If first impressions mean anything, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have a very bright future. Then again, the Ducks are traditional optimists who often over analyze the future. Going into this season’s training camp, that tradition continued. Maxim Balmochnykh, J-S Giguere and Marc Chouinard were just a few of the several young guns the Ducks were counting on for this season. As the Ducks had hoped, the first week of camp has been a step up for the young guns, causing the usual euphoria over the future.
The early scrimmages have shown the usual. The Ducks are a fast team which we already knew. This off season was extremely quiet which left many with questions about the Ducks. Will they finally have a true second line? Are Balmo and Alexei major league busts? Are the Ducks still pretenders? So far, some of these questions have been answered while others are still left up in the air.
Answering the question of the second line, Jonas Ronnqvist has been extremly feisty in the first week of camp and may have supplanted Matt Cullen as a second line player. Ronnqvist has been largely paired with German Titov and Mike Leclerc, a group of hard working speedy forwards. Titov brings most of the skill although neither Leclerc nor Ronnqvist has looked out of place. They are very skillful on their own. The bad news is Leclerc and Ronnqvist are unproven as second liners thus leaving Anaheim in the same predicament as in the past.
Training camp is less than a week old, and there has already been enough turmoil to last an entire season. It is difficult to keep track of all the storylines, and depending on how some of those scenarios play out – the opening day lineup could end up looking very different than the one we anticipate right now.
The most surprising move came after the first practice of camp. Free Agent acquisition Stephane Richer decided he didn’t have it in him to compete in another season, and announced his retirement. He had been brought in from St. Louis to boost our mediocre power play. The move came as a shock to players and fans alike; partly because of the unexpected nature of it, but mostly due to the timing.
Around the same time as the Richer announcement, defenseman Brendan Witt stated that he too was considering retirement. He is unhappy about the contract he received as a result of his arbitration loss during the off-season. Although he seems quite serious about this stance, it is hoped that he will eventually return to the lineup. It is also believed that George McPhee has no interset in renegotiating the pact, and expects Brendan to be in the lineup opening day.
Powered by a three-point effort from Daniel Sedin, the Canucks kicked off their exhibition season with a 5-2 win against MoDo.
MoDo started the game showing little respect for their more well-known opponents, and they were rewarded with a powerplay after former MoDo-hero Markus Näslund was called for a high stick. The Canucks did not have much trouble killing off the penalty and were rewarded with a powerplay of their own after a dubious holding-call on Jan-Axel Alavaara.
Vancouver wasted little time on their first powerplay of the game before scoring when Trent Klatt one-timed a shot from close range after a pass from Daniel Sedin.
Daniel Sedin was the main story of the first period. Minutes after being called for kneeing, he sent Vadim Sharifijanov on a breakaway after a turnover on the offensive blue-line. Sharifijanov displayed a sniper’s instinct shooting through MoDo goalie Tobias Lundström´s five-hole.
After a second Canuck powerplay, the Sedin´s created havoc in their former team´s defensive system and Daniel Sedin put the Canucks up 3-0 heading into the second period.
Just like in the first period, MoDo started the period well but it was the Canucks that added to their lead after four minutes. Carrying the puck on a 2-no-1, Todd Bertuzzi made an excellent pass right on the tape of Harold Druken´s stick who put in into the gaping left side of the net.
The New Jersey Devils opened training camp on September 8th fresh from a summer of Stanley Cup celebrations. Many Devils’ prospects missed out on those celebrations but are pressing to be a part of future ones.
The departure of Claude Lemieux, Vladimir Malakhov and Brad Bombardir ensures there will be some new blood in the New Jersey locker room. Backup goaltender Chris Terreri turns 36 in November and the Devils plan on taking a long look at their goaltending future. In addition, for now a couple of slots remain open due to the contract holdouts of Scott Niedermayer and Jason Arnott.
In goal there is no doubt that the tandem of Martin Brodeur and Terreri will remain in place at least for this season barring any injury. Although none of the team’s other goaltenders appear ready for the NHL, the Devils were impressed with the play of Ari Ahonen, the former number one pick from Finland.
Ahonen at age 19 showed promise in his limited time in camp before returning to Finland. New Jersey is hopeful the young goaltender will return the U.S. later in the season and play some games for Albany of the AHL. The fact that Ahonen appears to be the goaltender of the future does not bode well for Jean-Francois Damphousse and Frederic Henry who will once again split time in Albany.
The Houston Aeros have increased their goal-scoring punch, as right wing Greg Pankewicz has re-signed with the Houston Aeros.
Last season, Pankewicz led the Aeros with 22 goals, including a team-high 13 power play goals. He added 19 assists for at total of 41 points in 62 games, fourth on the team in total points. His 134 penalty minutes ranked second only to left wing Greg Walters, who led the team with 192.
Entering his 10th pro season, Pankewicz has played in the National, American, East Coast and International Hockey Leagues. In 1998-99, Pankewicz played in 18 NHL contests with the Calgary Flames, collecting three assists.
That season he also split time between Kentucky and Saint John of the American Hockey League. The Drayton Valley, Alberta native had one of his best seasons as a pro in 1997-98 with the Manitoba Moose, when he scored a career-high 42 goals. For the season, he added 34 assists for 76 points in 76 contests and racked up another career high with 246 penalty minutes.
Pankewicz is the ninth forward to sign with the Houston Aeros for the 2000-01 season. Already on the flight deck are centermen Shawn Carter, Terry Marchant and Brett Harkins, right wingers Alex Vasilevski, Lane Lambert, and Sandy Moger and left wings Bobby Reynolds and Walters. The Aeros have signed two defensemen so far, Barry Dreger and Grant Richison, and have obtained the IHL rights to goaltender Jason Elliott, who is under contract with the Detroit Red Wings (NHL).
AEROS PLAYERS SIGNED