It was a glorious weekend of Michigan hockey for me, as I took a road trip to Ann Arbor to take in games featuring the National Team Development Program (NTDP) and University of Michigan. The NTDP got two wins over United States League opponents while the Wolverines capped off a weekend sweep of American International on Saturday. All three games gave me a great look at some top prospects and here are a few of them below, plus more kids we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day.
Yost Arena in Ann Arbor can be a fun place to play. With nine minutes to go before the game starts, the fans at the University of Michigan rink begin to sing the Canadian national anthem, even though only three Canucks are in the lineup that night. They even have a Maize and Blue-colored Canadian flag. The locals had a Texas flag when Chris Brown (now with Washington) skated there and New York Rangers speedster Carl Hagelin got a Swedish flag. Hagelin, who captained the Wolverines in his junior year, made such an impact that the team all signed that flag for him and the pep band learned Sweden’s anthem for his final game.
But with success comes attrition and after making the NCAA tournament for more than two decades without missing, the Wolverines have been left at home the past two seasons. If they hope to return to the promised land, they’re going to do it with youth.
He’s the greatest Buffalo Sabre to never play the game: Taro Tsujimoto, a dynamic forward drafted out of the Japan Ice Hockey League who never made the leap to the NHL. But it wasn’t size, talent or conditioning that kept Tsujimoto from cracking the Sabres’ lineup in the 1970s.
It was the fact he didn’t exist.
The most famous made-up hockey player in history turned 60 on Sunday, according to the birthdate provided by his hockey ‘dad,’ the late coach/GM legend Punch Imlach.
OK, so there’s a very good chance that Connor McDavid will be available to Canada for the world juniors this December: McPocalypse Now has been averted. The timeline for healing his broken hand is five to six weeks and the world juniors start in six weeks. So what can we expect from the gifted center?
If Connor McDavid’s broken finger goes the distance and he’s out of action for six weeks, Hockey Canada is willing to wait and will save a spot for him on the Canadian team for the World Junior Championship.
The Erie Otters announced Wednesday night that McDavid suffered a fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his right hand – which basically means he broke his pinky finger – and is expected to be out of the lineup between five and six weeks. Six weeks from Wednesday is Dec. 24 and Canada opens its WJC schedule against Slovakia in Montreal Dec. 26.
Teams must finalize their 22-man rosters by 24 hours before their first game of the tournament, but an enormous factor working in McDavid’s favor is that teams are also allowed to keep one extra roster spot open that they can fill at any point in the tournament, and that player can play in any game provided he is added to the roster three hours before the game.
McDavid will be at camp when it opens Dec. 11 and by that time he will have been out of the lineup four weeks. Hockey Canada will monitor McDavid’s progress, but it’s clear it will keep the light on for McDavid as long as there is hope he can play at some point in the tournament. Even if he can’t participate in the final selection camp or any of the exhibition games, McDavid will be on the team if he’s healthy.
“We have a lot of good hockey players in Canada,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national teams for Hockey Canada. “But Connor is a very special player. We want a 100 per cent Connor McDavid in the lineup and we’ll do anything to make that happen.”
Hockey Canada has dealt with injury issues before, so this is not a unique situation for the World Junior team. Salmond said it’s too early to tell, but he hinted Canada would be prepared to go with McDavid even if he is not 100 percent healthy. If he misses the entire camp and the exhibition games, it means McDavid will be hitting the ground running, exposing himself to an incredibly high level of competition after sitting idle for six weeks. But that’s clearly a situation Hockey Canada is willing to endure for a player who was on a 170-point pace with the Erie Otters before he was injured.
“We’ll have to see how his stickhandling and puckhandling will look,” Salmond said, “but he’s such a special player, if he can come in and play, I can’t think of a situation where he wouldn’t be put in our lineup.”
Salmond said he was with World Junior coach Benoit Groulx and head scout Ryan Jankowski at the Subway Super Series game in Brandon Tuesday night when he learned of McDavid’s injury and called it a “double whammy” because the Western League team also lost the game. But he said after everyone processed the situation and spoke with the Otters, they feel confident McDavid will be able to play.
“I think that would be the best Christmas present for Canadian hockey fans,” Salmond said, “and for us.”
The hypocrites have taken over the asylum.
Connor McDavid gets hurt in a fight and there’s a groundswell of finger-waving, tongue-cluckers wondering why the most talented player in junior hockey is trading knuckle sandwiches with someone he should be battling on NHL 15.
Seriously? This is exactly what we want. Minus the broken/fractured/bruised metacarpal, of course.
The CHL-Russia Super Series kicked off in Saskatoon Monday night and the visitors continued their hot streak by winning 3-2 in a shootout over the Western League’s squad. The six-game showdown usually starts in Quebec and goes West, but things are flipped this time and will be interesting to see if that affects the results at all. In other news, top 2015 Swedish prospect Oliver Kylington was loaned out to AIK in the country’s second-tier league, the Allsvenskan, where he will get more playing time. Here’s a look at some of the other youngsters we’re keeping an eye on.
The big prospect news of the week came with Buffalo sending Sam Reinhart back to junior after a nine-game tryout and one assist. I’m totally on board with this move. Reinhart now gets a chance to do some serious damage at the world juniors for Canada and pull the Western League’s Kootenay Ice out of an early season funk. He’ll get his NHL shot again next year and perhaps one day, the players listed below will, too.