From the aftermath of a tumultuous season has emerged a leader in one of the most unlikely of candidates: Sheldon Keefe.
Resigned to the Lightning’s B Camp, filled with mostly young prospects, Keefe is taking his experience from last season and putting it to good use. “There are a lot of young guys. Not many have been through what I have,” Keefe said when asked of his leadership role. Then again, few players in the entire league have had to deal with the issues or make the decisions that Keefe has faced throughout his career. Nonetheless, Keefe is still working hard and returning to the leadership role, which he played through his junior career, especially while in Barrie. Keefe, who has more NHL experience than the entire B Camp combined, says he tries to lead by example.
“I talk to them a lot on the ice, try to keep them relaxed,” said Keefe, who has been noticeably vocal on the ice during camp. He has taken a special liking to Russian Evgeni Artukhin, who speaks little English. Keefe has shown a great deal of patience in working with Artukhin and helping him to understand the drills and exercises.
Some could view Keefe’s being assigned to Springfield as a demotion. And in a sense it is, though it does have its perks…like seeing him go head-to-head with former teammate and close friend Mike Jefferson. Keefe and Jefferson were the driving force behind the Barrie Colts’ Memorial Cup run two seasons back.
“Mike has a good chance of making the team in New Jersey,” Keefe explained. Should he not, he will be assigned to the Alban Read more»
The Blackhawks met the Dallas Stars in Monday -Tuesday exhibition games and the fans were treated with some prospect views but little in immediate help. The first game gave first glimpses at the progress of Mark Bell, Mike Souza, and new pros Kent Huskins and Mike Leighton, and amateur Igor Radulov.
Of this group, the guy closest to making the roster is Mark Bell. Mark Bell will be an NHLer player – that seems decided. On Monday night he showed improved speed, positioning and continued aggressive play. He scored after carrying in down the left wing in traffic and scored on a sharp angle almost over the goal line with and hard snap shot.
Prior to this season, Bell seemed a step behind the action and tentative. Tonight he showed controlled aggression, and he came to play. Bell was still at Left wing. He looked disciplined on the wing and made few errors in coverage and on offense.
Mike Souza reminded me of the Mark Bell of a year ago. Souza played well on a 3rd line and played well along the wall displaying good balance and physical board work. He gets were he is going, but just didn’t display quick feet. He just seemed behind the speed of the game in many instances. It moved at bit faster than he anticipated.
Kent Huskins had trouble with the strength of the attacking forwards. He also was unable to compensate for the speed the pro game is played. He can the puck better than he showed. Often, in his effort to speed it up. he was inaccurate. He has good size, used it on occasion, but wasn’t able to handle the stronger NHLers.
Mike Leighton came in and Read more»
In today’s NHL, every team’s blueprint for success includes a puck-moving defenseman. It’s no different in fantasy hockey. A mobile, offensive defenseman can add a whole new dimension to your team, bringing offense from a traditionally unexpected source.
You will find a noticeable lack of young defensemen among my top 20. Defensemen usually take more time to develop, and the present guard is lasting longer than ever (see Bourque, Ray) and contributing regularly in the offensive zone. The only rookie to make the list is Columbus wonder kid Rusty Klesla, and he’s pretty far down the list. Most players who are top offensive defensemen have honed their craft for several seasons.
Since there are so many defensemen available, I expanded my list to include the top 40. Enjoy.
1. Niklas Lidstrom, Detroit
Bar none, the NHL’s premier offensive defensemen. He’s the cog that gets the Wings’ transition game going, and with Scotty Bowman planning to adopt the attacking Torpedo style offensive scheme, his point totals could increase. As if he needs any more motivation, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this year.
2. Chris Pronger, St.Louis
His points per game have risen every year. An absolute workhorse who will log a ton of ice time again this season. Amazingly enough, he’s still one of the more underrated offensive defensemen in the game. The addition of Doug Weight, and Tkachuk’s PP ability will improve Prongers numbers even more. If he stays free of injury, he could lead all defensemen in scor Read more»
The New York Rangers assigned 37 players to Hartford of the AHL on Saturday. Brad Smyth, who netted 50 goals with the Wolf Pack, and P.J. Stock who split time with the Rangers and Philadelphia were among the 20 forwards sent down to Hartford. The Rangers also sent four goalies and 13 defencemen to Hartford. The first cuts trimmed the roster to 31 players, leading into the first pre-season game tonight in Detroit.
The Edmonton Oilers have assigned 15 players to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Assigned to the Bulldogs were goaltenders Alex Fomitchev, Eric Heffler and Jeff Salajko; defencemen Ryan Bast, Chad Hamilton and Darren Tiemstra; forwards Kevin Brown, Chad Hinz, J.J. Hunter, Sean McAslan, Kevin McDonald, Fernando Pisani, Sean Selmser, Jared Smyth and Max Spiridonov.
The Edmonton Oilers training camp roster now stands at 44, with the reassignment of 15 players to Hamilton.
The Bulldogs training camp begins Friday at 10 a.m. at the Morgan Firestone Arena in Ancaster. Hamilton’s first exhibition game is Sunday at 7:30 p.m. against the Syracuse Crunch at the Central Arena in Burlington.
The Toronto Maple Leafs assigned 10 players to the St. John’s Maple Leafs. The list includes: goaltenders Sebastien Centomo and Jamie Hodson, defencemen Christian Chartier, Tyler Harlton, Allan Rourke and Jonathan Zion, and forwards Bobby House, Don MacLean, Craig Mills and Michal Travnicek.
Just ask Henrik Bergfors, or anyone else in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s B Camp, for that matter. Nearly all of them have felt the effects of Aaron Lobb’s wrath.
It’s funny: The guy who was highly criticized for his lack of physical play at draft time is by far the most aggressive player in the Lightning’s B Camp. That knock—lack of physical play—was probably a considerable factor in his dropping to the forth round in the draft, though his consistency was also questioned. Whatever the reason, this kid appears to be the complete package, and he was a steal in the late fourth round.
Lobb opened camp with a bang, getting into a scrum with Swedish defenseman Bergfors just minutes into the first scrimmage. Though no punches were thrown before Lobb lost his balance and pulled Berfgors to the ice with him, it showed Lobb’s willingness and ability to handle the rougher side of the game.
Since then, he has thrown his body around at every opportunity—which at 6’4”, 198 is a lot of body to throw around. But, as Lobb says, “It’s just a part of the game.” When a ruckus arises, Lobb is one of the first ones on the scene. “I try to play the power forward role. By being that type of player, it comes with it.”
There is more to Lobb than his punishing hits. He has also impressed with his offensive skills and tremendous attitude, and he has been working hard while in Tampa Bay.
“We have really hard workouts, but the harder it is, the better it is,” he says. Hard does not even begin to describe the regimen that Brad Shaw, who will se Read more»