The new season is upon us, last week you saw an outlook for the Eastern
Division teams. Here is a look at the rough and tough Western
Division. This division is the stronger of the two and it looks to be a
race that will go until the final second to decide who will win the
west. The Western Division welcomes the new Tri-City Storm who were
known as the Twin Cities Vulcans up until last season. The Vulcans
ended their run in the Twin Cities as National Junior A champions after
falling just short of winning the Clark Cup in the USHL playoffs. The
Sioux Falls Stampede are coming into their 2nd year of existence and
after a #3 seed in the playoffs, were ousted in the playoffs to those
previously mentioned Vulcans. They will no doubt maintain their high
ranking in the standings this year and with a year of experience under
their belt look to go far. Here are my previews for each team in the
Western Division and where I think they will finish.
1. Lincoln Stars -
No doubt the land of Lincoln has high expectations for the Stars again
this season. And there should be no reason why they won’t produce what
is expected of them and that is why I’m picking them for a 1st place
finish in the West. They are also my team to win the Anderson Cup.
Lincoln brings the heat on offense, simply put. Returning are major
offensive forces from last year in the names of Preston Callender, Chris
Fournier and Brandon Bochenski. This offense is charged like an
energizer battery and they don’t seem to lose power as time goes on.
Their opponent Read more »
As was the case last Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers’ rookie
goaltender Johan Holmqvist was forced to start another NHL game. The doctors
have stated that starting goalie Mike Richter can’t play in consecutive
games, so the choice for last night’s game against the Ottawa Senators would
have been Kirk McLean, leaving Holmqvist as the backup. However, McLean was
still feeling the effects of back spasms and couldn’t play in the game. So
Holmqvist got the emergency call last night as the starter.
Holmqvist was impressive at times, but also looked shaky as the Senators came
back to win 6-5, as they scored three goals in the third period to erase a
4-3 Rangers’ lead. Holmqvist finished with 32 saves on 38 shots, and now has
lost both NHL games he has played in. Let’s take a look back at some of the
ups and downs of Holmqvist last night.
Right away Johan got off on the wrong foot as Martin Havlat, the 19 year old
rookie sensation of the Ottawa Senators, got the puck in the neutral zone off
a turnover and used his blazing speed to go right by Rangers rookie
defenseman Mike Mottau and snapped a shot through Holmqvist’s legs, at 2:42
of the 1st period. It was a soft goal that Johan let up and one he should
have had. He was caught going down to soon and the puck slid through his legs
just as he went down. I find it very ironic that before the game started they
showed footage of Holmqvist working with the Rangers goalie coach on trying
to stay on his feet more, and then he gets beat in the game on the same th Read more »
Another in a series of weekly articles summarizing activity in Leafland
during the previous 7 days – with some personal observations,
commentary, prospect updates and fun thrown in for good measure.
Off-season Improvements Finally Kick In: The off-season repairs applied
to the Toronto roster were clearly evident as the Leafs beat the Devils
5 – 3 in a stirring comeback on November 2nd … the added muscle
(represented mainly by off-season additions Gary Roberts, Shayne Corson
and Dave Manson) were a huge factor in the victory … the Maple Leafs
competed physically with New Jersey all over the ice, all evening long …
a big hit by Roberts on playoff nemesis Scott Stevens was symbolic of
the club’s overall competitiveness – the type of hit that no one on the
club could (or would) deliver last spring … even frequent passengers
such as Khistich and Hoglund (and dare I say, Mats Sundin) displayed
some grit and fire in this one … miraculously, when the entire club puts
forward that sort of total effort, the missing offense suddenly returned
as well … a very satisfying game indeed and hopefully a portent of good
things to come …
Tucker Extended: Darcy Tucker, another standout against the Devils, was
given a contract extension by the team this week … this was likely done
for two main reasons … certainly the Leafs see Darcy as an important and
popular member of their club and wanted to lock him up for several
seasons … additionally, for the past three years, the Leafs have been
selling their players on a team bonus Read more »
Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL) Report:
The Phantoms are off to a tough start (just 4 wins in 11 games) in the early going of the 2000-2001 season. The team, riddled with injuries and further depleted by callups to the Flyers, has had a tough time scoring goals. The powerplay has been absolutely anemic. Veteran minor league stars such as Michel Picard , Mark Freer, and Mark Greig receive the most ice time from new Phantoms coach John Stevens but have struggled to provide the needed offense. A veteran trying to earn his way back to the NHL, Derek Plante, has been a major disappointment. Rookie Vaclav Pletka has yet to make the offensive impact he was expected to deliver.
The Phantoms, thus far, have been an undisciplined team. They take a lot of untimely penalties and too many players have been prone to mental mistakes. Stevens typically dresses at least 3 (and often 4) players who are primarily enforcers. While this has provided some entertainment for the fisticuff enthusiasts in the crowd, it has not helped the team overcome its offensive woes.
Things have been a bit better on the blueline. Stevens and assistant coaches Kjell Samuelsson and Don Nachbaur are trying to incorporate three rookie defensemen into the lineup; always a dicey proposition. For the most part, the rookies played as well as can be expected.
The Phantoms goaltending situation is now settled, with Roman Cechmanek joining the Flyers. The Flyers top prospect, Maxime Ouellet, played briefly with the Phan Read more »
Different surroundings, different teammates and a fresh start were the orders of the day as the two newest members of the Kootenay ICE made
their debuts in practice Thursday in anticipation of playing their first games for their new club in a two game set against Saskatoon and Tri-Cities
over the weekend. Bret DeCecco and Brennan Evans made their way into Cranbrook and the Rec/Plex Thursday in the wake of the deal that sent
them to the Key City from Seattle for overage players Brad Tutschek and Dion Lassu.
DeCecco, who, up until this point, had spent his whole junior career in the Emerald city figured that the transition from one of the biggest WHL
centers to one of the smallest would be no trouble at all. “I think it’s good because the guys are a lot closer together and everyone’s about five
minutes away whereas in Seattle guys would be thirty or forty minutes away,” said DeCecco. “I like the city. From what I hear, it’s a great
hockey town, the fans are great, the new rink and everything, I’m really excited.”
Coming from the Thunderbirds, DeCecco and teammate in the trade, Brennan Evans had gotten used to being part of just one of many major
sports teams. In Cranbrook however the view is a little more focused with the ICE being the only game in town. “Probably, I mean there’s like
five major sports teams in Seattle and here the big thing here is the Kootenay ICE. I like that though, I like being in the spotlight and the people
have been great. I drove into to town and needed directions to the rink and the people were ‘Oh, you
Mike Mottau not too long ago was leading the Boston College Eagles Hockey
Team to the NCAA tournament. He has been the center of attention for a
long time. It isn’t any different now, as he is on the world’s biggest
stage, New York. With an injury in the first game of the year to Vladimir
Malakhov, GM Glen Sather sent the call to the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack to call
up the former Hobey Baker Winner. So far in just a handful of games, Mottau
has looked amazingly solid. Playing so well he has forced Rangers head coach
Ron Low to give him power play time. Give the credit though to ex-Rangers GM
Neil Smith, who a few years ago stole Mottau in the seventh round of the entry
draft. That is the same man who took Kim Johnsson with the last pick overall
in an entry draft. Johnsson is going to be a top defender in the NHL and Mike
Mottau is well on his way to joining that group.
One of the bright surprises in this young IHL season thus far has been
the play of the Kansas City Blades. They have burst out of the gate
with a 7-1-1 record and have captured 4 of the 8 weekly awards thus far
with Harold Druken and Artem Chubarov earning Player of the Week honours
and Corey Schwab garnering the Goaltender of the Week award twice
The Blades can attribute much of their success thus far to the play of
Schwab and Alfie Michaud in goal. The former has won 6 of his 7 starts
and has posted a 1.76 goals-against-average and 0.930 save percentage in
the process. Michaud has carried his weight as well with 1 win, a 2.36
GAA and 0.926 SP. These two veterans, at the “ripe” ages of 30 and 24,
respectively have definitely shown how their experience can be a great
On the blueline, the Blades have a solid, defensive-minded group that
can also chip in some offence when needed. Zenith Komarniski and Steve
Lingren have contributed 6 and 5 points in 9 games each, respectively.
Ryan Bonni and Regan Darby have combined for 48 penalty minutes. And,
Bryan Allen has tallied 4 points and 8 penalty minutes in 8 games. His
game continues to round into form and we should see him in the NHL very
soon, possibly even this year.
Up front, the forwards provide a well-rounded attack. Mike Brown has
popped in 2 goals and racked up 19 penalty minutes while Dody Wood has 3
points and 40 pim’s in only 6 games. Harold Druken, Josh Holden, Brad
Leeb, Jarkko Ruutu and Vadim Sharifijanov all contribute about a point a
Read more »
The Kootenay ICE pulled off a blockbuster trade this past week that continues to raise eyebrows around the WHL. In complying with WHL
rules that oblige all league teams to pare down their respective rosters to the three twenty-yr-old per team limit by November 1, ICE Director of
Hockey Operations Bob Tory traded ICE overage stalwarts Dion Lassu and Brad Tutschek along with future considerations to the Seattle
Thunderbirds in exchange for twenty-yr-old Right-winger Bret DeCecco and eighteen-yr-old defenseman Brennan Evans.
Let the analyzing begin.
First, what do the ICE lose? In a word, lots, but in different departments, and in other ways they gain in departments some, save for ICE G.M.
Bob Tory, might never have considered. In Lassu and Tutschek, the ICE lose two players that have been with the club for almost the better part
of four seasons. Lassu’s steady play on the blueline, his stature within his own end and a key ingredient, his toughness will be missed. In
Tutschek you have a player who gives it his all every night without ever taking a shift off, a player whose name is synonymous with heart, grit,
determination, leadership and some clutch scoring.
Realistically, due to the overage rule, the ICE were guaranteed to lose one of them although I think that most everyone was surprised that Tory
made the decision to trade two overage players off their roster, especially two that were such an integral part in the club’s Memorial Cup run last
So who was coming back? You can bet that jaws were dropping all over t Read more »
The Canadian Hockey League, which consists of the Ontario, Western and Quebec leagues, is still the predominate supplier of
talent to the NHL. The Buffalo Sabres have in recent seasons taken full advantage of the talent supply available in the CHL by
drafting players such as Curtis Brown, Jay McKee, Brian Campbell and Martin Biron, to name a few.
While some of Buffalo’s best junior talent has graduated to the pros, it does not mean that the talent pool has gone dry. The
Sabres, in fact, have a handful of average-to-above-average prospects currently playing in the three leagues, with the WHL
housing some of the more promising youngsters.
With the CHL now in full swing, this article represents the first of periodic (“periodic” being defined as when I feel like writing
them) articles updating the play of Buffalo’s junior contingent. I’ll highlight the hot Buffalo prospect in each league, as well as
point out the player(s) not living up to expectations, however low those expectations might be. In addition, I’ll make brief
mentions of some of the other junior prospects whose performances fall in between the “hot” and “not” categories.
Western Hockey League
HOT! Barrett Heisten of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who is so far succeeding in his quest to land a fat free agent contract. Heisten
has picked up 15 points (3G, 12A) in just 8 games, a pace that, were he to keep it up throughout the season, would put him
amongst the top scorers in t Read more »
As previously stated, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had much luck in the later rounds of previous Entry Drafts – especially with players from eastern Europe. Some current Leafs including Sergei Berezin, Tomas Kaberle, and Daniil Markov were acquired in this way. On October 28th, I was fortunate enough to watch a Leaf prospect who just might turn out to be another “diamond in the rough.”
The Maple Leafs drafted defensemen Lubos Velebny in the 7th round of the 2000 NHL Draft. Last year he played with Zvolen Jr. of the Slovakian Junior League. He also played in 7 games with Zvolen in the Slovakian Elite League. As reported earlier in Hockey’s Future, Velebny participated in the Leafs’ Rookie Tournament this fall. At the conclusion of the Rookie Camp, it was reported that Velebny had been sent back to his junior team in Slovakia.
On October 24, 2000, I received a post on my guest book that Velebny was, in fact, playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League (USHL), a junior league similar to the Canadian Hockey League. The United States Hockey League however is a league where players can retain their US college eligibility. I live about 45 minutes from Rochester, Minnesota, home of the USHL’s Rochester Mustangs. I was lucky enough to find out in time that the Black Hawks were playing the Mustangs on October 28th .
The Black Hawks beat the Mustangs 6-2 that night with Velebny picking up a goal and an assist to go along with 4 PIMs. Velebny looked very good, but you can see he is still trying Read more »