As directors of amateur scouting for the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, Joe McDonnell and Bill Armstrong constantly cross paths during the hockey season. Whether it’s at a junior game in Brandon, Man. on a Friday night or a small rink in eastern Europe for an under-18 tournament, McDonnell’s message for Armstrong is the same. “I always say to him, ‘You’re just such an asshole,’ ” McDonnell said. “I always tell him he stole my ring away from me.”
The two can laugh about the experience a quarter of a century after the fact. McDonnell was 29, less than a decade older than some of the players he was coaching with the Kitchener Rangers. Armstrong was a big, physical defenseman known more for his fists than his scoring touch, but it was his goal at 2:05 of the second overtime that gave the Oshawa Generals a 4-3 win over the Rangers and the 1990 Memorial Cup.
The Memorial Cup comes around every year, and some are more memorable than others. The 1990 tournament might have been the most compelling, exciting and dramatic tournament ever played. Of the eight games in that event, four went to overtime. Two of them, the round-robin game between the Generals and the Rangers and the final, needed double overtime. Eric Lindros, who had spurned the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and was dealt to the Generals at Christmas, was showing the world why he was one of the most hyped prospects in a generation. The Kamloops Blazers blueline featured a 16-year-old defenseman named Scott Niedermayer, and their coach was Ken Hitchcock. The Laval Titan were a big, mean team that featured Sandy McCarthy and Gino Odjick and a cast of characters who sported dyed Mohawks. Read more
In order to win the Memorial Cup, the Oshawa Generals relied on one of the stingiest defenses in the history of major junior hockey. At the center of it was goaltender Ken Appleby.
Appleby, 20, backstopped the Generals to the Memorial Cup, helped Oshawa defeat Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters for the OHL championship and was the OHL’s leader in most goaltending categories. Even still, he couldn’t parlay it into finally getting selected at the draft and was passed over for the third straight season. So, Appleby’s going another route: for the second consecutive year, he’s taking to NHL camps and hoping he can land himself an NHL contract. At present, Appleby’s at prospect camp with the St. Louis Blues.
“Being third year eligible to be drafted, I didn’t really expect much,” Appleby told NHL.com’s Louie Korac. “I had heard some talks, but to not be drafted is kind of a good opportunity for me to be able to choose teams like St. Louis or whoever else gives me offers for camps so I can kind of choose which way I want to go. It’s a good position.” Read more
Though Russia has been great at the world juniors, it’s been five years since the hockey power even medalled at the world under-18s and even then, it was just a bronze. The United States has dominated the latter competition thanks to its National Team Development Program, which hot-houses the best under-18s and under-17s in Michigan, where the two squads concentrate on strength training and playing older competition.
Now, Russia is getting in on the act.
By Joshua Kloke
With the end of another hockey year, most fans fret over their team’s shortcomings and begin the long wait for next season.
Yet the end impacts some on a much more personal level than others: fans such as Lori Bowman, longtime billet for the OHL’s Guelph Storm. Bowman and her husband, Blair, open their house at the start of every season to young Storm players who need the comforts of home away from home and the support to endure the demands of junior hockey.
Eventually though, like clockwork, the snow melts, the season ends and players return home. And it never gets any easier for Bowman. “It is heartwrenching,” she said. “The house feels empty.” Read more
The magnitude and volume of trades during draft weekend and the first few days of free agency has been impressive. Big names such as Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie and Milan Lucic were all given new addresses and in all three cases, prospects were part of the return.
In fact, many teams acquired future NHL hopefuls recently, so let’s take a look at some of the more prominent kids involved in this summer’s trade crop.
The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.
SUNRISE – It would have been pretty easy for left winger A.J. Greer to have returned to Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire this season and plunder the prep ranks. Instead, the Quebec-born power forward went to Boston University, where he was a teenaged freshman on a premier team.
Early on, Greer was a fourth-liner at best, sometimes a healthy scratch while teammate Jack Eichel destroyed the college ranks. But Greer persevered and by the time Boston was playing for the national title, he was a scoring winger on the second line. Now, he has been rewarded at the draft, as Colorado took him 39th overall.
FORT LAUDERDALE – Dylan Strome would like to let the hockey world know that, in fact, he wasn’t hurt during the OHL final. He appreciates the concern and all, but is happy to report that he was just fine.
Such is the life for highly touted prospects these days. Every year, it seems there’s one player with whom scouts fall out of love. They start to nitpick and find things wrong with his game and all of a sudden, they’re talking about his weaknesses more than his strengths. As sure as the swallows flock to Capistrano, it happens. And this year, Dylan Strome is that player.