The moment many Minnesota Wild fans waited for since June’s entry draft
arrived on Wednesday night, a little longer than they had originally hoped,
but just as pleasing.
Right-wing Tony Virta was called up by the parent club March 20 to help fill
the holes created by injuries to forwards Sergei Zholtok and Wes Walz, and
Aaron Gavey’s battle with the flu.
Virta, playing in the first National Hockey League game of his career,
failed to register a point in a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Prior
to his promotion, the 29-year-old prospect had spent all season with the
American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros – the Wild’s primary affiliate.
“I wasn’t nervous, but it was new,” said Virta to the Pioneer Press. “I was
surprised. Maybe it’s because we played Columbus, but there wasn’t much
hitting at all. I don’t know what was happening. There are a lot of young
players in the AHL, and there was a lot of skating and hitting. I just have
one NHL game, and it was against Columbus, so I really don’t know if I know
what to expect.”
In 67 games with the Aeros, Virta has been a pleasant surprise, leading the
team in scoring with 25 goals and 58 points, his first season in North
America after spending the majority of his professional career in his native
Finland with TPS Turku, where he was the Finnish player of the year last
Virta led the team in scoring with 27 goals 60 points in 56 games, while
Minnesota’s first pick in last year’s draft, Mikko Koivu, saw action in 22
games tallying only one assist.
Aft Read more »
Last year at this time the talk was all about the bodies that were flying around the Western Conference, as there were a couple big moves that shook the world. Colorado airlifted Rob Blake in from Los Angeles on their way to the Stanley Cup at the cost of Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, Jared Aulin and David Steckel. The Kings used the first two players to get themselves to the Conference Finals. St. Louis traded a bucket of youth for Keith Tkachuk. San Jose landed Teemu Selanne. This time however, most of the fireworks happened in the East. That said, there was still enough wheeling and dealing to go around. Here is the second part of this two part series, this time focusing on the Western Conference. Each team is given a mark 1 through 10 with 10 being excellent. In case of a tie, the teams are listed in alphabetical order.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
What They Got: Jaroslav Spacek, Jamie Allison, 2003 2nd , 4th Round Pick
What They Lost: Lyle Odelein, Jamie Pushor, Blake Sloan Read more »
Holding two number one picks in the 2001 draft, Hawk G.M. Mike Smith chose to pass on Rangers rookie Dan Blackburn in favor of Tummo Ruutu with his #9 overall selection.While sitting at the draft as it reached the middle of round one, I wasn’t the only one feeling that the Blackhawk’s lack of depth in goal might lead to a ‘tender taken with the second first rounder. But all indications were that goalie might be Jason Bacashihua
would be the guy if a goalie was picked. He played for the Chicago Freeze, in a northwest Chicago suburb, and was rated a late first rounder.
He was in fact picked by Dallas a few picks before the Blackhawks picked.The Hawks made Adam Munro their pick, surprising Adam and his Dad as much as the rest of us.Was he a back up choice, or was it Tretiak’s high scouting marks that bumped him into the first round?
A big goalie, Adam presently progressing in the AHL.Here is Ken McKenna’s interview with Adam:.
Q&A with Adam Munro.
By Ken McKenna.
Hockey’s Future : We’ll start with this season. Erie is on its way to another division title. How do you feel about the teams’ chances of going to the Memorial Cup?.
AM:I feel like we have a good enough team to do it this year. Last year we had a lot of skill, but I don’t know if we had the character there. This year, I think we’ve got a lot of experience from last year, we’ve got a lot of guys back. We probably don’t have as much skill, but a lot more character on this team this year than we did la Read more »
It started out as but a trickle of activity where many were predicting a flood. Goalies were thought to be the commodity that would be the most visible but in the end the roof caved in on the netminder market and not a whole lot happened there. However, when all was said and done, deadline day provided a steady influx of medium sized artillery shots that were highlighted by a Big Bertha at the very end. Here then, is the first half of a two part series, detailing the Eastern Conference, examining how each team did once the GM’s lit their cigars, sat down behind their desks, had the coffee and donuts delivered, and started talking turkey. Each team is given a mark 1 through 10 with 10 being excellent. In case of a tie, the teams are listed in alphabetical order.
What They Got: Yuri Butsayev , Kirill Safronov, Ruslan Zainullin, Joe DiPenta, Francis Lessard, 2002 3rd, 4th, 4th, 5th Round Picks
What They Lost: Ray Ferraro, Jiri Slegr, Bob Corkum, Darcy Hordichuk, Jarrod Skalde, David Harlock, 2002 4th, 5th, Round Picks, 2003 3rd, 7th Round Picks Read more »
The German hockey newspaper “EishockeyNews” made a survey over the last weeks. Coaches like Bob Murdoch and Chris Valentine, GM’s like Marcus Kuhl and Karel Lang and various hockey journalists and experts named the award winners of the season 2001/2002. In addition, 168 peoples were involved.
DEL (First League)
Player Read more »
The playoffs begin in the OHL with some teams just happy to be there and others with something to prove. The Guelph Storm enter the playoffs assured of a Memorial Cup berth as they are the host city, while the other 15 teams in the playoffs try to claim the other spot. The Western Conference probably has more roadblocks for any teams with championship intentions, as the Eastern Conference has several teams at the bottom that won’t be much of a threat, not so in the West.
Plymouth vs London
On paper a mismatch, one of the fastest teams in the league vs one of the slowest. A stingy defence against a team that relies heavily on 3-4 guys to carry the load. However, games are played on the ice, and London did fare very well against the Whalers and the Greyhounds on back to back nights late in the season without superstar Rick Nash and Captain Danny Bois. Special teams will be critical, London has numerous players who consistently take stupid penalties and most referees seem more than happy to rule against London when a fracas occurs, due to London’s past reputation. The Knights have an awesome power play at times, especially when leading scorer Mike Stathopoulos gets set up on the half boards, looking to feed Dennis Wideman who has a howitzer from the point.
They need someone to step up on the point and make the basic plays to take pressure off of Wideman, something no one has been able to do this year so far. Also they need to have better plays on the other side of the ice, especially from Nash, who tends to try to force the puck and spen Read more »
With nine games left on the schedule, the Houston Aeros have picked a bad
time to play some uninspired hockey.
The Aeros (32-25-9-5) have dropped four of their last five games, and now
find themselves in sixth spot in the Western Conference, heading into this
weekend’s two-game set with the streaking Manitoba Moose. Manitoba has won
three in a row, including a 6-0 win over the Saint John Flames on Wednesday
The Aeros, meanwhile, are coming off losses to Chicago and Milwaukee – with
the ugly loss to the Admirals prompting a post-game tirade launched by Aeros
General Manager Dave Barr.
“It was deserved,” said Aeros forward Brendan Yarema to the Houston
Chronicle. “We haven’t been consistent, so we’re kicking ourselves in the
butt and we have no one to blame but ourselves.”
Their uninspired play has led to a shortage of offense, with only nine
goals-for in their last five games, compared to 19 goals-against.
“Offensively, we have to create a little bit more and I think that comes
with passion and a little more hunger,” said head coach Todd McLellan of the
Aeros’ struggle to find the net. “We have to learn how to score ugly. If you
go back through those games when we’ve scored three or more goals, a lot of
them were ugly and we need more like that.”
The Aeros have some critical games ahead, as five of their last nine are
against division rivals, and will play a major role in where the Aeros
finish in the Western Conference.
While the NHL’s trade deadline passed March Read more »
Jackets CHL Prospect Season In Review
Part One: Western Hockey League
Shane Bendera – G – Kelowna Rockets
At the beginning of the season, who could’ve conceived that Shane Bendera would not be suited up in his familiar colors of the Red Deer Rebels. Instead, Bendera was shipped off to Kelowna midway through December. In 30 games with his new squad, Bendera played respectably, but did not put up the amazing numbers we saw earlier in the year from his Red Deer days. In Kelowna, he managed a 13-9-8 record with 2.61 GAA and .907 SV%, still very respectable numbers. While with Red Deer, Bendera put up better numbers. Through 20 games, he managed a 2.28 GAA and a .918 SV%.
All in all, the acquisition of Bendera by the Rockets did exactly what the organization hoped it would, and that is land the Rockets a playoff birth. This is where Bendera shines, the playoffs. It is no secret that Bendera craves the big game, and even lead his former Rebel teammates to the Memorial Cup last season. The fans of Kelowna hopes he can do the same for their squad when they face off against the Kamloops Blazers in the first round of the WHL Playoffs.
Ben Knopp – RW – Kamloops Blazers
Ben Knopp was another Blue Jacket prospect dealt this year, and although it took him some time to connect with his new linemates, once he did, his productivity increased dramatically. Knopp, who was acquired from Moose Jaw, finished the season with 44 goals in 78 games. He averaged more than a point Read more »
There’s only one thing better than seeing two rivals battle it out in a game during the regular season…
Seeing two rivals battle it out in a playoff series.
The I-5 rivalry will heat up yet again when the Portland Winter Hawks play the Seattle Thunderbirds in game 1 of their WHL 1st round series on Friday. Portland has had a decisive edge in this series, winning nine games, losing once in regulation, losing once in overtime and getting one tie against them. Portland has outscored Seattle 55 goals to 35 goals in the 12 game series. With all this as evidence, it’s clear that Portland should have absolutely no trouble with the Thunderbirds, right?
Realistically, the Hawks should take this series as long as they come to play. But lets not forget, this is the playoffs. There are no definites in the playoffs. Just take a look at last year, and you’ll see how unpredictable the playoffs truly can be. Seattle was the sixth seed in last year’s Western Conference playoffs, back when they only had six teams in the West. They played the first seed Kelowna Rockets in the first round, and subsequently beat them. This gave the Hawks the bye in the second round, as they were the highest seeded team to make it past the first round. This year, however, there are no byes. With the addition of two teams to the Western Conference, there are 8 teams in this year’s playoffs, and no byes will be given to any team. Portland finished 3rd overall in the West, but they’ll play Seattle in the first round because the first round matchups are divisional.
These teams are not Read more »
Albany Week in Review #24
Trade deadline: Devils’ swaps; no Rats involved
Tuesday, March 19, 2002 was trade deadline, at 3:00 pm EST. The Devils swung a pair of deals by that time, neither involving River Rats. Stephane Richer, right winger who was part of the Devils’ 1995 Stanley Cup championship team, was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 7th round draft pick in next year’s (2003) entry draft.
The bigger deal involved the Dallas Stars. Pivot Jason Arnott and right winger Randy McKay were dealt in the final minutes before the trade deadline. In exchange, the Devils acquired centers Joe Nieuwednyk and Jamie Langenbrunner, both members of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. The Devils also surrendered a first round draft pick to the Stars. No minor league players were involved in either deadline deal today.
Defenseman (now assistant coach) Kinnear honored
In the year after he retired due to injury, Geordie (“Champ”) Kinnear was honored by the Albany River Rats. An original member of the team, a member of the 1994-1995 Calder Cup championship team, a four-time selectee for the AHL All-Star Classic, and three-time captain, Geordie Kinner had his #4 jersey unfurled from the rafters at the Pepsi Arena on Saturday night.
It was ironic that the ceremony, in which his number was “honored” (displayed, but not “retired”), came against the Providence Bruins. Several years back, he broke a bone in his hand in a fight against the Bruins after a melee broke out in front of the Rats’ Read more »