Imagine yourself back on that little league field with your new team. Or on the ice for the first time with your midget team. The coach’s are watching, instructing, teaching. Your heart has been pounding from the moment you woke up that morning, anticipating the excitement, the competition that awaits you. The unknown: Will you make the grade?
Now imagine yourself going halfway around the world possibly to a country where you speak precious little of their native language. You are accustomed to being a “big fish” and you are now thrust into the “big pond” with other big fish. It is your first touch with an NHL franchise, YOUR NHL franchise, and you are wondering: Will I make the grade?
The Toronto Maple Leafs entrust a big part of their future to a very capable man, Chris MacDonald. “My role is a little difficult to define”, says the very personable man, who is also Queens University’ hockey coach. “I can best explain it as coordinating the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospects’ adjustment to the NHL. Not only on the hockey level, but acclimating them to the city, to the organization, to each other.” He works hand-in-hand with Leafs’ assistant GM Anders Hedberg, creating a “comfort zone” to players who largely represent the future of the franchise.
The Soo Greyhounds 1998-99 season was a very successful one. They won 10 straight games and improved their point total from 1997-98 by 23 points. The 1999-2000 season looks to be a good one as the Greyhounds have 16 returning players. At the draft the Greyhounds also added 19-year-old left-winger Brent Theobald. He was acquired in a trade with the Missisauga IceDogs at the draft.
The Greyhounds are in a good position because most of the teams in the division are losing a lot of players. The Plymouth Whalers for example are possibly losing the likes of Harold Druken, Adam Colagiacomo, Paul Mara and Robert Holsinger.
In goal the Greyhounds are in very good shape because Jake McCracken is definitely coming back and Jason Flick may be back as one of the Greyhounds three overages. McCracken will be looking to bounce back from an off-year where he didn’t play his best hockey. Flick, if he does come back will be looking to repeat his tremendous performance from last season. Remember though, it’s not a guarantee that he is coming back.
The defensemen on last season’s club were pretty good. The problem is two of last year’s defensemen (Dan Passero and Rob Mulick) are candidates for the three overage spots on this year’s team. However, they did have five other strong defensemen.
Dallas Stars prospect Jeff McKercher played with the Peterbourgh Petes of the OHL last season. During that time he had one goal, seven assists, and 22 PIMs in 65 regular season games. He also sported an impressive plus/minus rating of +32 during this same time period.
Although known for these examples of steady play and solid defense, McKercher is little known.
Please briefly describe your style of play for the readers not already familiar with you.
“I am a defensive defenseman who reads the ice well. I like to make the quick, first pass out of the defensive zone. I take pride in my work in penalty-killing situations.”
What do you feel that you could add to the Dallas defensive ranks in the future?
“I will strive to be a defensive defenseman with the Stars and hope that I will be a regular on the penalty-kill. I try to pattern myself after the play of Craig Ludwig.”
Do you see yourself ever becoming more of an offensive-minded player in the future?
“I would like to think that I might become a little bit more offensive to complement my defensive style. My skating is strong so hopefully with experience this part of my game will develop. I usually have been paired with an offensive defenseman and my job has been to stay back and hold the fort.”
What do you see as being your current strengths and weaknesses? Read more»
One great thing about watching Junior Major hockey is seeing the future stars of hockey. Ever since he was drafted by the Erie Otters in 1997, forward Tim Connolly was touted as a high draft choice in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and being a future star of the NHL.
On June 26th at the FleetCenter in Boston, the first part of the above statement came true. The New York Islanders, who had the 5th selection overall, selected Connolly. While it is quite an achievement for a player to be selected in the first round, Tim had two other noticeable achievements with his selection by the Islanders. Tim was the first player selected from the CHL, and the OHL, and was the first North American born player selected in the draft. A native of Baldwinsville, NY, Connolly stated that, “It is a great honor to be the first North American player selected in the draft”.
Connolly has been a standout player for the Otters the past two years. Tim has dazzled Erie fans, OHL fans and OHL opponents with his superb skating and puck-handling skills. During the 97-98 year with Erie, where he won the Otters Rookie of the Year, Tim scored 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points. During the 98-99 season, Connolly scored 34 goals and 34 assists for 68, in spite of playing 13 fewer games. In a February game against the Windsor Spitfires, Connolly suffered a broken leg, which ended his play for the remainder of the 98-99 season. In spite of this injury, Connolly still finished as the leading scorer for the Otters.
The Mississauga Ice Dogs innaugural season was tough one, to say the least. They finished last in the OHL with a record of 4W-61L-3T. The Ice Dogs were also dead last in goals for (145) and lead the league in goals against (426). If there was any silver lining to last season’s poor showing, it was that it enabled them to select first overall at this year’s OHL Entry Draft. This pick landed the Ice Dogs arguably the best junior hockey prospect since Eric Lindros, in the form of Jason Spezza. Under the tutelage of coach Jim Hulton, who returns for another season, look for the Ice Dogs to make some improvement over last year. Of course, when you’re at the bottom, the only way to go is up.
1999-2000 SEASON PREVIEW
The Ice Dogs will be looking to junior phenom Jason Spezza to help with their offensive attack. Last season as an underager with the Brampton Battalion, Spezza had 18 goals and 44 assists in 58 games. Also expected to improve on last season’s totals is centre Lou Dickenson. The Ice Dogs 1st OHL Draft pick in 1998, 2nd overall, had a total of 19 goals and 27 assists in 62 games in 1998-1999. Overage goal production should come from captain Scott Page, who is expected to return this season. He lead the Ice Dogs scoring last year with 20 goals and 30 assists in 66 games. Other key offensive contributors are Fraser Clair (6-12-59games, Chad Wiseman (11-25-64games), and Sebastien Savage (10-15-57games).
DEFENCE Read more»