Heading into the 2001-02 NHL season, Thrasher fans had two reasons to be both excited and concerned. Those two reasons were Dany Heatley (#2 in 2000 NHL draft) and Ilya Kovalchuk (#1 in 2001). Both were highly touted by scouts and management as potential superstar caliber players. For an offensively challenged team like Atlanta this was welcome news. On the other hand, fans had reasons to be concerned about each player’s development. The club’s other first round pick Patrick Stefan (#1 overall in 1999) had shown limited offensive flair in his first two injury plagued seasons. Some wondered whether the 18 year-old Kovalchuk might be better off returning to Spartak for another year before submitting himself to the rigors of a NHL season. In addition, Thrasher’s GM Don Waddell tried to keep expectations low by saying that each would need to work hard to score 20 goals in his rookie season.
Fast-forward forty-one NHL games later and it is clear that the club made the right decision to play both of these top prospects this year. Both players lead the NHL rookie scoring race and were named co-rookies of the month for December. Heatley (16-18-34) and Kovalchuk (17-16-33) also lead the team in scoring by a considerable margin, given the slow start of veterans Ferraro and Hrkac. The two rookies have produced have produced 34% of the team’s goals at the halfway point. Even more impressive is the fact that their numbers put them in the company of established star players such as Elias, Fedorov, Hossa, Nolan and Guerin. GM Waddell and Coach Fraser have repea Read more»
WHEELING NAILERS WEEK IN REVIEW
Monday, December 31 Roanoke 3 @ Wheeling 4
This was the second meeting of the season between the Express and the Nailers with the Express winning the first game 4-1 in Wheeling on October 27. In this game the Express opened up a 1-0 lead on a Mike Peron goal at 5:43 of the first period. Wheeling tied the score at 1-1 at 7:13 on a Mark Major goal with Dylan Gyori and Mike Hurley assisting. Roanoke would score two more times in the first period and lead 3-1 through the first 20 minutes. In the second period the Nailers would get back to within one on a Ken Tasker goal at 8:21. Derek Ernest and Doug Schmidt assisted of the goal. The Nailers tied the game 3-3 at 13:14 of the second period on Major’s second goal of the game with Hurley and Kurt Drummond assisting. The Nailers took their first lead of the game at 4-3 just :40 into the third period on a Hurley goal. Major and Gyori assisted on the game winning goal. Tyler MacKay made 32 saves on 35 shots for the win.
Friday, January 4 Peoria 1 @ Wheeling 3
In the season series with the Rivermen, the Nailers were 1-3-0 entering this contest. Jeremy Brown gave the Nailers a 1-0 lead in the first period with a power play goal at 11:31. Chris Wells and Mike Hurley picked up the assists on the only goal scored in the first period. Dmitri Doulebenets increased the Nailers lead to 2-0 at 2:45 of the second period with Bruce Watson and Arpad Mihaly assisting. Peoria scored their only goal of the game at 7:16 of the second period to make it a 2-1 game. B Read more»
The 2002 World Junior Championships have come and gone, with the Russian team taking home the gold medal as a result of their 5-4 victory over Canada in the WJC finale. While the Russians can bask in the fleeting feeling of glory days gone by, another former Eastern Bloc nation, the WJC host and defending champ Czech Republic, were left to ponder a disappointing 7th place finish.
As luck would have it, the Buffalo Sabres sported just 2 prospects participating in the WJC, with both of those players playing for the Czech squad. C Jiri Novotny and LW Michal Vondrka were both 2001 draft choices for Buffalo, with Novotny being the more high profile of the two due to his status as a 1st round pick. Both players also play for the same organization, Budejovice, with Novotny playing in the top Czech league and Vondrka splitting his time between the elite and junior squads.
If one were to judge strictly by statistics, it could be said that neither player had a particularly good showing at the WJC. Both players notched just 2 points in 7 games, with Novotny logging 2 assists, and Vondrka netting 1 while adding a helper. Both players were a minus for the tournament (Novotny –3, Vondrka –2), while also sporting nearly identical shots-on-goal numbers (Novotny 12, Vondrka 11).
In the case of Vondrka, at least, the statistics didn’t lie. As reported to me by Robert Neuhauser, the Czech Editor for Hockey’s Future, Michal’s performance was largely disappointing, mainly due to the fact that he didn’t see a Read more»
Top 3 players
As selected by the tournament directorate:
GK: Kari Lehtonen (FIN)
D: Igor Knyazev (RUS)
F: Mike Cammalleri (CAN)
Media All-Star Team
GK: Pascal Leclaire (CAN)
D: Jay Bouwmeester (CAN)
D: Igor Knyazev (RUS)
F: Mike Cammalleri (CAN)
F: Marek Svatos (SVK)
F: Stanislav Chistov (RUS)
G: Kari Letonen (FIN)
D: Magnus Hedlund (SWE)
D: Anton Volchenkov (RUS)
F: Toni Koivisto (FIN)
F: Brad Boyes (CAN)
F: Aleksandr Frolov (RUS)
The three best players of each team
BLR: Andrei Kastsitsyn, Aleksandr Kulakov, Sergey Rachovsky
CAN: Mike Cammalleri, Brian Sutherby, Steve Ott
CZE: Lukas Hronek, Tomas Plekanec, Jiri Novotny
FIN: Kari Lehtonen, Olli Malmivaara, Jussi Jokinen
FRA: Landry Macrez, Wilfried Molmy, Aram Kevorkiam
RUS: Aleksandr Polishin, Aleksandr Frolov, Yuri Trubachev
SVK: Peter Budaj, Tomas Malec, Marek Svatos
SWE: Magnus Hedlund, Daniel Widing, Pär Bäcker
SWI: Beat Gerber, Thibaut Monnet, Andreas Camenzind
USA: Ben Eaves, Ryan Hollweg, Christopher Higgins