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.

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