ICE Sightings at NHL Camps

By Jeff Bromley

It is only now that we are seeing the full
effect of the NHL expansion agenda is
having on the junior hockey scene. With
this year’s addition of two member
clubs, the Minnesota Wild and
Columbus Blue Jackets, along with their
expansion cousins in Nashville and
Atlanta over the past two seasons, the
trickle down effect is starting to take
shape. Some examples, Kootenay ICE
regular’s Steve McCarthy and Zdenek
Blatny, in Chicago and Atlanta’s camp
respectively.

In McCarthy’s case, some
accounts actually suggest that the Trail
native is having a good camp, but not as
good as last year, which earned him a
five regular season game look with the
Hawks last year. Reports also state that
McCarthy has fully recovered from the
season-ending shoulder injury that he
suffered last winter and that he is all but
penciled into the Hawks line-up being
paired with Chicago’s number one
rearguard Boris Mironov on the number
one power-play unit. The odds on
McCarthy coming back to the ICE this
season? The smart money says no. Even
if there are some questions on
McCarthy’s statues in Chicago at some
time early on in the season, I think that
the Hawks will give him every
opportunity to maintain a spot on the
roster. The only chance that I see
McCarthy coming back is that if it
becomes blatantly obvious that he’s not
developing at that level, thus earning a
trip back to junior at the quarter or mid-
season mark.

Reports on Blatny out of
the Thrashers camp are more mediocre. Although showing flashes of offensive
brilliance that was evident with the ICE
game in and game out last season,
Blatny hasn’t really stood out among
candidates looking for a roster spot in
Atlanta. The irony is that the Thrashers
are still in expansion mode and are
consequently still a very average hockey
club. Their short history demonstrates
that they might be able to take a risk on
a player with some offensive potential, a
la first overall pick last year Patrick
Stefan, who had a troublesome year
when some said that Stefan wasn’t ready
for the NHL. Odds on Blatny coming
back to the ICE? Unless he picks it up a
notch or two in Atlanta, look for the
shifty Czech sniper to be back in an ICE
uniform this season.

Other NHL Camp Notables:

Dean Arsene – Vancouver Canucks. Arsene
earned a walk-on invite from the
Canucks and is hopeful to garner some
attention and maybe score a minor-
league deal. Outlook: Arsene’s
immediate future is with the ICE for his
overage season, although a contract for
the hard-working blueliner isn’t entirely
out of the question.

Jarret Stoll – Calgary Flames. By all
accounts Stoll has played well at his first
ever NHL camp and as turned a few
heads. That being said Stoll is at least a
year away unless the Flames get
desperate for a new marketing slogan –
Young Guns II – The New Crop. Look
for Stoll to contend for a Flames roster
spot in 2000.

Quick Hits – The B.J. Boxma trade
watch continues with earnest. One
possible destination could be the
Lethbridge Hurricanes. With the
announcement that ‘Canes incumbent
Brady Block has left the club to pursue
other interests has left Lethbridge
without a bonafide starter. The Brandon
Wheat Kings were also looking for a
netminder when expected starter Robert
McVicar accepted a scholarship to the
University of Maine. The Wheaties
seemed to have solved that problem
when they traded for 20 yr old Shaun
Fleming of the Regina Pats for future
considerations.

Kudos to the WHL Board of Directors
for nipping the already drawn out saga
of the Tri-Cities Americans ownership
situation in the bud by naming Victoria
businessman Wayne Overland as the
successful purchaser. With the potential
mess behind them, the Board and their
newly hired Commissioner Ron
Robinson can get on with business of
hockey and the fruition of the new
Vancouver franchise next season.