he's listening to his star player.

NCAA Update - December 13

The holiday break is now on for many NCAA teams and for many perennial favorites they will use this time to regroup after horrible performances during the first half of the schedule. This weekend saw a number of stellar match ups, more upsets and a few blowouts too.

Here is how the top 20 looked heading into the weekend schedule with the results from Friday and Saturday night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hockey Team Injured in Bus Crash

There has been a serious bus crash in Northern B.C. that has injured many members of a Major Midget hockey team.

The bus carrying the Fraser Valley Bruins, a BC Major Midget team, from Abbotsford to a game in Prince George has gone off the road and down and embankment about an hour south of Williams Lake BC.

Reports are that there are no casualties but that as many as 14 of 24 passengers have required medical attention for various degrees of injuries. The players are aged 15-17 years old.

The Vancouver Sun has more details.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Competition at Team Canada Camp


With just 6 returning players, Hockey Canada will have plenty of tough decisions to make as to which players will wear the Maple Leaf and attempt to take home an unprecedented 6th consecutive gold medal.

Hockey Canada has invited 36 players to Regina and all have a legitimate chance at claiming a spot on the team. All except Cody Hodgson who many expected to be named captain of the club. It was announced on Tuesday that Hodgson will not take part in the camp or the tournament itself and head scout Al Murray told listeners of The Pipeline Show on Tuesday that they will not bring in another player to take his camp spot.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oil Kings in Trouble

The WHL trade deadline is now just 5 weeks away and big names have started to move around the league as teams make their final roster alterations for the second half run.

There aren't many teams that can be considered 'out of it' - perhaps only one in fact, but if they don't turn their season around in a hurry, the buzzards will start to circle the Oil Kings looking to pick the meat from their bones.

I recently had a chance to speak with GM Bob Green and tried to take a pulse of the team.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Team Canada Camp: Hits and Misses

This morning Hockey Canada announced the 36 players they are inviting to it's training camp starting ten days from now in Regina.

The list, which can be found here, includes 7 returning players from last year's squad that claimed a record tying 5th straight gold medal for Canada.

The OHL leads the way with 12 players on the list, while the WHL and QMJHL each have 10. There are 3 NCAA players and apparently the St. Louis Blues will loan Alex Pietrangelo to the squad.

14 of the 36 players invited are first round picks, and the LA Kings top all NHL clubs with 5 prospects on the squad, while the Edmonton Oilers are 2nd with three.

There are four 2010 draft eligible players attending camp. Recently I threw out some names that I thought would get consideration, and Hockey Canada agreed with 4 of my choices. The one that didn't get an invite is Prince George forward Brett Connolly(pictured) who has missed much of this season with hip injury.

He did return in time to play Russia in the Super Series, and does have 4 points in the two games he played during the month of November. Oddly enough that's 3 more points than Sudbury's John McFarland had during the month. After notching 20 points in 12 games to start the year, McFarland put up just one in 10 November games. Unless he makes the jump to the NHL next year, Connolly will have another chance at Canada's team next year, as will goaltender Calvin Pickard who was edged out by Calgary's Martin Jones for one 4 pipemen spots.

Head coach Willie Desjardins told me today that Connolly's lack of playing time played a big role in him being left off the roster. "I was really impressed with him, he's a smart player, and you can just tell he's a real good player. Last year when they came into Medicine Hat and he was 16, and was with Dana Tyrell, the two of them put on a great show."

Ok, so here are the thoughts of TPS. The first thing that jumped out in Guy's mind was the absence of Boston Bruins first round pick and Denver Pioneer forward Joe Colborne. The former Camrose Kodiak had a 31 point campaign as a freshman last year and has 11 points in 12 games this year. By all reports his broken finger has healed as Jumbo Joe has 6 points in his last 4 games. What makes me scratch my head on this is that Harvard's Louis Leblanc did get an invite. Colborne plays a much tougher schedule with Denver than the Canadiens draft pick does with Harvard. He's a year older, and 5 inches taller. If you track these guys statistically, Leblanc has 9 points in 8 games this year, while he had 59 points in 60 games last year with Omaha of the USHL. Colborne meanwhile in his final season with Camrose had 90 points in 55 games and was named the Canadian Junior 'A' player of the year.

Along with Leblanc, Denver blueliner Patrick Wiercioch, and Minnesota Duluth rearguard Dylan Olsen (who was listed as playing with Camrose) made the grade from the college ranks. Ironically both have a connection to Colborne. Wiercioch plays with him now in Denver, while Olsen skated with him in Camrose.

What I love about Canada's potential blueline is the beef. 5 guys tip the Toledos at over 200 pounds - Jared Cowen being the biggest at 226 lbs - and 4 more are a cheeseburger away from joining them. There are also 7 dmen that are 6.02 or taller with Cowen and Wiercioch being the sky scrapers at 6.05. But being big is only beneficial if you're mobile, and Canada has plenty of that as well. Starting with returnees Ryan Ellis and Alex Pietrangelo. Newcomer Travis Hamonic of Moose Jaw combines both. It'll be interesting to see if 2010 prospect Brandon Gormley can outshine the likes of Nicolas Deslauriers from Rouyn-Noranda, Marco Scandella of Val d'Or or Shawn Lalonde for a roster spot.

Of course there are a few guys I'm surprised that didn't make the cut. Michael Stone of Calgary leads all WHL dmen in goals with 13, he's also 6.04 and 217 pounds. Right behind him in points is Vancouver's Kevin Connauton and then Saskatoon's Stefan Elliot who will miss out on playing in his home arena. Elliot to me is a wonderful player, great skater and has played near flawless hockey when I've watched him. One of his greatest skills is getting the puck through from the point.

"In different ways guys we left off the roster will be better than some players we have on the roster," said Desjardins on his way back to Medicine Hat this afternoon, "but with a team you need different role players, you need different types of players."

Tyler Cuma is also an interesting absentee. Cuma was injured at last year's camp, where most thought he would have made the team. He also played with most of this group a the Ivan Hlinka and 2008 U18 World Championship, however a slow start for the Minnesota Wild first rounder likely did him in. But alas, the group Hockey Canada has assembled is pretty impressive.

Up front if Brampton's Cody Hodgson is healthy enough to play he should be named captain and will likely form the basis of Canada's top line with Regina forward Jordan Eberle. Who will be the lucky left winger on that line? Rouyn-Noranda's Philippe Cornet might be a candidate. His 45 points in 30 games puts him 2nd in QMJHL scoring, and his Huskies Head Coach Andre Torigny is an assistant with Team Canada. Cornet also brings with him chemistry with Eberle. It started at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in 2007, continued in the 2008 Top Prospects game, then carried over to the past 2 NHL training camps, as both players are prospects of the Oilers.

"It was interesting because I talked to Eberle today and he talked about Cornet and what a great camp he had with the Oilers and what a real good player he is, so those are certainly things we'll be taking into consideration when it comes down to making our lines" said Desjardins who admits to already thinking about combinations.

Speaking of possible trios, if you watched the Subway Super Series on Rogers Sportsnet, you would have witnessed the "C" line when the QMJHL took on the Russians. Phillipe Cornet, Patrice Cormier and Jordan Caron combined for 5 points in 2 games. The three players all played in Rimouski last year and could get a look see from Desjardins when camp begins. When the series shifted to Ontario, the Spitfires combo went to work. Taylor Hall, Greg Nemisz and Adam Henrique skated together.

Whatever the line combinations, Canada will have plenty of fire power to choose from with the likes of Wheat King duo Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie, along with London's Nazem Kadri. One player who definitely used the Super Series as a springboard is Luke Adam of Cape Breton. The forward notched 5 points in 2 games, to go along with his 44 in 29 games during the regular season. He also brings nice size at 6.02 and 200 lbs. Adam might be a nice role player who can chip in offensively the way Brett Sonne and Jamie Benn played last year. Another guy who fits that bill is Cody Eakin of Swift Current. Eakin brings 25 goals in 29 games to the table and has a nice all around game.

Guy and I both agree that the netminding tandem will likely be Montreal's Jake Allen as the #1, with Matt Hackett from Plymouth as the back up.

As mentioned many times before, we can always second guess who Canada does and doesn't invite, but when it comes down to it, the job that Al Murray and his staff do is pretty impressive. If you don't believe me, maybe 5 straight gold medals would convince you. What were you surprised with from the roster?

USA Release WJ Camp List

Earlier today USA Hockey released the names that make up their 29-player camp roster in advance of the 2010 World Junior Championship. It's a pretty cut and dried list but as always, there are a couple surprise names that appear on or were left off the team.

Here is the released list from USA Hockey.

The Quinnipiac Attack

Everyone loves a Cinderella story. It's human nature to cheer for the underdog; Rocky Balboa, Rudy, Hoosiers, The Karate Kid... cinematic examples of the David VS Goliath story that can have the manliest of men leaking like a chick watching Titanic.

Everyone loves a Cinderella story and yet... no one wants to be Cinderella.

NCAA hockey has had its share lately. Air Force wore the glass slipper for much of last year while riding a lengthy undefeated streak. They passed the mantle on to Bemidji State who made it to their first Frozen Four before falling just short of their ultimate goal.

There is no doubt that the feel good story through the first couple of months of the 2009-10 schedule can be found in the hockey hotbed of Connecticut. The Quinnipiac Bobcats, a program that has never had a losing season since during Division I back in 1999-2000, look poised to be headed to the ball this Spring.

The Bobcats have never been ranked in the top 10 in the history of their program but that's something they changed last week when they came in 9th on the poll. But that wasn't enough and so after improving their overall record to 12-1-0 last weekend, Quinnipiac vaulted up the charts and is currently ranked as the 4th best team in the entire NCAA.

Last night on The Pipeline Show we were pleased to speak with head coach Rand Pecknold who talked about how his team has managed to reach new heights this season.
"A big part of [our success] has been our leadership, our captain is Jean-Marc Beaudoin (picture below) who played for Bonnyville [Pontiacs of the AJHL]. It's the second year in a row that we've had an Alberta kid as our captain."
The coach talked about the fact that the Bobcats lead the NCAA in scoring although he admitted he wasn't exactly sure how they had achieved that feat. Since he mentioned that his captain is Canadian I decided to jokingly ask if having as many Canucks as possible was the secret to NCAA success.
"Absolutely! We're about half and half as we get a lot of kids from British Columbia and Alberta... my Canadians, especially the Western guys, have been our pipeline, our bread and butter over the last ten or eleven years."
The dual citizen coach talked about the recruiting process for his program and what some of the positives he feels there are for players who choose the Bobcats. Two recruits that will be joining the Bobcats next season come from the BCHL in twins Conor and Kellen Jones. The brothers play for the Vernon Vipers but had success at the recent World Junior A Challenge in Summerside PEI. Coach Pecknold touched briefly on the twins.
"They are outstanding players; great motors, great hockey sense, they just go-go-go and we're really excited to get them. we'll be lucky to keep them for four years. even though they're not the biggest guys they are pretty dynamic and they're special players. with the way the game has changed in the NHL, these days size isn't as big of an issue is it used to be. We're very excited to get them and they sure will make an impact when they get on our campus next fall."
There will be those who suggest that the Bobcats have benefited from a fairly easy schedule. I was in that boat a couple of weeks ago but as I explained to coach Pecknold, their recent success has started to win me over. Recent victories against Colgate, Cornell, Princeton and Massachusetts are proof that no one should take the Bobcats lightly. I asked the coach if he felt they were still having to prove the skeptics wrong.
"I think you always have to do that. we're still kind of the new kid on the block in that this is our 12th year of Division I so we don't have the 50, 60 or 70 yeas of history like a Cornell or Boston University or Michigan. But we've had a lot of success over the last 12 years..."
Dean looked back on the season schedule to date and zeroed in on the one loss the Bobcats have suffered so far, an 8-5 setback against Robert Morris a day after shutting them out 5-0. Dean wondered if the loss might actually have been a blessing in disguise to make sure the team didn't get complacent in their success and the coach agreed.
"I don't think we're taking anybody lightly and we're not getting too big for our britches but certainly we're getting a lot of attention. The #4 ranking is bringing a lot of media..."
There hasn't been a NHL success story yet that has originated with the Quinnipiac program but according to coach Pecknold, it's just a matter of time.
"we've had guys sign NHL contracts but we just haven't had that guy break through. It's going to happen. We just played on Friday against Princeton and we had 20-plus NHL teams in the stands watching a couple of my seniors."
The coach was referring to a pair of free agent seniors in Erik Lampe and Brandon Wong (above photo) who are having strong offensive seasons again this year. Wong, a B.C. product, leads the team in scoring with 19 points in 13 games and Lampe is right behind him with 18 points.

Quinnipiac has a freshman that hails from our neck of the woods that we had to get the coach to comment on. Reese Rolheiser is a former Sherwood Park Crusader (AJHL) and has 7 points in 12 games so far this year which, according to the coach, has gotten better after a so-so start.
"It was a little bit on an adjustment for him when he got here. To be honest with you, he didn't know how to play defence and struggled a bit with his competitiveness but the skill was there and he's been so coach-able, he's bought in and his improvement has been just amazing in the first two months."
We finished the interview by asking the coach what initially led him to Quinnipiac and what has kept him at the school for almost two decades now. "What led me here was, 16 years ago I need a job!" he joked,
"In terms of keeping me here, it's a great job. I mean, I've got one of the best rinks in college hockey, I've got a five year contract which is always nice in the coaching world t- have job security. we live in a nice town, my wife has a good job. I'm not going to say it's the best job in college hockey but it's up there."
We joked after the interview that things are so good in Quinnipiac that the Florida Panthers went out and stole their logo for their recently released third jerseys. Don't you see a pretty big similarity? To me it's a Quinnipiac crest slapped on a Springfield Falcons jersey and presto! (see below).
There are still some tough dates ahead this year on their schedule, Yale this upcoming weekend for instance, but the Bobcats are well positioned to finish with the best record the program has ever seen. Can a return to the NCAA tournament be in the cards? I wouldn't bet against Quinnipiac and I'm not going to call them Cinderella either.

Our thanks to Ken Sweeten for setting up the interview and to for the photos of their team in action. You can listen to the entire conversation and get the rest of coach Pecknold's comments by clicking HERE!

Friday, November 27, 2009

One on One: Kyle Beach

Recently the Spokane Chiefs rolled through town and with them this year is one of the most divisive players in the WHL. Kyle Beach is a player with followers in one of two camps: haters and believers. Every season Beach comes to Edmonton and he's wearing a different jersey and each time I make a point of speaking a few minutes with him. This trip through was no different and I was able to catch up with Beach for about 10 minutes prior to the game against the Oil Kings.

The photo above was taken during this very conversation; that would be Beach on the left (mustache is for 'Movember', a charity tradition to raise money for cancer research) and my ugly mug on the right. The picture was snapped by Gary Peterson who was along on the Chiefs' trip through Alberta and is compiling the photos he took into a keepsake collector's photo journal that will be a must-have for Spokane fans. Keep your eyes out for it!

As for Beach, I've been able to carve out a decent enough rapport with him over the last few years that I'm sure he knows to expect to see me at the rink for our regular pre-game chat. His first time through Edmonton was with Everett and he scored one of those classic "scoop from behind the net and tuck in under the cross bar" goals. We turned that interview into a feature on the radio show combining comments from his Silvertips coach of the time, John Becanic. You can Hear that one by clicking HERE.

His next visit to Rexall Place was with the Lethbridge Hurricanes after a WHL trade deadline deal took him to the Alberta city. We chatted about that and also about his reputation that was continuing to dog him. You can hear that March 2009 interview by clicking HERE.

And that brings us to this year. I started this conversation off by asking him about fitting in with a dressing room full of guys who used to have a first rate hate-on for him when he was with the arch-rival Silvertips. I was going to use Mitch Wahl by name but I think Beach knew where I was headed and decided to tackle that answer on his own.
"It's definitely been interesting... me and [Wahl] always had a battle within the game and now him and I are pretty much best friends. You can look at Ryan Letts who jumped me a couple of times and every time I was on the ice he was all over me... we're great buddies now, I mean we've even had a couple sleep overs!"
I'll admit i was struggling to keep a straight face when he said that and you'll here him chuckle a bit too, I think because he realized how awkward that statement sounded.

I was interested to hear how he would respond to my next question which was why he felt he was on his 3rd WHL team in less than a year. As I expected, he saw the positives of his situation and understood the way his former teams viewed his worth. Here is just a brief excerpt of what he told me:
"I think teams have tried to add me as a piece of the puzzle to make a run and unfortunately that didn't quite work out in Lethbridge but... we already have a great team here but if we can add one of two more pieces we'll be golden. Everett kind of rebuilt last year, got rid of me and got some great prospects. Lethbridge now rebuilding this year, traded me and got two very good defencemen, you look at what they've done and they've helped that team a ton."
I decided to lighten things up a bit by pointing out another difference so far this year: that he hasn't been suspended yet.
"[laughing] no, not yet... it's been a nice surprise actually!"
The interview always eventually gets to his past reputation but Beach says things are different now and listed a few reasons why that is, including having a guy like Ryan Letts on his team and simple maturity on his part.
"I'm growing up. I'm 19 now so there's no excuses. chicago's given me pretty strict guidelines... changing and maturing happens with age and now I just have to keep working on that and hopefully I'll win a couple more refs over."
Since he mentioned Chicago, the team that drafted him, I figured it was time to take the conversation in that direction.

Some of you will recall that Beach joined Chicago's AHL affiliate after the Hurricanes were eliminated from the playoffs last Spring. His stay in Rockford was a short one as both he and fellow Hawks prospect Akim Alui were sent home for disciplinary reasons. Shortly after, former Lethbrdige GM Roy Stasiuk revealed on our show that the Blackhawks had sent the pair home for... a food fight. I asked Beach when the last time he had gotten into a food fight was, hoping for at least a small comment on the incident. Instead... I pretty much got a play-by-play account of the scene.
"It was a weird situation; there were three of us... Logan Stephenson, Tyler Mosienko and myself plus Akim Alui were all sitting there and we were debating which league was better: the OHL or the WHL. It was 3 against 1 and Aliu wasn't too happy so he dipped a napkin in teriyaki sauce and threw it on me. I grabbed one of those mini corn on the cob, threw it back at him and it escalated from there... and I got a full plate of food covering me head to toe in teriyaki sauce. I think we almost fought in the parking lot too..."
Naturally my follow us was to ask what the relationship is now with Alui especially after coming together again at training camp in the fall. I don't want to spoil it here so I'll let you hear what Beach said in regards to Aliu, his full account on the food fight and how things stand with Chicago these days. You can here the entire interview with Kyle Beach by clicking HERE and believe me... I highly recommend listening to this one, it still seems almost unbelievable to me.

I also talked to Spokane head coach Hardy Sauter about Beach and how he's fit in. Sauter admitted he had some concern ealry on considering Beach's history and reputation but made a point of stating that the player has been anything but a problem in their room or on the team. I asked the coach if he felt that Beach has been unfairly labeled as a delinquent and subsequently black balled by organizations like Hockey Canada (who haven't even called to ask the coach about Beach this year!). Sauter told me that he felt the criticisms directed at Beach early on in his WHL career were "fair" but again pointed out that the player has matured and there hasn't been a problem with him whatsoever this year.

I also asked Mitch Wahl who confirmed that he and Beach have become friends. Wahl described Beach as a person and player who every team in the league (and their fans) might hate but all of them would love to have him on their roster... once they got to know him.

The Pipeline Show has always been willing to give Beach the benefit of the doubt; both Dean and I feel that Hockey Canada has been hypocritical in their obvious disdain for Beach while at the same time have opened their team to a player like Steve Downie. Both of us have taken some heat and ridicule for our support of Beach but honestly, we don't care. We see a player who as a youngster, possibly crossed the line of good sportsmanship [Lucic], wasn't afraid to stand up (with others) for his beliefs while with Hockey Canada [U17], plays on the edge with an intent to drive opposing players bananas and has a boat load of ability to play the game.

Beach currently has 19 goals in 22 games, the second best scoring per game ratio in the league behind Swift Current sniper Cody Eakin. He is second on team scoring behind Mitch Wahl who has a single point more than Beach but with 2 games more under his belt.

The fact that he was not invited to play in the Subway Super Series is an obvious declaration from Hockey Canada that despite his talent and value, Beach shouldn't expect a call for the December evaluation camp. And that is just a shame.

Maybe Hockey Canada should follow Beach's example and show some growth and maturity of their own.

(Photos credits: Gary Peterson, the WHL, The Everett Silvertips,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Schenn A King For A Day

Last week the Oilers signed Torrie Jung to an amateur tryout contract because they didn't have a back up goalie when Nikolai Khabibulin went down in the afternoon.

What the LA Kings did today is even more peculiar, and terrific for one of their prospects.

The Kings drafted Brayden Schenn 5th overall last June, and tonight he'll suit up with them in Vancouver after signing a one day contract with LA. The timing is perfect as Schenn was in Victoria last night for the Subway Super Series on Rogers Sportsnet.

Rich Hammond has more on what this could mean down the road for Schenn here, which may ultimately be bad news for his junior team the Brandon Wheat Kings - hosts of The Memorial Cup this year - and Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship this December in Saskatoon/Regina.

O'Marra, McDonald up, Reddox Down

The Oilers have recalled centre Ryan O'Marra for a second stint with the big club, and he's brought along his partner in checking Colin McDonald (pictured).

The pair have been the Springfield Falcons shut down line on the farm and have developed some nice chemistry. This will be O'Marra's second call up this year, you can read about his first stint here.

If McDonald gets into game action it will be his first in the NHL, and proof that the Oilers might be salvaging what was once thought to be lost career. The Hartford product was a scorer before attending Providence College where the offence was sucked out of him, never registering more than 13 goals in a single season. His AHL career wasn't much better until Springfield Head Coach Rob Daum asked him to play a checking role, a role in which McDonald thrived in, starting with the final stretch of last season. With a defined job, McDonald's offence is starting to show signs of life. His 5 goals in 21 games, puts him just 7 shy of his career high.

O'Marra and McDonald sit 5th and 6th in Falcons scoring right now. It's unfortunate that injured forward Chris Minard misses out another chance to join the Oilers. Charles Linglet, Colton Fretter and Chad Wiseman are all above or near a point per game pace, but will have to wait for their turn, which by the way the Oilers are getting hurt might not be that long.

The interesting transaction in this announcement is that Liam Reddox has been "loaned" to Springfield. I'm not sure why, maybe it's to circumvent the waiver process or just another way to say 'sent down'???

While this is great news for O'Marra and McDonald, it means the Oilers must start scrambling to find capable players to fill out Rob Daum's roster in Springfield.

NHL Central Scouting: The Reason Behind The Rankings

There are a lot of really good scouting services out there - as well as a few shady ones - but the agency that gets people the most excited, is also the one endorsed and ran by the league. NHL Central Scouting started 33 years ago, and for some it's the bible of the scouting world. If that's the case then we were blessed by an almighty presence Tuesday night on TPS. Okay, that's a little much, but E.J. McGuire, central's head man, does carry a lot of weight when it comes to deciding the future of young hockey players.

McGuire joined us after watching Kitchener battle London in the OHL and we started our conversation with him about the top two dogs in Ontario, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. When the year began Hall was the top ranked player and consensus first overall pick by most people. But when central's November rankings came out the Windsor Spitfire was #2 behind the Plymouth Whaler Seguin. Expect the duo to flip flop the year before, and McGuire says if you like them in the OHL, you better get to see them this year.

"There were 6 this year who jumped from the 2009 draft into the NHL draft, there were 11 from the year before, and these two - Hall and Seguin - will be on NHL teams come October of next year."

Cam Fowler (Windsor) and Erik Gudbrandson (Kingston) are next in the OHL rankings followed by Barries Alexander Burmistrov. The next Canadian forward on the list is Sudbury's John McFarland. I was really impressed with McFarland during the Subway Super Series on Rogers Sportsnet, especially the way the 6.0 200 lb forward used his big frame.

"Strong on his skates," McGuire began before adding McFarland has missed time due to injuries this year.

Missing action has been a common theme for a few players this year, as Guy pointed out Brett Connolly (Prince George), Joey Hishon (Owen Sound) and Kirill Kabanov (Moncton) are all out of their respective line ups. McGuire explained how central deals with evaluating injured players.

"We try not to drop them in the ratings, we try to grab viewings and hold to those kind of principals. But it's tough when the other guys are scoring hattricks right before your eyes."

The Moncton Wildcats owns the top 2 QMJHL players ranked by central scouting as well as the number one slotted goaltender Louis Domingue. While the injured Kabanov is #2, defenceman Brandon Gormley is projected to be the top Q player selected in this Junes draft. Gormley starred for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this summer and McGuire made a lofty comparison to the rearguard.

"To maybe compare him to other years, he might be in the category of Victor Hedman." McGuire qualified the comparison by saying Gormley is a few inches and pounds shy of Hedman, but that their offensive instincts are similar.

Another defenceman getting rave reviews from McGuire is Edmonton's Mark Pysyk, mostly because of his skating. EJ agreed with Guy's comparison of Pysyk to John Moore drafted in the first round by Columbus last season.

From the blueline to the last line of defence, we talked goalies. McGuire made it clear that he doesn't pretend to be a pipeman expert, but defers to central staffer and former Washington Capital Al Jenson. There are 3 goalies garnering a lot of attention right now. Calvin Pickard (Seattle), Louis Domingue(Moncton) and Jack Campbell (US National Development team).

"Those will be 3 goalies for the first time that will probably sneak into the mid to later part of round number one, and that hasn't happened in a couple of years"

After our conversation with EJ McGuire we had a short discussion about Jack Campbell and how according to Western College Hockey Blog, he'll be jumping ship to Windsor next year rather than attending Michigan, which would be following a Wolverine teammate who just left the den for the OHL.

You can hear the entire conversation by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sam's Super Series Synopsis

One of the guests that we were pleased to speak with on the program last night was an old favorite of ours, Sam Cosentino. You know him from Rogers Sportsnet where he's on both the baseball and junior hockey broadcast teams and obviously we were speaking with him about the latter.

Cosentino has a passion for junior hockey just like we do but has the advantage of covering all three CHL leagues on a first hand basis. That's why we enjoy having him on as much as we do (which is still not frequently enough for us or for him). Yesterday we were able to pick his brain about the ongoing Subway Super Series and got his scouting reports on CHL players, the Russians who made it over, the Mike Liambas suspension and what the difference is in the case of Zac Rinaldo plus... I got to throw my alternative to today's Super Series at him.

We started by asking Sam to offer up the names of some of the players that have caught his eye over the first four games of the series (QMJHL and OHL). He started with the Russians and offered some comments on a few of the imports who are actually playing in the CHL including Dmitri Kostromitin who was an invite to Oilers rookie camp in September. However, it was 2010 eligible Maxim Kitsin that scored the best praise from the TV colour analyst.
"I think he's been fantastic, probably their most consistent goal scoring threat."
Cosentino continued to comment on Pavel Lukin and Dmitri Kugryshev.

On the CHL side of things, Cosentino suggests that Taylor Hall and Nazem Kadri were two key guys for him to watch. Out of the QMJHL he made special mention of Luke Adam and Gabriel Bourque. From the WHL the guys he says he is looking forward to seeing in action include TPS Guest Player Blogger Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars, Edmonton Oil King Mark Pysyk and Jordan Eberle who wowed him earlier in the day at practice.
"[Eberle] was tearing apart the shootout portion of the practice."
Dean then brought up something he has noticed over the first few games of the series in that the CHL clubs have featured a couple of interesting lines. In the Q games we saw an all-Rimouski combination in Jordan Caron, Patrice Cormier and former Oceanic winger Philippe Cornet (#15 above). There was an all-Spitfires line in the OHL games with Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz. Millard asked Cosentino if he felt this was something that might carry over to WJC camp.
"When you look at the chemistry that those two lines have had you can't help but look and say 'boy, if we bring these guys to the camp and they can compete in the red/white events and on an individual basis maybe it is plausible that we keep these guys together come tournament time."
That led into a question on Oilers prospect Philippe Cornet who, despite a pile of points and an impressive Super Series, both Dean and I get the impression from Hockey Canada that they might be look warm to him. Cosentino had a different perspective.
"Smart player. Really smart player and I don't necessarily think I agree with [our] assessment. I've been sneaking around with coaches and scouts and I think they were particularly happy with his game. I thought Cornet played both ends of the ice extremely well, positioned himself great, had some good back tracking and defensive plays coming back into the neutral zone. I liked his game and I think [Hockey Canada] is probably a little more than 'luke warm' based on some of the people I've talked to."
I asked Sam if there was a player he felt had earned a camp invite with the way he performed during the series and he suggested a player from the QMJHL fit the bill.
"I think Gabriel Bourque is that guy for me right now. He was awesome in the two games; great energy, has no issue at all getting involved physically, able to put up points but able to be the pain in the rear end guy."
Sam offered up a few other names as well during the first segment of our conversation.

We then directed an email question Sam's way which asked about suspended London Knight Zac Rinaldo who was somehow eligible to still partake in the Super Series. We ended the first segment with that question and when we came back from a commercial break we picked up right where we left off and asked Sam to comment on Rinaldo's history of suspensions in light of the career ending suspension handed out recently to Mike Liambas.
"I'll be perfectly honest with you guys... I think the [Liambas] suspension was too long."
Sam went on to clarify his position on that incident and what he would have liked to have seen as the penalty and made a solid explanation as to why he's taken the stance that he has.

Dean made a great point that, with just two goalies playing for the WHL in the next two games of the Super Series, it's clearly Martin Jones VS Calvin Pickard (above) for Hockey Canada in terms of a camp invite. Cosentino agreed and went on to describe how he envisions the goaltending battle shaking down in advance of the World Junior Camp.
"Jake Allen - invite. After that it kind of breaks down a bit. The next guy I have on my list is Matt Hackett of the Plymouth Whalers. The last two camp spots if they go with four goalies... is a fight between the two WHL guys, Pickard and Jones, and I would throw Louie Domngue of the Moncton Wildcats in that group based on how well he played at the Ivan Hlinka tournament."
Edmonton fans will notice that summer camp invitee Olivier Roy doesn't make the cut for Cosentino (nor for Dean or I as far as that goes) based on a weaker season than the others on the list.
"He's a guy that I really thought going into this year, would be a cinch to make one of those four spots but I'm not so certain of that now."
We then brought up the name of Kyle Beach and whether Sam was surprised that the power forward isn't playing for the WHL after finally getting that chance last year.
"Yeah a little bit, I mean, he's lighting it up right now. This is a guy that, let's face it, they are very familiar with."
Cody Eakin has been a scoring machine this year and Dean wondered if the Swift Current sniper might be this year's Jamie Benn or Brett Sonne.
"I think he can be that guy to play the role where he's needed to go out and create an opportunity or get a couple of good shots but also to play a defensive posture."
Finally, I pitched my idea to Sam about having the Russian component in the Super Series changed to a European/American squad from the CHL. Although he liked the idea in theory, Sam pointed out that in the end, it's money that dictates the structure of the event.
"To this point guys, it's selling. Would you like to see better competition if you're Hockey Canada? Yes. For Television? Yes."
Sam's point was that because the advertising around the event is sold out, there is not indication that a change is needed and that in fact, removing the Russian aspect from the Series might have a negative effect on sponsorship.
"I love the idea of the international [roster] event but it would take a huge marketing endeavor to try and sell that. Believe it or not, when you go around, Canada vs Russia still sells."
Sam's counter proposal would be to have a series that would pit the QMJHL against one of the Eastern based NCAA Conferences like the ECAC. The OHL could play the CCHA and the WHL would square off against the WCHA. I am not sure that NCAA regulations would even allow such an exhibition though.

It was a very informative and entertaining double-length interview with Sam which you can hear by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday: Underagers to watch for at Canada's camp

Last year three 17 year olds were cracked Canada's World Junior roster that won a 5th consecutive gold medal. They were Ryan Ellis, John Tavares and Evander Kane. 3 more were invited to the December camp, along with 2010 eligible player Taylor Hall. Hall is a no brainer for this year's club. Here are 5 other underaged players who - according to The Pipeline Show - have a shot at atleast getting invited to camp, along with one wild card selection and a goalie.

WC. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer Rebels
This is my wild card and long shot, as RNH isn't draft elible until 2011. But that was the case with Taylor Hall last season. The former first overall bantam pick has been lights out with 27 points in 25 games this year in Red Deer. 13 of his points have been goals. The Burnaby boy is already being pegged as a possible first overall pick in the 2011 draft, and while he hasn't been as dominant as guys like Hall, John Tavares or Steven Stamkos were as 16 year olds, he is very good.

G. Calvin Pickard, Seattle Thunderbirds
He has the 9th best goals against average on the 3rd worst team in the WHL. Calvin Pickard is the younger brother of former Tri City netminder and Nashville first rounder Chet, who played for team Canada at the WJC. Some think he'll out grow Chet's shadow, and become an even better goaltender. Canada rarely takes an underaged goaltender, but could it really hurt to invite him to camp? He has past experience having suited up for Canada's U-18 squad. If he stands out in the upcoming WHL-Russia games during the Subway Super Series he has a chance. Ironically he's playing with Martin Jones who was the only WHL goalie invited to the summer camp.

5. Mark Pysyk, Edmonton Oil Kings
If you don't know Pysyk, meet Mr. Everything for the Oil Kings. He quarterbacks the power play, kills penalties and neutralizes the oppositions best players, and he did all of that last year as a 16 year old. Pysyk for my money is the team's most important player. He's just 7 points shy of matching his total from last year. The only aspect of his game that isn't there yet is a nasty edge, and I'm not sure it will ever be there.

4. Brandon Gormley, Moncton Wildcats
Gormley is a lot of things that Pysyk is, but according to one scout I spoke with, is a new notches above because of his better offensive ability. His 27 point total will be surpassed this season for the Wildcat defender. Gormley was Canada's top blueliner at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this summer, notching 3 goals and adding as assist in 4 games as Canada captured the gold medal. If Canada takes an under age blueliner, the 10th leading scoring defenceman from the Q will get the call.

3. John McFarland, Sudbury Wolves
He tried to get special status to play as a 15 year old, but was denied by the OHL. However I don't expect the Sudbury Wolves forward to suffer the same fate from Hockey Canada, atleast when the camp invites go out. Sudbury drafted McFarland first overall and he notched 52 points as a rookie last year. I like his size and skill, and while he likely won't crack the final roster, he should be at camp.

2. Brett Connolly, Prince George Cougars
The CHL's reigning rookie of the year, who notched 30 goals and added 30 assists isn't having the start to the season he was expecting. A hip problem has limited Connolly to just 7 games this year and he hasn't played since October 3rd. He did have 6 points in 7 games, which is pretty good for a guy playing through an injury he suffered at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. When healthy he's a dominant sniper, and if he returns in time, it'll be hard for Hockey Canada to ignore. When Dana Tyrell was injured last year, at Canada's selection camp, and didn't return to Prince George, Connolly actually became a better player.

1. Tyler Seguin, Plymouth Whalers
He's fast, tenacious, and highly skilled. He's also overtaken Taylor Hall for the 2010 draft according to NHL's Central Scouting. The Plymouth Whaler was neck and neck with Hall for the OHL scoring lead early in the season, but a hip flexor cost him 6 games. However he's back now and it will be hard for Canada to ignore when the final cuts come. Seguin could end up as a rarity, of getting cut this year and not being available next year because he's in the NHL. The same thing happened to Matt Duchene who cracked the Avalanche and Michael Del Zotto who's starring on Broadway with the Rangers this year.

Of course not all of these guys will get invites, but some of them will and a couple could crack the final roster. We'll be discussing this and a lot more tonight on TPS with NHL Central Scouting's EJ Mcguire and Rogers Sportsnets Sam Cosentino. Also scheduled to join us is Spokane Chief and the anti Hockey Canada player Kyle Beach, Flyers rookie James van Riemsdyk, and Alaska Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson. 7-9 PM MST on the TEAM 1260 in Edmonton or online at Drop us a line at

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bonner changes course, hires Charron

About 2 and a half weeks ago, I wrote something about Humboldt Broncos Head Coach Dean Brockman getting an interview with the Kamloops Blazers.

In an blog post by Gregg Drinnan from Taking Note, Kamloops G.M. Craig Bonner laughed it off, and even had this comment.

I haven’t talked with anyone, I have emailed a few people back telling them we’re going to give these guys a chance here for a bit and see how it goes.

So, when I heard today's announcement that Kamloops has hired Guy Charron, it tells me that Bonner wasn't being entirely truthful in his response to my blog. 18 days after he says he isn't planning on talking to anyone about the job he hires someone???

As for Charron, he brings a wealth of experience from the QMJHL, AHL, and as an assistant in the NHL, and should give a boost to a Blazer team with 3 wins in their past 10, and an 8th place sitting in the western conference.

I find it interesting that Charron's contract only covers the rest of the season, leaving the door open for Kamloops to go in a different direction next year, like say... Dean Brockman.

Bigos Man on Campus

There have been a lot of interesting story lines in NCAA hockey this year; the return of former powers to their past heights, the tumble of the defending champions and several other perennial favorites plus the rise of a few upstart programs. The Merrimack Warriors fit that latter description to a tee.

Head coach Mark Dennehy is in his 6th season as a head coach, 5th behind the bench at Merrimack. The Warriors went 12-18-4 in 2007-08 and that is the best year Merrimack has seen under Dennehy, by a long shot. Last year the team won just 9 of 32 games and that's equal to the wins in Dennehy's first two years combined.

Merrimack was less than a weak sister in the powerful Hockey East Conference, they were an after thought. The free space on the Bingo card. Merrimack's last season where they finished with a winning record came in 1988-89 (.794%)... when they were still a Div II program. Since joining Hockey East the next year, they've been fodder for the likes of BU, BC, Maine, UNH and pretty much everyone else in the conference.

But this year... might be different.

The Mack started the year tough, on the road in North Dakota where even the best NCAA clubs aren't going in as the favorite. The Warriors dropped the opener 5-2 but came back stronger and although they lost the rematch, it was by a narrow 3-2 margin.

Since the opening weekend the Warriors are a respectable 6-3 with wins coming against Vermont (5-2), Boston College (5-3) and defending champion Boston University (6-3).

It's not all rainbows and and lollipops for the Massachusetts based program but they are on pace for 16 or 17 wins and that would be the best Div I finish for the Warriors since the 16-win campaign in 1993-94. While the Warriors are currently unbeaten at home they are also winless on the road - that will obviously have to change... won't it???

One of the reasons Merrimack is off to a promising start is due to recruiting. Coach Dennehy and his staff have had to beat the bushes more than most teams in the Conference but they've managed to lure some interesting players to the program. 12 of the 28 players on the roster are Canadian but before you jump to the very natural conclusion that the Canuck content is the lone reason for the improvement consider this: The team's leading scorer is an undersized native of Paris, France who played 3 years in the USHL (Stephane Da Costa). The team leader in assists (Joe Cucci) is a finance major from Melrose Park, Illinois.

There are a few names that might ring a bell with hockey fans in Western Canada and specifically in AJHL territory. There are 7 former AJHLers on the squad including a trio of Camrose Kodiaks - forwards Chris Barton, Jesse Todd and defenceman Karl Stollery (pictured above).

One freshman on the team this year originally hails from California but joins the program by way of the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League. The Vipers are the defending Jr. A National champions in Canada thanks in no small part to the efforts of defenceman Kyle Bigos and that winning attitude appears to have followed him out East.

Over the summer the 6'5 blueliner was taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the 4th round of the NHL Entry Draft, just cracking the top-100 as the 99th player selected. Bigos attended prospect camp in the Alberta capital in early July and that was where The Pipeline Show first met him.

He's an imposing figure at 6'5 and around 230 lbs, you might be a bit leery of the man if not for the beaming smile that always seemed to be on his face. Not only was he outgoing and friendly but he was more than happy to chat about how he found his way to hockey in California, what led him to the BCHL and how he felt about being a part of the Oilers organization. We also talked about Merrimack and what drew him to the Warriors. At the time, Bigos was one of two Oilers prospects that we approached about contributing to our blog this year and the blueliner appeared genuinely enthused at the thought of it.

As expected, settling into College life took some time but now that he's gotten used to his academic and athletic schedule, we are able to present the first entry to "Bigos Man on Campus". We started off in a simple Q&A just to get the ball rolling this season but we expect the next edition of BMoC will be completely 'Bigos on Bigos' and 'Life at Merrimack'...

The Pipeline Show: The last Oiler fans saw from you was at prospect camp in July. How did you spend the rest of the summer before heading down to Merrimack?

Kyle Bigos: The rest of the summer I was training at a gym in Oak Hills, CA with TSR trainers and had a pretty progressive time with them. I was also skating a lot anywhere I could, but mainly at these two rinks in Ontario, CA where I grew up. I would go to a lot of beer league games as a ringer with a lot of other good players and play for free with teams that needed us. There was a bunch of Jr. A guys and some college players Div. I and Div. III. it was a fun time with all of us. I would also hang out a lot with my brother and family since I don't see them to often.

TPS: We've asked you this question before but knowing that there were a few different NCAA schools that had approached you this past season, can you comment on why Merrimack was the right hockey program for you?

Bigos: Merrimack College was the right program for me because they came forward to me first. They saw my potential and found out about my character and work ethic and were willing to invest in me with a full ride,. I knew from talking to the players and the coaches that [Merrimack] was ready for something big and were getting the guys to do it, and that the culture [in the program] is perfect for developing players in all aspects of the game. Merrimack doesn't have the big name to it yet, which leads a lot of people to mistake it for a bad program and that's the biggest mistake.

TPS: what are you studying?

Bigos: Right now I am majoring in Business and taking the courses for that.

TPS: we've spoken with a lot of players who went the college route and they all say that it took them some time to get comfortable fulfilling the demands on and off the ice. How do you balance academics with your hockey schedule?

Bigos: At first it was pretty hard to juggle all the workouts, video, skill work, and ice time, but once you get into a grove with your studying and hockey its not too bad. I had to cut out a lot of down time to make it work, which isn't a bad thing at all, but it's certainly different than what I was used to in juniors.

TPS: Merrimack is off to a pretty impressive start. It's still early but you've beaten some traditional HE powers in Vermont, BC and BU. To what do you attribute your team's early success? Do you feel like Merrimack is underrated and that you are catching teams a bit by surprise?

Bigos: We're off to the start we wanted. We lost two games to North Dakota on the road, which were pretty tough to swallow as we were still trying to establish our identity and get our feet under us. But then we had the chance to get some teams at home and get going and then head back out to the road against some other HE teams.

Our success comes from hard work and discipline; I've noticed that when we start trying to play fancy and trade chances we let other teams into the game. We can play that game, but we feel we are stronger and better than other teams when we play our puck possession game.

Our road games we're losing by a goal or two, and have yet to break out of our shell and play our best but we're taking the steps to fix that. I feel we are underrated but since we do not have the big names like other HE teams we have to prove ourselves more than any other team which is fine by us... as long as we win. I don't think we're catching teams by surprise but I feel that we have a couple of huge pieces that we didn't have last season which is making us very effective and able to pull out the wins.

TPS: There is a large Canadian Jr A contingent on your roster, especially with 7 AJHL guys. I imagine the team as a whole is pretty tight but do you have some inner Canadian/American friendly rivalries as well? Maybe play some inter-squad scrimmages for international bragging rights? If so... what side do you play for as an American that played in junior hockey in Canada?

Bigos: We do have a lot of Canadian guys on our team and whenever we have the ice or time for ourselves we play U.S. vs. Canada (plus Da Costa!) . We have a great time doing this and it will always be for bragging rights. I played for team U.S.A. even though the captains told me I could play for either team but... U.S.A. was short on defense.

TPS: As one of the older guys with the RBC Cup winners in Vernon last year (above) you were a key guy that the coach would play in every situation and you'd get a ton of ice time. I know at some NCAA programs, the ice time and roles are basically handed out according to seniority. What's your role this year at Merrimack and is it different than what you were used to in the BCHL with Vernon?

Bigos: My role on the team is to be as physical as I can and establish a presence on the blue line. I love to move the puck and and play 5-on-5 with the team we have, but I am also getting the opportunity to play on the PP. We have a couple different set ups but I am not the quarter back on them, I'm mainly just used as a shooter. I also get to play PK which is a blast! I think to go out and block shots and try and stop the talent filled teams in HE is a great challenge and a lot of fun. In the BCHL I would play a similar type of role, just a lot more put on my plate and more of the focus on me, but still an almost identical role here at college.

TPS: Has there been much difficulty for you making that transition up to the NCAA level? What words of wisdom would you bestow on our younger readers who might be considering following the same path as you towards a career in pro hockey?

Bigos: The transition up to the NCAA level is what was expected for me. The speed here is very fast and the players are a lot stronger than juniors. Another big difference I found was just the way the players are so disciplined within their systems and that their abilities to read and react with the play is very good.

All of these things stem from how hard you prepare yourself physically. I felt I had a good off-season and that I have had great improvement even with the team in the weight room and on the ice before the season started. When the season did start and I noticed all of these things, it was pretty easy to adapt. I'm still learning and working on the things I need to, and I feel I'm making good progress and being as effective as I can during the games.

TPS: Who are you playing with on the ice?

Bigos: My D-partner right now is Karl Stollery, from Camrose. He's a great guy- quiet but has a tremendous work ethic and is a great skater. We feed off of each other really well and I learn a lot from him. We click very well on the ice because its very easy to play with him. Our chemistry is very good so far and we're only getting better.

TPS: When the team is on the road, who are you roomates with?

Bigos: I'm roommates with Stephane Da Costa from France. He's a great guy and one of my best friends here. Off the ice he's a very, very funny guy and really down to earth. We always have a fun time and we get along great. I couldn't be happier with my linemate or roommate.

TPS: finally, tell us a bit about Stephane Da Costa... a kid from France, has played last 3 years (maybe longer?) in North America and is having a big freshman season already including a huge 5-point game against Army back in October. Like I asked you in a text a while ago... is he for real?

Bigos: Stephane is the real deal. He's just so smart with and without the puck and he has so much skill to go with it. He reminds me of a little kid around the rink; just so excited and eager to be there and ready to just get on the ice and work. Its something that everyone has in them but we sometimes tend to get away from it at the higher levels as you go up but he brings that to our team and its infectious. Our whole team is at the ice rink and on the ice as much as we can be and it's great.

[Da Costa] is a great skater and great stickhandler and has good speed. He is so smart that its like he has such an advantage with his ability to see the ice and read and react. He controls the play so well as a puck possession guy and sets up so many scoring chances as well as score goals. He is very strong on his skates as well. I cant find anything bad about this kid every time I watch him. He's going to have a great career in the NHL.

Kyle Bigos was a 4th round selection of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He scored 33 points in 58 games with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL for whom the native Californian played two seasons. He is now a freshman member of the Merrimack Warriors and currently has 6 points in 11 games played with 32 penalty minutes and one game winning goal.

(Photos Courtesy: Vernon Vipers, BCHL, Hockey East, Merrimack Athletics and Gil Talbot)