They’ve been hearing it all their lives: “You’re too small”, “You haven’t scored enough”, “Undrafted players never make it to the NHL”. Well, don’t look now, but Glen Metropolit and Jeff Halpern are doing just fine, thank you very much. They may have taken different paths to get here, but they are living out their dreams that seemed out of reach for so long.
At the start of last season, Metropolit and Halpern were wondering when and if their NHL careers would ever start. One year later, they were standing on the ice at the National Car Rental Center in Miami on opening night wearing their Capitals uniforms. Metropolit began last year with the IHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins without an NHL contract. It was his second year with the Griffins, and his fourth pro season during which he had played for five different teams. Halpern was playing out his senior season at Princeton University, and although there was interest from NHL clubs, he was prohibited from signing a contract until he had graduated. But by the end of the 98-99 season, both had come to terms with the Caps, and were playing in the AHL with the Portland Pirates. Glen played in twelve games, scoring five goals and eight points, while Jeff suited up for six games – scoring two goals and three points.
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With injuries to Terry Yake and, more notably, Pierre Turgeon, the St. Louis Blues rewarded two highly regarded prospects last week with a promotion to the NHL. Left winger Derek Bekar and center Ladislav Nagy, both of whom have played extremely well at Worcester this year, were given the call to join the blue note. Bekar led the team in goals with seven while Nagy had four goals and seven assists in 17 games. Bekar has good speed and size, however, he was ineffective in his NHL debut. Consequently, he was sent back to the Ice Cats where he will receive valuable ice time. Nagy was inserted into the lineup the next game and played well enough to earn another assignment. Admittedly nervous the game before, Nagy settled down in his second NHL game and showed off the skill that has him rated number one in the organization’s list of prospects. Showing great vision and anticipation, he continued to stand out while playing almost exclusively on the fourth line with Mike Eastwood and agitator Tyson Nash. Then it happened; his first NHL goal. With patience and confidence, Nagy took Tyson Nash’s centering feed and buried it top shelf. After, of course, losing his helmet in a corner scrum a few seconds before. There are those, aware of his cocky demeanor, that would say he lost his helmet purposely knowing he would score the goal. Nevertheless, with 1 goal and 2 assists in 4 games and adding skill to a fourth line, Joel Quenneville will have a tough decision to make when Turgeon gets healthy.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins may not be the hottest team in the American Hockey League, but they do possess plenty of spirit and the support of a town who has vowed to stand behind them despite a rocky start. Currently playing with a record of 2-13-5, the “Jr. Pens” have a great deal of work cut out for them if they hope to catch up with the opposition. Nothing is impossible however, and it’s still early enough in the season to turn things around. Whether they can do it or not remains to be seen.
Wilkes-Barre does however, have a few things on it’s side: players such as Martin Sonnenberg and Dennis Bonvie, the two leading scorers. Bonvie brings a whole new definition of forceful play to the game. His unique ability to get under the opposition’s skin has earned him the title of “goon.” The truth is however, he’s not a goon. He knows exactly what he’s doing and enjoys frustrating the other team. This year, he’s added something special to the mix. Dennis found the scoreboard and was, for quite some time, the points leader. Amazingly, he managed to do so entirely based on assists.
Martin Sonnenberg is a different kind of player. While Bonvie is a winger with an attitude, Sonnenberg is a winger with a little more patience. He’s not exactly a Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, but he does exhibit a real passion for the game and desire to win. It’s obvious how much he respects his teammates and how much they respect him.
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The U20 team has won a 4-Nations tournament in the USA. “Partly, partly”, was head coach Jakob Koelliker’s answer. “We have won it, but especially the game against Germany was really bad. We have to win against opponents like Germany.”
Switzerland had many chances to score goals. Koelliker: “We are not cool enough, we should score a lot more goals.” Indeed not only the juniors, but all of the Swiss players need to take better advantage of their goal-scoring
In a preparation game against the Rochester Mustangs, Switzerland took a 4:0 victory. The Swiss goal scorers were Bjoern Christen, Marc Reichert (2 goals) and Loic Burkhalter. Silvan Lussy and Fabian Stephan, each
added two assists. Martin Zerzuben had his first of two shut-outs. The
second followed in the tournament game against Norway.
Switzerland dominated the game and shot out the Mustangs, 22 to 9 shots.
The tournament started with a game against Germany. The game ended in a tie
at 2. Switzerland had 20 shots, while Germany was held to 14.
In the next game Norway was left scoreless. 6:0 was the final score. “Well not really an opponent for us,” coach Koelliker commented on the game. Six different players scored the goals. 35 to 3 shots – Norway is not really on the same level as Switzerland.
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A quick scan of the OHL Western conference shows three teams fighting
for the top spot. The Sault Greyhounds were expected to be there. Brampton was not and their amazing second season rolls on without any overagers and only 2 19 year olds in the lineup. The Windsor Spitfires are also there, much to the surprise of many. Their success has been due to a team effort, they do not have the stars that other teams boast. Yet they are ranked in the CHL top ten, sitting 7th.
Over the last few years this team has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Whether it was star players being charged for off ice incidents, stars breaking curfews and being suspended, or the Jeff Kugel disgrace, a dark cloud has hung over this franchise. The hiring of Tom Webster has brought some class, leadership, stability and hope to the Spits. He has them playing tough, disciplined, hard nosed hockey, rolling 4 lines, pounding teams along the boards, and producing victory after victory. They follow through on their hits (if you are at a game, don’t follow the puck or you might miss a Spitfire run over an opponent who was admiring his pass), they forecheck tenaciously, and unlike the Peter Sarno years the forwards can pick their goalie out of a crowd of strangers.
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The Buffalo Sabres entered the 1999-2000 season with one of the most impressive prospect lists in the NHL. Little has occurred during the 1st quarter of this season that would change Buffalo’s standing as one of the more talent-rich clubs, so it is time to reflect on the more notable performances given by the top Sabre prospects thus far.
The order at the top of the prospect list has changed a good bit since my last offering (there is no truth to the rumor that this writer is suffering from a Stanley Cup hangover), with Cory Sarich losing the top perch he had held throughout most of last year, and a couple of new names entering the top 10. Several players near the top of the list started the season in Rochester, where they helped get the Americans off to a blazing start. The Amerks have since come back to earth, as 3 of their best players were called up to Buffalo, but there are still some strong prospects to watch in Rochester.
As for the prospects in juniors, some of the more prominent prospects (Kristek, Milley, Zigomanis) started slowly, but have recently improved their play. And, in the college ranks, ’99 draft picks Barrett Heisten, Doug Janik and Ryan Miller have been very impressive so far this season.
Players such as Martin Biron, Maxim Afinogenov and Cory Sarich are still on the list, in spite of the fact that they are with the Sabres. None of these three players have played 25 NHL games to this point, so I have decided to keep their prospect status intact.
And now, on with the show!
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When the Soo Greyhounds opened training camp prior to this season there
were very few question marks in their lineup. The only major question mark
was who was going to be the starting goaltender, Jake McCracken or
Jason Flick. That question has since been answered due to the fact that
McCracken has been unable to play due to injury.
Looking back at the first part of the Greyhounds season the team
looks to be in pretty good shape. They had a ton of veterans coming back
from last year’s team. At the draft they added even more experience with
the addition of winger Brent Theobald from the Mississauga IceDogs.
In the standings the Greyhounds are in great shape as they are
fighting with the surprising Windsor Spitfires for 1st place in the OHL’s
West Division and are among the top teams in the OHL. The Greyhounds Read more »
When the reports came in for Jamie Lundmark before last year’s NHL Entry
Draft, not surprisingly, they were glowing.
There was talk that Lundmark ten years from now just might prove to be the best player out of that draft class. “(Eventual number one choice) Patrik Stefan is a man, Jamie Lundmark is a boy. All he needs is time,” gushed one
The Central Scouting Bureau said all the right things, including “displays
exceptional lateral movement when skating with the puck and is outstanding
in one-on-one situations.”
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After losing a number of quality players, the Plymouth Whalers were expected to struggle this Ontario
Hockey League season.
And struggle they have. The Whalers sit in fourth place in the OHL’s Western Division at about the
one-third mark of the campaign.
However, there are some encouraging signs.
In goal, 18-year old Rob Zepp has been steady behind a largely inexperienced defense. The Atlanta
Thrashers draftee has a goals against average of 2.42 in 17 appearances.
First round draft pick Stephen Weiss leads the team in scoring with 25 points, and fellow rookie Tomas
Kurka has 18.
Weiss has speed and good puck sense. The puck seems to follow him around, and all things considered,
those 25 points are no fluke.He’s been named to Ontario’s Under-17 team at the World Hockey Challenge.
Kurka, from the Czech Republic, brings with him the reputation of a sniper. His 15 points are fifth on the
In between are second year wingers Justin Williams and Damien Surma, along with overage defenceman
A pleasant surprise has been the play of another Czech import. Defender Libor Urstrnul stands 6’5″ and
weighs 230 lbs., but has a fair amount of mobility, which is surprising for a big man. The soon-to-be
19-year-old also likes to mix it up, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves.
Indeed, a Urstrnul fight is quite a sight. It starts with the fact that he DOES fight, a trait not often seen in
European players. Read more »
Rookie St. Albert Saints netminder Tom Gillard is starting to come of age in
the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Before training camp even started, Gillard was the odds-on favourite to win
the open goaltending spot on the roster. It was vacated by the departing
Scott Kabotoff, who accepted a scholarship to join the University of
Wisconsin following last season.
Gillard spent last season with the Maple Leaf Athletic Club (Midget AAA). He
backstopped the MLAC to a solid fourth-place finish, with 11 wins, 9 losses,
a 4.40 GAA and a .885 save percentage.
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