The Will Sports Group

The RIG 28 for September

Sep 1

Rink retirement: Standard-bearer Scott Gomez calls it a career after 16 seasons in the NHL
Doyle Woody
Alaska Dispatch News

Everything about this feels right — this time, this place, these people.

Scott Gomez sits on the patio behind his home, the same modest, three-bedroom, one-bath ranch house he grew up in, sipping coffee, enjoying the afternoon sun, reminiscing. He’s always felt protected here in Airport Heights. So many childhood games played in this backyard at 1812 Toklat Street, or on the baseball field and on the rink, which now bears his name, just down the street at Tikishla Park. The neighbors haven’t changed much — just the other day Andy Parent, from across the street, was back in town visiting. Andy used to let Scott, a decade younger, hang out with him and his high school buddies. So he and Scott caught up over coffee one morning.

Through the side gate comes Scott’s younger sister, Natalie, home from a day teaching English at West High. She lives next door. She’s just checking in. Scott’s childhood friend and teammate, Ben Brady, is hanging out. Soon, Scott’s mother, Dalia, arrives, all smiles and hugs and hospitality — need something to drink or eat? Onto the patio trudges Bacon, the Gomez family bulldog, to cadge some pets from a stranger.

“What I accomplished started here,” Gomez says. “I got where I am because of this neighborhood. This is Airport Heights. This is home.

“I’d never think of living anywhere else. To leave, I’d almost feel I’d be betraying Eastside. This is home base.”

He’s come full circle. This is where the most illustrious hockey career in Alaska started, and this is where it ends.

Scott Gomez is done, retired at 36.

After 16 NHL seasons, and 17 as a pro, it’s time. He doesn’t want to cast about for the next one-year contract or chase a nightly seven minutes of ice time.

It was a helluva run — first-round draft pick, two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils, Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, more games and points and you-name-it than any other Alaskan who has played in the world’s greatest league, a ballpark $60 million earned, his family taken care of, the Olympics, the World Cup, twice playing center for his hometown Alaska Aces, induction into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

“It’s been a wonderful ride for the family — crazy, wild, wonderful,” says Carlos Gomez, Scott’s father. “We live in a whole different world now, all thanks to him.

“Man, it was a blast. I look back and think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe all that happened.’ We are so blessed.”

He says his son is content, relaxed.

Well, Scott says, the occasional thought flits in the back of his brain — he’ll never make a power-play pass again, never set up a teammate for success. He’s been wrapping his head around that all summer.

“This has been my life,” he says. “It’s so weird to think I’m never going to play hockey again.

“People say, ‘You’ll find something.’ But saying that, there will never be that feeling again, of even playing a preseason NHL game. You’re playing at the highest level there is.

“But I’m done. I’m done.”

And so he has been making phone calls and sending texts, giving friends and old teammates and coaches and trainers, from the NHL down to youth level, a heads-up that this is a wrap.

“It’s not world-breaking news,” he says, “but it’s nice to say thank you to the people who were there for you, and along for the ride.”

He’s spent more time back in Anchorage this summer than he has since he turned pro. There’s been time to hang out with his friends, who are mostly the same guys he hung out with as a teenager. He’s enjoyed time with family — Carlos and Dalia, who live up on the Hillside in the house their son bought them, plus Natalie, and older sister Monica and her three daughters. There’s been time for his beloved fishing on the Kenai, where the family has a place.

And for once, August doesn’t mean hooking up in the Lower 48 with one of his trainers, Vladimir Bure, for punishing workouts prior to training camp.

Still, he’s taken up running, and at 190 pounds, is 5-10 pounds lighter than his playing weight. Old teammates long retired advised him to stay active, and he’s glad he can — hockey prompted one surgery for a broken hand and a recent one to tidy up an elbow, but otherwise he’s good to go.

Yet he can’t imagine himself just hanging out and mixing in a few runs a week, or traveling endlessly. Looks like he’s got a broadcasting gig lined up. He already dipped a toe in broadcasting last spring for NHL Network. He imagines he’ll split time between Anchorage and New York, where he still has an apartment.

“You’ve got to do something,” he says. “I mean, I’m as good as anyone at laying around, but that’s the offseason. You’ve got to do something.”

Mostly, Gomez looks back and hopes he represented his state well. Being an Alaskan is something he cherishes. He still thinks of himself as the kid from Airport Heights, still gets a laugh that teammates, and East Coast media, were so startled when as a NHL rookie he didn’t think anything of having his address printed in his hometown newspaper.

“You have an obligation, a responsibility to your state,” he says. “The goal, the day I left here, was I always wanted to make Alaska proud. That’s my state. That’s my people.”

In Gomez’s younger NHL years, he once played against center Nate Thompson of Anchorage. Gomez was an established star, Thompson a rookie who grew up asking his dad to take him to watch Gomez play for East High. As they prepared to battle over a face-off in Thompson’s zone, Gomez looked at how Thompson prepared to take the face-off and told him to turn his hand over, take the face-off on his backhand.

“I looked at him like he had eight heads,” Thompson said.

Gomez again told Thompson to change tactics, so Thompson did. After the game, Gomez explained to Thompson that the rookie’s initial tactic might work against Gomez, but it likely wouldn’t against Gomez’s teammates who were exceptional at face-offs.

“Yeah, he was on the other team,” Gomez says now. “He’s still from my hometown. We always look out for one another.”

He still does that, whether it’s jumping on the ice at a youth clinic, quietly taking care of a bar or restaurant tab, dropping in on a meeting of UAA hockey supporters or saving girls high school hockey in Anchorage through the Scotty Gomez Foundation, which his father runs.

And he learned to embrace his status as the NHL’s first Hispanic player — Carlos is a Mexican-American born in the U.S. and Dalia was born in Colombia before moving to the U.S. as a child. Growing up in Airport Heights and attending elementary, middle and high schools with diverse student populations, he thought of himself as Scotty Gomez the hockey player. National media pushed the “first Hispanic in the NHL” angle when Gomez was a rookie. He rolled with it, figured if that inspired a minority kid to play hockey, cool.

Credit for all that goes to his parents and family, and “the way he was raised,” said Louis Mass, Gomez’s friend, trainer and former Aces teammate.

The people closest to him say he has not changed from the happy-go-lucky 19-year-old kid who bolstered his preternatural talent, a considerable work ethic and a brain for the game with a seeming immunity to pressure. Minutes before his NHL debut, Devils captain Scott Stevens was astonished to find Gomez kicked back on a couch, in full gear, reading a newspaper.

Mass once asked Gomez what that first game in 1999 was like, how he coped with his nerves.

“He’s like, ‘What do you mean?’ ” Mass recalls. “I said, ‘Weren’t you nervous?’ He said, ‘No, not at all,’ and he just laughed. He wasn’t afraid. He was excited, couldn’t wait to get out there and show everybody how good he was.”

Few men have smiled as much as Gomez did on NHL rinks. And why not? He remembers an old teammate, Turner Stevenson, telling him the NHL life was like living in a fantasyland. So that’s how Gomez approached it, with reverence, sure, but with unbridled joy.

He grew up inspired by fellow East High athlete Trajan Langdon, who went on to play in the NBA and, Gomez says, “was the first guy to let guys like me know, yeah, you can go places.” He worshipped centers like UAA’s Dean Larson and Chugiak’s Brian Swanson, and hopes he inspired young players, as Larson and Swanson inspired him.

Consider that box checked.

“He definitely paved the way for the rest of us Alaskans,” Thompson says. “He put us on the map. What he did, it’s a career you dream about. He is the standard.”

Now he’s the standard-bearer. He savored a remarkable run. One chapter finishes, another begins.

It’s time. He’s done.

And everything about it feels right.


Sep 2 Q&A: David Savard
Andy Brown

Coming off a season that saw him log 82 games for the first time in his career, David Savard figures to be an important asset on the Blue Jackets’ blue line once again this season. We caught up with him after a workout at Nationwide Arena to get his outlook on the upcoming season and see how his summer has been. What have you been up to this summer, other than working out?

Savard: “Not much, to be honest. I have a one-year-old daughter, so she keeps me running all day. I go work out in the summertime in the morning, then after I go home and hang out with the family.” When you have been working out this summer, who have you been working out with?

Savard: “Mostly guys that play in Europe, younger guys. A few guys stopped and went different ways with their families, but I have a few guys, Pascal Pelletier who plays in the KHL, Alex Picard who plays in Switzerland, those guys. Picard played here a few years back. It’s mostly the same group, a few guys went to the states because their wives are from there. There are a few guys that are in college, and things like that, that are coming up in Quebec City that are adding up in our group to make sure they keep pushing us.” Anything in particular you’re working on as we get closer to the season?

Savard: “I think it’s the same as usual, I just try to keep my speed up. I’m not the fastest guy so I’m always working on that in the summertime. The league is getting quicker, so I’ve got to keep up with everybody.” What did you think of what the organization did this offseason, with the draft, re-signing Seth Jones and then signing Sam Gagner?

Savard: “I think it’s great, obviously I think it looks good for the future. Having Jonesy back for a lot of years, he’s a huge part of our team. And with the draft, gaining a good young guy, he might be ready to play in the NHL this year, which is a great thing for us. We’ll see, I think there’s a lot of guys coming up from Cleveland, with the run and them winning the Cup. I think we’ll see a push to play on our team, and it’s a healthy competition among the guys that will push us to be better this year.”


Goodbye, Mrs. Hockey
Scott Gomez
The Players’ Tribune

WWhen I was in seventh grade, there was a poetry contest at my school. The topic was the American flag and if you participated, you got extra credit. Spelling was not my strong suit so I needed all the extra credit I could get. I gave it a shot and get this, ended up taking third place. Won 50 bucks, which seemed like $500 back then. And still to this day, I know my teacher thought I copied from someone else. I didn’t. For one reason or another, I was always able to put together little rhymes to describe what was on my mind. Let’s be honest, it’s never been Shakespeare (you’ll see), but writing poetry eventually became how I liked to pass the time.

During all the long road trips throughout my career, I always kept a journal and wrote poems about whatever. Sometimes they’d make fun of guys I played with, or discuss what happened during that night’s game. Other times they would be about a girl I liked, or even just something funny to thank the stewies who took care of us on all of those team flights. Regardless of the topic, almost all of them were pretty ridiculous and just for my own enjoyment. But when things became tough and I wasn’t playing well, poetry was my outlet. It really helped me.

Hockey has always been my closest relationship. I think that’s the case for most of the guys who dedicate their life to this game. So as a result, a lot of us had different names for what we called her. They were all over the map. For Steve Valiquette she was Mother Hockey. For Adam Burish, Baby Doll. Knuckles Nilan called her his Safe Place. For P.K. Subban she was My Ticket Out Of The Ghetto. Raffi Torres called her My Girl. Rick Lanz would say She Was My Nightmare, She Was My Heaven. And to Mike Mottau, she was My Frozen Lady Friend.

But to me, she’s always been Mrs. Hockey.

In the past few years, as I sensed my playing days were winding down, I started to think about writing one last poem — something that would sum up my deep feelings for this sport I love so much. Then, last November, I opened up The Players’ Tribune and went Ah shit when I saw Kobe Bryant had done that exact thing.

So, with respect to the great Mamba, here’s my love letter to my sport. This is something I’ve tried to put off writing for a long time — as long as I possibly could. But now, after 32 years on the ice, it’s time to finally say goodbye to my first love, Mrs. Hockey.

If you knew or played with me
You’d understand
All those plane rides
I wrote my shit down

So to all my teammates, trainers, doctors, family, friends and staff
Sit back, read G-loves words
Cry or have a laugh

Never forget what I’d always say
All of you were blessed
In SCG’s way
As my people would say, “Olé”

Hahaha, O.K. that was just a little taste of what most of the poems I wrote looked like. Here’s the real thing:

So I leave you now
Crazy I know
But listen my girl
We did it
We made the show

I met you at four
Was love at first sight
I really fell for you
At UAA that night

Dad took me to the Boys & Girls Club
On a Saturday morning we waited in line
To get my free gear
To start our journey
To start our ride

You didn’t tell me
You’d be that hard to get
That’s when I told my parents
That I wanted to quit

Thank God for new skates
That’s all I can say
Cause without them
This story goes a different way

My obsession for you
Grew day by day
You’re all I’d think about
My parents didn’t know what to say

But they let me be
For I think they could see
I was in love with you
Mrs. Hockey

You kept me on our path
Didn’t mean we didn’t have fun
But you were always there
You were always number one

Wasn’t gonna lose you
Wasn’t gonna be dumb
Like the Stones wrote
I was under your thumb

Left home at 16
Homesick I had become
Once we got past it
The fucking fun begun

Bus rides were long and pretty tough
But we knew no better
We didn’t give a flying fuck

Because most learned your honor code
Goes way back in time
Keep your fucking mouth shut
And you’ll be a teammate who shines

Initiation, I won’t go there
I’ll keep that inside with pride
But holy shit
If the public knew what happened
On those long bus rides…

You showed me the world
That I would have never of seen
Like I said
You let this Alaskan, Mexican, Colombian dream

My life would change
For the draft had come
All us young men
Had no clue what was to come

New Jersey’s where we went
I could say I caught you for now
Got placed amongst men
They would show us how

How to compete
How to work
How to have fun
How to be a pro
How it’s fucking done!

Funny thing happened
Your countdown had just begun
For my time with you
Would someday all be done

Cause you leave me
That’s just a fact
Nothing personal
It’s part of your act
Every professional athlete
Knows that

32 years I had you
No matter the city, level or team
You never stopped believing in me
You always let me dream

I get scared of this thought
I mean, I’m sure I’ll see you around at some game
But what scares me most
Is will you forget my name?

So this is our goodbye
Damn girl, it’s finally here
The fact that you leave me
You’d bet I have tears

I will always love you
That I’ll never hide
Because of you Mrs. Hockey
I’ll always live my life with pride
Till the day I die…


Sep 13

Xavier Ouellet excited about ‘real opportunity’ to earn spot in Red Wings lineup

Wings’ Ouellet knows now must be his time to shine
Bob Duff
Windsor Star

Xavier Ouellet can tell you all about the ups and downs of his chosen profession.

In fact, he once set out to mentally document each of them.

“There was one year I counted for sure,” Detroit Red Wings defenceman Ouellet said of the number of times he was sent down the minor leagues and then recalled by Detroit.

“For three years I’ve been moving a lot, up and down so many times. It never gets easier getting sent down. The first time and the 15th time was the same thing.”

If you haven’t been keeping score at home, Ouellet has been called up and sent down 34 times by the Red Wings since the start of the 2013-14 NHL season.

That’s a lot of following the bouncing ball, enough to give a fellow a headache, so last season, Ouellet opted to keep his eyes on the prize.

Instead of allowing himself to get caught up in the numbers game, during the 2015-16 hockey season, Ouellet put the emphasis on honing his skills on the ice.

“Last year I think I tried and focus more on hockey and less on all these decisions,” Ouellet said. “I think it helped me. I had a good season in Grand Rapids. I think I played good the five games I played (in Detroit).

“I’m just focused on my game more.”

A game that for Ouellet should finally find its focus placed entirely at hockey’s highest level.

Out of minor-league options, the 6-1, 200-pound Ouellet, 23, would be required to clear waivers in order to be assigned to AHL Grand Rapids and that’s a risk the Wings aren’t about to take.

His time is now and it’s time to find out what he can provide to the club on a regular basis.

In small sample sizes, the Wings certainly like what they’ve seen from Ouellet.

Last season, he collected an assist in five games for Detroit. He put up 2-1-3 numbers in 21 games during 2014-15 and was pointless over a four-game stint in 2013-14.

“Ouellet’s been a real good defenceman every time he’s been up here,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s been real good and at a consistent level for Grand Rapids.

“We think he’s ultimately an NHL defenceman.”

Blashill coached Ouellet for two seasons in Grand Rapids, so this is not news to him.

“They know what I can do,” Ouellet said.

As Ouellet knows what he must do to become of them — an NHL regular.

“It’s being consistent, play the same way every night,” he said. “Obviously, being really solid defensively, good first pass and I think the rest will come with itself.”

Ouellet enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2015-16, posting 4-25-29 numbers and a plus-18 rating in 61 games.

It’s details like those that he views as the silver lining to his struggles to become an everyday NHLer.

“You have to see the positive in everything,” Ouellet said. “As much as it was a little frustrating not having things go the way I wanted them to, I still had a chance to play a lot of minutes, on the power play, PK, five-on-five, six-on-five, end of games.

“All those situations are a good thing and helped develop me as a player.”

His developing years completed, Ouellet understands that now must be his time to shine.

“Every training camp I’ve come to, I’ve thought I could make it,” Ouellet said. “I’ve always had that mindset since Day 1. That doesn’t change.

“I think my situation contract-wise helps me more, the decisions they had to make the last two years because of contracts and stuff won’t effect me anymore.

“Now it’s about my game and how I play.”


Sep 24

Xavier Ouellet ready for job with Red Wings after paying his dues
Ansar Khan

TRAVERSE CITY – After shuttling back and forth from Grand Rapids to Detroit several times the past three seasons, Xavier Ouellet is ready to take up permanent residency in the NHL.

The Red Wings have an opening on defense and Ouellet is determined to fill it. He’s certainly the leading candidate, with 30 games of NHL experience and a defensive acumen that made him the favored first recall from the Griffins.

“Every training camp I’ve come to I’ve thought I could make it,” Ouellet, 23, said. “I’ve always had that mindset since Day 1. I think my situation contract-wise helps me more. The decisions they had to make the last two years because of contacts and stuff won’t affect me anymore. Now it’s about my game and how I play.”

Ouellet (6-foot-1, 200) no longer is exempt from waivers, so the Red Wings don’t have the option of tucking him away in Grand Rapids without the risk of having him claimed by another team.

His main competition comes from Ryan Sproul, who also must go through waivers to be sent down.

Sproul is bigger (6-4, 211), has a big right-handed shot and more offensive ability. But Ouellet has been more reliable defensively and moves the puck well, traits that earned him effusive praise from former coach Mike Babcock.

“That was two or three years ago,” Ouellet said. “I have to focus about now, which I’ve done all summer and find a way to get (Jeff) Blashill’s confidence.”

He can do that by playing a safe, solid game.

“When Ouellet is playing his best hockey he’s very good defensively and manages his game real well,” Blashill said. “He makes good outlet passes without trying to do too much. He doesn’t turn the puck over. We’re certainly a group on D that can’t turn pucks over. We turned too many over last year.

“When he’s playing his best he’s real good defensively, he’s managing his game and he’s stepping up and helping offensively, but not at a high-risk type play.”

Ouellet was good enough to replace Jakub Kindl in the lineup for Game 5 against the Boston Bruins in the 2014 playoffs. He expected to be on the Red Wings roster much sooner, but was beaten out by Alexey Marchenko last season.

He admits it was frustrating.

“For three years I’ve been moving a lot, up and down so many times,” Ouellet said. “It never gets easier getting sent down. … I guess I learned a lot. You get to realize to never take it for granted. Put the work into it and keep going.”

On the positive side, three years in Grand Rapids has helped prepare him for this next step.

“You have to see the positive in everything,” Ouellet said. “As much as it was a little frustrating not having things go the way I wanted them to I still had a chance to play a lot of minutes (in Grand Rapids), on the power play, PK, five-on-five, six-on-five, end of games and all the situations are a good thing and helped develop me as a player.”

He doesn’t just want to make the roster, he wants to play regularly.

“I’m really excited to have an opportunity, actually a real opportunity where I’m going to have to perform and find a way to get a spot in the lineup,” Ouellet said.

“They know what I can do. It’s being consistent, play the same way every night. Obviously, being really solid defensively, good first past and I think the rest will come with itself.”


Sep 26

Nikolay Goldobin hopes to show he belongs with Sharks
Curtis Pashelka
Mercury News

SAN JOSE — Nikolay Goldobin will likely get another good long look at Sharks training camp this season. In 2014, he was assigned to a professional team in Finland two days before the start of the season and last year he was among the final group demoted to the minors.

With his 21st birthday still two weeks away, there’s no rush to get Goldobin into a Sharks uniform for the Oct. 12 opener against the Los Angeles Kings. But Goldobin wants to show that he belongs, and the Sharks want to see if he’s completed the next stage of his development.

“(He’s) another guy that was in the right place last year,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said of Goldobin, who 44 points with the Barracuda in 60 games. “This year, (he’s) looking to move the needle a little bit.”

Goldobin has always been gifted offensively with soft hands and an ability to finish scoring chances, major reasons why he was picked 27th overall in the 2014 draft.

The issue has been the inconsistent play in his own end, something that cropped up a couple times in the Sharks’ intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday, particularly with a giveaway on a backhand pass at his own blue line.

Goldobin realizes he’ll need to shore up that part of his game to stick around with the big club long term.

Last season, he was recalled from the Barracuda in October after the injury to Logan Couture in New Jersey and played nine games. He scored his first NHL goal in his second game on Oct. 17 against the New York Islanders, redirecting a pass from Joe Thornton past Jaroslav Halak. He finished with 15:18 of ice time.

But the ice time began to dip as his NHL stint continued. He had a combined 34 shifts and averaged about eight minutes a night in his last three games with the Sharks before he was reassigned Nov. 24. He was recalled after the Barracuda’s season was over and was one of the Sharks’ practice players for their playoff run.

Goldobin is expected to be in the Sharks’ lineup Tuesday as they begin the preseason against the Vancouver Canucks at SAP Center.

“I just want show that I got better than last year and that I’m ready to play in the NHL,” Goldobin said.

Goldobin is part of a crowded field of wingers in camp. With Mikkel Boedker likely slotted for a top-nine forward role and prospects like Marcus Sorensen, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow also making a push, Goldobin realizes he has to play and practice well.

“There are a lot of players coming from other countries,” Goldobin said. “They’re good players, but I’ll try to be better than them.”


Oct 30

Captain Cordell calm, cool, collected
Gene Pereira
Postmedia Network

With so many new faces in his Barrie Colts lineup, Dale Hawerchuk wanted a leader who could provide a calming presence for the adversity his younger teammates are certain to face in their first OHL season.

A captain with the poise and character that would set a good example on and off the ice every day.

For the Colts head coach, Cordell James fit the bill perfectly.

“He’s got that calm demeanor, which is probably good. Especially with so many new faces,” Hawerchuk said of his new captain. “I think with that demeanor, the new faces don’t get too nervous when mistakes happen.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Hey, you can’t be doing that! Let’s go. Let’s get it turned around.’ But it’s in a way where the guy feels like, ‘Hey, I can fix this. The guy’s still calm about this. I can fix this.'”

That even keel has been a trait of James since he arrived in Barrie four years ago.

A fifth-round pick back in 2012, the overager has always been one to put the team ahead of his individual goals.

Whatever the role, be it shutting down opposing lines and killing penalties, or taking the physical punishment in front of the net on power plays, the strong two-way centre is always willing and ready.

“We have lots of young guys here this year and it’s important for the older guys like myself, (Anthony) Stefano and all the overagers to show the rookies how it’s done on the ice, off the ice, in games and in practices,” said James, who along with his teammates faced the Wolves Friday night in Sudbury, before making their home debut Saturday night against the London Knights at the Barrie Molson Centre.

“You have to show how hard you work,” the 20-year-old added. “All that kind of stuff goes a long way.”

While he’s always been more of a lead by example kind of player through his junior career, James knows the captaincy role requires more and he’s ready to be vocal when it’s needed.

” I think I work pretty hard on the ice and try to do all the little things, but obviously this year I’m the captain and I’m going to have to speak up more and be more vocal,” the six-foot-two, 221-pound Hamilton native explained.

James believes he has all the traits to be a good captain.

“I’m going to prove to them that I deserve it and I’ve got to earn it,” he added.

And that leadership will be key, especially on a roster with 11 new faces and just four players with more than three years of OHL experience.

“He’s kind of a quiet leader to people like us and people in the stands, but I know the players really respect him,” Hawerchuk said of the 18th captain in franchise history. “He knows what it takes to be an aspiring pro. He knows what it’s like to play in Barrie. Knows what the coaching staff expects from Barrie Colts players.

“If it’s not going the way it’s supposed to, he’ll stand up and tell people. I know he has the respect of the players that way.”

James is coming off his best OHL season offensively, potting a career high 19 goals and 44 points last year.

A rebuilding Colts team will have to lean on him more for scoring this season.

With the departure of OHL scoring champ Kevin Labanc, Andrew Mangiapane, Dylan Sadowy, Justin Scott and Rasmus Andersson to pro hockey, Barrie will have to find a way to replace 163 of the 295 goals missing from its lineup.

James, who is undrafted and remains hopeful of landing an NHL contract, is ready for the chance to play a more leading role this season when it comes to putting the puck in the net.

He’s off to a solid start with a goal and assists in the team’s two wins last weekend.

“I’m going to have to step up offensively and produce, and I think that’s possible with the opportunity I’ve been given this year,” said the forward who earned an invite last month to the Vancouver Canucks rookie camp. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to try and get to the next level.”

Barrie got its OHL regular season off to a good start with road wins over the Kingston Frontenacs and Ottawa 67’s.

Hawerchuk’s focus has been getting his young squad on the same page when it comes to the game plan. While it’s still early, he was pretty happy with the start.

“We did some video the other day and I think the guys realized, saw how the good things come about when we did do the little things well,” he explained. “They also saw the drawback when we didn’t do them well.

“We repeat that a little bit and that starts to sink in. And it’s going to do wonders for the guys.”

Game time Saturday against London is 7:30 p.m.


Don’t overlook Goodrow in battle for Sharks roster spots
Kevin Kurz
CSN Bay Area

SAN JOSE -– There are a number of former first round Sharks draft picks that are trying desperately to make the opening night roster. Timo Meier, Nikolay Goldobin and Mirco Mueller are all high profile prospects that are expected to become full-time NHL’ers at some point in the near future.

But according to coach Pete DeBoer, don’t overlook one of the more familiar faces that was essentially pushed out of the lineup last season. Barclay Goodrow had a productive season with the Barracuda after he was reassigned there last early November, and is now hungry to return to the NHL.

The 23-year-old Goodrow got off to a solid start on Tuesday night with the Sharks’ first goal of the preseason, getting open in front of the net and making a slick move before flipping it in.

“We should be talking about him too like we’re talking about [the other prospects],” coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s knocking on the door. I thought he had a good game [Tuesday] night.

“I like that he’s one of the guys in our system that has some special things – he’s a big-bodied guy, he can kill penalties. There’s a lot to like about Barclay, too.”

Goodrow made the Sharks out of camp last season primarily due to Melker Karlsson’s injury and Raffi Torres’ suspension. In 14 games in mostly a fourth line role, he had no goals, three assists and 13 penalty minutes. He wasn’t doing a whole lot of note.

He then got off to a slow start with the Barracuda, too, but surged in the second half and finished with 20 goals and 39 points in 57 games. He was named to the AHL All-Star Game.

“I think last year was big for me. I was able to work on all of the aspects of my game that needed to get better to play consistently at this level,” Goodrow said.

Among his biggest takeaways from his time in the minors was, “gaining confidence in the offensive zone. I kind of lost some of that throughout the beginning of the [NHL] season, so I think I gained some of that back. Just playing a more complete game, and using my size to my advantage – being more of a force in the offensive zone, winning puck battles.”

Goodrow was a scorer at the OHL level before he signed with the Sharks as a free agent on March 6, 2014. In 2013-14 in his final season there, he posted a team-high 33 goals and 67 points in 63 games while serving as the captain.

While it’s difficult to envision him in a top six role at the NHL level, Goodrow’s six-foot-two, 215-pound frame could make him an effective fourth liner. Other prospects like Meier and Goldobin don’t figure to play that far down the lineup, so that could give Goodrow an inside edge on making the team.

Goodrow, of course, would welcome any role on the Sharks, and indicated he could increase his scoring output at the NHL level. So far, he has four goals and 11 assists for 15 points in 74 games over two seasons.

“For the most part I’m a big player that likes to use my body, be a power forward, and I think that game kind of translates at both levels,” he said.

DeBoer said: “The nice thing is we know he has the ability to create some offense, and that’s always in the back of your mind. You have to establish yourself as a full time NHL’er and then kind of take that step … He’s a guy that has some intriguing talents that we don’t have in abundance down there. He’s a guy that’s going to get a long look.”

Goodrow will get a chance to build off his strong camp so far in the Sharks’ second preseason game on Friday, skating on a line with Karlsson and Tommy Wingels.

“Every practice, every preseason game is a tryout,” he said. “I’ll look to just leave it all out there, and hopefully it’s enough.”