Sens sign NCAA free agent O’Connor, land new big body – & big brain – for crowded crease

Matt O'Connor (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

For weeks, speculation has built as to the destination of Boston University goaltender Matt O’Connor, an unrestricted free agent highly-regarded and hotly pursued by a number of NHL teams. The 23-year-old made his decision early Saturday afternoon, rejecting overtures from the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers to sign a two-year contract with the Ottawa Senators.

The signing of the Toronto native to a two-year deal crowds the Sens’ crease to an even greater degree than it was already. Ottawa has – for now, anyway – three netminders with NHL experience in its employ, including veteran and starter Craig Anderson, 23-year-old Robin Lehner, and recent sensation Andrew “The Hamburlgar” Hammond, and O’Connor will be aiming to get there as soon as possible. Hammond is an unrestricted free agent and Senators GM Bryan Murray could deal his rights before he hits the market, but if Ottawa plans on retaining Hammond’s services, something will have to give with either Anderson (who has three years left on his contract and a $4.2 million salary cap hit) or Lehner (signed for two more years at a $2.25 million cap hit).

But enough about the future. The present-day news is the Senators landed a big body in the 6-foot-5 O’Connor, but they also signed a young man with a big brain and every intention to make his mark on and off the ice. Read more

Prospect Hot List: Mike Robinson’s Wildcat formation

Mike Robinson (photo by Jon Chase)

The final matchups in major junior have been set: Quebec takes on Rimouski in the Quebec League; Brandon will duke it out with Kelowna in the West and Erie gets Oshawa in the OHL. Whatever the results, it’s going to be a power-packed Memorial Cup. Meanwhile, the USHL draft is taking place, with Minnesota high school standout Ryan Poehling going first to Lincoln in Phase One (for 1999 birthdays) and some interesting pickups elsewhere in Phase Two (older players). Let’s take a whirl around the prospect planet to see what’s up.

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Penn State announces Scott Conway, leading freshman scorer, kicked off team

Jared Clinton
Scott Conway (Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Scott Conway, who led the NCAA’s Penn State Nittany Lions in scoring by a freshman and was named to the Big Ten’s all-freshman team, has been booted from the team, announced coach Guy Gadowsky.

In a release from Penn State’s men’s hockey program, it was revealed that Conway was dismissed from the club for a violation of team rules, but no further information was given. In the statement, the team wrote that, “Gadowsky and the program consider this matter concluded and will have no further comment.” Read more

University of North Dakota Flickertails? School releases list of potential monikers

Jared Clinton
Connor Gaarder of Univeristy of North Dakota celebrates a goal at the Frozen Four. (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The University of North Dakota officially retired the “Fighting Sioux” name and emblem nearly three years ago, and now, with the three-year prohibition on a new team name set to expire in June, the list of potential nicknames — and another with those that have been rejected — is seeing the light of day.

For the past three seasons, the team has simply gone by University of North Dakota, with its jerseys devoid of any logos save a word mark bearing the university’s name. The primary emblem, if it can be called such, was the letters UND overlapped with one another in a style similar to the New York of the MLB’s New York Yankees or New York Mets.

The freshly suggested monikers, though, provide the opportunity for several new names to be associated with the school. Suggestions were collected for the entire month of April, and the three most popular names appear to be Flickertails, North Stars and the use of no nickname at all. Read more

Prospect Hot List: Jack Eichel suiting up for Team USA again

Jack Eichel

Once again, Team USA has won the world under-18s thanks to a roster made up almost entirely of NTDP kids. Though one interesting takeaway from the tourney was goaltending. The Americans went with underager Evan Sarthou of WHL Tri-City, while Canada had a tandem of underagers in Moose Jaw’s Zach Sawchenko and Saginaw’s Evan Cormier. Sure, 2015 looks like a thin goalie draft, but this was a pretty interesting trend. With that point behind us, let’s look at some of the other prospects making noise in the hockey world right now.

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Detroit company finds success with game-used stick phone cases

Original Stix

By Warren Frank

Detroit-based company Original Stix appears to have found an extremely interested market for its game-used composite sticks phone cases.

The idea to turn old sticks into hockey-themed phone cases came from CEO Terry Johnson. He’s always been inspired by creative repurposing, but it was an experience during his time at Michigan State that was particularly influential.

“One of my friends built a table out of old sticks,” Johnson said. “I always thought it was interesting to repurpose something designed for an entirely different reason, and it got me thinking about other products built with authentic materials.”

 

Original Stix case

After graduating, Johnson teamed up with two friends and fellow Michigan State alumni, Mario DiMercurio and Andrew Mestdagh, to found the company. The company’s first product, an iPhone 5 case, was launched in August, and its positive reception has led to the addition of Galaxy s5 cases, iPhone 6 cases and an apparel line. All Original Stix products are made in the U.S. – a point of pride for the business.

“The rubber cases are made using local injection molding facilities,” Johnson said. “The sticks are cut by hand, and then the inside is coated with a rubberized coating for added protection. When an order comes through, customers can request specific sticks so we match the sticks with the rubber frame and build to order.

“Everything is done right here in Detroit. The area has been going through some tough times in recent years, so creating jobs and bringing manufacturing back to the area is something that our fans have really gotten behind, regardless of what team they follow.”

And it’s not just fans interested in Original Stix products: the company recently completed a custom order for the New York Rangers, with cases featuring game-used sticks now sold at Madison Square Garden. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who went to high school with Johnson and DiMercurio, has been to the Original Stix headquarters a number of times.

While Original Stix is looking to add additional teams, customers can currently choose stick pieces from more than 50 squads from the NHL, AHL, NCAA and OHL. The sticks can be swapped out without having to buy a new case.

“We’ve had a lot of customers who have sticks autographed by NHL players,” Johnson said. “We love seeing stuff like that. It’s like a portable piece of memorabilia as opposed to an autographed photo that just hangs on the wall.”

Original Stix display

Prospect Hot List: Foley will keep Friars flying

Cedar Rapids winger Erik Foley (photo by Brandon Anderson/BA Photos)

While I try to reserve this space for players up for this year’s draft or ones who have already been picked, there’s a treasure trove of 2016s at the world under-18s right now. Auston Matthews just broke Patrick Kane’s U.S. NTDP scoring record, while Finland is getting a huge performance from Patrik Laine (Jesse Puljujarvi’s playing pretty well, too). And Dmitri Sokolov of Russia is already on the minds of NHL scouts. With that established, let’s take a look at some of the other great youngsters in the game today.

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