Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Seattle head coach off to NHL ... Change the import draft? Why not? ... Portland got "a stud"

F Roman Tománek (Calgary, Seattle, 2004-06) has signed a one-year contract with Freiburg (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with Banská Bystrica (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had one goal and three assists in 17 games. He was loaned to Dukla Trenčín (same) on Jan. 3, and had a goal and three assists in nine games. . . .
F Jacob Doty (Seattle, Medicine Hat, 2009-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Braehead Clan Glasgow (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, with the Chicago Wolves (AHL), he had one assist in four games; he also had five goals and six assists in 11 games with the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL).

The WHL-champion Seattle Thunderbirds are looking for a new head coach after the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks announced on Wednesday that they have signed Steve Konowalchuk as an assistant coach.
Konowalchuk, 44, was the Thunderbirds’ head coach for six seasons. The Thunderbirds reached the WHL final in 2016, where they lost to the Brandon Wheat Kings. In 2017, the Thunderbirds won the Ed Chynoweth Cup, beating the Regina Pats, 4-2, in the best-of-seven final. That was the Thunderbirds’ first WHL title.

Konowalchuk was 219-176-37 in regular-season games with Seattle. He joined the Thunderbirds on June 16, 2011, after spending two seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. He also played in the NHL, with the Washington Capitals and Colorado, after spending two seasons (1990-92) with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.
Of the U.S. Division’s five teams, only Portland (Mike Johnston) and the Tri-City Americans (Mike Williamson) will return with the same head coach as last season.
The Everett Silvertips, who finished on top of the division, didn’t renew head coach Kevin Constantine’s contract. He will coach in South Korea next season. Dennis Williams is Everett’s new head coach.
The Spokane Chiefs have hired Dan Lambert, a former WHL star defenceman who coached in Kelowna, to replace Don Nachbaur, the head coach for the previous seven seasons. Nachbaur now is an assistant coach with the NHL’s Los Angeles.
The Kings also signed Dave Lowry, the head coach of the Victoria Royals for the previous five seasons, as an assistant coach. The Royals have since promoted assistant coach Dan Price to head coach.
At the moment, Seattle and the Calgary Hitmen are the only two of the WHL’s 22 teams without head coaches. The Hitmen are looking to replace Mark French, who left after three seasons to coach in Switzerland.
Meanwhile, the Ducks also added Mark Morrison to their staff as an assistant coach. Morrison, 54, is a former WHL player (Victoria Cougars, 1979-83). He spent four seasons (2007-11) as the GM/head coach of the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings. For the past six seasons, he has been assistant coach in the Winnipeg Jets’ organization, first with the St. John’s IceCaps and for the past two seasons with the Manitoba Moose.

The CHL’s 2017 import draft was held Wednesday and I posted a lengthy look at the WHL teams and their selections a short while after it ended.
Included in that report was a link to a Saskatoon StarPhoenix story in which Blades general manager Colin Priestner commented on the intricacies of this draft.
Shortly after I posted that piece, I heard from Jeff Hollick, a former long-time radio voice of the Kootenay Ice. Hollick sent me a link to a piece that he had written for on how to provide teams with a more level playing field in the import draft. That piece is right here.
As the Ice’s play-by-play voice, Hollick would have spent a lot of time around Jeff Chynoweth, then the team’s general manager. While not necessarily opposed to the draft, Chynoweth wasn’t reluctant in voicing his objections to the way it is conducted.
In the WHL, most owners and general managers look upon it as a necessary evil. But few, if any, enjoy it.
So why not do away with it? Why not just pull the plug on it? Teams no longer are allowed to draft European goaltenders, so why not just dump the draft altogether?
(If you’re wondering, USHL teams are allowed to use import goaltenders, but each one counts as two imports. USHL teams are allowed six import players, but two of them must be Canadians.)
In place of the draft, why not allow teams to list players, just like they do with North American players? Why not allow teams to start listing European players at 16 years of age?
The only difference would be that each team would be allowed to list only a set number of Europeans, say three. There are a gazillion European skaters available, so numbers wouldn’t be an issue.
That would allow teams to scout players, list them and then try to sell them on the organization. If that doesn’t work, the team could simply drop the player from its list and move on.
That also might do away with the messy system now in place where teams can end up with three or four import skaters in their training camp, knowing full well that two of them will have to go.
Seriously, almost anything is better than the system now in place.
However, nothing will change. Why not?
Because, as one general manager told Taking Note, “The OHL and QMJHL would never agree. They like their dominance in that draft.”


The Portland Winterhawks selected one player, taking Swedish F Samuel Fagemo, 17, with the 28th pick. One WHL general manager told Taking Note that Fagemo is “a stud,” but that he doesn’t expect Portland to bring him over until 2018-19. That’s because Portland’s roster already includes two solid imports in Finnish D Henri Jokiharju and Danish F Joachim Blichfeld. . . . Jokiharju was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday. . . . Blichfeld was taken by the San Jose Sharks in the seventh round of the 2016 draft. . . . Each WHL team is allowed to keep two import players. Were Portland to have Fagemo and Blichfeld in camp and then have Jokiharju come back, they would have two weeks from his return to trade one of the veterans or release Fagemo. “And,” said the GM, “they aren’t going to trade Blichfeld.” . . .
The Vancouver Giants selected Slovakian F Milos Roman with the fifth pick and are hoping that he slots into their top six forwards. They took German F Yannik Valenti in the second round, 56th overall, but Steve Ewen of Postmedia reports they don’t plan on having him here until 2018-19. “Their thinking,” Ewen writes, “is that they’ll need a boost offensively then, with (Brad) Morrison and (Ty) Ronning graduated and (Tyler) Benson likely playing in the Edmonton Oilers’ system as a 20-year-old. Valenti put up 20 goals and 23 assists in 40 games last season with Jungadler Mannheim, a team in the German Junior League.” . . . Ewen’s story is right here. . . .
A year ago, the Giants had the fourth overall pick and took Czech F Filip Zadina. As Ewen points out, Zadina chose not to report and the Giants dropped him. On Wednesday he was selected by the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads with the 10th pick and quickly tweeted that he is “really excited to be part of great organization.” . . . 
Meanwhile, the OHL’s Flint Firebirds and the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders both selected Nikita Alexandrov in the first round of the CHL import draft. . . . Flint took Russian D Nikita Alexandrov and, a few picks later, Charlottetown took F Nikita Alexandrov, who has played the past five seasons in Germany. . . . Flint’s Alexandrov, who apparently is 6-foot-5 and 155 pounds, is 18. The Islanders’ Alexandrov, who is 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, will turn 17 on Sept. 16.  
G Michael Herringer, who played out his junior eligibility with the Kelowna Rockets last season, has decided to attend the U of Regina and play for the Cougars. . . . From Comox, B.C., Herringer began his WHL career by playing two games with the Victoria Royals in 2012-13. He played three seasons (2014-17) with the Royals and was their starter each of the past two seasons. In 115 career regular-season appearances, he was 71-29-5, 2.88, .904.
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The KHL is only a few days from the opening of training camps for the 2017-18 season. Patrick Conway of Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog has been filling us in on the KHL’s coaches, and he’s back right here with a look at the Chernyshyov Division. This is where veteran coach Mike Keenan is hanging his hat this season.
Trent Cull is the new head coach of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. Cull takes over from Travis Green, who now is the Canucks’ head coach. . . . Cull, 43, had been an assistant coach with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. In fact, he spent eight of the previous 11 seasons with the Crunch. . . . He also spent three seasons (2010-13) as the head coach of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves.

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