Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ex Oiler farm coach Jeff Truitt back behind the bench?

Both Gregg Drinnan and Rod Pedersen who both have their fingers on the pulse of the WHL are reporting that former Springfield Falcons head coach Jeff Truitt will be the next G.M. for the Moose Jaw Warriors. The tribe didn't renew the contract of Chad Lang for this year and Truitt's hiring is expected Monday morning. A WHL source of mine also mentioned Truitt as head coach in MJ. Gregg Drinnan reported that current Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak might also have a contract that won't be renewed for next year, paving the way for Truitt to step behind the bench once again in the WHL.

Truitt was an assistant and a head coach in Kelowna before the Oilers hired him to coach their AHL team. However he failed to last the whole season.

Meanwhile Pat Siedlecki is reporting that the Hurricanes have had 8 applicants for their vacant G.M. position, one of them being Rich Sutter. Rich along brother Ron have reportedly been trying to buy the Canes for a few years, and a former WHL manager recently told me that with the G.M. spot open, Rich Sutter might just be content with being the G.M. instead of the owner. It would be a lot cheaper and he'd still get to run the team.

Dallas Stars Draft Preview

First Round Position: 8th

Best Picks in last 3 Years:

Jamie Benn-LW-5th 2007
Ondrej Roman-LW-5th 2007
Colton Sceviour-RW-4th 2007
Ivan Vishnevskiy-D-1st 2006
Richard Bachman-G-4th 2006

Coming Down the Pipe - Dallas hasn’t drafted in the first round for the past 2 years, but last year considered Fabian Brunnstrom as their first round pick. The Stars did really well in the mid to late rounds of 2007 with Jamie Benn and Ondrej Roman and were also impressive grabbing Richard Bachman in the 4th round of 2006. The big goalie had a monster year with Colorado College in 2007-08 and followed it up with another solid outing this past year.

Draft Trends - Dallas has drafted just one QMJHL player in 3 years and Ivan Vishnevskiy originally hails from Russia. Of their last 18 picks only three came from outside of North America.

Millard: -Dmitri Kulikov-With Sergei Zubov’s career winding down, Dallas could use a replacement. The elder Russian can teach the younger one, who plays a similar smart style as Zubov, and it could happen as early as next year.

Flaming: Dmitri Kulikov – Dallas has had the luxury of Sergei Zubov on their back end for over a decade. With his career winding down it just looks like Kulikov would be the perfect student to learn and eventually take the baton from Zubov.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Oilers Sign Kytnar

It may have come down to the wire but The Pipeline Show has learned that the Edmonton Oilers have finally signed Milan Kytnar to an entry level contract.

Details to follow.

Kytnar was Edmonton's 5th round pick in 2007 after a strong junior year in his homeland of Slovakia. The forward moved to the WHL after being chosen by the Kelowna Rockets in the CHL Import Draft. He recorded 22 points playing a defensive role for the Rockets the following year but was traded in the off-season to Saskatoon.

The personable pivot enjoyed somewhat of a breakout year with the Blades as the team used him in a top-6 position. Saskatoon surprised everyone with a stellar season and Kytnar's 27 goals and 64 points was a pleasant development for the Oilers as well.

Kytnar also put on a decent showing at the World Junior Championship in Ottawa this past Christmas season. Slovakia was another surprising story in that tournament and again, Kytnar was a main player on the squad.

Expect an announcement of the Kytnar signing... well, you know how the Oilers can be in regards to announcements regarding prospects.

Had Edmonton not reached an agreement with Kytnar he would have been available to be re-drafted by a new team at June's NHL Entry Draft in Montreal.

Oilers Hay-Day?

"We want to bring someone in that will complement our total group here."

That was part of Pat Quinn's response during the press conference last week to Bob Stauffer's question about another possible addition to the new coaching staff of the Edmonton Oilers. The new head coach was asked if Perry Pearn or Drummondville coach Guy Boucher would be the type of person he'd be interested in.

"There were thoughts all the way along, with Kelly [Buchberger] his role last year was really as the eye in the sky and [will] we continue it that way or try and bring him in to get more involved and that's what we want to do. So now we have to think about how that other coach will fit in." added Quinn.

Quinn also made it clear that it was not set in stone that another person would definitely be joining the staff saying he didn't want the staff to get "too fat".

"I've been in situations where there are too many voices, too many ideas and it didn't come together well as a group," Quinn explained, "It will also depend on how I decide the allocation of duties with Tom [Renney] being the more senior guy [in relation] to Bucky."

So who will be responsible for the forwards, the defensive pairing, the special teams, etc., all still has to be figured out and if after doing so there is still the room and the need for another coach, then they will proceed.

But who would be in the running?

"My relationship with some of the young guys from the U18 team and then the U20 team was terrific, we have some good young coaches in Canada coming along so there might be some good choices in that regard as well." said Quinn.

I've already voiced my opinion and suggested that Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins would make sense. He ran the blueliners at the WJC for Quinn so they already have a short but successful history in that regard.

Stauffer mentioned Guy Boucher who was the other coach for Canada at the WJC. Boucher would make sense if he were to be running the offence or maybe just the special teams because his power play with the Voltigeurs was ridiculously good. The Pipeline Show has heard of another coaching opportunity for Boucher though that might be a better fit for him - but I can't say just yet where that is (not with the Oilers organization though).

Perry Pearn is definitely a solid choice and is available. He's respected and the local angle is good too.

However, yesterday I was speaking with someone who comes from junior hockey circles (a non-Oiler affiliated person) who suggested he's heard another interesting name is rumored to be in the picture - The current head coach of the Vancouver Giants, Don Hay.

Hay's junior hockey coaching career is about as distinguished as they come. He led the Kamloops Blazers to back-to-back WHL titles in 1994 and 1995 capping those wins off by grabbing the Memorial Cup as well. He won another Memorial Cup with the Vancouver Giants in 2007 and another WHL title in 2006.

Hay has experience with Canada's U20 squad as well winning gold in 1995. He won the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the WHL's top coach in 98-99 with Tri-City and collected it again this past season for his work in Vancouver.

Interspersed with his WHL success story are a few chapters of pro coaching. Hay was the head coach in Phoenix for a season, in Calgary for another and there were two other years spent as an assistant with the Flames and in Anaheim as well. His last pro coaching job was with the Utah Grizzlies of the AHL.

With Pat Quinn being part owner of the Vancouver Giants, there is an obvious connection there. Hay also has a history with Tom Renney from their days together in Kamloops. Renney and Hay also host an annual golf tournament together (along with Ken Hitchcock) in the Kamloops area.

Now I have been under the impression that Don Hay was pretty happy in Vancouver as one of the highest paid coaches in the CHL. Perhaps he has an interest in getting back into the pro game, I don't know.

If in fact Hay is interested, he's at least worth consideration isn't he?

Toronto Maple Leafs Draft Preview

First Round Position: 7th

Best Picks in last 3 Years:

Luke Schenn (D) – 1st round 2008
Nikolai Kulemin (F) – 2nd round 2006
Chris Didomenico (C) – 6th round 2007
Viktor Stalberg (LW) – 6th round 2006
Jiri Tlusty (LW) – 1st round 2006

Coming Down the Pipe – The Leafs are a team that, in my opinion, has had to undergo a major philosophical shift since the NHL lockout. No longer are they able to deal picks or prospects for high priced talent because of the cap and therefore, much more emphasis is being placed on drafting. Toronto gets a bad rap as a poor drafting team – I don’t think they’ve really been that bad, it’s just that in years past we’ve seen them operating with limited picks or willingly dealing their young assets for more immediate contributors. Now that they have committed to drafting and developing their own talent, the results are starting to show. The Leafs prospect pool is fairly shallow, partly because Luke Schenn completely by-passed it and is now swimming with the big club, and partly because their new philosophy is only a few years old. There are a few boom/bust prospects, small but highly offensive forwards like Chad Rau and Tyler Reugsegger, who could be late round steals if they pan out. GM Brian Burke recently declared his intention to try and move up to select John Tavares and also indicated that he wanted to sign UFA goalie Jonas Gustavsson.

Draft Trends – Since the lockout the Leafs have taken a lot of Europeans and players headed to the NCAA. Toronto has drafted a goalie every year since 1998 with only 2003 and 2007 being exceptions. Size and toughness certainly seemed to be the goal with the selections the club made in 2008 as all 8 players chosen were 6’2 or taller, including 6’4 goalie Grant Rollheiser.

Millard: Brayden Schenn - I don’t see the Leafs being able to nab the top pick and draft John Tavares, so their consolation prize is having Brayden and Luke Schenn punish the opposition for years.

Flaming: Brayden Schenn – A pretty nice fallback if attempts to trade up fail to materialize. Brian Burke’s history with brothers (the Sedins and the Niedermeyers) has worked well for him before. At this point in the draft, however, his name could be Brayden Finklestein and it wouldn't matter; the Brandon sniper is the best player available regardless of his bloodline.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Canada Names 2010 WJC Camp Roster

Sure it seems like Boxing Day is a long way away but with 7 months until the puck drops in Saskatoon and Regina, Hockey Canada has revealed its 41-skater camp invite list.

There are no goalies on the camp roster as of yet as the pipemen are having their own summer evaluation session. The list of goalies involved in that can be found HERE.

Canada will be watching 17 defenders and 24 forwards in Calgary this August. The complete list of participating players can be found HERE.

There are a number of already drafted players but 16 skaters who are eligible for the 2009 event on June 26-27th as well as one 2010 player. The youngster is Taylor Hall.

16 NHL clubs have a least one player representing them at the camp while 7 of those teams have a pair of players; no one has 3 (yet, that may change after the draft). Calgary, Minnesota, Colorado, Buffalo, Anaheim, Edmonton and New Jersey are the teams with a duo of invited prospects.

There are 9 returning players from Canada's 2009 gold medal winning roster: Ryan Ellis, Alex Pietrangelo, Tyler Myers and Colten Teubert on the back end. Stefan Della Rovere, Patrice Cormier, Jordan Eberle, Evander Kane and Cody Hodgson up front.

There are only four NCAA players invited: Denver Pioneers forward Joe Colborne, Dylan Olsen who will be at Duluth next year, Harvard-bound Louis Leblanc and defenceman Patrick Wiercioch. The DU defender was an invite last year as well. It's not overly surprising to see that there is little NCAA content considering Pat Quinn's comments last December that the collegians were well behind their CHL counterparts in terms of game-ready form at that point of the year.

Who isn't on the list?

How about John Tavares? He's on the list but he doesn't have to attend "in accordance with National Junior Team policy, which allows for two-time members of the National Junior Team to forego camp and remain eligible for IIHF World Junior Championship". Tavares played in 2008 and 2009 so can sit this one out knowing he's already on the squad (if his NHL club lets him go that is).

What do you think? Did Hockey Canada miss anyone you think definitely should have been invited?

Phoenix Coyotes Draft Preview

First Round Position: 6th

Best Picks of last 3 Years:

Peter Mueller-C-1st 2006
Mikkel Boedker-LW-1st 2008
Kyle Turris-C-1st 2007
Viktor Tikhonov-RW-1st 2008
Jared Staal-RW-2nd 2008

Coming Down the Pipe - The Ex-Jets tore up the 2008 draft grabbing the great Dane, a descendant of a Russian legend and the 4th member of Canada’s next royal hockey family. They also grabbed some guys who could be intriguing in Michael Stone, Colin Long and Brett Hextall. The only time Phoenix has missed out on a first round pick is when Blake Wheeler balked at playing in the desert and bolting for Boston.

Draft Trends - Phoenix isn’t afraid to go European with 7 of their last 22 picks growing up across the pond. By contrast, since the 2002 draft the Coyotes have drawn only two players from the QMJHL (three if you stretch to include Keith Yandle who moved north the year after the draft).

Jared Cowen-The ex Jets have a stable of talented forwards and could use a true physical shut down D-man.

Flaming: Jared Cowen – The Coyotes have addressed a lot of future needs via the last few drafts but a big shutdown defender might still be on the wish list and Cowen fits the bill.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Who will win the Stanley Thompson Cup?

We know now who will be battling for the Stanley Cup after Detroit and Pittsburgh roared their way to a STF rematch. By the way it's the first time there has been a rematch since the Oilers and Islanders met in `83 and '84.

We also know who will be going head to head in the Stanley Thompson Cup. Before I get to this, in case you don't know who Stanley Thompson is, he was one of the greatest golf course creators to ever walk a piece of land. Thompson had a hand in almost 180 courses world wide, but mostly in Canada, and is the original creator of both The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club and The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Club.

I recently had the pleasure of playing in Jasper, carved out a mean and honest 98, but didn't lose a single ball!!!! I was also doing some Pat Quinn research as JPL's head pro Kevin Sebulski (who I had the chance to play with - that's him below putting another one tight to the pin with an Elk looking on) and director of golf Alan Carter are both life long leaf fans and I quizzed them about what they think Pat Quinn will bring to the table.

Anyway, back to the Stanley Thompson Cup. It's the battle of Alberta golf style. The Oil and Flames won't ever face each other for all the glory, but Jasper and Banff are going head to head links style to see who comes out on top, and it's YOU the golfer who will win out in the end. Starting June 1st until both courses close (around Canadian Thanksgiving) you can play one of the excellent tracks for full price, then drive for show and put for dough at the other luxurious layout for only 25 bucks. The best part is, you don't have to do it on successive days either, although that would be an epic one night/2 day trip with one of the sweetest drives on highway 93 around. After you've played both courses, you rate which one you like best here, and the Stanley Thompson Cup will be decided at the end of the year.

Also, if you're into getting the fellas together and finding out who pounds it out the longest, is the best pin seeker, has the most touch around the green or is the best as those left to right 5 foot breakers, then JPL has a wicked package for you. Or if you want to make it a couples trip, this deal is for you to. By the way, I'm not very good at getting the ball to the hole on the green, almost everyone of my putts came up short.

You can stay one night at the legendary Jasper Park Lodge and play UNLIMITED golf while you're there for $299 per person. You could easily get in 2-3 rounds during your stay especially in June when the sun doesn't set until around 11:30. Trust me, the boys and I are taking advantage of this sometime this summer. This deal is all summer but will likely book up pretty fast. Perfect for corporate retreats, boys or girls trips, couples or families. Hell we might even have take some TPS guests and listeners up for a trip sometime.

So there you have it. Instead of heading to some exotic destination this summer, why not check out Jasper again...or for the first time. In the last 2 days I've seen countless Elk, Deer, Sheep and a curious Black Bear on the way to Maligne Lake. I was even able to sneak in the Wings taking out Chicago last night, and read about the Oilers signing Alex Plante today (good move by the way in my opinion.) Can't wait to come back and play this great course.

Los Angeles Kings Draft Preview

First Round Position: 5th

Best Picks of last 3 Years:

Drew Doughty (D) – 1st round 2008
Andrei Loktionov (RW) – 5th round 2008
Wayne Simmonds (RW) – 2nd round 2007
Oscar Moller (RW) – 2nd round 2007
Thomas Hickey (D) – 1st round 2007

Coming Down the Pipe – Having a terrible NHL record for several years and a willingness to commit to a true rebuild is beginning to show dividends for the Kings. They have had ten 1st round picks in the last 6 drafts and most are still with the organization and are expected to be impact players. L.A. is one of the deepest teams in the NHL when it comes to prospects with no obvious holes in their system. Much of their youth is already playing at the NHL level which may deceive people who forget about those youngsters who moved quickly from junior or college and straight to L.A.

Draft Trends – For the last 3 years the Kings have looked to the CHL for their earlier picks. It’s also interesting to note that L.A. has no qualms about drafting goalies; 2008 was the first year since 2002 that the club didn’t take a pipeman while three times in that same span they actually grabbed a pair of them. Last year’s selections of Vyacheslav Voynov and Andrei Loktionov was the first time since 2003 that L.A. chose a Russian (Konstantin Pushkarev).

Millard: Evander Kane - With a blueline stocked with youngsters, the Kings will be looking for the real deal up front, and Evander Kane’s power forward style will fit in perfectly with the rest of the Kings young guns.

Flaming: Evander Kane – Best Player Available. The Kings tried to trade down in 2007 and may explore that route again but if not then adding a power forward to their prospect mix makes big sense. I really think there is a good chance that L.A. includes this pick in a trade for immediate help.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday Re-Set

On yesterday's edition of The Pipeline Show we wrapped up the Memorial Cup, interviewed another top prospect for the 2009 NHL Draft, covered the AHL playoffs in Manitoba, spoke with a player who has suited up for new Oiler head coach Pat Quinn twice in the last year and we also raised $900 for charity.

We got things started with some discussion on the topics of the day including the news that Edmonton double dipped into the free agent coach pool signing both Quinn and Tom Renney. We announced the charity auction for the last two spots in the annual TEAM 1260 golf tournament and immediately bids went from $150 to $200 t0 $500!

Interesting question posed by Dean last night: If Jordan Eberle doesn't scored with 4 seconds left in the WJC game against Russia and Canada goes on to lose that game (and doesn't win gold)... does Pat Quinn still get hired yesterday? If he fails to win gold with Canada at the WJC in Ottawa, does he get saddled as a guy who is too old and couldn't lead a favorite to a gold medal? Definitely an interesting question.

We also talked a bit about the possibility of Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins as being the final piece to Edmonton's coaching puzzle. Pat Quinn mentioned yesterday that they might still be adding someone but he would have to be someone who has less experience and maybe comes from a lower level of hockey. Certainly the fact that Desjardins ran the defence for Quinn at the WJC lends credibility to the theory.

We also mentioned that TPS Guest Player blogger Mike Lee of the Fargo Force was named as the top junior goalie in the United States. Congrats to Mike from The Pipeline Show... I'm sure we'll hear about his thoughts on the award in his next blog entry here at Coming Down the Pipe!

In Segment #2 we spoke with Peter Loubardias of Rogers Sportsnet who called the Memorial Cup. Peter is a regular on our show and his passion for junior hockey is obvious to anyone who ever listens to him call a CHL game. Peter explained why he felt this past tournament was his favorite in memory. We also talked about individual performances of note, we disagreed about the quality of goaltending in the event but agreed on the disappointing performances of Mikael Backlund and Keven Veilleux in particular. Always a great time speaking with Peter about the CHL.

We played some Bad Ass Trivia to end hour #1.

The second hour of the show began with Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun guiding us through the AHL playoffs from the perspective of the Manitoba Moose. We talked about who was helping the Moose get it done including goalie Cory Schneider. The city of Winnipeg breathed a sigh of relief when the Oilers announced their new coaches because they left Scott Arniel alone - for now. We suspect Arniel will be snapped up by someone this summer. A lot of people are watching the scenario play out in Phoenix with great interest as well and Mr. Wiebe commented on all of that as well.

Every week we interview a prospect available for the 2009 NHL Draft and this week it was Drew Shore's turn. The center has committed to Denver next year but we had an emailer want to know if he'd consider going to Chilliwack, the WHL team that owns his CHL rights. Shore talked about his season, looked ahead to the combine and to next season as well.

Finally, Jordan Eberle joined us to talk about his experience playing for Pat Quinn at the Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament and also at the 2009 WJC in Ottawa. It was interesting to hear a player's perspective on what it was like to play for a veteran NHL coach at such a young age. Eberle also commented on the current situation in Regina with Dale Derkatch being replaced by the same coach that he had stepped in for a year ago... Curtis Hunt.

The show wrapped up with a back-and-forth bidding war that saw the golf tournament bid jump from $500 to $600, then to $650 and up to $800 before finally settling at $900! We were thrilled to bring in that much cash for the charity tournament.

Notes: The month of June will be pretty much 100% dedicated to the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Our projected guest list is rapidly coming together and will, quite frankly, blow your socks off... Follow us of Facebook and on Twitter... our daily team-by-team draft previews started coming out last Sunday so keep checking back here first thing every morning to see who we think your favorite team will select on June 26th...

Atlanta Thrashers Draft Preview

First Round Position: 4th

Best Picks of last 3 Years:

Zach Bogosian-D-1st 2008
Paul Postma-D-7th 2007
Bryan Little-C-1st 2006
Ryley Holzapfel-C-2nd 2006
Chris Corrazzi-G-6th 2008

Coming Down the Pipe - Atlanta sold a ton of their future in 2007 when they made the post season for the first time in team history. They dealt former first round pick Braydon Coburn as well as their first round pick from that year and because of it, the Thrashers don’t have as many high level players as a team that’s finished near the bottom so many times should. Bryan Little has been great, as has 2001 first rounder Ilya Kovalchuk is a star, but Alex Bourret (traded), Boris Valabik and Kari Lehtonen have yet to pan out as pros.

Draft Trends – The Thrashers are pretty neutral when it comes to CHL/NCAA. Of their last 19 picks, 7 have been from each league, with the rest coming from Europe.

Millard: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson-After taking defenceman Zach Bogosian last year the Thrashers need to grab an impact forward. MPS will be a nice wing man for 31 goal man from 08-09 Bryan Little.

Flaming: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson – Atlanta has decent prospect depth but is lacking a scorer and the Swede may partially fill the void left when Kovalchuk inevitably leaves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oilers Hire New Head Coach

The Edmonton Oilers have announced the hiring of both Pat Quinn and Tom Renney to their coaching staff. Official release HERE.

Quinn played for the Edmonton Oil Kings before several years in the NHL where he compiled 950 PIM in 606 games for Toronto and Atlanta. His coaching career began in the late 1970's in Philadelphia and he went on to coach in Los Angeles, Vancouver and finally Toronto until 2005-06. Since then he has worked with Hockey Canada and led the U18 team to success at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and most recently the U20 squad at the 2009 WJC in Ottawa.

On a side note, Quinn has part ownership of the WHL's Vancouver Giants.

Jordan Eberle, who played for Quinn in Ottawa, will join us on The Pipeline Show tonight to get the Oiler prospect perspective of today's news.

Tom Renney coached in the WHL for two years on the bench of the Kamloops Blazers before moveing to Hockey Canada's National Program for two more seasons. He then moved to the NHL with Vancouver for a couple of years but spent the last 5 seasons in the Big Apple behind the bench of the New York Rangers.

There were reports that one of the Oilers assistant coaches from last year would be retained and while most felt that Charlie Huddy would be the lucky one it was announced that Kelly Buchberger is actually the coach who will stick around.

One other interesting tidbit, it was made clear today that there might still be another addition to the coaching staff but that was not a 'for sure'. Let me offer up the name of Medicine Hat's Willie Desjardins as a solid candidate for an assistant coaching spot. He's got successful history with Quinn from the WJC and the new head coach made reference to solid CHL coaches that have made the jump to the NHL recently. Makes sense and it would be a great choice that I mentioned in early April. The Tigers have developed a ton of talent over the last several years and Desjardins deserves a large amount of credit for that success.

Top 5 Tuesday: Memorial Cup Performances

The 2009 Memorial Cup has come and gone but in its wake are the names of players that are now recognizable because of the way they played in the event.

Here is a look at 5 of the best single game performances from this year's edition of the Memorial Cup.

5. Luca Cunti (LW) - Rimouski Oceanic
Kelowna 4 - Rimouski 1
Friday, May 15, 2009

I really could have selected any game to point out a strong performance for Cunti. In fact, over the course of the entire tournament I would go so far as to suggest that Cunti was Rimouski's best forward - certainly in the first two of the Oceanics four outings. He only ended the tournament with 2 points, both goals, but he was the most dangerous on the rush and one of the most creative players Rimouski had going.

While Patrice Cormier found his physical game in time for game 3, Keven Veilleux never did much to impress me, Philippe Cornet was decent and Logan McMillan invisible (outside of a huge elbow on Dmitri Kulikov)... it was Cunti who showed up for every game.

4. Dale Mitchell (RW) - Windsor Spitfires
Windsor 6 - Rimouski 4
Thursday, May 21, 2009

The tie breaker game appeared to be in Rimouski's control as they carried a 4-2 lead into the 3rd period. However, with Toronto prospect Dale Mitchell struck three times in 3:33 of the final frame, the Spitfires assumed command of the game and went on to eliminate the hosts from the tournament. Mitchell had 7 shots on net in the game and was the spark plug emotionally and physically in the game for Windsor.

Mitchell also scored a huge goal in the final against Kelowna when he beat Mark Guggenberger for the game's second goal and the eventual game winner.

3. Marc-Andre Bourdon (D) - Rimouski Oceanic
Rimouski 5 - Windsor 4
Sunday, May 17, 2009

With the Oceanic dropping their first game to Kelowna it was paramount that they get a win against Windsor. To do so they knew they were going to have to attempt to keep Taylor Hall in check and that job fell to Philadelphia 3rd round pick Marc-Andre Bourdon - and he flourished in the role. Hall managed to pick up a couple of assists and had 5 shots on net but he played with his head on a swivel too after being pummeled early on by the very physical Bourdon.

It was Bourdon's best game of the tournament but that's not to say that he played poorly in the other three. He helped make a name for himself in this tournament and gave Flyers fans another player to look forward to.

2. Adam Henrique (C) - Windsor Spitfires
Windsor 3 - Drummondville 2 (OT)
Friday, May 22, 2009

I fully expected that the New Jersey Devils prospect was going to be named as the tournament MVP but that honor went to Taylor Hall instead. Henrique's 9 points was tied for the tournament high and in the semi-final game he was clutch, scoring the overtime winner against Drummondville. Henrique also had a pair of assists against Kelowna during the 2-1 round robin win that kept the Spitfires alive.

He wasn't Windsor's most talented, most dangerous, most physical or flashiest player but he was their most consistent game in and game out. Just like fellow Devils prospect Matt Halischuck rose to fame after the 2008 WJC, Henrique's stock is on the upward trend now too.

1. Jamie Benn (LW) - Kelowna Rockets
Kelowna 6 - Drummondville 4
Monday, May 18, 2009

The WHL playoff scoring leader could do no wrong early in the event and after picking up 3 points in the opener against Rimouski Jamie Benn was even better in game 2. Benn equaled a Memorial Cup record with a 5-point performance that included 4 goals - 1 shorthanded, 1 on the power play and 2 at even strength. With Drummondville pressing for an equalizer, Benn nearly struck for a 5th goal but saw his rink long shot ring off the post of the empty net.

Benn is a 5th round pick of the Dallas Stars who has blossomed since joining the Rockets partway through the 2007-08 season. He played for Canada at the 2009 WJC in Ottawa and has likely seen his last junior game as he heads up a level and becomes a pro.

Colorado Avalanche Draft Preview

First Round Position: 3rd

Best Picks of last 3 Years:

Kevin Shattenkirk (D) – 1st round 2007
Chris Stewart (RW) – 1st round 2006
Colby Cohen (D) – 2nd round 2007
T.J. Galiardi (F) – 2nd round 2007
Nigel Williams (D) – 2nd round 2006

Coming Down the Pipe – The Avalanche are a far cry from the perennial powerhouse they were since moving to Denver from Quebec City. Their superstars have all mostly retired, or are about to, and years of success hampered their ability to keep the cupboard stocked with top prospects. There are some talented youngsters in the system including T.J. Hensick, Kyle Cumiskey and T.J. Galiardi who have all had at least a taste of the NHL by now. Collegian Ryan Stoa was recently signed to an entry level deal as well. Colorado is deepest on the blueline when it comes to top-end prospects but there might be a shortage of natural wingers who can produce.

Draft Trends – The Avalanche have been very successful south of the border and have shown a definite interest in collegians or juniors who are headed to the NCAA, especially in rounds 2-4. These might be players who are considered risks or projects that may pan out over time given patience and 4-years of college hockey to develop.

Millard: Matt Duchene - For a while I was thinking Colorado might go after Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson in hopes that he has a little Peter Forsberg in him, but some don’t see MPS as being as complete of a player as Duchene and the Avs can’t take a chance in their rebuilding mode.

Flaming: Matt Duchene – As Joe Sakic’s career winds down his heir-apparent gets ready to help fill his shoes. The gifted middleman from Brampton will help rejuvenate a Colorado franchise that continues a successful rebuilding process.

Monday, May 25, 2009

NCAA/CHL Free Agent Goalie Wishlist

Following my wishlist of forwards and blueliners, here are the goalies that interest me enough that I hope to see get consideration for an invite to summer camp here in Edmonton. Some of these guys are still eligible to get drafted at the end of June but all of them have been passed over at least once already.

Dean and I were talking a while back about save percentage and trying to compare it to goal scoring. What number would be equal in value to a team as say a 50-goal scorer? There were only 5 goalies in the NHL this year with a save percentage of .920 or greater. There was only one 50-goal scorer but there were eight who had 40 or more. So just for arguments sake... can we make a case for saying a goalie with a .920 save percentage is relatively as valuable as a 45-goal scorer?

Maybe, maybe not. Worth talking about.

Ben Scrivens - Cornell University Big Red
Born Sep 11, 1986 Spruce Grove, ALTA
Height 6.02 Weight 180 Shoots L

The jury is very much mixed on exactly how good Scrivens is; is he a product of an uber-defensive system of a team that plays in a relatively weak conference or is he as good as his numbers suggest? And really, that's the point of the invite. I spoke with a scout a couple months back and asked him that exact question and his answer was
"Without a doubt, he's a product of... maybe I'm wrong but I don't think so. He has made improvements in his game since last year, especially in his movement in the crease."
Scrivens posted the .931 save percentage in 36 games, 4th highest in the entire NCAA. This after a .930 in 2007-08 and a .911 in 2006-07. His 1.81 goals against average was another career best and ranked 3rd best in the NCAA. At 6'2 and 180 lbs his size is an asset and the fact that he's a local kid might have some intangible positive spin possibilities as well. He's headed back for his senior year so will be a UFA this time next season.

Zane Kalemba - Princeton Tigers
Born Dec 19, 1985 Saddle Brook, NJ
Height 5.11 Weight 185 Shoots L

The New Jersey product has bounced around in his amateur career with stops in Tri-City and Green Bay of the USHL followed by a year in the SJHL's Flin Flon Bombers. He's had two strong years at Princeton under head coach Guy Gadowsky. Kalemba's 1.82 GAA was right behind Scrivens but his .932 sv% was a hair better. Like Scrivens, Kalemba's team is also located in the ECAC Conference where there is a distinct difference between the strong and weak hockey programs.

I have only seen Kalemba play once and it was on TV so not the best way to get a scouting read. At 5'11 and 185 lbs he doesn't have the natural size advantage that are becoming the norm in the NHL but he appears to be athletic enough, like Dustin Tokarski, that he should be given an extra look.

Kieran Millan - Boston University
Born Aug 31, 1989 Edmonton, ALTA
Height 6.00 Weight 190 Shoots L

Near the top of my list would be the freshman sensation of the NCAA Champion B.U. Terriers. We've had Millan on the show before and he struck us as a mature and realistic young man. His play on the ice this past year, his first at the NCAA level, was obviously terrific as he helped the Terriers capture the national title. Coach Jack Parker told us during our Memorial Cup Coach's Show about how key a player he was on and off of the ice.

Millan's numbers are solid and considering the fact that Hockey East was arguably the best of the 6 NCAA conferences last year, the stats should mean even more. Millan posted a 1.93 GAA in 35 games and had a .925 save percentage to go with it. He held the opposition to 1 or fewer goals in 15 of those games including a shutout over UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East title game.

His AJHL days with Spruce Grove were less impressive but after working with ORSports later in the year he turned his game around and hasn't looked back since.

Aaron Sorochan - Alberta Golden Bears
Born Apr 17, 1984 Edmonton, ALTA
Height 6.00 Weight 180 Shoots L

Back in March I mentioned a bunch of Golden Bears past and present that I'd like the Oilers to look at next year, especially if former UofA coach Rob Daum is back at the helm of the Springfield Falcons and goalie Aaron Sorochan was obviously one of them. (I neglected to mention Ben Kilgour and Ian MacDonald again for the forwards wishlist but they'd still be on it).

Robin Brownlee typed up a nice outline of Sorochan recently for Oilers Nation so rather than me re-hashing what he said there or what we've written in the past about him here, suffice to say that I think he's deserving of another look.

One NHL scout told me after one of the Golden Bears' National Title wins that it was going to be an off-season priority for him to get his NHL team to invite both Sorochan and Ben Thomson to their next camp. Unfortunately that scout was not retained by that NHL club. Regardless, the interest from NHL teams has been there in the past and should be even more now that Sorochan in done his CIS career.

Torrie Jung - Edmonton Oil Kings

Born Jan 21, 1989 Nanaimo, BC
Height 6.01 Weight 170 Shoots L

At the moment Jung's NHL rights are held by the Tampa Bay Lightning but if they don't sign him by June 1st, he'll go back into the draft. If that happens, I will be very surprised if another team doesn't take him but... if that also happens then he will become a UFA and therefore up for grabs.

Jung had the 7th best GAA and the 5th best SV% on a team that finished just well enough to make the playoffs (thanks to him) and still bad enough to have a top-10 pick in the Bantam Draft. Jung was the biggest reason for the turn around the Oil Kings had this year and if that club actually gets him back for an overage year... well just making the playoffs won't be enough.

He's a quick and agile goalie but is pretty good positionally as well. His personality is terrific and his attitude is first class. He'd be a great addition to any organization and if he can duplicate last year's success as a 20-year-old then he'll definitely be worth signing.

Nicola Riopel - Moncton Wildcats
Born Feb 20, 1989 St-Pie-de-Bagot, PQ
Height 6.00 Weight 167 Shoots L

I honestly know nothing about Riopel except that his numbers this year were very strong, he's undrafted and yet he was the QMJHL's nominee for CHL Player of the Year. He backstopped Moncton to the third best record in the regular season but individually he was on top of the league for both GAA (2.01) and SV% (.931).

He's of average if not slight below average size but in a league that often sees ridiculous scores, giving up just a pair is pretty respectable. The next best GAA in the league was 2.37 so there was quite a bit of separation for him from the field.

He also represented the QMJHL in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge in 2007-08, was an all-star in 2009 and picked up several Player-of-the-Week awards over his 3-year Q career in with the Wildcats.

(Photo credits:, QMJHL, WHL, Edmonton Oil Kings, University of Alberta)

NCAA/CHL Free Agent Defencemen Wishlist

Last week I threw out a bunch of names of forwards who I'd like to see get free agent invites to Edmonton's summer camp for a closer look. (See HERE). I have a shorter list of defencemen that I'd have an interest in seeing.

Eric Doyle - Swift Current Broncos
Born Apr 5, 1989 Calgary, ALTA
Height 6.03 Weight 191 Shoots R

His WHL career is at an end after a year and a half in Everett followed by two and a half with the Swift Current Broncos. Doyle has decent size and contributed a pile of points this year his 55 points were a team high for blueliners. Doyle was also a healthy +25 n the season and found a way to play physical without taking a lot of penalties - only 32 PIM on the year. The Calgary native was a key ingredient to the Broncos' power play and has a big shot to go along with competent passing skills.

Dallas Jackson - Prince George Cougars
Born Mar 31, 1989 Edson, ALTA
Height 6.02 Weight 194 Shoots L

He's got one more year of junior eligibility left and could still be taken in the NHL draft but if he doesn't, Jackson is a guy I'd like to see more of. He plays a tough and physical brand of hockey but isn't a goon, just a difficult guy to play against. He wasn't drafted into the WHL but was listed by Red Deer. He started with the Rebels but was moved to Regina where he played 18 games and had 6 points and was eventually dealt to Prince George. The Cougars signed him on September 19th of this past season and he went on to be an anchor of the PG blueline scoring 13 goals and 38 points in the process.

Ben Wright - Lethbridge Hurricanes
Born Mar 18, 1988 Foremost, ALTA
Height 6.02 Weight 200 Shoots R

Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 4th round of the 2006 event, Wright was not signed by the NHL team and was not re-drafted last year. It's really surprising to me because when I watch the Hurricanes play, he's a guy that seems to be a big part of their team. He was the captain the last couple of years and is a pretty sound shutdown guy if you ask me. I've spoken with a lot of people around the league who think he's a solid pro prospect so why he is still available is beyond me. I am pretty sure he was invited to a NHL camp last fall (Ottawa - thanks Alan Caldwell)but was not signed. Wright played in the 2007 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge as well.

Rob Kwiet - Windsor Spitfires
Born Aug 2, 1988 Toronto, ONT
Height 6.01 Weight 218 Shoots L

We just watched him help the Spitfires capture the 2009 Memorial Cup and after a 67-point campaign I'll be surprised if someone doesn't sign him sooner as opposed to later. One has to wonder how padded his stats might be considering the team that he was on this year but he did manage 27 points last season and 39 the year previous to that. He's a big body that appears capable of playing a decent 2-way game, he might not be a first pairing power play guy but he might be someone who can play on the second unit as well as on the PK.

Maxime Ouimet - Rimouski Oceanic
Born Feb 6, 1988 Laval, PQ
Height 5.11 Weight 192 Shoots L

The Oceanic really missed having Ouimet in their line up during the Memorial Cup. He was this year's winner of the Kevin Lowe trophy given out to the QMJHL's top defensive defenceman. He was originally a 1st roound pick of Baie-Comeau where he played his entire QMJHL career until the trade deadline this past season when he was picked up by Rimouski. Ouimet has been a league all-star and played in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge as well. Outside of that, I don't know much but that's the point of an invite to a summer camp; to learn more about players.

(Photos Courtesy: Francis Vachon,Lethbridge Hurricanes, Swift Current Broncos, WHL)

Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Preview

First Round Position: 2nd

Best Picks of last 3 Years:
Steven Stamkos (C) - 1st 2008
Dustin Tokarski (G) - 5th 2008
Dana Tyrell (C) - 2nd 2007
Luca Cunti (LW) - 3rd 2007
Riku Helenius (G) - 1st 2006

Coming Down the Pipe:
So far The Bolts have 86 man games to show for their last 3 drafts with last year’s first overall pick Steven Stamkos contributing 79 of them. Goaltender Riku Helenius has played one game while fellow 2006 pick Kevin Quick has suited up 6 times on the blueline. If you include the 2005 draft there are only 41 more games from Tamp draft picks. This could have a lot to do with the fact that Tampa Bay has traded away quite a few picks over the years. They didn’t have a 2nd 3rd, or 4th round pick last year. Dealt their first round pick in 2007 and were skipped in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft. The Lightning desperately need a #1 Dman after dealing Dan Boyle as well as most of what they received for Dan Boyle last year.

Draft Trends - Tampa hasn’t taken a Q player in the first round since Vinny Lecavalier in 1998. This is the 6th time in team history that Tampa has drafted in the top 3.

Millard: Victor Hedman-Tampa dealt Dan Boyle last year and have traded most of what they received in return. The bolts need a blueliner more than a forward and Hedman is a perfect fit.

Flaming: John Tavares – Whether it’s the Bolts or the Toronto Maple Leafs who trade up to this spot, I expect the OHL scoring machine doesn’t fall any farther than this.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Windsor Wins 2009 Memorial Cup

The Windsor Spitfires haev captured their first Memorial Cup win their franchise's history on the strength of an early first period onslaught that powered them to a 4-1 win over Kelowna.

No team had ever lost their first two games at the tournament and gone on to win the Memorial Cup but that is what Windsor managed to do on Sunday. The Rockets had a chance to eliminate the Spitfires from the tournament on Tuesday but couldn't get it done and it came back to haunt them. Windsor defeated Rimouski in the tie breaker and then Drummondville in the semi-final before taking it to the WHL champs in the title game.

The first period was about as bad as it gets if you're on the side of the Kelowna Rockets. First, Mikael Backlund's lackadaisical breakout was broken up by fellow Flames prospect Greg Nemisz who stripped the Swede and fed Adam Henrique who wired a shot past Mark Guggenberger.

A minute and a half later, Dale Mitchell's routine shot from the sideboards somehow eluded Guggenberger up high on the short side and suddenly Windsor was up 2-0.

Kelowna coach Ryan Huska immediately called a time out to try and calm down his troops and slow the momentum of the Spitfires. It didn't work.

With Kyle St. Denis in the box for a knee on Mark Cundari, Windsor would strike again. Rob Kwiet converted on an opportunity with Andrei Loktionov and Henrique picking up assists on the goal.

Mark Guggenberger was given the hook after allowing 3 goals on 3 shots and in came 17-year-old Adam Brown who hadn't started a game since March 14th and that was the his only action in that month. Brown (pictured above) was immediately tested as Mitchell barreled in alone on a breakaway but the youngster made two saves to get his first feel of the game. Brown saw 6 shots in the period and stopped them all.

Kelown'a bad luck wasn't limited to their poor goaltending; three key players went down to injury and although all of them returned to play they were clearly a little worse for wear. Jamie Benn went down hard after missing Taylor Hall with what would have been a huge hit. Hall was able to duck under Benn who collided into the boards hurting his tailbone.

Tyler Myers bloked a shot on his the inside of his knee and skated off awkwardly and missed his next shift. Captain Colin Long was taken out by an aggressive Lane MacDermid right at the end of the 1st period and had to be helped off the ice.

Windsor outshot Kelowna 9-5 in the first period although scoring chances may actually have been in favor of the Rockets.

However, the Rockets burst out of the gate to start the second period and scored just 8 second in as Long made good on the power play. Kelowna had a bunch of momentum at that point and had several more scoring chances but couldn't beat Andrew Engelage.

The momentum wouldn't last forever though and when Ryan Ellis hammered a point blast off the post and behind Brown, the Spitfires appeared to assume complete control.

There was one scary moment as Jamie Benn slashed Mark Cundari in the mouth and received a double-minor for the high stick. Windsor failed to capitalize on the 4-minute man advantage but they did carry the 4-1 lead into the final period.

There was no scoring in the final frame as Windsor sunk into defensive mode and a deflated looking Rockets squad couldn't muster any offence.

The final shots in the game were 28-22 in favor of the new CHL champs. Adam Henrique, a New jersey Devils 3rd round pick in 2008, and Jamie Benn of the Rockets led the tournament in scoring with 9 points each. Taylor Hall of the Spitfires was chosen as the tournament MVP.

The image of seeing the team posing for the traditional photo with Mickey Renaud's #18 jersey draped around the trophy... fans of any team would have to admit that it was a great moment.

It was the first time since 2002 that the host league was not represented in the Memorial Cup final. It was also the first time since 2003 that the host team was not playing in the final game either.

Next year the Brandon Wheat Kings will host the tournament.

New York Islanders Draft Preview

First Round Position: 1st

Best Picks of last 3 Years:

Kyle Okposo (RW) – 1st round 2006
Josh Bailey (C) – 1st round 2008
Kirill Petrov (RW) – 3rd round 2008
Aaron Ness (D) – 2nd round 2008
Jason Gregoire (LW) – 3rd round 2007

Coming Down the Pipe - Both Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey are already contributing at the NHL level. Thanks to GM Garth Snow's decision to commit to a true rebuild, the organization has acquired and used a lot of draft picks over the last few years by trading off veteran players at the NHL deadline. Snow has also shown a talent for trading down in the draft, still getting their man while adding even more assets in the process. The Islanders have solid prospects in their system at all positions although one might argue that in goal is where they may be the thinnest.

Draft Trends - The Islanders have shown no heavy preference to league, nationality or position in recent drafts having plucked players from just about everywhere imaginable. They have drawn from the USHL, High School and Jr. ‘A’ a total of 12 times in the last 3 years.

Millard: John Tavares -The Islanders want a middleman for Kyle Okposo and it will be a tough sell to their fans if they turn down a potential 50-goal scorer. They need to make a splash and Tavares will deliver.

Flaming: Victor Hedman – The Islanders can't afford to be wrong and despite both being labelled as potential franchise players, Hedman may be considered more of a "safer" pick than Tavares. What you see is what you get; there are no surprises with the big Swede.