Friday, July 14, 2006

Two Weeks of CHL News

First of all, just 2 days ago all the rumors surrounding the sale of the OHL Mississauga Ice Dogs have been confirmed. Eugene Melnyk, current owner of the Toronto St. Michael's Majors (and part owner of the Ottawa Senators), has purchased the majority interest in the Ice Dogs. According to the CHL, over time, the Ice Dogs will be relocated to another market, at which time, it is expected that Melnyk will sell the team to local interests. Until then, the Ice Dogs will be held in a blind trust set up by Melnyk. When a new home for the Ice Dogs is found, the Majors will move to Mississauga. The CHL did not announce when this all would take place, however, I have found out that both teams will remain in their current locations the 2006-07 year, and then make the switch after this coming season. I am sure more will be revealed in the near future.

In other OHL news, the Barrie Colts' former overage left-winger Ryan Hamilton signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Minnesota Wild earlier this month. After completing his season with the Colts, the 21-year old played for the Wilds' AHL affiliate Houston Aeros (under an ATO) and was then signed by the Wild as a free agent. In 2005-06, Hamilton (6'2", 219) tallied 72 points in 63 games for the Colts.

WHL Tri-City defenseman Riley Emmerson also signed an entry level NHL contract with the Wild. The 6'8", 230lb Burnaby, British Columbia-native accumulated 109 PIM in 2005-06, while registering 1 goal and 1 assist in 66 games.

The Wild inked the third CHLer in a week, when Minnesota announced the signing of Vancouver Giants' defensemen Paul Albers to an entry-level contract. In Albers' overage 2005-06 season, he recorded 17 goals and 45 assists in 70 games. He led all WHL defenseman in goals, power play goals (13) and points, and the entire league in plus/minus with a +38. Never drafted, Albers signed a free agent contract.

The other Vancouver defenseman signed last week, Cody Franson, was inked by the Nashville Predators. A third round selection of the Predators (79 overall) in 2005, Franson tallied 55 points (15 goals, 40 assists) in 71 games last season.

Three members of the 2005-06 Erie Otters, Josh Disher, Jake Heller, and Chris Greene received ECHL qualifying offers from ECHL teams. Disher, 21 years old, just completed his third season in goal for the Otters. After playing in 54 games for Erie this past season (with a 3.75 GAA and .891 save percentage), Disher joined the AHL Albany River Rats for one game, and played two game for the Johnstown Chiefs, the organization that made him the qualified offer. Also given a qualified offer was 21-year old defenseman Jake Heller. Heller, a big aggressive defenseman, had also played with the Chiefs once his OHL season had completed. Twenty-year old tough guy winger Chris Greene received his offer from the Reading Royals (whom he had played for after the Otters were eliminated from playoff contention). The qualifying offers reserve the rights to the players; the offerees have until August 1, 2006 to sign these offers or the offer is null and void. However, even if the player does not sign the qualifying offer, the team that extends the offer retains the rights to that qualified player for one playing season.

The Montreal Canadiens announced the signing of two 2005 draft picks earlier this week. Mathieu Aubin, the QMJHL Lewiston MAINEiacs' 20-year old center, and Matt D'Agostini of the OHL Guelph Storm, were both signed to three-year entry level contracts. Aubin, the Canadiens 5th round selection (130 overall), had a breakout season in 2005-06. With 103 points in 70 games, Aubin led the MAINEics in points and was eleventh overall in the league in scoring. A very good face-off man, Aubin had a nearly 54% win percentage, and twenty-two of his 70 goals were on the power play. D'Agostini, a 19-year old smallish right winger (5'11", 170) was drafted in the sixth round (190 overall) of last year's draft. He also had an excellent season, with 79 points (25 goals, 54 assists) in 66 games. In 15 post-season games, D'Agostini recorded a team-leading 28 points in games against Saginaw, Plymouth and London.

The OHL Windsor Spitfires announced earlier this week that they have signed their 2006 first round OHL Priority Draft selection, Greg Nemisz. In 2005-06, Nemisz played with the Clarington Toros (OMHA Min. Midget), registering 53 points (29 goals, 24 assists) in 32 games.

This past week the PEI Rocket announced a trade with Rimouski, which will be approved by the league when trading begins again. The Rocket sent 20-year old defenseman Louis-Philippe Lachance to the Oceanic in return for Rimouski's 4th round pick (acquired from Bathurst) for the 2007 QMJHL Entry Draft. Lachance, who is eligible for an overage year in 2006-07, played in PEI for 2 seasons, including an excellent 2005-06 campaign. In 70 games, Lachance had 37 points and 136 PIM.

Speaking of trades, there was one in the WHL last week. The Kelowna Rockets traded 20-year-old netminder Derek Yeomans to the Seattle Thunderbirds in exchange for 20-year-old Clayton Barthel. Yeomans appeared in 50 games for the Rockets last season, with a 2.30 GAA and .914 save percentage. Barthel, an unsigned third round 2004 selection of the Washington Capitals, accumulated 19 points in 60 games for the T-Birds last season. Both Yeomans and Barthels are eligible for an overage season next year.

Two WHL trades that are about 2 weeks old involved the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In the first, Lethbridge acquired 17-year-old forward Josh Gionfriddo and a conditional draft pick from the Red Deer in exchange for the rights to list forward Aaron Marvin (who was selected by the Calgary Flames in the 3rd round [89 overall] of the 2006 entry draft). The second one had the Hurricanes acquiring left winger Adam Chorneyko from the Kamloops Blazers for a seventh round bantam pick in 2008. The 18-year old Chorneyko played the majority of the 2005-2006 season with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, recording 22 points in 39 games.