Flint Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen won’t be completely out of the picture

Ken Campbell
David Branch  (Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The five-year suspension levied to Flint Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen by the Ontario League does not include off-ice activities, nor will it prevent Nilsen from participating in board of governors’ meetings or conducting league business, thn.com has learned.

And that’s a very important aspect of the suspension. Because the OHL is not denying Nilsen the opportunity to run his business and make a living from his hockey team, the suspension would have a far better opportunity of surviving a court challenge, should Nilsen choose to go that route. Nilsen has not declared his intentions and several calls to Patrick Ducharme, Nilsen’s Windsor-based lawyer, were not returned.

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OHL sanctions against Flint help, but don’t completely clear up a murky situation

Ken Campbell
Flint Firebirds  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Faced with the possibility of a mass revolt from teenaged prospects against the Flint Firebirds, Ontario League commissioner David Branch had no choice but to take decisive and punitive action against Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen three days before the league’s annual draft.

Branch announced Wednesday night the league has suspended Nilsen for five years – with an opportunity to apply for reinstatement in three years – revoked the third overall pick in the draft and fined the team $250,000 for violations, “contrary to the best interests of the players, the Team, and the OHL.” If Nilsen is found to violate the order by getting involved with the team in any way, the league reserves the right to force him to sell the team.

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How will Matt Murray’s rise affect Marc-Andre Fleury’s future in Pittsburgh?

Matt Larkin
Matt Murray. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Marc-Andre Fleury is a great goaltender. He’s also one of hockey’s most universally liked players, one of the good guys. He has no timetable for his recovery from a second concussion sustained this season.

Our hearts go out to him. And yet, while no one would ever classify two concussions as a good thing, the Pittsburgh Penguins have squeezed lemonade out of that lemon by putting youngster Matt Murray in the spotlight. He’s won two straight starts while Fleury recovers. Murray has won five straight overall, and he’s 7-2 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in 2015-16, his maiden NHL voyage.

The key takeaway from Murray, 21, dominating immediately at the sport’s highest level: nobody who knew anything about him expected anything less. The kid has looked like a star in the making for a while now. He rates as the Pens’ No. 1 prospect and sits 39th among all NHL prospects in THN Future Watch 2016. He posted pre-forward-pass numbers in his first full AHL season a year ago, going 25-10-1 with a 1.58 goals-against average, .941 save percentage and 12 shutouts in just 40 appearances. He set an all-time league record for longest shutout streak at 304 minutes and 11 seconds. He won the Aldege ‘Baz’ Bastien Memorial Award as the circuit’s top goalie.

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Why the OHL came down so hard on Max Jones

Ken Campbell
Max Jones (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The consensus among scouts is that the 12-game suspension given to Max Jones of the London Knights for his headshot in the playoffs isn’t going to move the needle one way or the other when it comes to his draft status. Most NHL teams and pundits have him going in the top of the first round, probably somewhere outside the top 10, and that’s where he’ll stay.

The Ontario League announced Friday afternoon that Jones has been suspended for 12 games for his blind-side hit on Justin Brack of the Owen Sound Attack in Game 4 of their playoff series Wednesday night. It’s an enormous, earth-shattering sentence to be sure, depriving the Knights of the kind of player who can have an enormous impact on the playoffs – a big and gritty two-way player who can contribute offense.

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Maple Leafs’ dozen debutants makes this team the greenest ever

Tobias Lindberg  (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

When Tobias Lindberg steps on the ice with the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Buffalo Sabres tonight, he’ll be part of a team record that hasn’t been matched in almost 100 years.

Lindberg, one of the prospects acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Dion Phaneuf trade, will become the 12th player to make his NHL debut for the Leafs this season, joining William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Byron Froese, Nikita Soshnikov, Brendan Leipsic, Kasperi Kapanen, Rinat Valiev, Frederik Gauthier, Garret Sparks and Viktor Loov. It’s actually 13 if you include goalie Antoine Bibeau, who dressed as a backup for 11 games this season, but didn’t see any action.

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Nashville may be crushed, but Jimmy Vesey has his rights

Jimmy Vesey (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

It’s not a fun day in Nashville and the Preds’ loss to Colorado is actually of secondary importance. Last night, GM David Poile revealed that highly-touted prospect Jimmy Vesey would not be signing with the franchise and would instead pursue free agency.

Poile was livid.

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Why a top Quebec goalie prospect played in the Toronto suburbs

Ryan Kennedy
Alexis Gravel (photo by Ryan Kennedy)

Minor hockey is getting very complicated. At the top levels, the battle for talent is constant and the CHL’s feeder leagues don’t just involve local kids – you also have international flavor. For example, Russian-born player Nikita Korostelev, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who currently skates with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, was not considered an “import” by the league, because he played two years of minor hockey for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. This year, the same squad boasts several Russian-born players, including Kirill Nizhnikov, who is expected to go very high in the OHL draft.

And at the OHL Cup, the victorious York-Simcoe Express were backstopped by goalie Andrei Berezinskiy, himself Moscow-born.

Which brings us to Alexis Gravel, who competed at that same tournament with the Mississauga Senators. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound netminder with great athleticism and a dad who played pro, Gravel would be a dream for any OHL team – but they can’t have him.

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Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander ‘wants to be great’

Ken Campbell
William Nylander (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Par Marts has a dream and it involves the Toronto Marlies getting shocked in the first round of the American League playoffs. Because that’s the only way the Swedish national team coach is going to get his hands on William Nylander for the World Championship.

With Marts and Swedish GM Peter Popovic on hand Monday night, Nylander gave them reason to salivate, registering his second multi-point game with a three-point effort in a 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames. It gave Nylander five points in his past two games and established Nylander, the No. 2 prospect in THN’s annual Future Watch edition behind future Arizona Coyote Dylan Strome, as a future go-to offensive force for the Leafs. (Future Watch can be purchased on-line by going to: https://secure.thehockeynews.com/online-store/?&utm_source=thehockeynews.com&utm_medium=digital_edition&utm_campaign=mag_site_links)

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