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Campbell's Cuts: Two freshman primed to shine

Ken Campbell
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The Hockey News
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Campbell's Cuts: Two freshman primed to shine

Ken Campbell
By:

With all the pre-season rookie chatter surrounding Evgeni Malkin – with the likes of Gilbert Brule, Matt Carle and Wojtek Wolski tossed in for good measure – there wasn't much said about two of the more intriguing prospects in this year's NHL pre-season.

Dustin Penner of the Anaheim Ducks and Alexander Radulov of the Nashville Predators have emerged as pre-season standouts and two players who might vault themselves into the Calder Trophy race.

Perhaps Penner was largely ignored because it's so difficult to believe he'll still be a rookie after coming out of nowhere to score three goals and nine points in the playoffs last season. But since he played six fewer regular season games than the 25 needed for rookie status, he remains a freshman this season.

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound behemoth, who was once cut from his high school team in Winnipeg, has been impressive. In five pre-season games with the Ducks he had two goals and six points.

Radulov, on the other hand, hasn't been quite as productive, but had a respectable 2-1-3 scoring line after four games. In addition, he scored what was, by all accounts, a spectacular shootout goal against the Hurricanes last week.

The Predators have a bevy of right wingers, so Radulov faces a big challenge to make the team. Added to that is the fact the Predators are still lamenting their decision eight years ago to rush David Legwand into the NHL and could insist Radulov start the season in the American League.

But even if that is the case, he would be the first forward called up and the betting is that he won't be going back.

The Predators, meanwhile, seem to be intent on abandoning the mind-numbing defensive style that has been a hallmark since they entered the league. This is largely because they have to do something to get the local market interested in the team. Nothing will do that more than winning games 6-5, and if that's the case, an offensive wizard such as Radulov might get a chance to shine.

First Dick Duff, now this: Oh my, just how low will the Hockey Hall of Fame go?

Just this week, the Hall of Fame set aside a spot for the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championship trophy. The trophy and tournament is sponsored by Source for Sports and, wouldn't you know it, they're listed on the Hall of Fame's website as a “Promotional Associate” of the institution.

Isn't that a coincidence?

As Dave Feschuk wrote recently in The Toronto Star, “there isn't a sports temple that has devalued enshrinement” the way the Hall of Fame has.

And he's right. The Hall is chock full of really, really questionable choices – Duff, Bob Pulford, Herbie Lewis, Clarke Gillies , Jacques Laperriere and Guy Lapointe, to name just a few. Convicted felon Harold Ballard, who did nothing of note aside from running the Toronto Maple Leafs into the ground, and Bill Wirtz, who has presided over the demise of the Chicago Blackhawks, are also in.

And just you wait. The Hall has resisted the temptation so far, but it will only be a matter of time before it bows to the pressure and inducts Paul Henderson on the basis of having a good week in a meaningless exhibition series.

Some will undoubtedly argue having the pond hockey trophy in the hall is a way of getting in touch with the grassroots and giving ordinary folks a moment of glory they might not otherwise have. And what's wrong with that?

Lots. The Hockey Hall of Fame should be reserved for the truly great players and builders of the game. Those who were just good players and pond hockey players should have to pay admission like everybody else.

Falling Leafs: There is no official documentation to back this up, but the Maple Leafs just might have been the first team in NHL history to call a player up after cutting him in training camp.

The Leafs recalled Kris Newbury for a pre-season game Wednesday night because they had too many forwards injured.

The reason for a predictable one. After years of going through the motions in a country-club atmosphere in training camp, many Leafs are being put to the physical test like never before under new coach Paul Maurice. Funny, but the young players who stuck with strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol's program – which was approved by Maurice – over the summer are the ones who are staying healthy and shining.

Maurice, meanwhile, has publicly said he's not surprised at the number of injuries, but sources say he's astonished at the level of conditioning among many of the veteran players. He was reportedly also dismayed and astounded at having to take his foot off the pedal so early in training camp.

Ken Campbell's Cuts appears regularly only on The Hockey News.com. Want to get the inside edge from Ken himself? You can reach him at kcampbell@thehockeynews.com.

One of THN's senior writers, Ken Campbell gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Ken's expertise delivered to you every issue.

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Campbell's Cuts: Two freshman primed to shine