It was a bittersweet moment this summer when St. Albert Saints General Manager Marcel Viveiros got word that Mark Jackson would not be joining the club for the 1999-2000 season.
“I’m really happy for Mark. I’m sad to see him go but I wish him nothing but the best,” said Viveiros. “Mark’s another example of how successful our program has been over the years in terms of players earning hockey scholarships in the United States.”
While it was difficult to lose a budding superstar like Jackson, the role of the Alberta Junior Hockey League is to develop people and players alike for the challenges they may experience.
For Jackson, going to the University of Wisconsin and joining fellow Saints grads Steve Reinprecht (94-96), Dave Hukalo (95-98) and Scott Kabotoff (97-99) will certainly be a challenging endeavour – especially considering that he is entering the college one year earlier than expected.
“I’m very excited. It’s going to be great. I can’t wait. I want to get on with it and go to the next level,” Jackson told the St. Albert Gazette prior to departing for Madison in late August.
There were doubts over whether or not Jackson would be able to play with the Badgers this season as him joining the team hinged upon Carolina Hurricanes draft pick David Tanabe leaving the club to go pro. When Tanabe did leave, Jackson jumped at the opportunity. “It was frustrating just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring,” he said.
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Paul Jowett, in less than a year, went from being a depth forward on the St. Albert Saints hockey club to their top defenceman during the 1998-99 season.
Despite the extraordinary achievements made by Jowett during that short time frame, he has even higher expectations for himself as the 1999-2000 season moves into full force.
“I want to be a leader here. I want to make sure the team has a good year,” Jowett stated prior to the start of the year.
Back in 1997-98, Jowett’s outlook as a member of the St. Albert Saints hockey club was much different as his main goal was simply to make the club. Going into the season he had played for a short period in the SJHL and was a product of the St. Albert Minor Hockey system – having played for the St. Albert AAA Midget Elite Raiders.
Jowett played the majority of that season as a forward and did not make it past the January 10th AJHL roster freeze. He played 23 games, had two goals and seven assists for nine points as well as 40 penalty minutes during the Saints’ last championship season.
“It was a tough decision to make,” Saints General Manager Marcel Viveiros said about cutting Jowett.
He was back with the club to start the 1998-99 season, however, and made a huge impact upon arrival. While spotted on defence the year before, Jowett converted to the position full time and it was an remarkably successful transition.
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President/GM: Larry Kish
Coach: Terry Christensen
Southern Conference/Southeast Division
Last Season: 27-34-9
Leading Scorer: Brett Punchard 26-38- 64
Key Players: Matt Oates, Alexi Krovopuskov, Jeff McLean, Kimbi Daniels and Wes Swinson
Outlook: Injuries hurt the Tiger Sharks last year. Along with failed trades, an assistant coach leaving the team and the General Manager leaving before the season was over. Larry Kish brought his affiliations with the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers with him. Terry Christensen is back behind the Tiger Sharks bench, after coaching the Miami Matadors last season. If Kish is able to secure quality players from the Habs and Oilers, the Tiger Sharks should make the playoffs.
Up Front: The only player in camp with a contract is Matt Oates (24-74-81 with Columbus 10th in the ECHL), if Jeff McLean shows up (24-26-50 with South Carolina and Tallahassee), Alexi Krovopuskov (6-9-15), Kimbi Daniels (11-28-39 with New Orleans), play together and stay injury free, the numbers they put-up could be staggering.
Defense: With only three non rookies in camp the Tiger Sharks are going to need to rely heavily on Wes Swinson (4-29-33, with Miami and Tallahassee) and Alexandre LaPorte (3-15-18 with Augusta and Tallahassee) to lead the defensive corps, providing they make the team. If Swinson stays healthy, he can direct the power play while LaPorte plays his stay at home defensive game.
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Coach Andy Murray has the Kings playing a hard-working brand of hockey that seems to allow each individual the chance to excel in a specific area, thus allowing the team to prosper. Many of the young Kings have shown flashes in the first two games. Here is a quick rundown of some early impressions:
Frantisek Kaberle- This young defenseman has been a pleasant surprise. While Jere Karalahti’s Visa problems have kept him in Europe, Kaberle has taken advantage of the situation and provided the Kings with an offensive defenseman without sacrificing the other end of the ice. Kaberle is smooth with the puck and makes good passes. He never seems to be in a hurry to dump the puck, instead he waits the extra second to find the open man. His defense is not stellar, but he has combined with Garry Galley to provide a solid tandem that is talented with the puck.
Aki Berg- Aki Berg has returned as a physical player who is alot smarter with the puck than he used to be. Berg is paired with Sean O’Donnell who is an adventure every time he has the puck, including a direct pass to Pavel Demitra on Monday for a goal. Berg has shown a little more offense, but the teeth of his game is in the corners where he has made it a point to punish opposing players. Aki seems to still be adjusting to the NHL game after the year off, but clearly has potential to be a top defenseman.
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With the departure of Tim Taylor, who signed a four-year, $5.8 million deal with the Rangers in July as an unrestricted free agent, Coach Pat Burns had an interesting training camp finding a new combination to match the gritty play of last season’s checking-line. Fighting for Taylor’s checking line position were Sean Pronger, Joel Prpic, Andre Savage, Shawn Bates and Mikko Eloranta. Entering his first professional season…Drafted by the Bruins as their ninth pick, 247th overall, in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft…Eloranta siezed the opportunity and will center Rob DiMaio and Scandinavian counterpart P.J. Axelsson. “Mikko is a solid, two-way player, a forward with skill and grit,” said Bruins Vice President of Hockey Operations and Assistant General Manager Mike O’Connell. “He’s a versatile forward in that he can play left wing or center and he was used in all situations with his club in Finland.”
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You can use two words to describe the future of the New York Islanders, Tim Connolly. Coming off a strong training camp the 1999 Islanders first round pick (5th overall) was signed to a three-year deal at the signing deadline.
Connolly at Training Camp
There was speculation by both members of the media and fans that Connolly would not be kept with the team for the season and he would be sent down to his Junior team before he lost his junior eligibility. Butch Goring, Head Coach of the NY Islanders said “He (Connolly) was signed with the intention of him being an Islander all season. I expect rookie mistakes from him, but he has a tremendous up side and expect that he will become a great hockey player.”
His first NHL regular season game was on October 2, 1999 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had 16 shifts and 15:15 of playing time. . Connolly won eleven of fifteen faceoffs. That’s a whopping 73%. He showed that he is able to handle the puck like a veteran and can skate with the best of players. Although he only took one shot during the game, his future is bright.
Connolly said, “It feels great to make the team. This is what I have been waiting for my whole life, and to do it while I am eighteen years old, it is exciting to be here.
He has a long future in the NHL. Could he be the next “Great One”? Only time will tell. He didn’t set the world on fire with his performance in Tampa. Nevertheless, he has the attitude and skills to take him far in the NHL.
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Name: Jeff Kugel
Born: February 7, 1980
Hometown: Roseville, Michigan
Position: Left Wing
Weight: 246 lbs
When Jeff Kugel was slapped with a lifetime ban by OHL commissioner David Branch last winter there were a lot of people that thought that he would never play hockey again. He jumped off the bench, sucker punched one player and chased another. When you look at the situation you must say that it was very serious.
Some people thought that a 25 game suspension was long enough and others thought that a lifetime ban was the perfect punishment. OHL Commissioner David Branch, who is also the CHL president, handed Kugel a lifetime ban as many of you know. Last summer Branch decided that Kugel had learned his lesson and re-instated him into the league.
A couple of weeks ago Kugel was attending the New York Rangers training camp. He apparently got into a couple of dandy fights. When Kugel joined his teammates at the Windsor Spitfires training camp he received word that he had been put on waivers by the team. It didn’t take long for him to create interest from other teams as there were a few teams that wanted him in their lineup.
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Jason Spezza is a name you are going to hear an awful lot of over the next two years. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he a 6′ 3″, 200 lb centre with the Mississauga Ice Dogs. He was born on June 13, 1983 and this right handed shot is the early favorite to go first overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
Spezza spent last year playing for the Brampton Battalion, as a 15 year old, under an OHL rule which allows underage players to play for their home town. All he did was lead the team in scoring; In 67 games he scored 22 times, added 49 assists for 71 points. He was then picked first overall by the Ice Dogs in the OHL draft.
The thing that hits you right away when you watch Spezza is his poise with the puck. He has the puck on his stick more times in one game than most other 16 year olds have in a month. He is most definitely the heart of the Ice Dog offence. The player most likely to benefit the most from Spezza’s passes this year is Chad Wiseman, who has lined up on left wing beside Spezza in the early going, and he should vastly improve on his 11 goal performance of last year.
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Important players like Per Svartvadet, Hans Jonsson and Frantisek Kaberle have all left MoDo for North America and the NHL. Last season’s best goalie in SHL, Petter Ronnqvist did not want so sign a new contract and chose to play in Europe. But MoDo has signed some interesting players. Andreas Pihl is a big defender (102-kg) and he might fill some of the empty space after Jonsson in the defense. Canadian Joel Bouchard is a rushing defender and will be an important part in MoDos Power Play. But the most interesting rookie in MoDo and SHL this season is winger Mattias Weinhandl. Weinhandl played in the lower divisions last season and 11 out of 12 clubs in the SHL wanted his name on a contract, but he chose MoDo. He was born in 1980, just like the Sedins and was drafted in the middle of the third round by the Islanders.
MoDo has combined a new, very interesting line this season. Mattias Weinhandl has joined the Sedins and they have played great together. Weinhandl fits in superbly. He is an aggressive and very skilled player. He is also a right-shooter, and with that combination it makes him a perfect fit with the twins. Weinhandl is pure goalscorer, in my opinion, MoDos best since Markus Naslund. “The Sedin line” has begun the season very well and will be a big attraction during the winter. The line has actually played together earlier in their careers. The first time they played together was in the WJC’s last Christmas.
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Perhaps more than any other team in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks will rely on youth to shoulder the load, and take them into, and hopefully far into, the playoffs. As with any team, there are key players on the Sharks who need to maintain their level of play. Players such as Vincent Damphousse who will be relied upon to maintain his scoring presence that he showed at the end of last year. Gary Suter who will be relied upon to lead the defensive core, and hopefully make a complete recovery from elbow problems last year. And of course, Mike Vernon who will be relied upon in goal along with Steve Shields, and most likely, be the main man come playoff time.
From there, the Sharks have a list of about 7 players long, who will take on just as important roles, all of whom under 25 years of age. Mike Rathje at 25 years old, Niklas Sundstrom at 24, Jeff Friesen and Alex Korolyuk both 23, Marco Sturm 21, Patrick Marleau 20, and Brad Stuart at only 19 years of age. You could throw Scott Hannan, 20, into the mix as well, as he’ll most likely be in the lineup before the season ends.
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