Monday, September 29, 2014

Portland finally lands Koules, also trims goaltender . . . Blazers add two coaches

Don't be looking for anything here for the next two or three days. We are heading for the hinterland where Internet coverage has been known to be awfully spotty -- in other words, keeping the laptop in the bag lowers the frustration level!
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The Seattle Thunderbirds added a key component to their roster on Sunday when the Montreal Canadiens returned D Evan Wardley, 20, to the WHL team. . . . Wardley's arrival left Seattle with four 20-year-olds, the others being F Justin Hickman, D Adam Henry and G Taran Kozun. . . . That was one over the limit, but the Thunderbirds dealt with that situation on Monday, as we shall see.
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With his Saskatoon Blades at 0-4, freshman general manager/head coach Bob Woods said on Sunday that no one in the organization is hitting the panic button. But he told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that the team isn't through making changes, explaining that he wanted to add a 20-year-old defenceman before Oct. 15.
On Monday, the Blades acquired that 20-year-old defenceman, getting Adam Henry from the Seattle Thunderbirds. By day's end, the Blades had traded away two defencemen, acquired one (Henry) and released two other players.
The Blades dealt D Turner Ottenbreit, 17, to Seattle for Henry.
Henry, from Winnipeg, turns 20 on Nov. 24. He was a third-round selection by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2009 bantam draft. Since then, he has played 176 regular-season games and has put up 76 points, 16 of them goals. The Hurricanes traded him to Seattle early last season; he recorded 38 points, seven of them goals, in 64 games with the Thunderbirds.
Ottenbreit, from Yorkton, Sask., was a 12th-round selection by the Blades in the 2012 bantam draft. The 6-foot-4, 180-pounder was pointless in 10 games with the Blades last season. This season, he has one goal in two games. He looked wobbly on Friday night after taking two shots to the chin from Brandon Wheat Kings F Jesse Gabrielle during a scrap and then was scratched from Saturday's game in Moose Jaw against the Warriors.
Henry's arrival leaves the Blades with three 20-year-olds, the others being F Sam McKechnie, another former Hurricanes player whom Saskatoon acquired from Seattle last week, and F Brett Stovin.
F Chase Clayton, 20, who had been on the Blades' roster, was one of the players released yesterday. From Abbotsford, Clayton also has played with the Calgary Hitmen. In 245 regular-season games, he has 84 points, including 32 goals. He was pointless in four games this season, after putting up 11 goals and 11 assists in 58 games with Saskatoon last season.
Also being released by Saskatoon was D Tyler Dea, a 19-year-old from St. Albert, Alta. He has three assists in 37 career games; he was pointless in two games this season.
Meanwhile, the Blades dealt D Ayrton Nikkel, 19, to the Swift Current Broncos for D Cole Bevan, 18, and a seventh-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft.
Bevan, a 6-foot-1, 208-pounder from Cloverdale, B.C., has two assists in 18 regular-season games with the Broncos. He was a 10th-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Nikkel, from Kelowna, also has played with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Everett Silvertips. He was pointless in three games with the Blades this season. In 173 career regular-season games, he has 34 points, including eight goals. A native of Kelowna, he was a second-round pick of the Blades in the 2010 bantam draft.
On Sunday, the Montreal Canadiens released F Nikita Scherbak from their training camp roster and he joined the Everett Silvertips. That completes the deal in which Scherbak moved to Everett from the Blades. Everett gave up G Nik Amundrud, 17, a first-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft and a second-rounder in 2016. The draft picks had been conditional on Scherbak being assigned to Everett.
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The Spokane Chiefs have acquired F Calder Brooks, 20, from the Prince Albert Raiders for a fifth-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . From Emerald Park, Sask., Brooks was an eighth-round pick by the Calgary Hitmen in the 2009 bantam draft. The Raiders acquired him from Calgary midway through last season. In 144 regular-season games, he has 68 points, including 26 goals. This season, he has a goal and an assist in two games. . . . The move leaves the Raiders with three 20s -- D Sawyer Lange, F Dakota Conroy and F Jayden Hart, who turns 20 on Dec. 14. . . . The Chiefs' roster now features four 20s, with Brooks joining F Connor Chartier, F Marcus Messier and F Liam Stewart.
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The Medicine Hat Tigers have traded F Miles Koules, 20, to the Portland Winterhawks for a fourth-round selection in the 2017 bantam draft. . . . Koules, from Los Angeles, had played 141 regular-season games with the Tigers, putting up 92 points, including 45 goals. Last season, he had 51 points, 25 of them goals, in 70 games. He has one goal in two games this season. He is the son of former WHLer Oren Koules (Portland, Great Falls Americans, Medicine Hat, Spokane Flyers, Calgary, Brandon, 1979-82). . . . If you are wondering who has Koules family bragging rights, Dad had 154 points, including 60 goals, in 179 regular-season games. . . . “It’s hard," Miles told Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News. "When you’re an older guy, you’re a leader and you just have to be up front and show the young guys that things are good. . . . But it’s alright, it’s good news to be going to a great team like that, but the Tigers are a great team as well.” . . . Originally, Koules's WHL rights were held by the Everett Silvertips. They dealt him to Medicine Hat for F Reid Petryk at the trade deadline during the 2011-12 season. Before that deal was made, there had been speculation that Koules would end up with Portland. . . . It is believed that Portland tried hard to acquire Koules, but that Doug Soetaert, then Everett's GM, wouldn't move him within the U.S. Division. . . . The Winterhawks now are carrying four 20s -- Koules, D Josh Hanson, F Travis McEvoy and D Joshua Smith, who turns 20 on Oct. 10. . . . It also is interesting that the Winterhawks' 27-man roster now includes 14 American-born players, although both those numbers will change on Tuesday (see next item). . . . The Tigers' roster now includes three 20s -- D Tyler Lewington, who will be 20 on Dec. 5, D Kyle Becker and G Marek Langhamer.
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The Portland Winterhawks got down to two goaltenders on Monday as they assigned Michael Bullion to the NAHL's Wenatchee, Wash., Wild. . . . Bullion, 17, is from Anchorage, Alaska. He played one regular-season game with Portland, giving up five goals on 33 shots. . . . Bullion, who split last season between the junior A Toronto Jr. Canadiens and the midget AAA Toronto Marlboros, was a ninth-round selection by the Winterhawks in the 2012 bantam draft. . . . The move leaves Portland with veteran Brendan Burke and newcomer Adan Hill, 18, as its goaltenders. Hill, from Calgary, was 4-0-0/1.65/.934 in four games last season with the Winterhawks; this season, he is 0-2-0/3.98/.905.
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The Kootenay Ice has released F Shane Allan, who turns 17 on Dec. 19, and D Mark O'Shaughnessy, 17. Allan will play for the midget AAA Calgary Royals, while O'Shaugnessy joins the BCHL's Vernon Vipers. . . . The Ice also released Russian F Alexander Chirva, 18. Chirva had six points, two of them goals, in 58 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors last season. This season, he had one goal in three games with the Ice. . . .After Chirva was released by the Warriors, the Ice selected him in the 2014 CHL import draft. . . . Kootenay is left with one import player, but Rssian D Rinat Valiev, who turns 19 on Oct. 5, is out for up to four weeks with an undisclosed injury. . . . Kootenay is carrying 23 players, including eight defencemen and 13 forwards. Included are two 20-year-olds -- F Levi Cable and F Austin Vetterl. . . . Asked about Chirva by Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman, Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth responded: "First of all, we expected more. Secondly, with some of our younger players, they might be behind him at this point, but by Christmas time they would be ahead of him and he’s taking ice time away from some of those younger players.” . . . As for having an import opening and a 20-year-old opening, Chynoweth told Rocca: “We’re just going to play it out. . . . We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks. As teams start to play more games and their numbers get set there’s going to be more players available. Whether they’re 20-year-olds or import players, there’s going to be some options to look at.” . . . The Ice also holds the rights to F Tim Bozon, 20, who is with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs and G Mackenzie Skapski (AHL-Hartford Wolf Pack). . . . Rocca's story is right here.
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Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald reports that Warriors D Austin Adam, who suffered a shoulder injury in a Saturday game, doesn't need surgery, but still might miss eight weeks. . . . Gourlie's story is right here.
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Bob McKenzie of TSN takes an early look right here at some players who remain in NHL camps but still are being watched closely by Canada's national junior team. That includes F Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings, who is having a solid camp with the NHL's Ottawa Senators.
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Larry Brooks of the New York Post has been watching with interest as NHL teams have been hiring numbers people who specialize in analytics. But, he wonders "why there isn’t more information available to an inquiring, inquisitive and educated public than exists in any forum that hasn’t been bought and paid for by NHL teams?" . . . Could it be that hockey has its head in the sand when it comes to marketing statistics to fans? . . . Brooks' piece is right here.
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The 42nd anniversary of Paul Henderson's winning goal in Game 8 of the Summit Series came and went on Sunday. Right here is a piece that Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun wrote two years ago, providing some inside info on the series.
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The Portland Winterhawks slipped to 0-5 as they were swept in a weekend doubleheader by the visiting Everett Silvertips. The Winterhawks are 0-5 for the first time since 1999-2000. . . .The Kamloops Blazers have added Terry Bangen and Chris Murray as part-time assistant coaches. Bangen, who also is an assistant coach with the UBC Thunderbirds, spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Blazers under head coaches Tom Renney and Don Hay. Murray played three seasons (1991-94) with the Blazers and was on two Memorial Cup-winning teams. He works full-time as a member of the Kamloops Fire Department. . . .
The Victoria Royals have signed G Griffen Outhouse, 16, who was added to their list in 2013. Outhouse, from Williams Lake, B.C., is playing for the major midget Cariboo Cougars, who play out of Prince George. He played last season with the POE U-16 team, going 2.88/.882 in 12 appearances. . . . Kamloops Blazers D Patrik Maier has been suspended for three games for a Friday night headshot on Victoria F Axel Blomqvist. Maier sat out Saturday's rematch in Victoria, which the Royals won 4-3 in OT. Blomqvist missed that game and Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Giants in Vancouver. . . .
Victoria D Ryan Gagnon was given a two-game suspension for a charging major he incurred in Friday's game against visiting Kamloops. He served his suspension by missing Saturday and Sunday games. . . . D Riley Hillis of the Tri-City Americans will sit for two games after being hit with a clipping major and game misconduct at Spokane on Saturday, while Chiefs D Tamas Laday got a one-game suspension for a charging major and game misconduct in the same game. . . . The major midget Okanagan Rockets' Twitter account revealed Monday that D Nolan Kneen will make his WHL debut with the host Kamloops Blazers against the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday. Kneen, from North Vancouver, was the third-overall selection in the 2014 bantam draft.
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nachbaur gets No. 600 . . . The Pope is a hall of famer!








D Tomáš Mojžíš (Moose Jaw, Seattle, 2000-03)has signed a contract with Pardubice (Czech Republic, Extraliga). The term is 'limited' as Mojžíš is looking for a contract with a team outside Czech Republic. Last season, with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), he had five goals and eight assists in 50 games.
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Ron Butlin, a former president of the WHL, died Wednesday at his home in Victoria. He was 89. . . . Daryl Slade of the Calgary Herald has more right here.
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Head coach Don Nachbaur earned his 600th WHL victory on Saturday night as his Spokane Chiefs got past the visiting Tri-City Americans, 3-2. . . . Nachbaur also has coached the Americans and the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . He is one of four men with at least 600 WHL coaching victories, the others being Ken Hodge, Don Hay and Lorne Molleken.
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There was some bad news for the Regina Pats from the camp of the NHL's Calgary Flames on Saturday. Flames head coach Bob Hartley told Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald that Regina F Morgan Klimchuk is "going to be off for a few weeks.” . . . Klimchuk, who had 30 goals and 44 assists in 57 games last season, injured his left wrist during an exhibition game on Wednesday when he jammed it into the boards following a check.
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The Regina Pats were without D Kyle Burroughs, their captain, for Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Raiders in Prince Albert. . . . Here's what Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reported after Friday's 7-1 Regina victory over the host Moose Jaw Warriors: "Pats captain Kyle Burroughs, in his first game back from New York Islanders training camp, left the contest late in the first period after being propelled into the boards on an unpenalized hit by Linden Penner. Burroughs, who was visibly disoriented while making his way to the bench, did not return."
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When the Kamloops Blazers met the Royals in Victoria on Saturday night, each team was missing one suspended player, both disciplined after incidents in Friday's 8-2 victory by the visitors. . . . Kamloops D Patrik Maier drew a tbd suspension for a third-period headshot major and game misconduct after he hit F Axel Blomqvist, who needed help leaving the ice. . . . Blomqvist didn't play in Saturday's rematch. . . . Victoria D Ryan Gagnon also earned a tbd suspension after he took a second-period charging major and game misconduct.
Meanwhile, the WHL also suspended Portland Winterhawks D Keoni Texeira for one game for a headshot major and game misconduct in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Giants in Vancouver, and F Luc Smith of the Regina Pats got one game for a charging major and game misconduct in Saturday's 7-1 victory in Moose Jaw.
On Saturday, during Portland's 5-1 loss to the visiting Everett Silvertips, Winterhawks D Paul Bittner was hit with a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct, so he almost certainly is facing a suspension. . . . Everett was 1-for-10 on the PP in that one, while Portland was 1-for-1.
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Who are the top 10 Moose Jaw Warriors' players of all-time? Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald tackles that question right here. You're right . . . there isn't any doubt about No. 1.
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Liam O'Brien has plenty of experience in the QMJHL and now he's writing a column about it all for Sportsnet. It's an interesting read as he touches on a lot of aspects of the major junior game. Check it out right here. . . . Interestingly, O'Brien is in camp with the Washington Capitals right now and apparently is showing well enough that he may get a contract.
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Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail has an interesting piece right here on head coach Mike Johnston as he prepares for his first regular season with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins.
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If you read just one piece on the retirement of Derek Jeter, make it this one by ESPN's J.R. Moehringer. It is a terrific piece of writing and it's right here.
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According to Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province, the Vancouver Giants "are waiting for more info from doctors on winger Jakob Stukel, who left Friday's win after two periods with an apparent hand injury." . . . On Friday, the Giants beat the visiting Portland Winterhawks, 5-3. . . . The Saskatoon Blades scratched D Turner Ottenbreit for Saturday's 7-1 loss to the Warriors in Moose Jaw. He took a couple of shots to the jaw during a bout with F Jesse Gabrielle of the host Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday night. . . .
The Moose Jaw Warriors lost D Austin Adam to an injury during Saturday's 7-1 victory over the visiting Saskatoon Blades. Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald tweeted that the injury "sounds relatively serious. He left the game in the first period and seemed to be favouring (a) shoulder." . . . Warriors head coach Tim Hunter told Gourlie: "It's an upper body injury and it's going to be a little while." . . .
D Kord Pankewicz of the Brandon Wheat Kings scored his first WHL goal on Saturday in a 5-2 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. Pankewicz, in his third WHL season, was playing his 88th regular-season game. . . . RG Properties, which owns the Victoria Royals, and Save-On-Foods have agreed to a 10-year extension on their agreement that includes a number of things, including the naming rights to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The partnership began in 2004 and now will run through 2024.
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Congrats to old friend Larry Popein on his incuction into the Yorkton Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night. If you aren't familiar with the Pope's exploits, check him out at hockeydb.com.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Group wants team to drop logo . . . Blades make deal with Thunderbirds



Alan Caldwell, the guru and sole proprietor of Small Thoughts At Large, has struck again. He has put together a spreadsheet that details each WHL team and the draft picks it owns and the ones it has traded away. . . . You will find it right here, and he wants you to contact him if you spot any errors.
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Considering what transpired at the U of North Dakota (remember the Fighting Sioux and the logo?) and what is happening these days with the NFL franchise in Washington, D.C., and its nickname, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that someone has demanded the Portland Winterhawks should dump their logo.
“Mascotry has to stop,” Jackie Keeler, a Portland activist, member of the Navajo and Yankton Dakota Sioux Tribes, and founder of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, told Colin Miner of golocalpdx.com.
Graham Kendrick, the Winterhawks' director of media and public relations, told Miner that the team had yet to officially hear anything on this subject, so didn't feel it was appropriate to comment.
Miner's story is right here.
Neate Sager of Yahoo! Sports Canada has a look at the situation right here.
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The Saskatoon Blades have acquired F Sam McKechnie, 20, from the Seattle Thunderbirds for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . McKechnie had been acquired by Seattle from the Lethbridge Hurricanes early last season. In 67 games with Seattle, he had seven goals and 11 assists. In 212 regular-season games, he has 92 points, including 46 goals. . . . McKechnie isn't expected to play for the Blades on Friday night in Brandon or Saturday in Moose Jaw, as he is in transit. . . . The Blades have released G Michael Herringer, 18, from their roster, so will go with Trevor Martin, 18, and Nik Amundrud, 17, at least for now. Martin is expected to start in Brandon, with Amundrud getting the call in Moose Jaw. . . . Herringer was acquired last week from the Victoria Royals for undisclosed conditional bantam draft picks, but didn't play in either of Saskatoon's first two games. . . . The Thunderbirds now have four 20-year-olds, one over the limit. The four are D Adam Henry, who turns 20 on Nov. 24, F Justin Hickman, D Evan Wardley and G Taran Kozun. . . . Saskatoon's 20s right now are McKechnie, F Chase Clayton and F Brett Stovin, who will be 20 on Oct. 31.
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The Prince Albert Raiders have promoted Kelly Guard to the position of full-time assistant coach, replacing Tim Leonard, who cited personal reasons in resigning on Wednesday. Guard has been with the Raiders for two seasons as their goaltending/strength and conditioning coach. . . . Guard played two seasons with the Kelowna Rockets (2002-04), backstopping them to the 2004 Memorial Cup title. In 2003-04, he set the WHL record for lowest regular-season GAA (1.56), a record that still stands. With Kelowna, he wore big white pads upon which, I once wrote, you would be able to ski. . . . The Raiders also released D Ryan Coghlan, who turns 19 on Oct. 31. He was acquired last season from the Saskatoon Blades. From Nanaimo, B.C., he is expected to play in the BCHL. . . . Leonard has returned to the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos, as their head coach. He replaces Ken Morrison, who resigned earlier in the week. Morrison led the Mintos to a national championship last spring. Andrew Schopp of the Prince Albert Daily Herald has that story right here.
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The Portland Winterhawks have two players remaining in NHL camps, what with word that G Brendan Burke is on his way back from the Arizona Coyotes. F Nic Petan remains with the Winnipeg Jets and F Oliver Bjorkstand still is with the Columbus Blue Jackets. When NHL camps opened, the Winterhawks were missing nine players.
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The Coyotes also returned Czech G Marek Langhamer, 20, to the Medicine Hat Tigers. That leaves the Tigers with two 20-year-old goaltenders, the other being Jared Rathjen, who was acquired over the summer from the Vancouver Giants. . . . However, Rathjen continues to undergo medical testing for a heart condition that was detected at the opening of training camp. . . . The Tigers' other import is sophomore German F Markus Eisenschmid, 19. . . . Langhamer's arrival also leaves the Tigers with five 20-year-olds, the others being D Kyle Becker, D Tyler Lewington, F Miles Koules and Rathjen. . . . Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News also has reported that Tigers F Anthony Ast has suffered a wrist injury and will require surgery. Ast, 19, was acquired last season from the Vancouver Giants. He had 17 points, 12 of them goals, in 27 games with the Tigers. He has battled injuries throughout his WHL career, playing 52 games last season, 38 in 2012-13 and 42 in 2011-12.
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Meanwhile, Arizona has returned Latvian F Edgars Kulda to the Edmonton Oil Kings, leaving them with three imports, one over the limit. Also on Edmonton's roster are veteran Danish F Mads Eller, 19, and Russian rookie D Marsel Ibragimov. . . . The Oil Kings will have to trade Kulda or Eller, or release Ibragimov. CHL rules prevent the trading of an import player during his first season. . . . Furthermore, Kulda turns 20 on Nov. 13, so his arrival leaves the Oil Kings with four 20s, the others being D Blake Orban, D Ashton Sautner and G Tyler Santos. . . . Santos is one of three goaltenders on Edmonton's roster, joining starter Tristan Jarry, 19, and freshman Patrick Dea, 17.
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F Morgan Klimchuk of the Regina Pats remains in camp with the NHL's Calgary Flames, but he left a Wednesday night exhibition game with an injury to his left hand or wrist after jamming it against the boards following a check. Klimchuk was in the lineup because F Mason Raymond was scratched with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed F Branden Klatt, 16, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. From Moose Jaw, he is into his second season with the midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals. . . .
Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix tweeted Thursday night that "former Saskatoon Blades F Logan Harland is joining Acadie-Bathurst of the QMJHL, per his agent." Harland, 19, was released by the Blades last week. . . . The Everett Silvertips and Fox Sports 1380 have renewed their broadcast for five more years. The deal runs through 2018-19. Everett's games have been on the same radio station since 2003-04, its first season in the WHL. Travis Huntington is back for a fourth season as the play-by-play voice of the Silvertips.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WHL: Coaching news and player moves

As you may have guessed, I'm away for a bit. We have been celebrating the first anniversary of Dorothy's kidney transplant. Yes, a good time is being had by all. . . . I will be back on a regular basis late next week but, for now, here's an attempt at catching up on a few things:








F Lukáš Vantuch (Calgary, Lethbridge, 2005-07) signed a contract through Nov. 5 with Landshut (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with Landshut, he had 49 points, including 17 goals, in 53 games. He had been on a tryout with Dusseldorf (Germany, DEL) in August but didn't win a contract. . . .
F Antonín Honejsek (Moose Jaw, 2009-11) has been assigned on loan by the Espoo Blues (Finland, Liiga) to Kiekko-Vantaa (Finland, Mestis). This season, with the Blues, he had one goal in two games while averaging nine minutes of ice time per game. . . .
D Patrik Vrána (Moose Jaw, Prince George, 2006-07) was released by Cracovia Krakow (Poland, Ekstraliga) by mutual agreement. Last season, with Polonia Bytom (Poland, Ekstraliga), he had four goals and seven assists in 32 games.
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The Kamloops Blazers have added Mike Needham to their coaching staff, replacing associate coach Mark Ferner, who resigned this week and now is the general manager and head coach with the BCHL's Vernon Vipers. . . . Ferner was in his second season back with the Blazers. . . . Needham, who has been working at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton. For the past three seasons, he has been the head coach of OHA's bantam prep team. . . . At the same time, Needham has worked as the Blazers' skills coach. . . . Needham played three seasons (1987-90) with the Blazers and is the father of Blazers captain Matt Needham. . . . OHA commitments will keep Mike from joining the Blazers until Monday. . . . Ferner, meanwhile, is a familiar face in Vernon where he coached the Vipers to three straight BCHL titles and won the 2009 and 2010 RBC Cups as national champions. . . . Any chance of Ferner becoming the Blazers' head coach went by the wayside in January when the team brought back Guy Charron as head coach following the departure of Dave Hunchak. If there was any doubt after that, it disappeared when Don Hay returned to Kamloops as the Blazers' head coach over the summer. Hay had spent the past 10 seasons as head coach of the Vancouver Giants. . . . In Vernon, Ferner takes over from Jason Williamson, who resigned as GM/head coach citing personal reasons. . . .

The Kamloops Blazers' roster is at 26 after they released F Mitch Friesen, 18, on Wednesday. From Surrey, B.C., Friesen had a goal and two assists in 21 games last season. He has a goal and three assists in 68 regular-season games. . . . He was a fourth-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft. . . . Kamloops now is carrying three goaltenders, eight defencemen and 15 forwards. . . . That number includes F Mike Winther, 20, who was acquired from the Calgary Hitmen for a fourth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft and a sixth-rounder in 2017. Winther was selected by the Prince Albert Raiders with the sixth-overall pick of the 2009 bantam draft. He was later dealt to Calgary and now is into his fifth WHL season. . . . In 231 regular-season games, the native of Trochu, Alta., has 142 points, including 70 goals. Last season, injuries limited him to 31 games. He had 26 points, including seven goals. A second-round pick by the Dallas Stars in the NHL's 2012 draft, Winther didn't sign and now is a free agent. . . . The Blazers also have D Brady Gaudet and G Bolton Pouliot as 20s. They also own the WHL rights to veteran F Chase Souto, 20, but his career is in doubt because of concussion-related issues. . . .

The Everett Silvertips have traded F Zane Jones, 20, to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a fourth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. Jones, from Olds, Alta., was a fifth-round selection by the Chilliwack Bruins in the 2009 bantam draft. He has 104 points, including 48 goals, in 192 regular-season games split between Everett, the Calgary Hitmen, Victoria Royals and Chilliwack. Last season, he had 24 points, 11 of them goals, in 42 games with Calgary and two goals and two assists in 11 games with Everett. . . . The deal leaves Lethbridge with four 20-year-olds, the others being D Tyler Bell and D Nick Walters and F Riley Sheen, who turns 20 on Dec. 21. . . . WHL teams have to declare a maximum of three 20-year-olds by Oct. 15. . . . The Silvertips are down to three -- D Ben Betker, who turns 20 on Sept. 29, F Brayden Low and F Kohl Bauml, who will be 20 on Nov. 25. . . .

The Regina Pats acquired Ukrainian F Pavel Padakin, 20, from the Calgary Hitmen for a third-round selection in the 2017 bantam draft. Padakin is a two-spotter -- a 20-year-old import. To make room for him, Regina released sophomore F Max Kammerer, who is from Germany. . . . Padakin was to have played in the KHL this season, but after he signed with HC Donbass Donetsk, it took a leave from the league due to the political situation there. . . . Last season, Padakin had 54 points, 27 of them goals, with the Hitmen. The previous season, as a freshman, he had 22 goals and 16 assists in 70 games. He scored in his only game with Calgary this season. . . . Regina also has four other 20s on its roster -- F Logan McVeigh, F Chandler Stephenson, F Braden Christoffer and F Patrick D'Amico. Stephenson is expected to play in the Washington Capitals' organization. . . . Regina's other import is Russian D Sergey Zborovskiy, a 17-year-old freshman. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has written a terrific feature on Padakin in which he talks about the situation in Ukraine. As this is written, the feature isn't on the newspaper's website, but it should be right here sometime Thursday morning. . . .

The Hitmen are left with three 20-year-olds -- F Connor Rankin, F Adam Tambellini and D Kenten Helgesen. . . . After the New York Rangers returned Tambellini, Alan Caldwell of Small Thoughts At Large tweeted: "If I'm not mistaken, the return of Adam Tambellini to the WHL means the Hitmen owe the Winterhawks a 2015 4th round pick." . . . Calgary also is down to two imports in sophomore Russian F Radel Fazleev, 18, and freshman Pavel Karnaukhov, a 17-year-old Belarussian. . . .

On Wednesday night, the Calgary Hitmen announced that they have dealt F Linden Penner, 19, to the Moose Jaw Warriors for a conditional sixth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. From Sherwood Park, Alta., Penner was a 10th-round selection by the Saskatoon Blades in the 2010 bantam draft. He has four goals and four assists in 41 regular-season WHL games. All the points came in 39 games with Calgary last season. He also has played one game with the Everett Silvertips. He was pointless in one game with the Hitmen this season. . . .

The Warriors had two veteran players -- F Scott Cooke, 20, and F Brandon Potomak, 19 -- leave them after spending a lot of Saturday's home-opener on the team's fourth line. Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has that story right here. . . . Cooke's departure leaves the Warriors with three 20-year-olds -- F Tanner Eberle, F Jack Rodewald and F Jaimen Yakubowski. . . . Eberle still is in camp with the Montreal Canadiens. . . .

The Prince Albert Raiders are expected to announce the signing of a new assistant coach on Thursday. That moves follows the announcement on Wednesday that Tim Leonard has stepped down for personal reasons. He was into his third season with the Raiders. Leonard, who had a long and successful run as head coach of the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos, joined the Raiders in March 2012. He now has rejoined the Mintos' coaching staff. . . .

The Saskatoon Blades dealt Russian F Nikita Scherbak, their leading scorer from last season, to the Everett Silvertips for G Nik Amundrud, 17, and two conditional bantam draft picks -- a first-rounder in 2015 and a second-rounder in 2016. Scherbak is in camp with the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him with the ?? pick of the NHL's 2014 draft. If Scherbak doesn't end up in Everett, the Silvertips keep both draft picks. . . . Had Scherbak been returned to the Blades, it would have left them with three imports. They added Russian F Nikita Soshnin, 17, and Swedish D Amil Krupic, 19, in the 2014 CHL import draft. CHL rules allow each team to keep two import players, but a team is allowed to draft a third if one of their imports is a first-round NHL selection. However, those same rules don't allow the trading of freshmen imports, so in order to keep Scherbak, the Blades would have had to release Soshnin or Krupic. . . . The Silvertips may find themselves in the same kind of jam, as they also have D Marco Mueller, who is in camp with the San Jose Sharks. He was the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft. Right now, Russian F Ivan Nikolishin, an 18-year-old sophomore, is the only import in Everett. . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has more right here. . . . Should Scherbak end up in Everett, it would shed a whole different light on the Western Conference. The Silvertips have been wondering from where the goals will come; thus, they made the move on Scherbak. There's more right here from Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald.

If you missed it, Elliotte Friedman's latest blog posting, 30 Thoughts, is right here. The top is especially interesting because it deals with the fact that NHL teams are starting to wonder if players are spending too much off-season time working out.
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The Kootenay Ice will be without D Rinat Valiev for up to four weeks. He was in camp with the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs when he suffered an undisclosed injury and underwent surgery. Apparently, the injury isn't considered to be overly serious. . . . Three WHL teams have each been fined $500 for becoming involved in multiple-fight situations. The Seattle Thunderbirds and the Winterhawks went at it on Sept. 19 in Portland. The host Tri-City Americans drew a fine, while the Prince George Cougars didn't, for an incident in Kennewick Wash., on Sunday. . . . F Tyler Wong of the Lethbridge Hurricanes was hit with a three-game suspension for incurring a headshot major and game misconduct on Saturday in Medicine Hat. . . .
The Saskatoon Blades will be without F Ryan Graham, 18, after he was found to have mononucleosis while in camp with the NHL's Minnesota Wild. He won't play until sometime in October. . . . Matthew Liebenberg of the Prairie Post has an in-depth look right here at the financial picture presented by the Swift Current Broncos during the franchise's annual general meeting.

So far, so good for Vrbata and Sedins

Dickson Liong

The pre-season is experiment-time for Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
No matter who is coaching the Canucks, one of the tasks on the list is to decide who will play with the Sedin twins.
When Alain Vigneault was the head coach, he was able to do that successfully by putting Alex Burrows, then 27, in that role in 2008-09.
It has hardly changed since, and understandably so.
After all, while he was on that line, the Sedins were able to do things they had never done. In 2009-10, Henrik finished with 112 points, including 83 assists. By doing so, he won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer and the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
Meanwhile, Burrows led the Canucks with 35 goals as he finished with 67 points.
The next season, it was Daniel's turn to do the same as his brother. He led the NHL with 104 points and won the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player as voted by the NHLPA.
However, the trio started to break down last season.
The Sedins, who had been consistently healthy throughout their careers, suffered injuries that were longer than just day-to-day. The injuries resulted in Henrik and Daniel being out of the lineup for 12 and nine games, respectively.
But even when they were in the lineup, Henrik  finished with only 50 points and Daniel with 47, career lows for both.
It doesn't stop there, though.
The injury bug hit Burrows, too, as he dressed for just 49 games and scored only five goals.
It was time for the newly hired brass of Trevor Linden, the president of hockey operations, and general manager Jim Benning to attempt to find a solution.
Two days after the July 1 opening of free-agent season, they believe they were able to find one when they signed unrestricted free-agent forward Radim Vrbata to a two-year deal worth US$10 million.
Prior to joining the Canucks, he had played for the Phoenix Coyotes for the past five seasons. The best of those was 2011-12, when he scored 35 goals.
Vancouver not only added a player who can score, but he is a right-hand shot, something that Burrows isn't.
The Canucks have stated openly that they want Vrbata to play on the first line with the Sedins. But the thing is, nobody had seen them play together in a competitive game.
That changed on Tuesday, as the Canucks played host to the San Jose Sharks in one of two split-squad pre-season games.
“Well, I think every time you start the pre-season anywhere, it's important to get into game situations and get used to hitting again,” Vrbata said prior to the game. "I don't think it matters too much if you are on a new team or an old team.
"It was a long summer without real hockey and as I said, you want to prepare yourself for the regular season. So that's why the pre-season is important. That's where it all shows. It's all good that you feel good in a practice or scrimmages or power-play practices, but I'm looking forward to playing the game to see we are at.”
How did Henrik feel?    
“It's going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “It's been a good feeling from the get-go, on and off the ice. Mostly on the power play, he's going to be a big help for us. So we'll see. It's going to be a work in progress and we're going to take it day-by-day and try to get better. I'm sure there is a lot of things we need to talk about after the game, but that's the way it should be.”
Of course, it remains to be seen if Vrbata will have chemistry with the Sedins, something that is necessary for any winger playing with the twins.
"I think just chemistry,” Henrik said. “To see how we read each other and so far in practice it's been nothing but good. We're excited, I hope he is and, like I said, we'll take it day-by-day here.”
The Canucks defeated the Sharks 3-2, and Henrik was impressed with the new trio.
“I thought it felt good,” Henrik stated. “There are things that we can work on but I mean, for the first game together, right from the get-go, we had some good chemistry. He was close to scoring some goals. In the second period, we didn't have a lot of shifts five-on-five, but in the third, we had a good third period as well.”
Doug Lidster, one of the Canucks' assistant coaches, also was impressed.
“They had a shift I recall in the third period where they showed quite a bit of zone time and control and stuff like that,” he said “I thought that kind of fed the rest of our guys and I thought that was kind of a momentum changer for us, so they did real well.”
Despite that, it remains a learning process for Vrbata.
“It's always good to get a win and start the season right,” he stated. “It was the first pre-season game so I think it was tough for everybody to kind of get into it after a long summer. I think it was a good start and we can build from here. We had some good shifts and some good looks. Unfortunately, nothing went in. But we can learn from this game and look at the shifts we had and try to see what should have been differently.
“First game we learn, and we'll be better next game.”

(Dickson Liong is Taking Note's Vancouver correspondent)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Broncos put up some big numbers . . . Arling era draws to close

The Swift Current Broncos’ board of directors has revealed that the franchise showed a profit of $197,244 for 2013-14.
The announcement was made Thursday night at the team’s annual general meeting.
“It’s been a long road from where we started,” said board chairman Liam Choo Foo in a news release, noting that the starting point four years ago was a $200,000 deficit.
The Broncos play in the smallest market in the 60-team Canadian Hockey League.
“We’ve seen continual growth and we’re optimistic about where we’re going,” he continued, “but by no means are we done working towards where we need to get to”.
Later, Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Broncos, tweeted: “The bad news is that attendance was down (59) a game, but good walk-ups paying higher prices and higher concession sales made up for that.”
The Broncos averaged 2,119 fans per game last season, good for 21st in a 22-team league. That was down from 2,178 in 2012-13.
The Broncos have two new directors -- Shane Lacasse, an accountant/partner at Stark and Marsh Chartered Accountants LLP and former Broncos F Jeff Kirwan (1993-98). He is the crop inputs manager at SWT.
The meeting also marked the end of an era as the board announced that “Joe Arling . . . will be stepping down after almost 20 years of dedicated service.”
Say it ain’t so, Joe!
While Arling has been with the Broncos, in one role or another, including chairman, for almost 20 years, he has been around the WHL for a whole lot longer than that.
He played a bit for the Saskatoon Blades in 1970-71, but made a much bigger mark as a coach, working on the staffs of the Billings Bighorns and the Blades.
And a whole lot of hockey people know him as the owner of the Swift Motel. Oh, the stories that have been told around that table!
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The WHL, which most times follows the suit of the NHL when it comes to rule changes, has banned the spin-o-rama move from the shootout and from penalty shots during regulation or overtime.
A spin-o-rama is defined as a “360-degree turn.”
Thankfully, the WHL also has done away with the dry scrape prior to the onset of overtime that it had experimented with during the exhibition season. Instead, a dry scrape will be done through the middle of the ice only prior to a shootout, as in recent seasons.
There also have been a number of changes regarding faceoffs that ensue from pucks ending up out of play.
Now . . . faceoffs will be held in the attacking zone if a shot at the net deflects off a post or crossbar and out of play; if a shot at the goal breaks a pane of glass; if a shot at the net goes off the side of the net and out of play; if a shot at the net goes off the dasher or glass and out of play; if a shot at the net is deflected out of play by a teammate; and if a shot at the net becomes wedged in or on the exterior of that net.
Prior to this, everything hinged on the last player to have touched the puck. If an attacking player had the last touch, the faceoff was moved outside the zone; if a defending player or the goaltender had the last touch, the faceoff was inside the zone.
Among other rule changes announced by the WHL on Thursday:
1. Teams will change ends prior to the start of the five-minute OT period.
2. Should a game need a shootout, teams again will change ends before it begins.
3. Tripping will be called if a player dives and trips an attacking player, regardless of whether he makes contact with the puck.
The complete news release is right here.
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I had been hoping the WHL would do more to crack down on checking from behind and checks to the head. But, unfortunately . . . crickets.
I fear that checking-from-behind minors have become just another penalty, like slashing, elbowing and cross-checking.
During the 66-game exhibition season, referees handed out 29 checking-from-behind minor penalties and one major penalty. That should be considered unacceptable, and it’s time something more was done to get this nasty play out of the game.
Maybe it’s time for the WHL to do what USA Hockey has done and endorse the Look-Up Line. Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times describes it as “an orange warning track painted on the ice designed to reduce paralyzing neck injuries that could result from collisions into the boards.” That line is 40 inches wide.
As Klein wrote, “Its goal is to warn players to use caution when giving and receiving checks in the danger area close to the boards.”
During those same WHL exhibition games, there were 13 minor penalties and one major penalty called for headshots. Again, that is just too many.
BTW, there were 30 fighting majors handed out during those 66 games. Of course, each fighting major carried with it an automatic game misconduct.
That works out to less than one fight (0.45) every two games.
Last season, according to the numbers at hockeyfights.com, there were 679 fights during the regular season, which works out to 0.86 per game.
Tack on the automatic game misconduct, then, and it would appear that fighting in the WHL is cut almost in half.
Maybe it’s time the WHL pooh-bahs gave that some thought.
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The WHL also issued a reminder about its new playoff format, something that it first announced in June.
If you need a refresher, the news release that was issued yesterday is right here.
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Over the past few days, The Oregonian has been counting down the 25 greatest players in the history of the Portland Winterhawks. Portland freelancer Scott Sepich unveils No. 1 right here, while a complete list is right here. . . . Lists like these are always subjective and they’re usually done in the hopes of prompting discussion. So just let me say that I would have had Perry Turnbull a lot higher than No. 13 and, yes, Troy Mick would have been higher than No. 22. If Dennis Holland is No. 2, and that’s fine, then Mick has to be in the top 10.
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Most, if not all, WHL teams will be missing key players as the regular season opens tonight. Those players are in NHL training camps. Daniel Nugent-Bowman points out that it really isn’t fair to the WHL teams because the points on the line at this time of the season can be awfully important come March. . . . He also ponders what can be done about this situation. . . . His column is right here.
BTW, the Calgary Hitmen have nine players off their roster at NHL camps. It isn’t known if any of those players will be back as they begin the franchise’s 20th season on Saturday against the visiting Red Deer Rebels. But it’s safe to say that the Hitmen roster a month from now will look somewhat different than what it is right now.
Laurence Heinen has more right here from the Calgary Herald.
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If you are a WHL fan, you know that there are numerous regular-season previews available in print and on the Internet. That includes the Eastern and Western Conference previews that have appeared on this blog.
But they all pale compared to the preview put together by Cody Nickolet over at the WHL From Above blog.
Give it a look right here.
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Here’s an interesting note from James Shewaga, the sports editor of the Brandon Sun:
“The boys from Brandon give the Wheat Kings plenty of homegrown talent on this year’s roster. In fact, if they all stick this season, Brandonites could fill six of the 12 forward spots in the lineup on any given night, with Tyler Coulter, Brett Kitt, Tanner Kaspick, Duncan Campbell, Ty Lewis (currently injured) and Jesse Gabrielle, whose family moved to the Wheat City a year ago. The ‘Brandon’ Wheat Kings, indeed.”
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While things certainly appear to be looking up in Swift Current, that’s not the case in Prince Albert where Raiders GM Bruno Campese said Wednesday that the team lost money in 2014, something that will be confirmed at the annual general meeting on Sept. 29.
Darryl Mills, the managing editor of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, addresses the Raiders’ situation right here, and he compares it when Winnipeg lost the Jets to Phoenix.
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The Calgary Flames have returned D Eric Roy to the Brandon Wheat Kings. But he has a shoulder injury and could be out for two weeks. . . . The Saskatoon Blades were missing D Ayrton Nikkel and F Wyatt Sloboshan at practice on Thursday. Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports that both are ill and questionable for tonight’s opener in Prince Albert against the Raiders. . . .
With the teachers’ strike having been settled in B.C., and school scheduled to resume on Monday, the Vancouver Giants have announced “that in celebration . . . any school-aged child who is accompanied by an adult to Saturday’s season-opener against the Victoria Royals will get into the game for free.” Visit the Giants’ website for details. . . .
Bobby Henderson, the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen, has agreed to a five-year contract extension that takes him through 2018-19. Last season, his second with the Rivermen, they went 37-13-3-5, for the BCHL’s best regular-season record. . . . The Portland Winterhawks go into the regular season missing two defencemen -- Blake Heinrich has a brain injury, while Josh Hanson is nursing a broken knuckle.

WHL Western Conference preview . . .






The WHL’s 49th regular-season gets started tonight (Friday).
Here is a look at the Western Conference’s 10 teams, courtesy of reporters who cover the WHL (teams appear in order of last season‘s finish):

KELOWNA ROCKETS
Last season: 57-11-4; first in B.C. Division, first in Western Conference; lost in third round of playoffs.
Head coach: Dan Lambert (first season, sixth with Kelowna).
Assistant coaches: Kris Mallette (first season), Travis Crickard
(goaltending coach, first season).
Key losses: Leading scorer F Myles Bell (42G, 77P), F Ryan Olsen
(30-34-64), No. 1 D Damon Severson and G Jordon Cooke (Kelowna’s MVP).
The 20-year-olds: D Cole Martin of Texas, who’s a lock as an over-ager, F Tyrell Goulbourne, F Carter Rigby and F Colton Heffley.
The imports: Swiss F Kris Schmidli, 18, returns for a second season. Kelowna’s second import is 6-foot-3 Czech rookie F Tomas Soustal, 17.
Key returnees: D Madison Bowey, the captain; Martin, one of seven returnees on defence; Goulbourne, with his physical presence; F Rourke Chartier, 18, and F Nick Merkley, 17. Chartier was sixth in team scoring (24-34-58) while Merkley, as a rookie, was fifth (25-33-58).
New faces: D Lucas Johansen, 16, the younger brother of NHLer Ryan Johansen; F Dillon Dube, 16, who joined Kelowna in the playoffs and appeared in one game; and F Tanner Wishnowski, who played last season with the Okanagan Rockets of the B.C. Major Midget League.
Watch for: Kelowna’s depth to wear down the opposition, much like last season. The Rockets don’t have any true game-breakers, but they should have plenty of 20- to 30-goal scorers.
Noteworthy: No fewer than 18 players are projected to return from last season’s roster. That team set franchise records for most victories and points in a season. . . . Kelowna had 10 players invited to NHL camps this fall.
Did you know: This will be the Rockets’ 20th season in Kelowna since
relocating from Tacoma, Wash., in the summer of 1995.
The prognosis: With a large cast of returning players, especially on the blue line, take Kelowna to win a third consecutive B.C. Division
pennant.
— DOYLE POTENTEAU/Kelowna The Daily Courier
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PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS
Last season: 54-13-5; first in U.S. Division, seeded second in Western Conference, lost in WHL final.
Head coach: Jamie Kompon (first season as coach; also is GM).
Assistant coaches: Kyle Gustafson (11th season), Keith McKittrick (first season)
Key losses: F Brendan Leipsic and F Taylor Leier to the AHL; D
Derrick Pouliot and D Mathew Dumba could play in the NHL; D Garrett Haar, F Adam Rossignol and G Corbin Boes graduated; F Adam de Champlain, 20, opted for the AJHL.
The 20-year-olds: Former Prince George D Josha Smith joins
holdover D Josh Hanson, who suffered a broken knuckle in the exhibition season. There is room, then, for one more.
The imports: Danish F Oliver Bjorkstrand returns after scoring 50
goals last season, along with Swedish D Anton Cederholm.
Key returnees: F Nicolas Petan has 233 points over the last two
seasons, and should play on a line with 2015 draft prospect Paul
Bittner and Bjorkstrand. 2014 NHL draftees F Chase De Leo, F Alex Schoenborn, F Keegan Iverson and F Dominic Turgeon also are back, along with D Keoni Texeira and D Layne Viveiros. G Brendan Burke will get another chance to be the clear No. 1 goaltender.
New faces: Minnesota-born D-men Nick Heid and Blake Heinrich have left the NCAA track to come to the WHL. Heinrich starts the season on the shelf (concussion). Forwards Alex Overhardt, Skyler McKenzie and Colton Veloso also could make an impact, along with backup G Adin Hill.
Watch for: Can the Winterhawks make another deep playoff run without an elite defenceman, or will they pull another rabbit out of the hat and land a first-round talent via trade?
Noteworthy: The Winterhawks are aiming to be the first team in WHL
history to play in five consecutive league finals.
Did you know: Portland could have as many as 13 U.S.-born players play for it this season.
The prognosis: Mike Johnston is gone, but the Winterhawks should be dominant offensively yet again. The key is whether or not a defensive group lacking in star power and goalie Burke can keep the puck out of their own net.
— SCOTT SEPICH/Portland-based freelancer
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VICTORIA ROYALS
Last season: 48-20-4; third in Western Conference, lost in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Dave Lowry (third season).
Assistant coach: Enio Sacilotto (fifth season).
Key losses: G Patrik Polivka, 20, has turned pro in his native Czech Republic. D Brett Cote, 20, was traded to Red Deer. F Steven Hodges, 20, was dealt to Tri City. F Ben Walker, F Logan Nelson and D Jordan Fransoo graduated.
The 20-year-olds: F Austin Carroll, F Brandon Magee and D Travis Brown.
The imports: Swedish F Axel Blomqvist is signed by the Winnipeg Jets. Slovakian F Kristian Ferletak was selected in this year's import draft.
Key returnees: Magee led the team in scoring last season but will miss the first 12 games this season due to suspension. F Austin Carroll, hard to budge in front of the net, led the Royals in goals with 34. D Keegan Kanzig, who stands 6-foot-7, has signed with the Calgary Flames. D Joe Hicketts is undersized but highly mobile and hugely under-rated. Brown is another puck-mover. F Tyler Soy, 17, is an emerging scorer. G Coleman Vollrath is the incumbent starter.
Key Rookies: F Dante Hannoun, 16, and F Matthew Campese, 17, could bear watching. Matthew is the son of Prince Albert Raiders GM Bruno Campese.
Watch For: This isn't a squad with much glitter, but it has some true grit. The unsung bunch comprises F Logan Fisher, F Brandon Fushimi, F Taylor Crunk and D Ryan Gagnon.
Noteworthy: The real strength of this team is off the ice with head coach Dave Lowry and GM Cam Hope, the respective 2013-14 WHL coach and executive of the year. Their tight structure managed to squeeze the most out of this blue-collar group last season in setting franchise records for victories (48) and points (100).
Did you know: This is the ninth season in franchise history, the fourth as the Royals after the five as the Chilliwack Bruins.
The prognosis: After the greatest regular season in franchise history, followed by a franchise-first playoff series victory, the Royals will be looking for more this season. While not yet an elite team, the Royals at least look to have the kind of moxie it takes to be a top-four team in the Western Conference.
— CLEVE DHEENSAW/Victoria Times Colonist
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SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS
Last season: 41-25-6; fourth in Western Conference, lost in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Steve Konowalchuk (fourth season).
Assistant coaches: Matt O’Dette (second season), Tyler Alos (second season),Ian Gordon (goaltending, second season).
Key losses: F Branden Troock signed with Dallas; F Alex Delnov
signed in KHL; F Roberts Lipsbergs signed in Europe; F Jaimen
Yakubowski traded to Moose Jaw; F Connor Honey to injury.
The 20-year-olds: Seattle has five on its roster – F Justin Hickman, G Taran Kozun, F Sam McKechnie, D Evan Wardley and D Adam Henry – so something has to give.
The imports: F Alexander True (Denmark) and F Florian Baltram
(Austria) were picked in the CHL’s 2014 import draft.
Key returnees: D Shea Theodore (22G, 57A) led the team and WHL
defencemen in scoring; he had been selected by Anaheim in the first round (26th) of the 2013 NHL draft. F Mathew Barzal (14G, 40A) is eligible for the 2015 NHL draft and ranked in the top 10 by most observers. F Ryan Gropp (18G, 24A) also is in his draft year and highly rated; he should play on Barzal’s wing. D Ethan Bear (6G, 13A), another highly rated draft prospect, should improve his offensive numbers.
New faces: The Thunderbirds are high on G Logan Flodell, 17. D Sahvan Khaira is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound 16-year-old; he is the younger brother of former Everett Silvertips F Jujhar Khaira. Speedy F Kaden Elder was taken in the first round of the 2013 bantam draft, while F Nolan Volcan, a second-round pick in 2013, also should make the team.
Watch for: Can Seattle get secondary scoring outside of the Barzal-Gropp line?
Noteworthy: The Thunderbirds have improved each season under Konowalchuk, going from out of playoffs to seventh seed in 2012-13 to fourth seed last season.
Did you know: Barzal has a chance to be the highest drafted
Thunderbirds player since D Thomas Hickey was selected fourth overall in 2007.
The prognosis: Seattle will have an experienced defence, but will be
young, albeit talented, up front. Still should compete for a top-four
seed in the Western Conference.
— ANDREW EIDE/710 ESPN Seattle
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EVERETT SILVERTIPS
Last season: 39-23-10; fifth in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Kevin Constantine (second season).
Assistants: Mitch Love (fourth season); Brennan Sonne (first season); Shane Clifford (goaltending coach, second season).
Key losses: F Joshua Winquist, D Matt Pufahl and F Manraj Hayer graduated. F Jujhar Khaira is off to the professional ranks. That's four of the team's top five scorers.
The 20-year-olds: D Ben Betker is a lock, while F Kohl Bauml also appears safe. F Zane Jones and F Brayden Low likely will battle it out for the third spot.
The imports: Returning Swiss D Mirco Mueller is a question mark as he could make the NHL's San Jose Sharks as a 19-year-old. Russian F Ivan Nikolishin is the team's leading returning scorer.
Key returnees: G Austin Lotz begins his third season as the team's starter. D Kevin Davis and D Noah Juulsen are coming off impressive 16-year-old seasons, and along with Mueller and Betker give Everett a strong group on the blue line. The Tips will be looking for increased offensive production from Nikolishin, F Carson Stadnyk and whichever overage forwards stick.
New faces: D Carter Cochrane joins the team full-time following an impressive season in the BCHL. F Graham Millar arrived in an offseason trade with Saskatoon.
Watch for: Everett to be challenged to score goals now that Winquist, who was at the centre of everything the Tips did offensively, is gone.
Just notes: Lotz shed 23 pounds during the offseason to prepare himself for a heavy workload this season.
Did you know? For the second straight season Everett has a guarantee out to season-ticket holders. If the Tips don't finish at least fourth in the Western Conference, season-ticket holders get a $100 credit toward 2015-16.
The prognosis: Everett took a big leap forward last season, getting out of a rut of finishing eighth in the conference for three straight years. The foundation is there as the Tips are strong and experienced on defence and in goal. But will Everett be able to score goals? Without some offensive breakthroughs the Tips will be hard-pressed to finish higher than they did last season.
— NICK PATTERSON/Everett Herald
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SPOKANE CHIEFS
Last season: 40-26-; sixth in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Don Nachbaur (fifth season)
Assistant coach: Scott Burt (second season).
Key losses: F Mitch Holmberg (WHL scoring champion with 62 goals, 118 points), F Mike Aviani (38 goals, 81 points) and G Eric Williams (33-19-4) graduated. Captain D Reid Gow (56 assists) and D Jeremy McIntosh chose not to return. F Carter Proft signed in Germany. D Cole Wedman was traded to Moose Jaw. F Adam Hascic returned to Slovakia.
The 20-year-olds: F Connor Chartier (14 goals, 32 points); F Liam Stewart (seven goals, 21 assists in injury-plagued season); F Marcus Messier (31 total points), a late-season acquisition from Tri-City.
The imports: Austrian F Dominic Zwerger (16 goals, 10 assists); D Tamas Laday (6-foot-7, 212 pounds) of Hungary was selected in the CHL import draft.
Key returnees: D Jason Fram (51 assists); F Adam Helewka (23 goals, 50 points); F Riley Whittingham (13 goals, 32 points); D Colton Bobyk.
New faces: G Alex Moodie was acquired from Saskatoon. F Kailer Yamamoto was signed and joins his sophomore brother Keanu (11 goals, 25 points).
Watch for: The goalie battle between Moodie and Garret Hughson, last year's backup; the emergence of young defencemen; a favourable early schedule with nine of the first 14 games at home.
Just notes: Spokane dashed out to a 10-2 record last year and finished 14-4 against the B.C. Division and 10-4-2 against the Eastern Conference.
Did you know? The Chiefs have lost 16 consecutive games to U.S. Division rival Portland.
The prognosis: This could be a long season for the Chiefs, who lost a big chunk of their offensive power, veteran leadership on defence and their top goaltender. New blood will have to rise to the challenge.
— CHRIS DERRICK/Spokane Spokesman-Review
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VANCOUVER GIANTS
Last season: 32-29-11; third in B.C. Division, seventh in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Troy Ward (first season.)
Assistant coaches: Matt Erhart (second season), Yogi Svejkovsky (eighth season), Eli Wilson (goalie coach, second season).
Key losses: F Cain Franson, F Tim Traber and D Dalton Thrower graduated. D Brett Kulak is expected to play pro in Calgary's system.
The 20-year-olds: F Dalton Sward, F Joel Hamilton and F Matt Bellerive.
The imports: D Dmitry Osipov, a Russian who was the first overall pick in the 2013 CHL import draft, returns for second season. F Vladimir Bobylev, a Russian, is a 17-year-old freshman.
Key returnees: F Carter Popoff was Vancouver's leader in points last season, with 64. F Jackson Houck was tops in goals, with 34. D Mason Geertsen played significant minutes.
New faces: F Tyler Benson was the first overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft. He's been superb through the preseason, showing a savvy two-way game. D Clayton Kirichenko came over from Saskatoon for a pair of draft picks.
Watch for: F Alec Baer and D Arvin Atwal to have breakthrough seasons, considering how well they performed in the preseason.
Noteworthy: F Ty Ronning suffered a broken collarbone in preseason and is expected to miss at least the first four weeks, if not more, of the regular season. . . . Ward, the former head coach of the AHL's Abbotsford Heat, is promising a more offensive, puck-possession approach than the Giants had under Don Hay, who guided them for 10 seasons but was let out of the last year of his contract to take a gig with the Kamloops Blazers.
Did you know: The Giants are bidding to play host to the 2016 Memorial Cup, as are the Red Deer Rebels.
The prognosis: There's much to figure out. How will Ward handle juniors? Will his scheme work? How will Benson do? Vancouver, led by young talent, should make the playoffs, though.
— STEVE EWEN/Vancouver Province
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TRI-CITY AMERICANS
Last season: 29-33-10; eighth in Western Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Mike Williamson (first season).
Assistant coaches: Brian Pellerin (first season), Lyle Mast (goaltending coach, third season).
Key losses: D Mitch Topping, last year’s captain; F Phil Tot (15 goals in 51 games); F Jessey Astles, who kept everyone in line.
The 20-year-olds: D Justin Hamonic, who was named team captain. Speedy F Lucas Nickles, who had four shorthanded goals last season. F Jackson Playfair, acquired from Spokane at trade deadline. F Steven Hodges, acquired in an offseason trade with Victoria, is at Florida Panthers camp and not likely to return.
The imports: Russian forwards Vladislav Lukin and Semyon Krasheninnikov, both 17 and acquired in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: G Eric Comrie, who finished second in the WHL last season with a .925 save percentage. F Brian Williams, who led the team with 36 goals and 56 points. Hamonic, one of the top stay-at-home back-enders in the Western Conference.
New faces: F Maxwell James, who can score and punish opponents. F Zach Andrusiak, who had 36 goals with 52 assists last year at PoE.
Watch for: Comrie and the defence to keep the team in games until the scoring comes around. Hamonic, Parker Wotherspoon, Brandon Carlo, Riley Hillis and Josh Thrower all return on the blue line.
Noteworthy: The Americans look to have one of the top goaltending tandems in the league in Comrie and Evan Sarthou, who played for the United States U-18 team that finished third at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.
Did you know: Comrie broke Aaron Baker’s single-season franchise save record with 1,849. Baker had 1,825 saves in 1997-98.
The prognosis: New coach, new game plan, renewed energy throughout the team. Look for the Americans to improve on last season’s eighth-place finish in the Western Conference and get past the first round in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
— ANNIE FOWLER/Tri-City Herald
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PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
Last season: 27-37-8; ninth in Western Conference, missed playoffs.
Head coach: Mark Holick (third season).
Assistants: Michael Hengen (first season), Roman Vopat (first season), Brent Arsenault (educational assistant, 10th season), Justin Cardinal (goaltending consultant, second season).
Key losses: F Todd Fiddler (50G, 98P), graduated; F Troy Bourke (29G, 85P, going pro with Colorado); F Zach Pochiro (27G, 66P, in St. Louis’ system); F Klarc Wilson (27G, 60P, graduated); G Brett Zarowny (chose not to return); F Alex Forsberg (traded to Saskatoon); F Jordan Tkatch (traded to Prince Albert).
The 20-year-olds: F Jari Erricson (missed all but four games with a concussion); F Chance Braid (seven goals, 24 points with Prince Albert); D Wil Tomchuk (six assists in 51 games split between Tri-City and Prince George).
The imports: F David Soltes of Slovakia (four goals, five points in 15 games before knee injury); D Martin Bobos of Slovakia (seven assists, 67 games).
Key returnees: F Jansen Harkins (10G, 34P as 16-year-old); F Chase Witala (18G, 32P in 43 games); D Marc McNulty (17G, 42P, drafted by Detroit in sixth round, 2013); G Ty Edmonds (3.85 GAA, 19-19-6).
New faces: Braid (acquired from Prince Albert); F Haydn Hopkins (acquired from Saskatoon); F Lance Yaremchuk (acquired from Prince Albert); F Cody McAuley (Sherwood Park midget AAA); D Josh Anderson (South Island major midget).
Watch for: Harkins to emerge as an NHL prospect (the son of new Cougars GM Todd Harkins helped Canada win gold at Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament); Erricson to stay healthy and become a dominant winger; Edmonds to show the benefits of playing 55 games with the Cats last season as a freshman.
Just notes: The Cougars have not had a winning season since 2006-07 and have missed the postseason in five of the past seven years. Since the franchise moved to P.G. from Victoria in 1994, the team has advanced just twice to the third playoff round (1997 and 2007).
Did you know: The Cougars averaged just 1,693 fans in 2013-14 (lowest in WHL). New ownership group, which includes NHL defencemen Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis, dubs its marketing strategy the New Ice Age and has the city excited about the team again after years of indifference.
Prognosis: Young defence is a big question mark but should have adequate scoring, toughness and goaltending. Bigger crowds at CN Centre would bring fun back into the building and should be worth at least an extra goal per game for the Cats. They will make the playoffs.
— TED CLARKE/Prince George Citizen
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KAMLOOPS BLAZERS
Last season: 14-53-2-3, last in 10-team Western Conference.
Head coach: Don Hay (first season).
Associate coach: Mark Ferner (second season).
Assistant coaches: Dan De Palma (goaltending, sixth season), Mike Needham (skills, fourth season).
Key losses: D Sam Grist graduated. Swiss D Edson Harlacher stayed home.
The 20-year-olds: D Brady Gaudet, who was traded to the Red Deer Rebels on Oct. 21, 2012, and reacquired over the summer; G Bolton Pouliot, another acquisition from Red Deer; F Chase Souto, a Californian entering his fifth season, went home early in camp with concussion issues left over from last season. His career is in doubt.
The imports: Swiss D Michael Fora, who turns 19 on Oct. 30, and Slovakian D Patrik Maier, who will be 18 on Nov. 6, were selected in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: Pouliot, the No. 1 goaltender. Ryan Rehill, a big horse and a minute-eater, and Josh Connolly, a gambler, on the back end. F Matt Revel, F Matt Needham and F Cole Ully, who have to score. Injuries limited Needham to 42 games and 35 points last season. F Collin Shirley, acquired from the Kootenay Ice last season, has to be better than 27 points.
New faces: F Jake Kryski, the 13th overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft, and F Quinn Benjafield, the 19th pick in that draft. Kryski, from Vancouver, was acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders during the summer of 2013. Benjafield is from North Vancouver.
Watch for: Ully to continue to show that he is one of the WHL’s best forwards. . . . Rehill to bang his way into the psyches of opposing forwards.
Noteworthy: Hay last coached the Blazers in 1994-95 when they won their third Memorial Cup in four seasons. He spent the past 10 seasons as head coach of the Vancouver Giants.
Did you know: The forwards on this season’s roster accounted for 86 WHL goals last season, with Ully scoring 30 of those.
The prognosis: The Blazers are coming off the worst season in franchise history. They’ll be better, but it’ll be an uphill struggle to make the playoffs.
— GREGG DRINNAN/Taking Note (gdrinnan.blogspot.ca)

Blades, Pats cut a deal . . . NHL facing another concussion-related lawsuit



THE DEAL: The Saskatoon Blades acquired D Isaac Schacher, 19, from the Regina Pats for an eighth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft.
THE SKINNY: The Pats, who had nine defencemen on their roster, get a draft pick for an older player who was in tough to stick. . . . The Blades continue to shape a roster that didn’t make the playoffs last sesaon.
THE ANALYSIS: Saskatoon hopes that the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Schacher will bring some physical play to their back end. He played 35 games with the Victoria Royals and 25 with Regina last season, putting up nine points, eight of them assists. He also was plus-22. . . . In junior B, playing with his hometown Kimberley, B.C., Dynamiters, he had 63 points in 95 games over two seasons, so there might be more offence there than he has shown. . . . Schacher now is one of 10 defencemen on Saskatoon’s roster.

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Last week, the WHL announced that Yves Lacasse, a retired RCMP superintendent, was being brought on board as its voluntary security officer.
On Wednesday, in a Kamloops courtroom, Lacasse was described as a “bully” who headed up an RCMP detachment that was “dysfunctional in the extreme.”
This was all part of testimony that was heard during a trial B.C. Supreme Court in which RCMP Cpl. Rick Brown is facing a charge of breach of trust by a public officer. It involves his role in an incident that involved two intoxicated women taking part in explicit sex acts while jailed.
Retired Staff Sgt. Gary Kerr testified that Lacasse was “was extremely, extremely difficult to work for. He was an extreme bully.”
Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week was in the courtroom and his story is right here.
When the WHL announced Lacasse’s appointment, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week wrote a story in which Lacasse spoke about what he hoped and planned on doing in the new position. That story is right here.
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The Prince George Cougars got down to two goaltenders by releasing G Matt Kustra, 17, who was an eighth-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft. He is expected to join the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers. . . . The Cougars, who open against the Winterhawks in Portland on Saturday, are carrying 27 players, including goaltenders Ty Edmonds, 18, and Tavin Grant, 16. . . . Prince George has 10 defencemen on its roster, including veteran Raymond Grewal, 19, who is injured, and 15 forwards, including the injured David Soltes.
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Ma’ake Kemoeatu played for the Baltimore Ravens. His brother, Chris, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Today, neither one is playing football, nor will they. . . . Chris needed a kidney transplant. Ma’ake, the oldest of seven children, was quick to offer up a kidney. . . . The transplant took place on Aug. 27. . . . The complete story, and it’s an interesting one, is right here.
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THE CONCUSSION REPORT:

"A new lawsuit filed against the National Hockey League by two former players alleges that three in 10 retired players have, or will have, brain damage from head injuries or concussions," writes Rick Westhead, TSN's senior correspondent. "The startling allegation is being made in a statement of claim filed by Sasha Pokulok, who was selected by the Washington Capitals with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft,  and Simon Danis-Pepin, a 2006 second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks."
There now have been at least six concussion-related lawsuits filed against the NHL.
Westhead's complete story is right here.
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A story at sciencedaily.com begins: “An experimental positron emission tomography (PET) tracer is effective in diagnosing concussion-related brain disease while a person is still alive, according to a case study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and at Molecular Neuroimaging (MNI) LLC in New Haven, and published September 16 in the journal Translational Psychiatry.”
What this means is that the medical community is that much closer to being able to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a living person.
The Science Daily story is right here.
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David Ash, the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns, has given up football due to multiple concussions. He suffered his third concussion in the last year in the Longhorns’ season-opener against North Texas. Ash was held out of Texas’s last two games, but now has retired. . . . Ash is the second NCAA starting QB, joining Uconn’s Casey Cochran, to quit in the last few days because of concussion problems.
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The Prince Albert Raiders have released F Ryan Pruden, 18, getting their roster down to 27 players, including 10 defencemen and 15 forwards. Pruden, a 13th-round pick by the Saskatoon Blades in the 2011 bantam draft, was pointless in three games with the Blades last season. A Winnipegger, he also played last season with the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons and OCN Blizzard. He is expected to return to the MJHL. . . .
Scott Sepich, a Portland freelancer, tweeted Tuesday that F Adam de Champlain, 20, had left the Portland Winterhawks for the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. The Winterhawks confirmed it on Wednesday, saying in a news release that de Champlain “has elected” to play in the AJHL. . . .
The Edmonton Oilers’ rookies beat the U of Alberta Golden Bears 4-2 in their annual game last night at Clare Drake Arena. More than 3,000 fans paid $30 a pop to watch the game.
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