He was a sure fire NHL player. Not flashy or fancy but a solid, hard
working right winger who drew comparisons to John LeClair from GM Neil Smith.
He was slated as at least a second line NHL player and possibly even a first.
He was seen as a potential 35 goal scorer with the chance to move into the
40’s in his prime years. After a final successful year of junior hockey he
made a splash in the Rangers 1998 Training Camp and was the last player cut
on the last day despite being only 20 years old at the time. But that was the
beginning of a very stressful and painful two years in the life of Stefan
Cherneski, one he hopes to put in the past by making the Rangers this season
in what might end as one of the greatest hockey triumph stories ever told.
Stefan Cherneski was a solid prospect. Maybe not one that could claim to
be one of the top ten or so in the league but one that had the potential to
carve out a meaningful career. A surprise during the 1998 pre-season he came
within a skate blade of making the team. Beaten out by a 31 year old
journeyman named Brent Fedyk, Cherneski returned to Hartford determined to
make the team. That dream came crashing to a halt in a game against New
Haven when Cherneski was checked along the boards and his knee shattered into
7 pieces. Just to give you an idea of its severity, doctors weren’t sure if
Stefan would ever walk again properly let alone play hockey professionally. Read more »
The Houston Aeros have increased their goal-scoring punch, as right wing Greg Pankewicz has re-signed with the Houston Aeros.
Last season, Pankewicz led the Aeros with 22 goals, including a team-high 13 power play goals. He added 19 assists for at total of 41 points in 62 games, fourth on the team in total points. His 134 penalty minutes ranked second only to left wing Greg Walters, who led the team with 192.
Entering his 10th pro season, Pankewicz has played in the National, American, East Coast and International Hockey Leagues. In 1998-99, Pankewicz played in 18 NHL contests with the Calgary Flames, collecting three assists.
That season he also split time between Kentucky and Saint John of the American Hockey League. The Drayton Valley, Alberta native had one of his best seasons as a pro in 1997-98 with the Manitoba Moose, when he scored a career-high 42 goals. For the season, he added 34 assists for 76 points in 76 contests and racked up another career high with 246 penalty minutes.
Pankewicz is the ninth forward to sign with the Houston Aeros for the 2000-01 season. Already on the flight deck are centermen Shawn Carter, Terry Marchant and Brett Harkins, right wingers Alex Vasilevski, Lane Lambert, and Sandy Moger and left wings Bobby Reynolds and Walters. The Aeros have signed two defensemen so far, Barry Dreger and Grant Richison, and have obtained the IHL rights to goaltender Jason Elliott, who is under contract with the Detroit Red Wings (NHL).
AEROS PLAYERS SIGNED
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The New Jersey Devils opened training camp on September 8th fresh from a summer of Stanley Cup celebrations. Many Devils’ prospects missed out on those celebrations but are pressing to be a part of future ones.
The departure of Claude Lemieux, Vladimir Malakhov and Brad Bombardir ensures there will be some new blood in the New Jersey locker room. Backup goaltender Chris Terreri turns 36 in November and the Devils plan on taking a long look at their goaltending future. In addition, for now a couple of slots remain open due to the contract holdouts of Scott Niedermayer and Jason Arnott.
In goal there is no doubt that the tandem of Martin Brodeur and Terreri will remain in place at least for this season barring any injury. Although none of the team’s other goaltenders appear ready for the NHL, the Devils were impressed with the play of Ari Ahonen, the former number one pick from Finland.
Ahonen at age 19 showed promise in his limited time in camp before returning to Finland. New Jersey is hopeful the young goaltender will return the U.S. later in the season and play some games for Albany of the AHL. The fact that Ahonen appears to be the goaltender of the future does not bode well for Jean-Francois Damphousse and Frederic Henry who will once again split time in Albany.
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Powered by a three-point effort from Daniel Sedin, the Canucks kicked off their exhibition season with a 5-2 win against MoDo.
MoDo started the game showing little respect for their more well-known opponents, and they were rewarded with a powerplay after former MoDo-hero Markus Näslund was called for a high stick. The Canucks did not have much trouble killing off the penalty and were rewarded with a powerplay of their own after a dubious holding-call on Jan-Axel Alavaara.
Vancouver wasted little time on their first powerplay of the game before scoring when Trent Klatt one-timed a shot from close range after a pass from Daniel Sedin.
Daniel Sedin was the main story of the first period. Minutes after being called for kneeing, he sent Vadim Sharifijanov on a breakaway after a turnover on the offensive blue-line. Sharifijanov displayed a sniper’s instinct shooting through MoDo goalie Tobias Lundström´s five-hole.
After a second Canuck powerplay, the Sedin´s created havoc in their former team´s defensive system and Daniel Sedin put the Canucks up 3-0 heading into the second period.
Just like in the first period, MoDo started the period well but it was the Canucks that added to their lead after four minutes. Carrying the puck on a 2-no-1, Todd Bertuzzi made an excellent pass right on the tape of Harold Druken´s stick who put in into the gaping left side of the net.
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Training camp is less than a week old, and there has already been enough turmoil to last an entire season. It is difficult to keep track of all the storylines, and depending on how some of those scenarios play out – the opening day lineup could end up looking very different than the one we anticipate right now.
The most surprising move came after the first practice of camp. Free Agent acquisition Stephane Richer decided he didn’t have it in him to compete in another season, and announced his retirement. He had been brought in from St. Louis to boost our mediocre power play. The move came as a shock to players and fans alike; partly because of the unexpected nature of it, but mostly due to the timing.
Around the same time as the Richer announcement, defenseman Brendan Witt stated that he too was considering retirement. He is unhappy about the contract he received as a result of his arbitration loss during the off-season. Although he seems quite serious about this stance, it is hoped that he will eventually return to the lineup. It is also believed that George McPhee has no interset in renegotiating the pact, and expects Brendan to be in the lineup opening day.
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The summer turns to his end and by that time young hockey players often move to Canada or USA for a chance to play in the junior leagues. It’s decision time, especially when you were drafted by a CHL team. In the first part I covered the top five Czech players selected and now there are the next six players. So who is it?
6. Martin Podlesak (CHL:Tri-city, WHL Czech:HC Sparta Praha)
The huge framed winger Martin Podlesak (6’5”, 200 lbs.) should follow the way to the WHL. Regarded as one of the top 1982 born Czech prospects, Martin isn’t elegible until the 2001 draft (born 09-26-1982, one day after Frantisek Lukes coverd in Part 1). He plays for the juniors of a very strong HC Sparta Praha team and there isn’t a sign of Martin coming to the last league champion’s team. Martin has prototypical North American size, that will help him in the WHL a lot. The decision shouldn’t be so hard for him, just get aboard a plane. The WHL will help him develop his hard-nosed playing style and a style of play played at a smaller rink will suit him very good. The sooner he gets used to that, the better for him. He plays in his draft year, so the motivation shouldn’t be a problem. In Tri-city Martin can blossom into a power forward and make a bigger impress on the NHL scouts than a Sparta Praha junior player.
7. Jan Platil (CHL: Barrie, OHL
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With Captain Kirk’s ship on the ground, Jean-Francois Labbe is the leading candidate to at worst start the season as the backup goaltender for the New York Rangers on opening night. Labbe, a veteran AHLer who helped Milan Hnilinka (Signed by Atlanta Thrashers) backstop the baby Rangers to the AHL Championship, is 2-0-1 in the intrasquad srimmages, having allowed only 3 goals in those games. He is currently battling European signees Vitali Yeremeyev(Moscow Dynamo) and Johan Holmqvist (Brynås), as well as North Americans Bryce Wandler and Jason Labarbera, not only for the shot at MSG ice but AHL ice. Rumors have it that if Labbe does not make the parent Rangers he will be sent to Houston of the IHL, even though Houston will receive a Columbus Blue Jackets top minor league goalie to be named later.
No one seems to be more deserving of a true shot than Labbe. With the Wolfpack last season, Labbe posted a 27-13-7 record with a 2.52 goals against average. In his one appearance with the Rangers, in front of a porous defense, Labbe yielded 3 goals in a loss. He has posted 55 wins in two AHL seasons with the Rangers organization and 3 shutouts to take note of. His best season was with Hershey (AHL) when he notched 34 wins and 6 shutouts leading way to a Hershey Championship and his touting as the AHL’s top goalie.
Hopefully, Labbe will get the shot he so deserves and the eyes of the NHL will be given the opportunity to see this minor league veteran guard the pipes.
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Teams B and C filed out onto the ice, the fans cheering when their
favorite NHL stars came out.
Tim Verbeek came out onto the ice and got quite the reception for a
rookie. Must be nice having the same last name as a Detroit star, eh
Sean Avery was back and skating, and showing everyone that he was ready
for the NHL players. Before the scrimmage both teams were warming up on
their respective sides when Avery skated by the blue line getting a
slash in on Chris Chelios on the way by.
Chris Osgood allowed 4 goals in his 30 minute tenure, while Ken Wregget
allowed 2. Darren McCarty got the puck and went to fire it at the net
but Martin Lapointe dropped down and took one for the team. As Lapointe
got up McCarty grabbed the puck that was laying by Lapointe still and
fired it under Lapointe and through Wregget’s five hole.
Dmitri Leonov and Avery got into a bit of a discussion and started a
stare down while starting to go slowly in the circle getting ready to do
the dance. But the refs noticed and blew the whistle for play to stop
and got between them before they went at it. When it appeared the Ref’s
had ruined the show, Mark Rodgers stepped up and made it happen, whaling
Leonov. Rodgers and Leonov had their dance for a few seconds before the
ref’s ended the show, for good this time.
With the first half ending 4-2, Team B, Team C had to get going if they Read more »
It was very quiet in the Olympic Arena at Lake Placid, New York on
Friday morning, the first official day of the New York Islanders’
training camp. One skater took the ice then another and so on until the
ice was full of players passing, shooting and getting their ice legs
back in order. I came all the way from Durham, New Hampshire late the
previous evening to see the number one draft pick take the ice to pass
or fail. As the players were filing in so too were the coaches, scouts
and various staff members from the Islanders organization presumably to
see the same player I had come to see. I recognized John Vanbiesbrouck,
Jason Krog and several others but no DiPietro. He was in the second
group so the anticipation had some time to mount. Soon the first group
was finished with their work out and off to the side ice sheet for a
scrimmage. About an hour later the second group began to file in. They
all looked the same, big and focused, distinguished only by different
colored sweaters, except for the goalies. Three or four goalies took
the ice and DiPietro stood out like a sore thumb. Brand spankin’ new
pads, glove, blocker, helmet, everything absolutely pristine. The other
goalies had marked up pads from several games of use. That was the only
difference though, Ricky DiPietro was the consummate professional. He
didn’t look nervous or excited, he just followed instructions,
participated and above all stopped pucks.
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Please keep this in mind:
Butch Goring will not hesitate to bench any player on this team who is not giving every bit of effort at all times when they are playing.
That used to be the definition of Islander hockey when Goring played here under Al Arbour and anyone who does not play that way will not be here very long.
Islanders by the numbers entering training camp:
Played on last years team-*
1. Rick DiPietro
30. Wade Flaherty*
34. John Vanbiesbrouck
35. Stephen Valiquette*
40. Mike D’Alessandro
55. David St. Germain
Comments: It’s Beezer’s job to lose and Di Pietro’s job to win. Di Pietro is a star in the making with fantastic quickness, great recovery, a sharp glove and ability to handle the puck.
Beezer will get the start in the teams preseason opener against Philadelphia and based on early reports in camp, is looking like the number one goaltender and is thrilled with being a mentor for Di Pietro. All the goaltenders have looked solid in camp so far, and St Germain has stood out in scrimmages.
Questions: Beezer is not going to be able to hold up this team on his own, and if Di Pietro does not make the team in some capacity Wade Flaherty or Steven Valiquette have to give this team 25-30 games. One goalie who’s season ended with a shoulder injury and is a journeyman and another who had some standout performances in a late season call up.
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