Some of the top players in the CCHA have departed for the professional ranks over the summer, but there are still plenty of players to watch in 2000, including an exciting crop of recruits. Despite the departure of Mike Comrie to the WHL and the loss of seniors like Shawn Horcoff, Brian McCullough, Roger Trudeau and J.P. Vigier, there will be no shortage of talent in the CCHA this season. In this first installment of the CCHA Player Watch, we will focus on several players at the University of Michigan who will be worth following this season.
Among the returning players this season is standout Michigan defenseman Jeff Jillson. Jillson was drafted in the first round by the San Jose Sharks in 1999 and had a chance to leave school and sign with the Sharks this summer, but he chose to stay at Michigan for his junior year. He is 6-3 220 pounds and is perhaps the toughest and most intimidating defenseman in college hockey. But what separates him from other defensemen is his offensive ability. He led all CCHA defensemen in scoring last season and become one of the best two-way blueline prospects in all of hockey. Jillson might be good enough for the NHL already, but the Sharks are currently loaded with young talent on the blueline and there is no need to rush him. Jillson will be the leader of a Wolverine defense that should be much improved over last season, when the team was short on depth after the unexpected departure of Mike Van Ryn to the OHL.
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If first impressions mean anything, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have a very bright future. Then again, the Ducks are traditional optimists who often over analyze the future. Going into this season’s training camp, that tradition continued. Maxim Balmochnykh, J-S Giguere and Marc Chouinard were just a few of the several young guns the Ducks were counting on for this season. As the Ducks had hoped, the first week of camp has been a step up for the young guns, causing the usual euphoria over the future.
The early scrimmages have shown the usual. The Ducks are a fast team which we already knew. This off season was extremely quiet which left many with questions about the Ducks. Will they finally have a true second line? Are Balmo and Alexei major league busts? Are the Ducks still pretenders? So far, some of these questions have been answered while others are still left up in the air.
Answering the question of the second line, Jonas Ronnqvist has been extremly feisty in the first week of camp and may have supplanted Matt Cullen as a second line player. Ronnqvist has been largely paired with German Titov and Mike Leclerc, a group of hard working speedy forwards. Titov brings most of the skill although neither Leclerc nor Ronnqvist has looked out of place. They are very skillful on their own. The bad news is Leclerc and Ronnqvist are unproven as second liners thus leaving Anaheim in the same predicament as in the past.
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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
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 Read more »
With most of the games being high scoring at Training Camp so far, this
mornings first game between Team A and Team D seemed almost a little
slow with only 2 goals and very few penalties.
The first chance of the game was when BJ Adams got caught tripping Steve
Brule. Brule came crashing down on the net but JF Perras poke-checked
the puck away just as Brule was about to release his shot.
Later Tomas Kopecky was alone at center ice and was able to knock the
puck out of the air. Jiri Fischer and Nicklas Lidstrom fairly deep into
the offensive zone realized they had to get back, and get back quick as
they saw Kopecky’s 6’4″ frame racing down towards their net, with the
puck. Fischer was able to get enough of a hook on Kopecky to keep him
Perras and Ron Vogel both had shut outs in their first period of play
and were replaced with Jason Elliot and Manny Legace for the second
period of play.
Brendan Shanahan scored on Legace, firing the puck just inside the post
on Legace’s glove side. Boutin received a penalty shot and looked as if
he was just going to skate straight in and fire a shot with no dekes,
but at the last minute he turned and fired it in under Legace’s glove.
BJ Young was awarded a penalty shot against Legace shortly afterwards.
Young tried to do the exact same move Boutin had scored on, and Legace
thought he had been beat again. But he hadn’t. Legace laid there on Read more »
Team D were the “Come Back Kids” scoring 5 goals in the third period of
a 7 to 4 game. Although it didn’t look too bright for them at the
beginning of the game Team D won the bronze.
The first goal of this high scoring game came on a four on four when
Jesse Wallin and Ryan Barnes were sent to the box for roughing. Their
was a small dispute between them and they had a little WWF going on for
those fans that are both hockey and wrestling fans. Shawn McNeil found
the back of the net for Team D with an assist from Dustin Kuk.
The next goal came from Boyd Devereaux who put the puck past Manny
Legace after he had gotten it from Tomas Holmstrom, 2-0 Team D.
Less than a minute later Team C scored yet again. Lee Jinman, standing
on the left side of the net, received a pass from Marc Rodgers, spotting
Anton Borodkin standing wide open on the right side with plenty of
shooting room. Jinman made a beautiful pass to Borodkin who slammed it
home behind Legace who didn’t have a chance of getting over in time for
Legace had a nice glove save on Darren McCarty with less than 4 minutes
left. Then it was Chris Osgood’s turn to show Legace that he could make
nice glove saves too when he stoned Alexandre Jacques.
Less than a minute into the second period Osgood had to play spectacular
when Pat Verbeek took a shot, hitting Osgood’s pads. Doug Brown was Read more »
He was a sure fire NHL player. Not flashy or fancy but a solid, hard
working right winger who drew comparisons to John LeClair from GM Neil Smith.
He was slated as at least a second line NHL player and possibly even a first.
He was seen as a potential 35 goal scorer with the chance to move into the
40′s in his prime years. After a final successful year of junior hockey he
made a splash in the Rangers 1998 Training Camp and was the last player cut
on the last day despite being only 20 years old at the time. But that was the
beginning of a very stressful and painful two years in the life of Stefan
Cherneski, one he hopes to put in the past by making the Rangers this season
in what might end as one of the greatest hockey triumph stories ever told.
Stefan Cherneski was a solid prospect. Maybe not one that could claim to
be one of the top ten or so in the league but one that had the potential to
carve out a meaningful career. A surprise during the 1998 pre-season he came
within a skate blade of making the team. Beaten out by a 31 year old
journeyman named Brent Fedyk, Cherneski returned to Hartford determined to
make the team. That dream came crashing to a halt in a game against New
Haven when Cherneski was checked along the boards and his knee shattered into
7 pieces. Just to give you an idea of its severity, doctors weren’t sure if
Stefan would ever walk again properly let alone play hockey professionally. Read more »
The Houston Aeros have increased their goal-scoring punch, as right wing Greg Pankewicz has re-signed with the Houston Aeros.
Last season, Pankewicz led the Aeros with 22 goals, including a team-high 13 power play goals. He added 19 assists for at total of 41 points in 62 games, fourth on the team in total points. His 134 penalty minutes ranked second only to left wing Greg Walters, who led the team with 192.
Entering his 10th pro season, Pankewicz has played in the National, American, East Coast and International Hockey Leagues. In 1998-99, Pankewicz played in 18 NHL contests with the Calgary Flames, collecting three assists.
That season he also split time between Kentucky and Saint John of the American Hockey League. The Drayton Valley, Alberta native had one of his best seasons as a pro in 1997-98 with the Manitoba Moose, when he scored a career-high 42 goals. For the season, he added 34 assists for 76 points in 76 contests and racked up another career high with 246 penalty minutes.
Pankewicz is the ninth forward to sign with the Houston Aeros for the 2000-01 season. Already on the flight deck are centermen Shawn Carter, Terry Marchant and Brett Harkins, right wingers Alex Vasilevski, Lane Lambert, and Sandy Moger and left wings Bobby Reynolds and Walters. The Aeros have signed two defensemen so far, Barry Dreger and Grant Richison, and have obtained the IHL rights to goaltender Jason Elliott, who is under contract with the Detroit Red Wings (NHL).
AEROS PLAYERS SIGNED
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The New Jersey Devils opened training camp on September 8th fresh from a summer of Stanley Cup celebrations. Many Devils’ prospects missed out on those celebrations but are pressing to be a part of future ones.
The departure of Claude Lemieux, Vladimir Malakhov and Brad Bombardir ensures there will be some new blood in the New Jersey locker room. Backup goaltender Chris Terreri turns 36 in November and the Devils plan on taking a long look at their goaltending future. In addition, for now a couple of slots remain open due to the contract holdouts of Scott Niedermayer and Jason Arnott.
In goal there is no doubt that the tandem of Martin Brodeur and Terreri will remain in place at least for this season barring any injury. Although none of the team’s other goaltenders appear ready for the NHL, the Devils were impressed with the play of Ari Ahonen, the former number one pick from Finland.
Ahonen at age 19 showed promise in his limited time in camp before returning to Finland. New Jersey is hopeful the young goaltender will return the U.S. later in the season and play some games for Albany of the AHL. The fact that Ahonen appears to be the goaltender of the future does not bode well for Jean-Francois Damphousse and Frederic Henry who will once again split time in Albany.
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Powered by a three-point effort from Daniel Sedin, the Canucks kicked off their exhibition season with a 5-2 win against MoDo.
MoDo started the game showing little respect for their more well-known opponents, and they were rewarded with a powerplay after former MoDo-hero Markus Näslund was called for a high stick. The Canucks did not have much trouble killing off the penalty and were rewarded with a powerplay of their own after a dubious holding-call on Jan-Axel Alavaara.
Vancouver wasted little time on their first powerplay of the game before scoring when Trent Klatt one-timed a shot from close range after a pass from Daniel Sedin.
Daniel Sedin was the main story of the first period. Minutes after being called for kneeing, he sent Vadim Sharifijanov on a breakaway after a turnover on the offensive blue-line. Sharifijanov displayed a sniper’s instinct shooting through MoDo goalie Tobias Lundström´s five-hole.
After a second Canuck powerplay, the Sedin´s created havoc in their former team´s defensive system and Daniel Sedin put the Canucks up 3-0 heading into the second period.
Just like in the first period, MoDo started the period well but it was the Canucks that added to their lead after four minutes. Carrying the puck on a 2-no-1, Todd Bertuzzi made an excellent pass right on the tape of Harold Druken´s stick who put in into the gaping left side of the net.
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Training camp is less than a week old, and there has already been enough turmoil to last an entire season. It is difficult to keep track of all the storylines, and depending on how some of those scenarios play out – the opening day lineup could end up looking very different than the one we anticipate right now.
The most surprising move came after the first practice of camp. Free Agent acquisition Stephane Richer decided he didn’t have it in him to compete in another season, and announced his retirement. He had been brought in from St. Louis to boost our mediocre power play. The move came as a shock to players and fans alike; partly because of the unexpected nature of it, but mostly due to the timing.
Around the same time as the Richer announcement, defenseman Brendan Witt stated that he too was considering retirement. He is unhappy about the contract he received as a result of his arbitration loss during the off-season. Although he seems quite serious about this stance, it is hoped that he will eventually return to the lineup. It is also believed that George McPhee has no interset in renegotiating the pact, and expects Brendan to be in the lineup opening day.
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