There were more than a couple of candidates for promotion on the Baby Buds last season as injury call-ups when one of the big boys went down at the ACC. Adam Mair (since traded to the Los Angeles Kings), Donald Maclean, Jeff Farkas, Mikael Hakansson (since returned to Djurgarten in the SEL), even Alyn McCauley (who actually did make the playoff roster) all had more experience than Alexei Ponikarovsky at the pro level. Nonetheless when the dust cleared it was the big Ukranian who played more NHL games with Toronto than any of them by the campaign’s end with 22. While it is true his stats didn’t overwhelm anyone, it can also be said that playing in the bottom half of the forward rotation, mostly on the fourth line, didn’t help matters any. However, there is much more to any hockey player than statistics and #39 showed in his limited trial that he could be at least Adam Mair’s equal in a checking role (thus opening the door for that transaction).
Ponikarovsky’s game starts with his size 6’4″ 210 pounds and mobility which is above average for his measurements. He uses his big frame not so much to bang and crash the way, say, a Darcy Tucker would, but more in a shielding manner ala Mats Sundin. On more than a few occasions the Leaf farmhand demonstrated he could make himself an imposing obstacle in the corners when others went fishing for the puck. He was simply to big to splatter and too quick to get an angle on. He also showed a willingness to hustle back and take a man after a turnover deep in the offensive zone which is imperative in the Leafs transition offense. Wha Read more»
The Czech Republic-Russia game of the World Junior Cup promised to be a very exciting battle.
The Czech Republic has a very strong 1984 birthyear concerning hockey players and they met the
always strong Russians. It was obvious that the game won’t be a hard-hitting contest but a
game full of speed and skill. The Czech lineup boasted lots of players with NHL potential, like
goaltenders Lukas Mensator, who was the starter of the game and Lukas Musil, defensemen Ondrej
Nemec, Martin Cizek or Marek Chvatal. But the brightest gems were on the offense. Jakub
Langhammer, Jakub Klepis and Jakub Koreis are serious 2002 prospects, while captain Milan
Michalek is 2003 and youngster Rostislav Olesz 2004 eligible.
The Russians build every year a very strong competitive squad with some great individuals.
In the 1984 birthyear those are the likes of defenseman Anton Babchuk, who already played at
the 2001 Under-18 WJC, Kirill Stepanov and some really great offensive prospects. Those involve
top prospects Vladislav Evseev, Dmitri Kazionov, Evgeni Isakov, Dmitri Korneev, Igor Ignatouchkin,
and of course 2003 star prospect Nikolai Zherdev. Simply a very tough opponent for the
Czechs to beat.
Immediately after the begginning of the game the Czech line had a strong first shift, as Milan
Michalek passed a nice pass on the tape of Jakub Koreis, but Kirill Stepanov blocked his wrist
shot. In the first minutes of the game the Czechs tried to put the Czechs under some pressure
and eventually score the leading goal. Rostislav Olesz, even if a late 1985 birthyear, show Read more»
Mike Jones left Bowling Green University for his first professional season of hockey with high hopes. Unfortunately, rather than getting what he hoped for, he ended up spending the season in the horrid conditions present with the IHL’s worst team, the Detroit Vipers. The entire team struggled from the season’s open until its close. Little leadership and experience was provided for the youngest team in the league. This was detrimental to the development of young prospects, who were supported only by themselves and led by a rookie coach. Other NHL teams provided their IHL affiliates with veterans for their prospects to learn from, but not the Lightning.
At 23, Marek Posmyk was one of the older prospects for the Vipers last season. He was expected to make a significant impact, but instead suffered through numerous injuries and spent almost half of the season watching from the sidelines. His seven goals and 14 assists were second on the team among defensemen, but he failed to show the physical game that would bring him back to the NHL and set his career in motion.
When Posmyk was acquired from Toronto in the Darcy Tucker/Mike Johnson deal, it was obvious he was a project—but worth a shot to an organization with little prospect depth and a hunger for big blueliners. Due to injuries in Tampa, he was able to play 18 games with the Lightning immediately following his acquisition. He contributed a goal and two assists, as well as a plus-1 rating. The Lightning, coincidentally, played close to .500 hockey for those 18 games. Prior to that stint, he re Read more»
It’s time to make something clear: Jeff Jillson is a legitimate Calder candidate this year. After signing a contract with the San Jose Sharks in May, 2001, Jillson skipped the senior college year in Michigan to officially turn pro. However, joining a blueline that includes Marcus Ragnarsson, Mike Rathje, Brad Stuart, Bryan Marchment, Scott Hannan and Gary Suter will not be an easy assignment. Jeff will have to show a lot of determination at camp to earn serious playing time come regular season.
But if you ask Jeff Jillson, he’ll tell you that he will not despair. Throughout his career, he has played through numerous obstacles and difficulties. Although the NHL is not at all like college, Jillson will demonstrate as much effort and endurance as he does on any ice surface. At the age of 21, he still has weaknesses and will be expected to show more consistency than in the past, but Jeff’s decision to remain in college for a sophomore year turned out to be crucial. Despite a disappointing showing for the United States at the U-20 World Junior Championships, many would agree that Jillson took a major step ahead in his development.
Jillson was first noticed as a high schooler, playing for Mount Saint Charles in Woonsocket, Main; the same team that had won 21 consecutive state titles, which contributed to the pressure already on Jeff’s shoulders. Needless to say, Jillson did not disappoint; he dominated at the high school level, and was a three-time all-state honoree. In addition, he earned the Sports Illustrated/Old Spice Athlete of the Month h Read more»
Beginning in 1989, Marko played 2 years with his hometown team, KalPa Kuopio of the Finnish Elite League. Originally a 9th round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 1992, Marko then moved to North America to attend Clarkson University. In four years at Clarkson, Marko accumulated 190 points in 135 games. In 1994-95, Marko was summoned to
Edmonton for a four game cup of coffee. Although he went pointless, he did show excellent defensive awareness, finishing the stint with an even plus/minus. Later in 1995, he reported to the Oilers farm team, the Cape-Breton Oilers and the year after to the Hamilton Bulldogs, all the
while posting solid numbers.
Expecting more scoring from him, the Oilers chose not to renew Marko’s entry-level contract after the 1997 season. Marko chose to return to Finland and HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League. Impressed with his defensive skills, Helsinki assigned Marko to a
checking role in which he excelled. Even though he was used in a
defensive role, he still managed to tally 50 points in 94 games over a
two-year period. Not bad for a guy that was supposed to shadow the
oppositions top players.
Early in 1999 the Los Angeles Kings, impressed with Marko’s
well-rounded game, signed him to a free agent contract through the 2001
season. Marko ended up playing right wing on the Kings third and fourth
lines. He played 63 games, logging quality minutes on the top PK unit
in addition to his regular shifts (he finished with 17 points, scoring
both on the PP and PK). In 2000, due to the Kings depth at forward
( Read more»