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Belak’s Long and Winding Road

by Stephen J. Holodinsky

Belak’s Long and Winding Road

It’s been quite a bumpy path so far for Wade Belak. Originally drafted 12th overall in the 1994 Entry Draft by the then Quebec Nordiques he was seen as the eventual partner for Adam Foote on a burly take no prisoners blueline. He was then moved to Calgary in the trade for Theoron Fleury four seasons later and again seen as a major component of a young blueline. Again, it didn’t happen for him, and as more Flame rearguard prospects came of age, he ended up on waivers.

It was from there that Pat Quinn plucked him last season, amid cries from the media to trade for Rob Blake. Needless to say, the similarities between Belak and Blake gave birth to a good many jokes about the Leaf GM’s literacy level. That said, the journey for the strapping westerner still wasn’t over even though he has yet to don a different jersey. No, rather than another city, the last leg is a rather short one geographically from the blueline to the center red line. That said, it is probably the most difficult part of his travels.

To be sure, he can still play defense, and he has been called on to fill in there on occasion this season. More and more though, the Leafs, as they did for the Detroit game, are leaving him up front, and calling up a rearguard from The Rock rather than sending him back to the defense. No, Belak’s future lies not on blueline but on the fourth line. Skating with Alyn McCauley and Gary Valk, the trio has been dominant when on the ice. While they don’t often finish their chances, they generate chaos in the opponent’s zone i Read more »

Interview with Jiri Hudler

by Ivana Paulova

Despite his age Jiri Hudler is one of the key figures of Extraleague champion HC Vsetin. Jiri is one of the biggest talents and he should be drafted very high in the upcoming draft. Vsetin was weakened by bad management and in the summer many players left. This was an excellent opportunity for young players! In the 18th round of the Exrtaleague Vsetin came to play in Prague against Sparta. After the game Jiri Hudler kindly answered few questions.

How do you view your chances of playing in the oncoming JWC?

I really wish and hope that I’ll play there. Deep in my heart this is my biggest wish. If I continue playing in the Extraleague I think I’ll have a chance of being included on the WJC roster.

What about your chances on the draft?

Well it all unrolls from the WJC and my performance in the Extraleague. But again I hope I’ll be drafted. I don’t have any preferences as far as NHL teams are concerned. I think they’re all excellent.

What are your plans for the next season?

I’ll probably stay here at least for another season. I don’t want to rush things and then make a mistake.

Why didn’t you leave to play in CHL?

There was no need to go there. I was lucky to be given a chance to play in the Extraleague which is a much better source of experience for young player then the CHL. Last season I played for Vsetin but there were too many good players so then I was given a chance to play for Havirov which was very beneficial. I’m glad that I stayed here. I have many great players around me an Read more »

WHL Goalie Preview for the 2002 Draft

by HF Staff

WHL Goalies for the 2002 NHL Draft

The 2002 NHL entry draft is fast approaching, and im here to give you a
heads up on the top WHL prospects. Many people know the big names such as
Jay Bouwmeester and Scottie Upshall. But its the smaller names, most
dont know.

As far as goalies go, the WHL is expected to have the bulk of
them drafted from. Todd Ford of the Swift Current Broncos is the number
guy. He is in his second season in the WHL and is expected to be the
starter in his third. Tyler Weimen of the Tri City Americans is also
expected to be picked in the early rounds of the draft. Early on in the
year Tyler Weimen received the player of the week honours as the top
in the WHL.

From the Regina Pats is Josh Harding. He is in his rookie
season with the Pats. Where he already looks like a veteran, as he looks
close to steal the starting position in the Pats net. He also won player
the week honours recently. Cam Ward of the Red Deer Rebels and Ryan
Martin are both off to great starts. Each are expected to be drafted in the
of the draft.

Other notables that have a shot at being drafted include
Sorochan, Ryan Cyr, Ryan Papianou, and Logan Koopmans.

The WHL may not
a Dan Blackburn in this years draft, but they sure have a lot of talent
year. I will be back next week to update the top defencmen in the WHL. Read more »

Interview with Top Finnish Prospect Joni Pitkanen

by Mikko Vuori

Joni Pitkanen is 2002 eligible Finnish defenceman, who is playing for his
hometown Oulu in Finnish SM-liiga. Many experts believe that Pitkanen is
one of the best Finnish defenceman prospects ever.

Here are some parts of the interview done by
Kari Heikkinen and that was originally
published in Finnish hockey site
before the Four Nations U20 tournament that was played in Vaasa, Finland last week.

Q: What are your first memories of hockey?

A: There is a long winter in Oulu, and we used to live near the Rannanperä rink.
First I just wwent to to rink with boots to hustle, but later we bought a skates for me.
I remember that I listened Karpatgames from radio and there was a lot of hockey on TV,
so that has had an influence on me. My dad or my bother didn’t play, so I didn’t get
the spark from there.

I started playing at the age of five and joined a team when I was seven.
I was a bid nervous about joining a real team, but then I encouraged myself and now I’m
still playing.

Q: Who are your idols in hockey and sports all in all? Reijo Ruotsalainen? Janne Niinimaa?

A: There are many of them, but maybe Reijo Ruotsalainen, as he is from Oulu. And Mario
Lemieux, altough he is a forward. When I started to follow NHL he had just won two
Stanley Cups. Niinimaa is still quite young, but when he trains with us I follow
what he does. He is quite a player.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a player? How about in five years time?< Read more »

Marian Havel – Another Czech Giant

by Robert Neuhauser
Born in Jihlava, Czech Republic, Marian Havel is the latest gem from the once hockey famous
city. Thirty years ago the mighty Jihlava dynasty ruled the Czechoslovakian First League
(the same level as the Czech Extraleague right now), winning an unprecendented number
of championship titles. Generation of players like the Jiri and Jaroslav Holik (father of
Devils’ Bobby Holik), current Czech senior national team coach Josef Augusta or defenseman
Jan Suchy is unforgettable in the minds of fans of the Jihlava team. After winning the last of
the 11 championship titles in early 90’s the level of hockey in Jihlava began slowly to decrease and
after some time the team found itself in the Czech Div I league, where it is till now. Still,
solid players learned the tools of the hockey trade in Jihlava and quality players were risen.
For example Josef Marha, the former NHLer, now in the Swiss Elite League. When looking
at the rearguards, then you can see Marek Posmyk, the Tampa Bay Lightining player, who
is now playing for Zlin, but is from Jihlava, or Petr Svoboda, in the system of Toronto Maple
Leafs. The last one with very solid chances on a NHL career is without doubt the offensive
sparkplug Marian Havel.

Marian Havel was the youngster of a hockey family. His dad, a hockey coach, brought both his
sons to the game. The older Lukas just like the three years younger Marian. So Marian had
hockey all around him and it was only a question of time before he also starts to attend
regular hockey practices. He could see his brother taking the first strides and his dad Read more »

Hockey’s Future Profiles Jonny Boychuk

by pbadmin

Johnny Boychuk, a right-handed shooting defenseman with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. Boychuk is a player who delivers crushing body checks, has good overall mobility, and a hard low slap-shot from the point. His biggest asset is that he consistently makes smart plays with or without the puck in his own zone. In this installment of a series of interviews with the top players in the juniors, Hockey’s Future sits down with this potential top 15 first round draft pick for next years NHL Entry Draft.

Hockey’s Future: Even with the NHL Entry Draft 7 months away, does your potential ranking among the first round have any effect on your play this season?

Johnny Boychuk: I try to do as much as I can while still playing my position, not allow my thoughts to wander on things I cannot control.

HF: Are their any attributes about your game that you think would be appealing to NHL scouts?

Johnny Boychuk: Definitely my physical play and making good first passes out of the defensive zone.

HF: After having a pretty successful rookie season, what are your biggest challenges coming into this season?

Johnny Boychuk: There is a challenge for me to show that last season was not a fluke.

HF: By showing the coaching staff your dependable play early in the season, your ice time in all situations has increased especially in penalty killing. Does that give you the confidence that you can be relied upon in key times during the game?

Johnny Boychuk: I believe my attention to detail is the lar Read more »

HF’s Interview with Erie Otter’s Brian Lee

by Ken McKenna

In their short history, the OHL’s Erie Otters have developed several fine NHL prospects for the pro game. Former Otters stars such as Tim Connolly, Nikita Alexeev and Michael Rupp have had their names called in the 1st round of the NHL Draft, while current standouts Brad Boyes and Carlo Colaiacovo both have more recently had that honor bestowed upon them by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While Erie may not continue their string of 1st round magic in this year’s draft, there will be at least 2 or 3 names called from the Otters’ roster at the 2002 NHL Draft in June. One of those players, U.S.-born defenseman Brian Lee (6’2″, 187 lbs.), could have his name called in the 2nd or 3rd round. The Michigan native was ranked 50th amongst North American skaters on the Central Scouting Bureau’s Mid-Season Rankings.

After a season in which Brian saw limited ice time, he has come on during the 2001-02 campaign to provide solid defensive play for the Otters. The left-shooting rearguard won’t necessarily break any scoring records, but Lee’s steady style of play should catch the eye of a NHL GM looking for a defensive defenseman with a little skill and size.

I spoke with Brian prior to a recent Otters game, with the transcript of that conversation appearing below. “HF” represents the questions asked by the interviewer, while “BL” denotes Brian’s answers.


: You didn’t get to play a lot last year, but this year, you’ve really made great strides. To what do you attribu Read more »

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