We’ve all managed to suffer through another painful summer without ice hockey, but finally it’s time to dust off the ol’ beer stein and armchair, kick back, and get ready for another (thankfully) long NHL season. As expected, this year’s Stars roster is burgeoning with new players – quite a few of them young prospects who could have an impact in the NHL this year. Summarized for your perusal, are some of these players we may see during the 2000-2001 season and some thoughts.
Richard Jackman: For Jackman, the most highly touted Dallas prospect of the last few years, this is a make or break year. Now an aging prospect, Jackman has been working the past few years on improving his spotty defense and his penchant for making mistakes, as well as trying to accelerate the wind-up on his impressive, yet oft telegraphed, slap shot from the point. Jackman will get lots of ice time this year in the 3rd defensive pairing and on the Stars power play, and he should have enough time to prove that his defensive responsibility is up to snuff and his offensive skills are truly NHL calibre.
Jackman had a fine preseason and his NHL start this year was marred with only a few mistakes (most of in the offensive zone that led to breakaways). But, he has shown alacrity and intelligence in clearing his own zone and his wind-up – though still telegraphed and easily blocked – has managed to take a few opposing players by surprise.
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The Los Angeles Kings have has a pretty solid beginning to the new millennium. They have shown some flashed of brilliance, particularly on the offensive end. But with poor goaltending, a rookie on the top line, a top defensemen not getting playing time and a holdout, the season’s prospects are far from clear.
Aki Berg has already been scratched more than he has played this season. Granted, all the other defensemen are playing well, but aren’t the Kings better served to develop Aki and sit the older Modry? With Berg signing another one year contract, look for a trade soon.
The Kings are getting some solid play from their younger skaters like Lubomir Visnovsky. He is extremely slight in build, but skates like the wind and positions himself in a manner which allows him to play against bigger forwards. He is also a smart passer and seems to have a knack for knowing when to activate and when to stay back. Eric Belanger has shown some solid play. But he has not shaken the knock against him – he has an amazing game then disappears for the next couple games. If he can stay consistent, he may be a point-a-game player.
Down on the Farm—
Kip Brennan has adapted to the AHL – he has 29 PIM’s in 5 games.
Brian McGratten already has a two-goal game and a date with the AHL. He manhandled a linesman during a fight.
Alexey Volkov lost his first game in Lowell, allowing three goals in the defeat.
The AHL and ECHL seasons are underway. Here are some updates on the whereabouts and first week performances of some of the Flyers more notable minor league players.
Tomas Divisek: Out with a separated shoulder. The latest word is that he will be out until midseason.
Francis Lessard: Recovering from a broken jaw; has lost a good deal of weight. Still not ready to return to the lineup.
Roman Cechmanek: The Philadelphia Phantoms are basically a waystation for Cechmanek. The Czech Extraleague and national team veteran was sent to the Phantoms because of the outstanding preseason play of Maxime Ouellet. He will remain in the AHL until the Flyers figure out what they are going to do with him– bring him up, trade him to another NHL team, or let him go home. He has nothing to prove in the American Hockey League, except perhaps that he can handle the small rink game. Cechmanek is scheduled to be paid $1 million this season- $300,000 of which have already been paid in a signing bonus. If the Flyers keep him all season, they are responsible for the full $1 million, even if Cechmanek were to agree to spend the year in the AHL. Cechmanek, however, is under no obligation to play for the Phantoms. His contract allows him to return to his Czech team, Vsetin, at any point (with Vsetin then becoming responsible for the balance of his salary).
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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.
Back to Mother Russia: Vladimir Kulikov, the spunky little Russian goalie who performed so strongly at last year’s Rookie Camp and then again at the Main Camp this year, has returned home to play for Red Army this season … the Leafs were obliged to try find a job for the late-round 1999 draft pick somewhere in North America after he signed their minimum $40,000 contract offer (one that had been made simply to guard the team’s long term negotiating rights) … unfortunately, he had signed too late in order to be included the Canadian Hockey League’s European Draft … as a 19 year-old, he is too young to play in the minors and as a signed player, he’s ineligible for the U.S. junior league where the Leafs had hoped to place him …
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The games aren’t won on paper; they are contested on the ice.
Therefore, it would be extremely arrogant to announce the Turner Cup
champion for the 2000-2001 season after only a few games have been
played. The only proclamation that can be made at this point in time is
that it is going to be very difficult for opponents to beat the Chicago
Wolves this season as they aim to win their third championship in four
To start off with, the Wolves are oozing with experience from all levels
of professional hockey. There are only three players on the opening day
roster that have never competed in an NHL game; this includes the
youngsters Rick DiPietro, who has only played one year of college hockey
and Peter Nylander, who is playing in North America for the first time.
The third player, defenceman Bob Nardella is a veteran with loads of
professional hockey experience on this continent as well as abroad. The
other seventeen players have played an astounding three thousand, four
hundred and eighty-four NHL games between them. And, twelve of the
twenty players are age thirty or older. Such experience will go a long
way in an IHL campaign.
Up front, the Wolves are able to combine skill and grit. Jesse
Belanger, Guy Larose and Peter Nylander are mainly pure offensive
performers that can deliver on a consistent basis. Neil Brady, Glen
Featherstone, Mark Lawrence and Dan Plante are able to provide a Read more »
Name: Jeff Whitfield
Team: Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHA)
Weight: 200 lbs
Last year the Soo Thunderbirds boasted the OHL’s top draft choice in
centre Patrick Jarrett. This year the Thunderbirds boast another top
notch OHL prospect in defenseman Jeff Whitfield. Whitfield, 15, is 1
year removed from Bantam hockey in the Sault.
Whitfield is considered to be a top notch draft prospect for the 2001
OHL draft. I have seen him play a number of times and was very impressed
with what I saw. There are a few rough spots in his game but that’s
expected, especially considering he is playing against players 3 and 4
years older than he is.
The biggest thing I noticed about him is that he tries not to be fancy.
If he starts a rush he tends to not try to beat the defenseman with an
outstanding move. He is more likely to dump the puck in, let a shot go
or pass the puck off to a teammate.
If there is one problem with Whitfield’s game it is that he has
somewhat of a short fuse. He tends to let his opponents get the best of
him. His size, 6’2″ and 200 lbs, is intimidating enough, especially for
Any other problems with Whitfield’s game, and let me tell you that
there are not very many, will get better as he gets more experience and Read more »
Goaltender Tim Thomas´ early season performances for AIK in the Swedish Elitserien is leaving hockey people wondering why he isn´t playing in the National Hockey League.
Being no stranger to the European game, the 26-year-old American arrived in Stockholm this summer after spending last season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. He had previously starred in the Finnish SM-Liiga for powerhouse HIFK Helsinki.
AIK has started the season remarkably well and a lot of the credit goes to Thomas who has backstopped the team to a placing at the top of the league table after eight games. Looking at the American´s statistics it is easy to understand why he is being hailed as a hero with barely one fifth of the season played.
His numbers are simply Hasek-like.
He is sporting a 94.4 save percentage and a goals against average at 1.72, and that is playing behind a defense that was average at best for the most part of last season. Thomas appears calm and quietly confident in the net, whether it´s cutting angles or aggressively challenging shooters.
”Thomas won the game for us today,” said AIK Head Coach Pär Mårts after a mid-october 4-0 road win over Björklöven in which AIK was outshot 37-19. ”We lacked organization, didn´t win any faceoffs or battles along the boards. I´m thanking Tim for the three points,” Mårts elaborated.
Björklöven´s Head Coach John Slettvoll agreed: ”Tim Thomas was unbelievable today.”
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It’s been thirteen months in the construction stage, seven years in the developmental, planning, referendum and hoping stage and ten long 2000-01 regular season games in the waiting, but the opening day of Cranbrook’s Recreational Complex is finally upon us.
The $22.6 million, 4268 seat facility will host its first event Friday as the 2001 Memorial Cup host Regina Pats are in town to face the Kootenay ICE. The ICE, who finished up a monster ten game road trip to begin the season a very satisfying 7-0-1-1 (before Wednesday’s game against the Hurricanes) will have little time to get used to their new digs as the club will have a one practice in the new facility on Thursday before facing the Pats the next night. After Friday’s tilt against the Pats, Saturday is ‘Raise the Banner’ night when division rival Calgary Hitmen are in Cranbrook. Tickets for both games are going fast and are available by phoning 426-SEAT.
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With the hopes of a new season to lighten the eyes of the Manny Malhotras, Pavel Brendls and Derek Armstrongs of the world, Glen Sather orchestrated some deals to make the Rangers younger, bigger, and hungrier. However, this was done done via the additions of Dale Purinton and Johan Witehall, but the move of Stephane Quintal (much to the delight of Rangers fans) “in theory via waivers” for Brad Brown and Michal Grosek.
While the move makes the Rangers a better team, it sends tremors down the spine of the Rangers infrastructure. Players such as Purinton and Witehall are deserving as any to be in the NHL, but again have not been afforded the chance to make the show.
In the case of Lundmark and Brendl, neither showed up to play everyday and if not for Brendl’s big game to close the preseason, the entire camp would have been a wash. Mike Mottau, who so many decided was “on the team,” was dispatched to Hartford much like the rider after the initial engagement at Lexington and Concord. Mottau responded by having a rough opening act in the AHL.
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Here is the latest news on Flyers affiliated players in junior, college, and European hockey:
Canadian Junior Hockey
Guillaume Lefebvre: Lefebvre, who bounced around the Q last season, seems to have found a home in Rouyn. Through 10 games, the center has 10 points (2 goals; 1 powerplay, 1 shorthanded). He is getting steady ice-time.
Jeff Feniak: The big defenseman has been solid in his own end of the ice. He has also played physically- something he has to do to be successful. He has only one point (a goal) on the season but he will never be someone who can be tracked by points. More importantly, he has 30 penalty minutes and a +6 rating for Tri-City.
U.S. College Hockey
John Eichelberger: Did not play in the Wisconsin season opener. Started but did not score in their second game.
Colin Shields: Looking for ice time with U of Maine in the early season.
Antero Niitymäki: Continues to be the most exciting Flyers prospect outside of the North American pros. Came in the last TPS game (a convincing loss against Jokerit) in relief of Fredrik Norrena. Niittymäki may get the start in TPS’s road game tonight against Tappara. For the season, Niitymäki has appeared in all or parts of 5 games, recording a shutout, a 1.85 goals against average, and .925 save percentage.
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