Ryan Kennedy is the associate senior writer and draft/prospect expert at The Hockey News. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all called his house. He lives in Toronto with his wife and kids where he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.
The Memorial Cup begins today in Alberta, with the hosts from Red Deer taking on the OHL champs from London. Along with the Rebels and Knights, fans will be treated to performances by the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. These teams didn’t get here by employing a bunch of scrubs, so there are many players to get excited for.
A lot of those kids have already been drafted by NHL teams and for franchises that don’t have any prospects in the tournament, there is also a raft of talent eligible for this summer’s draft in Buffalo. With that in mind, here’s my list of who to watch, no matter which NHL team you follow.
Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch may be headed to unrestricted free agency a little early if a report by the Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch comes to fruition. According to Garrioch, there are major rumblings that the Ottawa Senators will not qualify the pending restricted free agent this summer, forcing the defenseman onto the open market.
Wiercioch would cost the Sens at least $2.7 million should Ottawa choose to qualify him and based on his recent returns, that’s a lot of money. At a lower cap hit (which any team could sign the blueliner to this summer) there is certainly some value in the 25-year-old, but new Senators GM Pierre Dorion seems to be taking a decisive stance early in his tenure. And I like it.
The city council of Tucson, Arizona, has officially approved a deal that will bring the AHL’s Springfield Falcons to town, where they will continue to serve as the farm team for the NHL’s Coyotes. In a unanimous vote, the council signed off on a ten-year deal that city officials believe will shield taxpayers and the town from an undue financial burden.
While there is still work to be done before the team takes to the ice next season, the hurdles are being knocked down. There’s also fun stuff to figure out, such as the team’s name. The Coyotes are holding a contest to name the squad, but here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
It’s about that time, folks. The Memorial Cup field has been set, the AHL is into the conference finals and the NCAA champs were crowned long ago. So which players repped their franchises the best? The following list is made up of the prospects I believe had the best seasons for their parent franchises.
These are not necessarily the most NHL-ready players or the top prospects in the organizational pecking order, but these guys had the most success overall (but yeah, a lot of the top guys are here anyway). Factors include individual stats and growth, plus team success – so don’t be surprised to find some North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Brandon Wheat Kings on the list. One more note: any player who is Calder-eligible for the current NHL season does not count – that means no Frankie Vatrano for Boston or Connor Hellebuyck for Winnipeg, as examples.
Let’s get to it:
The Florida Panthers are coming off their most successful regular season ever, posting 100-plus points for the first time in franchise history and winning the Cats’ second division title in two decades. So of course, they moved their GM.
OK, so Dale Tallon has been promoted to the new position of president of hockey operations, but the timing is interesting. Tom Rowe is now the GM, with advanced stat guys Eric Joyce and Steve Werier as assistant GMs. From the way the Panthers are talking, this new arrangement is far from a vote of non-confidence on Tallon and more an affirmation of the democratic nature of how a modern sports team is run now.
It’s impossible not to make a pun here, so let’s get it out of the way early: things got hairy at the end of the first period last night in St. Louis’ 2-1 win over San Jose. Two of the most imposing players in the series, San Jose’s Joe Thornton and Blues captain David Backes got into a beard-pulling fight. It was awesome:
Two-time Stanley Cup winner Kevin Stevens has been charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone, a powerful pain reliever similar to morphine. As reported by the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts native was arrested along with another man and will be held until a hearing on Tuesday. Stevens’ lawyer says he will contest the charges, but this isn’t the first time the former power forward has been in trouble off the ice.
Right now, the Brandon Wheat Kings and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are in control of their respective championships in the WHL and QMJHL, with 3-1 series leads over Seattle and Shawinigan. The Wheaties lost yesterday, the Huskies the day before.
The OHL’s London Knights, on the other hand, haven’t lost a hockey game since the first day of April.