Jere Karalahti had his first taste of the NHL last Friday against Detroit, and after being returned to Long Beach, it appears that will be it for the time being. With that in mind, here is the lowdown on his debut.
Firstly, Jere is a big, rugged looking defenseman. As I watched his warm-up in his #8 Kings’ road jersey I thought of what he offered that the two players who most recently wore that number (Kristich and Bodger) didn’t- grit, physical play and toughness.
Karalahti’s first game was not all wine and roses. There were several instances where Jere left his zone and seemed to skate in his own game, often leaving Matty Norstrom alone on 2 on 1′s. The good news is that he often left his position to deliver a hit. In fact, he lead the team in hits for the game. On one of his first shifts there was a little mucking after the whistle. Jere was the first player on the scene which was good to see.
As the game pressed on, Jere seemed to time his hits better. The most obvious thing was the Karalahti can handle the puck. Just as fellow rookie Frankie Kaberle, Jere holds the puck a little longer to make sure the right pass is made. Towards the end of the game he did make a some bad decisions with the puck, but for the most part his blend of grit and puckhandling is unique.
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Not even one year ago, many considered goaltending as the one area where the Sharks seriously lacked prospects at. Now, several reports claim that the Sharks have the best depth of goaltending prospects in the NHL. While I believe that is exaggerated, the state of the Sharks goaltending has improved dramatically in the last year with the emergence of Johan Hedberg, Evgeni Nabokov, and Miikka Kiprusoff.
When it was announced that Nabokov would be moved to Cleveland of the IHL, many considered it as a sign they were unhappy with his play. I suggested that this was not the case at all, and that at the time, he remained the number one goalie in the Sharks system. I still contend that I was right then, whether he’s still the number one goalie now though, is in a little more question.
In terms of God given skill, Nabokov has plenty of it, in fact, he may have more than any goalie not in the NHL. That does not necessarily make him the best goalie though. Nabokov is a very athletic goalie, who often looks very much like Ed Belfour in net. He is capable of making any save that comes his way. There is one big difference though, Belfour is very good at knowing when to zig and when to zag, something Nabokov is still working on.
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Kevin Constantine is an incredible coach. Few would disagree. Unfortunately, even great coaches reach a point where their words no longer effect the team. Like any other job, doing the same drill day in and day out wears on the players. They grow tired of a particular system and cry out for change. That was the case in Pittsburgh. It’s not because KC was horrible. It was simply the right time for change. Herb Brooks is offering exactly that. Labeled the “Miracle Man” for his efforts in coaching the 1980 US Olympic Team and leading them to gold, Brooks is anxious to see what he can do with a potentially explosive Penguins squad. Whether it’s a long-term solution, or not, remains to be seen, but for now it’s nice to see the Pens having fun again. And by fun I don’t mean the practices … Brooks is determined to give these guys a good workout. He would like to see them cover 100% of the ice, with quicker, shorter shifts. What I am referring to is feeling confident and feeling inspired. Removing the harnesses from players such as Darius Kasparaitis and Mathew Barnaby , who are known for their aggressive style, is a good start. They won’t only turn up the intensity, but also make room a potent offense.
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Today the Chicago Blackhawk management announced that Mike Smith would take the job of attempting to resurrect a franchise that is considered the laughing stock of the original six. Many felt he would only take the job if he was given complete control. It is still uncertain as to whether he will actually be the outsider given true power over the powers that be.(Mr. Potter a.k.a. Mr. Wirtz)
“I don’t have any real detailed plan. I think the initial process is simply to sit down with the people who work here and find out what they’re doing and get a sense of how things operate. I know there’s a challenge ahead of us, but in sports there is a challenge every day. To win and have a winning franchise you need good people and you need good people who are good players. Through it all, the bottom line will be we’ll have good people who are good players and good people in all positions within the organization.” Pulford retains the title of GM, but he claims in name only.
“He is (the GM),” said the 63-year-old Pulford. “He has all those duties. He has the power to make all the hockey decisions, trades, scouting, everything.
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The platinum blonde hair is a dead giveaway. The hair may turn the
girl’s heads, but his speed down the wing is what’s turning the
scout’s heads. The white flash of uniform that flies around the ice,
wreaking havoc and bringing scoring chances with him, that’s the
Jozef Balej that has scouts looking.
Balej was found by the Winterhawks entirely by chance. GM Ken Hodge
was on a scouting trip in Minnesota, and needed to kill some time. He
took in a USHL game, and has been thankful ever since. Balej was
seeing limited ice time, but more than enough to catch Hodge’s eye.
As other European players on the Hawks draft list were selected by
other teams, Hodge remembered Balej, and took a chance.
Hodge’s chance is beginning to pay dividends. Balej came out hot in
preseason, but then most of the WHL’s older veteran players were at
NHL camps. When the regular season started, Balej had trouble finding
his scoring touch. But it was only a matter of time before his
talents took over. Through 12/11, Balej had yet to miss a game, and Read more »
Maxim Balmochnykh – Left Wing; Grade: B (Cincy)
Balmochnykh was off to a good start in the AHL only to see it come to a crashing halt when he was suspended for a slash to Louisville Panther Curtis Doell. The suspension lasted eight games and killed Balmo’s momentum. Once, he came back, he was rusty and just as he started to get going again, he goes down with both hand and shoulder injuries. When he has been on the lineup, he usually plays well but the suspension put everything on hold and now the injury will continue to slow his development. He has five points in ten games with 31 penalty minutes, mainly stemming from the Doell slash.
Ladislav Kohn – Center & Right Wing; Grade: A (Anaheim)
Kohn has turned into a steal for the Ducks, adding much needed energy to a team that too often lacks it. He isnt scoring as much as they had hoped but he is doing the little things. He has played tenaciously and has shown he doesnt mind battling in the corners. He also filled in admirably on the Ducks’ top line, filling in for Teemu Selanne after an injury. The injury bug has now hit Kohn and he missed a couple weeks of action but he has proven his worth early in the season and should have no problem sticking for the whole season.
Gregg Naumenko – Goalie; Grade: A+ (Cincy) Read more »
The Kings are suddenly full of quality young defenseman. At the top of that list right now may be Joe Rullier. Rullier is having a tremendous season in the QMJHL with Rimouski. Joe has 2 goals, 22 assists and 112 PIM’s in 32 games. He also is 10th in the league in plus-minus with a +19. Rullier has great size (6’4) and is turning into the top young defenseman in the system. While Richard Seeley (Lowell- AHL) and Jason Crain (Ohio State University) have not had spectacular seasons, their promise is still encouraging. Combine those with Kaberle, Berg and Karalahti and their are some solid blueliners waiting.
Justin Papineau is having another solid season. Papineau continues to be the most promising forward in the Kings’ system. He has 21 goals(which ranks him 5th in the league) and 15 assists in 26 games while posting a +8. While Papineau is excelling like the Kings expected, perhaps teammate Kevin Baker is playing even better than the organization hoped. Baker has 14 goals, 13 assists and is a +4 while racking up 39 PIM’s. Baker leads the team and is second in the league with 4 game winning goals and has been solid. Both of these players need to grow physically, but they are incredibly skilled and are playing well. Another Belleville Bull, goaltender Corey Campbell has 12 wins, but has 8 losses and a 3.44 GAA. Campbell has struggled with inconsistency but is still 4th in the league with wins.
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After a disappointing four games to one defeat to the Calgary Hitmen in the last years Western Hockey League Final, the Blazers went to work to
re-tool a hockey club laden with nineteen year old players. Lost to the club this season through graduation or a jump to pro hockey were Kyle Calder
(Chicago), Mike Brown (Vancouver), Stephen Gainey (Dallas), Kenric Exner (St.Louis), Jordon Flodell (released, briefly in ECHL, now with Lethbridge
Hurricanes of WHL), David Haun (unknown), Ty Jones (Chicago), Robin Regehr (Calgary), Kyle Kos (Tampa Bay), Ajay Baines(ECHL), Donnie
Kinney (ECHL), and Chris St. Croix (Calgary). Eleven of the twelve players were vital cogs in the Blazers run to the League Final and if the Blazers
were to even be competitve this year would need to be replaced in one way or another. With a strong draft record most pundits knew the Blazers
would bring in some talented youngsters from the ’98 draft, get more production from some of last years role players and make a trade or two to
achieve this. So far so good! The Blazers have iced a line up that most agree is one of the fastest teams seen in a while. As a group this team was built
to play a high tempo, tenacious forechecking game and for the most part it has been a success. Even when losing the Blazers are more often than not
out chancing and outshooting their opponents.
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The Kootenay Ice saw themselves move up to the number nine position in the
CHL Top Ten list last week after defeating both the Calgary Hitmen and the Seattle Thunderbirds
and tying the Portland Winterhawks in the last three games of their six-game road trip. The Ice play three games before the next list will be issued. This week sees the Ice match up against the Lethbridge Hurricanes before they meet up with the Red Deer Rebels for a home and home series.
Steve McCarthy will leave this Sunday (December 12th) for Kitchener to compete for a position on the Canadian World Junior Team roster. Jaroslav Svoboda has already been named to the Czech Republic National Junior Team and left earlier this week. Steve and Jaro are the first two Kootenay Ice players to be named or chosen to play in this tournament. Coming from someone who watches this tournament over the holidays every year, it will be great to finally watch a couple of your own play the game.
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A purely statistical look at all of the Top 21 Panthers prospects. These stats will be updated on a regular basis so that you can keep track on how each prospect is progressing.
1. Denis Shvidki
Position:RW Height:6’0″ Weight:195 Age:19
Year Team GP G A PTS PIM +/-
99-00 Barrie (OHL) 27 16 32 48 27 +19
98-99 Barrie (OHL) 61 35 59 94 8
Russia (WJC) 7 1 4 5 -
97-98 Yaroslavl Jr. (Rus) 15 1 1 2 2
Russia (WJC) 7 0 1 1 6
Russia (EuroJC) 6 2 9 11 31
2. Ivan Novoseltsev
Position:LW Height:6’1″ Weight:183 Age:20
Year Team GP G A PTS PIM +/-
99-00 FLORIDA PANTHERS 11 2 1 3 8 -2
Louisville (AHL) 9 2 5 7 0
98-99 Sarnia (OHL) 63 54 36 90 41
97-98 Sarnia (OHL) 51 23 22 45 41
3. Brad Ference
Position:D Height:6’3″ Weight:196 Age:20
Year Team GP G A PTS PIM
99-00 Louisville (AHL) 29 1 2 3 117 Read more »