Every year, hockey writer Chris Peters does some serious Yeoman’s work and crunches the raw data put out by USA Hockey regarding grassroots participation in the nation. In his latest post, Peters notes that the state of Arizona was one of the biggest gainers for 2013-14 and I would hazard to guess that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman feels pretty good about that.
As you will no doubt recall, Bettman has played a big part in keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix in recent years, even as many Canadian writers howled (see what I did there?) about bringing the franchise north, where attendance would be plentiful instead of pitiful.
Coming off a disastrous finish to the 2014 world juniors in Sweden, where a confused defense corps and feckless power play dropped Canada to a fourth-place finish, the Red and White have a big challenge next year. Not only will expectations still be sky-high, but the tourney will be played in the nation’s two most pressure-packed hockey markets, Montreal and Toronto.
Yesterday, Hockey Canada tabbed Gatineau Olympiques coach Benoit Groulx as the bench boss for that squad. Groulx, who was an assistant under Brent Sutter in Sweden, has a consistent history with the national team and is known for getting the best out of his players.
The Ontario League’s Erie Otters went from doormat to powerhouse in a year thanks to a talented ensemble that included Connor Brown, Dane Fox, Andre Burakovsky and Adam Pelech. But the spotlight has always come back to phenom Connor McDavid. The top prospect for the 2015 draft knew about playing for a marquee team even before the Otters turned around thanks to his days with the minor midget Toronto Marlboros. As an underager, McDavid played on a squad that featured a murderers’ row of talent and went all the way to the OHL Cup final before losing to the Mississauga Rebels. Robby Fabbri, now of the Guelph Storm, was part of that Rebels team and he’s up for the draft this year, as are several former Marlboros.
I caught up with McDavid at the OHL Awards, where he took home trophies for sportsmanship and academics. Though top prospects have been known to check out the draft a year early just to scope out the scene, McDavid will not be going to Philadelphia. Instead, he plans on using his summer to get bigger and stronger with training guru Gary Roberts. In the meantime, I asked him to scout his buddies from that Toronto team that will be selected this summer.
Being the son of an NHLer is a blessing and a curse. The blessings are obvious: Not only do you get those athletic genes, but also access to dressing rooms growing up and tons of great training advantages. The curse is that the media will never shut up about who your dad is.
So let’s take a look at 2014 draft prospects Ryan MacInnis and Dominic Turgeon from a different angle. Sure, they are the progeny of Al MacInnis and Pierre Turgeon respectively, but the two big pivots actually share more than just famous bloodlines.
There’s no getting around it: Blake Clarke had a rough season. After tallying 19 goals and 51 points as a rookie with Brampton in the Ontario League, Clarke found the back of the net just twice this year, getting traded from the Battalion (now in North Bay) to Saginaw. In 54 games, he had 12 points.
But thanks to a new wrinkle in the process, the American left winger was invited to the combine. In past sessions, the players chosen were based off of Central Scouting’s rankings. This time, NHL teams picked candidates too. So Clarke, ranked 134th amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting, made the final list (including Europeans and goalies) of 119 prospects. Now it’s his job to justify the decision.
The most important aspect of the draft combine (other than the medical testing) is the interview process. All 30 teams get to sit down with as many prospects as they want and get to know the kids. Some teams are nice, some are intimidating. And while the talks are nerve-wracking, some prospects have more at stake than others.
Two of the best examples this year are Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires and Anthony DeAngelo from the Sarnia Sting. Both Ontario Leaguers bring incredible skills to the table – Ho-Sang’s 85 points came from his magical hands and vision, while DeAngelo’s acumen from the point made him the highest-scoring blueliner in the league with 71 points in 51 games.
But the reason DeAngelo only played 51 games was because of two suspensions. In both cases, he was found to have violated the OHL’s harassment, abuse and diversity policy. One of those incidents involved making an “inappropriate statement to a teammate.”
Plenty of stories are floating around the hockey world about the specifics and DeAngelo knows it.
With a 6-3 stomping of the Guelph Storm, the Edmonton Oil Kings cemented their names in history as winners of the 2014 Memorial Cup. And while a game is won by a team and not individuals, there were many players throughout the tournament that did themselves a world of good with their play at the showdown. Here’s a look at 10 players who helped their own cause in London.
Edgars Kulda, LW – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Winner of the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as tournament MVP, the Latvian left winger put a cap on a remarkable sophomore year in Edmonton. The import jumped from 17 points to 60 points during the regular season and scored more than a point per game in the playoffs. Talented, determined and confident with the puck, Kulda was a force in London and a favorite of both fans and media. He went undrafted last year, but the late 1994 birthday seems like a lock to go the second time around now.
LONDON, ON – They played more hockey than any other team at the Memorial Cup and still saved the best for last. Facing a dominant Guelph Storm team, the Edmonton Oil Kings turned the tables on the Ontario League champs with an impressive 6-3 victory in the final.
Not only did Edmonton’s defense shut down big guns such Jason Dickinson, Brock McGinn and Scott Kosmachuk, but they essentially did it using four blueliners. New York Islanders pick and team captain Griffin Reinhart led the way, but Colorado prospect Cody Corbett, 2014 draft prospect Dysin Mayo and Ashton Sautner also played a ton in the downing of Guelph.
“They’ve got a lot of speed and pretty much four lines that can score,” Mayo said. “So we had to rely on our defensive game and then attack when we got the opportunity.”