News & Features
There has certainly been some excitement in the prospect pool of the Western Hockey League this season. Out East, the Lethbridge Hurricanes are out of the gate and flying thanks to the crafty scoring talents of Nathan Barrett, Tomas Kopecky, and Ryley Layden, amassing 82 points combined through 15 games. The true “Windy City” is craving a long playoff run and the ‘Canes look to have the talent to produce. The Red Deer Rebels haven’t seem to falter a bit since spending their month of May conquering opponents to win the Memorial Cup. GM and Head Coach Brent Sutter watched junior-stars Kyle Wanvig (Minnesota), Martin Erat (Nashville), and Justin Mapletoft (Islanders) all start professional careers, yet packed enough ammo to sit atop the CHL rankings for the fourth consecutive week. Pittsburgh Penguin 1st Round Draft Pick Colby Armstong (10 points in 13 games played) now wears the Red Deer “C” while Columbus prospect Shane Bendera anchors the Rebels in net with a miniscule 1.58 GAA and a .942 SV%. In the West, the Kamloops Blazers are enjoying a hot streak while battling through some injury problems. Scottie Upshall is headlining their assault, demonstrating a balance of scoring touch and physical play with 21 Points and 38 PIM in 14 games played. The Seattle Thunderbirds are stuck in a rut that finds them with only four wins in the US Division, yet one more win than BC Division strugglers the Kelowna Rockets. Both teams have some impressive talent, such as T-Bird Read more »
Every two weeks our resident head shrinker will probe the brain of a select group of individuals to explore what makes these people tick. Thank you to all our readers for their continual support and I hope you all thoroughly enjoy all future articles of “Under the Helmet”
Back in the early days of the Sabres franchise, former Buffalo GM Punch Imlach used his top pick in both the ’70 and ’71 drafts to select offensive stars from the Quebec League. Those two selections, C Gilbert Perreault and LW Rick Martin, went on to form 2/3 of the high-flying French Connection line that terrorized NHL goaltenders throughout most of the 70s.
Recent incarnations of the Sabres have been about as offensive as a Disney animated feature, so it is no surprise that current GM Darcy Regier placed an emphasis on offense during the 2001 draft. One of those ’01 selections, RW Jason Pominville of the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, is bringing back memories of those early draft successes, perhaps signaling an end to the Sabres’ long search for a sniper.
Jason is off to a blazing start this season, as his 34 points in 15 games will attest. Pominville has scored 15 goals and added 19 assists, which is good enough to make him the Cataractes’ leading scorer, while leaving him second in scoring in the QMJHL. 7 of Jason’s goals have come on the power play, while 4 goals have been game-winners, both totals being an indication that Pominville has a knack for scoring important goals. In one early season contest, Jason racked up 7 points (4G, 3A) in a Shawinigan victory.
Shawinigan is currently tied for first overall in the "Q" with Rimouski, although the Oceanic are the higher-ranked team in the CHL rankings. The Cataractes are currently ranked 9th in the CHL.
Jason’s fast start is most Read more »
A funny thing happened to Jussi Markkanen when he went to Hamilton for a tune up. While it was intended to be a one game “warm-up” demotion, it has turned into a two week coming out party for Ty Conklin. All Conklin has done is win both of his starts and compile a 1.63 GAA. If he had enough minutes played to qualify, he would be third overall in GAA. While Conklin is the closest thing the Oilers have to a prospect in their line up, it is way too early to tell if he is the real deal, but his early heroics have earned him another start, and the players trust.
“In the development stages”
Kevin Brown and Marc Lamothe are providing the Hamilton Bulldogs exactly what the Oilers had hoped for, veteran leadership and strong performances. Leading the way from the prospects are Jason Chimera, Brian Swanson, and Jani Rita. Michael Henrich has also followed up his impressive training camp by posting 4 points in his first 7 games. Not huge numbers, but when you consider that he only had 15 points all of last year, it is a marked improvement.
Currently ranked number 4 on the CHL Top 10 list the Belleville Bulls, with a record of 11-5, are showing that they will once again be a top contender for the OHL title. The name of the game so far this year has been explosive offense. The Bulls can currently boast 3 of the top 5 scorers in the OHL, #1 Mike Renzi (32), #2 Nathan Robinson (31) and #5 Kyle Wellwood (25).
The Bulls however have had trouble controlling opposing forwards in their own end mainly due to the lack of size on the blue-line. Captain Matt Coughlin is the biggest Bulls defenseman at 6’3” 200lbs and he is the only one over 200lbs. This has made the transition game more difficult resulting in more work for goalies Jan Chovan and Paulo Colaiacovo who have been up to the task in most games. The defense are talented and above average skaters but have seemed reluctant to jump into the offense with the exception of Malcolm Hutt who is having an excellent season so far with 2 goals and 9 assists. Coughlin has vastly improved his skating from last season but has not been utilizing his newfound skills as of yet.
The Bulls just came off of a shootout win against the Mississauga Ice Dogs (9-6) and a hard luck loss to the Erie Otters (3-2) where all 3 of Erie’s goals were weak. The Otters defense was very impressive, led by Maple Leaf draft pick Carlo Colaiacovo who had a very strong game. The Erie – Belleville game boasted 4 Maple Leaf Draft picks: Colaiacovo, Brad Boyes, Kyle Wellwood and Jan Chovan. Chovan however did not play in f Read more »
Updates on Flyers prospects playing in Europe.
Antero Niittymäki: Defending champion TPS Turku is off to their worst start in years. One of the bright spots, however, has been the early-season resurgence of goaltender Antero Niittymäki, who encountered a sophomore slump last season after a Rookie of the Year season in 1999-2000. Niittymäki has been splitting starts roughly in half with veteran Fredrik Norrena. In 8 starts to date, “Antsu” has a miniscule 1.69 goals against average and a .948 save percentage. However, those numbers have only been good enough for 4 wins (against 3 losses and a tie). Likewise, Norrena has played well (2.09 GAA, .926 save percentage) but has also suffered from lack of goal support, as his 2-5-2 record attests.
Marko Kauppinen : Defenseman Marko Kauppinen struggled terribly out of the gates for TPS, but has come on nicely over the last three weeks. In 17 games to date, he has 3 goals and 5 points. A few weeks ago, Kauppinen had a team-worst minus-five rating, but he now is the plus side of the ledger, with a plus-3.
Jussi Timonen : Playing for KalPa in Division One, Kimmo Timonen’s younger brother is playing his first season at the senior level. He has three points (all assists) in 12 games.
David Printz: Hulking defenseman David Printz was set to play college hockey for Northern Michigan this season, but opted instead to accept an offer to play for AIK in Elitserien. Printz, who was originally trained in the AIK junior developme Read more »
This year’s training camp ended with everyone viewing a different Mark Bell. The one we viewed this season was more relaxed, confident and a beneficiary of a year in the farm beside teaching coach Trent Yawney. Everybody saw the difference on the ice.
Goaltender plot thickens; ICE trade for Kolewaski
Ever since the New York Rangers decided that they were keeping standout goaltender Dan Blackburn on their NHL roster, the goaltending pendulum for the Kootenay ICE has been swinging back and forth between Jeff Harvey and rookie Bryan Bridges.
That pendulum just added another direction for it to swing.
The Kootenay ICE decided to add some depth to their goaltending department by acquiring Tony Kolewaski in a trade with the Saskatoon Blades on Thursday that saw the ever popular ‘future considerations’ go the other way. It was a move that Kootenay ICE G.M. Jeff Chynoweth says can be best construed as both a reflection on the current goaltending situation with the ICE and as an insurance policy. “I think it’s a little bit of both,” said Chynoweth. “You look at our record (6-7-2), we’re giving up less than 25 shots a game which is pretty impressive for Major Junior hockey.”
“Goaltending is such a key part and not to place all the blame on the goaltenders but at times this year it’s been a little weak.”
Weak, inconsistent, inexperienced call it what you want. The pleasant surprise of the play of rookie Bryan Bridges aside, the familiar rant throughout the corridors of the Rec/Plex all season long had a common ring to them – the goaltending, or lack thereof. After being treated to the stellar netminding of Dan Blackburn for the past two seasons, perhaps the ICE faithful were just spoiled. At any rate Chynoweth felt that something had to be done. “We felt this was an opportunity to get a look-see,” he sa Read more »
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