Forgive the Quebec League’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada if the team starts off their next playoff series a little slow. The Armada eliminated Rimouski last night in the most incredible fashion, coming back from a 4-0 first period deficit, then tying the game 7-7 with three minutes to play before winning in overtime on the road. Oh, and that OT goal went in with 7:02 remaining in the period.
Latvian import Nikita Jevpalovs (No. 71) scored both the tying goal (I kid you not, his seventh of the playoffs) and the winner in overtime (seven plus one). Check out his heroics:
With his NHL debut in Calgary, Johnny Gaudreau officially exhausted his eligibility on The Hot List. But it was a great run for the speedy ball of talent, starting as a member of the United States League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. In fact, thanks to his three years at Boston College, Gaudreau is likely the most frequent name ever to appear on the list (John Gibson is a likely second). But back to the present: Here are some of the new players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Travis Sanheim, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Currently over in Finland with Team Canada’s under-18 team, Sanheim has made a remarkable jump up the draft rankings this season. This was his first season with the Hitmen, as he spent last year in midget, building up his game and his strength.
“I could get more ice time and play every role,” Sanheim said. “I could go to the gym more, get stronger and prepare for this year to not only make the team, but make a difference on the team. And I think I did that, I jumped into a pretty key role.”
A ninth-rounder in the bantam draft, Sanheim ended this season with a very respectable 29 points and a plus-25 rating in 67 games. But he started off slow, with just three points through 21 games. Once he adjusted to life in the ‘Dub,’ things picked up. He also got more opportunities when captain Jaynen Rissling went down with an injury in December. Another defenseman who has helped Sanheim is fellow draft prospect Ben Thomas. The two formed a pairing in Calgary and also skated together as Canada took off for the under-18s.
The Portland Winterhawks have dominated the Western League for years now and are back in the conference final thanks to a five-game series win over Victoria. But that last victory over the Royals was a brutal one, with several dirty plays marring the game.
To start, you have Florida Panthers pick Steven Hodges rabbit punching Pittsburgh Penguins blue-chipper Derrick Pouliot while Pouliot is fighting defenseman Joe Hicketts. Pouliot then KOs Hicketts, a small but feisty prospect for the 2014 draft.
But that wasn’t the end of it!
The Halifax Mooseheads finished with the second-best record in the Quebec League this season at 47-18-0-3. Jonathan Drouin and Nikolaj Ehlers finished third and fourth in league scoring and Drouin currently leads all playoff scorers with a jaw-dropping 21 points in seven games. The team holds a 2-1 series lead on Gatineau in the second round.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. We’re here to talk about the mind-bending, on-ice 3-D pre-game show the Mooseheads put on before Games 1 and 2 of their series with Gatineau last weekend.
Through the combined efforts of Egg Studios and Sound Systems in Halifax, the Mooseheads treated their fans to one heck of an experience. Brian Urquhart, vice president of business operations for the Mooseheads, said it was a challenge to line up the six projectors and get them in sync for the presentation, but that it was in the works for about a month.
“We’re lucky to have partners like Egg Studios and Sound Systems, who were eager to work together on this,” Urquhart said. “We are always looking to provide our fans with an NHL level of entertainment and wanted to do something special during the playoffs.”
The show starts with the Mooseheads logo breaking through the ice, which then appears to melt away into water before re-freezing again. That part is amazing enough, but the show only gets better from there, with the ice turning into its own moving boom box dance party.
It’s something you have to see to believe and appreciate.
Lean forward in prepared amazement and drink in this sucker.
Understandably, this kind of presentation won’t be a regular, every-night occurrence at Mooseheads games, but Urquhart mentioned that fans can expect more innovative events like these in the future.
The bar has been set high. Very high.
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Canada’s world under-18 team features some of the top players available for the next two drafts, blending a dangerous combination of size, speed and skill. But taking in the squad’s final practice before they headed over to Finland, it was difficult not to classify the team as adorable, due to the players’ first names being written on tape and pasted to the fronts of their helmets. Of course, when you’re playing for coach Kevin Dineen, who is coming off a gold medal win with the Olympic women’s team, there are few questions.
“That was all me,” Dineen said. “I got the idea from my first day working with the women. I told them they could have played a great trick on me if they hadn’t been sitting in their actual stalls – they knew it was going to take a few days for me to get to know them.”
Windsor Spitfires right winger Josh Ho-Sang is a potential first-round draft pick with boatloads of skill. But an incident in his final game of the season has the junior in major trouble.
Ho-Sang made contact with London’s Zach Bell in Game 4 of a playoff sweep by the Knights, causing the defenseman to crash into the boards. Bell broke his leg on the play, most likely ending the 21-year-old’s Ontario League career. Ho-Sang was given a two-minute holding penalty, but the OHL reviewed the incident and handed him a 15-game suspension, to be served at the beginning of next season. Was it warranted? Here’s the play in question:
In a press conference at the team’s arena before lunch today, the Ontario League’s Sarnia Sting announced what THN’s Ken Campbell first reported this morning: Jakob Chychrun will be the first overall selection in the OHL draft tomorrow.
Chychrun, a behemoth defenseman who was raised in Florida and whose father Jeff was an NHL enforcer, played for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens this season. He’s already 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, with a bomb of a point shot and great mobility.
“He was a man playing among boys,” one OHL scout told me. “Great offensive defenseman, but also a good defender. He’ll push the pace, but also gets back. He plays a composed game and he’s just scratching the surface.”
Chychrun has a lot to live up to as a No. 1 overall pick – the past two players selected in that spot by Sarnia were Alex Galchenyuk and Steven Stamkos. Barrie’s Aaron Ekblad was the last defenseman taken first overall and he may reprise that position in the NHL draft this summer. At the least, he’s a lock to be the first blueliner taken.
Chychrun will join a Sarnia franchise in flux. The Sting’s ownership situation may or may not be in transition, depending on who you believe, but at least the 16-year-old won’t be on an island. Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and right winger Nikolay Goldobin are both top-50 talents for the NHL draft this summer, while fellow Jr. Canadiens alum Nikita Korostelev is coming off a successful rookie campaign.
Famed wrestler Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart was one of the original owners of the Western League’s Calgary Hitmen and the reason the team was named as such. With the franchise reaching its 20th anniversary next season, a new retro jersey has been released honoring the Hitmen’s roots.