The candidates for Canada’s entry into this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships were announced this past week and if you look closely, you will notice that Kootenay ICE goaltender Dan Blackburn didn’t get an invitation. It is a surprise? In the eyes of many, no. Should last year’s CHL rookie of the year, WHL Playoff M.V.P. and the number four ranked North American player for the upcoming NHL Draft been named as a potential netminder to WJC team? An emphatic yes.
In spite of all aspects pointing toward the reasons that Blackburn was left off the WJC camp roster, his record dictates that Blackburn should have been given the invite, regardless of the circumstances. Critics who have sprang up stating that the super sophomore isn’t at the same level he was in his rookie year only need to look the winning record Blackburn has both this season and as a rookie (34-8-7, last season – 15-5-3 this season). Yes, his save percentage and goals against average are off this season from last year (.893, 3.01 GAA this season – .901, 2.70 GAA at this point last season) but a couple of factors can be attributed to that stat, namely an inexperienced Kootenay ICE defense corps compared to last season and a nagging groin injury that won’t seem to go away. The groin problem combined with the fact that this year there is a bumper crop of stellar goalies to pick from are the overwhelming reasons for Blackburn being left off the list. Blackburn isn’t alone in WHL notables that were kept off the tryout list. Justin Mapletoft, Kyle Wanvig, Ross Lupaschuck (R.D.), Brent Krahn, Jordan Read more»
Power forward is a key position for any NHL team and one that the Kings have needed for some time. With the emergence of Steve Reinprecht, the Kings seems happy with their centermen, but a strong power forward still eludes the Kings wishes.
As most NHL teams know, the power forward with grit and scoring ability is paramount to achieving success in the pro game. With the emphasis moving away from the “goon” and to the power forward, players like Tie Domi, Chris Simon and Darren McCarty are the envy of the league. The Kings have no one in that mold, or at least until this season.
Kings prospect Brian McGratten is making a new name for himself. The former enforcer seemed more likely to punch a face than punch one past a goalie. This season however is another story. McGratten is still one tough hombre. His 57 PIM’s are still impressive, but not as much as his scoring line. McGratten has 17 goals and 6 assists for Missisauga this season. While the team is not what anyone would call a great one, Brian is the leading goal scorer. Perhaps most impressive is the 10 power play goals McGratten has posted.
Going into the season, McGratten seemed to be battling Kip Brennan for the right to be the next enforcer. With Brennan in Lowell still finding his game, McGratten has turned his game into something that the Kings need- a powerful game with a scoring touch around the net. Make no mistake, McGratten is not NHL ready, but the Kings have to be elated with his progress. He has the size and the grit to match this newfound scoring touch and the Kings will g Read more»
The season began not unlike anyother…some questions at the NHL level and some at the AHL level. Vladimir Malakhov went down quickly thus allowing the entry of NHL journeymen Drew Bannister and David Wilkie to get a shot… followed by Jason Doig, Tomas Kloucek and Dale Purinton. Even Mike Mottau was called upon to lighten the offensive workload of Brian Leetch… but to date only Purinton has been able to gain countable ice time due to his toughness and pro-team mentality that the 1999-00 Rangers so lacked. Eric LaCroix then was felled by an injury allowing Johan Witehall to earn some NHL icetime as well as recently acquired pseudo-prospect Bert Robertsson (ex.Vancouver,Edmonton and Columbus-prospect). Let us not forget Mike Richter`s recovery from last seasons knee surgery which thrust Kirk McLean and a host of others into the nets at MSG, see..Johan Holmqvist and Jason Labarbera.
While the players benefit from gaining valuable minutes in the NHL veteran and rookie AHLers in Hartford have been called upon to carry a large, large workload. Jason Dawe joined Jason Doig with long term injuries or season ending… this forcing G.M. Al Coates to search the leagues for players. Bryce Wandler, Goaltender was summoned from nearby New Haven of the UHL to guard the pipes while the Rangers AHL netminders toiled in New York.
The additions of Ryan Bast (ex Islanders), Boyd Kane(ECHL) and Richard Scott added to the Pack`s aggressiveness, however four of the team’s most physical players last season – Dale Purinton(NYR), P.J. Stock(MTL), Chris Kenady and Chris Read more»
Following the career of the Pittsburgh Penguins center Milan Kraft is following the career of a future phenom. Milan was an outstanding prospect back home in the Czech Republic and he shows a lot of promises in North America, too. The world championship title of the Czechoslovakia team in 1985, coached by Ludek Bukac, impressed Milan just like most 5-year old kids. And because he wanted to be like his heroes, so started Milan, a native of Tymakov, Czech Republic, playing hockey in the nearby city of Plzen. The son of the boss of a building company quickly blossomed into one of the top kids in the Czech hockey. Milan showed his great smarts, passing skills, vision and a sense for the game. You’ve got to be born with this. Milan obviously was. Always played with guys older than him, where he had to fight against guys bigger and stronger than him, but he was simply too good to play with guys of his own age. Milan needn’t to be afraid that it’ll be too hard for him, he was always a solid sized guy. And he is a leader, both on and off the ice, a natural captain. His only drawback was, that he sometimes played inconsistently and wasn’t a top skater. But otherwise everyone had to admit that he is great. Milan Kraft soon became the label Top 1980 born prospect and he really was. A leader of the Plzen team, and the best player in many tournaments.
In the 1994-95 season he performed really well at the selection tournaments for the new Under-16 team. And so in the fall of 1995 Milan became a consistent member of the Under-16 team. Not to say – the captain, due to his leader Read more»
With the shoulder injuries to Nash and Young, the Bartecko out with a sprained ankle, and Hill out with a groin injury, the Blues have a little more room on an overloaded roster;
Reasoner and Nagy should be on the team right now, but there is just too much depth.
Corso could find a spot on the Blues after scoring the only goal of the game vs the Ducks, in his first ever NHL game.
Vladimir Chebaturkin has been very solid for the Blues in the few games he has participated in, and is exactly the type of defenseman the Blues could use right now, a defenseman that knows how to hit. A poor mans version of Darius Kasparitis, Chebaturkin would be a regular in the line up if it were not for Finley, Bergevin, and soon to be another problem Todd Reirden.
Van Ryn could be a regular with the Blues if he were paired with Pronger. It has worked well with the Salvador-Macinnis pairing. Every game Salvador gets that much better while a future great defenseman has to play with the Ice Cats after he was more than ready to play with the big club.
Alex Khavanov has also been a great rookie for the Blues, maybe not a young player, playing in his rookie season at the age of 28 Khavanov has been challenging Hill for ice time, and the title of number three defenseman. Barret Jackman will likely make the squad next year too, and that is an even bigger problem.
After a few trades or putting some players on waivers to trim the fat the Blues could be that much better. Finley is expendable, a solid d-man, but could play for The Cats to make a Read more»