This year at Devils training camp, there will be many battles for open positions on the big club. Among them are the back-up goaltender position, the 7th defenseman spot and the most important of all, two forward positions, including the one that Alexander Mogilny and his 43 goals left vacant after leaving for the Maple Leafs. Here is breakdown of the position battles, who the candidates for the open positions are and what they have to offer.
Battle #1: Back-Up Goaltender
For the first time in a while, the man chosen to back up Martin Brodeur will not have any NHL experience under his belt. Martin seemed to show signs of wear and tear in the finals last year so finding a quality back-up that the team can have confidence in is very important.
Early favorite: JF Damphousse as it stands right now is the favorite to win the back up job behind Brodeur. JF, the Devils ’97 1st rounder, put up very respectable numbers for a weak Albany River Rats AHL squad last season (2.86 GAA and .914 Sv%). The agile, butterfly style goalie has earned the first chance to win the back-up spot due to his strong play last season.
Others to watch: The club is very high on 20 year old Finnish prospect Ari Ahonen, who is bar none, the team’s goaltender of the future. However it would be better for him to get a full season of pro experience in Albany, rather than only play in 15 or so games at the NHL level. If Ari does out perform JF though, the Devils may have no choice but to give him a shot. Frederic Henry is a long shot at best right now, but he has t Read more »
The Kings are moving along in their preseason schedule, and there have been some surprises – both good and bad. With two cuts already having been made, here is where the Kings are.
First, the development, or lack thereof, of Jaroslav Bednar has to be the primary concern. No matter what anyone says now, the Kings planned on having Bednar on one of their top two lines. After spending the summer saying that he was not like Tomas Vlasak, Bednar has spent the last two weeks proving that he might be exactly like him.
The play of some young forwards has been encouraging. Even though they will likely not make the team, Yannick Lehoux and Jared Aulin have shown that they have NHL-caliber stuff and will be here soon enough. Add to that the surprise play of Chris Schmidt and Derek Bekar along with solid play by Adam Mair and the Kings have the chance to have a young prospect crack the everyday lineup. It will likely be Mair or even Bekar, but the once written-off Schmidt has shown some signs of life and he may finish the season with the big club. Young tough guy Ryan Flinn is battling the likely enforcer Ken Belanger for the muscle spot and if nothing else, he has a steel dome and fears no one on the ice which has been a successful formula for more than one tough guy in the league.
Young defensemen Joe Rullier, Richard Seeley, Tomas Zizka and even Andreas Lilja have shown some spark. Lilja appears to be too slow to be the player they once thought, but he could be a player in the mold of Sean O’Donnell, and those kind of defensemen are valuable. Zizka looks Read more »
Just a year ago, it would be complex to speculate about the future of certain young blueliners. In fact, young defensemen have it the worst; it is, arguably, the hardest position to learn and, more often than not, it requires physical prowess as well as skill to master. Ask any hockey enthusiast, and he or she will probably tell you that defensemen take longer to develop, unlike forwards. Very seldom does one see a 19-year old OHL star quarterback an NHL team the very next year. More often that not, it takes a blueliner several years in the big leagues to truly achieve expected potential. Take Chris Pronger, for example; he stumbled at first, and was losing confidence. After several years of development, Chris found his niche as a tough, big-hitting, physical force and eventually built up a further offensive flavour to his game.Keeping that in mind, it is never easy to foresee success of young hockey players, especially blueliners. This season’s crop of young defensemen, features a pack of hopefuls of different ages, styles and expectations. However, it might seem shocking just how much NHL teams will rely on talented defensively-capable youngsters today. This year, it seems like the story of “out with the old, and in with the new”, as younger, gifted players will be given the chance to take on major roles with their respective teams.Last year, a group of young blueliners had undergone breakthrough years. Notably, Ed Jovanovski achieved all-star status with a 47 Read more »
AHL Southern Division Report
By Al Alven
Covering the Hershey Bears, Norfolk Admirals,
Philadelphia Phantoms and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
With 13 days to go until the start of the 66th season
of AHL hockey, things are beginning to take shape.
This past week, in the Southern Division alone, a
number of developments went down. From rookie/prospect
games to Mario Lemieux demoting himself to the minors
(huh?), it’s been an interesting week.
Let’s take a closer look…
O.K., so that thing about Lemieux sending himself
to the minors was a little misleading. Still, it’s
something I never thought I’d be typing. “Lemieux” and
“minors” just do not belong in the same sentence.
Anyway, for those who haven’t heard, Mario Lemieux
will be playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
in an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Penguins
on Saturday night at the First Union Arena in
Lemieux will wear three different jerseys (one
for each period), each of which will be auctioned off
after the game. Proceeds will be donated to various
charitable causes, including the Twin Towers Fund.
You may recall Wayne Gretzky doing a similar
thing a few years back. During his time with the Los
Angeles Kings, the “Great One” suited up for the IHL’s
Phoenix Roadrunners in an exhibition game versus L.A.
For the record, Lemieux has never appeared in a
minor league game. He jumped straight from the junior
ranks (QMJHL) to the NHL after being selected with the
Read more »
Stoll Back in the saddle with the ICE
The return of Jarrett Stoll back to the Kootenay ICE from the Calgary Flames training camp produces some obvious mixed emotions for both the player and his Kootenay fans. The ardent process of the junior game is to ready the player for the inevitable next step in hockey, the professional ranks. But at the same time from a fan’s standpoint it’s hard to see them go any earlier than the graduated age of twenty.
It appears as though ICE fans will get their wish and have last season’s leading point-getter in the Blue, White and Bronze for at least one more season.
Although returned from his second NHL training camp after being drafted in the second round (46th overall) in the 2000 NHL Draft by the Flames, disappointment wasn’t foremost on the mind of the Yorkton, Saskatchewan native. “There’s a little bit,” said Stoll of the disappointment of being sent back. “But going there I just wanted to have a better camp than I did last year and I think that I showed I had improved. I think I did that by playing really well, every part of my game improved and they (the Flames) were really happy so, coming back is a little bit disappointing but I don’t think it’s going to hurt me by any means.
“It’s also good to get back and not miss any games and get right into it and see the guys again.”
Going into Flames camp Stoll had no reservations even though the pro club had added to its depth at Stoll’s natural position, center. Not the least of which was Cranbrook native Rob Neider Read more »
Ready or not, the Kootenay ICE 2001-02 WHL season begins this week and if the pre-season is a good indicator of things to come, a 4-0 exhibition record is a nice way to start things off. Be that as it may, head coach Ryan McGill still isn’t satisfied that his charges are where he wants them to be come the home and regular season opener against the club’s newest conference rival, the Spokane Chiefs. “No, but that’s not a bad thing,” said McGill when asked if the club is where he wants them to be the week leading up to the start of the season.
“The good thing is that we’re going to have three good practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and that should get us close to where we want to be.”
In a pre-season that was shortened by one game due to the terrorist attack on the United States last week, the club featured in it’s exhibition a depth in the line-up that was somewhat unexpected with the club missing up to six of it’s veterans away a various NHL camps. Nowhere was that more evident than at the rookie level where 16-yr-old’s Nigel Dawes at center, who led the club in scoring with 10 points in four games and Brian Bridges, also sixteen, is surprising everyone by pushing veteran Jeff Harvey for the back-up goalie slot behind Dan Blackburn who is still at the New York Rangers training camp.
It is at that depth that Coach McGill let on will be a feature of his club this season. A factor that can somewhat be attributed to the ‘Rebel’ effect, after the success of the Memorial Cup champion Red Deer Rebels. Meaning a balance of four lines rather than two top Read more »
This Jay Wears a Hard Hat not a Helmet
“Very physical, very emotional, very competitive one on one.” That’s how Brampton Battalion Head Coach Stan Butler describes defender Jay Harrison, recently returned to him from the Toronto Maple Leafs Training Camp. You might think this could lead to a defender that plays out of control but while he admits that his charge will “stick up for his teammates” the coach also points out that the 6’3″ 198 pounder “doesn’t try to do it all himself and plays well within a scheme.” Being able to keep that edge but still maintain control naturally lends itself to leadership by example and Butler readily agrees that Harrison has “good potential” on this front.
But there is more to Jay Harrison than the mental makeup of the hockey player. There is talent there too. Specifically the Battalion blueliner possesses a “strong stride” straight ahead and “good” side to side movement that rarely lets him get beat on the crossover move. If there something he needs to work on though it is the speed of his pivot to the outside which his coach concedes “could use some improvement.” That said, he is as near to airtight defensively as one can get. The WJC bench boss credits the rearguard with being “very solid positionally (and) regularly matches him up against (the other team’s) top offensive threats.”
Offensively, Harrison prefers to play it safe letting his partner do the darting and weaving while he takes care of the backside on the rush. He has a “hard shot” from the blueline but needs to work on his timing a bit more as he ” Read more »
This season begins with a brand new arena, a boatload
of new players, but unfortunately very little opportunity for a youngster to crack the big club.
Still, Coach Hitchcock has stated that anyone can earn a spot, and quite a few prospects have shown promising signs in rookie camp, training camp, and preseason so far.
Read more »
Wolf Pack Have a New Radio Home
The Hartford Wolf Pack announced that the new radio home will be ESPN Radio 1410 WPOP AM. 1410 has an all sports format and carry New York Yankees baseball, New York Jets & Giants football, Central Connecticut State University men’s basketball.
9/15/01 37 Reassigned To Hartford
The following players have been reassigned to Hartford Read more »
Pack your bags boys… Play time’s over. The brief glimpse of your potential future in the big league has come to an end.
Twenty-six players reported to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s B Camp in Brandon last Tuesday, hoping to walk away with a little more than a pat on the back and a “maybe next time.” Even though 23 of the 26 were handed their plane tickets this morning, they have more than fond memories to return with.
“If nothing works out here, I will be better wherever I end up,” said Brad Yeo, a 20-year old winger from Erie (OHL). After posting 69 points and 186 penalty minutes in 66 games with the Otters last season and then going undrafted, Yeo received an invitation to Tampa Bay’s training camp, where he was reunited with Erie teammate, Nikita Alexeev.
The camp itself wasn’t exactly a picnic for the twenty Lightning players and six invitees in attendance. “The skating drills are the toughest, but nothing is easy,” said Yeo, who used his invitee status as motivation.
“I have to excel against the guys I am playing against,” he explained. “They are pretty much here on a free ride, whereas I come in working extra hard to get a contract.”
A contract is the primary goal, but if not attained there is a consolation prize. The players released were not only competing for a roster spot, but also learning there is an entirely different level of play that must be reached before making it in the big league.
“The intense workouts after the exhibition games are excruciating, but they help you a l Read more »