Avalanche: Tough Decisions Ahead..

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With the losses of Valeri Kamensky, Theo Fleury, and Sylvain Lefebvre to free agency (or should I say the Rangers?) and Billington in a trade, the Avalanche are going to have some tough decisions to make this season. As well, the loss of Forsberg for the first few months, and Hejduk throughout training camp will leave some rather large holes in the Avalanche offense. This means that the Avalanche are going to have to call on some of their highly regarded prospects to pick up the slack, if the Avs are to avoid a start like they had in 98-99.

The first void to fill is going to be at center. Forsberg is going to be rehabbing until at least December, and it would be best for all involved if Forsberg were to take his time in recovering. After seeing what he can do after playing a full season, imagine what he could do with a full tank going into the playoffs… The player most likely to step in would be Alex Tanguay.

Tanguay, who spent last season with Halifax in the QMJHL, is a highly skilled center, in the mold of Joe Sakic. Widely regarded as one of the top prospects in the NHL, Tanguay scored 61 points in 30 games with the Mooseheads last season, after coming back from a concussion. These concussions are the question mark regarding Tanguay, as several careers have been cut short the past few years by concussions.
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2000 OHL Prospect Preview

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Here is a ranking and look at some of the top prospects from the OHL who are eligible for the 2000 Entry Draft. (NOTE: A player without comments has already had an in-depth accurate profile written on them. Just click on their respective link to view their profile)

1. Darryl Bootland – Toronto St. Mike’s

2. Lou Dickenson – Mississauga

3. Chris Eade – North Bay

4. Brad Boyes – Erie

5. Dan Growden – Windsor

6. Nikita Alexeev – Erie

7. Raffi Torres – Brampton

Comments: Finished second in team and rookie scoring to phenom Jason Spezza, a
pure sniper who also likes to crash the net. A fine two-way player who is
as steady as a rock, and is difficult to knock off his skates.

8. Bobby Turner – London

9. Jared Newman – Plymouth

10. Ryan Hare – Sarnia

Comments: A center/winger, this hometown product was Sting’s first round pick in
1998. Rookie season was marred by back injury, but that still did not slow
down this road-runner. An OHL scoring champion in the making once he
matures.

11. Chris Berti – Sarnia

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Kings lost Jokinen and depth at Center

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The Los Angeles Kings thought they had their center of the future in Olli Jokinen as recently as last Spring. He was exactly what the Kings had longed for- a big, physical centerman with playmaking ability. Whenever teams called for trades, they were told that Jokinen was off limits. Now he is gone as part of the Palffy trade, and the Kings have quickly become thin at a key position- center ice.

While they did get the enigmatic Bryan Smolinski as part of the trade, the loss of Jokinen, Ferraro (free agency) and Perrault (trade last season) have left the Kings with an opening for one of their young center prospects. Much like defense, the Kings drafts and trades of the past will have to produce a player this season, furthering the need for Dave Taylor to face the music. The success or failures of some of these young forwards may well determine Taylor’s future as General Manager of the Kings.

The Kings are set with three centermen, Josef Stumpel on the first line, Smolinski on the second and crowd favorite Ian Lapperiere as the center on the checking line. That would likely leave two center positions available, one third line center and one reserve. The Kings signed journeyman center Len Barrie who has played in Europe the last two seasons and is 30 years old. He would appear to be the safety net in case the young players cannot handle the rigors of the NHL. These are the rest of the centers with shots at the roster:
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PROSPECT NIGHT: LULEÅ vs. KÄRPÄT

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With no less than 10 NHL drafted players and a few other interesting names, such as 2000 entry draft top prospect Lasse Kukkonen on the ice, this is one of the first and most important games to report from this season. Reason being that in preseason games such as this one, young promising players often get a chance to show what they are made of. Luleå gave two players from their U20 team a chance, although they weren’t played very much. Defenseman Anders Sundvall hardly played all. Winger Daniel Lundholm only played the first half, in which he was close to scoring for the first time in senior hockey. Kärpät is a team that has an amazing number of good prospects, and many of them really showed why they are prospects in this game. A sad thing, however, was that the Toronto 1997 draft pick Jonathan Hedström wasn’t able to play due to an injury he suffered earlier this week in a charity soccer game. This was supposed to be his first game in the Luleå jersey, but that has been put on the back burner as he recovers. Below is a report from this game. The players whose names are written in bold text are those mentioned in the ”Player comments” section.

Enjoy!

FIRST PERIOD
Luleå started the game with an early goal at the expense of hot 2000 prospect, Lasse Kukkonen. Read more»

Toronto Maple Leafs Defensive Corps: High-Noon is Coming

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It was a subtle, but straight-forward statement made by then Leafs’ GM and current president, Ken Dryden. “If you look at the best teams in the NHL, like Dallas, they have a corps of defensemen who excel at moving the puck out of their own zone.” The transition game. Puck movement. Getting the puck out of the defensive zone from the defensemen to the forwards, who can then attack in waves.

NHL hockey in the 1990′s may have become known as the “era of the neutral zone trap”, but the transition game, largely fueled by defensemen who can move the puck, may be the strategy which reverses the “swing of the pendulum” as the league looks to add scoring back to its game. As Dryden astutely observed, the Dallas Stars did “do it right” as their transition game helped to lead them to a Stanley Cup victory. During the 1998-99 season, an improved transition game helped the Toronto Maple Leafs lead the league in scoring with 268 goals.

Three, young, NHL players, Bryan Berard, Daniil Markov and Tomas Kaberle provide the core of the Toronto Maple Leafs defense as the team heads into the new millenium. Three young “guns” upon which much is expected over the next 10 years in “blue and white”.
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