Many NHL teams struggle to convince their European prospects to come and play junior or minor league hockey in North America, but three Nashville Predators prospects are making a strong case for that traditional path to the NHL. Jonas Andersson, Martin Erat and Konstantin Panov have had explosive starts to the 1999-2000 season in the CHL and their success in the North American game may put them years ahead of their European counterparts who choose to stay home and develop.
Andersson, a 6’2″ 189-pound Swedish winger, was a surprise second round draft pick this summer, but the Predators were convinced that he was an excellent prospect. Perhaps the biggest factor in his selection was his pre-draft interview with general manager David Poile, in which he expressed his dedication to an NHL career and his willingness to play junior hockey in North America. After an oustanding rookie camp, Nashville assigned Andersson to the North Bay Centennials of the OHL, where he is already tied for the league lead in rookie scoring and is the top offensive player on his team. Through the first two weekends of the season, Andersson has five goals, four assists and nine points in just five games.
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The New York Rangers revamped line-up featuring Theo Fleury, Valeri Kamensky, Kirk McLean, Stephane Quintal, Sylvain Lefebrve and Mike York to name a few took the ice after an emotional tribute to Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton. The Rangers started early to show their speed and looked like a much better club than those of the past two years…however the Power Play Problem continues. After the first two games, the Blue Shirts were 0-12 (0 for 6 in each game) albeit a couple were less than 30 second powerplays coach Muckler and General Manager begin to wonder what it will take for this preseason awesome Power Play to translate into regular season goals.
The first game featured a Rangers high speed attack against Sweden`s Tommy Salo. Salo played superbly allowing only a goal to red hot Tim Taylor. Mike Richter was equal to the task, thwarting Ryan Smyth and the Oilers attack under Doug Weight and company. The standouts in games one and two were Mike Richter(51-48svs),Tim Taylor(1goal) and Mike York(1goal). Other noteables included Darren Langdon who had his first scoring attempt of the season stopped by Tommy Salo and his first scrap as he fought the behemoth Georges Laraque to a draw.
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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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With the Junior Hockey season finally upon us we can again begin to follow the Montreal Canadiens’ junior prospects. The entry draft not only gave us a few more players to follow, but also gave us one less player to follow, as Gregor Baumgartner re-entered the 99 draft when Montreal failed to sign him to a contract prior to the imposed deadline.
The old faces include Francois Beauchemin, a hard-nosed defenseman who was Montreal’s 3rd choice in the 98 draft, and is currently playing with Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL; Eric Chouinard, a tall finesse player who was the Habs’ 1st choice in the 98 draft, and is currently playing for Quebec in the QMJHL; And Michael Ryder, a natural scorer who was the Habs’ 8th choice in the 98 draft, and is currently playing with Hull in the QMJHL.
Missing faces include Jason Ward, an intensity driven winger who was the Habs’ 1st choice in the 97 draft, and is no longer of junior age. Ward is currently playing with Quebec, Montreal’s AHL affiliate. The final missing face is Mike Ribeiro, the CHL’s leading scorer last season and the Habs’ 2nd choice in the 98 draft. Ribeiro made the Canadiens’ roster out of training camp. He played in the opening game against Toronto with mixed results. He looked good on the power play setting up two of his teammates for good scoring opportunities. But was often moved easily off the puck by the bigger and stronger Maple Leaf players.
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The strength of the Flyers farm system unquestionably lies in its goaltending prospects. The Flyers currently boast four fine young goaltending prospects: Brian Boucher, Jean-Marc Pelletier, Maxime Ouellet, and Antero Niittymäki. With the goalies in the Flyers system currently staggered between the NHL (Boucher), the AHL (Pelletier), the QMJHL (Ouellet), and the Finnish Elites (Niittymäki), the organization can afford to evaluate each player’s progress separately and, due to their staggered draft years, also have different time-tables for each player. But in the near future, perhaps as soon as the end of this season, the team may have to make a firm decision on whom among Boucher, Pelletier, Ouellet, and Niittymäki will ultimately be the team’s long-term starter of the future and which one(s) will be trade bait to fill in some of the other areas where the team needs both short-term and long-term help. In addition to the aforementioned goaltenders, the Flyers also have minor league veteran Neil Little, ECHL goalie Bujar Amidovsky, Färjestad BK (Swedish Elites) backup goaltender Per-Ragnar Bergqvist, and Medicine Hat Tigers goaltender Cam Ondrik in the system. None of the latter goalies is a serious NHL prospect, however (although Little still has a core of supporters in Philadelphia who believe that he deserves a shot as an NHL backup).
A quick review follows to update the recent happenings with each of the four top candidates:
Brian Boucher (Flyers) Read more »
I recently had a chance to interview Jere Kolari, a Finnish, Kuopio born player who is now chasing his dream in WHL playing for the Lethbrigde Hurricanes. Usually it’s players from Russia, Slovakia and Czech reb. who want to make the jump to North-American junior hockey. The Finns and Swedes have traditionally chosen to play in their own junior leagues. Jere made a bold move this past year and left hometown Kuopio. He was drafted in the 1st round of 1999 import draft. This year he’s been plagued with various injuries (concussion, knee) in the preseason.
Let’s hear what Jere has to say about this upcoming season and his future:
Question (by Zika): So tell us about yourself? Who are you?
Answer (by Jere Kolari): I’m Jere Kolari, born in the 11th of February 1982. I’m 6’1 tall and weigh 180 pounds. I play hockey as a centerman/winger and I shoot right handed.
Q: So when did you start playing hockey?
A: I was about 7 years old, the reason, was that all my friends played it and it was so fun.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a hockey player?
A: Well my strength is that I have a good shot and hockey sense, but obviously there’s still a lot of work I need to do on all areas to improve my game. I really should improve my skating.
Q: How has your hockey career been so far?
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After a topsy turvy week in the Carolina Hurricanes-David Tanabe relationship, the nineteen year old defenseman signs a multiyear contract with the NHL team. This past week saw David Tanabe play in preseason games for the Hurricanes. David Tanabe refuse an offer from the Hurricanes. David Tanabe take off for Kootenay of the WHL. And, finally, David Tanabe sign with the Hurricanes.
Last week Tanabe impressed the Hurricanes in preseason so much, they had a spot on the final 23-man roster reserved for him. He was going to be their much sought after offensive defenseman. Two days before the September 30 deadline for returning junior eligible players to their teams, the Hurricanes summoned Tanabe’s agent, Lewis Gross, to Tidewater Virginia to negotiate. The first round draft pick turned down the Hurricanes offer and was prepared to head off to Kootenay. According to Gross, the $500,000 signing bonus was inadequate, particularly when compared to Barret Jackman’s $1million signing bonus with the St. Louis Blues. Tanabe was selected sixteenth in the 1999 NHL draft. Jackman was selected seventeenth.
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Team opens sophomore season 3-0
September 24, 1999 – vs. Barrie Colts
The Battalion got their sophomore season off to a winning start with a 4-2 win over the highly regarded Barrie Colts at the Bunker.
While the Colts had several top players such as goaltender Brian Finley, defenceman Martin Skoula and forward Denis Shvidki, still at NHL training camps, they were still a formidable squad considered by many to be one of the top teams in the country.
The Battalion had certainly drawn a tough foe for their second season opener, but they seemed to pay little attention to that as they came out flying in the first period.
Kurt MacSweyn opened the scoring at 2:18 of the frame after rookie Chris Rowan fought off several defenders to get him the puck. Raffi Torres followed at 3:13 from Jeff Bateman and Scott Thompson and suddenly Brampton was up 2-0.
New Colts coach Bill Stewart called a timeout in an effort to regroup his troops and they seemed to respond, with Mike Christian notching their first marker at 6:29.
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With the start of the Buffalo Sabres’ 1999-2000 season just hours away, it would probably be a good idea for this writer to tie up the loose ends left over from a mildly interesting training camp. Some new faces will be with the club to start the season, due mostly to the fact that four players are still holding out, but the 99-00 edition of the Sabres will still be pretty much the same team that made it to the 1999 Stanley Cup finals.
Sabres “Improve” On Last Year’s Pre-Season Effort
Okay, maybe improve is stretching things a bit, since the Sabres finished the exhibition slate with a 2-4-1 record. The Sabres coaching staff appeared to adopt the “Marv Levy Approach” to pre-season games, which means they used veterans sparingly while taking a long look at several younger players. While this approach virtually guarantees a losing pre-season record, it also gives the coaches a good idea of where their younger players are at in their development. Players such as Maxim Afinogenov, Cory Sarich, Brian Campbell and Domenic Pittis received plenty of playing time throughout the exhibition schedule, with some of those players making good use of the opportunity, and others making it clear they are in need of more playing time in the minors.
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It was clear before the game that Kärpät will win, but not many people
believed it would be with such a big score. Kärpät has now scored 26 goals
in 3 games, has shut-outed opponent in both home-games, and still they
aren’t leading, because of harmful 6-6 tie with Diskos last week. In
scoring, there are 6 Kärppä players in best 7. (Martin Bergeron 4+4=8,
Vjateslav Fandul 3+4=7, Miikka Rousu 3+3=6, Sakari Palsola 3+3=6, Kimmo
Salminen 2+4=6 and Juha Joenväärä 1+5=6)
Today there was only one team on ice. Kärpät was better in everything, FPS
had given up before the game had started, and they were just standing and
waiting for game to end. FPS didn’t have a single good scoring chance. It
seemed that all Kärppä-players were playing great, but maybe it is because
of weak opponent, who were always at least two steps behind. Kärpät
dominated the game completely, shot 46 times, FPS had only 14 shots. Kärpät
should make the first pass in own zone a little faster, so they could move
to offense more quickly.
Kärpät had good scoring chances, but the game was played over 8 minutes,
until the red light turned on for the first time. The goal was scored by
Miikka Rousu, who went around FPS-defenseman, and shot to top-corner. Soon
Kärpät got 2-man advantage, and Juha Joenväärä put the rebound in, 2-0. Read more »