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Predators: Finley Silencing Critics

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“He is arguably the best goalie in the world at his age.” Dont worry, Art Williams has not bought another NHL team. Thats just Nashville Predators GM David Poile describing his five-star goaltending prospect, Brian Finley.

The Preds rewarded Finley with a three-year contract worth just over $6 million and up to over $9 million on Wednesday, two hours before the junior player contract deadline expired. For the next three seasons Finley will make $512,500; $512,500 and $1.025 million. As part of the deal he also recieves a signing bonus worth $1.025 million. The rest of the deal includes several bonuses and performance clauses that make up the contract. The contract’s financial numbers are just over what Preds prospect David Legwand signed at the end of last season.

Finley is expected to back up Tomas Vokoun for about the first week of the season while number one goalie Mike Dunham works out to get back in shape after missing all of training camp over a contract squabble. After the week, Finley will be sent back to Barrie where he will resume his junior career.
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Connolly and Biron, Newest NHLers

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Just as the junior signing deadline approached the tight walleted Islanders made a bit of a surprise move by signing two players, Tim Connolly and Mathieu Biron. Connolly topped off a strong training camp with a two point peformance in the Isles last preseason game including his first goal. Tim brings an instant element of excitement to the team that the Isles sorely need after the departure of Ziggy Palffy. Biron was a stalwart on defense throughout the preseason averaging almost 20 minutes a game. Mathieu is even better than the Isles scouting staff had anticipated and in the last week he beat out Branislav Mezei for the last spot on the blueline. Biron has been throwing his weight around, playing solid two way hockey, and using his 6-6 215lbs frame effectively. Mezei will rejoin Barrie in the OHL for another season.

Another high profile demotion was that of outstanding goaltender Roberto Luongo to Lowell. However, this situation may not last for long. Rumors are flying all over that the Isles will get rid of Felix Potvin, their most expensive player, to make room for the up and coming Loungo. Even though Robrto was their best player in the preseason rushing him into the NHL behind the kiddy corps blueline may not be the best idea. Luongo has been a winner at every level and even though he is confident now, he may not be ready for a full year on the island.
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Kootenay Ice: ICE CHIPS

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The 99-00 WHL season has begun and the Kootenay Ice started off with their third consecutive home and home series with the Red Deer Rebels. In the previous two home openers between these teams, the club who wins the first game of the home and home series has gone on to win the second game. The Kootenay Ice opened their fourth season in the WHL 2-1-0 in season openers.

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Kings Roster Starting to Take Shape

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The Los Angeles Kings roster appears to have taken final shape with a grand total of 0 of their top prospects on the squad. Injuries to Scott Barney and Eric Belanger, accompanied by poor performances by Justin Papineau and Pavel Rosa, have lead to the Kings roster full of veterans and older prospects.

These older prospects have shown tremendous promise, particularly on the blue line. Aki Berg and Frantisek Kaberle have had solid camps and will make the team and play of specialty teams. Other older prospects that seemed poised to make the team are Jason Blake, who will center the fourth line, and possibly Brad Chartrand on the wing. Marco Tuomainen has also showed promise and is sure to be a fan favorite because of his grit and the fact that he plays on the same line as Ian Lapperiere.

Points of concern would the the stagnant development of Pavel Rosa and Don MacLean. Neither made a dent with the new coaching staff and only Rosa seems likely to return any time soon. The Visa problems with Jere Karalahti have also dampened his chances to play in the NHL to start the season.

The Kings still have to make some roster cuts to get down to the 22 players that coach Murray wants to start the season.

Rangers: Roster Just About Set

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As the Rangers skated off the pre-season ice after a 5-2 victory over the Red Wings on goals by Theo Fleury, Valeri Kamensky, Petr Nedved, Tim Taylor and Adam Graves and strong goaltending by Mike Richter, the roster was basically set with the exception of a little tinkering here and there.

The final lines, no one knows for sure what they will be but it looks as though Petr Nedved, Theo Fleury and Val Kamensky will man the first unit with Brian Leetch and Stephan Quintal at no. 1 defense, the hotly contested no. 2 center slot has at least been filled with rookie Mike York who had an outstanding pre-season. The smallish center with crisp cuts and hands will man Adam Graves and perhaps John MacLean. The No. 3 unit is Manny Malhotra with Jan Hlavac and Mike Knuble/Kevin Stevens… Stevens a known dressing room leader had a strong pre season and was protected by the Rangers in the Waiver Draft.

The fourth line on Muckler`s three line team will be made up of Tim Taylor (he will see lots of ice time on the no. 2 and 3 units as well), Eric Lacroix, Darren Langdon, Knuble/Stevens and others….will audition. Defensively, Kim Johnsson and Sylvain Lefebvre will man the no. 2 unit with Mathieu Schneider and Peter Popovic at no.3 while Jason Doig will take the no. 7 spot or perhaps Ulf Samuelsson will be called back to MSG at the seasons` start.
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Reckoning Day For Two Nashville Prospects

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What a difference a day makes. As of Monday morning, standout prospect Brian Finley had a legitimate chance to beat out Corey Hirsch for the backup goaltending job in Nashville and defenseman Richard Lintner was just settling in for another season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL. By the end of the day, Finley was facing a certain trip back to the junior ranks, while Lintner had a return ticket to the Predators and a roster spot for the coming season.

Finley can only blame himself for the sudden turnaround in his status. It may have been his outstanding performance during the preseason that pressured veteran goaltender Mike Dunham into finally signing a new contract and thus eliminating the need for a backup goaltender behind would-be starter Tomas Vokoun. At the very least, Finley’s strong showing gave the Predators more leverage in negotiations. He capped the preseason by shutting out the Florida Panthers on 18 shots during a half-game outing in the final exhibition game. The impressive effort improved his preseason goals against average to 1.62 and his save percentage to .929. Despite those numbers, Finley will now be returned to the Barrie Colts of the OHL, where Nashville hopes he can continue to elevate his game.
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Toronto Maple Leafs’ Prospect Jeff Farkas: Raising the Bar

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In a day and time when athletes will frequently jump at their earliest chance for the big money, it is refreshing when a young man decides to finish out his program, to complete his degree before moving on to the big-time. Boston College senior centerman, Jeff Farkas, has decided to finish his senior season this year, rather than try to make that big jump into the pool, prematurely.

One could argue, how much more does he have to prove? His team has been to the NCAA finals in his sophomore season and to the Frozen Four again last year. His 32 goal junior season tied him for second in the country in goals-scored. He has scored big goals in big games on numerous occasions. “Scoring the game-winning goal in the Beanpot tournament in Boston as a freshman was one of my biggest thrills in college hockey”, says Jeff.

Jeff has led Team USA and tied for the tournament lead in goals-scored, with current NHL player Olli Jokinen, in the 1998 World Juniors Championship. He has scored 56 goals in 118 NCAA games with one of the nation’s top collegiate teams. What is left to do?

“I’m committed to help to lead our squad this season. As a senior, I want to lead by example and help the younger players on the team. I want to contribute to the success of our team and have a shot to play for the national championship again”, Jeff states. Couple that with the fact that coach, Jerry York, emphasizes that his players get their degree and you see that Boston College is the right place for Jeff, for one more go-around.
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Rangers: Waiver Time, News and Notes

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The New York Rangers made available their list of available players for today`s Waiver Draft. General Manager Neil Smith expects not to sign or lose anyone. However the most intriquing player is Swedish Import, Johan Witehall. Witehall may go the way Maxim Galanov and Vladimir Vorobiev did….via the waiver wire. Witehall has the skills to compete at the NHL level but is mired behind too many NHL level wingers in NY. Derek Armstrong and Brad Smyth are interesting players that could fill roles elsewhere in the NHL. J.F.Labbe had a strong camp and is also interesting but will likely remain in Hartford(AHL).

Camp news, Tim Taylor played with tight legs in his first game as a Ranger, yesterday at the Hartford Civic Center before 9108 and a Rangers 1-0 win over Boston on a goal by Kevin Stevens early in the first. The game was less than a sellout but drew nearly three times as many as the former Whalers now Hurricanes drew and double as many as season tickets as the `Canes have sold for their innaugral season in Raleigh. With chants of Let`s go Rangers, chants from the ghosts of Let`s go nobody and Let`s go Whalers filled the arena as the fine people of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts expressed their displeasure with the NHL`s handling of the Hartford Whalers in 1996-97. Hartford is now home to the rival New York Rangers AHL club, the Hartford Wolfpack whom have also outdrawn the Hurricanes on a nightly basis.
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Bryan Kazarian named OHL player of the week

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The Ontario Hockey League saeson is a week old, and the season’s first player of the week has been named. Owen Sound Platers Centre Bryan Kazarian had a goal and eight assists in three games. Included was a game that the Platers lost 6-5 to the Soo Greyhounds. Kazarian assisted on all 5 goals, which tied a team record shared with Wayne Primeau, Kirk Muller and Keith Whitmore.

Kazarian’s 9 points leads the early OHL scoring race. The 18-year-old Owen Sound native is in his second season with the Platers.

In other news, Peter Reynolds got his wish. The disgruntled defenceman was dealt by the London Knights, along with a fourth round draft choice, to the North Bay Centennials in exchange for Overage centre Brett Gibson and Defenceman Brett Angel. Reynolds, a 1999 second round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, requested a trade during the summer, and had stayed away from the Knights. Angel was selected by the Nashville Predators in the third round last June.

OHL Career Profile
Bryan Kazarian
Born: Owen Sound, Ont.
Birthdate: June 30, 1981
Position: Centre
Shoots: Right
Height: 5.08
Weight: 172 lbs.
OHL – Owen Sound’s 6th round selection, 119th overall in the 1998 OHL PrioritySelection.

Season Club GP G A PTS PIM
1997-98 Owen Sound Jr. B 48 24 29 53 191
1998-99 Owen Sound Platers 41 1 5 6 27
1999-00 Owen Sound Platers 3 1 8 9 2
OHL Totals 44 2 13 15 29
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Maple Leafs Roster Beginning to Take Shape

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With less than a week to go before NHL teams must submit protected lists for the annual NHL Waiver Draft, Toronto’s training camp roster has been pared down to 34 players. And except for a few mild surprises, this current batch of players bears a striking resemblance to the group that took Pat Quinn to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year as coach of the Maple Leafs.

In goal, Curtis Joseph had the starting job locked up before camp even started, and Glenn Healy was all but guaranteed the job as backup to the man they call Cujo. Joseph has seen limited action, but has looked strong, stopping 30 shots from his former Edmonton teammates for a 4-2 victory on September 14th.

During the off-season, Healy underwent a rigorous training program and in his most recent pre-season game on September 17th, he dazzled by stopping three breakaways and was by all accounts the difference in the game.

Off-season acquisition Jim Waite has been solid in camp, but will start the season in St. John’s of the AHL, the Leafs top farm team, where he is expected to receive the brunt of the work. Waite signed a two-year deal with Toronto in the off-season, a two-way deal for this season and a one-way deal for next season. With Healy expected to retire next summer, Waite is the early favourite to back up Curtis Joseph for the 2000-2001 season.
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