Saturday, May 06, 2006

All 3 League Finals Began Friday Night

All three championship series began last night, and there were some great games to report on.

Let's begin the game reviews with the first game in the Quebec/Moncton series. Game one in this QMJHL battle went back and forth, but the Moncton Wildcats finally won by a score of 4-3 on an overtime goal by Wildcats' winger Tim Spencer. Spencer's goal came at 4:45 of overtime on even strength on a rebound off an attempted shot by teammate Philippe Dupuis. It was Spencer's first playoff goal, but credit also goes to Dupuis, who was just back from injury. If Dupuis can produce offensively for Moncton, it will making winning the series much easier, and if last night is any indication of Dupuis' condition, Quebec is in alot of trouble. Quebec, which has a top notch fire power in the persons of Alexander Radulov, Mathieu Melanson, and Brent Aubin, must stay focused and out of the penalty box if they want to stay in the series. Quebec's problems began early on in the game, when in the first period, both teams came out a bit tight. The Quebec Remparts clearly had the upper hand in shots (13 to 6) and scoring chances, but they failed to convert on any of these chances, so that the score was tied 0-0 at the end of the period. The failure to convert in the first period loomed larger as the Remparts took penalty after penalty in the second period. The team took a total of 11 penalties during the game, compared to 6 minor penalties taken by the Wildcats. As all but one of the goals in regulation time were scored with an extra man on the ice, the Remparts penalty taking excesses really hurt. Although neither team has a particularly effective penalty kill, and Moncton's seemed even more porous than Quebec's, the Remparts, who are the underdogs in the series need to exhibit much more discipline to win the championship. They can't give Moncton the extra man. If they continue to play so loosely, the series will be over in 4 or 5 games. Quebec gets a chance to redeem itself tomorrow night as the series continues at the Moncton Coliseum.

In the OHL, the championship series between the London Knights and the Peterborough Petes began in London. It took the better part of 2 overtime periods to decide this one, but in the end, it was Peterborough that defeated London by a score of 6-5. As I mentioned yesterday, I believe that the Petes have a real chance to defeat London if they stay out of the penalty box. They failed to follow my advice last night, taking 17 penalties on the night, including 6 in the first period alone, but they won anyway. A word of advice though guys, I would not try taking 17 penalties again against the Knights, because London's power play will eventually eat you alive. London discipline was not much better during the game, in that they took 12 penalties. If you don't have the game picture in your mind by now, picture stoppages for penalties every 2 minutes--not the kind of game anyone wants to see from two such talented teams. I do want to mention the fine play last night of several skaters and one goalie who had spectacular nights. First, London goalie Adam Dennis who came up with tremendous saves in the game, including a stop on a breakaway against eventual Petes' game hero Patrick Kaleta early in the second overtime. Dennis, an overager who was a late-round 2005 Buffalo Sabres pick, has shown that he is solid under pressure and is ready to move up to professional hockey next season. Right now, he needs players in front of him to clear the net, so that he can do his job. Unfortunately for him, last night was not a good night for London's defense, causing him to let in 6 goals (on 70 shots). If London wants to win this series, the defense must shut down Peterborough's potent offense. If the Knights were not aware of the enormity of the talent on the Petes team, they should be today. Adjustments are necessary, and it is up to Coach Hunter to come up with a new strategy to hold back the Peterborough offense. The second player who stood out to me was Kaleta, who scored the game winner in the second overtime. Lest you think this is a fluke, it was Kaleta who put in the game-winning overtime goal in the April 24, 2006 win over Barrie. Some players have the ability to finish at the right time, and Kaleta is one of those guys. Also a Buffalo prospect, Kaleta is a keeper. Finally, I want to mention the excellent play of two skaters, who, although they each took one minor penalty each during the night, showed why they are top prospects. Jordan Staal and Rob Schremp both looked like winners on the ice, and if either gets really hot, look out. Each of Staal and Schremp has the talent to take over a series. The next game will be played at Peterborough, tomorrow at 4 pm.

Finally, in the WHL, the Vancouver Giants leaped out to a 1-0 lead in its series against the Moose Jaw Warriors, by beating them 5-1. After Moose Jaw scored the first goal at 2:49 of the first period, it was all Vancouver. The Giants reeled off 5 straight goals with no answer from the Warriors. Without question the 2 players who stood out above all others were Vancouver's Dustin Slade and Gilbert Brule. Slade, the incredible goalie who has grown to expect shutouts in his playoff wins, was marvelous in net once again, turning away 26 of 27 shots. Brule, who had 2 goals and an assist on the night, is ready to return to his NHL team (Columbus) next season. If he can stay healthy, Brule will undoubtedly be a star.

News on the results of the OHL Priority Draft, which was held today, will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, May 05, 2006

WHL Bantam Draft Results

The WHL Bantam Draft took place yesterday and there were some interesting surprise picks. Before I go reveal who was selected by which team though, lets review how the draft works within the system of protected players in the Western Hockey League. Under the rules, each team is allowed a protected list of 50 players that are prohibited from playing for another CHL club. The protected list is ongoing and includes players from ages 14-20, including current members of a team's roster. A player who is 14 can be on a team's list only if: (1) he has completed his Bantam career, (2) is eligible for the Bantam draft (including players from the four Western Provinces, as well as the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming), and (3) either the team drafts him or the player remains undrafted upon the Bantam Draft's completion. However, the players drafted in this year's Bantam Draft are not available to play full time until 2007-08, when their "hockey age" is 16.

So, in essence, the purpose of the Bantam Draft is to add players to a team's protected list. So let's see who was added to each team's list yesterday.

Jared Cowen was the first player selected overall in the draft. Although Cowen was ranked first by every reputable scouting agency in the business, there was some question as to whether the holder of the pick, the Spokane Chiefs, would bypass Cowen, because the youngster had made some statements that he would prefer to play closer to Saskatchewan. But any such rumours were not founded, and Spokane added the 6'5", 190 pound defenseman to its stable of players. In 41 regular season Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League games this season, Cowen scored four goals and 12 assists, with 66 PIM.

Landon Ferraro, the former NHLer Ray Ferraro's son, was picked second overall by the Red Deer Rebels. This pick was somewhat of a surprise, as Ferraro had been rated further down in the top ten. Ferraro is a 6'0", 165 forward, who played in 49 games for the Burnaby Winter Club this past season. During that time, he scored 71 goals and 26 assists. The big center is more more suited to be a power forward, and it is likely that he will get moved to the wing while playing in the WHL.

The 2006-07 WHL expansion team, the Chilliwack Bruins had the third pick in the first round. With that pick, the team selected left winger Ryan Howse. The 5'11", 175 natural scorer played with Prince George of the Bantam AAA. Howse is known as a smart player with great hands and excellent skating ability.

The following players rounded out the first round:

4 Prince Albert Cole Penner LW Medicine Hat, AB
5 Kamloops Jimmy Bubnick C Saskatoon, SK
6 Swift Current Cody Eakin C Winnipeg, MB
7 Lethbridge Carter Ashton LW Saskatoon, SK
8 Tri-City Jason Gardiner C/LW Winnipeg, MB
9 Brandon Brayden Schenn C Saskatoon, SK
10 Portland Riley Boychuk LW Abbotsford, B.C.
11 Seattle Steve Chaffin D Calgary, AB
12 Prince George Stefan Elliott D North Vancouver, B.C.
13 Everett Kellan Tochkin RW Abbotsford, B.C.
14 Regina Brett Miller RW North Battleford, SK
15 Saskatoon Mitch Berg D Saskatoon, SK
16 Kootenay Nathan Lieuwen G Abbotsford, B.C.
17 Moose Jaw Justin Maylan RW Vancouver, B.C.
18 Kelowna Tyson Barrie D Victoria, B.C.
19 Vancouver Evander Kane LW Vancouver, B.C.
20 Calgary Chase Schaber LW Red Deer, AB
21 Medicine Hat Cody Carlson D Victoria, B.C.

A complete list of all the Bantam Draftees are listed at

The biggest surprise in the draft was the first round pick of Riley Boychuk by the Portland Winter Hawks. Barely rated in the top 100 by ISS, Boychuk was selected 10th overall by the WHL team. Portland must have seen something the scouts did not in the 6'2", 170, left winger. Boychuk played in 2005-06 for Abbottsford Hawks AAA Bantams. According to the Winter Hawks press reports, Boychuk finished the regular season with a total of 134 points (but even the team did not know the breakdown or the number of games the youngster played).

Another shocker was the first round pick of the Everett Silvertips. For the thirteenth overall pick, Everett chose Kevin Tochkin. According to the Silvertips' press release "Tochkin recorded big numbers for the Abbotsford Hawks in Bantam AAA by leading the team in scoring with 57 goals and 50 assists in 49 games this season. The Abbotsford, BC native also help lead the Hawks to a Gold Medal at the 2006 Western Canadian Bantam AAA Hockey Championships in Kelowna, BC. The 5'10", 160 pound forward was selected as Tournament MVP by leading all players in scoring with 14 points in 5 games." However, he was not ranked in the top 100 by ISS.

The choice by Kamloops of Jimmy Bubnick as the fifth pick overall was also a little bit of a surprise. Bubnick had been ranked in the mid-teens, but the Blazers loved his two-game and high skill level, so they went for the winger. He played his Bantam hockey for the Saskatoon AA Outlaws this past season, registering 72 goals and 118 points, along with 107 penalty minutes in 53 games for the team.

Another surprise top ten pick was Jason Gardiner, who was selected eighth overall by the Tri-City Americans. The team was particularly looking for forwards in the draft and picked 2 highly skilled scorers from the Manitoba Bantam Winnipeg Sharks in the first two rounds of yesterday's draft. Gardiner, a 6'0", 175 center, scored 27 goals and had 25 assists for the Sharks this past season. In the second round, the Americans chose Gardiner's teammate in Bantams, Adam Hughesman, who at 5'10", 150, has some growing to do. But Hughesman is also a skilled playmaker; he led the Sharks and his league in scoring with 31 goals and 37 assists in 29 games.

If any more interesting stories come out of this Bantam Draft, I will cover it, but it is not an exceptional draft year and other than the above mentions, there were no real surprises.

This was Chilliwack's first draft, as the team will start playing next season. One need only to look at the team owner's list to see why this expansion team was granted a franchise. Of the 5 listed owners, there are 2 familiar names to all who follow hockey, i.e., Brian Burke and Glen Sather. While many questioned the need and the advisability of expanding right now, and in the location that was chosen, these NHL General Managers were not to be denied. The question remains, however, whether or not WHL team expansion was or is necessary. We shall see.

Enjoy tonight's games. More tomorrow.

OHL News and Notes

There are 3 games on tap in the CHL tonight, as all three league championship series get underway. Vancouver, Moncton, and London are the favourites to win their league championships, but there may be at least one surprise. Certainly, Peterborough has an excellent chance against London in the OHL. My prediction is that Moncton and Vancouver will win easily, but that London and Peterborough will be close series. I might wind up eating my red hat here, but London is beatable if the Petes stay out of the penalty box, and the longer the series goes, the better Peterborough's chances.

Speaking of the OHL, there is lots of buzz around the league today. First of all, tomorrow is the Priority Selection Draft for the league. The draft is done via the internet, and will begin Saturday morning at 9 am EDT. Fans and player hopefuls alike can watch it in real time at A lot of team wrangling has been going on over the last week. The Sarnia Sting will pick first, followed by the Oshawa Generals. Both teams have great needs for talented players and top notch coaching. Just yesterday the Sting announced the hiring of Dave McDonald to be the team's head coach. McDonald, an experienced coach who has had quite a bit of success on the OHL level, was recently let go by the Erie Otters. His new start in Sarnia will be a boon for the team and for him personally. The hiring was an excellent move by the team, and although it will take a few years to see its benefits, the Sting are on the right track.

Oshawa will also get a new coaching staff to guide the team out of their doldrums. Since Head Coach Randy Ladouceur and Assistant Coach Michael Oke were summarily dumped late in March, there has been lots of speculation as to whether General Manager Brad Selwood would take over. Finally, today, the day before the draft, this writer has learned that Selwood will definitely be taking over the coaching duties. He will be assisted by Chris DePiero, who has some experience at the Junior "A" level, and Sean Murphy. I am less than certain that this was the right move for the Generals. Phenom John Tavares needs a strong hand for guidance, and, it is not clear to me that Selwood, DePiero, and Murphy will be able to bring him along in the way Tavares needs. Of course, Tavares also needs more talented players to populate the team. Selwood can certainly help here. Look for another long season in Oshawa while the coaching situation gets resolved.

On to brighter notes. Several OHL players are playing for professional teams in the post-season. This past week, Jakub Petruzalek and Ryan Hamilton of the Barrie Colts, both joined AHL teams on amateur try-out contracts. Petruzalek, who was drafted by the NY Rangers in 2004, has joined the Hartford Wolf Pack. His signing to an ATO is no surprise given that the Rangers have only a few more weeks to sign him or they will lose all rights to Petruzalek. Hamilton, who has joined the Houston Aeros, went undrafted. His signing to an ATO is the result of a breakout overage season, where Hamilton scored 72 points (46 goals, 26 assists) in 63 games. The other OHLer who signed an ATO this week is goaltender Ryan McDonald, who also signed an ATO with Hartford. The Guelph Storm undrafted overager put up another year of great numbers (2.57 GAA and a save percentage of .907) and deserves a shot at professional hockey. At 5'9", 183, MacDonald may be too small to play at the AHL level, but I am glad he is being given a chance.

Lots of OHL awards were also announced this week, the most important of which was the Red Tilson Trophy for the OHL's Most Outstanding Player. Not surprisingly Brampton's Wojtek Wolski won the award. This kid has now achieved every possible accolade in juniors, except for CHL Most Valuable Player. Hopefully, that award will be forthcoming later this spring. Wolski has now rejoined the Colorado Avalanche, where he has scored 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 5 playoff games. Owen Sound's Andrej Sekera, a 2004 Buffalo Sabres third round pick, was just named the OHL's defenseman of the year. Sekera, a big offensive defenseman registered 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists), and a plus/minus of +15 in 51 games for the Attack this season.

More news on the WHL and the Q later this weekend.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Not much one can do when the free site that hosts this blog does not allow posts for a couple of days, but I apologize to my readers, and want to get on with the CHL News. A lot has happened over the last few days, as each league finished their playoff semi-finals.

At last writing, Vancouver was the only team that had advanced to the finals in the CHL. Last Friday night, Moose Jaw Warriors finished off the Medicine Hat Tigers by a score of 4-3 in the other WHL final. The game started off slowly, with no scoring at all in the first period. However, that was to change in the second period, when the teams scored a total of 5 goals. Moose Jaw winger Bjorn Svensson came out with a big stick, scoring two goals in the first 4:22 of the period. Then Medicine Hat's Kris Russell took advantage of a power play and put one past Warrior goalie Joey Perricone. Russell, a third round 2005 draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, had a great game, and was named the game's first star with 2 assists in addition to his second period goal. Each of Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat scored another goal, so that the teams went into the locker rooms at the end of the second period with the Warriors leading 3-2. Medicine Hat scored the tieing goal at 4:15 of the third period on a 4 on 3 power play. The game had an unlikely overtime hero in the person of Matthew Hansen, the overage defenseman who was recently traded from Red Deer. Since the early January trade, Hansen has become a very productive offensive player, registering 18 points ( 2 goals, 16 assists) in 23 regular games, while taking care of his own end (his plus/minus rating was +20). In the playoffs, the Friday night goal was his first, but he previously registered 4 assists. At 6'4", 205, Hansen should have no trouble transitioning to the professional game next season. The Warriors go on to play the Vancouver Giants in the WHL finals, which start in Vancouver on Friday evening.

Both of the OHL semi-final series ended on Friday night too. As expected, it will be Peterborough and London in the finals, but neither team had an easy time getting to the finals.

Peterborough finally woke up on Friday night and clobbered the Barrie Colts, 7-0. After winning all their previous games in overtime, it was about time the Petes played up to their talent level. The one problem I still see with Peterborough is their propensity to take penalties. But although the Petes took way too many penalties on Friday night, the difference in the game was their ability to shut Barrie down on the penalty kill. In 23 minutes of power play time, Barrie was not able to put one puck past Peterborough netminder David Shantz.

However, if Peterborough doesn't change its penalty-taking habit, it will be the death of the team in the finals against London.

London's series with Guelph also ended last Friday night. Although London dominated in the series, Friday's game was very different. If not for the incredible play of the Knight's winger Sergei Kostitsyn, London never would have won the game. Guelph led going into the third period by a score of 2-1, plus the Storm had a 5 on 3 advantage to start the period. Guelph's power play wasted no time opening a 2-goal lead, when winger Mike McLean took a pass from NY Islanders' prospect Jason Pitton and put it past the London netminder, Adam Dennis. That's when Kostitsyn really went to work. He already had a goal in the first period, and he added a second at 5:31 of the third period on feeds from Rob Schremp and Dylan Hunter. Hunter and David Bolland added two more goals to tie the game at the end of regulation. Kostitsyn had an assist on each. London took the first two penalties in the overtime period, but the Knights were able to kill it off. Guelph was not as successful on the penalty kill, when Tyler Doig took an interference penalty at 16:16 of OT. The mighty London power play, which had already converted on 2 of its first seven opportunities, went to work. Less than a minute later, at 17:09, Kostitsyn took a feed from Adam Perry and rammed it into the Guelph goal. Game and series were over in an instant. This comes as no surprise; what was surprising was that Guelph did so well. It is a credit to their hard work and excellent coaching staff.

Moncton and Quebec won their series, and the Remparts will meet the Wildcats in the QMJHL finals starting tomorrow night. In a game last Friday night, the Quebec Remparts beat the Acadie-Bathurst Titans by a score of 5-2. With the win, the Remparts went up in the series 3-2. Friday night's game was a showcase for Nashville Predators' 2005 first round pick Alexander Radulov, who provided 3 goals and 2 assists for his team on the night. He was all over the ice, showing his poise and finesse on every shift. This is nothing new. Radulov is a future star and has shown all he needs to in the Q, dominating the league this year (he was the regular season league leader in total points with 152). Look for Radulov to be playing professional hockey in the NHL next fall.

Acadie-Bathurst came bouncing right back Sunday afternoon, beating the Remparts by a score of 4-3. The game was close, although Acadie-Bathurst outshot the Remparts 54-29 in the game. Despite never leading in the game and being outshot by such a wide margin, Quebec almost came back to tie it in the third period. It was the performance of the Remparts' Mathieu Melanson that caught my eye. His play on Sunday afternoon was indicative of his overall excellent overage season. The 2003 Minnesota Wild draft pick was never signed; but the future looks brighter for him now, as in the 2005-06 regular season, Melanson posted 86 points (42 goals, 44 assists) in 59 games. He deserves to be picked up by a professional team this coming fall, and all indications are that he will be.

The seventh game of the series was played Tuesday night in Quebec's arena. In this game, Quebec showed why it was the frontrunner going into the series, in that the Remparts completely dominated the Titans, and won the game by a score of 8-1. Again Radulov was the first star of the game, scoring 2 goals and 2 assists. Melanson also made a large contribution scoring 2 goals in the game. However, there is one more player that I must give kudos to for playing very well in Tuesday's game. Jordan LaVallee had a disappointing year after being drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005. It was expected that LaVallee would put up some big numbers this past season, however, he was injured in training camp and spent a large part of the season nursing his back. He appears to be healthy now and played an excellent game on Tuesday night. With 2 goals and an assist, LaVallee was named the game's second star.

The other semi-final series in the Q was decided last Friday night when the Moncton Wildcats eliminated the Gatineau Olympiques form the playoff race. Moncton won the game by a score of 3-1 on Wildcats' winger Martins Karsums game winning goal. As the game was played in Gatineau and the attending press decided to give Gatineau players all three stars, Karsums' heroics were not given any attention, but they were noticed by this writer. Karsums was a second round 2004 pick by the Boston Bruins and he has taken some big leaps forward this season. His achievements include 65 points in 49 games, with 89 PIM, and a plus/minus of +25. Look for the Bruins to sign him over the next few weeks.