Friday, June 27, 2014

The NHL draft . . . Rathjen on move . . . Blades hire assistant coach








F Codey Burki (Brandon, 2002-07) has signed a one-year contract with Olten (Switzerland, NL B). Last season, with Lausanne (Switzerland, NL A), he had three points, including one goal, in 30 games. He has dual Canadian-Swiss citizenship, so doesn’t count as import. . . .
F Brett Sonne (Calgary, 2004-09) has signed a one-year contract with Mora (Sweden, Allsvenskan). Last season, with Dornbirn (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had 30 points, seven of them goals, in 43 games. . . .
D Tyson Marsh (Vancouver, 2001-05) has signed a one-year extension with the Cardiff Devils (Wales, UK Elite). Last season, in 63 games, he had 41 points, including nine goals, and was a second-team all-star. . . .
G Kristofer Westblom (Kelowna, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract with Gap (France, Ligue Magnus). Last season, with the Brampton Beast (CHL), he was 3.22 and .903 in 41 games.
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THE NHL DRAFT (aka Mostly White Men in Suits):
Sorry, but there is no way I was going to sit down and watch the draft live. Not a chance. All that talk and all NHLthose commercials. And all those Mostly White Men in Suits with more White Men in Suits reporting from the floor and doing the interviewing.
So . . . let’s go to the PVR, with ample use of the FF button.
Keeping in mind that this is Philadelphia where football fans once booed Santa Claus, the reception given NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is rather epic. I mean, there’s booing and then there’s this. . . . Give Bettman credit, though. He gets booed everywhere and he keeps coming back for more.
Vancouver comic Torben Rolfsen (‏@vanguy) offered this up via Twitter: “The Wells Fargo Center crowd has just been nominated for a special Grammy award for its booing of Gary Bettman.”
First off, you have to like what the Vancouver Canucks did on Friday. They got F Ryan Kesler out of the room, sending him to the Anaheim Ducks, and brought in F Nick Bonino, who will be among their top six forwards for a few seasons, and D Luca Sbisa, who will surprise if given the opportunity to play on a regular basis. Vancouver also picked up a first-round pick (No. 24) in this draft. . . . And that doesn’t take into account the trading of D Jason Garrison, who doesn’t skate well enough to fit into what Vancouver’s braintrust is trying to do here, to the Tampa Bay Lightning, or the acquisition of pain-in-the-butt F Derek Dorsett, who played for new head coach Willie Desjardins in Medicine Hat, from the New York Rangers. (In Dorsett, the Canucks finally have an answer to F Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.)
OK . . . here we go.
1. The Florida Panthers have the first selection. They have eight men in suits (MIS) on the stage. They take D Aaron Ekblad from the OHL's Barrie Colts. If you want to win the Stanley Cup, you have to have a stud defenceman.
2. The Buffalo Sabres are up. It‘s Tim Murray’s first pick as GM. He is the first of a number of GMs who get to the podium and announce their pick. No thanking anyone. No congratulating anyone. Just the pick. The Sabres take Kootenay Ice F Sam Reinhart, who might have the best hockey IQ in the draft. . . . The Sabres have seven MIS.
3. The Edmonton Oilers add to their stable of young forwards with German F Leon Draisaitl of the Prince Albert Raiders. No surprise here. . . . The stage holds five MIS, including owner Daryl Katz. Also there his son, Harrison, wearing an Oilers jersey (No. 14) and sporting the draft’s best hair, even better than his father’s. Harrison also is bigger than most of Friday’s draftees.
4. The Calgary Flames take F Sam Bennett from the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. Already he is being compared to the retired Doug Gilmour, who is the GM in Kingston. . . . The Flames have eight MIS on stage, and that includes Brian Burke, their president of hockey operations, and his hair.
5. The New York Islanders, with seven MIS, use their first pick on F Michael Dal Colle of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. They later will trade back into the first round.
6. The Vancouver Canucks take F Jake Virtanen from the Calgary Hitmen. That is the second year in a row that the Canucks, who have been accused of ignoring WHL players, have taken a WHLer in the first round; a year ago, they took F Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers with the 24th pick. . . . This is the first pick of the Trevor Linden/Jim Benning regime. There are seven MIS on stage.
7. The Carolina Hurricanes, in an apparent attempt to stave up the expected booing, send former Flyers favourite Rod Brind'Amour to the podium. He gets a rousing reception. . . . They take D Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels. He is the 12th first-round selection from the Rebels and the other 11 all have played in the NHL. . . . There are five MIS, including new head coach Bill Peters, a former head coach of the Spokane Chiefs.
8. The Toronto Maple Leafs, with eight MIS up there, select F William Nylander, the Swedish son of former NHLer Michael Nylander. TV shows his family and there is blonde hair everywhere.
9. The Winnipeg Jets decide on F Nikolaj Ehlers, a Dane who plays for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. We don’t know it at the time but he will be only QMJHL player taken in the first round. . . . Oh, there are seven MIS on stage.
10. The Anaheim Ducks go for size with F Nick Ritchie, who is said to be 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds. He also has hands, witness 39 goals in 61 games with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. He also has a late birthday; he turns 19 on Dec. 5. . . . How big is Ritchie? Former NHLer Jim Sandlak, known as House when he played, now scouts for the Ducks. Ritchie looked to be a tad bigger than Sandlak. . . . There were seven MIS.
11. The Nashville Predators reach into Sweden and take F Kevin Fiala, who was born in Switzerland to Czech parents. (Gee, wonder if he knows Tim Bozon, who was born in St. Louis to French parents and later lived in Switzerland?). . . . We digress. The Predators paraded eight MIS to the stage.
12. The Arizona Coyotes, once known as the Phoenix Coyotes, have seven MIS on stage as they take F Brendan Perlini, who plays for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. Bob McKenzie, as usual the star of TSN’s draft show, informs that he covered Perlini’s father, Freddie, when he played for the Toronto Marlies back in the day. Brendan was born in Guildford, England, while his father was playing there. . . . Freddie was an eight-round pick by the Leafs in the 1980 draft, so his son has bragging right snow.
13. The Washington Capitals, with Ross Mahoney, the new assistant general manager, take F Jakub Vrana, a Czech who played in Sweden. Barry Trotz, the Caps’ new head coach, also was on the stage. He was one of five MIS.
14. The Dallas Stars pick D Julius Honka, the first member of the Swift Current Broncos to go in the first round since Vancouver took F Nathan Smith with the 23rd selection in 2000. The Broncos had 25 players taken in the next 13 drafts, but none in the first round. . . . Whoops! Here’s a tweet from Mike Heika, who covers the Stars for the Dallas Morning News: “Jim Nill just said they will talk to Julius Honka about moving from WHL to play in Finnish Elite League next season.” . . . Nill is the Stars’ GM. . . . He was one of nine MIS on stage, a number that will give the Stars the lead at halftime.
15. The Detroit Red Wings, with eight MIS, take F Dylan Larkin from the U.S. National Team Development Program. He is the first American-born player selected.
16. The Columbus Blue Jackets reach into the USNTDP for F Sonny Milano. Yes, the name sounds as though he should be an associate of Tony Soprano’s. Sonny’s given name is Frank; his father also is Frank. . . . There are six MIS when CBJ makes its pick.
17.  With his first selection as the Philadelphia Flyers’ GM, Ron Hextall, who is from Brandon, reaches down the Trans-Canada Highway to Elkhorn and grabs D Travis Sanheim of the Calgary Hitmen. Elkhorn also is the home of Sheldon Kennedy. . . . Going into last season, only friends and family seemed aware of Sanheim, who rocketed up the ratings as the season progressed. . . . The Flyers have only four MIS, including the legendary Bob Clarke, who was, yes, the 17th overall selection by the Flyers in the 1969 NHL draft.
18. The Minnesota Wild, with six MIS, go for F Alex Tuch, another USNTDP player.
19. The Tampa Bay Lightning select D Anthony DeAngelo of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. He had 71 points in 51 games, but missed 15 games due to suspensions for (a) a slur against a linesman, (b) a slur against a teammate, (c) verbally abusing an official. The Lightning will work with him on what would appear to be anger management issues. . . . Still, DeAngelo is from South Philadelphia so you know this was a big night for him. . . . The Lightning trotted 10 MIS to the stage and took the lead from Dallas.
20. The Chicago Blackhawks grab F Nick Schmaltz of the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, the first player to be taken from a junior A league. His brother, Jordan, plays for the St. Louis Blues, who took him 25th overall in 2012. The Blackhawks have five MIS on stage.
21. The St. Louis Blues, with seven MIS, select F Rob Fabbri of the OHL’s Guelph Storm. He had a fabulous playoff run as the Storm won the OHL championship, and you know that always helps.
22. The Pittsburgh Penguins send Rick Tocchet, a former Flyers star who now is an assistant with Pittsburgh, to the podium. It doesn’t work as the booing is loud. The Flyers take F Kasperi Kapanen, the son of former Flyers F Sami Kapanen. Sami also played for the Carolina Hurricanes. Former Carolina GM Jim Rutherford now is the Penguins’ GM. . . . There are seven MIS, including new head coach Mike Johnston.
23. The Colorado Avalanche, with classy Joe Sakic making the pick, take F Conner Bleackley of the Red Deer Rebels. So you can make it 13 Red Deer first-rounders. No wonder Red Deer owner/GM/head coach Brent Sutter was smiling last night. . . . The Avalanche took five MIS to the stage.
24. The Canucks are back, with a pick acquired from Anaheim in the Kesler deal. This time, they go for F Jared McCann of the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. Again, they had seven MIS.
25. The Boston Bruins, with six MIS up there, select F David Pastrnak, another Czech who played in Sweden.
26. The Montreal Canadiens reach into the WHL for Russian F Nikita Scherbak of the Saskatoon Blades. His interview with TSN host James Duthie will become the stuff of legend. Who knew Scherbak was a big curling fan? The Habs have eight MIS, including former WHL/NHL heavyweight Shane Churla, who has become one of the game’s top scouts.
27. The San Jose Sharks, with five MIS taking part, pick Russian F Nikolay Goldobin of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting.
28. The Islanders are back, having acquired this pick from Tampa Bay. GM Garth Snow (see Tweet of the Day) selects F Josh Ho-Sang of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires for whom he had 85 points in 67 games. For some reason, there are questions about his character. The Isles again have seven MIS.
29. The Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings go to Sweden for F Adrian Kempe. The Kings also show up on stage with 11 MIS, to take over the lead from Tampa Bay. Hey, when you’re the champs . . .
30. The New Jersey Devils, with five MIS, close out the first round by selecting F John Quenneville of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Quenneville had to work to get to the stage as he was going against the traffic with fans heading for the exits. He didn’t shy from contact, which must have made Devils superscout David Conte happy. . . . Edmonton Journal writer Jim Matheson later tweeted that his wife gets her nails done by Quenneville’s mother, which is an apt spot to wrap up the first-round coverage.
SOME NOTES: TSN’s draft coverage once again set the standard for all sports. This, of course, was their last kick as Sportsnet has signed a 12-year contract with the NHL. . . . Last night’s first round featured 25 forwards and no goaltenders. It was the second year in a row that goaltenders were blanked in the opening round. . . . For a story on bloodlines and this draft, check out this nhl.com piece right here. . . . Quenneville was the ninth WHLer taken in the first round. All nine were from the Eastern Conference, with five of those from the Central Division. That’s right. Not one Western Conference players was taken. . . . The WHL had nine players taken in the first round in each of the 2007 and 2008 drafts. Last year, that number was eight. . . . There were 10 OHL players taken, with only one QMJHL player selected. . . . There were five U.S.-born players selected. . . . Not one player taller than 6-foot-3 was selected, while a handful of players under 6-foot-0 were selected. Yes, it was a victory, albeit a small one, for smaller, skilled players. . . . Round 2 is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. Eastern today.
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1. G Jared Rathjen, 20, is on his way to his third WHL team. Rathjen, from Prince George, began his WHL career with the Victoria Royals, who dealt him early in 2012-13 to the Vancouver Giants. . . . On Friday, the Giants sent him to the Medicine Hat Tigers for a conditional fifth-round selection in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . Rathjen got into 29 games with the Giants last season and played well when Payton Lee was hurt. Rathjen finished 13-8-5, 2.98, .898. . . . The Tigers finished last season with two goaltenders on their roster -- Marek Langhamer and Nick Schneider. Langhamer, who turns 20 on July 22, is from Czech Republic and has signed with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. Schneider, who turns 17 on July 21, came over from the Regina Pats last season and went 6-0-0, 1.42, .943 in limited time behind Langhamer. . . . The Tigers’ roster also includes other potential 20-year-olds in F Miles Koules, D Tyler Lewington and D Kyle Becker. . . . Among Vancouver’s potential 20-year-olds are F Dalton Sward, F Travis McEvoy, F Trent Lofthouse, F Joel Hamilton and F Matt Bellerive.

2. The CIS Acadia Axemen, who play out of Wolfville, N.S., announced their 2014 recruiting class on Friday and it included a few names familiar to WHL fans. . . . Head coach Darren Burns lost seven players to graduation and also had D Colin Archer (Red Deer, 2007-10) move on when he was accepted into medical school at the U of Alberta. . . . D Matt Pufahl (Red Deer, Saskatoon, Everett, 2010-14), F Zach Franko (Kelowna, Kootenay, 2010-14), F Sam Fioretti (Moose Jaw, 2010-14) and F Boston Leier (Medicine Hat, Regina, 2010-14) all are among Acadia’s newest recruits.

3, The Young Stars Classic preseason tournament is scheduled for Penticton, B.C., Sept. 12-15. The six-game event will feature teams of prospects from the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets. Tickets are scheduled to go on sale on July 11. Emanuel Sequeira of the Penticton Herald has more right here.

4. Bob Mackin, a freelancer who lives and works on the Lower Mainland of B.C., is one of my favourite journalists. He is doing journalism the way it’s meant to be done. . . . It’s doubtful that any journalist on the West Coast has more people who don’t respond to interview requests than Mackin. . . . On Friday, he filed a piece to the Vancouver Courier that ended up with this headline: World Cup slows City of Vancouver websites. . . . It carried this subhead: Too many city employees watching soccer online at work. . . . That story is right here.

5. Bobby Womack, a legendary singer, songwriter and musician, died on Friday at the age of 70. The New York Times obituary, written by Paul Vitello, is right here. . . . According to Vitello, Womack remained a gospel singer at heart. “Me being from the old school, I would not say ‘bitch’ on a record,” he said. “I couldn’t face my mother if I did.” . . . That’s Womack’s Across 110th Street in the great movie Jackie Brown. Here’s Across 110th Street right here.
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THE COACHING GAME:
Dean Brockman, a four-time coach of the year in the SJHL, has joined the Saskatoon Blades as an assistant coach. Brockman, who had been hoping to land the head-coaching job that went to Bob Woods, got a four-year deal. He had been the GM/head coach of the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos for 10 seasons. Before that, he was GM/assistant coach (1997-2003). . . . The Blades also announced that assistant coach Jerome Engele, one of the WHL’s really good guys, and goaltending coach Tim Cheveldae (he’s a good guy, too) will be back. . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has the story right here.
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Former Prince George Cougars head coach Lane Lambert has joined the NHL’s Washington Capitals as an assistant coach. Lambert, 49, spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. Barry Trotz, who was dropped as Nashville’s head coach after the season, is preparing for his first season as Washington’s head coach. . . . Lambert also spent two seasons (2002-04) as an assistant coach with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
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Jamie Russell, a native of Kamloops, is the new head coach of the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals. Russell, 47, spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Providence College. Before that, he was the head coach at Michigan Tech from 2003-11. . . . Russell replaces Dwight Mullins (Lethbridge, Calgary, Saskatoon, 1982-88), who left to take over as head coach of the ECHL’s Evansville IceMen.
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