December 31st, 1998
Well now that the new year is almost upon us and the holidays have taken their toll on myself(and my car, may it rest in peace), I’ve decided that the slacking off is going to stop. The most recent of these updates have been few and far between and I hope to remedy that right now. So enjoy it and the New Year’s celebrations, because a good number of us will be regretting it in the morning(the over-celebration that is).
World Junior Championships: Three Penguins draftees are participating this year, Andrew Ference, Mika Lehto, and Alexander Zevakhin. First round draftee Milan Kraft was left off of the Czech roster for seemingly no reason other than his migration to North America. Ference was medically cleared to play at the last minute and should help bolster a strong Canadian defense. Mika Lehto is seeing little ice time (just under 20 minutes in 3 games) for the Finnish team, playing backup to Mika Noronen. Alexander Zevakhin made the Russian roster by the skin of his teeth (he was considered a longshot to make the team) and has one goal for the offense-minded Russian team.
Syracuse Ramblings: Robert Dome has begun to break out of his self-inflicted shell and started to regain the form that earned him a late-season callup last year. Pavel Skrbek has returned from injury to show us just why Penguins’ GM Craig Patrick traded up in the ’96 draft to get him with four points in the last six games. Skrbek may just be the powerplay quarterback of the future for the Pens. Michal Rozsival is also showing some offensive talent from the blueline with 5 assists in the last four games. Still leading the Crunch in points are Valentin Morozov and Boris Protsenko, with 30 and 25 points respectively, but they’ll soon be competing for top billing with Dome, who had scored two points in each of the three games previous to last night.
Around the Minors: Brian Bonin continues to disappoint this season, even in the AHL. His stock is quickly dropping and he may be digging himself into the grave of a career minor-leaguer. Tom O’Connor was selected to play in the ECHL All-Star game on January 13th, the game will be televised, tape-delayed, on the 14th on ESPN2 at 2PM. O’Connor has 19 points in 24 games with Wheeling this year.
Juniors: While the Czech team is struggling in the World Junior Championships, Milan Kraft is in Prince Albert showing them what a mistake they made by not including him. Kraft is in the midst of an eight game points streak, in which he has three goals and fourteen points. He also made the WHL Eastern Conference All-Star team. Andrew Ference was also selected to play in the WHL All-Star game, for the Western Conference, despite being absent most of the season with a broken collarbone. Alexandre Mathieu has been on the short end of the stick in terms of offense this season, but with the growing injury list in Halifax, he has a chance to regain his pace of last year. With the holiday break coming to an end, hopefully, he will realize that he needs to capitalize on this opportunity, especially since he’ll be up for his first pro contract this summer.
Injuries: Toby Petersen is still out with a broken leg, his return should be around the end of January, if not earlier. Petersen broke his leg on November 18th when he hit the boards and his leg bent in a direction that it shouldn’t. Tuomas Gronman is out for the season with knee surgery.
Ups and Downs: Craig Hillier(Syracuse, AHL) got the call to visit Pittsburgh on the 22nd and was promplty sent back to Syracuse the next day, since JS Aubin(Kansas City, IHL) was too far away (Winnipeg) to make it to Pittsburgh for that particular game. Dan Kesa(Detroit, IHL) also was called up for that game, a 3-0 loss to Los Angeles. Aubin was then called up on the 26th to backup Peter Skudra, while Tom Barasso is out with a hip injury. Kesa and Martin Sonnenberg(Syracuse, AHL) were called up on the 29th. Patrick Lebeau was sent down to Grand Rapids of the IHL on the 28th after returning from a shoulder injury.