The platinum blonde hair is a dead giveaway. The hair may turn the
girl’s heads, but his speed down the wing is what’s turning the
scout’s heads. The white flash of uniform that flies around the ice,
wreaking havoc and bringing scoring chances with him, that’s the
Jozef Balej that has scouts looking.
Balej was found by the Winterhawks entirely by chance. GM Ken Hodge
was on a scouting trip in Minnesota, and needed to kill some time. He
took in a USHL game, and has been thankful ever since. Balej was
seeing limited ice time, but more than enough to catch Hodge’s eye.
As other European players on the Hawks draft list were selected by
other teams, Hodge remembered Balej, and took a chance.
Hodge’s chance is beginning to pay dividends. Balej came out hot in
preseason, but then most of the WHL’s older veteran players were at
NHL camps. When the regular season started, Balej had trouble finding
his scoring touch. But it was only a matter of time before his
talents took over. Through 12/11, Balej had yet to miss a game, and Read more»
Today the Chicago Blackhawk management announced that Mike Smith would take the job of attempting to resurrect a franchise that is considered the laughing stock of the original six. Many felt he would only take the job if he was given complete control. It is still uncertain as to whether he will actually be the outsider given true power over the powers that be.(Mr. Potter a.k.a. Mr. Wirtz)
“I don’t have any real detailed plan. I think the initial process is simply to sit down with the people who work here and find out what they’re doing and get a sense of how things operate. I know there’s a challenge ahead of us, but in sports there is a challenge every day. To win and have a winning franchise you need good people and you need good people who are good players. Through it all, the bottom line will be we’ll have good people who are good players and good people in all positions within the organization.” Pulford retains the title of GM, but he claims in name only.
“He is (the GM),” said the 63-year-old Pulford. “He has all those duties. He has the power to make all the hockey decisions, trades, scouting, everything.
Maxim Balmochnykh – Left Wing; Grade: B (Cincy)
Balmochnykh was off to a good start in the AHL only to see it come to a crashing halt when he was suspended for a slash to Louisville Panther Curtis Doell. The suspension lasted eight games and killed Balmo’s momentum. Once, he came back, he was rusty and just as he started to get going again, he goes down with both hand and shoulder injuries. When he has been on the lineup, he usually plays well but the suspension put everything on hold and now the injury will continue to slow his development. He has five points in ten games with 31 penalty minutes, mainly stemming from the Doell slash.
Ladislav Kohn – Center & Right Wing; Grade: A (Anaheim)
Kohn has turned into a steal for the Ducks, adding much needed energy to a team that too often lacks it. He isnt scoring as much as they had hoped but he is doing the little things. He has played tenaciously and has shown he doesnt mind battling in the corners. He also filled in admirably on the Ducks’ top line, filling in for Teemu Selanne after an injury. The injury bug has now hit Kohn and he missed a couple weeks of action but he has proven his worth early in the season and should have no problem sticking for the whole season.
Gregg Naumenko – Goalie; Grade: A+ (Cincy) Read more»
The Kings are suddenly full of quality young defenseman. At the top of that list right now may be Joe Rullier. Rullier is having a tremendous season in the QMJHL with Rimouski. Joe has 2 goals, 22 assists and 112 PIM’s in 32 games. He also is 10th in the league in plus-minus with a +19. Rullier has great size (6’4) and is turning into the top young defenseman in the system. While Richard Seeley (Lowell- AHL) and Jason Crain (Ohio State University) have not had spectacular seasons, their promise is still encouraging. Combine those with Kaberle, Berg and Karalahti and their are some solid blueliners waiting.
Justin Papineau is having another solid season. Papineau continues to be the most promising forward in the Kings’ system. He has 21 goals(which ranks him 5th in the league) and 15 assists in 26 games while posting a +8. While Papineau is excelling like the Kings expected, perhaps teammate Kevin Baker is playing even better than the organization hoped. Baker has 14 goals, 13 assists and is a +4 while racking up 39 PIM’s. Baker leads the team and is second in the league with 4 game winning goals and has been solid. Both of these players need to grow physically, but they are incredibly skilled and are playing well. Another Belleville Bull, goaltender Corey Campbell has 12 wins, but has 8 losses and a 3.44 GAA. Campbell has struggled with inconsistency but is still 4th in the league with wins.
After a disappointing four games to one defeat to the Calgary Hitmen in the last years Western Hockey League Final, the Blazers went to work to
re-tool a hockey club laden with nineteen year old players. Lost to the club this season through graduation or a jump to pro hockey were Kyle Calder
(Chicago), Mike Brown (Vancouver), Stephen Gainey (Dallas), Kenric Exner (St.Louis), Jordon Flodell (released, briefly in ECHL, now with Lethbridge
Hurricanes of WHL), David Haun (unknown), Ty Jones (Chicago), Robin Regehr (Calgary), Kyle Kos (Tampa Bay), Ajay Baines(ECHL), Donnie
Kinney (ECHL), and Chris St. Croix (Calgary). Eleven of the twelve players were vital cogs in the Blazers run to the League Final and if the Blazers
were to even be competitve this year would need to be replaced in one way or another. With a strong draft record most pundits knew the Blazers
would bring in some talented youngsters from the ’98 draft, get more production from some of last years role players and make a trade or two to
achieve this. So far so good! The Blazers have iced a line up that most agree is one of the fastest teams seen in a while. As a group this team was built
to play a high tempo, tenacious forechecking game and for the most part it has been a success. Even when losing the Blazers are more often than not
out chancing and outshooting their opponents.