The Kamloops Blazers found another diamond in the rough, drafting Eric Christensen in the sixth round, 101st overall in the 1998 WHL Bantam Draft and the young man, who doesn’t turn 16 until mid-December, is already turning heads with his early season play. The 6’1, 170-pound winger has drawn praise for his awareness on the ice and gritty play at such a young age, leading Barry Trapp of the Canadian World Junior Team selection committee, who was attending a recent Blazer game to scout talent for the upcoming WJC, to shake his head at the unlimited potential of this guy. During an early season game against the Prince George Cougars, Christensen stood out not only for his heads up offensive play, but also for bloodying the nose of 17-year-old Jonathan Parker during a line brawl. This combination of skill and toughness is not often found in 15-year-old rookies in the WHL nevermind a sixth round pick. The Blazers also have the first and second round picks from the same draft in their line up, but Christensen is drawing most of the attention as a potential franchise player.
News And Notes:
It is now the eighth week of the season and the Ice stand with a record of 11-5-4-0 (7-3-1-0 at home and 4-2-3-0 on the road.) The Ice are currently in second place in the Central division and are closing in on rivals, the Calgary Hitmen. The Ice are on a six-game unbeaten streak and have won their last 5 games.
What A Trip:
The Ice became the first Eastern Conference team in history to ever win all three games on the road against Canadian Western Conference teams. (Kamloops 3-2, Kelowna 4-2 and Prince George 6-2.) The Ice have tied their franchise record for consecutive road wins (3) and are unbeaten in their last four road games (3-0-1.)
Green Almost Number One:
Mike Green needs only nine more points to become the all-time franchise leader in career points (154 set by Jay Henderson 1996-1998.) Green leads the team in scoring on the road and also leads the team in plus minus with a plus 13. Green is the all-time Kootenay leader in career assists with 83.
Forward Tyler Beechey still remains out of the line-up with a shoulder injury and Steve McCarthy has missed the last three games with a slight knee strain.
Who’s Doing What?:
Goaltender Dan Blackburn is 5-1-0-0 in his last six starts with a .233 GAA, .910 Save Percentage and has had eight shutout periods.
Jason Jaffray has scored at least one point in his last four games (2-6-8 in span.)
Brad Tutschek scored the game-winning goal against both Kamloops and Kelowna on this last road trip.
Another potential first rounder from the Czech Republic is Vaclav Nedorost, a rising star in Czech Hockey. Playing on the Czech under 18 National team, Vaclav is showing scouts all over the world the skills that he possesses and is definitely making a name for himself. Vaclav is an excellent skater with the solid ability to handle the puck at top speed. One of the attributes that Vaclav has shown is his great hockey sense despite his tender age. He is able to slow down the game to allow himself more time to distinguish what to do with or without the puck. A finesse player who has great hands, Nedorost certainly does not shy away from the physical play; in fact he thrives on it. He is a hungry player who constantly wants to better himself as a player.
At 16 years of age, Nedorost has already played 7 games in the Czech Extra league, which is the top division in the Czech Republic. He garnered 2 assists playing against much older players. This is something that rarely happens to have someone so young playing at such a high level.
Nedorost will certainly be a top pick in the 2000 draft and we will follow him throughout the year to see how he is reacting to the pressures of being a top pick.
Many surprises have taken place a little over a month into the 1999-2000 OHL season.
There are the usual surprise teams that have made early surges into the top of their division
and there have been the teams that were predicted to be strong contenders that slipped to the
basement. But the biggest surprise that has taken place that has fans around the province taking
note is the production of the league’s rookies early in the season.
Usually, teams this early in the season tend to lean on their older, more experienced
players to get the team on the right track and to help the younger players adjust to the league.
This OHL season has been somewhat of an exception as the rookies have stepped up and have become
the players that team relies on in the late stages of a close game. In most cases, these players
have delivered. Derek Roy, the 16 year old rookie for the Kitchener Rangers, is currently leading
the league in rookie scoring and is also leading his team. This is common in the league, where
the leading scorer for the team is a rookie. It represents a strong future for the league and
many great players on the horizon.
The player referred to by some as simply “The Bear” played for the St.
Albert Saints from 1981 through to 1983 and judging by his stellar career
both on and off the ice it almost seems like the Alberta Junior Hockey
League mission statement was written for him.
It states in part, “Our League supports its players through assistance in
their academic, athletic and personal lives throughout their pursuit of
Berezan has certainly excelled both athletically and academically. He spent
parts of ten seasons in the NHL, appearing in two Stanley Cup Finals. He
also took advantage of the scholarship he achieved through hockey and is now
an accomplished financial advisor with Nesbitt-Burns in Calgary.